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The Benefits Of Positivity

Five years ago, England were about to embark on an enthralling World Cup campaign that would see them lose by 10 wickets to eventual runners-up Sri Lanka in the quarter-finals. The England side that travelled to India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, lost to Bangladesh and Ireland but managed to beat South Africa and tie with India. They were the most exciting nation in the tournament, the only time that was said when discussing the Flower years.


Skip forward half a decade, and England are about to start another World Cup campaign in India. Last time this happened, we were cricketing dinosaurs who just happened upon an exciting storyline. This time, England are rightly one of the few teams who could win, even in such un-natural conditions. Yes, the formats are different however nowadays our T20 and ODI sides are almost identical, and bear no resemblance to the test unit, unlike that of 5 years ago. The improvement is symbolic of our change in attitude and increase in belief.

A new lease of life is following England cricket around. Gone are the bad apples of the last regime and in are the more laid back and encouraging figures. Paul Farbrace and Trevor Bayliss have breathed life into a side left shy by Andy Flower and demoralised by Peter Moores. Maybe I’m being harsh on Moores, as you’ll see throughout this article he kick-started this, he wasn’t able to see it come to fruition but then no one else would have either.


This is a new generation of English cricketers. A generation who have been taught to play aggressively by the way the English county system works, and encouraged to continue that on the international stage. These players started playing for England under Flower, however he didn’t know what to do with them, and the end result was a 5-0 thrashing to a much better Australian side.

At the time, I absolutely loved watching Andy Flower’s England side play. I now look back at it with something akin to disgust. It was Kevin Pietersen who started to change people’s opinions on them when he openly talked about the bullying culture, the ruling by fear of Flower and the cliques in the dressing room. At the time it was seen as self-promotion, as a man desperately trying to get back into favour with England, as he praised new captain Alastair Cook and “left the door open for a return.”

However, what’s happened since has led me to believe he wasn’t too far away from telling the truth. My opinion on his interview started changing when retired wicket keeper Craig Kieswetter talked openly to ESPN. During that, he said:

“There were jokes made in the dressing room if you had South African background. When we warmed up in training, we were split into sides: South Africans v English. There was lots of talk about it in the media and here we were making it worse. It created an unnecessary divide. A sense of them and us.”

Kieswetter went on to say he now has a love-hate relationship with representing England.

Craig Kieswetter was a classic example of how Andy Flower ruined any player with flair and aggression. If Kieswetter was just a few years younger and hadn’t suffered that horrible injury, I have no doubt that he would flourish under Bayliss.

In fact, I think the most staggering thing about this England revolution is that Bayliss and the selectors have mainly picked the same names Flower had. Or more accurately the names Flower discarded. Keeping together the test core of Cook, Bell, Broad and Anderson certainly made sense but it feels like Bayliss, and Moores before him, has had a word with all. Broad and Anderson were at the centre of Pietersen’s bullying accusations, with Cook seeming like the ideal man for an Andy Flower type regime.

All now seem to be playing cricket with a smile on their faces. Cook and Broad’s form have improved massively since Bayliss took over, Anderson seems less angry on the pitch and Bell was given a chance to impress but has now been dropped. We never thought Alastair Cook could captain an aggressive side, yet here he is. It maybe suggests that Pietersen was right all along, and Flower was holding Cook back.

Even more than that, Bayliss, but again started by Moores, has brought back players Flower discarded as too expensive, or too elegant. Ben Stokes and Steven Finn are the obvious two who jump to mind, but in reality you can throw James Taylor, Nick Compton, Jonny Bairstow, Liam Plunkett, Chris Woakes, Stephen Parry, Adil Rashid, and even Samit Patel as players dropped under Flower but returning impressively since. They didn’t fit the Flower mentality and so were dropped, despite being some of the most talented cricketers in the county system.

Strike Rate

The lower the number, the better. The clearest evidence available that Finn shouldn’t have been cast aside like he was.

In fact, the only truly new names in the England side since Flower left are Mooen, Jason Roy, James Vince, David Willey, Mark Wood, Sam Billings, Reece Topley and hopefully Mark Footitt soon. Anyone who watches any level of domestic cricket will tell you none of them are left field selections – all deserve their place. As I said, the majority of this squad were known to and used by Flower.

Flower’s constant war by attrition has now been replaced by Bayliss’ aggressive stance. While the former results in more victories, the latter is much more enjoyable. The latter also breeds less extreme emotions. Every time we lost a series under Flower there was another investigation and another cull, every time we lose now there’s a shrug of the shoulders and a “well, life goes on” attitude. Which is more conducive to positive outcomes?

Take the latest England test series as a perfect example of this. We lost 2-0 in the UAE to Pakistan, and in the past there almost certainly would have been an inquest into what went wrong. Instead, the attitude since has been one almost of victory. Before players would have walked around with their tails between their legs, whereas now they can go to South Africa and win.

Jonny Bairstow is the epitome in the difference between Flower and Bayliss. Bairstow was in and out of the side under the former, scoring well against South Africa in 2012 but struggling elsewhere. England dropped him, with Moores preferring Buttler when Prior retired. Farbrace brought Bairstow back into the side in the summer, and he is now unquestionably our number one wicket keeper in tests. It’s testament to both Bairstow’s hard work and Bayliss’ trust. Under Flower, he looked afraid to play his natural game and was making mistakes with the gloves. Now, he’s a better keeper and scoring runs his own way. It’s no coincidence that he didn’t score a century under Flower yet has under Bayliss. Flower scared players, Bayliss encourages them. Flower hindered individuals, Bayliss lets them flourish.


A further interesting case study would be that of South Africa, who are experiencing what we have, just a few years later. Rising to world number 1 in the rankings, they are now falling with an unsettled line-up, trying to blood too many players in at once. The similarities between the two sides are staggering, in fact the only difference would be South Africa’s lack of a quality spinner. Swann’s influence is possibly the reason England rose to the top quicker.

South Africa used had captain Graeme Smith and Hashim Amla in their top 3. Jacques Kallis came in at four, with AB de Villiers at 5. Vernon Philander, Morne Morkel and Dale Steyn formed their formidable bowling line up. These six players, with 4 still playing, will be remembered as some of the finest in South African history. Smith and Kallis are already icons; Amla, AB and Steyn will surely join them.

The similarity with England? I’ll throw at you some English names. Andrew Strauss, Alastair Cook, Jonathan Trott, Kevin Pietersen, Steven Finn, Stuart Broad, James Anderson. See the comparison? Further, do you also see the differences?

Strauss was, at most points during his career, almost as good as Smith and yet is not remembered in anywhere near the same breath. Trott didn’t have long enough on the international stage but had the potential to score the runs that Kallis managed (this is a weak comparison admittedly!). Both should have scored more, both were ruined by Flower’s intensity. Pietersen is perhaps remembered as better than he was, but even he has a case to say he should have been as good as AB is now. Was he ever as regularly destructive as AB?

England v South Africa 1

While we all agree the South Africans (with the possible exception of Cook) are better, the stats prove that Andy Flower ruined all three, and yet all three are considered icons of a golden generation. In comparison to their South African counterparts, it’s shocking how we look back at that era with any kind of warmth. South Africa have every right to enjoy that outgoing era, England don’t.

The other names mentioned, Cook, Broad, Finn, Anderson can all start repairing their reputations and setting new paths and new legacies for themselves. Anderson and Cook are already two of England’s greatest, it wouldn’t surprise me to see Finn and Broad join that. Broad is already well on his way. That’s something that Strauss, Trott and Pietersen will never get to experience.

Andy Flower’s rule of terror almost destroyed English cricket while somehow making them the best side in the world. It was an era defined by being best in the short term rather than laying platforms for the long one. Yes, this side will be more inconsistent but then, if this side gets it together, it can beat the best in any conditions.

Simply put, this side plays with a desire to win rather than with the fear of losing.

If you aren’t convinced, maybe I should return to my original point and compare the side taken to India in 2011 with the one likely to be taken this.

Screen Shot 2016-01-20 at 16.39.13

Andy Flower will always use his record to defend himself, however his one-day one is particularly bad (even with the World T20 win – that was still before it all went downhill and even then it was T20 attrition) and it always felt like he didn’t care about the format. For Flower, it was all about results and less about individuals. While it’s unquestionable we did well, what’s more dubious is whether this actually helped England.

I’d argue it didn’t, and furthermore I’d say we are much better now than we ever were under Flower. Positivity breeds positivity, yet negativity is much harder to shake. Under Flower we were negative, and hence Moores, who did little wrong in his second stint, wasn’t able to shake off the vibes that led to his downfall. Bayliss and Farbrace have completely changed the whole demeanor of English cricket, making everything less important except how the individual feels in the dressing room. Losses are part and parcel in sport; Bayliss’ set-up has made that perfectly clear and acceptable, if not desirable.

England Nets Session

It’s too soon to declare Bayliss as the savior of English cricket, and eventually this experiment with positivity might fail. However, the idea will never fade and future English generations will play with the same freedom and the same ideas that this one has.

Thankfully, the war of attrition has ended. Andy Flower may have turned England into the best test side in the world, but he almost ruined any future we had as an international force. These small steps under Bayliss are beginning to right that wrong.

I’ve seen it said that the twenty first century has brought with it a golden generation of English cricketers. I agree.

It’s just not the one that played under Flower’s dictatorship.



How 2016 Will Finish (part I)

It is quickly becoming a tradition for my friends and I to predict what men’s tennis will look like in 12 months time, in terms of the top 10 and slam winners. This year we are extending it to include the women’s and olympics winner. This first one is a look at the men’s side, with the burning question – do we think Djokovic’s Dominance will continue?

Doing the men with me are Charlie Marriot, Emma Still, James Doan and Josh Still. Charlie, Emma and Josh have all done this before, James is new to it and is only doing the men’s side. Good luck to all my fellow bloggers. All the graphics were designed by Emma, and I am forever grateful for her photoshop skills in the development of this.


We’ll start with the top five, and explanations.



Pretty much status quo at the top – Federer‘s natural decline will continue but I would imagine he will have at least 1 semi-final appearance at a Slam.


Djokovic’s dominance will continue into 2016, highlighted with my picks for the big tournament. Federer seems to be getting better despite his age, with my theory being that it’s purely so he can win the Rio Olympics in 2016. I think he will. Murray is consistently amongst the top four, and three seems to be a perfect position for him. Nishikori has vast potential, and while last year wasn’t great, the next very well might be. His game is still good enough to challenge the best. Wawrinka is on a slight decline, but he’s still good enough for top 5.


I believe the top 4 pick themselves; the only issue for debate is the order. Djokovic will be world number 1 without hell freezing over, and it is likely with his late season form, plus lack of points to defend, that Nadal will be second. Federer and Murray could both quite easily finish third, I’ve plumped for Murray on the basis that I imagine he’ll be more consistent over the course of a year, even if Federer has more individual success. Wawrinka is now a permanent fixture amongst the top 10, and even if he doesn’t win a slam in 2016 (which I don’t think he will), he is still better than the vast majority of tennis players.


Novak Djokovic amassed a record breaking 16,585 ranking points last year after reaching all four grand slam finals, winning a record 11 masters series events before winning the World Tour Finals event in November at the o2 in London. The only major title that eluded him was the French Open where he was defeated by Stan Wawrinka in four sets at Roland Garros. The only certainty about predicting the top 10 in male tennis is that Novak will be number 1. Roger Federer played some of the best tennis of his career in beating Andy Murray in straight sets in the semi-final of Wimbledon before losing to Djokovic in the final. He also reached the final of the US Open before losing to Djokovic once again. 2015 was a landmark year for Murray who won the Davis Cup on his own. He also enjoyed his most accomplished year on clay winning two titles and beating Rafael Nadal on the surface for the first time in the final of the Madrid Masters. It is a big year for Murray who is expecting the birth of his first child in February as well as committing to play in Davis Cup competition once again. I expect that Muzza may struggle to replicate the consistency of last season and relinquish his number spot in the rankings. Nadal looked ready to compete with the world’s best once again at the World Tour Finals in London in November. He looked to be back to somewhere near his best form in his demolition of Murray in the round robin stage. A good clay court season could see him retain his place amongst tennis ‘big four.’ Out of all the players in the current top 10, Stan the Man seems the only one capable of trading blows with Novak Djokovic in a best of five sets match. Stan hit Djokovic off the court to win the French Open and if the Swiss could add more consistency to his game he could move even higher up the rankings.


There’s no debate about the no. 1 position – Djokovic has become a ‘Big 1’ within the ‘Big 4’, and it’s hard to imagine what, barring a serious injury, could stop him finishing top of the rankings for the 5th time in 6 years. Indeed, I think he has a serious chance of completing the Grand Slam for the first time since Rod Laver in 1969; his physicality is such that I just don’t see who will beat him over 5 sets, and as a patriot, I fully expect him to win Olympic gold in Rio too. Behind Djokovic, I predict that Nadal will bounce back from a lacklustre year ’15 just as Federer did from ‘13 and Murray from ’14. Murray’s consistency will see him at no. 3. Federer, who will be 35 next summer, will drop down to 4 as I’m not sure he’ll be able to produce his best every week – but he should still have a couple of Slam runs left in him.

It may seem a little harsh not to include Stan Wawrinka in the Big 4 – after all, he has won a Slam and finished in the top 4 in each of the last 2 years. But while he’s a threat to any of them on his day, he will never have their unrelenting consistency and, thanks to Djokovic’s dominance, I don’t think he’ll win a Slam this year. Assuming he doesn’t, no. 5 is actually generous – he wouldn’t have been ranked that loftily for the past 2 years without a Slam win.


And now the bottom half



Goffin is showing more promise so a good run at some 500 rank tournaments could see him slip by Tsonga, Dmitrov et al into that 10th place.


Tomas Berdych lives at number 6. I don’t see Nadal’s body holding up for a year. He looked good at the end of last year but I don’t think that’ll last. Ferrer is getting older but still seems to always be in and around the top 10 so you’d be stupid to bet against him being there again. Raonic and Cilic, with age and experience, are too good not to return to the top 10.


The second half of my top 10 highlights the severe lack of depth in men’s tennis. It essentially hasn’t changed in the last two years. I think Berdych and Nishikori will stay, Raonic and Cilic will return with Goffin being the sole debutant. Why Goffin? His match against Murray in the Davis Cup proved he can play, and genuinely threaten, the best. Goffin’s place could quite easily still go to Ferrer, even at 34.


2015 was not a great year for Japanese star, Kei Nishikori. Losing in the first round of the US open and withdrawing from his second round match at Wimbledon through injury. However at 26 Nishikori should be entering his peak years as a professional tennis player and playing injury free I expect him to cement his place in the world’s top 10. Berdych has been a consistent performer on the male tennis circuit for nearly a decade. A regular beyond the fourth round of grand slam tournaments I expect the Czech to remain between 6-10 in the rankings throughout the year. For Kevin Anderson, 2015 was something of a breakthrough year. The big South African reached the fourth round of the Australian Open and Wimbledon for the first time in 2015 as well as reaching his first quarter final in a grand slam at the US Open culminating in reaching a career high world number 10 in October 2015. The indomitable Ferrer will almost certainly finish the year inside the games top 10. He does every year. If Nick Kyrgios can keep his head together, the talented Aussie can be a top 10 player for many years to come. However, that is like saying that if Daniel Sturridge can stay fit England can win the Euros. Nonetheless, Kyrgios is a huge talent and a good run at his home Slam in Melbourne could set the tone for a big year for the big mouth.



I could easily have put Nishikori ahead of Wawrinka, as he has the potential to develop into a genuinely world-class player, who has also shown that he can trouble all of the Big 4 – but will his injury-prone body ever be able to get through a full season?! I could have put him in the top 5, or judged that his injury record merited leaving him out of the top 10 altogether, but in the end I compromised by putting him at no. 6.

There was fierce competition for the remaining 4 places. Berdych at no. 7 – does any more need to be said? My wildcard is Kyrgios at no. 8! He’s into his twenties now, and assuming he’s maturing both on and off the court, there’s no reason not to consider him a future Grand Slam champion. He has a temperament perfectly suited to the big stage, so I’m expecting at least one run to the semi-finals or even the final of a Slam in 2016; probably Wimbledon, or his home slam in Australia. My list finishes with Ferrer and Cilic – I keep predicting Ferrer’s demise, but even though I think the days of him going deep into the second week of Slams are over, he should win enough 250 and 500 tournaments to stay in the top 10.   Cilic actually could contend for Slams, and now that he seems to be over his injuries, is too good not to be there or thereabouts after a full season on tour.

Ending with a look at the grand slam, and other major tournament, prospects, and it’s fair to say one man from Serbia dominates … 


Charlie has given a little note on the pattern amongst our slam winners: Normal service to be resumed at the main tournaments after a couple of unexpected years, the newer names seem to be settled in now so while they’re all likely to challenge, I think this year will (sadly) be a return to the more conventional list of champions.



Josh provides us with a tip of the player to watch:



I know I said this last year and ended up with egg on my face, but if the giant Argentine attempts another injury comeback, he will remain the most exciting player in tennis, and if he retains only a fraction of his awesome abilities, one of the very best. I’ll be following his progress closely. On the domestic front, Kyle Edmund’s burgeoning career is worth watching after an encouraging Davis Cup debut. Borna Coric, Alex Zverev, Hyeon Chung and Thanasi Kokkinakis are all hugely talented youngsters now firmly enmeshed in the world’s top 100, so hopefully they can continue their development this year.

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Wimbledon 2015: The Male Favourites

The main section of Wimbledon begins in just under a week. It’s strange how a competition that happens every year can remain so special year upon year. Wimbledon has a little bit of magic to it, something different from the plethora of tennis tournaments that happen every week. There are many different competitions taking place, men’s and ladies’ singles and doubles, mixed doubles, wheelchair doubles, junior singles and doubles as well as legends doubles. Between mid morning and late evening every day for two weeks, the BBC will be full of tennis. It really is heaven for British tennis fans.

Although, with the increased exposure of tennis on terrestrial TV comes the casual tennis fans. The ones who seem to think tennis only exists for two weeks a year, those who probably only watch football and thus get bored when there’s no football and so turn to tennis. They probably have only heard of Federer and Nadal, they probably think that Fred Perry is just a clothing brand and are almost certainly the ones calling Andy Murray “boring” and “lacking in personality”, except with stronger language. These people are the bane of my life, for example they don’t understand the difference between a game and a match, and led me to quit twitter during Wimbledon 2 years ago. Casual fans are fine, I don’t expect everyone to follow every sport religiously – it just annoys me that with tennis they seem to pipe up with their uneducated opinion without anyone asking for it, or even needing it. They aren’t what this blog is about; I just wanted to get it off my chest!

It’s time for me to focus on the men’s draw, and take a look at who I think the favourites will be. Below are the players who I think have the best shot at winning the title, in order of their chances. It’s likely the winner will come from the top 2, however below that there are a lot of players who will give it a good shot. It’s unlikely, but tennis does throw up a shock or two every now and then. Djokovic could meet an Ancic in the first round; Murray could meet a Soderling in the third. Wimbledon is the only slam played on grass that brings with a greater importance to hold serve. Big servers and good returners do well here, increasing the likelihood of a new champion. Also, with Wawrinka and Cilic winning slams recently, the era of the big 4 seems well and truly over. Will that reflect in the winner at Wimbledon? The next two weeks will tell!

Why am I doing this for the men and not for the women? Well the women’s draw is much harder to predict, essentially because best of 3 sets means that shocks are more likely. I feel more comfortable doing this for the men’s, although that isn’t to say I won’t write something for the women at some point if I have time!

  1. Novak Djokovic (world ranking: 1, best Wimbledon: W in 2011, 2014):

I can spout all I like about it being the most open Wimbledon for years; the simple truth is that it’s hard to look beyond the reigning champion. The World Number 1 always cruises through the first 4 rounds; usually without dropping a set and thus when it comes to longer matches he has the physical advantage. Furthermore, Djokovic usually gets blessed with kind draws (or maybe he makes every draw kind) and there only seems to be 2 or 3 people who can actually beat him. Those people have usually been pushed earlier in the tournament and therefore unless they start well won’t challenge the Serbian. I’d be handing him the title if he hadn’t lost at Roland Garros.


  1. Andy Murray (world ranking: 3, best Wimbledon: W in 2013):

Another reason for Djokovic being the clear favourite is his one sided recent record over clear second favourite Andy Murray. Murray hasn’t beaten Djokovic since his Wimbledon victory in 2013, meaning he’s lost the last 8 matches the two have played. Given that it’s almost certain he’ll be seeded 3rd, a meeting with Djokovic could happen as early as the semi-final. Recent history will need to be re-written. Even then there is hope. When Murray was ill at the French Open, he still managed to push Djokovic to 5 sets over 2 days. Add that to his grass record over the Serb (2-0 in Murray’s favour) and you can see why there’s a good chance Andy will be adding to his 2 Grand Slams. Andy needs to be at his best, Novak needs to be slightly off but if anyone can beat Djokovic on grass then it surely has to be the Briton?


  1. Stan Wawrinka (world ranking: 4, best Wimbledon: QF 2014):

I think Stan will be very disappointed with his Wimbledon record. Only one quarterfinal spot, he’s lost in the first round 5 times and hence it looks unlikely he’ll win this year! However, he has the game to survive, nay flourish, on grass and is now a multiple-Slam winner. The French champ may have lost early at Queen’s but that tournament won’t matter to him, he’s after Wimbledon. On his day, he can destroy anyone. It was only a few weeks ago that he beat Federer without being broken once. We all know that Wawrinka has the power to end any rally abruptly, his Achilles heel had been his unreliable serve. If his serve is working at Wimbledon then it wouldn’t surprise me to see him beating both Djokovic and Murray. If Wawrinka can find some consistency, then he won’t retire with only 2 Grand Slam titles.


  1. Roger Federer (world ranking: 2, best Wimbledon: W in 2003,04,05,06,07,09 and 2012):

While I don’t consider Federer a serious threat for 3 out of 4 Slams these days, you can’t ignore his talent on grass. Federer is a real danger this year. He’s desperate for one last Slam and is probably the only player as comfortable, if not more, than Murray on grass. Furthermore, the second seeding means he could avoid both Djokovic and Murray before the final, allowing them to wear themselves out hence leaving the door open for the Swiss number 1. That being said, Federer is unbelievably inconsistent these days and could he beat Dimitrov, Nishikori and then Wawrinka/Murray in 3 consecutive rounds as he might have to? I’d say it’s unlikely. With a favourable draw and in the right spirit, Federer could sneak his way into the final and possibly more. Without it, it may be another early exit. Since 09, he’s only reached 2 Wimbledon finals – he’s no longer a huge threat.


  1. Kei Nishikori (world ranking: 5, best Wimbledon: 4R 2014):

Nishikori has been something of a late bloomer, hanging around the top 50 until a surge in 2014 rocketed him up to 5th and then 4th. He also knows how to get on rolls. In 2014 he nearly beat Nadal on clay, before reaching the US Open final – beating Raonic, Wawrinka and Djokovic in a row. Once he gets going, the Japanese man is tough to beat. And no wonder, his style allows for no let up in intensity from his opponents and has enough power to hit through most players. He’s got a defensive game as good as Murray and Djokovic’s, a serve as consistent as Federer’s and his strength lies in returning – you can see why such a player will be dangerous, especially on grass. His record at Wimbledon is shocking however I expect him to change that this year and could well go all the way – he has to win a Slam soon if he is ever going to.

Britain Wimbledon Tennis

  1. Milos Raonic (world ranking: 7, best Wimbledon: SF 2014):

It would take a lot for Raonic to win Wimbledon. Probably an illness to both Djokovic and Murray, avoiding Federer (or letting someone else take him out), Wawrinka losing early on and playing better than Nishikori at some point. However, we can’t rule the Canadian out. He reached the semi-final last year and it would be wrong to ignore that as a fluke. Big servers do well on grass, with easy points a must as players feel they can break every game. Therefore it’s highly likely that if Raonic is to win a slam, it will be Wimbledon. Unlike Nishikori or Dimitrov who can realistically win any of the slams, this is Roanic’s best shot. A seventh seeding places him just inside the top 8, which could be a massive advantage.

Day Nine: The Championships - Wimbledon 2014

Tomas Berdych (wr: 6), Marin Cilic (wr: 9) and Grigor Dimitrov (wr: 11):

The quality in depth of men’s tennis at the moment is absurd. I’ve listed 6 players, all of whom have a genuine shot at Wimbledon and yet haven’t mentioned one of last year’s semi-finalists, the reigning US Open champion and a former Wimbledon finalist. I’m grouping them together mainly so I don’t ramble on for too long but also because they are the best of the rest! Cilic and Dimitrov would be higher if not for the likelihood that they will be seeded outside the top 8 and therefore have to play a member of the top 8 (possibly Djokovic or Murray) in the fourth round. It’s unrealistic to tip them for the title, even though they clearly have the game to win, when they could have to beat Federer, Nishikori and Murray just to reach the final! Berdych is arguably playing the best tennis of his life this year however you could say the same about Wawrinka and Murray and they are both better than the Czech. If the draw gets turned upside down, one of these 3 could capitalise however that’s their best chance.


Players who won’t win it, but could knock out one or two big names:

Kevin Anderson:

The big South African recently reached the Queens final, beating Wawrinka along the way. Clearly comfortable on grass, his serve means that breaking him will require you to work over time. He’s also consistent, only once since the start of 2013 has he not reached the 3rd round of a slam. The flip side to that is he has never gone beyond the 4th round, but then again he’s clearly in some form and so this could be the first time he reaches the quarterfinals.

Feliciano Lopez:

Possibly the only Spaniard in history to prefer grass courts to clay; Lopez (or Deliciano to Judy Murray) is always a danger at Wimbledon. His three grand slam quarters have all been at the all-England club and if he draws Berdych, Nadal or Ferrer at the 3rd, 4th round stage then you wouldn’t bet against him doing it again. Certainly one the top guys would like to avoid.

The French contingent:

Out of Tsonga, Monfils, Simon and Gasquet the first has the best chance of going the furthest at Wimbledon however none will be easy matches for anyone. To make it worse, Monfils and Gasquet are lingering outside of the top 16 seeds and therefore could face a top ten player as early as Friday/Saturday next week. Monfils in the third round is quite possibly the worst third round draw of all time.

Nick Kyrgios:

Kyrgios reached the Wimbledon quarterfinals last year and thus it’s difficult to know just how high he will be seeded. It’s unlikely he’ll make the top 16 and therefore could rival Monfils for worst third round draw. Only Murray seems to have a handle on him and at some point even that will fail. Kyrgios just loves the big stage, and will be desperate to defend his points. No one will be relishing facing the Aussie if he finds a similar level to last year.


The unseeded ones:

Anyone outside of the top 32 is a threat at any point; you just need a quick glance over tennis history to prove that! However, there are some you fear more than others. Although it’s possible he will get a seed, Philip Kohlschreiber of Germany is now ranked 33rd in the world. The man who can beat anyone on his day could well face Roger Federer or Rafael Nadal in the first round! Or Novak Djokovic in the second! A player that dangerous and possibly unseeded is a clear threat. At 43 in the world, it’s certain that Gilles Muller won’t have a seed for Wimbledon. Does that make him any less of a threat? No, and at Queens recently he beat Dimitrov before very nearly beating Murray. Watch out for him, he’ll be lurking dangerously somewhere. Also keep an eye on Verdasco and Pospisil, both are nightmare first or second round ties.

And finally…

There are two players who reside in the top 10 which I haven’t talked about yet. One of them is a two-time Wimbledon champion but sadly is no longer a threat on the green grass of London. Rafael Nadal simply won’t make it as far as the quarterfinals; it’s possible he won’t even make the second week. His knees don’t play on grass, he just lost his French Open crown and he couldn’t even beat Dolgopolov at Queens. It’s a sad end to a wonderful career. David Ferrer isn’t a threat either; instead he’s a dream draw for those ranked outside the top 10. Never truly comfortable on grass, one can’t imagine him wasting too much energy at Wimbledon now or in the future. By not caring about SW19, it will almost certainly prolong his career.


Realistically, I think there is only likely to be 4 contenders for the title at Wimbledon this year however it would be wrong to ignore the pedigree of Nishikori and Raonic. As the rest of the article showed, there are a number of names lurking in the draw, ready to pounce and dethrone the current kings of tennis and therefore it’s not going to be an easy Wimbledon to pass through. You feel like Djokovic is almost owed a draw where he faces Muller, Kohlschreiber, Monfils, Dimitrov, Nishikori, Wawrinka and Murray/Federer and such a draw is unlikely but possible.

Maybe I’m just trying to convince myself it will be exciting however I feel there is a good chance of a new winner of Wimbledon this year. At the very least, the French Open final would have shown the field that Djokovic is vulnerable in Slams and that Wawrinka is a serious threat. Djokovic prioritised the French over everything this year, with that now lost there is a question of motivation for Wimbledon. However, the man is more like a machine and it’s unlikely that any lack of desire will hinder his chances of winning this title. Unfortunately, like everything else with men’s tennis right now, it will come down to how well Djokovic is playing as to whether he wins or not. But you know that Federer, Murray and Wawrinka will all feel like they can beat him on the biggest stage.

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Inevitable defeats compounded by shocking performances: just another world cup for England

Painful reading for England fans is all too familiar

Painful reading for England fans is all too familiar

As you can see above, the headlines from the Features & Analysis section of England cricket’s BBC Sport page make for uncomfortable reading. Placed next to picture galleries of happier days, including looking back at Pietersen and Swann’s England careers, are the inevitable doom and gloom articles written by Jonathan Agnew following a third heavy defeat in Australia / New Zealand. BBC, obviously, aren’t alone in this. Nasser Hussain has called England toothless; Michael Vaughan has slated the negative and predictable culture within the ECB whilst former all-rounder Adam Hollioake thinks the side’s fear of failure is holding them back. Even current cricketers are laughing at England, with Sri Lanka’s opener Thirimanne saying our bowlers were easier to bat against than Afghanistan’s. None of this is harsh, none of it is undeserved, England are on a hiding to nowhere down under and the media would have you believe there is no hope of redemption.

In truth, the points table for Pool A looks almost exactly as I expected it to. New Zealand are top with a 100% record, Australia and Sri Lanka look in a good position to qualify and given how the fixtures have worked out, Bangladesh are in the top 4 but England aren’t. The only difference is one more point for the tigers and one less for the Aussies, following their match in which a ball wasn’t bowled due to rain. It was always going to come down to England needing to beat both Bangladesh and Afghanistan to qualify. If the points amassed isn’t surprising then the manner of defeats is. Against Australia, England found themselves 5 down for only 73 in the 18th over chasing 343. New Zealand was an even bigger debacle, as the Kiwis only needed 12.2 overs to knock off the runs from our horrific batting effort. England’s batting has steadily improved as the tournament has gone on, highlighted by the 300+ runs made when batting first against both Scotland and Sri Lanka however both matches have shown how weak our bowling is. Scotland scoring 184 was bad enough, the fact that Sri Lanka knocked off 312 in 47.2 overs and for the loss of only one wicket was soul crushing.

It’s clear that there are a lot of problems within the English set-up, but those aren’t ones we should address just yet. For now, the focus needs to be on the short-term and making the most of the resources we possess down under to turn this around. The next week will determine whether England qualify for the quarters or not, and quite frankly it will be an absolute disgrace if they don’t. However, Bangladesh will fancy their chances against the wounded 3 Lions and who can blame them? This article will be exploring all aspects of our play in detail and explain how I would change each to get the whole team playing better.


Scores of 231, 123, 303/8 and 309/6 simply aren’t good enough at this level. In this tournament, South Africa have set the batting bar very high, with 2 scores of 400+ in a row. I would never expect to match that, however I would like to see us around Sri Lanka and India’s level. Sri Lanka have set 330+ and chased 300 easily whilst India look like they will make 300 every time they bat (they chased 103 against UAE in less than 20 overs for the loss of 1 wicket – if given the full 50 overs that would have been close to 400). On paper, our batting is as good as the teams mentioned above. Root and Ali both have centuries; Taylor should have one, Buttler bats quickly and usually comes off while Morgan and Bell haven’t become bad players overnight. The obvious problem is Gary Ballance at number 3.


Before the Sri Lanka match, ESPNCricinfo took a look at England’s struggles at number 3. The analysis makes for fascinating, if gloomy, reading. To summarise, England number 3’s for the last two years average 22.93, which is lower than every test nation’s bar Bangladesh. Yes, even Zimbabwe’s. It gets worse. In that time, England have tried Root (average: 8.66 from 3 innings), Bell (18.75 from 4), Stokes (21.25 from 4) and Ballance (19.75 from 8). None of them is close to the leader, James Taylor, who has batted 8 times at 3 and averages 45 with a strike rate of 73. So, with those stats, it baffles me as to why we persist to play Ballance there. Quite simply, Taylor is wasted at 6.

The number 3 spot is possibly the most crucial one in cricket. Should an early wicket fall, they are needed to steady the ship and bat a few overs but are also required to bat quickly if an early wicket doesn’t fall. A number 3 needs to set the platform for a fast finish with a solid 50–100 runs (like Kumar Sangakkara, Kane Williamson, Virat Kohli and Faf du Plessis all do). In the same timeframe, Williamson averages 66.7 in 23 innings including 3 centuries and 10 fifties. A number 3 won’t always come off but, like Williamson, you need him to be reliable and have more chance of firing than not.

Like the problem, the solution seems obvious. Promote Taylor to 3 and bring in Bopara at 6. Drop Ballance as he is woefully out of touch and bringing this England side down. With a more reliable number 3, Morgan will come in later and therefore have more licence to play his normal game. It also won’t negatively affect Root as it will give him someone to bat with whilst he gets settled.

Hales scores at will in T20 but can't nail a 50 over spot down

Hales scores at will in T20 but can’t nail a 50 over spot down

The other problem I have is with the opening partnership. As you all know, I’ve had a problem with Bell at the top since it was announced he would get the role. Nothing I’ve seen has changed my mind, however I see why they want Bell in there. One day cricket tends to start slow these days, setting the platform for a smash at the end however I’d argue England don’t look like batting 50 overs most of the time now and so setting a fast platform won’t be a terrible idea. Hales should come into the side, his talent is too good to be wasted on the bench. One solution is to drop Bell to 3 and keep Taylor at 6. On paper, Bell should be the perfect player at 3. He’s reliable enough to stay at the crease for a long time while possessing the ability to cut the shackles off should he need to. Another solution is just to drop Bell completely, although I see why the selectors are reluctant to do that. A left-wing possibility could be to play Hales at 6. It takes away his ability to use the pace of the new ball but will put him in a position to use the last 15-20 overs, essentially making him a T20 opener in the longer format. It allows Taylor to bat at 3 and keeps Bell in the side, it seems like a perfect compromise.


I have no problem with the middle order; Root, Morgan, Bopara/Taylor and Buttler can all make big scores and are one of the best middle orders in the world. My only concern is the batting order is too rigid, if we are 200/2 in the 30th over then Morgan and Buttler should be getting ready to come in to make the most of the batting power-play.


Ah, where to start with the bowling? Every single ball seems to be placed in the same area, on a good length otherwise known as “the slot” for top class batters. Bouncers are more like limpers, barely possessing enough pace to reach the crease and yorkers are, as usual, about as common as a Scottish victory at a world cup. England refuse to adapt to one day bowling, and keep trying to rely on swing to get batters out. Finch, McCullum, Thirimanne and Sangakkara have already shown that it’s a suicidal tactic these days. Let’s put it this way: if England were wheeling Bob Willis and Ian Botham out to open the bowling in this world cup I am positive they would be 10x more threatening than Anderson and Broad are. The leaders of the attack look less like fast bowlers and more like lambs being led to slaughter. Between this tournament and the last, Anderson had the best average and economy rate of any opening bowler in the world. Where has that gone? You could argue that Oceania conditions don’t suit him but that simply isn’t true, during the 2010-11 Ashes he was the best bowler. Also, conditions in New Zealand and Australia have always suited the traditional swing bowlers, a skill which he leads the world at. England need Anderson, and Broad to fire and fire quickly else our batters could score 400 and still lose.

Finn had a poor game v New Zealand

Finn had a poor game v New Zealand

Even despite their poor form, Broad and Anderson are basically un-droppable. There isn’t a young 90mph quick biting at their heels ready to take a shot at this tournament and nor are Woakes or Finn realistically doing enough to warrant the new ball. Woakes has 4 wickets at an average of 34, which is much better than any other English bowler (Ali 3 wickets at 52, Anderson 2 at 92, Broad 2 at 92 and Root 1 at 50) but it still isn’t great. For the record, Finn has 8 at 25. Talking about Steven, McCullum hammered Finn in the match against New Zealand; his two overs went for 49 runs and returned 0 wickets. It wasn’t much better for him against Sri Lanka, he leaked 54 runs in 8 overs, was again wicket less and Morgan looked reluctant to give him a bowl. Woakes has been consistently better over the 4 matches, he was the only one not to get smashed by New Zealand (and got the two wickets) and has the best economy rate of all the seamers (although 6.14 isn’t brilliant). None of our bowlers are death bowlers, leading to a whole new problem. It’s clear to see that changes are required.

The thing is, this is where the bowling situation goes from worrying to desolate. The other options are Jordan, Tredwell and Bopara. For a start, Bopara isn’t a true bowler, however his inclusion in the side would lower the pressure on Morgan and the other bowlers as he could replace a seamer who is being hit out of the attack. It says a lot that Bopara is our best reserve bowling option. Including Tredwell in this side would seem unnecessary as Ali and Root are doing decent enough jobs as the spinners as well as scoring runs with the bat. Jordan is a massive conundrum. When he first came into the England side he looked a proper prospect, bowling with real pace and possessing enough ability to think about how to get batters out. In 20 ODI’s he has taken 33 wickets at 30, which is decent if not outstanding. Since his quick start he has been in and out of the side, culminating in playing only one match of the recent tri-series. He could be a destructive bowler however seems like too much of a risk to take in a must-win scenario like we now find ourselves in.

Could Jordan improve this side?

Could Jordan improve this side?

It’s difficult to know what to suggest to improve our bowling. On the face of it, Finn is our most predictable bowler and so needs to be dropped however an attack of Anderson, Broad, Woakes and Jordan looks far too similar to me. Furthermore, with Anderson, Broad and Jordan all lacking in form, too much pressure will be placed on Woakes who isn’t ready to be the leader of this attack. Would it be possible to drop Broad and give Finn the new ball? Well, there are two points to this. Firstly, would Finn be more or less expensive with the new ball? Logic suggests more however with the extra pace a new cherry brings the likelihood of taking wickets improves. Secondly, can Woakes and Jordan pick up wickets in the middle overs? The benefit of playing Finn is that he can pick up wickets at regular intervals and breaks up partnerships in the middle overs (apparently). Personally, despite it contradicting what I said in the last paragraph, I’d like to light a fuse up Broad or Anderson’s backsides and drop one of them to remind them that England aren’t afraid to drop big reputations.

Going back to Tredwell for a minute, there is no doubt he would offer more control in the middle overs than Finn or Woakes but I don’t necessarily see this as a good thing. I reckon teams would be happy to knock Tredwell around for 5 or 6 an over, knowing he doesn’t possess enough to blow teams away and also knowing that they can easily score 10 or 12 an over in the last 15 against the worst death bowling unit in the world.


As per usual, England’s fielding has been below world standards. India have dropped one catch all tournament, England have dropped more than we can count. If Buttler’s batting is destructive, his wicket-keeping is very much a work in progress. It was simply his fault that Thirimanne scored 100+* against us recently, for he should have caught him early on. In our matches, I think we have dropped every single player who went on to make a century. Obviously that isn’t good enough. There is a desperate need for a better fielding coach, and the obvious candidate is the best fielder I have ever seen play the game, Paul Collingwood. He would sort this side out and cut out the silly mistakes that hinder the bowlers.

An example of England's poor fielding

An example of England’s poor fielding

In the now though, it’s difficult to see what could inspire our fielders to look livelier. If there’s no “X-Factor” in the bowling options, there is even less in the fielding stakes. Anderson has lost his spark, Bell and Morgan don’t seem as confident as they used to and the players brought in (Woakes, Finn, Ali and Ballance) aren’t able to catch a cold. Joe Root is an electric fielder and he needs to take control and make sure the side rallies around him. Serious work is needed in practice; this is not an element of the game to be taken lightly any more.


Are there any positives? Well, the format has been in our favour all along. 3 bad matches in the Football edition and its thank you very much, but now you must go home. In Cricket, we have 2 games to turn this around and reach the knockout stages. We should beat both Afghanistan and Bangladesh however nothing is a given. On the field, Root is becoming our most reliable and crucial player, underlined by his classy knock against Sri Lanka. Moeen Ali deserves to be a regular fixture at the top of the order and Woakes is the only bright light from a dreadful bowling unit. These 15 aren’t bad players, it’s just that they are made to look that way by being ultra conservative.

None of our players possess the destructive ability that AB de Villiers, Chris Gayle, Kohli, McCullum or David Warner have in abundance and that is a problem however it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be able to win. There needs to be a raising of their game from every single player pulling on the blue shirt. If England play as a unit rather than a set of lost individuals, if every player pulls their weight and if the team has a better balance (ie, without Ballance) then there is a chance we will win the close matches against sides on our level. However, all of that is a long way off and even I, who have tried so hard to be positive about this, am losing any hope of doing anything other than the usual English failure. Going forward, those in charge of the ECB need to look at how to improve the way they treat one day cricket, promote one day specialists and improve death bowling. For now, one or two changes can be made to hopefully improve this side’s fortunes.

Throughout writing this, my mind has been shifted on many selection issues and now I will attempt to give my best XI. I believe Hales needs to be in the side, however given the form he showed before the tournament am reluctant to drop Bell. Taylor needs a bigger role as he is an exciting prospect and our death bowling needs to improve, which can only be done by including Jordan. I would like to see Bopara at 6 to ease pressure on Finn however this isn’t possible while including Bell, Taylor and Hales. My argument for Hales at 6 was one I came up with on the spot however it has convinced me, even though it means keeping Ali and Bell at the top. So, for Bangladesh I would try this side, with a flexible batting line up:

Ali, Bell, Taylor, Root, Morgan, Hales, Buttler, Jordan, Woakes, Anderson, Finn. 

I’ve reached that conclusion based upon Broad and Ballance’s form, Taylor’s record at number 3, the fact that Hales at 6 will help make the most of the batting powerplay and Jordan’s inclusion should improve the death bowling and fielding. It’s far from being the best side in the tournament however there is genuine quality within it and hopefully Broad being dropped will improve him and Anderson. Giving Finn longer in the side shows faith in him, which will do his confidence a lot of good. I realise throughout this article I contradicted myself a fair bit by saying Ali and Bell shouldn’t open together and Jordan wouldn’t improve the side but including both of those in my team. This highlights what a difficult job the England selectors have.

One thing is for sure, we won't be lifting this!

One thing is for sure, we won’t be lifting this!

England’s participation in this tournament is clinging by a thread. It’s not quite win or bust however when Bangladesh defeat Scotland it will reach that stage. The headlines on the BBC website and other news outlets won’t improve without serious changes to England’s approach. I’ve suggested what changes I would make; no doubt other people have other ideas and the management theirs. Even if this improves, it is almost guaranteed that England will exit stage left in the quarter finals once more. We are in serious danger of becoming almost as irrelevant on the international stage as Bangladesh and Zimbabwe are. English cricket is going backwards and it’s a shame because the rest of this World Cup has been very enjoyable indeed.

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Australia in England review – My Ashes 13/14 Squad (#Hardmans16)

England fans hope to see more of this this summer!

England fans hope to see more of this this winter!

On Monday lunchtime, the England selectors will announce their touring squad for the Ashes down in Australia. This is widely expected to consist of 16 players, of which no-one can safely guess who they will be. I’m writing this article, my final review of the summer, to set out whom I would take and explain why. I’ll also give you a list of people who may feel, rightly or wrongly, aggrieved to not be going with reasons why I wouldn’t take them. england-retain-ashes-ben-hilfenhaus-MCG_2545349 The date this was written on is 20/09/13, which I’m telling you as to point out that I know of no injuries or other reasons why people might not go. So, barring any external circumstances – the 16 players that I would take to Australia are: Cook (c), Anderson, Bairstow, Bell, Bresnan, Broad, Compton, Kerrigan, Morgan, Pietersen, Prior, Root, Stokes, Swann, Tremlett, Trott.

Could Compton be back in an England squad?

Could Compton be back in an England squad?

The Batting: Cook, Bairstow, Bell, Compton, Morgan, Pietersen, Prior, Root, Stokes, Trott Admittedly, there is possibly too much batting here but I’m going to stick to my guns and defend why I’ve selected so many. First of all, the top 5 will be Cook, Root, Trott, Pietersen and Bell as it should be. I’ve included another opening batter in Compton mainly because I don’t trust the form that Trott is in. He seems to be in a bit of a rut at the moment, and if I were England I would take someone who can cover him as well as open in case Root drops horribly out of form too. Not only will this allow them cover, it gives Trott and Root incentive to keep working as they will know that their place is not guaranteed. The worst thing you can have in a sports team is comfort. I also believe that number 6 is a serious issue for England, and we should use this tour to look at the options we have there. Bairstow, the one with the nod at the moment, has never nailed it down with a free-flowing century but has the potential to do so. England tried Woakes there in the 5th test and he did well however if we are going to go with an all-rounder then I would prefer Stokes. My solution is to play Eoin Morgan there, to replace Collingwood. He seems to be better at building innings these days, has actually scored a test century (or 2) before and he’s a livewire in the field. He has a better average and more centuries than Bairstow from only 4 more tests. Yes, Bairstow has played against good attacks however I believe it’s time we re-tried Morgan there with two back-ups in case it fails.

Morgan has scored test centuries before

Morgan has scored test centuries before

Other Options: Carberry is the main one here. He’s an opener who, like Compton, has test match experience. He’s got solid technique, scores runs for Hampshire and is in England’s thoughts given that he played in the One Day series. It’s possible that he will go. In recent years, James Taylor and Ravi Bopara have occupied the number 6 spot for England and they are names that will be mentioned. I don’t believe either are good enough, and please let’s not mention Samit Patel! Moeen Ali and Varun Chopra have had good years for their counties however it would be a real surprise should England go down one of those routes!

The Wicket-Keeping: Bairstow, Prior Prior is, rightly, number 1 and Bairstow is a good replacement for an injury in terms of keeping wicket and batting at number 7 so these two pick themselves. Other options: This one has got me thinking. Should England lose Prior to injury before we go, is Bairstow really the best option to keep wicket? If we compare his keeping, to say Kieswetter’s then we will find that the Somerset man is possibly more reliable. Given that Kieswetter is in the international wilderness at the moment, this may seem like an absurd name to mention. However, his batting average at first class level is similar to Prior’s (40 plays 39), with his keeping record better than Bairstow’s (279 catches plays 147, 8 stumpings plays 4). It makes sense to look at him as a genuine back – up as well as his Somerset team mate, Jos Buttler. Buttler doesn’t have the stats to push himself in front of either Bairstow or Kieswetter however he has potential to be an England great.


Morgan still has more test centuries than Bairstow…

The bowling: Anderson, Bresnan, Broad, Kerrigan, Stokes, Swann, Tremlett If the batting options are too many, then the bowling options are possibly too small. Anderson, Broad and Swann are the guaranteed three picks with either one or two other players from that list being selected. For me, I’d start the series with Tremlett as his pace and bounce suits Australian wickets and caused them trouble in the 2010/11 series. He strikes fear into the Australian batting line up and coming on at first change, he could cause havoc with both the new-ish and old ball. Bresnan would be ideal for somewhere where it reverse swings, and offers batting depth therefore fits my strategy with playing Morgan. Also, Bresnan never lets England down and that reliability is not something you get from everyone. We need to take a second spinner and I believe it has to be Kerrigan. His debut was terrible however we need to show him that we trust him. Having watch him play for Lancashire for years, I know he is good enough to play for England. A whole tour bowling in the nets with Swann and Mushtaq Ahmed could teach him far more than bowling for a performance squad. Like I’ve explained already, Stokes is in the squad for the all-round capabilities he brings.

Tremlett caused havoc in Australia last time - I think he should be unleashed again

Tremlett caused havoc in Australia last time – I think he should be unleashed again

Other options: The hardest man to leave out was Onions. He has been the best bowler on the county circuit for the past two years and is the only like-for-like replacement we have for James Anderson. Do I think he will bowl well in Australia though? No, I don’t. Someone who would is Finn. I’ve simply left Finn out because I want him bowling as much as he can. Kerrigan needs to bowl with top quality international players so the nets are perfect for him, Finn just needs to bowl as much as possible in a match situation so a performance squad would be ideal. Rankin could feel hard-done by given that he played this summer and Tremlett didn’t however I believe that Tremlett’s experience should give him the nod. A spin alternative to Kerrigan is obviously Monty however no-one truly knows how he’s holding up mentally so could Briggs be looked at? I don’t think so as his first class record isn’t great! Again, I’ll mention Moeen Ali because he’s had a good season (we still aren’t allowed to mention Patel).

Verdict: The XI that I would start the series with is: Cook, Root, Trott, Pietersen, Bell, Morgan, Prior, Broad, Swann, Tremlett, Anderson. It suits the system that England are used to, gives Morgan another chance, lets Tremlett loose on the Australian batters yet everyone knows that there is competition for their places. Only Cook and Anderson should have guaranteed positions in the side, everyone else should be susceptible to form, including Broad, Swann and Pietersen! Do I think this will be the squad that England will take? No I don’t. Simply because I believe they will want to take another bowling option and therefore will drop Morgan to take Finn, Rankin or Onions. It’s possible that they will take 17 players still, if they do then I would like to see Morgan go. In truth, I can’t predict 5 of the 16 that will go. 11 are presumably nailed on: Cook, Root, Trott, Pietersen, Bell, Bairstow, Prior, Bresnan, Broad, Swann, Anderson, with the other 5 up for debate. I’m interested to know who you have picked as your other 5.

Merely emphasising my point about Morgan...

Merely emphasising my point about Morgan…

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Australia in England review – England’s Players (The Tests)

I’ve split my second preview into two parts – to encompass first the test players and then the players who were solely used in the one day format. This was mainly due to the sheer amount of players England used. 

Remarkably, the hosts used 27 players over the course of the 3 series. Now that the dust has settled on the summer, I will review and mark out of 10 every single player that featured for England, including if they just played one match – Chris Jordan being an example! Of the 27 players, surprisingly there were a few established names that couldn’t get themselves a gig all summer. These include Tremlett, Onions, Panesar and Taylor – are their England careers finished because of the snub or was it simply bad luck? I would argue that both are true for various players.

Alastair Cook (5 Tests (captain))

  • 277 runs at 27.70 with a HS of 62
  • 3 fifties, 0 centuries
  • Highlight: Becoming an Ashes winning captain

A remarkably poor season for the Essex left hander. Looked scratchy at the crease and seemed to be affected by the captaincy and the off-field issues all summer. However, he made 3 important fifties and is now an Ashes winning captain. It wasn’t quite 2010/11 but one bad series doesn’t make you a bad player, I’m thoroughly expecting him to bounce back in Australia. Rating: 4/10



Joe Root (5 tests, 2 T20s, 4 ODIs)


  • 339 runs at 37.66 with a HS of 180, 3 wickets at 11.33
  • 1 fifty, 1 century
  • Highlight: Lords test match (180, 2 wickets)


  • 91 runs with no average as all not-out – HS of 90*, 1 wicket at economy 13.00
  • 1 fifty, 0 centuries


  • 36 runs at 9.00 with a HS of 21, 1 wicket at economy 8.88

It’s tough to know whether Root had a successful summer or not. Looking both settled and confident at 6, England pushed him up to open and, the 180 aside, it didn’t reap immediate rewards. Sure, he has fantastic technique and talent yet he kept getting starts and getting out. His one day series was much the same, although the 90* in the T20 was a reminder of what he can do. Not spectacular, but not a disaster either. Worth persisting with at the top of the order and his bowling is useful.  Rating: 5/10

Jonathan Trott (5 tests, 3 ODIs)


  • 293 runs at 29.30 with a HS of 59, 1 wicket at 28.00
  • 2 fifties, 0 centuries


  • 28 runs at 14.00 with a HS of 28
  • Highlight: No real alternative to him in county cricket

Despite scoring more runs than Cook this summer, it felt like Trott’s form was more worrying than the captains. He never looked in, even during the 2 fifties, and you always felt a mistake was waiting to happen. If the test series was bad then the ODIs don’t bear talking about. In three innings, he got 2 ducks. It’s time to start finding a long term replacement for him as this doesn’t just feel like a bad run of form, it feels almost terminal. A sad decline as for years he’s been one of my favourite cricketers. Rating: 2/10

Kevin Pietersen (5 tests, 4 ODIs)


  • 388 runs at 38.80 with a HS of 113
  • 3 fifties, 1 century
  • Highlight: Back to his swashbuckling best at Old Trafford


  • 71 runs at 17.75 with a HS of 60
  • 1 fifty, 0 centuries

Pietersen was another batter who would have felt he could have done better this summer. He always looked in fine form, especially at Old Trafford where he took the attack to the Australian bowlers. When he’s in that form, usually there are 2 or 3 centuries however he only hit one which was both a surprise and a mystery. His running in the one day series left a lot to be desired. Rating 7/10

Ian Bell (5 tests) – Test player of the summer

  • 562 runs at 62.44 with a HS of 113
  • 2 fifties, 3 centuries
  • Highlight: 109 at Lords

Australia is now scared of Ian Bell. Whenever they had England on the ropes, he would seemingly launch a recovery almost on his own. The three centuries he scored were the three matches England won. No longer does he just score centuries when other batters do, he became a match-winner this series! This was not highlighted more when, at Lords, he came in with England 28-3. He left at 271-5, which went a long way towards winning the match. Rating: 9/10



Jonny Bairstow (4 tests)

  • 203 runs at 29.00 with a HS of 67
  • 1 fifty, 0 centuries
  • Highlight: Showing more resilience than previously

Jonny Bairstow is a bit of a conundrum really, as is the place where he batted this series (number 6). He always looks talented, looks composed and looks assured yet never seems to make big runs. He should have scored a century this summer, it was there for the taking at Lords and he got out to a full toss from a part-timer. That sort of sums up his test career to date! He should come good but it needs to be sooner rather than later. Rating: 3/10

Chris Woakes (1 test)

  • 42 runs at, unsurprisingly, 42.00 with a HS of 25, 1 wicket at 96.00 (with a best of 1/96)
  • Highlight: His first test wicket must have been a wonderful experience

On the face of it, Chris Woakes had a bad match however I believe it was the right decision by England to play him. Bowling faster than he had on his last England appearance, and applying his talent with the bat, he made an impression even if it wasn’t a long-lasting one. I don’t think this’ll be his last test appearance, especially if Bairstow’s form continues, as the all-rounder quality he offers is an interesting element. That bowling average was horrendous so will face pressure from Ben Stokes. Rating: 3/10



Matt Prior (5 tests)

  • 133 runs at 19.00 with a HS of 47, 18 catches and 0 stumpings
  • Highlight: Consistently decent behind the stumps

Not a series that Prior will remember for a long time. He couldn’t play fluently when batting and made a few more mistakes than usual when keeping. Is this a bad series or a sign of things to come? Given that he was finding some form at The Oval, I’d say it’s simply a bad series. His keeping was far from being dreadful either, it just wasn’t as good as we expect. Rating: 4/10

Tim Bresnan (3 tests)

  • 10 wickets at 29.60 with a best of 2/25, 103 runs at 25.75 with a HS of 45
  • Highlight: Dismissing Warner at Chester-Le-Street to start a collapse

Much like most of this English side, Bresnan didn’t have a bad series while not having an outstanding one. His bowling was reliable, his batting was back to close to its best. He starred at Chester-Le-Street during the second innings, bowling in the right line and length, constantly causing issues and getting Warner with a snorter of a ball. Deserved more than 10 wickets in the series, injury ruled him out of the rest of the summer. Rating: 5/10

Stuart Broad (5 tests, 2 T20s (captain))


  • 22 wickets at 27.45 with a best of 6/50, 179 runs at 25.57 with a HS of 65
  • 2 five wicket hauls, 1 ten wicket haul, 1 fifty, 0 centuries
  • Highlight: Blatantly edging the ball to slip yet getting away with it


  • 2 wickets with an economy of 10.57, 4 runs in one innings

Undoubtedly the best test pace bowler of the summer, Broad didn’t get many wickets in the first 3 test matches but deserved some. When it finally clicked, at Chester-Le-Street, he was in unbelievable form and blew Australia away, not for the first time in his career. There was also one fifty at Trent Bridge; achieved via staying when the umpire refused to give him out. Not such a great T20 campaign for the captain, however the test series was remarkable. Rating: 8/10

Graeme Swann (5 tests)

  • 26 wickets at 29.03 with a best of 5/44, 126 runs at 25.20 with a HS of 34
  • 2 five wicket hauls, 0 ten wicket hauls
  • Highlight: Getting a wicket with the worst ball he’s ever bowled

For those who thought that Swann’s career was in decline – watch the highlights of this series. Constantly had Australian batters in trouble, who have never been able to work him out. Worked his magic on multiple occasions and was deservedly the highest wicket taker. His one day career seems to be over but that is no bad thing for England’s test team. Rating: 9/10



James Anderson (5 tests)

  • 22 wickets at 29.59 with a best of 5/73, 36 runs at 7.20 with a HS of 16
  • 2 five wicket hauls, 1 ten wicket haul
  • Highlight: Producing Haddin’s edge to win the first test

At his brilliant, unplayable best at Trent Bridge and got 10 of those 22 wickets there. Strangely under par for the rest of the series but still picked up wickets in every test. He’s now 2nd on England’s all time Test wicket taking list, he should achieve that number 1 spot before he retires. A good but not great series for the Lancashire man, he’ll be unhappy about the decline of his batting. Rating: 7/10

Steven Finn (1 test, 2 T20s, 3 ODIs)


  • 2 wicket at 58.50 with a best of 2/80, 2 runs at 2.00 with a HS of 2*


  • 2 wickets at an economy of 9.37 with a best of 1/30


  • 4 wickets at an economy of 5.55 with a best of 2/43, 16 runs at 16.00 with a HS of 16
  • Highlight: Having a better average with the bat than Trott

This was a strange, underwhelming – no, actually – poor summer for Finn’s high standards. Looking wayward in the test series, he got pummelled in the T20s and got out bowled by Rankin in the ODIs. Looked threatening at Cardiff, but didn’t tear through the Aussie line-ups like we know he can. It started so promisingly when he was on a hat-trick at Trent Bridge as well. A real shame, one can only hope he isn’t affected too badly by this. In incredibly sad news, to round off a forgettable summer, he lost his dog. Rating: 1/10

Simon Kerrigan (1 test)

  • 0 wickets, 1 run
  • Highlight: Getting his England cap!

I’ve watched Kerrigan for years and I can tell you that he is not as bad as his debut made him look. Many a time has he rescued Lancashire and I believe it was simply a case of him freezing on the big stage. The bare facts are that this was about a bad a debut as you could have. He didn’t bowl a threatening ball at all, mainly because he got thrashed to all parts in his first spell. At 24 years of age, time is definitely on his side – most spinners don’t peak until they are 30 (look at Swann). Hopefully this won’t be his last England appearance. Rating: sadly, 0/10

Sadly, 0/10

Sadly, 0/10

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Prime Memories – 3. Ashes series victories, various


During the 90’s, English cricket truly died. Characterised by batting collapses and embarrassing losses, they slipped to the bottom of the world rankings. Something remarkable needed to happen – and it did!

The end of the 1980’s, through the 1990’s and the start of the 2000’s were dreadful times for English cricket. From being one of the most respected teams in the world, they sunk right to the bottom of the world rankings. Match-winners, respected top order batters and feared bowlers retired, and although the likes of Stewart, Atherton and Gough came in – the lack of depth was clear. Unfortunately for English fans, this coincided with the domination of Australia. Unsurprisingly, this meant that every Ashes series from 1989 to 2002/03 was won by the team from down under, with most being completely dominated by them. Taylor, Border, Hughes, Hayden, Waugh, Ponting, McGrath, Gillespie, Gilchrist, Warne were just some of the talents utilised in this period. One Australian superstar was seemingly always replaced by another; the talent seemed to be almost endless during these years – with few players fielded by Australia considered poor!

The Ashes

Dominance in sport comes and goes, no team or individual can dominate forever. For people of a certain generation, ie mine, it appears that Manchester United will dominate English football infinitely however this can’t and won’t happen. Eras come and go, much like Michael Schumacher’s in F1 and the great West Indies team of the 1970’s. This Australian team can be mentioned in the same breath as Schumacher, West Indies, Sir Alex Ferguson, Federer, Nicklaus – however great these champions were, they all had their time and stopped being so dominant. English fans clung onto the hope that the Aussies would meet the same fate sooner rather than later. In 2005, an Australian side arrived in England, as usual, full of confidence and stars. This was the final hurrah for the likes of Warne, McGrath, Hayden and Langer in England and they wanted to go out with a bang. They were met by Michael Vaughan’s England – a recovering nation from the embarrassment of the past 10 years. The two sides would take part in a most wonderful series which would dictate the course of the next decade, and lead the charge in Britain’s Golden Generation of sport stars.

2005 Series:

Very few people don’t know the story of 2005; when cricket overtook football in the hearts and minds of the average sports fan in England. To describe it as David slaying Goliath would both be too dramatic and too demeaning of Vaughan’s England for they were full of match-winners. History has digested it as a surprise result because of how good Australia looked on paper as well as the pessimism that had swept this country before even a ball had been bowled. Instead of being the swansong of the Aussie greats, it ended up being a fillip for English cricket. To carry on the over-dramatic theme, without this series – England cricket could have stuttered and continued to live in mediocrity instead of it being the rallying cry to leave the depths behind and head up, looking at that coveted number one spot which it became. In many ways, 2005 was not simply an Ashes series. It was the future of cricket, played out in 5 wonderful tests. Other nations watched on with a mix of envy and excitement, for India and South Africa were also starting to realise that Australia were not invincible and if England could beat them, then so could they!

It’s fair to say that the glorious summer, and the rest of the decade, could have gone very differently. Lords was dreadful for England as Australia won by 239 runs inside 4 days. Despite two fifties for young star Kevin Pietersen, the rest of the batting had been dreadful and after a promising start with the ball, the bowling wasn’t up to scratch either. Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne were also both painfully good, with the English batters looking like rabbits in the headlights. The optimists winced, the pessimists grinned as for some reason in this country we love nothing more than being right about how bad a sporting side we have. England looked truly ordinary, Australia looked anything but. Lords was a battering, Edgbaston was the complete opposite. As I’ve already written about in this “Prime Memories” series, the test at Edgbaston was a remarkable display of cricket – it really was the sport at its finest.  As a reminder, Ponting won the toss and elected to field on a belter of a pitch. England cashed in, making 400 and then the next day got to work, chipped away at wickets and managed to get a lead of 99. Some massive sixes from Andrew Flintoff later, Australia required 282 runs to win and after Flintoff got two wickets in an over, England started the charge that ended the third day with Australia 8 wickets down and still 107 runs short. The fourth day was a remarkable day of cricket as first Warne and Lee, and then Lee and Kasprowicz took Australia to within 3 runs of victory when Harmison got Kasprowicz to glove behind to Geraint Jones. On the face of it, this was an amazing match with a thrilling conclusion and, from the English perspective, the right result however it was much more important than that. Pause it for a minute as Kasprowicz gloves it. If that goes over the keeper for four, or if Bowden doesn’t give it out then Australia would have gone on to win and be 2-0 up in the series. We wouldn’t have won the series from there – would we have won in 2009, 2010/11 or 2013? I think not!

Simon Jones bowls Michael Clarke

Simon Jones bowls Michael Clarke

Old Trafford was symbolised by the two captains at the time and one future one, who all hit magnificent centuries which were important in their own way. Michael Vaughan’s 166 was the mainstay of the first innings which saw England post a bigger score than 400 for the second match in a row. Australia narrowly avoided the follow on and then their tail wagged so England needed Andrew Strauss’ 106 to set Australia a competitive target. After a day of rain on day 3, the final day was as dramatic as Edgbaston had been. At one point during the day it looked like Australia could win, the next it was certain to be a draw. Then, in one final twist, England had to win. Ponting held them up, making a wonderful 156, but he got out – leaving Lee and McGrath to face 24 deliveries to hold out for a draw. This time, Australia managed to avoid defeat and the series remained at 1-1. A Flintoff century, his first against Australia in tests, propelled England to another score over 400, this time 472 at Trent Bridge. Australia followed on for the first time in 17 years and after their second innings, set England 129 to win. Struggling at 57-4, Pietersen and Flintoff steadied the ship before Giles and Hoggard saw England home by three wickets. England needed to avoid defeat at the Oval to win the Ashes, which they achieved thanks to a wonderful 150 from Kevin Pietersen in England’s second innings. The Ashes, against all odds, had been regained. Flintoff was the undisputed man of the series for England, although Kevin Pietersen had announced himself on the international stage and Simon Jones plus Michael Vaughan had excellent series. For Australia, only Shane Warne could consistently produce the magic of old.

Flintoff and Warne were undoubtedly the players of the series in 2005.

Flintoff and Warne were undoubtedly the players of the series in 2005.

2009 series:

While the 2009 series didn’t have the same drama as 2005 however it was important, given the 06/07 disaster and it was still hardly short of excitement! This excitement started as early as the first test in Cardiff where Australia batted England into submission, with centuries for Katich, Ponting, North and Haddin. England collapsed, except for Paul Collingwood who showed his class by occupying the crease almost throughout the final day. When he fell for 74 from 245 balls, it was left to Panesar and Anderson to bat out an agonising amount of time to rescue a draw. Unbelievably this happened and Strauss’ men headed to Lords without being behind, where they were terrific. First, Strauss and Cook shared a 196 run partnership, where Strauss went on to score 161. Eventually, after some good bowling from Anderson and Onions – Australia were left to chase a world record 522. They finished 115 runs short, thanks to Andrew Flintoff’s brilliance on the fifth morning, running through the final wickets to achieve a five wicket haul. There wasn’t much to talk about in the Edgbaston test, as most of the first day and all of the third were rained off. Despite flashes of brilliance from Anderson, Onions, Flintoff and Clarke, the two sides played out a fairly meaningful draw that benefited England more than Australia.

Ponting looks shocked to be given out at Lords, Flintoff and Strauss love it!

Ponting looks shocked to be given out at Lords, Flintoff and Strauss love it!

Headingly was where the series came alive, as a rampant Australia destroyed England within three days. The only positive for England was Broad taking a 6-wicket haul and showing that he can bat. The negatives were overwhelming. If the batting was woeful then the bowling was becoming a liability. In 2005, England bowlers limited the amount of centuries scored by the Aussies to 3. At the end of Headingly, Australian batters had scored 7. Heading into the Oval, England needed to win to regain the Ashes whereas Australia could afford a draw. Jonathan Trott made his debut, replacing Ravi Bopara and looked assured on his way to 41 in the first innings. Having made 332, England bowlers were once again stuttering, until Broad came into the attack. From 72-0, Australia collapsed to 160 all out, of which Broad got 5 of them (including Ponting, Hussey, Clarke and Haddin for single figure scores). As England batted again, Trott made his first century and they declared on 373-9 setting Australia 546 runs to win. With Ponting looking good on 66, Flintoff produced a moment of magic on his final test, throwing down his stumps to leave Ponting short of his ground. Despite resistance from Hussey, the side were bowled out for 348 – which meant that, as the Guardian put it, “England back in paradise”! The Ashes were won, thanks mainly to Strauss and Broad who both produced moments of genius throughout the series. For Australia, Clarke scored the runs but without Hilfenhaus’ bowling; the series would have been a lot easier for England. Hilfenhaus rarely gets credit yet had Strauss and Bopara’s number the whole series.

Battle of the bowlers: Stuart Broad and Ben Hilfenhaus were both excellent in the summer of 2009

Battle of the bowlers: Stuart Broad and Ben Hilfenhaus were both excellent in the summer of 2009

2010/11 series:

In past years, English teams had arrived in Australia underprepared and not good enough – to leave with red faces and crushing defeats. This was never more apparent than in 2006/07 when the Ashes holders left with nothing but a 5-0 thrashing to talk about. Strauss and Andy Flower, England head coach, weren’t going to let that happen in 2010/11. Playing proper warm up matches and taking a squad ready for every occasion, they arrived at Brisbane raring to go. A bad first few days, saved by half centuries for Cook and Bell but defined by Peter Siddle’s hat-trick and Hussey’s and Haddin’s partnership looked to have taken the match away from England. What Australia, or indeed the rest of the world, forgot to factor in was a certain Alastair Cook. With the vultures circling about his place in the side, he had scored a career saving 110 against Pakistan earlier on in 2010. He seemingly picked up his bat from then and carried it to Australia, as he made 235* in the second innings at Brisbane. Supported by Strauss and Trott, who both scored centuries as well, England made 517/1 when they declared. Cook both saved the match and showed Australia that the weak link in the batting wasn’t so weak after all! That man was at it again when he scored his second century in a row at Adelaide, where England won by an innings and 71 runs. It started perfectly when Katich and Ponting were out in the first over, and it didn’t get much better for Australia! Cook’s century, Pietersen’s double century, Anderson and Swann’s bowling were the main highlights for a match which served as an example to just how dominant this England side could be. Like all things that are good, this dominance couldn’t last and Mitchell Johnson blew England away at Perth – leading to a 267 run defeat.

"Why are you chirping now mate, not getting wickets?" Anderson responds to Johnson's infamous sledge.

“Why are you chirping now mate, not getting wickets?” Anderson responds to Johnson’s infamous sledge.

Instead of firing Australia to regaining the Ashes, all this did was wake England up. England had started the series with a pace attack of Anderson, Broad and Finn. With Broad injured and Finn expensive, Tremlett and Bresnan came in – which led to another innings victory, this time at Melbourne. On boxing day, England bowled Australia out for 98 (5 for Tremlett) and then the openers both scored half centuries as England finished day 1 at 157-0. The second day belonged to Trott as he got a century before Bresnan got to work on the batters, picking up 4 wickets and confirming one of the biggest defeats Australia had suffered in recent history. The final test was played in Sydney and after England bowlers once again fired, Bell and Prior followed their vice-captain Cook to a century, which was Cook’s third of the series as he passed 700 runs in the series. When Chris Tremlett bowled Michael Beer on the morning of the fifth day, England had won the Ashes 3-1, with the 3 defeats all being by an innings. As Pietersen, Trott, Bell, Strauss, Prior and Cook all hit centuries, English batting was unprecedentedly good during this series, a far cry from the 90’s, however the series could only ever belong to one man. Alastair Cook scored 766 runs at an average of 127.66 and set many records along the way. Cook’s Ashes? You bet ya! Although, Michael Hussey had an exceptional time too!

Cook and Hussey both love scoring runs, occupying the crease and making big hundreds. They both did in 2010/11.

Cook and Hussey both love scoring runs, occupying the crease and making big hundreds. They both did in 2010/11.

2013 Series:

The 2013 Ashes were a bit of an enjoyable farce. The amount of DRS referrals and controversial decisions made it feel like it dragged on longer than it should but England fans, this one included, will look back on it with pride. We won 3-0, featuring wonderful batting from Ian Bell, who didn’t quite emulate Cook but still managed to score 562 runs including 3 centuries, to truly come of age. Swann, Anderson and Broad bowled well, as did Harris for Australia, but it was a lot closer than many expected. I will write an article when Australia leave, detailing what happened in every match they have played over here since the first test but as a reminder, England won in Trent Bridge after Haddin and Pattinson nearly snatched victory away. What followed at Lords was a complete annihilation before the Aussies restored pride at Old Trafford through their captain Clarke, however rain stopped their inevitable victory.

Joe Rooooooooooot had an excellent test at Lords, scoring a century and taking 2 crucial wickets

Joe Rooooooooooot had an excellent test at Lords, scoring a century and taking 2 crucial wickets

Without Katich, Ponting and Hussey, Australia’s batting looked very different to how it had but, after starting the series slowly, they were growing in confidence while chasing a record score to win at Chester-Le-Street. However, they were still conducive to batting collapses, as Bresnan started in that match and England went 3-0 up. At the Oval, Australia dominated for 4 of the 5 days until an England fight-back meant that they were going to win the Ashes 4-0. This was stopped by bad light, a decision that has been ridiculed many times since. In truth, Australia would have been hard done by to lose 4-0 but England deserved to win 3-0. There was only one team who were able to deal with pressure situations and they weren’t the ones who left England without the urn, for the third time in a row.

Ian Bell showed his class in 2013 while Ryan Harris, surprisingly, was seemingly the only Aussie paceman to avoid injury!

Ian Bell showed his class in 2013 while Ryan Harris, surprisingly, was seemingly the only Aussie paceman to avoid injury!

Over time, beating the Aussies has become more and more of a factor in my mind. You start to realise how arrogant some of them can be, which just means beating them becomes more special. More than that though, some of the cricket in these series has been exceptional. Who can forget Flintoff steaming in at Lords, bowling through the pain barrier – knowing it was his last series but wanting something so bad that pain doesn’t matter? Who can forget Strauss, Cook and Trott batting Australia into submission in Australia? The Barmy Army chanting “he bowls to the left, he bowls to the right” as Mitchell Johnson bats at Sydney? How about all the memories that 2005 brought – one of my favourite images being Flintoff celebrating as he dismissed Katich LBW and the stand in the background rising as one? These are memories that I will never forget – and so are a perfect advocate of this blogging series.

Gareth’s Awards:

Favourite series: I’ve written in this article a lot, possibly too much, about 2005 – this is because I believe the most important however my favourite has to be 2010/11. My favourite cricketer, ever since I first heard about him (before I even saw him play!) in 2005, has been Alastair Cook. During his bad patch, I always defended him – leading to a few arguments with people. No-one has questioned my judgement since he conquered Australia. However, that series was more than just him. Strauss wrote his name amongst the greats, and he belongs there, Tremlett caused more problems than we could have possibly imagined and Ian Bell finally shred the Sherminator tag. It was English dominance at its brilliant best. I’m fully aware that we will never have it as good again, but it was most definitely worth it!

My favourite series: The 10/11 win was truly special

My favourite series: The 10/11 win was truly special

Composite England XI: Picking my composite England XI was fairly easy, a lot easier than I initially thought.  Strauss, Cook had to open – Trescothick was a wonderful batter but didn’t score a century across these 4 series and didn’t captain England to victory – both Strauss and Cook did both of those. Vaughan or Trott at 3 was the toughest decision to make however I went for Trott given his continued success. Pietersen, Bell, Flintoff and Prior all had to be included so it made sense to fit them in that batting order. Broad gets the nod ahead of Hoggard because when Broad is on a roll, he’s the best in the world and he has got on such a roll more times than once against Australia. Swann and Anderson are better than Giles and Harmison respectively and with a nod towards Tremlett, Onions and Bresnan I’ve picked Simon Jones as my fourth seamer. His bowling during the 2005 series was truly exceptional.

Composite England XI: It's scary to think (for the opposition) that this side almost played together...

Composite England XI: It’s scary to think (for the opposition) that this side almost played together…