A little bit about me and my little blog

This is by far not the first cricket blog to be written and it certainly won't be the last (or necessarily the best). But it's mine.

This is mainly an excuse for me to carry on about a sport that has been something of an obsession since I was knee high to a middle stump. An obsession which has never left throughout the many highs (behave, there have been some) and lows (and boy have there been many of those…..) of being and England cricket fan in the years since.

The views and opinions in this blog are entirely my own. Sometimes light-hearted, occasionally irreverent, hopefully never offensive.

What gives this fool the right to have an opinion on this great sport? Where are his credentials I hear you ask? Well I think my catch at mid-on in the inter-house final at Heath Grammar school in 1981 speaks for itself…..

Sunday, 28 July 2013

The Ashes - 2nd Test: Lord's

My Role in the Australian downfall

By nature or nurture I'm not a superstitious man - I'm truly not. I can walk under a ladder with a jaunty spring in my stride, open an umbrella inside the house with an uncaring smile on my face and if ever given room 13 to teach in at my college I couldn't care one small jot. The same goes with the notion of luck - I don't believe in the act of 'tempting fate', I never touch wood ( clear your dirty minds) and I firmly believe that when it comes to being lucky or unlucky to an extent you make much of your own luck, the rest is down to results of infinite possible random events. 

However, when it comes to watching sport, for some reason it is a completely different matter altogether. I really don't know where it stems from, but my 'superstition is bollocks' life philosophy seems to go out of the window - here is a brief list of just some of the things that I've been responsible for when viewing a whole range of sports.

1) Walking the exact same route each time to a ground/venue - no matter what is in my way.
2) Sitting on the same side of the train/bus when travelling on the day of the game
3) Never, I repeat NEVER read the information in the match day programme about the opposing team before the game.
4) Wear the same clothes to the next game after a win - washing them is negotiable.
5) Never, I repeat NEVER sit in the same seat immediately after a previous defeat - that would be plain stupid.

Now there are more, some far stranger sports superstitions than the five listed above - get me drunk sometime on expensive red wine and I may even divulge one or two of them. But why am I disclosing this piece of obviously 'interesting' yet possibly pointless information about myself? Well the fact is that the simple fact is that the resounding victory in the 2nd Test wasn't down to England's excellence, it wasn't down to the mental disintegration of the Aussies, nor was it down to the questionable DRS referrals during the game. Nope, it was none of those reasons. The reason is simple - it was down to me.

Let me explain.

Embarrassment as a lost old lady wanders onto the ground
It all began on the first morning. Captain Cook had performed heroics in winning the toss on what all knowledgeable minds agreed was a definite batting paradise. Even the Queen who was in attendance suggested that " If One should win the toss, one should definitely bat first". Unfortunately no one had bothered to inform the Aussie bowlers as the recalled Ryan Harris proceeded to lay into the England batsman to the point where our boys were languishing at a quite frankly depressing 28-3. What the hell was going on? Even the Queen had decided by that this point that she had seen enough and went away to another prior arrangement of a stop-off at Griegs for a couple of sausage rolls.

Yes, Mr Harris was bowling rather excellently and the Aussie fielding was on fire - they clearly were clearly up for it and meant business. One reason for this, according to the commentators was the 'inspirational visit' from a group of Australian legends to galvanise and fire with enthusiasm the current crop of no hopers in the Aussie team  Australian cricketers. No, I'm not talking about the classic 80's MOR combo 'Men at work' - though to be honest they may have done a better job than the actual Australian legends in being all inspirational and all that - Messrs Gilchrest, McGrath, Warne and others all did their "they don't like it up 'em' speeches. Mr 'ball of the century' Warne had been doing plenty of talking-up about the team's chances (not like him eh?) - even suggesting that the Aussies had got more out of the Trent Bridge Test match than England had… the process seemingly forgetting that his boys had actually lost that match. But more of that later and back to how it was actually down to me that the Test match progressed the way it did. 

Embarrassment as Bell & Bairstow both use 'paper' in 
the "Rock,paper, scissors" game between overs

As I was saying, before becoming distracted by the thought of the Aussie dressing room treating the Lord's members to a chorus of 'Down Under' by the aforementioned beat combo, the change in English fortunes was all down to me. At 28-3 it was a big worry, were we going to throw away the momentum of the series already?! 

I decided as soon as KP clipped a ball by Harris to Haddin that something was catastrophically amiss - yes it was immediately apparent, I was sat in an unlucky chair.

I quickly realised that for the sake of English cricket I had to sacrifice the best view in the house that I had set up for myself - the comfiest chair together with accompanying table with assorted essentials such as beer, nibbles etc all had to be jettisoned in favour of the sofa at the far end of the living room….but how the heck was I supposed to enjoy the full effect and clarity of the wide screen HD quality? Oh, the sacrifice. 

As it turned out, It was not a sacrifice in vain. For that initial first hour or so turned out to be as good as it got for the increasingly beleaguered Mr Clarke and his team. Despite the best sledging efforts of Mr Haddin and some of his team mates, Ian Bell continued his imperious form as he went on to reach yet another 100. There was a time when Bell would clearly crumble when on the receiving end of the Aussie mind-games, but not any more, judging by his laughing in the face of one unfortunate fielder of the baggy green who had just tried the old 'Sherminator' routine. He is indeed in prime form. In fact he is only the fourth English batsman to score a century in three successive Ashes Test matches - the first at Sydney in 2011, last week's Test at Trent Bridge and now Lord's. 

After posting a reasonable total of 361 (thanks also in no small part to Messrs Broad and Swann's bit of tail-ending swashbuckling) it seemed that the Aussies 1st Innings was going to be an example of how you should bat on this batsman's paradise of a wicket. Unfortunately the fact that there are practically no actual batsmen in the current Aussie line-up turned out to be a problem.

Embarrassment as 1st slip loses the at the 'Simon says put 
both hands in the air' stage.
The Aussies had reached 42 without too many hitches, well that was until Tim (I'm from Yorkshire tha' knows) Bresnan decided to help Watson get nearer his much desired world record for being out lbw.  This was now followed by the now traditional joke referral to the 3rd umpire. After that Spin-king Graeme Swann decided to take umbrage at the traditional Lord's pitches being spinner unfriendly by taking five wickets for just 44 runs in 21.3 excellent overs. 

By the time the Australian team was bowled out for 128, yes that's right, I said 128, it was clear that their spirit and confidence was fading fast. No one could ever accuse an Aussie cricketer of not being up for a battle, after all, I've spoken before of my lifelong respect for their attitude and fighting spirit. However this is as close to embarrassing a batting performance I can remember from them, particularly in one period of an just over an hour before tea five wickets were chalked off for just 40-odd runs. Talk about throwing away the chance of turning the course of a match. It was all very reminiscent of a certain capitulation of the England team back in 2006 when, from a position of strength, panic and amateurish shot selection set in to grab defeat from the laws of potential victory.The fact that this total of 128 is the 4th lowest ever by an Australian team at Lord's speaks for itself.

Foe some reason, no-one had deemed it reasonable to question whether there were other matters outside the Australian control which were influencing events. For I had made the sofa, bad viewing angle and all, my permanent viewing since that first chaotic hour of the first day's play - and I wasn't going to move…. no matter how much the Cat complained as it was his usual place to kip on the sofa that I had pinched. Sorry Max.

Embarrassment as Joe Root owns up to being
 from Sheffield
Cue then much deliberation and at times quite ridiculous levels of heated opinion from commentators and pundits as to whether the lead of 233 should mean an Aussie follow-on or an England batting attempt to grind the opposition into the ground. The Sky TV pundits were in typically complaining mood that Captain Cook et al weren't being aggressive enough in putting the opposition back in - you'd think we were losing the series judging by the level of despondency in the decision to bat again - yes Ian Botham, I'm talking about you. His fellow commentator, former England Captain and dirt grinder Michael Atherton also felt the need to add his opinion. After famously saying on his retirement as a player that the job of being sports pundit and spending his time criticising the current England captain wasn't for him, then went on to spend 10 minutes criticising Captain Cook's decision……nice show Athers.

So after a shaky start when the England top-order played with the hopes and emotions of the Aussies by losing their first 3 wickets for just 30 runs, Master Joe Root decided to show them who was boss. Well he did so with the aid of my help as I decided again at this point to change my TV viewing vantage position and move to the OTHER side of the sofa. This momentous change of viewing position not only galvanised the England Innings, but made sure my viewing angle was now much better. In addition to that, the cat was very pleased too.

Even when the runs were being piled on by Messrs Root, Bairstow, Bresnan and Bell there was still room for complaint by many  - "England need to be more aggressive", "We need to score faster", "we should declare now!!". There were even some decrying the lack of fight and skill from the opposition, my god, some were even starting to feel sorry sorry for the Australian side.

Embarrassment as Lehman accidentally glues his
hands to his head.

Well not me, matey. By the time the England 2nd Innings total exceeded 300 and therefore a 500 plus lead, It was becoming clear that the Aussie morale in the field was not only receding, it was disintegrating. And I was loving it. My Australian friends may correct me if I'm wrong, but for the life of me I can't remember them ever feeling sorry for us when they were royally and regularly kicking our cricketing arses in Ashes series after Ashes series.  I sincerely love Australian cricket, Glenn McGrath is one of my cricketing heroes and I hope to see the likes of him again, but I refuse to feel sorry for them. Let's all stop being all so very English and enjoy grinding the opposition into tearful submission eh?

The current Aussie squad is woefully thin on skill and confidence - and their powers-that-be constantly seem to be racking up mis-calculation after mis-calculation. The idea of parading a group of great ex-cricketers to the current set-up may have seemed like a nice idea to gee-up the troops. But when I first heard about that I thought it could be the last thing that the the squad needed, or wanted - to be reminded of how magnificent your team USED to be seemed to be a risky venture to me.

So when the total of a kazillion runs was set for the Aussies with nearly two full days left, I was enjoying every minute of it. Even when the game threatened to go into a fifth day as we yet again struggled to get rid of the pesky stubborn Australian tail-end, I was still loving the sight of the series of dejected faces on the players balcony. Though I wasn't quite enjoying the notion of it going into a 5th day when we really should have been polishing off that tail, in fact I was starting to get a little frustrated. So much so I decided that the last over of the day needed my help.

I moved to a different sofa. We got the final wicket. We won. You are all welcome.

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

The Keith Bradshaw Appeal

This is a much different blog post from my usual witty, insightful and knowledgeable musings on English cricket. Yes I know that many of you will be wondering when I ever have actually managed to achieve any of those qualities - so just humour me.

I was contacted By Sarah Bradshaw who very kindly asked if I would pass on the link to the Keith Bradshaw Cancer Appeal. 

For those who don't know, Keith was a right-handed batsman who had a relatively short first class career, playing in 25 first-class matches for Tasmania in the mid to late 1980's. He also represented Sussex in 1986 at second and under-25 level , eventually retiring from playing in 1988. 
After forging a successful business career he did make a brief return to competitive cricket in the Southern Tasmanian Cricket league for the Derwent Cricket Club until 2005.

Keith came to my, and most people's attention when he was appointed as the Secretary & Chief Executive by the MCC in early 2006 where he also had a place on the administrative board of the ECB. He was widely respected during his time at Lord's where he oversaw the initial redevelopment of the home of Cricket, eventually leaving in 2011 where he became Chief Executive of the South Australian Cricket Association. Here he has helped administer Adelaide Oval's redevelopment. He is an honorary life member of the MCC.
Unfortunately, Keith has has suffered a recurrence of the cancer he fought during his role as Chief executive of the MCC at Lord's 

The Link to the Keith Bradshaw Cancer Appeal can be found RIGHT HERE

The page contains information on how people can donate to the appeal and send messages of support. IT ALSO CONTAINS THE FOLLOWING INFORMATION;

"As you may know Keith Bradshaw stepped down from being Chief Executive at the M.C.C. after almost 5 demanding years which saw many changes but most importantly was the start of the process for the total refurbishment of Lords Cricket Ground which culminated in the “Vision for Lords”.

What you probably did not know that outside of family issues which necessitated him going back to his native Australia, he was also not a well man as he had contracted cancer. 

He is now Chief Executive at the South Australian Cricket Association, but he has just received confirmation his cancer has returned. He has been advised he needs extensive medical treatment and on top of this has just had a pelvis reconstruction hip replacement to repair the damage caused by the cancer which has attacked this area of his body.

After the operation, besides the obvious pain and discomfort there will be a period of convalescence and rehabilitation. This will inevitably lead to a significant disruption of his normal life and in addition he must shortly resume chemotherapy once given the all clear from the operation.

Unfortunately, there are a number of medical expenses associated with these treatments and the subsequent after care. As a result of the recognition of all the work he did whilst at the M.C.C. a fund is being launched to try and raise £100,000. Keith is very keen to see the vast majority of the monies raised donated to the causes below which will aid research in finding a cure for his condition of multiple myeloma ( presently classified as a terminal disease) and Birmingham Childrens Hospital to rebuild their children’s cancer department.

In the event that more funds are raised than are required for Keith's medical expenses, these funds will be split equally between Myeloma UK and the Laurie Engel Fund supporting Birmingham Children's Hospital appeal to raise £4 million to rebuild their cancer department

Monday, 15 July 2013

The Ashes - 1st Test; Trent Bridge

Just moments after hearing Nick Knight is stuck in traffic.
It may be something of a mistake to write this post a mere few minutes after the finish of a quite sensational, gut-wrenching and ultimately joyous (well for England fans at least) Test match. My hands are still shaking, my heart is overly beating and the almost overbearing urge to be physically sick has still not quite receded - so there may be even more spelling and grammatical mistakes than usual. I could use the excuse that my hay fever raddled brain is to blame for any mistakes or inaccuracies that may arise during this piece - but no, any fault is due to the sheer adrenaline rush of the match - bloody hell, cricket eh?!

It was all supposed to be so straightforward wasn't it? The number two Test match team in the world against a rag tag, in-fighting collection of the worst touring Ashes squad in history - a  team that had one world-class batsman and a decent bowling attack. Well I have words for those of you who mocked me when I said that this series would be far closer than many were predicting - I hate to say that I told you so, well I actually I don't. I told you so.

Umpire Dar trips up Jimmy during their celebrations

As I mentioned in a the previous instalment of literary blog genius that is Well bowled, Harold….. There had been a humongous cock-up my diary planning and with the booking of some much needed time away in the Scottish Highlands that began a couple of days before the start of the series. Of course that mistake resulted in the immediate dismissal of my personal assistant who has now gone back to her previous occupation as an emergency double for Kim Jong-un, the President of North Korea. Her claims for wrongful dismissal are being dealt with by the relevant ACME authorities headed by a Mr R. Runner. 

Now missing Sky TVs build up was something I could live with - there's only so much vapid nonsense from the likes of Nick Knight et al that I can put up with….. and to be honest I reached that particular point of no return many moons ago. However on my return I found out that Mr Knight wasn't actually part of the presentation team for the Ashes series - but it's always best to avoid, after all, there's always Sir Beefy Ian Headingly 1981 Botham to put up with.  

What I couldn't cope with was the fact that the anticipated 3g reception for my trusty iPhone was also at the low end of availability which meant that even the anticipated listening to the TMS 5LIVE app thingamajig was also a no-go. Just how do the people in the Highlands of Scotland managed to live without constant and full access to the Internet? Human beings should not have to live like this in the 21st century! - I feel a Bob Geldof type campaign is needed to galvanise world opinion, though my idea for the first single to be released 'Feed the 3G world' still needs work I feel if the sarcastic and frankly rude reactions of my family are anything to go by.

As a consequence, the first 2 days of play consisted of very occasional shouts of "Stop the car. we're in a 3g hotspot!!", which to be honest confused one or two locals at times, not to mention, instill panic in various drivers in the cars immediately behind me as my brakes were hit. As a consequence, much of the first half of these Test recollections rely partly on those rare snatches of text coverage or a quick read through the inter web thingy on my return….. once again, an excuse for inaccuracies or just plain lies shows itself.

So what of the game itself? Well, it wasn't exactly boring was it?

Ashton 'Sir The Don' Agar gets his cap from old 5-0 himself.
To begin with, I would suggest that anyone who has never seen a Test match, or indeed any fool who believes the longer form of the game is either inferior or dying, should be sat in front of a screen and made to watch each and every session of play from a match that will be talked about for many a year. It is not hyperbole to suggest that this match will immediately go into the top 20 of not only Ashes Test matches, but in world Test cricket - it must be true, because Bob Willis said so too.

The match had everything. Firstly the Australians had created a cunning masterstroke in reversing their batting order, namely placing their dross at the top and the proper batsmen at the bottom of their order, this confusing us all. Not only that, but Australian medicine seems to have perfected the art of cloning as the reincarnation of 'Donald Sir The Don Bradman Sir' was introduced to world cricket. Having been given the coveted no11 slot as premier batsman on his debut Ashton Agar decided to give the England bowlers a damned good seeing to and helped change what seemed a first innings deficit into rather nifty and handy 64 run lead. I had managed to grab a few vital minutes of connection in time to hear Agar go within 2 runs runs a century - the place (and commentators) seemed to be going mad. 

I would love to say that the boys own story child and cricket lover within me was cheering Agar on to get a century on his Test debut, but I would be lying. By this point I was so cheesed off at the last wicket stand of 25 thousand runs that the last pair had put on I cheered and instead jumped for Joy when he holed out to Graeme Swann. "Ah bless, my wife said, it would have been nice for the Australian boy to get his century"……. "Bollocks" was my partisan reply. 

Oh my bloody god……..
And why pray tell was I a little aggrieved? Well you may ask, because it brings us on to the first of a few controversial points in the match. Agar had been on just 2 runs when Wonder spinner Swann came into bowl. The ball whistled past the forward defensive prod from The Dandy Don to be claimed by Matt Prior who, in a blaze of blurred power, whipped off the bails…. OUT!!!. Of course the call was referred to the 3rd umpire, which was of no concern as the replay showed clearly that Sir Donald's back foot hadn't made it back into the crease before the bails left the stumps. Pretty clear cut then to the players, fans, commentators and the world in general then? Well yes, except for a certain 3rd umpire, Marais Erasmus who inexplicably came to the conclusion that there wasn't enough evidence to give the wonder boy-to-be out. Bloody hell.

Oh my bloody god……..again

Umpire Erasmus apparently wasn't satisfied with giving Geoff Boycott in the TMS commentary booth just one heart attack for the day as he decided again to play the part of pantomime villain when he overturned Aleem Dar's not-out LBW decision against Jonathan Trott- despite the unavailability of side-on 'Hotspot' evidence plus the strongest of suggestions from the television reply that there had been a inside edge. 

England's second innings was again not without tension and controversy. Firstly the positive. Ian Bell was simply majestic. As the rest of the England top order managed to look less than excellent it needed at least one player to steady the ship. Bell's century was patience and skill personified and arguably the real difference in the first test between the the two teams.
Sorry Stuart my son, you're nicked…..

However, it could have been so different when Stuart Broad had joined Bell after the loss of Englands 6th wicket and had been slowly and painstakingly inching their way past 200 ahead. Broad was facing a ball from Ashton Agar (yes him again) which seemed to clearly glance of the side of the bat, ricochet off the gloves of Haddin and straight into the greedy hands of Michael Clarke. The Aussies were naturally ecstatic, the celebrations loud. Every one knew it was out - it was about as clear cut a decision for Aleem Dar as could be but, amazingly, he did the familiar Dar shake of the head and gave it not out. 

The problem for many it seems in the world of the Twitterati is that Broad didn't walk, not only that, he had the affront for many to take on the air of the angelic choirboy and put on his best poker face in an apparent air of innocence. It's been nearly three days after the event and the subject is still the topic of debate in the cricket world - and never in my life have I read so much claptrap with suggestions ranging from a verbal reprimand to even claims that he should be fined & banned for bringing the game into disrepute for not walking. Bollocks.
The traditional Ashes Teapot impression competition begins.

The problem was that Clarke wad already used up his two reviews, one of which was a naive and pointless review of a previous lbw claim on Bell. I have sympathy for a clearly wrong decision but little sympathy for Clarke who had clearly ignored the advice of one team mate for the Bell review. 

I could understand the level of vitriol if Broad had been given out and then refused to walk - but he hadn't. He clearly waited, like 99.9% of all batsmen do for the umpire's decision.  

I also have no sympathy for some of the Australian media and fans who have vociferously placed themselves in the 'let him hang' side of the argument - remember, Australia, apart from the odd noteworthy case such as Adam Gilchrest, are a cricket nation of non-walkers. Ian Chappel famously declared back in the 1970's that it was not his place to give himself out, that was what an umpire was paid for. It would be unfair to suggest that it is just an Australian reaction against the non-walking, many across the world have gone as far as to call Broad a cheat - bollocks again. Few, very few, batsmen walk. Even Sachin has refused to walk - and before anyone out there ( and you know who you are) spring unthinkingly to the little master's defence, there is video evidence out there on youtube land so check it out first.

The last day of play was as deliciously painful and eerily evocative of a certain match at Edgbaston on 2005.

I must admit that as the last pair of Haddin and Pattinson put on a gut wrenching last stand of not a little skill and courage I truly feared the worst. Haddin in particular was colossal in his batting and it had got to the point that at Lunch with them needing just 20 runs to win, I though the game was up. Of course the match had to end on a referral…… the faintest of nicks proving the difference between stunning victory and heartbreaking defeat.

Jimmy Anderson - I truly love you.

The episodes of controversy in the game should in no way overshadow the quality of play throughout a majestic five days of Test match cricket. For England, Jimmy Anderson was his sublime self gaining 10 wickets and with it the man of the match award. Ian Bell played perhaps his greatest ever innings for his country with a knock of pure controlled delight. For the Aussies, their bowling attack is collectively excellent, with Pattinson being the standout performer and their lower order batsmen played with determination and skill throughout with Mr Agar showing that he may be a class act for years to come.

My admiration for Australian cricket has never been in doubt. They may not be the strongest side ever to visit these shores but whatever they may lack in collective class they certainly make up in other areas. It's been said in more than one quarter that England nearly threw this match away. Nonsense and bollocks - the Aussies almost stole it from us fair and square. Now if only Mr Clarke could get the hang of using the referral system and the Aussie top order starts learning how to bat then the rest of the series might be even tighter. 

Remember - the comments and opinions on this blog are my own and not intended to offend or upset. You are are quite entitled to disagree with them, you'd be wrong of course if you did. 

Thursday, 4 July 2013

Bloody hell - It's time for the Ashes you know!

Due to a dates miscalculation of cataclysmic and seismic proportions I will miss some parts of the opening Ashes match next week, and almost certainly the opening morning's play.  The first session of play in the 2013 Ashes series will probably see me halfway up Ben Nevis - and no, that's not a Euphemism. 

This Saturday I leave for a much needed break in the Scottish Highlands. However, I made something of a rookie mistake some weeks ago & did not check that it coincided with the start of the most important series in cricket (Sorry my Indian, Pakistani, West Indian friends, but it is). You could say that it has put something of a dampener it. As my son would say - 'what a nube'

So putting aside the vain hope that the 3G reception on Britain's tallest mountain might be actually pretty good, it's time to think about the first Test. I just hope that they can manage without me.

So due to the pain of being a pillock, this is just a short blog entry on some thoughts leading up to reigniting affairs with the old Cricketing enemy.

This week saw ourselves and the Aussies in our respective  pointless walk over matches to give A N Other a final final chance to impress important warm-up games. Australia so far this Spring and Summer ( & to my Aussie friends, yes I'm afraid this IS our summer) have been the the equivalent of the birthday present that just keeps on giving. The plethora of incidents that have plagued the squad have been well documented - with players refusing to do 'homework', players being sent home from the India tour and Mr Warner first practicing his fighting techniques with a twitter-spat with a journalist & then putting those well honed skills into practice with his slap/punch of young Master Root.
Add to that, just over a week ago when there was the news of the sacking /resigning/ leaving by mutual consent of the coach Micky Arthur from the squad. Rumours of Australian players revolting ( you can insert your own jokes there) and the other stories of general mal-content have been circulating for weeks. However the team coach leaving so close to the start of the series only served us to become ever more confident that Captain Cook and his brave boys were going to send the Aussies home Urn-less with their proverbial tails between their legs.
Lehmann's reaction on hearing that Warne & McGrath have retired

I can remember thinking to myself in-between fits of laughter - "As long as they don't install someone of strength and character that could actually sort out that rabble" ………. Bugger. Enter Darren Blooming Lehmann. Already a bit of a hero amongst the Yorkshire cricket folk (including this exiled one) he could well be the man to at least get the Aussies into some sort of well-prepared mental state. It seems that things have immediately improved on and off the field with Shane Watson smashing a 94 run century against Worcester in their final warm up match. That was annoying. What was even more annoying that the rest of the Aussie top order also found their batting form with Captain Clarke fit again after his Back-transplant operation. The rumours that it was Ian Bell's backbone that was used in the procedure have yet to be confirmed.

In all seriousness, I've been saying for months now that this series was not going to be the walkover that many of my compatriots have been crowing about - for once in my life I may be right. 

England's build up in the warm up game was similarly impressive in some quarters with their 228-run win over Essex on Wednesday. The match was also notable for a number of other issues, with one in particular sending the Twitterverse & Facebookverse into near meltdown. 

Firstly it saw the return of a certain love him or hate him folk type hero in Mr Kevin Petersen. Personally I love him, though in a brotherly cricketing sense of course, any other way would be inappropriate. KP (as his friends & fans call him) scored a nifty 49 off 58 balls on his return - not too bad at all. 

KP's return was somewhat overshadowed by an injury to spin King Graeme Swann after he  
had been struck on the arm while batting by Essex bowler Tymal Mills. It seems that the Essex captain, Ravi Bopara had given Mr Mills instructions to rough up the English batsmen. Bloody hell Ravi, way to get a mood on after not being picked for the Test squad - jeez. We feared the worst with the Twitter world exploding with stories of broken arms, enforced retirement from the game altogether and even worse, that James Tredwell might have to be called up as a replacement.
The Physio sows Swanny’s arm back on

Thankfully, a night of prayers and Wicker burnings in the form of Tymal Mills throughout the nation apparently did the trick as X-rays revealed he had suffered only bruising. He returned to action the next day after major life-saving surgery to bowl just over 20 overs and eventually take 5 wickets in the match. At the same time the English cricketing public said their collective thanks to whatever gods had decided to intervene. It does seem that these days we seem to to be cushioning as much as possible Swanny from week to week in regard to various illnesses and injuries - not that he's important to our chances of victory or anything……..

So there you have it. The Ashes are nearly upon us. Nothing means more to me in cricket than this series, the Aussies are always to be respected and in some (many) cases, celebrated. Jeff Thompson, Dennis Lillie, Border, Gilchrest, Warne and McGrath - some of my cricketing heroes…..but by god do I love it when we beat you guys.

I only hope I can get some blooming 3G reception up there in the Highlands………...