August 23, 2009

Ashes

Ponting a better captain than Waugh

Nishi Narayanan
Andrew Strauss reaches his fifty, England v Australia, 5th Test, The Oval, 1st day, August 20, 2009
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Despite results suggesting otherwise, Ricky Ponting is a superior captain to his predecessor, Steve Waugh, writes Ian Chappell in the Sunday Telegraph.

Ponting never runs out of ideas in the field, whereas Waugh, even with a more experienced and varied attack, was often devoid of inspiration on the few occasions when his captaincy was really tested.

If England take the Ashes, Andrew Strauss will be the overwhelming choice for Man of the Series for his sound captaincy and pivotal batting, writes Mike Brearley in the Observer.

Strauss's assurance at the crease has so often been what has held Australia up; once they have got rid of him, the door has looked open, the barriers thin. Over the past year his play has developed strikingly. Whereas before he could be restricted by full-length bowling, now he deals with it more positively by transferring his weight confidently on to the front foot and punching the ball back down the ground. The bowler cannot any longer afford to err by overpitching.

Opinions on the two captains in this Ashes series have oscillated with the results. The pluses for Ponting in that match were that he looked to have made better plans for his bowlers and battled beautifully in Cardiff but Strauss is one of those for whom the leadership is an inspiration, not a burden, writes David Gower in the Sunday Times.

Victory will presumably result in the traditional award of MBEs to everybody who’s done his bit for England this summer, in which case nothing less than a knighthood will suffice for The Oval groundsman, writes Martin Johnson in the same paper.

With Australia requiring only a draw on a ground that usually offers bowlers a similar working environment to a Skegness donkey, whatever items came out of the groundsman’s shed to prepare the playing surface, we can safely say a watering can was not among them. In which case, arise Sir Bill Gordon.

In the Sunday Telegraph Michael Vaughan hopes England can go on to build a team that can beat Australia in two years and become the best side in the world.

In the same paper Scyld Berry says England have made the worst possible start to their quest for excellence.

England's commanding position at The Oval is the work of the supporting cast, not the marquee name. Australia's collapse was inspired by Broad and Graeme Swann, with a little help from umpire Asad Rauf, writes Martin Samuel in the Daily Mail.

Nishi Narayanan is a staff writer at ESPNcricinfo

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