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Ashes Series Set To Serve Up Great Tests, But Not Greatness

A tense final hour saw England finally show some resolve and grab a draw from the very depths of defeat, but the dramatic conclusion only served to highlight the lack of widespread class in either side…

Bopara and England will have to match Australia's intensity (Photo: Getty)

Bopara and England will have to match Australia's intensity (Photo: Getty)

England escaped defeat by the slimmest of margins on Sunday, as James Anderson and Monty Panesar—England’s No. 10 and 11 respectively—formed an unlikely yet defiant 69-ball final stand to deny an Australian side from a victory that they looked destined to take for much of the final day.
It was a dramatic end to the first Ashes Test of 2009, and the first Test match ever to be held at Cardiff’s Sophia Gardens.
Much credit for the “great escape” must go to Paul Collingwood, whose valiant six-hour innings (during which he compiled the slowest England 50 in 14 years) got England to within sight of the finish line.
Ridiculed four years ago by Shane Warne as he collected an MBE despite only contributing 17 runs to England’s Ashes success, Collingwood looks like a man determined to have a big impact on the series this time around.
Absolutely mortified by his dismissal—caught feeling outside off-stump and ending up spooning a catch to gully—that prevented him seeing the job through to its conclusion, the 33-year-old should not be too down-hearted.
Nevertheless, the tense conclusion to the Test should not detract from the simple fact that Australia managed to gain the upper hand on England within three days of the first Test of a five Test series—and this is not even a great Australian side.
“In the end it was close, closer than we would have hoped for and at one point we looked dead,” Collingwood told Sky Sports in the game’s aftermath. “There are some happy people in that dressing room now. Realistically though we know we have to improve for Thursday.”
Nathan Hauritz is an average spinner at best, and while Peter Siddle and Mitchell Johnson are both threatening bowlers, neither would have challenged Glenn McGrath for strike-bowling supremacy in years gone by.
The fact that such a weak bowling attack, by Australia’s high standards, still managed to out-fox England’s upper and middle order, is not a good sign for the remainder of the series.
England—possessing of their own distinctly average bowling lineup in the form of Stuart Broad, James Anderson, Monty Panesar, and Graeme Swann—will hope that a move back to the more familiar Test surroundings of Lord’s will reinvigorate all aspects of their game.
“We’re just thankful that we managed to get away with it,” England captain Andrew Strauss said at the post-match presentation. “We’ve not given away too much momentum, which is important in back-to-back Tests. We are just very, very thankful to get a draw and we can take pride in the fight we showed.”
England’s batsman will look forward to arriving at the home of cricket, bringing with i the likely prospect of a few runs. Only Ravi Bopara should provide real worries for the selectors, and the young No. 3 looks like he only needs one decent knock to give him the confidence to remain competitive throughout the rest of the series.
It is the toothless nature of the bowling attack that might need more than a change of scenery to address.
Steve Harmison—at his best a truly world-class fast bowler—is in the squad for the second Test and might well get another chance to take on the Aussies, against whom he has a bittersweet history, once more.
If he doesn’t make the starting 11 for the next Test, in replacement of one of the spinners (surely, despite his heroics, Panesar), then his Durham teammate Graham Onions surely should.
These are decisions for Andrew Strauss and the England selectors to make, although, as a captain, Strauss does not inspire confidence in the way Michael Vaughan did.
While Vaughan seemed to have the ability—and the courage—to actively make things happen for his side during crucial periods of matches, Strauss seems to be an altogether more reactionary leader, preferring to try and respond to events as they come.
Strauss does not strike you as a natural leader, and you feel after Kevin Pietersen’s antics last year he became captain through a lack of any other options.
In the annals of time, his captaincy will probably not be remembered amongst the greats. Although the ECB might be quivering at the prospect, Pietersen will surely re-assume the captaincy before too long.
With it, perhaps England will develop the sort of hard-nosed intent that characterises Australian teams. At the minute, that seems the major difference between the two sides—Australia are ruthless, intimidating, and abrasive.
England, while comparably talented, seem too nice to get involved in a real dogfight. Perhaps that will develop as the series, and the personal rivalries, progress.
Regardless of future events, England can take heart from the fact they have come through the inevitable early baptism of fire without any tangible damage being done to their series prospects. The junior members of the squad now know what the Ashes are all about, and the senior members have had the opportunity to see what the new faces in the opposition squad are all about.
From what has been seen so far, neither side should be scared of the other.
One the evidence of the first Test, it cannot be denied that the quality of the two teams is far diminished from the 2005 series.
But if the 2009 version continues to serve up dramatic finishes like Sunday’s, then it is doubtful too many casual observers will be that bothered.

England escaped defeat by the slimmest of margins on Sunday, as James Anderson and Monty Panesar — England’s No. 10 and 11 respectively — formed an unlikely yet defiant 69-ball final stand to deny an Australian side from a victory that they looked destined to take for much of the final day.

It was a dramatic end to the first Ashes Test of 2009, and the first Test match ever to be held at Cardiff’s Sophia Gardens.

Much credit for the “great escape” must go to Paul Collingwood, whose valiant six-hour innings (during which he compiled the slowest England 50 in 14 years) got England to within sight of the finish line.

Ridiculed four years ago by Shane Warne as he collected an MBE despite only contributing 17 runs to England’s Ashes success, Collingwood looks like a man determined to have a big impact on the series this time around.

Absolutely mortified by his dismissal — caught feeling outside off-stump and ending up spooning a catch to gully — that prevented him seeing the job through to its conclusion, the 33-year-old should not be too down-hearted.

Nevertheless, the tense conclusion to the Test should not detract from the simple fact that Australia managed to gain the upper hand on England within three days of the first Test of a five Test series — and this is not even a great Australian side.

“In the end it was close, closer than we would have hoped for and at one point we looked dead,” Collingwood told Sky Sports in the game’s aftermath. “There are some happy people in that dressing room now. Realistically though we know we have to improve for Thursday.”

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July 13, 2009 Posted by | Sport | , | Leave a comment

2009 World Cup Twenty20: Team of the Tournament

Predictable, typical, obligatory. Every world tournament worth its salt needs an entirely worthless ‘team of the tournament’. Here’s CatchSeventy7’s entirely subjective verdict on the 2009 Twenty20 World Cup…

Afridi and Akmal were pivotal for Pakistan

Afridi and Akmal were pivotal for Pakistan

Almost as quickly as it began, the World Twenty20 is over. With many standout performances, picking a team of the tournament is not particularly easy, but Catch Seventy7 will give it a go nonetheless. Perhaps unsurprisingly, members of the four semi-final teams dominate proceedings:

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June 21, 2009 Posted by | Sport | , , | 2 Comments

Collingwood’s Assessment of England’s Efforts Proves the Most Accurate

England go out of another World Cup, everyone’s up in arms. But in reality, Collingwood’s men did just about as well as their abilities deserved…

Collingwood congratulates Rashid: But the spinner's selection was controversial...

Collingwood congratulates Rashid: But the spinner's selection was controversial...

After a valiant struggle, England eventually succumbed to the enemy they perhaps knew best.

The rain.

It may be debatable whether or not West Indies are an inferior side to England, but the fact of the matter is that 80 runs in nine overs (with 10 wickets to play with) is an easier target than 162 in 20 overs (with the same number of wickets). When you know the opposition as well as England and the Windies know each other, such an advantage is only magnified.

England struggled valiantly, but the composure and quality of Ramnaresh Sarwan and Shivnarine Chanderpaul proved more than enough.

England captain Paul Collingwood stuck by his side after the defeat.

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June 16, 2009 Posted by | Sport | , , , | Leave a comment