Day 1 delivered everything we've come to expect from Australia - South Africa Tests. Tough, competitive cricket where neither team were able to establish a dominant lead (until usually the 5th day when South Africa run away with it). South Africa were all over us in the first session. The turning point was when Graeme Smith dropped a sitter to reprieve Ponting just before lunch. Ponting and Clarke counter-attacked in the middle session, looking to wrest control of the game. But unexpected twists are now the expected norm in these games as both fell before the tea break.
But the middle-order showed some starch as Haddin and newbie Marcus North batted out till stumps. I like the look of Marcus North on debut. I tend to favour debuting younger players over older guys as a better long term choice. However, comparing the youngster Phillip Hughes with his hot-headed dismissal (h/t Moses) to the mature, meticulous batting from the older North is a big argument for giving the players a few more years to develop their game. On the other hand, look how Pup turned out.
But what really concerns me is going into this Test with only 3 front-line bowlers. Hasn't our inability to take 20 wickets in the last series taught us anything? Hasn't the last several years wasted on bits and pieces player like Andrew Symonds and Shane Watson taught us anything? We need 4 quality bowlers. Or if the selectors refuse to choose a 4th bowler (eg - look to save Tests rather than win them), at least choose a specialist batsman. But don't try to do both and end up doing neither. I'd tell that parable about the dog with a bone looking at its reflection in a pond but well, you get the idea.
Course McDonald could go on and take a 5-for to make a complete mug out of me. However, I'm not too worried about looking stupid.
|Posted by JC on Fri 27 Feb||160 comments|
I don't recall going into a Test series with quite the sense of foreboding I've had with this one. Okay, I confess a tendency to desert my team at the first sign of trouble (who will forget my panic attack when we nearly lost a Test to Bangladesh). But Australia is truly at a crossroads. The team is bristling with debutants - Phillip Hughes, Marcus North and Ben Hilfenhaus (has Hilfy played a Test yet?).
Phillip Hughes (pictured here in a Joan of Arc like pose) is not only playing his first Test, he'll be facing the opening delivery of the Australian innings. I like his moxie. When I opened the batting in the Under 12's and Under 14's, I always made a point of starting the innings at the bowler's end. Let's hope Hughes' first Test turns out better than Justin Langer's 100th Test which happened to be in South Africa and ended very early in the first morning, hospitalised by an Ntini bouncer.
My biggest disappointment? Bryce McGain being overlooked. Australia needs legspin. World cricket needs legspin. Humanity in general needs legspin. It's cricket's greatest artform, if done well. But Bryce has managed to make a hash of this tour so far. He missed the plane, got hammered in a tour game against a second rate team then came down with a tummy bug. Come on, Bryce, get it together for leggies everywhere!
According to my calculations, the game should start at 6.30pm Brisbane time. I'm not certain ABC Radio are broadcasting but I'm quietly confident :-)
|Posted by JC on Thu 26 Feb||79 comments|
Today is the last day of Australia's summer of international cricket. It's been a fantastic season of seesawing Tests and down-to-the-wire one dayers. And with the season finally ending with today's Twenty20, we can all take a deep breath and have a rest...
Until tomorrow when Australia fly to South Africa for a 3 Test hammering in hostile conditions.
But I digress. If a million cliched sports interviews have taught me anything, it's to take it one game at a time. Preferably with an air of quiet confidence. So onto today's Twenty20. Unlike the first international Twenty20, there'll be no dodgy moustaches, headbands or beige uniforms. New Zealand will turn up with strong motivation, having the Chappell Hadlee trophy stolen by an ill-timed downpour (glad our local Brisbane weather could oblige).
Australia, on the other hand, are not so convincing. They've rested their two best batsmen, captain and vice captain. They're dipping so low in the barrel, Brad Haddin is now captaining Australia. At this rate, I'll be waiting by the phone, hoping for a call up. Perhaps if national pride fails to provide sufficient motivation, Australia should look for the IPL scouts in the crowd. A good over or two could raise your IPL value half a million!
|Posted by JC on Sun 15 Feb||97 comments|
I was woken at 1am this morning by a thunderous downpour outside. The rainfall barely abated throughout the day. So I was surprised that we even got a game today, albeit a 22 over game. Helluva way to finish off a 2-all series. Oh well, better than no result at all, I guess...
|Posted by JC on Fri 13 Feb||88 comments|
For starters, it's great that South Australian cricket are donating all their ticket proceeds to relief for the bush fire crisis. To anyone not going to the game, can I recommend donating to the Red Cross Bushfire Appeal.
Back to the cricket, Australia dodged a bullet in game 3 - can they dodge another one today? Let's hope it's a high scorer as the Commbank will be donating $100 for every run scored. Bowlers, I'll look the other way if you bowl a few more extras today if it means Commbank has to cough up a few more pennies.
|Posted by JC on Tue 10 Feb||52 comments|
My wife is not a big follower of cricket but she can generally gauge how the Australian team is going by the frequency of my voice as I yell at the screen. As the game slipped away from Australia on Friday night, my voice grew more and more high pitched. When Mike Hussey dropped Ross Taylor at deep mid-wicket, Wendy characterised my voice as resembling a school girl.
Australian cricket is in dire straits. And I'm not talking about cool Mark Knoffler guitar riffs. Things are so desperate, Cricket Australia have brought back Ricky Ponting from his enforced "rest" to staunch the bleeding. If we lose today, expect Shane Warne and Adam Gilchrist to be rushed into the squad for Game 4. If we lose that game, well, let's just say Cricket Australia have been spending millions in research to bring Don Bradman back from the dead.
So can Australia turn things around in Sydney? Will the former world champions (now #3) somehow regain their mojo and prevent their 6th consecutive defeat? Or will I be squeaking like Mickey Mouse by the end of the day?
|Posted by JC on Sun 8 Feb||82 comments|
Generally, I don't make specific predictions before a game - cricket is too unpredictable (particularly lately). But after successfully predicting Graeme Smith would come out to bat with a broken hand in the 3rd Test, I've been lulled into a sense of overconfidence. For the first Chappell Hadlee game, I predicted Australia would come out all guns blazing. Instead, they came out with a pop gun (which misfired). So what's gonna happen today? Who knows...?
Ah, what the heck, I predict once again that Australia will win. Michael Clarke hasn't lost a game as captain yet so I hope he maintains his perfect record. The fact that Pup is the big cheese today is fascinating in itself. Why was Ponting rested? Is it to preserve him for the South African tour? Or are the selectors test driving Pup with the thought of making him captain a little earlier than initially planned? I smell a Pontyline scandal sometime down the track...
|Posted by JC on Fri 6 Feb||84 comments|
The incident where Andrew Symonds labelled Brendam McCullum a lump of bull dust (now known as Bovineline) has effectively killed off his Test career as Roy has been dumped from the South African tour. Set aside all the alcoholism and off-field behaviour for a moment. Is this a good thing?
Frankly, yes. A more valid reason to dump Andrew Symonds is because he can neither bat nor bowl at Test level. If Australia were dominating games with Warnie and Pigeon rolling the opposition batsmen, then Roy would be perfect. When you're mounting a huge first innings lead and you need a #6 batsman to come out and smash a run-a-ball fifty to demoralise the opposition before declaring half an hour before stumps, well, Roy is your man.
But if your bowlers struggle to take 20 wickets, your top order is shaky and your middle order even shakier, you need someone more reliable than a one-day slogger. You need a tough-as-nails character like AB who valued his wicket more than his first born. Roy values a six-pack of XXXX more than he values his wicket at the moment.
And did I mention he's a crap bowler?
|Posted by JC on Thu 5 Feb||67 comments|
There's been a big fuss over Brad Haddin's breaking the stumps when Broom was bowled last night. Or as I like to call the controversy: Braddyline. Just imagine if Australia had won the game - we'd have a new underarm incident on our hands. Daniel Vettori was the first to unleash the D-word:
"I think you saw from Haddin's reaction that he knew something was wrong so he probably should have made more noise about it. It is disappointing because I thought that was the partnership that was going to win the game, so it put us under a bit more pressure.
Then Brad Haddin invoked the D-word in response to Vettori's use of the D-word:
"I'm pretty disappointed in Dan that he didn't have the decency to come and speak to me after the game if he had an issue with it rather than air his thoughts in a press conference."
I don't know why everyone is so disappointed or surprised. Cheating wicketkeepers is a cherished Australian tradition. Over the last few decades of our golden age, we were blessed with champion legspinners, fast bowlers, tough as nails captains, dominant openers. That's all gone now. At least allow us a dodgy keeper!
|Posted by JC on Mon 2 Feb||61 comments|
In a close game, one of those tiresome cliches is it's the one-percenters that make all the difference. You can't get much closer than a 2 wicket win off the last ball of the game. So how did both teams measure up?
A good measure is the extras conceded. New Zealand conceded only two wides in Australia's innings - remarkably disciplined bowling. In contrast, Australia conceded 11 wides and 3 byes (Haaaaddddiinnnnn!) In such a tight contest, you might say New Zealand's 1.1 percenters versus Australia's 7.7 percenters were the difference.
Of course Australia screwed up on many fronts. Our two best batsmen were run out. We dropped Taylor early in his match winning innings. Australia yet again made a complete hash of their batting power play. And the spirit of Matt Hayden lives on as both our left handed openers fell bunting to short cover.
Australia lost the chance to regain their #1 ICC ranking yesterday. But honestly, the way they played yesterday, could anyone argue they deserve the top spot?
|Posted by JC on Mon 2 Feb||64 comments|
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