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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

England stitch up innings victory:

England 9/574d** beat South Africa 343 & 133 (50 ov, G Swann 5/54, S Broad 4/43) by an innings and 98 runs : T2 D5 at Durban. England lead series 1-0 with two Tests remaining.

Few surprises as England today completed the victory which their bowlers had set up on D4. Graeme Swann took 5 second innings wickets giving him 9 for the match (and, deservedly, the Player of the Match award). Stuart Broad made good use of the conditions to finish with 4/43. The other bowlers were barely needed or used.

There is no doubt that South Africa can regroup. The challenge for them is how best to do so. The first step will need to be a tough selection process. How considerations other than recent performance impact upon some key questions, eg whether Makhaya Ntini should be retained, will be very interesting.


** From The Times :

England's first innings total was reduced by one run overnight after the umpires ruled that an overthrow that crossed the boundary was worth four runs not five, as the batsmen had not crossed. England's revised total was, therefore, 574.

Two wickets in first over seal Pakistan's fate: T1 D5

Australia 5/454 d & 8/225 d beat Pakistan 258 and 251 (72ov, Mohammad Yousuf 61, N Hauritz 5/101) bt 170 runs: T1 D5 at MCG.

Pakistan were never in the hunt after losing Umar Gul and Misbah-Ul-Haq to successive Mitchell Johnson balls in the first over of the morning. Captain Mohammad Younus tried to put a less bad face on impending defeat with 61/140b (7x4), but nobody stayed with him long enough to resist Johnson, Doug Bollinger and Nathan Hauritz, whose subtle variations earned him his best Test figures of 5/101.

The Australian attack is good at working its way through an batting lineup of variable quality like Pakistan's. While far from perfect, the Australian fielding was appreciably better than the sub- Test quality butterfingered Pakistan fielding (exemplified by the dropping of Shane Watson on 99).

Can Pakistan improve enough to beat Australia? Despite their deserved reputation for inconsistency it's difficult to see this happening. If Danish Kaneria comes into the side for Sydney the bowling should be stronger (especially if, repeat if, the fielding lifts. The batting on paper looks good but needs to be able to post totals much great than 250. As for Australia, Ricky Ponting hasn't had a big innings for some time....


England sweep South Africa aside and head towards victory : T2 D4

South Africa 343 & 6/76 (32 ov) trail England 9/575d (170 ov, A Cook 118, I Bell 141, M Prior 60)by 156 runs with 4 second innings wickets in hand: T2 D4 at Durban

England added 4/189 in sunshine to its overnight 5/386 before reducing South Africa to 6/76 as gloom (both literal and metaphorical) descended over Durban. This is not to let the home team off the hook: Test match days don't come much more one-sided than this, particularly when honours on the preceding ones have been fairly evenly divided.

There were several very good performances from England players, including Graeme Swann's 3/22 from 12 ov and Stuart Broad's 3/18 from 9, but the standout one was Ian Bell's 141/227b (1x6, 10x4).

I've not been alone in thinking that Bell was the weak link in the England batting chain, but this innings has proved me wrong. Sure, he began tentatively on D3 but once he'd found his touch he kept propelling his team into a strong position. And there was more: when South Africa batted again he caught Ashwell Prince at short leg off Swann, which precipitated a collapse from 1/27 to 6/50. Mark Boucher and Morne Morkel held on until the umpires decided that the light was too bad, but at 6/76 with a further 156 runs required to make England bat again surely, despite the surprises of D4, only bad weather can save the Proteas. If it does that will be unfair to England.


Tuesday, December 29, 2009

At last a century (for both Australia and Watson): T1 D4

Pakistan 258 & 3/170(45 ov) require 252 runs with 7 wickets in hand to beat Australia 5/454d and 8/225d (73.1 ov, S Watson120*, Mohammad Aamer 5/79) : T1 D3 at MCG.

The obvious highlight of a day in which Australia continued to move towards victory over a dogged Pakistan was Shane Watson's first Test century, which was also the first by any Australian this season.

If you've seen the TV highlights of the day's play you'll be aware that Watson was extremely fortunate not to be caught in the gully off the 186th ball he faced, and fortunate enough to score from the subsequent fumble the run he needed to bring up his century.

120*/220b (1x6, 10x4) out of 8/225 speaks for itself. Now, I wonder, will we stop hearing Watson described as a "stand in" or "makeshift" opener? There are good reasons why, as an allrounder, he should bat down the order but why tag him with these labels which are now (and have been since T2 against the West Indies) plain wrong.

While I doubt whether anyone seriously believes that Pakistan can win or even draw this Test, the visitors have shown flashes of pugnacity and resolution which I didn't expect of them, especially after their modest performances in New Zealand. In Australia's second innings Mohammad Aamer's 5/79 showed that he, like Umar Gul with the bat, is one several positive signs for the on field future of Pakistan cricket.


Sunshine transforms Durban and England batting: T2 D3

England 5/386 (123 ov, A Cook 118, P Collingwood 91, M Bell 55*) lead South Africa 343 on first innings by 43 runs with 5 first innings in hand: T1 D3 at Durban.

The sun came out at Durban, helping to change the nature of the pitch and the match. Some doughty batting from Alistair Cook 118/263b (11x4) and Paul Collingwood 91/215b (7x4) put England well on the road to a first innings lead. In the last session Ian Bell overcame some initial discomfort against Morne Morkel to push the total along with a fluent 55*/84b (1x6, 5x4).

Good as the English batting was, the South African bowling contributed to this. Morkel excepted, it looked ordinary for most of the time. On the evidence of the series to date Makhaya Ntini is not worth his place. On D3 he was better than on D2 but rarely looked more than steady. He has an admirable record but there are other considerations which the selectors will bear in mind when the team for the next Test is chosen. Paul Harris also bowled (
to continue in damn-with-faint-praise vein) steadily, yet his 1/92 from 23 ov didn't look as impressive as J P Duminy's 1/39 from 13. Most batters can survive against him by watchful waiting, waiting that is for the far from uncommon loose balls.

With three days gone and the England first innings still in progress a draw looks the likeliest result, and the one which South Africa is probably already resigned to. An England win isn't out of the question but its 4-specialist-bowler attack will need to lift against the solid and deep South African batting, not to mention the pitch.


Monday, December 28, 2009

Australian tighten grip despite poor start to second innings: T1 D3

Australia 5/454 dec and 3/111 (34 ov, S Watson 64*) lead Pakistan 258 (Misbah-ul-Haq 65*, Umar Akmal 51) by 307 runs with 7 second innings wickets in hand: T1 D3 at MCG.

Pakistan had some competitive moments, including some determined and aggressive batting and most notably reducing Australia to 3/40 in its second innings. Yet at the end of the day the match was still heading towards an emphatic Australian victory.


England fight back after South African tail wags : T2 D2

England 1/103 (26.2 ov, A Strauss 54) trail South Africa 343 (108.3 ov, G Smith 75, J Kallis 75, A B de Villiers 50) on first innings by 240 runs with 9 wickets in hand: T1 D2 at Durban

Interesting day's play entirely under lights at an overcast Durban. First the last five South African wickets added 168, (58 of them coming from a Dale Steyn dominated last wicket partnership with Makhaya Ntini.

343 looked good until Andrew Strauss belted 54 from 67b (9x4) and took the wind out of the Proteas' sails. At least Morne Morkel dismissed him but that platform, and specifically the relatively easy manner in which it was achieved, will give England heart, South Africa food for thought and the spectators and viewers reason to keep watching (and hoping that the weather holds).


Sunday, December 27, 2009

Pakistan batting falters in face of solid Australian total: T1 D2

Pakistan 4/109 (49 ov) trails Australia 5/454dec (128 ov, S Katich 98, S Watson 53, M Hussey 82, N Hauritz 75, R Ponting 57) by 345 runs with 6 first innings wicket in hand
: T1 D2 at MCG.

A very one sided and not especially memorable day's play.

There wasn't even an Australian century to celebrate despite Bill Lawry's prediction that Mike Hussey, 82 at the time, would score one. Alas Lawry's claim was the kiss of death for Hussey, who was lbw (confirmed on review by UDRS) without adding to his score. He faced 113b, hit 10 4s and looked in good touch (so the reasons for Lawry's prediction weren't too far fetched).

Nathan Hauritz batted on without ever looking as polished or as entrenched as Hussey or Michael Clarke, who joined him at the crease (and who probably regretted not coming in last night to take advantage of the shortcomings of the Pakistan attack) . When Hauritz was lbw for 75/152b (1x6, 8x4),
his highest Test score, Ricky Ponting declared.

The Pakistan batting was of modest quality, except for Salman Butt who looked fairly comfortable until he fell lbw to Shane Watson for 45/113b (1x4). The Australian bowling was tight, conceding just over 2 runs an over, which augurs well for a home win, though probably not for exciting cricket.


One partnership but little else as England put South Africa on back foot : T2D1

South Africa 5/175 (61ov, G Smith 75, J Kallis 75) v England: T2 D1 at Durban

Fortunately Graeme Smith and Jacques Kallis were in good form as England made early inroads into the South African batting on a day truncated by bad light (and a slow over rate).

From 2/10 Smith and Kallis batted beyond tea, increasingly asserting their authority over a disciplined England attack and adding 150 before Graeme Swann had Kallis well caught at slip for 75/132b (7x4). 3/160.

At 166 Smith was run out in a mix up with AB de Villiers
for 75/186b (9x4). 4 runs later J-P Duminy was plumb lbw to Graham Onions, leaving de Villiers and Mark Boucher to grope their way in the deteriorating light to 5/175.

So it was England's day, though it's hard to tell what a good score for the team batting first in the humid conditions might be (250 is my uninformed guess), or whether the light, weather and over rates will allow enough play on days 2-5 to achieve a result.


Saturday, December 26, 2009

Australia sort of comfortable against below par Pakistan: T1 D1

Australia 3/305 (90 ov, S Katich 98, S Watson 93, R Ponting 57) v Pakistan: T1 D1 at MCG

A good day for team Australia if a slightly disappointing one for Shane Watson and Simon Katich. Both were out - yet again - in the 90s, after putting on 182 for the first wicket against some modest Pakistan bowling and frequently slapdash fielding. No doubt the kerfuffle which produced the run out will be shown on TV and YouTube (follow the link below to watch the Foxtel highlights if you're in Australia). TV adjudication was required to send Watson, the crowd's preferred survivor, on his way for 93/191 b (11x4) .

Katich had started less confidently, was dropped early, but rode his luck well enough to nudge his way yet again to the brink of a century before being caught at backward point, where he'd been dropped early on, for 98/226b (5x4).

Ricky Ponting had cast aside any doubts about his fitness and took his place in the side. After winning the toss and electing to bat on what looked like a good typical MCG drop in wicket he came to the wicket with 182 on the board and peeled off a quickfire 57/60b (7x4), latterly in partnership with an assured looking Mike Hussey who on 38* is well placed to resume on D2 with nightwatchman Nathan Hauritz, another who had a temporary cloud over his fitness before play.

Pakistan were disadvantaged by an injury to leg spinner Danish Kaneria, who was in good form in the recent series v New Zealand. Unlike Ponting and Hauritz he was left out. Whether it was also wise to omit Umar Gul, who was not in good form in New Zealand, remains to be seen. His replacement Abdur Rauf didn't exactly set the world on fire today.

Australia can feel comfortable, well sort of comfortable, with today's effort. It would irritate the team that the curse of the 90s has struck in so many ways this season, but 99.99% of cricketers at all levels would, once they'd regrouped after being dismissed, be pleased enough with a score in the 90s.


Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas Trivia

Here are a few trivia questions which I've circulated to friends (including, as you might infer from the questions, several with Yorkshire connections) . I'll publish answers after 3 January.

Best wishes for Christmas and the New Year!


1, This week England collapsed losing 5/13 and almost a Test match. It hasn't been the worst collapse in first class cricket so far this month. Who lost 5/9 and also the match?

2. Also this month which team won a match by scoring 1/445 in the fourth innings?

3. Which Yorkshire wicketkeeper once scored a half century when opening the batting for England?

4 Which Yorkshire wicketkeeper's autobiography was called Taking It From Behind ?

5. Which Yorkshire wicketkeeper also played professional soccer for a Football League club?

6. Who was the wicketkeeper who captained England and played for Yorkshire.

7. Did the Wigan goalkeeper who was in goal during his side's recent 9- 1 drubbing by Spurs hold his place in the team afterwards?

8. Who played in goal for 4 Football League clubs and bowled for 4 counties?

9. Who, in the last decade, has opened the batting and bowling in the same Test?

10. Which country has never fielded a Test player named Johnson: (a) England (b) India (c) New Zealand (d) Zimbabwe?

Monday, December 21, 2009

Thrilling finish out of the blue

South Africa 418 and 6/301 dec drew with England 356 & 9/228 (96ov, K Pietersen 81,J Trott 69): T1 D5 at Centurion.

For most of the last day fortunes fluctuated with a comfortable draw increasingly looking the likeliest result. Then came the last hour, when South Africa came from out of nowhere and put England under great pressure.

Kevin Pietersen and Jonathan Trott restored a shaky 3/27 to 3/169 at tea. I heard one commentator suggest that Pietersen, 80* at that interval, might fancy having a crack at the 195 runs required from the last 36 overs. Maybe KP fancied himself: he'd batted well but it had been clear for much of the match that team England would be happy to settle for a draw. The pitch was OK as fifth day pitches go, which is to say that it wasn't conducive to a full on run chase, especially against the competent South African attack.

Well, just after tea Pietersen foolishly ran himself out by the length of the pitch, his 81/143b (11x4) now looking likely to go down as a match saving innings. When Trott and Paul Collingwood spent almost 20 overs moving from 4/172 to 205 when Trott was brilliantly caught in the slips by A B de Villiers off the combative Friedel de Wet. With 86 balls to be bowled the draw looked almost the only possible result.

Almost, but not quite. While Collingwood watched from the other end wickets fell at 207, 208, 209 and 218, leaving him and Graham Onions to face the last 19 balls, which they did. Actually Onions faced 12 of those balls, including the entire last over. Watch the highlights here:


Sunday, December 20, 2009

Only 21 balls but still controversy

Australia 520/7d & 150 defeatedWest Indies 312 & 323 (94.3 ov) by 35 runs: T3 D5 at Perth. Australia win series 2-0.

21 balls and a lengthy though fruitless review of the umpire's decision was all it took to decide the match this morning. The result was not unexpected though the slender margin was, at least after the first two days.

Had video umpire Asad Rauf interpreted the guidelines anywhere near as liberally as he did in Adelaide with Shiv Chanderpaul he might have overruled Billy Bowden's decision that Kemar Roach nicked Doug Bollinger to the keeper. Certainly the replays I saw on TV were inconclusive. The

I've been flooded by emails saying that Roach should not have been given out because replays didn't show an edge. I don't think that's how it works. Bowden gave him out on the field and since replays did not prove that he didn't nick it, the on-field decision should stay. The irony is that, if Bowden had given him not out, and the Australians had asked for a review, Roach might well have been given not out after the review because replays didn't prove that he was out. It's complicated, this UDRS. I couldn't tell whether he nicked it or not. Hot Spot didn't show much, but it often doesn't pick up faint edges. This debate will rage on and on ...

They are showing Snicko now and there's a faint indication of an edge. Ever so faint, it could have been an edge, it could have been something else. I guess only Roach will really know.

The Cricinfo commentator (access via summary scorecard) agreed with me yet thought that the decision should stay:

I've been flooded by emails saying that Roach should not have been given out because replays didn't show an edge. I don't think that's how it works. Bowden gave him out on the field and since replays did not prove that he didn't nick it, the on-field decision should stay. The irony is that, if Bowden had given him not out, and the Australians had asked for a review, Roach might well have been given not out after the review because replays didn't prove that he was out. It's complicated, this UDRS. I couldn't tell whether he nicked it or not. Hot Spot didn't show much, but it often doesn't pick up faint edges. This debate will rage on and on ...

They are showing Snicko now and there's a faint indication of an edge. Ever so faint, it could have been an edge, it could have been something else. I guess only Roach will really know.

Did Roach know? He called for the review at least as, if not more, quickly than I can recall any player doing so in the brief time the Umpire Decision Review System (UDRS) system has been in place. If anything his rapid response suggests that he didn't believe that he'd hit the ball. In any case the video umpire should have looked at the objective evidence before his eyes. If it was inconclusive then IMO Roach should have been given the benefit of the doubt, a core principle of umpiring decision making.

This aside Australia were the better side in this match, though less emphatically than they would have expected after the first two days. A 2-0 series victory doesn't accurately reflect the differences between the teams, particularly the improvement which the West Indies made in the last two matches. Australia might claim that they were unlucky with injuries, yet this is a feeble excuse for their underperformance when many commentators predicted three emphatic victories.


South Africa regain initiative after top order wobble

England 356 & 1/11 (6.0 ov) require another 353 runs with 9 wickets in hand to beat South Africa 418 & 7/301dec (85.5 ov, H Amla 100, AB deVilliers 64, M Boucher 63*): T1 D4 at Centurion

Hashim Amla's 100/213b (10x4) was the cornerstone of a South African revival from the valley of 4/46 to the uplands of 7/301. At this point Graham Smith declared setting the visitors 364 to win, which they reduced to 353 but lost a wicket doing so.

Looks like a South African win but I wouldn't rule out a draw. An England victory isn't out of the question but will require the remaining specialist batters to lift their games.


Saturday, December 19, 2009

West Indies fight back and make Australia turn up tomorrow ...

West Indies 312 & 308/9 (91 ov) need another 51 runs with 1 wicket remaining to defeat Australia 520/7d & 150 (51.3 ov): T3 D4 at Perth

Neither Chris Gayle (21) nor Travis Dowlin (22) nor Ramnaresh Sarwan (11) nor Dwayne Bravo (1) contributed much to the West Indies second innings, but Narsingh Deonarine (82/171b,2x6,10x4) and Brendan Nash (65/183b, 7x4) did, and in doing so gave Australia cause for concern by batting resolutely (perhaps, in Nash's case
it could be said, too resolutely) through the afternoon session and beyond.

It was a great struggle - I say was because nobody in their right mind would believe that nos 10 and 11 can score another 51 runs against a refreshed attack tomorrow. Even surviving today, which the Australians extended by an extra half hour to try to claim a victory, will gain the Windies a few points with cricket followers and give the home team cause to reflect. There is no doubt which side has improved the most since the first day of the series.


England batting flounders and Swann revives

South Africa 418 & 1/9 (4 ov) lead England 356 (104 ov, G Swann 85, P Collingwood 50, P Harris 5/123) by 71 runs with 9 second inns wickets in hand: T1 D3 at Centurion.

Thanks to Graeme Swann England are still in this match. On D3 a106 run 9th wicket partnership between him and James Anderson restored a degree of respectability to their team which, despite its selection of an extra batter (Ian Bell) in preference to a fifth bowler, had struggled to build a big first innings total. Swann biffed 85/81b (2x6, 10 x4), his highest Test score:

England's first innings deficit , though smaller than seemed likely at one point, has increased the chance of a South African victory instead of the draw I predicted yesterday. It may even be worth watching D4's play live.


Friday, December 18, 2009

Bowlers' turn

Australia 7/520 dec @ 8/137 (47ov) lead West Indies 312 (81 ov, C Gayle 102, T Dowlin 55, D Bollinger 5/70) by 345 runs with 2 second inns wkts in hand: T3 D3 at Perth.

On the first two days 9 wickets fell for 634 runs. Day 3 was bowlers' day for both teams as 16 went down for 235 (WI losing 8/98, Aust 8/137).

The West Indies batting collapse was reminiscent of the First Test so didn't come entirely out of the blue. The pitch played a few tricks, and will probably get worse, but the batting after Chris Gayle's dismissal lacked the technique and apparently (Brendan Nash excepted) the determination to tough it out. Which made their revival with the ball, pitch assistance notwithstanding, all the more surprising. All the bowlers performed with the livewire Dwayne Bravo 3/34 from 15 overs outstanding and Sulieman Benn 2/26 from 9 .

What about Australia? Doug Bollinger deserved his 5 wickets, while Nathan Hauritz persisted well. he didn't extract as much spin as did Benn but his accuracy and variation were better. Of the batting the less said the better, though I will say how troubled Ricky Ponting looked when he came to the crease at no9 with the total 125. His elbow injury must be serious for him to hold himself back so far: it was the heart rather than the head which influenced this decision, just as it was the head which made him decide against enforcing the follow on.

Good as it was to see the Windies revival I think that when several factors, including the condition of the pitch and the inconsistency of their batting, are weighed up Australia should be able to win from here. Of course if there was another blinder from Gayle...or solid knocks from a few others...


Heading for draw after D2?

England 1/88 (23ov) trail South Africa 418 (153.2 ov, J Kallis 120, JP Duminy 56, G Swann 5/110) by 330 runs with 9 1st inns wickets in hand: T1 D2 at Centurion.

South Africa after losing Jacques Kallis for 120/225b (1x6, 16x4) early scratched away for 63.2 overs adding 7/156. England did a little better, though both sides seem to be comfortable with a draw. And this in a three Test series!

Not a great day's Test cricket: one for watching the highlights to fill the gaps in one's viewing of the live relay.

The lowlight of what I did see was
the perfect script for Makhaya Ntini's 100th Test spoilt as he had Alistair Cook dropped at third slip off his first ball to him.


Thursday, December 17, 2009

Gayle's quickfire century ruffles Australian bowlers' feathers as Windies chase big total

West Indies 2/214 (46 ov, C Gayle 102, T Dowlin 55) trail Australia 7/520 dec (130.4 ov, S Katich 99, Watson 89, Haddin 88, Hussey 82, North 68) by 306 runs on first innings with 8 wickets in hand: T3 D2 at Perth

Watch as much of Chris Gayle's 102/70b (6x6, 9x4) as you can on TV or YouTube (where he already features prominently, though mostly in coloured clothing ). The six with which he brought up his century (the fifth fastest in Test cricket in terms of recorded balls faced) by driving Nathan Hauritz onto the roof of the Lillee-Marsh Stand was the most memorable of many strokes and, deservedly, the one most likely to be replayed.

For the second successive Test Gayle has energised his team, keeping them competitive in the face of a large Australian total, albeit one which did not include either a century or substantial contributions from the captain and vice-captain. Today it was Mike Hussey, Brad Haddin and Marcus North who couldn't reach three figures. Hussey, who probably didn't sleep too well overnight, was caught behind off the diligent Ravi Rampaul for 82/176b (9x4), Haddin drove well for 88/91b (2x6, 11x4) which might have been the day's batting highlight but for Gayle, while North hit a slow full toss back to the bowler when looking well set on 68/117b (8x4). This
was as soft a dismissal as you're likely to see in any form of cricket.

The Australian bowling wasn't as bad as Gayle and Travis Dowling made it look. Doug Bollinger, Nathan Hauritz (who had Gayle dropped at slip) and Clint McKay had their moments while Mitchell Johnson, as so often happens with him, had one when he enticed Dowling to hit a catch to gully for an assured 55/116b.

The West Indies have made a bold start by batting positively and, at least for a while, ruffling the Australian attack's feathers. Toward the end Ramnaresh Sarwan looked in good nick but they are still a long way behind. Still, 6/395 in a day's play gave the spectators their money's worth and may even deflect some media attention from an on field incident .


Kallis leads South Africa to safer ground in Ntini's 100th Test

Another Test starting on a Wednesday and overlapping a little with the Perth one. You can understand doubling up on Boxing Day but why can't the authorities (esp the Australian and West Indies ones schedule things better? South Africa deserve the first bite of he cherry: Wednesday there is a public holiday whereas in Perth it's a midweek working day.

Enough on that . I watched most of the middle session live and the whole day's highlights later. The Proteas recovered in the 35 over last session from 4/159 to 4/262 thanks chiefly to the seemingly ageless Jacques Kallis'
112*/203 (1x6, 14x4). Even at tea, when he was 51*, he looked in very good touch.


This is also Makhaya Ntini's 100th Test. South African cricket CEO Gerald Majola says "He has stridden the world cricket stage like a colossus since making his Test debut at the age of 20".

As a person with an interest in grammar (some might say I'm a pedant) I can't resist observing that "stridden" is a brave call for the past participle of "stride". I'd have said "strode" though Google search opinion seems to be divided : see this and this for examples.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Still no century but Australia comfortable after D1

Australia 3/339 (90ov, S Katich 99, S Watson 89, M Hussey 81*) v West Indies T3 D1 at WACA Ground Perth

Simon Katich and Shane Watson again got Australia off to a cracking start, but as here in Adelaide neither was able to notch a century. Watson was caught behind for a belligerent 89/130b (15x4) while Katich, for the second time in Tests was dismissed for 99, on this occasion caught at square leg from 177b (10x4), Nevertheless their contributions, and that of Mike Hussey who looked much better than at Adelaide in making 81*/155b (10x4), offset the cheap dismissal of Michael Clarke and the retirement of Ricky Ponting with an injured elbow.

Much has been said about injuries to key players on each side. Shiv Chanderpaul and Adrian Barath couldn't take the field for the Windies
whereas Australia only lost Peter Siddle from their Adelaide XI. With relative unknown Clint McKay making his debut Australia's attack is far from its strongest though the loss of two top order opposition batsmen should make their collective task easier.

The West Indies attack was, not surprisingly on a first day WACA wicket, more steady than penetrative. Gavin Tonge who'd been talked up (and not only by his own side) as a quick bowling prospect was disappointing on his Test debut though Kemar Roach continued to look good.

Key question for D2, or session one thereof: will Mike Hussey make a century?


Tuesday, December 15, 2009

One interesting drawn Test & several other high scoring games

At Napier New Zealand drew with Sri Lanka after rain intervened on the last day when the Black Caps were on track for victory. From what I saw of the series (quite a lot, as it was shown on Foxtel) a 1-1 result was a reasonable result. Both sides will be playing against Australia later this season: Pakistan here soon and NZ at home later. I can't see either of them causing much trouble unless several players, not just the superstars of this match (Daniel Vettori backing himself at no6 and delivering a century or Danish Kaneria with 7 wickets in the NZ innings), punch above their weight.

Elsewhere a high scoring ODI saw India 7/414 just hold off SrI Lanka 8/411. Who said the ODI was dying?

While I was posting this I watched South Australia beat Victoria in a high scoring Ford Ranger Cup ODD at the MCG. Mark Cosgrove and Chris Rogers, two players who are apparently not on the Australian selectors' shortlist for any form of the game, scored centuries for their respective teams. This match followed hard on the heels of the Sheffield Shield fixture where Victoria lost only 4 wickets chasing down 384 . South Australia once again omitted legspinner Cullen Bailey: he might have made the Bushrangers fight harder.

Another recent Sheffield Shield match worth noting was Tasmania's one wicket win over WA from the last ball of the match The Tigers scored 9/351 thanks to 152 from Ed Cowan, who is having a prolific, though barely acknowledged on the mainland, first class season.

And one more, this time from the New Zealand domestic comp, where Central Districts notched 1/445, thanks to a second innings opening partnership of 428 ( a NZ record) to beat Wellington by 9 wickets.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009


West Indies 451 and 317 (99.5 ov, C Gayle 165*, M Johnson 5/103) drew with Australia 439 and 5/212 (76 ov): T2 D5 at Adelaide Oval.

It wasn't unexpected (see my comments re D4) that the West Indies didn't declare overnight, nor that Chris Gayle carried his bat for 165*/285b (1x6, 16x4) out of 317.

It was unexpected that neither of the two best West Indian bowlers took a wicket as Australia chased ... well occasionally thought about chasing... 330 from 80 overs. The Adelaide pitch, which has developed a reputation for producing D5 results this time didn't give the bowlers the assistance they and most commentators expected.

A few reflections

Australia showed that some of the cracks which were exposed during the Ashes have only been papered over. The batting on paper looks solid, though IMO anyone who'd seen Hussey's 41 in the first innings (not just the highlights) you'd be questioning his long - or short - term future, so scratchy was he.

The Australian "spin" bowling is also deficient: Hauritz and North are steady rather than penetrating. As for the quicks. Johnson is inconsistently mercurial (is that a tautology?), and Siddle an honest trundler, though Bollinger looked good here even if his petulance needs to be reined in.

Not that the Windies should be complacent: IMO Benn is less of a threat then he's depicted to be. While he obtained some good bounce (not surprising for such a tall guy) and occasional turn he usually bowls at least one bad (short) ball an over. Roach is a good prospect, Bravo a good allrounder (including being a great asset in the field). The batting is sufficiently strong to post competitive totals with the aid of the tail (Nash showed how to do this in the first innings) though Sarwan needs a big innings.

As for the umpiring, Asad Rauf's howler in giving Chanderpaul out was 5 star incompetence. Benson's response (if most of what's been reported is not too far from the truth) was 5 star dummy spit. Doesn't the principle that you should always accept the umpire's decision apply to the umpires themselves?


Monday, December 07, 2009

Masterful captain's innings keeps initiative with West Indies, but where to from here?

West Indies 451 and 8/284 (93ov, C Gayle 155*) lead Australia 438 by 296 runs with 2 second inns wickets in hand: T2 D4 at Adelaide.

Today was overcast. At one point it rained near the Bradman Stand but fortunately didn't extend far enough onto the playing area to interrupt play and Chris Gayle's masterful innings which kept the possibility of a victory for his team alive.

Gayle's 155/271b (1x6, 16x4) included several shots from his limited overs repertoire but the dominant theme was prudent accumulation. Channel 9's wagon wheel (replayed by Foxtel in the late night highlights) showed strokes all round the wicket. The next highest score was Shiv Chanderpaul's 27, though several other players supported Gayle in 50+ partnerships, which kept the total advancing, if not always a rapidly as a side more confident of pushing for victory might have wished.

The Australian bowling, an occasionally petulant Doug Bollinger excepted, lacked hostility and penetration until late in the day when Shane Watson bowled a good spell and Mitchell Johnson rediscovered his touch. Peter Siddle and Watson were not fully fit but the spinners couldn't match Sulieman Benn's menace.

I was disappointed to hear West Indian broadcaster Fazeer Mohammed suggest that the West Indies, given their recent record in Test cricket, will be satisfied with a draw. If this is so it will be a shame. Not only will will suck the interest out of D5 but it will surrender the Frank Worrell Trophy.

Of course, victory isn't guaranteed, as the Windies attack is limited (and Benn was hit on the foot by a sandshoe crusher when he batted today) and the Australian batting still quite strong, so a draw looks the likeliest result. So why shouldn't the visitors continue to give it their best shot?


Update 10 December

A wagon wheel of Chris Gayle (and every other player's) innings can be found here

Sunday, December 06, 2009

I was wrong again: West Indies revival puts Australia under pump

West Indies 451 and 0/23 (4 ov) lead Australia 438 (131.1 ov, S Watson 96, S Katich 80,M Clarke 71, B Haddin 55*, S Benn 5/155) by 35 runs with 10 second innings wickets in hand: T2 D3 at Adelaide Oval.

From the second ball of the day, with which Sulieman Benn bowled Shane Watson for his overnight 96/148b (16x4) Australia moved towards the 451 required for a first innings lead. On the evidence of D2 and T1 I, like others including coach Tim Nielsen (who'd talked up the chances of an innings victory) expected them to achieve this goal comfortably.

But it didn't happen. The West Indies attack, the sharp edge of which consisted of Sulieman Benn (5/155) and Kemar Roach (3/93), kept sufficient pressure on to prevent a major partnership from developing and, crucially, induced several well set batsmen, notably Simon Katich (80) , Ricky Ponting (36) and Michael Clarke (71) into error while making Michael Hussey (41) look out of touch.

The consequences? For Australia, no century maker, a small first innings deficit and a sense of deflation after the euphoria (hubris?) of D2 and T1. For the West Indies, renewed confidence in their abilities and, as the 0/23 comfortably taken from the day's final four overs suggested, perhaps a sense of possibility. There are two days to go, and the latest weather forecast includes rain late tomorrow and on Tuesday, so a draw now looks more possible. To my mind the major problem facing the Windies is whether their attack is strong enough to dismiss Australia a second time. Benn (53 overs) and Roach (25.1) will be sore tonight after their efforts. It will be hard though not impossible (apart from expecting Benn to wheel off anything like another 53 overs) for them to repeat their efforts in Australia's second innings but they will need more support, if only in the form of consistent line and length, from the other bowlers.

Elsewhere, at Mumbai India completed their trouncing of Sri Lanka and moved to no1 in the world Test rankings , while at Wellington Pakistan levelled the series by defeating New Zealand

Saturday, December 05, 2009

West Indies post competitive total which Australia is chasing energetically

Australia 0/174 (48 ov, S Watson 96*, S Katich 71*) trail West Indies 451 (124.1 ov, D Bravo 101, B Nash 92, S Chanderpaul 62) by 277 runs with 10 1st inns wkts in hand: T2 D2 at Adelaide Oval

D2's play produced four wickets (all West Indian) for 285 runs
. Brendan Nash batted determinedly for 92/178b (12x4) and with Ravi Rampaul's exuberant 40*/66b (2x6, 6x4) added 68 for the last wicket. Nash was unlucky not to register a century though he might have been a little more positive against Nathan Hauritz, who bowled several maiden overs to him while Rampaul was making hay in the sunshine of a benign pitch and Australian bowling which rarely threatened. At least he had the senses to give Rampaul his head and as much of the strike as possible.

451 looked a competitive total. That is until the considerable limitations of the West Indian attack were exposed by Shane Watson 96*/146 b (16x4) and Simon Katich 71*/148b (1x6, 4x4). Sulieman Benn's left arm spin was most successful in restraining the Australians: the others struggled to extract life from the pitch and, sometimes, for accuracy.

This match will certainly go for more than three days (and it's unlikely to be interrupted by the weather), and
at present it looks as if Australia will at least match if not comfortably exceed the West Indies first innings score. We should know by this time tomorrow.

Elsewhere New Zealand require another 337 runs to beat Pakistan with 7 wkts in hand at Wellington while at Mumbai Sri Lanka are in trouble: they need 59 runs with 4 second innings wickets in hand to make India bat again.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Aust win easily, NZ less so

At the Gabba Australia easily defeated the West Indies in three days by an innings and 80 runs: 8/480 dec to 228 and 187. For the visitors only the little known debutant Adrian Barath enhanced his reputation with 104/138b (19x4) in the disappointing follow on.

The Australians, Shane Watson with the bat excepted, batted and bowled well (Watson redeemed himself with the ball) and Ricky Ponting led the team well. His declaration and enforcement of the follow on were bolder moves than we normally expect from him, but the result confirmed the accuracy and shrewdness of his assessment.

What can the West Indies do to improve? For starters (Barath excepted), bat better. Shivnarine Chanderpaul's brace of 2s was well below par while many (including me) will be hoping that Ramnaresh Sarwan will be fit for T2. And then? Field and bowl better. Stating the obvious? Yes, but after watching a fair amount of Windies Test cricket on TV in the last year or so, I'm modestly confident that this result will sting the present team's collective pride sufficently to produce a more resolute performance here in Adelaide.

At Dunedin New Zealand 429 and 153 defeated Pakistan 332 and 218 by 32 runs in a match which lasted, with some weather interruptions, for almost five full days. I didn't get to see any of the last day's play live, and Foxtel didn't show any highlights, which was a pity given the closeness of the contest. I wonder however to what extent this match, played in southerly Dunedin, and the rest of the three match series, scheduled for small grounds, will provide good preparation for Pakistan's tour of Australia. Are good pitches at Wellington and Napier and reasonable weather too much to hope for?

Friday, November 27, 2009

Testfest: India win, Australia gain upper hand, Pakistan regroup

At Kanpur
India completed an emphatic victory over Sri Lanka

At the Gabba on D2 the natural order of 2000s Test cricket things was restored as Australia pulled ahead by batting on to 8/480 dec and then taking five West Indies wickets for only 134.

At Dunedin on D4 Pakistan fought back against NZ with the ball to leave the match tantalisingly poised.

PS In Hobart the Tasmania v South Australia Sheffield Shield match was drawn after rain intervened.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Big day for long form cricket

Today three Tests are being played around the globe: Australia v West Indies T1 D1 at the Gabba, New Zealand v Pakistan T1 D3 at Dunedin and
India v Sri Lanka T2 D3 at Kanpur.

Not bad for a format that's frequently written down, if not out. Or are the time and scheduling demands (think 7 match ODI series) of the shorter forms such that much of the Test schedule has to be shoehorned into an ultratight time frame?

At Kanpur, India (642, inc centuries to Gambhir, Sehwag and Dravid, 60s to Laxman and Yuvraj ) have enforced the follow on against Sri Lanka (229) so a win is possible there. As I post play on D3 is still in progress.

At a cool and sporadically wet Dunedin New Zealand have, after losing a wicket to the first ball of the match, held the initiative though whether the two days remaining are enough to force a result is questionable.

Foxtel is showing the Dunedin game live, though there's no coverage as far as I can tell (even on Fox Sports News) from Kanpur.

On Australian free to air TV the Channel 9 coverage (both HD and SD picture quality far superior to Foxtel's SD), Richie Benaud and co plus some new features, eg live feeds of players' heart rates, has held my attention apart from a few shifts to bucolic Dunedin.

As it's turned out the widely predicted Australian walkover hasn't yet manifested itself. 5/322 (Katich 92, Hussey 66, Ponting 55) isn't a bad total, yet every time Australia seemed to be getting on top a wicket fell to the persistent West Indies attack.

Of course with Ramnaresh Sarwan out of the Windies batting lineup this may turn out to be a winning score.

PS Another long form game, the 4 day Tasmania v South Australia Sheffield Shield match at Hobart is also being played (though pretty much ignored by the mainstream media). The home team gained first innings points: 389 (thanks to Ed Cowan's 225) to 363, but is wobbling at 3/39 in its second innings. Peter George's 10 wickets to date have kept the Redbacks in with a sniff of outright victory but with only a day to play on the Bellerive wicket this may be hard to achieve.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Exhibition T20 match belated reminder of cricket season

The televising of the
exhibition T20 game from the Gabba on Channel 9 was a belated reminder to Australian cricket followers who aren't pay TV subscribers that the local season is underway.

The match itself appeared to attract a reasonable, though well short of capacity, crowd to the ground. This was probably due more to the presence of some recently retired greats than to any resurgence of interest in the game (though Shane Warne batting himself at no11 indicated that it wasn't being played for sheep stations).

How attractive the Tests against the West Indies and then Pakistan will be remains to be seen. A related question is whether the decline of Test cricket elsewhere, as manifested by minute crowd numbers and diminishing TV audiences, will continue here. I expect that it will, at least for this season when neither of the touring teams have much Test match crowd pulling potential. Without abandoning my preference for the long form of the game I hope that the ODIs, where over and fielding restrictions even things up a bit, continue to pull in reasonable numbers of spectators and viewers.
I'll certainly be glued to the TV this and at the Adelaide Oval next week.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Cricket catchup

Have returned home after a few weeks away visiting family. Didn't get to see much cricket except for a snippet or two of highlights on TV, so have been catching up since my return.

Jet lag recovery enabled me to
watch some India - Aust ODIs in real time, including nos 5 ( masterly Tedulkar innings not enough- just - to deny Aust) and 6 (Aust demolishing Indian top order early).

For details of the 7 match series (which a progressively injury riddled Aust won 4-2) see here .

Since I returned it's been hot - correction very hot - so didn't get to see as much of the SA - Qld Sheffield Shield match as I'd have tried to do in more moderate conditions.

I did spend, with a handful of other spectators, a little time at the Oval on the last day when SA wasn't able to convert its comfortable first innings lead to an outright victory.
There didn't seem to be a lot of energy in either side's play. This was understandable to some extent after four high 30degC days, yet disappointing that the Redbacks didn't attack more, especially when it was clear early on that the Bulls weren't going to go hard for victory.

Scorecard .

Both sides are going to play a 50 overs game at Alice Springs on Saturday: no respite from the heat there!.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Weather bleak, cricket not

Yesterday, I braved the bleak conditions and went to the Adelaide Oval for a short time to watch SA pursue, with some relish, Tasmania's modest first innings 236. James Smith made a fluent 116/189b while in the last session with the lights on Mark Cosgrove looked in extremely good touch for 46*/72b as his team reached 4/225.

The photo, taken from the Chappell Stands, shows the progress of the Oval redevelopment.


Tuesday, October 13, 2009

One season shades into another

The emerging cricket world order now sees the northern and southern hemisphere seasons shading into each other. After the Ashes and the ODI series in the UK we switched swiftly to the Champions Trophy in South Africa and then on to the IPL Champions Trophy and, almost unnoticed even here, the Sheffield Shield.

Not that it's cricket weather here in Adelaide. Day 1 of the SA - Tasmania match spluttered fitfully throughout several interruptions from what after several drought years looks like unseasonal rain (though I can recall Octobers years ago when rain was common). In India the IPL has featured several wrist spinners including Steven Smith of NSW and Trinidad & Tobago's Dave Mohammed who is shown in the photo celebrating exuberantly a wicket he's just taken.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Australia win Champions trophy comfortably after some anxious moments against weakened NZ

Australia 4/206 (45.2 ov, S Watson 105*, C White 62) def New Zealand 9/200 (50 ov) by 6 wkts, Champions Trophy final at Centurion.

Shane Watson's 105* (129b 10x4, 4 x6), his second century in three days, took Australia to what on paper looked to be a comfortable victory but in reality was a tighter contest.

Daniel Vettori's very late withdrawal from the side was a hard blow to NZ's hopes. Both sides struggled against sharp bowling until Watson and Cameron White took control and by adding 128 for the 3rd wicket in 193 balls.

This has been a good tournament with many sides evenly matched. The absence of minnows (aka easybeats) enabled the event to be pared down so that cricket followers were less likely to be bored by the length of the series and the number of one sided games. The 50 overs a side ODI may still be a threatened species but this tournament may have given it a fresh lease of life.


Saturday, October 03, 2009

Ruthless Australian batting overwhelms England in semi-final

Australia 1/259 (R Ponting 111*, S Watson 136*) beat England 257 (T Bresnan 80) by nine wickets. Champions Trophy ODI semi-final at Centurion South Africa

Masterly batting by Ricky Ponting 111* (115b/12x4, 1x6) and Shane Watson 136*(132/10x4, 7 x6) swept the England bowling aside after the lower order, marshalled by the unlikely figure of Tim Bresnan 80 (76b/11x4), had staved off the looming disaster of 6/101 and posted a competitive 257 all out.


To see video click< href=",8659,26159199-5019153,00.html"> here

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

2901 and counting...

Since I last posted I've spent a few days in Melbourne and across the cricket world a dozen or so ODIs have been played.

In UK England managed to take the last game of the series to deny Australia a 7-0 result and in South Africa ODI #2901 , a match between India and Australia in the Champions Trophy has just been washed out.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Australia take series as England again underperform

Australia 3/221 (43.4 ov, M Clarke 62*, T Paine 51) def England 220 (46.3 0v, A Strauss 63, B Lee 5/49) ODI #4 at Lords. Australia lead series 4-0.

Looked like a glorious day at Lord's. Good bowling from the Australians, especially Brett Lee in the final overs, saw England, Andrew Strauss again the exception, underperform with the bat.

With Ricky Ponting restored to the team 220 was never going to be enough and so, though the skipper didn't match his opposite number his 48 plus Michael Clarke (who is improving with each innings in the series) and Tim Paine's contributions saw their side home in a canter.


Thursday, September 10, 2009

Australia lead 3-0 after comfortable win over England

Australia 4/230 (48.3 ov, C White 105, M Clarke 52) defeated England 9/228 (50 ov, A Strauss 63, S Watson 3/31) by 6 wkts: ODI #3 at the Rose Bowl Southampton.

Yet another below par batting performance by England against a tenacious Australian attack. Pity there weren't a few more in the Tests!

Andrew Strauss led from the front scoring 63 (72b, 7x4) of the first 98 runs. But he was fourth out. Eoin (how do you pronounce that?) Morgan and, lower down the order, Tim Bresnan and Ryan Sidebottom struck a few blows though no one remained long enough to set Australia a really daunting challenge.

A belligerent 105 (124b,9x4, 1x6) by stand in no3 Cameron White a more measured 52 (92b, 1x4) by stand in captain Michael Clarke saw Australia home comfortably (and predictably).

Why Adil Rashid, who performed well with bat and ball in ODI#1, was left out of the next two matches is beyond me. Now it's the England not, as in the Test series, the Australian, selectors who are under the pump. The only problem for the latter is who to drop to let Ricky Ponting resume the captaincy.


This series has prompted criticism from several people including Patrick Smith in The Australian who described it as "pointless". He makes some reasonable points though I disagree with his conclusion for reasons which I may elaborate upon another time.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Australian late batting surge provides margin of safety: ODI #2

Australia 8/249 (50 ov, C Ferguson 55) defeated England 210 (46.1 ov, P Collingwood 56) by 39 runs. Australia lead series 2-0: ODI #2 at Lord's.

A low scoring, by the standards of modern ODIs, saw Australia recover modestly from 3/73, stutter to 6/179 then surge T20 style in the last five overs to reach 8/249. Callum Ferguson's 55 (58b, 5x4) kept the momentum going before Mitchell Johnson's 43* (23b, 5x4) last overs flourish gave Australia more hope.

England began purposefully but after Ravi Bopara was out at 74, the innings followed a similar pattern to their opponents', except that there was no Johnson to redeem the top order's shortcomings. Andrew Strauss looked as if he might do do but with the total 85 he hit an ultrasoft return catch to Nathan Hauritz for 47 (53 b, 6x4). Paul Collingwood had his scratchy moments but hung on for 56 (84b, 3x4) to give England a chance if someone could stay with him. Which no one did.

Scorecard .

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Australia on top for most of game but just keep England out: ODI #1

Australia 5/260 (50 ov C Ferguson 71*, C White 53) def England 8/256 (50 ov, M Johnson 3-24) by 4 runs: ODI # 1 at The Oval.

This turned out to be an exciting finish, even though much of the play until the final overs lacked the intensity of the Ashes Tests or the frenetic excitement of many T20 matches.


Monday, August 24, 2009

Congratulations England

England 332 and 9/373 dec defeated Australia 160 and 348 (102.2 ov, M Hussey 121, R Ponting 66, G Swann 4/120) by 197 runs: Ashes 2009 T5 D4 at The Oval, London.

England won the series 2-1 and thereby regained the Ashes.

Further comments later.


Sunday, August 23, 2009

English continue progress towards match and series victories: T5 D3

England 332 & 373/9d (95ov, J Trott 119, A Strauss 75, G Swann 63, M North 4/98) v Australia 160 & 80/0 (20 ov). Australia require another 466 runs with 10 second innings wickets remaining: Ashes 2009 T5 D3 at The Oval, London.

The scorecard speaks for itself, Jonathan Trott's 119 on debut and Andrew Strauss' 75, enabled England to build on its already solid lead against a generally modest, Marcus North to some degree excepted, Australian attack and declared more than 500 runs ahead. Simon Katich and Shane Watson held on until stumps but Australia is still a long, long way behind. I don't believe in miracles.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

England sweep Australian batting aside and head for victory: Ashes 09 T5 D2

England 332 (90.5 ov, I Bell 72, P Siddle 4-75) and 3/58 (28 ov) lead Australia 160 (52.5 ov, S Katich 50, S Broad 5-37, G Swann 4-38) by 230 runs with 7 second innings wickets in hand: Ashes 09 T5 D2 at the Oval, London.

Stuart Broad set up an England victory with a spell of 12-1-37-5 which turned the promisingly competitive Australian score of 0/73 into the disaster of 7/111.

A modest recovery, if it can be called that, to 160 did nothing to change my opinion. Nor did the better fist Australia made of the England second innings, nor the deterioration of the pitch, nor some quiestionable umpiring decisions (bring on the referral system).


Friday, August 21, 2009

Uneven batting, bowling and pitch make for an interesting match: Ashes 09 T5 D1

England 8/307 (85.3 ov, I Bell 72, A Strauss 55, P Siddle 4/63) v Australia: Ashes 2009 T5 D1 at The Oval, London.

Australia fielded an unchanged eleven , and England won the toss and chose to bat. The game therefore started without one side having a clear advantage over the other.

The home team gained the upper hand by scoring 1/108 from 26 often wayward Australian overs in the first session. Andrew Strauss looked in good touch, and Ian Bell vulnerable, yet it was the captain who fell soon after the interval, lbw to Ben Hilfenhaus (off a no-ball overlooked by Umpire Bowden) for 55 (101b, 11x4).

Bell continued to tough it out as the Australian attack tightened up and the pitch to reveal a few tricks. At tea he was 72* and England 3/180 from 53 overs.

Immediately after tea Bell was out bowled Peter Siddle without adding to his 72 (137b, 10x4)
Nobody was able to match either Bell or Strauss as, over the rest of the longish ( 32.3 overs) final session Australia, led by Siddle with the ball and energised by Simon Katich's brilliant runout of new boy Jonathan Trott for a promising 41, looked to have clawed their way back into the game.

On paper, especially as so many critics were talking about a par score of 450 give or take a few, Australia are on top. Given that they have yet to bat and will probably have to bat last, I'm not willing .
to venture any predictions.


Thursday, August 20, 2009

Excellent advice to Australian selectors

I've been upcountry for a few days, hence my rcent silence.

This morning I managed to buy the last copy of today's Australian on sale at the Barmera Foodland. I was glad I did because it has another incisive piece by Patrick Smith " Miserly Clark holds key to Ashes glory".

Smith's assessment of the situation IMO is spot on:

So scrape away the hubris and this series is very even. Australia should stick to the 11 that brought the country back into the battle. We should cautiously discount the performance of the bowlers on the last day at Headingley where Stuart Broad and Swann thrashed an attack that tried to force dismissals rather than plot them.

The fact is that England, with Flintoff in and Bopara gone, will present as a more formidable opposition than what Australia did over three days in the last Test. But any change to the Australian team would weaken it.

The Ashes will be retained if Australia draws. For England to win the series and therefore win back the Ashes, it is crucial that it scores quickly. Clark has proved over his career -- and in the first innings of the fourth Test -- that he can shut down scoring with his impeccable line and length. To leave him out and bring in Hauritz or even Brett Lee makes the side unnecessarily vulnerable.

Hauritz can bowl frugally but Clark can do that better and get more wickets than the off-spinner. The suggestion that Lee plays to provide reverse swing surely is fanciful given that Australia's grasp of the science required has always appeared minimal.

Australia can retain the Ashes, but it must retain Clark first.

Friday, August 14, 2009

More leaked correspondence: quickstepping Ramps considers his international future

Patrick Smith in today's Australian has unearthed (perhaps from the inner recesses of his mind) some correspondence about an England selection issue.


Hi Mum, it's Mark...just a little note to catch up.

Thought some recent headlines might have caught your eye. Those saying that I might be a chance for a recall. And even Mark Trescothick might get a job against Australia at The Oval. It is very flattering.

I spoke to Tresser about it yesterday. He isn't well. When he saw some of the cricket writers put his name up for a return, he fell apart again and God knows Mum he has had more breakdowns than your Morris 1100.

So it sort of got me to thinking Mum about playing in a Test match again. And I was wondering, if those awful tabloid people come around and ask you what you think of me getting back into Test cricket, could you do me a favour? Don't open the door. I won't be.

Mum, I know you thought I was the greatest cricketer since Dad but I wasn't really very good. Not in Test cricket. And I know you are very proud that I was able to reel off two centuries in 52 Tests but I did average only 27. I know you always say that it was still better than Steve Harmison but Steve wasn't a batsman and we are still not even sure he was a bowler....

Thursday, August 13, 2009

A one Test wonder?

Cricinfo (and various other outlets) report that, according to Chairman of Aust selectors Andrew Hilditch, Stuart Clark's place in the XI at the Oval is by no means guaranteed

Hilditch, speaking at Australia's limited-overs squad announcement on Tuesday, was adamant Mitchell Johnson, Peter Siddle and Ben Hilfenhaus remained Australia's first-choice Test fast bowlers, with Clark set to duel with Nathan Hauritz for the final bowling berth ahead of the Ashes decider at The Oval.

An alternative view is put by the News Ltd media, where Ben Dorries argues that axing Clark will suit England .

The Australian selectors have made several blunders both in the selection of the touring party and during the series itself. Clark's inclusion at Edgbaston was the people's choice well before the selectors followed suit, and was an important element in the general tightening which saw England bowled out for 102 in its first innings.

There may be reasons for omitting a pace bowler at the Oval, but if there are that need not necessarily be Clark. T5 is still a week away so I hope clear heads prevail among the selectors and not just on the nation's couches

Monday, August 10, 2009

Close shave for Ponting, though not for Australia: T4 D3

Australia 445 defeated England 102 and 263 (61.3 ov, G Swann 62, S Broad 61, M Johnson 5/69, B Hilfenhaus 4/60) by an innings and 80 runs: Ashes 09 T4 D3 at Headingley, Leeds.

When Ricky Ponting led Australia onto the field at the start of play his clean shaven face (the first time I can recall seeing it thus so early in on a match day) indicated that he wanted, and probably expected the match, to be wrapped up quickly.

Well, some beer match hitting by Graeme Swann and Stuart Broad didn't postpone the inevitable for too long, even if it did show what might, just might, have been achieved had those higher in the order shown more application.

Mitchell Johnson accelerated his series improvement and Ben Hilfenhaus maintained his Ashes form, yet Stuart Clark and, to a lesser degree Peter Siddle, disappointed with the ball, and some of the Aust fielding was pretty lethargic too,

D3's biffing, which at least did give the crowd something for their overpriced ticket money, (and let the skinflint Yorkshire authorities off the hook of giving a refund) was fundamentally a coda to a monumental form reversal by each side.

Of course this isn't the first time this has happened in this series: remember Cardiff and Lord's?

Will it , can it, might it happen again? No comment....just now.


Sunday, August 09, 2009

Australia excel, England fall apart as embarrassingly one-sided match just makes it to D3: Ashes T4 D2

England 102 and 5/82 (32 ov) trail Australia 445 (M North 110, M Clarke 73, R Ponting 78, S Watson 51, S Broad 6/91) by 261 runs with 5 second innings wickets remaining: Ashes 09 T4 D2 at Headingley.

This must have been one of the most one sided day's play in Ashes history. Only briefly, eg the Andrew Strauss - Alistair Cook second innings opening partnership, did England look in the least competitive. And this brief flame was harshly snuffed out by Ben Hilfenhaus and Mitchell Johnson who almost ended the match on D2.

Can England regroup enough to be competitive in the Fifth Test? It's hard to imagine them being any worse than here but it looks as if that task is, notwithstanding their turnaround between Cardiff and Lord's, well beyond them.


Saturday, August 08, 2009

Strengthened Australia outplay weakened England: T4 D1

England 102 (33.5 ov, P Siddle 5/21, S Clark 3/18) v Australia 4/196 (47 ov, R Ponting 78, S Watson 50): Ashes 09 T4 D1 at Headingley, Leeds

298 runs and 14 wickets from 80.5 overs.

Not a bad day's cricket, eh? Up to a point, depending on your allegiance.

It was a disastrous one for England, weakened by the withdrawal of Andrew Flintoff, whose batters crumbled in the face of an Australian bowling attack strengthened and refocused by the selection of Stuart Clark.

Andrew Strauss must have been discombobulated by all the last minute uncertainty about whether Matt Prior - yet another casualty of the modern warm up regime - was able to play. The keeper was, and top scored with 37* as all around him succumbed to the four Australian quick bowlers.

Strauss, having been reprieved by Umpire Bowden from an lbw verdict from the first ball of the match, started the procession when he was well caught in the gully off Peter Siddle. Ben Hilfenhaus and Mitchell Johnson picked up a wicket apiece but it was Clark's combination, not often seen so far this series, of movement and accuracy which ripped the heart out of the middle order and set the scene for Siddle to mop up the tail. He finished with 9.5-0-21-5, Clark 10-4-18-3.

With his characteristic lucidityGideon Haigh in The Times summed up the difference Clark made:

Australia have wanted all summer for a bowler who understands line as a cardinal virtue, who strives above all for consistency, who tries to make batsmen play but is averse to surrendering easy runs off the pads — now they had him. He bowled the day’s first maiden, didn’t concede a first run until his seventeenth delivery, claimed his first wicket with his 21st — and every bowler around him benefited ... The question inevitably will arise why Clark has been made to wait so long for his chance on this trip, when his experience, especially of Lord’s as a former Middlesex player, would have been invaluable.

When Australia batted Simon Katich failed but Shane Watson with yet another 50 (51/67b, 9x4) and Ricky Ponting despite (or maybe because of) the booing which greeted him overhauled the England first innings total before Graham Onions and Stuart Broad took three late wickets including Ponting's for a belligerent 78 (101b/12x4, 1 x6) to give England some small consolation for an other wise appalling day.

Disclosure: I thought that Siddle should make way for Clark, leaving Nathan Hauritz in the team to provide some front line spin. So far I've been proved wrong.


Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Draw confirms Australia's batting strength and both sides' bowling weakness: Ashes T3 D5

Australia 263 and 5/375 (112.2 ov, M Clarke 103*, M North 96, M Hussey 64, S Watson 53) drew with England 376: Ashes 09 T3 D5 at Edgbaston

The first two sessions of play were absorbing. Australia worked their way steadily and without too many indiscretions towards a position of safety and then, as tea approached, one of some strength which could have made for an interesting result had the match been played to a finish.

Shane Watson and Mike Hussey kept the England bowlers at bay for the first hour and a bit. From the last ball of the day's 16th over (and, surprisingly, his first) Jimmy Anderson induced Watson to snick one to the keeper: 3/137. Watson's 53 (114b/9 x4) completed a good batting double and hushed the many critics who thought he was no Test opener.

Michael Clarke looked assured from the outset. This was just as well, for not long after his arrival Hussey, who had looked in better touch (and more assured about which balls to leave) than previously in the series, fell to Stuart Broad for 64 (130b/13x4): 4/161.

The England bowlers were steady but far from unplayable: they weren't able to swing the ball as some of them had done in the first innings. At lunch 4/172 it was clear that a considerable though not impossible improvement (like two or three quick wickets) was required to keep England in with a good chance of victory.

That didn't happen. Clarke and Marcus North, the one elegant, the other pugnaciously gritty, batted through the next session against some increasingly pedestrian bowling (Graeme Swann was especially disappointing) . During the extended afternoon session 36 overs were bowled and Australia added 121. 4/293 (Clarke 73*, North 64*) at tea was safety plus.

There were one or two wobbly Australian moments in the last session, when England needed six or seven of them (and a couple of miracles). Unfortunately for them their prospective miracle worker Andrew Flintoff listened to his stressed body and didn't bowl. He must be doubful for T4.

In the 11th over after tea North was brilliantly caught by Anderson in the gully off Broad for 96 (159b/ 15x4). This was the third and last wicket to fall in a day when 84.2 overs were bowled. When Clarke reached his century the captains called the game off, leaving him 103* (192b/14x4) and Australia 5/375, a healthy lead of 263.

So, an honourable draw. England were on top for most of the game but couldn't finish off a resolute and perhaps (though it's really too early to tell) resurgent Australia.

Yet in the series England are still ahead 1-0. Therefore the challenge for Australia will be how to maintain its batting strengths while reshaping its attack. The batting order shouldn't change, but the attack must. Lawrence Booth writing for The Guardian's The Spin succinctly states the obvious:

Are England glad Stuart Clark is serving the shandies? You bet they are

Australian selectors please note.