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Saturday, March 31, 2007

England beat Ireland comfortably, but not decisively

The England v Ireland Super Eight match was played at Providence Stadium which is, as Michael Atherton said to a well-nourished Ian Botham during a lull in their TV commentary stint, located amid anaconda infested fields in the Guyanese countryside.

England won the toss, batted and initially struggled against some keen Irish bowling and fielding. England's Irishman Ed Joyce left a ball from Rankin pass by and bowl him, while Michael Vaughan was caught behind from the same bowler off a ball which moved away just enough to take the edge. 2/23 in the 6th over was not a good start, but Ian Bell and Kevin Pietersen improved the position without putting their side in control. Bell was out at 89 for 31 in a very slow 74b; Pietersen was more aggressive but when he was caught from offspinner Kyle McCallan for 48/47b the total was only 4/113 and 26.3 overs had been bowled.

Andrew Flintoff joined Paul Collingwood and the two gradually wrested the initiative from the Ireland, whose attack was reminiscent of New Zealand's in the days when it relied upon the likes of Chris Harris and Gavin Larsen. The English pair added 81 in 106b before Flintoff was out for, by his standards, a slow and not always confident looking 43/62b. Paul Nixon (19/15b) put on 50/ 28b with Collingwood, who looked set for a century before he was run out for 90/82b (8x4, 3x6). The game got away from Ireland a little as England hit out in the last 6 overs to reach 7/266 from their 50 overs.

Ireland, like England, started badly, stumbling to 2/11 as James Anderson had their star batsman Jeremy Bray caught for a duck and Sajjid Mahmood ran out Eoin Morgan. Niall O'Brien joined William Porterfield at the crease. They hung on, but the England bowlers, taking their cue perhaps from the anacondas in the vicinity, constricted the scoring. Porterfield was out in the 19th over for 31/68b when the score was 72, Andre Botha (18/39b) at 116 and the brothers O'Brien (Niall 63/88b, Kevin 12/19b) at 139. Skipper Trent Johnston (27/21b)and Andrew White (38/35b) accelerated the tempo and for a short time a close finish looked possible, but Flintoff cut through the lower order quickly leaving England victors by 48 runs.

Scorecard.

England were clearly the better side on the day, yet so they should have been, given Ireland's lack of experience of top class international cricket. England's top order batting is inconsistent while its attack hasn't been as penetrative as it might be, and of course it's labouring under the handicap of not bringing forward any points from the preliminary round. On the evidence of this match they don't look potential finalists, but then only a couple of months ago in Australia they looked even worse, yet they were able to lift and take advantage of some slender opportunites and win that tournament.

Friday, March 30, 2007

New Zealand's confidence boosted by easy win over brittle West Indies

Playing for the third day running (because of the spillover of the Australian match to the reserve day) West Indies failed to rally against New Zealand, making only 177 all out in 44.4 overs (Chris Gayle 44/56b, Brian Lara 37/49b, Shane Bond 3/31 /8.4 overs, Jacob Oram 3/23 /8 overs and Daniel Vettori 3/39/9 overs). NZ lost Peter Fulton to the second ball of their innings, but thereafter it was plain sailing against an attack for whom Dwayne Smith, who played but didn't bowl against Australia, opened the bowling. Steve Styris 80/90b and Stephen Fleming 46/66b did most of the damage as the Black Caps cantered to victory by 7 wickets with 64 balls to spare.

I didn't watch or listen to any of the game so I can't comment in much detail, but will refer you to two articles by Andrew Miller in Cricinfo, the first "Selection rift breaks up West Indian party", the second "Bizarre selections and Bond's cutting-edge spell".

Each complements the other and both are worth reading right through. Here's an extract from the first:

The defeat in itself was not insurmountable, but the manner of the meltdown was distressing. It was a sickly surrender in front of another paltry crowd, in a game that will be remembered more for some extraordinary team selections than for the subsequent lethargy of the West Indian performance. By the time Ramnaresh Sarwan's legbreaks had been called upon to bowl the 39th and penultimate over of the innings, the post-construction moonscape on which this stadium has been plonked reflected the bleakness of the host team's prospects.


Scorecard.


If half of what Miller says is true, West Indies are riven by internal disaffection and, after their promising start, look to have little chance of making the semi-finals. New Zealand did well but, bearing in mind Miller's comments, may not have been fully tested in this game. This isn't meant to be a put down, as I believe that on the evidence of the tournament so far they're playing like semi-finalists. Before the 2003 World Cup I tipped them as dark horses, but they let me down badly then, so for the moment I'll hold my peace.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Long walk for spectators in Antigua

During the Channel 9 coverage of the Australia - South Africa match, Mark Nicholas bemoaned the low spectator turnout, which he attributed partly to lack of parking near the ground and to delays with security searches. As he spoke the cameras illustrated his point about the parking by showing a group of people (passers-by? potential spectators?) walking across a distant stretch of wasteland towards the ground.

Cricinfo 's report echoes his on-air comments and provides some other perspectives :

The commentator Mark Nicholas was disappointed the match was not a sell-out and said the locals were frustrated by the long queues. "A lot of them gave up and said 'no, I'm not prepared to wait two hours'," he said. "It's been one of the problems confronting spectators. The huge amount of security, that's one thing, the other is the long lines for tickets and long lines for food."

Nicholas said the remoteness of the site - "you can only park a mile away despite huge areas all around" - was a problem when comparing it to the previous venue. "The old ground was in the middle of St John's and it was very popular," he said. "There was a great party feel to the place, but it's going to be very difficult to rekindle that here."

The controversy dampened an occasion that ought to have been a proud moment for West Indies and for Antigua. "It's a very good stadium, it's beautiful and it's a tribute to the man, Sir Vivian Richards," Lara said. "It's been an awesome effort by the Antiguan people getting this ready, and it's going to be wonderful for West Indian cricket moving on. The infrastructure is good, so now it's time for the manpower."

Not everyone was impressed with the positioning of the new ground. Built on a greenfields site 20 minutes outside of St John's, many fans had to walk for several kilometres to reach the entrance, or pay for a shuttle service. An impassioned West Indian supporter told a local TV station that it was the spectator's right to expect to be able to park outside a new and purpose-built ground, while others complained that the spontaneity that had existed at the old Antigua Recreation Ground was missing from the new venue.

But Lara said there would have to be a change of attitudes all around as West Indian cricket gets used to its new era. "When you're talking about the improvement of facilities the spectators also have to adapt," he said. "It's not enough to be able to stay in the same areas or stadiums just because the atmosphere was great. We've had some wonderful times at the ARG, but now we move on to the Sir Viv stadium and it is something to be proud of over the years.

"Some of these stadiums were dilapidated. Georgetown and other grounds have been around for donkey's years. I'm sure people will adjust. I may have been disappointed with the crowd today but I thought the party stand wasn't bad here or in Jamaica. People are going to enjoy it, and I think the cricketers are very happy that we have facilities that are second-to-none. If you go to the MCG or Lord's the facilities are great. It's nice to know we are getting there."

Getting where, may I ask? Is cricket, by making it harder for local people (not just in Antigua, which has a population of about 70,000) to attend, cutting off its populist nose to spite its elitist face of corporate boxes, limited pay TV coverage etc? Mark Nicholas is astute enough to grasp that all the money that's been poured into infrastructure development for the World Cup will come to nothing if the once strong West Indian cricketing cultures which have produced players of the calibre of Brian Lara and Vivian Richards continue to languish in the face of official indifference and competition from other sports.

The Australian and The Age have more about the topic.

Australia too strong for W Indies; S Africa just scrape through against Sri Lanka

Australia's attack was too good for the West Indies batters, Brian Lara and Dinesh Ramdin excepted, when play resumed on the reserve day of the Super Eight match at Antigua. Shiv Chanderpaul may have been unlucky to be given out l b w to Shaun Tait for 5 (though IMO Hawkeye's projection of the ball missing off stump overstated the case), but the next two wickets fell to the veteran first change bowler Glenn McGrath, and suddenly the home team were 3/20. Only a huge innings from Lara could get them out of that hole. He looked good but 156 he was l b w to Brad Hogg, who again bowled well, for 77/83b.

Scorecard.

The other game, at the new Providence Stadium in Guyana, ended in a tight finish as Lasith Malinga, who had previously been punished to the tune of a run a ball, took four wickets in four balls to take Sri Lanka to the brink of victory. An edged boundary gave South Africa, who seemed to be heading for a win after good batting from Smith 59/65b and Kallis 86/110b, scraped through to win by one wicket with 10 balls remaining.

The Sri Lankan batting disappointed. Sanith Jayasuriya's characteristically ebullient 26/27b at the start of the innings started the ball rolling, but wickets fell before
Tillerkaratne Dilshan 50/76b and Russell Arnold 50/73b took the score from 5/98 to 6/195 in a retatively leisurely 21.4 overs. The South African attack (Shaun Pollock excepted) was refreshed, and Charl Langeveldt (who must have been fortunate to keep his place after going for 82 in 10 overs against Australia) did a Lazarus and took 5/39: the first five wicket haul of the tournament.

Scorecard

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Hayden reigns, then it pours

We'll need to wait another day to see whether the West Indies can score 323 in 50 overs to defeat Australia in the rain- interrupted opening Super Eight match at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium, Antigua .

Once again the team winning the toss put the other in, though the forecast rain (yet again) provided some justification for doing so. Australia took some time adjusting to a ground larger than the one at St Kitts where they'd played their group matches, and opened cautiously. Adam Gilchrist was out early, but Ricky Ponting and Matthew Hayden consolidated. Ponting was run out by Ramnaresh Sarwan's side on throw for a bustling 35/36b: 2 /76 (14.4 overs) with, unlike the South Africa game, no fireworks from Hayden , who was at that point 25 / 43b.

Thereafter he moved up two (at least) gears. In partnerships with Michael Clarke and, briefly, others , he bludgeoned the bowling (which wasn't that bad) and in 100 balls he added 133 of a team total of 221/195b. Shane Watson did what the late innings situation demanded: his 33/26bcameo took the total to 6/322 after 50 overs. The last 6 overs produced 74 runs.

Watching it on TV (thanks Channel 9), with its plethora of in your face close ups of the batters (provided sometimes at the expense of picking up action in the outfield eg possible chances), you could see the concentration, determination and, when, as he swatted the bowling with increasing frequency, satisfaction reflected in Hayden's face. Once or twice the cameras showed the great Sir (no offence, but that title still doesn't sound right) Vivian Richards himself in the stands. He would have been disappointed by his team's performance but he would surely have acknowledged Hayden's innings as one he might have played himself.

Will the West Indies be able to score more than a run a ball and win the game? It'll be a tough call against a good Australian attack, but not impossible if someone (B C Lara?) can compile a large score. Lara is starting to show his age in the field but, as an admirer of his batting who has seen him play some very good innings, I wouldn't say it's impossible.

Scorecard.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

YouTube cricket coverage banned

The ICC has moved to ban YouTube coverage (almost all of it apparently short clips of highlights) of World Cup matches

Peter Black at Freedom To Differ and Andrew Miller at Cricinfo have excellent pieces about the decision.

Here's an extract from Miller's "Once more cricket shoots itself in the foot":

A game run increasingly by lawyers for lawyers, has deemed it necessary to go to war on the very online enthusiasts who can spread the word of a game whose reputation has been dragged through the mincer.

It is an astoundingly short-sighted decision by a ruling body that has once again shown it is completely lacking in a sense of priorities. God knows that cricket could do with some good publicity at present. Only 24 hours ago, the ICC's Lawyer-in-Chief, Malcolm Speed, was telling Cricinfo how wonderful the match between Australia and South Africa at St Kitts was turning out to be. "Let's all just watch the cricket," he suggested when queried about the latest murmurings about Bob Woolmer's death. Mal, we'd love to. But 75% of your global audience have no means of tuning in.

Maybe I'm wrong to quibble. Maybe this tournament really is the "ICC Cricket World Cup West Indies 2007", as those interminable press releases implore us to call it, and we should feel privileged to be allowed access through the officially sanctioned channels. But it's not as if YouTube is about to start tapping into the rights-holders' feed and start leeching live streaming free-of-charge. That's not what it's about at all. The snippets that go up on that site are nothing more than snippets - short, sharp tempters that have the power to entice an untapped audience.

Strong words, yes, and justified. Will the ICC, or even some national bodies (including Cricket Australia) heed them? I doubt.


Monday, March 26, 2007

Bangla joy dashes bunglers' hopes: World Cup day 13

At Port of Spain the Bangladesh - Bermuda match, the last one of the Group Stage, was interrupted by rain several times . This triggered (and re-triggered) the Duckworth - Lewis method, whose calculations progressively reduced the game to a maximum 21 overs a side, which, as Cricinfo's Jamie Alter reports, Bangladesh eventually won by 7 wickets ( Jim Maxwell on ABC RN Breakfast this morning incorrectly stated that they lost 4 wickets), and will proceed to the Super Eight Series.

Scorecard.

As a consequence of this result (not to mention their own shortcomings) India have been eliminated from the tournament. The excuses and other explanations, eg this, have begun and will no doubt continue for some time.

On to the Super Eights

Despite some uncertainty reported by the ABC (Jim Maxwell seems to have got it right this time), the Super Eight schedule has now been confirmed. In the first match tomorrow Caribbean time ( late Tuesday/ early Wednesday here) Australia will be playing the West Indies, not Ireland. No doubt Australia wil start favourites, but the West Indies have lifted their limited overs game over the last few months and they do have a great player in the autumn of his career who will be keen to leave yet another reminder of his greatness...


Sunday, March 25, 2007

Australia seize opportunity tossed away by South Africa: World Cup day 12

In the final Group A match in St Kitts South Africa, like so many other teams in this World Cup (though on this occasion no rain was expected), opted to field first after winning the toss.

Australia took immediate advantage of the excellent batting wicket and small ground: Matthew Hayden and Adam Gilchrist accelerated out of the blocks, reaching 50 in the twinkling of an eye (29 balls for the statistical purists) and putting on 106 in 89b for the first wicket. There was no subsequent collapse. Hayden reached the fastest ever - 66 b - World Cup century before he was second out at 167 (23.3 overs) for101/68b; the third wicket, Ricky Ponting 91/91b, fell at 328 to the first ball of the 46th over, followed by Michael Clarke 92/75b in the 47th . 6/377 from 50 overs looked a good, though not an insurmountable, score bearing in mind Australia's experiences over the last year, especially this.

And for a time it looked a strong possibility. A B de Villiers and Graham Smith matched, then surpassed, Australia's effort as they made the bowling look less than ordinary and raced to 160. Then, from the last ball of the 21st over, a magnificent throw ( shown several times on TV here) from the boundary by Shane Watson hit the stumps running out de Villiers for 92/70b. Shortly thereafter Smith was forced by cramp to retire hurt, which naturally disturbed the momentum of the innings. Even so the Proteas had wickets and overs in hand, yet neither Herschelle Gibbs nor, especially, Jacques Kallis looked sufficiently on top to be able to steer their team home against the expensive yet varied Australian attack. Brad Hogg underlined South Africa's lack of quality slow bowling by getting considerable spin: he had Gibbs stumped with a beautiful left arm wrong 'un (also shown several times on TV). From 2/220 the pressure of the situation got to the South Africans. Neither Kallis, with what was in the situation a leisurely 48/63b, nor Smith, returning to the crease with a runner only to be bamboozled by Hogg without addition to his 74 (69b) , nor any of the other members of the supposedly deep batting lineup, were able to stop the wheels falling off. All out 294 in 48 overs gave Australia victory by 83 runs, a confidence boost for the coming Super Eight series and psychological ascendancy over South Africa.

That said, I don't think that South Africa should be written off just yet. Their batting can, and probably will, do better (not just against weaker teams). On the other hand their bowling must be a concern. Shaun Pollock appears to have slipped from penetrative quick to innocuous trundler, and he's not the only one in this category. Surely the attack they fielded against Australia isn't the best they can muster? Since there seems to be no spinner of quality in the squad, perhaps it is.

Scorecard.

In the Group C match in St Lucia, which was reduced to 43 overs apiece because of rain, Kenya won the toss and (surprise) batted. Captain Steve Tikolo made 76/97b but nobody stayed with him for long against keen, persistent and (since Andrew Flintoff was restored to the team) I presume sober England bowling. Kenya hung on for their 43 overs but struggled to 177 all out.

Michael Vaughan was out early in the England innings but Ed Joyce 75/90b and Kevin Pietersen 56 no /72b saw the team home comfortably by 7 wickets with 10 overs in hand.

Scorecard.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

India disappoint and are disappointed: World Cup day 11

In the Group B match at Port of Spain India won the toss and sent Sri Lanka in. 6/254 from 50 overs (Upal Tharanga 64/90b, Chamara Silva 59/68b) was a good score, but not beyond India with its (on paper at least) strong batting line up.

It didn't turn out that way. A promising start was checked by Chaminda Vaas, who took the first two wickets, and Dilhara Fernando, who bowled Sachin Tendulkar for 0: 3/44. Virender Sehwag and Rahul Dravid steadied the ship until the total reached 98, when Muttiah Murilitharan took the first of his three wickets: Sehwag 48/46 b. Yuvraj Singh was run out at 112, M S Dhoni didn't trouble the scorers, while Ajit Agarkar, who needed to stay with Dravid to help refocus the innings, was out for 10, making it 6/137 . When Dravid was caught in the deep by Murali off Jayasuriya for 60/82b it was 8/159 and all over for India, not just for the match but almost certainly for the tournament.

India will now probably follow Pakistan back to the sub-continent much earlier than they'd hoped, leaving Sri Lanka, a form team, and Bangladesh, who have made the most of their abilities, to represent their region in the Super 8 stage. Sri Lanka are very strong candidates for a semi-final place: they bat down the order and have a varied attack built around Chaminda Vaas and, of course, Murali.


Scorecard.

In the Group B match at Kingston, West Indies, who have surprised many observers with their commitment, easily defeated Ireland (their first loss of the tournament) in a Duckworth-Lewis result. Ireland won the toss and batted, but were all out for 183 in 48 overs (Jeremy Bray 41/72b the best, with six others getting to double figures and five WI bowlers sharing the wickets).

The West Indian reply was built around Shivnarine Chanderpaul's 102 no/113b. Brian Lara didn't need to bat as his team only lost two wickets (and little time) in knocking off the runs in 38.1 overs, ie with 59 balls to spare.

Despite their drubbing by the West Indies, Ireland have qualified for the Super 8 stage. Their next match will be against the winner of today's Australia v South Africa game. That should be a reality check for them of an even higher order than they've had thus far.

Scorecard.


Friday, March 23, 2007

Congratulations Tasmania: well deserved winners of Pura Cup

Tasmania, which had progressively strengthened its hold on the game over the preceding two days, today administered the coup de grace to New South Wales and deservedly won its first ever Pura Cup/ Sheffield Shield at the 25th attempt. The Blues lost two early wickets, including that of Phil Jaques, and thereafter didn't offer much resistance, particularly to Ben Hilfenhaus (4/22) and Damien Wright's(5/13) bowling, and were all out for 149, leaving the Tigers victors by a massive 421 runs.

Congratulations Tasmania!

Scorecard.

New Zealand and Netherlands prevail: World Cup day 10

In the Group C match at St Lucia, Canada followed the strategy (if it can be called that) adopted by many of the minnow countries and put New Zealand in after winning the toss. The outcome: batting practice for the Black Caps who rattled up 5/363 from 50 overs, their highest ODI total. The major beneficiary of Canada's largesse was Lou Vincent, who recovered from a poor run to post 101/117b. Everyone who batted got a start; skipper Fleming 66/67b and keeper McCullum 52 (in an amazing 21b) particularly enjoyed themselves.

The Canadians, with captain Davidson firing on all cylinders, fought back vigorously. It took the NZ attack 9.4 overs to make the first breakthrough: 1/76 of which Davidson made 52/31b. This was the high water mark of the innings, but the tide did not ebb rapidly until the 4th, 5th and 6th wickets fell between 201 and 207. The team survived until the final over before the 9th wicket fell (one player had retired hurt) for 249.

Scorecard.

In the other game, a contest between minnows, saw Netherlands (whose captain had omitted himself from the eleven) comfortably defeat Scotland.

Scorecard.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Tasmania deservedly within sight of trophy: Pura Cup final Day 4

Today Tasmania exceeded perhaps even its own expectations and worked itself into a position from where it is inconceivable that it will lose, and quite likely that it will win, against New South Wales. The other possibility, a draw, will also deservedly give it the Pura Cup/ Sheffield Shield for the first time, a considerable achievement for the state team with the smallest player pool (which has also produced the current best batter in world cricket).

Overnight Tasmania were 6/203, a lead of 313. As I said yesterday, they were on top but not home and hosed. Today it took the NSW bowlers almost all day to take the last four wickets, and in doing so conceded another 257 runs.

The heroes were the same three who had pulled the first innings up by its bootstraps: Luke Butterworth, not content with his first innings maiden fifty, topped that with 106, his maiden century; Sean Clingleffer who made his first century for several seasons; and Damien Wright, a valuable 47 which took his match aggregate beyond a hundred.

The match has been well supported by the locals: more than 14,000 attended the first three days. I won't be surprised if that number is exceeded tomorrow, when NSW 0/3 after one over tonight, try to bat out the 90 (why not 96?) overs remaining.

A comment on online coverage.

Despite what I've said before, Cricket Australia's commentary doesn't hold a candle to Cricinfo's.
Compare how each described the first over of Tasmania's second innings.

Cricket Australia

2007-03-21 11:06:56Over 0.2: Bollinger to Paine: FOUR! driven square of the wicket, off the mark with a lovely shot
2007-03-21 11:05:05A bit of a delay as the Blues are waiting to see who will take strike, it's Paine so Bollinger grabs the ball

[When play is in progress the last five overs are shown in scorebook format, ie for this over .4...; once play stops so do the details.]


Cricinfo

0.1 Bollinger to Paine, no run, left outside off
0.2 Bollinger to Paine, FOUR, shot, positive cricket from the out-of-form Paine, not going to shoulder arms this innings, he blasts a cover drive away for confidence-building funs. And runs
0.3 Bollinger to Paine, no run, left
0.4 Bollinger to Paine, no run
0.5 Bollinger to Paine, no run
0.6 Bollinger to Paine, no run, bouncer, under it ... well navigated by Paine

End of over 1 (4 runs) - Tasmania 4/0

TD Paine 4* (6b 1x4) DE Bollinger 1-0-4-0
MJ Di Venuto 0* (0b)



Cricinfo's commentary is a bit quirky for some tastes perhaps, but it gives more details not only of each ball and also summarises each day and session using its well established house style.

Cold comfort for Pakistan: World Cup Day 9

The scorecard suggests that Pakistan comprehensively wiped the floor with Zimbabwe in their Group Stage match at Kingston. On this occasion the actual scores didn't mirror the realities of the situation, though the Duckworth-Lewis method produced a reasonable result: a 93 run win to Pakistan who, sent in, were all out for 349 in 49.5 overs before the rains came, and extinguished any hope Zimbabwe might have had of making a game of it.

99 all out in 19.1 (out of a possible 20) overs was their reply. Two sentences of the Cricinfo Bulletin sum it up:

Zimbabwe's bowlers showed spirit but their limitations were cruelly exposed. The batting fared no better, in fact providing an ever starker reminder of Zimbabwe's problems.
[Peter Roebuck has made some trenchant comments about Zimbabwe's treatment of its cricketers: "
Mugabe's cricketing representatives stay in posh hotels in the Caribbean, paying their young players a pittance and shamelessly taking care of themselves."]

Back, for now, to the game. The highlight was Imran Nazir's 160/121 b. The name may be unfamiliar to people outside Pakistan, but he's been on the international scene more often than not in the wings than on centre stage, since 1999. I also noted that Shahid Afridi took the field for Pakistan in what will be his only appearance for the tournament. I've always wondered why a player of his potential is ever omitted from their ODI team: I can think of some possible reasons but don't know enough to comment further.

The match was played against the backdrop of Bob Woolmer's death and continuing police interest in the matter, of which more may be heard. I've mentioned these developments in an update to this post from earlier in the week.

The Sri Lanka v Bangladesh Group C match at Port of Spain was also decided by the D/L method. Bangladesh, like Zimbabwe, won the toss and sent Sri Lanka in. The outcome was 4/318 from 50 overs (the seemingly evergreen Sanith Jayasuriya 109/87b well supported by the other top order batters). In the face of this, and rain interruptions, Bangladesh buckled and were dismissed for 112 in 37 (of a revised possible 46) overs: the D/L margin of victory 198 runs.

If current form is anything to go by Sri Lanka will start clear favourites when they meet India on Friday....but let's hope for a match that isn't blighted by rain.

Scorecard.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Tasmania in the better, but still not winning, position: Pura Cup final Day 3

At the end of the third day's play of a hard fought Pura Cup final Tasmania (340 and 6/203) lead NSW (230) by 313 runs with 4 wickets in hand. On paper this gives them the advantage, but they'll be looking, especially after NSW's second innings revival in the previous match at Hobart, to extend their lead as far as possible. 350 would be good, 400 better.

Scorecard.

Concrete poured, setting quickly: World Cup Day 8

South Africa and New Zealand won easily in their Group Stage matches against Scotland and Kenya respectively.

In the Group A game at Basseterre, St Kitts, Scotland batted doggedly to post 8/186 from 50 overs after being sent in by South Africa. This was hardly a competitive score yet perhaps more than the South Africans would have liked to concede. Graham Smith (91/ 65b) and A b de Villiers (62/45b) hit a quickfire 134 in 15.5 overs for the first wicket to set up a quick victory, which was duly accomplished in 23.2 overs with 7 wickets to spare.

Scorecard.

At Gros Islet, St Lucia Kenya sent in New Zealand, who compiled 7/331 from their 50 overs, with Stephen Fleming, Ross Taylor,Steve Styris and Craig McMillan each producing half centuries. Scores of this magnitude are becoming more common, even against more evenly matched teams than here.

Kenya batted through until the final over, thanks to a combative 71/89b from Ravi Shah before they were dismissed for 183, leaving the Black Caps the victors by 148 runs.

Scorecard.

In Group A Scotland and Netherlands will be omitted. The match of the round between Australia and South Africa will be played on Saturday. In Group C New Zealand are through and England will need to beat Kenya on Saturday (on balance of form likely, but by no means as certain as it might have seemed a few days ago) for the final standings of the Group to be confirmed.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Advantage Tasmania: Pura Cup final Day 2

On Day 2 of the final, Tasmania's bowlers pulled NSW back after they reached 137 for the loss of only two wickets. Domenic Thornely was out at that point for a watchful 41. From there the Blues found it hard to survive against the Tigers' pace attack. They finished the day on 8/207, a long way short of being competitive, but , as the last game between the two sides showed, too early to write them off completely.

Scorecard.

India win easily, West Indies comfortably: World Cup Day 7

In a Group B match at Port of Spain, India, sent in by Bermuda, faltered for the briefest instant at the beginning of their innings when opener Robin Uthappa was brilliantly caught at slip by Dwayne Leverock, the burly Bermudan police officer, for 3. After that India powered on to 5/413 (Virender Sehwag 114/87b, Sourav Ganguly 89/114b, Yuvraj Singh 83/46b, Sachin Tendulkar 57 no/29b), to which Bermuda replied with 156 in 43.1 overs (David Hemp 76 no /105b, Ajit Agakar and Anil Kumble each 3/38, Zaheer Khan 2/32). India's 257 run victory was the highest ever in the World Cup.

Scorecard.

At Kingston in their Group D match West Indies won the toss and sent Zimbabwe in. They lost early wickets: 1/0, 2/2, 3/31, then 4/59, but Brendan Taylor 50/121b and Sean Williams 70 no/88b helped their team to play out the 50 overs and post a handy, if below par, 5/202.

West Indies started comfortably but without much sense of urgency and reached 73 before the first wicket, that of Shiv Chanderpaul 21/60b, fell. Chris Gayle 40/48b followed without addition to the total and further wickets fell at 106 and 129, at which point Dwayne Bravo joined Brian Lara: the pair gradually took control of the match without taking too many risks and steered the home side home with 5 wickets in hand and 13 balls to spare. Lara's 44 no/ 68b and Bravo's 37/ 46b says a lot about their cautious determination against some steady but hardly penetrative bowling.

Scorecard.

With one match each to play Bermuda definitely and Zimbabwe almost certainly will not progress to the Super Eight stage. This will surprise few cricket followers, including probably many of the teams' own supporters.



Monday, March 19, 2007

Tasmania struggle but are revived by lower order: Pura Cup final Day 1

At Hobart today Tasmania won the toss, batted, collapsed to 5/90 in the face of some hostile NSW pace bowling, especially from Doug Bollinger, who took his first ever first class five wicket haul (which, as I was impressed with his bowling against SA earlier in the season, comes as a surprise to me).

Fortunately for at least the short term aspirations of the Tasmanians, their middle and lower order batting effected a revival of sorts, but Damien Wright (57 no ) and Luke Butterworth (40 no) will need to add more to their current 96 run partnership, and also to bowl well if the Blues are not to run rampant in the remaining four days (or as long as it takes to achieve a result).

Scorecard.

Gripe: Cricket Australia's online "live" commentary was very poor, with only occasional balls (like one every two or three overs) being described. To check it out (if you're so inclined) follow the links from here.

No major surprises: World Cup Day 6

As expected, both Australia and England won their matches against Netherlands and Canada respectively.

At Warner Park, St Kitts in a very one sided contest Australia walloped the Netherlands 5/358 (50 overs) to 10/129 (26.5 overs). Brad Hodge 123/89b, Michael Clarke 93 n o/85b, and Adam Gilchrist a relatively slow (by his standards) 57/64b were the batting stars for Australia, while all four Australian bowlers used enjoyed some success.

The Netherlands have a long cricket playing history, as this piece from Cricinfo explains (though it's incorrect to say that the country was occupied by the Germans in WW1), but at the moment they are confirmed minnows, despite their eyecatching bright orange uniforms.

At Beausejour Stadium, St Lucia England, sans Andrew Flintoff (omitted for disciplinary reasons) 6/279 (Ed Joyce 66/103 b, Paul Collingwood 62/48b) comfortably if not convincingly defeated Canada 7/228 (Mulla 58/60b) in a match which went for a full 100 overs, from which it might reasonably be inferred that the England bowling was not very penetrative.

Scorecard

Bob Woolmer

Bob Woolmer, as Cricinfo sensitively puts it, "has died in a Kingston hospital after being found unconscious in his hotel room hours after his side's elimination from the World Cup".


I first saw Bob play cricket when I was living and working in Kent at the turn of the 1970s. He progressed from the Kent second XI
(Wisden said tersely of his 1967 performance there "R Woolmer, medium paced, did enough to join the staff") to the first, and thereafter to the England team. Of course he subsequently became coach of South Africa and then Pakistan.

I saw him play for Kent several times. My abiding memory of him is of an exchange during the Kent v Warwickshire match at Gravesend in 1970. One of the Warwickshire batsmen (Dennis Amiss, I think) was scoring freely off the Kent bowling (Derek Underwood, who took 14 wickets in the match, must have been out of the attack at the time) and the scoreboard, which consisted of several revolving cylinders (like a large combination lock) was having trouble keeping up with the score. I called out "Steady on, the computer in the scoreboard's broken down" to which Woolmer, who was fielding nearby, replied "Computer or commuter?" I've not made many interjections as a cricket spectator, but this was the only time I've ever received a response. It's also the earliest recollection I have of anyone mentioning a computer.

The last time I saw Bob in person was at the Adelaide Oval in 2005 after a Pakistan v West Indies ODI . Our eyes met, though at first I didn't recognise him; he didn't remember me either, but then he had no reason to. Over the intervening 25 years his hair had turned greyer and his body fleshier, which reminded me that neither of us were young any more. Nor were we, and especially Bob, old, which makes his untimely and perhaps unnecessary death all the more poignant.

Update 22 March

The Jamaican police are investigating the circumstances surrounding Woolmer's death. Here are reports from the BBC and Cricinfo and some
links to other media comment .

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Tasmania v NSW final

The last first class match of Australian season 2006-2007, the Pura Cup final between Tasmania and NSW, begins tomorrow in Hobart.

According to Cricket Australia's preview the bookmakers have Tasmania favourites to win the trophy, probably because (1) a draw will suffice (there are no points for a first innings win), (2) Tasmania defeated the Blues last week, (3) Tasmania's form this season has been outstanding and (4) the match is being played at Hobart.

That said, both Cricket Australia and Cricinfo suggest some reasons why NSW is unlikely to go down without a fight, including (1) they have a solid tradition of success behind them, including success in finals played away from home, (2) they have better players, as exemplified by their four ( effectively three as Brad Haddin is in the World Cup squad), as opposed to the Tigers' one, reps in the ACA Pura Cup team of the season and (3) a suggestion that the Tigers might, as has happened on the three previous occasions when they've contested finals, be overawed by the situation and play below their best.

I've just looked at the Hobart forecast for the next few days: there is some chance of rain which, if it eventuates, will help Tasmania's cause by delaying matters. The Tigers will be the sentimental favourites, and rightly so, yet all but the youngest Australian cricket followers will remember how long it took for Queensland, despite fielding very strong teams, to break through and win the Sheffield Shield for the first time. I think that Tasmania should win because they've played consistently well throughout the year.

PS Apart from the Fox Sports TV direct broadcast a streamed radio commentary provided by the ABC will be available online through Cricket Australia's website http://cricket.com.au.

Upsets embarrass India and Pakistan: World Cup Day 5

Two unexpected results have elevated the Group Stage of the World Cup from a series of practice matches for the major teams into a serious competition.

Bangladesh are a test playing country but their record in both test and one day cricket has been poor. India have, at least on paper, a strong team and have, until now, been touted as possible Cup winners, so it was surprising to see them bowled out for 191 in 49.3 overs at Queen's Park Oval in Port of Spain . Only Sourav Ganguly 66/129b and Yuvraj Singh 47/58b put up a strong fight against the economical Bangladesh attack, for whom opening bowler Mashrafe Mortaza (9-2-38-4) and the two left arm spinners Abdur Razzak (10-2-38-3) and Mohammad Rafique (10-2-35-3) were outstanding.

191 was something for India to defend against the often brittle Bangladesh batting, but while they fought hard they couldn't stop three teenagers, opener Tamim Iqbal 51/53b, Mushfiqur Rahim (who was dropped behind on 8), 56/107b and Saqibul Hasan 53/86b from getting them home by 5 wickets with 9 balls to spare. A magnificent win for the underdogs, who had only just heard the news of the death of Manjural Islam , killed in a road accident at home, and at 22 the youngest test cricketer to die.

Scorecard.

At Sabina Park in Kingston, Jamaica Ireland won the toss and put Pakistan in. At first the innings followed a roughly similar course to India's: two early wickets, then a small recovery. But the Irish bowlers kept their heads: the third wicket fell at 56, the fourth (Inzamam for 1) at 58, the fifth at 66 and the sixth at 72. Kamran Akmal made 27 /47b but this wasn't the highest score of the innings: that distinction went to extras with 29, including 23 wides.

Ireland got off to a bad start: 2/15 (including Jeremy Bray, the hero of the Zimbabwe match) but William Porterfield dug in while Niall O'Brien looked for runs. Porterfield was out at 62, and a fourth wicket fell at 70. Kevin O'Brien joined his brother but rain stopped play with Ireland 4/81 after 27.3 overs.

The delay meant that the Duckworth-Lewis method was invoked, and Ireland was left a revised target of 128 from 47 overs when play resumed. At 108 Niall O'Brien was stumped for 72/107b. Two further wickets fell at 113 and Pakistan seemed to have a good chance of redemption. But it wasn't to be as Kevin O'Brien 16/52b hung in while Australian born captain Trent Johnston didn't wait around , hitting a six to give his team a magnificent and well-deserved victory. And on St Patrick's Day too.

Scorecard.

Pakistan have now lost their two Group Stage matches so have no hope of qualifying for the Super Eight series. They will not look forward to going home earlier than they, and almost everyone else in the cricket world, expected, not just because they'll be shattered but because they'll receive a hostile reception from their supporters.

India can redeem themselves, but to be sure of doing so will need to defeat Bermuda (a genuine minnow) and Sri Lanka (a much tougher proposition). Not impossible but, on recent form, not probable either.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

South Australia's coach jumps

Wayne Phillips has resigned as SA coach, as Cricinfo and Cricket Australia report. Moreover, Richard Earle in Adelaide Now suggests that Darren Lehmann "is expected to decline to continue after 54 matches and 17 wins as skipper since 1996" after a review of the Redbacks' squad with SACA high performance director Rod Marsh next week:

Marsh promised change would be swift and comprehensive. "I would certainly hope we are not just patching it up," said Marsh of SA, which lost a staggering 50 per cent of games since its last Sheffield Shield/Pura Cup triumph in 1995-96. "I'd hope whatever comes of the reviews is in the long-term interest of SA cricket as opposed to a quick fix."

.....

Marsh did not give SA's leadership team this year a glowing endorsement. "I think the results probably speak for themselves. If things had been different the results may have been different."

.....

State selectors Paul Nobes, David Kelly and Rod Phillips are safe. Some critics believe they have been hamstrung by the three-year, $300,000 deals given to veterans Matthew Elliott and Greg Blewett.

"We have to make sure if we hand out a contract it has to be the right amount of time for the right amount of money," said former England Academy head coach Marsh, who has rejected a similar position at Adelaide Oval. "Players have to have the right amount of desire to perform at first-class level and win matches for SA.You can't go blaming the selectors if they haven't had the right group of people to select from."

Phillips, 49, honourably conceded he was not obtaining the desired results from a squad that most observers expected to challenge for Pura Cup honours this season.

This was hardly unexpected after the Redbacks' poor season, which is candidly, succinctly and IMO fairly, summed up by John Kingsmill in The Adelaide Review :

The state cricket team has delivered a series of cruel results, transforming high public expectation into serial disappointment. Many times over the summer, just when that team seemed to have reached its lowest ebb, the Redbacks dipped lower. SA cricket has gone beyond a series of technical corrections. It has crashed and crashed miserably with no end in sight. They ...[ have] much work in front of them before they have the right to once again fiddle with state expectations.







NZ beat England in real game, S Africa wallop Netherlands: World Cup Day 4

England supporters would be disappointed with their team's failure to make a stronger showing against New Zealand at St Lucia in their first rematch since the Australian tri-series.

Kevin Pietersen (60/92b) and Ian Bell (31/54b) built on a modest start of 3/52 but both were out at 133. Flintoff and Dalrymple also went cheaply, leaving England 7/138 in the 39th over. Nixon (42/41b) and Plunkett (29/34b) restored some hope to their side by taking risks and the score to 209 without further loss. Bond
(10-1-19-2) was outstanding for NZ.

209 looked a good score when NZ was 3/19, but thereafter Steve Styris and Craig McMillan asserted themselves. Monty Panesar had McMillan (27/34b) caught at 72. Jacob Oram joined Styris and the pair took their team to victory without further loss and with 9 overs to spare (Styris 87/113b, Oram 63/83b).

Given the composition of Group C, England should, unless Kenya produce a massive upset when the teams meet next week, proceed to the Super Eight Series. New Zealand will be more confident but in this game relied heavily on Bond, Styris and Oram, so will be expecting others to perform in future games.

Scorecard.

The Group A match at Warner Park St Kittswas reduced by rain to 40 overs a side, which was a merciful release for the Dutch, who fielded while South Africa, after losing 1/0, walloped their way to 3/353 with major, and rapid, contributions from Kallis 128 n o/109b, Smith 67/59b, Gibbs 72/40b (including a record six 6s in an over), Boucher 75 n o/31b. Three of the Dutch bowlers bowled four overs apiece: their combined figures were 12-0-163-1!

The Dutch lost two early wickets and struggled through their 40 overs to reach 9/132. They will be hoping to be more competitive against Australia, but only have a day's break to regroup mentally. South Africa will, with good reason, be cock-a-hoop and must fancy their chances against Australia next week.

Scorecard.






Friday, March 16, 2007

Ireland and Zimbabwe tie: World Cup Day 3

If the media reaction is anything to go by, many people were surprised that Ireland tied with Zimbabwe at Kingston, Jamaica. To be sure, as Irish people might say, ties are rare in all forms of cricket but, given all the troubles which are corroding Zimbabwe , was this result (or an Ireland victory) really unexpected? Zimbabwe cricket's ranks have been thinned by departures of players, such as the Flower brothers and Henry Olonga, who have found themselves at odds with both cricketing and political officialdom (which appear to be almost synonymous). On the other hand Ireland has adopted a policy of inclusion, which was vindicated in this game when expat Australian Jeremy Bray batted through the innings for an undefeated 115/137b out of a total of 9/221 in 50 0vers. Zimbabwe made 10/221, also in 50 overs: for scorecard see here.

Both teams now have to play Pakistan and West Indies in their remaining Group D matches. It's hard to imagine another upset, so the moral uplift of third place on the group table may be decided on run rate, or whatever is used to determine these things (Reminder to myself: check it out).

In the other game, from Group B, Sri Lanka defeated Bermuda by 243 runs in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago . I've nothing further to say about this drubbing.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

India lite?

The Indian Cricket Board has partnered with Nike to produce a new uniform which is 15% lighter in weight than previous versions. It is also, according to Anand Vasu in Cricinfo , lighter in colour.

The big question is whether the reduced weight will improve India's on-field performances. If it appears to do so no doubt there'll be complaints with Law 42 (the one about fair and unfair play) being invoked (no prizes for guessing which country is likely to be the first cab off the rank).

There's a lot of interest in India at present in designing innovative apparel. For a non-cricket example see this post of mine at Casting a short shadow.

Australia win as expected: World Cup Day 2

"Ponting sets up 203- run demolition" says Cricinfo describing the hardly unexpected margin of Australia's victory over Scotland at Basseterre, St Kitts . Ricky Ponting's 113/ 93b built on the 91 run/102b Gilchrist - Hayden opening stand while Watson (18/11b) and Hogg (40/15b) made very merry in the closing overs.

6/334 was way too many for Scotland, whose top order batters couldn't cope with some hostile and (except for Shaun Tait) accurate bowling, including 3/14 in 6 vintage Glenn McGrath overs. Wicketkeeper Smith (51/76b) led a fightback of sorts from 5/42 but when he was 9th out at 131 that was the end of the game, as the injured last man was not standing.
Scorecard.

In the day's other game, played in St Lucia, Kenya beat Canada by 7 wickets with 40 balls remaining thanks to a great performance by Steve Tikolo (72/76b and 2/34 from 9 overs).





World Cup starts with upsets: Day 1

Despite some eleventh hour glitches, the World Cup was launched with lavish opening ceremony, after which the games began.

In the first match West Indies defeated Pakistan by 54 runs in a low scoring game and without a huge contribution from Brian Lara.

Either the Pakistan ban on their players speaking English has been overturned, or ignored, or else Cricinfo has a good translator, because its commentary on the game included this:

9.05am Inzamam-ul-Haq won the toss and stuck West Indies in to bat. "We'll bowl first as a 9.30am start will mean a juicy track," the big man explained. "We have everything behind us now and we are focussing on the World Cup ... everyone is ready and focussing. Hopefully, inshallah, we will do well."

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Wood-ball news

Several media sources, including The Australian, The Age and Cricinfo (but not the ABC even though it has Jim Maxwell on the spot in the Caribbean) report that Pakistan players have been banned from speaking English at media conferences during the World Cup. They will speak in Urdu, partly to avoid misunderstanding, and partly to promote tourism to Pakistan. The second objective may be very difficult to achieve, at least as far as Australia is concerned, if DFAT's Travel Advice remains in force.

That said, it will be interesting to see how the Pakistan policy works out in practice. English is the language normally used by media commentators, yet when I was in India two years ago I heard TV commentary which switched between English and another language (presumably Hindi) without warning. It wasn't too hard to pick up the gist of what was happening said, not only because the pictures spoke for themselves but also because some terms (eg "over") weren't translated.

As far as I can tell there's no requirement for matches to be conducted in English. This is borne out by the existence of an official Urdu translation of the Laws of Cricket produced under the auspices of the MCC and the Asian Cricket Council, whose logos appear on the cover. This presumably means that there are no discrepancies between the two versions, especially over matters which have recently been contentious, eg Law 42 (which covers fair and unfair play, including ball tampering) .

According to a 2005 Asian Cricket Council report there are also Marathi and Mandarin translations of the Laws of "Wood-ball" :

'Wood-ball’ is the literal translation of what cricket is called in Mandarin. Danny Lai of the HKCA says “because there are no cricket terms in Chinese we have to search for and sometimes develop new terms to accommodate the translation. Some terms we purposely kept in English simply because they are intrinsic cricket language and inseparable from the game.”

The translation took over six months to complete, with five people working on it - one translator and four staff from the HKCA to proof read. A huge labour of love by people dedicated to cricket, it took more than 500 hours to fine tune, amend, and finalise. “Very hard work”, confirms Danny Lai.

The Laws of Cricket in Mandarin now join the translations in Urdu (by ACC Umpiring Resource Person Mahboob Shah) and Marathi as Asian versions of the laws as codified by the MCC.

Mr. Li Gaochao, head of the Chinese Cricket Association says, “we expect this kind of step to have a very positive effect on promoting the game in China.”

Now that cricket, like many other things, is on a sound legal footing in China I shall watch for signs of its development there.

PS
If DFAT feels so strongly about travel to Pakistan (and I wholeheartedly support them letting people know their views) I wonder what it will do about the Women's World Cup which is scheduled to take place there later this year.


Monday, March 12, 2007

Losing it in style

Today's Australian reprints a piece by Simon Barnes "Losing in Style: how Arsenal discovered an ugly truth about the beautiful game" which was originally published in The Times. I thought that the ghost of Neville Cardus had long ago been exorcised from writing about sport, but I'm wrong. Read this:

Arsenal: a nation mourns. They lost the Carling Cup final, despite playing better than Chelsea. They were knocked out of the FA Cup, despite playing better than Blackburn Rovers over two matches. They have lost all chance of winning the Barclays Premiership, despite playing better than Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool. They are in danger of failing to qualify for the Champions League next season, despite playing better than all the clubs below them. And now they are out of Europe’s premier club competition this season, despite playing better than PSV Eindhoven over two legs and playing better than all eight clubs that remain in the competition.

It’s not really fair, is it? But then Arsenal’s football was not better in terms of goals and victories and all that; it was better morally. Arsenal play the right way. They play with style and brio, with beautiful passes, with intricate patterns, with wit and charm. They also play with youth, plucked from the ranks and taught to seek and find greatness.

This season Arsenal produced a team of pure and dizzy talent, the distilled essence of football. They embodied every kind of footballing virtue. Question: does defeat in four competitions destroy the moral argument? Does rightness depend on victory? Or is there really a right way and wrong way to play? Is it better to lose the right way than win the wrong way?

.....

Well then, what does being the best, the prettiest and most morally perfect football team entail? It is not a question of good behaviour, keeping to the rules, not diving, not kicking opponents. Arsenal have been guilty of all these things, but that does not contradict the belief that they play “the right way”.

No, a team that play “good” football are one that please the senses of the observers. They are just nicer to watch. There is unquestionably an aesthetic dimension to football. The famous Danny Blanchflower dictum — that the game is not about winning but about glory and doing things in style — still has a deep resonance.

Can you imagine an Australian writing in this vein about any sport ? Gideon Haigh's name may come to mind, but while his prose is elegant and erudite it doesn't spill over into floridity like Barnes' does here. Haigh will give due credit to good performances from losing teams but in his match reports he'll always come back to the score and frame his assessments accordingly. Perhaps Barnes hasn't come to grips with the fact that because soccer is a low scoring game there will inevitably be a higher proportion of unjust results than in other sports.


Sunday, March 11, 2007

SA keeps best until last day of its season
















Today South Australia produced its best day's cricket in this season's four day competition, beginning by adding 93 runs in 15.4 overs, declaring its second innings at 7/366, and then bowling WA out for 230, 62 runs short of the target.

The match turned decisively in SA's favour in the first 32 balls of WA's innings as the top four (Langer, Rogers, Marsh and North) fell to the SA pace attack of Ryan Harris and Jason Gillespie. This brought back memories of the NSW match earlier in the season where the Blues were 4/1, then 5/12 but still managed to make the 139 they needed to win. 292 was a tougher ask, but Adam Voges and David Bandy regrouped, adding 199 for the 5th wicket before the old reliable Gillespie got Bandy to snick one to the keeper and, for good measure, bowled Luke Ronchi next ball.

6/133 with the required run rate heading towards 5 an over made WA's task look hard, but not impossible. Voges did not bother to farm the strike too ostentatiously, and was content to give first Aaron Heal and then Steve Magoffin their heads. They punished some loose bowling from the Redbacks' spinners and it looked for a while as if WA's boldness might carry them to the outright victory they needed to secure a place in the final.

Just after tea Heal (29/ 28b) hit three boundaries off successive deliveries from Cullen B
ailey, who then refocused and produced a ball which had Heal adjudged l b w. Magoffin was more circumspect against Bailey's improved line, length and spin , but he succumbed when Daniel Harris fumbled but held on to a low catch at slip. The end was then nigh, though Voges completed a very good century and Dan Cullen took the last two wickets to allow the Redbacks players to gather in an England-type huddle in the middle to celebrate their victory and, perhaps, lament the many disappointments of the season.

Scorecard

[The pictures above show Ryan Harris and Daniel Cullen bowling to Steve Magoffin and Adam Voges respectively.]

Other matches

Tasmania defeated NSW outright in a match of big partnerships and big collapses at Hobart, while in a low scoring match at the Gabba Queensland overcame a poor first innings to defeat Victoria outright by 101 runs.

Pura Cup final

The final, to be played from Monday to Friday (!) next week, will thus be another Tasmania - NSW game at Hobart. Tasmania are a very good team, who have performed well all season and are deservedly well clear of the pack on the points table, but the Blues are expecting Simon Katich and Matthew Nicholson to return from injury. To claim the Pura Cup the Blues will need to beat the Tigers outright, a difficult but not impossible task given their experience (and maybe the Tigers' collywobbles). There's little doubt that most cricket followers outside NSW will be supporting Tasmania.

Media commentary on final

It's unlikely that ABC radio will be providing much in the way of commentary of the final as its weekday local radio schedules are built around talkback style programs with, apparently, a loyal following. Cricket followers for whom the World Cup is not only interest will need to rely on other sources, eg the Cricket Australia live internet coverage which, as a longstanding critic of its shortcomings, I'm happy to say has improved markedly to the extent where it's a genuine ball by ball commentary, with good descriptions of each ball and reasonably prompt postings.


Batting revival keeps match alive: SA v WA day 3

Western Australia were dismissed for 335, a lead of 75, which was a perhaps a little less than they'd have hoped for. In its second innings South Australia showed much more resolve than it had done for some time and ended the day on 5/273 (Nathan Adcock 95, Jason Borgas 83).

A lead of 198 sets the match up for something we've not seen at Adelaide Oval since the test against England: a substantial final day's play and the likelihood of a good, if not close,contest.

Scorecard

[Posted on Sunday morning.]

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Australia beat England: aberration or return to form?

In a "warm-up" match at St Vincent Australia 5/200 in 40.5 overs beat England 10/197 in 48.3 overs. It was another of those games where teams are allowed to choose from 13 players (each side used 8 bowlers), so may not count for much (does it count at all in the annals of official ODIs?). Despite this no doubt England would have noted the performances of, among others, Adam Gilchrist, Shaun Tait, Brad Hogg, Stuart Clark and Shane Watson.
Scorecard .

Friday, March 09, 2007

WA take first innings points from SA on day 2












At stumps on day 2 WA 8/323 had a comfortable lead over SA's 260. The pitch is taking spin so the Warriors will need to restrict the Redbacks to a modest second innings score to be confident of winning outright.

They should, if this season's form is any guide, be able to do this, even though SA attack showed commendable fight, taking wickets just as matters looked like getting out of hand. My prediction about the importance of the first session was only partly correct: a third wicket stand of 123 between Chris Rogers (95), who batted much more assuredly than on day 1 and Shaun Marsh (49) rebuilt the innings. When Rogers was out it was 4/191, Marcus North (48) and Adam Voges (69) made sure that first innings points were secured.

Ryan Harris, who until recently seemed to have been typecast as a limited overs player, confirmed his improvement with a further two wickets while the spin trio Cullen Bailey (in photos), Dan Cullen and Nathan Adcock all bowled steadily enough to suggest that they're capable of better things in the second innings.

The weather may yet influence the game: today was another ideal day with the temperature staying, contrary to the forecast, below 30. 37 and all that that implies is forecast for Saturday, with a late change.

There is some possibility of rain on Sunday, but IM(non-expert)O result-preventing weather is even less likely than a Redbacks batting revival, which is saying something.

Scorecard

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Australia win at last

It was hardly surprising that Australia (7/290) beat Zimbabwe (7/184) in a World Cup warm up match in St Vincent, though a few eyebrows may have been raised by Australia's inability to bowl out their reputedly weak opponents in 50 overs, despite using 8 bowlers including all 5 quicks (as permitted by the rules, or lack thereof, for these knockabout games).


Scorecard

Bowlers more impressive as 12 wickets fall: SA v WA day 1

At the Adelaide Oval today in ideal conditions - high 20s, mostly sunny with occasional clouds- South Australia won the toss, batted and made 260 all out. This was at least an improvement upon some of their other batting efforts this season, but it didn't look a competitive, let alone matchwinning, total until Western Australia lost 2/23 in 11 overs at the end of the day. In fact it still doesn't look particularly good as WA has some good batters to come and one of their two wickets thus far is that of the nightwatcher/ nightwatchman.

The outcome of the match may well be determined in the first session or so tomorrow when Jason Gillespie and Ryan Harris will resume the attack against Chris Rogers (whose batting hasn't yet enhanced the reputation which has preceded him here) and Shaun Marsh. Today was ideal cricketing weather, with a temperature in the high 20s, though for the next two days the forecast is for mid to high 30s. Neither side will want to spend too long in the field.

The photo above is of Gillespie, who with both bat and ball looked determined to prove that he's still a very good player. He made a characteristically gritty 15/ 52b. When he was out well caught at square leg by substitute Heron, he paused almost in disbelief before trudging off. With the ball he was, except for one short ball to Justin Langer, a model of probing economy. Ryan Harris, who bowled with zest and nip off the pitch, took both wickets to fall and, without diminishing his achievement, benefited from having Gillespie apply such a tight grip at the other end.

I know that I've praised Gillespie in a post earlier this week, but I don't apologise for continuing in that vein here, though I should disclose that other things precluded me from attending the ground until after tea. Tomorrow I hope to watch much of the day's play to see if my prediction comes true or, if not, how matters unfold.


Scorecard

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Large attendances at motor sport

I'm not a motor sport follower but I must admit that the attendance figures for the Clipsal 500 Touring Car races are most impressive. According to Adelaide Now 276,900 spectators attended over the four days: 42,800 on Thursday, 66,700 on Friday (when the temperature reached almost 40 degrees), 80,800 on Saturday and 86,600 today. This puts even last December's widely acclaimed Adelaide Test Match, where just under 140,000 attended over five days, into perspective as well as reiterating how important spectator sport remains to so many Australians.

Gillespie's future

The ABC and the AdelaideNow (ie News Ltd papers) report that Jason Gillespie has not (yet) been offered another contract to continue playing for South Australia. In my opinion this is unwise. To date this season Gillespie has taken 25 wickets at just under 27 apiece, and he is still only 31 (though has been injury prone throughout his career).

Adelaide Now quotes Terry Jenner as saying "Can the Redbacks afford not to have Jason? Absolutely not, no way." The pace bowling has been the best performing department in SA's very poor season and, with Shaun Tait likely to be a least a fringe international player next season, it is commonsense to keep players who have performed well for a little longer in the hope that the batting will improve sufficiently for the Redbacks to stop being the domestic cricket chopping block.

Predictable result as game (just) goes into fourth day

Today Tasmania (337 and 2/72) completed an 8 wicket victory over South Australia (139 and 269).

As the Cricinfo Bulletin headline puts it"Tasmania jump to top with easy win". I predicted the result after day 1, and events in other games have put Tasmania at the top of the Pura Cup table, and given it a chance of hosting the final provided things go well for them in their final match against NSW later this week.

What can one say about SA? The batting improved in the second innings though it was distressing that seven of the first eight got a start (19 or more) yet the top score was only 59.

I won't comment further as I didn't see any of the play. I'll try to motivate myself to go and watch some of the final home game of the season, against WA, which starts on Thursday, but won't expect any more than another drubbing.

Caribbean chaos?

I was intending to post about a number of concerns re the World Cup which I'd picked up from several sources, but Peter Wilson in The Weekend Australian has beaten me to it with an excellent article "Caribbean chaos" (without the question mark).

Wilson draws attention to several elements or possible hazards which may cause the tournament to be a massive failure. These include:
  • Bad organisation
  • Inadequate or incomplete infrastructure
  • Poor transport both between countries and on the ground (the online and print versions of the Australian report are accompanied by two different photos of several players emerging from an aircraft which looks to my untutored eye like a Fokker Friendship or Dash 8).
  • Crime
  • Disease (inc HIV/AIDS)
  • Bureaucratic bumbling over issuing visas, especially to Australian, India, Pakistan and NZ citizens who are required to pay $130 for a visa allowing entry to all the venue nations for the duration of the tournament.
The Australian Government (or more precisely DFAT) also hasn't issued a lot of advice to cricket followers visiting the Caribbean. There is a general travel bulletin , and specific travel advisories for Guyana, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago, each of which recommends that travellers exercise a "high degree of caution" and warns of the prevalence of violent and petty crime. There is also only one Australian diplomatic mission in the region, in Trinidad and Tobago where Australia is not likely to play (as far as I can tell) more than one match. This paucity of representation coupled with unsophisticated travel links may cause problems for anyone who needs assistance (such as requiring a replacement passport). The UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office has a more detailed general website with links to specific travel and other useful advice (eg validity of UK driving licences).


Update: later on 4 March.

TheABC reports that a light aircraft crashed near the Australian team as they were practising in St Vincent. Apparently there were no serious injuries to the occupants.


Thursday, March 01, 2007

First day of autumn but heat still on South Australia

After a long break first class cricket resumed in SA today. 1 March is, by some calculations (mostly I suspect by people who've never lived here) the first day of autumn, even though the temperature, as it has done every day for the last month or so, again rose over 30.

I intended to go to see if South Australia could lift its game against Tasmania, but when I heard the news of the yet another batting collapse quite frankly I couldn't be bothered. Tasmania (2/149) have already taken first innings points and look like, unless SA does a Lazarus, coasting (I'd have said surging had not President Bush appropriated this term for his own purposes), to an outright win. I will try to get to the game for a while tomorrow.

Scorecard

Old wine in new bottle for Yorkshire?

So Darren Gough is to captain Yorkshire. Is this, as Cricinfo suggests, worth a gamble? Given that Gough's best days are probably behind him and that his most recent accomplishments have been playing beach cricket and as a dancing queen you'd have to wonder about his capacity to inspire a Yorkshire team who, from the other side of the globe, look to have been underperforming for years.

That said, in his test playing days Gough was always a tough competitor and able quick bowler who, on his visits with England teams here, was clearly one who was not overawed by the opposition. He always held his head high, ran in to bowl as if he expected to take a wicket with every (or almost every) ball and occasionally added useful runs in the lower order.

I'll be interested to see what he can do.