South Africa v Australia, 5th ODI, Johannesburg

What in the name of all that is sane is going on at Johannesburg? Adam Gilchrist started it with one of his violent furies; now Ponting’s gone utterly beserk and is smashing the Boks to kingdom come! This, after Australia levelled the series on Friday. What a game. Australia are heading towards the first 400 in a one-dayer at this rate.

Oh and Symonds hasn’t even arrived yet. (Click here to see Cricinfo’s new spangly scorecard)

“Not long now, Mr Gilly”

I nearly wet myself watching this video. “Not long now, Mr Gilly!” Adam Gilchrist running away from Indians

Make mine a double

Yesterday’s innings by Adam Gilchrist revived the old ‘double hundred in a odi’ idea. The record is Saeed Anwar’s 194.

It got me thinking- it’s like cricket’s version of the four minute mile. Once somebody does it, three or four other batsmen will do it shortly after is my guess.

Australia vs South Africa wrap

I’m not the only one bored with the VB series going this long. I listened to the radio for most of the day while watching the play, as I was getting close to an act of violence if I had to listen to any more of Tony Greig’s insufferable inanities. Peter Roebuck was clearly even more bored then I was since he was more keen on discussing his charitable foundation’s activities in Africa then the game, and he follows my lead in calling for the format to be scrapped.

The game itself was actually good, and Adam Gilchrist was back to his sparkling best, scoring 88 off just 66 balls, with 14 glorious boundaries. His innings was theoretically terminated by a mis-played pull shot, but the actual thing that got him out was the commentator’s curse; as he passed 80, they started talking about double-centuries. He admits he was thinking about it himself, so obviously he got out.

Ponting, Martyn and Hussey all tucked in as well against a very weak South African pace attack, and settled on 344. Chasing that monster of a total, South Africa were just on the edge of possibility until Mark Boucher got out after scoring an excellent 76. They ended up with 287 for 6, which is a huge score in itself.

So a pretty meaningless game in the great scheme of things, but an entertaining fixture, at least compared to what happened in Melbourne on Friday. The difference was that the pitch here was good.

Statistical oddity- Australia scored 344 for 7 in 50 overs, with only one 6 for the innings. And that didn’t come up till the 46th over. Australia scored 300 in 45 overs, without going over the rope once. Bizzare.

Roebuck: time to go, Gilchrist II

Will asked for my thoughts on Peter Roebuck’s article on Adam Gilchrist, where Roebuck suggested that Gilchrist might wish to retire from the ODI game.

It is true that too much of a workload can be put on even the mightiest cricketer. Injury to Ricky Ponting required Adam Gilchrist to captain Australia for the first three Tests of Australia’s tour to India in 2004, and although he lead the side superbly, there is no doubt that it did have a negative effect on his batting and his wicketkeeping.

However, once Gilchrist returned to Australia, and reduced to his normal duties of keeper, vice-captain, and star batsman, he played like a man liberated, and had perhaps his best season since he started. He starred as a batsman in 2004/05. The highlight for me was his century against Pakistan in Sydney, an innings so exhilirating to watch that it overshadowed a Ricky Ponting double-century. But not only was his bat blazing, but his glovework also was of the highest standard.

For reasons that remain unknown, Gilchrist disappointed in England. Congratulations are due to England and Andrew Flintoff for working out a plan to reduce the threat that Gilchrist posed, but I was disappointed in that it seemed to me that Adam Gilchrist was not getting the support he needed to counter England’s tactics. And yes, his glovework was not quite so sharp.

Given his moderate performances since then, it is perhaps legitimate for Roebuck to pose the question that he did. Adam Gilchrist works under a heavy workload that can not be any easier for him to bear. It is known that he is a devoted family man, as well, and the constant absences and the life of a long-distance cricketer is not healthy for any young family.

I do not think, however, that Gilchrist will retire just yet. Although Australia have a busy summer ahead, with a tour to South Africa and then Bangladesh in April, there is nevertheless a nice gap in the winter where Adam Gilchrist can recover in the bosum of his family in Perth, recharge the batteries, and then have one final fling- first, a campaign to recover the Ashes, and then to the West Indies to retain the World Cup.

I would not be surprised if he retired from all forms of the game after that, but I would equally be very surprised if he retired from one day cricket before then.

Roebuck: time to go, Gilchrist

Should’ve left this for Scott, so perhaps he can elaborate on it if he can be bothered. Roebuck wrote about Adam Gilchrist who, he feels, ought to retire from one-dayers. Thoughts?

Bowling Mushy!!

Enthusiastic cries of support from wicketkeepers are one of the game’s great joys, and usually have me doubled over in laughter. I always used to crack up listening to Alec Stewart: “Oooh! I like that, Crofty! Oh yes, liking it Crofty son.” And this summer we’ve been treated to Gilchrist stating the bleeding obvious with “Baaaaaa-rrrr-ling Shaaaanne” (like he needs confirmation).

But the best has to be when Mushtaq Ahmed was in his pomp, whatever that really means, and Latif would shout, repeatedly, “Bowling mushy mushy, booowwwlingg.” Actually that has me thinking; I remember on previous Pakistan tours hearing “Shabash shabash” shouted by the ‘keeper. What does it mean? “Well done” or “well bowled” or something?

Anyway, back to Mushy. I see he hit 90 today – yes, 90! My boss was there, and wrote about it here. Couple of days ago, Inzamam hinted at a possible recall for Mushtaq which is utterly brilliant news. Always enjoyed watching Mushy bowl, and always surprised me how he actually managed to spin the ball…quite an odd action.

So, we might once again get to hear “Bowling Mushy!” On that note – Shabash.

Australia smash 500 in a day. Against Essex

So that pitch really is flat then. Australia romping along at about 6/over are 515 for 4. Gilchrist, though, made just 8…

One of the more pointless practice games I’ve ever known!

Review: England v Australia, Trent Bridge

I’ve received a few (8) emails and 28 comments from people disagreeing with my statement that this is the greatest series ever, so this review is a vague attempt to quantify it…but it’s more, simply, a review of another brilliant Test. Few can deny that the game we saw was brilliant theatre and a spectacular sporting occasion.

Simon Jones

At the start of the fourth day, England were without their trump card, Simon Jones. Remarkably, given his outstanding improvement this series, he wasn’t missed too greatly; a wonderful testament to a collective team effort, showing this England side never need rely on one bowler, or one player. In Duncan Fletcher’s terms, Matthew Hoggard “came to the party” and, praised by Andrew Flintoff, he bowled his best spell of the series. Earlier this month, I wrote a piece for Cricinfo on his importance to the England side, but I was worried it [the article] would soon lose its relevance. Thankfully, Hoggard did once again “sweep the shop floor,” picking up two vital wickets. Two, you ask? Two? Not a massive haul, granted, but they were the two most important. Michael Clarke had looked settled, and batted so well in the morning session. Hoggard got his away-swing working perfectly and, pitching it up he drew Clarke into a wishy-washy poke to grab his wicket just before lunch. It was a vital breakthrough.

Clarke and Katich had arguably set the scene for an Adam Gilchrist batting bonanza. Indeed, Gilchrist’s intent was obvious, smashing two fours in quick succession. But Hoggard returned to trap him leg-before. Suddenly, Australia’s hard work by Katich and Clarke in the morning session had been thrown away. Their lead was futile, a handful of runs; but for another aggressive and brilliant innings by Shane Warne (how well has he batted this tour??), the target Australia eventually set would have been far lower than 129.

One hundred and twenty nine runs to lead the series 2-1. I was very confident it would be a walk in the park, but my colleage at Cricinfo was having kittens. He was an absolute nervous wreck from the start. As I said, 129 wasn’t enough for Australia “barring a Shane Warne special,” and while England did reach their target, it was not without considerable alarm. Shane Warne, again, threatened to end England’s chances of winning the Ashes, with a performance to win over a thousand more fans. He is an utter legend and we’re so bloody lucky to watch him perform. The situation was just perfect for him – backs against the wall, defending a target of 129, he took Trescothick, Strauss and Vaughan’s wickets to leave England 57 for 3. It became 57 for 4 as Bell, unwisely, tried to hook Brett Lee. When Andrew Flintoff and Kevin Pietersen were dismissed, my nerves suddenly went into overdrive. “Damn you, Will, and your cocksureness!” I told myself.

Geraint Jones followed, with a really dreadful smite off Shane Warne and suddenly, incredibly, England were 116 for 7. 13 to win. Three wickets left. Ashley Giles and Matthew Hoggard at the crease. How dare you give us another national coronary, England?! Giles and Hoggard saw England home in what Richie Benaud described as one the most tense matches he had ever come across.

We've done it

I suppose, arguably, England should never have let Australia in with a chance. But Warne is Warne, and if this series has showed us anything, it is the power of a chastened champion.

At Old Trafford, I wrote the tide was turning. In fact, I wrote the tide had turned. England failed to win that (“England lack the killer blow” and all). And so we’ve seen it develop in this Test match, as England really demonstrated their total lack of fear of Australia. As a supporter who has for his entire life only ever witnessed Australia’s dominance over the Urn, it is a proud, special moment. Once again, England trounced Australia for 99% of this Test; brilliant team performance, and one individual again proving his might. Andrew Flintoff, future King, Prime Minister and anything else he wishes for! Already approaching legendary status before this game, his hundred (first against Australia in his first series against them) was a thing of beauty. It almost appeared pedestrian in its pace, yet came from just 132 balls and was the key to England reaching 477 (winning the toss and batting first). His muted celebrations said much about the man. There was no wild hoorays and badge-kissing; simply a raised bat, a standing ovation, and a smile which said “Ta – but this is just the start of things.”

I’ll do a blog and paper round-up later.

England v Australia, Trent Bridge, Day Four

This match is perfectly set-up. England start favourites, but Gilchrist is overdue a sensational innings, and Katich could do with a few. Comment away!