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Shaping up for a good summer

Posted in npower Ashes Series 2009

Well, after the first day of the first npower Ashes Test, I've already encountered marching bands, opera singers, ex-Ashes heroes, singing Aussies, face-mask pommies, early wickets, Pietersen blitz it, and some marvellous cups of tea served by some very polite ladies. Shaping up to be a good summer then.

Strauss won an important toss, and conditions and selection I believe have all gone England's way. The choice to play two spinners will likely prove correct as Hauritz, the Australian offie, is already getting some spin - and he by his own admission is not a big turner of the ball. Swanny and Monty must be licking their lips at the prospect of a last innings bowl (provided England set a challenging target).

Furthermore, the lush outfield has nullified the potential of early reverse-swing, therefore reducing some of the talents of the Aussie seam attack. Having said that, they've shown their nous by resorting to cutters and some accurate short-pitched bowling, bringing some early success for Mitchell Johnson in particular.

The ball has started reversing around the 60-over mark, and it will be interesting to see if England can get it moving before then. The encouraging thing without a doubt though is that there has been some assitance for all bowlers throughout the day - capped off with the late wickets of Flintoff and Prior.

All in all though, there is less to fear without the brute pace of Brett Lee, and England seem on paper to have the bowling unit to really exploit the natural swing that hovered with the new ball, and of course the resultant spin that Hauritz has found. There has been considerable conjecture in the press box as to whether England have missed an opportunity or had a good day, and I tend to lean to towards the latter.

As mentioned, there is plenty of assistance for the bowlers and boundaries on this slow outfield are harder to come by. Furthermore, Australia came at England hard, and without being at their best England still had plenty to repel them.

One man who sadly won't be exploiting bowling conditions this summer is 2005 hero Simon Jones. He's also a Welsh lad as we all know, and ECBtv managed to grab a few words with him outside the stadium this morning. You can watch this and plenty of fan banter online now. Jones is pretty confident in England regaining the Ashes, and after the first day I don't think he'll be far wrong.

At the moment England are 336 for seven on the second morning - and as Mr Chappell was heard to have said, 350 plus will represent a good total for England. I'm feeling confident at the moment, but my Australian counterpart next to me is also championing his own team. Enjoy that Urn while you have it chum! I believe in the boys, and the best thing about it is that they believe in themselves.

Finally, I must mention the lovely ladies that are providing the press with a superb service of tea, coffee, pastries and Welsh biscuits. Some of the older chaps in the box missed half the on-field action because they were too busy trying to engage the girls in high-brow conversation. The amount of journos that have turned into 'chain tea-drinkers' over the course of the first day is quite remarkable.