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ICC will introduce ‘pre-match sledging’ 0%
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West Indies to win ICC World T20 0%
Bowlers allowed to intimidate batsmen 0%
England to beat India 0%

January

All-round England make a winning-start

January 11, 2013

India had never chased more than 325 to win an ODI on home soil and, if the old India might have regarded England as ripe for the taking, this present side lacks the same formidable presence. They came close, but when Ishant Sharma was left to hit Jade Dernbach's last two balls for six to win the match, India probably knew in their hearts that the game was up.

England had lost 16 of their last 18 ODIs in India and two defeats in their warm-up matches did not auger well, but they served up a victory for their new limited-overs coach, Ashley Giles, at the first time of asking and will now face the rest of the five-match series in the belief that they are in an even series.

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India take series with third straight win

January 23, 2013

England fought hard to assemble a respectable total on a cold, wintry day in the Punjab, but when the fog cleared the view was a familiar one: another defeat in a one-day series in India. India's pursuit of 258 was far from trouble free, but a winning margin of five wickets with 15 balls to spare was emphatic enough and left them 3-1 up one to play.

Instead of a dead rubber in ODI in Dharamsala, in the foothills of the Himalayas, England would be forgiven for fancying a spot of skiing, but sadly for them the weather forecast is improving and only the cricket is going downhill. A record extended to 18 ODI defeats in their last 20 in India is proof of that.

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England need Finn to kick the habit

January 23, 2013

An irritation that has plagued England for months flared up once again as Steven Finn's propensity for dislodging the bails in his delivery stride cost his side an important wicket - who knows, perhaps even the series - in the fourth ODI of the series against India.

Finn thought he had dismissed Suresh Raina only to see that the umpire, Steve Davis, had signalled dead ball on the basis of Law 23.4(b)(vi), which states that the batsman should not be dismissed if he has been distracted while preparing to receive a delivery.

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It was in the gents! That was nice, for my first meeting with the match referee Ashley Giles reveals an unusual setting for a quick word from match referee Andy Pycroft

Quiet encouragement for England

January 27, 2013

Any side that wants to be confirmed as the best in the world can never be satisfied with a series defeat but, bearing in mind England's ODI record in India and their weakened state, then they can depart India both quietly encouraged and slightly frustrated.

Yes, the final victory came in a dead rubber. Yes, this is an Indian side in something of transition. And yes, each of the five games in this series was won by the team that won the toss. For all those reasons, it would be wrong to read too much into these results or the fact that only decimal points separate England and India at the top of the ODI rankings table. It is success in global events that will continue to define limited-overs success.

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JANUARY: Sri Lankan fans rejoice as an Australian wicket falls in the T20 at the MCG © Getty Images
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February

Lumb and Hales lead England charge to series

February 15, 2013

It was probably fitting that England sealed victory against New Zealand with an enormous six over midwicket: they had dominated this game throughout and the margin of victory - 10-wickets with 44 deliveries to spare - does not mislead. This was slaughter. The result secured a 2-1 series victory for England.

Michael Lumb and Alex Hales rushed them to victory with the team's highest-ever opening stand in T20, but this was a result that also owed plenty to an excellent performance in the field. England bowled with pace and discipline and fielded with consistent skill to limit New Zealand to total that always looked inadequate on another good T20 surface. It was only the second time that England have won a T20 by 10 wickets; they also beat West Indies by 10-wickets at The Oval in 2011.

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Root creates selection dilemma

February 20, 2013

This current one-day series against New Zealand is the last chance for England players to make a case for a place in the Champions Trophy squad. In terms of leaving a favourable impression on the selectors, Joe Root could hardly have done any better with two half-centuries in two matches, including his unruffled matchwinning innings in Napier.

But instead of finalising plans in the selectors' minds his success may yet require them to rip up their original ideas. Heading into England's New Year one-day commitments, firstly in India and now in New Zealand, it was largely accepted that England's top five was set in stone: Alastair Cook, Ian Bell, Jonathan Trott, Kevin Pietersen and Eoin Morgan.

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Finn leads England to series win

February 23, 2013

If occasionally knocking over the bowler's end bails can be deemed a weakness, it is the only blemish against Steven Finn at the moment. His new, shorter, run up is designed to address that issue and it has taken none of the pace and aggression away from him, qualities which were too good for New Zealand as England comfortably won the deciding ODI.

The win secured their first ODI series in New Zealand since 1992 and was the result of a fine bowling display led by Finn. His excellence included three wickets that laid a platform for England to dominate in the field. He and James Anderson conceded just 18 in the opening 10 overs and New Zealand never recovered, being bowled out for a total nowhere near competitive on a dry, hard, flat surface.

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It was like watching Edward Scissorhands coping with a cricket ball coming down at him from a great height Monty Panesar describes himself fielding under a high catch

England get back into Test mode

February 26, 2013

The bike rides around Queenstown's stunning shoreline and the helicopter flights to snow-capped mountains now get put to one side. England's Test squad - virtually at full strength with only the injured Tim Bresnan not part of the 15 - are now all in the same place, on New Zealand's South Island, to prepare for the Test series which starts in Dunedin on March 6.

The Test-only players - Nick Compton, Kevin Pietersen, Matt Prior, Graham Onions and Monty Panesar - along with team director Andy Flower arrived in Queenstown last week for a training camp that has not all been about cricket. The players have been posting regular updates on Twitter, marveling at the beauty of the location and the chance to undertake some of the more touristy aspects of the town rather than nets and fitness drills all the time.

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FEBRUARY: Jonathan Trott gets taken out by Nathan McCullum
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March

Match-saving start for new nightwatchman Finn

March 10, 2013

Steven Finn does not have a bat sponsor at the moment. Someone has missed out on almost five hours of valuable airtime after Finn surprised everyone, including a former team-mate and his current captain, with his performance on the final day in Dunedin.

He had emerged shortly before the close of the fourth day, for the first time in the role, after Alastair Cook edged behind to end an opening stand of 231. His job was to protect Jonathan Trott so that the specialist batsman could negotiate the final day. In the end, Finn outlasted Trott and Kevin Pietersen during a 203-ball stay.

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Trott, Compton in glorious display of grit

March 14, 2013

The road surface on the proposed flyover next to the Basin Reserve, which is causing much consternation among those worried about its impact on the ground, will not be much flatter than the 22 yards in the middle were made to look by Nick Compton and Jonathan Trott.

You could not have found a more polar opposite performance to the first innings in Dunedin, where England donated wickets as though making a delivery to a charity shop. Amends were made in the second innings and that head-down, don't-give-it-away, attitude was transferred to Wellington.

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Of Smith, Clarke and Cook

March 21, 2013

In a fine recent article about Graeme Smith, Michael Atherton talked about the essence of Smith's achievement to captain his country in 100 Test matches. "To endure under such strain [and by this he refers to "nail-biting match situations, restless nights, troublesome selectors, meddling administrators and festering egos"; he does not mention the expectant public nor the prying eye of the media that fuels it] speaks of unshakeable resolve and inner strength."

I confess to being fascinated by Smith and the road he has travelled. Leading the South African cricket team has specific and inherent complications - not least that the best side is not necessarily the one on the park. Smith brushes this away, understanding the pointlessness of debate on a subject that serves no common purpose. When interviewed on Channel 9 early last December, he admitted that he spent four years working out the job, a couple more getting a handle on it, and that only of late had he begun to nail it. Ten years is a long time to do anything, never mind lead a sports team with the egos to which Atherton refers and the insecurities and uncertainties that hover and wait to kill. Moreover, a cricket captain must practise as he preaches, a devil of thing to achieve consistently throughout any decade, never mind the fast-moving one just past.

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I couldn't watch, so Jonathan Trott and Huw Bevan provided commentary. I'm not sure they've got a future in it. Alastair Cook couldn't watch the final overs of the Auckland Test, so he got others to do it for him

Prior helps England hold on for heart-stopping draw

March 26, 2013

It may not have been pretty, it may not have been assured and it may have owed rather more to fortune than they would have liked, but England's last pair somehow clung on to seal a draw on the final day of the Test series against New Zealand in Auckland. In a thrilling advert for virtues of Test cricket, Matt Prior and Monty Panesar played out the final 19 balls of the game to frustrate a deserving New Zealand.

There were several occasions on a wonderfully absorbing final day when it appeared New Zealand's victory was inevitable. When England lost Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow either side of lunch and when they lost Ian Bell the over before tea, it seemed New Zealand were on the brink of just their second home series victory over England - the first was in 1983-84 - and their first Test series victory over any top eight opposition since they defeated West Indies in 2006.

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MARCH: Monty Panesar scrambles to make his ground
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April

Why Cook's right for England

April 3, 2013

Alastair Cook took on the job of England Test captain with a reputation as a man unlikely to spring many surprises. In fact, he has produced two shocks already: a series win over India, coming back from 0-1 down, and then a scramble to avoid series defeat against eighth-placed New Zealand.

Captaincy being what it is - a convenient mechanism for pundits to shoehorn their general opinions of a team into a judgement of a single human being, as though the captain actually is the team - Cook has already experienced an accelerated cycle of ups and downs. Lauded in India, he was immediately widely criticised for his tactics in New Zealand.

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A county game to savour

April 9, 2013

Like your parents, your health and a car that starts in cold weather, it is all too easy to take for granted the things we find most familiar.

So it often seems with county cricket. It has been with us since at least 1890. It has survived wars, recessions and the fluctuations in fashion and demand that have seen the decline of the British coal and car industries as well as various banks that were thought to be bullet proof.

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My Scottish chum

April 20, 2013

The cricketing gods chose Mike Denness to become the first Scottish-born cricketer to captain the England Test team. (Douglas Jardine, who presided over Bodyline was born of Scottish parents, but he was born in India.) It was a wise choice, for Denness was a man of purpose and resolve, a man with a happy disposition and a caring soul.

I first heard of him when I played a season for Ayr Cricket Club in the Scottish Western Union in 1967. There were three things a budding young cricketer whom the club had employed as a professional-cum-groundsman needed to do: learn all about the poet Robert Burns, buy a kilt, and take care not to do anything to upset the club's ground convenor, Bill Denness, Mike's dad.

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Too busy counting the money I made for them Lalit Modi responds to a tweet about whether the BCCI still cares for him

Magnificent Root secures stunning victory

April 27, 2013

Joe Root produced arguably the most substantial innings of his fledgling career to banish the pessimism that had fallen prematurely upon Yorkshire's season and leave Durham contemplating the sort of defeat that Riverside folklore had deemed all but impossible. Root got out with the scores level, to a ball delivered by Callum Thorp off a few paces, but as he had 182 at the time and Yorkshire won by four wickets from the next ball, he will be forgiven that.

History was entirely on Paul Collingwood's side when he declared Durham's second innings late on the third day and left Yorkshire needing 336 for victory. No opposing side has ever successfully chased a target of that magnitude in Chester-le-Street and this was April, with the trees still barely in leaf and the council mowers leaving ruts in the nearby parks.

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APRIL: April saw thousands turn out for a memorial service for Christopher Martin-Jenkins, a cricket broadcasting legend
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May

The delights and frustrations of Stuart Broad

May 19, 2013

Stuart Broad is the Nicholas Cage of bowling. Cage will take risks, perform erratically, pick terrible films, choose the wrong way to perform a role, overact and then occasionally perform so brilliantly that he makes an entire film. While doing all this he also divides opinion.

Smack in the middle of Stuart Broad's cluster bomb that made New Zealand look like they're a club side who'd walked into Lord's by accident, I received a link to a blog about Broad. Broad comes a close third to Sachin and Shahid in the most-blogged-about stakes. It is almost without doubt something about whether he's a good or bad bloke, and a good or bad cricketer. This blog was in that vein.

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Anderson's magic not to be missed

May 19, 2013

Consecutive balls to Dean Brownlie at Lord's on Sunday afternoon crystallised James Anderson's brilliance. The first swung in and zipped past the inside edge; the second swung away, found the outside edge and was comfortably held low at slip. Both were delivered at a lively 83mph, both were perfectly pitched in that place Geoffrey Boycott once christened the corridor of uncertainty, and both had the seam positioned upright and threatening.

All in a day's work or a mind-blowing talent? It depends on your take, the answer is to try it. Go bowl a ball that fast, land it where you aim to and swing it one way, never mind two. Believe me, it is extremely difficult.

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Root stands tall for county and country

May 25, 2013

Yorkshire was on its best behaviour for Joe Root. "Put tha' best bib and ticker on, lad's mekking his debut." The crowd was expectant but never over-demanding, the pitch was bountiful and the skies were so sharp and blue that from the top floor of the pavilion you could even see the Emley Moor transmitter on the horizon. Tallest structure in Yorkshire, the locals will tell you. But there is no doubt after the magic of a maiden Test hundred on his first outing on his home ground that Root is standing taller today.

It was a chance to make good, and Root had the ability to take it. His celebration upon reaching three figures will stick in the memory, a sort of ungainly jiggle which suggested that, although he hails from Sheffield, the Arctic Monkeys will never have him in mind when they sing I Bet You Look Good On The Dance Floor. "I lost it a bit, but you only get your first one once," he said before confirming that it was not actually meant to be a dance move. "I suppose emotions took over and that was the result of it."

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When I was starting out, my dad always took me to the Lancashire trials, never criticised, and knew the way to McDonald's, rain or shine. James Anderson thanks his family after getting 300 Test wickets

England must end insularity to become great

May 28, 2013

It was a tortured process but we got there in the end. A surprisingly generous weather god and two empathetic umpires saw the second Test match to a conclusion. From it came embarrassment for New Zealand and the satisfaction of a job extremely well done by England.

It was a close-run thing and might easily have not worked out so well. The splendid umpires, Marais Erasmus and Steve Davis, of no-nonsense South African and Australian hue respectively, had kept the players at it through murky light on day four and annoying drizzle on the final day. Only clearly unfair conditions took them from the field of play.

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MAY: James Anderson and Stuart Broad were all England needed in the second innings, England v New Zealand, 1st Investec Test, Lord's, 4th day, May 19, 2013
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June

Guptill's blazing 189 sees New Zealand clinch series

June 2, 2013

A record-breaking day from Martin Guptill earned New Zealand another one-day trophy on English soil with an 86-run victory at the Ageas Bowl. Less than 48 hours after leading his side home at Lord's, Guptill plundered New Zealand's highest individual one-day innings with a monumental, unbeaten 189 which left England shell-shocked and reflecting on their first home ODI series loss since 2009.

Guptill, who went past the previous individual mark of 172 by Lou Vincent against Zimbabwe during the penultimate over of the innings, provided more than half of New Zealand's overwhelming total of 359 for 3 - the second-highest conceded by England after the 387 for 5 in Rajkot in 2006. Agonisingly for England, like at Lord's, they offered him a life on 13, when Jonathan Trott - who later scored a 98-ball hundred - spilled a relatively straightforward catch at midwicket, although it proved more costly than anyone could have imagined.

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Life in the 50-overs dog yet

June 13, 2013

I like 50-over cricket, always have. Going back, there is an admission here to preferring 55 overs per team, and 60 as it was long ago, but those formats are lost in the mist of time. Watching the Champions Trophy from afar - not addicted but at various moments quite riveted - It is fun to hear the score for the first time and some days not even to know what the game is before turning on the radio or television.

Some of the batting is amazing - amazingly bad in Pakistan's case and amazingly good in the case of India. The bats help. You cannot begin to believe how fabulous the bats are until you use one: balanced - almost weightless in a way - yet full-bodied with an attractive narrow grain and gently arcing bow that sits encouragingly beneath the eye. With one of these in your hand, most things appear possible and many are achieved.

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Misjudgments all round in Warner saga

June 14, 2013

The Wedge is a mostly forgotten sketch comedy show that aired for a couple of seasons on Australian television six or seven years ago, but there was one recurring character who rang true then and still does now. Mark Wary, as played by actor Jason Gann, was a professional at some unspecified sport, who in every skit was at a press conference apologising for some controversial incident.

"I wish to apologise undeservedly," he reads from a crumpled piece of paper, before the suited manager sitting beside him interjects. "Unreservedly," the manager corrects. Later, the manager explains: "When you reach Mark's level of professional sport you are confronted by an exceptional amount of pressure," to which Mark adds "and champagne". Mark always has an excuse.

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There's not a lot of good that happens at 2.30 in the morning in a pub or a nightclub. James Sutherland, Cricket Australia's chief executive, isn't a fan of night-outs that end up in bust-ups, like David Warner's did

England architects of own downfall

June 23, 2013

And so the wait goes on. England have now lost in the final of five global ODI tournaments - three World Cups and two Champions Trophies - and remain the only side who were involved in this event not to have won a global ODI competition.

This result will hurt. It will hurt not just because they came so close, but because they will know that they were, to a large extent, the architects of their own downfall.

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JUNE: Shikhar Dhawan goes airborne after India's victory, England v India, Champions Trophy final, Edgbaston, June 23, 2013
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July

Agar lives a life-changing dream

July 11, 2013

There was once a man who had the day of his dreams. The man was young, just 19, with willow boughs for limbs and piano player's hands. It was a summer's day at Trent Bridge, with traffic curling round the ground and the beery lads in July bloom but he batted on a Hawaiian beach at sundown, bare feet in the sea, unlit cigarette at his lips.

On Tuesday, Ashton Agar was a spinner for Australia A and Henley CC, on Wednesday he was a surprise debutant wheel-barrowed into a feeble line-up on the whim of a coach. Now he goes into the record books as the man with the highest ever Test score at No. 11 - 98 runs off 101 balls, 12 fours, two sixes - transforming a session, tipping over a match. And oh, what style! What languor!

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Roared on and roared off

July 13, 2013

"Jerusalem" was performed later than usual this morning, so late that it delayed play a fraction. Its rousing tune and patriotic tone had an even greater impact than on previous days for it coincided with a tribalistic welcome for Stuart Broad and Ian Bell. Never mind the morality, feel the Ashes. There may not be much of a capacity at Trent Bridge but 17,000 people can roar their approval to mighty effect if they so choose.

Broad was out for a fine 65, caught at the wicket. He didn't wait for the decision, he scarpered. It's okay to say that he was within his right to stand on Friday because the principle of walking is dated to most cricketers - not all but most. At school, Australians are not instructed to walk but they are taught to accept the umpire's decision, come what may. The rest of the world now treads those boards. Even the ones in the 'not all' bracket take the main chance in other ways. Adam Gilchrist was a walker but behind the timbers he appealed for things he doubted were out. Find the gloveman who has not.

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It was Jimmy who done it

July 14, 2013

William Herschel just beat Australia. He died in 1882 but it was he who contorted Brad Haddin's face, encouraged the England players to cheer and forced Marais Erasmus to tell Aleem Dar he'd made a mistake.

William Herschel was the man who discovered infrared. It was infrared and quality stump microphones that beat Australia. That and Jimmy Anderson.

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Where's Freddie? I need a hug Brett Lee, on Twitter, has flashbacks to 2005 after the finish at Trent Bridge

Feeble Australia the real story of Lord's

July 20, 2013

Though Joe Root was the story of the third day at Lord's, Australia's feeble cricket has been the narrative of the match. Why should this be? Have Australians lost it? Is this a cyclical thing?

Though vindictive England fans licked their lips, there was no pleasure in the batting collapse, which was as awful to watch as it must have been to participate in. If one image best illustrated the humiliation, it was the full toss that Chris Rogers mowed at and missed. If one innings best crystallised a career, it was the 30 made by Shane Watson. If one shot summed up the malaise it was the wild throw of the bat by Phillip Hughes.

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JULY: England erupt as victory is confirmed, England v Australia, 1st Investec Test, Trent Bridge, 5th day, July 14, 2013
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August

KP stocks still on the rise

August 3, 2013

It was with splendid timing that the producer of Channel 5's cricket coverage called for the graphics that display the list of England's highest run-scorers in Test match cricket. Kevin Pietersen had just gone past Colin Cowdrey and was shown to be nipping at the heels of his captain, Alastair Cook. The figure was 7626.

Two balls later it had moved, like a irresistible commodity, to 7638. A good day indeed to buy KP and, as if to celebrate this improved position in the market, the commodity skipped down to Nathan Lyon, cleared its left hip out of the road and planted an offbreak into the bleachers at wide long-on. Next ball it did much the same, hitting straighter but with equal brutality and even greater distance. The old one-two and the contest with Lyon was over. There had been some polite jostling for position: the trade of a block here and inside edge there for a late cut and a midwicket shovel. But the negotiations were now over. In two hits, the rules of the game had moved on. Man was now playing boy. The market screamed its approval, the bars emptied.

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Bell creates his Ashes legacy

August 11, 2013

In years to come, when we reflect on the summer of 2013, it may well be that we remember it as "Bell's Ashes".

Ian Bell has been magnificent in this series. While his team-mates have batted with nervous fragility, Bell has combined the sweet timing with which his batting has always been characterised with the reliability and steel with which it has not. He has scored not just pretty runs, but match-shaping runs. He might well prove to have been the difference between the sides.

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Broad leads charge to Ashes victory

August 12, 2013

To Headingley and Edgbaston 1981 may be added Durham 2013. As happened 32 years ago, Australia tossed away day upon day of diligent cricket with a crowded hour or so of batting calamity, against bowling of high quality from an England team that had looked momentarily bereft of inspiration.

Where in 1981 Bob Willis and Ian Botham had rained blows on their antipodean rivals, this time it was Stuart Broad, aided by a critical cameo from Tim Bresnan. Back then, England had been marshalled expertly by Mike Brearley; now it was Alastair Cook who pulled the right rein by replacing Graeme Swann with Bresnan when Australia were 167 for 2 and hurtling towards 299 to win.

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I just hope the Australian public give it to him right from the word go for the whole summer and I hope he cries and he goes home. Australia coach Darren Lehmann has clearly not forgiven Stuart Broad over the controversial walking incident in the first Test

Succour for Clarke and joy for Cook

August 23, 2013

Just when you think you have seen it all, this gloriously unpredictable and rewarding game throws you a curve ball. England's job this morning was to save the match and prepare for a party. The bookies' price against them winning it was 100 to 1, but were it not for the curse of bad light, win it they would surely have done.

Michael Clarke's brave and skilfully judged declaration gave the day a new perspective and Kevin Pietersen's musketeering strokeplay brought The Oval to life. You have, of course, heard that line before. KP and The Oval are as one, a person and a place that exercise no limit on expectation. The miraculous is merely a part of their portfolio, and what pleasure they bring to all who buy into them.

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AUGUST: England celebrate as Shane Watson is confirmed as out, England v Australia, 4th Investec Test, 4th day, Chester-le-Street, August 12, 2013
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September

Geoff Cook at heart of Durham's title push

September 9, 2013

A lot is made of team spirit, perhaps too much at times. There is no doubt, though, that it has been a factor in Durham's ascent to the top of the Championship table as the season nears its conclusion, not least because of the news that reached their players on the morning of June 20 this year, news that their head coach - their father figure - was in hospital, his life in the balance.

Geoff Cook, in charge of the first team since 2007 and director of cricket since Durham became a first-class county in 1991, had been found unconscious on a riverside path near the county's headquarters at Chester-le-Street, having suffered a heart attack while on his morning run. His condition was so serious it was feared he might not survive.

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Buttler leads England home to level series

September 14, 2013

Jos Buttler added to his burgeoning reputation as the man to close out an innings by ensuring that the NatWest series went to the deciding match, as he guided England to a tense three-wicket victory with three balls to spare in Cardiff. On a surface where free-scoring was a rarity England struggled in their chase of 228, dented early on by Clint McKay's hat-trick, but just when the requirement was getting out of hand Buttler and Ben Stokes produced a strong argument as to why they have packed the batting order.

Buttler had earlier been given out lbw on 8 but was saved by the DRS when it showed the ball sliding down the leg side. When the seventh-wicket pair joined forces England still needed 84 off 68 balls but overs 39 to 43 brought 40 runs as the equation started to favour the home side. Buttler eased the tension further by drilling James Faulkner into the River Taff and then brought up his half-century from 41 balls.

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Watson leads Australia to winning finish

September 16, 2013

As in the Ashes, Shane Watson saved his best until last to enable Australia to end their almost four-month stay in England with silverware as they wrapped up the NatWest series with a convincing 49-run victory. Watson's 143 provided nearly half of Australia's total and his stand of 163 with Michael Clarke, who battled through with his troublesome back, was the defining period of the match and series.

England's chase only ignited when Ravi Bopara and Jos Buttler were adding 92 in 13 overs; perhaps it was the autumnal chill which descended and left spectators huddle up in jacks that prevented an early spark. But by then it was a monumental task, even for Buttler's nerves of steel. Kevin Pietersen was run out in the third over and any remnants of a chance, however slim, disappeared when Eoin Morgan departed straight after the halfway mark of the innings.

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No, I don't have an extra long bed, I kind of lie across the bed a little bit on the diagonal. Boyd Rankin explains one of the difficulties of being a tall fast bowler

Durham claim third Championship title

September 19, 2013

It is often stated that there are too many first-class counties. That, if a few were merged, the concentration of talent within the England domestic game would improve the overall standard.

Durham prove the shallowness of that argument. They prove that the talent pool is not finite and that, if you take the time to nurture and develop young players, provide inspiration and opportunity, you will, in time, reap what you sow.

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SEPTEMBER: Geoff Cook kisses the Championship trophy, Durham v Nottinghamshire, County Championship, Division One, Chester-le-Street, 3rd day, September 19, 2013
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October

England top order must revive old habits

October 23, 2013

Alastair Cook has put the onus on England's top order to lay the foundations for another Ashes success, well aware they are unlikely to be able to afford the same stuttering batting displays which characterised the home series.

England did not reach 400 once during the previous series with their highest total being the 377 they made at The Oval. Australia, by comparison, went comfortably past that mark twice but the counter to that is they suffered more match-defining collapses. However, while it may appear quibbling after a 3-0 scoreline, Australia is not a place so forgiving of underweighted batting displays.

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'I never want to average 20 in a series again'

October 27, 2013

Matt Prior has arrived in Australia without one very prized possession. Not his bat, his gloves or his cap: his bike. England's wicketkeeper has been obsessed with cycling for the last couple of years, but he has been barred from taking his machine down under by team manager Phil Neale.

That is perhaps understandable given the amount of internal travel the team will undertake, but Prior took some persuading that it really was an issue of size and weight. "I took my bike to New Zealand, which was awesome," he says, "but the manager has thrown his toys out and won't let me take it. So I said I am going to put bricks in with my golf clubs to prove a point. I am gutted but I have sorted it out. I am taking my shoes with me, so I will be riding over there."

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Broad still stands his ground

October 28, 2013

Stuart Broad, who has been presented as Australia's "public enemy No. 1" since his refusal to walk in the Trent Bridge Test proved a pivotal point in the last Ashes series, has wasted no time in informing his critics that if the circumstances were repeated he might do the same again.

England have indicated that Broad will have an extra security presence if there are signs of lingering aggression among the Australian public, but despite the personal pressures that puts him under, nearly four months later he is still determinedly standing his ground.

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He wouldn't stop until he had got my elbow sticking out properly. British prime minister David Cameron on getting batting tips from Geoffrey Boycott, an event he called the his most exciting moment of the year

Bailey firms as Ashes inclusion

October 29, 2013

George Bailey appears to have hurdled the dual obstacles of poor recent Sheffield Shield returns and an indifferent record at the Gabba to take a place in Australia's Ashes top six, after a glowing assessment of his qualities by the national selector John Inverarity.

There appears to be little need for Bailey to rush home from the current ODI tour of India either, as Inverarity said the coming rounds would not overly distract the selectors from a Test squad they appear largely settled on.

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OCTOBER: The England team looking rather dapper at a photo shoot at Lord's, London, October 23, 2013
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November

The crowd at Tendulkar's feet

November 14, 2013

At 3.31pm, M Vijay gets out to a bat-pad catch off Shane Shillingford. There are about 20 overs to go to stumps. Two wickets are down. You don't expect a nightwatchman, with so much time to go, but sometimes people expect the worst. They all look towards the Indian dressing room. A support staff person moves about. There is no sight of either the regular No.4 or a nightwatchman. People keep looking. No signs. Anticipation builds. Tension builds. Suddenly someone realises the umpires have asked Vijay to wait because they are checking the legitimacy of the delivery. A minute has passed, and now someone has realised that. Time has stopped in India once again. Perhaps one last time, who knows?

There are old folk in the crowd, old enough to be his father, who might have seen him as the curly-haired kid in the maidans. Middle-aged people who have given up work today, who have grown with him, who have lived their lives with him as a part of them. Eighteen to 20-year olds who weren't even born when he debuted. Not a single person is sitting. Then they see Vijay has been given the marching orders, 25,000 heads - the loudest 25,000 you can ever imagine - turn to the dressing room. Two wickets have fallen in this over, but nobody is bothered.

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Tendulkar: forever icon

November 13, 2013

Change is constant, but the pace of change is wildly inconstant. Some lives are played out in the context of continuity and stability; others must adapt to dizzying change and upheaval. Endurance, perseverance and resilience are all relative concepts: standing your ground is much harder when the sands are shifting all around you.

In 1989, when Sachin Tendulkar first took guard for India, cricket was mostly played in whites. The dominant team in the world was West Indies. ODI cricket was emerging but Test cricket firmly remained the game's gold standard. T20 was an accidental form of the game, a solution used only when rain shortened the duration of play. When the England Test team played away from home, it still wore the egg-and-bacon colours of the MCC, a strip invented in the 19th century. India was a passionate cricketing nation but a marginal player within the game's power structure and governance - money and influence lay elsewhere.

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Deeper problems than first-Test nerves for England

November 24, 2013

Had you never seen England play Test cricket before this match in Brisbane, you would be forgiven for concluding that they had no hope of fighting their way back into this Ashes series.

This defeat was as emphatic and complete as any in recent years. Indeed, only five times in history have England lost a Test by a larger run margin. It is understandable that some are suggesting that this game may be remembered as the start of a new era. An era in which Australia hold the upper hand.

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I have played cricket for 24 years, it has been only 24 hours since retirement, and I think I should get at least 24 days to relax before deciding these things. Sachin Tendulkar doesn't want to think of what lies ahead just yet

What fast bowling does

November 25, 2013

Only last Thursday, England were the pundits' unbackable favourites for the Ashes - don't let any of them tell you otherwise. Stick to the facts, said the glitterati of the game: England have the better cricketers. Wise heads predicted 3-1, or something like it, while the headstrong went for 5-0. Predictions are a mug's game. Last winter, England were going to be hammered in India. Wrong.

Form, fitness, karma in the two camps and recent history told us that there could only be one winner down under. Moreover, a suspicion lingered that the English batsmen were better suited to Australian pitches and that all those giants bursting out of tight England shirts would be the mother of handfuls on the hard bouncy pitches of the Great Southern Land. Oh, and England held the psychological cards. Well, all that was wrong too.

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NOVEMBER: Good fast bowling can wilt even the hardiest batsmen © Getty Images
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December

Australia seal emotional victory to regain Urn

December 17, 2013

As the Barmy Army sang mournfully of their desire to take the Urn home, Australia completed a pounding of England in Perth to regain the Ashes lost in 2009. Mitchell Johnson was a fitting taker of the last wicket, a short ball to James Anderson an equally fitting manner in which to take it. England have been bullied and battered from the second afternoon in Brisbane when Johnson blew the touring middle order away.

In all it has taken only 14 days for Australia to end four years of torment. Of the current team only Michael Clarke had experienced an Ashes victory before. The overwhelming margin of victory was the culmination of a campaign that began in England earlier this year, a series loss away from home used to gather intelligence on England and generate confidence within a team rejuvenated by the appointment of the new coach, Darren Lehmann.

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Johnson, Warner blaze the trail

December 17, 2013

Mitchell Johnson would not have played at the Gabba had Australia had a fully fit corps of fast bowlers. James Pattinson and Mitchell Starc would likely have been ahead of him, maybe even Jackson Bird. Even when they were all ruled out due to injuries, it seemed a gamble to pick Johnson alongside Peter Siddle and Ryan Harris, given his fragile history against England. But Johnson had matured since his previous Ashes experiences - marriage and fatherhood had given him a sense of perspective - and he'd been searingly quick in the recent ODIs in India and in the early Sheffield Shield rounds. At the Gabba and Adelaide Oval, England had no answers to Johnson's pace and improved consistency and with strong support from Harris, Siddle and Nathan Lyon, they were repeatedly shot out. Johnson took 17 wickets in those two Tests, won both Man of the Match awards, and the Ashes were all but regained.

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Exhausted and broken

December 17, 2013

When the England squad was announced, there was excitement over the inclusion of three unusually tall fast bowlers - Boyd Rankin, Chris Tremlett and Steven Finn - and the expectation that one or all could play a key role on Australian pitches offering pace and bounce.

But anyone who had watched county cricket in 2013 could have confirmed this was always unlikely. There was a mountain of evidence to suggest that Tremlett was not the force he once was and that Finn was enduring something of a crisis of confidence as he weighed up conflicting advice from county and international coaches. It was naive to think that an England set-up with little track-record of improving bowlers - James Anderson and Stuart Broad were international players before the current management took charge - could revitalise such players. It might well have proved helpful to have Graham Onions, the best bowler in county cricket over the last two seasons, on the tour to provide cover and balance.

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It's a cute little smile that he's got. I didn't mind giving him a little one back as well. Mitchell Johnson compliments Joe Root and promises plenty of "mindgames" in the Perth Test

Madiba and the godfather

December 16, 2013

As the January sun set low over Robben Island, the 1970 Australian cricket team attended a garden party hosted by the South African prime minister, Johannes Vorster, at his Cape Town residence. Nelson Mandela's term behind bars had entered its seventh year. He was probably cracking rocks on Robben Island the very instant Bill Lawry's men were being feted by Vorster.

I noted with discomfort the brusque attitude of Vorster and his ministers towards the black waiting staff. I imagined it was the closest thing to a Nazi garden party I would ever experience.

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DECEMBER: Adelaide observed a minute's silence for Nelson Mandela © AFP

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