As if summer couldnít get any better, we donít just have a cricket World Cup, we have an Ashes series!!!
The CWC was outstanding IMO, barely a dead rubber in the previously maligned group games, some cracking head-to-heads as well, especially in the closing stages. The semis were great, fraught at times, tense at times and utterly enjoyable. The final was a thing of majesty - cricket is not a sport that is easy to get into but I suspect many found the match and its ending to be utterly enthralling viewing.
But anyway, thatís enough about the silly short game with men wearing coloured pyjamas, itís time for the real deal. And thatís five-day cricket, played in whites, twenty wickets to win and every variable that the pitch, the weather, your teamís fitness, their teamís fitness and the umpireís decisions can throw at you!
Reason for starting the thread is that Australia are running a trial match at Southampton on Tuesday, similar to the trial football matches a lot of us will have played as children. They have a squad of 25 that needs reduced to 16/17.
They have gone down the route of letting their batting coach Graeme Hick (beautifully languid England batsman who never quite translated his crazy massive county scores into Test performances) pick an Aussie XI.
He will play another Aussie XI, picked by Brad Haddin, the Aussie high performance coach. Haddin was a fine player but had the poisoned chalice of being the wicket keeper who followed on from Adam Gilchrist, one of the greatest players of all time. And Gilchrist followed on from Ian Healy, who had sort of set a standard for keepers also being very good batsmen, until Gilchrist came along and reset the rules.
If Haddin had been English I think his stock would be a lot higher, he was vice-captain at the time when Australia were losing all their superstars through age and retirement. He would of course faced challenge from the likes of Buttler and Bairstow though.
Anyway, there is still scope for a few Aussies to pitch their case for inclusion in the Ashes squad and this trial game reflects Australian frustration from previous tours where they didnít feel they were getting games that were competitive enough to prepare.
As for England, the CWC champions........
They prep with a four-dayer against Ireland on Wednesday. It should be comfortable, as the extended game gives them greater scope to ensure victory than the shorter game where they have run aground in the past.
Key questions are, how will Jason Roy do at opening bat? England have struggled for so long to pick an opener, and with Cookís time gone, how to pick two openers.
Roy is explosive in ODI, not a doubt. It will be enthralling to see whether he can cope with nagging bowls just swinging from the top of off from Cummins, the yorkers from Starc, and the persistence of Nathan Lyon.
England have called up a couple of fast bowlers in order to rest Jofra Archer and Mark Wood. Given Jimmy Andersonís injury that is not surprising and definitely prudent.
I am pleased to see Olly Stone get a pick. He has had no luck with injuries, IIRC including crucial ligament, but he seems to be back and okay and can post 90mph+ which really puts him in an exceptional bracket.
England have also called up Lewis Gregory who has made an outstanding start in the County Championship, taking 44 wickets at an average of 13. He is very much swing not pace, which I suspect will suit conditions. I am not a meteorologist but already it feels like it might be a muggy, humid and damp summer. If that is true then he can maybe take advantage of Andersonís injury and get himself in there.
Play starts at Edgbaston on August 1. Canít wait
There's only one thing better than a Hibs calendar and that's two Hibs calendars
Test match cricket is the pinnacle of the sport, totally love it and can't wait for the Ashes to start.
As an aside Graeme Hick was a beautiful batsman and part of some infuriating England teams. Had some great players who never quite got it right all the time mixed with some who were never quite good enough for the highest level of the game
I'm going to the 1st day at Headingley, beyond excited!
So pencil in a day of rain there.
This is shaping up to be a hell of a series. Smith and Warner as panto villains. I think they're both the sort who will relish that and make big scores. Australia are a different team with those 2 around. Smith especially is a rock in tight spots. I have a feeling Jason Roy is going to do well. I wonder if they will open with him and Bairstow on account of how well they seem to do together? Seems a bit mental but you never know.
I really, really hope Jimmy Anderson can be at full fitness, and that Aus bat first at Headingley. That will be an awesome contest.
Roy failed against Ireland. Would have been out lbw but for a no ball then edged to slip.
Surprised to see Denly come in and be interesting to see how he gets on at 3.
The Ashes has the hallmarks of a classic series. If England can somehow find an opening partnership that works then I'd fancy them. Australia aren't quite at their formidable best of the late 90's early 00's but with Smith capable of holding an innings together they'll fancy it.