Left field

The Reuters global sports blog

English cricket celebrates a coming of age

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CRICKET-ASHES/England’s cricketers wrapped up a 3-1 series victory against Australia in Sydney on Friday and held aloft the little Ashes urn for the first time in 24 years on Australian soil.

They should enjoy the moment. It has been hard earned and a long time in coming. The taste of success will be sweet and should be savoured after so much hurt and torment at the hands of the great Australian sides of the last 20 years.

But England will do well to remember the steep fall from grace enjoyed by the national football team in 2001 after the 5-1 victory over Germany, the rugby team in 2003 after their World Cup win and their own Ashes triumph in 2005 which was followed by a 5-0 drubbing the next time.

English cricket BEWARE! “Keep off the moors. Stick to the roads,” to quote an American werewolf in London.

England close to retaining Ashes but eyes should be on bigger prize

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CRICKET-ASHES/England moved closer to bringing the Ashes back from Australia for the first time in 24 years on Tuesday as they reduced the battered hosts to 169-6 at stumps on day three of the fourth test, needing just four more wickets to wrap up victory and still with a lead of 246.

In all likelihood England will require just three more wickets with Ryan Harris off the field with a stress fracture to his foot and unlikely to be forced to bat in such dire circumstances for the home side.

England are confident but will the Ashes dream go up in smoke again?

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CRICKET-ASHES/With Australia’s current cricket team seemingly keen on proving they can be just as hopeless as any cricket team England produced circa 1990-2000, what better time to go Down Under and watch England defend the Ashes?

I was meant to go four years ago after the epic 2005 series, only to pull out at the last minute and buy a house instead.

Can England win the Ashes Down Under?

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CRICKET/England captain Andrew Strauss sounded confident when he said his side could not have prepared more thoroughly for their bid to retain the Ashes. The squad flew out to Perth on Friday with good reasons to be optimistic about returning from Australia with the famous urn, a feat last achieved by an England side in 1986-87.

Here I look at a few of those reasons to be cheerful, while below my colleague Pritha Sarkar considers why Australia may themselves be feeling confident.

Couldn’t Strauss try batting his way back to form?

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CRICKET-ENGLAND/England’s decision to allow “jaded” captain Andrew Strauss to miss next month’s tour to Bangladesh will leave many fans scratching their heads.

At a time when England are looking to lick the team into shape for their Ashes defence against Australia at the end of the year, it seems odd for the skipper not to be leading his troops from the front. Instead, it will be a “very excited” Alastair Cook who takes charge.

A captaincy masterclass from Strauss

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It can be a dog’s life being a cricket captain: adored and cherished, chastised and deplored in equal measure. If Ponting was the crown prince of captains after the first test in Cardiff, he became the pauper at Lord’s and is now very much in the shadow of Strauss at the Oval.

The second day of the final and deciding Ashes test could not have gone much better for the England captain, with the home side bundling Australia out for 160 inside 53 overs and closing day two on 58 for 3, a second innings lead of 230 after England were bowled out for 332 earlier in the day.

Ill discipline costs England again

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flintoffHeard the one about the English batsmen who just couldn’t resist nibbling at balls way outside off stump? It is an all too common occurrence and is the main reason why England fell short of a good first innings total in the deciding Ashes test.

Of course, flashing away outside the off-stump isn’t just a disease to afflict English batsmen, although the problem does appear to be more acute on these shores than any where else.

Can England take a 2-0 Ashes lead?

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CRICKET-ASHES/A stunning day’s Test cricket, wasn’t it? If there was ever any doubt over the status of the longest form of the game then Sunday’s play will have washed away concerns.

You simply don’t get this sort of story told, with its twists and turns, at a Twenty20 match or a 50-over game for that matter. It had everything; wickets, runs, hostility, sledging and a dramatic finale that leaves a positive result to this rain interrupted Test match still possible.

Ashes analysis: England shouldn’t fear a record run chase

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ritzy1England will go into day four of the second Ashes test in complete control having closed day three on 311 for 6, giving them a massive 521 lead over Australia, who will be asked to chase down a record total to avoid defeat.

Despite bowling out Australia an hour into the morning session, 11 runs short of avoiding the follow-on total of 225, England captain Andrew Strauss decided against asking the tourists to bat again after seeing Australia’s tail-enders play with purpose and in some comfort in clement overhead conditions on what is still a favourable batting surface.

England start well but the old batting demons remain

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There is never a bad Australian side, I keep hearing, and I’m starting to believe it after the tourists put on another display of sheer bloody mindness in another see-sawing day for England’s batsmen and fans, who will be left drained with mixed feelings, while Australian supporters will feel no less tumultuous.

And if there’s never a bad Australian side then it’s nice to see that even after a hundred-odd years, the tradition of the good old English batting collapse is still going strong with no hint of abating.

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