OUR cricket columnist, former England batsman and Warwickshire chairman Andy Lloyd, has been poring over all the Ashes action. Here he dissects what he’s learned from the play so far.
The most fearsome obstacle standing between England and a victory in the final Ashes Test that would earn them a 3-1 series victory is probably the weather. Certainly England have Australia’s number and have been well on top of them for almost the whole six weeks. But rain could yet play a decisive part in Sydney, where they have had an unpredictable summer. The weather is sure to shape the thinking of Andrew Strauss. With the Ashes already retained and a draw enough to ensure a series win for the tourists, I can’t see the England captain taking any risks. The ideal scenario for England would be to hammer home the superiority they have built up, so that they go into the one-day games choc-a-block with confidence. I’m a little biased because of our Warwickshire connections but I’d love to see Ian Bell round off the series with the big score he deserves.
This is not just about Australia failing to win back the urn; what we are witnessing is no less than the end of a dynasty that stretches back 25 years to the captaincy of Allan Border. In that time they have been able to boast some of the best cricketers on the planet. Now they simply don’t have any world-class players. The level they’re playing at, they can’t compete with India or South Africa. And not one of the team playing in this fifth Test would get in the England side. Usman Khaawaja, the left-hander given a debut in Sydney, has been hailed as the future after a moderately promising knock of 37. If he’s their messiah then they have problems. Ricky Ponting’s injury has given Michael Clarke a captaincy audition, but his poor current form means it may well suit Australia better to have Ponting at the helm for the World Cup, and then look at a change.
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Australia’s decision to bat first heaped immediate pressure on debutant Michael Beer, who will be expected to spin his side to victory in the final innings. Graeme Swann found little assistance on day one, but the pitch will deteriorate as the match progresses.
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He might have been installed as captain in the absence of Ricky Ponting, but Michael Clarke’s recent form hardly warrants a promotion. The 29-year-old is averaging just 16.63 from his six Tests this winter.
“I think there should be someone in the Australian set-up who says, ‘Look Ricky, you’re not captain in this game. Michael Clarke is captain.’ I think it would have been better if Ricky had been away from the team and just left it to Michael Clarke. It’s not Michael Clarke’s team as yet but I just think it would have been much fairer to Michael Clarke if Ricky Ponting hadn’t been around.” – Former Aussie captain Ian Chappell wasn’t overly thrilled to see Ricky Ponting pitch up in Sydney.
“David Saker, our bowling coach, has made some flattering remarks that I could get to No 1. I would love to get there just because it would mean that I had overtaken Swanny. It would be great just to shut him up for a bit.” – James Anderson reveals the motivation behind his desire to become the best bowler in the world.