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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.


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


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.



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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.