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Saturday, February 28, 2009

Tales of two Tests #2: RSA v Aus, WI v Eng

2 x First Test(s), Day 2

At Johannesburg: Australia 466 (125.4 ov, M North 117, M Johnson 96*, R Ponting 83, M Clarke 68, B Haddin 63, D Steyn 4/113, M Morkel 3/117) v South Africa 3/85 (37 ov)

At Bridgetown: England 6/600 dec (153.2 ov, A Strauss 142, R Bopara 104, P Collingwood 96, A Cook 94, T Ambrose 76*, F Edwards 3/151) v West Indies 1/85 (R Sarwan 40*)

In each match the team batting second ended the second day with 85 runs on the board in pursuit of their respective opponents' large, perhaps unexpectedly large, totals.

At Jo'burg Marcus North and Mitchell Johnson took Australia well beyond the commentators' par 350 to an impressive, perhaps even surprising, 466. North continued in his day one, very assured, vein as he moved his score methodically to 117/ 233b (12x4) and his team's from 151 to 413.

When he was out the tail, if that collective noun still accurately describes Johnson, wagged. A
Paul Harris over from which Johnson took 26 was the high (or low, depending on your allegiance) point of a 53run/28b 9th wkt partnership.

Then, in a cruel reversal of fortune, the hitherto unimpressive Morne Morkel dismissed Peter Siddle caught at second slip off consecutive deliveries, (the first of which was a no-ball) and Ben Hilfenhaus off the subsequent one, leaving Johnson high and dry with a magnificent 96* /131b (10x 4, 5x6).

Mark Waugh in the Foxtel studio had earlier stated his opinion that Johnson was a top notch allrounder who would score more than one Test century. The first of these should have come today, but there will surely be others.


South Africa batted and wilted in the face of this recovery. Johnson (Player of the match?) and Hilfenhaus dismissed Graham Smith and Hashim Amla for 0 and 1 respectively: 2/2. Neil McKenzie and Jacques Kallis plugged the leaks a little but didn't bail hard enough as the latter, having scored his 10,000th Test run, fell to Siddle: 3/49.

A stumps score of 3/85 at least raises the prospect of the Proteas saving the follow on. As I type this I realise that Australia were in a similar position, so I'll hold my peace for now.

Scorecard

I didn't watch the live telecast from Barbados for long enough to see England move to what looks on paper an invincible.position (even though this week's Pakistan - Sri Lanka match suggests that everything might not yet be resolved).

Nor did I see enough of the highlights to comment on the England batting, especially Ravi Bopara's 104/143b or Paul Collingwood's 96/159b, but I did see the sequence of replays which resulted in the TV umpire confirming (or advising his colleague in the middle) that James Anderson's lbw appeal/ challenge to the initial decision was justified. From the side on replay the delivery looked to me like a no ball. I've not checked to see what other commentators have said. Whatever they do the scorecard shows C Gayle lbw Anderson 6.

Scorecard

Friday, February 27, 2009

Tales of two Tests: RSA v Aus and WI v Eng Day 1

2 x First Test(s), Day 1

At Johannesburg: Australia 5/254 (68 ov, R Ponting 83, M Clarke 68, M North 47*, B Haddin 37*, D Steyn 3/82) v South Africa

At Bridgetown: England 3/301 (90 ov, A Strauss 142, A Cook 94) v West Indies

It was a long night's viewing for insomniac cricket tragics in these parts. I didn't make it much beyond the early close of play in Jo'burg. This produced the more even contest, despite being curtailed by slow over rates and, eventually, bad light.

Australia won the toss, batted , faltered though recovered first through Ricky Ponting 83/134b and Michael Clarke 68/90b, then debutant Marcus North 47*/90b and Brad Haddin 37*/48b.
Tightly as the South Africans bowled, they'd probably feel that they failed to capitalise on the good start of 3/38.

The radio commentators thought that 350 would be a good score on this wicket, and the track record of The Wanderers ground supports them. 350 is still not beyond Australia, especially if North and Haddin, with support from the others, can continue to bat as they did today.

No excuses for not watching attentively tonight!

Scorecard

In Barbados, where the conditions permitted the full 90 overs quota to be bowled, an opening partnership of 229 between Andrew Strauss 142/210b (18x4, 1x6) and Alistair Cook 94/187b (9x4, 1 x6), put England on top.

If the West Indies can claw their way back into the match in the first session I'll try to stay awake a little longer than I did last night.

Scorecard

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Back to the fray as regrouping Australia tries to defeat strong South Africa

My computer crashed during the Second Test. As it was the Christmas - New Year break it took a while to repair, by which time South Africa had won the series 2-1 (it was they, not Australia, who eased off in the dead rubber). Australia then won the T20 games 2-0 but lost the ODI series 1 - 4 .

There followed a brief interlude when the New Zealanders returned for the short form game part of their tour. This featured an ODI series which was shared 2-2 with a no result in a close final match and a single T20I which Australia won by 1 run .

Later today today our time the battle for world Test cricket supremacy resumes in Johannesburg. With the West Indies and England Fourth Test starting even later I expect I'll be having a few late nights and/or early mornings over the coming days.

Today Foxtel has run a 6 hour refresher course of highlights of the Aust - RSA Test series played here earlier in the summer. Watching the Australians in the First Test reminded me of how much things have changed in such a short time. Matthew Hayden, Andrew Symonds, Brett Lee and Jason Krezja are no longer, for various reasons, in the team. The series beginning today will show the extent to which the team has been able to cover their absence. While Krezja, despite a 12 wicket haul on debut against India, fell quickly from the selectors' favour, the others were, occasional lapses of form or conduct apart, first choices. Doug Bollinger and Andrew McDonald are still unproven in, while Marcus North and Ben Hilfenhaus have yet to play, a Test.

The South Africans have an embarassment of riches, due partly to the emergence of Jean-Paul Duminy as a Test batter. While the Australians, in the series here, were not comprehensively outplayed (as it could be argued they were in their 2 - 0 loss in India last year) they were deservedly beaten. Have they improved enough to topple the Proteas at home? I doubt it, but needless to say will be watching the matches with great interest (and will try to post regularly).