Australia booked themselves a place in the Champions Trophy semi-final against New Zealand after they comfortably defeated India. India batted first and turned their batting woes around, setting an imposing target of 250. However, Australia chased it down at a canter with 4 wickets and 4 overs to spare. It was a well rounded victory with all players contributing and the only negative (to use Buchanan-speak) was it means less rest before the Ashes. Some encouraging things to take away from the game:
- All bowlers contributed with a couple of wickets. In particular, Glenn McGrath started with a miserly spell of 1 for 12 off 6 overs including Tendulkar's wicket. Looks like Pigeon is starting to get his groove back which will make the whole of Australia breath a little easier. All it took was Punter giving him the new ball.
- Similarly, the batsmen had a chance to bat themselves into some form. Gilchrist and Ponting finally scored substantial innings, both scoring half centuries.
- Damien Martyn continued his streak of good form. He has a big point to prove which I hope means no signs of mental laziness such as he displayed in England last year.
- The Shane Watson as opener experiment finally yielded fruit as he scored 50 in a blistering opening partnership with Gilchrist. Rahul Dravid gave Watson a big wrap, saying he'd be the key to Australia's success in taking the trophy (big call). Considering Watson's power as batsman and ability to take wickets, it's hard to see Katich getting back in the side barring a Watson injury. Fortunately for Katich, that seems to happen all too often.
|Posted by JC on Mon 30 Oct||21 comments|
I confess I've been a bit concerned about us Aussies being out-sung by the Barmy Army but I'm encouraged to learn that the Fanatics Supporters Group is publishing a songbook for Aussie fans. They'll be giving out 70,000 free copies over the Test series. There are some great lyrics on offer - my favourite is "Ode to a British Girlfriend" sung to the tune of Cliff Richard's Living Doll:
Got myself a yawning, boring, pasty, nagging, whinging pomI think it's every Aussie's duty to get hold of a songbook or just to be ultra-prepared, bring a print-out of the lyrics with you on the day. We need to stand tall, loud and strong to fight off the Barmy Army invasion. Go the green and gold!
Got to do your best to leave her just cause she's a whinging pom
She's got a lazy eye & big fat thighs from all those chips & pies
She's not the only boring, pasty, nagging, whinging pom
|Posted by JC on Fri 27 Oct||137 comments|
Well, they're remaking Bodyline into a movie again (well, first time around it was a mini-series but you get the idea). Says producer Peter Clifton :
"We want to tell the story warts and all and that includes the fact that Bradman really only ever had one true friend -- the great Archie Jackson, who died of tuberculosis when he was 22. Numerous sources have told us Bradman never had any true male friends apart from Jackson and once he died, his wife Jesse was his only real friend."Reading between the lines, I wouldn't be surprised if they portrayed Jackson and Bradman's relationship with latent homosexual overtones similar to Peter Weir's Gallipoli. Even more disturbing is the rumor that Holly Valance is rumoured to play Jessie Bradman. Ugh! A better idea is Russell Crowe touted to play Australian captain Bill Woodfull. I like the idea - Crowe would portray Woodfull as the original Captain Grumpy! Maybe they can use my idea of a gladiator style entrance. I can just picture the scene where Woodfull gets struck on the heart by Harold Larwood, quickly followed by Crowe marching down the pitch and whacking Larwood on the back of the head with his cricket bat. And imagine Crowe's rendition of Woodfull's famous line to Plum Warner:
"There are two f***ing teams out there. One of them is f***ing trying to play f***ing cricket, you Pommie w***er!"Casting Don Bradman is the big challenge. Clifton has searched cricket clubs over Australia for a cricketer to play the role of the Don after consulting with Ian Chappell:
"We have to have characters who can play cricket properly, as well as being good actors, so we can achieve the authenticity needed for this film. Otherwise, we believe there would be a serious flaw in the movie if our actors couldn't play cricket."Chappelli has a great cricketing brain but I don't know if he's the go-to man when it comes to movie making. A film needs to tell a story through high quality acting, not well executed pull shots. Sure, coach the actor to bring his cricketing skills up to scratch but I don't think plucking Trev from the local cricket club to play Don Bradman makes for good art. They're also searching for someone to play Douglas Jardine. Can you go past the original Douglas Jardine - Hugo Weaving? I can see him adopting an Agent Smith from the Matrix persona: "Welcome to the Gabba, Mr Bradman".
|Posted by JC on Thu 26 Oct||132 comments|
Australia and England were both taken unawares by new bowlers at the Champion's Trophy game last weekend. England who pride themselves on their meticulous preparation had no clue about Mitchell Johnson:
After Johnson's first over in Jaipur, England's opening batsmen Andrew Strauss and Ian Bell held a mid-pitch conference in which they expressed surprise at the pace Johnson had generated from a seemingly economical run-up.You almost wish Australia had kept him under wraps and unveiled him at the Gabba although a bit more international experience for Johnson is better preparation. Pietersen was surprised by a Mitchell bouncer and I like how he expects to face short pitched bowling during the Ashes:
"Being, say, a dangerman, they are going to try a little harder against me but it's a challenge and I don't mind a challenge."He sure does have tickets on himself, does self-proclaimed dangerman Pietersen! Conversely, Australia's top order were taken by surprise by new English bowler Sajid Mahmood. I read with interest how he "got wild reverse swing when he took three wickets in his opening five overs against Sri Lanka". Considering reverse swing only comes later in an innings when the ball gets old, I wonder how Mahmood could've got "wild reverse swing" in the opening overs of a one day match. I suspect the lollies were out in force that day!
|Posted by JC on Wed 25 Oct||55 comments|
Seems everyone wants to sink their teeth into the Australians these days. The media, ex-cricketers, Chris Gayle, bloggers such as myself... and now even the animal kingdom as a dog has attacked Matthew Hayden while jogging in Kingaroy. What really gets me is his response:
"You are always a bit shocked by that sort of thing but I was more disappointed than anything."What's with sportsmen and this overuse of the word 'disappointed'? Next he'll be describing the "positives" he's taken from the incident. I can understand the need for diplomacy when criticising an umpire's decision or an ICC ruling? But who is he afraid of offending in the canine community? Is the RSPCA one of his sponsors?
|Posted by JC on Mon 23 Oct||24 comments|
Australia v England has been the most anticipated match of the Champion's Trophy so far. Not to see who will win the trophy - nobody cares about that. We just want to whet our appetite for the Ashes next month. And Australian fans came away satisfied as the news was all good - Australia defeated England by six wickets.
I expected England to target McGrath and wasn't disappointed. They smelt blood in the water with Gillespie in 2005 and went after him, effectively ending his Test career (Bangladesh notwithstanding). McGrath is still shaking off the cobwebs after an 18 month break, offering an ideal opportunity for the English batsmen to notch a scar or two before the Ashes. So openers Bell and Strauss went after him, starting England's innings strongly with an 80 run partnership. In the psychological game that was the real contest of the match, it was round one to England.
Things went downhill from there for England. Mitchell Johnson took early wickets including over-rated Pietersen (there, I said it). All the buzz has been about Johnson lately and his performance today didn't hurt his chances of an Ashes berth as #3 seamer (sorry Dizzy). The next act would've had Aussie fans smiling as budding all-rounder Shane Watson (aka Flintoff wannabe) struck Flintoff in the visor and the two exchanged words. A few balls later, Watson bounced Flintoff out. Round two for Australia.
Australia only need to chase 170 yet their innings started poorly. Watson and Ponting were both dismissed cheaply. The experiment of Watson as opener is not panning out as the selector's expected and Ponting's poor form is getting close to alarming proportions. Round three for England.
But ultimately it's who wins the final round that matters. Damien Martyn carried Australia's batting home and opened up a scar or two on Harmison, tonking him in both spells. Martyn looks to be cementing his #4 spot in the Test side and he ensured round four went to Australia. After all the psychobabble spewed from John Buchanan's mouth when we lose a match, Flintoff's summation after the match was refreshingly candid: "We can't take any positives from the game."
In the end though, I wouldn't put too much meaning into Australia's victory. I'm just not convinced that England really want to win the Trophy. You almost imagine they wouldn't be too upset to be eliminated early and earn an extra week's rest before the Australian tour. Nevertheless, I will take a few moments to savour this victory and hope it's a foretaste of more to come.
|Posted by JC on Sun 22 Oct||16 comments|
I was so close with my prediction yesterday - so close but in the end, so far as the West Indies defeated Australia by 10 runs. As expected, the West Indies batted cautiously first up. After losing early wickets, Brian Lara scored 3 runs off his first 20 balls. But eventually he built a solid partnership with Runako Morton to hold the innings together. Their eventual total of 234 was more than respectable considering the pitch. Strange that Lara batted at #6 - considering his back problems practically ended his innings and prevented him taking the field, I wonder if he went in carrying an injury.
Australia also started moderately slowly - Gilchrist batted with an 80 strike-rate (snailpace for him). Watson however fell for a duck, pulling to mid-on before he'd got off the mark. You could almost hear the sigh of relief from Simon Katich in the stands. I wonder if the Watson-as-opener experiment is over before it barely started. I don't think so - the selectors develop a stubborness about these ideas they get fixed in their heads. They persisted with Andrew Symonds as a Test player for a whole season before they finally admitted the whole concept was a joke.
Nevertheless, my prediction was on track. Hussey came in at over 42 with a run-a-ball required. That's a walk in the park for him. But then Jerome Taylor ripped the heart out of the Aussie batting. He started the day spectacularly, bowling Ponting and clocking Damien Martyn on the helmet with 140+kph deliveries. He finished even better - bowling Hussey, trapping Lee in front and bowling Hogg. All his wickets beat the bat. I confess I hadn't even heard of this guy before - he's only 22 and I look forward to seeing how his career develops.
A few upset victories and the Champion's Trophy has suddenly come alive (there's nothing like an Australian defeat to grab everyone's interest). As for Australia, there are worrying signs. Most telling was Glenn McGrath's flat performance. Ponting didn't even bowl him for 10 overs - he went for over 5 an over although admittedly he did bowl at the death. We now face England on Saturday. It's a big game - both teams desperately need to win and both will want to set the tone for the Ashes.
|Posted by JC on Thu 19 Oct||20 comments|
I admit I've always sneered at the Champion's Trophy as a lesser and more pointless cousin to the World Cup (particularly when only a few months separate them). The poor state of the pitches and lacklustre matches so far haven't helped its cause. However, in spite of myself, I find I'm being drawn into it. It's mainly to see if the England-Australia matches will serve as a barometer for the Ashes similar to the ODI and Twenty20 matches last year. And I took great interest in Pakistan's victory over Sri Lanka yesterday.
Losing their top quicks Shoaib and Asif to failed drugs test was a grave blow - even worse than Australia losing Warnie before the World Cup. I wonder if the team can replicate Australia's success and go on to win the tournament (I doubt it). Nevertheless, the boys rallied and showed great character in overcoming Sri Lanka who had good momentum after caning the West Indies. It must be tough on the nerves being a Pakistan cricket fan - I don't know if any other team takes you on such a rollercoaster ride. They went from the heights of a series victory over England (how sweet was that?!) to the Darrell Hair debacle. Things couldn't get much lower but somehow they managed it with losing one captain, another resigning, the PCB head resigning and the failed drug tests. And back up again with this latest victory.
Australia play their first game tonight (I hope ABC radio are covering it) against the West Indies. Everyone is expecting the Aussies to crush the Windies although I'm not so sure. Brian Lara has a habit of pulling something special out of the bag when he faces us, as shown just recently when they defeated us a few weeks ago. The way the West Indies can run hot or cold, you'd think they were the new Pakistan. I think (or hope) it will be a tight game with scores around 200 as the batsmen play the pitch cautiously but Australia should prevail in the end. Expect a Mike Hussey led run-chase or McGrath choking a West Indies run chase in the latter overs (that's as specific a prediction as I'm willing to commit to).
|Posted by JC on Wed 18 Oct||69 comments|
An interesting article from The Age lists even more of the hi-tech gadgets used by Australian cricket coach John Buchanan. Buck sure loves his gadgets. I picture the Australian dressing room looking something like a scene out of Aliens with the marine commander in his bunker monitoring a wall of screens displaying vital statistics of each of his soldiers. Buchanan's latest gadgetry includes a urine tester that determines a player's salt levels and stick-on patches that gauge salt content in sweat. The idea is to make sure players don't get dehydrated in the hot Indian conditions although as a side-benefit, it also allows Buchanan to discover if Shane Warne has been eating too much fast food.
|Posted by JC on Wed 18 Oct||70 comments|
The big bombshell that hit the cricketing world last week was that Al-Qaeda plotted a terrorist attack on the Australian cricket team during the Edgbaston Test in 2005. Personally, I think the news sounds a little too sensational to be credible. But if the rumors are true, I'm just glad the terrorists decided to dumb down their attack. Instead of spraying poisonous gas into their dressing room, they opted with the less lethal (yet still devastating) strategy of rolling cricket balls around Glenn McGrath before the start of play.
|Posted by JC on Tue 17 Oct||120 comments|
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