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Monday, December 29, 2008

South Africa on course for match and series win despite lone hand from Ponting : Second Test Day 4

South Africa 459 and 0/30 need a further 153 runs to defeat Australia 394 and 247 (R Ponting 99, D Steyn 5/67): Second Test Day 4 at Melbourne Cricket Ground.

At the start of today's play Mark Nicholas, introducing proceedings on Channel 9, got the series sponsor's name wrong (it's not nPower). He corrected himself quickly, which was more than the Australian team, apart from the captain and a couple of others, was able to do.

The movement of the match out of Australia's reach continued in the first hour when the score went from 0/4 via 0/37 to 3/49. Matthew Hayden seemed to be finding some touch when he drove Dale Steyn to short extra cover for a not entirely convincing 23; Simon Katich played himself in then snicked a wide one to the keeper; Mike Hussey was given out caught when the ball touched his helmet (and nothing else).

Ricky Ponting and Michael Clarke steadied things, not without some awkward moments until, and then beyond, lunch. But Clarke, in contrast to the first innings, surrendered his wicket cheaply to a poor ball from Steyn. Andrew Symonds, Brad Haddin and Brett Lee all failed (the last two after showing some brief promise) making Australia 7/180.

Mitchell Johnson dug in and supported the captain who, conscious of his team's predicament, became more introspective as he moved towards his second century of the match. He was caught at short extra cover for 99/169b (7x4). While this was not a flawless innings, Ponting had worked hard enough to earn his second century of the match, but it wasn;t to be.

The last two wickets, thanks to Johnson's 43 no/ 85b (5x4) added 35, leaving South Africa to amke 183 to win.

Brett Lee, determined as ever, opened the bowling, and bowled Neil McKenzie off a no ball. At the other end Graeme Smith was in ominously good touch, scoring 25 of his team's 0/30 at stumps.

Rain is forecast for Melbourne tomorrow. If it prevents a South African victory that will be a greater injustice than Ponting's dismissal for 99, unless, and this is a very big unless, Australia can rise like a phoenix from the ashes of their burnt expectations. Not likely I think, notwithstanding the other reversals of fortune in this series so far.


Sunday, December 28, 2008

Duminy and tail turn tables on Australia: Second Test Day 3

Australia 394 and 0/4 trail South Africa 459 ( J-P Duminy 166, D Steyn 73, G Smith 62, P Siddle 4/81) by 61 runs with 10 wickets in hand: Second Test Day 3 at Melbourne Cricket Ground.

I was wrong. Again. What a turnaround!

South Africa went from a shaky 7/198 to 459 all out as Jean-Paul Duminy compiled an authoritative and almost nerveless 166/340b (18x4). As these stats indicate, this was an innings demonstrating great concentration and a mature judgment of when to attack.

He was supported first by Paul Harris's 39/67b (4x4), then by Dale Steyn's confident and, given his batting record, surprisingly fluent 76/191b (9x4,1x6).

The Australian attack, which was missing the injured Brett Lee and lacking a fully fi Andrew Symonds, moved from innocuous to inept, with moments bordering on farcical. Mike Hussey made the breakthrough, taking his first wicket in Test cricket after 53 runs had been added. From 8/251 Duminy and Steyn added 180 for the 9th wicket while Duminy and Makhaya Ntini rubbed salt into the wounds with a 28 run partnership for the 10th.

The Australian fielding didn't help. Hussey's failure to get near a lofted shot which he couldn't pick up in the sun was captured by the TV cameras and replayed many times. It looked ugly, especially for these days of limited overs cricket, and would have boosted further the confidence of the Proteas as well as diminishing that of the Australians.

Matthew Hayden and Simon Katich survived 3 overs at the end of the day. While a 58 run deficit may not seem many it's hard to see Australia, so many of whose shortcomings have been exposed in this series already, recovering enough to win the mach. To do so they'll have to play like South Africans.


Saturday, December 27, 2008

South Africa stumble: Second Test Day 2

South Africa 7/198 (G Smith 62, P Siddle 3/24) trail Australia 394 ( Ponting 101, M Clarke 88 no, S Katich 54, D Steyn 5/87) by 198 runs with 3 wickets in hand: Second Test Day 2 at Melbourne Cricket Ground

Australia's last 4 wickets added 117 to take them to 394 all out which looked to be reasonable in the circumstances. Michael Clarke was much more assertive than yesterday, adding 52/51b to finish with 88no/208 b ((4x4, 1x6). Dale Steyn was the best of the South African attack, finishing with 5/87 from 29 overs.

The South Africa innings was held together by Graeme Smith's 62/113b (6x4) as his top order teammates, Jean-Paul Duminy ( a determined 34 no) excepted, failed to live up to expectations and reputations. The Australian attack was, unlike the second innings at Perth, consistently probing and was rewarded for some intelligent bowling. Peter Siddle, on his home ground, was two or three notches above his Perth standard. He certainly justified his selection to the doubters, of whom I was one.

Australia are clearly on top at present; South Africa's resilience, so amply demonstrated in Perth, will tested again tomorrow...and beyond.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Ponting century keeps Australia in game: Second Test Day 1

Australia 6/280 (R Ponting 101, S Katich 54, B Haddin 40) v South Africa: Second Test Day 1 at Melbourne Cricket Ground

Australia were once again indebted to Ricky Ponting for a superb 101/126b (10x4 1 x6) to keep them in the game against a persistent and frequently menacing South African attack. While Simon Katich, Brad Haddin and an out of sorts Michael Clarke gave handy support Matthew Hayden and Michael Hussey failed again.

350 may be a good score on this MCG wicket. It is still within Australia's reach but tomorrow Clarke will need to build on today's scratchy 36 no/157b (only 1x4) and
muster the lower order.


Sunday, December 21, 2008

South Africa triumph against the odds and my opinion: First Test Day 5

South Africa 281 and 4/414 ( G Smith 108, A B de Villiers 106 no, J Kallis 57, H Amla 53, J-P Duminy 50 no, M Johnson 3/98) defeated Australia 375 and 319 by 6 wickets: First Test Day 5 at Perth .

I was wrong . I thought the South Africans would choke. Not one batsman today buckled under the pressure applied by what was only an intermittently hostile Australian attack (Mitchell Johnson an exception). A B de Villiers's innings of 106 no/ 186b, 9x4 was the highlight of today's play, but he was well supported by Jacques Kallis and Jean-Paul Duminy who all bjuilt on the platform erected yesterday by Graeme Smith and Hashim Amla.

This result will rattle Australia. Will they improve? They can't get much worse, but why Andrew Symonds didn't bowl is beyond me. This is not an excuse: well done South Africa.

Any suggestions as to an appropriate recipient for the $100.00 I promised if South Africa won? Perhaps one that operates in the Republic (preferably not a politician's re-election fund).


Cricinfo coverage

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Smith's century leads South African fightback, but is it enough?: First Test Day 4

Australia 375 and 319 ( B Haddin 94, J Kallis 3/24, P Harris 3/85) v South Africa 281 and 3/227 (G Smith 108. H Amla 53). South Africa need anotehr 187 runs with 7 wickets in hand: First Test Day 4 at Perth.

A fascinating day's play. Brad Haddin's ebullient 94/136b, 7x4, 4x6 seemed to put the match well beyond South Africa's reach, yet Graeme Smith and Hashim Amla added 153 for the 2nd wicket to put their team back into contention. Smith's injured elbow seemed to impede his movements a little at times but also reinforced his resolve. His 108/147b, 13x4 was the almost perfect captain's response to the situation. It fell short of complete perfection because the situation of the game, and the fact that his team have only five (maybe Mark Boucher would make a sixth) proven performers with the bat, meant that he should have made at least 150.

Hashim Amla's 53/112b, 6x4 provided valuable support but again could have been more given that he had played himself in. This is not to discount the impressive bowling of Mitchell Johnson (again) and Brett Lee in the final session. When Peter Siddle and Jason Krezja replaced them the pressure eased and, as Jacques Kallis went after them in the final overs and some Australian shoulders drooped (and hands fumbled, the huge total once again looked gettable.

Tomorrow should be another fascinating day, but I'd expect Australia, provided they keep their heads, to work their way through the Proteas. If I'm wrong I'll donate $A100 to charity (I may also do so if I'm right).


Friday, December 19, 2008

South Africa keep fighting but still look likely to lose: Second Test Day 3

Australia 375 and 7/228 (B Haddin 39 no,J Kallis 2/19) lead South Africa 281 (M Johnson 8/61) by 322 runs with 3 second innings wickets in hand: Second Test Day 3 at Perth.

South Africa were able to refocus after the previous day's late collapse, but the damage which Mitchell Johnson did then looks too much to prevent an Australian victory. Johnson took one of the two wickets on offer today as Mark Boucher and nos 10 and 11 showed more guts and determination than some of their teammates had to add a further 38 runs. Johnson finished with 8/61 from 24 overs, one of the best ever bowling performances by an Australian (and achieved against good opposition).

Australia's second innings began better than its first did, even though Matthew Hayden (given out caught by the umpire when replays showed he hadn't hit the ball) and Mike Hussey failed again. Brett Lee also failed to reach double figures, but each of the other six made between 25 and 39. Not good scores but enough, together with the 94 first innings lead, to put Australia well in front.

The South African bowlers kept plugging away. Jacques Kallis (2/19 from 11 overs), Dale Steyn and Paul Harris each took 2 wickets. Graeme Smith kept the pressure on, but I felt that he could have bowled Morne Morkel for more than 11 economical overs. Once again A B deVilliers was outstanding in the field: his slip catch of Lee off Kallis was unbelievable (look for it on YouTube). At the end of today the Proteas could hold their heads higher than yesterday, but it will take an even greater improvement, including at least one century, if they are to win from here.


Thursday, December 18, 2008

Johnson rips through South Africa: First Test Day 2

Australia 375 (S Katich 83, M Clarke 62, A Symonds 57, M Ntini 4/72) v South Africa 8/243 (J Kallis 63, A B de Villiers 63, G Smith 48, H Amla 47, M Johnson 7/42) : First Test Day 2 at Perth.

Mitchell Johnson's spell of 5/2 (yes, that's 5 wickets for 2 runs) from 20 balls near the close of play put Australia well on top after South Africa had looked quite good chasing 375 (a total augmented by a cocky 34 run last wicket partnership).

Only Neil McKenzie of the top five failed in the strict sense, as the other four all reached the forties (Graham Smith's 48 being his highest score in a Test here). Yet none was able to go beyond 63. Solid as both Jacques Kallis and AB deVilliers were (and Kallis needed a score after modest performances elsewhere this year) their dismissals, each caught behind off Johnson for identical scores within 3 runs of each other were the crucial ones setting the Proteas on the slide from a promisingly comfortable 3/234 to a feeble 8/243.

Johnson always looked dangerous, though perhaps only he believed that he could produce that burst of 5/2. Jason Krejza's 1/102 from 25 overs was a mixed bag: a great ball to bowl Hashim Amla and break a menacing 90 run stand for the 2nd wicket, many others which were flighted well into the breeze then turned and bounced, and some rank bad deliveries.

South Africa may be rattled after their collapse, and if they can't regroup quickly they'll probably lose the match by a large margin. Judging by their performances against England and India earlier this year they should be able to do better, but whether Australia now has the wood on* them is a question which may be answered on Day 3.

* = an Australian colloquial phrase meaning "to have an advantage over someone" (source Australian National Dictionary)


Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Australia recover from disastrous start...after a fashion: First Test Day 1

Australia 9/341 (S Katich 83, M Clarke 62, A Symonds 57, B Haddin 46, M Ntini 3/66) v South Africa: First Test Day 1 at Perth.

Typical Perth conditions: a fast wicket, the sun shining and the Fremantle doctor kicking in, helped produce a most interesting day's Test cricket, in which the advantage swung from side to side.

At the end of the day honours were roughly even but notwithstanding their appalling start (3/15, including ducks from Ricky Ponting - first ball - and Mike Hussey) Australia would probably feel that they lost a couple of wickets more than they needed to.

The next lowest score was Mitchell Johnson's 18, yet nobody reached three figures. Simon Katich (83/151b, 7 x4, 1x6), Michael Clarke (62/141b, 7x4) and Andrew Symonds (57/68b, 6x4) all came to terms with the wicket and the South African bowling for long enough to promise more.

The Proteas seemed to lose direction as Katich and Clarke added 149 for the third wicket, but regrouped to dismiss them both in the space of 2 runs. Symonds and Brad Haddin (46/68b, 4x4, 2 x6) added a pugnacious 93 but a number of wickets fell to injudicious strokes, some of which were induced by good bowling.

Makhaya Ntini was especially impressive: after being driven effortlessly by Matthew Hayden in the first over he had both him and Ponting
caught in the slips soon after, and returned late in the day to dismiss Haddin, well caught in the deep by Jean-Paul Duminy, the debutant and late replacement for the injured Ashwell Prince. Paul Harris also bowled well into the breeze: some of the other spin bowlers who have appeared in Tests recently could learn a thing or two from him. Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel had their moments (Morkel more than Steyn) though Jacques Kallis was disappointng.

Tomorrow South Africa will bat. It will be interesting to see what kind of fist they make of the conditions and the relatively raw Australian attack.


Monday, December 15, 2008

India chases and gets 387 to beat nonplussed England: First Test at Chennai

India 241 (MS Dhoni 53, A Flintoff 3/42, M Panesar 3/69) and 4/387 (S Tendulkar 103 no, Yuvraj Singh 85 no, V Sehwag 83, G Gambhir 66) defeated England 316 (A Strauss 123, M Prior 53 no, A Cook 52, Harbhajan Singh 3/96, A Mishra 3/99) and 9/311 dec (Strauss 108, P Collingwood 108, Z Khan 3/40, I Sharma 3/57) by six wickets: First Test at Chennai.

I've seen a lot of this match on television: today I was glued to the couch, watching as the Test slipped, then was wrested from, England's grasp.

Until the final session of the fourth day England were on top. Batting first they mustered, thanks chiefly to Andrew Strauss (123/233b, 15x4), Alistair Cook (52/116b, 5x4) and Matt Prior (53/102b, 1x4), what looked like a reasonable score. When India batted good bowling and fielding (including a sharp Monty Panesar c and b), together with some casual top order shot selection reduced them to 5/102 and 6/137 before MS Dhoni (53/82b,5x4) and Harbhajan Singh (40/58b/7x4) added 75 for the 8th wicket.

Even so, 241 was a sub-standard reply, and after an early wobble to 3/43, Strauss again (108/244b, 8x4) and Paul Collingwood (108/250b, 9 x4) added 214 for the 4th wicket. Collingwood was 6th out at 277 and a declaration, or at least some quickfire scoring, seemed imminent, but it wasn't to be.

The game began to drift and when the declaration came it appeared to be too late.

But Virender Sehwag had other ideas. He came out with all his considerable armament of shots blazing and frightened the daylights out of the England team with a crackerjack 83/68b, 11x4, 4x6. The bowlers, except for Andrew Flintoff and Graeme Swann, wilted.

Sehwag was dismissed before stumps but he'd shown what might just be possible on the final day, which saw India 1/131 needng another 266 to win on a pitch which seemed to be wearing, even though the Indian spinners hadn't extracted much from it on day 4.

The final day saw India work methodically towards their goal. While everyone except Rahul Dravid played a part, the cornerstone of the innings was Sachin Tendulkar's 103/196b,9x4, a masterclass in how to win a game which seemed for so long to be beyond his team's reach. His strokeplay was assured, his defence watchful and his focus on what needed to be done sharp. Only Flintoff, the best of the England bowlers in both innings, troubled him more han occasionally. He was well supported by Gautam Gambhir's solid 66/139b, 7x4 and Yuvraj Singh's aggressive 85 no/131b, 8x4, 1x6.

I thought that Yuvraj, who in the first innings had effectively been sledged out by Flintoff (though Steve Harmison claimed his wicket), would be a weak link in India's chain, but I was wrong.

After lunch the score kept ticking over and Tendulkar looked increasingly settled (and determined). England needed at least one, then two, then three quick wickets to keep in the game. Swann had VVS Laxman, who'd looked ominously in touch, caught at short leg for 26/42b, 4x4. 4/224. That was the last wicket to fall as Yuvraj, who might have been caught behind once and adjudged lbw on another occasion, with Tendulkar took their team to an assured and, despite England's dominance of much of the game, emphatic victory.

The result was not unexpected, though the manner in which it was achieved was a very good advertisement for Test cricket.

England will need to regroup quickly before Friday if the Second Test is to approach it in quality.
After their performances against Australia and now England, India are to my mind clearly the best Test playing nation at present. Which is in a sense ironical given the sub-continental obsession with 20 over cricket.


Cricinfo coverage.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Passages from India

The Weekend Australian has reprinted two interesting pieces from The Times, one by Mike Atherton, another by Simon Barnes


The most tempting thing in the aftermath of terrorism is to exaggerate the danger and the effects on daily life. After all, if you want to drive into Lord's the day before a Test match, you have to let the sniffer dogs do their bit there as well. As it happened, I didn't have my pass on the day I arrived here, but I managed to walk through the gates of the M.A. Chidambaram Stadium and out to the middle without anybody asking to see it. The chief sports writer from the Daily Mirror (and you know it's a big story when the “chiefs” arrive) got in by showing his FA Cup pass.

Madras is 825 miles (1,329km) from Mumbai, more than 12 hours by rail and God knows how long by bus. Language and cultural differences are vast enough to make Lancastrians and Yorkshiremen seem like blood brothers by comparison. Might as well be another country.

There is no sense that Madras is in mourning. People here have a very matter-of-fact view of life and they are going about their business: earning a crust, cooking meals, playing sport, looking after the kids and generally getting on. Most Indians haven't got time to dwell and ponder.

Sheila, the bookseller in the Taj, reckons that business is a little slow for the time of year, but Haribabu, who has worked here for 18 years and now mans the patisserie stall, reports a fine trade in chocolate truffles and black forest gateaux.

Outside, on the Nangambakkam road, the sellers of fruit and dhosa (crêpes) are doing good business, girls from the Sacred Heart High School are hurrying to their lessons, people are chatting and spitting underneath the “do not spit” signs, the drivers of the death-on-three-wheels (tuk-tuks) are winding their way through gaps you don't think exist, and families ride, helmetless, three or four to a bike. 'Elf and safety wouldn't like it.

Down at the Marina beach, which runs the length of the city, all manner of activities are taking place. Joggers are braving the afternoon heat and the air quality, which the World Health Organisation reckons is seven times the recommended levels of pollution. Children are flying kites and there are dozens of cricket matches going on. More than 200 people lost their lives during the tsunami at this beach in Madras, many of them children playing cricket, so they know a bit about getting on with things here. After the tsunami, the beach was washed away, but it is back now, wide and sandy, all 12 kilometres of it.

At the ground, K. Parsatharathy, the groundsman of 35 years, sits on his roller looking unconcerned that a Test is about to start. He'd have liked to have a bit more time to work on the pitch, but he shrugs and says it will be pretty much like all the others he has prepared here: some pace and bounce early on, with plenty of spin later. His staff, women in bright-coloured saris, sit close by, chatting and waiting for instructions.

Cricketers are practising in the nets, but over in the pavilion there is a bit of a commotion because Kevin Pietersen and Mahendra Singh Dhoni are about to unveil the series trophy. Before they do, the big cheese from the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), the sponsor, wants to say a few words and she blathers on about RBS's wealth-management service (as if anybody has got any money left these days), its global portfolio and the important role RBS plays in local communities. You feel like saying, “Come on, love, forget the cricket and just lower your mortgage rates.”

Then she's done and she asks Pietersen and Dhoni to unveil the trophy. All of a sudden there is an almighty scrum as dozens of cameramen, photographers and journalists surge towards the captains. Reg Dickason, the England security adviser, has seconded his son into action on this trip (and that tells you all you need to know about how the security business is doing very nicely out of this show), and it is his responsibility to guard the England captain. Dickason Jr has a look of sheer panic as he finds himself on the wrong side and he tries to fight his way through the scrum. James Avery, the ECB's laconic media officer, leans against the wall, smiling. This is India, after all, and chaos is a given.

All this was happening yesterday in Madras, much like any other day there when Test cricket is on. Cricketers practising, bankers bull*****ing, columnists writing, locals getting from home to work and back again in a variety of ways, children playing cricket on the beach and chaos unfolding.

That is what happens after the terror. And today, the Test begins.


Sport and terrorism are two of the main growth industries of the past 40-odd years and it is inevitable that they have from time to time come together. More often than not, sport has responded by carrying on. Some will argue that this is mostly about not wanting to lose money; others will argue that it's all about politics; no one will argue that such points are not a factor in the decision to carry on.

But all the same, carrying on feels right. Defiance feels right. The restoration of normal life feels right: not crassly and coarsely and insensitively, not in any pretence that the sport is more important than matters of life and death, but because the return to sport after a period of terror is both a blow against terrorism and the sort of comforting normality we need after times of trouble.


The sport continued after the pipe bomb exploded at the Atlanta Olympic Games of 1996, which killed two and injured 111. Rather more questionably, the Olympic Games of 1972 carried on without interruption during the killings, the prolonged siege and then eventual airport shoot-out in Munich, a time in which it appeared that the allocation of gold medals was more important to the International Olympic Committee than the murder of athletes.

But in most cases, the decision of sport to carry on in the aftermath of terror feels right, and is right. It is seldom that sport has been the specific target of terrorism: Munich and the bogus bombs of the Grand National are about as close as it gets. If sport ever became a regular and specific target of terror, we would have to rethink everything.

But it is not. All the same, sport cannot take place without the security industry dominating most leading events, and we accept this as a matter of routine. We are aware that the price of fighting terrorism is eternal vigilance; we are in the process of learning about the price of eternal vigilance.

Sport is a weapon against terror; a weapon on the side of the ordinary, the amusing, the trivial. That is not to deny, still less to trivialise the devastation caused by the terrorists, rather, it is to put them in perspective. There are wicked people in the world, but there are also people prepared to graft out 123 runs in a day's cricket. Sport can't defeat terrorism unaided, but it can certainly celebrate the truth that terrorism doesn't create anything but terror. So three cheers for the England cricket team, and three more for the India team; I hope they both win. But then they already have.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Dizzy speaks out

Jason Gillespie in The Sunday Mail/Adelaide Now speaks out about what he sees as the faults of the cricket world:

Former Test fast bowler Jason Gillespie has accused Cricket Australia of deserting some of the country's finest players in favour of the wishes of Indian officials.
Gillespie condemned a decision to keep him out of Australian domestic cricket as "a joke" and said Cricket Australia was kowtowing to the powerful Board of Control for Cricket in India.

The South Australian paceman – banned from first-class cricket in Australia after signing a three-year deal with the non-ICC sanctioned Indian Cricket League – also criticised Indian cricket chief Lalit Modi.

He said he believed Cricket Australia would not stand up to Modi and the BCCI.

"Unfortunately, they'll side with (India's) board rather than support players like `Kasper' (Michael Kasprowicz) and myself who've played for our country for many years," Gillespie said of Cricket Australia's treatment of former Test stars now playing in the ICL.

"They're far too worried about the ramifications of not being nice to the BCCI ... it's a joke.

"They've basically said to us: `No, we don't want you.'

"Cricket Australia are ... concerned about massaging their relationship with the BBCI."

In an exclusive interview with the Sunday Mail, Gillespie:

EXPRESSED a desire to return to cricket with the SA Redbacks.

DECLARED Test cricket was on its last legs outside of Australia and England.


Gillespie, who played 71 Tests, returned to Australia from ICL commitments last week, leaving India just hours after the horror of the Mumbai terrorist attacks.

His experience on the subcontinent has left him with the belief that for much of the cricket-playing world, Test cricket is doomed.

"Test cricket is in trouble, there's no doubt about that," he said.

"I can see a time where countries will be bypassing Test cricket altogether.

"With more Twenty20 Leagues, it will go the way where representing your country will take a back seat. For Australian and English players it will always be the pinnacle, but I'm not sure it's the pinnacle for any other countries.

"All other countries don't see Test cricket as the be-all and end-all any more."

Gillespie spent the winter playing for Glamorgan in the English County Competition before joining his ICL team, the Ahmedabad Rockets.

During that time, the 259-Test scalp veteran worked feverishly with both teams' younger bowlers and developed an interest in coaching.

But even assisting Australia's next generation of tearaways may be forced off Gillespie's agenda.

"I was talking to (Australian head bowling coach) Troy Cooley before and he's keen to get me into the Centre of Excellence but I'm hoping these ridiculous rules of Cricket Australia don't extend to coaching because I think that would be quite sad."

Despite the Mumbai attacks, Gillespie remains intent on returning to India for the ICL's next series in March.

There's a large dollop of self-serving here but he does make some good points. In Adelaide we have just seen a so-called Test match between Australia and a New Zealand team which was weakened by the banning of several players, notably Shane Bond, because of their involvement in the ICL.
Update 15 December
The Weekend Australian revisited the issue.


Gillespie, who signed with the ICL last season and promptly retired from the SA Redbacks to avoid Cricket Australia sanction, is distressed by the treatment of India's banned ICL players.

The 71-Test paceman tells of how his Ahmedabad Rockets team-mate, former India international Reetinder Sodhi, was treated when he fronted up to watch a recent club game.

Security was called and Sodhi was frog-marched out of the ground. "He can't even go and watch a match," an incredulous Gillespie, 33, said this week. "He got escorted away from a club match because he's ICL.

"They can't play anywhere. The only place they can play cricket is in the street or in their own backyard. They just can't play anywhere."

Then there's the case of batsman Bhima Rao, 21, who dominated one ICL Twenty20 game with multiple run-outs and catches from his station at point.

"He's one of the best fielders I've seen, in any cricket," Gillespie said.

As an ICL player, the promising Rao is ineligible to play for India, so fans of establishment cricket are starved of his athletic displays in the covers.

"I just find it incredibly disappointing that a lot of these kids will never get the opportunity to play for their country.

"It's ended their first-class careers.

"They're massively disappointed. These kids, their goal is, like any other kid, they want to play for India.

"They're just so willing to learn and they hang on your every word.

"Some of these players are good enough to play for India."

Gillespie believes Indian cricket's governing body, the BCCI, would not enforce the ICL ban so stringently if Indian cricket was not blessed with a depth envied by every other cricketing nation.

The cold divide gripping Indian cricket has yet to take hold in Australia - but it has touched the game here.

Cricket Australia banned Gillespie's Ahmedabad team-mates Ryan Campbell and Murray Goodwin from playing in the annual Lilac Hill picnic match in WA last month.

"That is ridiculous. That is just silly. On what basis?

"I think Cricket Australia, they value the relationship with the BCCI far too much."

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

The talented (and focused) Mr Cricket

In last weekend's Australian Peter Lalor wrote about Mike Hussey's determination and application

Hussey waited 11 years and compiled 15,313 first-class runs before getting a sniff of the baggy green. It is doubtful that anybody on this side of sanity has applied themselves so totally to the goal of playing Test cricket. At times, Hussey may have drifted close to the other side of that line.

He practised day and night and then sometimes in between. He sought advice from all and sundry and then a few of sundry's mates. He listened and he practised and he made lists. List after list after list. Everything in his life appears to revolve around notes and plans and goals. To this day he is still the same.

He has a Sleep Plan, (no coffee in afternoon/lights off 9.30pm/don't panic if you wake in the night and so on), a day plan, a career plan, a captaincy plan, an Ashes plan, a plan for this and a plan for plans.

Even John Buchanan was surprised by Hussey's diligence. When the former coach asked the players to send him some thoughts on the eve of the last Ashes, the West Australian replied with a 20-point list, complete with sub-headings and subsections and finished the email by saying he looked forward to more feedback from his team-mates and maybe could squeeze in a visit to the Centre of Excellence.

Amy, his wife, is too familiar with Hussey's structured existence, having been scheduled in at certain times of the day when they dated. She tries to keep him on track.

"When I start going off on these weird tangents, when the pressures right on, she has this way of just bringing things back to simple, basic elements and nine times out of 10 she is generally right," Hussey said.

And, yes, he knows that in the past he has gone a bit too far.

"Sometimes it got out of hand, but I haven't been too bad in the last few years because I know my game a lot better now and I understand what I need to do to get my game right.

"Certainly I think when I'm home and I've got a long list of things to do that day, things around the house, Amy will just say 'can we just throw the list out for one day, just have no plan today' and I get a bit frazzled, definitely."

Monday, December 01, 2008

McCullum's aggressive fightback in losing cause highlights NZ batting ineptitude: Second Test Day 4

Australia 535 defeated New Zealand 270 and 203 (B McCullum 84 no, B Lee 5/105, M Johnson 3/29) by an innings and 62 runs: Second Test Day 4 at Adelaide

The New Zealand top order threw in the towel as, in the face of some hostile bowling in the first session, the team crumbled from 0/35 to 5/83. Brett Lee bowled especially well, while Stuart Clark maintained pressure from the other end and was unlucky not to pick up a wicket and Mitchell Johnson and Nathan Hauritz kept up the pressure against embarassingly weak batting. The highlight of the morning was Ricky Ponting's catch to dismiss Jamie How. Don't take my word for it: click on the link to judge for yourself.

Another wicket fell immediately after lunch before the lower order batsmen supported Brendon McCullum in adding 119 for the last 4 wickets. This didn't prevent the defeat which had looked inevitable since halfway through the first day, but it did show what, with more application, might have been.
McCullum's innings began cautiously. Not until number 10 Iain O'Brien joined him and showed some defensive skill, did he begin to hit out. The pair added 50, of which O'Brien's contribution was 0 from 38 balls, before McCullum kept the inept Chris Martin from the strike while they added another 22 before Martin inevitably succumbed to Mitchell Johnson for yet another duck (and pair).

McCullum was left not out with 84/134b/14x4, 2x6. Had one or two of the top six been a third as good as him Australia would still have won but would have had to bat again.


Cricinfo coverage

Update 2 December

In today's Australian (not yet online) Mike Coward has a good summary of New Zealand's performance in the Test. His views, with which I concur, are summed up in the headline "Vettori has right to feel affronted by lacklustre team" and the first two sentences

By its rank ineptitude the New Zealand cricket team has publicly offended its captain, Daniel Vettori, and rendered Test cricket another disservice.

Young, raw and naive the team may be but there can be no excuse for the lily-livered batting which abruptly ended proceedings yesterday and ensured the Trans-Tasman Trophy reamins in Australia, where it has resided for the last 15 years.