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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.


Wednesday, September 12, 2007

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


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.