Friday, 31 July 2009

Third Ashes Test, Edgbaston, Day Two

Sports – Cricket – Ashes

My picks of the second day:

James Anderson and Graham Onions put England in a strong position with brilliant displays and nine wickets between them on day two of the third Ashes Test at Edgbaston. Australia's shocking collapse to 203 for 8 before lunch did not come without controversial decisions by umpire Rudi Koertzen. They were eventually all out for 263, Anderson completing his 5-wicket haul and Onions finishing the Aussies off with his fourth. When bad light stopped play at the end of the day, England's captain Andrew Strauss had led England to 116 for 2, leaving them 147 runs behind.


Run of Play: Advantage to...

1st session, Australia 203 for 8 at lunch: England capitalised and put Australia onto their knees, both Onions and Anderson with hat-trick chances, unfolding a brilliant nail-biter.

2nd session, Australia 263 all out, England 56 for 1 (207 behind) at tea: England getting Australia all out and a start, the captain looking strong and confident, unsurprisingly after the day his side had enjoyed so far.

3rd session, England 116 for 2 (147 behind) at the end of day two: England ending a mouthwatering day with 8 wickets in tact and a very promising chance of getting something out of the match.

Partnerships:

- 37 runs between Ricky Ponting (20) and Michael Clarke (17): Australia's highest partnership reflects the run of play and their display: Their captain saw two wickets go within a couple of blinks of the eye, of the first two balls of the day, Shane Watson out for 62 after a perfect lbw by Graham Onions, Mike Hussey bowled the very next ball for a golden duck and Michael Clarke surviving Onions' hat-trick ball. Clarke stuck with his skipper, Ponting becoming the third all-time test batting run scorer behind India's Sachin Tendulkar and West Indies' Brian Lara and Australian record leading run scorer in test matches. But the glory did not last long, the skipper falling a couple of deliveries later caught behind, the third wicket for Onions.

- 58 runs between Andrew Strauss (35) and Ravi Bopara (23): Bopara made a good start as always with some beautiful shots after Alastair Cook got caught behind for a duck. But he gave his wicket away, after dragging the ball of Ben Hilfenhaus onto his stumps with a nothing-shot, inside-edge, without establishing a credible total and partnership with his skipper, very frustrating.

- 81 runs between Andrew Strauss (34) and Ian Bell (47): Strauss continued strongly and confident whilst Bell proved his worth replacing Kevin Pietersen, although he got away on a couple of occasions, the umpire not giving a dead-on lbw by Johnson at 106 for 2. Both shared terrific shots and boundaries between them, bringing England to 116 for 2 at the end of the day, 117 behind Australia, who were all out for 263, Graeme Swann catching the last wicket Hilfenhaus at gully, Onions fourth, after Anderson completed his five wicket haul after Peter Siddle's outside-edge was caught behind by Prior.


Bowlers: James Anderson with his five wicket haul and Graham Onions with four wickets formed the perfect, mind-blowing bowling attack for England, leading England to a perfect, strong and confident position. The first session must have been the best England have ever created and seen against the Aussies, with seven wickets between the two bowlers. Unforgettable, but not without controversy: After their skipper departed, Australia lost four more wickets before lunch: Clarke was given out controversially lbw to an inswinger by Anderson, which was probably missing offstump. Marcus North was caught brilliantly with an athletic jump by wicket keeper Matt Prior followed by Mitchell Johnson the next ball after he left another inswinger by Anderson and got caught out lbw, but the ball bouncing and flying slightly too high according to Hawkeye, leaving Anderson on a hat-trick. He was not on target to get the third one in a row, but got another one before lunch, this time changing angle and bowling out Graham Manou with a pearler without a question, leaving Australia reeling and angry 203 for 8 at lunch.


Ups: Morning session, the best, most shocking session I have ever seen! Unforgettable, dream come true for England, nightmare gone from bad to worse to indefeasible for Australia.

Downs: Typically, the last two Australia wickets were buggers, producing 60 runs, which is nearly as good as the previous five wickets produced between them. But England got them out eventually, too, that is the main thing.

Hero to zero: Freddie, who? Yesterday I was worrying about Andrew Flintoff's form and display on this pitch, but today, forgot all about him. With Anderson and Onions on a wicket spree, Flintoff was able to take a breather and out of most of the minds, for the time being.

Thursday, 30 July 2009

Third Ashes Test, Edgbaston, Day One

Sports – Cricket – Ashes

My picks of the first day:

Only 30 overs were bowled after a rain-drenched outfield delayed the start of play on day one of the third Ashes Test at Edgbaston. Shane Watson made an impressive Ashes and test match opening debut, replacing an out-of-form Phillip Hughes and frustrating the England bowlers after Australia won the toss and chose to bat. He ended the day unbeaten on 62, just 16 away from his best score in Test cricket with captain Ricky Ponting unbeaten on 17, having passed 20,000 career runs and leaving Australia comfortable at 126 for 1.



Run of Play: Advantage to...

1st session, Australia 104 for 1 at the end of day one: Australia after enjoying a much dreaded late session, leaving England frustrated after they got nothing and nowhere with their bowling.

Partnership: 85 runs between Shane Watson (39) and Simon Katich (46): Australia understandably chose to bat first on the slow pitch after winning the toss. Katich capitalised most from England's frustration and thrashed in 46 runs off 48 balls with some soft, cool and easy boundary shots. He was eventually out lbw, second ball and appeal lucky for Graeme Swann. Ricky Ponting got off the mark with a firmly shot boundary, bringing up the 100 for Australia. The captain eventually settled down after an anxious start and passed 20,000 career runs. Watson stayed on his merry way throughout the session, not shying from some beautiful boundary shots. Frustrating start for England, Australia definitely the happier.

Bowling: There was a little bit of swing for James Anderson early on, but Andrew Flintoff was not able to create any pressure or threat whatsoever. Graham Onions and Stuart Broad were leaking boundaries all over the pitch, punished by precise shots. Skipper Andrew Strauss lost his patience with his seamers eventually and turned to Swann just over an hour into play, which finally brought the breakthrough. We will have to wait and see who Strauss will turn to to start the second day as England need wickets and wickets fast. So far, nine times out of ten, his bowling changes and decisions have been good and crucial.



Ups: Strauss once again got his bowling change spot-on and a wicket from it. That was the only cheer England had in the short and only session of the day. They can hopefully build on it and get the Aussies worried early on day two - 'they' not being the seamers on this pitch.

Downs: The weather, the field, the bowling and the Aussies chilling on it. Hardly any cricket having been played, the only little play we have seen has been frustrating for England, the day saw 22 boundaries in total. Let us hope we will not see a repeat of that on day two.

Hero to zero: After winning the man-of-the-match award for the second test, Flintoff will want to forget today as soon as possible. He could not get anything out of the pitch, to no surprise under the circumstances though. Hopefully, Freddie will come back stronger tomorrow and hit the Aussies hard.

Sunday, 26 July 2009

Pre-Season Friendly Match Report: Singapore 0-5 Liverpool

Sports - Football - Pre-Season Friendly - Singapore 0:5 Liverpool

Liverpool impressed with their first pre-season win, with plenty of goals, smiles and cheers against Singapore.


The Asian side approached and tackled the Reds everything else but softly, giving away many free kicks but letting nothing and nobody through too easily. It took a touch an deflection off their defender Daniel Bennett to take Andriy Voronin's shot away and past the goalkeeper Hassan Sunny just before half time.

David Ngog impressed with busy and lively play and interacting well, with Daniel Agger pushing fine from left-back, Voronin and Javier Mascherano always ready to connect but finding it hard to break through into the box.

The second half saw only a few changes, three for Liverpool, the Reds keeping on dominating most of the play and possession. Mascherano's cross from right outside the box was chested and netted with a confident left-footed drill by Albert Riera making it 2-0.

With just under half an hour to go, Rafael Benítez made a bulk of changes (seven) which livened up play immensely and entertainingly. With a hat-trick of assists, Dirk Kuyt livened up the crowd, match and scoreboard - Spanish striker Fernando Torres causing the loudest screams and cheers when he netted the ball and Hungarian youngster Krisztian Nemeth pressing and impressing with two goals, one with the right and one header just in front of goal, having an easy job after the breakthrough and unselfish work by his Dutch team mate.



This was a much better display and blend in the match and from the team. They will return from Asia much happier and confident compared to the couple of matches before, having gotten the scoreboard ticking and the team clicking.

Singapore Sunny (75 Lewis); Rahman, Khaizan, Bennett, Jantan (67 Esah); Jiayi (65 Muhamed), Fahrudin (86 nr 26), Harun, Ishak (56 Qiuli); Shah (52 Sahdan); Duric (46 Casmir). Bookings 37 Rahman.

Liverpool
Cavalieri (46 Gulacsi, 77 Reina); Degen (62 Spearing), San José (46 Insua), Carragher (62 Kelly), Agger (77 Alonso); Benayoun (62 Torres), Lucas (62 Kuyt), Mascherano (62 Pacheco), Babel (46 Riera, 77 Dossena); Ngog (62 Nemeth), Voronin (62 Plessis).

1st half stats: Singapore-Liverpool
Attempts:
1-7
On target: 1-2
Offsides:
1-2
Corners:
0-5
Free kicks:
4-12

2nd half stats: Singapore-Liverpool
Attempts:
4-12
On target: 0-7
Offsides:
0-0
Corners: 2-4
Free kicks: 0-3

Referee:
Abdul Malik Bashir

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Pre-Season Friendly Match Report: Thailand 1-1 Liverpool

Sport - Football - Pre-Season Friendly - Thailand 1:1 Liverpool

A packed Rajamangala Stadium got to see a game of mixed emotions. Liverpool started without their captain Steven Gerrard and injured midfielders Yossi Benayoun and Xabi Alsonso. Under hot and humid conditions, thousands of Liverpool fans saw a lively start to Liverpool's Asian Tour. The Reds took the lead five minutes into the match with a cross by stand-in skipper Jamie Carragher from his own half through the heart of Thailand's side to find connection with Ryan Babel who slotted it left past the goalkeeper Kosin Hathairattanakool.



The rest of the first half stayed quiet, leisurely nearly, Thailand giving their opponents too much time and respect. The closer play got to the box on either side, it turned into close traffic, congested, which neither side was able to break through and threaten the goal. Carragher and Emiliano Insua impressed solid as always in the centre of defence.

Reds goalkeeper Diego Cavalieri nearly gave away a goal when he mis-kicked the ball on a couple of occasions in the early stages of the game. Damien Plessis, Dirk Kuyt and Babel worked hard and fine together and created a lot of chances, which came to nothing in the box - David Ngog and Krisztian Nemeth staying unnoticed in attack.

The players were soaking wet of perspiration and were more than happy to leave the field at half time. Only Babel stayed on for Liverpool in the second half which was disrupted with injuries and more changes, both sides not getting started and showing lack of penetration. Martin Skrtel and Nabil El Zhar came off just ten minutes into the second half with hamstring problems and not looking good.

The game looked more and more flat and chaotic. But Thailand got the equaliser they deserved with just under 20 minutes left on the clock, when substitute Sutee Suksomkit played a neat one-two with number 13 striker Teerasil Dangda and slotted it past substitute goalkeeper Peter Gulacsi.

Finally Liverpool have scored and broken the deadlock, but they did not show much penetration and did not put on enough pressure to dominate the opposition. The injuries did not help, but Rafael Benítez needs to learn and adjust his side fast and quickly if he wants to get them used to each other and the scoreboard ticking for his side.

The goalkeepers have not shown to be much competition of backup to Pepe Reina. The defence has been slow but held fine. Nice to see the first minutes of Fernando Torres back on the field, it livened up the crowd and play - but only for the last ten minutes, he could not and cannot change everything on his own.

Thailand Kosin (78 Kawin); Kiatprawut (66 Panupong), Nattaporn (78. Läng), Nattaphong, Suree (86. Suttinan), Rangsan (46 Sutee); Thonglao (c), Suchao, Narongchai (78. Pichitphong), Surat; Dangda (82 Winothai). Bookings 46 Surat, 90 Winothai.

Liverpool Cavalieri (46 Gulacsi); Insua (46 Johnson), Agger (46 San José), Carragher (c) (46 Skrtel, 55 Dossena), Degen (46 Kelly); Babel (80 Riera), Lucas (46 Mascherano), Plessis (46 Spearing), Kuyt (46 El Zhar, 57 Arbeloa); Nemeth (46 Voronin), Ngog (46 Pacheco, 80 Torres). Bookings 89 Mascherano.

1st half stats: Thailand-Liverpool
Attempts: 3-5
On target: 0-1
Offsides: 2-1
Corners: 1-1
Free kicks: 10-8

2nd half stats: Thailand-Liverpool
Attempts: 4-9
On target: 2-3
Offsides: 1-2
Corners: 1-3
Free kicks: 6-4

Referee: unknown

Premier League 2009-2010 Season Preview: What is ahead for Liverpool FC?

Sports - Football - Liverpool - Premier League
Thoughts and expectations for the upcoming season 2009/10:

Most of the changes for Liverpool have occurred behind the scenes: With Rick Parry's departure after over ten years in the chair as chief executive, the “Anfield Rafalution” was able to take its bloody course and saw 16 backroom staff contracts terminated, most of which were long-serving.

Many may be shocked and question these developments, but looking back the last decade-or-so, something had to give to end the long title-drought. Manager Rafael Benítez has been frustrated with the wheelings and dealings of the chief and his backroom allies long enough, clashed with them on numerous occasions and will thereby be more than happy to have his path cleared of them. Looking back at Rafa's reign so far, we know he must be doing something right having won nigh on everything BUT the league and reaching a club-record and league-record high points-total as runners-up last season. The tendencies and developments are good.

But Rafa has also had his problems with players in the past, that were promising big signings, but never got a chance really to set foot into the team, like Robbie Keane, Andriy Voronin and Jermaine Pennant. For this season, it looks like Benítez has surprisingly held back with big signings. So far, Glen Johnson is the only “big” signing for an estimated £17.5 million from Portsmouth. The manager has given more youngsters a chance to prove themselves and run-out for the team like Scousers defender Stephen Darby and midfielder Jay Spearing, Spanish centre-back Mikel San Jose Dominguez, French attacking winger Nabil El Zhar and midfielder Damien Plessis. Has he maybe learned form his past mistakes? Or is it just the credit-crunch forcing savings?

A couple of matches into the season preparation, the youngsters have looked promising, but not much has come from attack. Steven Gerrard and Dirk Kuyt hardly came forward, too busy defending, and without Fernando Torres and with doubts over Xabi Alonso's future, Liverpool definitely need someone in attack to back them up. The Spanish coach has showed and expressed his faith and high hopes in players like Ryan Babel and Lucas Leiva on numerous occasions, but they have been to no avail so far though.

Only time will tell who Rafa will stick with, but looking back at last season, his tendency so far has been right: Not many changes are needed but something/somebody to give that final edge – Johnson is doubtfully IT. Liverpool only lost two matches last season, below par, showing not much is missing. To avoid that drop of form and to turn over the many draws, they need to pull a Federico Macheda out of the hat and for that they maybe do not have to look far and pay high. Benítez will have to develop that sense and hopefully has, he has had enough time, to finally break the title-voodoo.

My prediction for the season: Too many times have the high hopes fallen short at the end of the season for me to say Liverpool will cruise it. More looking at the other contenders and winners of the past, my optimism grows. Not much has changed for the Arsenal and Chelsea squads, so, I can't see them breaking the ice. Manchester United have lost one of their main players but have coped with that in the past, Sir Alex always has a lifeline ready. Wannabe glory-boys Manchester City have just overloaded and I think their expensive cookie will collapse and crumble under pressure. Liverpool can scrape past the lot of them if they find the final edge. They are certainly not far off.

Monday, 20 July 2009

Second Ashes Test, Lord's, Day Five

Sports - Cricket- Ashes

My picks of the fifth day:

Andrew Flintoff and Graeme Swann wrapped up the second Ashes test for England just before lunch on the final day to take a 1-0 lead in the series and end a 75-year wait for a win against Australia at Lord's. In his last match at the famous old ground, Flintoff got his first five-wicket haul there completing ten extraordinary overs in the session. A day he and England will certainly never forget.


1st session, Australia 406 all out, England win by 115 runs just before lunch: England's bowlers were hungry, on fire and ended the only worrying partnership nice and quickly with the rest following shortly and in regular intervals after.

Partnership: 43 runs between Michael Clarke (11) and Mitchell Johnson (26): The longest and biggest partnership of the day lasted just under an hour with a lot of close shaves and short edges. That says a lot about the run of play today much in contrast to the last session yesterday with Clarke and Brad Haddin batting it out for over three hours giving Australia a tiny glimmer of hope.


Bowlers: There were no question marks on any of the wickets today. The day could not have started better for England: Freddie Flintoff was ruthless, stayed hostile and bowled fast and nasty - never under the 90mph-mark. After getting his fourth wicket Haddin (80) caught at slip by Paul Collingwood in his first over of the day, nobody would have dared to take the ball off him after that, even with all the injury worries. James Anderson opened the bowling for England just as dangerous and explosive with a close chance and appeal every other ball. Flintoff continued throughout the morning hungry for his first five-wicket haul at Lord's in his last test match at the old ground before he retires. It took another perfect bowling change by captain Andrew Strauss to break the Aussies again though - Graeme Swann, on for Stuart Broad, took off the top of the stumps and Clarke out, he reached 136 off 227. Flintoff finally got his name on the Lord's honor's board shortly afterwards, nipping out Nathan Hauritz for 1 who misjudged and left the ball and wacking out Peter Siddle middle stump for 7. Swann completed the victory flattening Johnson's middle stump as he went for the hit. What was all the worry about yesterday???


Ups: Freddie, Freddie, Freddie! What a perfect farewell for him from Lord's, man of the match, legendary wickets, innings, match, win! Anderson's, Swann's and Strauss's crucial contributions of four wickets in each innings and 161 runs in the first innings respectively are not allowed to be forgotten in all the Flintoff cheers though. What a team effort!

Downs: God knows where England would be and how and where they are going to go without Freddie! Unimaginable! Unthinkable!

Hero to zero: The Aussies will think they switched roles with England after the first test, what a contrast! They had total control in Cardiff but somehow did not get the win, lucky England. England maybe had a couple of seconds of worry about this test match, got the luck when they needed it on a couple of occasions but you cannot say they did not outplay Australia. Somethin for them to chew on...

Second Ashes Test, Lord's, Day Four

Sports - Cricket - Ashes

My picks of the fourth day:

An unbroken partnership of 185 runs between Michael Clarke and Brad Haddin kept England at bay and frustrated on day four of the second Ashes Test at Lord's. The homeside looked like they could end the Aussies' misery one day early as they took two early wickets after declaring and more crucial wickets after lunch. But Clarke and Haddin ended the controversial falls and flow of wickets giving the Aussies something to hold onto.


1st session, England declared 311 for 6 (521 lead), Australia 76 for 2 (446 behind) at lunch: England for getting the breakthrough they wanted early on.

2nd session, Australia 178 for 5 (344 behind) at tea: England for not giving Australia even a glance at control and no room for any partnership to develope with crucial wickets.

3rd session, Australia 313 for 5 (209 behind) at the end of day four: Australia for fighting back and making the impossible look more possible by every confident run and boundary.


Partnership: 185 runs between Michael Clarke and Brad Haddin: After England declared and put Australia on to bat after a slight delay in the morning, the day could not have started much worse for Australia. They lost wickets early on and it did not go much better after lunch. About an hour into the afternoon session they were five wickets down, but not without controversy with three of the decisions looking very dodgy. But Clarke and Haddin left those incidences well and truely behind them, giving England little room and only a few chances to appeal for, batting patiently and defiantly. If they make it through the morning on the last day, Australia could make the impossible possible. Records are there to be broken and the Aussies usually do.

Bowling: Andrew Flintoff stole the show early on but not without Australian captain Ricky Ponting voicing his disapproval on more than one accoasion: Simon Katich slashed one he should have left outside off stump to gully Kevin Pietersen - Flintoff having overstepped the line, though - 17 for 1. Phillip Hughes was then caught by captain Andrew Strauss at first slip but told by Ponting to stay put, spreading doubt about if it carried and Strauss got his fingers underneath the ball but of no avail, Australia were left reeling at 34 for 2. The controversy continued after lunch: The Aussie captain got out without a doubt, the ball by Stuart Broad rattling into the stumps. But Michael Hussey and Marcus North fell to Graeme Swann within six overs, the prior caught by Paul Collingwood at slip but did not appear to have nicked the ball, the latter comprehensively bowled through the gate though. So, two each for Flintoff and Swann, everything else but clear cut, though. Lucks but not undeserved either, with all the determination they showed and pressure they put on the Aussies. They will want to start the last day just the same.


Ups: England's bowlers showing determination and getting that little bit extra luck for it, too. If it would happen for the Aussies the same way, I do not think Ponting would have a problem with it. You always get rewarded when you put the pressure up and leave it on.

Downs: England looked clumsy in the field at times, leaking runs and extras which they should not, even with the big lead. They looked too much like Australia in the field at times and we know how they ended up, not good!

Hero to zero: Only England would be able to throw a lead like this away! Australia looked dead and burried an hour and a bit after lunch and now they have that glimmer of hope of getting something out of this match as long as Clarke and Haddin keep going. We will see if England can do the obvious or if Australia will do the impossible.

Sunday, 19 July 2009

Pre-Season Friendly Match Report: Rapid Vienna 1-0 Liverpool

Sports - Football - Pre-Season Friendly

Rapid Vienna 1:0 Liverpool

Liverpool were certainly tested by a ruthless and aggressive Rapid Vienna. Jamie Carragher and Daniel Sanchez Ayala had to intercept the fast-pushing attack led by Erwin Hoffer and a superb Steffen Hofmann on a couple of occasions, everything else but softly and comfortably.



Dirk Kuyt had just as much to do in the second half, hardly getting to attack and ending up giving away a free kick just outside the box which Hofmann converted comfortably, confidently and deservedly so - although Peter Gulacsi was late and should have held it, no discredit to Hofmann though.

All in all, Liverpool coped better in the second half though, catching out the Austrian side more and keeping them back much better. Rapid had more direct chances and a goal disallowed offside in the first half, whilst Mikel San José Dominguez, Daniel Pacheco and Jay Spearing coped better and impressed again for the Reds, like in the first friendly, and finally put some pressure on Rapid, too.

But the homeside were ruthlessly brutal, not letting anything leak, giving Liverpool just a couple of close shouts. Yossi Benayoun, who enjoyed a couple of good chances himself, went down hurt late on in the match to another brutal tackle, but seemed to have recovered fine just before the full time whistle.


Again, it was a good and very competitive runout for all players. Glen Johnson was surprisingly not included; reports that Xabi Alonso has joined the squad at the training camp will be good news for the fans who do not want to lose their Spanish talisman.

Apart from that, Rafa Benítez stook to similar sides so far, wait and see if and how that will continue and show who he is going to keep for good and vest when the competitive season starts...

Rapid Vienna Payer (56 Hedl); Katzer, Eder, Patocka (46. Jovanovic), Dober (65 Thonhöfer); Drazan (89 Schrammel), Heikkinen (78 Kavlak), Pehlivan (61 Trimmel), Hofmann (78 Kulovits); Hoffer (56 Konrad), Jelavic (56 Maierhofer). Bookings 69 Jovanovic.

Liverpool Cavalieri (46 Gulacsi, 78 Martin); Insua (65 Mascherano), Carragher (46 Skrtel), Ayala (46 San Josè), Degen (65 Kelly); Babel (46 Pacheco), Gerrard (46 Lucas), Plessis (46 Spearing), El Zhar (46 Kuyt); Nemeth (46 Ngog), Voronin (46 Benayoun). Bookings 58 Kuyt.


1st half stats: Rapid Vienna-Liverpool
Attempts: 3-1
On target: 1-0
Offsides: 2-3
Corners: 3-2
Free kicks: 10-4

2nd half stats: Rapid Vienna-Liverpool
Attempts: 1-4
On target: 1-2
Offsides: 3-0
Corners: 2-0
Free kicks: 6-7

Referee: Gerhard Grobelich

Second Ashes Test, Lord's, Day Three

Sports - Cricket - Ashes

My picks of the third day:

England put a huge lead of over 500 runs on the board after they surprisingly opted against enforcing the follow-on when they bowled out Australia for only 215 runs on day three of the second Ashes Test at Lord's. Australia looked to take advantage of that slim chance they were given when they took a couple of wickets just after lunch. But England kept the scoreboard ticking, giving Australia a record-total to chase.

Run of Play: Advantage to...

1st session, Australia 215 all out, England 57 for 0 (267 lead) at lunch: England surprising with the decision not taking advantage of the follow-on but the captain making a fine batting start to prove his point.

2nd session, England 130 for 2 (340 lead) at tea: Australia putting a little bit pressure on England getting a couple of wickets straight after lunch and KP and Bopara all over the place.

3rd session, England 311 for 6 (521 lead) at the end of day three: England for finally getting back into the flow and the scoreboard ticking again, hitting beautiful boundaries.

Partnerships: England had a lead of 210 runs when they came on to bat after not anforcing the follow-on. A pick of different and very-much contrasting partnerships developed through the day:

- 61 runs between Andrew Strauss (28) and Alastair Cook (32): The opening partners looked comfortable and confident just like in the first innings, hitting Australia all over the pitch, but this time not getting far past the 50 after lunch. Cook was beaten by a turn in bounce, lbw dead. Strauss was caught at slip shortly afterwards.

- 73 runs between Ravi Bopara (27) and Kevin Pietersen (44): This could not have been a more contrasting partnership compared to the rest of them. Both players just did not get into a flow or play at all, losing sight of the ball on numerous occasions and getting away with inside-edges left, right and centre. It certainly frustrated Australia but the also the fans. It slowed the pace and run rate down very much and was a farce more than anything else. Both players need to look at themselves and get a grip!


- 86 runs between Paul Collingwood (24) and Matt Prior (61): Brilliant partnership to wake up the fans and the score centre up again: Matt Prior looked on fire and picked up the pace scoring his fastest (10th) half century in only 37 balls and 44 minutes! Collingwood kept company and contributed well to reach the biggest and most entertaining partnership of the day. Shame it had to end the way it did, not surprising though looking at the run-hunger Prior showed - he got run out on his call.

- 51 runs between Paul Collingwood (19) and Andrew Flintoff (30): Flintoff took over the license to thrill and kill and continued the flow of runs, runs, runs. The partnership took England's lead over the 500 mark. It found it's end with the last ball of the day, Collingwood caught. Nobody bothering to appeal, Colly just walked off, funny to watch. Stuart Broad came on just to be sent back straight away due to rain. Funny end to a just as crazy, funny day.

How many balls it took per 50 runs scored says a lot about the run of play, the partnerships and action and flow of the game: 60-79-131-63-46-48.

Bowlers: Ben Hilfenhaus was in control as much as Mitchell Johnson looked helpless and all over the place, once again today. Having bowled most of the overs of the day, Hilfenhaus still conceded the least runs and most maidens showing why he should always come ahead of Johnson, especially with the new ball. Nathan Hauritz was the man of the day for the Aussies, coming back from injury with his dislocated finger and still being able to get the swing of things and three wickets with it. He leaked a lot of runs end of the day though, but can take no blame really. Peter Siddle took a couple of wickets, too, but this time missing out on the torment he usually causes. He had KP and Bopara all over the place, but somehow could not get anything out of it.


Ups: Runs, runs, runs and boundaries, boundaries, boundaries - giving the Australians a record-high mountain to climb. They have two days, but looking at their first innings, the pitch and England's bowling line-up, only the weather can save them.

Downs: KP and Bopara putting the fans asleep not having a clue what they were doing and where they were. How their partnership reached 73 everyone most probably overslept. It did frustrate the Aussies but took the shine off the game for the time being.

Hero to zero: Sorry, but I have to pick on KP again. So far he has been hope- and useless, the shadow of the player he was in the 2005 Ashes. He does not know where his legs are, his bat is, the stumps are, he is, the ball is, ... Just looks total shambles!

Saturday, 18 July 2009

Second Ashes Test, Lord's, Day Two

Sports - Cricket - Ashes

My picks of the second day:

James Anderson stole the show with the bat and ball on day two at Lord's. With Andrew Strauss and Stuart Broad out in the first couple of overs of the day, Australia thought they had done and dusted England. That was not the case thanks to the best last-wicket partnership between Anderson and Graham Onions. When England were eventually 425 all out, Anderson hit and hurt Australia even more taking four wickets, seizing control as part of a tremendous bowling display allround by England.


Run of Play: Advantage to...

1st session, England 425 all out, Australia 22 for 2 (403 behind) at lunch: England for wiping off the smiles of the Australian faces after they took two early wickets.

2nd session, Australia 87 for 2 (338 behind) at tea: Australia for holding through and keeping wickets through the rain, coming on and off the pitch.

3rd session, Australia 156 for 8 (269 behind) at the end of day two: England for crushing any hope the Australians had ending the day without much damage.


Partnership: 47 runs between James Anderson (29) and Graham Onions (17): Just when the Australians thought they were on a roll and would get the tailend of England out cheeply compared to the massive start of Andrew Strauss and Alastair Cook, in came Anderson and Onions with a record 10th wicket partnership. In his record-51st innings without a duck, Anderson looked confident, fulfilling an all-rounder's role, eventually getting caught at gully by Mike Hussey. At the start of the day Strauss and Stuart Broad were both bowled out by Ben Hilfenhaus, the only glimmer of hope in the Australian bowling line-up once again. It nearly looked like the tremendous opening partnership was going to be of little avail with the rest of the line-up having just crumbled away, until the last duo changed the beat.

Bowlers: James Anderson stole the show again taking two wickets before lunch and another two after tea breaking Australia to pieces. The wicket of Ricky Ponting looked dodgy, difficult to put a finger on it, but either way, if it was not a catch for Matt Prior and it did not hit the bat, then he would have been dead lbw anyway, so, out either way. Coming through the afternoon session and interruptions without losing wickets, Australia could be a little bit happier at tea, but then Anderson came back strong late in the day. With wicket contributions of Andrew Flintoff, Onions and Broad, Australia grabbed the chance to get off the field due to bad light. Great team work from the bowling quartet, led by the crown jewel James Anderson.


Ups: Just everything about England's bowling. They never looked like they were going to give anything away and they did not. What a difference to the first test!

Downs: Seeing Strauss get out, just the second ball of the day it looked like England were going to throw away a brilliant start. But Australia could not capitalise.

Hero ro zero: Mitchell Johnson has had another nightmare of a series so far looking helpless once again yesterday against an innovative Anderson. He was a storm against South Africa with spot-on strikes with the ball, but nowhere near that, nothing close to that he has shown so far - but still got a couple of wickets out of nowhere. Can only wait and see what happens when or if he gets his grip back...

Friday, 17 July 2009

Second Ashes Test, Lord's, Day One

Sports - Cricket - Cricket

My picks of the first day:

England captain Andrew Strauss showed how it is done hitting his 18th Test century and reaching 5,000 Test runs on a gripping opening day of the second Ashes Test at Lord's. Apart from the record opening partnership of 196 runs with Alastair Cook, the top order broke and collapsed around the capatin after he won the toss and decided to bat first. Somehow England slid from 196-0 to 364-6, giving Australia something from nothing.

Run of Play: Advantage to...

1st session, England 126 for 0 at lunch:
England for the much needed record opening partnership, could not have been a better and more comfortable start.

2nd session, England 255 for 2 at tea: England for frustrating and at times nearly embarrassing the Aussies - the opening wicket came out of nowhere.

3rd session, England 364 for 6 at the end of day one: Australia for once again breaking through England and making them crumble when you thought they were on top.



Partnership: 196 runs between Andrew Strauss (82) and Alastair Cook (95): After all the discussion about and demands for stronger partnerships and centurions, the skipper and his opening partner could not have made a better start. Australia's bowlers were all over the place, not able to cope with the pitch and swing at Lord's, especially with the new ball, England made more than just use of it. The run rate rarely fell below four and boundaries came regularly and beautifully. The wonderful partnership completely dominated the morning session and continued confidently after lunch. Out of nothing, the much-needed swing came for the Aussies and caught Cook out, dead lbw, just before reaching his century. Shame. And typically for England, the push lead to shove, the first wicket to more wickets, only the captain holding on and keeping his team and the runs rolling.

Bowling: Most of the day was a nightmare for Australia. The bowlers could not get anything out of the new ball, especially Mitchell Johnson. He did not look the shadow of the bowler he is, ranked third in the ICC's world's top international test match bowlers. He did not get the seam right, gave away a lot of boundaries at a run rate of around seven an over and gave away a lot of extras, too. Aussie wicket keeper Brad Haddin had a day to forget, too, dropping, letting through and getting nowhere near a lot of wides and byes. Between all this bowling and fielding shambles, Ben Hilfenhaus was the only light. Confident, constant and always a threat, he only leaked half the runs with ten maidens and in the end got a couple of wickets he fully deserved. The old ball did it for Australia, they finally got the swing of it late in the day and hesitated to take the new ball straight away.


Ups: England finally producing a high partnership and centurion. They rode on the Aussies and their lack of control but did not lose control, always keeping focus.

Downs: As always, when England lose one, more will follow soon after. Disappointing collapse after the strong start. The Aussies will have heaved a big sigh of relief after getting their grip back on the match in the evening session after being smacked around for the rest of the day.

Hero to zero: The top order disappointed once again. After a grand opening partnership, there was nothing and nobody to hold onto after the first wicket fell. Andrew Strauss has been left on his own so far since Cook's departure.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Pre-Season Friendly Match Report: St. Gallen 0-0 Liverpool

Sports - Football - Pre-Season Friendly - St. Gallen 0:0 Liverpool

It was nice and refreshing to see the new and young faces of Liverpool in action, in preparation to a new season full of expectations on Merseyside.

Glen Johnson made an impressive debut. The £17.5 million signing came on in the second half as part of a full new line-up of the Reds which took over most of the possession and territory. The right-back from Portsmouth put a chance wide just a couple of minutes later. Daniel Pacheco and Yossi Benayoun impressed, pressing through and creating room to take advantage from on numerous occasions throughout the second half.

But the stubborn Swiss side St. Gallen never gave way and put a couple of good chances wide themselves. They enjoyed most of the action and chances in the first half, hitting the post on one occasion and not being tested themselves at all in the first 40 minutes.

Liverpool youngster Jay Spearing impressed though, saw a lot of the ball and burst through the middle a few times. Mikel San José Dominguez learnt by the minute and backed up the Scouser Spearing very well.

It was a highly competitive match, both sides not giving anything away and refreshing their line-ups at half time. Both goalkeepers had hardly a save to make - until the last minute when Benayoun had a good chance saved by St. Gallen's goalkeeper Reto Bolli. Bolli maybe had that bit more to do, especially in the second half, but never looked worried, really.

Overall, Rafael Benítez can be happy with the first runout of his sides, using every player and substitution he had on hand, as always. It would have been cruel for either side to concede and lose out - eventhough it was only a friendly.

St. Gallen Bolli, Fernando (46 Hämmerli), Schenkel (46 Lang), Koubsky (46 Frrokaj), Zellweger (46 Oehri); Nushi (46 Pa Modou), Frei (64 Graf), Costanzo (46 Ciccone), Zé Vitor (46 Martic); Merenda (46 Abegglen), Cáceres (64 Frick).

Liverpool Cavalieri (46 Martin, 80 Gulacsi); Insua (46 Johnson), San José (46 Skrtel), Carragher (46 Kelly, 80 Ayala), Spearing (46 Darby); Babel (46 Benayoun), Voronin (46 Leiva), Gerrard (46 Plessis), Degen (46 Kuyt); Nemeth (46 Ngog), El Zhar (46 Pacheco).

1st half stats: St. Gallen-Liverpool
Attempts: 4-1
On target: 0-1
Offsides: 1-1
Corners: 5-3
Free kicks: 2-2

2nd half stats: St. Gallen-Liverpool
Attempts: 1-7
On target: 0-2
Offsides: 0-1
Corners: 0-4
Free kicks: 1-3

Referee: SR Zimmermann

Monday, 13 July 2009

First Ashes Test, Cardiff, Day Five

Sports - Cricket - Ashes

My picks of the fifth day:

The Great Escape was completed by the most unlikeliest of heroes for England at the end of the last day in Cardiff. Looking doomed, down and out at 70 for 5 just over half an hour before lunch, Australia somehow lost the grip on the match and win they had numerous times throughout the day.


Run oy Play: Advantage to...

1st session, England 102 for 5 (137 behind) at lunch: Australia for getting three crucial wickets and erasing any hopes for England's clumsy batsmen.

2nd session, England 169 for 7 (70 behind) at tea: England for annoying Australia, getting and keeping partnerships and the innings going.

3rd session, England 252 for 9 (13 ahead), match drawn: England for making the most unlikeliest of all partnerships hold through and the Australians' nightmare come true.

Partnerships:

- 57 runs between Paul Collingwood (74) and Andrew Flintoff (26): They kept the hopes up and going at crucial points before and after lunch, that it still was not impossible for England to hold through until the end of the day. With all the opening and main batsmen out clumsily at only 70 for 5, most of the spectators were not realistically expecting much cricket after lunch - if England would have even made it up until then without knocking themselves out beforehand. Kevin Pietersen stupidly left a ball that knocked off the top of off stump after he got away with a couple of good lbw shouts, 31 for 3. Andrew Strauss and Matt Prior were both fooled and caught out by the variation of turn and bounce from Nathan Hauritz. England looked down and out but Collingwood and Flintoff showed very much needed persistence.

- 32 runs between Paul Collingwood (74) and Stuart Broad (32): England were served another crucial blow with Flintoff being caught 127 for 6 when Australia were looking more and more worried after not taking their chances to finish England off. But Stuart Broad did not let go of the match that easily and clumsily and held through and kept Collingwood company very well.

- 62 runs between Paul Collingwood (74) and Graeme Swann (62): Another crucial partnership when Australia thought they had the grip back on the match at 159 for 7. The bowlers tried their best to torment and make Collingwood and especially Swann crumble and had enough blows and chances to do so. But the batsmen knew how to take and when to leave it, unlike the top order. Ricky Ponting grew more and more sour the longer time went on, England took their time (with injuries, physios, gloves, drinks et al) and the more wicket chances were not given or taken.

- 19 runs between James Anderson (21) and Monty Panesar (7): No one could watch from the England balcony (and most of the rest of the ground I suspect, too) when Collingwood left the field after being nervously caught at gully which ended his crucially stubborn innings, 233 for 9. With at least 11.3 overs of play left and 6 runs behind, Monty Panesar came on to join James Anderson and looked surprisingly confident showing thumbs up to his captain upstairs. Every ball they survived was over-cheered by the crowd and even bigger and louder the surprise and cheering crowd got when boundaries were scored. A true nail-biter for everyone and somehow England took the lead and batted it out for the draw, past 6.40pm. Unbelievable.

Bowling: Ben Hilfenhaus will be wondering what he has done wrong, getting three crucial wickets but given only 15 overs, and Marcus North aching why he was selected at the end of the day, tired and not half the wicket-taker the other bowler has been. Nathan Hauritz and Peter Siddle will have silenced most of their critics though. The captian kept most of his faith in the prior whilst the latter tormented the batsmen when it was the most crucial and painful for them - especially Graeme Swann who got a few cruel cracks and wacks. The question lying in the air is, was the retired Shane Warne the missing key for the Aussies to get England all out? Or could the couple of questionable bowling decisions and selections Ponting took have been the crucial difference in the end?


Ups: Having not lost the match and somehow stumbled through the afternoon and evening session to stumps with a draw, England will be the much happier, as Monty showed, and Australia the more wondering and sour like Ponting's reactions throughout the day reflected it.

Downs: Australia should have strolled to a win but were somehow denied after it looked a dead cert at lunch. That should not distract from the point though that England were outplayed in every way, four days out of five. They will have to change their attitude, especially the batsmen, pronto.

Hero to zero: England were 70 for 5 in 26 overs. In the next 77 overs, they lost just 4 wickets. Australia will wonder where they lost it. They had their grip on the match on numerous occasions but somehow let it slip. The more dangerous and on fire they will be at Lord's. England learn and beware!

Sunday, 12 July 2009

First Ashes Test, Cardiff, Day Four

Sports - Cricket - Ashes

My picks of the fourth day:

England looked more and more sorry for turning up on the pitch in the first place. Clumsy fielding and hopeless bowling extended Marcus North's (125*) and Brad Haddin's (121) partnership to 200 from 266 balls. When Haddin got caught, Ricky Ponting waved his boys off the field and Australia declared 674 for 6 with a lead of 239 runs. Before tea, England lost two wickets and must have been more than happy to see the covers stay on for the rest of the day.

Run of Play: Advantage to...

1st session, Australia 577 for 5 (142 ahead) at lunch: Australia for having no problems whatsoever with clumsy England and extending their lead comfortably to 142 runs.

2nd session, Australia 674 for 6 declared (239 lead), England 20 for 2 at tea (219 behind): Australia for an excellent total and declaration and an even better start to their bowling, leaving England shattered.

No further play due to rain, lucky England!


Partnership: 200 runs between Marcus North (125 not out) and Brad Haddin (121): There seemed a general lack of urgency about England, like they never wanted to be on the field in the first place. Misfielding, overthrows and poor bowling gave Australia enough comfort to play more attacking cricket, with some beautiful sweep shots and top-draw, one-day-style boundaries. The wicket came from one such attacking shot, easy catch for Ravi Bopara and an easy declaration for Ricky Ponting with another two of his men having enjoyed a century each. England's start could not have been more dreadful: Alastair Cook out dead lbw, Bopara out for a way-too-high looking lbw. Well, luck comes to those who work hardest, say no more. See what Andrew Strauss and Kevin Pietersen come up with today, they have probably been rain-dancing all night.

Bowling: Mitchell Johnson and Ben Hilfenhaus led the way for Australia again, just like in England's first innings. And just like their batsmen, the Australian bowlers showed England how to do the job. Although they were lucky with the second lbw decision, I can take nothing away from Australia. England can always blame it on the pitch, but it is then weird how Australia got two wickets and rid of England's openers so quickly. Major changes are needed for England and quickly, taking Australia as the leading example how winning is done, if rain does not spoil - or save - the match, depending on which side you are on.


Ups: Rain drops are falling on my head... Cannot find or think of anything else that cheered English hearts up at least a little bit on day four.

Downs: England's display in the field, with the ball and with the bat end of the day. They just looked like they did not want to be there and shame on them for the fans pay to be there and see better!

Hero to zero: Again, like I said yesterday, Australia will be hoping their perfect display will not be for nothing and rained away on the last day. England on the other hand, will be dancing the rain dance, hoping they will not need to bat and more probably lose it out. Shame on them!

Saturday, 11 July 2009

First Ashes Test, Cardiff, Day Three

Sports - Cricket - Ashes

My picks of the third day:

Again, a taunting day for England. Just when they thought they were taking over after getting three wickets before lunch, Michael Clarke (83) and Marcus North (54) put on another great partnership of 143 in 42 overs for Australia. England will have to dig really deep if they want to find and get something out of this match, if the weather will allow it that is.


Run of Play: Advantage to...

1st session, Australia 348 for 4 (87 behind) at lunch: England for finally getting the breakthrough and a couple of wickets to gain confidence.

2nd session, Australia 458 for 4 (23 ahead) at tea: Australia for taking the lead with another great partnership and frustrating England, again.

3rd session, Australia 479 for 5 (44 ahead) at the end of day three: I think England will be happier with that little session after taking a wicket and breaking another strong partnership.



Partnership: 143 runs between Michael Clarke (83) and Marcus North (54): Just like on day two, England got the initiative back on their side before lunch. They finally got that little bit of swing they were looking for the whole second day and got wickets out of it: James Anderson got Simon Katich out lbw breaking the partnership with his captain at 239, and Mike Hussey caught behind on 3; Monty Panesar got lucky and Ricky Ponting out after he played the ball onto his stumps just after he completed his 150. It looked like England were finally able to capitalise out of the pitch, but Clarke and North crushed that fantasy, patient and elegantly efficient as Australia's batsmen have been throughout the innings, taunting England. Stuart Broad removed Clarke in the couple of overs that were played under lights after 22 overs were rained off after tea, but that is only little consolation. England will be hoping the covers will not come off on day four.

Bowlers: James Anderson is the obvious pick of the day after getting a couple of crucial wickets. Monty was more lucky than anything else with the Aussies' captain hitting the ball onto his stumps. I am happy for Broad that he finally got a wicket because he looked the most frustrated getting nothing and nobody out of the pitch and ball. Andrew Flintoff did not have his best day, but at least got Australia's nerves flapping on a couple of occasions.


Ups: Again, up until lunch, it looked like England were finally taking advantage and dragging the match back into their court by the hair. The pitch finally gave them a bit of swing they were looking for to no avail throughout day two.

Downs: Letting the advantage slip away, again. Just when you think England are getting a grip, they let it slip and Australia take over comfortably, again. It was hardly different on day two and I do not expect much change in the last two days.

Hero to zero: All this dominance and control may be in vain for Australia, if the weather keeps stopping play. The better and more luckier England will feel if they get away with it and it comes to a draw.

Friday, 10 July 2009

First Ashes Test, Cardiff, Day Two

Sports - Cricket - Ashes

My picks of the second day:

Confidence and chins of the England squad were much higher just before lunch after the tailenders frustrated the Aussies and helped reach a good total of 435 all out. But thereafter the Aussies did not look back and taught England a valuable lesson about what virtue patience and a solid partnership are in test cricket.

Run of Play: Advantage to...

1st session, England 435 all out, Australia 39 for 0 (396 behind) at lunch: England for frustrating Australia and reaching a much higher total than expected.

2nd session, Australia 142 for 1 (293 behind) at tea: Australia with a strong partnership and patient quality cricket from Ricky Ponting and Simon Katich.

3rd session, Australia 249 for 1 (186 behind) at the end of day two: Australia for showing no sign of losing patience, quality or wickets.


Partnership: 189 runs between Simon Katich (104) and Ricky Ponting (100): Just untouchable. Apart from a couple of weak lbw-appeals and when Katich was dropped on 10 by Andrew Flintoff earlier in the day, they were dominant and unimpeachable. Australia gave England a valuable lesson in how to form and keep a partnership going through patience and no stupid sweeps. Test match cricket is nothing like One Day or Twenty20 and England will have to learn that and adjust their batting.

Bowlers: Andrew Flintoff was the only one able to put pressure on the Australian batsmen and was the only one who got a wicket on the day, too. Phillip Hughes's bottom-edge taken well by Matt Prior with both gloves, was the first and last blood that went to England. James Anderson, Monty Panesar and Graeme Swann never looked able to capitalise, not being able to get anything out of the pitch.

Ups: England's tailenders made their side proud, especially Graeme Swann's unbeaten 47 with Stuart Broad and James Anderson chipping in, too. They made the total much more respectable and defendable and the confidence much higher for England.

Downs: Not getting anything out of the pitch. Australia thrived at what they are best and legend at, especially their captain Ricky Ponting - giving a commanding performance and making England look ineffective and frustrating them. Patience is a virtue.

Hero to zero: England could not capitalise on their positive morning stance set by the tailenders. The wind got well and truely knocked out of their sails. They need to get a grip and wickets, soon!

Thursday, 9 July 2009

First Ashes Test, Cardiff, Day One

Sports - Cricket - Ashes

My picks of the first day:

With a slight advantage on their side, more smiles will be felt in the Australian dressing room today. England will be sweating for a competitive high score after they won the toss yesterday and chose to bat on the new, untried ground.


Run of Play: Advantage to...

1st session, England 97 for 3 at lunch: Australia for getting three wickets and thereby crushing England's openers.

2nd session, England 194 for 3 at tea: England with a strong partnership saving them from an embarrassing low total.

3rd session, England 336 for 7 end of day one: Australia for snatching wickets when it was most crucial, again.

Partnerships:

- 138 runs between Kevin Pietersen (69) and Paul Collingwood (64): England were 90-3 and looked rattled and shaky. Alastair Cook and Andrew Strauss never looked confident batting and were caught before reaching high scores. Ravi Bopara looked the more confident and promising. He was just getting into a stride when he was deceived by a change of pace by Mitchell Johnson, great bowling. The morning session certainly went to Australia, who got three crucial wickets and England wobbling. But KP and Collingwood pulled the match back into England's court with a great partnership after lunch, scoring comfortable runs with a couple of good strokes and boundaries.


- 86 runs between Andrew Flintoff (37) and Matt Prior (56): England lost a couple of crucial and stupid wickets and looked to collapse once again after tea. But Flintoff never lost the smile on his face after he came on, showing some beautiful and confident batting like in his heyday. Prior was more than just a backup to the former captain, also batting beautifully and confidently. They produced a clever blend of shots, boundaries and sneaky-cheeky singles. If they could have ended the day at the crease, it would have been advantage to England. But after Flintoff played the ball onto his own stumps and an unlucky inswinger through the gate meant the end of Prior, Peter Siddle put the smiles back on to the Aussies' faces. Unlucky, but certainly not unfair.

Bowlers: Mitchell Johnson, Ben Hilfenhaus and Peter Siddle shared the spoils with two wickets each. Just the one dear, but the most crucial one, went to much-criticised Nathan Hauritz, thanks to KP. Siddle's wickets came through some more English misfortune, if you want to call it that. Ricky Ponting got frustrated with Johnson at times, so, my nod goes to Hilfenhaus, who looked the most consistent in his bowling and broke the biggest and most threatening partnership between KP and Collingwood.

Ups: England's positivity in batting, never shying, everyone contributing. It was great to see Flintoff shine again, even if it was only for a bit. Hopefully they can continue that and bring that into their bowling, too.

Downs: Giving wickets away, just when you thought they had warmed up and got into a stride. England got away with a couple of mistakes, KP should have been out for lbw and was dropped shortly after, too, but the luck did not last for long.

Hero to zero: What were you thinking, KP?! A poor premeditated sweep cost you and England dearly! Bowlers wait for and thrive on idiocy and irresponsible foolishness like that.