Martyn Corrin - ARTICLES

July17

A Funny Old Game

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They say it’s a funny old game, cricket. Oh hang on, that’s football. Well it would be more apt if spoken about cricket.

This time yesterday the general thought was that England should be able to go on to score around 450 but that that probably wouldn’t be enough and that the game would be heading for a bore-draw. Now all the talk is as to whether they should and will enforce the follow-on. How has this happened?

It is quite the cliche that you don’t know what a good first innings score is until both teams have batted, but it is so true. In both of the Tests in this series, England have batted first and put 400+ on the board. Yet England fans were probably more pleased with the batting effort in Cardiff than here. What has changed?

There was a lot of talk last week that the England batsmen needed to take note of how the Aussies batted and followed suit. I think the Aussie bats read this and thought they better set a bit of a poorer example, it is the only feasible explanation for the drastic difference in application. Michael Hussey batted well but then became the third batsman of the series to leave a straight one. Katich got in but never looked all that convincing before getting out to a blinder of a catch from Stuart Broad. The rest of the top six all failed, whereas last week you felt like they were never going to get out.

Credit where credit is due though, James Anderson and Andrew Flintoff formed a highly-effective partnership today. Flintoff’s tight-fisted bowling was a key factor in the four wickets that James Anderson took, and then the inroads that were being made seemed to spur Stuart Broad into bowling a little better than he had been doing in the series so far. He’ll be hugely relieved to have picked a couple of wickets up late in the day. Onions has been fairly expensive, it will be interesting to see if he manages to have any kind of great effect as the game goes on. He’ll probably be a little frustrated to have been denied the chance to bowl when he is at his most effective, i.e. when the ball was brand new, but you can hardly argue with having Hughes and Ponting back in the pavillion before twenty runs are on the board. Flintoff and Anderson should open for the rest of the series, with Onions at first-change and then Broad.

One man who will have had mixed feelings as England tore through the Australian bats will be Steve Harmison. As Katich and Hussey looked like they were setting up camp, Harmison was taking 6/20 for Durham. Yet if England do manage to finish this first-innings job successfully, and then follow it up with a victory (follow-on or not) then it is hard to see the bowling attack being changed.

All in all, a wonderful day from an English point of view. But I talked last week about the importance of going in for the kill. We were certainly more ruthless than we have been in the past today, but the key now is to keep it going tomorrow, and Sunday. This may not be the Australia of old, but you still can’t expect them to lie down for long.

July16

Freddie

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andrew-flintoff12

As English cricket prepares to say goodbye to one of its most iconic figures in a generation, we take a look at Andrew Flintoff’s Test career and what he has meant to cricket fans in England and beyond.

July11

Not Going In For The Kill

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As much as I try to block the winter of 2006/07 out of my mind, brutal memories of the England team being swept aside by a fantastic Australian team will always be there, ready to haunt me when I am vulnerable.

These last four days, though, the memories have been more prominent than ever. See, in general I remember the last Ashes series, and I just think, “five-nil, grim, epic fail,” or some other generic thoughts of doom. But as I watch my team fall to pieces, it’s all a lot more vivid.

The thing about 2006/07 was that England were not totally crushed from the first ball until the last throughout the series. That would have actually been preferable to the way we performed. The big problem England had throughout that series was that whenever a session went the right way, it wasn’t capitalised upon in the following one. If we batted well in an innings, we would invariaribly bowl poorly. If we ever looked like we were going to have Australia on the ropes, we wouldn’t go in for the kill. I remember jumping round my office as Monty took five wickets in Perth, only for England to go and post a lower first innings total. and that was that, as Adam Gilchrist destroyed the England attack in the second innings.

You can find such instances repeatedly over those five Tests, but enough of the history lesson. The point is that if you look at this Test so far, England have been dominated, yet it need not have been that way.

At the end of the first day, it was probably 2-1 to Australia in terms of sessions, but they had only just shaded the final session, when they dismissed Flintoff and Prior late on. This is key. Had England opened up with those two batsmen the next day, we might well be looking at a different contest altogether.

But in the match’s fourth session, the England lower-order posted 99 runs, which should really have had their tails up as they came out to bowl. England had won the first session and posted a good total. It was time to make it count. To go in for the kill…

I don’t need to remind you about the partnership Ponting and Katich put on, so I won’t. But I’ll fast forward to Friday’s morning session, and once again it was a great session for England. Three much needed wickets, and there was the chance to still emerge from the first innings with a lead. The momentum was with England and..and..and – what did Australia wind up posting? Something like 3000-6 I think.

Australia really have batted brilliantly here, and the ball that got Prior back in the first innings in particular was a good one. But at each point in the match where England had momentum and looked like making a contest of it, they just fizzled away, said, “here you go Australia, you take the initiative and run with it.”

All sorts of pessimism is flying around in the wake of the first four days of these Ashes. England might yet not lose this match. But if we are to see the urn back in English hands this summer, then the players need to remember that winning one session isn’t enough. When you have momentum, use it. Win days, not sessions. Starting with today, please.

July08

Why My Country Will Win The Ashes

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ashes-17294

In the long stretch of time between the Ashes in Australia and England, cricket-loving poms and Aussies can forge friendships based off a common passion for the greatest game of them all. However, when it comes to the crunch, this is the grandest rivalry in professional sport, and the time for pleasantries has passed. Raving patriots Martyn Corrin (England) and Cameron Burge (Australia) put their heads together to discuss why their teams would win the Ashes. Here are the results.

July07

International Cricket Captain 2009 Review

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International Cricket Captain 2009

When the opportunity to play and review the latest incarnation in the International Cricket Captain presented itself to me, it was one I was eager to snap up. I have enjoyed previous versions of the game and got plenty of hours trying to lead various counties to glory. So what would the 2009 version offer? […]

July07

Freddie’s Ashes – The Sequel

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I’m a Freddie Flintoff fanboy. Everyone knows it. When my twins were close to being born, even though I knew they were both girls I was still asked if they would be called ‘Andrew’ and ‘Freddie’. But in the lead-up to this series, I have really tried to stay quiet on the Freddie front, just making the odd reference here and there to him, rather than talking about him non-stop.

But you know what? I just can’t do it. The Ashes are nearly here and I need to talk about Freddie, because everybody knows he can win the Ashes for us again.

The pressure is off Freddie this time round. When people talk about our bowling, they talk about Anderson and Swann. Rightly so, they are in fine form and if they continue bowling the way they have done so far in 2009, they will take plenty of wickets. This is a good thing. England have struggled in recent years when Flintoff is all we had. It’s no secret that Flintoff has functioned best when other bowlers have been doing their jobs fantastically. Not just in that series in 2005, but the couple of years leading up to it.

Additionally, the expectation of him with the bat is low. It has been low for quite some time, but this time there is a difference and that is that he will not be batting in the top six. Flintoff will bat at seven. Some of his best innings have come batting with the tail and it should not be underestimated how much more freedom he has to go out there and play when not part of the top six. My favourite (and I suspect many others agree) Freddie innings is the one from the second innings at Edgbaston four years ago, where he flayed the Aussies to all parts of Birmingham whilst batting with lower-order batsmen of the magnitude of Harmison, Hoggard and Simon Jones. He also produced some fine innings alongside Geraint Jones, a batsman arguably of equal or lower stature to Stuart Broad and Graeme Swann, both of whom Flintoff should spend plenty of time out in the middle with this summer.

In recent weeks his batting has seemed to take an upturn of sorts. He has showed signs of feeling a little bit more free with the blade, and if he can carry this into the Ashes he will be dangerous. For all the jibes that he is a tailender these days, and for all the jibes that he will never take wickets consistently, Australia know full well that if Flintoff hits the ground running that they will be in a scrap. People often say “Flintoff has done nothing since the Ashes in 2005″. These people missed his brilliance in India the following year, they missed his mindblowing spell at Edgbaston last year against South Africa. Figures and statistics are thrown around like nobody’s business in cricket, but it matters not what Flintoff’s averages are if he gets going, and you have to believe that in this series, he will. It might well be his last chance to be a hero one more time, and he will want nothing more than to take that chance.

Andrew Flintoff will wake up tomorrow morning and have his usual breakfast (a large, live animal, washed down with petrol). He will then head to Sophia Gardens and tear the Aussies to shreds. You know it makes sense, and you know that he will.

July05

The Lucky Thirteen

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England have named their squad for the first Test, and to the relief of many, Steve Harmison misses out. A squad of thirteen has been selected, with the eleven who faced Warwickshire being joined by Ian Bell and Graham Onions. That means it consists of the following players: Strauss (captain), Cook, Bopara, Pietersen, Collingwood, Bell, Prior (wk), Flintoff, Broad, Anderson, Onions, Swann, Panesar.

Essentially there is one place in the England team that nobody is quite sure of, seemingly including the selectors. The three players in the above list that you wouldn’t bet your house on them being selected are Bell, Onions and Panesar.

Ian Bell seems highly unlikely to play despite his inclusion in the squad. You would have to imagine that he is simply there as the reserve batsman. It is unthinkable for England to play four bowlers with Flintoff in the side. Rightly or wrongly that has been the line that has been taken for a long time now, when Flintoff plays so do four other bowlers. Bell will only play if any of the batsman, or maybe Flintoff, fall victim to an injury during the next three days.

This of course means it is a shootout between Monty Panesar and Graham Onions for the last bowling spot. There has been plenty of talk of Cardiff turning square and England therefore wanting to go in with two spinners. Yet Australia are likely to play no spinners at all, and recent reports seem to suggest that the pitch has been somewhat overhyped; if one spinner will suffice, that will be Graeme Swann. Panesar has been in poor form all season long, and a few tailend wickets for England against Warwickshire should not have done too much to alter the selectors’ minds.

Onions is the man in possession of the place that Panesar would like, and he acquitted himself reasonably enough on debut against the West Indies in May. He has taken 40 first-class wickets at 13.02 apiece this season (excluding his Test wickets), these came in the first division and he would consider himself very unlucky to be left out. This compares with Panesar’s six wickets in the second division for an astronomical 86.66. Averages don’t have to be the be-all end-all, but when a player isn’t taking wickets then they shouldn’t be selected.

In the end the selectors have to decide whether the pitch really merits a second spinner, but also whether reputation alone is enough to pick a player who has been having a dismal season. History would suggest that Panesar is the more likely to get the nod, but this England setup has been a lot more proactive than recent ones, and as such it is not a stretch to predict that Onions will indeed play. Here is how I tip England to line up on Wednesday:

Strauss*
Cook
Bopara
Pietersen
Collingwood
Prior+
Flintoff
Broad
Swann
Anderson
Onions

It is not quite the Pietersen V Thorpe debate that we had four years ago, nonetheless, when it gets down to these decisions then you know the Ashes are nearly here. Three days to go…

July02

Great News – Pietersen Fails

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Ask any England supporter which batsman’s runs are vital to our chances of regaining the Ashes this summer. Ask any Australian which batsman’s runs are most detrimental to their chances of retaining the urn. The predominant answer will of course be the same. Kevin Pietersen.

So should we be worried that in his last chance of scoring some runs prior to the Ashes he returned seven runs from two innings against a county attack? Many will say that Pietersen hasn’t been in great form of late and that earlier in the summer he failed to score a century in a home series for the first time in his career. Did the whole captaincy saga really annoy him that much, is his game affected?

The answer is no. You would have to imagine that nobody is reading anything into his lack of runs against Warwickshire, though it would be nice if the Aussies were. Pietersen is one of those sportsmen who thrives against the best. Some will use that as ammunition against him, and say that he should always give his all, no matter what. But the truth is, if England were to play Bangladesh in a Test, and then Australia, you’d bet on him to score more runs against Australia.

It can be worrying to see batsmen scratching around unable to make any runs in first-class games prior to a Test series, be they tour games, domestic games, or rare warm-ups against county sides, as this one was. The truth is that there is absolutely nothing to see here. Pietersen failed today, and he failed yesterday. Good. Ricky Ponting won’t be reading anything into that. Pietersen will ton up in the first innings in Cardiff. You read it here first, folks. Kevin’s Ashes are coming, I am more convinced than ever about that after today’s failure.

June28

Excitement and Apprehension

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Excitement mixed with apprehension. That seems to be the most accurate way to describe how I feel as the Ashes creeps up on us. I should qualify that statement by being honest about my agenda. I’m an England fan, and the fence is not something I sit on. To be honest, I don’t even know what it looks like.

See what makes me apprehensive is that I feel it is a summer too soon. I’ve spent two and a half years waiting for the Ashes but for all the excitement I don’t want to see England lose. What troubles me is that the lead-up to this has felt almost like the typical English build to an ODI World Cup – despite the intention of planning years in advance for this moment, the final decisions have been stumbled upon in the last few matches. Prior, Swann, Bopara.

Whenever I think of the 2005 Ashes, it always brings a moment from 2004 to mind for me. I was doing bar work and the boss was a huge cricket fan. You might remember 2004, England won Test matches like they were going out fashion and I did a shift one Sunday evening after a thoroughly convincing England win. I can’t remember which match, and it doesn’t matter. I said to the boss, “see the cricket?”

He laughed, and said, “just wait till next summer.” Who could blame him, pessimism is natural when you’re an English cricket fan. Those words always stuck with me, though, even I wasn’t smug enough to remind him of them when England won the Ashes. They remained in my mind as even though there was plenty of doubt amongst many, many Englishmen, our team was setting its stall out. Throughout 2004 and early 2005 England sent a message to Australia, a message that this time it would be different.

There has been no such message in the last twelve to eighteen months, not from England anyway. Most of the hope from these shores has been coming from the fact that the mighty Australia might not be so mighty anymore. But these thoughts are easily tempered by the fact that in Australia’s most recent series, they went to South Africa and won. It was meant to be the passing of the torch, but the Aussies won’t give up the top spot easily.

All things considered, though, the excitement is the overriding emotion. It’s an Ashes summer, Anderson is in the form of his life. Freddie is fit, and hit a 90-odd last week. Sure it was in a Twenty20, but runs are better than no runs. Pietersen averages over fifty against Australia. Stuart Broad gets better with every Test match. And most importantly of all, it’s been raining like hell lately. Hopefully the clouds are getting it out of their system.