November 21, 2010

Ashes

'Brisbane is England's best chance'

George Binoy

I believe Brisbane is England's best chance of winning a Test match in Australia. It is at the Gabba where they can bowl Australia out twice because it swings for the majority of the first day. It also offers a bit of seam movement and can spin early too, writes Shane Warne in the Sunday Telegraph.

In Brisbane, the key to taking 20 wickets is to get the batsmen on the front foot. Too often visiting teams bowl too short. They see it seaming and bouncing and get carried away. But the secret is to risk being driven through the covers and down the ground so you can get the nick. Around 75-80 per cent of the wickets in Brisbane are catches to the keeper or slips. David Saker, the England bowling coach, was very successful in Brisbane as a bowler so the England quicks must listen to his advice. He was a swing bowler like James Anderson, so he can pass on invaluable knowledge to England's main man.

England face bravado and belligerence but if Andrew Strauss is brave in his field placings he can win the Ashes – as I did in 1979, writes Mike Brearley in the Observer.

Strauss has many fine attributes as captain; he concentrates, he treats the players with respect, he is tough, consistent, and can play the longer game. From what I've seen, I'd back him ahead of Ricky Ponting. Both seem to be well-respected by their players, but neither is, to my mind, tactically inventive. As is the modern habit, they tend to be defensive in field-placing. I should like England to be more willing to attack in the field, especially when the ball swings (the new ball has even more significance in Australia than in England, since it loses its shine and bounce much more quickly), and when key batsmen are new at the crease.

Trying to follow an Ashes series in Australia is the most exquisite punishment sport has devised, says Michael Simkins in the Sunday Telegraph

For while the guilty pleasure of hunkering down for another night in front of the box when all around are in bed initially seems alluring, the dream soon turns sour. The stronger-willed may be able to tear themselves away at the lunch interval (usually about 1.30am) but, at the age of 53, even this mild adjustment to my body clock is sufficient to render me unfit for purpose the following day. And that’s on a good night. There have been other times – too many other times – when my wife has come downstairs at 4am to find me snoring on the sofa, the TV blaring out an old Audie Murphy Western after the remote control tumbled from my outstretched hand.

"If this Ashes series is about one man, it is about Ponting, a tough, laconic product of Launceston's working-class northern suburbs, one of the greatest batsmen of this or any other age," writes DAvid Hopps in the Observer. "Win and he may even seek further retribution in England in two years' time. Lose and he could be forced into retirement, left to chew forever over his legacy as an Ashes captain who lost three times, a record Australia will never forgive."

In the Independent on Sunday, Stephen Brenkley spoke to John Snow about the tour to Australia forty years ago, when England won the Ashes for the first time since 1956.

What should never be forgotten is that, above all, there was some outstanding cricket played between two teams who, metaphorically, were prepared to punch each other's lights out. England eventually prevailed 2-0, winning two Test matches in Sydney. Snow took 31 wickets at 22.83 runs each. He can be bracketed with Maurice Tate and Harold Larwood, other fast bowlers who prospered in, and antagonised, Australia.

"We went out in much the same situation as the guys are going out this year," said Snow. "Australia were in a bit of a trough player-wise, the others hadn't quite come through and there was a feeling that there was a good opportunity, even though it was on Australian soil, to win it and get the Ashes back."

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George Binoy is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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