Left field

The Reuters global sports blog

Where the Ashes will be won and lost

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With the furore over Cardiff being awarded the first Ashes cricket test still bubbling, here’s a run down on each venue for England v Australia and how the results might pan out.

Cardiff: Starts Wednesday, July 8th
A controversial choice for the first test, given that Trent Bridge and Old Trafford were overlooked entirely, but we’ve been told to expect the wicket to turn sideways. Don’t be surprised to see: England field two spinners, Shane Warne drooling over the pitch … from inside the commentary box, Ricky Ponting cursing the fact his only spin front-line option is Nathan Hauritz and rain.

Result: Draw – it can’t rain all the time. It can in Cardiff.

Lord’s, London: Thursday, July 16th
The home of cricket has been as a dry as a desert and as flat as a pancake in recent years and England haven’t beaten Australia at Lord’s since 1934. Expect a seam bowler, most likely Graham Onions, to replace Monty in England’s attack, but the Aussies will arrive without fear given their history on this ground.

Result: Australia win – history is on their side.

Edgbaston, Birmingham: Thursday, July 30th
In 2005, Edgbaston was a scene of carnage for Ponting’s crew as spectators witnessed one of the greatest test matches of all time. For Australia, Glenn McGrath was crocked in the warm-up, the captain then won the toss and mystifyingly chose to bowl, promptly conceding over 400 runs in under 80 overs, and lost the test that swung the series in England’s favour by 2 runs. Moral: Win the toss and bat then take advantage of the deteriorating pitch.

To spin or not to spin? Australia’s crucial Ashes question

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hauritzAustralia captain Ricky Ponting will be praying that the rumours of a sideways turning Cardiff wicket prove to be complete fallacy when the Ashes series begins on Wednesday.

Ponting’s team have been bereft of a front-line spinner since the retirement of the mercurial Shane Warne in 2007 and Stuart McGill shortly after.

Australia are the Ashes favourites but losing Lee is a blow

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flintoffEngland’s cricketers face a monumental task if they are to regain the Ashes they surrendered so meekly in 2006/07. Forget 2005 for a moment and take a longer-term view. Since the turn of the 20th Century, England have managed just 17 victories in Ashes series, compared to Australia’s 30, as they have regularly been confounded technically and mentally.

A 2-0 series win over the West Indies at the start of the summer buoyed England’s confidence but looks can be deceiving. The fact is, England have failed to beat a leading Test playing nation home or away since Pakistan in 2006.

Graceful Vaughan lays down bat for a new generation

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Former England cricket captain Michael Vaughan has confirmed the recent rumours and announced his immediate retirement from all cricket.

The move follows the 34-year-old’s failure to be called up for a training squad ahead of the home Ashes series with Australia.

Is Italy’s rugby trip south the ultimate tour too far?

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The ‘tour too far’ cliché is often wheeled out by rugby pundits when an outgunned northern hemisphere side travels south to take on Tri-Nations powers.

But it seems especially appropriate this year after the International Rugby Board (IRB) cooked up the ultimate mismatched series by handing Italy tests against Australia in Canberra and Melbourne on June 13 and 20 and a meeting with New Zealand in Christchurch on June 27.

Will Symonds ever play for Australia again?

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Australia all-rounder Andrew Symonds is being sent home from the World Twenty20 tournament in England for disciplinary reasons, Cricket Australia (CA) has said.

CA chief executive James Sutherland told a hastily-arranged news conference in Melbourne broadcast on national television that Symonds had been ordered home for alcohol related issues.

Dokic is not done yet

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dokicIf anyone deserves to make a successful comeback to top flight tennis it is Jelena Dokic.

When most players want a second bite of the cherry, it is because they enjoyed their careers so much the first time round and realised how much they missed it when they began to pursue other interests. If in doubt ask Martina Navratilova, (a blink and you’ll miss it singles return in 2004), Martina Hingis or even Kim Clijsters (who has had enough of changing nappies, perhaps).

Australia look good but Symonds omission could weigh

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In an earlier post, Julian Linden argued that Australia’s cricketers have all the firepower needed to retain the Ashes in England despite some relatively new faces in the squad.

Here Ed Osmond takes a different view, wondering if the absence of Andrew Symonds and Australia’s lack of spin options may help the English.

England cannot underestimate Australia’s new mix

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The selection of Australia’s Ashes squad has compounded England’s worst fears. This is a team more than capable of successfully defending the little urn.

There may be no Shane Warne, Adam Gilchirst or Glenn McGrath in the lineup but what the squad lacks in star quality it makes up for in depth.

Where cricket is concerned, more does not mean better

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clarkeBright spring sunshine hit Lord’s on Saturday but with England’s first Test against West Indies having finished inside three days there was no one there to enjoy it.

Instead, the England and Wales Cricket Board were left gloomily counting the lost gate receipts for the final two days of the earliest Test yet staged in England.

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