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  1. #1
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    Default Ashes preview: England wary of wounded Australia

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    Wounded Australia or not, England will have to fight for every wicket and scrap for every run over the next six weeks if they are to return home with the Ashes for the first time in nearly a quarter of a century.



    Australia are a team in transition, if not yet disarray, and have had pretty much the worst possible preparation for the series after seven successive defeats in all forms of cricket plus injuries and form slumps aplenty.

    England, by contrast, are on the ascendant but also fully aware that if current form is on their side history is not.

    Since World War Two, England have won only four series in Australia. One of those was against a virtual second XI during the rival World Series in 1978-79 and another against a team weakened by defections to rebel tours to South Africa in 1986-87.


    Still the pressure before battle resumes in Brisbane on Thursday is firmly on Australian skipper Ricky Ponting, who knows his captaincy, and possibly his Test career, would not survive a third Ashes defeat.

    Ponting believes Australia have more than enough ability to reclaim the Ashes that England won on that dramatic day at the Oval last year if they play to their potential.




    "There's a lot of doom and gloom around about this team and about Australian cricket, I think we all feel a lot more positive inside the dressing-room compared to what it looks like from the outside," he said after his last outing as Australia skipper, a one-day defeat to Sri Lanka at the Sydney Cricket Ground.

    "But we can change what it looks like from the outside by starting winning games, we're all very aware of that," he added.



    The injury doubts over vice-captain Michael Clarke, who missed training with a bad back on Monday, will not improve the mood but when the 11 selected Australians take the field at the Gabba on Thursday, they know the nation will be behind them.
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  2. #2
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    Default England bid to storm Gabba in Ashes opener

    England are relishing the prospect of ending Australia's 22-year unbeaten run at the Gabba in the first Ashes Test to make the best possible start to their campaign to retain the urn, captain Andrew Strauss said.

    Determined not to leave hostages to fortune with his pre-series utterances, Strauss again peppered his comments with caveats but there is no betraying his confidence on Wednesday in England's ability to win a series on Australian soil for the first time in almost quarter of a century.



    "I think we have got a good opportunity, there's no doubt about it," he told a news conference on the eve of the start of the series. "We started the tour well, we're in a good place as a side, but at the same time we recognise it's a tough assignment, not many sides come out here and win.

    "We understand the size of the challenge ahead of us, but we couldn't be in a better place mentally to take on that challenge.
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  3. #3
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    Default Ashes skippers expect good starts, not howlers

    If there is one certainty about the first ball of the first Ashes Test between Australia and England on Thursday, it is that it will not end up unaided at second slip as Steve Harmison's wide delivery did four years ago.



    England went on to lose the series 5-0 and Harmison's howler at the Gabba has gone down in the annals of the game as the very worst way to open any cricket series, let alone the Ashes.

    Australia captain Ricky Ponting joked that he might take the new ball himself if the hosts bowled first and, while accepting that a bad start does not lose a series, is hoping to deal a similar psychological hammer blow on Thursday.

    Image: England's captain Andrew Strauss and Australia's captain Ricky Pointing hold the Ashes urn in Brisbane
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  4. #4
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    Default England bundled out for 260

    Australian paceman Peter Siddle destroyed England's lower middle order by taking a hat-trick and finishing with 6-54 as the visitors were dismissed for 260 late on the first day of the first Ashes Test on Thursday.

    Australia's Simon Katich and Shane Watson , anxious to avoid the fate England suffered when skipper Andrew Strauss was out for a duck on the third ball of the match, successfully negotiated the last seven overs of the day to reach 25 for none at stumps.

    Siddle, who was celebrating his 26th birthday, claimed the key wickets of Kevin Pietersen (43) and Alastair Cook (67) in two brilliant spells that pegged the tourists back just when they looked like taking control.

    Ian Bell , who hit a gutsy 76, was the last recognised England batsman to fall to give Xavier Doherty his first Test wicket on debut. The left-arm spinner added his second to end the innings when he bowled James Anderson for 11.
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  5. #5
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    The last time England won an Ashes series in Australia was in 1986-87 with a team that – according to Martin Johnson – couldn’t bat, couldn’t bowl and couldn’t field. Although not many would have such doubts regarding the current England team’s potential, the apparent weakness of the Australian line-up has been the subject of great scrutiny in the last few days.



    Those accustomed to the Aussie line-ups of the late 90s and early 2000s will find it hard to believe that the current squad is the best that the country has to offer. Amongst the batsmen, apart from Ricky Ponting, nobody can be classified as truly world class; although on current form Shane Watson and Simon Katich might be the best opening pair in the world.

    The continued presence of Marcus North and Michael Hussey in the side reveals the lack of good bench strength and the dilemma regarding Michael Clarke’s availability only makes matters worse for the Aussies.

    The bowling attack is also a great concern. The most likely attack for the first test starting on Thursday is Mitchell Johnson, Doug Bollinger, Ben Hilfenhaus and Xavier Doherty. Between them, they have a combined test experience of 62 tests, with Doherty making his test debut. Although Hilfenhaus and Bollinger have performed reasonably well in their short test careers, whether they have the ability to rise to the occasion remains to be seen. As for Mitchell Johnson, he no longer looks like the bowler who terrorized the South Africans two years ago.

    The events in the build up to the opening test at Brisbane have served as a good appetizer. England have performed well in all of their tour games, winning two of their three matches. The most impressive of their performances was the 10 wicket win over a strong Australia A side; and that too despite fielding a second string bowling attack. All their batsmen are in good form and the bowlers are fresh and ready to go.

    On the other hand, the Australian build up to the first test has been severely criticized. The selection of a 17 member squad (which was later shortened to 13) did not go down well with everyone. The selection of Doherty also raised a few eyebrows due to his first class bowling average of 48.26 and his tag of being a limited overs specialist.

    The explanation given for his inclusion was that he would be able to trouble England’s predominantly right handed middle order. And this is where the contrast between this Aussie team and previous teams is most visible. Earlier teams would have played their best eleven irrespective of the opposition, whereas this team seems to be afraid of the opposition even before the series has started. Despite all the bragging by Ponting and Johnson, it looks like England have already gained a psychological advantage.

    However, it might be a good idea to look at what happened in the build up to the 1986-87 series. England toured Australia having lost three successive test series and then lost two tour matches before winning the first test and subsequently the series. So reading too much into their current form might be a mistake.

    For now the best thing to do is to push aside all the analysis and set your early morning alarm so that you don’t miss out on what promises to be a thrilling series.
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  6. #6
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    Default Hussey leads Aus fight back on Day 2

    Australian middle-order batsman Michael Hussey led a counter-attack for the home team after England dominated the second session of Day 2 of the opening Ashes Test at the Gabba in Brisbane on Friday.



    Replying to England's first innings score of 260, Australia were 220 for five when play was stopped due to bad light with a scheduled hour left.

    Australia trail England by 40 runs with five wickets remaining in the 1st innings.

    England's James Anderson celebrates after dismissing Australia's Shane Watson on FridayHussey, unbeaten on 81 and Brad Haddin (22 not out) were at the crease sharing an unbeaten 77 run sixth-wicket partnership.

    Their partnership steadied the innings after the hosts lost four wickets in a calamitous second session.

    James Anderson (2 for 40) and Steven Finn (2 for 61) bowled well to peg back the Australians.

    Ricky Ponting [ Images ] (10) and Simon Katich (50) fell in the first half hour after lunch. Michael Clarke (nine) was caught behind in the second hour and Marcus North (one) quickly followed.

    Clarke top-edged a pull shot from Steven Finn (2-61) and North edged Graeme Swann (1-59) to slip.
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  7. #7
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    Default Ashes 2010: Bollinger and Harris back into the Ashes squad

    Doug Bollinger and Ryan Harris have been named in the 13-man squad for second Ashes Test that begins this Friday at Adelaide and in all possibility might find themselves in the playing eleven. Bollinger and Harris, who were in the original squad for the first Test, were rested owing to fitness issues.
    Australia v England 1st Ashes Test score
    The fact that the Australians could pick only one wicket in 152 overs in England’s second innings in the first Ashes test speaks the lack of teeth in the attack. Also, that wicket went to a part-timer Marcus North would have rubbed salt into Australia’s wounds.
    After being dismissed for just 260 runs in the first innings, England went on to score 517/1, with all the top three batsmen registering big hundreds.
    Mitchell Johnson and Ben Hilfenhaus might be the ones that could sit out of the second match. The duo, together bowled 93 overs in the Brisbane match but could pick up just one wicket. Johnson, especially was disappointing and for the first time in his career, went wicketless in a Test match and looked under immense pressure.
    His last five matches have yielded just 10 wickets and that includes a five-wicket haul he took against India at Mohali.
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  8. #8
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    Default Ashes 2010 Brisbane Test, day five: Two bowlers not enough to pick 20 wickets

    The draw was inevitable at the start of the fifth day but watching the Aussies go through the motions gave me a weird sense of watching Bangladesh play the game. Much like the minnow-nation has had some of the stronger opposition on the mat for reasonable lengths of time in Tests before losing out due to the lack of experience, this Australian team has had issues around closing out games.
    The Gabba track was good for batting and about that there is no doubt. In fact, there wasn’t too much difference between the pitch at Brisbane and those at Ahmedabad and Hyderabad or at Dubai and Abu Dhabi in the recent games. There wasn’t too much for the bowlers after the initial English collapse and there cannot be too much doubt that such surfaces can only harm the efforts that the ICC has undertaken to promote this format of the game. In fact, it was a surprise to not hear too much from the experts against the track.
    Getting back to the Australian bowling, it almost feels like a second-string attack trying to hope that the opposite batsmen would make mistakes on their own and get out. On helpful tracks, it may be otherwise – and that would be for both sides – but on a Gabba-like wicket, things will continue to come to such head. Not too long ago, the Aussies had failed to dislodge the ninth wicket pair against India at Mohali and the habit seems to have become ingrained.
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  9. #9
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    Default Australia v England 1st Ashes Test: First Ashes Test ends in a draw

    After experiencing flip-flops of fortunes, the first Ashes Test finally ended in a tame draw at the Brisbane Cricket Ground, Woolloongabba. At the end of the fifth and final day, Australia were 107/1 in 26 overs, when they were asked to chase down 297 runs for victory. The play was called off an hour earlier.
    England declared just before tea at a rather huge score of 517/1. This allowed them a lead of 296 runs and by tea the Aussies were reduced to 11/1. Simon Katich was dismissed by Stuart Broad edging one to Andrew Strauss caught him at first slip.
    But captain Ricky Ponting joined Shane Watson, and thwarted the fall of any more wickets on a placid track. He hit four beautiful boundaries and one towering six. Ponting got to his 50 in only 43 balls and remained unbeaten on 51. Watson was dropped in the slips by Paul Collingwood and remained not-out on 41.
    Alastair Cook’s double century won him the man of the match award.
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