Left field

The Reuters global sports blog

Tri-Nations waves goodbye to tedious kick-and-chase

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Australia’s shock win over South Africa in Saturday’s Tri-Nations breathed new life into a series that was in real danger of fizzling out.

The Wallabies’ 21-6 win not only stalled South Africa’s seemingly unstoppable march to this year’s title but also provided some much needed entertainment.

Most of the previous matches in this year’s series had been reduced to a glorified kicking contest with all three teams resorting to the same tedious kick and chase tactics normally reserved for the nothern hemisphere teams.

In the seven games played by the southern hemisphere giants this series, only once has a team managed to scored four tries to earn a bonus point.

Flintoff and Botham were good, but were they great?

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flintoffcelebratesIn an echo of Australia’s futile craving for a new Bradman for at least a decade after he retired, England cricket yearned in vain for another Ian Botham.

Derek Pringle, David Capel and Phil DeFreitas were hailed as potential successors while the all-rounder was still playing in the 1980s. The unsought weight of expectation then fell on Chris Lewis and Dominic Cork.

And so the search for a new Flintoff begins…

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In the wake of England’s Ashes triumph over Australia, a huge question awaits…can England find a replacement for Andrew Flintoff?

He has been the scourge of the opposition for so long. His importance was underlined in this series where despite being half-fit he managed to knock over the tourists at Lord’s to claim five wickets and even ran out Australian captain Ricky Ponting at the Oval (which he said on Monday was probably the first time he’s ever run somebody out).

England regain the Ashes — your views

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England have regained the Ashes after beating Australia by 197 runs at the Oval to seal a 2-1 series victory.

How important was Andrew Flintoff’s run out of Ricky Ponting when the Australia captain looked well set? Flintoff did little with bat or ball in his last test before retiring but still made sure he grabbed the headlines.

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.

Will England prove too fragile for final Ashes battle?

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fredIn the end the England selectors kept their calm, remaining cut off from the hyperbole that followed Australia’s demolition of the home side at Headingley, and made just the one change for the Oval, with Jonathan Trott chosen to replace Ravi Bopara in England’s fragile middle order.

Personally, I would have been happier to see Kent’s Rob Key getting a recall for his experience and proven grace under pressure, but given Trott was in the squad for the fourth test, it would have smacked of vacillation from the selectors not to stick with him. As it was, Ricky Ponting described Trott’s promotion as an act of desperation.

from Reuters Soccer Blog:

Premier League season needs a grand finale

The English Premier League has always reminded me of eating out at McDonalds. I always hope for something new but then end up getting the same as last time.

The new season hasn't even kicked off yet, but if the experts are right, it's already as good as over for nearly all the teams.

Should England bring back Ramprakash for Ashes decider?

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rampsEngland will be under huge pressure to make changes for the deciding Ashes test at the Oval and the middle order is the obvious place to start, with Ravi Bopara, Ian Bell and Paul Collingwood contributing just 16 runs in six innings at Headingley.

So what should England do about it?

Possible replacements include Jonathan Trott, who was called into the squad at Headingley, Robert Key of Kent and even 39-year-old Mark Ramprakash as a one-off experiment.

England start badly, career downhill

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straussAndrew Strauss had a bad start to his day when he and his team mates were evacuated from their hotel at 5 o’clock in the morning because of a fire alarm. Unfortunately, that was just the start of a black Friday for the England captain.After days of assessing the fitness of Andrew Flintoff, Strauss and coach Andy Flower finally decided that the inspirational all-rounder could not be risked in a five-day match and it was announced that he was ruled out of the fourth Ashes test.

Strauss took part in a game of soccer on the Headingley outfield and watched in horror as wicketkeeper Matt Prior collapsed with a back spasm before retiring gingerly to the dressing-room for treatment.

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