In Review

The Ashes 2015: BT Sport wins TV rights as England celebrate

England are crushed at The Oval but still celebrate Ashes series triumph as another Test fails to go the distance

The Ashes 2015: where now for England after Lord's rout?

20 July

A week, it seems, is long time in cricket, and seven days on from England's victory in the first Ashes Test at Cardiff there is a very different feel to the series after England were routed at Lord's.

Australia did not just beat England at the home of cricket, they demolished them, winning the second Test by the mammoth margin of 405 runs as Alastair Cook's team capitulated in the second innings. Set an impossible 509 to win England failed to offer any resistance as were bowled out for 103 in just 37 overs.

It was England's fourth-worst Test defeat in terms of runs and leaves the England selectors with plenty of headaches.

It was a "shameful" batting performance says Geoffrey Boycott in the Daily Telegraph. By the time Ben Stokes was run out as he tried to avoid being hit by the ball "the whole innings was a shambles".

Things have certainly turned around since Cardiff, says Greg Baum of the Sydney Morning Herald. "This was the sort of thumping that is worth one-and-a-half wins, and morally gives Australia the series lead. In Cardiff, the sense was that Australia knew what they had to do about England, but didn't do it. Here, England gave the impression that they did not know what to do about Australia, and still don't."

The game plan was simple and effective, says Baum. "Australia's batsmen set 'em up, and the bowlers knocked 'em down".

Australia did not open up old wounds, says Gideon Haigh of The Times, they created new ones. "Over the past four days the scars they've left have been of a new and vivid hue." England's problems are suddenly legion, but the biggest is their "frankly dicey" top order.

Writing in the same paper Simon Hughes agrees. "Three of England's top four look like sitting targets. Adam Lyth is tense and jumpy, Gary Ballance camped on the back foot and reduced to a series of nervy pokes and Ian Bell — averaging 10.63 in six Tests since Antigua — bereft of confidence."

Meanwhile, Australia's bowlers, who appeared unsettled by the pitch at Cardiff have adapted quickly and rediscovered their fire.

Since Cardiff they had "straightened their aim, so that the ball came at the English batsmen on many different trajectories – left-arm and right, high action and low – but nearly always at the stumps, demanding to be played," says Baum in the SMH. "Accuracy made even the occasional wide ball a weapon, by its surprise. Short spells made for ever changing angles and sustained pace. The English batsmen never were allowed to settle."

So what can England do? A change of personnel is unlikely. "The problem after this dismal showing is that there are very few cricketers with class queuing up and saying to the selectors: 'Pick me.'" laments Geoffrey Boycott in the Telegraph. Others call for a change in batting order, with Joe Root and Bell moved up the order.

The other factor is pitches. It is common knowledge that England have requested slow wickets to stymie Australia's fast bowlers, but it's affecting their attack too.

"England are so worried about the Australian fast bowlers that we have made our own pair innocuous," moans Boycott. "They took 20 wickets on a slow surface tailor-made to frustrate them. We took ten wickets and conceded 820 runs. We are not going to beat Australia on flat, slow pitches."

The groundsman at Edgbaston, where the next Test begins on 29 July, should apply some Baby Bio to the wicket, suggests Simon Hughes in the Times. "England's bowlers are more disciplined than Australia's and must be given the opportunity to prove it. A decent covering of live grass is required. Australia's quicks will get movement too, but England's will be precisely applied."

The Ashes 2015: 'payback time'  at Lord's as Australia dominate

17 July

After the euphoria of Cardiff it was "payback time" for England in The Ashes, says The Guardian, as Chris Rogers and Steve Smith heaped misery on the English bowlers at Lord's. The home side endured their least successful day in the field since 1993, as they managed just one wicket all day as Australia took control of the second Test.

Rogers and Smith both scored centuries and compiled an unbeaten 259-run stand for the second wicket as the tourists finished the opening day on 337-1, a position from which it would be almost impossible to lose. The pair even eclipsed Don Bradman and Bill Woodfull's record second-wicket partnership for Lord's, set in 1930.

The batsmen's remorseless run-gathering was reminiscent of the dark days of 1989, when Australia finished the first day of the Trent Bridge Test on 301 without loss, laments Simon Heffer in the Daily Telegraph.

"A sense of disbelief started to overwhelm England from the second half of the morning session, as the side they had trounced five days earlier underwent one of those remarkable fresh starts that makes cricket so fascinating," he says. Australia's critics "ought to have known better: they turned it around in relentless style".

After the day's play Smith, who ended the day on 129 not out, took aim at England captain Alastair Cook, questioning his field placements and approach. "They got defensive quite quickly and I know that is one thing we are not going to do," he said.

Smith may think the England captain was to blame for England's sorry showing, but almost everyone else has another villain – the Lord's pitch, which resembled "batting nirvana," according to Michael Atherton in The Times. The team who won the toss was bound to be at an advantage, and so it proved after Michael Clarke called correctly and batted. Clarke "needed to be neither tough nor resilient yesterday, just lucky", adds Atherton.

The Lord's groundsman "set the mower blades rather lower than he had for the New Zealand match earlier in the summer and the result was as near-perfect a surface... as any self-respecting batsman could expect", says Mike Selvey in the Guardian.

The weather hasn't helped, says Nick Hoult in the Telegraph. A lack of sunshine in the days leading up to the Test meant the pitch was left "sweating under the covers" and the result is a surface neither team wants.

But criticism is "premature" says Richard Hobson of the Times. "Look up not down is the adage handed on by captains at Lord's. Pitches are ordinarily very good, but if the sky is cloudy the ball will swing."

 

The Ashes 2015: Australia fans get their mojo back for Lord's 

The second Ashes Test is underway at Lord's with Australia batting first and hoping for an upturn in fortunes after England's stunning victory in the first Test in Cardiff.

The impact of that defeat appears to have subsided in the run-up to the second Test, despite changes in the Australian team, and Aussie cheerleaders have rediscovered their optimism, while England captain Alastair Cook has sought to dampen expectations and grasped for the relative security of underdog status.

Speaking before the match at Lord's, Cook pointed out that the tourists only needed to draw the series to retain the Ashes, and insisted Australia were still favourites, before adding: "It's always nice to be underdogs isn't it?"

Australia go into the second Test without wicketkeeper Brad Haddin, who has withdrawn from the side for personal reasons. He is replaced by debutant Peter Nevill, while Shane Watson has been dropped in favour of Mitchell Marsh, despite concerted English efforts to talk up Watson, in what can only have been an attempt to convince the selectors to keep faith with the underachieving all-rounder.

Former Australian captain Ricky Ponting is undaunted by the result of the first Test and gladly accepted a £50 bet with Matthew Syed of The Times.

"'Who do you think will win the series?' I asked as a loosener. 'The Aussies,' he replied in a flash, eyes hard and almost comically stern. 'What score?' '3-1,' he said, again without hesitation. 'Are you prepared to put your money where your mouth is?' 'Absolutely,' he said."

Ponting's former team-mate Glenn McGrath believes Australia's bowlers will come good at Lord's and says it will not take too much to spook England.

"If Australia have a good first day, or a couple of strong sessions, the feelings of the crowd and media could change," he writes in the Daily Telegraph. "That will be in the back of Australian minds; keep pushing at England and see how they cope with the burden of extra pressure.

"I saw enough positives from Australia in Cardiff to believe that can happen. That game was a wake-up call they needed."

Writing in the same paper, Alistair Tweedale points out that England's record at Lord's is far from perfect. "England have lost five of the last ten Ashes tests at Lord’s, and nine of the last 20."

According to another former Australian Test star, Jason Gillespie writing in The Guardian, Lord's is the "perfect setting" for Australia to bounce back and "remind people who currently holds the Ashes. There will have been some home truths delivered during the time in between Tests and a reaction is now expected."

Mike Selvey, also in the Guardian, is not so sure. "This could go one of two ways henceforth. England are bursting with confidence, in total contrast to their opposition, and are in a position to push home their advantage and win a second time. If they manage that, then it would be hard to see Australia coming back at them. On the other hand the wounded beast, with something to prove, can be dangerous."

Ashes 2015: exiled Pietersen bats for England, Australia lose Haddin

14 July

Kevin Pietersen may have failed in his efforts to secure a place in England's new-look cricket team, but he has still gone in to bat for his country in his capacity as a columnist despite his fall-out with English cricket's top brass.

In the wake of the first Ashes Test, won convincingly by England, Pietersen, who was jettisoned by Andrew Strauss before the New Zealand series, rounded on Australians Steve Smith and Brad Haddin and called on Aussie cricket fans to take it easy on fall-guy Shane Watson.

In his blog for a bookmaker Pietersen said: "Every time the Australians get beaten, it's always Shane Watson who takes the heat and surprise, surprise, this time it's no different... He needs to be backed by the Aussies, not hounded. Instead, my concern, if I was an Australian supporter, would be on the performances of Brad Haddin and Steve Smith."

Australia will be without Haddin for the second Test starting this week at Lord's after the wicketkeeper pulled out of the match for "personal reasons". He will be replaced by understudy Peter Nevill, who will be making his Test debut.

Pietersen's comments have not gone unnoticed by a riled Australian media and KP was accused of "singing for his supper on a gambling website", by The Australian, which added: "Australia, it is often claimed, is the most hostile country for a cricket team to visit because of the relentless baiting of the opposition on and off the field, but England are proving a fair match."

The irked newspaper highlighted Jimmy Anderson's claim that the Australian's had snubbed England's offer of a beer after the first Test and says the "noise reflects a rising optimism among the English".

Pietersen also "piled pressure on the visiting bowlers while praising an English attack in which Stuart Broad and James Anderson starred", notes the Sydney Morning Herald.

"Despite his turbulent history with the English cricket hierarchy and continuing exile from the Test team, it is clear Pietersen's allegiances still firmly lie with the country he represented on 108 occasions."

Pietersen's omission from the England set-up now appears justified, even Piers Morgan has stopped trumpeting his friend on Twitter.

Andrew Strauss, who took the decision to confirm Pietersen's exile the day after he scored a triple century for Surrey, should be lauded for sticking with his principles, says Scyld Berry in the Daily Telegraph. "It was a public relations disaster, arguably the biggest in the annals of English cricket, as Pietersen was made into a martyr. Strauss took the hit, or rather 355 hits, as every run that Pietersen scored against Leicestershire was another blow. But he stuck to his beliefs, bounced back up, and resumed planning the downfall of Australia."

His secret? Team unity. "It was the main explanation for England winning in 2009, when Australia were overtly much stronger. It is, so far, the main explanation for England behind ahead in this series," says Berry.

 

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