It’s tough at the top (or maybe just too damn frustrating)

It’s not been a good year for captaincy. England was a case in point last autumn, with the job apparently hinged on how much of a tantrum the ‘lead’ bowler would throw if his mate wasn’t given it. In November, Chris Adams decided to take on more responsibility at Yorkshire, and seemed to get cold feet as soon as he’d given the press conference. Heath Streak, with the season but one Championship game old, has decided today that maybe he really isn’t up to the job. It’s okay Heath, I suppose it wasn’t really long enough to make a decision, those six odd months since September.

The World Cup has seen others give up too, most notably Inzamam and Lara following poor team performances. Vaughan may yet be headed the same way, albeit involuntarily, when the shorter format comes around again.

Enter Stephen Fleming, deserved semi-finalist, who has decided to let the one-day role go. Now I’ve not studied the New Zealand captaincy, but my knowledge of English cricket suggests that this is a step onto a slippery slope. Is Fleming feeling the bite of full cricket years after captaining Notts. for two English summers? Unlikely. Judging from his remarks about injecting enthusiasm, it may just be that four World Cups with three semi-final exits are enough to drive anyone away from one-day cricket.

A black (cap) day for Australian cricket

The scoreboard tells the story.
It must be twenty years since I’ve seen such a poor performance by an Australian side; they were second best for the entire game. This was a woeful display, lacking in any of the traditional Australian virtues of discipline, enterprise and initative.

There’s no doubt that New Zealand played very well, and they would have won against better sides then this. Shane Bond was an absolute menace, and the wicket was difficult for the batsmen. New Zealand’s openers had a lot of play and miss in the first half of their innings. But once they were settled, Fleming and Vincent had no trouble picking off the runs.

There was one particular standout moment of the day, which was Bond’s caught and bowled off Cameron White. One of the best catches I’ve ever seen.

The only thing that went wrong for New Zealand was Jacob Oram, who broke his finger while catching Mitchell Johnson in the deep.

Australia look gone to me. The injury list is bad, the confidence is shot, and there is not much time to turn things around.

It is all very curious

New Zealand wrapped up the First Test against New Zealand, winning by five wickets. The final day was not without controversy, after Muttiah Muralitharan was run out in strange circumstances.

Kumar Sangakkara had brought up his century with a neat flick down to third man. Murali finished the run, and without waiting for the ball to become dead, he motioned up the pitch to congratulate his team-mate. He had only advanced a few paces when the ball was returned from the deep and wicket-keeper Brendon McCullum promptly removed the bails, running him out.

It was a harsh act and Sri Lankan captain Mahela Jayawardene protested it was against the spirit of the game, but New Zealand captain Stephen Fleming pointed out that had the ball gone for overthrows, Sri Lanka would have gladly accepted them.

I can understand Sri Lankan fans being disappointed but it is the responsibility of the batsman to protect his wicket. Watching the Ashes, I have noticed that batsmen on both sides now refuse to pick up the ball in situations where they might do so in a club game, precisely to avoid the possibility of a controversial situation arising. To me, the bottom line is that Murali didn’t value his wicket highly enough, and he paid the price.

Your views?

Lessons to be learned

Another day of tremendous Test cricket in New Zealand went by almost unwatched today, although to be fair, Christchurch’s weather forecast was predicting rain, hail, the doom of the world and the like. As it turned out, the day was fine and the cricket was even better.

New Zealand started the day looking to overtake Sri Lanka’s modest first innings of 154, and made serene progress untill Sri Lanka’s bowlers engineered a collapse, slumping from 2 for 106 to 6 for 113. I sure hope some English players were watching as Daniel Vettori and Stephen Fleming then applied a bandage to the innings and displayed a masterclass of damage control.

Fleming was slow, slow but sure, and put away the rare loose balls that Murali provided, while Vettori was his usual scratchy but inventive self. It of course helped that these two possess some real cricket nous. And they were right up against it because not only was Murali bowling with his usual menace, but Lasith Malinga was bowling with fire and aggression. After the lunch break, he gave Fleming one of the more searching examinations of his technique that I have seen for a while. It was great to watch.

Once Sri Lanka had finally winkled out Fleming, Vettori changed his role to that of a random hitter, and brought up a well deserved half-century.

But New Zealand’s lead was only 52 and that didn’t look like enough as Sri Lanka made steady progress to 44 for 1. Then that man again, Shane Bond, stepped up, and ripped out the Sri Lankan middle order. They lost four wickets for two runs at one stage. As it stands now, Sri Lanka hang by a thread at 8 for 125, with only Kumar Sangakkara holding things together.

Test cricket is so much better to watch when the conditions favour the bowlers rather then the batsmen.


Wily fox Fleming

I watched and commentated on New Zealand and South Africa today, and much to my surprise I actually found it bearable. Shock'n'horror. Anand Vasu has written a really good verdict which you should read immediately at that interwebsite thing called Cricinfo.

Incidentally I met a girl yesterday afternoon who works for the online Ad agency who deal with nPower. I told her who I worked for and, as ever, she sort of mouthed "Cric? Innnfooo? Cricketinfo? Cricinfo?". Is it that difficult to comprehend? Cric. Info. Cricinfo dammit!

Treading the catwalk, McGrath style

What the b'jesus?


Stephen Fleming, you should be ashamed. A tough cricketer and respected captain, if only for inspiring New Zealand to up their game against their antipodean neighbours in the late 1990s, you have shamefully let yourself and your country down. We all thought you were the unsmiling, reserved yet determined leader; such figures do not dress as court jesters. And check out those shoes!

I've little to say about Glenn McGrath's appearance here, other than his cheshire-cat grin merely confirms his madness. The bloke's cheese has completely fallen off his cracker; in fact, it's not even on the plate any more. First it was 5 nil, then this. Rumours that he not only owns the gold shoes but designed them too are said to be unfounded gossip.

Stephen Fleming Double Century Tribute Post and Open thread

The difficult-to-please types at Cricinfo clearly don’t care much for the artistry of Stephen Fleming, but I was well pleased to wake up to find that he had smited the South Africans. And if James Franklin can finish off his century this morning, that will be even better.

Rejoice in the suffering of South African cricket here, or South African fans are free to remonstrate. However, any complaints about the wrong-headedness of this post will be thoroughly ignored.

Did I miss something? I certainly did!

Sorry to the masses of readers reader who wanted an open thread about the South Africa vs New Zealand Test in Cape Town, which started last night. I’m not as overworked as Will is, although I am quite frankly appallingly underpaid. I’m considering holding out posting until Will doubles my salary to be honest. The writers united will never be defeated, we’ll just hold out for the draw.

 Anyway, Stephen Fleming got a century last night, which is a rare or special moment for him. I can’t think of a finer batsman in world cricket who is SO bad at converting good starts into centuries. So I really hope he goes on with it. His innings held together New Zealand’s innings on the opening day after South Africa won the toss and sent them in. New Zealand are 265 for 6, and if Fleming and the tail can nurdle out another 100 runs, they will be well set for this Test match.

 Neil Manthrope discusses the schedule. I want you, dear readers, to discuss New Zealand’s chances of getting to 400, and what a fair salary for me is. Should I hold out for groupies?


Fleming’s attack on Richardson ‘a joke’

Well, this is odd. Stephen Fleming was heard attacking Mark Richardson on TV yesterday (see the video here). CricketWeb now say that it was a joke:

Updated 13 March 2005, 8:40pm NZ time: Cricket Web can now confirm that Stephen Fleming’s attack on former team mate Mark Richardson was a joke. Richardson explained on New Zealand television tonight that Fleming having a go at him, in calling him an ‘idiot’ and criticising his commentary, was for “The Cricket Company”, a cricket show that Richardson co-hosts. Fleming and Richardson were seen laughing together over the shoot, after it had finished.

All rather amusing