The thing that didn’t happen

Watching glimpses of the India vs Australia and Sri Lanka vs England ODI series, I’ve been struck by just how conventional these ODI games have been. We were told last month that the arrival of the Twenty20 game would revolutionise tactics and game-plans in the 50 over game.

But it hasn’t happened. The Sri Lanka vs England games were especially low-scoring, attritional affairs, and that played right into England’s hands. No doubt the slow and difficult batting conditions contributed to that. But even in relatively free-scoring Indian venues, the same old rhymes and rythyms of the 50 over game have continued.

It is early days, of course, but what this might point to is that there is little real impact that the two games can have on each other. Those extra thirty overs are clearly making a difference to the way that teams go about their business. I cheerfully confess to being surprised by this turn of events.

A question of spin

There were several factors that divided India and England this evening, but none may have proved quite so decisive as each team’s solution to the question of spin. Diametrically opposed at the toss, England left out Panesar while India brought in Powar. And while Monty was bringing on the drinks, his Indian counterparts were bringing England’s run chase under control.

England’s decision to opt in Tremlett was based on the short straight boundary at Bristol, which prompted fears that a front-line spinner would only leak runs. This attitude also seemed to infect their batting, with Collingwood bowled on the charge and Flintoff caught in the deep. Chawla in particular was impressive, tying down England’s batsmen. Ian Bell, normally a confident player of spin, lacked fluency and while his partners fell around him, he did not manage to keep the runs ticking over. Heroic though Mascarenhas’ quick tempo half-century and Broad’s impressive last over swinging may have been, it was too little, too late, against a spiralling run rate.

Although Prior and Cook started in a positive vein, a total exceeding 300 has seldom been posted at Bristol, let alone exceeded. Indian’s batting was much like that of England’s on Tuesday; Tendulkar in particular was outstanding at the top of the order, and Dravid superlative at the close. Given their performance at the Rose Bowl, England’s bowling was verging on wayward, although still an improvement on much of what we’ve seen over the last 12 months.

Tremlett’s inclusion did not pay off; however, it is questionable whether Panesar would have made the difference. India’s batsmen are amongst the best players of spin world wide, and this was reflected in Monty’s quiet Test series. The other slower bowlers in England’s ranks were treated to high economy rates today, despite watertight showings at Southampton, and Panesar might well have fallen to the same sword.

With Sidebottom still unavailable, when Collingwood takes his teamsheet to the toss at Edgbaston, it will be intruiging to see whom he calls upon. It seems highly unlikely that Monty will miss out again.

England take on New Zealand for a place in the finals

So, for one of the two sides, it is judgement day, and not a moment too soon. The Australian triangular series drags on forever, and it gets rather stale by the end, don’t you agree?

I’m going to hope that England win, not for the reason that I think Australia can beat them, but rather because if Australia play New Zealand in the finals, we could have a situation where Australia play New Zealand six times in two weeks (for the two sides meet in New Zealand for the Chappell Hadlee trophy straight after this).

New Zealand is a great team, and I’m sure New Zealanders are a swell bunch of people, but six times in two weeks is too much.

One a totally different topic, did you see that South Africa piled on 392 against Pakistan in an ODI game? What’s notable about that is that it isn’t even in the top five ODI scores anymore. But South Africa has gone past 400 twice now as well as this effort in the last 12 months or so. This sort of batting firepower has to make one stand up and take notice at the World Cup.

A lion in gold, and a lamb in white

So why is Brett Lee so effective in limited overs cricket, and such a flop at Test level, especially against England?

Your theories are as good as mine. For what it is worth, my guess is that in Tests, batsmen have the luxury of waiting for him to bowl a four ball, which comes along regularly enough. In ODI games, they try to force the pace, which causes their downfall.

But that’s just my guess. In all honesty, I’m bewildered. What’s your guess?

Is the end nigh for Greg’s Indian summer?

I tuned in to watch India play South Africa the other evening at Cape Town. I am not a huge fan of the fifty over game, but this was one of the more entertaining and memorable games. India ripped through South Africa’s top order before Justin Kemp scored a blazing century to put a large score on the board, and then India struggled before Dhoni engineered a brief revival. However once he was out, India crashed to another defeat.

For India, losing one day games is a serious business. Australia lost an ODI series to South Africa earlier this year, and this caused mild annoyance. For India losing two ODI games has caused mobs to burn Greg Chappell’s effigy and questions to be raised in Parliament.

Chappell in turn has quipped back, causing yet more uproar. India’s more passionate fans and political figures are making a collosal racket, and South African observers must be having a nice old chuckle at the disarray that Indian cricket is in.

I would be having a nice old chuckle myself at the spectacle India’s cricket community is making of itself, if not for the fact that India’s cricket establishment is only going to grow more important in world cricket in the years ahead. The fact that they are carrying on like this does not bode well for cricket’s future.

And as for Greg Chappell’s future? Well, I’m sure he’d be open to offers.

A Question

If England’s cricket is going so well, why is there so much media debate about who should be in the team?

Why, no one can even work out who is going to be the captain in Australia. And let’s not even mention the one-day lineup

Just asking!

Zimbabwe vs Bangladesh last over.

Oh, there was one ODI played today, the 10th place play off… the nice thing is that it went down to the wire. Zimbabwe needed 17 off the last over and…. they did it!
Good effort from Taylor and Mupariwa to get Zimbabwe over the line.

Andrew “Roy” Symonds starts repaying what he owes.

Andrew Symonds’ big night out on the day before an ODI against Bangladesh in 2005 will go down in infamy in Australian cricket lore, and probably will be celebrated in Bangladesh for a while to come as well. But he did redeem himself somewhat with a match-winning century in Dhaka to win the 2nd ODI for Australia yesterday.

It must be said, in all honesty, that at the moment he looks like he’s been on an even bigger bender then his 2005 effort. The dreadlocks look scruffy and the beard makes him look like a vagabond. At the moment, if any Australian cricketer is crying out for a makeover by the folks from ‘queer eye for the straight guy’, it is Symonds.

He may look like a drunken derelict, but his 5th ODI century for Australia was a most sober and abstemious effort. He came in with a bit of a crisis happening and Australia struggling after losing 3 for 10 after Adam Gilchrist got interrupted just as he was really warming up. That brought to mind his innings in Sydney against Sri Lanka, where Chaminda Vaas roughed up the Australian top order. Starting this time at 3 for 65, he combined with Michael Clarke to compose a brilliant but ungainly knock.

It’s one thing to score a glittering century on an easy paced but reliable SCG wicket; this wicket at Dhaka was simply diabolical. It was slower then a Madagascar sloth and deader then WG Grace. He came out wearing a helmet but there was no way Mashrafe Mortaza was going to get a bouncer to get beyond rib high at best. Pitch preparation is a black art at the best of times, but whoever was in charge of this one should hang his head in shame. Bangladesh may be poor, but if they can afford to put on a gloriously manicured outfield, there’s no excuse for a pitch like this.

So once the fast men finished their spells with the new ball, we had the rather dreary sight of spinners bowling and the batsmen working them over for singles. It is this sort of cricket that drove the ICC in frustration to introduce monstrosities like power-plays and supersubs. It is hardly the batsmen at fault in situations like this; in Michael Clarke and Andrew Symonds, Australia had two of its most positive minded batsmen at the crease. But Clarke only scored 2 boundaries in his 54.

Credit must go to the bowlers, especially the redoubtable Mohammed Rafique. The veteran spinner has clearly been the pick of Bangladesh’s bowlers right through this Australian tour. Of course, it does help his cause that as a slow left arm spinner, he is a member of the spin caste that has troubled Australians the most over recent years. Daniel Vettori is another that springs to mind.

So Symonds played Rafique with respect, picking him off, working him over for the singles, and waiting for the loose ball from the other end. These were not in short supply once Bashar had to face the chore of juggling to find ten overs from his ‘fifth’ bowler, but again the conditions conspired, and the lack of bounce clearly frustrated Symonds. However, instead of losing his head and his innings, he managed to keep his composure, and his wicket, and in the end his century came off 122 balls; slow by his standards but fast in the conditions.

Bashar perhaps missed a trick; he seemed content to allow Australia to pick off singles, and I wonder when a captain is going to be bold enough to try keeping his inner fielders close enough to the batsmen to make singles hard work. It could have paid dividends.

But it was never tried, so they tied Australia down for a while but they could not get them out though, and a late burst saw Australia through to 250. And once the Australian fast men knocked off the top order of Bangladesh’s batting, that was it as a game. Habibul Bashar played a good captain’s knock to ensure Bangladesh had some respectability with their reply of 183, but Symonds was the man who made the difference. And a good thing too, because against this opponent, Symonds owed his country a match-winning innings or three.

Bangladesh vs Australia, 2nd ODI

Open thread for today’s game (well, it’s the 26th in MY time zone!)

Bangladesh have dropped Mohammad Ashraful and recalled Alok Kapali. It’s a shame for Ashraful, but he has not really kicked on from his great 2005 form. But he’s a classy batsman and I am sure he will be back.

Meanwhile, Brad Hogg has some positive things to say about Dan Cullen, who he thinks is the future of Australian spin bowling. I’m a big fan of both, Hogg because he’s such an energetic player and makes the most of his talent, and Cullen because he’s got the potential to be a great player. The new Shane Warne he isn’t, but he could play a vital role in Australian cricket for the next decade if he continues to improve.

Bangladesh vs Australia, 1st ODI

Australia are having a few stumbles chasing 197, although another Cardiff still looks unlikely.

Dan Cullen made a good ODI debut today. He’s sposed to be 21 although he barely looks 18. Also, his hair is bad enough to be referred to the ICC’s Hair-fixing committee.