Now that Australia are on an extraordinary 5 match losing streak, the panic button is finally being pushed and more frequently than a pedestrian crossing button. For starters, Troy Cooley will now tour with the side. He wasn't originally scheduled to go but with our recent bowling, Cricket Australia have seen the writing on the wall and forked out the airfare. With a bowling attack featuring relative newbies Mitchell Johnson and Shaun Tait, every bit of guidance and coaching is crucial. Obviously they read my earlier post on this very topic.
I'm also pleasantly surprised to learn that Adam Gilchrist will join the World Cup squad before their first warm-up match on March 6. Originally he'd planned to miss the first 3 weeks but an early birth of his third child has helped out the Aussie team somewhat. Congratulations, Gilly. Now get on the plane!
|Posted by JC on Sun 25 Feb||44 comments|
Now that the Australian summer is officially over, it's time to kick off the World Cup verbal sparring. Allan Border is first to join the fray, labelling the Proteas as chokers:
"They have got to shake that chokers tag. They keep missing out in the big moments, the big tournaments. They are a quality team, they deserve that No.1 ranking at the moment (but going) into the World Cup, do you want that around your neck or not?"Considering we're sitting on a 5 match losing streak, lost to South Africa 3-2 last year and just surrendered our #1 ranking to them, I don't know if we're in a position to deride the Saffers. Thanks, AB, our first real challenge in the World Cup is South Africa on March 24 and you've just handed them a meaty serving of motivation on a platter.
|Posted by JC on Sat 24 Feb||350 comments|
While Australia dresses in sackcloth and ashes (purloined from the urn perhaps), New Zealand are savouring the sweetness of a cleansweep. Jonathan Millmow at stuff.co.nz fondly recalls the manic scenes after Tuesday night's improbable run-chase:
"Grown men hugged, others simply flung an arm around a mate and marched to the nearest pub, thousands stayed for the post-match presentation, the Black Caps did a victory lap. Cricket has not seen scenes like those on Tuesday night in Hamilton since the 1992 World Cup when Mark Greatbatch was belting balls into nearby suburbs.Meanwhile, Richard Boock at the NZ Herald tells us do not adjust reality: it's true:
Some New Zealand team members stayed in the dressing room till 1am before returning to their hotel house bar to find Australia captain Mike Hussey still dressed in his one-day kit. Then there is the story of the family in Newlands standing in their living room for the final chaotic overs as Mark Gillespie and Brendon McCullum put the finishing touches on the unthinkable run chase. Afterward came the revelation that Gillespie had been told by McCullum to give him the strike but somewhere between receiving his instructions and scratching his guard he forgot.
An Australian journalist filed his story at the fall of the eighth New Zealand wicket believing victory was in the bag only to make the dreaded call back to the desk 10 minutes later saying 'can you hold that piece please, I'm going to have to do a re-write'."
You could imagine the bedlam outside the medical clinics yesterday morning as thousands of New Zealanders lined up to have their eyes tested. "I think I just saw New Zealand beat Australia 3-0, doc." "Really? Well, take two of these with a glass of water and everything should be fine in the morning."Naturally, the Black Caps are talking up their World Cup chances. But now even Scotland are smelling blood in the water as coach Peter Drinnen fancies Scotland's chances of upsetting Australia (despite the 500 to 1 odds):
Like a scene from H.G. Wells' War of the Worlds, it wasn't hard to tell who'd been up all night staring and shouting, unable to take their eyes off an event that was never expected to happen. There were the ones who were staggering around with wild eyes, preoccupied with their thoughts, and looking as if they'd been visited overnight by Martian talking fish.
Then there were the ramblers, the gesticulators, still so thoroughly affected by the experience they kept blurting out snatches of the action to themselves, and to any unfortunates within earshot. There were the doubters, the ones who kept pinching themselves, and the perpetually happy - the ones who infuriated non-sporting types by walking around the office with fixed smiles.
Someone must tell the New Zealand cricketers that they could at least give us a bit of warning before they pull a stunt like that again. It's all very well to knock over England or Sri Lanka occasionally. That's to be expected. But sweeping Australia 3-0? It's a wonder people didn't panic, grab a few essentials and flee the city overnight.
"If we can take early wickets, which I'm sure we can with the way we've been bowling, we might set a few nerves jangling and cause the likes of Australia and South Africa a few problems. You hear a lot about our amateur status but that doesn't wash with me or the players. The players set themselves professional standards and if they stick to them they are going to have a good tournament.In England, Simon Barnes is trying hard (and failing) to contain his glee at Australia's demise:
We don't fear anyone at this World Cup. The last month's fixtures in one-day cricket all over the world have been interesting to say the least and we won't be losing any sleep over playing the world champions. We aren't going to the Caribbean to play exhibition cricket. Yes we will be massive underdogs in the most difficult group, but I'm confident we will justify our place with the elite and who knows what we could do? Nobody is getting carried away here and we know we've got jobs to do and we will be giving it everything to cause a shock."
"The luck has deserted Australia along with the confidence and sureness of touch. It always does when a side starts to lose. One crucial injury has followed another: thatís the way things happen with losers. When the force is with you, an injury seems to become a positive advantage, forcing a new and brilliant player into the front line. Australian are at present a team deserted by the force. This is a terribly sad thing to have to write, but all the same, I expect that most English people will be able to take it in stride. I must admit that I felt sorry for Australia when I heard the news, but I think I can say that I am over it now.I just hope the giant can drag itself up from the ground and squash a few gloating midgets a few weeks from now.
Donít expect the rest of us to be sad when the bully gets his comeuppance. Excellence always has a kind of beauty about it; authority may be admirable but it is seldom very lovable. So when the giant falls, it is necessary for the midgets to jump up and down on the body."
|Posted by JC on Fri 23 Feb||48 comments|
Australia's World Cup campaign has suffered a blow as Brett Lee has been ruled out of the World Cup. Cricket Australia was giving him until next Tuesday to prove his fitness. I can only assume he received some bad news today and let CA know asap (decent of you, Bing). On the one hand, it's cruel news - Australia's one day bowling reputation is at an all time low at the moment and Lee is arguably our best one day bowler. On the other hand, I was a little concerned that he might tour with a dodgy ankle. Added to Symond's shoulder, Hayden's foot, Clarke's hip and Ponting's back, the Australian 15 man squad is a few pulled hammys away from not being able to field an XI. The other silver lining is Stuart Clark regains his spot (I told you to be patient, Clarky!)
|Posted by JC on Fri 23 Feb||23 comments|
If there's one constant in sport, it's the implausible crap we have to listen to from losing coaches. We endured it from Duncan Fletcher this summer. What John Buchanan served out in 2005 could've fertilized a botanical garden. And following our 5 match losing streak, the worst in a decade, Buchanan is stressing losing was just part of his fine tuning plan. Who needs Warnie? We still have the greatest spinner in the world.
Meanwhile, Nathan Bracken has a unique spin on why Australia have surrendered the 4 highest run chases in ODI history (being the only bowler to have played in all 4 matches). It's because the batsmen have nothing to lose:
"As a bowler, it is always tough going into a situation knowing the opposition are going to come out without a care in the world. You get in a position when a team is chasing that sort of score they have nothing to lose. They can come out and if they get knocked over for 120 and lose the game, they can say: 'oh, we were chasing 340, so be it'. They are in a position where they can come out and play any shot they want to play, chasing fours and sixes, without the consequence hanging over them. It can be tough to bowl in those situations. You have to get on top early or it can get tricky."Interesting theory. So it wasn't our poor bowling - it was merely a case of the batsmen having a bit of a slog without caring about getting out. Luckily they get away with it. Over and over again. Doesn't happen to other bowling attacks though. Funny, I thought it was the second innings that always faced the additional pressure of a run chase - apparently it's the opposite effect according to Bracks.
Meanwhile, Mike Hussey (who also played in the 4 highest run chases) has revealed his 'glass half full' personality. Our bowlers can't defend 300+ scores? Easy peasy! Just set 400+ scores. Obviously a certain day at Wanderers has escaped Mr Cricket's attention.
After 2005, Australia spent an intense 15 months plotting how to win back the Ashes. Part of this plan involved poaching Troy Cooley as bowling coach and it showed as Australia's bowling was far superior. However, the wheels seem to have fallen off already with bowling our greatest weakness heading into the World Cup. With only one week till the squad flies to the West Indies and 13 days till our first warm-up game, time is running out to complete Buchanan's "fine-tuning".
|Posted by JC on Thu 22 Feb||46 comments|
Now the series is decided, New Zealand have a chance to deliver a pointed backhander to Australia, resting Daniel Vettori and Shane Bond from the 3rd Chappell Hadlee match. The way players are dropping from the series, it reminds me of that Get Smart episode where Kaos and Control keep losing agents one by one until only Max and Siegfried are left. If this was a 5 game series, the final match would most likely be contested between recruits from local 2nd grade club sides.
To twist the barb, New Zealand have gone at great pains to stress that Vettori and Bond would've played if it was a live match. But seeing as the Black Caps have won the trophy, well, they'd rather put their feet up and watch Dr Phil. It's an amusing twist as Australia were widely criticised for resting Ponting and Gilchrist. Adam Gilchrist has gone so far as to say the Australian squad didn't want to tour New Zealand at all, accusing the powers that be of over-scheduling. It's only 3 years old but the Chappell Hadlee trophy has descended into farce - I wouldn't be surprised to see the annual event rescheduled to every 4 years.
|Posted by JC on Tue 20 Feb||54 comments|
It's been a summer of cleansweeps. Australia won the Ashes 5-nil. England won the Tri-Series final 2-nil. And now New Zealand took the Chappell Hadlee Trophy 3-nil, chasing Australia's 346 with 3 balls and 1 wicket to spare.
Today's match had the dubious title of Clash of the Second Fiddles as both sides had rested key players. Australia got off to a solid start, thanks largely to the absence of Shane Bond. Watson opened with Hayden and scored a run-a-ball 68 which opens up a whole new can of worms. Are Gilchrist and Hayden our best opening pair? Gilly has had a poor run recently - at least when he can be bothered to even turn up. I know it might be blasphemy but perhaps Gilly should move down the order. He won't be there for the first half of the World Cup so if Hayden and Watson find good momentum, who knows?
The opening partnership was becalmed by a good spell from Patel - the frustrated Kiwi version of Stuart MacGill. After Watson and Hodge fell, Hayden kept plugging away, reaching his century and was immediately rewarded with a full toss fracturing his big toe. Adding insult to injury, the ground PA system played REM's 'Everybody Hurts' while he received medical attention. However, the injury actually worked out nicely for Australia. Watson came out as a runner and Hayden went the tonk, hitting a steady procession of sixes (a whopping 15 in total). He batted throughout the innings, reaching 181 not out which is the highest ever innings by an Australian.
Hayden had support from Hadden who contributed a useful 38 off 31 balls and will serve us well in the early World Cup matches before Gilchrist graces us with his presence. Australia reached 5 for 346 - usually an intimidating total although considering the 3 largest chases in ODI cricket all came against Australia in the last 14 months, was no guarantee of victory.
The one thing the depleted New Zealand bowling attack did right was concede few extras, allowing only 2 wides and a no-ball throughout the entire innings. Australia exceeded that in Bracken's first over and in a way was the difference between the sides. New Zealand set off at a cracking pace of 7 runs per over but Fleming fell in the 4th over (I enjoyed Rolling Stone's "You can't always get what you want" playing as Fleming left the ground). Three more wickets fell, including dangerman Taylor, leaving New Zealand seemingly dead and buried at 4 for 41.
However, the Black Caps have revealed a middle order with a lot of character. Fulton went after Mitchell Johnson who conceded 3 fours and a six in one over. The next over, he hit Watson for a four and six but then was caught by Hussey at short extra cover. Next McMillan went ballistic. He hit 100 off 67 balls, the fastest ever ODI century by a New Zealander. Two consecutive sixes took him from 88 to 100 - he was so in the zone, he didn't even realise he'd got a ton till McCullum mentioned it to him. "HOLY CRAP!" said the Cricinfo live commentary. My language was a little stronger.
After he fell, McCullum continued the attack right through to the last over where he needed 7 runs off 6 balls - with 9 wickets down. He hit a six off the first ball, a four of the third ball and a nation rejoiced. Not my nation, unfortunately - there is much gnashing of teeth and tearing of sackcloth on this side of the Tasman. So where do we go from here?
Firstly, we need a scapegoat. John Buchanan has been scapegoated too many times so it's time to move onto the next victim. Mike Hussey should never captain again! (nah, just kidding, we love you, Mr Cricket) Secondly, Australia seriously need to work out how to bowl one day cricket. I seriously hope Troy Cooley is going with the squad to the West Indies as we will need every bit of advice and fine tuning on the road that we can get. Thirdly, the players are saying they didn't want to play in the Chappell Hadlee Trophy. I think we should extend it - have one more match, give us one more crack at the Black Caps. This time they have to rest two additional players. Say Taylor and McMillan. In fact, throw in Stephen Fleming for good measure.
|Posted by JC on Tue 20 Feb||91 comments|
It just gets worse and worse for Australia as today they lost to New Zealand by 5 wickets, lost the Chappell Hadlee trophy and their #1 ODI ranking to South Africa. Stephen Fleming will I'm sure be on Graeme Smith's Christmas card list later this year.
Australia's innings was a huge improvement on Friday's debacle as Mike Hussey led us to an imposing 336. It was good to see Mr Cricket scoring a big innings, knocking up 105 off 84 balls (well, technically I didn't see it as I don't have Foxtel - I listened to radio coverage). His batting average had fallen to almost mortal proportions (67.5) so hopefully he can pip it back up over 70! Hodge offered great support, reaching 97 not out before running out of overs. He needs to talk to Michael Bevan about timing his run scoring - this is the second time in a few weeks he's finished a few shy of a century. Cameron White also came in at the death and smashed 42 off 19 balls - exactly what he's in the team for. As far as batting goes, things went pretty much to plan.
However, our improved batting only served to highlight our inability to defend large totals. Relative newcomer Ross Taylor continues to excite as he bettered Hussey's innings, scoring 117. This guy could be the next Martin Crowe and may torment Australia in the future. When he fell, McMillan (52 from 30 balls) and Fulton (76 from 65 balls) prevented the New Zealand's innings from faltering with some big hitting at the death, chasing down 337 with an over to spare.
It's hard to know how to react to Australia's results of late. Shall we blame Buchanan's over-training or Cricket Australia's over-scheduling? Hussey's 0% win record as captain? Chalk it up to injuries to Symonds, Clarke and Lee? Write it off as Ashes hangover? Or maybe Australia just isn't any good anymore. One thing's for sure. Punter and Gilly, get on the next plane to Hamilton!
|Posted by JC on Sun 18 Feb||63 comments|
You have to feel for Stuart Clark. He's one of those blend-into-the-background type of characters in an Australian cricket culture where it's almost a sin to be laid back. You have to be aggressive, belligerent, preferably with your shirt unbuttoned down to your navel Dennis Lillee style. Clark's easy going demeanour may have played a small part in his omission from the World Cup squad - he just doesn't possess the mongrel the selectors were looking for. However, he's attempting to rebrand himself as the next DK:
"He claims to have a temper. His evidence is weak, buried in hazy tales of red cards on soccer fields as a teenager, or snippets of on-field abuse that fellow players cannot recall. He says he can unleash a rage that "just comes flying out", but no one seems to have witnessed it.Clark's argument is further undermined by his response to being left out of the World Cup squad:
Clark alleges that he is impatient. This, too, rings hollow. He took almost a decade to break into the Test team last March. He was 30, an age when fast bowlers' spines creak and crack from years of twisting and jarring. He had appeared doomed to miss out. He had never been anointed as the next big thing. He had projected no aura of entitlement, boasted no cheer squads or flashes of glamour. Despite the sheer bastardry of the outcome, it seems Clark was easy to drop when the World Cup squad was announced on Tuesday.
"He admitted he would be 'devastated' to miss out. But if he did, he would be freed up to complete an extra subject for his commerce degree at the University of Sydney, which he undertook to qualify for a law degree."No, you're not fooling anyone, Stuey. However, I wouldn't despair. Australian players are dropping like flies at the moment so perhaps quiet patience is all that's required to get back into the World Cup squad.
|Posted by JC on Sat 17 Feb||19 comments|
What with South Africa's series wins over India and Pakistan plus Australia's Tri-Series loss, the possibility has come sooner than later and Australia could lose their #1 ODI ranking in New Zealand. They have to win two matches in the Chappell Hadlee Series - aka win the trophy - to retain their #1 spot.
Now maybe it's a bit early to start doomsday predictions - I have been known to panic needlessly in the past. But I would rate a depleted Australia as slight underdogs going into this series. And if we fail to win two matches, we'll be heading into the World Cup having just lost the Tri-Series, Chappell Hadlee Trophy, #1 ranking, key players to injury and most importantly, form and confidence. It will take more than a few wins over the minnows to get that back.
|Posted by JC on Fri 16 Feb||95 comments|
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