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Sunday, December 13, 2015

Australia thrash West Indies in very onesided Test: T1D4

Australia 4/583d (Voges 269*, S Marsh 182) beat West Indies 223 (70ov, Bravo 108/177b/20x4, Roach 31, Hazlewood 18-5-45-4, Lyon 3/43 & 148 (36.3ov, Brathwaite 94/122b/1x6 13x4, Pattinson 8-0-27-5, Hazlewood 3/33) by an innings & 212 runs: T1/3 D3/5 at Hobart. Australia lead series 1-0. Player of the Match: Adam Voges.

West Indies followed on and folded lamely yet again, this time principally due James Pattinson, who'd looked underdone on the previous day. Apart from Darren Bravo in their first innings and Kraigg Brathwaite in their second, the team lacked the desire and perhaps the guts to stand up to a proficient but by no means (except on the scoreboard here) outstanding Australia side.  

Can the visitors improve? Hard to see how with the current talent pool. I know that I predicted a similar fate for the New Zealanders a few weeks ago and that they proved me wrong, but I just can't see how the West Indies can lift themselves. No one expects them to win but tighter contests would at least keep some interest in the cricket following public for the remaining two Tests. It's's all very well to criticise the modest turnout at Hobart, but who (including Cricket Australia who must have seen this fiasco coming) expects anything like the huge numbers we've come to expect to show up at the MCG on Boxing Day, or watch on TV? IMO 40,000 would be a very good crowd. And a blow to the reputation of Test cricket and cricket in general.


Friday, December 11, 2015

Voges & Marsh pile on runs, then WI top order leave Bravo to restore modicum of self respect: T1D3

West Indies 6/207 (65ov, Bravo 94*/159b/17x4, Roach 31*/89b/3x4)  trail Australia 4/583d (114ov, Voges 269*/285b/33x4, S Marsh 182/266b/1x6 15x4, Warner 64, Warrican 28-1-158-3) by 376 runs: T1/3 D2/5 at Hobart.

Adam Voges and Shaun Marsh continued to dominate a lacklustre West Indies team, adding a further 132 - 449 in total - and breaking many more records before they were parted. 

When West Indies batted there were a few flickers, and one pillar - Dwayne Bravo- of resistance against a generally tight (if James Pattinson looked a tad underdone) Australia attack. Nathan Lyon bowled particularly well (and took a great return catch) before Bravo and Kemar Roach showed a bit of backbone and began to restore a little self respect to their team. 

6/119 ( the last a wrong but unreviewed lbw decision against Jason Holder) looked like unconditional surrender; 6/207 may save some WI face but is unlikely to prevent an Australian victory.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Australia 3/438 dominate West Indies on first day of series: T1D1

Australia 3/438 (89ov, Voges 174*/204b/19x4, S Marsh 139*/205b/12x4, Warner 64/61b/11x4) v West Indies: T1/3 D1/5 at Hobart. Toss: Australia.

West Indies were competitive until lunch, when they had Australia 3/121, including Steve Smith and David Warner. Thereafter Adam Voges aggressively and Shaun Marsh more methodically exposed the limitations of  the West Indies attack in an unbroken 316 4th wicket partnership which has set the Test on course, as many including me have predicted, for a crushing home win.

Yes, New Zealand, who also amassed 400+ today at home to Sri Lanka) regrouped after their First Test drubbing. I didn't think their revival here was possible, and predicted as much, but I don't think that the lacklustre West Indies can revive, so I'll predict - for the second time this season - a 3-0 Australia series win. Yet even I would be pleased to see more evidence of guts and determination that we saw from them today. Otherwise Test cricket will be effectively over this season.


Friday, December 04, 2015

Reflections on Australia's 2-0 series win v NZ

Australia 224 (Nevill 66, Smith 53) & 7/187 (S Marsh 49, Boult 5/60) def New Zealand 202 (Latham 50)  & 208 (Santner 45, Hazlewood 6/70) by 3wkts with 2 days to spare: T3/3 D3/5 at Adelaide Oval. Australia won Trans Tasman series 2-0. Player of the match: Josh Hazlewood, Player of the series: David Warner.

A low scoring Test concluded, unusually (perhaps unprecedently for Adelaide) in 3 days. Australia made relatively hard work of securing victory after having NZ 6/116 just after play began on D3. The Black Caps tail, marshalled by Mitchell Santner on debut, fought hard against an Australia attack minus injured Mitchell Starc, but in the face of Josh Hazlewood's skill and persistence were unable to set the 200+ target which might have stretched Australia's relatively thin-looking batting against the pink ball under lights. Trent Boult belatedly showed what a good bowler he is but Shaun Marsh, supported by his brother Mitchell in a crucial 5th wicket partnership, guided Australia to a victory which, if not particularly convincing, was (as two wickets fell close to the target) more comfortable than it appeared. 

Only once did NZ hold the initiative: in Australia's first innings when the home team were 8/116 and had a DRS review turned down by the 3rd umpire in the face of a lot of evidence which would have made the score 9/118. Yes, it was galling for everyone at the ground and watching on TV (where the audio revealed even more of umpire Llong's uncertainty), to wait what seemed like an eternity (perhaps 5 mins) for the decision. But NZ should have refocused and got on with it. By persisting with mostly spin when the pace bowlers had shown themselves (notwithstanding 2 wickets in an over from Mark Craig) more penetrative, they let Peter Nevill with support from Nathan Lyon and Starc (on one good leg) lead Australia to what in Adelaide Test terms still looked inadequate, but turned out to be the highest total of the match.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Day 3 finish - and Australian victory- almost certain as wickets tumble on D2

New Zealand 202 & 5/116 (37ov, Taylor 32, Hazlewood 16-5-32-3, M Marsh 2/44) lead Australia 224 (72.1ov, Nevill 66/110b/8x4, Smith 53/114b/5x4, Lyon 34, Starc 24*, Bracewell 12.1-3-18-3, Boult 2/41, Craig 2/53) by 94 runs with 5 2inns wkts in hand; T3/3 D2/5 at Adelaide Oval.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Pink ball, pink sky:Australia grasp initiative after bowlers destroy early NZ resistance in first day/night Test: T3 D1

Australia 2/54 (22ov, Smith 24*) trail New Zealand 202 (65.2ov, Latham 50/103b/7x4), Santner 31, Watling 29, Williamson 22, Taylor 21) by 148 runs with 8 1st inns wkts in hand: T3/3 D1/5 at Adelaide. NZ won toss and chose to bat. 

In many ways this was an island of traditional Test cricket in an ocean of change. 12 wickets for 256 runs in a day seems more like 1950 than 2015, but Test cricket under lights, and with a pink ball to boot, would have been inconceivable in the midC20.

I want to write more, but I'm tired after a long day at the cricket, so will leave sketchy summary for now, and return to the topic when I'm refreshed.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Johnson bows out as Test fizzles out in draw: T2 D5

Australia 9/559 dec & 7/385 dec (103ov, Smith 138/185b/18x4, Voges 119/240b/16x4, Nevill 35, Johnson 29, Starc 28*, Warner 24, Southee 25-4-97-4, Boult 2/77) drew with New Zealand 624 & 2/104 (28ov, Taylor 36*, Williamson 32*, Johnson 2/20): T2/3 D5/5 at the WACA, Perth. Australia lead series 1-0. Player of the match: Ross Taylor.

Steve Smith and Adam Voges batted Australia to a comfortable position before Peter Nevill and Mitchells Johnson and Starc took them to safety. New Zealand had little chance of chasing down 321 in 48 overs, so the players went through the motions until rain interrupted and then, after Johnson's two wicket last hurrah, bad light ended the Test.

After their mauling at the Gabba New Zealand would have been very pleased with their revival, and satisfied with a drawing a match thanks largely to Ross Taylor and Kane Williamson's batting. Australia will need to make changes for Adelaide because of Johnson's retirement (a pity we won't see him here) and Usman Khawaja's injury: there is debate about who the replacements should be (I think Peter  Siddle should be one of them). The Kiwis should, if they wish, be able to field an unchanged side, but their attack remains weak and the tail long, and they may not have the underpinning of big innings from 
Taylor, Williamson or perhaps Brendon McCullum to keep them competitive.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Taylor 290 takes NZ to lead before Smith & Voges punch back with tons: T2 D4

Australia 9/559dec & 2/258 (63ov, Smith 131*/170b/17x4, Voges 101*/180b/15x4) lead New Zealand 624 (153.5 ov, Taylor 290/374b/43x4, Richardson 166, Starc 37-7-119-4 , Lyon 3/107) by 193 runs with 8 2nd inns wkts in hand: T2/3 D4/5 at the WACA, Perth.

Another high scoring day saw Steve Smith and Adam Voges regain the initiative for Australia after Ross Taylor's magnificent 290 took New Zealand to a 65 run 1st innings lead. 

The pitch has deteriorated little and the bowlers of both sides struggled, though Mitchell Starc less so than the others, to cut through. Yet this shouldn't detract from Taylor's achievement: a quality innings which brought his team back into the Test and series and which showed Australians just how good a batter he is. He deserved to make 300 (and might have reached it had Tim Southee and Trent Boult been able to give him more of the strike).

As Smith, especially, and Voges became more assured against an at best steady NZ attack my thoughts turned once again to whether either side can win from here. Much as I'd like to see a close finish, I can't see it happening here unless Australia set the Black Caps a tempting target which their aggressive batsmen can chase down or fail in the attempt as the home bowlers combine to cut through them. I'll venture to predict a draw.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Taylor's 235* turns Test: T2 D3

New Zealand 6/510 (129ov, Taylor 235*/308b/34x4, Williamson 166/250b/24x4, Latham 36,  McCullum 27, Starc 2/83) trail Australia 9/559dec by 49 with 4 1st inns wkts in hand: T2/3 D3/5 at WACA, Perth.

Ross Taylor batted through the day, adding 265 for the third wicket with Kane Williamson and another 158 with the middle and lower order, turning the Test, if not on its head then certainly denting Australia's hopes of victory (and exposing the error of my prediction).

After a poor first Test and a scratchy beginning on D2 Taylor played himself into form against Australia's attack,which was persistent rather than penetrative on a very flat WACA wicket. His cover driving was excellent: so many strokes timed and placed to beat the field and speed to the boundary. He gave little indication of fatigue: today was not as hot as the first two days, but he has been on the field almost throughout the match. 

Williamson continued in his First Test mode: judicious aggression with barely a false stroke. So it was surprising to see him miscue Josh Hazlewood on 166 when it looked as if he'd go on forever. At that point-  3/352- New Zealand, with a long tail, weren't out of trouble but Taylor and Brendon McCullum briskly accumulated another 80, then Taylor mustered the others to take the total beyond 500.

The pitch is still playing well so it's hard to see a result other than a draw: neither team may be inclined to take the risks which would probably accompany a full throttle pursuit of victory. 

Saturday, November 14, 2015

At last a more even day- but Australia still on top:T2D2

New Zealand 2/140 (42ov, Williamson 70*/121b/10x4, Latham 36/ 85b/ 6x4,Taylor 26*/44b/5x4) trail Australia 9/559b (133ov, Warner 253/286b/2x6 24x4, Khawaja 121, Voges 41, Burns 40, Marsh 34, Craig 3/123, Bracewell 2/81, Henry 2/105, Boult 2/123) by 419 with 8 1st inns wkts in hand: T2/3 D2/5 at WACA, Perth.

Once David Warner was dismissed early in the first session - for a magnificent 253- Australia batted on from 3/427 secure in the knowledge that they already had a good score on the board, yet perhaps uncertain of when to declare. When, after a lower order acceleration and consequent gifting of cheap wickets to the long suffering NZ trundlers, the declaration came the Black Caps lost an early wicket but didn't crumble and kept the match alive for another day, or maybe two or three.

Pity that Warner didn't carry on, but 253/286b speaks for itself, and if you'd watched it you'd have  twigged that you'd seen a master at the top of his game - and a few years more to improve upon it. 

Thereafter there were some glimpses of class from Adam Voges and Mitchell Marsh, and some reckless head in the air batting, but no commanding performances. 

That the expected NZ batting collapse didn't happen was due to (you guessed it) Kane Williamson's 70* with support from Tom Latham ( caught off Nathan Lyon for a determined 36) and an initially scratchy but increasingly assured Ross Taylor. The Australian bowlers didn't give too much away, but didn't make the deep incision into the NZ batting body that I'd thought they would. But with a long tail (Mark Craig at #7) and another 369 to make for a 1st inns lead this still looks Australia's Test.

Australia 2/412 (Warner 244*) crush NZ: T2 D1

Australia 2/416 (90ov, Warner 244*/272 b/ 2x6 22x4, Khawaja 121/186b/2x6 11x4, Burns 40) v New Zealand: T2/3 D1/5 at WACA, Perth. Toss: Australia.

On a very good batting wicket on a hot Perth day, David Warner played the innings of his cricketing life (so far) to propel Australia to a dominant position and leave New Zealand's attack once again defanged and the series almost certainly lost.

If you are able, watch video highlights of Warner's innings.

Usman Khawaja, pugnacious against a wilting attack, and Joe Burns, in another century opening stand, did their bit too, as, unfortunately, did the umpiring. 

The Black Caps were ill served by a howler by umpire Llong, who failed to detect an edge to the keeper by Khawaja when there were no review shots left in the NZ locker.  One reason for this was the closeness of at least one DRS decision which relied on Hawkeye to confirm by a whisker an "umpire's call". Why a team which is narrowly deprived of a favourable decision should lose a DRS review seems grossly unfair, as other commentators have pointed out. In this instance the would have hit the wicket, though a fraction more than 50% would have missed it. 

That said, even if that decision, and Llong's blunder, had gone NZ's way the day would almost certainly have belonged to Australia, if more along the lines of 3 or 4/350. In either the real or the alternative scenario there is no doubting who has the upper hand. 

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Australia win easily as rain stays away: T1D5

Australia 4/556d & 4/262d def New Zealand 317 & 295 (88.3ov, McCullum 80/80b/2x6 10x4, Williamson 59, Lyon 3/63, Marsh 2/25, Hazlewood 2/68, Starc 2/69) by 208 runs: T1/3 D5/5 at the Gabba, Brisbane. Australia lead series 1-0. Player of the match: David Warner.

Only a go down with all guns blazing run a ball 80 from captain Brendon McCullum and a 46 run last wicket partnership delayed the inevitable Australian win at the Gabba. A draw caused by rain wails have been an unjust result, and the Black Caps, with Kane Williamson dismissed on D4, would have required a lot of good fortune and fortitude to have batted through a full last day.

Australia may have taken longer than they'd hoped, but the bowlers did the job. Nathan Lyon bowled well as I thought also did the Mitchells Johnson and Starc, if not at their destructive best. They must be looking forward to the extra assistance which the WACA pitch may offer them when the series resumes on Friday.

New Zealand have both form and fitness worries. The attack, especially the spearhead Trent Boult, was below par and it seems that the replacement cupboard may not be well stocked. It's hard to see them regrouping from here. 

Sunday, November 08, 2015

New Zealand rely on Brisbane weather to gain draw: T1 D4

New Zealand 317 & 3/142 (53ov, Williamson 59/74b/5x4, Latham 29, Guptill 23, Taylor 20* need 362 with 7 2nd inns wkts in hand to beat Australia 4/556d & 4/264d: T1/3 D4/5 at the Gabba, Brisbane.

As expected, Australia declared at their overnight score, leaving New Zealand an impossible task of making over 500 to win the Test, and an extremely difficult one of drawing it...but for the weather.

Once again the top three,p - Martin  Guptill, Tom Latham and Kane Williamson-.made a reasonable fist of hanging on, with  Guptill's 23/133b stonewalling a standout. But they are all out, Williamson for another classy yet by his standards brief innings, leaving a shaky middle and lower order to hold on, and hoping to hold out for the weather to give them the draw they so richly don't deserve.

Australia pile on runs as Williamson only ray of sunshine in NZ gloom: T1D3

Australia 4/556dec & 4/264 (42ov, Burns 129/123b/ 4x6 13x4, Warner 116/113b/2x6 8x4. Craig 3/78) lead New Zealand 317 (82.2ov, Williamson 140/178b/24x4, Latham 47, Watling 32, Starc 17.2-4-57-4, Johnson 3/105) by 503 runs with 6 2nd inns wickets in hand: T1/3 D3/5 at the Gabba, Brisbane.

Kane Williamson gave New Zealand a degree of self-respect and a first innings total sufficient to make Australia bat again instead of enforcing the follow on. Then Joe Burns and David Warner once again put the Black Caps attack to the sword and bludgeon, setting their team up for as close to an inevitable victory as it's possible to imagine.

That said, NZ's innings showed that they do have at least one good in form player and some handy, if not top flight, ones eg Tom Latham, Martin Guptill & BJ Watling. The bowling is a worry, though. Trent Boult has disappointed, Tim Southee is injured and none of those used looked likely to restrain the rampaging Burns and Warner.

So with three days played, the inevitable (subject to weather) Australian victory should come on the fourth day.

Friday, November 06, 2015

Australia maintain dominance despite brief NZ resistance T1D2

New Zealand 5/157 (45ov, Williamson 55*/70b/9x4, Latham 47/93b/3x4, Starc 2/30, Johnson 2/52) trail Australia 4/556 dec,( 130.2 ov, Khawaja 174/239b, 2x6 16x4, Warner 163,Voges 83*/127b/11x4, Burns 71, Smith 48/78b/,8x4) by 399 runs with 5 1st inns wkts in hand:) T21/3D2/5 at the Gabba .

Another very. good day for Australia, for whom Usman Khawaja and Adam Voges batted on freely before Steve Smith declared. The top three in the New Zealand order showed some fortitude, but only Kane Williamson survived until stumps as Mitchells Johnson and Starc got their second winds  and took two wickets apiece, regaining whatever initiative Australia might have lost.

Australia batted imperiously, and took the New Zealand attack apart. Trent Boult bowled better today, but he could hardly have bowled any worse than he did on D1. Tim Southee, the pick of a poor bunch, is now injured, Doug Bracewell was at best steady, while Mark Craig was unable to bowl a consistent line and length to optimise the turn he sometimes extracted from the pitch.

Ross Taylor and Brendon McCullum looked more like lower order debutants than NZ's most experienced batters. They both, especially Taylor, were all at sea against Johnson, who removed them in short order at a time when Richardson was in desperate need of support. 

NZ are now 399 in arrears, with most of their batting gone, and their confidence undoubtedly dented. 
The best they can hope for is a draw, and that will require assistance from the weather not to mention much more second innings resolution from all the batters. Unlikely.

Thursday, November 05, 2015

Australia pummel lightweight NZ attsack: T1 D1

Australia 2/389 (88ov, Warner 163/224b/1x6 19x4, Khawaja 102*/133b/2x6 10x4, Burns 71/120b/12x4/Smith 41*/54b/7x4) v New Zealand: T1/3 D1/5 at the Gabba, Brisbane. Toss: Australia.

Australia powered ahead after winning the toss at the Gabba and batting on a good wicket in conditions which the New Zealand attack was unable to use as effectively as some had predicted.

David Warner and Joe Burns played watchfully in the opening overs, where Tim Southee bowled tightly without beating the bat much, then accelerated as the other bowlers proved unable to sustain a consistent line and length.

At lunch Australia were 0/100 and such was the quality of Warner and Burns's batting I was tempted to call the match, and perhaps even the series, to Australia then.

Not much happened thereafter to change my mind. Burns was out for an aggressively fluent 71, Warner sailed past his century and 150, and looked set for many more when out of the blue he was well caught at slip by Ross Taylor.

Then Usman Khawaja. He'd been tried in the Test team before but had never broken through to cement a place. Today he confirmed, that he ia a hugely talented batsman with an unbroken century scvored at a rate marginallyfaster than the dashers Warner and Steve Smith, whose appearance at 2/311 was an ideal situation for him to deply his talent to build the Australan innings furthe.

So, is it too early to csll match and series to Australias? Perhaps, but New Zealand cannot afford another day remotely approaching the shambles that was today.


November is now a popular month in which to play Test matches. Today, which is also my birthday, three were in progress; this one at the Gabba, Pakistan v Engalnd at Shrjah (won bythe "home" team) and day 1 of  what looks to be, judging by a few minutes' TV viewing, an intriguing Inda v South Africa fixture.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Something for everyone: Australia win T5, hand back Ashes to England

Australia 481 def England 149 & 286 (101.4ov, Cook 85, Buttler 42, Moeen Ali 35, Siddle 24.4-11-35-4, Lyon 2/53, M Marsh 2/56) by an innings & 46 runs: T5D4 at The Oval. England win series 3-2 and regain the Ashes. Player of the match: Steven Smith; Player of the series: 
Joe Root.

The forecast rain came when Australia had removed Mark Wood and Jos Buttler, and on TV looked to be bucketing down, raising hopes or fears, depending on which side you supported, of a wasshout draw.

But it passed, play eventually resumed and Australia (Peter Siddle to be precise) inevitably if not as quickly as they'd have liked, took the last two wickets, and the satisfaction of a crushing victory in bright sunshine.

England of course had already achieved the satisfaction of  recovering the Ashes. The post match celebration of this duly (and properly) overshadowed Australia's dead rubber win. An England player deserved to be names player of the series, and was. I thought that player should have been
Stuart Broad, not Joe Root. Yes, both did very well, but in my opinion Broad maintained a consistently high standard, even if he appeared a little weary in this Test. He may have bowled a few bad balls, but did he bowl a bad spell?  I can't recall one.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Australia proceed steadily towards victory, despite Cook's resistance: T5D3

England 149 (48.4ov, Moeen Ali 30, Wood 24, Cook 22, Johnson 8.4-4-21-3, M Marsh 9-2-30-3, Siddle 2/32, Lyon 2/40) & 6/203 (79ov, Cook 85/234b/11x4, Buttler 33*/80b/3x4, Lyon 2/52, Siddle 16-10-14-1, Smith 1-0-7-1, Marsh 1/28, Johnson 1/51) need 129 more runs to avoid an innings defeat: T5/5 D3/5 at The Oval.

Once England's tail had wagged a little more and Mitchell Johnson had removed the principal waggers Moeen Ali and Mark Wood, Michael Clarke went against his previous practice and relied on his commonsense to enforce the follow on.

England, or more specifically Alistair Cook, made a better fist of things at the second attempt. But Cook's dismissal, caught at short leg off Steven Smith in the closing minutes of the day's play, must surely have, barring very heavy rain, sealed their fate, but not of course their recovery of the Ashes.

Cook's judicious strokeplay and exemplary (until that mistake) contrasted with the lack thereof of most of his teammates. A few of them played one or two good strokes, but none of the top order came close to matching Cook. Only Jos Buttler (who isn't, on his form thus far in the series a bona fide top order batter) managed to survive against the unrelenting Australian attack, in which Peter Siddle's economy was the highlight for me. I didn't think he was up to it, but am happy to acknowledge my error of judgment, unlike Shane Warne who on TV has continued to pooh-pooh him as a medium pacer. Some medium pacer, say I.

If all goes to plan the Test should finish on day 4. Even if things don't work out quite as Australia hope they have a considerable margin of safety in terms of runs and, maybe, time. The major threat is rain, which is forecast,as  I understand, for each of the last two days, though not for the entire days's play. Australia should win this one from here, but if England manage to hang on for a draw it won't be the first time that English weather has spoilt proceedings. Let's wait and see.


Australia keep us wondering...why they've not been this good more often: T5D2

England 8/107 (40ov, Cook 22, Marsh 3/18, Siddle 2/18, Lyon 2/32) trail Australia 481 (125.1ov, Smith 143, Voges 76, Starc 58, Finn 3/90, Moeen Ali 3/102, Stokes 3/133) by 374 runs: T5D2 at The Oval.

Another day to Australia as Steve Smith and Adam Voges kept England in the field before a few wickets tumbled, then Mitchell Starc hit a quickfire 58 as the last three wickets added 105. 481 looked a good total but not, I thought, as good as it might have been bearing in mind instances in the last decade where teams have made 500+ in the first innings and still lost.

But these were in Australia.The Oval pitch seemed more benign than many close to it expected, but after England fell apart when they batted, it appeared as if its demons had not been tamed. Yet this understates the difference in quality between the two attacks: Australia focused, driven by Peter Siddle and Mitchell Marsh (and with each other bowler doing their bit); England, with Stuart Broad used sparingly (to preserve him for future series?), sub-par.

From here Australia should win. The weather apparently threatens to disrupt proceedings on days 4 & 5, so Michael Clarke needs to break with recent Australian and enforce the follow on.

Disclosure: I had a long day on Friday and was disappointed that I fell asleep (through fatigue, not boredom) when England batted and thus missed all 8 wickets,  I did see some highlights and replays: enough to get an idea of how well Australia bowled, and how vulnerable England are when put under the pump as they were on this day.


Friday, August 21, 2015

Better too late than never in this Ashes series as Warner & Rogers lay foundation for Smith: T5D1

Australia 3/287 (79.4ov, Warner 85/131b/11x4, Smith 78*/132b/1x6 9x4, Voges 47*/87/8x4, Rogers 43/100b/7x4) v England T5/5 D1/5 at The Oval, London. England won toss and sent Australia in to bat. England: unchanged; Australia: M Marsh, Siddle in, S Marsh, Hazlewood out.

David Warner and Chris Rogers hung on grittily until lunch against some sharp England bowling, especially (again) that of Stuart Broad who began with a 5-3-4-0 (initially 4-3-1-0) spell which tested the pair's judgment and resolve, but failed to part them.

0/82 at lunch in English conditions was English Test cricket at its best, and  not only because the openers had responded so well. I exhaled a sigh of relief as the players walked off, relieved that Australia hadn't imploded once more, but well aware that its brittle middle order needed, unless the Warner-Rogers stand went on and on, to show more than they'd done in most of tis series.

Well, it did (Michael Clarke's 15 excepted). After Rogers, and then Warner, fell Steve Smith stepped in, and up. He had his scratchy moments (and I'm not referring to his restlessness before facing the bowling) but he persevered and in time, as he got his eye in and took the measure of the home attack, flourished' leaving Australia, at the end of a day curtailed by bad light, comfortably placed to at least save the Test (which no Australian supporter would wish for) on with what looks (perhaps through rose tinted spectacles0 a half decent chance of winning the dead rubber.


Thursday, August 20, 2015

Something to play for in Clarke's last Test?

There seems to have been little enthusiasm among Australian supporters for the Fifth Test : get it over and done with is the impression I've gained.

A rain interrupted draw against a modestly credentialled Northamptonshire (who were boosted by a ton from a former S Aust U19 player) at least provided a breathing space -as was the rule rather than the exception in the old days - for the two national sides. It also showed Patrick Cummins's (remember him?) potential with bat (82* to lead a much needed lower order revival) and ball. It has also given him a place in the XI for the march which will begin shortly, replacing Josh Hazlewood, and why not say I.

I'd prefer to see a get over it mentality to take over, accompanied by a full blown attack upon England, who must be more than satisfied with their efforts to date. 

And of course it's Michael Clarke's farewell. He has adopted a more positive attitude than most towards this occasion, yet has continued to emphasise the impact of his batting failures upon his team's performances. He has some point, but there are other matters needing attention. 

A seaming pitch has been promised, so is another short Test looming? We shall see, but in any event hope that Australia put up a better fight than they've done everywhere except at Lord's. 

Monday, August 10, 2015

Game, series and Ashes to England, then Clarke announces retirement:T4 D3

England 391 def Australia 60 & 253 (72.4ov, Warner 64, Rogers 52, Voges 51*/118/7x4, Stokes 21-8-36-6, Wood 3/69, Broad 1/36) by an inns & 78 runs: T4/5 D3/5. England lead Ashes series 3-1. Player of the match: Stuart Broad.

The end, though not the actual result, came sooner than Australian supporters probably expected, as Ben Stokes and Mark Wood made short work of the Australia tail, leaving Adam Voges unbeaten with by far his highest score of the series.

Enough of that for now.

In the post match Channel 9 interviews Shane Warne sensitively elicited Michael Clarke's retirement from Test cricket announcement. Much as I'd hoped that Clarke would (1) make a big score in this Test  and (2) remain as Australia's captain beyond this series, (1) didn't happen and (2) won't happen. A double pity. 

More anon.

Friday, August 07, 2015

Broad 8/15 scythes through Australia - all out 60 before lunch- then Root 124* confirms England dominance:T4 D1 to

England 4/274 (65ov, Root 124*/158b/1x6 19x4, Bairstow 74/105b/12x4, Cook 43, Starc 3/73) lead Australia 60 (18.3ov, Extras 14, Johnson 13, Broad 9.3-5-15-8) by 214 with 6 !st inns wkts in hand: T4/5 D1/5 at Trent Bridge, Nottingham. Toss: England, who sent Australia in.  England XI: Wood in for Anderson (injured); Australia XI{  S Marsh replaced M Marsh.

Stuart Broad bowled magnificently, inducing an appalling, if not entirely inexplicable, batting collapse before lunch. Australia's embarrassing 60 all out, apart from all the records it broke, has effectively allowed England to win the Test and thereby reclaim the Ashes.

If there were any doubts about this they were dispelled by Alistair Cook and Joe Root who took England into the lead after two early wickets fell, and then Root and Johnny Bairstow's  173 run 4th wicket stand.  This also exposed the limitations of the four man frontline bowling attack, which in turn questioned the competence of the selectors. In my opinion Adam Voges should have been replaced by Shaun Marsh, leaving Mitchell Marsh in the eleven (unless the selectors followed my wilder thoughts and restored Shane Watson, or Brad Haddin, or even Peter Siddle)

England had the better of the conditions- overcast at the outset turning to intermittent sunshine in the afternoon-  but this does little if anything to excuse Australia's technical deficiencies. It is one thing to look to bat aggressively but it is folly, as so many,perhaps all, Australians did, to fail to tailor your responses to the conditions by, for example, not going so hard at the ball as you would do on your
home pitches.

Magnificent as Broad's bowling was, his team supported him well. Mark Wood had David Warner caught behind in his first over after Broad had removed Rogers and Steve Smith in his first. 3/10 was only marginally better than Australia's 3/2 at the start of the 2010 Adelaide Test, but on this occasion was no recovery.

And England's fielding was superlative, Ben Stokes took the catch of the series when he caught Adam Voges in the slip cordon - watch it on TV or YouTube where it will surely be replayed many times.  My favourite was Alistair Cook's Aussie Rules style mark to remove Michael Clarke wafting outside off stump for an undistinguished 10 - the third highest individual contribution' after extras 14 and Mitchell Johnson's 13.

I watched England overtake Australia's paltry offering in the English afternoon but slept soundly through, and beyond, the last session. No nightmares during my slumbers: I'd already had them in real time via my TV screen.


Saturday, August 01, 2015

England, as expected, win convincingly to take 2-1 lead: T3 D3

England 281 & 2/124 (32.1ov, Bell 65*/90b/10x4, Root 38*) beat Australia 136 & 265 (79.1ov, Warner 77, Nevill 59/147b/7x4, Starc 58/108b/1x6 6x4, Finn 21-3-79-6) by 8 wkts; T3/5 D3/5 at Edgbaston. England lead Ashes series 2-1. Player of the match: Steven Finn.

It was inevitable, given the match situation at the start of play, that England would win. It was small comfort to Australia that they made England wait two sessions to claim victory. The greater part of that comfort came form the lower order batting, not the bowling, as Peter Nevill and Mitchell Starc showed more resistance than those ahead of them in the order.

When England began its modest run chase most Australian supporters would have wished for a tight contest. There was a sniff of that when both openers fell, but Ian Bell, tasking advantage of a letoff in the slips, struck out again and saw them home.

Jimmy Anderson will miss the next Test, and perhaps the rest of the series. For all the talk about his record, and properly acknowledging his great bowling the first innings of this match, I believe that Stuart Broad has been the most consistent threat across the three Tests to date.

And Australia? Adam Voges should be replaced, and perhaps one or two others - but not Michael Clarke who I believe is a class batter, despite his bodily infirmities (about which there has been surprisingly little media comment). Remember the saying: form is temporary, class is permanent.


Friday, July 31, 2015

Australia narrowly avoid defeat in two days...but still face big loss: T3D2

Australia 136 & 7/168 (55ov, Warner 77/62b/11x4, Nevill 37*, Finn 13-3-45-5) lead England 281 (67.1ov, Root 63/75b/1x6 9x4, Moeen Ali 59/78b/11x4, Bell 53, Cook 34, Broad 31, Lyon 3/36, Hazlewood 3/74, Johnson 2/66, Starc 2/71) by 23 runs with 3 2inns wkts in hand: T3,5 D2/5 at Edgbaston.

When Mitchell Johnson removed Johnny Bairstow and Ben Stokes in the space of three balls, England were 5/142, a lead of only 9. But that turned out to be the high water mark of Australia's day as the bowlers were unable to confine England to a total around 200-220 which the seam bowler friendly conditions (albeit with more sunshine) seemed to the experts and me to be both desirable and achievable.

But it was not to be. Joe Root took his score to 63, Jos Buttler went cheaply before Moeen Ali and Stuart Broad, the latter looking more comfortable with the bat rhan he'd done for some time, added 87 for the 8th wicket: no record (as far as I know) but very significant in the context of this Test.

Australia batted again, Chris Rogers fell cheaply but David /Warner played his natural game and raised hopes ( or wishful thoughts) that he might lead the team to set a target which would challenge England batting last.

But this wasn't to be either.  Steve Smith, Michael Clarke (a real worry this), Adam Voges and Mitchell Marsh compiled 17 runs between them as Steven Finn, who was deemed unselectable during England's last tour here (18 months ago), cleaned them all up: 5/92. When Warner fell to Jimmy Anderson, who later walked off injured, Austrslia were 6/111. Peter Nevill marshalled the tail, and has taken the Test into a third day, but a likely short day ending in a heavy Australian defeat and a 1-2 series deficit.

Tonight I will grit my teeth, pour myself a glass of red, and watch England complete a well deserved victory. This doesn't mean that I believe that the Ashes will change hands, especially given the roller coaster nature of the first three Tests ( not dissimilar to the three Test series in Soiuth Africa last year. But then we had Ryan Harris. But now England may not have Anderson. Enough wishful thinking for now!


Thursday, July 30, 2015

Anderson leads demolition of Australia: T3D1

England 3/133 (29ov, Bell 53/56b/10x4, Cook 34, Root 30*, Lyon 2/3) are  3 runs behind Australia's 1st inns of 136 (36.4ov, Rogers 52/89b//9x4, Anderson 14.4-2-47-6, Broad 2/44, Finn 2/38) T3/5 D1/5 at Edgbaston. Toss: Australia.

Australia never really recovered from 3/34. Jimmy Anderson. the old hand who many wondered whether should have been retained after poor figures at Lord's, struck first by removing David Warner then Steven Finn, restored to the Test XI after a 2 year absence, used helpful conditions to remove D
Steve Smith and Michael Clarke cheaply. Chris Rogers batted through this with his wait-for-the-ball -to-hit- and-hit-it hard-into-a-gap strokeplay and Adam Voges looked solid until lunch. But after that interval,  which was prolonged by rain, Anderson returned and, in collaboration with Stuart Broad, whose wicket of Rogers at 110 removed England's last remaining significant obstacle, took the last 7 wickets for 59.

England batted and, but for more rain and some loose strokes, would probably already have passed Australia's first innings 136. Ian Bell proved me wrong  ( I admit to thinking he should have been omitted) but has preserved, if not perhaps secured, his place for the rest of the series. Which team will benefit most from this remains to be seen.

Australia's middle order batting was patethic. Voges, whose 16 was the second highest score of the innings, the rest (no names, no pack drill) were appalling - read the Cricinfo reports for for how they fell. Yes, the conditions - weather and a friendlier pitch for bowlers than in the preceding Tests- helped, but the application, shot selection etc was below Test standard, even for the Edgbaston pitch and the conditions.

When England batted, the quick bowlers made little impact either in the wicket taking department or in observing the fundamentals of line and length , as they had by and large done at Lord's. They seemed to have slept through the onfield masterclass which Anderson had given earlier in the day.

The likeliest winners now are either England or the rain.


Monday, July 20, 2015

England meltdown as Australia continue resurgence to level series 1-1: T2D4

Australia 8/566 d & 2/254d (49ov Warner 83/116b/12x4, Smith 58/48b/9x4, Rogers 49 ret hurt/77b6x4 beat England 312 & 103 (37ov, Broad 25, Johnson 10-3-27-3, Hazlewood 8-2-20-2, Lyon 9-3-27-2, M Marsh 1/8, Starc 1/16) by 405 runs: T2/5 D4/5 at Lord's. Series level 1-1; Player of match: Steven Smith.

Australia batted on with little trouble apart from Chris Rogers's retirement from the innings (not, I hope, the series given the medical blackout which seems to have descended upon his circumstances). 

Michael Clarke declared and set England 509 to win. I didn't expect that they'd mount a serious challenge, but I did think that, after watching Alistair Cook's gritty first innings, they might have been able to bat long...if not the full five sessions required to draw the Test, let alone win it.

But it didn't happen. England melted down- Ian Bell, Cook, Joe Root, Ben Stokes (run out for a duck without grounding his bat or his feet) & Moeen Ali included: 40 runs between the lot of them. Clarke changed his bowlers shrewdly and they all - not only Mitchell Johnson (well as he bowled)- delivered a shock & massive defeat to England. 

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Australia keep upper hand despite Cook & Stokes resistance: T2D3

Australia 0/108 (26ov, Warner 60*/84b//10x4, Rogers 44*/72b/5x4) & 8/566dec lead England 312 (90.1ov, Cook 96/233b/13x4. Stokes 87/128b/1x6 13x4, Moeen Ali 39/57b 91x6. 5x4, John son 3/53, Hazlewood 3/68, Marsh 2/23) by 362 runs with 10 2nd inns wkts in hand: T2/5 D2/5 at Lord's.

When play began Alistair Cook and Ben Stokes continued to breathe life ibefore Marsh nto England's first innings,each combatting the Australian bowling in his distinctive way. Just as it seemed they might make it through to lunch Mitchell Marsh induced an edge from Stokes which hit his stumps. From then on it was Captain Cook vs the rest (of the opposition, not his team). Jos Buttler walked when hotspot (not always the most accurate source of evidence?) was - to put it tactfully - inmconclusive. Cook reached 96 before Marsh (Mitchell to to distinguish him from his sub fielding brother Shaun) induced another inside edge to remove Cook for a masterly 96. When he sunk to his knees as he realised what had happened it reminded me of a Roman emperor/ defeated general falling on his ssword.

After that Moeen Ali hit out, showing once more why he's wasted at number 8, but the others didn,t add many (though more than the top 5 apart from Cook. 312 wasn,t a bad total about the shsaky foundastion of 4/30, but it was a feeble reply to 566' well as the Australians - special mention to Mitchell Johnson- bowled.

Then Chris Rogers sand David Warner continued the defanging of the England attack even Stuart Brosad.- by batting through to stumps without being parted.

Yes the pitch is still playing quite well, and the weather may yet influence proceedings ( I've not checked the forecast) but Australia should win from here.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Smith 215 propels Australia forward. then bowlers make inroads into England batting: T2D2

England 4/85 (29 Ov, Stokes 38*, Cook 21*'Johnson 2/16) trail Australia 8/566 dec (149Ov, Smith 215/346b/1x6 25x4, Rogers 173/300b/28x4, Nevill 45/59b/5x4, Warner 38, Broad 27-5-83-4,Root 2/55) by 481 with 6 2nd inns wkts in hand: T2/5 D2/5 at Lord's.

The first ball of the day's play, bowled by Jimmy Anderson, struck Chris Rogers on the helmet. After receiving attention on the field he continued, but only added 15 before Stuart Broad bowled him: 2/362 Thereafter Steven Smith continued to stamp his mark on the Test, rarely looking in much trouble as he moved to a double century. He was given reasonable support by his teammates, except for Michael Clarke who made a scratchy 7/32b, but who would have been delighted by his team's performance' which enabled him to declare just after tea. Then his quick bowlers tore into the top of the England order taking 4/30 before Ben Stokes counterattacked with 38*/50b/1x6 5x4, while Alistair Cook 21*/85b/3x4 held his end up until stumps.

11 wickets for 314 in the day suggested that the piytch was not the flat track demonised by many after day 1. Broad, once again England,s best bowler,bent his back and showed what was possible; then Mitchells Starc and Johnson and Josh Hazlewood indivually surpassed him, scything through Adam Lyth, Gary Ballance, Ian Bell and the prize scalp (although somewhat casually offered up on this occasion) of Joe Root.

The Australians bowled better than at Cardiff. They bowled more accurately and were rewarded for doing so. They would of course have been grateful to Smith for giving them such a huge total to bowl at, not to mention the extra time off the field.

Smith's innings was masterly. It was amusing to hear some English commentators on TV and radio trying to explain his huge score. They acknowledged his big innings at home but some of them have erred by assumimg that his double failure at Lord's in 2013 - 2 &1 - and modest returns at Cardiff a week ago were evidence that England's bowlers have his measaure. Those misjudgments can now be consigned to the dustbin of cricket history.

Wary of making misjudgments of my own as I am, I won't go too far out on a limb and predict a swift or large (or both) Australian victory. But at the moment a victory of some sort for them looks likely.


Friday, July 17, 2015

Rogers and Smith centuries put Australia in front on flat Lord's pitch: T2 D1

Australia 1/337 (90ov, Rogers 158*/282b/25x4, Smith 129*/217b/1x6 13x4) vEngland; T2/5 D1/5 at Lord,s. Toss: Australia. 

Winning the toss gave Australia, who brought in Mitchell Marsh and Peter Nevill for Shane Watson (as expected dropped) and Brad Haddin (personal reasons) the considerable advantage of first use of a flat Lord's pitch. Chris Rogers and Steve Smith, coming together after David Warner was dismssed for what now looks a trifling though quickfire 38, have added 259 for the 2nd wicket . They gave few chances (fewer, I thought,  than were in the eyes of some beholders/commentators) and with their judiciously aggressive strokeplay capitalised on the blandness of pitch to reduce the England attack to near impotence.

Much of the quick scoring came at the beginning of the innings and during the last session. In between England, whose bowlers lacked the edge and some of the accuracy they'd showed at Cardiff, opted for a wide of off stump line in the hope of induced some errors. The scorecard shows that this strategy didn't work.

The pitch has been rightly criticised for its flatness. Whether it is sufficiently flat to condemn the Test to a draw is too early to say. Australia have a good numbers of runs on the board at the moment, but they will need to add many more to give them the scoreboard pressure which might assist their bowlers to dismiss England twice. Just over a month ago New Zealand lost to England at Lord's after a first innings of 523.

For all the assistance offered by the pitch both Rogers, on his English home ground, and Smith batted extremely well.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Observations on the eve (or morning if you're in England) of the second 2015 Ashes Test

On the eve of Ashes T2 the usual situation- England wobbly, Australia confident - has been reversed by the Cardiff result  which was a fair reflection of the gulf between the teams.

Since then Australia have gone into something close  to panic mode and flagged  two changes in advance: Brad Haddin omitted for"personal reasons" and Shane Watson (probably) dropped. Whether Mitchell Starc will take the field is uncertain, though if you listen to the positive noises coming from the Australian team and its media support group (as well as observing Peter Siddle's making positive sounding comments but with a glum, disappointed face on a media interview recently), you'd be inclined to think that Starc will play.

In all of this I seem to be the only person suggesting that Adam Voges's  position should be in doubt. Yes, he did well in the West Indies, but it was against weak opposition: weaker, due to injury, than the team which performed well against England just before Australia'sTests.

If Voges was omitted for Mitchell Marsh this would give Shane Watson, whose modest performances at Cardiff were less modest in batting aggregate than some of his teammates, another chance. The downside to all this is that the umpires are well aware of Watson's susceptibility to lbw, so they will be all too ready to adjudge him out ( as happened in T 1), expect  a review which will possibly confirm an "umpire's call", which will probably only confirm the official's decision even if replays show the ball scraping leg stump. In effect Watson is being required to bat with 4 (or more) stumps. Yes, he's not come to terms with this weakness (nor it seems have any of the coaching been able to offer constructive guidance), but for all his exasperatingly failures, he has made some runs.

Brad Haddin has found it hard to bear the cross of dropping Joe Root on 0, and hasn't for some time rediscovered the batting touch which helped Australia so much in the 2013-14 Ashes. So it's probably right for him to sit out T2, but he shouldn't have to end his career by being dropped (only a fool would believe the "personal reasons" justifications which have been trotted out).

England? Unchanged  XI perhaps?

Here's an interesting piece on the series from a US perspective.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

England surge to comprehensive win over Australia with day to spare : T1D4

England 430 & 289 beat Australia 308 & 242 (70.3ov, Johnson 77/94b/2x6 9x4, Warner 52/86b/1x6 6x4, Smith 33, Broad 14-3-39-3, Moeen Ali 16.3-4-59-3, Root2/28, Wood 2/53) by 169 runs T1/5 D4/5 at Cardiff> England lead series 1-0. Player of match: J Root

Australia made a pretty good fist of chasing the improbable until on the cusp of lunch David Warner, who had looked to have negotiated the best Stuart Broad could deliver to him - and there were some beauties in his opening spell - was lbw to Moeen Ali, who Alistair Cook had restored to the attack after his first two overs had gone for 22. 2/97 became 3/101, then in short order 4/106, 5/106 and 6/122. Shane Watson and Mitchell Johnson kept a candle of hope flickering before Watson, as many  expected, was lbw (to Mark Wood for 19): 7/151. With all due respect to Johnson, who reminded us that he possesses considerable batting talent, it was all over bar some slogging. England cruised to a comfortable victory, and thus a 1-0 series lead, with a day to spare. Broad bowled magnificently.

England showed many of the qualities that are often associated with Australia (and which the latter's supporters would have hoped to see demonstrated more often in this match). The scorecard reveals a lot about the weakness of Australia's middle order batting, the pitch maps about the prodigality of the quick bowling, and TV replays the susceptibility of Watson to lbws (and his propensity to review such decisions) not to mention Brad Haddin's major blunder behind the stumps (and some other less costly fumbles).

It looks as if Mitchell Starc, Australia's best bowler (of a moderate lot) in this match, will miss the Lord's Test starting in 4 days because of injury. It is widely assumed that Peter Siddle will replace him. In my opinion Siddle is Hobson's choice, as Pat Cummins hasn't had much red ball bowling for some time. I also fear that Siddle has passed his peak: he last appeared in a Test here v India and only took two tailender wickets. Isn't there another young Australian quick bowler without a history of injury and with experience of English conditions  who can be drafted into the squad? If not, why not?

As for the batting and wicketkeeping, I need to think about them for a day or so. Watch this space....

Well done, England!


Saturday, July 11, 2015

Australia need 412 in second innings to beat England: T1D3

Australia 308 (84.5ov, Rogers 95, Clarke 38, Smith 33, Voges 31, Watson 30, Anderson 3/43, Broad 2,60, Wood 2/66, Ali 2/71) need 412 runs in their yet to begin  second innings to beat England 430 & 289 (70.1 ov, Bell 60/129b/11x4, Root 60/133b/9x4, Lyon 4/75, Hazlewood 2/49, Starc 2/60, John son 2/69): T1/5 D3/5 at Cardiff.

Australia lost 5/44  as its middle and lower order failed to enhance its collective and some individual reputations against a tight England pace attack.  With a comfortable 122 first innings lead the home team lost early wickets as an injured Mitchell Starc drew inspiration from Ryan Harris and inspired his fellow bowlers to follow his example. Adam Lyth,  Ian Bell and Joe Root took the initiative back with bold strokeplay though once they were separated -and this took some doing- the rest hit out breezily obviating the need for a declaration and setting D 4 up nicely ( at least if you are an England supporter).

Credit where credit is due: England should win, and deservedly so, from here. Whether they,d have preferred to keep a couple of wickets up their sleeve (and thus Australia in the field for some time on D4) is probably of little consequence.

As it is Austrsalia have been out played, and in some respects embarassingly so;  numbers 3,4,5 and 6 all reached 30 yet Michael Clarke,s 38 was (certainly to my and perhaps to his surprise) the highest scorer of a moderate lot.

England should win from this point. I hope that Australia make them fight hard by batting resolutely and posiively. The bowlers, for all their lapses of line and length, did persevere in England''s second  innings (special mention of Mitchell Johnson): perhaps the batters can draw some fortitude if not inspiration from them.


Friday, July 10, 2015

Australia 5/264 struggle to match England's 430 as Moeen Ali finds form with bat and ball: T1D2

Australia 5/264 (70ov, Rogers 95/133b/1x6 11x4, Clarke 38, Smith 33, Voges 31) trail England 430 (102.1ov, Root 134, Ali 77/88b/1x6 11x4, Ballance 61, Stokes 52, Starc 24.1-4-114-5, Hazlewood 3/83) by 166 runs with 5 1st inns wkts in hand: T1/5 D2/5 at Cardiff.

England's last three wickets, with Moeen Ali in the lead, added a breezy 87 runs from 85 balls in the morning session before Australia began promisingly yet lost wickets in the quest to regain the initiative.

I'd never doubted Ali's ability with the bat, but questioned why he is now at no 8. His 77 was the knock of a top six Test player. He has already confirmed in ODIs that he has talent and in this innings showed how his skills now span both formats.

 It has been his bowling which worried me. After watching him against the West Indies and New Zealand earlier this year I felt he was at best a batting allrounder, with his bowling not good enough for him to be considered one of  the top 4 (or perhaps even 5) in England's Test eleven..

Australia seem to have shared my view of him...until now. Their plan to hit him out of the attack didn't work as he snared both Steve Smith, caught at short mid on, and Michael Clarke, a nifty c&b. That both players had looked well set but only contributed 31 and 38 respectively dented Australia's prospects of posting a good reply. Chris Rogers' 95 at least kept the scoreboard moving (and more rapidly than in the early phase of his career): he looks capable of scoring a ton...until he nears that mark.

Ali may have been the biggest surprise packet of the England attack, yet he was generally well supported by his quicker colleagues each of whom,  Stuart Broad excepted, took a wicket. Broad still has a chance to remedy this, unlike Mitchell Johnson who went for 111 from 25 wicketless overs.

With Adam Voges falling late in the day for 31 England have the initiative. It is nevertheless too early to claim that they have the ascendancy, as Shane Watson, the last of Australia's top six is still there with 29*. In recent times the lower order (including the latterly out of form  Brad Haddin) have often added handy runs, so without another solid contribution from them it will be next to impossible to gain a first innings lead, or even a small deficit.

 Another late night- early morning watching TV and listening to the radio commentary beckons.


PS I have refrained from commenting upon the embarrassing injury to Alistair Cook which (together with the varied reactions of his teammates) were shown on TV and have been posted to YouTube.

Thursday, July 09, 2015

Ashes 2015 begin with Root, Ballance and Stokes leading England fightback

England 7/343 (88ov, Root 134/166b/17x4, Ballance 61/149b/8x4, Stokes 52/78b/2x6 6x4, Starc 3/84, Hazlewood 3/70) v Australia T1/5 D1/5 at Cardiff. Toss: England.

Once play got under way, after a brief drizzle and a lengthy opening ceremony strongly padded with Welsh windbaggery, England initially faltered to 3/46, then Joe Root, dropped before he'd scored, led a counterattack which, despite Australia's bowling regrouping later in the day, left his team with the better of the day's play.

Not much better perhaps, but enough to keep the spotlight on the successes of Root, Gary Ballance and Ben Stokes as well as on Brad Haddin's failure to catch Root - a little more than a regulation catch yet considerably less than a difficult one. This allowed Alistair Cook's modest and Ian Bell's poor efforts with the bat to avoid much scrutiny.

Root deserves abundant praise for his innings, not just its total but also its quality. His driving along the ground was as crisp and well timed as I've seen for a long time: worth stating awake to watch (pity Channel 9 aren't showing Foxtel - or any- type highlights at a more congenial hour).

Australia's attack was a mixed bag. Mitchell Starc was at times brilliant, at other times all over the place; Mitchell Johnson was out of sorts; Josh Hazlewood was steady with occasional nip (as when he had Adam Lyth sharply caught in the gully); while Nathan Lyon, after being brought on early and dismissing Cook ( a good catch by Haddin) didn't do much thereafter.

From my armchair the two Mitchells looked inaccurate, too often bowling wide of the off stump mark. Glenn McGrath on the radio cut Johnson some slack, on the grounds that the Cardiff pitch didn't suit him. I'll defer to the great man's opinion though would be less confident about the accuracy of his prediction that (unspecified) pitches later in the series will be more to MJ's liking. If they haven't already done so after hearing this England officials will be issuing instructions to the pitch preparation people at each of the other four Test venues.

 The pitch looks OK by UK Test standards for the moment, but could be trickier later in the Test. Australia will, unless they collapse abysmally in their first innings, have last use of it,which should motivate everyone in the eleven to think about how they can improve on their D1 performance and at least keep in touch with England (read as first innings lead) when they bat.


Wednesday, July 08, 2015

Random thoughts on the eve of the 2015 Ashes

My heart hopes and my head believes that Australia will retain the Ashes. (I was about to predict that Austrslia will win the series, but won't go that far... just yet.)

Australia are on a roll, having just beaten the West Indies 2-0 whereas England could only manage 1-1 (+ a draw) against the same team earlier this year..

Ryan Harris's retirement will affect Australia considerably: despite recurring imjuries and threat thereof he has been the bone marrow of the attack for the last few years. Mitchell Johnson is mercurially brilliant, while Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazelwood have done a good job in recent Tests.Nathan Lyon has plugged away, yet has often been attacked even though, despite conceding a lot of runs on those occasions, he's not often wilted. At least he looks likelier to take wickets than England.s "bowling allrounder (pull the other one) Moeen Ali.

Michael Clarke is a much more assertive leader than Alistair Cook.

Australia appear to be a much better fielding side than England: this was a major difference between the teams in the last series here.

I could go on, but the start of play on T1D1 is at hand. so I'll adjourn to my fireside and settle in for what I hope will be a good night's cricket.

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

NZ wipe floor with England by 199 runs to win T2 & level series 1-1.

After the Black Caps batting had propelled their team (at a great rate rate of knots) to a very healthy lead their bowlers took a while to work through the rickety (with some exceptions inc a gutsy Alistair Cook &  persevering Jos Buttler) England batting. 

Well done, Kiwis. But you'll need to regroup before you take on Australia later this year. Your batting is good, your fielding much improved on what we used to expect from you, but your spin bowling is erratic. Mark Craig is a great slip fielder and at times surprisingly good batter, but he's bowled too short  too often. He extracted a lot of spin from the D5 Headingley wicket but his length was too often awry.

As for England, Cap'n Cook has gone from flab to backbone in the series, and Adam Lyth looked OK in this match, but there's not much else  to report.

In just over an hour Australia take on the West Indies in T1/2. I'm expecting this to be a 2-0 walkover (or warm up for the Ashes, as some have uncharitably suggested). If it isn't the Ashes will be more, much more, interesting.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Richie Benaud

Richie's death came as a surprise rather than a shock. 

Many cricket followers would have been aware that he was unwell, but not that the skin cancer which has claimed his life was so far advanced.

He was an excellent commentator and a very good cricketer. I'm old enough to to remember him playing, not only for his abilities in all three departments of the game, but also for his often flamboyant presence. His shirt was often ( especially in Australia) unbuttoned lower than those of his contemporaries; he was good at motivating his players when they looked to be flagging (he could always get another over or two out of Alan Davidson, a great left arm fast bowler who sometimes developed a niggle when fortune went against him); and he was generous to his opponents (I recall him during an Adelaide Test detouring on his way to the crease to congratulate Brian Statham, who had just taken a wicket which set a new record).

Apart from seeing him live on the field and, though not often live in those low tech days, on TV I also saw him in the flesh many years ago (it was probably during a Sheffield Shield match) at the piecart which used to be near the Adelaide GPO. I was so surprised that I didn't say anything. (I vaguely recall him mentioning the piecart favourably in one of his books).

His TV career far exceeded his playing one and it is this for which he will be most remembered, especially, but by no means only, for his laconic comments. His last public comment on cricket was as the voiceover for the big screen tribute to Phillip Hughes before play began in this just completed season's Adelaide Test v India.

He was also an incisive writer of articles for a range of newspapers as well as books. In time, as memories of his TV commentaries fade (but in the YouTube age are unlikely to disappear) his written words may become the cornerstone of his reputation.

Vale, Richie.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Series ends with neither a bang nor a whimper as India hold out for draw: T4D5

Australia 7/572d & 6/251d drew with India 475 & 7/252 (89.5ov, Vijay80/165b/2x6 7x4, Kohli 46/95b/3x4, R Sharma 39/102b/2x6 2x4, Rahane 38*/88b/5x4, Kumar 20*, Hazlewood 17-7-31-2, Starc 19-7-36-2, Lyon 30.5-5-110-2); T4/4 D5/5 at SCG.
Australia won series 2-0. 
Player of the match and Player of the series: Steve Smith.

At times an Australian victory looked possible; there were fleeting moments when, at least to their supporters, an Indian one looked feasible (eg 2/160 at tea) but the Test fizzled out into a draw.

In the last session Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood each took two wickets, thereby pricking the bubble of whatever pretensions India might have had. Nathan Lyon also took a second wicket after being hammered earlier, despite extracting considerable turn from the wicket. He troubled the lower order batters without menacing them to the degree he'd done in Adelaide.

Australia were clearly the better side in both this match and throughout the series. They had their weaknesses, eg fielding (though Steve Smith and Shane Watson took great catches today) but they always were able to regroup and at least contain India.

If India's attack had performed consistently and less like a rabble, the series may have been closer and the batters may have felt that their considerable efforts were more worthwhile.


Friday, January 09, 2015

India resist, then Australia go heater-skelter to set up chance of win: T4D4

Australia 9/572d & 6/251 (40ov, Smith 71/70b/1x6 8x4, Burns 66/39b/3x6 8x4, Rogers 56/77b/7x4, Haddin 31*/30b/ 2x6 2x4,Ashwin 19-2-105-4) lead India 475 (162ov, Kohli 147/230b/20x4, Rahul 110/262b/1x6 13x4, R Sharma 53, Ashwin 50/111b/6x4, Saha 35,Kumar 30, Starc 32-7-106-3, Watson 2/58, Harris 2/96, Lyon 2/123) by 348 runs with four 2nd inns wkts in hand; T4/4 D4/5 at SCG.

Virat Kohli's early dismissal, after adding only 7 runs to his overnight140, left India's middle and lower order to make the best of a bad job by trying to (1) get as close as possible to Australia's first innings total and (2) occupying the crease for as long as possible. A 97 run deficit and survival beyond lunch wasn't bad from their perspective, as the time they'd used up seemed to consign the match to a draw. But Australia had other ideas, and shook the Test out of its torpor with a vigorous counterattack of T20 proportions. This should - must- allow them to declare overnight.

Australia's quickfire reply was driven by the expected - Steve Smith's 71, the unexpected - Chris
Rogers's 56, and the surprising- Joe Burns's 66/39b. India's opening attack Bhuvaneshwar Kumar
and- wise choice in the circumstances of the match and pitch- Ravi Ashwin began well  but the group fell apart in the face of the unremitting attack (have there been worse figures in a Test than Umesh Yadav's 3-0-45-0?). Ashwin's bowling  did confirm that the wicket was taking spin, which should make   Nathan Lyon lick his lips in anticipation of a few wickets on the final day.

A major obstacle to a result may be the weather. Rain truncated today's last session and more is forecast for tomorrow. I thought Australia were safe from defeat once they had a lead of 300, which would have allowed them to declare and put India under the batting pump before stumps. India may be made an offer which they can refuse.


Thursday, January 08, 2015

Kohli - once again - and Rahul - surprisingly - keep India's spirits up before Australia fight back in last session: T4D3

India 5/342 (115ov, Kohli 140*/214b/20x4, Rahul 110//262b/1x6 13x4, R Sharma 53/133b/2x6 5x4, Watson 2/42, Starc 2/77) trail Australia 7/572d by 230 runs with five 1st inns wkts in hand; T4/4 D3/5 at SCG.

Virat Kohli and KL Rahul's centuries have saved India's face, though perhaps not the Test after Australia chipped away and took 3/110 in the last session.

Rahul's batting was a revelation. After his double failure at the MCG I thought that he wasn't ready for Test cricket, and was very surprised to see him retain his place. But the Indian selectors's judgment was vindicated today as the young man put his head down in a manner reminiscent of his namesake Rahul Dravid and moved at first slowly, then with increasing fluency, to 110.

Well as Rahul batted Kohli was, once again, the star turn of the day. He supported his younger colleague by taking the initiative and then, when wickets fell - two in successive balls to Shane Watson- by not surrendering his. Yet it's hard to build a strong reply to a total the size of Australia's when three of your top six batters contribute only 13 between them. Only Rohit Sharma 

Australia's bowlers didn't, as India's did at times, ease off.  Some fielding lapses (including one where Steve Smith appeared to be distracted by Spidercam)  made their task more difficult. Watson showed his value as the fifth bowler with his two wickets: he may not have silenced his critics but I think he's worth his place in the team, if not at no3 in the batting order.

With two days to go and India still well in arrears an Australian victory or a draw are the likeliest results unless Kohli can continue to mine his rich lode of form and marshal the tail to reduce the first innings deficit (eliminating it looks beyond them) and the bowlers perform with a higher level of skill and consistency than they've shown so far in the series. The pitch is still playing well but some of those with local knowledge predict that it will deteriorate over the last two days. We shall see...


Wednesday, January 07, 2015

India show signs of batting potential after their trundlers let Australia amass big score: T4D2

India 1/71 (25ov, Sharma 40*/76b/ 2x6 3x4, Rahul 31*/71b/2x4) trail Australia 7/572d (152.3ov, Smith 117/208b/15x4, Warner 101, Rogers 95, Watson 81/183b/7x4, Marsh 73/116b/1x6 9x4, Burns 58/114b/10x4, Mohammed Shami 28.3-3-112-5) by 501 with 9 1st inns wkts in hand: T4/4 D2/5 at SCG.

It would be drawing the longest of bows to say that India had the better of the day's play, but they did in the first session,when their often wayward bowlers dismissed both Steve Smith - after he'd completed another magesterial century--and Shane Watson - who completed an almost magesterial 81.

Shaun Marsh and an initially tentative Joe Burns realigned the innings with the team's goals and, despite falling in the quest for quick ruins, gave Australia a big score and seemed to knock the stuffing out of india's attack . Bhuveneshwar Kumar, who I'd seen on TV perplexing some good batters, looked unfit and well below par - and pace: 34-5-122-0 sums it up (while the speed gun showed him dropping below 110km/hr as the day progressed: net bowler standard?

But as Australia moved towards a declaration KL (Lokesh) Rahul took a tentative step towards redemption by catching Burns in the outfield.

When India at last were allowed to bat, and Murali Vijay fell to Mitchell Starc for a duck, Rahul and Rohit Sharma showed more guts and determination than I expected. They hung on, then tentatively counterpunched.

Australia are still well on top but maybe- on the evidence of the Rahul- Sharma stand to date- there 's still some hard work for them to do if they are to win.

Otherwise we'll be left with another slow day replete with images of Richie Benaud lookalikes and audio of the Channel 9 commentators chuntering on about peripheral matters & spruiking memorabilia.


Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Australia batters dominate toothless India attack: T4D1

Australia 2/348 (90ov, Warner 102/114b/16x4, Rogers 95/160b/13x4, Smith 82*/134b/10x4, Watson 61/132b/6x4) v India; T4/4 D1/5 at SCG. Australia
won toss and chose to bat.

This was as one sided a first day's play in a Test match as I can recall. Well as Australia batted after winning the toss India's attack was once again below par. 

Today, unlike other Tests of this series, there was no regrouping apart from when David Warner, who'd been characteristically ebullient, and Chris Rogers, more aggressive than usual, fell in the space of seven balls with the team total at 200 and 204. 

These turned out to be India's only successes of the day as Steve Smith showed that he's still in good touch while Shane Watson was allowed to play himself back into some much overdue batting form. They have already added 144.

India made four changes, not all of which I expected. None of them involved KL Rahul who'd failed twice with the bat at the MCG, and who I expected to make way for someone else. He missed a catch in today's first session, so will need to do a lot from here on if he is to continue his Test career. Australia only made the one change resting Mitchell Johnson for Mitchell Starc, giving Joe Burns another chance which, with the platform the top order has built together with a good pitch and a demoralised attack, he needs to take full advantage of to keep him in the selectors's minds.