Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Occupying Time At Brisbane Airport...With A Few Friends

Michael Vaughan was never one to hang around at the top order for England and he certainly got the ball rolling in the cricket spotting stakes today as I awaited my early morning flight from Brisbane to Adelaide.

He was milling about with a few journalists from the papers back home, as untroubled by the news of the delayed flight as he was by a Brett Lee bouncer.

Next thing I know there's an announcement over the tannoy:

"Could the following four passengers please report to the Qantas check-in desk: Kevin Smith, Brian Jones, Simon Bradley and Kevin Pietersen. Thank you."

Funny I thought, that last passenger has the same name as the cross-nationality thrasher the Aussies love to hate. Bit of a coincidence.

It was finally time to board the late-running flight and as I struggled to cram my rucksack into the overhead locker, what with all the England embossed paraphernalia, it finally dawned on me: hang on I'm on the same flight as the England cricket team.

I turned round to see the imposing figure of Stuart Broad towering over me, thankfully without the new cherry in his hands. The beanpole was stooping to prevent a hole in the ceiling and more technical problems for Quantus. Then, as I took my position at the non-striker's end, ex-captain and current batting guru, Graham Gooch, was standing patiently as another mere mortal tried to force his bag into the little remaining space above his seat.

I say, 'patiently'...a, "Are we going to be here all day?," was clearly audible from his formely tasched topped lip. Funny, hanging around all day never seemed to bother him when he was a player.

As Graeme Swann, Ian Bell, Monty and assorted backroom staff took their seats around me I was left bemoaning my luck as a middle-aged woman from Camp America took the vacant seat next to me rather than an England legend in waiting. Still, she gave me a free lift to my hostel on landing in Adelaide.

But where's the skip? Obviously they've split the party in two. Insurance reasons probably. Wandered off the plane to the magic carousel and found myself stride for stride with Strauss and Collingwood. Almost like I was escorting them to the middle. Gave Strauss a meek, "Good luck on Friday, Straussy," which he met with a level, "Cheers buddy," as he led the boys to the exit. In domestic, aviation travel as on the fair pitches Down Under.

After nearly being bowled over by Steve Finn on entering baggage reclaim, the England players were conspicuous by their absence. Don't want to risk a torn bicep picking up all that cricket gear after all. But hang on isn't that Nasser Hussain in classic holiday garb? Standing next to Bumble, Beefy, Michael Holding and Athers? Looks like the Sky team were on the same flight. Both and the legendary West Indian were engaged in an animated conversation about the latest runners and riders in the local horsing stakes. I could swear Sir Ian's thoughts were wandering to which bottle of red (s) would best compliment his evening, slap-up meal.

Thankfully the carousel is above pandering to A-list cricketing celebrities so I picked up by backpack and left them all to it.

Gabba First Test: The View From The Ground

A privilege to be at the Gabba on days one and five of an Ashes series that has already fulfilled much of the hype. Some images below.

Day one was one of fluctating fortunes until Siddle decided to enter Ashes folklore with his rip-roaring hat-trick. Even as one supporting the other team, I could feel the goosebumps as he charged in to deliver his coup de grace to Stuart Broad. I even managed to get out of my seat to applaud the excitable chap as the Aussies bellowed around me.

Day five brought more incredible scenes on the pitch and an atmosphere as heady as day one but for entirely different reasons. This time it was the English fans who vastly outnumbered the home contingent. Only 7,008 were seated inside the ground but they greeted each run, boundary, century and double century with gusto. The Barmy Army were in fine voice from first ball to last and among the usual chants of, "Barmy Army, Barmy Army, Barmy Army..." (repeat ad infinitum) there were some choice, spur of the moment songs:

(on spotting an Aussie in the Barmy Army commandeered section) "We've got one Aussie in the crowd"

(on spotting a second) "We've got two Aussies in the crowd" etc etc

(on spotting some young fans) "You're supposed to be at school"

(to Ben Hilfenhaus who was fielding in front of them, but never turned round to sign autographs) "Sign the kiddy's bat, sign the kiddy's bat"

Hilfenhaus eventually acknoledged them when he threw a stray beach ball back to the Barmy Army, to predictable wild cheers.

What else? They asked Ricky for a wave and duly got their wish.

But it was when England came out to field that they really upped the tempo and provided the kind of home support that can make them a potent 12th man. For the first four or five overs each ball was greeted with either:

"Ooh Jimmy, Jimmy...Jimmy, Jimmy, Jimmy Anderson"


"He's big, he's bad, he's better than his dad...Stuart Broad, Stuart Broad"

and then, when Graeme Swann was brought on: (to the tune of Love Will Tear Us Apart)

"Swann, Swann will tear them apart again"

When the 'Queen' arrived, she was greeted with a rousing national anthem which drew loud applause from all the England fans and a royal wave from Her Majesty.

The Dominos pizza delivery boys and girls were summoned and when they arrived the inevitable chat of, "Let's all have a pizza" rang out.

Throw in a few choice tunes from Billy the Trumpeter, including Only Fools and Horses, Neighbours, Eastenders, Coronation Street and even Livin on a Prayer, and the day was complete.

Some photos:

Plenty of pre-match entertainment on Day One, including Dunk a Pom. Hit the target to see an Englishman in full cricket whites plunged into a paddling pool

Cooking Up An Ashes Storm

A quite fantastic first test at the Gabba. Sublime batting, an Ashes hat-trick, records tumbling and an England fightback to warm the cockles. Only a draw for England in the end but the momentum going into Adelaide is all with Strauss' men. That elusive first win at the Gabba since 1986 was a step too far but fair to say that this series is Game On!

Now that the dust has had a little time to settle what can we take from this thrilling match? England is up for the scrap. This was evident last winter against South Africa but about as common as a cleanly shaven Mitchell Johnson in previous Ashes encounters Down Under.

England continued to bowl with heart and aggression even when Hussey and Haddin were making hay. James Anderson in particular looks to be a far more accomplished bowler than in 2006 and was extremely unlucky not to break the partnership before it assumed record-breaking proportions. Finn grabbed the wickets but Jimmy looks like the go-to man this time round. He'll bowl worse and pick up more wickets. Adelaide would be a good place to start.

The batting? Nothing short of a revelation. Bell set the tone in the first innings, demonstrating his class and playing some commanding strokes. Three figures was beckoning until Siddle's pumped-up hat-trick and he was left trying to force the game with the tail. The Aussies will have noted the change in his attitude, application and demeanour.

Second time out? A flat track admittedly but England would have folded in the second innings on previous tours. Strauss clearly came out with a point to prove after his first over nightmare in the first innings, batting judiciously but with attacking intent. The Australian players commented after on his uncharacteristic, vocal celebration on reaching three figures as he became the first England player since Mark Butcher in 1988 to register a ton at the Gabba. His fourth Ashes century but crucially his first in Australia. Bodes well.

After waiting 12 years for one centurion to come along, suddenly two more arrived like the proverbial London buses. Trott recorded back-to-back Ashes hundreds after his success at the Oval in 2009. He was calmness personified and his elation was understandable as he saluted the Barmey Army on the final day. Nothing is going to put this man off his stroke. He ended up recording the 9th highest Ashes partnership of all time with (future) Captain Cook.

And to Alistair Cook. I think if you had offered him a series average of over 300 after the first test he would have probably taken it! Another man who looks far more comfortable than in 2006. He simply ticked off the milestones as he defended resolutely and then cut, pulled and drove with venom. Second Ashes century in Australia. Check. Highest score by an Englishman at the Gabba. Check. Highest personal test score. Check. Only the 6th Englishman to score 200 Down Under. Check. Only Englishman to score a double hundred at the Gabba. Check. Highest ever score by any player at the Gabba. Check. Beating Don Bradman's 79 year-old record no less. Check. Incredible stuff. Don't stop him now...he's having such a good time.

One stat that has gone largely unnoticed is that this was actually Cook's second double ton against the Aussies. He scored 214 for Essex against the Aussies when he was only 20. To think we ever doubted him. The, largely English, final day crowd saluted him like the conquering hero he is. Caps off to him, whether they be blue or baggy and green.

Ricky Ponting is the man with the headaches this week, not to mention a wounded and exhausted bowling attack. He won't want to be in the field first on Friday. Harris and Bolinger have been called into the squad and after going wicketless for the entire match, Mitchel Johnson must have run out of credit with his skipper. Hilfenhaus is another man gripping loosely to his place in the team.

As for the batting line-up, North is the man most under pressure, unless he is in the team to take the wicket of the England captain and to ensure England reach 500 with at least one man in the hut.

Honours even as we head to South Australia...but England holding all the cards.

Stat time. England double centurions Down Under. Where's Wally:

Wally Hammond 251 The Ashes: 2nd Test, 1928/29 Sydney Cricket Ground

Wally Hammond 231* The Ashes: 2nd Test, 1936/37 Sydney Cricket Ground

Alastair Cool 235* The Ashes: 1st Test, 2010/11 The Gabba

Paul Collingwood 206 The Ashes: 2nd Test, 2006/07 Adelaide Oval

Wally Hammond 200 The Ashes: 3rd Test, 1928/29 Melbourne Cricket Ground

Reginald Foster 287 The Ashes: 1st Test, 1903/04 Sydney Cricket Ground

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

The Waiting is Over

It's time for the talking to end and the action to begin. Are the Aussies rattled? Is the England camp really as composed as it seems? Which players will be awake all night, ithcing for the action to begin and relishing the chance to create their own little piece of history? And which ones will have a sleepless night because they secretly doubt themselves on this, the biggest of stages?

For those of us observing this is a moment to savour. A moment to dare to dream. With the action yet to begin, anything is possible. Harsh reality has yet to be encountered; it's not time to wake up and smell the coffee just yet. The unlikliest of scenarios can run free through our minds. Unrealistic sure...but what if...what if...?

The beauty of a 5-day test match is that the possibilities are endless and the potential for fluctuating fortunes so much greater. Maybe England could be dead and buried after the first day and then suddenly find the reserves to surge back into the game. Who doesn't prefer a Rocky/ Botham-like comeback to a routine victory? Surviving a count to 9, dragging oneself from the canvas, defying the odds, coming back from the dead then fighting back, launching the counter-attack, going on the offensive, landing the sucker punch.

Maybe not so good for the old ticker. Let's just settle for a win...however it comes...

...yes a rare victory in Brisbane could be achieved, Strauss will lead authoritively from the front with a commanding century, KP will launch into debutant spinner Doherty, thrilling the the crowd with a run-a-ball hundred of his own, Bell will drive and cut majestically, Anderson will turn it round corners, Broad will tear into the top order, Swann will clean bowl Ponting with a vicious, spinning, ripper of a delivery. The Aussies will be on the back-foot going to Adelaide and we will have a series on our hands.

Shame it's got to start really isn't it?

Panic Stations?

Aussies on the back foot before a ball has been bowled? Selection problems, lack of form, the aura of invincibilty fading by each fresh defeat...

This is Australia and the fun hasn't even begun so we're hardly talking about a crisis. But there are some signs that they are trying to paper over the cracks in their team. Questions have been repeatedly raised about England's temperament and their inability to cope when the pressure is really on. Many pundits and players have gone further and said that Australia will win purely because they want it more. Regaining the Ashes is not a familiar challenge to this nation, just as retaining is an alien one to England.

But even if it were true that desire for victory burns harder in the 11 men in baggy green, desire can only get you so far. Doubts remain over North and Hussey, despite Mr Cricket's timely century for Western Australia. No question over Michael Clarke's ability but if he starts his dodgy back might not last the duration.

Ponting's 40th century will come during this series, and sooner rather than later, but can he match Strauss in the captaincy stakes in a tight contest? He has led Australia with such distinction but he's now lost two Ashes series. A hat-trick in his own backyard won't be on his Christmas list or among his New Year's resolutions.

Discarding a decent performer like Hauritz at the 11th hour and handing a debut to Xavier Doherty is bold...but definitive proof of the indecision amongst the Australian selectors. The elusive search for the next Warne continues. Very similar to the problems England had trying to replace Botham before Freddie became the all-rounder every team craves. For Craig White, Derek Pringle, David Capel and Phil DeFreitas read Jason Krezja, Cameron White, Steve Smith and Bryce McGain for Australia.
Time will tell if Doherty is a Flintoff or a Capel. I know where my money is.

Mitchell Johnson is talking a great game at the moment. Strauss and Pietersen are both in his sights. England's captain will be lucky to keep his body intact, let alone his wicket if the lefty is to be believed. Unfortunately he is no McGrath or Warne, who could back up bold predictions with stronger performances. Is he trying too hard to mask his own insecurities? Will he be able to banish thoughts of that wayward spell at Lord's in the last Ashes from his mind? If England bat, second slip better be prepared just in case.

Any team that Australia puts out at home will provide a stern test for any opposition but without the likes of McGrath and Warne, responsibility will have to be shared around the team. Time to see which players will put their hands up.

Steve Waugh once famously bemoaned the fact that his team had won the Ashes too easily and that he would have gained more satisfaction from the victory if England had put up more of a fight. Hard to see Ponting doing the same this time out.


Out and about in Brisbane town and who should I bump into but none other than ex-England skipper Nasser Hussain. Running late for an Ashes lunch but still had time for a quick photo.

Then it was into town and stumbled upon the asics cricket challenge. Hit the stumps, chuck a ball at some targets. Mostly Aussies taking part. English guy finally strolled up...and dislocated his elbow after 3 deliveries. Hopefully not an omen...

Few other images for a bit of the local flavour...

Monday, 22 November 2010

Settling Down

It's been a calm and successful build-up for England this time out, as they try to learn some lessons from the car crash of 2006. Convincing victories in the warm-up matches, a settled side and no (visible) signs of panic. Next the players will be talking with Australian accents and predicting 5-0 whitewashes.

There are no going to be no surprises in the batting line-up on Thursday. Strauss bagged a couple of hundreds. No surprise there. A class act. The form of Cook had been a worry but he answered his critics with a century against South Australia and 60 in the next match against Australia A. Now he needs to do it when it really counts. It's fair to say a lack of alternatives at the top of the order has helped him some what.

There were no real doubts about Collingwood retaining his place for the Ashes but there always seem to be question marks hovering over him. Scores of 94 and 89 in the final two pre-Ashes run-outs have banished them. Is he saving a big ton for the real thing? He's used to delivering on the Ashes stage - an obdurate, match-saving innings in the first test at Cardiff and a double century in Adelaide in 2006 are the ones that immediately spring to mind. What's more, his impeccable fielding is always worth a wicket or two and, in the absence of a fifth bowler, his wobbly seamers will surely be required at some stage.

Bell is another that always seems to be under the selection microscope but a quite brilliant 192 against Australia A, plus meaningful scores in the other games, show there is no doubting his form. Now he needs to prove that he can handle the pressure and the Aussie jibes. He looks confident and seems determined to prove he's the real deal. This is his series.

Trott is the luckiest man in the top 6. He's the only one yet to pass 50 on tour, despite getting a few starts. In many ways he's the opposite of Bell: he's in for his temperament and the management's belief that he's up for the scrap. Dropping him might also mean a reshuffling of the batting order. Strauss and Flower clearly wanted a settled side going into the Ashes and they have their wish. As long as they are prepared to bring in someone like Eoin Morgan if any of the batsemen are struggling then it appears a strong strategy.

But we've missed one out. And so to KP. No test century for 20 months, dropped from the one-day side, still seething about losing the captaincy, labelled an outcast from the England set-up by his 'mate' Warney, doubts cast over him from every corner. The list goes on and on. From this observer it's about as ridiculous as questioning Ponting's credentials. He's a proven big match cricketer. His test average is still a more than healthy 47.8 and he scored more runs in the last Ashes series in Australia (in a losing cause) than he did in 2005. And how the player of the tournament at the Twenty20 World Cup can be dropped from the England one-day side really does beggar belief. Good news is he's the type of guy who likes having a point to prove.

To the bowlers. Again such a settled line-up that the entire foursome could afford to miss the last match in Hobart to 'acclimatise' to Brisbane conditions. (I've been here a few days lads - trust me we're not talking about the Sahara desert here) Early days for Finn but he's shaping up well and could be a more reliable Harmy type figure. He'll be nervous come Thursday morning.

Jimmy is the spearhead. Number 4 in the world rankings and only a successful Ashes tour Down Under from earning the respect he deserves. Any article about Anderson highlights his inability to swing the Kookaburra ball. He's been on a few tours for England now, he's an intelligent bowler. He should go fine. Could be bowling the first ball come Thursday...and I guarantee it wont' go to second slip unless it comes courtesy of Watson's edge first.

Broady has already proved himself an Ashes hero with his timely 5-fer in the deciding 2009 test at the Oval condemning the Aussies to a big first innings defecit and ultimate defeat. His batting cannot be discounted either. His maiden test cenutry might always have a question mark against it considering it was made against Pakistan but another one might not be too far away. Headingley was not a happy hunting ground for England in 2009 but what a display of counter-attacking batting from Broad and his partner in crime, Graeme Swann..

...and to Swanny. Well he's lit up the cricketing world in the past couple of years. Incredibly consistent, earning a reputation for taking wickets in his first over and a character to fill the gaping hole left by Freddie. Let's not forget that he snared Gambhir and Dravid in his first over in test cricket. A decent series would seem him topple Steyn as the number one bowler in the world. Now that would be some achievement and, more importantly, it would mean that England has probably retained the Ashes.

His twitter page says it all really:

"More excited than a puppy whose (sic) just found a manky old tennis ball"

May the sporting gods be with you sir...

In a Swanny Super Over in Chennai

Anticipation is building nicely here in Brisbane ahead of Thursday's opener.

Guess we'll be needing some tunes, courtesy of the Barmy Army. Here's a selection of the finest (the first needs no introduction):

Everywhere we go
Jimmy: Everywhere we go
Crowd: Everywhere we go
The people want to know
The people want to know
Who we are
Who we are
Where we come from
Where we come from
Shall we tell them
Shall we tell them
Who we are
Who we are
Where we come from
Where we come from
We are the England
We are the England
The Mighty Mighty England
The Mighty Mighty England
We are the Army
We are the Army
The Barmy Barmy Army
The Barmy Barmy Army
Andrew Strauss's Barmy Army
Etc Etc

Graeme Swann
(to the tune of Champagne Supernova)

How many special people came
So many flights we had to change
Where were you when we were in Chennai?

Got hit for four with his first ball
Then took Gambhir and the Wall
Where were you when we were in Chennai?

Some day you will find him
Taking loads of wickets
In a Swanny super over in Chennai

Some day you will find him
Taking loads of wickets
In a Swanny super over, a Swanny super over

Because people believe
That we should never have come here at all
But you and I, will never die
And Graeme Swann is just one reason why, why, why, why...

Andrew Strauss
(To the tune of Shout)

Strauss, Strauss
Never gets out,
He plays the shots that we dream about
Come on, we're talking 'bout you
Come on

Jonny Trott
(to the tune of Only Fools and Horses)

Stick your passport in your pocket
And your kitbag in the van
Cos if you want the Ashes
And you don't mind Saffers
Then brother, he's your man

Cos where he comes from is no mystery
But he's gonna lead us home to an Ashes victory
A song for him was driving us beserk
But then we thought that Jonny Trotter works

La-la-la-la-la la-la-la-la-la-la

Stuart Broad
He's big, he's bad
He's better than his Dad
Stuart Broad Stuart Broad

Classic Ashes' Moments #1 Ball of the Century

Still defies belief that this was Warney's first ever ball in Ashes cricket.

Graham Gooch summed up the reaction of the bemused Mike Gatting: "He looked as though someone had just nicked his lunch."

Sunday, 21 November 2010

In Affectionate Remembrance of English Cricket

It seems quite fitting that the birth of the Ashes was inspired by one of the original England batting collapses, and one as equally as spectacular as Adelaide in 2006...and countless others down the years. I guess some things never change.

In 1882 Australia came to England to play one test, at the Oval. In a low scoring match, England had to chase 85 to win in its second innings. This proved 8 too many as it crumbled to 77 all out. Fair to say that the good folk in the crowd were far more shocked than the Barmy Army would be today.

The shock defeat prompted the famous obituary in the Sporting Times, written by Reginald Brooks. And so the Ashes were born...

In Affectionate Remembrance
which died at the Oval
29th AUGUST 1882,
Deeply lamented by a large circle of sorrowing
friends and acquaintances


N.B.—The body will be cremated and the
ashes taken to Australia.

5-0 again Glenn?

The great and good of the cricketing world have been put on the spot in the last couple of weeks and asked to give their predictions for the series. And saying there'll be 5 tests doesn't count.

Of course the legendary quickie (we'll gloss over the fact that he seems unable to walk across a cricket pitch without stepping on a ball) Glenn McGrath, he of the much spoken nagging length, has gone for another clean sweep: 5-0 to the Aussies. Same as 2009, 2006, 2005 and probably right back to when the Ashes were born in 1882. Well I guess he did get it right in 2006.

But what about the rest? Here's a sample...


Punter - Australia (5-0 "absolutely possible")

Lord Brockett - "Predictions ultimately mean nothing"

The rest:

Beefy - England ("We will stuff them")

Freddie - England ("quite convincingly")

Warney - Australia 2-1 ("England's best chance". Graeme Swann "the key")

Gilchrist - "England are probably favourites"

Michael Slater - Australia 3-1

Steve Waugh - Australia ("I think (a 5-0 prediction) is a bit ambitious this time around")

Mark Waugh - Australia 3-2

Merv Hughes - Australia 3-0 or 4-0

Swann - England ("going into these Ashes I believe in my heart we will win them. The batters will get 500 every game, I’ll get 45 wickets and we’ll p--- all over them.")

Vaughany - England ("They have a great chance of winning and we all expect them to retain the Ashes and make history")

Nasser - England 2-1

Richie Benaud - 2-2 before Sydney decider

Tony Greig - England 2-1

Bumble - England by 2 tests

Aggers - England ("England are a team on a roll right now")

Tuffers - England ("The law of averages says we're due to win a series out there. But sod the law of averages, I'm following the law of fancy - and I fancy us to win")

Mike Brearley - 2-2

Ian Chappell - Australia

Tendulkar - "England have a great chance"

Brendon Julian - Australia 3-2

Damien Fleming - Australia

Stuart MacGill - Australia

Mark Cosgrove - Australia 2-1

Geraint Jones - England 2-1

Hoggy - England 2-1

Rob Key - England 3-2

Waqar Younis - Australia

John Stern, editor of the Wisden Cricketer - 2-2

Mike Selvey, Guardian - England 2-1

Robert Craddock, Sunday Mail (Australia) - Australia 2-1

Paul Burnham, co-founder of the Barmy Army - England ("Australia may win one test but England will win two and three and by the time we get to Sydney I think we’ll be watching an Ashes that has already been won and retained")

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Omens: Australia v England at the Gabba

Stat time and a look at the recent history of Ashes matches at the Gabba, traditional venue for the first test of the series. Hmmm...a thoroughly woeful time for the tourists...

Much has been made of the first ball of the last Ashes series in Australia in 2006. There were high hopes that Harmison could repeat his aggressive bowling of the 2005 series and put Australia immediately on the back foot. There were concerns that instead his wayward, erratic delivieries could seriously hinder England's chances. And it was the concerns rather than the hopes that were realised as he flung that first ball straight into captain Flintoff's big mitts at second slip. A wide and then some. Only one ball but the trend had been set and we all know the endless capitulations that ensued for England. A 5-0 drubbing at the hands of some of the finest players to grace the game.

Then we can go back to 2002 and yet another disastrous day for the poms. Not only did Ponting and Hayden rack up centuries as Australia lost only two wickets on day one, but also it was the scene of Simon Jones' horrific knee injury. Again there was that traditional sinking feeling. Eyebrows raised too about Nasser Hussain's decision to send the Aussies in after winning the toss.

In 1986 Gatting won the toss, chose to bat, and then saw his Botham inspired team go on to win not only the match but the series. Bat first here and England might not only win the game but the urn into the bargain. Too simplistic maybe but Strauss will surely put the pads on if the coin falls the right way for him this time out. Batting first seems to work for the Aussies. They have batted first for the last 4 Ashes matches at the ground and they have been able to declare their second innings each time, such has been their dominance.

The last time England managed to avoid defeat in Brisbane was 1998. Didn't bat first but Mark Butcher scored a century, reinforcing how crucial it is that your top six are in good nick.

If we go back even further the importance of this first test is even more striking. Since the Second World War the Gabba has hosted the first test in every series aside from 1982, when Perth was the first venue and Brisbane the second. In this period the only team to win at the Gabba and fail to win the series was Australia in 1954. Despite a thumping, innings victory in the first test it was England who took the ultimate spoils 3-1.

In a total of 16 Ashes encounters at the Gabba from 1946 to the present day, England have won a grand total of 2 tests, in 1978 and 1986, and managed to draw a further 4. 10 wins for the men in the baggy green caps? History is certainly against Strauss' men.

So that's a brief look back into the archives. Let's back that up with some Gabba only stats since that last England success:

Last England win: 1986
Last time England batted first: 1990
Last England centurion: Mark Butcher, 1998
Last time England player took 5-fer: Alan Mullaly, 1998
Australia total runs in this period: 3827
England total runs in this period: 2816

Year by year since 1986:


Australia win by 277 runs
Toss: Australia who bat
Australia 602 and 202-2 declared
England 157 and 370
End of day one score: Australia 346-3
Centurions - Ponting and Langer
5-fers - McGrath
Series: Australia 5-0


Australia win by 384 runs
Toss: England who field
Australia 492 and 296-5 declared
England 325 and 79
End of day one score: Australia 364-2
Centurions - Hayden (2), Ponting
5-fers - 0
Series: Australia 4-1


Match drawn
Toss: Australia who bat
Australia 485 and 237-3 declared
England 375 and 179-6
End of day one score: Australia 264-5
Centurions - Steve Waugh, Healy, Butcher, Slater
5-fers - Mullaly, McGrath
Series: Australia 3-1


Australia win by 184 runs
Toss: Australia who bat
Australia 426 and 248-8 declared
England 167 and 323
End of day one score: Australia 329-4
Centurions: Slater, Mark Waugh
5-fers: McDermott, Warne
Series: Australia 3-1


Australia win by 10 wickets
Toss: Australia who field
England 194 and 114
Australia 152 and 157-0
End of day one score: Australia 16-0 (England all out on day one)
Centurions - 0
5-fers - Alderman
Series: Australia 3-0


England win by 7 wickets
Toss: Australia who field
England 456 and 77-3
Australia 248 and 282
End of day one score: England 198-2
Centurions - Botham, Marsh
5-fers - Dilley, Emburey
Series: England 2-1

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Ashes Fixtures 2010-11

Those all important dates...

25-29 November
1st Test, The GABBA, Brisbane (Capacity 42,000)

3-7 December
2nd Test, Adelaide Oval (32-36,000)

16-20 December
3rd Test, WACA, Perth (24,500)

26-30 December
4th Test, MCG, Melbourne (100,018)

3-7 January
5th Test, SCG, Sydney (46,000)

Monday, 1 November 2010

Excitement, blind faith and humiliation

Only a fool would get excited about the forthcoming Ashes series in Australia after the disastrous and humiliating events of 2006-07...well pass me the jester's outfit, the dunce's cap and call me barmy because I can feel the anticiaption rising by the day as the countdown to the first test in Brisbane begins in earnest. A close fought, thrilling spectacle awaits. Fortunes fluctating by the day, by the hour, by the over.

What do you mean England hasn't won Down Under since 1986-7? And you say it's lost the last 5 away Ashes series, more often than not by crushing margins?

Surely, surely it's going to be different this time?

With only this blind faith to guide me I've decided to risk two months of misery and Aussie gloating in the hope that I can witness Strauss and co emulating the success of Gatting's tourists more than 20 years ago.

After taking in the football World Cup in South America (see southamericasdreaming.blogspot.com) I've decided to get a bit closer to the action for the undisputed sporting highlight of the year. I'll be arriving in Brisbane in time for the opening skirmishes and then travelling on to Adelaide, Perth, Melbourne and Sydney for the remainder of the series. I'll be on the look-out for tickets but the number one aim is to sample the Ashes atmosphere in each city and to track the highs and lows of England's bid to retain that little Urn. All the stories, characters and adventures will be faithfully reported on Getting To The Pitch.

Before the action commences there'll be previews, player profiles, great Ashes moments, stats, videos, photos and much, much more. Every move, sledge and tweet of the main protaganists will be tracked and analysed right here.

Cricket needs this Ashes series more than ever after the debacle that was Pakistan's recent tour of England and the depressing match-fixing allegations. No quarter asked, no quarter given...but let's hope that captains Strauss and Ponting make their players aware of their wider responsibilities to the game and ensure they put on a thrilling and sporting spectacle that has us all out of our seats.

I'm ready.