Brian Lara's inside-out drive

Any of Brian Lara's drives warrant inclusion for their sheer class. His pristine back-foot flail through the covers is arguably his signature stroke, but it's the inside-out drive - the off-drive to a leg-side delivery - which really shows how this guy bats alone.

As a bowler, the first sign of impending disaster is the backlift. Brian Lara's bat comes straight up behind him. Vertically. Really he should put a sign on the back of it saying: 'Take that, you bastard'. The ball may be spearing towards his feet, but those are no ordinary feet. Those are feet of which even Michael Flatley would be jealous. The feet flutter their owner across the crease.

The ball is pretty much underneath his nose before Lara bothers to move his bat again. You don't think he's given himself enough time to play a shot, but you'd be wrong. The bat whirs through, seemingly only appearing in two places and none of the intervening points - the point where he strikes the ball and then behind his back after the world's biggest follow-through. If you're wondering where the ball is, look between the fielders and then look beyond to the boundary rope. It's somewhere over there.

Some other batsmen and their signature shots

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Thursday, May 17, 2012

Anyone recognise Will Jefferson's mate?

You can blame today's lack of international cricket for this garbage. Surely Zimbabwe could have organised a match against Cambodia or someone. We've always got something to say about Zimbabwe.

If you didn't know that Will Jefferson was tall. Read this post about how Will Jefferson's tall.

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This is how big cricket is in India

We'd like to think that this tale explains cricket's popularity in India better than a whole host of journalists saying "cricket's massive in India" would. It probably doesn't.

If this isn't sounding too promising, let us just say that we get marginally humiliated by an eight-year-old midway through the story, so stick with it.

When we were in India, we found that young boys came and talked to us a lot. Other people we were with didn't seem to attract the same attention. We can't really explain it because (1) we're really grumpy and (2) we hate talking to people.

On one particular journey in Karnataka, we found ourself sitting next to this boy on a bus. He was about eight and we just knew he was bursting to talk to us. We were tired and didn't want to, but he couldn't help himself. Fortunately, he turned out to be quite a nice bloke.

As ever in these situations, we started with 'what name?' and 'what country?' We were on fairly safe ground here. His third question rather put us on the back foot though: 'What are the major crops of your country?'

What would you say? We produce quite a lot of graffiti. That's not a crop though. Minor celebrities? It's a tricky one if you're quite stupid and uninformed. We're quite stupid and uninformed, so we turned the question back on him. He listed loads of stuff.

Next we moved onto 'how many languages do you speak?' We thought we'd done quite well by saying two. French GCSE counts if you're talking to an eight-year-old in rural India. He's unlikely to be fluent enough to catch you out. It turned out he didn't need to, because like just about everybody else in the world he spoke five languages. Round two to Shaun - for that's what he reckoned his name was. We're still doubtful.

We decided to steer the talk into safer waters because some people were laughing at us. Cricket. You can't go wrong with cricket. And we didn't.

Now here's the bit where you fully and instantaneously comprehend the importance of cricket in India. This kid's eight. He lives in the back of beyond and these are his favourite cricketers, in order: Anil Kumble (no surprises there); Shaun Pollock (we'll put it down to the shared name); Alan Mullally (weird); and Bruce French...

Bruce French? We've pored over scorecards since we were about four and we still took a minute to remember. How many eight-year-olds in the UK know who Bruce French is? How many adults know who Bruce French is? He was one of Shaun's favourite cricketers. Not Michael Vaughan or Andrew Flintoff. We checked. Bruce French.

For those who don't know him, here's Bruce French's Cricinfo profile. Even they don't know him that well.

Hello Shaun, if you're reading. Our favourite Indian cricketers are Kenia Jayantilal, Dhiraj Parsana and Ghulam Parkar.

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Michael Vaughan could play in the Ashes

But he won't.

Michael Vaughan
reckons that he's fit to play again and that he only needs to regain match fitness - that supreme level of physical well-being that can only be attained by standing around on a cricket pitch shouting: 'Come on. Let's get another two wickets before tea.'

There's talk of his being available for the third Test in Perth, but frankly it isn't going to happen.

Much as Vaughan is a crucial part of England's side, particularly as captain, the selectors are unlikely to take much of a gamble when there's so little reason. Already England are wondering which of Ian Bell, Alastair Cook and Paul Collingwood will be dropped - all of whom have been hugely successful this year. If Vaughan were to return, it would mean a second of those three missing out in favour of a player of questionable physical hardiness with no Test matches under his belt for a long time.

On the other hand, if things are going badly, there's Vaughan's record in Australia to take into account. During the last tour, playing in a side who were being massively outplayed, Vaughan scored over 600 runs including three huge hundreds.

Plus, he won the Ashes that time.

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Rob Key says something

It's pretty much our duty to report anything at all about Rob Key, even when it's transparently not news in any way.

"The dream scenario for me is to get the call-up, for whatever reason, score match-winning runs and win the Ashes." - Rob Key

This contrasts markedly with our dream scenario here at King Cricket:

"The dream scenario for us is for Rob Key to get the call-up, for whatever reason, score match-winning runs, win the Ashes and for everyone to recognise him as a god."

Rob Key goes on to describe what Australia's like during the Ashes:

“The whole place goes mad, it becomes cricket crazy.”

He's being modest, of course. Australia reacts that way because Rob Key's in town. It's nothing to do with the Ashes. They can take or leave the Ashes over there, but it's only very rarely they get to rub shoulders with a deity.

Previous Rob Key post | Next Rob Key post


Schizophrenic England make terrible start

The night before last, we dreamt that Australia had racked up 420-4 on the first day of the first Test. It was harrowing, but it reminded us of previous Ashes tours where England showed the game was up before it had even started. We were glad it wasn't like that any more.

Now who scheduled a one-day match to open England's Ashes tour? It's unforgivable. Remember before the last Ashes, England absolutely walloped Australia in a 'meaningless' Twenty20. Tours have momentum and a good few Australian warm-ups took the shine off their aura.

England don't especially have an aura, but tour momentum still applies and an Australian Prime Minister's XI played them into the gutter. Balls. England inserted their opponents who promptly hit 347-5. Our man Saj Mahmood went for 97 off nine overs, which is just... Well, you know what it is. In reply, England were bowled out for 181.

We're putting it down to England's schizophrenia: Test titans, one-day wallies.

We've never used the word 'wallies' before and we won't be doing so again. It's too early to think alliteratively and that's the best that we can manage.

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Phil Jaques with our impartial hat on

England got battered. Phil Jaques did a good deal of the battering, hitting 112 off 110 balls.

We put Phil Jaques in our Australian team from an England perspective. We stand by that. Stick him in, Australian selectors. Everyone's waiting round for an injury to Hayden or Langer (or retirement). Why? Put him in at six. Or five. He WILL score runs.

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Dr Ian Botham

The University of Chester has given Ian Botham an honorary doctorate. Ian Botham is now a doctor of letters. No clue what that means. Presumably he can 'cure' malformed Fs and Ws.

The BBC include a quote from University Vice-Chancellor, Professor Tim Wheeler, who - if we're not much mistaken - is the lead singer in lame indie band, Ash. They're clearly doling out these academic qualifications to any old C-lister at The University of Chester.


Umar Gul 'steps up'

With the vast majority of Pakistan's strike bowlers banned and the remainder out of favour, it was essential that someone 'step up' during the Test series against West Indies. Umar Gul took 5-65 today as West Indies were bowled out for just 206.

'Stepping up' is a brand of 'putting your hand up', we're led to believe. Essentially it involves 'performing well'. It usually involves making an extra special effort because somebody else isn't playing. Players rarely 'step up' when they're not needed, for some reason. You can only 'step up' when circumstances permit.

Umar Gul was sort of solid during the tour of England this summer. He's been around a while, but he was very much third-choice seamer, at best. In order to get his chance as the Pakistan attack's focal point, he needed a break. Fortunately for him Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Asif 'stepped up' while Mohammad Sami and Rana Naved-ul-Hasan 'stepped down'.

Shahid Nazir also 'stepped up', taking 3-42, but he didn't 'step up' quite as high as Umar Gul. Maybe he can put in an extra step during West Indies' second innings.

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Obdurate Brian Lara shows the way

The West Indies have been rolled over again. King Cricket, Brian Lara, was just about the only batsman showing signs of resistance with 61. Nothing new?

We don't think that the Windies are going to crumble, as you might expect. It might look a familiar scenario for West Indies fans, but we genuinely believe that this side is becoming more competitive. We don't mean that in the way that most people mean it - likely to get beaten by a narrower margin than before. We mean that these players want to compete. They fight. They don't give up.

Mostly these signs have manifested themselves in one-day internationals, but the attitude can't be exclusive to that format. This is a side of increasing belief and resilience. We're putting money (imaginary money, as ever) on a fightback...

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Geraint Jones is England's wicketkeeper

Despite being dropped a couple of months ago in favour of Chris Read, Duncan Fletcher has confirmed that Geraint Jones will be England's wicketkeeper for the first Ashes Test.

At the time, the selectors seemed to indicate that Jones was being dropped as a result of poor form rather than anything more serious. They've had a quick look at Chris Read and given him a chance to make a big claim, but our feeling is that maybe they had always intended for Jones to keep his position for the Ashes.

We tend to agree with them and for much the same reasons given by Duncan Fletcher. Geraint Jones probably is the better batsman. He has extensive experience of Australian conditions, having been brought up there. His back-foot style of play suits Aussie pitches. Finally and most importantly, he has proved himself undaunted by the pressures that come with an Ashes series. This is not to be underestimated. A psychological war is in the offing and weaknesses will be ruthlessly exploited.

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England scrabble around for the ignition switch

That's a reference to 'coming to the boil'. Excuse our nerves, but we've been conditioned to panic at losses in warm-up games Down Under. Previously, they heralded outright humiliation. We're still quite confident as far as the Ashes goes, but you can't throw away all these years of experience.

It's Pavlovian conditioning. England concede 325-5, as they did last night and we are conditioned to run round yelping: "No. No. The wheels are coming off. Abandon tour. ABANDON TOUR."

As Patrick described past Ashes tour matches on the Times' cricket blog the other day:
"Go to bed as England start to play and wake up eight hours later to a radio announcer saying 'and in cricket, England suffered a humiliating defeat...'"
Of course it's not so bad these days. England still lose warm-up games with alarming regularity, but when the Tests come, they inevitably get their act together. It's still a trifle worrying though. Steve Harmison got carted, for one thing. We'd really like a bit of reassurance from him before long. If Faintly Underwhelming Steve Harmison is replaced by Destructive Steve Harmison for the first Test, that's fine, but we'd really prefer the swap a little earlier.

Also during this tour match, Duncan Fletcher revealed that James Anderson is currently ahead of Sajid Mahmood. James Anderson bowled whereas Sajid Mahmood didn't, so this is unlikely to change.

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Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Phil Jaques shows Aussies' strength in depth

Phil Jaques scored another hundred against England yesterday. He still isn't going to get picked for the first Test.

England might think that their batting has strength in depth these days, but they couldn't consider leaving out a player of Jaques' class. Not many sides could - Australia included, thinking about it. They're being obstinate and mental. At least we think they are: Technically, Australia haven't announced their side yet, so he could feature.

Damien Martyn fought his way back into the side by not playing and watching Brad Hodge score a Test double hundred, so maybe Phil Jaques has got his tactics wrong. He should put the kettle on and don a nice pair of carpet slippers. That's the way we've always approached our career in international sport at any rate.

Phil Jaques could have played for England, if he so chose, you know.

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Mohammad Yousuf's on our side

Mohammad Yousuf hit an unbeaten hundred against the West Indies and then said that he thought the pitch was too flat and that pitches the world over are too flat. He's spot on. And that's coming from a batsman. Imagine how a bowler feels. Imagine how a rubbish bowler feels. Imagine how Jason Gillespie feels.

Mohammad Yousuf's performance did of course make a mockery of our assertion that the Windies are a side of increasing resilience. They conceded 265-4, rather than bowling out Pakistan in a display of determined defiance. We'll forgive Mohammad Yousuf because he agrees with us about the pitches.

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Mohammad Yousuf loves the big hundreds

Seemingly unfazed by the flat pitch that so offended him, Mohammad Yousuf ploughed on and made 192, which, coincidentally, was exactly how many he made in the Test before last. The guy's immense, flat pitch or otherwise.

The West Indies' big comeback in this match is a long time coming. They're 74-3 in their second innings - still one million runs adrift of Pakistan.

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England achieve slow simmer

They're at the sort of temperature at which you cook a stew. It's not quite at the boil, but at least there's pans and heat involved, which didn't seem likely as recently as yesterday.

In their joke warm-up match against New South Wales, they took a few more wickets for not many runs in the morning and then toddled along to 256-4, which is nice and solid. Kevin Pietersen is on 80 not out, which is a welcome return to runs for a man who's never mentioned in the discussions about dropping middle-order batsmen, but yet who averages roughly the same as those who are.

Andy Flintoff's 48 not out, which is similarly reassuring. Any cynics who are suggesting that New South Wales' international bowlers are lulling England's batsmen into a false sense of security are seriously misunderstanding the Australian sporting psyche. Australians want to crush the English without mercy. It's as simple as that.

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Age of Umpires

Apparently, if you complete the game you unlock Dickie Bird. He has special Superman vision, so he can be 100% accurate when giving lbw appeals.

We didn't write any of this. It's a bit too 'mainstream' for us. It's a page of the Uncyclopedia.

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Brian Lara's still going

Although not in this innings. He's out for 122, which we think is his first Test hundred in Pakistan. He hasn't played there since his debut in 1990.

Each time Brian Lara scores a hundred we feel elated, but with a soupcon of melancholy. What if this is his last Test hundred? We don't know why we're worrying. He's still the West Indies' best batsman, just as he has been for the last fifteen years. Still, one day he's going to go and it will be a mighty sad day.

The West Indies are still slightly behind with four wickets remaining, as we write. There's one more day to go, so it'll be a tall order to save this Test. Brian Lara has given them the merest glimmer of hope, at least.

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England turn up the heat in an attempt to thicken the sauce

We're finishing with the culinary analogies now. They're wordy and increasingly meaningless.

The three-day muck-about against New South Wales has finished. Kevin Pietersen got his hundred. Then James Anderson took 3-40. How quick is he now? Does anyone know? We're just wondering whether the stress fracture has slowed him at all. Hope not.

The big news of the day was that Phil Jaques didn't get a hundred: He got four. We always said he was rubbish.

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Monty Panesar: Smart and English

Monty Panesar was called a 'stupid Indian' during England's warm-up against New South Wales by a dense prick in the crowd.

Just to clarify, Monty Panesar has a computer science degree and if you can't remember where he's from, just check the scoreboard. It says 'England' on it.

Maybe Monty should have responded that he was as Indian as the speaker was English. That would have gone down well. We're presuming that whoever it was, wasn't of Aboriginal descent.

The Sydney Daily Telegraph reports that the beered-up no-mark went on to add: "Give us a wave, Monty. You can't speak English, you stupid Indian. I'll have to say it in Indian," which you would have thought was an insanely optimistic offer on his part. Not least because there's no such language.

New South Wales' captain, Simon Katich, described the incident as 'disappointing'. When Matthew Hayden got bitten by a dog that time he described it as 'disappointing'. They seem to be a bit strapped for emotions Down Under at the minute. Everyone's just sharing the one.

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Marcus Trescothick to miss Ashes

Marcus Trescothick's 'stress-related condition' has flared up again and he's missing the Ashes. This is mighty bad. (We're not questioning the legitimacy of his condition with those inverted commas, incidentally - it's merely a reference to the predictability of the mainstream media who have settled on that phrase to explain his malaise.)

Marcus Trescothick is like a big, solid lump of familiarity at the top of the order. No, we'll go further than that: Marcus Trescothick IS a big, solid lump of familiarity at the top of the order. The reason why he's attained this status is because he's played heaps of games for England because he's so good at batting. To lose a player of his calibre is a bitter blow.

We wish Marcus the absolute best with his continuing struggle. If there were some way of indicating the absence of sarcasm, we'd have used it there. We're quite capable of genuine emotion, despite the vast majority of this site.

Most likely Alastair Cook will move up to open the batting with Andrew Strauss, thus removing England's selectorial headache surrounding the middle order. However, there is an alternative.

We should probably add that Mahinda beat us to that in the comments on our previous post. We were already thinking it though. Since about March.

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England jump for Joyce

That makes no sense. You don't 'jump' for players. You select them. We'd change it, but we can't be bothered thinking of another title.

Sadly, England's selectors have selected Ed Joyce as Marcus Trescothick's replacement. We rate Ed Joyce highly, but at the end of the day, he's competing against Rob Key here. There's only one way we were going to go with that. The point's moot anyhow. Joyce is in. Owais Shah was also rejected, despite being the next in line when injuries took their toll in India earlier in the year.

We're a bit puzzled by the batting hierarchy at the minute, if Joyce is ahead of Shah and Key. We were trying to work it out and eventually decided that they'd plumped for Joyce on the basis of youth. We're not sure about this, because the next generation of England batsmen are pretty much playing already with Cook, Bell and Pietersen holding down regular spots. You can look too far ahead.

Then we checked ages. It turns out that Ed Joyce is the oldest of the three, followed by Shah and then Key (time's still on his side), so it has to be assumed that Ed Joyce is being selected on ability and nothing besides, which is how it should be, really. He certainly is a class batsman and we suppose that the selectors have given hints by repeatedly picking him in one-day squads.

He's still not Rob Key though. You can justify it of a fashion, but the fact is that it will take at least two further injuries to front-line batsmen for Rob Key to play a part in this series. Nobody should treat Rob Key this way. NOBODY.

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Matthew Hayden pleads with team mates to act their age

That's Hayden in the middle. Having previously reconciled himself to the ageing process, Hayden is now trying to persuade his teammates to be just as accepting, but to no avail.

Just because you're sportsmen doesn't mean you're young enough to wear tracksuits or, heaven forbid, sunglasses on your head. That's strike two against Gilchrist and Ponting. You're both well into your thirties. There's no shame in a sensible pair of action slacks and a turtle-necked woolly jumper, you know.

They could be wearing those clothes because they're extra comfy, we suppose, but it's unlikely. They look to be a bit of a snug fit and have an air of trendiness which is entirely inappropriate.

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Damien Martyn joins the campaign to persuade Gilchrist and Ponting that they're middle-aged

That's Damien Martyn in the middle. He's saying: 'Come on guys. Enough's enough. I've two nice, comfy armchairs with your names on, back at the home. I'll put the kettle on and you can have a bit of a doze. Someone'll wake you up mid-afternoon and we can have a game of bowls'.

We will quite simply NEVER TIRE of publishing pictures of Australian cricketers standing next to people who are older than they are and saying that the older-looking person is a team mate. It's the best game ever invented.

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Justin Langer reminisces about the gold rush with Glenn McGrath

The guy on the left actually doesn't look all that much older than Justin Langer, but he does have a grey beard.

We're too far down this road to stop now.

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Australia pretend that Shaun Tait or Mitchell Johnson might play

Australia have announced their squad for the first Test and made much of the fact that it contains no fewer than six pace bowlers. 'It's a terrifying arsenal,' they cry. 'Look out for the heavy artillery,' they warn. 'So who's actually going to play?' ask England.

Because of course, Australia aren't going to pick six quicks. They seem to be overlooking that. Glenn '70mph' McGrath will be playing. Brett 'bowling average of 41.10 in the last Ashes' Lee will be playing. Shane 'I'm actually a batsman really' Watson will be playing. This leaves one spot.

Is it going to be young, once-in-a-generation Mitchell Johnson who's already made a great start to his international career? Will it be Shaun Tait, who originally looked crap, not all that fast and admitted that he didn't care where the ball went; but who has now embraced accuracy and is actually capable of bowling at 95mph?

No. It's going to be Stuart Clark, isn't it? He's 31. He's accurate/dull. He did well against South Africa in his last series.

Stuart Clark will be fulfilling the Jason Gillespie/Michael Kasprowicz role during this Ashes series, ie, waiting to be dropped.

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Stuart Clark's middle name is 'Rupert'

Lots of cricketers have faintly embarrassing middle names. Stuart Clark is one of them.

We hope we're not going to start picking on Stuart Clark now. We seem to have lost that part of the brain that tells you whether doing something's a good idea or not and stops you if it isn't.

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Strike bowler Matthew Hoggard finds form

Matthew Hoggard nearly took a hat trick against South Australia. We don't know how close he was with the hat trick ball, but he certainly took two wickets in two balls. He finished with 3-40, so maybe he CAN bowl in Australia after all.

Adelaide's historically the best ground for batting in Australia, so England limiting South Australia to 247-7 declared wasn't bad. We're almost 100% certain that England are going to win every single Test by an innings and at least a hundred runs after this.

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Darren Lehmann hits 99

It was a while back that we wrote how Darren Lehmann should still be playing for Australia. We know that we're also championing Phil Jaques and technically there aren't enough middle-order spots to go round, but we don't care. We stand by our opinion.

Yesterday, Darren Lehmann hit 99 while almost all of his co-batsmen floundered. You could have put money on it. The man's a machine. A big, bald, lardy, run-scoring machine.

We're aware that in our previous post we allude to Adelaide being a batsmen-friendly surface and you could point out that this would devalue Darren Lehmann's innings, but you're wrong, because we concluded that England bowled well, so that balances things out. Besides, who says that you can't have it both ways? Of course you can. We are doing. We're having it this way and we're having it that way. We don't know what we're having, but if you've got a further way of having it, we're in.

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Cricket Australia tells racists to make more effort

Cricket Australia chief executive, James Sutherland, when asked about Monty Panesar being called 'a stupid Indian' responded: "I don't think there's too much racist about that."

The message is clear: Aussie racists have to pull their fingers out. They're not pulling their weight. If that's the best they can come up with, it's just not good enough.

James Sutherland could be more racist than that standing on his head.

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Those Indian school kids and their world record partnership

A couple of people have contacted us to question why we haven't included a post about the recent world record partnership of 720 between B Manoj Kumar and Mohammed Shaibaaz Tumbi (spellings from Cricinfo) for St Peter's High School in Hyderabad.

Well, we didn't want to repeat ourself. We could have focused on the fact that cricket is a fantastic sport where schoolboys can set world records. We could have focused on Vinod Kambli who, together with Sachin Tendulkar, held the previous record of 664. Vinod Kambli played 17 Tests, averaged 54.20, but bizarrely gained no further Test recognition. We could even have focused on just what percentage of the two boys' shots went for four. They made 720 in just forty overs and didn't hit a single six.

What we actually would have done, would have been to describe the achievement thus, like we always do:

Imagine you're playing cricket on your own. You're throwing a ball against a wall and then hitting it. Every time you hit the ball, you rather generously give yourself six runs, even when you blatantly mis-hit it. Even then, with everything going your way and no rules to slow you down, it's really, really hard to score that many runs.

That way of looking at run-scoring feats applies almost universally. The only exception is Matthew Hayden's former world Test record score of 380 against Zimbabwe: Anyone could have done that. It was essentially a worthless achievement. A non-achievement, even.

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Ian Bell and Paul Collingwood skulk around patiently

Ian Bell made 132 and Paul Collingwood 80 in England's drawn tour match against South Australia. Neither player was entirely certain of his Test place at the start of the tour, despite Bell averaging 47.66 and Collingwood 41.08. Now that Marcus Trescothick has returned home, both seem certain to start the first Test.

Marcus Trescothick is pretty much irreplaceable, but both these players deserve their place in the side, so 'every cloud' and all that. Both have a point to prove against Australia, however. During the last series, Ian Bell seemed to make a conscious decision to leave any of Shane Warne's deliveries that were straight and on the stumps. This was a bad ploy. Paul Collingwood played just the final Test, where he scored the finest 10 in living memory.

Along with Alastair Cook, Australia will look on these two as the weak links in England's batting line-up, but that might not be the case. Paul Collingwood is England's most adcaptable and determined batsman - one who has earned his place in the side in the truest sense. Ian Bell is arguably their classiest. In front of us is a copy of Indian magazine The Sportstar, dated April 6, 2002. Inside is an article about Ian Bell being the answer to England's problems at number three. It's been a long time coming, but he's still only 24 and his best years are unarguably ahead of him.

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Jerome Taylor brings delayed riposte

We wrongly predicted a stunning West Indies fightback in the first Test against Pakistan. It turns out that they were just biding their time until the second Test.

At 212-2 and even 315-5, Pakistan looked well-set for one of their traditionally humungous first innings totals, as is their wont at home. Thanks to Jerome Taylor they collapsed to 357 all out. He finished with 5-91. We still haven't seen him live, but he's quick and he takes wickets, so we can't see any problems. We've previously included a video of the hat-trick he took during the Champions' Trophy.

After that, the West Indian openers made the most of the momentum by reaching 151-0 at the close of play. You see: Bowling's always the key.

We're making a conscious effort to not ignore the whole of the rest of the cricketing world while the Ashes are on. You're with us, right?

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Brian Lara: Legend, master, genius

Sporting hyperbole gets devalued over time. The phrase that originally had such bite falls into regular usage and becomes commonplace.

Once upon a time you had to be mythical to be a legend. This was refined in the sporting world and the word came to refer to the greats of yesteryear. More recently, players still plying their trade (or 'art') have been labelled legends. Now all you have to do is hit a resolute thirty and you're a legend in the eyes of the fans.

Enough! It's making it hard to explain the true class of Brian Charles Lara, because here is a batsman who lords it over all others. Today, Brian Lara hit a hundred before lunch - the fifth batsman to do so. Having reached his hundred off only 77 balls, he slowed down, but he's still there on 196 not out, having cut, pulled and driven the Pakistani bowling attack into cowering submission.

Danish Kaneria apparently bowled quite well, but at one point 29 balls to Brian Lara were dispatched for 60 runs, including 26 off one over: The kind of over that divides a great batsman from the rest for longer than just a mere six balls. To think that the other day we were describing the melancholy feeling that came with thinking that each Brian Lara hundred could be the last. He's not finished yet. Not even nearly, judging by his current form.

In light of this softening of the vocabulary of sport, we're struggling to sum this up. We're going to have to revert to more everyday speech. Perhaps that will have more impact in a world where every second cricketer is described in terms that would make Don Bradman blush:

It's very difficult to compare different batsmen, at different times, against different bowling attacks. But insofar as it's possible to do this, Brian Lara has, at times in his career, batted better than just about anyone else has ever batted.

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Time takes its toll

Throughout the last Ashes series, much was made of the difference in ages between the two sides. This was to be the last time that this great Australian team would take the field in an Ashes series, whereas this England team was going to go from strength to strength over the next few years.

Well that was a load of rubbish, wasn't it? That Ashes-winning England team may never take the field again. Simon Jones, Michael Vaughan and Trescothick will all miss this entire series. Ashley Giles is fighting his way back, although it remains to be seen whether he will be selected.

In contrast, Australia have dropped one left-handed middle order batsman in Simon Katich, replacing him with another in Mike Hussey and dropped one tall medium-pacer in Jason Gillespie replacing him with another in Stuart Clark.

Injury has prevented England from fielding the same side. Injury has prevented Australia from fielding a new one, or at least a new style one. Shane Watson's injury has meant a recall for Michael Clarke and, most likely, the retention of the reliable and accurate Stuart Clark over the more exciting, but less reliable pace prospect Mitchell Johnson.

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Tea is the key

Australia's bloody miles away from England. They're in a different time zone. We all have to find ways of coping with the irregular hours.

We made the mistake of vaguely complaining about this to an Australian friend the other day. It elicited no sympathy whatsoever. The response was something along the lines of: 'Oh boo hoo. You'll have to stay up late for once. Every bloody sporting event's on during the night here.'

Once he'd finished, he offered some advice. His frankly revolutionary technique is to have two sleeps. One from early evening until start of play and then another later on. We're not trying it, because we're not one for this 'waking up' thing that people often talk about. His second ploy rang true, however and it's catchy: Tea is the key. This is the kind of thinking we can latch on to.

That's our Rhinolast mug in the picture. It's chipped and naff, but it says 'Rhinolast' on it and it's bright yellow. After about ten years, we only just went to the trouble of finding out what Rhinolast was. Disappointingly it's a nasal spray for allergies. We've no time for allergies or their treatments. It's a sign of weakness. If you're allergic to stuff, you'd die out in the wild.

We wouldn't die out in the wild because somebody would look after as through pity. Our abject uselessness is a survival mechanism.

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Ashes nerves

We're really quite edgy. It's a bit disappointing. All we've been doing recently is reading and what are we going to be doing when the match starts later on?

Will we be standing padded-up in front of 40,000 people trying to preserve our wicket and physical well-being? No. Will we be roaring in with the ball with a nation's hopes on our shoulders? No. We'll be sitting in a chair trying not to fall asleep. That's hardly a stretch. We do that all the time. We're doing it now.

The next step on our road to becoming an England cricketer is to become 'mentally tough'. This time next year we'll look rather less heartbroken when someone says something about our dress sense. We'll have fewer tantrums when we can't do fiddly stuff with small things. (We're not massively dextrous.)

Iron will and steely determination. We'll have perfected metallurgy of the mind.

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Faintly Underwhelming Steve Harmison

We're not a sports graduate or an ECB cricket coach, like this guy, but we're fairly certain that international bowlers should know where the ball's going. We're absolutely positive that second slip shouldn't be in any danger.

We stayed up to watch the Ashes like the good writing-about-cricket-every-day-person that we are. We made it until tea before all the caffeine wore off. Earlier, as the first ball was about to be bowled, we were literally on the edge of our seat. We were secretly quite pleased that England had lost the toss, because our fantasy about Steve Harmison knocking over the Australian top order could still happen. Steve Harmison ran in and bowled the most monstrous wide you're ever likely to see.

Don't get us wrong. We love Steve Harmison. That's why he plays such a major part in our Day One of the Ashes Fantasy. We're just pissed off that he ruined it.

We don't much care whether it's nerves, rhythm, falling away in the delivery stride or a poor wrist position. We don't even care if it's because the Gabba's infested with Wombles and they kept surfacing underneath him during his run-up. All we care about is that England players are ready to perform at the best of their abilities. Frankly, there are enough staff down there to ensure this happens.

Who knows, maybe Destructive Steve Harmison will replace Faintly Underwhelming Steve Harmison tomorrow. All we're saying is we'd like to see a lot less of the latter.

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Andrew Flintoff bowling

Andrew Flintoff was England's best bowler by quite a wide margin. Each of his spells only served to emphasise just how poor and/or ineffective everyone else was.

On this pitch, against these batsmen, with these cricket balls, bowlers really do have to make it count, particularly with the new ball. Steve Harmison was dire, progressing to nearly-respectable. Matthew Hoggard was predictably solid yet ineffectual. James Anderson bowled some good balls and a number of bad ones.

Andrew Flintoff, however, put the ball exactly where he wanted straight away. He started accurately, testing the batsmen, and the more he bowled, the quicker he got. Either he doesn't get nervous, or he's got a technique that he can totally rely on.

England's Rugby World Cup winning fly-half, Jonny Wilkinson, once said: "I always aim to be able to leave the training pitch confident of my technique." That confidence is just as important as having the technique. If you've got faith in your method, that will go some way to calming your nerves.

Andrew Flintoff is clearly secure in his method, as is Matthew Hoggard. Steve Harmison clearly isn't. Whether he needs extra practice to sort his technique is arguable. That he needs extra practice to fight back the doubt, is surely undeniable.

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Mohammad Yousuf DOESN'T hit 192

It's a miracle. Mohammad Yousuf batted. He scored runs. Yet he DIDN'T make 192. It's some kind of miracle. He only made 191. Consequently, Pakistan drew with the West Indies.

In his last four matches, Yousuf can now boast two 192s and 191. He really needs to start converting some of these big hundreds into doubles.

Shameful batting.

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Ambassador, with this humble pie you are really spoiling us

To be fair, we did say that batting was only easy after 20 overs. Inherent in that comment is the fact that it is DOUBLY important to see off the new ball.

At 53-3 after 17 overs, England have manifestly failed to do this, in much the same way as they manifestly failed to make use of the ball for the first 20 overs when bowling. This is thrown into even sharper relief by the fact that Glenn McGrath didn't waste one single delivery. As expected. Andrew Strauss can feel particularly ashamed. We miss you, Marcus.

England are already unlikely to save this Test, but there's still plenty to play for. They certainly shouldn't give up on the draw, so they can try for that as a primary aim. It's still a good pitch, so it's not beyond the bounds of possibility. It's just unlikely. Secondly, they should aim to make life difficult for the Aussies. If they allow themselves to get steam-rollered there'll be no respite until they go home at the end of the tour.

Finally, they can aim to do some damage to the Australian bowlers. They can do this in two ways. They can score runs against them and show that their wickets will be hard to come by for the remainder of the series. They can also bat for a long time (they hardly have a choice). It's not so ridiculous as it sounds to say that they can wear out Australia's bowlers. Sure, they're professional sportsmen at peak fitness and all that. On the other hand, there are only four of them and they're getting on a bit. There's a reason why players retire.

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Unleash the masterplan

Okay. It's taken us a while, but we've got it: England are sacrificing this match for the greater good.

It's important to remember that this is a five match series. We've only had two days so far, so there's a long, long way to go. By the end of the series there will be some tired legs. This is England's plan.

Step one, let Australia rack up an enormous amount of runs. Step two, bat for ages, following-on, if need be. Australia have only got four bowlers, so three days in the field will wipe them out. Glenn McGrath can't run in for long. Stuart Clark's in his thirties. Brett Lee will take up the slack and then he'll be cream-crackered. It's all coming together.

The next step is to win the toss in the next Test (we're not totally certain how England will manage this, but rest assured they've got a plan). They'll win the toss and they'll bat, for another three days. Glenn McGrath will be bowling about 40mph by this point. He'll be desperate for an afternoon snooze and a pint of mild.

They're playing right into our hands!

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Even more reckless optimism

Wait! We've got another one.

The favourites, with home advantage, choose to bat in the first Test. They amass a monstrous total leaving their opponents with over three days to try and bat out a draw. The visitors lose early wickets and it seems that all is lost. But it isn't. The visitors save the Test and draw the series.

Obviously there are a number of flaws in this line of thinking. England were on the receiving end for one thing. Also, England would have to find some way of disguising Mahela Jayawardene as Steve Harmison, which is a tough ask.

On the other hand, Sri Lanka's tour of England over the summer is a worthwhile template. They started like rank amateurs and found their way as they got used to conditions. It would be better if sides were acclimatised by the start of a series, but warm-ups seem to be frowned upon these days.

Tell you what we frown upon: Incompetent cricket as a result of unfamiliarity with playing conditions. That and 'being sociable'. We've no time for that.

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Ricky Ponting spurns the follow-on

Is it 2006 or 1996? The team of resilient battlers crafted by Hussain and transformed into world-beaters by Vaughan is nowhere to be seen. In its place we've got a load of insipid ringers.

Don't give up hope yet, though. We're sure it takes longer than five days to dismantle so much good work. These players have pride and though it may seem unlikely at present, more than a little class. They'll come good before this series is out. We only hope that it's soon. Very soon.

Some people seem baffled by Ricky Ponting's decision to decline to enforce the follow-on. We don't think it's a bad move. Psychologically, he's crushing England. In fact, psychologically, he's crushing us. We already have to stare into a bright light for six hours a day to combat the misery of a British winter. Before long we'll have to devise a special plinth so we can sit the sun on the bridge of our nose for 24 hours a day.

The ease of Australia's batting sandwiched between what may turn out to be two atrocious England innings will remove the argument that the pitch deteriorated. But mostly he wants to ensure that his bowlers get the most out of the new ball. This seems to be our theme for this match: Using the new ball well. It's no coincidence that England wasted it and conceded 600, whereas Australia made the most of every ball and knocked England over.

If Australia had enforced the follow-on, McGrath, Lee and Clark would have been about 90% and that could have made a difference. As it is, they'll put their feet up, sleep soundly and come out tomorrow raring to go.

Ponting's leaving nothing to chance.

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The Justin Kemp Tactic

We've known about the Justin Kemp Tactic for quite some time now. It's South Africa's only one-day tactic and, if we're perfectly honest, it's exactly the same as the Lance Klusener Tactic.

It runs as follows. South Africa's top-order batsmen steadily build a platform and when a wicket falls with about 10 or 20 overs to go, Justin Kemp is launched from said platform by a thermonuclear detonation in his special 'rocket shoes'.

Today Justin Kemp hit exactly 100 not out off 89 balls. It wasn't a classically executed example of the Justin Kemp Tactic, in that he came in a bit early and a bit low in the order. However, from then on, things went swimmingly.

We like Justin Kemp. He likes to swing the bat.

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Stop sneering at Paul Collingwood

Paul Collingwood's been quite firmly branded with the 'makes the most of his talent' tag. It's pissing us off. 'Making the most of your talent' is a prerequisite for any international sportsman. The insinuation is that he makes the most of not a lot of talent.

At least one cricket writer described Collingwood as 'out of his depth' after England's first innings. He's not. He just scored 96.

It's patronising to talk like this, but mostly it's inaccurate. Paul Collingwood's not from the Mark Richardson, 'three shots including the forward defensive', school of batting - Richardson's Test average was 44.77, incidentally. He's got plenty of shots. In fact, gifted wunderkind, Alastair Cook, said after they'd both scored hundreds together earlier in the year that he was having trouble getting the ball off the square and that he admired Collingwood's ability to manoevre the ball and keep the scoreboard ticking over. Who was the grafter there?

You'd think that England supporters raised on an inspid diet of Graeme Hick and Mark Ramprakash would recognise that a God-given talent is by no means the most important factor determining a batsman's success. Ask Steve Waugh. In fact do, because Steve Waugh once said that he thought Paul Collingwood was good.

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Mohammad Yousuf suffers inexplicable loss of form

It was bound to happen sooner or later. No man can maintain such a standard of batting indefinitely. Not even Don Bradman. Mohammad Yousuf lost his wicket for just 102 today.

To put that in context, 102 was only narrowly more than double the next highest score by a Pakistani batsman. As he trudged off disconsolately, it was impossible not to feel for him: A deity reduced to a mere demigod.

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Glenn McGrath's bowling tips for beginners

1: Be tall.

2: Try and land six balls out of six, three inches outside off-stump. When you hit the seam, the ball should strike the very top of off-stump if it goes one way and should find the edge of the bat if it goes the other way.

It's sometimes helpful to identify a particular blade of grass to aim for. That way you know at what exact fraction of a picosecond to release the ball.

3: Beginners often make the mistake of not being tall or of landing the ball in several different spots. If you're prone to these mistakes, apply steps one to two.

Also see Glenn McGrath's bowling tips for experts

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Glenn McGrath's bowling tips for experts

1: Be tall.

2: Land six balls out of six, three inches outside off-stump. When you hit the seam, the ball should strike the very top of off-stump if it goes one way and should find the edge of the bat if it goes the other way.

It's sometimes helpful to identify a particular blade of grass to aim for. That way you know at what exact fraction of a picosecond to release the ball.

Don't worry if you're out by a millimetre or so - it'll keep the batsman guessing and you can also make the most of any uneven bounce.

3: If the pressure's on and you need to restrict the flow of runs, apply steps one to two.

4: If the pressure's on and you need to take wickets, apply steps one to two.

Also see Glenn McGrath's bowling tips for beginners

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Sensational news leading up to the second Test

The combined might of the British and Australian media are trying to make you think that things are happening in the run-up to the next Test, but they aren't. Here's what's going on:

  • - Various people are saying that Steve Harmison will 'bounce back'. Of course no-one actually knows, so we'll just have to wait until the start of the cricket to find out.
  • - Matthew Hayden thinks that England's batsmen will struggle against Warne in Adelaide. Of course he doesn't know this for a fact. Again, we'll just have to wait and see what happens.
  • - Matthew Hayden also thinks that Australia's batsmen won't have too many problems with Monty Panesar. Of course most of Australia's batsmen have never faced Panesar, so this is really just brash, unfounded optimism.
  • - Glenn McGrath didn't bowl in the nets. Will he make the Test? Will he not? Let's wait and find out.
  • - Michael Vaughan actually played a cricket match. Will England unveil him midway through the series? Some might say that only time will tell.
That's right: Journalists are earning their salaries by producing articles, just as they have since the dawn of time. That's the best news that we can come up with: Journalists are writing stuff. We sneer and say it's not news, yet hands up who's read versions of every last one of those stories in up to six different places?

We can't get enough of it.

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Sourav Ganguly's in India's Test squad

Can. Of. Worms.

We heard a rumour about this yesterday, but we didn't think it was at all credible: Sourav Ganguly has been brought back into India's Test squad.

This is wrong. It really is. We've nothing against Ganguly, but the guy attracts extremes of emotion. Things were just starting to die down after he was axed as captain and subsequently dropped, but this is like filling a pan with napalm and putting it on the fire to simmer for a bit.

Plus he's kind of crap in Tests, or at least he had been for the last year or so in the national side. He's a more than decent one-day player, but even one-day selection would be a retrogressive step. India's hardly short of batting talent, even if their performances in their current series in South Africa haven't shown that. They just don't need him.

He performed badly in county cricket this season. We believe that he's made one hundred in Indian domestic cricket. All Ganguly's selection does is jab a huge, double-handed sword into an open, infected wound and wriggle it around a bit.

The other minus point is that we realised that we've always spelt his first name wrong, up until now. That makes us more upset than you might think.

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Mohammad Yousuf earns the ultimate accolade

We were starting to get a bit worried about Mohammad Yousuf's run of form. There comes a point where a cricketer has performed so exceptionally, for so long, that there's nothing left to say. At this point it's hard to muster the superlatives to laud them as they deserve. What do you do?

You issue them with a Transformer, if you're us.

Yes, Mohammad Yousuf is so richly deserving that we're imploring the ICC or the PCB or any other cricketing acronym, to present him with Scourge (pictured). Look at him. Look at Scourge. What a smashing Transformer. You've really got to be going some to be deserving of Scourge. What an honour.

Mohammad Yousuf, having hit YET ANOTHER hundred today, has now scored more Test runs in a calendar year than anyone... Ever. Well done, that man. His nine Test centuries this year are also a record.

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Paul Collingwood: Another nurdling, nudging, gritty triumph

That title's ironic, by the way. We hate it when people use those words about Paul Collingwood , even if his innings perhaps merits it (except for the word 'triumph' - we don't mind that one). You just get the feeling that people are delighted that he's living up to his reputation. He's not though, because, as we all know, it's reputed that he's out of his depth.

Out of his depth and technically ill-equipped to bat at four, Paul Collingwood has once again fluked his way into the nineties. Please let him get two more runs tomorrow. He's on 98 not out and he deserves a hundred. Sometimes hundreds are all that counts. People say things like: "He hasn't passed three figures in his last ten Test matches" and stuff like that. You could have been averaging 80, but 99 is bottling it; 100 is influencing the course of a match.

Paul Collingwood's twice been out for 96, so presumably he's past the bit where he gets nervous and will be sleeping soundly like we'll be doing tonight, during the afternoon session, awash with curry and beer.

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James Anderson picked ahead of Monty Panesar

We're as desperate for Monty Panesar to get a game as anyone, but it's not the end of the world that England have selected an unchanged side.

Sure, Anderson was hit-and-miss during the last Test and went for quite a few, but he's a different kettle of fish when the ball swings. He's a giant vat and he's full of sharks.

During the practice match against South Australia, the ball did swing when the ball was new, so Anderson's got a chance to redeem himself. That's fair. We hate it when players are in and out of the side.

As for Monty, he just has to bide his time. He'll definitely get a game in Sydney at the very least. That's the final Test and there could be everything to play for. Monty Panesar could just be England's secret weapon, unleashed to wreak havoc in the final act.

It's all coming together in fantasyland. That's what a reasonable first day total for England gets you: Demented optimism born of a lifetime of England winning the Ashes in your own head and nowhere else.

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We're a little bit concerned that Kevin Shine might be talking balls about Steve Harmison

Steve Harmison bowled loads of wides and other garbage during the first Test. Kevin Shine is England's bowling coach. It's his job to mend Steve. Here's what we just read in the Sydney Morning Herald:
According to Shine, a change of just two degrees in the angle of Harmison's bowling arm was the initial cause of the fast bowler's problems.
When bowling at his best, Harmison's arm is six degrees past the perpendicular towards his head. That, however, blew out to eight degrees at various stages at the Gabba, prompting him to lose all sense of direction and rhythm in his first few spells.
We'll be the first to admit that we know less about the technicalities of elite fast bowling that we do about 'applying ourself'. However, two degrees sounds like a mighty fine line between success and abject failure.

Kevin Shine might well be right, but we're worried that to the ears of Steve Harmison, this sounds like: "Steve. There is, quite literally, NO margin for error here. If you're out with one of your movements, by so much as a degree, you'll transform into Crap Bowling Man."

With this playing on your mind in front of millions of people, how would you bowl? We get a bit wobbly and uncertain when we think someone's watching us walk and walking's piss-easy.

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Kevin Pietersen v Shane Warne

Quite early on yesterday, Shane Warne started bowling round the wicket into the rough at Kevin Pietersen. Perhaps the theory was that Pietersen would get impatient and go for high-risk shots. He didn't.

It's a strange feature of cricket that you can be impressed by someone essentially doing nothing. 'Good leave' is a baffling and hilarious comment to a non-cricket fan, but cricket's a mind game as much as anything. Leaving the ball can show clear thinking and an appreciation of the match situation. It warmed our heart to see Kevin Pietersen spend half an hour kicking the ball away last night.

It said that he knew what he was doing and that he was there for runs - as many as possible. It also said that Shane Warne had pretty much no other idea what to do.

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Kevin Pietersen v Glenn McGrath

Occasionally, during a cricket match, there's a passage of play where someone attempts to make some sort of an impact beyond that particular delivery, that over or even the match.

With Test cricket being played over a series, players often talk of having a psychological hold over the opposition. Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne have had a psychological hold over England batsmen for as long as we can remember. One good ball, early on in a series, is enough to make the English worry about what's to come.

Bearing this in mind, was it just us, or did Kevin Pietersen try and knock Glenn McGrath out of his career last night? Glenn's first over (not with the new ball, which went to Stuart Clark) went for 4, 0, 4, 0, 4 and 0. It seemed to us that Pietersen was trying to make a statement above and beyond his not being afraid of McGrath. He was implying that McGrath was a liability.

It may be that McGrath's injured, but he only bowled 12 overs yesterday; he didn't get the new ball; and nor did he get a wicket. It's certainly not his pitch, but that didn't used to matter. It will be intriguing to see how he fights back.

You can say that it's just one bad day for McGrath, but Glenn McGrath NEVER used to have bad days. Especially against England.

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Paul Collingwood - an Ashes double hundred

At the start of play last night, we were nervous because Paul Collingwood was 98 not out. We needn't have worried, because he got his hundred.

And then he got another one.

We always get massively carried away at times like this, but Paul Collingwood is rapidly becoming one of our favourite cricketers. In our current state, with England's towering total acting like the strongest of opiates, we'd say that there was no player we respect more. He's the complete antithesis of the effete, spineless England batsmen who used to crumble at the first 'g'day'.

Someone wrote a headline in a nameless Aussie paper last week: "Is this England's worst ever number four" accompanied by a picture of Collingwood. We've still got a few slices of humble pie left over from the last Test. In fact, we'd better provide that person with the recipe. They'll probably need to go into business mass-producing the stuff.

You can say that this is a flat pitch - and it is - but Paul Collingwood scored 206 against Glenn McGrath, Shane Warne, Brett Lee and the increasingly impressive Stuart Clark. How flat can a pitch be? That's a fair variety of bowling as well. You can't say he hasn't been tested.

Out of his depth? Technically ill-equipped to bat at four? Those are weak arguments now, surely. Weaker than our will to 'get things done'.

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Matthew Hoggard's ticked off

He's not annoyed, as far as we know. We're the one's doing the ticking on our list of England players who can perform in Australian conditions.

Hoggard was a little bit of a worry. During the last Ashes tour he was pretty inconsequential and while he's clearly a more rounded bowler now, you still want proof. In taking 4-76, he's given us that proof. Matthew, go and stand with Paul Collingwood, Freddie and KP. Wait for everyone else.

A draw's the most likely result, but England won't see it that way. Their plan will be to get a couple of quick wickets early on, dispose of the tail with clinical efficiency, have a bit of a slog and then declare to set up a nailbiting final day.

We believe that they can do it. Cricket's the only place where we believe in unlikely stuff. In real life, we quite often don't believe in reasonably likely things, like 'something nice happening'. We never believe that something nice might happen.

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Andrew Flintoff's ankle injury

England say that Andrew Flintoff has been experiencing 'discomfort' in his left ankle, but that it isn't a concern.

Well we're concerned. It's all well and good to say that he didn't bowl as a precaution, but he's supposed to be bowling. It's a Test match. It's a precaution when you're preserving something for a reason. A Test match IS the reason.

They also try and pass it of as being because of back-to-back Tests. You can't say that either. It's not some roll of the dice that's brought about that situation: The Tests are back-to-back. That's the way cricket is. You have to play according to those rules.

It's clearly time for a bionic ankle, anyway. We don't know why they didn't go ahead with this ages ago. They mucked about before they decided to invest in a bionic knee for Michael Vaughan as well. It shouldn't be that way. It should be: Ankle twinge - bionic ankle; neck twinge - bionic neck; back twinge - bionic back.

Bionics exists for a reason, you know. Mankind didn't create Robocop all those years ago so that England cricketers can just skive matches as they please. England: Heed the lessons of history and implement a policy of replacing body parts with bionic versions at the first sign of trouble.

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Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Asif have their bans overturned

Now this is a bit ridiculous. Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Asif have had their bans overturned. It's seemingly on the grounds that nobody told them not to take various supplements that turned out to be illegal. Never mind ignorance being no defence in the eyes of the law - that's all their defence was.

We've sympathy with Mohammad Asif who had apparently never been given any sort of guidance as to what substances were legal and illegal (although surely any professional sportsman must treat many products with suspicion). Shoaib Akhtar, however, seems pretty clued-up. We'd be surprised if he wasn't aware of any wrongdoing.

Have you seen how burly Shoaib Akhtar is these days? He used to be really slight and wiry.

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Australia take jaw-dropping victory

Wow. Glad we're not English.

If we were English, we'd be sickened that a side who scored 551-6 in their first innings contrived to be bowled out for just 129 in their second innings. We'd be incensed that not one batsman managed to stick with Paul Collingwood in order to save this game.

We'd be utterly downhearted at England being two-nil down in a five match series - particularly when they'd performed so positively and encouragingly earlier in the match.

If we were English, all the memories of past Ashes catastophes would be welling up in our mind with grotesque familiarity.

Oh, wait - we are English.

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Shane Warne sucks up the pressure and spits it in England's faces

"When Warney’s bowling and the match is in the balance, we have heart palpitations and have to breathe into a paper bag like they do on the telly."

Almost 12 months ago, we wrote the King Cricket top ten. This is what we wrote about Shane Warne who appeared at two.

The theme of that post is that runs are hard to come by and nerves play a massive part when Warne bowls in tight situations. That's what happened today. Warne took 4-49. England were all out for 129.

England's batsmen batted like lunatics, but Shane Warne created that situation. There would have been a little bit of nervousness at first; then, as wickets fell, they would have increased; until before long the batsmen were gibbering wrecks. That factor plays as big a part as any in Shane Warne's success.

The ability to channel the pressure of a match situation solely onto the batsman is Shane Warne's unique skill.

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Can we say 'well played' to Australia?

We're not totally sure whether we're allowed to do this as a cricket website with an English bent, but we want to commend the Australian team. They played brilliantly.

They may have had a bit of luck to get England out for 129, but it was hardly just luck, was it? Come on. Admit it. Australia played well.

They conceded 551 over the first two days and managed to take only six wickets. From there, they fought back and, on a wearing pitch, almost achieved parity. Then they disposed of England taking full advantage of any nervousness in the opposition. To prove that batting wasn't impossible, they then banished any nerves of their own and swept to their target.

They had one slim chance of winning the match. They sensed it. And they took it. They're a special team.

One that's worth beating.

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Kevin Pietersen v Shane Warne: A lesson unlearnt

Remember this post about how well Kevin Pietersen played Shane Warne in the first innings in Adelaide?

We were impressed with how Pietersen controlled himself and padded the ball away. In his second innings, with England en route to a catastrophic defeat, Warne pitched his first ball to Pietersen outside leg-stump into the rough. Pietersen tried to sweep it and got bowled.


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Ashley Giles over Monty Panesar - Duncan Fletcher's irritating stubbornness

Duncan Fletcher loves Ashley Giles. Mostly because he can bat a bit. This means that he never picks Monty Panesar and just about everybody thinks that Panesar's mint.

It's not Ashley Giles' fault. We actually quite like Ashley Giles. We even admire his batting ability. Did he not brave it out for England's victory in the Trent Bridge Test during the last Ashes series? Did he not hit a crucial 50 to ensure England regained the Ashes at the Oval?

On the other hand, you can't just use any old facts to 'prove' your view is correct, like Fletcher's been doing. The fact is that Ashley Giles has been out of the game for quite a while. He's not taking wickets and he's not really scoring runs.

Here's what Duncan Fletcher said in the aftermath of England's calamitous defeat in Adelaide:

"We want to bat to eight. Look at Australia where Warne had that 100 partnership with Clarke. Those runs put the pressure back on to us."
What Fletcher fails to notice is that Shane Warne isn't England's number eight. He's Australia's. Ashley Giles is England's number eight and he got a duck when England needed runs in the second innings. He also fails to see that Shane Warne took four wickets in England's second innings and gave Australia their marvellous victory. THAT'S why he's playing. Not for his batting.

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Navjot Sidhu guilty of manslaughter

Jesus. Navjot Sidhu killed a man.

Navjot Sidhu is the former Indian opening batsman who many people will know for his unique commentary style. A Sidhuism is a particularly flowery piece of comment or an unusual simile. Examples include: 'The Sri Lankan score is running like an Indian taxi meter' and 'statistics are like miniskirts, they reveal more than they hide'.

We'd always found Sidhu to be weirdly amusing, but not so any more. In a road rage incident, back in 1988, he beat a man to death. Today he was found guilty and sentenced to three years in prison.

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Inzamam stands firm

Tell you who wouldn't have buckled like a belt during Australia's final day assault at Adelaide: Inzamam-ul-Haq. There's a man who doesn't panic under pressure. 'Why panic,' he asks, 'when I could just stand here and hit cricket balls for a bit?'

Whether it's supreme mental conditioning or just the fact that he can't be bothered expending the energy, Inzamam-ul-Haq never flaps. Today Pakistan bowled out the Windies for 151 and then did their utmost to make a game of it when they batted themselves. They lost eight wickets, but Inzy saw them home with 42 not out.

When the Martians come to get us, we hope that Inzy's the King of the world. We need someone in power who'll treat the whole thing as a non-event.

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Shane Bond takes three wickets (and so does James Franklin)

Shane Bond took 3-43. Fast-bowling-arama, or somesuch.

James Franklin actually finished with better figures, 3-30, but we're a lot less interested. Mostly this is because we don't much like James Franklin, whereas we love Shane Bond. However, having studied the scorecard more closely, we can actually justify our Shane Bond-centric focus.

Shane Bond took the wickets of Benevolent Uncle Sanath, Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene, which is some trio. James Franklin took the wickets of Upul Tharanga, who's not bad; Chamara Kapugedera, who's promising, but currently not-all-that-good; and some guy called L P C Silva, who we've never even heard of. Frankly, L P C Silva could be a woman. We're not even going to check due to the minuscule chance that this could in some way render James Franklin's performance more meaningful.

For those who don't know, our hatred of James Franklin springs from a really irritating hundred he once hit.

Sri Lanka were all out for 154, by the way. Everyone's forgetting how to bat this week.

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Australia call up Adam Voges

Australia have called up Adam Voges to replace the recently retired Damien Martyn in their third Test squad. Not Brad Hodge, who averages a shade under 60 after his five Tests. Not Phil Jaques who scores hundreds for fun. No, they've gone for Adam Voges.

If he's an Australian batsman then he's bound to be brilliant. It barely matters who they actually are. One recent exception was Damien Martyn, who was managing to get himself out in all sorts of creative ways against England. We'll miss him. Particularly when Adam 'Who?' Voges is cantering to a double hundred at the WACA.

Look at Adam Voges. Look at Adam Voges' face. Get all the laughter out now, because this time next month his face will make you wince and you'll think he's a complete bastard.

This is a really old photo, but there's no way we weren't using. Again: Look at his face!

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Damien Martyn announces retirement due to substandard maths

This is a turn-up. Damien Martyn's announced his immediate retirement from all forms of cricket. He's done this in the middle of the Ashes citing a lack of motivation to perform at his best as a reason. Seems unlikely.

Cricket Australia guy, James Sutherland, rather generously confirmed that Martyn would have been in Australia's side for the third Test. Can we speculate that maybe this is a lie? Our theory is that the selectors told Martyn that he was going to be dropped and asked him if he'd like to make a more dignified exit from Test cricket. We could be wrong.

The other reason Martyn gave for his retirement was that the current Ashes series challenges "require people who are more than 100% committed, dedicated, disciplined and passionate about the game."

Amateur mathematicians among you will realise the schoolboy error that Martyn has made here. Could it be that Damien Martyn has been ravaged with guilt at only producing 100% commitment, little-knowing that no-one can produce more. Could it be that Damien Martyn is 100% dedicated, 100% disciplined and 100% passionate about the game and has retired as a result of a mathematical misunderstanding?

He adds that those around him are "entitled to expect more than 100%." They really aren't, Damien. That's totally unreasonable.

Either way, it begs the question: Who's got the craziest eyes in cricket now?

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Kumar Sangakkara - a futile hundred with a controversial end

There's been some great Test cricket going on in the Antipodes recently. Not that Ashes garbage - New Zealand against Sri Lanka.

New Zealand eventually won the first Test. It was a match where all four innings combined added up to roughly one Australia v England first innings - 649 to be precise. We love cricket like this. It's far more exciting than the run-fest drudgery that's usually served up these days. You also know that when a player hits a hundred, he bloody deserves it. Kumar Sangakkara hit a hundred.

Only one other player - Daniel Vettori - passed 50 in the entire match. Clearly Murali recognised how impressive Sangakkara's achievement was, because he ran to congratulate him on completing the hundredth run while batting as his partner. Unfortunately, he did this while the ball was still en route from the boundary. Brendon McCullum rather coldly ran him out, but you can't blame him.

Can you?

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Alastair Cook and Andrew Strauss can bat together

Who'd have thought it? Alastair Cook and Andrew Strauss CAN score runs in Australia. Strauss was out for 88 in England's tour game against Western Australia, but Cook's still there, on 106 at the time of writing. Which is early. We can't sleep.

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James Anderson and Steve Harmison continue to bother England's selectors

England would have hoped that several key selection issues would have resolved themselves during this tour match against Western Australia.

Obviously they wouldn't have wanted James Anderson to bowl badly. But if he had have bowled badly, it would have been easier to drop him, which they must be thinking about. James Anderson was the pick of England's bowlers with 3-53.

Steve Harmison isn't likely to get dropped. What the selectors would have wanted to see would have been an upturn in form. Steve Harmison took 1-99.

The selectors would have probably wanted something from Monty Panesar that would have helped make their minds up too. Monty took 1-69.

There's another innings at least.

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A picture of Geraint Jones appearing to check out Matt Prior's arse

Well what would you call this post? Whatever we write, all you'll remember is the picture where Geraint Jones appears to check out Matt Prior's arse.

Matt Prior seems to be prone to appearing in photographs with barely-disguised homosexual subtexts. He's very much unaware in this particular example, but still.

As far as the justification for publishing this, Geraint Jones batted at three in England's tour game, presumably to get some runs under his belt. He didn't get any before he was out.

On an unrelated note, we found a picture of a media centre belonging to *a* Geraint Jones when we were looking for pictures. Do you think it's the media centre of *the* Geraint Jones. There can't be many Geraint Joneses can there? Why is he, or his namesake, taking pictures of his media centre anyway?

A link to Geraint Jones' media centre. Sorry - media "center".

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Reasons to be cheerful about the Ashes

Yes, there are some. First and foremost: It's all coming together perfectly.

You don't believe us? These first two Tests have just been setting the scene. Don't you know anything about crafting drama? England have experienced both kinds of defeat: The remorseless, same-old, same-old, utterly outplayed, grind-you-into-the-dirt brand; and the sudden and outrageous defeat which hurts even more.

This just means that England's inevitable victory and retention of the Ashes will be all the sweeter. If England had got off to a flier, your appreciation wouldn't have been sufficient. This way, they lower your expectations and when they finally do get round to winning, you're awestruck. It's all relative.

Secondly, Damien Martyn can't buy a run.

Thirdly, Matthew Hayden can't buy a run.

Finally, Glenn McGrath doesn't seem to be all that.

It's all coming together...

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Nicky Boje retires

It's a harsh world where Ashley Giles gets vilified for being a middling spinner who can bat a bit. So how come Nicky Boje was never held in such low esteem. Here's a player who managed to play 43 Tests and averaged virtually the same figure with the ball.

The only possible explanation for Nicky Boje's repeated inclusion in South African Test sides was that they were experimenting to see just how many batsmen they could field before anyone noticed. Because Nicky Boje was a batsman, really, wasn't he? He was probably the best number nine batsman there's ever been.

We've nothing against Nicky Boje per se. We just feel that he's emblematic of South Africa's innate conservatism of selection. Much as Ashley Giles is for England, currently.

Nicky Boje was of course implicated in the Hansie Cronje match-fixing scandal. We wouldn’t be the first to question whether it was physically possible for Nicky Boje to underperform.

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Mark Cosgrove promises to get even larger

To think that we were originally in two minds as to whether to adopt Mark Cosgrove as a King Cricket favourite. He's a fat cricketer - it's the easiest decision imaginable.

Today's great Mark Cosgrove news is that Mark may well get fatter still, potentially challenging Warwick Armstrong for the title of 'fattest ever Test cricketer', assuming Mark can force his way into the Australia side.

Mark's spiritual-guru-cum-role-model, Darren Lehmann, recently indicated that he thought that Mark's fitness (read 'pie-eating') might be holding him back. Fortunately, South Australia coach, Wayne Phillips has claimed that nothing would be done about Cosgrove's weight until "it gets ridiculous."

Hurray. That's a promise. Mark Cosgrove's own coach has given him the green light. There is no impediment to stop Mark Cosgrove's weight getting ridiculous.

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Australian Man, Andrew Symonds of Australia gets Test nod

Australia have plumped for Australian man, Andrew Symonds of Australia over Adam Voges for the third Test in Perth that starts tonight, UK time.

Symonds has Test experience of course. Plus, he's more in keeping with Australia's new five bowler strategy, which hasn't actually surfaced so far in this Ashes series.

We say that Australian man, Andrew Symonds of Australia fits in with Australia's five bowler strategy, but only barely. The truth is that he's really just a fill-in bowler. He can take the odd wicket. He's respectable. He's Darren Lehmann standard, really.

He's not Darren Lehmann standard with the bat though. Lehmann's a batting emperor. Symonds would be some sort of high-ranking military man. Influential, but at a much lower echelon.

We've a great deal of time for Symonds as a one-day player. He's a six-hitter of the purest form and the kind of indeterminate bowler who seems to prosper in that form of the game. In Test cricket, we're not so sure.

Having said that, Damien Martyn had been a walking wicket, so he hasn't exactly weakened the Australia team.

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Steve Harmison's been mended

Apologies to Kevin Shine. You weren't talking balls. You appear to have fixed Steve Harmison.

We were a bit dubious, but he bowled solidly today in taking 4-48. It's a massive relief for any Englishman. It was a good pitch for him, but that wouldn't have mattered if he'd been 'angling the ball down the leg side' - read 'inexplicably bowling the ball at the non-striking batsman'.


There could also be a case that the magic of Monty rubs off on Harmison. We should capitalise that, actually. 'The Magic of Monty'.

During the summer, we watched another day of cricket on a hard, bouncy pitch. Monty Panesar took five wickets and Harmison four as England tore into Pakistan. The crowd went mental. Let's pretend that the rest of the Ashes hasn't happened and that this match is just a continuation of that.

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Monty Panesar makes his entrance

Thanks for your performances over the years, Ashley Giles. Here's your gold watch.

We were lying in bed this morning, a little unsettled by a dream about trying to keep a vampire in the wardrobe, but overall really quite comfortable and with no intention of getting up. At this point, somebody - presumably one of the cats - said: "I think Monty Panesar's done something".

Monty Panesar NEVER does anything bad and we shot out of bed. It could mean only one thing and yes, sure enough, Monty Panesar had taken five wickets. Actually, it was four at the time, but he was en route to five.

This man can do no wrong. 'Don't expect miracles', he warned England supporters. He was just toying with us. We don't think it's at all unreasonable to expect a miracle every single time he takes the field. In fact we expect a miracle even when he's eating his breakfast. You might think that's being quite demanding on our part, but he fulfils those demands EVERY SINGLE TIME.

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Kumar Sangakkara 156 runs out of 268

Context is everything in cricket. Remember Paul Collingwood's 10 in the Oval Test in the last Ashes? That was some 10. Probably the best 10 we've ever seen. Wickets had been falling and the atmosphere was becoming hysterical. A dull, blocking 10 was the perfect antidote. Contrast that with a huge hundred against demoralised, substandard opposition when you've already got 500 on the board. We can't be bothered thinking of a specific example.

In the first Test between New Zealand and Sri Lanka, we described how the context of the game led us to believe that Kumar Sangakkara 'bloody deserved' his hundred. It was low-scoring and here's the post. We won't repeat ourself.

In the second Test, Sangakkara just made 156 not out in Sri Lanka's total of 268. That's some percentage. Not out, too. Maybe Sri Lanka's other batsmen were all off their mash on ecstasy pipes, you say? Not so. New Zealand are currently 66-4, so unless there's been a big party and only Kumar Sangakkara wasn't invited, the lad's a class above.

Full marks, Kumar. We respect batsmen who score when it matters.

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India reverts to the class of 2003

Remember 2003? The US was going to war in Iraq. The UK was rocking to the sounds of 'I Believe in a Thing Called Love' by The Darkness and 'Laura' by Scissor Sisters. India had a batting line-up featuring Sehwag, Dravid, Tendulkar, Laxman and Ganguly.

Well those days are back! At least cricket-wise. Let's all pretend it's 2003. The marketing men haven't made cider cool and there's no need for iPod 'docks'. We've still got our sweet job in the warehouse that makes us cry every morning and phones that play bits of video are more impressive than a thousand foot pyramid made entirely out of rubies.

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The WACA pitch

Good news and bad news. Or rather, terrible news and faint die-hard optimism.

The terrible news is that England were bowled out for just 215, giving Australia a priceless first innings lead. If Australia don't do anything rash, which they didn't in reaching 119-1 at stumps, then the Ashes should be theirs.

Cameron Sutherland, the WACA groundsman, reckoned that days two and three would be the best for batting after the greenness off the first day had worn off, but before any cracks opened up. England put themselves into the perfect position in bowling Australia out on the first day, but have thrown it away.

They could have batted through both of those days. Instead, they have offered Australia use of a good batting wicket before attempting to chase down a potentially large target when it has deteriorated.

The faint die-hard optimism is that the pitch should still be decent for batting on day four and other than the cracks, shouldn't be too bad on day five. But even then, you're nervous about England chasing ANYTHING with Shane Warne about. Pressure's his greatest weapon. Batting to keep the Ashes alive? That won't exacerbate the situation then.

Australia 244 all out and 119-1
England 215 all out

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Adam Gilchrist's batting turns up

Yesterday we were transported back in time to 2003. Turns out we're still there.

It was painfully familiar: Australia's middle-order breaks England's spirit with ruthless efficiency. Then Adam Gilchrist grinds the broken pieces into powder, before releasing it all into the Fremantle Doctor to be distributed throughout Australia's unforgiving landscape. There are specks of English spirit from Bendigo to Darwin, but there isn't a grain of the stuff in Perth.

On the one hand, Adam Gilchrist's hundred off 57 balls - the second fastest Test century ever - was just kicking a side when it's down. On the other hand it's what sport's all about. It's no good only winning when you've been up against it. You've got to win all the time. No matter what the circumstances. Why give England even a glimmer of hope? Make sure. Gilchrist made sure.

In truth, this might be a misleading flicker of glory from Gilchrist. He hasn't been batting well at all. Much like McGrath, he might increasingly have 'on days' where he shows his talent, but there are an increasing number of off days.

Today would be an 'on day'.

Australia 244 all out and 527-5 declared
England 215 all out and 19-1

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Australia win the Ashes

And in so doing, show why England failed.

Because will winning the Ashes stop them? No. Why would it? They'll be aiming for 5-0 now. Then they'll be doing their damnedest to win the series after this one and the one after that.

Contrast that with England, for whom winning the Ashes signalled not the start of something, but the end. They built towards it. They never built on it afterwards.

If you think we're being harsh, prior to their now-redundant home Ashes win, they had beaten all-comers again and again. Afterwards you need look no further than the callow performance against Sri Lanka in the first Test of last summer. England had a monstrous lead and ample time to bowl out Sri Lanka. They never managed it, dropping catches regularly and showing precisely no sense of urgency.

If this loss brings about that indefinable something that makes the difference between winning and losing Test matches, then all will not have been in vain. Call it 'edge' or 'intensity'. Call it 'super magic space power' if you want. Just get it back.

Well played Australia - or something similarly banal and bad-tempered.

Australia 244 all out and 527-5 declared
England 215 all out and 350 all out

Australia take a 3-0 lead and therefore the Ashes

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England's failings

It's a post-mortem, even though we're barely half-way through the series. What a triumph!

Neither of England's openers, Strauss and Cook, produced anything of note for the first two matches of this series. That England's middle order of Bell, Collingwood and Pietersen acquitted themselves well is consequently all the more admirable, but a Test side can't afford to sacrifice two of its best batsmen for so few runs.

Particularly when you take into account the catastrophe that is England's lower middle-order. Flintoff doesn't actually look like a batsman at present. Perhaps he was short of match practice. Perhaps he's struggled with Australian conditions, which are relatively new to him. Either way, you didn't necessarily anticipate runs on his arrival at the crease.

The same goes for Geraint Jones, only more so. This is a cricketer in freefall. He knew he wasn't the tour selectors' first choice and was doubtless wary of being seen as a Fletcher pet. Having grown up batting on Australian pitches, surely his failures in familiar conditions should be all the proof that is needed to drop him. It just hasn't been happening for him. It doesn't seem likely that it will.

Ashley Giles had barely played cricket in an age. He was never a world-beater prior to this. Everyone's saying what a mistake it was to pick him. We don't disagree. He never looked like taking wickets. England may as well have selected another batsman and called on Pietersen, Collingwood and Bell with the ball. The difference in the standard of England's bowling attack would have been negligible.

While Matthew Hoggard should be exempt from criticism, he needed more support from his fellow bowlers. Steve Harmison was a liability early on, for whatever reason. He was yet another player being carried by the rest of the side. Ultimately, there were too few players carrying too many.

James Anderson bowled steadily but really provided little. he was another player, along with Giles and, if you think about it, Flintoff, who really didn't have enough matches under his belt.

Australia had failings too, of course, but this was one place where England out-scored them.

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Australia's failings

Australia won the series and the England players will say that you can't let-up for a second against them; that they crush you, if you do. But that's bollocks. They're a great side, but to bestow on them machine-like qualities and robotic flawlessness is to show too much respect. You can't beat a side if you think of them like that.

The truth is that this Australian side is very good, but there's an argument that this might have been one of England's better chances to win in Australia. Here's why.


Statistically, Justin Langer and Matthew Hayden are one of the greatest opening partnerships of all time, but that's going back over quite some period. Currently, they're pretty ordinary.

Langer hit what was really quite a lucky 82 in the first Test. By simply posting a third-man England could have halved his tally. In the second innings, his hundred was the equivalent of putting the boot into a prone victim after your mates have beaten him up.

Hayden's just hopeless. He's the next to go.

This is the first reason why this series presented an opportunity for England. There is, quite simply, no way on earth that the inclusion of Phil Jaques in place of one of these two wouldn't improve the Australian side considerably.

Middle order:

There aren't too many issues here. Australia have Ricky Ponting and Ashes hero, Mike Hussey playing for them. However, alongside them was Damien Martyn who was in the final, underwhelming throes of a great career. He was replaced by Andrew Symonds who's confirming everyone's view that he's a great one-day player, but no more than that.

Unfortunately for England, Michael Clarke's not going to get any worse and Ponting and Hussey have a long way to fall to be classed as merely 'superb'. Weak links in Aussie batting don't tend to last long, so the other middle-order spot is unlikely to remain a chink in their armour.


Adam Gilchrist's breathtaking hundred distracts from an otherwise poor year with the bat. Again, he's one of the greats, but on current form, you'd fancy your chances. He's done a lot over the years, but that's in the past.

Spin bowling:

Some things never change. Next.

Quick bowling:

There's definitely a theme here. For as long as we can remember, Glenn McGrath has been untouchable. He didn't go for runs and he took wickets. Reliable? If ever you could count a bowler, here he was. But it doesn't work that way any more. Glenn McGrath has occasionally looked vulnerable.

Batsmen have attacked him. Ricky Ponting has even been forced to remove him from the attack for his own protection. This is unheard of. On his day, he's still pretty much the best there is, but now there are off days. You don't often get the opportunity to fell a champion. England could have dealt a severe blow by doing this. There probably won't be a second opportunity.

Brett Lee's paradoxically turning into quite a conservative selection. He's still a tearaway fast bowler who goes for runs, but he's a better batsman than Warne. England's number seven averages 23.91 with the bat. Australia's number nine averages 21.86. If only he took more wickets.

Stuart Clark won us over very quickly. We characterised him as an ageing, ineffective Jason Gillespie/Michael Kasprowicz substitute. In fact, he's a younger Glenn McGrath. Top that.

So why did England lose?

For all that we've written on Australia's failings, they don't compare to England's. Plus, Australia's big performers have done better than England's big performers. Ponting and Hussey broke England's bowlers and Stuart Clark has fortified a previously faltering attack.

We'd like to think that this is the final hurrah of an ageing side and that England will meet an inferior, younger side come the next Ashes. In truth, we think that this side has already aged and that their replacements will revitalise them.

Maybe we're just being pessimistic because we're miserable about England losing the bastard Ashes again.

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Shane Warne's retiring

The word on the street is that Shane Warne's going to retire. By 'on the street', we of course mean 'in the world's cricket media'.

He's called a press conference for today and people who know about this sort of stuff think it can mean only one thing.

We'll save our thoughts for now, in case he's just going to announce how much he hates pommie bastards, on a scale of one to a billion.

We'll just say that our first thought was: 'Ha. How are you going to fill THAT gap, Australia.' Then, after a second of thought, we realised that we were massively disappointed. It really will be sad, if he goes.

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