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Saturday, January 30, 2010

Still no joy for Pakistan despite good showing by U19s


At Perth Australia won ODI#4 by 135 runs 8/277 to 142, rubbing salt into Pakistan's already considerable wounds and taking a 4-0 lead in the series with one match to play.

Ryan Harris, playing only his third ODI, bettered his 5/43 on Tuesday with an outstanding 5/19 from 9.5 overs. Not surprisingly he won another Player of the Match award and reminded me of how foolish South Australia were to let him go off to Queensland.


It was a much closer game at Lincoln New Zealand where Australia won the Under 19 World Cup by 25 runs 9/207 to 182. Both teams fielded several players with first class experience, eg Josh Hazelwood of NSW, who took 4/30. One of the Australians also sported a haircut reminiscent of Andrew Symonds at an earlier stage of his career.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Australia to meet Pakistan in World Cup Final....Under 19 that is

I've been away for a few days and haven't watched much of the Australia - Pakistan ODI series, which Australia now leads 3-0 with two games to play. Pakistan have, as they did in the Test series, had their moments but have not sustained, or been allowed to sustain, their efforts.

In ODI#1 at the Gabba the margin was 5 wickets , thanks to a Cameron White century, in #2 at the SCG 140 runs as the Pakistan batting folded, while yesterday game#3 here in Adelaide a 40 run margin perhaps flattered Pakistan, whose top order batting was again inconsistent.

Disappointed as they must feel Pakistan do have something to look forward to in a broader context and in the immediate future: on Saturday they will appear in the Final of the 2010 Under 19 World Cup in New Zealand.

They will play Australia, who today scraped into the Final by virtue of a 2 wicket win against Sri Lanka : 8/206 vs 205. I watched much of the game on Foxtel (a pat on the back to them for telecasting it). The Sri Lankans looked finished at 5/32 but managed to recover to 205: not bad though not a matchwinning total it seemed. Yet Australia, who themselves looked brittle at 5/93 against a varied Sri Lankan attack (9 bowlers were used) , would not have passed it without Mitchell Marsh's 97/110b (12x4), Tom Triffitt's 50/70b (2x4) and, not least, some nailbiting moments as nos 9 and 10 negotiated 12 consecutive dot balls before seeing their team home.

A great game, and yet another demonstration of how good the 50 over a side game can be.

If you can watch the Final on Saturday: if it's half as good as today's game it'll be well worth doing so.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Australia 3 Pakistan 0

Australia 8/519 & 5/219 defeated Pakistan 301 & 206 (86.2 ov, Khurram Manzoor 77) by 231 runs T3 D5 at Hobart. Australia won series 3-0.

Pakistan resisted today for another 50 overs, selling their last 6 wickets dearly though nowhere near expensively enough to cause Australia much concern. Khurram Manzoor was particularly obdurate: his 77/239b (8x4) kept the game going beyond the lunch interval, when a little of the forecast rain fell, into the afternoon session. For the victors Peter Siddle 15.7-7-25-3 gained some reward at last for this season's Test labours while Nathan Hauritz 17-6-30-3 continued his good form.

This series, for all the excitement of the second Test, was disappointing. Pakistan, as they always seem to do when they tour here, failed to demonstrate a large chunk of their undoubted potential. Australia were clearly the better side but I doubt whether they were extended by their opponents' shortcomings. In other words, they need tougher opposition. England, next summer's tourists, should, despite their series loss in South Africa, provide this whether New Zealand in NZ or Pakistan again in England will, I doubt.


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South Africa win Test & level series 1-1


South Africa 7/423d def England 180 and 169 ( 42.5 ov, P Collingwood 71, M Morkel 4/59) by an innings & 74 runs T4 D3 at Johannesburg. South Africa retain Basil d'Oliviera trophy by virtue of drawing series 1-1 (with 2 draws)


South Africa deserved to win this match and level the series. They were clearly the better team in 3 of the 4 contests and in this game kept the pressure on until the last ball was bowled.

Morne Morkel and Dale Steyn enhanced their reputations as quality bowlers. The batters, Ashwell Prince excepted, did well. And Jaques Kallis, despite the passage of the years, remained a high quality all rounder.

It was a good series, though the two cliffhanging draws which kept England in the series threatened an injustice. Fortunately the Proteas' strength (internal as well as external) prevailed.


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Sunday, January 17, 2010

Rain best chance of saving Pakistan: T3 D4

Pakistan 301 & 4/103 (34.2 ov) need another 335 runs with 6 wickets in hand to beat Australia 8/519d & 5/219d (48.4 ov, S Katich 100, R Ponting 89) T3 D4 at Hobart.

A day's play that contained few surprises. Simon Katich and Ricky Ponting added 191 for the second wicket: Katich stroked a fluent 100/138 b (13x4) and outscored Ponting, who was nevertheless in good touch before he was, after a refrerral, adjudged caught behind off part-timer Shoaib Malik for 89/122b(12x4) A late pre-declaration flourish saw wickets surrendered in the interests of the match (and perhaps future weather) situation.

Needing to bat for a day and a half or. less probably (though not impossibly on the Bellerive wicket) score 438 runs Pakistan then struggled to 4/103 before rain intervened.

The match has thus gone into a fifth day. Pakistan will hope that play then is curtailed, not by their batting meltdown but by the weather.



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England falter in face of large South African total: T4 D3

England 180 & 3/48 (13.2 ov) trail South Africa 7/423d (119 0v, G Smith 105, M Boucher 95, H Amla 75, A B deVilliers) 58 by 195 runs with 7 wickets in hand: T4 D3 at Johannesburg.

On another day curtailed by weather and bad light South Africa tightened its already firm grip on the game to the point where it's hard to see how it can lose. There was a temporary check when they lost 3 good wickets early in the day for 18, including Hashim Amla (who added only 2 to his overnight score) for 75/ 138b (8x4). Thereafter AB deVilliers with a measured 58/119b (5x4) and Mark Boucher got things back on track adding 120 for the 6th. Boucher continued in aggressive vein with Ryan McLaren before he was caught pulling the first ball of a new Graeme Swann spell for 95/118b (9x4). Soon afterwards Graeme Smith declared leaving England a stiff challenge to avoid an innings defeat,

Once again Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel showed how good they are by taking a top order wicket apiece. After a break Wayne Parnell took his first Test wicket - not a bad one at that - Andrew Strauss lbw for 22, leaving England 3/48 and a draw (and bad weather) to play pray for. South Africa deserve to win this one.

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Saturday, January 16, 2010

One good session for Pakistan though Aust still in command: T3 D3


Australia 8/519d & 1/59 (18 ov) lead Pakistan 301(105.4 ov, Salman Butt 102, Shoaib Malik 58) by 27 runs with 9 second innings wkts in hand: T3 D3 at Hobart
.

Salman Butt and Shoaib Malik showed the more resolute side of Pakistan cricket as they batted throughout the first session without being separated. They continued in this vein after lunch until at 213 Simon Katich removed Butt for 102/334b (17x4). This started another collapse as Katich and Nathan Hauritz, who snared Malik 58/144b (10x4), worked their way through the remainder. Only a last wicket stand of 53 pulled them over the 300 line.

A 218 run deficit on first innings was not enough to avoid the possibility of being asked to follow on, though Australia not surprisingly decided to bat again and, after losing Shane Watson early batted out the day comfortably.


By no means a memorable day's play, but a more competitive one, which was sorely needed after D2 Welcome as the Pakistan batting resistance was, for me. Simon Katich's 3/34 from 10 overs of slow left arm wrist spin (is it still acceptable to describe the style as "chinaman"?) was the highlight of the day. I was under the impression that Katich's bowling days were behind him, so it was good to see him return to the crease and even better to see him break the troublesome 5th wicket partnership and take two further wickets. A pity this came at the end of the Test part of the season.

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South Africa take lead despite rain and (maybe) umpires

South Africa 2/215 (63.2 ov, G Smith 105, H Amla 73*) lead England 180 by 35 runs with 8 first innings wickets in hand: T4 D3 at Johannesburg.

Graeme Smith, who survived a confident appeal for a catch behind the wicket at 15, and Hashim Amla took South Africa to a narrow lead on another rain shortened day. If we accept the umpires' decision (which England don't as they've lodged an appealagainst it) Smith's 105/187b (16x4) was a masterly innings. Amla has looked good too for his 73*/132b (8x4) and he's still there.

More rain is forecast, though I expect for the next few hours we'll hear more about the not out call than any other aspect of the match.

Scorecard

Friday, January 15, 2010

Australia flourish, Pakistan crumble


Pakistan 4/94 (35 ov) trail Australia 8/519 (142.5 ov, R Ponting 209, M Clarke 166) by 425 runs with 6 first inns wkts in hand: T3 D2 at Hobart.


What a one-sided day. Even more so than D1.

The match thus far has revealed a yawning chasm between the teams. caused as much if not more by deficiencies in Pakistan's ability, application and cohesion as by Australia's demonstrated strengths in those and other areas.

This is not to diminish the magnificent contribution of the 4th wicket stand of 352 between Ricky Ponting 209/354b (25x4) and Michael Clarke 166/328b (19x4) which enabled Australia to build on an already solid position. On the other hand Pakistan, as two run outs in the last part of the day which took the score from a shaky though not irretrievable 2/72 to a very brittle 4/94 attested, seemed to throw in the towel.

Pakistan's wilting under pressure yet again was most disappointing. It wasn't so much their failure to dismiss Australia for less than 400 (or 450 or even 500) but more the loss of those last two wickets. They can, and I hope will must, do bring this match back from the abyss of one-sidedness which reminds us that, recent matches notwithstanding, one sided Test cricket will give more ammunition to the advocates of the shorter forms of the game.

I concede that I've not done justice to the quality of Ponting and Clarke's batting, but if you can watch the highlights.

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Update 16 January

As if Pakistan doesn't have enough problems on the field captain Mohammad Yousuf aired them off the field after the day's play, as ABC Grandstand (which includes an audio link to his interview) and Cricinfo report. Read beyond the ABC's headline "Yousuf preaches unity under pressure" and you may agree with me that the team is almost beyond redemption . For the sake of this match, and even more so Pakistan cricket, I hope I'm wrong.



South Africa again start well: T4D1


South Africa 0/29 (12ov) trail England 180 (47.5 ov, D Steyn 5/51) by 151 runs on first innings: T4 D1 at Johannesburg.


Andrew Strauss won the toss, chose to bat and was dismissed first ball, well caught at short leg off Dale Steyn. It didn't get much better for them after that as Morne Morkel reduced them to 4/39 (including another Kevin Pietersen failure) before Paul Collingwood and Ian Bell provided some respite by adding 76 before Steyn worked through the lower order.

180 was a disappointing total. It was England's decision to bat, though, and despite favourable conditions for bowlers few excuses can be made for a performance as modest as this. Steyn 5/51 from 13.5 ov and Morkel 3/39 from 11 did what their team required of them.

South Africa survived a dozen overs before the weather curtailed proceedings for the day. They will be looking for a big first innings lead. England will hope that their reconstituted attack, with Ryan Sidebottom replacing Graham Onions will be able to take a few leaves out of the Steyn - Morkel book. But after the recent Sydney Test it's too early to call.

Scorecard

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Captain rides luck & with deputy leads Australia to strong position


Australia 3/320 (90 ov, R Ponting 137*, M Clarke 111*) v Pakistan; T3 D1 at Hobart.


Well as Ricky Ponting and Michael Clarke batted for their respective 137*/240b (17x4) and 111*/223b (11x4) the fact that Pakistan fielded below parklands standard at crucial moments - especially one crucial moment - left me feeling disappointed at the waste of their opportunities, not to mention talent. Perhaps they were distracted, as I was on occasion today, by the continually developing news of the earthquake in Haiti .

Ricky Ponting, who's just been IMO deservedly voted (by a jury of 38) as Cricinfo's Player of the Decade, played a lofted pull shot and should, deservedly, have been caught in the deep by Mohammad Aamer off Mohammad Asif for a duck. But he wasn't.

For a time Pakistan persisted and, despite rueing the chance of having Australia 2/34, fought back to take the real second wicket at 52 and the third at 71. Thereafter Ponting and Clarke gradually imposed their authority on proceedings, staying together for the last two sessions, adding 231 and in doing so landing a series of heavy blows on Pakistan. Whether these amount to a knockout remains to be seen.


What can be said about Pakistan's folding fielding? I'm at a loss for words so will just link to Cricifo's Osman Samiuddin (who despite his veneer of stoicism must be near his wit's end).

Scorecard

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Batting meltdown but Redbacks beat Tigers & gain place on international T20 stage


South Australia have won a place in the T20 Champions League and the right to host the Big Bash final. .


They did so by beating Tasmania 131 (18 ov) to 9/108 (20 ov) in a low scoring match, one in which their batting after a promising start collapsed losing 6/4 (that's 6 wickets for 4 runs) precipitated by a hat trick (nos 6,7 & 8) by Rana Naved-ul-Hasan.

Fortunately the Redbacks bowlers once again rose to the challenge: Shaun Tait took wickets from the first two balls of the Tasmanian innings and Aaron O'Brien, Dan Christian and Shahid Afridi maintained sufficient pressure to keep the Tigers well and truly caged, even they didn't undergo a Redbacks type meltdown.

Now there's one more minor round game to play in the Big Bash comp followed by the final at home then, whatever happens from now on, off to India. T20 may not be my preferred form of the game (though I did go to the 91 run trouncing of Victoria last week ) but you can be sure I'll be, like many other South Australians, barracking for the Redbacks as they take those next steps.

Friday, January 08, 2010

England hold on once again for draw : T3 D5

South Africa 293 and 7/447d drew with England 273 and 9/296 (141 ov, I Bell 78, A Cook 55): T3 D5 at Cape Town

I turned in at tea time (ie nudging midnight in these parts) when Paul Collingwood 39* and Ian Bell 68* looked well set and, despite some hostile South African bowling from Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel, England 5/230 looked to be heading for a comfortable draw.

Draw it was but comfortable it wasn't. I woke to watch the highlights and to discover that the South Africans had made a final effort which had almost succeeded. For the second time in three Tests England, in the person of Graham Onions, held on for a draw, and the home side were one good (or lucky) ball away from victory. Not that they didn't bowl many good balls, just not one that was good enough. In the last over Morne Morkel appeared to have Onions caught behind but replays showed that it brushed his sleeve not his bat (and vindicated the decision of the recently much maligned umpire Harper)

A 1-0 series lead is not a fair reflection of the merits of the two sides but that's the way Test cricket works. Australia couldn't force a win at Cardiff in T1 of last year's Ashes, and their failure seemed, just as the get out of jail draw at Centurion in T1 did, to inspire England to regroup and win the next Test.

There's a few days before the last Test begins and it will be very interesting to see if and how the South Africans can restore their self-belief. The team that they fielded at Newlands had no major weaknesses, though there will be some pondering about the value of Ashwell Prince and Paul Harris. England are not infallible either, as the large South African second innings showed, and Kevin Pietersen is overdue for a mid-range let alone a big score.


Scorecard

Thursday, January 07, 2010

South Africa retain ascendancy: T3 D4

England 273 & 3/132 (51 ov, A Cook 55) require a further 334 runs with 7 wickets in hand to beat South Africa 291 & 7/ 447d (111.2 ov, G Smith 183, H Amla 95) : T3 D4 at Cape Town

Today South Africa batted on, without being too particular as the day went on about losing wickets, before declaring. The centrepiece of their formidable total was of course Graeme Smith's masterly 183/273b (25x4). They left England to make 466 on a pitch which seems to be holding up quite well though against an attack with two top quality bowlers in Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel.

At 3/132 (after passing 100 without losing a wicket) England are in strife. Can they hang on for a draw? Highly improbable Can they win? Even with the recent precedent of Australia defeating Pakistan in mind, it's difficult - very difficult - to see how. Who might be their Smith and Amla equivalents?

Scorecard

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Australia [cliche deleted] v Pakistan T2 D4

Australia 127 & 381 (125.3 ov, M Hussey 134*, S Watson 97, Danish Kaneria 5/151) beat Pakistan 333 & 139 (38.0 ov, N Hauritz 5/53) by 36 runs: T2 D3 at Sydney.


I was wrong again. As were most other commentators. Australia's determination trumped Pakistan's intermittent flair and underlying lack of self-belief.

There were two distinct phases of the day's play. In the first Mike Hussey and Peter Siddle moved sensibly, taking advantage of some defensive field placings and another missed catch at the wicket, from 8/286, effectively 8/80, past 318, when Hussey brought up his century in 195b (14x4), then a further 20 wicketless overs to 8/373 ( Hussey 127*, Siddle 37*) at lunch.

Pakistan's fortunes revived after the interval as Siddle fell for a determined 38/117b (2x4) and Bollinger followed soon after leaving Hussey unbeaten on 134/284b (16x4).

The second phase was Pakistan's attempt to make 176 for victory. For a time it was edge of the seat stuff as the openers put on 34 before Doug Bollinger dismissed Imran Farhat. Salman Butt and Faisal Iqbal took the total to 51 before Mitchell Johnson had them both caught behind, Iqbal straightforwardly, Butt brilliantly by Brad Haddin whose keeping generally showed up the shortcomings of his opposite number.

Mohammad Yousuf and Umar Gul, Pakistan's best pair, came together and took the score to 3/77, including taking 12 off a Nathan Hauritz over, at tea. Anybody's game.

Ricky Ponting opted to continue with Hauritz after the interval. The captain's judgment, so much of which had been questioned throughout the match, was vinidcated when Yousuf belted a return catch to the bowler. Two balls later Misbah-ul-Haq fell.

At 5/77 it looked to be game over, though the brothers Akmal hung around for a while, Umar shepherding his older sibling through a 26 and Mohammad Sami through a 30 run partnership

The Australian bowlers persisted taking advantage of the brittle Pakistan lower order (the pitch was still playing well). Bollinger 2/32 from 12, Johnson 3/27 from 10, and Hauritz 5/53 from 12 overs (his second ever Test and first class 5 wickets in an innings haul in successive Tests) were too good.

Mike Hussey deservedly won the Player of the Match Award. He admitted that he was lucky to be missed three times behind the stumps but te fact remains that he rode his luck extremely well. He is definitely not yet finished as a Test batsman.

It's difficult to explain why Pakistan fell apart on D4 (and late on D3). For a perspective from their side see Osman Samiuddin on Cricinfo .

Scorecard



Captain powers South Africa to dominant position: T3 D3

South Africa 291 & 2/312 (80ov, G Smith 162*, H Amla 95) lead England 273 (88 ov, M Prior 76, A Cook 65, M Morkel 5/75, D Steyn 4/74) by 330 runs with 8 2nd inns wkts in hand: T3 D3 at Cape Town

Graeme Smith led a sharp improvement in South Africa's fortunes after a refreshed Morne Morkel and Dale Steyn took the last 3 England wickets for 32, leaving the match open to be won (or drawn) with the best part of three days remaining.

Smith showed what he was thinking as he and Hashim Amla took charge. This time it was the England attack which found the conditions, not least the heat, hard going. Smith was given out lbw, challenged the decision successfully, and continued to a 172b century. Amla, who needed a score to offset a run of failures since his T1 century, followed hard on his captain's heels before, having silenced the doubters, being caught at short leg for 95/156b (14x4) .


Smith and Jacques Kallis continued comfortably to stumps adding 51. With a lead of 330, 7 wickets in hand and Smith unbeaten on 162/243b (22x4) South Africa hold all the high cards.

Scorecard

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Australia looking down barrel despite Pakistan fumblings: T2 D3

Australia 127 and 8/286 (87ov, S Watson 97, M Hussey 73*, Danish Kaneria 4/117) lead Pakistan 333 by 80 runs with 2 2nd inns wkts in hand: T2 D3 at SCG

It didn't take long for Doug Bollinger to take his fourth, and Pakistan's last, wicket giving him 4/72 and the visitors a lead of 206 on the first innings.

When Shane Watson and Phil Hughes started Australia's reply they had a couple of tentative moments and, in Watson's case, a let off, but settled in to bat more assuredly than they'd done in the first innings. For a time a combination of good batting, loose bowling and sloppy fielding made it seem as if the vigorous Australian response many were expecting would wipe off the deficit with relative ease.

But when after lunch Hughes was caught off his own bowling by Danish Kaneria for 37 the wheels wobbled. 1/105 became 3/199 (including Ricky Ponting for a modest 11) at tea. Then they fell off to 8/257 before Mike Hussey, the beneficiary of some slapdash wicketkeeping, and Peter Siddle effected a minor repair job and restored a smidgin of respectability to the Australian total. But a lead of 86, even on a wearing D4 pitch, should not raise local hopes too much. Pakistan should win tomorrow, and deservedly so.

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Bowlers strike back at Cape Town: T3 D2


England 7/241 (82 ov, A Cook 65, M Prior 52*) trail South Africa 291 (86.1 ov, J Kallis 108, M Boucher 51, J Anderson 5/63) on first inns by 50 runs with 3 wkts in hand:: T3 D2 at Cape Town


The bowlers of both sides struck back taking 11 wickets in the day for 253, seven of them in the first session for 76 and four of those South African for only 12 runs. Graham Onions removed Jacques Kallis, who didn't add to his overnight 108/189 (11x4), then Jimmy Anderson took the last 3 to finish with 5/63 from 21.1 overs.

When England batted they stuttered in the face of some sharp bowling from the South African pace attack, losing 3/64 before lunch and a fourth, Paul Collingwood for 19, soon afterwards at 73. The in form Alistair Cook and Ian Bell effected a modest revival by adding 60 before Cook went for a solid 65/136b (7x4). Bell was out to a poor stroke off Kallis for a gritty 48/121b (8x4).

6/174 was far from dominant, yet the South African attack began to flag as Matt Prior 52*/96b (5x4), Stuart Broad and Graeme Swann moved the total to what is IMO a healthy 7/241, still behind South Africa but within touch.

With 3 days left South Africa - still leading on first innings, England to bat last - look slightly better placed but I wouldn't put money on them. While their faster bowlers are doing well Paul Harris, their specialist slow bowler (as Geoff Boycott on TV described him after hastily retracting "spinner") is looking ordinary and far from second innings five-for material.

The first couple of sessions on D3 will be interesting. Unfortunately for cricket lovers here Foxtel has opted not to show the first session, preferring to show repeats of an AFL grand final from wayback. Not good enough. The AFL could be shown at any time.


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Monday, January 04, 2010

Pakistan's day ...again: T2 D2


Pakistan 9/331 (96 ov, Salman Butt 71, Imran Farhat 53) lead Australia 127 by 204 runs with 1 first inns wkt in hand: T2 D2 at SCG.


Pakistan produced an impressive batting performance founded on a solid 108 run opening stand btween Salman Butt 71/164b (9x4) and Imran Farhat 53/140 (4x4). Then cameo innings from Mohammad Yousuf 46/56b (8x4) and wonder boy Umar Akmal 49/48b (9x4) gave Australia more cause for concern. But the middle and lower order didn't contribute much, which has prompted some of the TV and radio pundits, notably Kerry O'Keefe, to contemplate a possible Pakistan meltdown in the last three days.

While a major Australian recovery is not impossible, this looks like wishful thinking, a she'll be right mate back projection from the not long gone golden days of Australian cricket when a first innings deficit, even a 200 run one, was a spur to higher and better things.

These past two days several points have become pretty well self-evident . One is that the Australian attack is essentially composed of honest toilers. Another is that the Pakistan batting has shifted up a couple of gears: while the tail may be brittle the specialists are capable of scoring a lot of runs, even in the fourth innings on a wearing pitch.

If Australia are to win from here it's hard to see them doing so without taking advantage of a fourth and fifth day wicket, If this does happen will the many commentators** who condemned Ricky Ponting's decision to bat see the error of their ways or at least the irony of the situation?


Update 5 January

** Shane Warne a perceptive exception.



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Kallis revives shaky South Africa: T3 D1

South Africa 6/279 (83.2 ov, J Kallis 108*, M Boucher 51) v England: T3 D1 at Cape Town

The day's play at first resembled that of the previous match. Then Jacques Kallis in a series of partnerships wrested, if not the initiative, at least some equilibrium back from England. England's decision to field after winning the toss (as they'd done in T1) was vindicated by the early success of their bowlers who exposed the fragility of the top order by taking 3/51. Thereafter Kallis demonstrated his class, first in a partnership of 76 with Graeme Smith, then after two wickets fell in successive balls at 127, batting through the rest of a day shortened by weather and poor light for 108*/188b (11x4), adding 89 with Mark Boucher and an unbroken 61 with Dale Steyn.

Kallis is an effective rather than a stylish player so it's easy to overlook his considerable achievements with bat and ball as his Test career stats show . He's had only one recent poor series with the bat, v England in 2008, but even here he partly compensated for this loss of form by taking 10 wickets at 29.5 apiece. Scorecard

A word about Makhaya Ntini who was omitted from the South African XI and who is likely to announce his retirement from international cricket. His stats are pretty good too.




Sunday, January 03, 2010

Pakistan's day: T2 D1

Pakistan 0/14 (4.1 ov) trail Australia 127 ( 44.2 ov, Mohammad Asif 6/41) on first innings by 113 runs; T2 D1 at SCG.

From a comprehensive defeat in Melbourne sunshine to a dominant first day in overcast Sydney. What a turnaround in form for Pakistan (and Australia).

After a start delayed by drizzle Mohammad Asif, 6/41 from 20 ov, and Mohammad Sami, 3/27 from 12, used the green pitch and overcast conditions well to trouble Australia, who had chosen to bat after winning the toss (Pakistan would have fielded). Phillip Hughes was dropped at slip off the first ball he faced but still didn't get off the mark, Ricky Ponting was out first ball to an agricultural version of his favourite pull shot while Shane Watson, who'd looked relatively composed, was caught behind for 6.

Australia never recovered from 3/10, though Mike Hussey hung around for 28, Mitchell Johnson slogged 38 and added 44 for the 8th wkt with Nathan Hauritz. 127 was better than had looked likely at one point but, even making some allowance for the conditions, it was a below par effort.

Just how much below par remains to be seen. Pakistan's batting mettle will, weather permitting, be tested tomorrow. They will be looking for a lead of 100 or so to maintain their advantage over an Australian team which surely can't bat as badly in the second innings as it did today.

Scorecard

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Ponting's class confirmed by end of decade reflections and assessments


End of a year and, except for those who consider that there's another year to go, end of a decade, which means it's time for reflections, assessments and whatever about cricket (as well as just about anything you can think of).


A Cricinfo panel has selected the Test and ODI teams of 2000- 2009. Here they are (with the seven players who made the cut for both elevens highlighted):

Test

Matthew Hayden, Virender Sehwag, Ricky Ponting, Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Jacques Kallis, Adam Gilchrist , Shaun Pollock, Shane Warne, Muttiah Muralitharan, Glenn McGrath,
12th man: Andrew Flintoff

ODI

Sanath Jayasuriya, Sachin Tendulkar, Ricky Ponting, Jacques Kallis, Andrew Symonds, Adam Gilchrist, Andrew Flintoff, Shaun Pollock, Brett Lee, Glenn McGrath, Muttiah Muralitharan, 12th man: Shane Warne

In terms of runs scored Ricky Ponting and wickets taken Muttiah Muralitharan lead both Test and ODI tables: this is a fair reflection of their ability throughout the 2000s.

Malcolm Conn in The Australian pays tribute to Ponting, giving due emphasis to the fact that he has had to face the challenges of captaining his country as well as being its number one batter.

While Muralitharan may not be as highly regarded in Australia as he is elsewhere he also deserves due acknowledgment, which with "Out of our comfort zone" Gideon Haigh on Cricinfo (reprinted - or printed -in the anthologyThe Best Australian Essays of 2009 ) has done.


IMO a major omission from the Test team is Brian Lara who from 2000 onwards scored 6380 runs from 120 inns/ 2 not out, average 54.06 (this on top of his pre- 1990 tally of 5573 runs from 112 inns/4 no). Not bad, eh?

If he was to be included, who should make room? Rahul Dravid? Virender Sehwag? Perhaps Shaun Pollock (though this change the balance of the side and require some of the occasional bowlers eg Sehwag to turn their arms over more)?


Another poll, this time taken among 30 cricket writers is for the Cricinfo player of the decade : Chanderpaul, Dravid, Gilchrist, Inzamam, Hayden, Kallis, Muralitharan, Sangakkara, Smith, Tendulkar, Warne, Mohammad Yousuf are listed as front runners. The winner, we are told, will be announced soon.