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from Left field:

Ponting’s success blighted by Ashes defeats

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CRICKET-AUSTRALIA/PONTINGRespected but seldom loved at home, admired but also reviled abroad, Ricky Ponting led Australia to great success but his captaincy will ultimately be defined by three lost Ashes series.

The tough, single-minded Tasmanian
always put the team first and that, he said, had prompted him to stand down after nine years in charge of the Australia one-day team and seven as test skipper on Tuesday.

The most test (48) and one-day international (164) wins by any captain as well as successive World Cup triumphs in 2003 and 2007 is an impressive record by any standards, and there has never been any doubt about his quality as a batsman.

And yet, ever since he took over a world-beating side from Steve Waugh, there has always been a question mark hovering over his captaincy.

His honeymoon period as test captain lasted little over a year until he blotted his copy book with the ultimate sin for an Australian captain, the loss of an Ashes series to England.

from Left field:

Cricket World Cup — live

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Join us for coverage of the revamped Cricket World Cup on the subcontinent. Follow all the drama here with regular posts and some of the best photographs around. Comments welcome!

from Left field:

Momentum the key to World Cup success for England’s cricketers

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AUSTRALIA-Look away now Australian cricket fans, this one’s going to hurt like a cricket bat to the groin. Their team has carried their abject 2010 form into 2011 by slumping to another defeat to a rampant England side but this time in Twenty20 rather than tests.

While England notched up their eighth straight victory in the shortest version of cricket – a new world record –  the last ball defeat in Adelaide means Australia have now lost 17 of their last 24 completed matches in all forms of the game.

from Left field:

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.

from Left field:

Collingwood exit gives England test dilemma

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CRICKET-ASHES/The retirement of Paul Collingwood from England’s test team was beautifully timed, leaving the selectors with the dilemma of who to replace the versatile batsman but with a long time to contemplate the decision and from a pretty lofty perch.

The 34-year-old brought options with the ball and was arguably the team’s best fielder, so although he has struggled with the bat of late whoever steps into the team has some big boots to fill.

from Left field:

A test comeback for Warne? Australia are not that desperate

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CRICKET-ASHES/"Bowling, Shane" are not words English batsmen would want to hear ever again, but how would the Australians react to Shane Warne making an astonishing return to answer his nation's plea for help in the wake of the second test defeat to the 'Poms'?

To say Warne was England's primary Ashes tormentor for years and years is an understatement. Every time the leg spinner had the ball in his hand he had the opposition quaking, and even off the pitch he was a handful.

from Reuters Soccer Blog:

FIFA’s World Cup decision day — live

We'll be following all the presentations and the vote itself as FIFA's executive committee decides on the hosts for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.

Spain/Portugal, Russia, England and Netherlands/Belgium are the four rival bids for 2018, while Australia, South Korea, Qatar, United States and Japan battle it out for 2022, with the vote to come on Thursday.

from Left field:

Downbeat but not out — an England fan at the Ashes

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CRICKET-ASHES/England have been in far worse positions at the end of a first Ashes test in Brisbane. Although being bowled out for 260 is far from ideal Andrew Strauss's team should believe they are still in this contest.

Having been 197 for four half an hour into the final session of the day and with the Australian bowlers barely able to hit the cut strip, England will rue the batting collapse which saw the last 6 wickets fall for just 63 runs and included a stunning hat trick from Peter Siddle.

from Left field:

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.

from Left field:

Monty’s back but England Ashes hopes rest on Swann

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CRICKET-ENGLAND/England's commitment to a four-man attack for their Ashes defence in Australia this year has directly influenced the decision to recall left-arm spinner Monty Panesar.

Panesar and Surrey fast bowler Chris Tremlett, another recall, won the two extra bowling places at stake in the 16-man squad named at the Oval on Thursday.

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