“Go the convicts”

Seen on the South Bank in Brisbane

Go The Convicts


Pig ‘n Whistle pub, Brisbane

The BBC’s Test Match Special are out in force (and en masse) in Brisbane and, perhaps for the first time in its history, are sharing photos to the world which, for a photo geek like me, is splendorama. I think it’s Arlo White who is armed with the necessary – so keep an eye on their Flickr page.

Pig 'n Whistle pub, Brisbane

Test Match Special.

Not quite the great escape, but that was actually a very good Test match.

So Australia escaped, mainly through the remarkable deeds of Ricky Ponting, once again demonstrating that he is the peerless Australian batsman of his age, a great age of Australian batsmanship.

This was his 31st century, and his first against Bangladesh. A lot of batsmen have scored a lot of easy runs against Bangladesh, but this was no easy century; I can think of almost a dozen that Ponting has scored that were easier; two against West Indies in Brisbane, and his second against South Africa in Sydney spring to mind just in this latest Australian season. This was close to being a masterpiece in fact.

It wasn’t quite perfect; he was dropped on 97, a difficult chance to Mashrafe Mortaza. It was watchful, thoughtful and dripping with purpose and energy. Ponting is no great shakes as a captain, but he’s one of the all-time great batsmen at the height of his powers, and he is a delight to watch.

But just as Ponting can be credited with saving a lost cause, Bangladesh can be faulted for losing it. In his Verdict for Cricinfo, Osman Samiuddin puts the case for the prosecution:

Even if we accept that Australia were tired – this was their 11th Test since October – five days ago nobody expected them to nervously chase just under a hundred on the last day with five wickets in hand. Five days ago, most expected the last day to be a day off. In this context alone, the performance is remarkable. But while everyone celebrates, Bangladesh might choose some serious contemplation instead. Should Bangladesh be happy they pushed Australia so close? Or should they grumble about having missed the opportunity to win it?

Their second-innings collapse – after Dav Whatmore had said he was hoping they wouldn’t do just that – will gnaw at them. Habibul Bashar has already repented his sin of a dismissal and if they were smart, then Aftab Ahmed, Rajin Saleh, Mohammad Rafique and Khaled Mashud, would follow suit. More than just a hundred runs separates chasing 300-plus and 400-plus.

And though Steve Waugh claimed he never told nobody about dropping World Cups, surely his successor Ricky Ponting could have told Mashrafe Mortaza that he had just dropped history through his fingers. Australia needed 24 when Ponting miscued a pull with only Stuart Clark and MacGill to come. And Mohammad Rafique might curse the pitch for offering too much spin when he beat Ponting’s outside edge. Ultimately, will it be any consolation that, like Multan, they should not have lost this Test? Or solace in Ponting’s words that, “They’ve played very, very well. For them to score 355 on the first day was a terrific effort. They certainly have come a long way.” Just one of the many intriguing after-effects of this Test will be how the home side now responds in Chittagong.

Australia have played eleven Tests since October and they’ve won ten of them. You don’t get a chance to beat Australia very often at all, so when the cricketing fates flow your way, you just have to take them. England did that last year to win the Ashes, but consider this. Since Ricky Ponting became captain of Australia in early 2004, Australia have lost just three Test matches.

It may well be a long time until Bangladesh get another chance to beat Australia and while they deserve commendation for pushing Australia as close as they did, which after all is way above what we expected, in the long run they will rue this missed opportunity.

Twenty-2o game at Brisbane

There was a Twenty-20 game tonight between Australia and South Africa at Brisbane tonight, and our intrepid Will covered it for Cricinfo.

Australia walked all over South Africa, and Damien Martyn and Andrew Symonds had a bit of a hit and a giggle.

I talked to Will after the game, and he confessed to loving it. I must admit I loathe Twenty-20. I don’t like the thinking behind the game. Cricket needs to be popularised, but that is REAL cricket. You do not see the Royal Opera Company hosting Madonna at Covent Gardens, so I’m not entirely sure why cricket needs this sort of comic caper.

Someone had blundered!

Jagadish mused on Trescothick’s folly in inviting Pakistan to bat first and then watching them run up over 350, and went down memory lane for other invitations that did not work out too well. He invites readers to give their vote for the biggest blunder (I voted for Ganguly’s inviting Australia to bat in the 2003 World Cup final, which led to Australia scoring 359).

Great idea, that.. Jagadish limits his post to ODI’s so I’ll make the two obvious Test blunders. Both of them were Ashes disasters.

In 2002, Nasser Hussain decided to invite Australia to bat in the First Test at the Gabba. Hayden and Ponting racked up centuries and plundered the English to be 2 for 364 at stumps. What was the blunder? Hussain no doubt thought his bowlers would get more assistance from the pitch then he thought, and he wasn’t helped that Simon Jones broke down after seven overs.

In 2005, Ricky Ponting lost the services of Glenn McGrath, but still felt confident enough to invite England to bat at Edgbaston. Freed from the stern discipline of McGrath, the English were bowled out by stumps, but they had racked up 407 at more then five an over. England seized the initative in the Ashes series and never gave it back.

Any other blunders come to mind in Tests?

Barmy Army Invasion!

Australia is already laying down limits to the amount of tickets UK tour groups can buy for the Ashes defence next year. This is perhaps not surprising- 30,000 fans are expected to make the journey to watch England’s Ashes defence.

To put it in perspective, 30,000 would sell out Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth, and the capacity of the SCG is only 40,000.

The MCG, with a 100,000 capacity would hold them comfortably, but I’m expecting a sell out of even that stadium for the first day.

Australia v West Indies – the battle resumes

So, just a few hours to go until Australia play the West Indies and the latter unleash their “battery” of fast bowlers. It remains to be seen whether the battery is fully charged (geddit?) or a cheap, supermarket-branded throwaway which only lasts a day, at best. But, as Peter English says in his excellent preview, an Australia-West Indies encounter is always exciting and does, indeed, raise expectations. This is the start of the Aussie summer, after all, and is their first challenge since being humbled by the English.

For Australia, tonight’s game sees a debut for Mike Hussey who so impressed in England during the one-dayers in the summer. He looks a very fine prospect, and will add a much-needed spark to the fielding of Australia, quite aside from his obvious talent as a batsman. These are interesting times for Australia. I wouldn’t say desperate, or subscribe to some of the media’s feeling that this inexperienced side could slip up easily against the Windies – it’s just interesting. Hussey in; Kasper out; Gillespie out; Langer injured (“it hurts,” he said today).

And for the West Indies, Mr Walsh is quietly confident that the young battery of fast bowlers can trouble Australia’s run machines. Fidel “Castro” Edwards told Peter English: ‘I don’t bowl to hit people, I bowl to get wickets,’ which is surely comfort for all West Indians, not to mention the Australian batsmen.

Ryan will no doubt be posting his thoughts, so keep an eye on his blog. And if you have any comments about the game, you can leave them in a post which will “appear” magically at about 23.00 GMT/UTC. Perhaps someone can explain to me, again, why Stu MacGill has been excluded. Yes, I know Nathan Bracken’s a good bowler and yes I know the pitch is likely to assist seamers. But MacGill + Warne v West Indies would surely equal carnage?