One of the washups of the second Test was Ricky Ponting having to smooth over a potential racial slur from Shane Warne against Makhaya Ntini. When Ntini came out to bat, Warne called him "John Blackman". He was referring to the voice over guy from TV show "Hey, Hey, It's Saturday" who did the voice of Dicky Knee, a reference to Ntini's injured knee. Ntini took it as a racial slur, responding with "Hey, enough of the black". Ponting had to quickly clear the air with Graeme Smith shortly afterwards. While it's a bit of a joke looking back at it now, how stupid is Warne? Did he think Ntini would've had a clue what he was talking about, referring to a little known voice actor from an old Australian show that ended years ago? Particularly with all the racial tension from Perth and one guy getting evicted from the MCG. And as a cartoonist who's been through the experience many times, I know a joke has failed when you have to explain it afterwards. At least I haven't had the danger of a international incident flaring up from one of my jokes.
|Posted by JC on Fri 30 Dec||145 comments|
As predicted, it took Australia just over a session to wrap up the 2nd Test and go up 1-nil in the Australia-South Africa series (does the series have a trophy or a title or something?). In spite of South African coach Mickey Arthur accusing Australia of excess appealing (or 'histrionics' as he put it), Shane Warne continued to apply mental disintegration against the umpires and it even netted him a wicket as umpire Rauf gave Ashwell Prince out incorrectly for a bat pad decision. Despite the bad decision, I'm sure Warnie will still be calling Prince 'Daryll' in the 3rd Test. I was also surprised Ntini came out to bat - the result of the match wasn't in doubt and getting him fit asap would be the #1 priority for the team. Still, he is a tough nut. Interestingly, Ntini was recently voted South Africa's most popular sportsperson and the ICC ranks him the #4 Test bowler in the world. It's a cruel blow to South Africa that he's injured his knee just before the 3rd Test.
Overall, it was a good, hard Test although South Africa fell away at the end. The result was still in doubt till the last session of day 4. Andrew Symonds must be very happy - after a Day 1 golden duck, he was all but dropped from the team. Everyone in the media (with the exception of Peter Roebuck who resisted a big 'I told you so' on ABC radio) was baying for his blood - I was leading the cry. Instead, he's booked a spot in Sydney and most likely the South Africa tour with two productive bowling spells and a handful of sixes in the 2nd innings. It remains to be seen if he can achieve any consistency and it will be interesting to see what the selectors do when Shane Watson and Shaun Tait are available (I still say drop him!)
Afterwards, one would say Australia dominated both Tests but we shouldn't get too carried away. The results would be completely different if South Africa had held all their chances - it's not stretching it to say the series could have been 2-nil to South Africa. Australia won this test by 184 runs - their dropped chances in the 1st innings cost the Proteas 195 runs. Nevertheless, kudos to our boys for taking advantage of South African mistakes. One frustrating thing about the Ashes (one among many frustrating things) was our inability to take advantage of dropped chances. In fact, the only innings of substance after a reprieve was Michael Clarke at Lords - the only Test we won. South Africa don't have as penetrating a bowling attack as England and need to take all the chances they can. It's hard to see them coming back in Sydney - I predict a series result of 2-nil but only just.
|Posted by JC on Thu 29 Dec||42 comments|
Cricinfo sure like to post summaries and reviews, be it of a year, series, match, day, session, hell, even ball by ball analysis. Now Andrew Miller has posted a A to Z of all the stars and shibboleths of 2005. It's an entertaining read although the smug post-Ashes Englishness that seeps through it all can be a little overbearing.
|Posted by JC on Thu 29 Dec||34 comments|
Australia dominated Day 3 yesterday to take a slight upper hand and today, they continued to dominate day 4 to take a stranglehold off the 2nd Test against South Africa. The first session passed reasonably quietly as Australia looked to preserve wickets. Once they got past lunch, the middle session was a slugfest as Matt Hayden and Andrew Symonds smashed a glut of belligerent sixes and fours. Symonds got off a potential pair with a six over long off. He went on to hit 6 sixes over his innings, the highlight being a flat straight hit that struck the sightscreen on the full and bounced halfway back to the bowler. He brought up his 50 off just 40 balls with a clubbed six of Andre Nel (who still managed to mutter a characteristic sledge) and ended up scoring 72 from 54 balls (so Dan Darwin's prediction of 80 at a run a ball wasn't too far off).
Matt Hayden was also in cracking form - driving on the up, pulling in front of square and dominating the bowling - it was like 2001 again. Since the Ashes, Hayden has been scoring an obscene amount of runs (a bit late, Matty!!) and his only recent hiccup was in Perth. You get the impression in the 1st Test, he was almost experimenting with a return to his bludgeoning ways but when it failed, he want back to building an innings rather than blasting one. Huzzah, the penny has finally dropped!
Ponting's declaration before tea was well timed and it was probably a good thing Symonds was dismissed for 72 - Ponting most likely would've delayed the declaration if Symonds had a sniff of a century. The commentators say he declared too late in Perth but were saying at tea today that he declared too early today. South Africa had a sniff of victory with a target of 365 to win. When South Africa were 0 for 39, nervous Australian fans were starting to think 365 was not quite the total we needed. But suddenly a clatter of wickets fell in a rush and we all realised in hindsight, maybe Ponting knew what he was doing (for a change). The early declaration may have had the South African batsmen in two minds. In Perth, all they could do was play for a draw and they applied themselves to it fiercely. Today, the batsmen were torn between survival and attacking for a win. Once the wickets started to fall, all the momentum was with Australia and the middle-order collapsed.
Shane Warne was on fire in the last session, taking wickets and creating chances in every over. In fact, his bowling was so aggressive, the umpire tired of the incessant appealing and at the end of one over stood hands on hips, with a glare at Warne that Andre Nel would be proud of. At tea, the match looked to go deep into a 5th day. As the wickets fell after tea, there was a danger it wouldn't even get past the 4th day. But Ashwell Prince managed to outlast all his more credentialed top order batsmen and make it to stumps with Shaun Pollock. Australia still have 4 wickets to take but I can't see the match making it much further than lunch tomorrow. South Africa must now be rueing their dropped chances that cost them 195 first innings runs - an amount likely to be close to Australia's winning margin.
|Posted by JC on Thu 29 Dec||33 comments|
South Africa's secret plan to defeat Australia is slowly being revealed as they've unveiled their decision to fly "mystery spin bowler" Johan Botha to Sydney for the 3rd Test. My first thought is it's a bit of a last minute decision - the guy barely has time to recover from jet-lag before he'd be walking out on the SCG to bowl. But apparently this is all part of the master plan that South Africa have been hatching for months. The scheme was so confidential and top secret, even Botha himself is stunned by the move. I don't know much about the bowler so if any South African readers could provide us with a sneak preview, we promise not to pass it onto the Australia squad! :-)
|Posted by JC on Wed 28 Dec||43 comments|
I've been saying for weeks that Andrew Symonds is a quality Test player and finally I stand vindicated as Andrew Symonds and Brett Lee dismissed South Africa to take a first innings lead. Okay, maybe I'm not Symond's biggest fan but I'll concede he delivered for us today. Day 3 firmly belonged to Australia as the first two sessions yielded a steady flow of South African wickets. Brett Lee bowled spectacularly as he toyed with Jacque Kallis before sconing him on the helmet that had Kallis almost reeling into his own stumps. The next ball was a brutal swinging yorker that clean bowled the dazed World #1 batsman. Next, Warne dismissed Ashwell Prince and will be licking his lips that Prince, not Kemp, is his new Daryll Cullinan - he's dismissed him each time this series. Lee struck again just before lunch, bowling Jacques Rudolph with the new ball.
The second session looked ominous as South Africa were only 100 behind with 5 wickets in hand, Herschelle Gibbs in the 90's and Mark Boucher looking solid. To everyone's surprise (mostly mine), it was Andrew Symonds who ripped the heart out of the South African middle order as his medium pacers seamed around dangerously. He took Mark Boucher with an LBW off-cutter although the ball was travelling safely over the stumps. But then he bowled Gibbs with another off cutter and for good measure, trapped Shaun Pollock LBW. Symonds almost dislocated his own hip when he convulsively celebrated his 3rd wicket and it looks like he's bought his ticket to the 3rd Test in Sydney. I have mixed feelings about this - I'll happily take the first innings lead but I'm skeptical he can bowl with such penetration on a regular basis.
Australia began their 2nd innings with a lead of 44 runs and built on it solidly. They lost Phil Jacques and Ricky Ponting to LBW decisions along the way so that at stumps, they have a lead of 154 runs with 8 wickets in hand - a handy position. The game is progressing strikingly similar to Perth and Day 4 will most likely see Australia building a lead then declaring late in the day. If we don't lose too many wickets before lunch, I'm looking forward to seeing Hussey, Symonds and Gilchrist smack it around in the middle session and a declaration half an hour before tea. You'd think Ponting would have to give himself more than 4 sessions to dismiss South Africa this time.
|Posted by JC on Tue 27 Dec||114 comments|
Cricinfo have published an entertaining summary of the best cricket quotes of 2005. They're all great but I've picked a few of my favs such as Digicel's chairman commenting on the West Indies extracurricular activities as they toured Australia:
"If they had scored as many runs as they had women's phone numbers during the tour, West Indies would have won the series comfortably."Ian Botham commented on Andrew Nel's aggressive sledging which we're now encountering first hand:
"He must enjoy playing cricket ... by the end of most games he can't have any match fee left.And lastly, a classic from Kevin Pietersen:
"It's a catch-21 situation."This is a guy who sledged South African crowds for not being able to speak English.
|Posted by JC on Tue 27 Dec||140 comments|
It was no coincidence that Australia's 16 Test winning streak began when Adam Gilchrist joined the side. Whenever we got into trouble, Gilchrist would come in at number 7, smack a century of as many balls and bat us back into the match. Lately, we've lost our safety net with Gilchrist's disturbing drop of form. However, we may have found a useful replacement in Mike Hussey who today took Australia from a hopeless position into a strong one on the 2nd day of the 2nd Test. We started the day at 8 for 239 and McGill fell quickly. Ntini set him up nicely and you could almost see it coming the way McGill cut the first 5 balls of an over only to be clean bowled on the 6th. The turning point came when Kallis dropped a relatively straightforward slips catch off Hussey when he was only on 27. At that point, Australia would've been all out for 250. Instead, Hussey built a great partnership with Glenn McGrath, scored a century and took Australia to 350. That's two catches in the 1st innings that cost South Africa around 200 runs. If they'd held their chances today and yesterday, Australia would be on their knees in this Test. Considering their grassed chances in Perth may have cost them a victory, we better hope they don't learn how to catch before the series is over. It's also a disturbing sign if we need to depend on bad opposition fielding to stay in the match. Hussey's Test average is now 94 - it's a shame it was he and not Glenn McGrath that fell for the 10th wicket as his average would've risen to 112! I know it's early in his career but it's still fun to speculate about such things.
Unfortunately (from a cricket point of view), I had to go out to a family Christmas get-together in the afternoon so I didn't get to see the South African innings. By all reports, the pitch does seem to be flattening, hence only 4 wickets fell all day and the match is set up to go deep into the 5th day (which makes me very happy). At this point, 5 frontline bowlers would be nice, don't you think? The game is delicately poised and continues to match the Perth Test as both teams' 1st innings began strongly. At this stage in Perth, South Africa's middle order crumbled so let us hope history repeats itself on the 3rd day.
|Posted by JC on Tue 27 Dec||32 comments|
Australia's innings today had a ring of familiarity that showed our successful 2nd innings in Perth was an aberration, not the norm. Our top order set a useful platform, taking us to 154 runs for the loss of 1 wicket. Once the second wicket fell, our middle order fell over in a heap, leaving us 8 down for a paltry 239 at stumps.
The commentators questioned Ponting's decision to bat first. But honestly, after selecting two spinners, what do you expect him to do? Indeed it comes as no surprise that since Edgbaston, Ricky Ponting has never sent the opposition in after winning the toss - even in ODI's. It was disappointing to see Phil Jacques fall cheaply in his debut but it was pleasing to see Matt Hayden put away the pull shot after his brain explosion in Perth. Surprisingly, South Africa didn't bowl too many short ones to him. I thought Ntini would offer a few tempters at him - risk a few boundaries to claim his wicket. Their strategy instead was to choke the runs (a typically Australian approach) and it seemed a wrong strategy after Australia dominated the first 2 sessions. Ricky Ponting was dropped by Andrew Nel at 13 to continue South Africa's poor record of dropped catches this series. You'd understand if it was a diving half-chance but the ball was hit right into the bread basket and Nel dropped a sitter. It cost South Africa 104 runs as Ponting went on to score a graceful century. But Nel went from villain to hero (or vica versa from our point of view) when he took 4 wickets in the last session. And Graeme Smith's strategy of run choking was vindicated as even when Australia dominated, their batsmen did little damage.
Brad Hodge was unconvincing, playing a lot of shots away from his body. Andrew Symonds came out looking like a circus clown and batted like one with a first ball duck. Gilchrist got out softly, bunting some catching practice to gully with a casualness that would make Mark Waugh proud. And Warnie tried to slog a ball over cover only to sky it to a fielder. Just like the 1st innings in Perth, the middle-order batted with ill discipline. At least Hussey looked solid and very comfortable at Test level. Hodge is still yet to convince and well, my feelings on the Symonds matter have been clearly stated. Conversely, South Africa showed great mental toughness - at one stage, they looked on the verge of being batted out of the game on the 1st day. Instead, they wrested back the initiative and Australia may be playing catch up for much of this game.
|Posted by JC on Sun 25 Dec||32 comments|
Welcome news for Australia cricket as Ricky Ponting has given Andrew Symonds his vote of confidence. This usually happens to a player just before he gets dropped (the kiss of death) so I'm slightly more optimistic of a 5 bowler attack going into the 2nd Test. That would solve the Australian selector's problem of preventing Shane Warne burn-out. Meanwhile, the South African captain is going into mind-game overdrive as Graeme Smith accuses Shane Warne of trying to take over the Australian captaincy. Regarding Warnie's sledging, he's struck back, saying "The guys have started to take a laugh at him here and there". Things are definitely hotting up for an interesting Boxing Day Test.
|Posted by JC on Sun 25 Dec||52 comments|
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