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Thursday, December 29, 2011

Indian batting exposed as paper tiger by Australian pace attack. Australia go 1-0 up.T1D4

Australia 333 & 240 ( 76.3ov, Hussey 89, Ponting 60,Pattinson 37*, Yadav 4/70, Zaheer Khan  3/53) def India 282 & 169 (47.5 ov, Tendulkar 32, Ashwin 30, Pattinson 4/53, Siddle 3/42) by 122 runs: T1/4 D4/5 at the MCG. Australia lead series 1-0 with 3 matches to play.

Today only 12 wickets fell for 230 runs compared to yesterday's 15/247. Australia, mostly through the tail after Mike Hussey added only 10 and was dismissed for 89/ 151b (9x4) added 2/61 whereas India's strong (if only on paper)  batting failed in the face of an always persistent and mostly hostile Australian pace attack: James Pattinson augmented his second innings 37*  with 4/53, Peter Siddle 3/42 kept chipping away (and at times lifted his pace) while Ben Hilfenhaus 2/39 from 18 overs never looked far away from taking a wicket. 
I didn't expect this result, or at least the margin of victory. First thoughts are that it was the bowling of both sides which kept them in with a chance...until this afternoon's Indian meltdown, when Hilfenhaus, Siddle and Pattinson together trumped, or were permitted by India's batting lineup, to  trump Umesh Yadav, Zaheer Khan and Ishant Sharma.

In truth the result exaggerated the difference between the two teams, which means that we can hope for a more .even sided contest at Sydney inthe new year.

15/247 - Bowlers' day sets up Test for tight finish T1D3

Australia 333 & 8/179 (60 ov, Hussey 79*, Ponting 60, Yadav 4/49) lead India 282 (94.1ov, Tendulkar 73, Dravid 68, Sehwag 67, Hilfenhaus 5/75, Siddle 3/63) by 230 runs with 2 second innings wickets in hand: T1/4 D3/5 at the MCG.
Today 15 wickets fell for 247 as both India and Australia bowled well and, with some honourable exceptions, batted poorly. The unravelling began when, with the second ball of the day,  Ben Hilfenhaus bowled Rahul Dravid for 68/187b (6x4) and ended with Mike Hussey desperately trying, with mixed success,  to add a few more runs with the Australian tail to set India a challenging fourth innings target.

Hilfenhaus, restored to the Test eleven after his Ashes disappointments, bowled with his heart and head in sync, deservedly finishing the innings with his best Test figures 26-5-75-5.

Then the Indian pace attack, led by Umesh Yadav, an outstanding 15-3-49-4, wiped whatever smiles there may have been off Australian faces by scything through the top order. 4/27 looked like Cape Town redux but the two old (and written off by many - even I was wondering whether it was time for Mr Cricket to be shown the door) stagers Ricky Ponting 60/97b ( only 3x4 on the slow MCG outfield) and Hussey 79*/134 (7x4) gave the home team a modicum of respectability: a lead of 230. Whether that will be enough to squeeze out a victory will depend on the bowling, not to mention the Indian batting. 

No more predictions from me for now, though. I've made too many dud ones lately so will just be happy - well tense - to watch the struggle continue (and a result probably achieved) tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

India move towards lead despite loss of Sachin T1D2

India 214/3 (65.0 ov, Tendulkar 73, Dravid 68*, Sehwag 67) trail Australia 333 (110ov, Cowan 68, Ponting 62, Siddle 41, Zaheer Khan 4/77, Ashwin 3/81, Yadav 3/106)  by 119 runs with 7 first innings wickets in hand; T1/4 D2/5 at the MCG.

Had Sachin Tendulkar held on until stumps instead of playing on to Peter Siddle for a feisty 73/98b (1x6, 8x4) India would hold the whip, rather than the upper, hand . At 3/214 with Rahul Dravid. a solidly elegant  68*/185 (6x4) still at the crease and looking good they are on course to take a first innings lead over Australia.

Dravid took a back seat as Virender Sehwag, who doesn't seem to hang around much beyond 50 these days, raced to 67/83b (7x4) in his typical style before Tendulkar continued in similar, by his standards more short form, vein. The Australian attack persevered and was a little unlucky: a catch or two was almost taken while Siddle bowled Dravid off what the replay showed was - just - a no ball. Siddle, whose 41/99b (4x4) had in the first session led the tailend batting revival which saw Australia post a respectable (albeit at the lower end of the respectability spectrum)  333, persisted and eventually got his man. I wonder whether Sachin was, like some commentators, already looking forward to tomorrow.

Well, after 50,000 today and the great man gone, tomorrow's crowd is likely to be much smaller, even though Dravid's - and perhaps VVS Laxman's - batting should appeal to the connoisseurs. If the Australian attack can rise above steady persistence then there may be something for the connoiseurs of bowling too.
With fine weather forecast for the remaining three days of the Test, a result looks likely.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Tight Boxing Day contest though Australia struggle to post big score

Australia  6/277 (89 ov, Cowan 68, Ponting 62) v India T1/4 D1/5 at MCG

An intriguing day's Test cricket: interrupted by rain but nevertheless attended by 70,000 spectators. The play wasn't always of the highest quality, yet there were some good combative passages, not least the unbroken 63 partnership between Peter Siddle 34* and Brad Haddin 21* which put a gloss of respectability on Australia's total.

 Once again the top order didn't deliver consistently. Both Shaun Marsh and Mike Hussey went for ducks: Marsh clearly caught in the gully off the quicker than we'd been led to believe (or I'd picked up watching on TV)  Umesh Yadav; Hussey adjudged caught behind when the technical aids available to everyone except the umpires suggested otherwise.

But around these low points there were some moderately high ones, notably Ed Cowan' s 68/177b (7x4) on debut and Ricky Ponting's return to (in some commentators' eyes, but not my rose tinted specs, a damned with faint praise sort of) form. Without his 62/94b (6 x4) and the 113 he added with Cowan for the third wicket Australia would hardly have been able to reach the just above subsistence level they appear to have done.

I say that bearing in mind the on paper strength of the Indian batting. Their four bowlers fluctuated in both accuracy and penetration: Yadav made the inital breakthroughs, Zaheer Khan came back with two wickets in successive balls, while Ramichandran Ashwin , who I thought should do well here with his height and spin, lacked the sharp edge of consistency (read too many looseish balls) to keep the batsmen in check. Only Ishant Sharma went wicketless  but his 20-6-40-0 were important: the hirsute tearaway of four years ago has trimmed his sails (and hair) to the current situation.

Watch tomorrow's play if you can.


Sunday, December 25, 2011

Watch on TV or go to the ground?

Spectators who last week went to the Gabba to watch the home team take on the Melbourne Stars in the  Big Bash League (BBL) were denied the opportunity to hear and see this

Gideon Haigh in The Australian in his customarily incisive way has brought this, and its wider ramifications,  to our attention

But had you been present at the ground, this would have eluded you, because Warnie was confiding in those who had paid at the virtual box office, not the real one.
Does this matter? The pragmatic line now is that crowds are so twentieth century: that the TRP (television ratings point) is today's turnstile, and the couch the nation's grandstand. And in a financial sense, television audience reach is certainly a salient indicator.
Ticket sales today account for less than 10 per cent of Cricket Australia's revenues. Their diminished relevance was recognised by CA's decision in April 2005 to yield to Channel 9 on the matter of broadcasting live "against the gate", which commanded a one-off premium at unquantifiable cost to patronage of the live experience.
Grounds themselves are nowadays pervaded by a television consciousness too.
Where once cricket coverage was accented to conveying to the home viewer what it was like to be at the match, now the opposite is true: the profusion of advertisements, the liberality of replays and the incessancy of music are directed to replicating the televised experience for the live spectator.
Yet is this a contributor to the emerging dynamic of a game with a large but growingly distant public? For why would I go to a cricket ground for a kind of washed-out replica of what I could see at home?
Certainly, it never seems to have dawned on administrators that part of the pleasure in attending cricket is escaping the enforced passivity of over-advertisement-over-advertisement endured at home in favour of the freedom to look where one pleases and think what one chooses.
For many years, it was possible to admire the Australian commitment to the interests of the live spectator, compared, for example, to England. We charged relatively little for admission, maintained stable schedules, ran big, welcoming and characterful grounds.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Ed Cowan

Check out 
Gideon Haigh in today's Australian:

Australia's latest Test cricketer, Tasmania's Ed Cowan, is a friend of mine. A good friend, too: I've stayed at his home; he's been a guest in mine; I use a bat he gave me when I play for my club in Melbourne; he's the author of a book I helped with the writing of. This is going to be awkward... Ed is not only an accomplished cricketer but a thoroughly good, kind and honourable man, as I became more completely aware when we collaborated on the book that was published a few months ago as In the Firing Line. Ed was an admirer of a book by another Ed, also a friend of mine, Englishman Ed Smith. On and Off the Field was a pithy and perceptive diary of English Ed's 2003 season for Kent, during which he was also chosen to play for England.

Click the link and read on ...

And have a look at  Wayne Smith's defensive (who else has said private school boys can't play top level cricket?) background piece.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Dravid's Bradman Oration

There's been much comment in cricketing circles about the Bradman Oration which Rahul Dravid delivered in Canberra on Wednesday. I saw extracts on TV and have watched the video (which can also be found here )  The transcript is available here .

Well worth watching or reading, not just for the comments on cricket, though they're pretty astute, but for the broader observations about links between Indiaand Australia.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Bracewell leads NZ to narrow win as Australian batting - Warner excepted -crumbles again T2D4

New Zealand 150 & 226 beat Australia 136 & 233 (63.4 ov, Warner 123*, Bracewell 6/40) by 7 runs: T2/2 D4/5 at Hobart. Series shared 1-1, Australia (as holders) retain Trans-Tasman Trophy.

This was a great Test match, and the better side won, so congratulations New Zealand (and apologies for implying that they couldn't do it).

Even when, without Australia adding to its overnight total, Chris Martin and Martin Guptill repeated their double act to dismiss Philip Hughes caught in the slips for the fourth time in as many innings, the match still seemed within the home side's reach.

But the grip loosened as the persistent  Black Cap bowlers plugged away and some Australian batters, eg Usman Khawaja and Ricky Ponting, were afflicted by the NZ disease of wasting solid starts, while others, eg Michael Clarke and Mike Hussey, succumbed cheaply  (the contemporary Australian disease?)  to Doug Bracewell's ability to make the most of the conditions. His 16.4-4-40-6 was the matchwinner but he was well supported by the other quicks, especially Tim Southee.

Amid the Australian collapse David Warner stood more than firm, as Australia disintegrated.  Ponting, Clarke and Hussey all fell to Bracewell at 159, then, after a brief rally, Brad Haddin self destructed, followed quickly by Peter Siddle, James Pattinson and Mitchell Starc. At 9/199 Australia were beaten yet Nathan Lyon showed what might have been had the other lower, not to mention top, order batters showed more resistance. Warner and he moved closer to the target but then Bracewell bowled Lyon, leaving Warner
carrying his bat 123*/170b (14x4) in a losing cause.

The Test will always be remembered first for the close margin and for Australia's last innings collapse, but  Bracewell's 9 wickets, Pattinson's 8 and above all Warner's 123* were outstanding and showed up the disparity of talent within each team. But it was New Zealand who came togtether when it most mattered.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Warner and Hughes set Australia on course for victory, but still a long way to go.

Australia 136 & 0/72 (19ov, Warner 47*) need 169 more runs with 10 2nd innings in hand to defeat New Zealand 150 & 226 (78.3 ov, Taylor 56, Lyon 3/25, Pattinson 3/54, Siddle 3/66) T2/2 D3/5 at Hobart.

Australia's bowlers, aided by some careless batting, took 7/87 in the first, and by far the longest, session of another rain interrupted day. The top six New Zealanders all reached double figures, yet captain Ross Taylor's obdurate 56/169b (6x4) was the highest individual score.

The conditions continued to offer the bowlers some assistance, so a lead of 240 was OK, though a few more runs, as always, would have been handy and, given that Ricky Ponting was called on to bowl, might have been garnered with a little more application. 

When Australia began its chase I'm sure I wasn't the only viewer expecting to see
Phil Hughes snaffled cheaply in the slips. But it hasn't happened so far.  He's batted very watchfully for 20*/64b (3x4) which, with David Warner's  much more ebullient 47*/50b (8x4), laid a solid foundation for a push towards victory, weather permitting tomorrow.

The NZ all pace attack persisted and could, had the captain asked for a review of a close call in favour of Hughes, have picked up a wicket: hotspot showed an edge. Chris Martin 6-2-11-0 was once again stinginess personified, while Trent Boult and today's birthday boy Tim Southee were lively without looking like matchwinners. So far the Black Caps have done surprisingly well without the injured Daniel Vettori, but they may well miss him tomorrow, just as Australia today were grateful today for Nathan Lyon's off spin in the latter half of the NZ innings.

The match is still too close to call so, having made some embarassingly dud predictions of late,  I'm tempted to refrain from doing so... though I've seen too many recent NZ Test teams get into a good position and then let it slide. Which may be happening now.


Saturday, December 10, 2011

Australia (& I) eat humble pie as NZ stay (on top?) in T1

New Zealand 150 & 3/139 (44ov, )  lead Australia 136 (51ov, Siddle 36, Bracewell 3/20, Boult 3/29, Martin 3/46) by 153 runs with 7 second innings in hand: T2/2 D2/5 at Hobart.

OK, I didn't call it properly yesterday but I didn't put the boot into the Black Caps like
Gideon Haigh in The Australian   .did.

In NZ -like conditions (would we all be more comfortable if Tasmania became NZ's West Island?) Australia collapsed in the face of some persistently steady bowling from Chris Martin (37 yo and 3/46 today), Doug Bracewell, a commendable if surprising  for such a trundler 10-3-20-3,. Trent Boult on debut an accurately nippy 13-4-29-3 and Tim Southee, who only took one - crucial -  wicket, Ricky Ponting's accurately self assessed lbw.

When the Kiwis batted the expected (by me) collapse didn't eventuate despite a wobble or two (read 3/73), leaving the match interestingly poised (does this sound too patronising?) in NZ's favour.  I still can't believe that they can (ie have the will to) win but they've shown, much as it pains me to admit it, that they might be able to run Australia close. And leave egg on my, and Gideon Haigh's,faces.


Friday, December 09, 2011

Short day, short NZ innings T2D1

Australia 1/12 (4.2 ov) trail New Zealand 150 (45.5ov, Brownlie 56, Pattinson 5/51, Siddle 3/42) by 138 runs with 9 first innings wickets in hand: T2/2 D1/5 at Hobart.

On paper New Zealand's position doesn't look too good but it's better than looked at one point in the morning session when, after being sent in by Michael Clarke, the top order batting folded, and they were 6/60.

From there Dean Brownlie 56/85b (10x4), as he'd done in T1, led a modest recovery against Australian bowling which made the most of the conditions: a greenish pitch and overcast atmosphere.

James Pattinson had another dream day with 5/51 from 13.5 overs   it's hard to recall his Test match bowling career beginning so sloppily only last week - while Peter Siddle's 3/42 accurately reflected consistently menacing bowling.

150 is by no means a matchwinning score, yet the loss of Phil Hughes cheaply to Chris Martin when Australia batted, showed what might be. Nevertheless you'd have to expect the Australian batting, on form as well as reputation, to obtain a relatively healthy lead even if conditions don't change much over the course of the match.


Sunday, December 04, 2011

Pattinson's curse sends NZ tumbling to defeat. . T1D4

Australia 427 & 1/19/ (2.2 ov) defeated New Zealand 295 & 150 (49.4ov, Brownlie 42, Pattinsson 5/27, Lyon 3/19) by 9 wickets: T1/2, D4/5 at the 'Gabba, Brisbane. Australia lead series 1-0 with 1 Test to play. 

OK, New Zealand's batting wasn't as inept a display as Australia's  47 all out at Cape Town, but it was still pretty poor, even though James Pattinson's bowling was outstanding.  Today he carried on from where he left off on D3, taking three top order wickets in four balls (and nearly completed a hat trick) with the total at 17, still way behind Australia. He took another at 27, after which a couple of modest partnerships featuring Dean Brownlie, whose 42/80b  (4x4) again showed  a bit more skill, grit and determination than his teammates, took the game beyond lunch and the Australian first innings total. But not enough to stop the home team winning in a canter..

Pattinson was named Player of  the Match, ahead of Michael Clarke, for his 11-5-27-5. If he can keep bowling like he did today he could be a force in Australian cricket for a long time (in contrast to his brother who disappeared from the Test scene after one appearance for England).

While the Black Caps had , as they usually do, their moments, they rarely looked like winning, or even drawing, but I did expect a narrower margin than this. The batting was well below par and must pick up by the Second Test if  cricket followers (as opposed to triumphalist boosters ) are to be satisfied.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Normal relations resumed as Australia 132 ahead of NZ on 1st innings: T1D3

New Zealand 295 & 1/10 (7 ov) trail Australia 427 (129.2 ov, Clarke 139, Haddin 80, Ponting 78, Martin 3/89 ) by 122 runs with 9 second inns in hand : T1/2 D3/5 at the 'Gabba Brisbane

While Ricky Ponting, didn't go on to get the century which all his supporters had hoped for, two others whose performances have been under scrutiny , Michael Clarke and  Brad Haddin, did put Australia ahead and, in Clarke's case, to relieve the pressure on him and, in Haddin's, to turn down (if not off) the blowtorch.

New Zealand seem unable to stitch together more than a couple of winning sessions on the trot. Either their batting collapses or, like today, their attack is unable to break through often enough against good batting and they fail to take some crucial catches. While Clarke was the main beneficiary, it was embarassing (and so typical of New Zealand cricket) to see the wicketkeeper Reece Young drop him and then have to go off when another ball hit him in the mouth.  

While Chris Martin, Daniel Vettori and, less often, Tim Southee plugged away the burly Doug Bracewell exemplified the lack of depth of the Kiwi bowling. Yes, he suffered from dropped catches and bowled some Praveen Kumar style balls which swung past the bat (though on TV they didn't look anywhere near the mid 130s kph which the speed gun indicated) but he bowled too many which could be, and usually were, put away.

None of the is to diminish the significance of Clarke's 139/249b (1x6, 19x4), Haddin's 80/145b (2x6, 6x4)  and Ponting's 78/140b (12x4).

To add to their woes New Zealand had to bat out the extended day (no early finish for so called bad light today ) and lost Brendon McCullum cheaply. It will be hard for the Black Caps to win from this position, though if the usual script is replayed we should see some stout resistance from their batters but ultimately Australia will win.


Friday, December 02, 2011

NZ persistence keeps T1 alive despite Australia Ponting regroup

Ausralia 3/154 (46 ov, Ponting 67*) trail New Zealand 295 (82.5 ov, Nettori 96. Brownlie 77*, Lyon 4/69) by 141 runs with 7 first innings wkts in hand T1/2, D2/5 ar the 'Gabba, Brisbane.

Ricky Ponting's aggressively watchful (no oxymoron intended) 67*/123b  (11x4) was IMO  the best innnings of the day, but he'll need to bat on tomorrow, and get some support from his teammates, to convert it, or the team's total, into a matchwinning one.

 Daniel Vettori is no serious cricket follower's idea of a stylist - with the bat that is - but his grittily determined 96/127b (9x4), mostly made in a 158 6th wicket partnership with Dean Brownlie, brought NZ back more into the game, if not to a position of dominance at least much more competitive (and face saving than D1's 5/95. ) Brownlie built his  77*/173b (8x4) more slowly but his supoort of Vettori kept the total moving up. The lower order, a few Tim Southee biffs excepted, didn't add  many as Nathan Lyon exposed their deificencies (and took the bonus wicket of Chris Martin)   but 295 was not a bad score

Neither David Warner nor Phil Hughes lasted long, but Usman Khawaja looked good before he was run out immediately after tea for 38/77b (3x4).. 3/91 wasn't in the Australian script. Ponting and Michael Clarke needed to regroup, which they did, despite a couiple of close calls asgainst the Kiiwi trundlers- Clarke bowled off a Doug Bracewell no ball and Ponting in a close lbw appeal. Neither decision was, according to the current rules which allow for a combination of umpire's call and video replays (in the event of conflict the former taking precedence over the latter), wrong but together they probalby took some of the wind out of the NZ sails.

New Zealand are still in the game, indeed on paper in the stronger position.But if Ponting and Clarke can add another 70 or so tomorrow (which is far from improbable) Australia will be back with a chance...of a victory


Fox Sports highlights

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Advantage Australia as NZ top order collapses: T1D1

New Zealand 5/176 (51 ov, Vettori 45*) v Australia: T1/2 D1/5 at The Gabba Brisbane

Old Kiwi hand and late blooming batter Daniel Vettori in an 80* run 6th wicket partnership with newcomer Dean Brownlie has (sort of) restored New Zealand's position from a perilous 5/96 which threatened to make this Test a short one.

James Pattinson and Mitchell Starc both had success, even if they, especially  Pattinson, at times betrayed their debutants' nervousness. Not surprisingly it was the relative veteran Peter Siddle who kept things in check, taking the first wicket of the innings at 44 and thereafter keeping things fairly tight.

Thanks to Vettori's pugnacious 45*/66b (3x4)  and Brownlie's more measured 32*/89b (4x4)  NZ are still in with a chance...of keeping some interest in the match. Victory for them is, on today's showing, far away while a draw seems likeliet if there is further inference from the weather. .

Update 2 December

Apologies for omitting the link to the scorecard Click herefor it.

Gideon Haigh  is reporting the Test for The Australian . Need I say more? Worth reading.