A week can be a long time in sport, and a month might as well be an eternity. That’s certainly going to be the feeling in the England cricket team’s dressing room as they refocus and try to get their hands on the most important prize in the test match game – The Ashes.
At the end of July, English cricket was, quite literally, on top of the world. The ICC World Cup had finally made it to the home of cricket, and best of all, England had won it on home soil. The “bottler” label that had dogged the team for decades could now be consigned to history and it was on to the next challenge of taking on an under-fire Australia team in the test arena.
Keep up with the action
In general terms, test cricket is struggling to attract viewers in the same numbers as the shorter format. However, when an Ashes series comes around, it’s another matter. It’s the longest running battle in cricket, with a history that stretches back to the 1880s. Back then, cricket enthusiasts had to wait for reports in the newspaper, but today, you can keep up with all the ebbs and flows whether you’re in England, Australia or anywhere else in the world.
TV coverage is led by UK-based satellite channel Sky Sports. It’s a subscription-based service, but there are flexible options in terms of daily and weekly passes. Channel 5 in the UK broadcasts a one-hour highlights show every evening where you can catch the main events of each day’s play. In Australia, Channel 9 is broadcasting every game live on free-to-air, while in India, you’ll need to tune into Sony Six.
There are also a host of live streaming options. Of the above channels, Sky offers streaming at a price, while My Five posts the highlights about five hours after broadcasting and leaves them there for 30 days.
For those who like to place a bet on the cricket, though, there’s no better option than checking out the live sports streams offered by bookmakers. There are plenty to choose from, including big names like Bet365, William Hill, Betfair and Paddy Power, to name just a few. This kind of “one stop shop” is proving hugely popular, not just with cricket fans, but with sports enthusiasts across the board who want to get the inside track of the games before deciding how to place their bets. It’s worth weighing up the different options, as some have specific wagering requirements to access the live streams, and others offer different types of content, for example those all-important expert interviews that will help you decide where to place your money.
A reality check in the first test
Every cricket fan knows that there are different skill sets required between the one day and test match formats, so England should have gone into the first test taking nothing for granted. However, events at Edgebaston suggested they might still have been suffering from something of a world cup hangover.
Sure, they were unlucky to have their spearhead bowler pull up injured on the first morning, effectively leaving them a man down for four and a half days. But there was a bigger difference on display between the teams than could be simply put down to the fact that they were a bowler short.
In part, it can be explained by looking at England’s team sheet. With Jason Roy, Johnny Bairstow, Jos Buttler, Moeen Ali and Ben Stokes all appearing in the top order, you’d be forgiven for wondering if they were still playing one day cricket. Only Stokes looked like a man who could adjust his game to the circumstances. With the unproven Rory Burns and Joe Denly also at the top of the order, Joe Root was arguably the only genuine test batsman present. He battled manfully, but the rest looked like batsmen who were lacking the patience, technique or inclination to grind out a test match innings.
Anderson’s injury aside, England’s attack was also exposed when it mattered. Moeen Ali was as out of sorts with the ball as he was with the bat, while the trio of Broad, Woakes and Stokes lacked variation, particularly when the shine had come off the ball.
The heavy defeat in the first test raised plenty of questions for Root and the selectors. The good news for England fans was that when the test match roadshow rolled around to Lord’s, they had at least come up with one two-word answer: Jofra Archer.
England bouncing back
A Lord’s test is a very special thing, and the anticipation around the ground on the morning of the first day creates an atmosphere like no other. Nonetheless, the typically hard and bouncy wicket provides an environment on which Australian cricketers feel far more at home, so England might have been wishing this match was being played elsewhere.
Moeen Ali being dropped in favor of Jack Leach was an inevitability, but it was the selection of Jofra Archer to stand in for the injured Anderson that set tongues wagging. The naysayers were already sharpening their knives. Too fragile, not enough big-game experience, a one-day specialist, the list of reasons he would fail went on and on.
Archer, though, proved to be exactly what England needed to provide that essential variation in their attack. Steve Smith, every England fan’s favorite pantomime villain, had turned into an unstoppable run machine. Until, that was, Archer literally felled the cricketing giant with the sort of aggressive, short-pitched bowling that had not been seen since the days of Steve Harmison.
With Rory Burns looking solid at the top of the order and the likes of Bairstow and Buttler finally showing some application in difficult batting conditions, this had the appearance of an entirely different team.
Ultimately, the weather had the final say at Lord’s, but as the opening exchanges in the third test at Headingly showed, England was the team that took the most out of the result. There is still plenty of cricket to be played in the five-test series, and it really is anyone’s guess as to how it is going to pan out. So pull out your phone, install that app and don’t miss a minute of it.