Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Ashes Preview: KP and Swann hold keys to success

Tonight, there will be millions of people across England who will break their sleeping pattern and risk the wrath of their time efficient bosses in the morning by staying up late and watching the first ball of The Ashes being bowled as England and Australia get ready for what is predicted to be one of the most closely fought series in years.
And it will be closely matched, don’t let anybody fool you. There are many fans and journalists who have been talking up the chances of England, saying that they will never have a better chance to claim a series win in Australia. And they may be right but Australia are no pushovers, especially in their own backyard.
However I do think England will do it. But to do so their hopes rest largely on the shoulders of two players. Kevin Pietersen and Graeme Swann. Pietersen hasn’t looked the same player ever since he was relieved of the captaincy at the beginning of 2009 after infamously trying to remove Peter Moores as coach. He has only scored one test century since. For England to win this series the egotistical South African needs to regain his mojo and get back to doing what he does best and that is dominating the best bowlers in world cricket as only he can do.
However Swann is the man that can decide the fate of this year’s contest. With England relying on a four man bowling attack it is crucial that Swann bowls with discipline and skill while the other three pace bowlers rotate at the other end. However he has to find the fine line between bowling with discipline and curbing his natural wicket tacking abilities. If Swann can find the right balance and James Anderson, Stuart Broad and Steven Finn all chip in with wickets then England should have more than enough to take 20 Australian wickets.
Less than an hour to go until the first ball is bowled. England to win 2-1. Come on!!!

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Wounded Tiger looks to come back fighting

So after much reported indecision it has finally been confirmed by America’s Ryder Cup Captain that Tiger Woods will be one of his picks for this year’s event due to be held at Celtic Manor.
After much speculation that Pavin was seriously considering leaving Woods out the team the decision was taken to include him after all.
I can’t say that I am overly surprised. Although Woods has a relatively poor record in the Ryder Cup (he has only been on the winning side once in his otherwise fine career) it would have been a huge call to leave out the player, who despite all his troubles is still ranked the best player in the world.
Imagine the uproar Pavin would have faced back in his home country if he had left out Woods and they had been resoundingly beaten by the European team. In many ways Pavin can’t win.
If you had asked me a month ago whether or not Woods deserved to be picked I would have said no. His form was terrible and his head was clearly all over the place. However there has undoubtedly been an upturn in his fortunes over the last couple of tournaments in which he has played solid golf if not spectacular. His divorce has been finalised and that will unquestionably have provided him with a clearer head in which to get his game back on track.
My main worry for the European is that they seem dangerously close to underestimating him. Rory McIllroy and other Europeans have expressed their belief that on Woods’ current form they believe themselves to be more than capable of beating him. You can bet that Woods is listening to every comment made about the so called malaise in his recent form.
A tiger is never more dangerous than when it is wounded. At Celtic Manor you will see Woods roar.

Thursday, 18 March 2010

I decided to tune in to Jonathan Ross last week due to the presence on the show of Amy Williams, the solitary gold medal winner from this country in the Winter Olympics recently held in Vancouver. I, like many millions around the country, had never heard of Williams until her astonishing success in the skeleton event that led to her achieving her lifelong Olympic dream.
I wanted to know more about Amy Williams and what she was like as a person and she seemed like an athlete completely unaffected by her extraordinary success. She seemed humble and somewhat overwhelmed by the fame and adulation that has quickly become part of her life.
It is so refreshing in this age of overpaid, arrogant sportsmen to see a genuinely world class talent appear so normal, and in the case of Williams I think that this is unlikely to change. People like John Terry and Ashley Cole should take a long hard look at somebody like Amy Williams and adjust their behaviour to match accordingly.

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

New F1 season starts with a whimper

So after all the hype surrounding the first Formula One race of the season it turned out to be a bit of a damp squib. Over taking seemed virtually impossible, apart from on the first lap of the race when Fernando Alonso took advantage of a sluggish start by team-mate Felipe Massa to get into second place behind Sebastien Vettel.
The only way teams seemed to be able to gain an advantage over each other was when they brought their drivers in to change their tyres, and the lack of excitement doesn’t bode well for the rest of the season.
For the two British drivers on the grid it was a weekend of contrasting fortunes as Lewis Hamilton dominated his team-mate to gain an unlikely place on the podium while Jenson Button trailed home in seventh place.
It was also a difficult weekend for Michael Schumacher who found himself out performed by his team mate Nico Rosberg, in qualifying and then in the race itself. He also made his feelings clear that he was unhappy with the new regulations regarding fuels and tyres that make the car more difficult to manage and therefore make overtaking all but impossible.
And despite claims that this year could see one of the most closely fought competition for many years I think it is clear that the two best drivers on the grid this year are Fernando Alonso at Ferrari and Sebastien Vettel in the Red Bull, and the winner of the World Championship will be the one who has the most reliability from their car.
As a fan of the sport we can only hope that the next 18 races of the season are going to be more exciting than the first.

Saturday, 2 January 2010

A loss to the game

It is a tragedy that Dean Ashton has had to call time on his career at such a tender age.
The 26 year old former West Ham and England striker decided to retire after a persistent three year battle with injury after sustaining a broken ankle in a tackle with Shaun Wright Phillips on England duty in August 2006.
Ashton had started his career at Dario Gradi’s Crewe Alexandra, the latest in a long line of talented youngsters to make their name at the club.
After catching the eye in a prolific partnership with fellow frontman Rob Hulse, Ashton secured a transfer to Premier League strugglers Norwich City.
He was an instant hit with the fans there, with his bustling aggressive style and penchant for scoring important goals encouraging comparisons with Alan Shearer.
After Norwich’s relegation on the final day of the season it was inevitable that somebody of his skill and ability would attract interest from top flight clubs and it was West Ham who eventually came calling.
His form there continued to be strong leading to that fateful England call up for Steve Maclaren’s first game in charge against Greece.
It was in training that Ashton found himself on the receiving end of a tackle from Wright-Phillips that was, eventually, to cut short his career.
He later made a brief recovery for West Ham that led to an England call up by Fabio Capello that saw him pick up his one and only cap in a friendly against Trinidad and Tobago.
Rumours abounded last month that he was set to retire but no official confirmation came until the end of last month.
It was a sad end to what could have been a brilliant career.