Bad Decision Making And Small Margins Costing Australia

Bad decision making and small margins can have a big impact at this level of Test cricket. It already has to be said that after just two Ashes Test matches, the Aussies have already made enough bad decisions to cover around a years cricket.

Small margins can be pivotal too. When Joe Root edged chest high through the gap between wicket keeper and first slip in his 2nd innings at Lord’s……and no one moved, it could have been a decisive moment in this Test series, and maybe to some extent, in Root’s career as a whole.

Had that catch been taken Root would have had scores of 30, 5, 6 and 8, since his promotion to opener. Instead he now has scores of 30, 5, 6 and 180. All of a sudden what was beginning to look like a poor decision (in the short term) by England, now looks like a brilliant one, and will no doubt have given Joe Root no end of self confidence for the remainder of the Ashes….. and beyond.  

In fairness to the Aussies, they have also been the victims of some poor umpiring decisions….. some, they could have done something about, had they used their reviews better, while some were just totally beyond their control (I’m not going to dwell on umpiring decisions, England could argue some big ones went against them in the 1st Test, so I’m not getting into that debate).

The very bad decisions from Australia have been far more influential than the umpiring ones so far in the first two Test matches. Shane Watson’s ridiculous, selfish review in the 1st innings at Lord’s was staggering, it smacked of arrogance and a lack of team ethic to me (just how it looked, he may be a great team man). Did that also lead to Chris Rodgers not reviewing his out decision soon after? But then even given Watson’s wasting of a review, should Rodgers have had the strength of character to review anyway?

I’m fairly sure that Rodgers would have reviewed had Australia still had two remaining. There would have been plenty of talk about using them properly after the 1st Test, so that must have played a part in Rodgers taking the decision he did.

The ‘inspired’ decisions Australia have been making lately haven’t been limited to just the players. When Darren Lehmann got the job, all we heard about was ‘how great a decision’ it was. Maybe in the long run it will be, but it certainly doesn’t appear to be paying dividends at the moment.

Who was the brains behind promoting Watson back up to opener? A technically flawed opener. This was one of the first statements we heard from Lehmann, and it was apparently against Michael Clarke’s (better) judgement.

Who was the brains behind moving Michael Clarke so far down the order? So that when he comes in to bat he is already under immense pressure, given his side have generally already got off to a bad start.

They’re not greatly inspired decisions at the moment, although that’s not to say things won’t change in the future. Lehmann and Australia only need to look at the change in India’s performances – now that Duncan Fletcher has had the chance to pick the players he wants – to see how things can turn around.

I imagine when Cricket Australia got rid of Mickey Arthur and put Lehmann in charge, they did it with a long term view, so there is no need to panic yet. This isn’t even Lehmann’s side, and he wouldn’t have had any input into the naming of the squad.

Australia now seem down and out, the cricket betting certainly seems to suggest this. A 5-0 whitewash for England is now as short as 3/1. And given the decent English weather of late, is there ever going to be a better chance for England to complete a 5-0 hammering?

Having said that, this is England, and the weather can turn very quickly, so bear that in mind if you are looking at backing 5-0.

England are now 1/33 to win the Ashes outright. Despite this short price there are still plenty of Ashes betting opportunities available, as well as news on the latest betting site bonuses available to use to bet on the Ashes with, ie, free bets, or online bookmaker promotional offers, etc.

If you still fancy a miracle, Australia are 33/1, and a drawn series is 14/1.

Ashes Betting – 2nd Test, Day 2

This games seems more like a proper Test match, compared with the 1st couple of days at Trent Bridge. One theme that seems to be carrying on from Trent Bridge though is the contrast in batting, with another brilliant under pressure century from Ian Bell, alongside the constant chucking away of wickets.

Okay, Aussie fans may well rightly suggest that some of the wickets were down to Michael Clarke’s captaincy, and in a way they were. For Clarke’s plans to wok though, someone has generally got to fall into the trap in a naive way! And Clarke certainly didn’t ‘plan’ Jonny Bairstow’s wicket in that manner.

Not taking anything away from Clarke though, he made some bold moves yesterday and they paid off. I didn’t think dropping Mitchell Starc was right, and I was proved wrong as that paid off with Ryan Harris taking two early wickets. So all in all, it was a god day for Clarke and the Australians.

It all still hasn’t made any real difference in the cricket betting though, as – like this time yesterday – the bookmakers still have Australia as the outsiders to win this Test match.

The latest Ashes Test match betting has England at Evens, the draw at 11/4 and Australia at 9/4.

England started the Test match as Even money favourites, so even though they look well below par with their 1st innings score (so far), the punters still see them as a reasonably good bet.

I did a bit of trading on Betfair yesterday, and using a £100.00 float I have managed to get myself £18 green on both England and Australia, and £22 green on the draw.

I made this from backing and then laying the draw in the afternoon when Bairstow and Bell were batting, and then from backing Australia late on in the day when they drifted out too around 7 to 8/1, and then laying them after they took late wickets.

I expected a positive result at Trent Bridge, but I’m not as certain here. With a gun to my head, I would say there will be a result, mainly due to the poor batting of both sides.

Not easy to call which way the market will swing today. So will be a watching brief to start with, and maybe a look at the 1st innings runs market (on Betfair) for a bit of interest.

Was that the best of Australia?

What a Test match that was, not necessarily for top class cricket, but more for top class entertainment and a bit of everything. In the cricket betting, England now find themselves at 1/6 to win the Ashes series outright, Australia and a drawn series are both 8/1.

The two stand out quality performers were Ian Bell and Jimmy Anderson. Bell can’t have played too many better knocks than his 2nd innings century, and to play an innings like that and not win man of the match shows just how well Jimmy Anderson did.

I was really pleased for Bell, he gets plenty of stick, but this time he did the business when it really did matter. As a biased Warwickshire fan, I’ve criticised him at times when I believe he has rightly deserved stick

His knock showed just what he is capable off though, and I really hope it is the start of another golden period for Bell. He is just too good a player technically, and should do better than he has been lately with the talent he has. Bell is now 3.50 to be top England series batsman at

I thought the Aussies showed tremendous fight throughout, and although I’ve never doubted they have a decent seam attack, they have surprised me with just how much fight they showed. Their 2nd innings batting display seemed quite gutsy.

Although I think their 1st innings display was pathetic. Take Ashton Agar’s one off knock out of the equation, and it was pretty rubbish. And let’s be honest, it was a one off knock.

I do wonder which is the real Australia? The 1st innings one, or the 2nd innings one? Was that 2nd innings showing as good as it gets for Australia? Did they also make the most of England’s customary slow start to a series?

If that is the case and England’s level rises, and Australia’s dips, then maybe a 4-0 thrashing could be on the cards? From an Australian perspective, it must be fairly dispiriting to give it your best shot and still lose.

Anyone interested in a one sided hammering, 4-0 England is 11/2, and 5-0 England is 13/2.

At the start of the Ashes, I did believe it would be closer than a lot of people were suggesting (I thought 2-1 England). Now to contradict myself….. having seen Australia close to winning the 1st Test, I actually feel England could hammer the Aussies here. I just can’t see England playing that bad again now, or not until the series is won anyway (just a warning with my views, I thought England would lose 4-0 in India last winter).

I’m not going into all the so-called controversies, but if Ashton Agar had been correctly given out stumped (on 6 in 1st innings), the Test match is over a day or so earlier. This supports my view that England could walk this now, as Australia would probably have been hammered inside 4 days.

I also felt a bit sorry for Aleem Dar, whom I believe to be probably the best umpire out there at the moment. The Stuart Broad incident seemed to be just one of those unexplainable aberrations that unfortunately occur in the best of them at times. Totally unexplainable, just a one off clanger.

It was unfortunate for Dar that the last ball of the match had to see him (correctly this time) over ruled with Brad Haddin’s dismissal. None of the TV commentators picked up the edge, and they suggested that even some of the England players didn’t seem convinced either.

Let me put things another way, given a choice between Dar and the other two umpires in this match, I’d take Dar 11 times out of 10.

Ashes Betting – 1st Test, Day 3

Day 2 seen another fascinating day of Ashes cricket with plenty of action, drama, and no shortage of controversy chucked into the mix…. and even a couple of world records.

With England only 15 runs ahead and already two 2nd innings wickets down (at 80/2), the Test match looks finely balanced to me, although the punters and online bookmakers are still well behind England as the hosts are odds on favourites.

England 4/7 – The Draw 10/1 – Australia 7/4 (there is a £25.00 free bet for new customers available using this link)

A couple of early England wickets on Day 3 will firmly put the Aussies back in the driving seat. England need at least one solid partnership to get a good lead, and I don’t think they can leave Australia chasing anything under the 250-260 mark. Even on a wearing pitch, the Aussies should fancy themselves chasing around 250 in decent batting conditions, starting on Day 3.

If England can bat all day today and make Australia chase on Day 4, they will be looking at 300 plus runs to get to win, and I believe that will be a totally different proposition.

I didn’t touch my own cricket trades yesterday. I’m still standing to win on all three outcomes, with my heaviest profit on the Draw. It’s not worth laying it at the current price, so I will just sit on it and hope that it shortens at some point over the next couple of days (I still expect a result).

My prediction of backing the draw at 15.5, and laying at sub 10 for a free bet on the draw, or small all round green, didn’t quite go to plan yesterday as Australia slumped to 117/9, and the draw went out to about 28 -30. I did wonder why I had wrote that at this stage of the Test match.

As is generally the case when trading cricket on Betfair though, the draw did come back in as Ashton Agar hammered England’s suspect tail ender bowling around on his way to 98. I did see the draw touching 10 while he was on the charge. And I did say this was dependent on some sensible batting – which didn’t arrive until about 5pm last night. Ironically, the draw is back where it was at this time yesterday now.

This Test match is too close to call, and from a cricket betting perspective I am just leaving it now and sitting on my previous trades. I will only get involved again if the draw all of a sudden shortens, as I have plenty of green to lay off. Even given the unpredictable nature of this Test match so far, I think that this is probably a long shot now….. famous last words!

Who is Ashton Agar?

That was the question most people must have been asking as we seen the pictures of Glenn McGrath handing him debut cap.

Well, after today’s world record breaking knock, the whole cricketing world certainly knows who he is now. Not content with one world record, Ashton Agar already holds two.

Not only is he the holder of the world record score for a No.11, he also now holds the world record for the highest last wicket partnership, 163 with Phil Hughes.

He looks that young he could be delivering my newspapers. If he walked down the road outside Trent Bridge before the start of play on Day 3, I reckon 90% of the passing crowd on their way to the Test match would probably not even recognise him – I certainly wouldn’t, and here he is the talk of cricket.

I’ve only seen brief highlights of the innings, but from what I seen and heard, he looked a decent batsman. I’m not jumping on the bandwagon that he is already a number 7 or number 8  though, as I’ve heard some esteemed cricket pundits already claiming today. There is a lot of water to go under the bridge there, not least proof that he is worth his place in the side as a bowler.

It remains to be seen if he is a flash in the pan, and after all he was picked to bowl, not bat. There have been plenty of tail enders who looked good with the bat early in their careers, and great things were predicted of them, only for them to prove they were out and out tail enders after all.

I am an England fan, a Test cricket fan, and an out and out cricket fan, and from all three of those perspectives I wanted Ashton Agar to get his hundred today. I was also delighted that the watching cricket public at Trent Bridge gave him a good respectful hand after his innings was over.

It is a great story which will add to the already rich history of The Ashes, and it has already further helped to set this Ashes series alight.

Ashes Betting – Bookmakers Promotions

The Ashes gets under way later today, and to mark the occasion, online bookmakers are falling over themselves to give us Ashes Betting special offers on this cricket feast. Here is a selection of some of the promotions currently available ahead of the 1st Test….

Titanbet are giving away a £/€10 free bet on The Ashes. To qualify you need to place a £/€10 bet on the first four test matches, and you will receive a free bet of £/€10 for the 5th Test.

With Paddy Power, if you back a player to be his team’s top run scorer in an innings (ie, back Alastair Cook to be top run scorer for England in 1st inning) and he scores a century, Paddy Power will pay out at double your original odds. Maximum stake of €/£50.

BetVictor will refund all losing pre match bets (in the form of a free bet) on that particular Test match if England lose that Test match. This offer doesn’t apply to 3 way match bets (ie, an England win, Drawn Test, or an Aussie victory), and is for a maximum of £/€25.00

With Betfred, if you back a player to be top run scorer and he gets a century, but isn’t top run scorer, Betfred will pay out on him anyway.

Ladbrokes are offering money back on match bets (ie, England win, Drawn Test, or an Aussie win), if Alastair Cook or Michael Clarke top score in the 1st innings.

No doubt there will be plenty of other Ashes Betting specials throughout the series, so keep an eye on the website for more bookie promotions.

Ashes Betting Preview

The Ashes finally starts on Wednesday 10th July, and signals the start of just under seven (hopefully) magnificent weeks of Test cricket. England are the bookmakers pre series favourites in The Ashes betting for a series win, the latest live odds, and a free bet of £25.00 can be found here.

As is usually the case these days, the series will be contested over 5 Test matches. They are as follows….

1st Test, Trent Bridge, Nottingham, Wed 10th July – Sun 14th July.

2nd Test, Lord’s, London, Thur 18th July – Mon 22nd July.

3rd Test, Old Trafford, Manchester, Thur 1st Aug – Mon 5th Aug.

4th Test, Riverside Ground, Durham, Fri 9th Aug – Tues 13th Aug.

5th Test, Kennington Oval, London, Wed 21st Aug – Sun 25th Aug.

So far in the build up we have had plenty to talk about. Before Australia arrived, all the talk was of an easy series victory for England, with some even (sarcastically) predicting a 5-0 whitewash to England. This is never a possible outcome in my view, not least because of the good old British weather.

There has been plenty of further talking points, such as Australia apparently imploding during the ICC Champions Trophy with bar room brawls, and the changing of coach just a couple of weeks before the start of The Ashes.

Personally I have never bought into any of that. I believe the Aussie’s aren’t the shambolic outfit most of the British media would like to have us believe, and I also think that making Darren Lehmann the new coach could turn out to be a good decision.

I see this series being a lot closer than a lot of people think. I can see two things deciding it, the batting of both teams, and Graeme Swann.

Let me be clear, if both teams play to their potential, England win 3-1 or 3-0. If England’s batting misfires, or the Aussie batting picks up, it could be 2-1 to England, or maybe 2-2.

The Aussie seam attack is top class. On the right wicket this attack is well capable of ripping England’s batting apart….  as the England attack is equally capable of  ripping through the Aussie batting on a given day.

In short, both teams seam bowling is top class and takes care of itself, this is why I see Graeme Swann as England’s main weapon. If England prepare seamers wickets, Australia have the bowlers to possibly match England in those conditions. If England prepare spin friendly wickets, Australia have no one to compare to Swann.

In the Ashes Betting, Swann is currently 11/2 to be the top Ashes bowler (of both sides), and is 11/4 to be the top English bowler, and I really think he could be the key man for England this summer. The recent improvement in the weather will have meant wickets drying up more, and that could also help Swann.

England’s batting hasn’t been at it’s best lately. I don’t think Nick Compton’s omission is a big loss run wise, but I am concerned about moving Joe Root up to open in his place. Root is clearly a great prospect who should have a bright and prosperous future in Test cricket.

Is his promotion up the order a touch premature though? I think it may be, and that concerns me a bit. Batting down the order was suiting Root, it goes back to that old saying for me…. if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

I do think that this could be a series for Kevin Pietersen. Despite his injury of late, I just think he will come into this series fresh and looking to prove a point. It will be his first home Test match since last summers shenanigans and he will be wanting to make amends. In the cricket betting, Pietersen is 7/2 to be top English batsman.

Alastair Cook and Ian Bell have little form to speak off, so it could well come down to Trott or Pietersen, for top English run scorer.

Onto the Aussies, and as I mentioned, the their pace attack is more than capable. One man who may not be too well known on these shores is James Pattinson, he has a brother Darren Pattinson, who played one Test match for England (against South Africa) back in 2008, you may remember him.

Pattinson is a serious bowler, the bookmakers seem to be aware of this as they have him as 9/4 favourite to be top Aussie bowler, the bookies seem to have done their homework here in my view.

Shane Watson could be their vital man with the bat. Michael Clarke is obviously the stand out performer for Australia with the bat, but Clarke can’t keep single handedly carrying the batting for Australia. He will need support from somewhere, and I think Watson could be the man.

Watson could be the one who benefits the most from the appointment of Darren Lehmann. Lehmann has already backed Watson by declaring he will go back to opening, and I think having a coach who clearly believes in him, and is prepared to publicly back him, will give Watson the confidence he needs.

Recent form from both sides has been patchy. England struggled badly in New Zealand earlier this year, before completing a fairly easy home series win over the Kiwi’s a couple of months later. It was hardly vintage stuff in either series though, and should give the Aussies some belief they can cause an upset here.

Australia meanwhile lost 4-0 away in India in their last Test series last February/March, but they know conditions in England are going to be very different, so I wouldn’t place too much emphasis on that result. The series previous to that saw the Aussies comfortably beat Sri Lanka 3-0 in Australia six months ago.

I think this will be a close series with England just edging it 2-1 or 3-1. I think Graeme Swann will be key for England, and they will need a couple of batsmen to start firing.

Australia will be rejuvenated under Darren Lehmann, and I think could push this closer than people expect. If ever a sports team needed one of it’s own, surely the Aussie cricket team is it. If England are slightly off the boil, or a couple of big hitters are off key, then make no mistake, this Aussie team could be a threat.

Cricket Betting

In the outright winner Ashes betting, England are 1/3 favourites. Australia are 4/1 and a drawn series is 6/1.

The odds for the 1st Test again see England as favourites, at 4/5. While Australia and the draw can both be backed at 3/1.

A Brief History of The Ashes

Back in August 1882, England lost a low scoring Test match to Australia by 7 runs, and in the ensuing fallout over the next few days an article was written in the the Sporting Times newspaper that would shape the future of this cricketing rivalry, and give this contest the name we know it as today.

 It read ‘In Affectionate Remembrance of English cricket, which died at the Oval on 29th August 1882, the body will be cremated and the ashes taken back to Australia’

A few months later this mocking story prompted a group of Australian women in Melbourne to present the touring England captain, Ivo Bligh (or Lord Darnley as he would later become known), with a small Urn containing the Ashes of either a bail, a veil, or a cricket ball.

It has been widely regarded that it was the Ashes of a cricket bail, but depending on who or what you believe, it could be any one of the three.

Anyway the Urn containing the Ashes of whatever, was presented to Bligh, and from that Urn, the Ashes as we know it today was born.

To the casual cricket follower it can all be a bit unclear. England and Australia have been playing cricket since well back before 1882, there is recorded matches between the two dating back to the 1860’s. What is regarded as the first official Test match, took place in March 1877….. although series between the two nations didn’t adopt the name, The Ashes, until 1902.

To sum it up in a nutshell, the two nations have been playing Test series against each other since 1877, and since 1902, the series have been known as The Ashes.

These days the name is a commercial giant. Everyone connected with cricket knows what it represents, and I’ve noticed that even BSkyB have re-branded their ‘Sky Sports 2’ channel to ‘Sky Sports Ashes’ for the next few weeks, such is the importance they place on the series.

The Ashes has some legendary tales and some legendary characters in it’s rich history. Players such as WG Grace, Victor Trumper, Douglas Jardine, Harold Larwood, Don Bradman, Eric Hollies, Richie Benaud, Jim Laker, Fred Trueman, Ian Botham, Ian Chappell, Dennis Lillee, Rod Marsh, Allan Border, Steve Waugh, Andrew Flintoff, Shane Warne, Mike Gatting, Glenn McGrath and Andrew Struass, have all played major rolls in the great history of this prestigious event, both on and off the field in some cases.

Over the years The Ashes has seen many great matches, many special events and has had many contentious issues.

Probably the most infamous Ashes event, or series of all time, was the 1932-33 ‘Bodyline’ series, or leg theory as it was referred to by Douglas Jardine.

Such was the magnitude of events in this series that the laws of cricket were changed, and at one point the Australian Prime Minister, Joseph Lyons had to get involved to end a stand off.

Two Australians, Bill Woodfull and Bert Oldfield both got hurt, with Oldfield suffering a fractured skull. This prompted the Australian cricket board to send a cable to Lord’s, accusing the England team of being unsportsmanlike.

The MCC then reacted with equal hostility, clearly upset at what they seen (at the time) as a slur on the England team. England threatened to pull out of the tour, and the situation was only resolved when the Australian PM got his nations cricket board to withdraw the allegation of unsportsmanlike behaviour, and save the remainder of the tour.

Ironically, the two batsmen hurt by Harold Larwood, weren’t actually hit while the leg theory tactic was in use.

After MCC eventually realised the seriousness of what had happened, the laws of cricket were gradually amended to eventually ensure this couldn’t happen again.

Another contentious Ashes moment has to the most infamous cricket bet in history. In 1981, Australia were smashing England, they were on the verge of winning the Headingley Test match by an innings, and with it taking a 2-0 lead in the series.

Online bookmakers offered real odds back then – in the match situation England were 7 down, and needing around 90 runs just to make Australia bat again – and in the cricket betting, England were available at 500/1.

Dennis Lillee and Rodney Marsh are supposed to have got a third party – believed to be the team coach driver – to place a £15 bet for them at the odds of 500/1, pocketing them £7500.

There is no suggestion that the two chucked the game, plenty of people who knew the pair at the time find it inconceivable that they could ever sacrifice a cricket match for money, such was their competitive nature. I  also think that if there was any suspicion of this having happened, their less than shrinking violet team mates would have outed them.  

Attitudes to players betting on cricket have obviously changed a lot since those days.

In that same Test match the legend known as ‘Botham’s Ashes’ was born. Around about the time Lillee and Marsh were placing their bet, Botham smashed 149 with support from the late Graham Dilley to help England avoid an innings defeat and at least give them something to bowl at. Bob Willis then was possessed by something, I’m not sure what, and ripped the Australian batting apart with figures of 8/43.

Botham had been sacked, or resigned, as captain after the previous Test match at Lord’s, following a serious loss of form with both bat and ball. In that Test match Botham managed two ducks, he returned to the pavilion after his second failure in the match to an embarrassing silence, with not even a sympathetic glance from any of the MCC members as he passed them heading back towards the long room.

This made Botham’s comeback after losing the captaincy all the more remarkable. He was hopelessly out of form when he hit that 149 at Headingley. He then followed that up in the next Test match at Edgbaston by taking 5 wickets for 1 run in 28 balls (Australia needed a small total of 151 runs for victory), to win the Test match and somehow put England 2-1 up in a Test series they should have been comfortably losing.

On some occasions, rather than a Test match or a series making the headlines, just one single delivery has shook The Ashes and gone down in folklore.

The most famous delivery in Ashes history has to have been in 1948, when the greatest batsman to ever play cricket, Sir Don Bradman strode out to the crease at the Oval in his final ever Test innings. He was given a standing ovation to the crease and he even got three cheers from the England team.

Bradman needed just four runs to retire from cricket with a Test batting average of 100. He was bowled second ball by Eric Hollies for a duck and walked off to a stunned silence, followed by some polite applause, (and a Test average of just the 99.94).

Many years later at Manchester in 1993, the so called ‘ball of the century’ was bowled to Mike Gatting by Shane Warne.

Warne had arrived in England with a reputation of both being a talented cricketer and a bit of a larrikin (to coin an Aussie phrase), but I don’t think anybody (maybe even the Aussies) realised just how talented he was.

He came onto bowl to the unfortunate Mike Gatting. The ball pitched outside Gatting’s leg stump (which Gatting played for), then viciously turned hitting the top of off stump, leaving a stunned looking Gatting walking off in disbelief.

Ever since, Gatting (along with his rotund figure) has been constantly reminded about remarks made in the aftermath of that ball, such as “How anyone can spin a ball the width of Gatting boggles the mind,” and “if it had been a cheese roll, it would never have got past him.” In fairness to Mike, he seems to take it all in good spirit.

In 2005 there was by far the greatest series and arguably greatest Test I have ever seen contested between the two countries.

England fancied their chances pre series against an excellent and widely thought to be unbeatable Australian side. Those hopes were dashed as England were comfortably beaten in the 1st Test at Lord’s. At the time, most believed England’s pre series faith was misguided and that this result was more in keeping with normal service, and that the Aussies would now win the series comfortably.

That all changed as the series kicked into life in the remarkable 2nd Test at Edgbaston, which is by far the best Test match I have seen in my lifetime.

First Glenn McGrath was ruled out of the Test after standing on a cricket ball in the warm up and twisting his ankle. Then Ricky Ponting won the toss, and without his stand out seamer he invited England to bat. England duly responded by scoring 400 runs in the first day (407 all out).

Australia kept themselves in the Test match with 308 in their 1st innings, before Shane Warne weaved his magic taking 6/46 in England’s 2nd innings total of 182.

Australia had a testing 282 to get to win the Test match. They got off to a steady start and were 47 without loss when Andrew Flintoff came on and bowled the over of the series, getting rid of both Justin Langer and Ricky Ponting in the seven balls (there was a no ball in there).

On such fine lines can matches be decided, and it was the seventh ball of the over that Flintoff removed Ponting with. This started off a steady stream of Aussie wickets and by the end of Day 3, after Steve Harmison removed Michael Clarke with a brilliant slower ball (arguably the ball of the series), the Aussies stood at 175/8 and with only Shane Warne, Brett Lee and Michael Kasprowicz left, they were effectively beaten.

On Day 4, Shane Warne and Brett Lee provided what was regarded as some typically stiff Aussie resistance, until Warne departed with over 60 still needed. Surely game over now?

No, then Brett Lee and number 11, Michael Kasprowicz took up the fight and got the Aussies to within 2 runs of England’s score, and 3 runs of victory.

Ironically the ball that finally got Kasprowicz (off Harmison) wasn’t actually out, as replays showed he had just removed his hand from the bat before he gloved the ball through to wicket keeper, Geraint Jones.

As I previously wrote, on such fine lines are matches decided….. and series for that matter, as England went on to win it.

A footnote to that series, and in the interests of balance, that Australian side was brilliant and got it’s revenge 18 months later, hammering England 5-0 in what was to be the final Test match of that vintage team.

The Ashes has a rich history of quality cricket, some of the biggest and best names in world cricket, great Test matches, great characters, and plenty of controversy….. and long may it continue.

Now that’s what I call a real choke!

There I was, about to write about what a great tournament Ravi Bopara had had in the Champions Trophy, how I owed him an apology for previously slagging him on this website and saying he should never play for England again, and how someone needed a massive pat on the back for having the balls to recall him.

I was all set to write my post, I had it all planned in my head, and then England go and choke in a manner that would have had even the most choke affected, mentally scarred South African’s laughing their tits off.

It was unbelievable, Tim Bresnan and Jos Buttler should wear disguises for the next week, their dismissals were embarrassing. In fairness to Buttler, he is a young man who should hopefully learn, but Bresnan’s run out was something else. As one commentator put it, there wasn’t even a quarter of a run there.

No excuses, as India deserved to win, but Ian Bell’s dismissal was a joke. Yes, it was probably the right decision, just! But the technology is there to give a definitive answer, not an opinion. Which is all we got on Sunday. And I would say that no matter who it was who got given out in those circumstances, English, Indian, etc, etc.

Anyway, never mind. India were by far the best side in the tournament, and deserved to win. This justifies Duncan Fletcher’s decision to ditch the old guard, and replace them with hungrier more athletic fielders. This Indian team is now the undisputed best 50 over team in the world, there can be no argument there.

From an English perspective, thank God for the Aussies. On a a day when England could have been getting panned by the media for their shortcomings, the Aussies took all the attention off England in a way no spin doctor could ever have done, with another explosion coming from their camp.

Although in fairness to them, I think this could end up being a good decision in the long run. Will it win them the Ashes this summer, only if England capitulate again.

Latest Ashes Betting

There has been no real change in that price over the last few weeks now, showing that what has happened (on the pitch) at the ICC Champions Trophy has had no real impact on the cricket betting odds.

Ashes Betting – 1st Test Betting

England 10/11 — The Draw 9/4 — Australia 3/1

Off the pitch and reading between the lines, the Aussie camp does give the impression of a team in disarray. Just how close to the truth that is, I don’t know.

Assuming this isn’t the case, the Aussies could be happy for this to be believed, maybe thinking they are lulling the England team into a false sense of security.

They could be happy for this view ‘that England only have to turn up to win’ to carry on being fed to everyone, hoping that the England team fall for it, and that a complacent starting XI take to the field in Nottingham on 10th July.

How true are stories of rifts? And stories of a serious lack of confidence after the early Champions Trophy exit? I’m not convinced about them, and part of me thinks that they could be being conveniently put out there.

Hopefully England are just concentrating on their own business, and not getting carried away with what is apparently happening in the Australian camp.

Kevin Pietersen looks to have returned just in time. Hopefully he can get himself match fit and in reasonable form in time for the 1st Test. One thing that can be guaranteed with Pietersen, is that he will make sure he is in as good a shape as he can be, or to put it another way, he will have been looking after himself during his lay off.

Should England be concerned about Graeme Swann’s fitness? I think there is still a slight question mark over it. He is struggling to play back-to-back 50 over games at the moment, so how can he be a certainty to play Test cricket?

I know James Tredwell has done a good job in the 50 over game, but Test cricket is a different beast, and I think Monty will have to be on stand-by.

Neither Pieterson or Swann’s fitness have affected the Ashes Betting prices yet, but any hitches in the build up to the 1st Test could possibly see that change.

Ashes Betting – Series Winner 

England 2/5 — Australia 7/2 — Drawn Series 11/2