28 May 2013

Australian stats for the 2013 Indian Premier League (IPL)

Here's a statistics wrap up for Australia's leading IPL contestants. This has been posted to The Baggy Green Blog Facebook page. County updates and general chirps regarding all the news is posted daily too.

The Mumbai Indians (initially lead by Ricky Ponting - The Maestro) took the title for the sixth event, while Chennai Super Kings were unable to secure the title for what would have been their third victory. They have however done well to be regular finalists in the event season in, season out.

Most of our Aussie boys did well in the IPL this time around.

Michael Hussey was the leading run-scorer in the tournament so he took the Orange Cap. He just won the battle against Chris Gayle (Royal Challengers Bangalore) who also scored that unreal century, breaking all kinds of records.

Huss entered the top 20 run-scorers in IPL history. He has scored 1,691 runs at 44.50 (2008-2013). From 45 innings he has scored one century (117*) and 12 half-centuries.

Only Chris Gayle has a better average than him. The Gayle-Force has 2,512 runs at 52.33.
Shaun Marsh has 1,903 runs at 44.25 and had a decent time this IPL scoring 300 runs from 8 innings. These statistics are courtesy of ESPN Cricinfo.com.

Huss certainly has the goods to keep going for WA with a performance like this but I wonder if he will return to the tournament in the future?

James Faulkner did an outstanding job and is really paving his way now. Dwayne Bravo, of the West Indies, took the most wickets but James was just behind him with 28 wickets, including two five wicket hauls.

Shane Watson and Mitchell Johnson also walked away with really strong performances, which will give both of them a hop in their step come the ICC Champions Trophy.

For the 2013 ICC Champions Trophy, please check out the previous article posted regarding a SWOT analysis of our squad, or click the link right here.


- Michael Hussey (Chennai): 17 innings, 733 runs at 52.35, HS 95, 6 (50s)
- Shane Watson (Rajasthan): 16 innings, 543 runs at 38.78, HS 101, 1 (100) 2 (50s)
- Aaron Finch (Pune): 14 innings, 456 runs at 32.57, HS 67, 4 (50s)
- David Warner (Delhi): 16 innings, 410 runs at 31.53, HS 77, 4 (50s)
- Shaun Marsh (Punjab): 8 innings, 300 runs at 37.50, HS 77, 3 (50s)
- Adam Gilchrist (Punjab): 13 innings, 294 runs at 24.50, HS 85*, 1 (50)
- Brad Hodge (Rajasthan): 14 innings, 293 runs at 41.85, HS 54*, 1 (50)
- David Hussey (Punjab): 11 innings, 235 runs at 23.50, HS 41
- Cameron White (Hyderabad): 13 innings, 209 runs at 17.41, HS 52, 1 (50)
- Ben Rohrer (Delhi): 8 innings, 193 runs at 32.16, HS 64*, 1 (50)
- Moises Henriques (Bangalore): 9 innings, 165 runs at 41.25, HS 44
- Steve Smith (Pune): 7 innings, 159 runs at 39.75, HS 41


- James Faulkner (Rajasthan): 16 matches, 28 wickets at 15.25, BBI 5/16, 63.1 overs
- Mitchell Johnson (Mumbai): 17 matches, 24 wickets at 19.12, BBI 3/27, 64 overs
- Shane Watson (Rajasthan): 16 matches, 13 wickets at 22.92, BBI 3/22, 41.4 overs
- Mitchell Marsh (Pune) 9 matches, 7 wickets at 26.00, BBI 2/7, 19.2 overs
- Moises Henriques (Bangalore): 10 matches, 7 wickets at 26.41, BBI 2/14, 21.1 overs

Fielding and Wicketkeeping:

Cameron White (Hyderabad) took 10 catches.
Michael Hussey (Chennai) took 10 catches.

Adam Gilchrist (Punjab) took 12 catches
operating behind the stumps.
Gilly also took a wicket with his one and only delivery in Twenty20 cricket. It was also his final match for the IPL.

Here's the video to see Gilly take a wicket, followed by a dance...of sorts.

Definitely going to be some questions raised regarding the IPL after all the controversy with spot-fixing, along with the recent departures of Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Adam Gilchrist and also Matthew Hayden, Andrew Symonds and Shane Warne in previous seasons.

There's certainly enough viewers in India to keep the hype due to the obsession for their cricket stars, but the international viewership is most likely to be seriously affected by the off-field drama and loss of opportunity to see the greats who have retired from the international games playing yet again. Tough times ahead for the IPL.

What do you think?

Welcome to The Baggy Green Blog!
Thanks for reading this article written by Ian.
To comment on this article, click on the 'Comments' tag at the end of the article.


21 May 2013

Australian 2013 ICC Champions Trophy SWOT analysis

With the Indian Premier League (IPL) coming to an end and the New Zealand tour to England well underway, the next big clash prior to the 2013 Ashes is the final addition of the ICC Champions Trophy. The tournament will no longer be hosted come the conclusion of it in England and the ICC World Test Championship will take over its place in the cricket calendar. We are the reigning champions with two titles to our name.

Most eyes will be on the Ashes squad, which I have reviewed, but I'd like to turn some attention to our limited overs squad that will be playing to ensure we hold onto the trophy.

The majority of the Australian cricketers playing in the Champions Trophy or Ashes series will be leaving Australia this weekend to get prepared for some action packed cricket in England over the next few months.
Below is our 15 man-squad for the 2013 ICC Champions Trophy.
  1. Michael Clarke (Captain)
  2. George Bailey (Vice Captain)
  3. David Warner
  4. Phillip Hughes
  5. Shane Watson
  6. Adam Voges
  7. Glenn Maxwell
  8. Mitchell Marsh
  9. Matthew Wade (Wicket keeper)
  10. Mitchell Starc
  11. Clint McKay
  12. James Faulkner
  13. Mitchell Johnson
  14. Nathan Coulter-Nile
  15. Xavier Doherty
My mate Baiju at Cricket Talks wrote a nice summary of our squad, sharing his outlook on our chances and also who he identifies to be our key players. Give his article a read via the following link.

I will be looking at a SWOT analysis regarding our team culture heading into this event and the individual players.


We go into the Champions Trophy as the title holders (2006 and 2009). Having said this, our limited overs side has seen dull patches over the last handful of seasons and a slip down the ranks since the limited overs series post the 2009 Ashes series, although we still have a good victory margin of 64% from 104 matches.

Fortunately we do still have some outstanding players and I'd like to identify these players as they stack up our strengths.

Shane Watson has hit form at the Indian Premier League (IPL) with 513 runs at 42.75, showing an improvement in his focus since dropping the vice-captaincy after the dreadful Border-Gavaskar series.

Watto was instrumental in our 2009 Champions Trophy victory as he scored centuries in both the semi-final and final, with a total of 266 runs from 5 matches at 88.33. A great turn around after a golden duck in the opening match against the West Indies.With his bowling duties slowly but surely returning he will take to the field as an all-rounder with runs behind him in a format of the limited overs nature. Confidence is key for him.

Adam Voges is set to play for Middlesex when Chris Rogers puts his Baggy Green cap back on for the Ashes. With experience in English conditions and a bizarre turn of fortune with his international opportunities after an excellent peak in form for the Western Warriors, Adam may end up being the glue in the squad, a role in void after Michael Hussey retired.

Huss has scored 732 runs at 56.30, clocking in 6 half-centuries from 16 innings in the IPL with a game to go. If you still miss seeing his name in our side, this may just add to it.

Alongside Adam, George Bailey will need to assist him in the middle order department, in order to ensure the strike is rotated and aggression can be brought to the front lines if needs be. It's something Huss could do on his lonesome, but together Bailey and Voges have the hitting power and experience to keep the core in tact whilst adapting to the game situation.

Phillip Hughes has made a reasonably steady start to his ODI career with 416 runs at 52.00 and two centuries to his name. Like a few of our other players, he has played limited overs cricket in England. A good start here will line up his self-belief for the Ashes.

Outside of this category is Michael Clarke. Although Clarkey's sublime form has been best kept for Test cricket in recent times, he never been a pushover in ODI cricket. He missed out on the last Champions Trophy as a result of injury, something he is trying to keep at bay. He's our best batsman and is likely to continue his job in the number four role. Given his experience, abilities and ambition taken from leadership responsibilities, you can't rule him out as the key player.

Bowling wise James Faulkner is close to being the leading wicket-taker for IPL 6 and is quickly building a case for himself. The English conditions will work in his favour with the white ball and the man can also bat a bit. He's our best grounded emerging all-rounder and if his recent performances are anything to go by, watch out for him in England!

Clint McKay won the ODI Player of the Year award at the Allan Border Medal Awards. He's got a silent-assassin nature about him. He takes the wickets and gets on with the job drawing little attention. Although he may need to find a few tricks beyond the slower ball for this tournament, overcast conditions in England ensure anything is possible and I reckon seeing him bowl in tandem with Mitchell Starc, Mitchell Johnson, Faulkner, even Watson, could be a real test for the opposition batsmen.


Although I perceive it as a threat given two of our opponents in the opening matches of our tournament, our batting against quality swing bowling hasn't been a battle to watch without biting your nails and clenching your fists in nervous anticipation.

Our bowling line-up doesn't boast much experience in the ranks though to serve as armour for our batsmen. In any major event, inexperience will be dubbed as a weakness, although I see this summer as the greatest opportunity in recent times for our bowling troops.

Given the lack of time this side has played cricket together as a distinct unit, it hardly boosts the concept of team unity which has been an issue for us for some time. The media took this to a new level after the homework ordeal in India. Sure, supporters from the other camp will understandably identify this as a weakness through a lack of unity heading into a major event, but once again it is an opportunity for us.


As a team we need to climb up the ranks from our current seat in the ICC house at four, with a rating of 110, two behind India (112) in third place. We also have a title to defend, which will be a tough task with the competitive fact that whoever wins this title will forever have the trophy and title as this is the final ICC Champions Trophy winners.

No need to indicate how huge these opportunities are in order to stamp some authority going forward. 

A good performance in the Champions Trophy will also uplift all in the Australian cricket camp, an opportunity not to be underestimated going forward. In 2009, prior to the Ashes, we got knocked out in the opening rounds of the second ICC World Twenty20. I remember how numbing that was. Even though our players had extra time to prepare for the Ashes with the World T20 seen as an unrelated event, we all remember the result of the Ashes that followed. Momentum, momentum, momentum!

However, there's opportunities for individuals in our side too.

Mitchell Marsh is making his return to international cricket. Mitch is undoubtedly a young cricketer who needs further opportunity for Australia, but he's not a guaranteed addition of strength to our side.

His performances for us in T20 cricket in South Africa a while ago still remain strong in my mind and if he is given a fair go to find himself at the elite level, another member of the Marsh family has the opportunity to become a household name. In this event he has the opportunity to also rise above Steve Smith and Glenn Maxwell, the other young all-rounders.

Mitchell Starc is on the comeback from injury. Therefore this tournament marks an opportunity for him to hit back onto the scene and showcase his excellent attributes as the top gun in Australia's bowling line-up. There is a serious risk of injury recurring post his surgery, so I think he may find himself on the sidelines. Should he be deemed fit to play, the opportunities ahead for this young man are there for the taking.

Mitchell Johnson has been the forgotten man of Australian cricket. He's put in some top class performances for Mumbai in IPL 6. While Mitchell's days of Test cricket are done for, I have always felt limited overs cricket accommodates his "inconsistent nature" and makes him a deadly addition to the side as when he's in the groove he's bloody spectacular! The opportunity is obvious for Mitch. Make a statement in England with brutal pace and put aside those nightmares of 2009.

Matthew Wade has been retained the ODI keeper of choice. With Brad Haddin returning as our number one gloves-man, Matt has an opportunity to clear his mind, focus on his own game without the distraction of Hads and just get on with the job to remind himself he got into the side based on top quality performances for Victoria, especially the season leading up to his Test debut. It's an opportunity for us as a team if he finds his feet to stack up our keeper pen again.

David Warner was in a Twitter ordeal where he hit out at some local journalists. His hearing is taking place today but after a difficult campaign for his IPL side, the Delhi Daredevils, David will be eager to hit back at the critics wearing the Green & Gold gear. The opportunity is a personal one on his part but of course we know how destructive a batsman he is. Perhaps we need to see the Pitbull become the Raging Bull!


Injury tops the list of threats before the opposition squads.

Mitchell Starc is going to be fresh to the fold after surgery and my gut instinct is he may be unlikely to play with the Ashes being a big arena for his skills. Clint McKay has also had his fair share of injury niggles.
Michael Clarke has had to make plenty reassurances in the media that his back issues seem unlikely to flare up, while Shane Watson's medical record needs no overview.

The risk of our opponents this time around is a real threat and this list is an indicator that it won't be a walk in the park.

In our Pool we start off by taking on England, the host country and our ultimate rivals for the English summer. The crowds will be vocal and the focus will be massive on this game given it is definitely a curtain raiser. Ultimate pressure, something this side is learning to combat and handle.

Following England we have New Zealand, the dark horses of every ICC event. They have the uncanny ability to make semi-finals and finals with little attention drawn to their performances. They never grab the silverware but have no shame in producing the "upsets" and making life hell for the punters. We will face the Black Caps with plenty to be cautious about.

Lastly but not least, Sri Lanka. Like New Zealand, they rarely don't bow out of a tournament without having one hand on the silverware. Having said this, they put up an almighty fight against us during the summer in the ODIs, after we rolled them in the Warne-Muralitharan Test series. The series ended with some tension as Glenn Maxwell and George Bailey had an altercation with Sri Lanka's troops. Sri Lanka will always be a threat in an ICC event.

England and New Zealand boast really good swing bowling units and the conclusion of the 1st Test between them at Lord's gave a good indication where they're at. James Anderson and Stuart Broad dominated!

Sure, it's Test cricket and the red ball is a greater challenge to face than the white ball, but with our batting line-up having shown a lack of patience and application when taking on swing bowling in recent times - a very, very difficult challenge to face though in their defence - they face a major threat to try get runs on the board. This format still demands caution, patience and the ability to read the game with expertise to ensure the runs keep ticking over. It will be a long summer against a swinging ball so this gears it up.


This was one of the best sides we could put together and it's not an average side by any means.
The Ashes squad was one that called upon experience to balance out the issue between emerging players with talent and players with experience in Ashes clashes, or county experience.

With the risk of injury this side had to call upon players in the bracket of early development at international level but there's still the experience and talent of Clarke, Watson, Voges, Bailey, Warner, McKay and Johnson; with young players who have what it takes to grab wickets or smash runs.

There is no definite favourite to clinch the 2013 ICC Champions Trophy and with this open field I am always going to back our boys to win. If they click as a unit from the start, the finals will be reached, no doubt.

However, with England, New Zealand and Sri Lanka as our Pool A rivals, disharmony and a lack of unity will be easily exposed by these sides. Momentum is everything in these small events and a bad start is very daunting to comeback from.

Welcome to The Baggy Green Blog!
Thanks for reading this article written by Ian.
To comment on this article, click on the 'Comments' tag at the end of the article.


15 May 2013

Fielke Cricket Bats – South Australian owned

Fielke Cricket Bats
has a rich history dating back to over 100 years and remains the only South Australian based cricket bat manufacturing setup, now run solely by Robert “Bob” Fielke (pronounced: Fill-key).

I attended a presentation of Bob Fielke’s setup out in Gawler, regional South Australia. At this presentation Bob gave a look into the history of the cricket bat, a thorough breakdown of the Fielke company’s history in Australia, and lastly showed us how he has fine crafted his bat making skills to keep the family business on the go from his small workshop.

The company is best seen as a small-privately owned cricket bat specialist company. Bob now does everything on his own, using his own skills and expertise. He has a definite sense of pride and passion for the Fielke brand and gets a real buzz when discussing the history of the cricket bat, knowing his family is connected to it in some way.

He has a showroom where not only does he display some of his most recent, modern cricket bats manufactured in his back garden (literally) but he has also collected a variety of bats dating back to the early-to-mid 1900s, when the business was initially operating under Kumnick Bats in Lobethal, South Australia.

Bob’s son, Noel Fielke, played state cricket for South Australia. He is featured in a team photo on the wall, celebrating a centenary of Sheffield Shield Cricket in a match between South Australia and New South Wales (1992). Another photo of Noel shows him batting that same season, the caption text highlighting how he established a new South Australian Cricket Association record by scoring 1,102 runs in a season for Salisbury District Cricket Club. The family even features in the history books on the cricket field.  

Alongside cricket bat manufacturing and refurbishing, Bob has manufactured all sorts of merchandise and household novelties; my best one being a full length bat that can hold wine glasses or a bunch of pints. He has also impressively taken the time to produce replica bats to demonstrate how they evolved throughout the known history of the game.

Each of the historic bats Bob pulls out has a story of its origins and intended purpose as to how the game
The history display at the Fielke showroom.
was at that estimated period in time. It’s intriguing to be reminded every now and then how this great game of ours came to be. Some of these replica bats of his can be found at the Adelaide Oval Museum, although these are probably stashed away as the ground is well into redevelopment.

The history behind Fielke bats dates back to 1894 when the company was founded by Mr. Ewald Kumnick, who was from a family of German descent, as is the Fielke family. He began manufacturing cricket bats in Lobethal, South Australia, with the factory being based in an old church. Much experimentation with a variety of timber was done until English Willow became the standard timber used and Kumnick bats gradually founded a strong reputation as good quality cricket bats.

In the 1900s before the Second World War, the infamous company Spalding approached Kumnick to manufacture cricket bats for them to their then known and well regarded standards, but Spalding wanted their branding to appear on the bat. The agreement was made and with an initial work force of sixteen employees, Kumnick grew and was able to churn out approximately 10,000 to 15,000 bats a year. This was unfortunately brought to an end when the Second World War erupted. Ships were no longer coming to Australian shores with the timber needed for the bats and, as a result, the working relationship with Spalding came to an end and never renewed after the War.

11 May 2013

Book review: The Psychology of Cricket

Book title: The Psychology of Cricket
Release: 2013
Authors: Dr. Stewart Cotterill and Dr. Jamie Barker
Publisher: Bennion Kearny Limited

Publication Date: 25 March 2013
ISBN: 978-1-909125-21-6
Approximate Cover Price: £15.99 / Aus$23.99
Pages: 232

You can buy a copy through The Book Depository (they offer free shipping to Australia).

The book is available on Kindle
It should be going live on Apple's iBooks.

For all other ebook formats (including PDF and EPub) - Smashwords is the best place to buy.


Steve Waugh regularly made mention of what it takes to not only become a champion cricketer, but also become part of a winning team. Mental toughness, self-belief, playing to your strengths, etc.
All of these factors come up time and time again when we read interviews with cricketer's or listen to radio or television commentary discussions.

So often we hear about these dynamics of the game but how often is it really explored? Sure, those of us who have played cricket have touched base on these aspects of our own game, but how many of us truly understand what it's all about?

A book such as The Psychology of Cricket is something I strongly believe there has been a need for at various levels of the game.

The Psychology of Cricket touches on these topics from two highly qualified chartered British psychologists. Although we often discuss the topics covered purely on the surface, what we don't realise is how deep the psychology really goes behind these topics and how they are all essentials into a cricketer's practice. And this is what Dr. Stewart Cotterill and Dr. Jamie Barker have researched and brought to the forefront.

Dr. Cotterill and Dr. Barker have done their groundwork, having consulted with sportsmen at different levels and lectured at top Universities to really tap into what makes players the best of the best.

The psychological battle on the cricket field never ends, simply because it goes with a cricketer wherever he or she ventures. Without the knowledge and without the support in the working environment, one can never truly control or grasp these different dynamics at play. This book may in time prove to be an invaluable tool for the emerging cricketer to have as hard copy support, which one coach can rarely relay.

In essence the book will equip you with a greater understanding behind the core components come amateur to professional cricket. These core components essentially come down to Confidence, How to control emotions, Ways to increase concentration, How to become more mentally tough, How to build a successful team, Effective leadership and decision making, Dealing with pressure and Staying motivated.

Throughout the book, quotes from players such as; Steve Waugh, Justin Langer, Wasim Akram and Sachin Tendulkar appear. It adds snippets to the overall insight and the psychological approaches to the game these players are so aware of. Each quote has relevance to the chapter being studied.

For clarity, the chapters discussed are as follows:

Chapter One - The Mental Side of Cricket
Chapter Two - Being Motivated and Committed in Cricket
Chapter Three - Staying Focused
Chapter Four - Performing Under Pressure
Chapter Five - Becoming Mentally Tough
Chapter Six - Playing Confidently
Chapter Seven - Controlling Your Emotions
Chapter Eight - Leadership and Captaincy
Chapter Nine - Preparing to Perform: Playing to Your Strengths
Chapter Ten - Building a Successful Cricket Team
Chapter Eleven - Effective Decision Making

The topic of leadership is something I appreciated as far too often we have cricketers so focused on their own well-being, they overlook the importance to release any evidence of leadership, which can in many regards help their own game. Just look how Steve Waugh thrived in a leadership role once he'd founded a solid foundation for his own game.

Short challenges and tasks are also set out at the end of various chapters on quite a fundamental level to put the concept across for the reader to find a way to relate this to their own goals and practice routines. I liked the concept as "recommendations" as not everything will work for everyone. After all, cricket is a very personal game on so many levels.

If you are looking for a quick fix to solve your woes of self-doubt and lack of mental application come your cricket, you will not be finding it in this book. If you want a book that will gradually take you through the tasks of the different ways to work on your game in a psychological capacity, then this book will be of a massive benefit.

One must keep in mind they will require a fair amount of focus and limited distraction when taking in the different concepts and then finding ways to interpret them into your own game and mindset. This in itself will take some time as of course when trying to gain new skills or master a challenge, time is everything, as well as dedication, focus and commitment.

The more you read the book while relating it to your practice, indeed practice will indeed make "permanent" (not "perfect" as the book tells us). The concepts are easy enough to grasp on the surface but to really understand and apply them to your game is a whole different challenge, but that is what makes cricket one of the most intense sports come the mind games. This book will definitely benefit many emerging cricketer's or coaches.

An extract from the Authors with regards to the application and purpose of this book:

"Anyone who has played, or coached, cricket is aware that the mental side of the game separates the best players from the rest. Indeed, many players, coaches, and commentators describe the substantial contribution psychology plays in determining levels of cricket performance. The Psychology of Cricket is the first book to provide sport psychologists, coaches, and players of all levels, with
expert knowledge on gaining the mindset necessary to maximize cricket
This book will teach you to apply mental skills effectively in specific practice and match situations, while also getting inside advice from the authors who have experience and expertise of working as sport psychologists in professional cricket.
Through The Psychology of Cricket, you’ll learn new ways to become mentally tough which include building confidence, improving concentration, enhancing emotional control, staying motivated, and handling pressure. You will also develop your understanding of the important ingredients of successful teams and begin to understand the art of captaincy and effective leadership. Central to this book is the development of the reader’s understanding of how psychological factors influence performance, and how knowing this can help to enhance psychological performance.
The Psychology of Cricket starts with an emphasis on individual player development and the fundamental psychological skills you need to excel at the sport. In later chapters, the focus shifts to the importance of team dynamics and mental strategies in competitive play.
For the definitive word on mental preparation, The Psychology of Cricket draws on the experiences of sport psychologists, coaches, and players working in cricket at all levels. If you want to gain expert, contemporary advice about developing the correct mindset and mental approach to arguably one of the most psychological sports around, then The Psychology of Cricket is the resource for you!

Welcome to The Baggy Green Blog!
Thanks for reading this article written by Ian.
To comment on this article, click on the 'Comments' tag at the end of the article.


01 May 2013

A guide to the 2013 Ashes series grounds

As opposed to looking at the rich history of the English Cricket Grounds and Stadia that will host the 2013 Ashes series (you can read this anywhere else) I've instead looked at a way to share what you can expect from the pitch and conditions that will set the battleground for the Ashes clashes at each ground.

For the Australian ICC Champions Trophy squad announcement, please visit the Baggy Green Blog Facebook page.

Now, not all Test venues stay true to their perceived reputation. Just look at the W.A.CA. The ground has been hailed as paradise for a fast bowler and a dreamy strip for a batsman, assuming you have zero fear come fast bowling. Over the last few seasons it has lost a bit of consistency for that traditional pace offered for the best of the quick's. Surfaces change as some get relaid, get exposed to unusual weather conditions, or even have curators being requested to deliver a track of a specific nature for a certain format of the game.

Having stated this, let's take a look at the five venues hosting the Ashes and their perceived characteristics. I've included a brief bit of history regarding each ground regarding most recent Ashes clashes and of course, for all the strategic nutters, what you can expect come the contest between bat and ball. As an Australian supporter you will be licking your lips in anticipation come our bowling effort, but have inner concerns regarding our batting, especially where application and patience will be vitally important for survival.

Australian 2013 Ashes squad.

1st Test: Trent Bridge, Notthingham (County team: Nottinghampshire)

Briefing: It was encouraging to see both Chris Rogers (Ashes squad member/ Middlesex) and Ed Cowan (Ashes squad member/ Nottinghampshire) showcase form and score some good runs at Trent Bridge in their opening Division One game of the county season.

This is going to be providing a gripping contest between bat and ball, but it is going to be most challenging for our batsmen. An excellent opening venue for the Ashes. It will test all aspects a team and individual requires to survive in a Test match.

We last played a Test in 2005, losing by 3 wickets, but we did take the win in the 2001 Test, which has little relevance at this point in time with it dating back 12 years.

At this relatively low scoring ground, Michael Clarke is the only player in our squad who has been exposed to the challenges presented at Trent Bridge at the elite level. There is validity to look at playing Cowan and Rogers too given their county runs.

The pitch report: As mentioned, Trent Bridge is an ideal arena to kick off the Ashes series in a time where batting dominates the modern game. There is as good a guarantee as any that the ball will swing and should provide for a menacing contest. Trent Bridge has produced more win or lose results than drawn results in recent years, so it is definitely a good place to start a series with an outcome quite likely to occur.

A theory behind the high presence of swing conditions at the ground, which is likely to carry throughout all possible innings in a match, is that the increase in buildings around the ground - notably the Bridgford Road stand - creates an enclosure of sorts, meaning that whatever air enters the arena will circulate and not escape as easily as an open ground, logically. Add a packed crowd attendance and conditions that aren't too chilly, you get an increase in friction resulting from the warmer air, which ultimately leads to a ball that responds greater to swing with greater emphasis needing to be placed on preserving one side of the cherry, while roughing up the other.

Have a read at this article explaining the scientific facts behind swing bowling: Read article on how a cricket ball swings.

Given our batting inconsistencies in recent seasons, England may very well eye an opportunity to have a bowl at us with confidence should they win the toss. Statistically it seems better to bowl first, also assessing your opponents batting line-up (SWOT analysis). The toss will be a massive talking point and it's essential to have that luck go your way.

Even though it is apparent that in any Test match should you get bowled out on the first day you are in trouble, Trent Bridge makes recovery from a poor start in a match hard to come by. This is mostly given the presence of swing bowling, made even harder by good, natural swing bowlers - England have a few of these. Sure, you could try and get one up on the opposition, but if they can handle the conditions slightly better, a deficit of even fifty to one hundred runs could end your hopes.

Expect plenty of deliveries with the new ball to be pitched up on a line that will create some fearful uncertainty. I'd be ready in the slips and gully regions.

2nd Test: Lord's Cricket Ground, London (County team: Middlesex)

Briefing: Best know as 'The home of Cricket'. Ah yes, we were also thumped there in 2009 as England went 1-0 up in the series. A poor first innings chase set us too far behind England's first innings, where Andrew Strauss went onto score 161 after he somehow escaped a plumb LBW decision in the first over of the game, delivered by Ben Hilfenhaus.

Michael Clarke will be the most enthusiastic to get back to the ground for two reasons. The first is that he will simply want to turn that loss into a thing of the past and play for a big victory and secondly, presently being in the form of his life, he played one of the most defining innings of his career in 2009 to get his name onto the centurion board in the visitor's dressing room at Lord's.

It's exciting enough to watch a game of Test cricket at Lord's on the television but being at the ground to watch a live Ashes match must be spectacular.

The pitch report: Brad Haddin had a rough time behind the stumps in 2009. The slope at Lord's makes a wicket-keepers job very challenging and slightly disorientating. Some bowlers have struggled to adjust their line to the unusual terrain.

If the sun shines over Lord's cricket ground, the God's smile down upon the batsmen. It usually results in little swing offerings for the bowlers with these conditions, on a track that has a tendency to offer a relatively even contest between bat and ball. Bowlers haven't appeared too short on pace in the matches I can recall in recent times. Should clouds put a blanket over the venue then the dynamic will change ever so slightly, meaning batsmen will need to show application and focus. These is generally applicable for most grounds in England as even the most mediocre of bowlers can find some swing assistance at times with overcast conditions.

This is a bat first ground traditionally, as is the ground itself - traditional. Even if conditions go in favour of the bowling side from a speculation point of view, Lord's is a ground that should still tempt a skipper to try and combat whatever obstacles may arise, get his batsmen to show some commitment to the task at hand and get the runs on the board.

3rd Test: Old Trafford, Manchester (County team: Lancashire)

Briefing: Historically this ground is famous for when Jim Laker (England) claimed figures of 19/90 against us in 1956. It is also the ground where Shane Warne delivered the 'Ball of the Century' to remove Mike Gatting. The last test was played at the ground in 2010 between England and Bangladesh. Before then it was England and New Zealand in 2008, so not much international Test cricket to go by in recent times.

The last Ashes Test at this venue was in 2005, where our tail managed to wag, ensuring England didn't go up 2-0 in the series, even though we know what the ultimate outcome was. Ricky Ponting scored a valiant 156 and was worryingly dismissed just overs away from stumps. Fortunately Glenn McGrath and Brett Lee had some fight left in them to survive the last four overs of the match.

The pitch report: History in the most recent Test matches shows an opportunity to get a good first innings total is there for the taking, so it's a bat first wicket in my mind. Visiting teams have struggled to "hold the fort" in their second innings, which England have then handled with home turf expertise to secure victory.

The weather up north is never set to guarantee a match without weather interruptions. From what was apparent between England and Bangladesh - I actually watched a bit of this Test - is that spin played quite a role in the game on a track with a bit of a "trampoline reputation" as Graeme Swann (England) and Shakib Al Hasan (Bangladesh) both cashed in with their bowling duties. Spinners can get nice assistance if they're able to work their lines and effectively use the crease. 

4th Test: Riverside Ground, Chester-le-Street (County team: Durham)

Briefing: This ground only had their first Test match in 2003 and we have yet to play a Test at the ground. England have an unbeaten streak at this ground having won four out of four matches, worth taking note of.

The pitch report: This ground can get very cold (temperature wise) for supporters and equally the players, who will be challenged to stay loose, warm and focused. A recent county match between Durham and Yorkshire saw low scoring first innings efforts, followed by a relatively high scoring finish as Yorkshire managed to chase down a target of 336 runs.

I have done some research and while I cannot write about this ground from what I have seen on the television come Test cricket, it does seem to be a track that is difficult to bat on at first, but the longer you bat and the further into the Test match the contest goes, the easier it is to negotiate what comes off the pitch.

Seems to be a track where the toss isn't something to have nightmares about. Main thing is that it seems to be easier to get back into the match if plans don't quite go according to how they were intended from the get-go.

Most interested to hear some analysis from any other viewers regarding this ground.

5th Test: The Oval, London (County team: Sussex)

: The Oval was where The Don played his final Test innings and the ground which historically hosted the first ever Test match in England in 1880. Unfortunately for us, it is also where we officially lost the Ashes in 2009 after Michael Hussey was dismissed for 121 runs in an effort to prevent us from going down, as a drawn result would have ensured we retained the urn.

Traditionally this ground is the curtain closer for the English Ashes tour.

The pitch report: The Oval provides one of the better batting tracks and has a tendency to be a drier surface than most found throughout England. The advantage for bowlers is that this does allow for the ball to get one side roughened up a bit quicker and should cloud cover occur, there is a serious opportunity for reverse swing with the ball also nipping around a bit more. 

Having said this, bowlers may have to work a bit harder on this track, but with the track being a bit drier there is some carry and encouragement for the fast bowlers in the early stages of a match. Later in the match is definitely pays to have a specialist spinner in a sides ranks with a possibility of the pitch opening up a few cracks and imperfections. Our selectors made a fatal mistake in 2009 by leaving out Nathan Hauritz. Let the new selectors take note of that blunder and ensure Nathan Lyon is played at the Oval this time around.

Long story short, bat first and bat well!

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