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Ashes Spotlight: Broad Walk Empire

And so it came to pass that less than two months after being mocked and written off, Alastair Cook and his troops regained the Ashes during a Test match that lasted a little over two days, as Australia were undone by world-class swing bowling and poor shot selection.

Stuart Broad took the headlines, deservedly so, for his sensational spell on the first morning. The absence through injury of usual pack-leader Jimmy Anderson necessitated one of his underlings stepping-up, and the Nottinghamshire seamer was happy to oblige.

8 wickets for 15 runs in 9.3 Overs obliterated an Australian line-up seemingly perplexed by cloud cover induced seam movement that saw a procession of dismissals, and a pitiful final total of just 60 all-out.

Root Gains

England were batting before lunch on day one, Joe Root (130) and Johnny Bairstow (74) consolidating a powerful position, and Moeen Ali’s rapid 39 nudging the lead up to a daunting 330 runs.

Australia batted better second time round, assisted by England’s decline in the field, but Ben Stokes backed up an incredible, one-handed first innings pouch with career best figures of 6-36 to see the home side through early on day three, the eventual margin a gargantuan innings and 77 runs.

Records Tumble

Stokes was England’s fourth different bowler to take six or more wickets in the past four Test innings, the first occurrence of this in the history of the game. Stuart Broad’s 8-15 was the best single innings Test bowling recorded at Trent Bridge, and he leapt to 308 career dismissals to go past the great Fred Trueman.

In addition, Joe Root climbed to number one in the  world rankings, the first time he’s achieved the feat in his career.

All in all it’s been a wonderful summer for English cricket. The Ashes Test series concludes at the Oval, with the match scheduled for a Thursday start.

England player ratings

Barmy Army

Alastair Cook (Captain)
43 & DNB

The calls for his demotion have long since faded away. Alastair Cook; a leader reborn, a previously rearguard, meek skipper transformed into a blood lusting tiger.

His score of 43 was well made until he played around a straight, full one from Mitchell Starc. Despite moderate contributions with the willow throughout the Ashes, Cook’s excellence at the helm has re-invigorated the squad.

7/10

Adam Lyth
14 & DNB

The one continual blemish on an otherwise excellent series for England, Lyth currently resembles a badly wounded deer waiting to be put out of his misery.

A couple of eye-catching cover drives were followed by a plodding forward defensive, a tickle of an edge caught behind, and a lonely walk back to the pavilion – a pattern in keeping with Lyth’s Ashes career thus far. Time to cut losses, promote Moeen and bring Rashid in as a front-line spinner.

2/10

Ian Bell
1 & DNB

The ecstasy of Edgbaston made way for the turbulence of Trent Bridge, with Bell failing to build on the success he enjoyed at his home ground.

Despite the blip, his experience at number three gives England’s line-up a credibility long lacking, and although the talented Gary Ballance shouldn’t be written off, it is Bell who remains the best option in this most vital of positions.

1/10

Joe Root
130 & DNB

Took his tally for the series to 442 runs at an average of almost 74 with a defiant 130 that once again set him apart from every other batsman in the match.

The only potential long-term negative was the exacerbation of a long-standing back problem, which noticeably bothered Root in the latter stages of his innings, hopefully it’s something that won’t hinder his continued ascendency, sitting as he does at the summit of the Test batting rankings for the first time.

9/10

Masked Wrestler Cricket

Johnny Bairstow
74 & DNB

Probably secured his selection, at least for the short-term, with an attacking half century amassed in difficult circumstances.

Bairstow and Root’s positive intent is hopefully a sign of things to come from England’s eminently gifted middle order, although the former continues to desperately seek his first Test hundred, having already gained 16 caps.

7/10

Ben Stokes
5 & 6-36

The young all-rounder has already gained a reputation as something of a maverick match-winner, albeit usually with bat in hand. This time it was his divine bowling that dragged England over the line.

An inspired spell doused what had threatened to be a decent Aussie comeback, with Stokes finding levels of consistency previously not evident. His wonder-catch remains the abiding snap-shot of this one-sided contest.

8/10

Jos Buttler (Wicket-Keeper)
12 & DNB

Another tidy display behind the timbers, although Buttler’s dearth of runs has seen his average drop from the mid 50’s to the high 30’s during this series.

The fact that his place is not under pressure owes much to the obvious impromptu genius he possesses, as well as the afore mentioned glove-work.

5/10

Moeen Ali
39 & 0-34

His quick-fire knock of 39 shouldn’t deserves more than to be glossed over, dragging as it did any lingering Mitchell Starc generated momentum away from Australia by the manner in which it was scored.

The conditions weren’t conducive to spin bowling, with Moeen’s six overs going at almost a run-a-ball. Could find himself promoted from number eight to opening if Adil Rashid is blooded next week.

6/10

Barmy Army

Mark Wood
28 & 4-82 (1-13/3-69)

Replaced the injured Jimmy Anderson, and had a memorable match. Supported the rampant Broad in the first innings, and bowled with channelled aggression in the second.

His bludgeoning knock of 28, having come in as night-watchman, demoralised an already downbeat opposition bowling attack. Likely to make way if Anderson is declared fit for the Oval, and would be very unfortunate if that’s the case.

8/10

*Stuart Broad*
24* & 9-47 (8-15/1-32)

His spell on the first morning virtually secured the Ashes, with the overcast conditions perfectly exploited by a bowler who has found his best rhythm once again this summer.

Likewise, Broad’s batting is on the rise, and he made another handy contribution at Trent Bridge. Only ill-fortune stopped him from picking up another “5-fer” second time around, with ball regularly defeating bat without reward.

10/10

Steven Finn
0* & 1-63 (1-21/0-42)

One of the heroes of Edgbaston, Finn was altogether lower-key here, although one glorious in-swinger castled the dangerous Peter Nevill – the only Australian not dismissed via a catch in their debacle of a first innings.

England’s unexpected abundance of in-form quick bowlers could put Finn under immediate pressure, but he deserves a run in the side having seemingly rediscovered his rhythm after several years of strife.

5/10

Following this embarrassing turnover, Australia captain Michael Clarke announced that he will retire after the series, with around half a dozen other Australian players speculated to follow suit.

In the space of less than a couple of months Australia’s cricket world has collapsed, while England have rarely looked in ruder health. The Oval promises an inevitable England victory, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves just yet!

A full review of England’s series will follow the Oval Test.

Written by Dom Kureen

As a young rapscallion stranded on an Island, my time is split between writing, performing spoken word, wrestling alligators and delivering uplifting pep talks to hairdressers before they prune me.
I meditate and wash daily when possible.

Ashes Watch: Old wounds opened for England

England headed to Lord’s for the second Ashes Test match of the summer following an impressive 169-run victory in Cardiff, only to endure four days of turmoil at the hands of a vengeful Australian side.

Having won the coin toss Australia batted first on a docile track, racking up a score of 566 for 8 declared over the course of five destructive sessions, Steven Smith compiling a career best 215, and veteran Chris Rogers a Test high 173, the latter having been dropped early on by the hapless Adam Lyth.

Tough at the top

England’s response was almost immediately in tatters, four top order wickets tumbling in the face of some brutal fast bowling. Despite a decent recovery courtesy of captain Alastair Cook (96) and all-rounder Ben Stokes (87), England ended their innings more than 250 runs adrift.

Australia batted again, and once more the pitch seemed lifeless, England’s bowlers toiling under scoreboard pressure and against confident, skilled opponents.

Set a notional 512 to win, the home side were completely blown away this time, all out for a spineless 103, with Ben Stokes’ risible run-out (see video above) the nadir.

Repercussions

England’s selectors have retorted by ditching the out-of-sorts Gary Ballance and calling up the very in-form Johnny Bairstow to take his place.

In the past Bairstow has struggled to step up to the top table, but his County form, he averages more than 100 with the bat for Yorkshire this season, indicates that this is a young player very much in the ascendency.

For old hands like Ian Bell it’s probably now or never, with those in the know claiming that he must perform at his home ground of Edgbaston next week, or else face being discarded like a used tissue – the heat is on.

England second Test ratings

Alastair Cook (Captain)
96 & 11

One of the few home players to come out of the match with any credit. Cook showed plenty of fortitude to compile a painstaking 96 when all about him shouldered arms, the only pity is that he didn’t go on to make a deserved ton.

Alastair Cook

His captaincy wasn’t helped by a deliberately lifeless pitch which backfired spectacularly on England, failing to negate Australia’s quicker through the air attack, whilst blunting the likes of Mark Wood and Jimmy Anderson who rely predominantly on the pitch.

6.5/10 (7/10 batting, 6/10 captaincy)

Adam Lyth
0 & 7

In his most crippling nightmares Lyth wouldn’t have forecast anything this gloomy.

Not only did he drop two critical catches, he (briefly) batted without sense, appearing entirely out of his depth, like a toddler trying to negotiate Niagra Falls with the aid of a cheap float. Is fortunate to keep his place, probably saved by his century against New Zealand a couple of matches earlier.

1/10

Gary Ballance
23 & 14

After a golden inaugural year on the Test scene, Ballance has inevitably found life harder during his second summer of five-day cricket.

A weakness against the short ball has been remorselessly exposed by both New Zealand and Australia this summer, and whilst it may seem harsh for the Zimbabwe-born southpaw to be dropped ahead of Lyth or Bell, it could be a good idea to remove him from the firing line until he explores his technical flaws further.

3/10

Ian Bell
1 & 11

After 112 Test caps, Bell finds himself under arguably the most intense scrutiny of his career, and with good reason. Since amassing a belligerent 143 in the Caribbean,  the 33 year-old has managed just one score of more than 29 in a dozen innings.

Previous excellence has saved his bacon thus far, with a promotion to number three mooted for Edgbaston. Another failure could see the man famously dubbed “Sherminator” by Australia’s touring side a decade ago unceremoniously dumped back onto the county circuit.

1/10

Joe Root
1 & 17/2-55 & 0-32

Calls to promote Root to number three have so far fallen on deaf ears, but he was once again left to marshal the tail at the end of this match, trying to farm the strike in a vain attempt to delay the coffin being nailed shut.

Two failures with the bat for the in-form Vice-Captain, who had set Cardiff alight to strains of “Rooooot” a week earlier. His bowling continues to progress, but England will need him back to his best next week, with a promotion to number four on the cards.

4/10 (Batting: 2/10, Bowling 6/10)

Ben Stokes
87 & 0/0-77 & 0-20

After suffering a pasting with ball in hand, England’s all-rounder showcased his brutal batting ability, pummelling the three lions away from the ignominy of 30-4 on day two, as he and Cook combined for a fifth wicket stand of 145.

From there it was something of a match to forget, with Stokes’ comical second innings run-out (where he failed to ground his bat/anatomy despite being comfortably inside the crease) the enduring snap-shot of a lamentable collapse.

5/10 (Batting: 7/10, Bowling: 4/10, Daft run-out: -10/10)

Jos Buttler (Wicket-keeper)
13 & 11

Increasingly edgy at the crease, the effervescent Buttler of previous series has been replaced by a forlorn figure bereft of confidence, suffering a seemingly scrambled mindset every time he steps up to bat.

Buttler run out

Seemed unsure whether to attack or graft during England’s 2nd innings collapse, dismissed after a couple of unconvincing boundaries. The first real test of his international credentials. Did a decent job with the gloves.

3/10

Moeen Ali
39 & 0/ 1-138 & 2-78

The experiment of using Moeen, a batting all-rounder, as a front-line spinner who bats at number eight has thus far proven hit and miss. On one hand he continues to contribute useful runs from a lower order perspective, on the other he’s wasted amongst the tail and was comfortably out-bowled by opposing spinner Nathan Lyon.

An aesthetically pleasing 39 and the snaring of both Aussie wickets to fall in their second innings were positives, but Moeen went at almost 4.5 runs per over, lacking the control necessary in the context of the match.

5/10 (Batting: 5/10, Bowling: 5/10)

Stuart Broad
21 & 25/ 4-83 & 0-42

Broad, so often an Ashes pantomime villain in the past, actually has a decent record against Australia, and was one of only two touring players to leave the previous tour “down under” in credit.

This match was arguably a microcosm of that 2013-14 edition, with neat contributions throughout from the lofty Nottinghamshire paceman, including a defiant 25 which eked England beyond the 100 barrier as they toiled in the closing stages.

7/10 (Batting: 6/10, Bowling: 8/10)

Mark Wood
4 & 2*/ 1-92 & 0-39

The sparkle synonymous with the Durham seamer since his inclusion in the England side dimmed at Lord’s. Wood looked weary and uncertain, perhaps inevitable when considering the abundance of overs he’s slung down this summer.

The current recess arrived not a moment too soon for a bowler who leaves it all on the pitch every time he bowls. There’s no prospect of dropping a player destined to lead England’s attack in the future years, but nothing really went his way in a forgettable performance.

3/10

James Anderson
6* & 0/ 0-99 & 0-38

Not one of Jimmy’s finest matches, as England’s all-time leading wicket taker failed to add to his 406 Test scalps. In truth he never really looked a threat.

Jimmy Anderson

Will be desperate to find his lost rhythm before the teams line up at Edgbaston. Anderson is another whose position in the team is unlikely to come under immediate threat, but impotent displays in three of four summer Tests thus far have hinted that there might not be too much gas left in tank for a bowler who turns 33 on the opening day of next week’s encounter.

2/10

Can England bounce back next week after this humiliation? Share your thoughts in the comment section below. As usual we’ll give our ratings after the match.

Written by Dom Kureen

As a young rapscallion stranded on an Island, my time is split between writing, performing spoken word, wrestling alligators and delivering uplifting pep talks to hairdressers before they prune me.
I meditate and wash daily when possible.

R.I.P Richie Benaud

His distinctive tones set the scene for many of the most memorable cricket matches of my childhood, and few people in the sport have ever been more beloved than Richie Benaud, a legendary Australian leg spin bowler and captain, who became the voice of cricket for more than three decades.

So it was with great sadness that I awoke in Byron Bay on Friday morning to a news report about the passing of one of a genuine sporting icon, a man who loved the game, and always insisted that it should be played in an exciting, progressive manner.

He had fought a long battle with skin cancer, and his overall health took a tumble after a car accident in 2013, although he continued to be active on the broadcast scene in Australia until earlier this year.

Richie Benaud

A commentating style based on a subtle, understated and dry delivery – something that could be said for his bowling as well – never threatened to over embellish the footage, or self promote the man who was speaking; Benaud was the master of sprinking a dash of garnish when the moment called for it.

In 2005 he called his final Test matches for English television, fittingly the Ashes that year is considered one of the greatest series of all time, and the commentary team that Channel Five assembled was akin to a who’s who of the good and great living orators in the booth.

An absolute surge of well-wishes and tributes have poured in from the cricketing world since news of Richie Benaud’s demise became widespread. His voice, sparkling personality and quick wit will be sorely missed in the game.

R.I.P Richie.

Written by Dom Kureen

As a young rapscallion stranded on an Island, my time is split between writing, performing spoken word, wrestling alligators and delivering uplifting pep talks to hairdressers before they prune me.
I meditate and wash daily when possible.

Phillip Joel Hughes RIP

South Australia cricketer Phillip Hughes was pronounced dead during the early hours of Thursday, 27 November, 2014; a full two days after he had been struck on the the neck by a fierce bouncer from New South Wales seamer Sean Abbott during a domestic match in Sydney.

Phillip Hughes

Hughes, who was set to earn his 27th Test cap the following week, was widely regarded as a player with his best years in front of him for the ‘Baggie Greens’, departing for the final time a few days prior to what would have been his 26th birthday.

The video footage is unsettling, albeit grainy, as the seemingly initially coherent Hughes appears to shake off the blow before collapsing head first into the turf, as opposition players rapidly wave medics towards the stricken batsman, who had hitherto been imperious on his way to an unbeaten 63.

Hughes made a memorable start to his international career as a fresh faced 20 year-old, terrorising an exceptional South African bowling attack with a series of outstanding performances that belied his novice status, to conclude the series with a couple of hundreds and an average in excess of 75.

As his star grew he was increasingly scrutinised and a flaw against the short ball meant that he received plenty of sweet chin music for the rest of his top level tenure, with England in particular using the half-trackers to dismiss him cheaply on numerous occasions.

Unfortunately he never fully conquered this glitch and was routinely peppered with short stuff, even in his final innings, with the conclusive delivery he faced sending shudders through the foundations of the cricketing and sporting landscape.
The official cause of death is vertebral artery dissection and is plainly a freak occurrence, with only 100 other cases reported, and only one previously relating to a cricket ball.

 

Phillip Hughes 3


Phillip Joel Hughes’ demise will leave a dark cloud over the cricketing panorama for the foreseeable future. Widely regarded as one of the most engaging characters on the scene, he passed away when on the cusp of truly fulfilling the immense talent he was blessed with.

Written by Dom Kureen

As a young rapscallion stranded on an Island, my time is split between writing, performing spoken word, wrestling alligators and delivering uplifting pep talks to hairdressers before they prune me.
I meditate and wash daily when possible.