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from Left field:

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.

It's an epidemic that has spread with the invention and subsequent proliferation of one-day cricket, which encourages the batsman's need to dominate and unsettle the opposition's bowlers.

The difference in test cricket is that the bowler is not required by the laws to bowl such a tight line around the stumps and therefore has more weapons in his armoury.

from Left field:

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.

from Left field:

Battle-weary Australia need Lee fit and in form

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brettleeAustralia have far more limited options than England when they consider changes to their
battle-weary side for the fourth Ashes test
 starting on Friday at Headingley, with their main hope of fresh impetus resting on the fitness of Brett Lee.

England had the luxury of bringing in fresh blood on Tuesday, calling up fast bowler Ryan Sidebottom and uncapped batsman Jonathan Trott for the first time this series, while again putting Steve Harmison on standby in a 14-man squad.

Share your memories of Sir Bobby Robson

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The death of Sir Bobby Robson, England’s most successful manager after Sir Alf Ramsey, had been expected given his long battle with cancer, but his passing still jolts.

The son of a miner, Robson’s career was characterised by dignity, loyalty and hard graft and no little success.

from Left field:

Flintoff again the talisman as England defeat Australia

Lord's rose to its feet to acclaim Andrew Flintoff after his five wickets helped England beat Australia by 115 runs to go 1-0 up in the Ashes series.

The home crowd was especially delighted given England had not beaten the old enemy at the home of cricket since 1934.

from Left field:

Ashes analysis: Any result is possible after more great cricket

It takes guts, skill, determination and more than anything patience to win a test match and that is why the longest form of cricket is still one of the greatest challenges that a sportsman can face.

And England will need all the patience that human nature can muster if they are to wear down and eventually beat this resolute Australian side, which managed to recover from 128 for five to close on 313 with the loss of no further wickets, chasing another 209 runs for victory.

from Left field:

Should England bring back Harmison for Lord’s?

I am probably not the only one arriving at work today with fingers gnawed to the bone following England's nail-biting escape in the first Ashes test in a stunning finale in Cardiff, capping a memorable opening match to the series.

Despite near domination for five days, Australia failed to capitalise on early England wickets on the final day as the Three Lions' tail wagged heroically to secure a draw from the jaws of defeat against the old enemy.

from Left field:

Defiant England escape with draw in first Ashes Test

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I'm still not quite sure how, but somehow England escaped with a draw from the first Ashes Test against Australia, closing out the fifth day on 252-9, 13 runs ahead of the Aussie total and with no time left for the tourists to bat.

Talk about getting out of jail. Ricky Ponting must have thought he had the match won when England were five wickets down and still facing a massive 137-run deficit in the morning sessions.

from Left field:

Ashes day 4: England had no luck, and nor did they deserve it

CRICKET-ASHES/For a third day in row England's demoralised bowlers wheeled away with all the luck of someone who's just walked across the path a black cat and smashed a mirror while walking under a ladder.

In all honesty they didn't deserve any fortune after another day's abject bowling display and signs from Strauss early on that it was a damage limitation exercise by time wasting with field placings and underbowling key bowlers.

from Left field:

Ashes day one: advantage Australia?

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What an extraordinary first day of Test match cricket, even by Ashes standards. A day that ebbed and flowed, that tormented and teased both sets of supporters and ultimately left us with the question: where does the balance of this match lie?

As Kev notes, lunch for England would have been the equivalent of trying to digest tarmac, a disconcerting affair to say the least. Having won the toss and electing to bat England were reduced to 92-3 by a persevering if unspectacular Australian attack, which left the Barmy Army cowering behind their beer snakes fearing the worst.

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