Kiwis rue their lost opportunities

I had to await today’s highlights of yesterday’s Australia vs New Zealand fixture due to the fact that I did a ‘spur of the moment’ trek into the Australian interior. Drought-breaking rains have flooded the mid-north of South Australia, and that looked more exciting to me then another hum-drum one-dayer between Australia and New Zealand. In any event, I could listen to it on the radio.

An unusual green strip in the SCG pitch gave fast bowlers the edge, and Australia’s pace attack made short work of the New Zealand top order, before Craig McMillan launched a brave revival, after he demonstrated that he’s no more likely to walk then Michael Hussey. Umpires Simon Taufell and Asad Rauf will hope this game is forgotten as quickly as possible because they both had bad games. New Zealand ended up with 218.

And they reduced Australia to 3 for 17 before Michael Clarke stabilised things. He was edgy early and gave a easy chance, only to be dropped. Michael Hussey should have been run out early as well, but survived to see Australia home.

But this was a game New Zealand should have won. They gave Australia vital chances, and this is something they cannot afford to do. There are some talented players in the New Zealand team, and they are skillfully led, but the gap between the New Zealand team and domestic first class cricket is very large. You might think this is unavoidable, but according to one young lady who knows more about domestic New Zealand cricket then I do, the main problem in New Zealand is attitude.

Obviously I am not against having a good time but this sort of larrikin behaviour is standard for a touring cricket team during the domestic NZ competition. They don’t take the whole thing seriously. The players think because they have scored a hundred in some piss arse domestic competition that they are now good enough to play international cricket.

This lack of professionalism filters through to the Black Caps as there literally is no pressure on players in the current squad to perform as there is no one to replace them. Players such as Astle, McMillan and Marshall have been cruising in Black Cap mode for years now. A guy like Matthew Sinclair should be a world class batsman, he’s not. And where the hell is Lou Vincent?

The situation is the reverse in Australia. Guys sit in State competitions for years and score thousands of runs and are still not good enough to break into the Australian side who game after game produces consistent form. Australian players have their share of off field incidents, Shane Warne and Andrew Symonds being the main offenders. The difference between Australian cricketers and New Zealand cricketers is that they seem to perform better on the field than they do off it.

(Read Kate’s entire essay for an eye-opening look at New Zealand cricket)

There really is no reason why New Zealand can not punch weight with Australia. Cricket’s not just about talent, it is about attitude. India has a population of over a billion, and by all measures they should be the country with a kick-arse cricket team, not Australia. But India isn’t serious about playing WINNING cricket.

New Zealand is semi-serious. They only need to look at how their rugby side dominates, and bring the same attitude to their cricket.

So, semi-serious England play semi-serious New Zealand in Adelaide tomorrow. I’m semi-seriously considering wandering along to have a look. I haven’t made up my mind yet though. If Bond plays, I will probably go.

Seriously!

Big Brother isn’t watching you

All you people who have been watching this ‘Big Brother’ imbroglio should hang your heads in shame. When the British Prime Minister is commenting on it, then it’s a sure sign that England’s sense of priorities are warped. No wonder England’s cricket team doesn’t win much.

Mind you they came close last night- a four wicket victory and a bonus point to Australia doesn’t indicate how tense it was out there for a while. That Australia won was due to the nerves and good luck of Michael Hussey, who got a clear edge early in his innings. However, unlike Adam Gilchrist, he’s never been a walker.

Who knows what might have happened if England had set Australia a decent target?  England got their first opening partnership of 50 thanks to the introduction of Mal Loye. The rest of them went down to McGrath and co very meekly.

And to make matters worse for England, Michael Vaughan won’t be available for another couple of matches. England’s one day summer is turning out as bad as was feared.

But wait, there’s more!

I’m tired of reading post-mortems about the Ashes. The result is decided, but there are two Tests to go. As an Australian, I’m absolutely delighted that Australia have won the series. But the future of both teams is not set in stone yet.

It seems to me that both sides, but especially England, have a lot riding on the outcome of the final two Test matches. It is by no means a given that Australia will go on for the 5-0 outcome that is being loosely bandied about, but if that happens, 2007 will be a year of woe for England. The inquisition will be a sight to behold.

On the other hand, a fighting England performance, with England coming home 3-2, will give a tremendous filip to English morale. There will be positives for the English team to hang their hats on.

For Australia, a 5-0 win will be the peak for several of the team’s veterans to call it a day. While Australia will seek to manage the retirement of their key players, looking ahead to 2009, the batting looks strong, with Michael Clarke, Hussey and Ponting being a core middle order to build around.

So it is not over yet kids. The Fourth Test starts in a week, and Warne is one wicket away from 700 wickets.

Allan Border Medal stuff

Australia has an annual awards night, which is basically an excuse to make the players get dressed up in tuxedos, show off their girlfriends, and tell themselves how wonderful they are.

Anyway this year, Ricky Ponting got the Allan Border Medal for the best cricketer of the year, Shane Warne got Test cricketer of the year, and Michael Hussey got Best limited overs player of the year.

It’s broadcast on television here, although it isn’t my cup of tea so I watched a DVD movie instead. The most interesting thing in the media coverage was Warne saying he might play till he is 40. That means he might still go to England in 2009. Good stuff!

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.

Australia having a tough time

It was a very old fashioned day of hard, tough, Test cricket in Perth yesterday. South Africa bowled with superb discipline, good line and length, and had some misfortune with the umpiring. But Australia dug in, toughed it out, and thanks to the ‘brittle’ middle order of Hodge and Hussey, have the whip hand now.

And don’t feel too sorry for the South Africans. They have dropped five or six catches now for the Test and while their ground fielding has been very good, their catching is lamentable; a far cry from the atheletic teams coached by Bob Woolmer. So spare the sympathy for a team that can field.

Australia clean up

Australia made short work of the West Indies target, winning the Third Test with few alarms. Matt Hayden went on to 87 not out, narrowly falling short of getting five centuries in five Tests. Meanwhile Michael Hussey picked up 30 more runs, and he finishes his first Test series with a batting average of 120.

For all their troubles, the West Indies did look like they have made some improvement in their team on this tour, and they are less weak then they appear. Dwayne Bravo is the obvious ‘find’ of the tour, but the economy and line of Collymore is another positive.

From the Australian fan’s view point, it is good to see ‘normal service’ resume, but the real pleasing thing is the emergence of Hussey and Hodge in the middle order. We now have six Tests against South Africa to look forward to, and that is a good chance for the middle order to settle in, before the real challenge against England next summer.