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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

England wrap up T4 & retain Ashes. Let the Australian recriminations begin continue

England 513 defeated Australia 98 & 258 (85.4 ov, B Haddin 55*, S Watson 54, T Bresnan 4/50) by an innings & 157 runs: T4D4 at MCG: England retain Ashes, lead series 2-1 with one Test to play. Player of the Match: Jonathon Trott.

There was little deviation from the script that had been written before the day's play began as England completed a massive, and well merited victory over Australia.


Congratulations to them: they are, despite their loss at Perth (which now seems apart from being much more than a fortnight ago difficult to explain, or perhaps to believe) , clearly the better team.

The recriminations will continue, as Australians have become accustomed to beating the Poms here (if more so to losing in England). I have my thoughts but for now I'll keep them to myself.

Depite all the wailing and gnashing of teeth we Australian cricket supporters need to keep things in perspective, as veteran journalist Keith Dunstan in today's Age reminds us.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Australian batting crumbles again to disciplined England bowling: T4D3

Australia 98 & 6/169 (66ov, S Watson 54) need 246 more runs with 4 second innings wickets left to avoid losing by an innings to England 513 (159.4 ov, J Trott 168*, M Prior 85, A Cook 82, A Strauss 69. P Siddle 6/76) : T4 D3 at MCG

Some time, probably before lunch tomorrow, England will take Australia's last three wickets (the injured Ryan Harris is highly unlikely to bat), complete a well deserved innings victory over Australia and retain the Ashes.

Today, another huge crowd (68,773) turned up to watch Peter Siddle continue to bowl his heart out as England lost its last five wickets for 69. Then the Australian batting, set a daunting (?improbable) 515 to make England bat again, fell apart after a foolish runout (once again involving Shane Watson) followed mot long after by Tim Bresnan dismissing Shane Watson, Ricky Ponting and Mike Hussey in quick succession.

While Matt Prior didn't get a 100 his aggressive 85/119b (11x4) was a good counterpoint to Jonathan Trott's more measured 168*/345b (13x4). But for Siddle's 33.1-10-75-6 who knows when England would have declared.

Bresnan, as in the first innings, justified his selection. 15-7-26-3 is an excellent analysis, though most of the time, unlike Siddle, he had the benefit of someone keeping the other end tight.

Australia are in disarray. Neither Ponting nor Michael Clarke looked like building a big innings and their futures as captain and vice-captain will be discussed even more in the coming days. Despite their underperformance and, in Ponting's case, yesterday's intemperate on field outburst (for which he was fined 40% of his match fee), I think it's too late in this series to remove them.

But beyond that...


Monday, December 27, 2010

England keep building lead and path to victory:T4D2

England 5/444 (136 ov, J Trott 141*, A Cook 82, M Prior 75*', A Strauss 69. K Pietersen 51) lead Australia 98 by 346 runs with 5 1st innings wickets in hand: T4/5 D2/5 at MCG.

There was little to write home (or blog) about today unless you are a staunch England supporter (perhaps one of the 67,149 spectators who were at the MCG), in which case you are allowed a generous measure of triumphalism at the sight of Australia trailing by 346 runs on the first innings and consequently without any prospect of victory and little of a draw..

Australia did show a little resistance early in the day as Peter Siddle removed both Alistair Cook 82/152b (11x4) and Andrew Strauss 69/167b (5x4) for the addition of only 13 runs. But then Jonathan Trott and Kevin Pietersen steadied the innings (as if at 2/170 it needed steadying) before Siddle returned to claim Pietersen lbw for 51/89b (7x4) and dismiss Paul Collingwood and Ian Bell cheaply, by catching them in the deep, off Mitchell Johnson's (short) bowling.

5/286 turned out to be Australia's last satisfying moment of the day as Trott 141*/278b (12x4) and Matt Prior 75*/105b (10x4) added 158 for the sixth wicket before stumps leaving England, as they were yesterday, dominant. Early in his innings Trott snicked Johnson to the keeper but survived umpire Aleem Dar's self-imposed review after replays showed the delivery was (just) a no ball. Pity about the overstepping as it was Johnson's best ball of the day. As for the other bowlers, Siddle was, as 26-8-58-3 suggests, by far the best. Steven Smith and Ryan Harris bowled the occasional teasing delivery, though Ben Hilfenhaus looked out of puff despite clocking some pacy balls on Channel 9's speed measuring instrument.

So Australia is headed for defeat. Whether it is to be an honourable or dishonourable one will depend on the batters and the captain, who lost his composure at one point by challenging an umpire's decision which was clearly correct. Not a nice sight, but a reflection of the pressure Ricky Ponting is under. He should try to let his bat do the talking.


Fox Sports report.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

England to retain Ashes after dominating T4 first day

England 0/157 (47 ov, A Cook 80*, A Strauss 64*) lead Australia 98 (42.5 ov, C Tremlett 4/26, J Anderson 4/44) by 59 runs with all 2nd innings wickets intact: T4/5, D1/5 at MCG

After as one-sided day as anyone with even a rudimentary grasp of current cricket form could have expected, or as England supporters might have wildly fantasised about, Australia surely can only be saved by the weather from a crushing defeat which will leave the Ashes in England's possession (even though - small comfort- the series could still be drawn 2 all).

Yes, the toss favoured England, but, apart from the first 10 minutes, they made the most of the conditions. Andrew Strauss chose to field on an overcast morning, and from the outset the ball moved around.

Australia's luck ran for the first 10 minutes during which Shane Watson was dropped twice, but after he was c
aught off his gloves for 5, there were few moments when the team looked like getting, let alone holding, the upper hand.

Their quick bowlers Jimmy Anderson , Chris Tremlett and Tim Bresnan ( who replaced Steve Finn) exploited the English - like conditions magnificently and skittled the home team for 98. Their figures: Tremlett11.5-5-26-4, Anderson 16-4- 44-4, Bresnan 13-6-25-2,
speak for themselves.

None of the Australian top order looked comfortable against them: several were caught playing at balls outside the off stump. Ricky Ponting failed again well caught in the slips - after a slow start, Michael Clarke struggled to the innings top score of 20 while Mike Hussey, as was bound to happen sometime in the series, and Brad Haddin both failed.

I thought that the tailenders should have hit out and, even if it meant a smaller total, got England in before the sun came out. But they didn't, the sun appeared, play was extended to make up for a rain break earlier in the day, and the pitch flattened, making the bowlers' job harder, though Strauss 64*/ 147b (5x4) and Alistair Cook (80*/137b (11x4) played hardly a poor shot between them.

Australia used six bowlers: the four quicks who'd played at Perth (Michael Beer again didn't make the final cut), Watson's medium-fast and Smith's leg spinners. None of them, as the scorecard suggests, really troubled the English openers. Certainly Mitchell Johnson didn't approach anything like his Perth form while none of the others showed many signs of their best. TV graphics showed that the England pace trio were accurate: the Australian quarted tended to spray the ball round a bit more.

So a disastrous day for Australia. Moreover, the hoped for (and hyped for) world record attendance didn't eventuate, even though 84,345 was pretty good given the moderate weather.

Surely Australia can't have another day as bad as (or England another as good as) today....I hope the South Africa - India Test in Durban isn't as one-sided.


Fox Sports report

Monday, December 20, 2010

South Africa do to India what England did to Australia at Adelaide

While the last three matches of the Ashes are being played here the top two ranked world Test teams, South Africa and India, are playing a series in South Africa.

I was expecting a tight contest in the first Test but South Africa did as England did at Adelaide a couple of weeks ago and and trounced their opponents by an innings: 4/620 dec v 136 & 459.

As you'd expect there were some significant performances by the South Africans, notably Jacques Kallis' first ever Test double century, Morne Morkel's 5/20 in India's first innings as well as centuries by Hashim Amla (measured) and A B deVilliers (quickfire). There was also one memorable performance by an Indian amid the wreckage: Sachin Tendulkar's 111*, his 50th in Tests.

Will India be able to effect an Australian style turnaround in the second Test, which begins, as does the fourth Ashes Test (though in different time zones so it will be possible for enthusiasts to watch them in sequence), on Boxing Day? I doubt it. They don't seem to have any ace bowlers up their sleeve.


Sunday, December 19, 2010

Harris & Johnson put England out of misery and level series: T3D4

Australia 268 & 309 def England 187 & 123 (37ov. R Harris 6/47, M Johnson 3/44) by 267 runs: T3 D4 at WACA ground, Perth. 5 match series level 1 all.

It didn't take long for Ryan Harris and Mitchell Johnson to scythe through the 5 remaining England wickets, including those of Ian Bell and Matt Prior, and complete a comprehensive victory for Australia over England, one which looked unlikely after the first day.

Johnson was named Man of the Match for his 9 match wickets and team reviving first innings 62, but several others , especially Hussey and Harris in both innings, Shane Watson in the second and Brad Haddin in the first, made vital contributions which papered over the cracks in Australia's batting.

We'll wait to see whether the crack in Ricky Ponting's little finger prevents him from playing in Melbourne. Even though he's not delivered when it matters and age is creeping up on him (the win is a great present for his 36th birhtday today) IMO he is still capable of making runs and moreover is due for some after an unlucky dismissal in the second innings (and he was out to a great catch in the first).

England don't seem to have as many problems, though it's doubtful whether their team structure with only four frontline bowlers will suffice to dismiss Australia twice more for low-to-middling scores
if, as must surely happen, more than two of its top order batters fire.

variable unknown factor will be the MCG wicket. Will it play more like the relatively (pace) bowler friendly Perth than Adelaide or the Gabba, or will it be its own thing? These and other matters will be the subject of much speculation over the next week.

Scorecard .

Saturday, December 18, 2010

England on ropes as batting crumbles after Watson & Hussey set up big target: T3D3

England 187 & 5/81 (27 ov) need 310 more runs with 5 wickets in hand to defeat Australia 268 & 309 (86 ov, M Hussey 116, S Watson 95, C Tremlett 5/87) T3 D3 at WACA ground, Perth.

At the start of play I was hoping that Australia would be able to set England a reasonable target, by lunch hope had become expectation, which the subsequent loss of 6/57 only slightly changed. I didn't even contemplate the prospect of England losing 5 wickets before stumps...I hoped (with fingers crossed) for two or three, but couldn't see the England batting lineup, which in the first two Tests had carried all before it, crumbling on a pitch which while not quite a flat track wasn't a bowler's paradise either.

But it did, and Australia stand on the threshold of a remarkable victory which looked out of the question after Day1 .

Today's heroes were the four quick bowlers, who justified the selectors' decision not to play a specialist spinner, and Mike Hussey and Shane Watson who with their bats fashioned a silk purse out of what could have been a sow's ear.

Watson, perhaps because he hadn't had to bowl in England's first innings, looked on top of his game until, not for the first time, he approached his century when Chris Tremlett had him lbw for 95/174b (11x4). Hussey continued as the England attack, especially Tremlett, regrouped and was last out for a masterly116/172b (11x4). Remember all the calls for his sacking before the series began?

As in they'd done in the first innings, Andrew Strauss and Alistair Cook started well, but they only put on 23 before Ryan Harris broke through. Then it was Mitchell Johnson's turn , then Ben Hilfenhaus' (Kevin Pietersen a well deserved wicket caught at slip for 3), then Johnson and Harris each had a second bite of the cherry as the lineup which recovered from a poor start at the Gabba to look invincible at Adelaide fell apart.

The series has been re-ignited. The last rites of this match should be completed early tomorrow.


Fox Sports report

Friday, December 17, 2010

Johnson's 6/38 revives Australia's fortunes: T3D2

Australia 268 & 3/119 (33ov, S Watson 61*) lead England 187 (62.3 ov, I Bell 53, A Strauss 52, M Johnson 6/38) by 200 runs with 7 2nd innings wkts in hand: T3D2 at WACA ground, Perth.

A fascinating day's cricket began with Alistair Cook and Andrew Strauss continuing from where they'd left off on D1, before Mitchell Johnson ripped through the England top order (much as England has done to Australia this series) to give the home team an unexpected 81 run first innings lead, which it then tenuously bonuilt upon.

An early incident, where Strauss snicked a ball in the air between the keeper and first slip, neither of whom did much to intercept it, seemed to presage another day's struggle for the home team. But at 78, when Johnson had Cook caught in the gully, the match began to change course sharply.

Johnson moved the ball, dismissing (with the aid of some umpire decision reviews) Jonathan Trott, Kevin Pietersen and Paul Collingwood lbw for a total of 9 runs. Ryan Harris chipped in with Strauss' wicket, caught behind for 52/102b (8x4). At lunch England were at 5/119: a situation more familiar to Australia of late.

But there was no Australian style revival. Ian Bell fought pugnaciously for 53/90b (6x4) but he didn't get much support as the four Australian quicks kept the pressure on (only Ben Hilfenhaus, who Johnson singled out for special praise for supporting him, went wicketless ) and worked their way through the lower order.

Australia wobbled again in its second innings, losing Phil Hughes, Ricky Ponting and Michael Clarke cheaply before Mike Hussey and Shane Watson added 55 to leave the match, with the pitch still playing pretty true, fairly evenly poised.

But it was Johnson's day, as 17.3 - 5 - 38 - 6 attests. Yet he would have mixed memories of another occasion at Perth when his great bowling didn't produce an Australian win.


Thursday, December 16, 2010

Another Ashes Test, another Australian collapse: T3D1

England 0/29 (12 ov) trail Australia 268 (76ov, M Johnson 62, M Hussey 61, B Haddin 53) by 239 runs on 1st innings: T3/5 D1/5 at WACA Ground, Perth.

The Third Test began in much the same way as the Second, with an Australian batting collapse against tenacious bowling supported by high quality fielding, followed by a revival of sorts, though not enough to deny England the upper hand at stumps.

But there were some significant differences, notably (1) Andrew Strauss won the toss (2) he sent Australia in. and (3) Australia selected four specialist quick bowlers. Obviously both captains (Ricky Ponting said that he'd have done the same to England if he'd won) felt that, unlike Adelaide, the wicket favoured the bowlers.

As it did, though a generous measure of assistance from several upper order Australian batsmen including the out-of-sorts captain and vice captain contributed to a shaky 5/69 shortly after lunch as the England attack, with Tim Tremlett stepping effectively into the role of the injured Stuart Broad, kept things on a pretty tight leash.

Fortunately for Australia Mike Hussey and Brad Haddin yet again staunched the bleeding (a little) as the pitch eased under the Perth sun, adding 68 for the 6th wkt before Hussey fell (via review of the umpire's not out decision) for a combative yet, because he didn't go on with it, disappointing 61/139b (1x6, 9x4). Haddin went on to make 53/80b (1x6, 6x4), some of it with Mitchell Johnson whose 62/93b (1x6, 8x4)
showed a welcome return to batting form, while Peter Siddle and Ben Hilfenhaus biffed some late runs which, welcome as they were, couldn't conceal that Australia's performance, to return to the comparisons with the second Test, put England well on the road to victory.

This impression was not dispelled during England's12 overs at the crease late in the day when Strauss and Alistair Cook batted more or less comfortably (apart from a sharp chance offered by the captain) against some honest Australian pace bowling.

Where the next 10, let alone 20, wickets will come from is hard to tell. There are other issues, such as Ponting's form. which will also be discussed at great length in the coming days.


Fox Sports
report with link to video highlights.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Two interesting historical cricket films

These have recently come to my notice.

1. The earliest surviving film of a Test in Australia

Australia v South Africa SCG 1910

Extract from National Film & Sound Archive notes

It was screened to Australian audiences in December 1910. Filmed at the Sydney Cricket Ground, this is the earliest known surviving Test match action filmed on Australian soil and the first time Australia was playing a test match on home soil against a nation other than England. What a ball however it would be!

Following the opening orange-tinted intertitle of the newsreel, the first scene captures the South African players in good spirits as they prepare for a team photograph. Long before the days of clothing sponsorships and multi-coloured team outfits, two non-selected players can be seen resplendent in their suited civilian attire. Amusingly, and in a far cry from the professional fitness routines of today’s elite athletes, four of the visiting team can be seen happily smoking away on cigarettes and pipes!

Captained by wicketkeeper Percy Sherwell (seen sitting right of the vacant chair in the middle row), the squad included such notable players as batsman Dave Nourse (father of future champion batsmen Dudley Nourse) and all-rounders Jimmy Sinclair and Aubrey Faulkner. The film then switches to the opening day’s play of the First Test on 9 December 1910. Both pieces of footage are the earliest known surviving recordings of test match action filmed on Australian soil and the first time Australia was playing a test match on home soil against a nation other than England.

Facing the bowling of Springbok paceman Jimmy Sinclair, Australian opening batsman Warren Bardsley drives his shot to the left of Charlie Llewellyn stationed at point (just out of frame). With opening partner and fellow New South Welshman Victor Trumper at the non-striker’s end, the pair set off immediately for a dangerous single. Found just short of his ground by a superb direct hit from the left arm of Llewellyn, Trumper’s desperation causes him to drops his bat, slipping over as he pulls up. Cutting short a promising 27 quickly compiled runs from only 38 deliveries, Trumper walked from the ground, never to know the significance of the moment to Australian sporting film history. Disappointment from the 9000 spectators in attendance would however be short-lived. Australia’s end of day total of 494 runs for the loss of six wickets became the new record for the most number of runs scored on the opening day of a test match in Australian cricket history – a record that remains unbroken 100 years on.

This film fragment remains the only known surviving footage of Victor Trumper at the crease spanning the master batsman’s two decade, 255 game first class career, and one of only two surviving films of him with a bat in his hands. It is also believed to be the earliest known film of a South African test team in action. Considered the greatest batsman of his era, the filmed run-out would prove a rare failure in a series Trumper would go on to dominate. Scoring two hundreds and two half centuries in his remaining eight innings of the series, Trumper easily topped the team batting averages with the Bradman-esque figure of 94.42. Achieving his highest test score of 214 not out in the 3rd Test in Adelaide, this series was the pinnacle of Trumper’s test cricket career. In June 1915, less than five years after this film was taken, a nation would mourn his passing at 37 from Bright’s disease. In another morbidly curious piece of trivia, Jimmy Sinclair, the South African bowler in the film, would die mysteriously only 14 months later in Johannesburg, aged 36. Fieldsman Charlie Llewellyn would controversially come to be known as the first (and only) non-white South African test cricketer for the next 82 years until the prison release of Nelson Mandela and the removal of the racially divisive Apartheid legislation. Seventy years after his untimely passing, Trumper would be one of the inaugural members inducted into The Sport Australia Hall of Fame in 1985.

2. English 1948 doco re cricket inc footage of Eng v Aus at Lord's (with Bradman tossing without wearing blazer and many other interesting scenes).

This one runs for about 17 mins.

Cricket (1948) from British Council Film Archive on Vimeo.

Extract from British Council accompanying notes

.., filmed in 1948, ... demonstrates the traditional rules of the game and how to perform certain bowling actions.

Following that year's 4-0 hammering by Australia in the Ashes series, the narrator tries to reassure the public by saying: "Victory is the least that men play cricket for.

"They play it for a host of reasons, ill-defined and hard to seek. On school ground, on city streets, on village green, they play on. For the urge wells deep from quiet places in men and in the land they spring from."

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Australia selects several knowns and one unknown for T3

I'll let everyone else make a pun or other smart comment out of Michael Beer's selection in the 12 for the Third Test in Perth.

The fact is he's new to first class cricket, having made his debut this season for Western Australia (after some years playing for Shane Warne's club St Kilda in Melbourne district cricket). His record is modest: 16 f-c wickets at a tad under 40 apiece so far. He appears to have Warne's blessing, but it's hard to see what up to date first hand information the great man has about him.

Of course he may not make the final eleven: Australia could play four quicks (Harris, Siddle, Hilfenhaus and Johnson) and use Steven Smith, Marcus North's replacement, as the principal (sole?) spinner. Whichever way the selectors go it's hard to see Australia doing any worse with the ball than in Adelaide, but it's also hard to see them doing much better.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

England complete drubbing before drenching rain arrives: T2D5

England 5 /620 dec def Australia 245 & 304 (99.1 ov, M Clarke 80, S Watson 57, M Hussey 52, G Swann 5-91) by an innings and 71 runs: T2 D5 at Adelaide Oval. England lead 5 match series 1-0 .
Player of the match: Kevin Pietersen.

This morning England wrapped up, sooner than most Australian supporters hoped, a victory which had looked pretty much inevitable since the first 15 minutes of the match. Congratulations to them. They played like Australian teams of old (actually not that long ago).

On the last morning they focused on the realities of the situation on the ground, not worrying about the weather. It turned out that the weather wouldn't have saved this abysmal Australian performance as the forecast thunderstorms (with tropical strength precipitation) arrived an hour or so later than expected, bringing some relief from the 30+ degree temperatures (and, on the last 3 days, high humidity ) which had prevailed for the duration of the match.

At 261 Mike Hussey mistimed a pull shot off Steven Finn and was caught at midwicket, leaving Brad Haddin and Marcus North as Austrsalia's last realistic hopes. But neither of them lasted long as Graeme Swann persisted and Jimmy Anderson struck in consecutive balls as the last 6 wickets yielded but 43 runs. Thus the match ended as it had begun, with an Australian batting collapse.

Swann's 5/91 from 41.4 overs was a tribute to both his quality and his stamina, Finn's nip was impressive, Anderson had some good moments intermingled with some wayward ones, while of course Pietersen took that crucial Michael Clarke wicket late yesterday. Only Stuart Broad of the frontline bowlers missed out, partly because he's been injured and will miss the rest of the series. England should have little trouble replacing him from their reserves. Would that Australia could say the same about the changes they must surely have to make to their team.


Fox Sports report and video highlights.

Monday, December 06, 2010

227 runs + 1 ball confirm Pietersen as Player of the Match: T2D4

Australia 245 & 4/238 (79.2 ov, M Clarke 80, S Watson 57) trail England 5/620 dec (152 ov, K Pietersen 227, A Cook 146, I Bell 68*) by 137 runs with 6 second inns wickets in hand.

England batted on this morning and declared with a lead of 375. Kevin Pietersen continued as he'd batted the day before and was eventually dismissed by the hapless Xavier Doherty for 227/308b (1x6, 33x4). This was an innings of tremendous class.

Australia's second innings started reasonably well despite Simon Katich's achilles heel problem which restricted his running between the wickets. 0/78 at lunch and a forecast of rain gave Australian supporters hope that a draw might not be out of the question.

But no. Graeme Swann struck twice, getting Katich caught behind for a valiant 43/85b (6x4) and Ricky Ponting, who'd started assertively, taken well at slip by Paul Collingwood. 2/98.

Michael Clarke joined Shane Watson and looked relatively comfortable, even though Swann was turning the ball. But it was Watson who fell for another score - 57/141b (10x4)- which, worthy though it was, disappointed because it seemed, yet again, that he'd laid the foundation of a much larger one.

Mike Hussey also looked solid when he joined Clarke. The forecast rain came in the form of a brief downpour which, unlike the previous day, didn't stop play for the day.

The players came back and the lights came on. Andrew Strauss opted, wisely given the deteriorating light, not to use his quicker bowlers (the new ball was available for one over) but turned to Kevin Pietersen. This proved to be a masterstroke as Pietersen had Clarke caught at short leg off the second ball of his second over.

Clarke's 80/139b (11x4) was his best innings for some time (he'd struggled in India and in this series so far). He first walked then, seeing that the umpire hadn't actually given him out, waited for the England players to obtain a review which confirmed his own initial reaction. Until then it seemed Australia had a fair to middling chance of saving the match. That may still happen, but it will require substantial interference from the weather, which, most unusually for Adelaide at this time of the year, may actually happen if the forecast isn't too wde of the mark.

But England deserve to win.


Fox Sports video highlights.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Rain falls on England's (and Pietersen's parade: T2D3

England 551/4 (143.0 ov, K Pietersen 213*, A Cook 148, J Trott 78) ) lead Australia 245 by 306 runs with 6 1st innings wickets in hand:L T2/5, D3/5 Adelaide Oval

Kevin Pietersen is batting extremely well, Alistair Cook was eventually dismissed for 148/269b (18x4), Ian Bell looks well set, while Paul Collingwood's 42 in the context of the England innings constitutes a failure: these were the highlights of a rain shortened day where only 54 overs were bowled but England barrelled ahead to add 2/234.

Australia is demoralised: the bowling , Ryan Harris excepted, has been inept, the fielding has been well below Test, let along Australian Test, standard, while Ricky Ponting's field placings haven't borne a sufficiently close relationship to the capabilities of the attack.

But all praise to Pietersen, who continued in Saturday's vein advancing powerfully from 85 to 213*/296b (1x6, 31x4). He played as he's done in many of his recent innings but on this occasion hasn't got out in the 30s or 40s. Great batting, even allowing for the shortcomings of the bowling and the flatness of the Adelaide Oval wicket.

Should England declare at their overnight score? In normal circumstances I'd say they should bat on to 600 or so, but they do if the rain forecast for the last two days may rob them of what would be a well-merited victory.


Fox Sports video highlights.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

A century to Cook and a century in the shade as England press ahead: T2 D2

England 2/317 (89 ov , A Cook 126*, K Pietersen 85*, J Trott 78) lead Australia 245 by 72 runs with 8 first inns wickets in hand: T2/5 D2/5 at Adelaide Oval.

It was, notwithstanding the false dawn of Andrew Strauss being bowled in the first over, unquestionably England's day.

On a flat track Alistair Cook batted through a day where the temperature reached 38deg C (100 deg F) to reach 136*/246b (17x4). Jonathan Trott rode his luck, notably being dropped in the gully when he was 10, and settled down to add 174 with Cook before he was out for 78/144b (11x4). Kevin Pietersen then played an imperious innings in which he showed that reports of his vulnerability to slow left arm bowling are exaggerated. By stumps he'd made 85*/141b (13x4) of 141 as England continued their march towards victory.

Cook batted extremely well, playing few false strokes (one of which resulted in the umpire's caught behind decision being overturned) and, by my reckoning, missing even fewer balls. He looked especially good square of the wicket on both sides. In short, a class player.

Australia looked pretty ordinary, not least in the field where a couple of chances were put down and a run out missed (from side on, but why wasn't anyone up at the bowler's end stumps to take it?) Of the bowlers Ryan Harris, with his extra pace looked the best, while Xavier Doherty's inexperience was exposed.

Scorecard .

Fox Sports video highlights.

Friday, December 03, 2010

England's match for the taking, and after only one day: T2D1

England 0/1 (1 ov) trail Australia 245 (85.5 ov, M Hussey 93, B Haddin 56, S Watson 51, J Anderson 4/51) by 244 runs: T2D1 at Adelaide Oval.

England are in a dominant position after only one day of the Second Test. Their bowling, fielding and general teamwork have squashed Australia's attempts at revival after a disastrous start.

Yes, 245 is much better than 3/2 (see photo on left and note names) but it's a poor total on a wicket which is playing well and on a hot day (almost 35 deg) which might have seen the four pronged English attack wilt. But it didn't: Jimmy Anderson bowled magnificently and was well supported by Graeme Swann (29 overs for 70 runs), Stuart Broad and, after a loose start, Steve Finn.

The first few minutes were bizarre, almost surreal. In the first over Simon Katich was run out by a direct hit from Jonathan Trott at forward square leg before he'd faced a ball. Then Ricky Ponting was well caught in the slips by Graeme Swann from the first ball he faced. Michael Clarke didn't last long and became Jimmy Anderson's (and Swann's) second victim, at which point one wondered (feared?) how low Australia's total would be.

3/2 almost became 4/12 when Anderson missed a hard return catch from Mike Hussey, who then built a partnrship with Shane Watson which took the score to 96 at lunch without further loss.

Alas, Watson fell immediately after the interval for a pugnacious 51/94b (1x6, 7x4), Marcus North got off the mark and then played some good strokes in support of Hussey but just as he seemed to be well set, and not long before tea, he played a causal shot to Finn and was caught behind.

Enter Brad Haddin, who put his head down and supported Hussey, taking the score to 5/159 at tea after a gritty afternoon session saw only 65 runs added from 30 overs. The pair continued in their Gabba vein so it was a surprise when Hussey, who'd looked set for a century was caught at slip off the persistent Swann for an estimable 93/183b (8x4), triggering another,though not unexpected given the reputations and records of numbers 8, 9, 10 and 11, collapse . Ryan Harris was adjudged lbw off the next ball (the second "golden duck" of the innings), and none of the others lasted long apart from Haddin who hit out and was last out for 56/95b (1x6, 3x4), leaving England an over to face, something they and almost everyone else wouldn't have predicted before the first ball was bowled.

Tomorrow England should be able to take a comfortable first innings lead. First innings scores of 500+ have been common in recent Adelaide Tests, so if England manage a lead of, say, 250 Australia will be praying that the rain which is forecast for the last few days of the match falls in sufficient quantities to help it, together with some more resolute second innings batting, to a draw.


Fox Sports report with video highlights

Thursday, December 02, 2010

The struggle continues...

The Second Test starts tomorrow here in Adelaide. There's been some rain this week, and more is forecast later in the match, but it may, if recent precipitation is any guide, take the form of thundery showers ie heavy, brief and local. Whether this means that one side will gain an advantage from the conditions, and whether any such advantage is sufficient to help them achieve a victory, remains to be seen.

England will almost certainly take the field with a settled team, that which played in the First Test (and in two preliminary matches).

Australia will make at least one change: we've been told that Mitchell Johnson will not be playing though he will remain - why I'm not sure - with the squad. Two (probably the first two) of Doug Bollinger, Ryan Harris and Ben Hilfenhaus will join Peter Siddle in the pace attack. After what happened in the second half of the First Test it's hard to conceive that this revamp could be anything other than an improvement, though will it be enough to win the match? Or draw it?

I'm not suggesting that Australia (or England for that matter) will set out to play for a draw (does any team ever?) but I wouldn't be surprised if the match turned out that way. The new curator (groundsman) has claimed that his Adelaide Oval wicket will change in character, from batsman to more bowler friendly, over the five days, but it's hard to envisage anything like a repeat of the 2006 match where 13 wickets (9 of them English) fell on day 5, after only 17 had fallen on the preceding four days. If it does it's more likely to be England who emerge as victors, but I wouldn't put money on them. As Brisbane showed,each team's batting is stronger than its bowling.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Huge England score leads to draw and poses many questions for Australia

England 260 & 1/517 dec (152 ov, A Cook 235*, J Trott 125*, A Strauss 110) drew with Australia 481 & 1/107 (26.0 ov, R Ponting 51*): T1 D5 at the Gabba Brisbane: series level 0-0 with 2 matches to play.

Yes, the First Test ended in a draw and, yes, England struggled for the early part of the match, but at the end it was they who had the measure of Australia.

For the record today England added 208 runs in 51 overs without losing a wicket against an increasingly dispirited and, to Australian supporters, dispiriting opposition. Several chances were offered but none accepted by the fielders, sapping even more of the bowlers' diminishing reserves of energy and,no doubt, motivation.

Enough of that. Let's give due praise to the magnificent batting of Alistair Cook 235*/428b (26x4) and Jonathan Trott 135*/266b (19x4) who added an unbroken 329 for the 2nd wicket, the highest partnership for any wicket by England in Australia.Had the match been a timeless Test the mind boggles at what the final total might have been: quite possibly (probably?) a four figure one. But it wasn't: England declared, left Australia up to 41 overs to make 297, and Shane Watson and an impressive looking, though hardly Cook or Trott standard, Ricky Ponting prevented England from causing even more embarassment.

The Second Test starts here in Adelaide on Friday. England has a few areas, eg middle order batting and perhaps Graeme Swann's bowling, requiring attention but these look minor issues compared to the home team;s woes. So what is Australia to do?

"Regroup" the pundits of the media, couch and pubs will say. What does this mean? For one thing there must be change(s) in the eleven: Mitchell Johnson and perhaps Marcus North and others must make way for Doug Bollinger or Ryan Harris, who've been added to the squad. But beyond these changes there needs to be a recovery of that elusive quality of self-belief, which has been a hallmark of so many Australian teams over the years. I know this sounds vague, but today at Bellerive in a Sheffield Shield match, overshadowed by events at the Gabba, bottom of the table South Australia beat Tasmania after being bowled out for in their first innings for 55 . Not a bad regrouping, eh?


Fox Sports Report with video highlights.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Test heads for stalemate as England bats as Australia did: T1 D4

England 260 and 1 /309 (101 ov, A Cook 132*,A Strauss 110, J Trott 54*) lead Australia 481 by 88 runs
with 9 second innings wickets in hand: T1 D4 at the Gabba, Brisbane.

After another bad light induced early finish the First Test is heading for a stalemate.

This is because England batted through D4, adding 290 runs from 85 overs, and losing only one wicket, Andrew Strauss stumped off Marcus North for 110/224b (15x4). They are now 88 runs ahead of Australia.

Strauss and Alistair Cook both batted well and more freely than last night, though each was dropped (by Mitchell Johnson and Michael Clarke respectively) off hard but not difficult chances. Each side has had some crucial fielding lapses, which have exposed the shortcomings of their attacks even more. Today it was Australia's turn as ball after ball didn't appear to me to deviate much (the Channel 9 video protractor usually confirmed this). The bowling wasn't bad, it just didn't look penetrative, and it became progressivly clearer that Strauss and Cook had its measure. Strauss looked almost as annoyed with himself to be out for 110 as he did afterhis first innings duck.

Tomorrow there'll be, as there was today, an early start to try to make up some of the lost time. Cook will resume on a substantial 132*/270b (11x4), while Jonathan Trott is motoring along nicely on 54*/118b (8x4).

I don't believe in miracles, so I can't see any result other than a draw. The wicket has been scuffed up in places but looks to be playing reasonably well. England don't need to win this match so a tempting (or even any) declaration looks unlikely. I can't blame them if Day 5 turns out to be, as it looks like doing, a dud.


Fox Sports report with video highights.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

307 stand trumps 260 total on Hussey and Haddin's big day: T1D3

England 260 & 0/19 (15 ov) trail Australia 481 (158.4 ov, M Hussey 195, B Haddin 136, S Finn 6/125) by 202 runs with 10 2nd inns wkts in hand: T1 D3 at the Gabba, Brisbane.

Make no mistake about it: despite some early uncertainty against the new ball and some close, though favourable, calls from the umpire decision review system (and the umpires themselves), Mike Hussey and Brad Haddin's 307 6th wicket partnership has shifted the first Test in favour of Australia.

Hussey, 81 overnight, had already saved his cricketing life. He went on to 195/330 b (1 x6, 26x4), while Haddin added another 114 before he was snaffled at slip off Graeme Swann for 136/287b (1x6. 16x4).

The last five wickets, including Mitchell Johnson for a duck, fell for 31 runs as the persevering Steve Finn picked up 6/125. Graeme Swann's 2/128 reflected his modest bowling, though Jimmy Anderson's 2/99 significantly understated his continued probing at the batsmen.

From here, thanks to Hussey, Haddin and the bowlers, Australia should win, though a draw isn't beyond the realm of possibility.


Fox Sports Report

Friday, November 26, 2010

Resilient England come back though Hussey resists : T1D2

Australia 5/220 (80 ov, M Hussey 81*, S Katich 50) trail England 260 by 40 runs with 5 1st innings wickets in hand. T1/5 D2/5 at the Gabba, Brisbane

Australia lost only one wicket before lunch, but collapsed afterwards losing an out-of-sorts Ricky Ponting for 10/26b (1x4), an unsettled (or unfit?) Michael Clarke for 9/50b and an out-of-form Marcus North for 1/8b as Jimmy Anderson and Steven Finn came out fighting after a potentially dispiriting first session when only one wicket, Shane Watson 36/76b (6x4), fell despite some close calls (and rejected umpire decision reviews).

As so often, Watson and Simon Katich, with a patient 50/106b (5x4) had put Australia on track to pass England, but Anderson, who'd bowled well in the morning session, and Finn pulled the game back England's way with three quick wickets;.

Mike Hussey, playing for his place (and cricketing life) came out fighting. He punished Graeme Swann, who bowled more shortish balls than his reputation suggested he would. When rain and bad light stopped play he was 81*/144b (1x6, 13x4) and, with Brad Haddin's circumspect 22*/71b (2x4). had taken the total from 143 to 220.

So the match is more or less evenly poised, though England's resilience and resolution must have given them a lot of heart, despite their inability to break the Hussey-Haddin partnership. They may be a bowler light, but then Australia, on the evidence of today's play, look to be two batsmen light.

Watch as much of it as you can.


Fox Sports Report with video highlights.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Siddle's special day with hat trick gives Australia upper hand : T1D1

Australia 0/25 (7 ov) are 235 runs behind England 260 (76.5 ov, I Bell 76, A Cook 67, P Siddle 6/54 inc hat trick) Ashes T1/5, D 1/5 at the Gabba, Brisbane.

At tea England were 4/172 and seemed to have had slightly the better of the day's play.

After winning the toss and choosing to bat they'd recovered from the hiccups of 1/0 (Andrew Strauss caught in the gully off the match's and Ben Hilfenhaus' third ball) and 4/125. Paul Collingwood 4 had failed, while Jonathan Trott 29/53b and Kevin Pietersen 43/70b couldn't build on promising starts but Alistair Cook and Ian Bell looked solid.

After the interval Cook and Bell continued the recovery until, at 197, England's wheels fell off in one over. Peter Siddle, who many (including me) wondered whether he should have been included at the expense of Doug Bollinger, induced Cook to edge to slip, then next ball bowled Matt Prior. He completed his hat trick by trapping Stuart Broad lbw with his next.

One well set batsman, as Cook's 67/168b (5x4) suggests, one with a record as a good lower order player and the third with a recent Test century under his belt: not a bad trio of scalps. And all on his birthday!

After this Bell tried to rally the tail, with moderate success. Graeme Swann became Siddle's sixth victim before Bell, when 76/131b (8x4), hit out and gave Xavier Doherty his first Test wicket. Doherty, who'd earlier in the day not yielded to Pietersen's attempt to knock him off his length, polished off Jimmy Anderson to return a respectable 2/41 on debut.

But it was Siddle's 16-3-54-6 which has put Australia well on top after D1. The conditions gave some assistance to the bowlers, so 260, while a disappointing total, may not be a bad one. Provided, that is, the the England attack performs as well as its recent reputation has led many English supporters to hope, and Australians, bearing in mind their shaky batting order, to fear.


Fox Sports coverage with links to video

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Australia's courageous selection(s)?

Even though the bookies may still have Australia as favourites, it's England who look, on the eve of the First Ashes Test, to be on the front foot. In the preliminary matches the visitors have defeated WA, had the better of a draw against SA, and walloped Australia A by 10 wickets.

The England approach has been low key: quiet confidence which stops well short of hubris. On the other hand Australia's has fluctuated between confidence and confusion as injury worries and selection issues attract a broad spectrum of opinion ,much of it critical.

The England team is, and probably has been for several weeks, settled. Each member, Kevin Pietersen perhaps excepted, is in form. The Australian selectors have, by dropping offspinner Nathan Hauritz in favour of the unTested slow left armer Xavier Doherty, taken what Sir Humphrey Appleby (and many others) would call a "courageous decision". I'm not one of them, not because I believe that Doherty demands a place but because, after watching much of the two-Test series v India, I don't think that Hauritz is bowling all that well.

While all the indications are that Australia will, like England, play three quick and one slow bowler, the nature of the Gabba wicket (and maybe weather) together with Australia's relatively strong quick bowling resources might have inclined the selectors to omit the specialist spinner.

Let's hope the conditions allow a good contest. If I had to stick my neck out I'd opt for a draw, not least because the weather forecast for the next few days isn't too promising.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Another good day for England, and bad ones for key Australians

England 5/335 (89 ov, I Bell 121*, P Collingwood 74*, A Cook 60) lead Australia A 230 by 105 runs with 5 1st inns wkts in hand: tour match D2/4 at Hobart.

By reducing England to 5/137 Australia A secured the initiative but then surrendered it as Ian Bell 121*/158b (1x6, 15x4) and Paul Collingwood 74/128b (1x6, 9x4) regrouped against some inceasingly toothless bowling.

There are still two days to go, so a result (aka England victory), despite Bellerive's reputation (which Bell and Collingwood are in the process of confirming) as a good batting track, seems likely.

A highlight of the Channel 9 telecast (which was truncated for the second day running) was the incisive analysis of Richie Benaud, who is still as sharp as the proverbial tack. Worth tuning in just for this.

In the Sheffield Shield matches Tasmania need 90 more runs with 7 wickets in hand to beat NSW at the SCG, at the MCG Victoria 3/77 are making heavy weather of chasing WA's 368 (Mitchell Johnson 121*) while at the Gabba SA are squandering their narrow first innings lead over Queensland : 223 & 4/32 plays 196.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

First day of Australia A & Sheffield Shield matches provide few grounds for local optimism

It can't be often that four first class matches are played at the same time in Australia. Even though almost every notable Australian player is appearing either for their state or for the A team, the first day's play in each game produced few positives for supporters of the national team (not to mention the selectors) with the First Test a week away..

England XI 1/22 trail Australia A 230 (S O'Keefe 66, S Smith 59, C Tremlett 4/59 by 208 runs:
Tour match D1/4 at Bellerive Oval Hobart).

Channel 9 are televising the most important match, which it incorrectly billed as a "Test". In a chilly Hobart Australia A struggled against the England second string bowling attack in conditions which were initially favourable to bowlers.

5/66, with 31 of those contributed by late replacement Ed Cowan, suggested that Australia's batting depth is much less than many people think. Only Steven Smith and Steve O'Keefe enhanced their reputations. Smith's 59/121b (1x6, 5x4) reinforced the view of those who, like me, think he is essentially a batting allrounder, while O'Keefe's 66/116b (2x6, 6x4) helped restore the home team's fortunes to a moderately respectable 230. At stumps England, who are fielding the same batting lineup for the third game on the trot (doesn't Eoin Morgan deserve a run?), are 1/22.

Sheffield Shield

In Sydney day 1 of a low scoring match saw New South Wales 97 & 0/18 trailing Tasmania 125 by 10 runs with 10 2nd inns wkts in hand . For NSW Simon Katich made 1, Shane Watson 6 (he's 13* in the second innings) and Brad Haddin 10, while for Tasmania Ricky Ponting made 7. The quick bowlers turned in good figures: Doug Bollinger's 3/25 provided some good news (though neither Nathan Hauritz nor Xavier Doherty -the two supposed contenders for the Test spinner's role - have had a real opportunity to show what they can do).

In Perth Western Australia, with 6/319, are comfortably placed against Victoria thanks to Wes Robinson 78, Adam Voges 91*and, most welcome, Mitchell Johnson 82*. Alas, both Mike Hussey (0) and Marcus North (17) failed, which will probably give them both a sleepless night or two and encourage the national selectors to keep thinking hard about the composition of the Test XI.

In Brisbane, where fewer big names are playing, Queensland are 2/27 in reply to South Australia's modest first innings of 227 .

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Spot the difference

Two pics of Adelaide Oval scoreboard: the one on left taken 11 November, that on right on 12 November.

The scores are diifferent, but what else has (been) changed?

Saturday, November 13, 2010

England take much satisfaction from draw against S Aust

England XI 8/288 dec & 1/240 dec (52 ov, A Cook 111*, A Strauss 102) drew with South Australia 221 & 2/48 (20.5 ov): Tour match Day 3/3 at Adelaide Oval.

Another rain -interrupted day provided enough time for England to bat South Australia out of the match.

Alistair Cook 111*/162b (1x6, 18x4) recovered and Andrew Strauss 102/121b (4x6, 13x4) consolidated their form. Even though this was achieved at the expense of a toothless South Australian attack the time in the middle would have been good practice for both batters.

It was a pity that rain and bad light intervened to prevent more play. Had the match run its full course the Redbacks would have struggled to fend off defeat against a keen attack supported by excellent fielding, notably Jonathan Trott's catch at midwicket to dismiss Michael Klinger.

I thought the appeal against the light, which the umpires (who IMO had been a tad slow to restart play after rain) upheld, was unreasonable. The floodlights were, as they had been for much of yesterday, on, Paul Collingwood was bowling at one end, and grade cricket continued on two grounds a short walk from the Oval. South Australia's appeal was effectively a concession that it had lost the match. I'll refrain from venturing an opinion as to whether any player was concerned about preserving their reputation.


Friday, November 12, 2010

England thrive in English style conditions

England XI 8/288 dec & 0/94 (23.0 ov, A Strauss 56*) lead South Australia 221 (67.4 ov, G Swann 4/68) by 161 runs with 10 2nd inns wickets in hand: Tour match D2/3 at Adelaide Oval

Yesterday's heat persisted overnight (the temperature stayed in the high 20s) but in the early hours of the morning gave way to cooler weather and rain which persisted throughout the day, delaying the start and interrupting play later. In these conditions so redolent of home England secured the upper hand by chipping away at the modest South Australian batting and then building on the first innings lead to be in a position where they can decide how to play the final day.

Batting practice or sporting declaration? That is the question for Day 3.


Thursday, November 11, 2010

New look Adelaide Oval hosts old look tour match

England XI 8/288 dec (78.3 ov, P Collingwood 94, I Bell 61) v South Australia 0/26 (9ov)
Tour match D 1/3 at Adelaide Oval

The new western stand at the Adelaide Oval was opened to SACA members, who have underwritten its construction, for the first time today on Day 1 of the SA - England tour match. There is much to admire about it, not least the elevated viewing and the access options: lifts and escalators supplement the stairs. No doubt this latter will appeal to the less agile members, whose ranks I may eventually join, though having climbed several times from ground level to the upper tier (counting 105 steps on one occasion) without any shortness of breath I'm resisting that classification for now.

There are some unusual features: for example incoming batsmen enter from the centre of the stand while dismissed ones and, at the intervals, each team, leave through separate tunnels.

Now to the match itself. Andrew Strauss won the toss, chose to bat and initially struggled against Peter George before Alistair Cook, a form seeking (but not finding) 32, and Kevin Pietersen, whose 33 showed glimpses of his best (and worst) held things up for a while.

It was a warm, some would say hot, day with temperatures in the low 30s despite cloud cover which may have helped the bowlers. Ian Bell and Paul Collingwood ("Collingwod" as the scoreboard dubbed him) took the initiative in the middle session and gradually got on top of what, George and perhaps Tim Lang (a bowler in the Max Walker style) apart, was essentially a modest attack.

Their 131 for the 5th wicket took England to a modestly respectable position, which could have been stronger given the superiority the bat had over the ball after tea. Collingwood looked set for a century when when at 226 he was caught in the gully for 94/113 b (1x6, 13x4) from a loose stroke while Bell continued in mainly watchful mode before being bowled for 61/117b ((9x4). 6/255.

Three days isn't really enough time to force a result without declarations This happened in the WA tour match . Strauss followed the convention and declared at 8/288, giving his bowlers 9 overs at the Redbacks, whose openers survived until stumps.

Another declaration tomorrow? Very likely I'd say.


Monday, November 08, 2010

Plenty of cricket on TV: India- NZ Test the one to watch

Since my return I've had plenty of cricket viewing options on both Free to Air (Channel 9's coverage of the Australia- Sri Lanka ODIs) and Foxtel (India - New Zealand Tests, Pakistan - South Africa ODIs and Aust ODD). ABC radio, at least over the weekend, has also kept a reasonable finger on the pulse of other matches, notably the Western Australia- England XI one.

I've sampled much of the coverage. The most interesting by far has been the India - New Zealand Test in Ahmedabad where, after four days, India 487 and 6/82 lead NZ by 110 runs . At one stage India were 5/15 in their second innings as Chris Martin, who I'd hitherto thought was at best an honest trundler, ripped the guts out of the Indian top order.

India's hopes rest chiefly with VVS Laxman (again). I sensed that the Black Caps lost their edge in the last session: perhaps, not for the first time in Test matces, they can't believe the good position they're in. Watching Day 5 if you can.

Oh, and Australia have at last managed to win a match: the dead rubber of the three match ODI series v Sri Lanka , while in a slightly contrived (though genuine first class) warm up match in Perth England defeated Western Australia.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Australia's fortunes at low ebb

I've just returned from overseas, hence the absence of posts. Not that there's been much joy for Australia, who haven't won a game in any format for some time (not exactly sure how long).
The Test and ODI series v India were lost while in the last week Sri Lanka have won the T20 and currently lead the ODI 2-0 with one to play. Not good for Australia as the Ashes approach.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

India regroup to overcome Australia by 7 wkts: T2, D5

India 495 & 3/207 (45 ov, C Pujara 72, S Tendulkar 53*) beat Australia 478 & 223 by 7 wickets: T2D5 at Bangalore. India win series 2-0.

After getting to a competitive position yesterday today Australia offered scant resistance to India and were heavily defeated as their bowling deficiencies were ruthlessly exposed by debutant Cheteshwar Pujara 72/89b (7x4) and, once again, Sachin Tendulkar 53*/77b (2x6, 7x4).

Scorecard .

More to follow.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Indian batting suffers from Post-Tendulkar Stress Disorder as balance swings : T2D4

Australia 478 & 7/202 (65 ov, R Ponting 72) lead India 495 (114.5 ov, S Tendulkar 214, M Vijay 139) by 185 runs with 3 second innings wickets in hand: T2D4 at Bangalore.

Given their plight at the start of play Australia did very well to get back into the match by taking the last 5 Indian wickets for 9 runs, though once again inconsistent batting against good bowling on a pitch which was starting to show its age diminished their advantage.

First Sachin Tendulkar. After a near death experience on 199 he took the 200 which was there for the taking but, perhaps not surprisingly as this was the third day he'd been batting, he didn't go far beyond that milestone. At 214 he dragged one from Peter George onto his stumps.

214/363b (2x6, 22x4)
pretty much speaks for itself but if you'd watched the innings develop you'd have appreciated that this was a master batting.

6/486 became 10/495 as the Indian tail didn't wag and some Australian bowlers, notably Nathan Hauritz who added 2/0 to his overnight 0/153, improved their figures. A pity that Ben Hilfenhaus wasn't among them: 1/77 (from 31 overs) was a poor reward for his persistence.

As now seems to be their custom Shane Watson and Simon Katich opened with a good stand, though both were out at 58 as the Indian spinners started to take control. Over everyone except Ricky Ponting that is.

Ponting's 72/117b (1x6, 7x4) was, with all due respect to Tendulkar (who'd played the innings of the match) , the innings of the day. In what might well turn out to be his last Test innings in India he took the game right up to the bowlers. Neither Harbhajan Singh nor Pragyan Ojha and it was Zaheer Khan who eventually dismissed him lbw.

But Australia was, at 6/181, only 160 ahead. Tim Paine who'd batted quite well for 23 followed at 185 leaving Mitchell Johnson and Hauritz to hold the fort until stumps.

Even though the wicket isn't easy to bat on a lead of 185 isn't, given the respective strengths of India's batting and Australia's bowling, enough. 220- perhaps- and 250 - better still- might be enough for the visitors to effect a remarkable turnaround.


Fox Sports report & link to video highlights

The Hindu report
Times of India report

Cricinfo Bulletin

Monday, October 11, 2010

Australia's advantage lost as Tendulkar and Vijay hammer Australia: T2D3

India 5/435 (122 ov, S Tendulkar 191*, M Vijay 139) are 43 runs behind Australia with 5 first innings wickets in hand: T2D3 at Bangalore.

If you get a chance, watch the highlights of this day's play, in which Sachin Tendulkar played a masterly innings of
191*and with Murali Vijay 139 added 308 for the 3rd wicket.

The day's proceedings began with Tendulkar hititng two fours from the hapless Nathan Hauritz's first four balls. India didn't continue in this vein but there were flurries of aggression against the Australian bowlers, Ben Hilfenhaus excepted, intermingled with quieter passages of play.

For the third consecutive day no wicket fell in the first session as India added 96 from 26.4 overs and Tendulkar, to nobody's surprise, passed his - 49th in Tests -century. Nor did a wicket fall in the second session as Vijay passed his - 1st in Tests -also.

Eventually Mitchell Johnson had a tired looking Vijay caught behind for 139/310b (2x6, 14x4). 3/346: still some way for India to go but it was hard to imagine Australia clawing back from there.

Spare a thought for Cheteshwar Pujara
. After waiting for so long to bat (and for his Test debut) he got off the mark with an elegant cover drive to the boundary only to be given out lbw to a ball which Hawkeye confirmed would have hit leg stump.

Suresh Raina, as the situation demand, made a breezy 32/43b (5x4) before holing out to mid on off Michael Clarke, who like Simon Katich bowled a few overs. I couldn't understand why Marcus North, who after all dismissed Tendulkar for 98 in T1, didn't get a bowl.

Back to Tendulkar. For a 37 yo showed few signs of fatigue let alone lapses of concentration. He stayed with MS Dhoni, who must fancy his own chances of getting a few runs on this track against this attack, until close of play when he was 191*/319b (2x6, 20x4) and India clearly with the upper hand despite the 43 run deficit.

Sachin will no doubt be looking at posting a personal 200... and more, and giving India a substantial lead. It's almost impossible to see how Australia can win from here: An India victory or a draw are the likeliest outcomes.

If you can, watch Sachin bat today.


Fox Sports report with link to video highlights

Times of India report

Crinfo Bulletin

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Tendulkar passes 14k Test runs and overshadows North century & Australia's 428: T2D2

India 2/128 (34.2 ov, S Tendulkar 48*, M Vijay 44*) trail Australia 478 (141 ov, M North 128, R Ponting 77, T Paine 59, S Watson 57, Harbhajan Singh 4/148) by 350 runs with 8 1st inns wickets in hand: T2D2 at Bangalore.

Marcus North and Tim Paine saw Australia to a comfortable total, which India, after losing Virender Sehwag and Rahul Dravid early, made look less comfortable. For Australian supporters the highlight of the day was North's welcome return to form, yet for many of the large local crowd present it was Sachin Tendulkar passing the 14,000 Test runs milestone: the first to do so.

For the second day running Australia batted through the opening session without losing a wicket. North solidly fluent and Paine, generally solid but with a slice or two of luck (he was caught behind off a no-ball from an atrocious shot), added 99 from a slowly delivered 24.1 overs before the interval. In the second session they took their partnership to 149 and the total to 405 before Paine was stumped off Pragyan Ojha for 59/133b (8x4).

The Indian spinners persisted and worked their way through the tail. North hit out and was caught in the deep for 128/240b (1x6, 17x4): the others followed soon after. 478 looked an OK total, especially after the early innings wobbles.

Sehwag began with his customary pizzazz but he played a cameo when a longer innings was needed. He was caught in the deep off Ben Hilfenhaus for 30/28b (1x6, 4x4) and was soon followed by Dravid, caught off Mitchell Johnson for 1.

Murali Vijay and Tendulkar have so far added 90 for the third wicket. Sachin has batted well for his 48*/88 (6x4) but he obviously needs to add many more. The Australian attack looked a bit threadbare: debutant Peter George sprayed the ball round more than a bit, while Nathan Hauritz, despite bowling some good balls, didn't trouble the batters much.

Are, I wonder, India prepared, after only two days, to settle for a draw?


Fox Sports report & link to video highlights

Cricinfo Bulletin

Saturday, October 09, 2010

India peg back Australia after good start: T1D1

Australia 5/285 (85.5 ov, R Ponting 77, S Watson 57) v India T1/2, D1/5 at Bangalore.

Australia, mirroring their first innings at Mohali, prospered in the first session then wobbled before regrouping to reach a total which needs augmenting on D2 to set the strong Indian batting a stern challenge.

The sun wasn't out in Bangalore (aka Bengaluru) when Ricky Ponting won the toss and elected to bat It didn't emerge for the rest of a day and contributed, together with India's decision to take the new ball, to an early finish.

Both sides were weakened, though India for whom VVS Laxman, Gautam Gambhir and Ishant Sharma were unable to take the field, were more so. For Australia Doug Bollinger was unfit and was replaced by Peter George, the first South Australian to appear in a Test since, I believe, Darren Lehmann in 2004 .

Once again Shane Watson and Simon Katich laid a good foundation by batting through the first session. The Indian bowling was generally steady without, as 0/95 from 27 overs suggests, often looking threatening.

But good times for India were just around the corner. Immediately after lunch (if that's an apt term for an interval starting in the late morning) Harbhajan Singh had Katich caught at slip for 47/95b (7x4), then Pragyan Ohja spun one which Watson gloved to MS Dhoni. His measured 57/88b (9x4) seemed, after T1, almost a failure, but of course it wasn't, even if 2/113 was a reality check.

The Indian spinners persisted. Ricky Ponting was positive, especially against his longstanding adversary Harbhajan, but Michael Clarke didn't settle in and was well caught by Suresh Raina (an excellent allround fielder) at backward short leg off Harbhajan for a modest 14. Ponting and Michael Hussey, both looking good, restored some equilibrium,moving the total from 132 to 189 at tea without further loss.

In the first two sessions the Indian frontline spinners bowled 19 0vers apiece (and Sehwag had already turned his arm over). But then it was Zaheer Khan's turn. At 198 he had Hussey caught in the gully for a pugnacious 34/45b (4x4). Enter Marcus North whose reputation and career were on the line.

North looked good by his recent standards, but I, not that I wished him ill (quite the contrary) was waiting for him to slip up. But I'm pleased to say he proved me wrong, batting through the rest of the day for a solid 43*/89b (4x4) .

The real surprise was that Ricky Ponting was the only other wicket to fall, and the great disappointment was that it was taken by the occasional offspinner Raina. Ponting drove and pulled well. He hit some balls in the air but I only noticed one that went near a fielder. His 77/147b (12x4), classy as it was, and given the manner of his dismissal (Hawkeye showed the ball barely clipping leg stump, which a UDRS appeal might have disallowed) , was disappointing.

It was also disappointing that there was a lot of booing from the considerable (at least compared to Mohali and most Commonwealth Games events) crowd when he was out.

5/256 was a modest total; 5/285 at stumps only marginally less so.
Ravi Shastri, presenting the pre-match TV pitch report, opined that the wicket would be at its best on D2. If he's right, or even if he's not, Australia need at least another 120 runs.


Fox Sports coverage & link to video

Times of India report

Cricinfo Bulletin

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Laxman leads India to one wicket win in T1

India 405 & 9/216 (85.4 ov, VVS Laxman 73*, B Hilfenhaus 4-57) beat Australia 428 & 192 by 1 wicket: T1/2 D5 at Mohali. India lead series 1-0 and retain the Border- Gavaskar Trophy.

The injured V V S Laxman, batting with a runner, and helped by Ishant Sharma at the other end, converted what at 8/124 seemed an impossible position into a victory by the narrowest of margins.

He moved from 25/30b to 73*/79b (8x4) adding 81 for the 9th wicket with Sharma who ground out 31/92b (8x4) before being adjudged (wrongly according to Hawkeye) lbw by umpire Gould. No11 Pragyan Ojha was also lucky to survive a very confident appeal for lbw which umpire Bowden turned down (ditto Hawkeye) before the match was won, and the tension relieved, with two leg byes.

Australia must have felt that they'd done the hard yards after building on the overnight 4/55 and regrouping to dispose, in quick succession, of Sachin Tendulkar ( well caught in the gully) for a measured 38/64b (5x4)), MS Dhoni (sharply run out in a mixup with Laxman's runner) and Harbhajan Singh (caught in the slips off his gloves) . Doug Bollinger was the chief destroyer, but he didn't reappear after lunch because of injury (might, I wonder, another spell from him have produced a different outcome, even if it meant that he'd miss T2?).

The Australian bowlers and fielders persevered, but nothing could stop Laxman after he got a start (he looked a little restricted in his movements early in his innings). Nathan Hauritz, who was expected to take advantage of the D5 pitch, dismissed nightwatchman Zaheer Khan but thereafter Laxman saw him off. Mitchell Johnson and Ben Hilfenhaus bowled some good balls, while Shane Watson and Marcus North bowled a few overs - not poorly, but neither is a frontliner - as India approached the target. Perhaps Michael Clarke or Simon Katich could have had an over or two

The second Test starts in four days. It'll be interesting to see how many of the injured from both teams are able to take the field then. Australia's best hope of pulling back may be if neither Laxman nor Sharma is able to play. Bollinger's absence would weaken Australia and the selectors will need to think hard about whether to play Hauritz or rely on North, who failed twice with the bat, or perhaps Steven Smith, for the spin bowling. I suspect that Australia's reserves are not as strong as India's.

It would be good to see another Test as enthralling as this one has been, and also to see the authorities recognise that Test cricket is not dead, even if its audience, judging from the poor attendance at this one, is mostly confined to television viewers like me.


Fox Sports report & link to video highlights

Times of India report

Cricinfo Bulletin