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Monday, January 31, 2011

Australia take series as England make poor fist of chasing modest score

Australia 249 (48.3 ov, M Clarke 54, C Woakes 6/45) def England 198 (45.3 ov,K Pietersen 40, S Watson 3/25) by 51 runs: ODI#5/7 at Gabba, Brisbane. Australia lead series 4-1.

Back to the couch to watch this one, which fortunately wasn't played here, where the temperature reached 42.5 deg C.

The first nine Australian batters got a start (of sorts), ie reached double figures, but only acting captain Michael Clarke went on from there. His 54/74b (5x4) was a return to form (of sorts) which was good to see, not only because those with long memories (of sorts) can recall him playing many fine innings in both Tests and ODIs. At least those who'd booed him onto the ground shut up when he walked off.

A word about Chris Woakes:21 years old, and not really quick, but he plugged away doing a bit here and there and taking 6 (including 4 of the top 6) for 45 from his 10 overs.

Australia's bowlers,especially Brett Lee, John Hastings (good changes of pace to dismiss topscorers Kevin Pietersen and Ian Bell), Steve Smith and (among the lower order) Shane Watson, reduced England to a paltry 9/145 before a last wicket stand between Jimmy Anderson and Steven Finn briefly raised in some minds (not mine) the prospect of an upset. It didn't happen though the 53 runs they added distorted the margin of victory. Australia won the match, and therefore the series, convincingly.

Welcome as this has been it is still small compensation for the Ashes Test result!


Fox Sports report with link to video highlights.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

England keep ODI series alive with comfortable win at Adelaide

England 8/299 (50 0v, J Trott 102, M Prior 67, D Hussey 4/21, S Smith 3/33) def Australia 7/278 (50 0v, S Watson 64) by 21 runs: ODI #4/7 at Adelaide Oval. Australia lead series 3-1.

For various reasons I haven't watched a lot of cricket since the Ashes Tests, but yesterday I went to the Adelaide Oval to see if Australia could wrap up the seven match series with a fourth consecutive victory.
They couldn't, and England won comfortably - far more comfortably than a margin of 21 runs suggests. But at least the match lasted longer than the 59 over 2007 match , ie into the night.

Andrew Strauss won the toss and, not surprisingly given a warm (29deg C), sunny day and a good pitch, chose to bat.

Brett Lee's first over went for 12 (in 2007 he'd bowled 8 for 8 runs and 2 wickets) and while in his second he made amends of sorts when Strauss edged him to the keeper. 1/23 from 17 balls was evidence of England's intentions and the waywardness of Australia's bowling. Jonathon Trott joined Matt Prior, who having, at the third attempt, opened his account for the series, continued to punish the bowling. Trott didn't waste too many opportunities but built his innings more methodically than his partner who posted his 50 with a six off Lee.

While Michael Clarke switched the four quicker bowlers around none of them looked especially penetrative There were a couple of run out chances which the Australians missed (neither side was at its best in the hitting the stumps department), otherwise the score mounted and a 300+ total looked more and more likely as the 100 was posted in 15 overs.

Xavier Doherty then came on. He conceded only 1 one in his first over, encouraging Clarke to throw the ball to Steven Smith, who bowled one scratchy over for 9 runs before Prior cut the first ball of his second to point. Prior's 67/58b (1x6, 8x4) out of 136 from 22.1 overs was as good a launching pad as could have been expected, and there was plenty more batting to come.

But as Doherty bowled steadily at one end for 10 straight overs for 44 Smith struck again...and again, as Kevin Pietersen hit a catch to long on and Ian Bell came down the wicket to his second ball and was smartly caught behind by Brad Haddin.

4/158 wasn't quite what the ideal England script would have read, but it weasn't bad either, espeically Trott was still there moving along at his own pace (which wasn't as slow as some had thought). Eoin Morgan joined him and together, as Clarke shuffled the quick bowlers, they kept moving things along. Then, when we were wondering when (or even whether) David Hussey would be given a bowl, he came on for the 40th over of the innings, during which he induced Trott, who'd perhaps relaxed after reaching his century, to edge a turning ball onto his stumps. Trott's 102/126b (6x4) was a masterly innings of quiet aggression which confirmed England's superiority.

Hussey struck again with the first ball of his second over, having Morgan caught at point/ square leg reverse sweeping. 6/227 and Australia were at last in with a chance of restricting England to well under 300.

But Clarke took Hussey (2/3 from 2 overs) off and brought Lee and Doug Bollinger back. Neither had hitherto bowled well, and nor did they improve much as Paul Collingwood 27/27b (1x6, 2x4) and Michael Yardy 39*/27b (6x4) made hay under the floodlights. This was a failure on Clarke's part to read the game: in the more leisurely atmosphere of a Test match it would have been fine, but here, where spin had held England if not in check then under greater restraint, he should have given Hussey another over or two, Powerplay or imminent innnigs end notwithstanding.

As it happened the quicker bowlers continued in their expensive vein so he had to come back , and took two more wickets, finishing with the surprising (though not entirely undeserved ) analysis of 4-0-21-4. The three slow bowlers collectively bowled 21 overs and took 7/98 whereas the four quick ones bowled 29 0vers for 1/197. Enough said?

300 looked beyond Australia's grasp, though they gave it a reasonable shot and at least gave the scorecard the illusion of a close finish. But in the first phase a slow run rate, with the first 100 taking 30 balls longer than England's (120 v 90 b), and the loss of three wickets, including yet another modest score by Clarke, put England in control. Its quick bowling was tighter than Australia's (Jimmy Anderson bowled the only maiden of the contest) and if Yardy's slow-medium darts were milked, Collingwood and, surprisingly, Trott with their gently probing medium pace prevented any breakaway, and took 3 wickets between them.

From this point a Shane Watson century was Australia's best hope. But on this, as on other occasions (and he shouldn't be criticised for this: at least he's scoring runs), it wasn't forthcoming for at 116 he was caught behind off Ajmal Shahzad for a worthy 64/72b (1x6, 5x4).

Neither Cameron White, despite his big hitting reputation, nor David Hussey were able to move things along. They spent some time playing themselves in before falling to Trott. White's 44/64b was especially disappointing: he rarely looked in command and only hit two fours.

After they were out Smith played aggressively, but not aggressively enough to haul the asking rate back to where a final overs tilt at the total might have been feasible. After John Hastings went cheaply (IMO Dan Christian has a better claim on his place: maybe not as good a bowler but a more punishing lower order batter), Lee (who should have gone in ahead of Hastings) 39*/32b (5x4) and Smith 46*/47b (4x4) added 78 in the last 10 overs in what became, as the possibility of victory faded, centre wicket practice.

The metaphorical fireworks required for Australia to snatch an improbable victory didn't eventuate before the real fireworks commemorating Australia Day brought proceedings to a close. .

A good game, which showed many of the best features of 50 over cricket. There were few controversies and the umpires controlled the game well. It was good to see Simon Fry, with whom I played cricket many years ago, umpiring his first ODI after many years as fourth umpire.

The overlong 7 match series is not yet over. On this occasion England looked a more complete team than Australia, but the gap between them isn't wide enough to make the results of the last three games easy to predict.


Fox Sports report with link to video highlights.

Friday, January 07, 2011

England complete 3-1 series floorwiping,

England 644 defeated Australia 280 & 281 by an innings & 83 runs: T5 D5 at SCG.

England win series 3-1 and retain ashes.

Player of the Match and Series: Alistair Cook

As expected, England wrapped up the match and series this morning after some resolute if belated resistance from Steven Smith and Peter Siddle.

Congratulations to England: they outplayed Australia in all departments of the game. Alistair Cook and Jimmy Anderson were expected to be liabilities yet they turned into gilt-edged assets. England's off-field preparation was first-class, too, despite the occasional raised eyebrow about the number of support staff.

Australia will probably drop back to number 5 in the world Test rankings which, notwithstanding my disdain for that system, is probably a fair place for them. Their next encounter will be against Sri Lanka in Sri Lanka in August which may not bring much joy either. By then there will of necessity have been much soul-searching among the Australian cricket players and administrators to follow not just the reality checks of the scorecards and the painful reminders of the video records but also the outpourings of supporter criticism.

England may rise even further in the rankings: their forthcoming home series against India should be a cracker, for which they should IMO start favourites.

But that's in the future. Now to the limited over phase of the tour (which I, if you've not already gathered, find less interesting). After a couple of T20 games there will be an overlong 7 match ODI series. On their last tour England, on the ropes of their Test 0-5 drubbing, made an eleventh hour recovery to snatch the title. Can Australia regroup too (as they did after losing the Ashes in 2009)?
I'm not predicting anything.


Thursday, January 06, 2011

Another one sided day as England grind Australia into dust: T5 D4 .

Australia 280 & 7/213 (67 ov) need 152 more runs to make England 644 (117.5 ov, A Cook 189, M Prior 118, I Bell 115, A Strauss 60, M Johnson 4/168, B Hilfenhaus 3/121) bat again. T5 D4 at SCG.

Australia's agony continued as first England piled on the runs to move past 600, Matt Prior continuing to make merry before he virtually threw his wicket away for 118/130b (1x6, 11x4), after whic the last pair took the total to 644, the highest ever made by England in Australia.

Australia's reply began promisingly before an appallingly inept piece of running saw Shane Watson again run out. 1/46 descended to 7/213 as, yet again, most of the batters got a start but couldn't build on it. Once again the superbly drilled England pace bowlers extracted a lot more life from the pitch and variation from the ball than their Australian opposite numbers had done.

What more can I say? A lot, but not just now thank you.

Fox Sports video highlights


...Meanwhile in Cape Town

South Africa 362 (J Kallis 161, H Amla 59, S Sreesanth 5/114) & 341 (J Kallis 109, M Boucher 55, Harbhajan Singh 7/120) v India 364 (S Tendulkar 146, D Steyn 5/75): T3/3 D4/5 at Newlands, Cape Town.

India need 340 runs, or South Africa to take 10 wickets on the last day to win the series 2-1.

Overlapping the last rites of the Ashes series, South Africa and India have been contesting the decider of a 3 Test series.

With a day to go a draw seems likely: if anyone is to win it will be South Africa. India will rue being unable to polish off the Proteas when they had them 6/130 in the second innings.

As in the first innings, where his 161/291b (19x4) was the backbone of his team's 362, Jacques Kallis kept the Indian attack at bay with with his second century of the match. a determined 109*/240b (8x4) made all the more impressive by having to cope with an injured rib. I don't recall seeing better confirmation of the old cliche "beware the injured batsman".

The Fox Sports report has a link to video highlights which will give you a brief idea of how he pulled things around.

Can South Africa bowl India out in a day? Harbhajan Singh's 4/10 at one point suggests the pitch is taking spin, yet, as his final analysis of 38-1-120-7 indicates, determined batting can cope with that. Paul Harris is no Harbhajan, but Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel are top class (and IMO Lonwabo Tsotsobe has bowled better in this match than his figures suggest) but India should be able to hold out for a draw.

The first session at least should be worth watching.
If Sachin Tendulkar, whose first innings of 146/314b (2x6,17x4) mirrored Kallis', or Virender Sehwag are on song another late night may be in order.


Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Cook and Bell bat Australia out of match and series: T5/D3

England 7/488 (141 ov, A Cook 189, I Bell 115, A Strauss 60. M Prior 54*) lead Australia 280 by 208 runs with 3 first innings wickets in hand: T5 D3 at SCG.

England batted through the day adding 4/323 from 93 overs and by doing so snuffed out any hopes Australia might have had achieving a first innings lead or, more realistically, a relatively small deficit.

After nightwatchman Jimmy Anderson and Paul Collingwood both fell cheaply (the latter giving Michael Beer his first Test wicket). Alistair Cook and Ian Bell put England 100 in front before Cook, having been rightly reprieved on 99 by the UDRS, was out for a commanding 189/342b (16x4). Bell, who on 67 was also let off by the UDRS when perhaps the original decision should have stood, and Matt Prior, added another 107 before Bell fell for 115/232b (13x4) his first century against Australia. Prior's brisk 54*/59b (1x6, 5x4) was just right for the situation.

The Australian bowling? It was another day of honest trundling. There were a few edges but too few balls which beat the bat. Shane Watson was probably the best, and that's not saying much.

Not that I want or need to say much. England are well on course heading for another victory and series win, both of which they well deserve. I'm now going to watch a more even match: South Africa v India at Cape Town.


Tuesday, January 04, 2011

England in better position though Australia has its moments T5 D2

England 3/167 (48ov, A Cook 61*, A Strauss 60) trail Australia 280 (106.1 ov, M Johnson 53, J Anderson 4/66) by 113 runs on first innings: T5/5 D2/5 at SCG.

Mitchell Johnson 53/66b (1x6, 5x4) and Ben Hilfenhaus 34/58b (1x6, 3x4) saw Australia to a better than expected, if still below par, 280 before Andrew Strauss cut loose, with Alistair Cook in support, in a first wicket stand of 98 which put England on the fast track to a first innings lead. The Australian pace attack wilted in the face of the assault but out of the blue Hilfenhaus produced a beauty - moving one away to clip the off stump - which dismissed Strauss for 60/58b (1x6, 8x4) and prompted an Australian revival of sorts, kicked on by Johnson bowling Jonathon Trott for a duck..

Michael Beer, the virtually unknown slow left armer, didn't bowl until two wickets were down and the total past 100 . He tossed the ball up, was hit, but could should have had a wicket when Cook mistimed a drive, was caught and walked before Umpire Bowden, drawing upon his extensive repertoire of gestures, ascertained via the TV umpire that the delivery was - just - a no ball. Why he couldn't have it called it so escapes me. That said, there was no excuse for a slow bowler to bowl a no-ball.

At stumps Cook was 61*/141b (6x4) and England still on track for a first innings lead, unless the Australian bowlers emulate their English counterparts and wear the batting down with accurate bowling.


Monday, January 03, 2011

Australia down though not out after rain shortened day: T5D1

Australia 4/134 (59 ov, S Watson 45) v England: T5/5, D 1/5 at SCG

After Michael Clarke won the toss and opted to bat Australia struggled against the tight England bowling we've come to expect to post a modest, though not disastrous, total on a day shortened appreciably by rain and bad light.

It looked as if they'd get through the first session without loss, but then in the last over Philip Hughes, who'd hitherto been prudent in his shot selection, flashed at Chris Tremlett and was (again) caught in the slips by(again) Paul Collingwood for 31/93b (5x4).

The weather permitted only another 30.3 overs to be bowled for the rest of the day, during which time the total moved from 1/51 to 4/134. Clarke's scratchy 4/21b was not a great start to his captaincy career, and while Shane Watson, more watchful than usual, and Usman Khawaja, who showed signs of a promising temperament, looked to have done the hard yards they, like Hughes, didn't go on to better things. Watson nicked Tim Bresnan to slip for 45/127b (5x4), and Khawaja top-edged Graeme Swann to backward square leg for 37/95b (5x4).

Rain stopped play before
Brad Haddin (promoted to no 6) could join Mike Hussey at the wicket. Tomorrow morning the BOM predicts a 40% chance of rain, so Australia may not complete their first innings. Nor may they have added many runs.


Sunday, January 02, 2011

New Test captain, new start for Australia?

That's certainly what many cricket followers will be wondering, and Australian supporters hoping, on the eve of the Fifth Test.

It's already been confirmed that Michael Beer, after being in the squad since Perth, will make his Test debut. I wish him well but can't see him having a great influence on the match. He's simply too inexperienced at first class level and nobody apart from his old St Kilda grade clubmate Shane Warne has had a good (or, in many instances, any) word to say about him.

With Ryan Harris out, Mitchell Johnson blowing hot and cold and Ben Hilfenhaus (who's been preferred to Doug Bollinger) lacking penetration in the series so far the Australia attack looks threadbare despite Peter Siddle's lionheartedness.

Usman Khawaja will have a tough time replacing Ricky Ponting at number 3, but at least he has some form under his belt and has been pencilled in for some time (eg Australia A selection) as a future Test player.

England are unlikely to make changes, despite Paul Collingwood's modest batting returns so far. While each of the last three Tests has been decided by a huge margin it's very hard to see Australia pulling the pendulum back sufficiently to square the series..

A word about Ponting. Many commentators eg Ian Chappell and Mike Brearley have written him off as a captain "often a good captain, sometimes one who tried too hard. He can still play on as a batsman, though" says Chappell patronisingly. I'm by no means convinced that he's captained his last Test match. But that discussion can be deferred to another day.