Cricinfo continue to dole out the legspin love (and no Hewy, legspin love is not creepy, it's a beautiful thing). This time, Christian Ryan lobbies for Bryce McGain to play in the Ashes and empathises with his pain at Newlands:
There came a moment - 5.1 overs into his Test debut was the moment - when you stopped worrying about what might happen to Bryce McGain's next delivery and you started to fear for the next 25 years of his life.
Bryce and his captain had just staged a dragged-out conversation. Pointed index fingers were waved about. A run-saving course of action was settled on: a fieldsman, posted out in the deep, on the leg-side fence. But Bryce's next ball did not go anywhere near leg stump. Instead it pitched wide, and short, outside off stump, and Jacques Kallis took one step across and went whack. As the ball scudded away Bryce watched it shrink smaller and smaller. He blinked forlornly, and when his eyes opened again they were red-rimmed, and his face was flushed, and he was chomping on his chewing gum with such determined little jabs that you wanted to hug him.
It was hard to look, harder to look away. Test cricket at its most brutal is Test cricket at its most engrossing. At times like this it is possible for a kind of malicious glee to stir inside the spectator. Four balls later Kallis went whack again, and this website's ball-by-ball commentary service - not normally a bastion of malice or glee - could contain itself no longer. McGain to Kallis, FOUR, bit of rubbish, short and on the leg side, Kallis pulls it away to the recycle bin.
In truth, the article is either patronising or sarcastic - or maybe a bit of both. But while everyone is sinking the boot into Bryce, much credit must go to South Africa. They obviously saw Australian spin as a weakness to exploit. They targeted Jason Krezja in Perth and in one game, scuttled his promising Test career. They were more circumspect against the more defensive Nathan Hauritz but his inability to wickets was enough to get him dumped. Then they threw everything but the kitchen sink at Bryce from his very first delivery. It was a deliberate ploy and could've gone either way. It went, lamentably for Bryce and legspin in general, South Africa's way. Kudos to the Proteas - they caused the Australian selectors to shuffle back and forth between spinners in a way to guarantee none of them would succeed.
To his credit, Bryce McGain still hopes to play the Ashes. And Warnie himself thinks Bryce should play. Who am I to argue with the sheik? Bryce should play if only to see how the English respond. Would they have the stones to attempt hitting him out of the attack? Just imagine Bryce's first over at Lords with KP on strike. Now that would be an encounter worth losing sleep over.
|Posted by JC on Fri 27 Mar||77 comments|
I cast a casual eye over Cricinfo this evening and my eyes were drawn to several articles on legspin. I make no secret of my firm belief that legspin is cricket's greatest artform (it's mere coincidence that I also happen to be a leggie). If fast bowlers are cricket's rock stars, then legspinners are the classical musicians. A virtuoso performance by a master like Warnie, weaving a melody of spin variations with a counterpoint of mental disintegration, is simply cricket at its most watchable.
The first article is Leg Spinners – A statistical assessment by S. Giridhar and V J Raghunath. Being an ex-physicist with a penchant for graphs and tables, surprisingly, this article left me cold. It looked at all Test legspinners who took at least 20 wickets, then juggled their stats around calculating log values and effectiveness indices. Lo and behold, they conclude Shane Warne is cricket's best legspinner. Whoddathunkit!
However, the same authors also penned this little gem, Leg Spinners: Stories and Anecdotes. It describes the origin of the googly followed by a delightful anecdote of Victor Trumper falling foul of just such a delivery:
If you have read Arthur Mailey’s “10 for 66 and All That”, you will immediately recall the unforgettable chapter on Mailey’s first encounter with the ‘immortal Victor Trumper’. After all his anxiety and suspense, Mailey had a chance to bowl to him. A couple of perfectly good leg breaks were driven with absolute authority to the off-side ropes. Realizing that he might not get another over, Mailey decided to try his then newly invented googly. He tossed it up and saw Trumper coming down the wicket. The ball swerved out (unlike the leg break which would have drifted in). Trumper, uncertain, made the adjustment to play it away from his leg but the googly sneaked through between bat and pad. Trumper didn’t attempt to regain his crease; he just smiled at Mailey, shook his head and said “that was too good for me, son” and walked away. Mailey says he felt no triumph - he felt like a boy who had killed a dove.
There's plenty more in there, celebrating cricket's greatest leggies. Most intriguing was the mention of the book "Getting Wickets" by Clarrie Grimmett. I'm very keen to get hold of this book which unfortunately is 80 years old and out of print. If anyone knows where I might get hold of a copy, please post a comment!
|Posted by JC on Wed 25 Mar||58 comments|
Oh, wait. There is no Day 5. I've been cheated of a day of Test cricket because Australia lost by a freaking innings inside of 4 days! Our first innings defeat in over a decade! Well, there's only one possible Australian response to such a crushing defeat... write it off as a dead rubber loss and pretend it never happened.
However, I've decided to put aside my glass-half-empty outlook for a moment and take some positives out of the 3rd Test:
- Just the fact that the 3rd Test was a dead rubber is a major upset. Noone, including myself, predicted Australia to win the first two Tests. An outstanding comeback from Australia after the home series loss.
- I gave up the ghost at the tea interval when defeat was all but inevitable. Unfortunately that meant I missed a sparkling maiden century by Mitchell Johnson, one bright spot in an otherwise dark day. Mitchell Johnson's century confirmed that Australia have finally found a genuine all-rounder. Surely now the selectors can concentrate on finding a proper batsman to occupy the #6 spot. Bye bye Ronnie. Roy and Watson, back to state cricket and the IPL for the both of you.
- If anything, South Africa's emphatic victory at Newlands will only serve to remind them of lost opportunities in the first two Tests - what if they'd bowled as well in those matches? Well, they didn't, they lost the trophy and Australia retains the #1 spot. In your face, Saffers!
- And lastly, let's not forget losing dead rubbers was what Australia was famous for in our salad days. So let's hope for plenty more dead rubber losses, starting with the 2009 Ashes...
Ah, Australia, we're gracious in defeat and victory :-)
|Posted by JC on Mon 23 Mar||73 comments|
Each Test between Australia and South Africa in this 6 Test series has been a seesawing affair, ending well into the 5th day. This Test, not so much. South Africa have dominated since the 2nd hour of Day 1 and things have gotten only worse for Australia.
I watched the news highlight this evening. Usually when they show the highlight scores, they display the best bowling figures. This time, the only bowling figures they displayed were "B. McGain 0 for 149". Then proceeded to show de Villiers and Morkel sending him deep into the crowd over and over again. Now that's just kicking a man when he's down!
I was going to peddle the argument that Warnie also started with similarly poor bowling figures in his first Test. Of course he was over a decade younger than McGain. And I doubt they came at over 8 runs per over. I wonder how long till the selectors have the stones to select another leggie.
The icing on the cake was Ponting once again falling to his signature dismissal - nicking a full swinging ball. Punter can expect lots of full stuff from the English come the Ashes. Australia will be doing well to make South Africa bat again, let alone save the Test. Ironic that they batted first to give McGain a look at a 5th day pitch.
|Posted by JC on Sun 22 Mar||53 comments|
Yesterday was heartbreaking for legspinners everywhere. Jrod is in mourning. I listened to the ABC Radio cricket last night with mounting anger. Why didn't Bryce bowl at all throughout the first 3 hours of the day. Then anticipation when the ageing leggie finally came into the attack. Nervous worry as Prince hit several boundaries in his first over, racing through the 90's to notch a century. Anxiety as Jaques Kallis broke the shackles, sending him to the boundary and into the crowd regularly. Then dismay as the boundaries continued to flow.
I could relate as I'd been there before. There's nowhere to hide when you're a wrist spinner taking on a batsman in-form. Early in your spell, the batsmen take risks against the good balls which is frustrating but encouraging - you feel you've a chance of a wicket. But the buggar keeps hitting it in the middle. He charges, your heart leaps for a stumping chance but the ball flies back over your head. You start to think there's just not enough fielders to plug all the gaps. Why'd they make those boundaries so damn small anyway?
You find there's no margin for error. Slightly short, it sails over deep mid-wicket or through the covers. Slightly full and the batsman lunges forward and turns it into a full toss. If you do land it perfectly, you're rewarded with a dot ball - scant comfort when the next delivery is dispatched into orbit.
Suddenly, it does your head in and you don't know where to bowl. You lose your length, the spell develops into a pie-fest of longhops and loopy full tosses. It's only a matter of time before the captain offers to give you a rest. Damn considerate of him, really.
So I felt the legspinner's pain as Bryce McGain's Test cricket dream turned into a nightmare yesterday. Can he turn it around today? After all, his Test career is only 11 overs long. Will Ricky even give him a bowl? A dark day for the fine art of wrist spin.
Oh and by the way, Australia are screwed in this Test, it'll be a miracle if they save the game.
|Posted by JC on Sat 21 Mar||49 comments|
Day 1 was not a good day for Australian cricket. In particular, Australian batting. Our two best batsmen didn't bother the scorer. Our leading bowler looks more like a Test batsman than our #6 who was demoted to #7 because our wicketkeeper is also a better batsman. Honestly, why is Macdonald in the side? For his barely adequate bowling or his woefully inadequate batting?
It was the same thinking that had Andrew Symonds occupying the #6 spot for so long. All those years wasted when the selectors could have been looking for a genuine Test batsman. Or a bowler. Pick one or the other, for goodness sake!
Okay, so we had a crappy 1st day. But we can claw our way back into this game with a few good sessions today. Bryce Mcgain really needs to step up today. I'm not particularly stressed about Ashwell Prince hitting him for six in the dying overs before stumps. That's what a leggie wants a batsman doing. Well, not so much the hitting for six but creating wicket taking opportunities. Let's hope he can land the ball in good areas today and luck falls his way.
|Posted by JC on Fri 20 Mar||50 comments|
Finally! It's just been announced, a legspinner is once again in the Australian squad! It didn't happen how I would've liked - Ronnie is still in the XI. Instead, Bryce makes his debut courtesy of a Marcus North tummy bug. But ultimately, I'll take a leggie in the side anyway I can get it. Here's hoping he bags a couple of 5-fors and books his Ashes ticket this week!
Technically, the 3rd Test is a dead rubber. But for all other purposes, it's very much a live game. In a 6 Test series, Australia are only ahead 3-2. Several Australian players are on the fringe, with old veterans looking to force their way back in. And South Africa, a proud cricketing nation, have a lot to prove.
You wonder how they'll go considering the team just got split apart by the selectors. They've changed captains quicker than a mutinous Bounty. And Kallis with his "I let the team captain" hardly inspires confidence. The Proteas are up against it but if the past 5 Tests are anything to go by, expect the unexpected.
It will be interesting to see how their new opening pair will fare. Can Mitchell Johnson continue his devastating in-swinging form? If so, Ashwell Prince will be regretting being forced to open the batting. And I don't know what to make of Imraan Khan. Well, if he fails, they can always bring in their other up-and-comer, Don Braadman.
|Posted by JC on Thu 19 Mar||88 comments|
Is Jrod the most prolific cricket blogger? As well as several posts per day at Cricket With Balls, he maintains a handful of other cricket blogs. After his review of CriciWiki, we exchanged emails where he mentioned he had begun playing club cricket in England. When I advised he should blog on the experience, he directed me to Mountain Chickens. How would an Australian club leggie fare in the Old Dart? Jrod describes his first game in England:
This was to be my first ball in England, and my first bowl with the duke ball. After careful consideration over the field, which i fought in every way, i was ready for my first ball.
What i hadn’t considered was the duke balls, apparently they float slightly further than the kooaburra balls i was used to.
How much further, well for the first over they floated to waste height pretty much ever ball. I am sure i hit the pitch at one stage that over, but i just don’t remember when.
The batsmen were so excited they had trouble hitting them to the rope, but they still took about 10 off the over.
The whole time the captain kept telling me, don’t worry about flighting them, just dart them in. I tried in vain to tell him, at least 3 or 4 times, that i wasn’t trying to flight the ball, i was trying to hit the pitch. But it didn’t seem to register with him.
That's right, Jrod. Blame the Duke ball :-) But I shouldn't judge - I'm reminded of the time I kept bowling to full tosses to the point where even the umpire sledged me with "you paid for the pitch, might as well use it". But I digress. In Jrod's second game, things improve to the point where he bowls a 16 over spell. He describes a useful tactic for dealing with fatigue, handy advice for any ageing club cricketer:
I had the ball on a string, unfortunately I had the fitness of a wash yourself with a stick sort of chap, and I was now 12 overs into my spell. So I decided something had to go. I decided it was fielding.
So I stopped walking in with the bowler, and I didn’t chase anything that came to me. Also any break of longer than 3 seconds resulted in me sitting down.
This gave me 14% more energy.
Looking forward to more Jrod posts when the English summer begins...
|Posted by JC on Thu 19 Mar||43 comments|
Adam Voges has turned down representing Australia because he's getting married. Now to get a female perspective, I asked my wife what she thought of the whole situation. She thought he was an idiot. What fool schedules his wedding at the same time he might have to play for Australia? And what kind of woman would make him sacrifice the tour rather than reschedule the wedding?
Ah, I knew I married her for a reason. Playing for Australia is something Voges would've dreamed of his whole life. The pinnacle of his career. Who knows what permanent damage this might do to his selection chances? So they lose the deposit on the wedding reception. He'll make that at IPL a thousand times over! Maybe he was hoping to cut reception costs as most of his mates will be overseas at the time.
Now if your wife was about to give birth, that would be a different matter. It's not like she can cross her legs and hold the baby in until the plane touches down. Although I do remember somebody suggesting Brett Lee's wife should get induced before the 1st Ashes Test in 2006 to ensure he didn't miss the game. Hmm, maybe Binger liked that idea and ran it by his missus - could've been the start of their marital woes.
|Posted by JC on Wed 18 Mar||75 comments|
Brett Lee has been stacking on the pounds and is hoping, nay, demanding back into the Australian squad. The dilemma - do we want him? A month ago, hell, yeah! Now that Mitch, Siddle and Hilfy are taking wickets and breaking South African pinkies? That will be the predominant question occupying Australian cricket fans between now and the Ashes tour.
And it's not just Binger banging on the door. Stuart Clark, Shane Watson and Andrew Symonds (shudder) will all be fit and rarin' to go. In fact, Roy is reinventing himself as a sensitive new age cricketer, cutting off his dreadlocks for charity. What a sweetie!
But who makes way? The most obvious choice is Andrew McDonald. The guy can't bat at Test level. His bowling is useful for bottling up an end, taking the occasional wicket. But do you want a dibbly dobbly keeping Binger and Mini-McGrath out of the attack? I don't think so. So Ronnie, scooch over and make room.
But who replaces him? Watson and (God forbid) Symonds both fulfil the same kind of role - a bits 'n' pieces all-rounder who can neither bat nor bowl at Test level. Personally, I would hate to see either of them make it - you're just replacing one sub-par pseudo-all-rounder with another.
Stuart Clark is a must-pick so Mini-McGrath replaces McDonald. Then it would be a toss-up between Hilfy and Lee - I'd opt for Lee if he was in good form. Adding Lee and Mitch's batting ability, you'd come close to a Test batsman - certainly a respectable #8. Not that an all-rounder is really required with Haddin at #7. So here's cricket-blog's proposed Australian line-up.
1. Phil Hughes
2. Krab Katich
4. Pup (I'd promote him up one spot)
5. Mr Cricket (languish at #5 till he can find some form)
6. Marcus North
7. Brad Haddin
8. Mitch Johnson
11. Peter Siddle
Oh, crap. There's no room for Bryce McGain! Dang it!
|Posted by JC on Tue 17 Mar||74 comments|
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