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Friday, February 29, 2008

Sri Lanka keep their best against Australia until last: CB Series #12

Sri Lanka 221 [50 0vers] (T Dilshan 62, M Jayawardene 50, N Bracken 4/29) defeated Australia 208 [48.1 overs]A Gilchrist 83, M Amerasinghe 3/44)) by 13 runs at MCG: CB Series #12

Sri Lanka won a cracker of a match at the MCG tonight by 13 runs despite posting a low total when they batted first. For much of the time they looked to be struggling but at most of their crisis points someone stepped forward to haul the team forward.

Wickets fell at regular intervals, 1/12, 2/32, 3/42, 4/61 before captain Jayawadrene and Tillakeratne Dilshan ensured the game would go into the evening session by adding 64 in 73 balls. Yet 5/125 from 32 overs and the unprepossessing modest Lankan tail to come hardly suggested a matchwinning score, even though the wicket was not one on which runs could be scored easily. Nathan Bracken, with his customary and effective changes of pace and Brad Hogg, bowled particularly well on it. Dilshan was run out for 62/70b at 185, then Chamara Silva took the score beyond 200 before the last wicket fell off the last ball of the innings.

Despite the condition of the wicket, I didn't think that 221 was enough, and Adam Gilchrist's astonishingly (well, perhaps not by his standards) brutal innings confirmed this. His opening partnership with James Hopes put on 107 in 88b before Hopes was bowled by Muttiah Muraliduran by a ball which just clipped off stump (and the bail seemed to take a long time to fall). Fortunately umpire Harper accepted the Sri Lankans's (relatively mild by the standards of this season) entreaties and called for the third umpire's assistance.

Back to Gilchrist. Murali might have had him lbw once but that apart he looked unstoppable and the match unloseable. Even when he was, a tad surprisingly, dismissed for
83 in only 50 balls (11x4, 2x6) Australia looked to be winning in a gallop. This changed to a canter, then a plod as numbers three to seven contributed a total of 13 runs to the score against some tight bowling from Nuwan Kulasekera and Ishara Amerasinghe. Three wickets (Michael Clarke, Ricky Ponting and Andrew Symonds!) fell at 115, and when Brad Haddin was sixth out at 123 Sri Lanka looked, if not on top, then within striking distance of being so.

Mike Hussey was still there, and there were plenty of overs in hand, so all hope of an Australian win hadn't gone. Mr Cricket went at 142 for a modest 5/25b but Brett Lee played in character with an intelligent mixture of defence, aggression and astute running between the wickets. But when Jayawardene at second or thereabouts slip brilliantly caught Mitchell Johnson off Amerasinghe it was 9/173.

Lee and Bracken needed 49 from 65 balls, and they set out in measured pursuit, which was all they needed to do. They grew in confidence, but the Sri Lankans pegged them back. The asking rate rose above a run a ball, Lee edged (he'd probably say guided) a four to bring the equation back to level terms, and Jayawardene miscalculated (he'd probably say calculated) the available bowlers. He chose Sanath Jayasuriya to bowl the 49th over, his first of the innings and his last in Australia. The first delivery was speared in from round the wicket towards Lee, who swung cross battedly at it, only to see it keep low and crash into the stumps.

A well deserved win for Sri Lanka, who kept their collective nerve in the face of a series of Australian challenges. A pity that they saved their best form against Australia until the end of what has been a long and in many, but not all, respects disappointing test and ODI series here this season.


Cricinfo coverage

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

SA drop Cosgrove but don't reinstate Bailey

The SA selectors have dropped Mark Cosgrove from the team to play Queensland here in the Pura cup four day match which begins on Friday. They have not seen fit to reinstate Cullen Bailey, who in today's Advertiser (p 94, not online) is pictured, with Dan Cullen, receiving coaching from Shane Warne, who has previously anointed them as his long term successors.

Warne's comments don't seem to have been reported online in Australia, but they have been picked up by a South African website:

Shane Warne wants Australia to use this month's threatened cricket tour of Pakistan to re-build the nation's ailing spin reserves.

Warne, Australia's appointed "spin ambassador" following his retirement from international cricket last year, said an overseas tour was an ideal opportunity to build a potent spin combination for the future.

The Australian team have struggled this summer to fill the spin void left by Warne, who finished his playing career with a world record 708 wickets before it was overtaken by Sri Lanka's Muttiah Muralitharan in December last year.

Warne spent Monday with South Australia's out-of-favour Cricket Australia-contracted spinners, Daniel Cullen and Cullen Bailey.

If Australia's squad was chosen by Warne, he would have all of Australia's leading spinners, Bryce McGain, Stuart MacGill, Brad Hogg and Cullen, included.

"Maybe for Pakistan they might have three or four in there and all just work together, a few younger guys around the Australian side, but they've got to warrant that as well," Warne told reporters on Monday.

"Hopefully we can have them perform consistently well in first-class cricket, talk to captains, get their fields right, understand how it works and hopefully see spinners performing well over coming seasons."

End of an era as India brush Sri Lanka aside: CB series #11

India 3/180 [32.2 overs] (S Tendulkar 63, G Gambhir 63) defeated Sri Lanka 179 [47.1 overs] (C Kapugedera 57, P Kumar 4/31, I Sharma 4/31) by 7 wickets with 106 balls to spare at Bellerive, Hobart: CB Series match 11.

This will almost certainly be the last ODI to be played in this country, at least for some time, which does not involve the Australian team. I've always enjoyed these contests between the visiting sides, whether as a spectator at the ground or, like today, watching them on TV, as they've often turned out to be closer fought than many of the Australia games.

Alas, it wasn't so today. Sri Lanka, with Kumar Sangakkara (again) and Sanath Jayasuriya (at last) in good touch, reached 1/72 from 14 overs. Then they collapsed, losing 6 middle order wickets for 21 to some hostile pace bowling from Praveen Kumar (10-2-31-4), Ishant Sharma (again: 10-0-41-4) and Irfan Pathan (10-2-23-1 ). The game was thus effectively over in the 26th over, even though Chamara Kapugedera played resolutely for 57/86b before, like several of his teammates, he fell to a careless stroke.

On a good Bellerive pitch a target of 180 didn't look too challenging, even in this series of low scores. Lasith Malinga disposed of Robin Uthappa, opening in place of the (again) omitted Virender Sehwag, giving Sri Lanka a brief hope of victory. Then Sachin Tendulkar, who was dropped at slip before he'd scored, and Gautam Gambhir put the Sri Lankan attack to the sword. They added 102 in 110 balls before Tendulkar went for a scintillating 63/54 b (10x4). He made batting look so easy. By comparison Gambhir appeared pedestrian but his 63 no/ 89b (5x4) allowed first Tendulkar and then Yuvraj Singh 36/35b (4x4, 1x6) to lead the charge home in double quick time.

India will now face Australia in the final. The Australians will start favourites by virtue of their record to date, though India, if they can select the best team for the conditions (which I'm not convinced that they've usually done), are capable of taking the finals to a third game, especially if the stormy Brisbane and Sydney weather returns.


Cricinfo coverage

Monday, February 25, 2008

Australian batting revives, yet India almost achieve the impossible: CB Series #10

Australia 7/317 [50 overs] (R Ponting 124, A Symonds 59, M Hayden 54) defeated India 299 [49.1 overs] (G Gambhir 113, R Uthappa 51, B Lee 5/58) at SCG, CB Series match 10.

A trifecta of form reversals by Ricky Ponting, 124/133b (7x4, 1x6) , Andrew Symonds, 59/49b (6x4, 2x6) and Matthew Hayden,54/62b (5x4, 1 x6) put colour back into the cheeks of the ailing Australian batting as the side stroked and biffed its way to an apparently, at least by the standards of the series so far, unsurmountable 7/317. Vintage batting, especially by captain Ponting, who needed this innings more than any of his team mates.

In reply India lost 4/51 from 62 balls and the game looked as if it was about to, as so many one sided ODIs do, move into mopping up mode. Brett Lee, Nathan Bracken and Stuart Clark shared the early wickets, but Gautam Gambhir 113/119b (9x4, 1x6) and most of the rest of the Indian team fought hard and came close to pulling off an impossible win. Lee, as is his custom, didn't give up and his 5/ 58 runs from 9.1 overs kept his team's head in front.

I'm sorry to admit that I switched off when India were 4/51. I thought that they had little Buckley's chance. If a combination of Verinder Sehwag (restored to the side), Sachin Tendulkar (another failure opening) and Yuvraj Singh (back in form in Adelaide) couldn't build a platform for a good tilt at victory then I thought that nobody could. I was wrong and so can't really say much about how they did it, but will direct you, if you wish to find out more, the link to the Cricinfo Bulletin.


Friday, February 22, 2008

More of the same as Australia wobbles but Sri Lanka crumble : CB ODI #9

Australia 7/184 [50 0vers] (Hussey 64 no, M Clarke 50) defeated Sri Lanka 4/77 [29.3 overs] by 24 runs (Duckworth - Lewis method) at the MCG.

Once again Sri Lanka held Australia to a modest total, which included several modest individual scores, but in reply couldn't loosen the grip of the Australian attack which bowled very well on a wicket which didn't make scoring easy.

Sri Lanka, who needed to win to stay in the running for a place in the finals, sent Australia in. They took early wickets, but missed a catch (Ricky Ponting at the start of his innings) and made many fumbles in the field. Even so, Australia's 4/54 in the 22nd over was hardly a strong platform for victory. Then came the Michael Clarke (50/69b) - Mike Hussey (64no/ 98b) partnership which added 90 in 20 overs which helped the total to 7/184 which didn't look enough, but like many of the totals in this series, looked as if it could be enough.

And so it proved. By the time Channel 9 came back after the news, Sri Lanka were 2/8. Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene tried to revive the innings, as they'd done against India on Tuesday. On this occasion they failed, Jayawardene went at 42 and Sangakkara at 64, and their successors hung on for dear life until the rains came.

On paper the Sri Lankan innings looks brief, but it was compiled at the snail's pace of 2.6 runs an over, so the Duckworth - Lewis calculation was always going to give the game to Australia. If anything the D/L margin of 24 runs understated Australia's supremacy.

It now looks certain that Sri Lanka will finish third in the tri-series. They fight hard, have some excellent players, but not enough consistent performers especially in batting. Australia remain on top of the table but they too will have concerns about their batting, especially Ponting and Andrew Symonds. Fortunately for the team Michael Clarke and the bowlers have more than pulled their weight.


Cricinfo Bulletin

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Business tycoons, belles, Bollywood and Bohali... and cricket too: IPL player auction

For the last 24 hours or so international media cricket coverage has been almost exclusively on the auction of players for the Indian Premier League (IPL) .
Even a high scoring tie in a New Zealand- England ODI has been marginalised by all the pizzazz emanating from Mumbai and reverberating through the intersecting worlds of cricket, media and entertainment.

As I post Cricinfo is displaying here a picture of Ness Wadia and Bollywood star Preity Zinta, the owners of one of the franchises. The same photo is printed on the back page of today's Advertiser with the caption " Indian business tycoon Ness Wadia arrives with his belle, Bollywood actress and owner of the Bohali team Preity Zinta". The alliteration sounds good but it goes a step too far: "Bohali" should be "Mohali" (the paper gets it right in a good overview of the teams on p84)

If you need a crash course in the IPL see here and here.

On Cricinfo Siddhartha Vaidyanathan assesses how the teams will stack up. His piece assesses each team's strengths ("USP"), weaknesses ("Chinks"), interesting choice("bizarre bargain") and also lists the players signed (or bought) for each side to date and the sometimes mind boggling prices paid for them.

I realise that I should count myself fortunate to have seen (by my count) 16 of the IPL contracted players in the two ODIs played here this week. Some of them, eg Sachin Tendulkar, did not perform at the their best (but his two low scores here were surely temporary troughs in a career of many peaks) whereas others, eg Yuvraj Singh, are clearly well suited to the T20 (and, on Tuesday's evidence) to the 50 over game.

The question everyone is asking is: will the IPL be successful? Given the huge amounts of money invested by private investors it is difficult to imagine that the concept won't catch on, either because of its intrinsic qualities or because of the high energy marketing which will inevitably accompany it. Already some players, notably Andrew Symonds, seem to be on the verge of walking away from their national team responsibilities. Others like Adam Gilchrist have timed their retirements well. Despite all the talk about preserving the existing international cricket calendar it will be impossible for this to happen., as several commentators, eg Scott Heinrich have noted.

Beyond that there are many possible implications for international cricket. The name "Indian Premier League" is a clear echo of the English Premier League, which despite its English base, has an enormous following around the world. More significantly, just as everybody knows what sport the EPL plays or oversees, though it's not mentioned in its title, if the IPL is even partly successful, then everyone will associate the best of world cricket with India. The difference between EPL and IPL is of course that there is only one form of soccer, whereas there are now three forms of cricket, and the IPL looks as if it will cement Twenty20 as the dominant form of the game. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but I wouldn't like to see international test cricket squeezed out of existence by the brash new rich kid on the block.


Indian Premier League

How the teams stack up

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

India scramble home by 2 wickets against determined Sri Lanka: CB ODI#8

India 8/239 [49.1 overs] (Yuvraj Singh 76, M S Dhoni 50 no) defeated Sri Lanka 6/238 [50 overs] (K Sangakkara 128, M Jayawardene 71) by 2 wickets with 5 balls to spare at Adelaide Oval, CB Series #8.

In an excellent, tightly fought match Sri Lanka recovered from early setbacks to post a handy score pursuing which India struggled, but eventually succeeded in overtaking.

Like Sunday, it was hot (max 38 deg C), though with more cloud cover. In other respects the atmosphere was very different. The 6,000 spectators included a far higher proportion of Indian and Sri Lankan followers; the authorities permitted them to bring musical instruments and flags into the ground (a pat on the back to SACA for allowing this). The match was thus played out against a very different aural backdrop: fewer intrusive ads from the big screen, no "Aussie, Aussie, Aussie" type chants; but drumming and music from the Indian and Sri Lankan bands.

I recognised a few tunes: the repertoire of the band in the photo above included "Waltzing Matilda", which they played enthusiastically in what I took to be a characteristically Sri Lankan tempo. A refreshing change.

To the cricket. India made one change from Sunday: no, not restoring Virender Sehwag but replacing Sreesanth with Praveen Kumar, ie bowler for bowler.

Sri Lanka won the toss and batted. Surprisingly, as he was listed at no 4 on the scoreboard list and hadn't done so on Sunday, Munaf Patel opened the bowling. His first delivery was driven to the boundary by Tillakaratne Dilshan, his fourth edged to the keeper. Enter Kumar Sangakkara. From the outset he played straight which caused grief to his team as, in Munaf's second over, the bowler deflected a drive onto the stumps catching Sanath Jayasuriya run out for a duck.

The onus was now on Sangakkara and captain Mahela Jayawardene to hold the innings together. This they did by batting with few risks, adding 150 at about 4 runs an over, which had me wondering whether they might have moved a little quicker. The Indian attack lacked the bite it had on Sunday (or maybe the batting was better), but still bowled accurately enough to contain, if not to dismiss, Sri Lanka .

Then, just as it looked as if the Lankans would be able to step on the accelerator, Jayawardene was run out in the same way as Jayasuriya, when the bowler (in this instance Kumar) deflected (or touched) another Sangakkara straight drive onto the stumps. Is it time to coin a new term for this? "Sangakkara" sounds too long, "Kumar" too common; what about "Sanga" or "kara"?

3/159 became 4/161 as Chamara Kapugedera was run out, not by the bowler's deflection, but by an excellent return from Rohit Sharma, one of India's new generation of athletic fielders.
Sangakkara was still there, and he proceeded to his century relatively circumspectly before letting himself go. He wilted in the heat (is it harder for batters with all their protective equipment than bowlers in hot weather nowadays ?) before he was caught in the deep off Irfan Pathan from the last ball of the 49th over. Harbhajan Singh bowled the last over, and did a good job in taking Chamara Silva's wicket and restricting SL to 4 runs.

6/238 still didn't look enough, but without Sangakkara's 128/ 155b (12x4) and Jayawardene's 71/99b (4x4, 1x6) contributions the game would probably have been over by the time the lights were turned on.

When India batted, Chaminda Vaas, perhaps by virtue of his seniority, bowled the first over, which was tidy and yielded 2 runs.

Lasith Malinga bowled the next. His first ball was a beauty, pitching in line moving away just enough to beat Sachin Tendulkar's bat and hitting the side of the off stump. Disappointing that Sachin was out for a duck on what will probably be his last appearance for India here, but what a ball!

Robin Uthappa came in next (a wise move given Pathan's failure there in previous games), got off the mark with a two and looked fairly comfortable until he was run out by Jayasuriya in a close third umpire call. 2/33, then 3/35 as Gautam Gambhir was adjudged caught by the keeper from what Umpire Hill adjudged to be a leg glance.

India were in trouble, but Yuvraj Singh batted like a new man, or at least not like the player who had barely troubled the scorers for most of the summer. Rohit Sharma supported him for a while but fell to Murali (as the scoreboard called him) for 24 at 99, after which skipper Dhoni, knowing how important this match was to his team, gritted his teeth as Yuvraj continued his strokeplay.

With all due respect to Sangakkara and Jayawardene, Yuvray's aggressive 76/70b (10x 4, 1x6) was the innings of the match for its power and intensity. Yet it was relatively brief, and when he was fifth out India were only 158 and with a long tail.

Pathan joined Dhoni and demonstrated the wisdom of batting him lower down, at least until with victory in sight he played a crossbat shot to Ishara Ameresinghe and was bowled for 31.

Then India's tail was exposed. The pressure proved too much for Kumar (7/229) and Harbhajan, lbw to Malinga in another brilliant over with only 3 wanted.

But the last over was to be bowled by Fervez Maharoof, the Hobson's choice of the Sri Lankan front line bowlers. He began with a wide (a harsh call by Umpire Hill?) but Dhoni saw his team home next ball with a drive for 2. It also brought up his 50 in a respectable 68b, yet without a boundary.

India won, and Sangakkara was deservedly named player of the match ( a decision with which I agree despite the strength of my recollections of Yuvraj's hitting).

A great game, unfortunately it appears that it will be the last one to be held in Adelaide for at least the immediate future which doesn't involve Australia.


Cricinfo Bulletin

Update 21 February

Came across the ball by ball commentary on the Hindustan Times website. Very detailed (despite not recording the wide called from the penultimate ball of the match) .

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Australia win battle of bowlers: CB ODI #7

Australia 9/203 [50 0vers] (M Clarke 79, I Pathan 4/41) defeated India 153 [41.2 overs]
(M Johnson 3/42) by 50 runs at the Adelaide Oval: CB Series #7.

Today's uncharacteristically (especially for Adelaide) low scoring match was one for those who appreciate good bowling. Neither the heat (the temperature reached 37 degrees) nor the pitch could explain why two notionally strong batting sides produced only 356 runs between them for the loss of 19 wickets.

When Australia won the toss, batted but lost 5/73 to some good, but hardly unplayable, quick bowling from Ishant Sharma (again), Irfan Pathan and series debutant Munaf Patel the match looked all over.

Fortunately Michael Clarke played another gritty innings, which was without blemish until, running out of partners (one of whom, Brad Hogg he had
himself run out ) he was caught at deep midwicket. His 79/108b included six 4s, but perhaps more significant were the 40 singles.

Clarke started circumspectly, middling the ball but often hitting it straight to a fielder. A misfield
by Pathan, a rare blemish by the Indians, brought him a boundary which would have boosted his confidence. As he came to terms with the bowling and his team's parlous position he became more prolific, keeping the score ticking over, albeit at a rate normally associated with test than ODI cricket.

He was the only top order Australian who stayed at the crease for long. Adam Gilchrist started briskly but soon played on to Sharma [1/25]; Ricky Ponting didn't settle in and was caught at backward point [2/41]; Matthew Hayden's 13/34 b included a huge 6 before he edged Pathan to keeper M S Dhoni [3/43]; Andrew Symonds, very much out of sorts lately, steered one straight to gully [4/50], while Mike Hussey was still settling in when he gave Dhoni another catch off Pathan [5/73].

This catalogue of underachievement shows how important Clarke's innings was in both providing a glimmer of hope while wickets were falling at the other end and then a platform for a modest revival. Thanks to support from the lower order Australia just batted out the 50 overs and just passed 200.

I didn't think that this would trouble India. In the short term it looked as if I was right, as they seemed to weather the early loss of Sachin Tendulkar (after he'd previously snicked Nathan Bracken between Gilchrist and Hayden at slip).

Yet I was wrong. Irfan Pathan, demoted from test opener to ODI no 3 (still too high IMO for a front line bowler on a hot day),
struck a couple of sweet boundaries but was then removed by the estimable and easy to underrate (though not by me) James Hopes [2/55]. The wheels then fell off as Gautam Gambhir, who'd played flashily but looked as settled as he was ever going to be, fell to Mitchell Johnson for 34/42b [3/59]. Rohit Sharma (who had fielded very well) followed two balls later, caught behind off Hopes, who had now taken 2/5 [4/59].

The wisdom of India's decision to play five bowlers now looked more questionable. Yuvraj Singh, who had been selected ahead of Virender Sehwag (said to be suffering from a slight injury: to his body, not his pride) at last found form of sorts. He struck
Hogg for the team's only 6 of the innings, passed 50 runs in all forms of cricket on this tour (in his 11th innings, I heard Harsha Bogle on ABC Radio say!) and helped M S Dhoni restore some equilibrium to the contest. Just as Hogg looked like being hit out of the attack Yuvraj tried one biff too many and was well caught by Stuart Clark at long on [5/115].

After that India weren't in the hunt as the Australians, sensing victory, as they are apt to do in such situations, rode a wave of self-belief underpinned by their tight bowling and tight fielding. Dhoni, who called on a runner, was run out by Hayden [6/134]. The inexperienced Robin Uthappa was unable to muster the tail, the last three of whom batted like number elevens, and Johnson, Bracken and Hogg swept them aside.

Gilchrist's diving catch, a reminder of what a good keeper he has been is, to remove Munaf Patel ended the innings in the second ball of the 42nd over.

Any 50 run victory in an ODI is convincing enough, but in a low scoring match like this one such a margin represents a trouncing. Australia took a bonus point and are now secure on top of the table, despite the present deficiencies in their batting.

On Tuesday India and Sri Lanka meet here in Adelaide to fight for the other place in the finals. I still think that India will prevail but its selectors will need to think long and hard about the composition and balance of their team. Sehwag must, if 90%+ fit, be included; it'll be interesting to see whether Dhoni is fit enough to play and, if not, who will captain the side. Tendulkar? In the early part of the Australian innings he seemed to be offering a lot of advice to Dhoni from his position at slip. Much of this seemed to be taken. Don't forget that it was their batting, not their bowling and fielding, which let India down so badly.

A fascinating match, untypical of Adelaide Oval's reputation for high scores, though I've not quite forgotten that only last season the ground saw an
even lower scoring ODI where the trounced recovered to take the series.

Scorecard. see especially the bowling figures.

Cricinfo Bulletin.

Quick singles

# The photos above (which I took from the Bradman Stand) show examples of the attacking fields which were employed by both sides for much of the game. For the most part the bowlers bowled to their fields.

# The Adelaide Oval scoreboard, despite receiving fulsome praise from Peter Walsh on ABC radio, was once again far from infallibler. Not only did Munaf Patel's nameboard have to be hastily repainted, there were delays in identifying correctly the bowler and batsman on strike and the scores were, as the ABC radio scorer quite properly pointed out, often wrong. Sreesanth's dismissal was for some time wrongly recorded as "CWK" (caught wicket keeper) when it was obvious to anyone watching the play that he had been "S" (stumped).

# The replay screen was more accurate than the scoreboard but once again I was irritated by its failure to show the outcomes of decisions adjudicated by the third umpire. This is shortchanging the paying and watching spectators.

# About 21,000 people attended the match. My rough estimate, based on numbers standing near the scoreboard and seated in the various stands, was higher, but I won't dispute the total. The game was billed as a sellout; if so, either the marketing people were gilding the lily or many ticket holders preferred the comfort of their couches to the rigours of the sun blasted ground.

# Many of those who did attend found the combination of heat and low scoring not conducive to close attention, so the first Mexican wave started very early in the piece. Even many in the members' areas joined in. The security staff appeared to be more tolerant than they had been during England's tour last year which was sensible.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Australia have to fight but expose Sri Lankan weaknesses: CB ODI#6

Australia 236 all out [49.4 overs] (A Gilchrist 118, M Clarke 43, S Malinga 4/47) defeated Sir Lanka 173 all out (K Sangakkara 80, N Bracken 3/21, M Johnson 3/29) by 63 runs the WACA ground Perth: CB series #6.

The highlight of the match was undoubtedly Adam Gilchrist's excellent 118/132b (9x4, 3x6), most of which was compiled in his characteristically aggressive style. Only when he approached his century, around which time Australia lost several wickets, did he falter slow down. A winning, though not a competitive total, looked beyond them as only Michael Clarke (43/69b) , Ricky Ponting (25/25b ) and Mike Hussey (25/28b) lent much support against a Sri Lankan attack which bowled intelligently, not least when Gilchrist's primary focus was, deservedly, on notching his century.

236 looked below par on the good WACA wicket, and even less so when Sanath Jayasuriya jumped out of the blocks. But he was first out from the first ball of the fourth over for 12/10b. 1/29 may not have been the high water mark of the Sri Lankan innings but in retrospect looked quite close to it as the deficiencies of their batting were exposed by the Australian attack.

Once again Kumar Sangakkara shone, but even his light dimmed as he looked in vain for someone both to stay with him and to add enough runs to pull their team back into the game. The required run rate rose from the feasible to the difficult to the impossible, as only C K Kapugedera (a solid but insufficient 26/60b) gave him any semblance of support . Sangakkara was last out for a 80/114b, a valiant innings yet one which only emphasised how few class batsmen Sri Lanka have.

It now looks as if Australia and India will contest the series finals.


Cricinfo Bulletin

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Domestic interlude #2

Tasmania 5/277 [50 overs] (T Paine 115, M Dighton 44, N Adcock 3/50) defeated South Australia 156 [39.2 overs] (X Doherty 3/21) by 121 runs with 10.4 overs to spare at Adelaide Oval: Ford Ranger one day interstate competition.

I went to the game with a friend who is visiting from the UK. Fortunately for him and the other spectators Tasmania won the toss , batted and proceeded to compile a handy but far from ungettable 5/277 from their 50 overs.

Tim Paine's 115 was the backbone of the innings, but everyone who went to the crease chipped in (the lowest score was George Bailey's 16). I thought that Paine was a tad slow until the ground announcer read out his strike rate: 115 from 130 balls. He was unobtrusively good: I could only quibble about a couple of poorly executed reverse sweeps and a ball or two's nervousness in the 90s.

The Redbacks pace attack lacked penetration and, in the closing overs, accuracy. Nathan Adcock bowled his offspin intelligently to check the scoring and take three wickets, all bowled, in the middle overs when the Tigers looked like breaking away. Dan Cullen also did well, without being as threatening as his captain.

I was looking forward to a hard fought contest, but was bitterly disappointed.

SA began rapidly (and rashly) in what always looked like a futile quest for bonus points which would keep their hopes of playing in the final alive. Only Ben Hilfenhaus was put to the sword (4-0-38-1) but he did at least make the initial breakthrough: Matthew Elliott in his final game caught for 15/14b. 36 for the first wicket was the highest partnership of the innings. What followed was, with some exceptions (a Callum Ferguson off drive comes to mind), a chronicle of ineptitude. Yes, there was some good bowling, especially from Xavier Doherty (10-1-21-3), but how can three run outs and a pub cricket style stumping be explained?

Embarrassing, unfocused... I'll say no more about the Redbacks, but the Tigers deserve praise. They have a young, keen and active team: their fielding (apart from captain Dan Marsh) was very good and their body language exuded confidence. My only criticism was that Marsh bowled himself too much: sure Doherty was doing a good job at the other end but SA were never going to win after Adcock was out for a scratchy 2 making it 6/85 (albeit in 15.4 overs). IMO Marsh should have given
his frontline bowlers a crack at the tail. Don't get me wrong: Marsh is no passenger, and seems to have both the respect of his players and a good grasp of tactics. He is the team's senior pro
and is approaching, if he's not already been awarded, elder statesman status.

For their efforts the Tigers were rewarded with a bonus point, which they deserved. They now look like hosting the FR cup final. On today's performance they deserve to win it, and several of their players deserve to come to the notice of the Australian selectors.


Cricinfo Bulletin.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Sri Lankan pizzazz prevails in rain affected hitout: CB ODI#5

Sri Lanka 2/154 [19 overs] (T Dilshan 62 no) defeated India 5/195 [29 overs] (R Sharma 70 no ) by 8 wickets [ Duckworth-Lewis method] with 12 balls to spare at Canberra.

I was pleasantly surprised, after heavy rain this morning seemed to rule out any play at all, that a start, let alone a result, was achieved in the India - Sri Lanka game at Canberra. I was a few minutes late switching on the TV but Channel 9 had already read the skies and fell back upon its customary morning programs (I'm just curious, but can anyone identify the Cindy McCain lookalike who featured in the soap shown from 9.30 CST?)

Enough diversion. The weather improved to the point where the authorities decreed that a 29 overs a side match could begin.

Sri Lanka won the toss and chose to field: they struggled while the Indian batters made hay while the sun shone. The SL bowling was ordinary but wickets (Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar)
fell to outfield catches and (Gautam Gambhir and M S Dhoni)to run outs. The SL fielding was outstanding, and the runouts, apart from being extremely well executed, stopped two of India's most prolific batsmen in full flow. Yet Rohit Sharma 's 70/64b (6x4, 1x6) kept India well in the game and helped take the score to 5/195, after Richie Benaud had opined that 150 would be be a competitive total.

And so it seemed, but then the rain returned briefly, the Duckworth-Lewis method was invoked and SL needed only 154 from 21 overs. This was a considerable task, but in the brave new world of T20, was hardly beyond the bounds of possibility, or even probability.

Tillekeratne Dilshan and Sanath Jayasuriya's all out assault on the Indian opening attack saw 50 reached in 37 balls (India had taken 52 balls for theirs).
Everyone who watched it will remember Jayasuriya's 13 ball 27 (2x6,2x4), whereas Sree Sreesanth will want to forget, while statisticians will remember, his figures of 3-0-48-0.

With wickets in hand (the value of which this particular D/L calculation seemed to underrate) it was, in T20 terms, steady as she goes from there on. Risks still had to be, and were, taken but SL, ably guided by Dilshan (62 no/59b), who more often has played a supporting role but now stepped forward onto centre stage, cantered to victory with two overs to spare.

SL now have a chance of reaching the finals, though I'd like to see how they go in a full 50 overs match or two before I change my view that they don't have the depth or quality of either of the other teams.


Cricinfo Bulletin.


Monday, February 11, 2008

Domestic interlude

South Australia 344 and 9/318 dec drew with Tasmania 383 and 8/232: Pura Cup at Adelaide. Tasmania 2 pts, SA nil.

This afternoon I went to the Adelaide Oval to watch Tasmania, who had led on the first innings, chase 280 from 52 overs to secure outright points.

The Tigers lost two early wickets before George Bailey and Michael Di Venuto steadied the ship and prepared the ground for a possible late overs charge. They slowly accelerated the pace, aided by some indifferent SA bowling and fielding. Jason Gillespie reduced his pace and had the keeper up at the stumps for several overs - see photo on left -and had Bailey lbw.

Soon afterwards Dan Cullen had Di Venuto, who had batted well despite being missed off a sitter at midwicket when he was 50, caught at long off. Next ball Gillespie, now off his long run, had Luke Butterworth caught behind.

At 5/153 from 32.1 overs it looked as if the Tasmanians would concentrate on saving the game but Dan Marsh and Tim Paine, who had done so well together in the first innings, added 64 in 65 balls as the Redbacks attack wilted. As so often happens in such situations a run out turned the game around, when Callum Ferguson's throw cut off Marsh for 41/43b. 6/217 became 7/220 when Paine hit a Ryan Harris full toss to his namesake Daniel, who took a good catch.

At this point Tasmania needed 60 from 58 balls with the tail exposed, ie SA had the upper hand. Yet strangely they didn't press the point hard enough. Cullen took a further wicket but both he and Ryan Harris weren't able to break through again, partly because of the batsmen's defensiveness, partly because of their own waywardness (each bowled a wide in the last 4 overs) and partly because of some timid captaincy from Graham Manou, who didn't crowd the bat until the last couple of overs. Team selection could also have had a bearing on the tactics: Cullen Bailey's legspin might have helped to prise out the tailenders.

The draw has snuffed out whatever chance the Redbacks may have had of reaching the Pura Cup final. Apparently it is still possible for the Tigers to do so. I didn't watch enough of the game to assess their chances, but on today's evidence they are a competitive side, albeit one with a couple of modest performers with the bat. I'll reserve my judgment about the Redbacks, who are on course to complete yet another disappointing first class season, despite some outstanding individual performances, eg Ryan Harris' 9/171 and two thirties with the bat in this game, and a couple of good team ones.


Cricinfo Bulletin

India defeat Australia in hard fought low scoring ODI: CB ODI#4

India 5/160 [ 45.5 overs] (S Tendulkar 44, R Sharma 39 no defeated Australia 159 [43.1 overs] (M Hussey 65 no, I Sharma 4/38, S Sreesanth 3/31) by 5 wickets with 25 balls to spare at the MCG.

"Kangaroo curry for dinner" said a sign brandished by a delighted (and presumably non-vegetarian) Indian supporter at the end of a match which India won by refusing to lie down before a very tight Australian attack which fought tenaciously to try to redeem a below par batting performance.

This was a classic ODI, not because of its high scoring but because of the manner in which both teams slugged it out. Batting first, Australia lost Adam Gilchrist to the third ball of the match, briefly recovered as Matthew Hayden capitalised on a let off by biffing his way to 25/21b (5x4) , then lost wickets regularly to the Indian pace attack.

Mike Hussey brought a modicum of respectability to the total, but 159 didn't look enough, at least until India struggled, despite Sachin Tendulkar's 44/54b, to 5/102. But then young Rohit Sharma showed that he has a temperament of steel as he and skipper M S Dhoni guided their team home without further loss. Their partnership of 58 took 104 balls: not what we expect from ODIs but it was gripping cricket.

Throughout that stand I felt that if Australia took one more wicket they would, or in the latter stages could, regain the ascendancy. For one or two attritional overs it looked as if they might squeeze a wicket out of India but Sharma and Dhoni kept the score moving, albeit slowly, which, apart from keeping their wickets intact, was all they needed to do.

Australia will now have to rethink several things, including the balance of the team and how to combat the Indian attack. India can be very happy with the performance of the two young Sharmas, especially Ishant who has shown that he's a great ODI as well as test bowler and who deservedly won the player of the match award.


Cricinfo Bulletin.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

At last a result as Australia defeat Sri Lanka: ODI#3

Australia 6/253 [50 0vers] (M Clarke 77 no, A Gilchrist 61, M Hayden 42 defeated Sri Lanka 125 [31.3 overs] (K Sangakkara 42, N Bracken 5/47) by 128 runs with 111 balls to spare at the SCG.

Sydney's monsoon paused long enough to allow Australia to bat first, post a healthy score and then bowl Sri Lanka out cheaply. On paper it was a convincing win, but while Kumar Sangakkara was still at the crease and firing well, that outcome was by no means certain. When Nathan Bracken had him lbw for 42/ 41b with a beautiful ball which cut back it was 4/74. Although more than 30 overs remained the Sri Lankans threw the game away with a combination of bad strokeplay and stupid running between the wickets.

Bracken's 8.3-0-47-5 deservedly won him the player of the match award, though in many other circumstances Michael Clarke's 77 no/86b would have been enough to take the prize. By almost anyone else's standards Adam Gilchrist's 61 in 81 balls as opener would also be a contender but he was slow to get out of the blocks and Matthew Hayden made most of the early running (and runs): 41 of the first 53. Gilchrist subsequently accelerated but it was Hayden's, not his, aggression which remained in the mind.

The Sri Lanka attack began sloppily, regrouped when Muttiah Muraliduran came on, and then, having Australia 5/190 in over 42, let things slip as Clarke and James Hopes, in another impressive performance (34/ 29b followed by five tidy overs for 15) reasserted Australia's supremacy with a 63 run/ 48b partnership for the 6th wicket.

253 was a good total on the SCG. If Sri Lanka were going to chase it down they needed at least two substantial innings: they had only one cameo and no answers to the varied Australian attack where everyone bowled well, apart from one Brett Lee over which went for 16.

The ease with which Australia cruised to victory must worry Sri Lanka, who may still be carrying memories of their unsuccessful test campaign here earlier this season. They're normally a good one day team but in this game they carried too many passengers (the scorecard gives an indication of who these were) to sustain a challenge to their opponents. Despite what some commentators may have suggested before the series began, the prospect of Australia not qualifying for the finals for the moment looks remote indeed.


Cricinfo Bulletin.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Standing in the cyber slips cordon: the new world of cricket supporters and commentary

A good piece " Cyber sledging draws back cultural curtain" by Peter Lalor in The Australian.


Controversial decisions are replayed on YouTube. Opinions voiced on blogs, private and commercial. News stories are beamed from the SCG to Channel Nine and Chennai. The emphasis and angle of those stories is rarely the same.

One thing has become apparent in the din of this feverish summer and it is that the modern game is played in front of an international audience whose opinions shout and shape with the immediacy and volume once reserved for the heartily lunged likes of Yabba on Sydney’s hill.

Should Yabba have shouted at Harbhajan Singh to leave our flies alone he may well have found himself featured at the top of the next hour’s news bulletin everywhere from Kashmir to Kochi and the subject of blog-analysis in Mumbai and Baroda.

“Fat Aussie Fool with Fly Fetish attacks her Bhaji! Effigy Burned in Punjap Protest!’’

Things have changed irrevocably.

Quantum physicists believe the act of watching affects the observed reality. Cricket is not immune, but this summer it has become apparent that its observed reality is affected by the number and cultural backgrounds of the observer.

India recover but rain again prevents result : CB Series ODI#2

India 4/267 [50 overs] (G Gambhir 102 no, M S Dhoni 88 no) v Sri Lanka who did not bat because of rain. No Result.

On this occasion the rain came to the Gabba at the end of the Indian innings and didn't let up enough to allow Sri Lanka to start theirs. A pity since the game looked to be fairly evenly poised.

India began well with openers Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar putting on 68 before the Sri Lankan attack forced the batsmen and, it appeared from Rohit Sharma's case, an umpire into error. 4/83 in the 21st over was decidedly shaky, but Gautam Gambhir and skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni built on this cautiously and later with increasing aggression, adding 184 without further loss.

As always, the statistics don't tell the whole story: at the 33 over drink break India were 4/128 and Channel 9's scenario generator projected a relatively modest final score unless the run rate increased rapidly. It did, as Gambhir, after reaching 50 from 71b accelerated to reach 100 in only 28 more balls, finishing with 102/101b (10x4, 1x 6). Dhoni was no laggard either: his 50 took 74b yet he finished with 88/ 95b (5x4, 1 x 6).

All this was of no value to either team, so we will hope, despite the welcome rains in much of the country, for a result soon.


Cricinfo Bulletin.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Captain dropped

It hasn't exactly come as a surprise but Nathan Adcock has been dropped from the SA Pura Cup team:

The move had been anticipated for some time following Adcock's poor run with the bat - he averages 13.83 in first-class matches this year - but the selectors finally lost patience and left him out of the side to face Tasmania on Friday.

The Redbacks' chairman of selectors, Paul Nobes, said that Adcock remained in charge of the limited-overs outfit and the decision was purely based on his Pura Cup form rather than the players having lost confidence in him. "We pick the cricket team, then we pick the captain," Nobes told Cricinfo. "It's a theory that's been used in Australian cricket for a long time."

While it's not common, there have been times when a captain has been picked before the team, eg Bob Simpson was recalled to the Australian captaincy in the late 1970s when World Series Cricket threatened the traditional game; in 1959-60 Howard Mutton made his debut for and captained South Australia at the age of 35, and I seem to recall a time in the mid 1970s when Bob Blewett (Greg's father) was appointed captain ahead of some who thought they had better claims to both the office and to his position in the team.

Whether Adcock should have been appointed as captain in the first place is a moot point:

Eyebrows were raised when he was announced as captain in the off-season, given his struggle to nail a first team spot, and Nobes was reluctant to say when he thought he would return. "That's up to him about getting his form together and being ready to perform. We will give him opportunities to do that but it definitely goes back into his court to be able to perform.

"He still remains captain of our one-day side, because he still makes that team so it's nothing to do with anything other than form." In one-day cricket this season he averages 37.40 with the ball, at an economy of 6.23, and only 20.20 with the bat, whereas last year he was in the fifties. But he has overseen a handy run for South Australia in the FR Cup.

Whether [ replacement captain] Manou will also find the pressure of keeping, batting and captaining too much remains to be seen. His batting form has certainly picked up after he lost his position through most of last season, and he has made two of his three first-class centuries this summer.

SA's performances this season have been a hotch-potch of inconsistency. Apart from Darren Lehmann's and now Shaun Tait's retirements both batting and bowling departments, with some notable (and unexpected) exceptions, have underperformed. Contracted Australian players and spin bowlers Dan Cullen and Cullen Bailey can't, as their coach Terry Jenner pointed out on tonight's ABC TV News, can't get a game, and this at a time when Australia's spin bowling resources are their weakest for many years.

It's all very well to talk, as Nobes does, if I follow his fractured English correctly, about picking the best team, but why doesn't the best team include at least one spinner? Couldn't the national selectors request that all their contracted players get as much top class cricket as possible? Even if that means letting them play for other states? Strings clearly have been pulled this year to allow Daniel Christian to transfer from NSW to SA after the start of the season. If it's OK for one, why not for others? Must as I like to see the Redbacks winning, I'm the first to concede that the needs of the national team must be paramount. Both Bailey and Cullen must be given a fair chance to show what they can do at state level and not left in limbo.

Lee shines but to no avail as rain ruins game

India 194 [45 overs] (G Gambhir 39, M S Dhoni 37, B Lee 9-2-27-5); Australia 3/51 [7.3 overs].
No result.

It's a pity that there isn't a player of the match award for no result games, because Brett Lee deserved one for his outstanding quick bowling performance against India.

The longstanding Gabba tradition of rain interfering with play returned with a vengeance. The match was interestingly poised (and frequent recourse was had to the Duckworth - Lewis method) but even for television viewers there seemed to be too many stoppages to keep up with the changing targets. S Rajeesh on Cricinfo tries valiantly to explain them, but I suspect that most people at the ground were relieved when the ultimate downpour ended the game.


Cricinfo Bulletin.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Australia win T20 practice match as India crumble

Australia 1/75 in 11.2 overs (M Clarke 37 no) defeated India all out 74 in 17.3 overs(N Bracken 3/11) by 9 wickets with 52 balls to spare.

The match was played at the MCG before 84,041 spectators. India, whose officials had indicated that they would treat the game as a practice match, did not include Sachin Tendulkar. Ricky Ponting did not play for Australia because of injury.

Enough said?

For more information see:

Scorecard (includes ball by ball commentary), and Cricinfo Bulletin.

Friday, February 01, 2008

A less than sanguine scenario for Australian cricket?

In today's Crikey Charles Happell has a piece: "Rugby woes offer a timely warning for Cricket Australia".

The rugby he's referring to is Rugby Union, whose CEO recently admitted that the sport was losing money at a rapid rate of knots. How does this affect cricket or, to be more precise, Cricket Australia?

Happell draws three parallels between the sports

Like rugby, cricket is played well by six or eight nations. It is no soccer or basketball...

Like rugby, which is now essentially run by England and France, cricket’s powerbase has shifted dramatically in the past decade.... to the sub-continent, that is to say India. ... As anyone who has witnessed India flex its newfound muscle over the Harbhajan Singh affair will appreciate...

And, like rugby, cricket’s national team must remain competitive. If not, that’s the start of the slippery slope to oblivion.

While there's little sign that Australia's cricket will cease to be competitive in the next 3-5 years (dominant is another matter), what about beyond then? Will we look back upon the run of 16 Test victories which India arrested in Perth as the last golden age of Australian cricket?