Follow by Email

Monday, December 31, 2007

Are India capable of matching Australia? First Test reviewed

Australia 343 and 7 for 351 (dec) defeated India 196 and 161 by 337 runs with a day to spare.

Perhaps nobody, not even the Indians themselves, believed that they could chase down 499 on a fourth and fifth day MCG pitch, but many would have expected, and most, if only for the sake of the series, would have hoped that they would have made a better fist of things in theit second innings.

But it wasn't to be, and they couldn't even match their feeble first innings score. Once again the Australian bowling squashed any flickers of resistance. Nobody made 50; only VVS Laxman 42/112b and Saurav Ganguly 40/78b passed 20, and their 41 partnership for the 4th wicket was the highest for the innings. All five Australian bowlers (Andrew Symonds being the fifth) combined in a most efficient demolition job, one which must have left the Indians wondering how they can present credible opposition to Australia for the remainder of the series.

Scorecard.

What can India do?

First, the batting needs to re-energised (to put it as tactfully as possible). This can be done by, among other things, bringing Virender Sehwag into the team as an opener, and allowing Rahul Dravid (a fish out of water in this game) to drop to his customary no3 position. Either Wasim Jaffer or (more likely) Yuvraj Singh should be dropped.

Second, the fielding, particularly the ground fielding, needs to improve several notches. Anyone who had seen much of either Australian innings in person or on TV would know what I'm talking about.

Third, some thought should be given to the balance and composition of the attack. Anil Kumble was the only Indian bowler who was worth his place for the whole game. Whether Harbajan Singh, who lifted his game somewhat in the second innings, should stay in the XI for Sydney is one moot point, and whether the best available pair of quick bowlers played at the MCG is another.

On paper the team India fielded for the First Test was very strong, especially in batting, so should we suggest that its failure to make 200 in either innings was an aberration? Perhaps so, but then was Ricky Ponting's failure to reach double figures in either innings also an aberration?

Much as I respect the abilities of Tendulkar, Dravid, Laxman and Ganguly, I'm more inclined to think the latter.

Link to
Cricinfo coverage.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Australia set India predictably huge challenge: First Test Day 3

Australia 343 and 7/351 (dec) v India 196 and 0/6.

Apart from surprise at Ricky Ponting being dismissed cheaply for the second time in the match (watch out India for the rest of the series!), there was little deviation from the course plotted on the second day.

Ponting was the only failure: the next lowest scores were 11 no (Brett Lee), 35 (Adam Gilchrist) and Brad Hogg (35 no) , though Andrew Symonds was bowled by Zaheer Khan off a no ball when he was 8.

Harbhajan Singh bowled much better this time around, but couldn't build upon his figures at one stage of 1/23 from 10 overs as the middle and lower order Australians found him more to their liking. The others kept plugging away but could only achieve intermittent successes.

Left to face 8 overs after the Australian declaration, Wasim Jaffer and Rahul Dravid occupied the crease without being parted.This was a minor accomplishment, but one which may give the Indians a little more heart and stomach for the rest of their fight.

Scorecard and Cricinfo Bulletin .

Friday, December 28, 2007

Australian quick bowlers squeeze life out of 10 brittle Indians: First Test Day 2

Australia 343 and 0/32 v India 196 (Tendulkar 62, Lee 4/46, Clark 4/28)

Those like me who looked forward to another closely contested day's play were disappointed. Yet we were compensated by the brilliance of the Australian quick bowling and an innings from Sachin Tendulkar of high quality.

After India wrapped up the Australian innings quickly when Zaheer Khan took his fourth wicket, their openers Wasim Jaffer and Rahul Dravid were all at sea against Brett Lee, Mitchell Johnson and Stuart Clark. The opening partnership lastted 38 minutes and produced 4 runs, all to Jaffer who faced 27 balls before being caught behind off Lee. Dravid confirmed that he is much better at no 3 than opening and it was a merciful release when Clark had him lbw at 31 for 5 laboriously compiled runs made off 66 (repeat 66) balls in 103 minutes.

VVS Laxman, Saurav Ganguly and above all Tendulkar improved upon this dismal performance but never prised their team free of the grip of the Auustralian pace attack. Brad Hogg was punished by Tendulkar, but he came back with two wickets (of which his dismissal of Ganguly - bowled - showed him at his best).

And Tendulkar? 62/77b/113 minutes (8x4, 1x6) was something more than a cameo yet, for all his brilliant strokeplay, it was considerably less than the situation needed.

But it was not his fault that India's response was so feeble, the Australian bowling so dominant and allowed to be thus. As the weather forecast for the next few days predicts no rain, in the absence of second innings turnaround such as India have achieved a couple of times before (but not with Dravid opening), the game will run its course towards a comfortable and, now, inevitable Australian victory.
Scorecard and Cricinfo Bulletin

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Seniors to the fore as Australia start well then falter against Indian attack: First Test day1

Australia 9/337 (90 ov) v India

Australia won the toss and managed to batted through the first day after looking at one point as if they might bat through the first two days. That point came to an end at 135, when Phil Jacques was stumped by no longer hirsute wicketkeeper M S Dhoni off Anil Kumble for 66/108b (8x4)

Thereafter it was a struggle for all the other batters except for Matthew Hayden. Yet again he showed his class in making 124/183b ((9x4), while the next highest scorers were Andrew Symonds 35/42b, Adam Gilchrist 23/42b(which says something about the bowling when he was in) and No 11 Stuart Clark who swatted 21/17b at the end. Australia finished the day with a respectable, but far from dominating, 9/337.

The Indian bowlers varied in quality: the openers started well yet seemed to lose their collective way until captain Kumble (24-5-84-5) dismissed Jaques and thereafter, apart from a couple of overs which were punished, checked held the Australians. Zaheer Khan (22-1-93-3) was the best of the others.

After a day of good quality Test cricket I'm not willing, and I expect I won't be alone in this, to make any predictions about its future course. But I'm looking forward to the struggle continuing.

Scorecard and Cricinfo Bulletin

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Santa watches over Redbacks as they deliver Christmas cheer to supporters




SA 3/171 (32.1 0v) def Queensland 170 (45 ov) by 7 wickets with 17.7 overs to spare: interstate one day match at Adelaide Oval

Many years ago South Australia used to play a Sheffield Shield match against Queensland in Adelaide over Christmas (they often played on Christmas Day).

Today, on the threshold of Christmas, those with memories as long as mine were reminded fleetingly of the old times as the red and black garbed South Australians took on the rhubarb and custard clad Queenslanders in a one day match. (To the initiated, the Redbacks played the Bulls)

The Redbacks continued where they'd left off with their crushing defeat of WA (to the initiated, the Warriors) five days ago.

The Bulls struggled to come to terms with the home team's bowling and fielding as well as the overcast, wintry conditions (the max temp was 18.5 degrees which may seem mild, but if you could feel the sou' wester in your face you'd have thought otherwise).

The Bulls began with a partnership of 58, but catastrophe (viz 2/61/, 3/61, 4/63, 5/67) ensued before this season's domestic cricket Mr Reliable (aka Ashley Noffke) with support from recalled veteran Lee Carseldine saw the total to 144. Then another collapse saw an early conclusion to their innings. 170 from 45 overs was not a competitive score.

The lights were switched on as Matthew Elliott and Daniel Harris opened the batting and at once went after the bowling. Elliott was aggressively fluent, as we've come to expect from him in one day games ( why don't we see more of this in the four day comp?). The Bulls attack was at less than full strength but wasn't handled well: stand- in captain James Hopes had less faith in his own bowling than did Ricky Ponting in the higher level Chappell-Hadlee series a few days ago . The part time off spinner Aaron Nye was the best of a modest bunch, and was rewarded with Elliott's wicket, caught on the boundary going for the six that would have brought him a century and his team victory. Still 94/91 b was nothing to be ashamed of.

The Redbacks are now second to Tasmania in the one day (FR Cup) comp. Is it too much to hope for a long-overdue appearance in a final?

Scorecard

PS: In the interval between innings SACA held a simple presentation ceremony for the U-17 Redbacks and Scorpions (SA women's) teams. It was good to see them acknowledged in this way.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

The Age covers cricket's broad spectrum

Today's Age has some very good (or better) articles about what it describes as "the game's broad spectrum".

These range from the future of Test cricket (Greg Baum"'s "Put to the Test") , several pieces about the Australia - India series (including Alex Brown on Australia's apparent fast bowling riches, Peter Roebuck on Sourav Ganguly and Lyall Johnson's analysis of Mr Cricket's way with words) , Twenty20 IPL cricket (Mr Brown and Chloe Saltau's analysis of the player contracts) , and club cricket (the first of a promised series by John Hanlon).

There's also an historical item "Weighing up Bradman's MCG legacy", once again by Mr Baum.

The Age looks like being the print and online media outlet of choice for serious Australian cricket followers over the next few weeks.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Ponting shines once again as Australia dispose of NZ

Australia 6/282 (50 ov) d New Zealand 168 by 114 runs with 16 overs to spare.

In Hobart today Ricky Ponting led his team from the front to a second conclusive victory over the Black Caps in less than a week and thereby regained the Chappell-Hadlee Trophy.

Batting first, Australia weren't really in trouble at 3/87 from 19.1 ov, but Ponting's 134 no /133 b supported by Andrew Symonds 52/63b , Brad Haddin 26/28b and James Hopes 20/17b, saw the team to what looked like a safe 6/282.

Jacob Oram was the best NZ bowler but he, along with most of his team mates, succumbed to the pressure applied by the Australian attack. Only Scott Styris, with a hard hit 75/79b, enabled the Black Caps to climb out of the pit of 7/88 and reach a modest but very disappointing 168.

I'd thought that NZ were a better one day side than this. Last season in the tri-series they showed much more fight, but in all three games of this one (even the 6 over one on Sunday) they showed that they were no match for a strong and clearly focused Australian team led by one of the greatest players of our time.

Scorecard

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Mr Cricket turns Mr Sledger

An amusing piece by Jenny Thompson, who is IMO one of the best writers on the game at present, on Cricinfo.

Sydney washout reprieves NZ

NZ 3/30 (6 ov) v Australia

Six overs may not a cricket match make but Australia were well on top when rain ended play at the SCG today. There's not much more to say, except that for the Black Caps it must have been a merciful release.

Scorecard

Friday, December 14, 2007

Ponting and Gilchrist at their best. Does it get any better than this?


Australia 3/255 (42.3 overs) defeated New Zealand 7/254 (50 overs) by 7 wickets with 45 balls to spare.

Tonight at the Adelaide Oval two great Australian batsmen led their team to victory, and in doing so gave a masterclass in the art of batting. Adam Gilchrist's 51/29b (2x6, 6x 4) was all that a one day cricket follower could hope for, whereas Ricky Ponting's 107 no/108b (13x4) was one of the best innings any cricket connoisseur could expect to see in a lifetime of watching the game.

The photo above shows Ponting's characteristic pull shot, but he played shots all round the wicket as his wagon wheel shows.

And the rest of the match? NZ started promisingly. Brendon McCullum took early runs off Shaun Tait and others, but no3 Jamie How took 22 balls to get off the mark (he finished with 20/59b) and helped the bowlers to regain control. McCullum raced to 60 but slowed down thereafter. His 96/103b (1x6, 12x4) was a worthy innings which in most other situations would have been memorable . Ross Taylor was given one to get off the mark
(a full toss which he hit for for six) and several other gifts by Brad Hogg during his 50/52b. Surprisingly, Jacob Oram by his standards scratched around during the final overs, but he wasn't wholly responsible for a disappointing final score of 7/254.

This was never going to be enough. When Adam Gilchrist and Matthew Hayden got stuck into the NZ opening attack who were like or, to give them the benefit of the doubt, were made to look like net bowlers, it seemed as if 35 overs would be enough for Australia to overhaul their target.

Then both openers were out, as was Michael Clarke after an impressive 48/76b. Ponting reached his 50, then it rained, bringing relief after the match had begun in 30+ plus degree heat, but also raising the prospect of a Duckworth - Lewis result. Fortunately the rain stopped, the mathematicians were put back into their box, and Ponting continued his innings (I took the photo above then by which time most of the crowd had left). He eventually took his team to an easy victory as he demonstrated the arts of batting. The Chappell- Hadlee Trophy, it seems, is destined to return to Australia.

Scorecard


Thursday, December 13, 2007

Ill matched by moon (or artificial) light?

Cricket Australia has floated the idea of day-night Test cricket matches being played in Australia.

I've an open mind on the topic, but would like to see it trialled in the domestic four day comp (Pura Cup) first. In fact it was tried there a few seasons ago and didn't bring the crowds into the grounds, so I wonder whether things are likely to improve.

Throughout out the world, except for England ( where the grounds are small and admission prices high) and Australia (when it plays England), Test cricket is not a popular spectator sport. It remains an acquired taste and, as most leading players would surely admit, the highest form of the game.

It does deserve to be preserved though, and playing it at night may provide more opportunities for spectators and, depending on time zones etc, for the TV networks who provide by far the largest audience for it.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

One sided contest shows that not all T20 games are close

The margin in tonight's Australia - New Zealand game was "only" 54 runs, but in Twenty20 cricket that's a yawning chasm. Not that the large crowd at the WACA had much time to yawn as the Black Caps collapsed in response to Australia's 6/186 (20 ov). They scratched, edged and snicked their way to 5/31 (7.5 ov) including three ducks, then 6/49 (9.6 ov), and 7/59 (11.4 ov) before Jacob Oram 66 /31 b (5x4, 6x6) entertained the crowd in a lost cause which ended after 18.3 overs when the last wicket fell at 132.

The fireworks were provided by the Australian batting, especially "Roy" (the soubriquet on his costume) Symonds 85/64b (7x4, 3x6), the five man Australian pace attack, some good fielding by both sides, and by the ground authorities after close of play.

A pre-match incident/ accident to Brad Hodge meant that Luke Pomersbach, the WA left hander, who'd recently been suspended by his state for drinking too much, was summoned from the WACA car park as a last minute replacement.

Scorecard.

75 years on

It is 75 years since the beginning of the 1932-32 Ashes series in Australia.

The Times has published an excellent comprehensive review of the topic, including links to some of the newpaper's reports of each of the five tests and articles by Murray Hedgcock (IMO a particularly good one), John Woodcock, David Frith , Christopher Martin-Jenkins , Ben McIntyre (a discussion of some less well known aspects of the controversy), Patrick Kidd and, in his florid characteristic style, Simon Barnes.

There's also a podcast and, in less serious vein, the five part Douglas Jardine Video Diaries (presented by Andy Zaltzman).

Several of the articles ( but not the pod/video casts) were republished locally in the latest Weekend Australian, together with a piece in Simon Barnes style by Mike Coward . Most of them are on the paper's website (where there's also a photo with the erroneous caption: "Batsman Bill Woodfull ducks a Harold Larwood bouncer during 1920s [sic] Australia v England Bodyline Test in Brisbane").

Highly recommended, especially The Times version.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Pause, break, hiatus, lull, siesta...

These are a few words which have been, or could be used to describe the weeks since the mini-series with Sri Lanka finished.

Years ago (like when Richie Benaud was captain) Australian cricket seasons were divided into those with touring teams and those without. In the former the touring side (note singular) progressed around the country playing matches (which were never called "warm up" matches) against state teams before the test series began, usually in late November/early December. If no overseas team toured the first class season comprised the home and away Sheffield Shield four day series between five states, with an occasional game involving Tasmania. This may explain why interstate cricket had a stronger following then. (How many contemporary South Australians could name more two or three Redbacks?)

Nowadays the emphasis is on international cricket in its three forms by which I mean test, 50 overs and Twenty20, not matches between the top tier of nations and those involving Bangladesh and Zimbabwe. Although two tests are currently under way in the sub-continent the only Australian involvement on the field is via the umpires, whose job should be, and generally is to maintain a low media profile (though umpire Harper has incurred the displeasure of The Times cricket correspondent ).

It's hard to believe that at this time last year the Ashes series was well under way. That of course was shoehorned into a short period, and for the Australians at least, unlike this season with its crop of crocks was relatively injury free.

Anyway a kind of normality will soon be restored with the Australia- NZ Twenty20 game in Perth, followed by the Chappell-Hadlee series, which begins in Adelaide on Friday (where a hot high 30s day is forecast). So Australian reporters and bloggers will have something tangible to write about instead of having to speculate about whether Muttiah Muraliduran deserves to hold his record (I think he does, but may return to this another time) or if Australia should choose a spinner for the Boxing Day test (I think it's a good idea, but am not sure if there's anyone who can fit the bill).

PS Trivia task for the underoccupied: select a team from those who've missed a game or more this season due to injury.


Monday, November 26, 2007

Dream farewell leaves nightmare scenario for SA?

SA (397 and 1/30) had an unexpectedly easy 9 wicket win over WA (236 and 190) in Darren "Boof" Lehmann's final first class match. He certainly went out in style, making 167 in his only innings, capturing a wicket in each WA innings and taking a magnificent reflex catch off Jason Gillespie (which was shown on local TV) to end the WA second innings.

The Warriors were under strength because they'd suspended Shaun Marsh and Luke Pomersbach for drinking transgressions but I expected them to fight harder in their second innings after the Gillespie and Lehmann triumphs in the first.

It didn't happen. Justin Langer, with two 30s, had a modest match and the Redbacks won with a day to spare, a rare event in recent times, and one which must have given them and their supporters some heart for the rest of the season. They are now fourth on the Pura Cup table.

Minus Lehmann the Redbacks batting looks thin. Mark Cosgrove, whose physique is far from thin at present, and underperforming skipper Nathan Adcock need to contribute more with the bat.

Adcock's second innings 3/30 shows that he's not a complete passenger, but he's not in the team for his bowling. Or should he be? Batting 7 or 8, which I think he did earlier in his first class career, would allow another specialist batsman to play, even if it required a rethinking of team balance. Enough musing for now.

Scorecard

PS Richard Earle in today's Advertiser / Adelaide Now records Boof's swansong in first class cricket.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Redbacks batting supports fine Gillespie bowling

SA 1/75, WA 236: Day 1 Pura Cup match at Adelaide.

I didn't go to the cricket today but was pleased to see that the SA batting didn't collapse after their bowling led by Jason Gillespie (7/58 from 20 overs - his best ever at Adelaide Oval) dismissed the Warriors for 236. Brad Hogg's 68/42b (5x4, 6x6: most of the latter from Darren Lehmann) must have been worth watching.

The Redbacks lost Mark Cosgrove for a duck but Matthew Elliott and Callum Ferguson stayed together until stumps.

PS Why wasn't Cullen Bailey selected?

In today's Advertiser/ Adelaide Now SA coach Mark Sorell is quoted as justifying the omission of Shaun Tait from the Redbacks 4 day team on the grounds that Cricket Australia had requested it:

"CA do not believe that playing Shaun in back-to-back four-day domestic matches is in the best interests of his pending return to the Australian team," Sorell said.

"While we had hoped to play Shaun we are fully supportive of CA's decision.

"One of my jobs is to produce Australian players and we will do everything we need to do to see Shaun playing for Australia."

If he's really serious about producing Australian players, why doesn't he push for Cullen Bailey to be included in the Redbacks' four day team? Bailey played most of these games last season and, while he didn't set the cricket world on fire, he did enough to gain a Cricket Australia contract and selection in the Australia A team which toured India.






Thursday, November 22, 2007

Lehmann farewells one day cricket with century...and SA win by 8 wickets

Following hard upon the heels of Darren Lehmann's announcement of his retirement from top cricket, the principal interest in the one day match between South Australia and Western Australia was likely be on the great man. And he didn't disappoint, producing a magnificent 126no/104b in an unbroken 236 partnership with Matthew Elliott 133no/137b to overhaul WA's formidable 6/305 with...wait for it... 18 balls to spare.

What a game.

The Warriors batted first and got off to a cracking start, despite losing Justin Langer cheaply. Luke Ronchi (the next Adam Gilchrist?) smote 69 from 58b and with Sean Ervine took the score to 104 from 100b, in the process testing both the bowling and ground fielding. When after 30 overs the Warriors had built the solid platform of 3/182, bearing in mind the rule of thumb of doubling the score in the last 20 overs, a huge score seemed likely. But it didn't quite work that way: Ervine stayed and scored, but others came and went: one, Mark Johnston, forced to retire hurt when his jaw was broken by a return from the field.

A final score of 6/305 looked sufficient, especially given the brittleness of the Redbacks batting, but to my spectator's eyes 19 from the last 4 overs was less than I expected, especially as the 4 overs before that had yielded 38.

Ervine finished with an impressive 134 no /129b: an innings of such class as to merit much media attention. Yet it wasn't to be as the Redbacks overcame early losses, Callum Ferguson brilliantly caught at fine leg by the otherwise hapless (see his bowling analysis) Shawn Gillies and a less than sprightly Mark Cosgrove run out, before the two former internationals came together.

They built their partnership by taking their time (relatively speaking) before hitting out when the Warriors attack, which included Brad Hogg, who looked ordinary if no worse than his team mates, wilted before the onslaught.

I was impressed with Boof's fitness: the weather was much cooler than the preceding week or so's run of 30 degree plus days, but I only noticed one Arjuna Ranatunga moment (ie walking an easy single), and that was in the middle of his innings.

Two magnificent innings - actually three, since Ervine deserves some sympathy, as he has twice now in a 50 overs game at Adelaide Oval made a century and been on the losing side. The other occasion? See here



Scorecard
Photos

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Sangakkara masterclass almost trumps Australia's stronger hand: Second Test Day 5

Kumara Sangakkara's 192/282b was the highlight of the final day's play of the Second Test, and also of the series.

Unfortunately he didn't receive from several of his teammates the support which his innings deserved. Four of the first seven in the order contributed 4 runs between them to a total of 410: if you want to identify the underperformers see the scorecard. Nor did he receive a good, or even half decent decision from umpire Koertzen, for which the official subsequently apologised (and which the Channel 9 vision showed K S accepting with exceptionally good - dare I say unAustralian - grace).

Australia therefore won by 97 runs, a comfortable margin on paper but one which will should make them think hard about (1) the policy of not enforcing the follow on where they've obtained a large lead, and (2) whether their attack is the best available. Stuarts Clark and MacGill were disappointing: Clark bowled a lot of tripe to the tailenders and MacGill did the same throughout the innings.

Brett Lee however bowled magnificently, and thoroughly deserved his Player of the Series award (Sangakkara should have received the Player of the Match as while he was batting Sri Lanka were still in with a chance).

And so, as Simon O'Donnell reminded the Channel 9 Cricket Show viewers at lunchtime today (a program which looked hastily cobbled together, as if Ch9 didn't believe the game would last that long , Test Cricket in Australia now goes into recess until after Christmas. Such are the exigencies of the modern game.




Monday, November 19, 2007

Darren Lehmann announces retirement

Darren "Boof" Lehmann of Australia, South Australia, Yorkshire and Victoria has announced his retirement.

Adelaide Now has a good package of print and video reports, including this:

Lehmann will finish his stunning 20-year cricket journey during this weekend's Pura Cup's clash with Western Australia at Adelaide Oval.

As revealed in The Advertiser last week, Lehmann was forced out of the game by the effects of a chronic achilles injury and his breakdown in relations with the SACA hierarchy.

Lehmann, who played 27 Tests for Australia, was relieved of the SA captaincy in March after eight seasons in charge.

The most prolific run-scorer (13,468) in Sheffield Shield/Pura Cup history conceded that while he idolised SACA high performance manager Rod Marsh as a player, he couldn't endorse his administrative style.

"We have different views on how to manage a cricket team," said Lehmann, who burst onto the first-class scene aged 17 in 1987-88.

"The past 12 months has not been easy. Ongoing concerns and conjecture about whether I could remain injury-free and finish the season, as well as other frustrations, have contributed to my decision to retire."

Lehmann thanked an array of current and former players for influencing his career including Shane Warne, Ricky Ponting, Adam Gilchrist, Jason Gillespie, Jimmy Maher, Greg Blewett, Wayne Phillips and Australian coach Tim Nielsen.

Lehmann will now concentrate on a three-year deal to promote SA Brewing and spend more time with his family.

"I think I'm playing well enough at this level still, but the injuries are just getting too much," he said.

"It's getting harder to get out of bed in the morning to start with."I'm looking forward to it (retirement), looking forward to watching the boys play, but hopefully I go out with a bang this week."

Only two years ago, as I commented at the time , Boof notched a triple century against WA. I'd settle for a vintage single century and a half from him at the weekend.

Sri Lanka show some determination, but is it enough? Second Test Day 4

Marvan Atapattu (80/ 164b) and Kumar Sangakkara (109 no /198b) provided the stiffer resistance which pre-series form suggested the Sri Lankans were capable of. They took their team to 3/247 and the match into the fifth day.

Whether Sangakkara, Sanath Jayasuriya (33 no/58b) and those yet to bat will be able to add the 260 runs needed to win will keep (or maybe kindle) public interest in tomorrow's play. The pitch is still playing reasonably well and the Australian attack, lacking the injured Andrew Symonds and with Stuart MacGill bowling prodigally, hasn't performed as well as it might have. Even so, Brett Lee (16-2-40-2) has bowled magnificently and without luck: the first ball of the innings almost did for Atapattu, who edged it and was extremely fortunate that it landed just in front of the diving keeper.

If the Sri Lankans are going to win (and I doubt whether they will, but will eat my words if they do) the two now at the crease (apologies for not typing out their names again) and wicketkeeper Jayawardene will need to make most of the runs. The team may even rue omitting Chaminda Vaas: his batting record is better than any of the last four in the current team.

But it's game on, and all cricket followers should be grateful for this.

Scorecard.

PS

Today's Australian has a good piece by Peter Lalor "Can Test cricket climb off knees?". It draws attention to several of the challenges facing cricket today.

The sun came out for the cricket at Hobart yesterday, but the crowds stayed away again amid worrying signs that the public is only interested in big ticket Ashes-type Test series and one-off events like Twenty20.

This weekend's Australia-Sri Lanka Test attendances have been blown out of the water by the V8 Supercars and even a protest march against a local pulp mill made the cricket crowds look thin.

The car races, which have been on in Tasmania at the same time as the cricket, attracted a crowd of almost 30,000 yesterday while only 5536 attended Bellerive for the Test.

Even more telling were estimates that at least twice as many people turned out on Saturday to protest on the streets of Hobart against the Gunns' pulp mill than turned out to see a Saturday's play featuring the world's best cricket side.

Admittedly the skies were gloomy on the first day of the weekend, but Australia was batting, Michael Hussey scored a century, Andrew Symonds a 50 and Adam Gilchrist smashed his 100th six for another half century during a day of high entertainment.

Three days of Test match cricket in Hobart has attracted 17,000 people while nearly 60,000 showed up for the V8s in the same period.

On Friday 6249 attended the first day of the Test while 14,755 showed up for a practice session for the V8s at the Symmons Plain race track.

On Saturday the first race of the championship attracted a crowd of 16,102 while only 5381 attended Bellerive and yesterday the V8s reported five times the crowd as that at the cricket.

Chief executive of the V8 Supercars Wayne Cattack said the sport worked hard to promote itself and had attracted 3000 schoolchildren to a special event on Friday that had all the drivers signing autographs in pit lane for 90 minutes.

"We were concerned about the competition with the Test match, we did a very intensive launch and marketing campaign leading up the event and we worked hard," he said.

"We weren't sure how the Test would affect us, Tasmania is not a huge state and you are trying to tap into a limited market and we know there's an overlap between the two sports from our research, but we are delighted with the result."

Cattack said he wasn't aware of how the cricket promoted itself, but pointed out the V8s had flown drivers down two months ago to do publicity and that the stars of the sport had been working hard in the past week at local promotions.

There have been concerns about the health of Test cricket in this series which has failed to ignite public interest.

More fans are expected to turn out to the Twenty20 match between India and Australia in February than will attend any of the Sri Lankan Tests.

.....

The limp cricket attendances coincided with a stand-off between CA and a number of news organisations. The Australian and other News Limited papers were locked out of the first day of the Brisbane Test and a number of international agencies did not resolve their differences until the second day of the Hobart Test.

The latest Sweeney Sports report notes a significant decline in brand awareness from sport fans, although cricket was the exception. Todd Deacon, general manager of the research company, said he thought the decrease may be due to more companies and brands competing for attention in a crowded market. Cricket's 3 Mobile was the only major sponsor to increase its awareness.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Australia lead by 296 yet don't follow enforce follow on: Second Test Day 3

Early in the day's play Brett Lee put Sri Lanka on notice with a magnificent yorker which uprooted Michael Vandort's middle stump. Marvan Atapattu fought hard but also succumbed to Lee; Kumar Sangakkara 57/76b played a good one day innings; only captain Mahela Jayawardene 104/194b played a good test class innings in a cause which moved from a losing to a lost one as wickets fell regularly at the other end. All out 246.

Lee 4/82 from 23.2 overs was the best of the Australian bowlers but Mitchell Johnson, Sturt MacGill and Stuart Clark (with a niggardly 2/32 from 16 overs) all showed their quality.

I thought that, with the end of the day's play not too far away and considering how successful the tactic was in Brisbane, Australia would have enforced the follow on. But caution or tradition or whatever ( and just possibly even logic) prevailed and Ricky Ponting opted to bat again. There is of course plenty of time left for Australia to throttle Sri Lanka, but the prognosis for the next two days, or however long it takes the Australian batsmen to amass a huge lead and the bowlers to work through the demoralised Sri Lankan batting line up a second time, doesn't exactly impel me to be glued to the TV or radio.

In the last 20 overs of the day's play Australia rubbed salt into Sri Lanka's wounds by galloping to 1/111 (quadruple Nelson ?) with Phil Jaques 53no/70b. More of the same is on the menu for the early part of tomorrow.

Scorecard.

Brief notes
  • The Channel 9 effects mikes have frequently and clearly picked up calls of "no ball" when Muttiah Muraliduran bowls.
  • The attendances have been poor: just over 5,000 each day.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Australia even better placed despite rain: Second Test Day 2

In today's play Australia advanced from 3/329 to 5/542 dec, with each batsman who came to the crease making a considerable contribution. Mike Hussey 132/220 b, Michael Clarke 71/123b ratcheted up the pace, then Andrew Symonds 50 no /71b and Adam Gilchrist 67 no /77b (including his hundredth test 6) emphasised their team's ascendancy.

The main impediment to their progress was intermittent rain and bad light: the Sri Lankan attack was relatively innocuous (in fact surprisingly so given the reputations of the bowlers) and let down badly by some slapdash fielding.

The weather forecast is better for the next two days, and the Sri Lankan openers hung on to be 0/30 when play ended. The wicket seems to be playing well so that a draw may not be out of the question. The Sri Lankan batting lineup is stronger than in the first test, and its reordering, with Sanath Jayasuriya listed at no 6, means that we should expect a more resolute response this time. It was only a year ago since England declared at 6/551 and yet lost a test, yet it's hard to imagine Sri Lanka being able to both get within range of Australia with the bat and then bowling out Australia cheaply.

I don't want to sound triumphalist; in fact I'd love to see the Sri Lankans put up a sterner fight from now on, but I can't envisage them being able to make a serious push for victory. The Australian attack is, compared to last season's, relatively inexperienced but still looks pretty formidable. My opinion will be tested tomorrow.


Scorecard
.


Friday, November 16, 2007

Australia well placed: Second Test Day 1

I'm writing this before the scheduled close of play with Australia 2/281, ie in a dominant position (despite it being early in the match).

Phil Jaques has made another century and the usually reliable Michael Hussey has supported him well, after Matthew Hayden (1&) and Ricky Ponting (31) made by their standards modest contributions.

Scorecard.




Monday, November 12, 2007

Interstate roundup: NSW falter briefly but eventually triumph

Today was hot in Adelaide - the temperature reached 32 degrees- as was the batting of Simon Katich and Dominic Thornely who took their team to a convincing 7 wicket victory over SA.

The Redbacks now are confirmed as favourites to retain the four day (Pura Cup ex Sheffield Shield) wooden spoon.

Scorecard

In the other fixtures Victoria defeated Tasmania and Western Australia defeated Queensland each by an innings.

Australia defeat rain and trounce Sri Lanka

Australia lost only 4 wickets while Sri Lanka lost 20 in a match which extended, thanks to rain and bad light (as adjudged by the ultra cautious umpires), to the penultimate session.

Australia's batting was awesome. I thought that Phil Jaques was very shaky at first but he persisted and eventually flourished, while everyone else who batted: Hayden, Ponting, Hussey, Clarke and Symonds, was in form. And Adam Gilchrist didn't need to come to the wicket.

The result, notwithstanding sterner resistance from the Sri Lankans in their second innings, confirms that Australia are well on the way to adjusting to the retirements of Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath. Brett Lee clearly relished his new role as the spearhead of the attack, Mitchell Johnson made a good debut, Stuart Clark carried on more or less from where he'd left off last year, while Stuart McGill, if not a Warne clone, was not supported well in the field and - apology for the cliche - bowled better than his figures indicated.

Scorecard.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Sri Lankans fight hard without dominating: First test Day 1

On a rain affected Brisbane day Australia has put together 3/242 from 76 overs. The highlight of course was Phil Jacques's century, which looked most unlikely as he took 34 balls to get off the mark.

The Sri Lankans persevered and never let the game get away from them, despite a few loose overs (mainly from Dilhara Fernando) and some fielding lapses. Even so, they would have hoped to be better placed after winning the toss and asking Australia to bat.

Scorecard.


Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Redbacks win a game at last

It took them until the last ball but South Australia did defeat NSW by 5 wickets tonight at the Adelaide Oval.

I was there for two periods of play: the middle overs of the NSW, and the middle and final overs of the SA, innings. The Blues batted relatively slowly against a tight Redbacks attack. Even if the wicket was less batter-friendly than usual it did not require great prescience to predict that 7/233 would be a winning score.

And so it proved, though the Redbacks middle order made heavy work of scraping the last few runs after Matthew Elliott (83/113b) and Darren Lehmann (a quickfire 34/32b including a magnificent flat batted pull shot for 6) had set up victory. Nathan Bracken bowled magnificently in the last few overs while Stephen O'Keefe, Nathan Hauritz and Doug Bollinger held the Redbacks in check for most of their respective spells. Unusually for a limited overs game, the run rate really slowed in the last few overs as the Redbacks took their time to get not only the run levelling the scores but also the winning one.

Scorecard.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Return to Test cricket

I returned from England last week to be confronted with several days of cool and intermittently wet weather, ie not especially conducive to cricket.

In my absence South Australia has started its season poorly with two losses in four day games to Victoria at home and Tasmania (including Ricky Ponting) away.

On the international scene, Australia this week begins its first Test match since January this year with a game against Sri Lanka at the Gabba. The home team will start favourites, as Sri Lanka will not be at full strength (Kumar Sangakarra is injured), but on paper should be able to give Australia ( both the team and the cricket public) a good game.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Away from the action

I'm in London visiting family at the moment and so am not in close touch with the Australian cricket scene.

I have however read on Cricinfo that South Australia began its first class season earlier this week with a drubbing at the hands of Victoria. Just like last year.

The scorecard suggests that neither SA's batting or, more surprisingly, its bowling are of a standard likely to push other teams hard in the Pura Cup four day competition.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Brief mentions

International cricket

In recent weeks cricket has been overshadowed, at least in local media coverage, by other sporting events, eg the AFL and NRL finals and the Rugby World Cup quarter finals (where Australian vaunting and puffing on a scale not seen since Glenn McGrath predicted a 5- 0 result in the 2005 Ashes series received a sharp reality check).

Nevertheless the international cricket round continues and today India defeated Australia by 8 runs at Chandigarh, thereby keeping the seven match series alive. Australia 2, India 1, washout 1, with 3 to play.

On paper India look good. Australia have fielded a relative newcomer, James Hopes, and used Brad Haddin as a stopgap batter, but the team has, at least until today, exposed the limitations of the Indian attack.

I will not venture a prediction about the outcome of the rest of this series, but will look forward to India's visit here later this season.

Domestic cricket

A couple of reminders today that the local season will soon be upon us. The Australian lists ( or tucks away) in the Weekend Scoreboard section on p24 all the first class team squads including changes from last season. Alas, this isn't online: the nearest thing seems to be on the Cricket Australia website (and this requires a lot of clicking and scrolling to access). Tonight on ABC TV I also heard an ad promo for this year's ABC Cricket Magazine (but can't find any mention of it on the ABC website).

Monday, October 01, 2007

Colours lowered



The title of my previous post was not intended to put the knockers on Port Adelaide in the AFL final, though their colours were certainly lowered metaphorically by Geelong, and literally by a supporter, as the photo above which I took yesterday in the Adelaide Hills shows (apologies for the picture quality: I'm still coming to terms with a new camera).

PS I've now posted the answer to the question as an update to my previous post.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Which England cricketer helped lower Port Adelaide's colours?

As Port Adelaide prepares to face Geelong in Saturday's AFL Grand Final it's worth pointing out that Port is one of the few Aussie Rules clubs to have played an international match against England.

The Pommies were a rugby team touring Australia & NZ who couldn't get decent rugby opposition in Victoria and SA so played a few games of Australian Rules, including one against Port Adelaide.

Surprisingly, since Port were almost at full strength, the visitors won 8 - 8 to 7- 8.

In case you're wondering what all this is doing here there is a cricket connection. The England team in that game included a player who also captained England at cricket. Who was he? Answers by 3pm Saturday please.

Answer ( added 1 October): A E (Andrew) Stoddart. See his Wisden obituary here . I could find very little online aout the Aussie Rules matches of the tour, so I went to The Advertiser report to check that he did actually play: he did and was named as one of the "prominent" players in the game.

Another piece of trivia: in those days Port Adelaide played in colours more akin to those of the Crows or the Brisbane Lions: for a photo of a Port player c 1896 see this Wikipedia article on Australian rules football in South Australia.



Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Close contest strengthens future of Twenty20

India has defeated Pakistan by 5 runs at Johannesburg in the final of the inaugural world Twenty20 Championship.

I thought that India didn't make enough runs against generally hostile Pakistan bowling, though passing 150, from a not too difficult chance which Mohammad Hafeez not only fluffed but knocked over the boundary for 6, gave them something to bowl at on the slowish pitch.

Pakistan got off to a rollercoaster start: a wicket and 4 runs from the first probing R P Singh over, followed by a loose one by Sreesanth which conceded 21; Singh again took a wicket in his second; and then, surprisingly, a Sreesanth maiden. 4/31 from 4 overs set the pattern for the innings: each time as Pakistan seemed to pull ahead and position themselves for a final onslaught, they lost another wicket. 4/65 from 9 overs needed the middle order to fire, but Shoab Malik and Shahid Afridi were both dismissed by Irfan Pathan in the same over (6/77 from 11.4 overs). The 7th wicket fell, again to Pathan senior (whose brother made his international debut in the game). Misbah-ul-Haq launched an assault on Harbajan Singh but the errant Sreesanth took a wicket with his last ball (4 - 1 - 44 - 1!) . 8/138 from 18 overs became 9/141 from 19.5 overs.

An edged 4 from the final ball left 13 required from the last over. Joginder Sharma, not the best of the Indian attack, began with a wide: 12 required from 6b . Misbah-ul-Haq played and missed the next ball but hit the following one for six: now 6 required from 4 balls. For the first time in several overs Pakistan looked the likelier to win. But it wasn't to be as Misbah (43/38b) hit the next delivery to Sreesanth.

An enthralling game and one which will, despite
the misgivings of cricket purists such as Gideon Haigh writing in today's Australian (and before the final was played), entrench Twenty20 even further in the international cricket calendar. Much as I enjoyed the final (and most of the other games I've seen), I'm not sure that I want it to diminish the amount of test cricket played between the stronger countries. But given the intense India - Pakistan rivalry and control of modern cricket, to which Haigh refers in his article (not to mention Australia's relatively modest performance) this is unlikely to happen.

Cricinfo's match package is here . The site also has a summary of newspaper comments (including Haigh's) from around the world.


Sunday, September 23, 2007

India outplays Australia in Twenty20 semifinal

I stayed up overnight (almost to the equinoctial dawn as it turned out) to watch India defeat Australia in the Twenty20 semifinal at Durban.

While I was a Twenty20 sceptic (how can a proper cricket match consist of 20 overs a side?) I am less so now after watching some extraordinary individual performances, not all of them by batters. Yuvraj Singh's 70/30b deservedly won him the Player of the Match award, but two of the Indian bowlers S Sreesanth (4-1-12-2) and Harbajan Singh (4-0-24-1 towards the end) showed how wrong I was to think that this diluted form of the game is dominated by batters.

Yes, it isn't a middle order batter's (or mediocre bowler's) game: the Australian batting collapse confirmed the former and some individual overs the latter proposition. But there are sufficient opportunities for players (except, in many situations, nos 5 and beyond in the batting order) to shift the game in their team's direction.

Congratulations to India, who outplayed Australia. The 15 run margin of victory flattered Australia, who were a bowler and at least one batter light, and who, despite giving it their all in the field, weren't collectively as nimble as we've come to expect.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Upset of upsets as Zimbabwe beat Australia

I know it's only Twenty20, but it's an international tournament, a World Cup, so Australia should have done better than to lose to Zimbabwe by one wicket. I wonder how many people had put money on them at 50 to 1?

That said, and despite my aversion to the regime presently in power in Zimbabwe, I congratulate the cricketers.

The Australian team looked a bit unbalanced, with four quick bowlers, a no specialist spinner (Brad Hogg was omitted, though Andrew Symonds played) and two wicketkeepers. Zimbabwe also fielded two wicketkeepers, one whom, Brendan Taylor, topscored with the bat and apparently kept well (the other, Taitenda Taibu, made a more modest contribution).


No doubt the game will come as a wake up call to Australia, who must now beat England to progress further; and no doubt the media will enjoy rubbing salt into Australia's wounds.

Scorecard

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

A safe pair of hands? 64 y o Yorkshire wicketkeeper with all his fingers and thumbs broken

From Metro.co.uk.

I admire his fortitude and determination to keep playing at what may seem to be an advanced age (but not to me who is just approaching it).


david morrison
David Morrison, you crazy finger man

David Morrison is anything but a safe pair of hands. In 45 years of wicket keeping, the amateur league cricketer has broken every finger and both his thumbs.

Reluctant to seek medical attention for fear of losing his place in the team, he would simply apply a bag of frozen peas and carry on playing.

It was not until three years ago that doctors got a chance to examine his hands – his thumb was so badly injured it needed to be pinned in place.

They were so amazed that they took scores of photographs and asked to use them in lectures.

'If you don't get it just right behind the stumps you can take quite a nasty knock to your hands,' admitted the 64-year-old father of two who plays for Barton Cricket Club in North Yorkshire.

'My fingers still work, more or less. I can bend them all from the first knuckle, although I do have a physio who manipulates the joints to soften the tissue.'

Mr Morrison, a taxi driver from Scruton, suffered most of his injuries in his younger days wearing flimsy chamois leather gloves.

He said he had considered retiring from wicket keeping in 2002 but could not bring himself to walk away.

Last weekend he picked up both a Darlington and District League championship medal and a black eye when a 16-year old leg spinner caught him unawares.

'I've told him that his eyes have gone, his fingers have all been broken and he's far too old for wicket keeping, but he just won't listen,' said his long-suffering partner, Valerie Tait, a 62-year-old former landlady.

'He's back playing for Barton as if nothing's happened – then he creeps home on Saturday night with yet another black eye.'

Martin Fairey, secretary of Barton Cricket Club, said: 'He's a brilliant keeper and trying to shake his hand is an experience.'




Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Bring on the Twenty20 World Cup

I'll be following, though how closely remains to be seen, the Twenty20 World Cup which is about to begin in South Africa. While I'm not exactly a convert to the short-short form of the game, I'll reserve my judgment until I see how the tournament unfolds (but not, I hope, unravels).

It does seem to be very much a batter's game: high team scores (around the 180 - 200 mark) are essential while bowlers, as Darryl Cullinan writes on Cricinfo

are certain of trouble and of essentially having to get through four overs of damage control. They will, for a two-week period, be bowling machines, set up on placid pitches, and given not too much leeway. Some may consider eight to 10 runs conceded per over a job well done. Many will simply have the attitude of "Cross your fingers and hope for the best". Batsmen will determine their fate and humiliation in a manner which the game has never seen before. If the weather and the pitches are good, bowlers will die a thousand deaths.








More on Warne's rankings

When I recently posted about some current best ever selections I bit my lip about some of Shane Warne's top 50 (53) selections or, to be more precise, his rankings.

Now someone has publicly expressed views which are very similar to mine. Writing in The Weekend Australian Malcolm Conn takes Warne to task for displaying "immaturity and petty jealousies".

By ranking Adam Gilchrist at a lowly No.20 and Steve Waugh a laughable No.26 among the cricketers he played with or against, Warne has once again exposed his immaturity and petty jealousies. It is yet another example of why he was overlooked for both those players in leadership roles, much to his lasting anguish.

Waugh has already laughed off the schoolboy sledge and Gilchrist smiled broadly when asked about it in South Africa this week. "He's done enough in the game and played enough cricket to be warranted his own opinion on who he's played with and against," Gilchrist told The Weekend Australian. "As far as my position is concerned, to be in his top 20, given the amount of cricketers he has played with and against over the years, well it's a wonderful compliment."

Warne offered some wonderful theatre on the field and the game will miss that as much as his great bowling, but there is a compelling case to suggest that Gilchrist may just be the greatest entertainer the game has seen.

Not only are Gilchrist's batting achievements absolute world-class - 5353 runs at 48.66 with 17 centuries in 90 Tests - the way the potent left-hander has thrashed and bludgeoned those runs has left even the incomparable Don Bradman in his wake.

Gilchrist, 35, has scored more than 82 runs from every 100 balls he has faced in Test matches, by far and away the best of any batsman with more than 2000 runs.

Four years ago, a number of former Australian greats were asked to rank the 10 best centuries in Australian history. Greg Chappell simply said: "Adam Gilchrist has eight so far. Those are my top eight."

Conn also has a good word to say about Gilchrist's wicketkeeping, which Warne had damned with the faint praise of the "batsman wicketkeeper" tag. Gilchrist's own response was a model of diplomacy. I for one hope to see much more of him on the cricket field.




Friday, August 31, 2007

List making

It's always interesting to pick, or see other people's, "best ever" lists, whether of individuals, teams, types of players, or whatever.

The Times is currently providing plenty of food for thought, with Shane Warne's list of his 50 greatest players and the ultimate XI for each county (actually a best and a favourite XI) selected by a number of commentators.

Warne's task is easier, since he's limited to players of his generation. Even so, some of his selections (and the order in which he's placed them), are unexpected. For example, his no 50 Jamie Siddons never played a test, and only one ODI, though was widely considered to be unlucky not to have more international notches to his belt (he also played most of his first class cricket for S Aust, not Victoria).

Monday, July 30, 2007

A new recruit for Hampshire?

In today's Australian Peter Lalor reports that Shane Warne is giving some help to the England selectors in their quest for new spin bowlers.

England's chairman of selectors, David Graveney, admitted on Saturday he had sought advice from Warne, who leads county side Hampshire.

"We have swapped phone numbers and will stay in touch," Graveney told the England's Sunday Telegraph.

Graveney approached Warne for his thoughts on who should be used as a back-up spinner for Monty Panesar on England's tour of Sri Lanka. Warne is a booster for his young Hampshire team-mate Adil Rashid...Warne was enthusiastic about Rashid, who has picked up 27 county wickets and averages 44 with the bat.

Hampshire team-mate? Even the original report which Lalor quotes gets that one right: Rashid plays for Yorkshire.


Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Boxing Day tests not sacred ?

Both The Australian and The Age have recently reported that there is talk of reallocating Boxing Day tests so that South Africa gets a better chance to benefit from holiday season crowds when it plays Australia at home.

Sure, no test fixture dates are sacred, though Melbourne's Boxing Day match and Sydney's New Year have come pretty close to being so. If the South Africa wants a home test every Boxing Day, why can't its visits to Australia be rescheduled so that it tours earlier or later (as India is doing in 2007 - 2008) in the summer. This would be a pity in some ways, as South Africa generally provides a competitive series, but it wouldn't be the end of the world. I also thought that test cricket was not well supported in the Republic, but maybe that's partly because matches aren't played at times when the crowds are able to turn up...

Monday, June 11, 2007

Not a mickey mouse acquisition, I hope

Cricinfo, the pioneering and for so long the leading cricket internet website, has been acquired by ESPN a Disney company. The implications of this are unclear, though Cricinfo itself is, as you'd expect in the circumstances, optimistically upbeat about its future. I shall certainly hope that it doesn't change into a mickey mouse site.

Inelegance of reversal matched only by inaccuracy

A storm in a teacup has blown up about the comments allegedly made by England captain Michael Vaughan about Andrew Flintoff in a recorded interview with The Guardian .

The paper has stood its ground, with sports editor Ben Clissit pithily deprecating any suggestion that Vaughan was misquoted: "the inelegance of his reversal at lunchtime [after a meeting with Flintoff] was matched only by its inaccuracy."

Notwithstanding this, Flintoff insists that there is no rift between him and Vaughan. Some people will believe this.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Was it really this good?

Official reports have confirmed what most cricket followers suspected, namely that last season's Ashes tour was an economic windfall (well, perhaps a bit more predictable than a windfall) for Australian cricket and the Australian economy. Whether it was quite so beneficial as Cricket Australia and SACA 's media releases suggest , is, IMO, another matter.

An extract from the SACA media release:

A major economic study shows the international cricket program, including the Ashes Test match, created $58.5 million in economic impact, as well as 132 extra jobs and brought more than 11,500 visitors to the state.

The URS Economic Impact Study (EIS), commissioned by Cricket Australia, highlights the enormous financial impact of the cricket season. It shows the average international tourist stayed in Adelaide and regional South Australia for an average of more than 10 days – the highest of any State during the Ashes series – and spent an average of $6,489 per person.

An estimated 4,500 international visitors and 7,000 interstate visitors attended the Adelaide Test match over the 5 days, with the official Test match attendance of 136,761.

The consolidated direct economic impact on South Australia of the Ashes Test match was $53.52m, of this $48m was the result of international visitors, and $5.52m was the result of interstate visitors.

The estimated impact on Gross State Product or State Value Added of the Ashes Test was $8m, which is estimated to have created an additional 132 full-time jobs.

SACA Chief Executive Michael Deare said the study revealed how important international cricket was to the South Australian economy, and supported the SACA’s decision to continually improve the Oval’s corporate and sporting facilities.

“The direct economic impact of international cricket during the 2006-07 summer of $58.5m means cricket is in excellent shape, when compared to the $30m contribution from this year’s Clipsal 500, about $16m from the 2007 Tour Down Under and around $8m through the Rugby World Cup in 2003,” Mr Deare said.

“The statistics validate our long term plans for the Oval, and certainly reinforce the recent decisions of both the State and Federal governments in providing funding for the SACA’s ongoing redevelopment program.”

The One Day International cricket matches in January contributed an additional $5m in direct economic impact.

Nationally, the 2006-07 3 mobile Ashes Test Series and Commonwealth Bank One-Day International Series generated $317 million for the Australian economy and created 793 jobs, according to the report, which was released today by Tourism Minister Fran Bailey and Cricket Australia.

“Cricket is simply marvelous for jobs and tourism. Our boys not only did a fabulous job in winning back the Ashes, but helped to create hundreds of new jobs and attract thousands of tourists to our shores," Ms Bailey said.

Many of these stats appear to my untutored (in economics) eye to be very elastic, if not downright rubbery. What, for example, has happened to the 132 full time jobs created by the Adelaide Test? Were they full time just for the five days of the test (if that long) or have they continued beyond then? How many of them still exist?

I could go on, but much as I dislike what appears to be blatant gilding of the lily, I agree that the Ashes series has tremendous popular appeal. I therefore can't understand why, in an age when we hear so much about the importance of market forces, the authorities don't schedule Ashes series more frequently. A century ago England toured Australia about every two years. Yes, there were fewer test playing nations then, but nowadays it seems that the authorities dance to the tune of Indian media interests
instead of looking out of their corporate box windows and asking themselves why, if a particular contest (the Ashes) trumps the game (cricket), the contest can't be held more frequently.


Monday, June 04, 2007

Conservative cricketers and a worthy job for a former PM?

In The New Statesman former England captain turned journalist Mike Atherton reviews a book by cricket tragic and former British Prime Minister turned historian John Major. Mr Major is not the first prime minister to have written a history of cricket (Norman Manley of Jamaica preceded him). Atherton's praise for Major's book is so strong that there might be another, current, PM who could take heart from the two men who have shown that there may be an enjoyable and possibly lucrative life after politics.

Atherton says "
Most cricketers of my acquaintance in the 1980s and 1990s were conservative, with a small and large "c". " Was, and is, this true of Australian first class and test cricketers then, and of course now? I'll reserve my judgment.

Here is the review:

Major innings

More than a Game: the story of cricket’s early years

John Major
Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 416pp, £25

ISBN 000718364X

Nothing is guaranteed to irk professional sportsmen more than the feeling that they are being used as political pawns. So when Tony Blair, despite never having shown any interest in cricket before, decided that some of the glory of England's 2005 Ashes victory might rub off on an administration mired in the Iraq war, the underwhelming response from England's cricketers was predictable. The subsequent drenching given to Downing Street's rose bushes was more than simply the result of a few too many celebratory drinks.

Cricketers felt on safer ground with John Major. Most cricketers of my acquaintance in the 1980s and 1990s were conservative, with a small and large "c". Perhaps this relationship between cricketers and the Conservative Party is inevitable given that both promote the power of the individual over the whole - although, in truth, what limited political conversation there was in the dressing room tended to focus on the level of taxation. Self-interest was paramount, and the Tories were the high priests of low taxation.

More than that, though, players knew that Major was a cricket man at heart. Cricket was there for him long before his rise to the top - his family's move to Brixton enabled him to watch regularly his Laker and Lock of long ago; cricket was there for him during his years of power - he attests to many cabinet meetings interrupted by the passing round of slips of paper laden with the latest scores; cricket was there for him as he left the stage - he sought solace at the Oval the day he was voted out of office; and cricket has been there for him ever since.

The greatest cricketers often write the least good books. The converse is also true, and might be said, too, of prime ministers - Major's political memoirs being regarded as among the best of the genre. Given his previous literary record, then, and his deep love of the game, there must have been high hopes for this book. It does not disappoint. It is a fine, scholarly work.

Major's passion for the game does not dupe him into looking at cricket's past through rose-hued spectacles, however. The hard, disinterested historian's eye is the prism through which this cricketing history is told. Corruption, cheating, gambling, sledging, drinking (in 1787, the treasurer of the famous Hambledon CC was asked to provide "six spitting troughs" and a "hogshead of the best port" for immediate consumption) and even death were cricket's companions long before Kerry Packer's revolution in the late 1970s brought rampant com- mercialism and worldwide professionalism to the game.

This is the story of cricket's early years, from its rough, peasant beginnings somewhere around the middle of the 16th century to the beginning of the First World War, when even cricket had to take a prolonged tea break. While cricket was played by all classes, it thrived under aristocratic patronage, and gradually the rules and regulations that appear so arcane to non-converts came into being. County cricket flourished with increased leisure time, improved transport and a nascent sporting press, so that by the turn of the 20th century, cricket had become part of the fabric of English life - the national summer game.

The title of the book is taken from Tom Brown's Schooldays. Towards the end of the novel, Tom, as captain of the first XI, says to a schoolmaster, "it's more than a game. It's an institution." Major rightly points out that this Victorian mythologising of the game - the book was written in 1857 - was "artificial" and "hypocritical", coming on the back of a period when gambling and match-fixing were out of control. Neither the game nor the people who play it have ever been pure.

But the Victorian cleansing clearly worked. Major might have gone on to say that, by 1921, Lord Harris was able to claim that cricket represented the value system of a whole nation. The phrase "it's not cricket", Harris said, was "in constant use on the platform, in the pulpit, in parliament and the press, to dub something as being not fair, not honourable and not noble. What a tribute for a game to have won!" For Major, and thousands of others, cricket is more than a game. It is cricket's greatest strength, and current administrators would do well to remember it.

Major achieves two things with his cricketing history (the first by a prime minister since Michael Manley's A History of West Indies Cricket). Putting to rest the embarrassment he apparently felt frequently in office about his lack of a university education, this book proves him to be a first-rate scholar and writer. Second, as the self-effacing anecdote on page 147 confirms (Major being the only person, according to Jim Swanton, to recognise a portrait in the Long Room at Lord's of Benjamin Aislabie), he shows himself to be one of the nation's foremost cricketing tragics. Andrew Flintoff would never have relieved himself in John Major's garden.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Sledging

Warwick Hadfield, ABC RN's estimable breakfast program sporting commentator, has produced an interesting survey of sledging in (mostly, but not entirely Australian) sport. You can listen to or download the program (at least for the next few weeks) or read the transcript here.

I was particularly interested to see his (and Ian Chappell's) view of the origin of the term:


According to Ian Chappell, the former Australian test captain and a bloke who in his time did a fair bit of sledging, the term for insulting an opponent to get him or her to break their concentration is named after the singer Percy Sledge.

Back in those more genteel times, off the field at least, a bloke who swore in front of a woman was dubbed a Percy, or a Sledge. These days they are called comedians.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Ron Archer

Another Australian test cricketer of the 1950s has died. Ron Archer was a quick bowler and handy batsman who was good enough to play several times for Australia when other allrounders like Keith Miller, Richie Benaud and Alan Davidson were prominent. As Cricinfo says, his career was blighted by injury and in his mid - twenties he retired to pursue a successful career in commercial television.

Archer finished with 255 wickets at 23.36 from his 98 first-class matches and also scored 3768 runs at 31.93. Like Ken, who also played for Australia, he became a TV executive, rising through the ranks to become general manager of Channel 0. He also retained his links with cricket as Cricket Australia's Code of Behaviour Commissioner and once acted as an ICC match referee.

Creagh O'Connor, Cricket Australia's chairman, said Archer gave tirelessly to the game after his playing days prematurely ended. "Ron Archer had a brief and very successful Test career which was tragically cut short by an injury of the type that modern sports medicine would today probably have overcome," O'Connor said.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Bill Johnston

Bill Johnston, Australian left-arm bowler of the 1940s and early 1950s, has died. He retired before my serious cricket watching time, so I don't recall seeing him play. While he didn't have the reputation of some of his contemporaries for either his on - or off-field exploits, his record attests to both his ability and his reluctance to promote himself.

Mike Coward in
The Australian and, as you'd expect, Gideon Haigh on Cricinfo have produced good appreciations of the man. He deserves be better known. How many other players were as versatile with the ball (beginning with quick stuff and later, if necessary, bowling finger spin) as him? Garfield Sobers yes, but others? True, his batting wasn't too flash, but he did finish the 1953 tour of England with a batting average of 102, and he and his Richmond club teammate Doug Ring once won a test against the West Indies by adding 38 for the last wicket.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

English cricket report advocates more muscular approach

The Independent comments on the Schofield report on English international cricket, and summarises its main recommendations:

* A managing director to be appointed oversee all aspects of England team.

* National selector to replace chairman of selectors, heading panel of coach and director of county cricket at home and coach and captain on tour.

* County cricket director to forge closer links with counties and England team, and report to coach on player performances.

* Coach Peter Moores to retain selection duties but with less power than predecessor Duncan Fletcher.

* Reduction in home Tests from seven to six.

* Reduction in county programme from four competitions to three, scrapping the Pro40 league.

* Contracted England players to be given bigger performance incentives.

Some of the recommendations, such as reducing the number of home tests, are unlikely to be implemented, but IMO this one has considerable merit:

They concluded that the England team management structure should be headed by a full-time professional managing director, ideally with high-level business experience as well as cricket knowledge, to whom selectors and coach would be answerable but who would also be expected to give England a more muscular influence in shaping a currently congested international calendar.

The last four words are code for "the Asian cricket playing countries have too much influence", a sentiment with which I agree. Cricket Australia would do well to think about this, and what Malcolm Conn said in today's Australian:


India is the worst offender, with a board that seems to believe the amount of money generated is somehow more important than success on the field or the long-term well-being of its players....

The ICC's future tours program dictates that each Test country must play every other Test nation at home and away at least once in a six-year cycle, with a minimum two Tests and three one-day matches. Massive television rights for matches involving India in particular have seen broadcasters pay staggering sums to the Indian board and the International Cricket Council.
However, industry experts believe they are unsustainable deals, particularly with Indian government restrictions now severely limiting how much subscription television can charge.