Friday, July 10, 2009

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Simon Katich in Ashes

Simon Katich's 2005 Ashes campaign ended with a meek dismissal for one at the hands of Andrew Flintoff at The Oval; the fourth time England's talismanic allrounder had dislodged him in the series. Four years later, Katich commenced the Ashes with a century rounded out with an authoritative pull off Flintoff. Revenge has seldom tasted so sweet.Katich's torrid tours of England have been well documented - he was dropped from the Australian Test team shortly after the 2001 and 2005 Ashes series - but this is a batsman remodelled and renewed. Following the disappointment of four years ago, Katich undertook a series of private coaching sessions with Bob Simpson, the former Australian captain and coach, in which issues concerning footwork and balance at the crease were addressed.From those sessions has emerged a batsman of tremendous skill and tenacity, and a figure who, along with Ricky Ponting, has emerged as the most vital member of the Australian top-order. With Phillip Hughes still finding his feet on the international stage and Michael Hussey fighting to break free of a 12-month batting malaise, the Australians have looked to Katich to provide them with the kind of starts expected under the former Hayden-Langer regime, albeit at a time of great transition within the national team.

Ricky Ponting

It was this instinctive side that allowed Ponting to compensate for that which does not come so naturally. As a leader, Ponting has encountered his share of critics over the past six years, and the horde was in full voice at Sophia Gardens after a first session in which England's tail milked 99 runs to advance their first innings total to an authoritative 435.Questionable bowling plans, defensive fields and a general lack of aggression all played into the free-swinging hands of Graeme Swann and James Anderson on the second morning, prompting a reloading of slings and a sharpening of arrows in Ponting's direction. True, the captain could not be held responsible for the errant line of Peter Siddle nor the short length of Mitchell Johnson, but neither was he effective in containing a situation that spiralled out of control faster than a bad day at Lehman Brothers.

Some leaders are born. Ponting was manufactured. That is not to say that over time he has not become a capable captain - Test series victories in South Africa are never to be sneezed at, and particularly so with an inexperienced squad - but seldom has Ponting convinced his public that he is cut from the same intuitive cloth as the Borders, Taylors and Waughs.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Ravi Bopara

Australia sprang something of a surprise when they named Hilfenhaus and Hauritz in their eleven ahead of Stuart Clark. Hilfenhaus justified his inclusion with the first wicket of the series when he drew Alastair Cook into a loose prod outside off and Mike Hussey held a blinding catch at gully. Andrew Strauss played compactly for 30 but got into a tangle against a sharp bouncer from Johnson and gloved in the slips, unsure whether to attack to leave the short ball.Ravi Bopara was given a working over at No. 3 - reminding him this is a significant step up from helping himself against West Indies earlier in the summer - and was twice hit, firstly in the throat by Siddle, and later on the shoulder by Johnson. He also kept the slips interested with a few flashy drives and, although he also pulled out a few elegant shots, there was no sense of permanency. He fell to a clever piece of deception by Johnson who used the slower ball to good effect and Bopara spooned a catch to cover. Johnson, as against England Lions, didn't find much swing but showed he had more tricks up his sleeve

First Day of Ashes

There was little to choose between these two teams in the lead-up to this eagerly anticipated Ashes series and hardly anything to split them at the end of an engrossing opening day at Cardiff. England were twice pulling away from Australia, but a hard-working attack grabbed wickets at crucial times. Kevin Pietersen gave his innings away for 69 and Peter Siddle took a vital brace with the second new ball, after Matt Prior and Andrew Flintoff had launched a stirring sixth-wicket partnership, as the hosts ended on 336 for 7.That final scoreline gives a fair reflection of the entertainment on offer. The early exchanges had the sense of two slightly uncertain sides sizing each other up, but soon the blows were being traded. It was the Australian quicks who settled first with Mitchell Johnson striking twice before lunch, however as Pietersen - who passed 1000 runs against Australia - and Paul Collingwood added 138 in 41 overs there was a window in Ricky Ponting's new world minus the great bowlers of the past.

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