Katich and Ponting hold firm against Flintoff

Simon Katich and Ricky Ponting survived a ferocious burst from Andrew Flintoff after the all-rounder had dismissed Phillip Hughes on the second day of the first Ashes Test here on Thursday.

At tea, Ashes holders Australia were 142 for one in reply to England’s 435, a deficit of 293, with left-handed opener Katich 53 not out and captain Ponting 44 not out at Sophia Gardens.

Ponting’s innings meant he’d joined an elite group of batsmen who’d all scored more than 11,000 Test runs in Sachin Tendulkar, Brian Lara and former Australia captain Allan Border.

Through the hype, Pietersen relishes the contest

petersonThe Ashes, as 130 years of history might suggest, is all about tradition. But, as Kevin Pietersen reflected in the unfamiliar surroundings of the Welsh National Cricket Centre in Cardiff, from time to time as a player, it doesn’t hurt to divorce yourself from the excitement.

Though it might be stretching a point to suggest that Pietersen is happy to be playing the most anticipated cricket contest of the year at a venue where England have previously contested a mere three overs of an incomplete ODI, he is nevertheless ready, in that old sporting cliché, to take the positives out of the situation.

Flintoff rapped for missing bus to Ypres

flintoffEngland’s captain, Andrew Strauss, has admitted that timekeeping has become an issue among certain members of the squad, after Andrew Flintoff had to be reprimanded by the ECB for a breach of discipline during the team bonding session in Belgium ahead of the Ashes.

Flintoff failed to make the journey to the trenches near Ypres on Saturday morning after missing the team bus, having attended a private team dinner the night before, and on the eve of England’s warm-up fixture against Warwickshire at Edgbaston, Strauss conceded that the squad had some issues that needed to be ironed out.

Moores row saved team spirit – Pietersen

petersonSix months on from his resignation as England captain, Kevin Pietersen believes that the England dressing-room is a much healthier place for the blood-letting that took place during his spectacular falling-out with the former coach, Peter Moores. As a consequence he is quietly optimistic about the team’s hopes of regaining the Ashes in the coming series against Australia.

England set off for secret bonding session

straussThe 16 players named in England’s preliminary Ashes squad have been told to report for duty in Birmingham tomorrow armed with their passports, as the management prepares to step up the intensity ahead of the first Test in Cardiff on July 8 by organising a team bonding session in a secret overseas location.

An ECB spokesman confirmed that the trip was set to take place, but added that the exact details would remain undisclosed to enable the players to unwind without any cameras or TV crews tracking their movements. “This was something that the players themselves very much wanted to do as a unit,” the spokesman told Cricinfo.

Hussey considered semi retirement

husseyCricket’s punishing international schedule prompted Michael Hussey to contemplate retiring from at least one form of the game. Hussey revealed he had used his recent sabbatical from cricket to evaluate his future and, after careful consideration, opted to continue in all three formats for Australia.

Once renowned as an indefatigable force in Australia’s middle order, Hussey conceded that the constant grind of touring life had left him “mentally washed” during Australia’s recent tour of South Africa. The ensuing directive by selectors to rest him from the one-day series against Pakistan provided Hussey with time to review his commitment to the game and, on the eve of his first away Ashes series, he admitted there was a difficult balance to find.

England transfer attention to Ashes

flintoffEngland’s selectors are set to name an extended squad of up to 17 players ahead of the first Ashes Test at Cardiff on July 8, as attention shifts away from their Twenty20 campaign that came to an end in a rain-reduced run-chase against West Indies at The Oval on Monday night, and onto the summer’s main event.

In a change of convention under the new coach, Andy Flower, England’s original intention had been to unveil a training squad this Saturday, ahead of their three-day warm-up match against Warwickshire at Edgbaston on July 1, and trim it down to a more manageable number before the Cardiff Test gets underway a week later.

Hussey confident of revival in England

husseyMichael Hussey believes he can emerge from a lean Test run and regain the consistency that made him one of the game’s leading batsmen. Hussey will enter the Ashes without a hundred since the tour of India and an average in the mid-50s, a big drop on the mean of 84.80 he had early last year.

He struggled during the 2008-09 season but remains in a positive mood ahead of his first Test series in England. “I don’t feel I need to change anything in the way I bat,” he told the Sunday Mail. “I’m confident I can still be consistent for Australia.”

Australia make low-key arrival into England

husseyThe Australians’ low-key arrival into Birmingham on Thursday belied the enormity of the summer that lies in wait. It also contrasted sharply with the team’s entry four years ago, when an expectant England and a ravenous media created an intimidatory atmosphere that started the moment the players’ cleared Customs and lasted until they boarded their return flight – urn-less – several months later.

England switched Ashes venues on purpose

pontingRicky Ponting believes the Ashes schedule was changed deliberately to avoid England hosting the opening game at Lord’s, a ground they haven’t beaten Australia at in 75 years. The contest will start instead at Sophia Gardens in Cardiff from July 8, the first time a five-day fixture has been held in Wales.

“Last time we played the first Test of the series at Lord’s, and we felt comfortable with that because we almost knew we were going to get off to a good start,” Ponting said in the Sun-Herald. “There are places you turn up where players know that Australian teams have had success before, and it makes you feel a bit more comfortable playing there.