Links of note from the past 24 hours:
So much for my hopes of a good contest- Australia thrashed Sri Lanka by an innings and 40 runs. (scorecard) What went wrong?
Well, while there’s been a lot written about the Australian performance, I think the finger needs to be pointed at the Sri Lankans. They made every mistake in the book, and invented a few more.
Errors in team selection. Check.
Wrong call at the toss. Check.
Dropped catches. Check.
Players underperforming when they were needed. Check.
I must confess to some surprise though when Marvin Atapattu came out with an extraordinary attack on the Sri Lankan selectors, characterising them as ‘muppets’ in an interview after the third day’s play. That sort of mistake was one that was out of the book. It’s going to be interesting to see if he’s permitted to continue with the tour. One batsman has to make way for the return of Sangakkara, after all.
But questions have to be asked of the Sri Lankan bowling line up too. It was generally thought by Australian pundits in the prelude to this series that this was the best Sri Lankan attack that we’d ever seen in this country, but they conceded 551 for 4 at a rate of knots. Had Ponting not been in a hurry to get at the Sri Lankan batsmen, 700 might not have been out of the question. What might have happened if only Malinga had got a game? As it was, none of the Sri Lankan bowlers made much of an impression- of the four wickets to fall, only Ponting was actually beaten by the bowler- Jaques, Hayden and Hussey got out through poor shot selection.
And Muralithiran? Well 2 for 170 was a pretty fair reflection of how he bowled. He did bowl a good spell after tea on the first day but apart from that stint, he was pretty unthreatening, and he copped some hammer from Ponting and Clarke. It is worth pointing out that for all his success, he doesn’t have much of a record against Australia, and also worth noting that finger spinners rarely do well here. You have to go back to the days of Phil Edmonds and John Emburey to find finger spinners that have had success in Australia. Bearing that in mind, perhaps expectations should be lowered a bit.
The Sri Lankan batting was somewhat disappointing too. Only somewhat though, because they were under constant pressure, first from the scoreboard, and second by the Australian attack. It was easy for the Australian batsman as they were fed a steady diet of pies, but Sri Lanka’s batsmen had to take risks to score runs, and except during the Vandort/Jayawardene partnership in the second innings, no batsman looked secure. Of the Australian bowlers, Lee gave his best performance in a long time, Macgill was probing, Stuart Clark continued his McGrath impersonation, and Johnson showed enough to suggest he has what it takes at Test level.
Can Sri Lanka regroup in time to make things a bit more even for the Second Test? They have the players to do so, but it must be hard. The Hobart wicket isn’t the sort of wicket that bowlers who are low on confidence are likely to take wickets on.Â Australia’s bowlers on the other hand, will fancy their chances. But I still think that the margin in this Test isn’t a true reflection in the gap between the teams. Here’s hoping for a closer match starting on Friday.
Weather permitting, at some stage on Monday Australia will beat Sri Lanka, probably by a large margin. It’s becoming an annual trend, re-discussing Australia’s dominance and why it is hurting the game so much. But I’m not going to bother mentioning India and Pakistan’s one-day series, which interests me not a lot, so let’s go round in circles and debate why you think (or not) Australia are killing the game.
The sadness of Australia continuing to raise the bar in Test cricket means the foundation of the game is becoming less and less relevant in more countries as the Twenty20 phenomenon multiplies the excitement in shorter forms of the game.
This is even so in Australia, which has the strongest tradition of Test cricket with England. If Australia was playing a one-day or Twenty20 match at the Gabba it would have sold out long ago.
But modest crowds of little more than 15,000 on the first three days, followed by just 7629 yesterday amid showers, left many empty seats among the 40,000 at the recently redeveloped, world-class Gabba.
This is despite one Queenslander, Mitchell Johnson, making his Test debut and another, Andrew Symonds, playing his first Test at the Gabba, not to mention Matthew Hayden, as Ponting and his men try to extend their winning streak to record levels.
Victory here will give Australia 13 in a row since South Africa hung on for a draw in Perth almost two years ago. It is the second-longest winning streak in history, behind the 16 in a row Steve Waugh’s side set from October 1999 to March 2001.
Australians in defence of their juggernaut will point to the all-conquering West Indians of the 70s and 80s, and they’d have a point. But was the void so great as it is now? And were they, as we are now, so flummoxed as to a solution?
Australia play Sri Lanka in an actual Test match on Thursday, and it is rumoured that the ICC have started an internal investigation to find out how such an anachronism got on the international fixtures list.
Australia haven’t played a Test since they farewelled their trio of stars in January; in that period they’ve played an abomination of ODI games and Twenty20 fixtures. These days, when the Australian players wish to get about town unrecognised, they wear their white Test outfits.
As to the actual game itself, the portents are not promising. Rain is forecast to play havoc for the first three days, no bad thing in itself, given the drought in Australia, but neither side comes into this game with much form. The Australian bowlers who played in four day cricket last weekend failed to impress, with the exception of Stuart Clark, and the Sri Lankans have likewise found the going hard, failing to beat a side comprising the best of Australia’s state Second XI’s, and then being defeated by Queensland. No doubt after so much ODI cricket, the disciplines of line and length, batting judgement and patience, have become a little rusty.
For all that, I’m looking forward to a good contest. Sri Lanka are, in my view, one of the stronger sides in world cricket, with a potent batting line up and a balanced bowling attack. It is a disgrace that Cricket Australia, for commercial reasons of course, has only invited the Sri Lankans to play two Tests. I do expect Australia to still win- even without McGrath and Warne they are a very powerful team, but it won’t be quite so easy as it used to be.
Australia give a first cap to Mitchell Johnson, and Phil Jacques and Stuart MacGill are recalled. Sri Lanka’s team is not quite settled, but they are hampered by the loss of Kumar Sangakarra with a hamstring injury.
Meanwhile, in a further outbreak of Test cricket, South Africa host New Zealand. The main talking point there is that South Africa are not playing their veteran Shaun Pollock, preferring the younger brigade. Daniel Vettori makes his debut as New Zealand captain.
Australia are gearing up to face Sri Lanka but a cloud is looming: the Aussie print media might boycott the Test because Cricket Australia have implemented a new policy in which they’re charging news organisations for permission to take photos.
How utterly blinkered Cricket Australia are. Any organisation that makes the ECB look vaguely competent is worthy of immediate ridicule. CA are renowned for major cock-ups. Remember the farce with the tickets for the last Ashes series? And of course the “fun police” inside the grounds. Cricinfo and other media companies also (if my memory serves me) had trouble at the grounds due to CA’s extortionate Wifi fees (all grounds in England are free, as well they should be). As if they don’t make enough money, they now want to risk their reputation andÂ for the sake of a few extra dollars.
I hope they boycott it. We do not want journalism following the same seedy, greedy path of television rights.
Struggling with form? Can’t find the middle of your bat? Depressed in the slips and unable to concentrate? Worry no more! Get yourself a life-sized Lara Bingle doll!
Michael Clarke from Australia did just that – and is reaping the rewards handsomely. “Seeing somebody like Lara certainly makes me happy. I have something to look forward to when I get home,” Clarke said of his new Lara doll. “I enjoy spending every spare second I get with her.”
But Clarke has a warning for you aspiring cricketers: don’t rush out to buy a Bingle without carefully considering where she will sit in your home. “I’ve got renovations going on in my house at the moment,” Clarke said. “Maybe she will move in when they are finished.”
Don’t confide her to your homestead though. Take her to a nice restaurant. But remember: her right hand is superglued to her left arm, so position her appropriately.
If you can bear the nauseous tripe, every Australian newspaper has it all in sickly lovey-dovey detail for you.
Forgot to mention in the previous post that Ford are also offering Australians the chance to “tonk a Pom“, in case they wish to relive their glory days last season. Of course, no self-respecting Aussie would lower himself to such heinous activity, right?
Any excuse to put up a video involving Bill Lawry, the most impersonated man at Cricinfo Towers. Ford, who sponsor all Cricket Australia vehicular needs, are declaring “Backyard Cricket War” on the country. I’m not quite sure what that means, but there are two videos to show featuring Michael Clarke, Andrew Symonds, Mike Hussey…and Matthew Hayden in an apron.
Look out for Bill’s cameo at the end of the second.
- Andrew Flintoff ‘drink disgrace’ on tour – Fletcher’s book is going to be fascinating reading for sure…
- Murali is last hope for Wallaby wannabe – A terrific piece – read it
- Rudolph considers England future – Another South African threatens to split…
- Warne says the county game is a source of England strength -
The Australian Prime Minister, John Howard, is in the middle of an election campaign at the moment and I have just stumbled across a bloody good piece from Mike Ticher at The Guardian. Howard is a raging cricket fan and, like any dirty politician, attempts to misuse it to his advantage. Man of the people, and all that, when he quite clearly isn’t.
Howard’s application of clunky cricket analogies to politics is as elegant as his bowling action. In the last election he claimed at one point his Liberal Party was “three for about 268 [in the campaign] but the right-hand opener is still there.” This time it needs several hundred to avoid the follow-on, and is wishing it had dropped the right-hand opener before the series started.
Superb. But it gets better. Who’s coming to town? That’s right! Muttiah Muralitharan.
Murali has two Tests before the election in which to snare the nine wickets he needs to overhaul Shane Warne as the leading Test wicket-taker. Howard has form. The last time Sri Lanka visited, in 2004, he was instrumental in Murali’s refusal to tour, when he branded the spinner a chucker with the words: “They proved it in Perth too, with that thing.” That thing, to be more technical, was the biomechanics test that showed Murali straightened his arm to an extent that was then illegal when bowling the doosra.
Howard might have to bend the truth by only about, say, 14 degrees, to whip up a wave of anti-Murali sentiment. It is an edgy time. The visitors have already had anxious meetings about likely crowd reactions, and plain-clothes police are to be deployed inconspicuously (presumably dressed in body paint and watermelon helmets) to weed out the kind of troublemakers who have targeted Murali in the past.
If Howard could only harness that sentiment, then hold up Warne as the iconic national figure who represents everything good about Australia . . . no, you’re right, he’s a goner.
A cracking read.