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Sunday, November 30, 2008

329 runs, 7 wickets, 2 centuries, Australia on top: Second Test Day 3

New Zealand 268 and 0/35 trail Australia 535 (B Haddin 169, M Clarke 110, R Ponting 79, M Hussey 70) by 230 runs with 10 wickets in hand: Second Test Day 3 at Adelaide.

Apart from one over from Chris Martin in which he took two wickets and reduced (if that word is appropriate) Australia to 5/247, the rest of the day's play saw New Zealand ground into submission .
The highlights were centuries from Michael Clarke and Brad Haddin: Clarke's a classical top order batter's innings of 110/239b/11x4, Haddin's a feisty and frequently frenetic 169/222b/24x4,2x6 which should have dispelled any doubts about his ability to handle the demands of batting at test level.

The New Zealand attack was innocuous. Daniel Vettori bowled himself for 59.4 overs (too many of them over the wicket to right handers) and today only picked up one wicket for plenty, though he dropped a return catch from Brett Lee before he'd scored. Chris Martin, Iain O'Brien and Tim Southee trundled honestly while Aaron Redmond tossed the ball up, spun it and was hit, yet was compensated with two lower order wickets.

With two days to play New Zealand cannot expect to save, let alone win the match. I hope they go down fighting, which Redmond and Jamie How's positive approach (assisted by Brett Lee's no-balling waywardness) in the 9 overs before stumps seemed to promise. But 9 overs do not a cricket match make.


Saturday, November 29, 2008

No century, otherwise according to script as Australia build: Second Test Day 2

Australia 3/241 (R Ponting 79, M Hussey 69 no, M Clarke 43 no) trail New Zealand 270 (B Lee 4/66) by 29 runs with 7 wickets in hand; Second Test Day 2 at Adelaide.

New Zealand's hopes of getting a competitive score, generally assumed to be at least 350, were exposed as lurid fantasies in the first session as Brett Lee and Mitchell Johnson took the last 4 wickets while only 8 runs were added to the overnight total.

Australia's reply was pretty much as expected given a perfect day for cricket, a typical Adelaide second day pitch and the calibre of the opposition attack. Only Matthew Hayden's failure to score a century in his hundredth test (he was run out for 24) and Ricky Ponting's lapse in pulling to Ian O'Brien to midwicket when he was 79, turned out to be minor blots on the Australian copybook. Daniel Vettori was a cut above the other bowlers but he's already bowled 28 of his team's 79 overs (for 1/54) and there are still 17 wickets to take. The match should last all of tomorrow but it's hard to see it extending much beyond that.


Friday, November 28, 2008

New Zealand throw game away after lunch: Second Test Day 1

New Zealand 6/262 (A Redmond 83, R Taylor 44) v Australia at Adelaide.

New Zealand won the toss and sensibly chose to bat. They negotiated the first session well, perhaps surprisingly well, against an Australian pace attack which didn't really threaten despite cool, cloudy conditions which looked conducive to swing and a hapless spinner, Nathan Hauritz, who looked out of his depth as he conceded 29 from 3 overs (17 from the first).

1/101 at lunch was as good a platform as the Black Caps could have expected, but they then proceeded to dismantle it. Ricky Ponting kept Hauritz on, which looked, as Sir Humphrrey Appleby might have said, a courageous decision. But the fourth ball after the interval pitched a little short and Jesse Ryder swatted it hard to Michael Clarke at midwicket. 2/101.

Aaron Redmond had started slowly against the quicks yet warmed to Hauritz before lunch and tried to continue in the same vein afterwards. But Ponting had plugged the gap at deep midwicket and when Redmond tried to hit Hauritz there again Andrew Symonds took an excellent running and leaping catch leaving NZ wobbly at 3/130. 83/125b/14x4, 2x6 was an impressive knock but when Redmond seemed to have the measure of the Australian attack it seemed if not a failure then mildly disappointing.

Peter Fulton and Ross Taylor did something to restore the equilibrium by adding 64 before Fulton pulled a short ball from Symonds to mid micket. 4/194, then 5/200 as Taylor, who'd looked fairly composed and played some fluent shots, was adjudged lbw to Stuart Clark.

Brett Lee, who'd looked a bit lacklustre earlier, turned on an impressive spell with the old ball. He bowled Daniel Flynn for 11, leaving the Black Caps a well below par 6/228. As the sun came out for the last few overs with the old and the first few with the new ball Brendon McCullum and Daniel Vettori held out until stumps.

Australia are on top and I can't see any reason why they won't be able to proceed steadily (or perhaps even swiftly) to a victory from this point.


Sunday, November 23, 2008

An hour suffices to give Australia victory: First Test Day 4

Australia 214 and 268 defeated New Zealand 156 and 177 (R Taylor 75, M Johnson 5/39, S Clark 4/43) by 149 runs: First Test day 4 at Brisbane.

Despite the unexpected victory last night of the New Zealand Rugby League team in that sport's World Cup, the country's cricket team didn't produce a similar upset today. In fact they surrendered more easily than I expected against an Australian attack reinvigorated by playing at home and against weak opponents. Mitchell Johnson (5/39 from 17.3 overs) and Stuart Clark (4/43 from 17 overs) were outstanding: Brett Lee, who made the initial breakthrough yesterday, was less effective.

If the Black Caps were to have a chance Ross Taylor needed to build on the foundation he'd laid yesterday and at least one of the other batsmen would have to stay with him while he did so. But, unlike Michael Clarke and Simon Katich in Australia's first and second innings, Taylor didn't add enough runs to threaten an unlikely victory. Nor were any of his colleagues able to stay long. Still Taylor's 75/128b/9x4 (and his 40 in the first innings) showed both his own quality and the deficiencies of his colleagues. Only Daniel Flynn of the top order order batsmen was worth his place. It is hard to see much scopre for improvement before the Second Test. Brendon McCullum should be capable of better things but the others? I doubt it.


Cricinfo coverage

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Katich sets up Australian victory: First Test Day 3

Australia 214 and 268 (S Katich 131 no, C Martin 3/69) v New Zealand 156 and 6/143 (R Taylor 67 no, S Clark 3/23) . New Zealand require 184 more runs with 4 wickets remaining: First Test Day 3 at Brisbane.

Simon Katich carried his bat through the Australian innings for a masterly 131 no/245b/16x4 which has put the match out of New Zealand's reach.

The Black Caps didn't help their own cause by dropping Katich twice and generally losing their focus as the last two Australian wickets added 82. Mitchell Johnson and Stuart Clark showed some of their upper order teammates a thing or two about batting.

The Black Caps were never going to get close to, let alone overhaul, a target of more than 300, especially after losing 4/49. Only a partnership of 84 for the fifth wicket between Ross Taylor (67no/101b/9x4) and Daniel Flynn restored some self-esteem and took the match into the fourth day. But when Flynn and Grant Elliott were dismissed in the literal and metaphorical shadows of the scheduled close of play any notions of an improbable victory evaporated.


Friday, November 21, 2008

16 wicket day as batting of both sides crumbles: First Test Day 2

Australia 214 and 6/131 lead New Zealand 156 (R Taylor 40, M Johnson 4/30) by 189 runs with 4 second innings wickets in hand : Second Test Day 2 at Brisbane

Stuart Clark bowled the first ball of the day to Aaron Redmond, who snicked it to Ricky Ponting at slip. New Zealand 1/7. Then Jamie How and Jesse Ryder added 37 before Brett Lee bowled How for 14. 2/44.

There followed a steady procession as the last 8 wickets added 112. The Australian bowling was tight and, as the scorecard suggests, more than enough to see most of the NZ batsmen off. Only Ross Taylor 40/51b/7x4 and Daniel Flynn 39no/ 80b/7x4 held out for long.

Chris Martin bowled the first ball of Australia's second innings: it moved just far enough to get the
edge of Matthew Hayden's bat and go through to the keeper. There followed a repeat of the first innings with Simon Katich on this occasion replacing Michael Clarke as the sheet anchor. Only Mike Hussey was unlucky to be given out caught behind when replays showed the ball brushing his pad and missing his bat. The other dismissals, including Michael Clarke's run out, were relatively soft, though the NZ attack bowled steadily and was well supported in the field.

Katich, now 67/117b/9x4 is probably the crucial player for the third day, when the match will, weather permitting, almost certainly be decided. Although Australia have underperformed with the bat it is hard to see New Zealand scoring more than 220 runs in the fourth innings. If they are to do so some of these four players will need to make significant contributions: Brendan McCullum, Ross Taylor, Daniel Flynn and Daniel Vettori (who must promote himself at least one place in the order).

NZ's other enemy is an internal one: do they have the self-belief necessary to chase down a total which on paper should be well within their grasp?


Thursday, November 20, 2008

New Zealand exceed expectations as Australian batting wobbles: First Test Day 1

Australia 214 (M Clarke 98, T Southee 4/63), New Zealand 0/7: First Test Day 1 at Brisbane

There are many good things about the USA, from where I've recently returned, but media coverage of cricket isn't one of them. Internet reports are better than nothing but they don't really provide much material for detailed analysis, hence my silence for the last few weeks.

After all the storms in Brisbane overnight I wasn't expecting much play today. Fortunately only half an hour was lost, though the damage to some of the stands will take longer to repair. Daniel Vettori won the toss and sent Australia, who omitted Jason Krejsza from the 12, in (has anyone who took 12 wickets in a match ever been dropped from the team for the next game?).

On this occasion Vettori's decision turned out to be correct as the Australian top order struggled against some intelligent pace bowling. Tim Southee (does Australia have a 19 year old of his quality?) used the conditions extremely well and took the first three wickets (Matthew Hayden, Simon Katich and Ricky Ponting) to leave the home team 3/23.

Michaels Clarke and Hussey hung on until lunch (3/60) without looking entirely at ease but they toughed it out until at 96 Chris Martin removed Hussey lbw for 35. Enter Andrew Symonds, who looked out of sorts despite some good fortune including a dropped catch and an 8 (4 all run + 4 ovrthrows) before edging the persistent Ian O'Brien to wicketkeeper McCullum.

Shane Watson, Brad Haddin and Brett Lee didn't stay long but Clarke, looking thinner after his experiences in India, grew in assurance and moved the score from 8/160 to 214 before he was bowled by occasional bowler Jesse Ryder for a 98 (217b, 9x4) which kept Australia in the game.

Aaron Redmond and Jamie How survived five overs until stumps, leaving New Zealand clearly on top. Whether they can remain there is a moot point: their batting is brittle and the conditions are still helpful to good seam bowling. Tomorrow, weather permitting (and the forecast says that it will) should be the crucial day of the match.


Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Which was the more important match?

India and Australia slugged out a draw over five days in the Third Test at Delhi, while the Stanford Superstars (a a quasi- official West Indian eleven) thrashed the highly favoured England team by 10 wickets in the high profile and highly rewarded one off Twenty20 match in Antigua.

I saw little of the former and nothing of the latter match so can't make much in the way of worthwhile comments about either. From the media reports I've read it seems that we may, despite some distaste among some media commentators, see more games played according to the Stanford model. This isn't something I welcome but if the short time frame, high stakes and associated razzamatazz combine to enlarge the audience for that form of cricket then I'd hope that some of that audience would come in time to appreciate the virtues of the longer form of the game. But I'm not confident that this will happen.