(Another) Ashes Preview

Under four days until the fixture of all fixtures begins. England v Australia, at Lord’s – and the weather is set fair (for now…). Here’s a newspaper and blog roundup:

Mike Atherton, writing for The Telegraph, spends time profiling John “buck” Buchanan, including his highly unsuccessful time with Middlesex (“In the case of Middlesex he admits he may have been guilty of trying to teach them to run before they could walk.”)

Is he from the Alex Ferguson or Arsene Wenger school of post-match sociability? More Wenger, it seems. “I’ll find it difficult to have a drink with Duncan -we’re in competition after all. If we did have a chat I’d be constantly looking for clues in everything he said and I’d be completely guarded myself. It would be a very stilted conversation.’

When Duncan Fletcher became England’s coach, his wary-looking face, publicity-shy personality and, at times, glum facial expressions from the balcony conveyed a man not happy with his lot. This quickly changed, however, and he is now a highly respected and integral part of the renaissance of English cricket. Importantly, and pleasingly, he has also been recognised by the public as one of the crucial figures in England’s recent winning streak. He is an excellent tactician & batting coach, and an even better people-person. I’d be interested to hear from the Aussies reading this what they feel about their coach.

Uber Scott, who really should have been mentioned by the BBC instead of me, is passionate about the forthcoming duals awaiting us. Despite predicting an Australian victory by 3-1, he says:

My prediction is that Australia will win the series by three Tests to one. However, while that might be a familiar scorecard, I have high hopes that the five Tests in this series will see a standard and intensity of play that we’ve never seen in the history of the game. This could be a series we are talking about for the rest of our lives.

I tend to agree with most of those sentiments. My concerns, however, are that Australia’s weaknesses (which are few and far between) won’t be exploited by England sufficiently. Hayden, for example, looks arthritic at the crease at the moment; exploit that, Harmison. Australia will usually (with the current side) successfully target a players weaknesses, England must too. Ponting’s early fallabilities; Hayden’s decreasing confidence; Gilchrist’s vulnerabilites with the ball cutting back into him (from around the wicket: something Flintoff executed brilliantly in the NatWest one-dayers). If if if if IF England can do these things each session, we could be in for a series to end all series.

Andrew Miller details the head-to-head battles that will decide the series.

Vic Marks ends his piece with a gem:

This is their goal – to keep news of Wayne Rooney’s in-growing toenail off the back pages until the third week in September.

Peter Roebuck says England have chosen a competitor rather than a batsman in Kevin Pietersen.

The venerable AKR has a poll on his blog.

Mike Selvey has a dig at Gus Fraser (why not?) and the ICC’s recent disasterously ill-thought-out one-day plans:

Actually it has been another salutary exercise in cricket’s ability to make what is essentially a simple game into something akin to nuclear physics. The first game at Headingley was a hoot. First we had Vikram Solanki, a fellow who as 12th man habitually spends most of his time on the field anyway while Steve Harmison changes a shirt or Freddie Flintoff goes for a pee, coming on and staying on while a bowler, Simon Jones, stayed off for good. No one noticed the difference and it was made no clearer when it was explained that the game’s first supersub was in fact not a substitute at all but a replacement, which does not have quite the same ring to it.

He also hails Nancy, of Lord’s Lunches fame, who recently passed away:

Once Mike Brearley, captain of England, thought the soporific post-prandial mob he was leading perhaps needed less indulgence. Something a little less substantial, Nancy? “Tell you what, Michael,” she countered, hands on hips. “I won’t tell you how to fockin’ bat and you don’t tell me how to fockin’ cook. All right?”

I got a phone call from Nancy’s daughter Jeanette this week to say that her mother had passed away after a bout of pneumonia. My sadness is tempered only by the knowledge that Nancy would have looked at the picture at the top of this column and said, “Well, you don’t look too fockin’ sad to me, you eejit.” She was a grand lady.

Paul Kimmage sees Justin Langer philosophising about life, writing, cooking and roses and finds it all a bit perplexing. No, you didn’t misread that – Justin Langer does have a rose garden:

“I love my rose garden, I love my family, I love my meditation, I love the soft side of things,” Langer told The Australian newspaper earlier this year.

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