Australia trounce Sri Lanka

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.  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.

Live: Australia v England, 1st Test, Brisbane, 5th day

The fifth and final day from Brisbane. It looks as though the rain will hold off for Australia – late thunder is forecast, but that’s about all – so England will almost certainly enter the second Test on Friday 0-1 down. But all is not lost. Yesterday, they competed at last. Paul Collingwood – my secret tip for this series – looked increasingly fluent and combative in the afternoon, falling four short of a richly deserved hundred. And Kevin Pietersen batted with controlled mania for once, which was both exhilarating to watch and heartening for England’s cause; his duel against Shane Warne was not to be missed. Friends turned foes.

So let’s hope for everyone’s sake England can delay the inevitable and give Australia something to think about. Get chatting. I’m in work at 6 and will turn on TMS (for the first time in years, it seems) at about 5 to hear our fate…hopefully with Pietersen approaching 300 and England either scenting the most extraordinary win of all time, or a draw. Yes, quite.

Rip-off cricket

Reader ‘Glamorous Organ’ has a moan.

Watching Test cricket, or just about any other sport is no longer a pursuit for the working man. Even at the “liberal” enclave of Lords fussy stewarding depresses the spirits. A friend who went to the Oval last summer was so hacked off with the rip-off prices for crap beer and greasy burgers, he’s sworn never to go again.

He’s not the only unhappy camper. During today’s play, BBC legend Jonathan Agnew told how he has to drink decaffeinated coffee (I’d lose the will to live without real coffee, but I digress) and since it wasn’t supplied at the media centre at The Oval, he brought his own. But the Oval stewards confiscated it off him.

Now if Aggers can’t escape the rip off mentality that has enveloped the world’s cricket grounds, what hope is there for the rest of us?

He also said that £5 bottles of wine were going for around £35 at The Oval. That’s nice if you can get it.

At Brisbane, a half-pint is going for $5.50, so about £2. So work out how much a day at the cricket is going to cost you given your own drinking habits. Even if you are a more sober sort of individual, don’t expect water or soft-drinks to be much cheaper.

Anyway, consider this to be an open forum for readers to list their favourite gripes about rip-offs at the cricket.

Live: Australia v England, 1st Test, Brisbane, 4th day

There is just the tiniest window of opportunity today for England, unless Australia declare overnight. Their lead already amounts to 626, and effectively they’re “playing” with England…like a bulldog massacring a toy. The longer they leave it, the happier England will be. Who knows? McGrath’s due to twist his ankle sometime over the next week…

The evil beach balls at the Gabba

They must be stopped, punctured and brought in for questioning. The Fun Police at the Gabba have been having a ball; harmless fun is now considered dangerous, or rude, or provocative. It has been the one blight on this Test, so much so that the Barmy Army have boycotted out of protest; their bugler was ejected and they’ve been segregated to nullify their “effect”.

It’s pathetic.

Beach ball

hatman003.


Zen and the art of cricket torture.

Take note. If you are playing Australia, you do not have to worry about the ‘follow on’ rule anymore. Honestly, if yesterday was not the time to enforce it, I do not know when it is.

And to make things worse for England, they will be fielding for a while this morning for just a little bit longer. Langer will be given a chance to get his century, and Ponting will have the chance to order another dose of the heavy roller, to assist in breaking the pitch up. Ponting will also like to plant seeds of uncertainty into English minds.

Yesterday’s play was bizzare though because to the casual observer, you would swear that they were playing on two seperate surfaces. The pitch that the English batted on was up to all sorts of tricks, and McGrath and Clark were able to get the ball to cut and seam about alarmingly.

Yet when Australia went out to bat, there was barely a deviation to be seen. So it will be interesting to see how it plays today. Of course it could just be that the Australian bowlers were the only ones to be able to get the balls into the right areas, but even Flintoff was unable to get any tricks happening.

For England, there was one bright light yesterday and that was the batting of Ian Bell. He showed plenty of grit and application to the task at hand, something that his team mates could take note of. However, given the movement that was happening, you just have to give credit to the bowlers. Cook and Flintoff, for example, never stood a chance against the deliveries they faced.

Today’s play is a sell-out. I wonder how many will turn up?

Live: Australia v England, 1st Test, Brisbane, 3rd day

The third day from Brisbane. It ought not to be the last but stranger things have happened.

Chat away.

Forget the follow-on, worry about the clock

Last night, as England started their reply to Australia’s massive first innings score, the television authorities showed us how many runs England needed to avoid the follow on.

As it stands, England are 3 for 53, so they need about 200 to avoid the follow on. If England score any more then 250 in their first innings, I doubt Ricky Ponting will be in any hurry whatsoever to enforce it.

The issue for England is time. They won’t be given a sniff of a chance to win this Test, the issue will be whether or not they can bat out 130 or so overs in the final innings on a fourth and fifth day track against Shane Warne.

England will have to bat out today. The runs column does not matter so much as the wickets column. Although given that Flintoff and Pieterson are two of the batsmen that England’s hopes depend, the runs should take care of themselves. Australia’s bowlers will be bowling to aggressive fields so there will be plenty of scoring opportunities.

However England will make their task a lot easier if they forget about the follow on mark. Unless they are totally routed this morning, it is unlikely to be an issue.

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By the by, I’ve noted online some English supporters are very unhappy about the aggressive nature of the Australian ground authorities. All I can say is that this trend has been going on for years, and is just getting worse and worse. As an Australian, I’d like to apologize to any stray Barmy Army readers who come across this post, because Cricket Australia really are unspeakable.

Our cricket team is wonderful and our administrators are deplorable. There’s nothing we can do about it.

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Greg Baum suggests divine intervention might be required for England. There’s no rain in sight, though. There’s been a nasty drought in Australia this year.

Lawrence Booth admires McGrath’s planning.

Live: Australia v England, 1st Test, Brisbane, 2nd day

A superb day yesterday for Ricky Ponting and Australia, but all is not lost for England. I say that with my positive hat superglued to my scalp.

We might get a draw, you never know. Get chattin’

Live: Australia v England, 1st Test, Brisbane

At last, here we go! I’m opening this up early, as you’ll all no doubt be cowering under your duvets or getting suitably aled-up in the pub. And I need some sleep before midnight. Well, wherever you might be, I hope we’re in for a great match and another terrific series. So stick the radio on, make yourself a brew and leave a comment or two below.

We’re on ball-by-ball at Cricinfo and will have a mass of coverage: bulletin, Australian verdict, English verdict as well as further comments from all and sundry, so pop over for our coverage too.