Get a Hundred Part 1

Our summer club season just began last week. Now at the beginning of each season, I set myself some sort of goal. Two seasons ago, I began an experiment to reinvent myself as a front-line legspinner/tailend batsman. It failed miserably. Last season, I adopted Aloof Theory. While it was one of my better seasons, the whole nature of Aloof Theory is to not set goals so, well, it was all a bit wishy washy really.

So this season, I'm taking a leaf out of Get A Hundred and setting myself the goal of scoring a maiden club century. Already after one week, I think I may have bitten off more than I can chew. This goal will be very difficult for three reasons.

Firstly, my knee has gone bad again. I had a knee operation in March and while I sailed through the winter season without a hitch, a week of jogging about a month ago has it as sore and aching as it was pre-op. So when I batted last weekend, I always ran the bare minimum speed required to not get run out. It was like Damien Martyn 2005 every ball. I could sense the frustration in the fielding side as I hovered out of my crease and they had to weigh up run-out opportunities versus overthrows. Spending several hours running backwards and forwards will not do wonders for my aging joints.

Secondly, all our matches are on turf pitches this summer. Usually my B grade team gets relegated to synthetic pitches. But this season, one of our teammates Pappy also happened to be on the scheduling committee and ensured we got to play on turf. Which is great - much more interesting than synthetic. Also harder to bat on. I have a bad record on turf. While I haven't played on it many times, my highest score is 9. Yet to crack double figures, let alone triple!

Lastly, I just wonder whether I can score that many runs in a day. Get A Hundred isn't satisfied with a club hundred. He's set himself the goal of scoring it at a run-a-ball. I batted for 1 hour last weekend and scored 9 runs (my top score on turf, remember). Most of my scoring shots were behind the wicket - leg glances, late cuts, outside edges. Scratchy stuff. Somehow I'm going to have to develop some more scoring strokes. Perhaps start using a backlife. Maybe even follow through after I hit the ball.

So that's the goal. Get a hundred.  I'm off to play in 30 minutes - it's the second half of a two dayer and I'm one wicket away from batting. I'm taking it one step at a time. First goal - crack double figures on turf. Then I'll take stock from there. Maybe halfway through the season, I'll downgrade it to Get a fifty.

Posted by JC on Sat 26 Sep 2137 comments

Why Australia lost the 2009 Ashes

When Australia lost the 2005 Ashes, the scapegoating and finger pointing was immediate, fierce and frantic. Billy Bowden. Ricky Ponting. Breath mints. WAGS. God. John Buchanan. Gary Pratt. The loss was such a shock, there was plenty of blame to go around too. However, and despite the fact that the pain of this Ashes loss is still fresh, I think it's possible to offer a dispassionate and logical analysis on where blame lies in our 2009 Ashes loss.

I don't think Ricky Ponting's captaincy was a contributing factor. Sure, he's defensive and unimaginative. But his conservative captaincy was matched and cancelled out by Andrew Strauss' equally conservative captaincy. If anything, the one captaincy howler of the series was Strauss' decision to bat in the 4th Test. It invoked memories of Ponting's decision to bowl at Edgbaston in 2005.

A more likely culprit is the Australian batsmen. It was their first innings collapses at Lords and the Oval which lost us two Tests. The batsman that sticks out like a sore thumb is Mike Hussey. He was Ravi-Bopara-like in the energy and enthusiasm he gave to the fielding team. He was always a wicket just waiting to happen. Sure, he may have saved his position with a futile century yesterday. It's becoming an Australian tradition for one beleagured batsman to save his career with a meaningless century at the Oval every 4 years.

But Mike Hussey is just a symptom. The underlying problem was the selectors had no options, noone to replace him. How could you possibly select a touring Ashes squad with not a single back-up specialist batsman? It seemed unwise at the time. Foresight has only intensified the craziness of the decision.

However, the true cause of Australia's demise goes further back than our batting collapses at Lords and the Oval. The seeds of our Ashes loss were sowed in the 1st Test. We had every opportunity to finish off England on the 5th day. All it needed was one delivery, one jaffa to finish off the English tailenders. Instead, we witnessed with dismay the unravelling of Mitchell Johnson. It took 3 Tests for him to get his groove back. What happened to our devastating spearhead? How did he devolve from the world beating champion in South Africa to the pie chucking farce in Cardiff? Mentally, he wasn't all there. Something was happening off-field that had him distracted on the field. And thus we have our answer.

Why did Australia lose the 2009 Ashes? Mitchell Johnson's mum.

Posted by JC on Mon 24 Aug 1382 comments

2009 Ashes, 5th Test, Day 4: Daring to care...

When you get hurt in a relationship, it's tempting to close yourself off to prevent future pain. Similarly, the human reaction for any Australian fan given the state of the 2009 Ashes is to give up hope that we can somehow chase a further 466 runs over the next two days without losing ten wickets. It would be a world record run chase on a wicket that already looked like a 5th day pitch on day 2. It's impossible. Can't be done.

But Australia made it to stumps without loss, knocking up 80 runs off 20 overs. Time isn't an issue. There will be no batting for a draw. All that matters is runs. Or more importantly, wickets. What would be required for Australia to make those runs would be the improbable combination of the pitch behaving itself, the Australians batting out of their skins, lucky umpiring decisions and the English bowlers having a five or six consecutive bad sessions. If England bowl full and straight at the stumps and extract any hint of movement, Australia won't win. If the Australian top order make the slightest error, be it poor shot selection or a lapse in concentration, it's over. If the pitch shows uneven bounce, even if the bounce doesn't get us, the psychological effect will be deadly. If one or two dodgy umpire decisions rip into our top order, there'll be no recovering. There's just too much going against us.

But cricket fans think with the heart, not the head. So I can't help myself - I can't keep out hopeful visions of a 150 run partnership between Ponting and Clarke, followed by a 200 run partnership from Clarke and North. Improbable. Impossible. It's never happened before. It can't happen now. But I'll be watching the game on tenterhooks. Just in case.

Posted by JC on Sun 23 Aug 1674 comments

2009 Ashes, 5th Test, Day 3: Are Australia the new England?

The 2009 Ashes has swung backwards and forwards so many times, you can get whiplash if you're watching too closely. Australia dominated in Cardiff but couldn't close the deal. England led in Lords and the first half of the 3rd Test. Australia regained the balance for the next one and a half Tests. But now at the moment of truth, Australia had one session so disastrous, we may have just handed the Ashes to England.

It was a batting collapse so complete and insipid, it made England's 4th Test debacle almost respectable. Australia are so far behind, it's hard to see them coming back from here. The only ray of hope is our second innings. It's a forlorn hope. England should bat through several sessions today, setting 300 to 400 runs for Australia to chase. We'll have two days to run it down.

So time is not a factor. There will be no draw. The only question is whether Australia can put on the runs. On this dustbowl of a pitch, considering Australia's first innings performance, it's hard to see it happening. At this point, I would put my money on England regaining the Ashes. But there are at least two more days of Test cricket. I'll put aside the sinking feeling in my gut and hope for an Aussie miracle.

Posted by JC on Sat 22 Aug 2519 comments

2009 Ashes, 5th Test, Day 2: Crunch time for the 2009 Ashes

You get the feeling England just let the Ashes slip through their fingers yesterday. At 1 for 100, they were poised to set an imposing first innings total. Instead, all their batsmen got starts then threw their wickets away. At stumps, they were 8 for 300, a well under par total for such a flat wicket.

Their only hope lies in taking lots of Aussie wickets today. If they can dismiss Australia cheaply and achieve a first innings lead, they're still in with a sniff. If Australia bat out 4 or 5 sessions, it's all over. The next two days will decide the Ashes. Bat on, boys!

Posted by JC on Fri 21 Aug 2023 comments

2009 Ashes, 5th Test, Day 1: The most important Test in the history of mankind

The 4th Test was hailed as the 2009 Ashes decider. Of course it wasn't - it never was going to be barring an English victory. But now, we come to the 5th Test which most definitely is the decider. An Ashes grand final, if you will. But more than that, it's the most important Test in Ricky Ponting's career. At the toss this morning, Andrew Strauss agreed it was also the biggest game of his career (although "probably, definitely" is somewhat damning with faint praise). That is, until the next high pressure game that comes along and everyone begins ratcheting up the hyperbole once again.

What this Test should be is an excellent opportunity for a drinking game. I would suggest rules such as take a sip everytime the commentators use the words Flintoff and talisman/X-factor in the same sentence. A swig everytime the Aussies sledge Trott. A sip whenever the 2005 Ashes are invoked, or empty the glass if it's followed up with the Aussie quest for redemption.

It's tempting from an Aussie point of view to write off the English side after their dismal 5th Test. But this series has seesawed from game to game so there's no telling what might happen. Flintoff will bolster the batting and bowling line-up. Harmison is a wild card - who knows whether he'll fire or not. And its impossible to predict how Trott will handle the step up to Test cricket. All the questions and the series will be resolved in 5 days...

Posted by JC on Thu 20 Aug 1547 comments