Thursday, February 09, 2006

Punter spits the dummy

Poor old Ricky Ponting has shown great exception to comments made by Phil Tufnell at an award dinner down under. He has also since contrasted Australia's results since losing the Ashes to England's. Australia have polished off the West Indies and South Africa at home, while England lost to Pakistan away. Reversal ahoy? Not necessarily. England have not lost a home series to South Africa since their re-introduction to Test match cricket. Draws in 1994 and 2002, and victory in 1998. As for the West Indies, England have won the last 3 series home and away, and haven't lost at home since 1988.

So what then? Well, Australia's defeat came about through an inability to combat good quality swing bowling - both orthodox at Trent Bridge and reverse everywhere else. England are, at the moment, the only team in the world to have mastered both these skills. South Africa are a good side, but with a strike force dominated by Pollock, who bowls at 78mph, and Ntini, who has never swung a ball in his life (and has an acquittal to prove it) they aren't shooting the right bullets to trouble Australia. As for the West Indies, I've seen club sides that could challenge them, and county sides that would beat them.

All in all, the Ashes down under will be a great contest - but the edge is still with England since the two most threatening Australian bowlers, McGrath and Warne, will be 37 and 38 by the time the coin is tossed at Perth.

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