Lots of Photos

Plenty of photos of the Australia vs Sri Lanka game played at Adelaide yesterday, all taken by me. You can see them here.

What Statsguru can tell us about the first final between Australia and Sri Lanka

I played around with Cricinfo’s statsguru program so I could write a post about the first final for the Cricinfo blog Different Strokes. Ironically, that blog is down, as indeed are all of cricinfo’s blogs. Some technical malady has smited them. So because I’m going to the game and won’t be here to post anything, I’ve taken the liberty of reprinting it here.

Thanks to Tuesday’s result, we now know that Sri Lanka will play Australia in the finals of the VB series. This is good for the series, because in my opinion, Sri Lanka are better equipped then South Africa are to cause an upset win in at least one of the fixtures and push the series into a third final. Which is something that has not happened for twelve seasons. The trend strongly is that the team that wins the first final goes onto win.

So for Sri Lanka, to win the first final is very important indeed. If they can somehow conjure up a win in Adelaide on Friday night, they will have a great fillip, and the second final is on their favourite Australian ground, Sydney. Between now and Friday, Sri Lanka’s coach Tom Moody will be working on a game plan to surprise the Australians, and he’ll probably use Cricinfo’s Statsguru program. Let’s see what Statsguru says.

The variations of scheduling help here, since these sides have met 15 times since 2002/03. This gives us a good sample to work with, and from these results, certain trends can be inferred.

Australia has dominated recent meetings between the sides, winning eleven and losing only four. The alarming figure for Sri Lanka is that Australia have batted first seven times in the fifteen, and won six out of the seven. Whereas, Sri Lanka have batted first eight times, and won three of those matches.

So Sri Lanka would like to bat first. In those eight matches where they batted first, they won three with scores of 343/5, 245 and 309/7. The other five scores were below that, and they lost all five. So they know if they bat first and can score 245 or more, they have given themselves a good chance to win.

And history at the Adelaide Oval certainly backs that plan up. Adelaide Oval has hosted 60 limited overs matches, and the team batting first has won 35, but recent history is strongly in favour of the team batting first, with eight out of the last ten being won by the side batting first.

However there is one small problem with this scenario for Sri Lanka. They have to win the toss and bat first.

If Australia win the toss and bat first, Sri Lanka have a problem. Of the last seven times Australia batted first they have won six of them. The only game they did not win, they scored 198/7. They have defended several scores in the mid 200 range as well as scoring over 300 three times. So Australia will be very confident that they can defend anything over 200.

So Tom Moody has to somehow find a weakness in Australia’s armour. Thanks to Statsguru, we can fine tune our search. Let’s look at the last 15 games where Australia won the toss, batted first, and lost the game.

What is interesting here is that while Australia has quite a few low scores in that lot, the mean score over the last fifteen is 221; and further looking around suggest that eleven of Australia’s last fifteen defeats came while batting first.

The common thread is that Australia have lost by losing a lot of early wickets, and getting either bowled out, or close to it.

So this should flow into Sri Lanka’s tactics. They have three bowlers who can take wickets, Vaas, Muralithiran and Bandara. My own feeling is that Sri Lanka should look to try and bowl these key figures early, and dispense with at least one of the powerplays until the 40 over mark. Because if history shows anything, if Australia still have top-six batmen in at the 40 over mark, the score will already be past 200 and Sri Lanka’s chances will be slim indeed. So the key thing is to attack at all costs, take early wickets, and keep taking them. If Australia are able to bat through their fifty overs, Sri Lanka will find it very hard to chase them down, and the history of the venue also points to that.

I somehow doubt that Tom Moody will instill this sort of attacking gameplan into his charges; Marvan Attapatu is not one of the attacking captains. However, thanks to Statsguru, we can see that to win, he’ll need to win the toss and bat, and failing that, he’ll need to use his bowlers in a very aggressive manner to stop Australia.

Using statsguru

I wrote a post on using statsguru to analyise gameplans that Sri Lanka might use against Australia in the First final for Cricinfo’s Different Strokes blog.

South Africa vs Sri Lanka

I mentioned earlier that Statsguru was a great toy. Put South Africa vs Sri Lanka head to head and the results are amazingly close.

All time; played 42, SA won 20, SL won 20. On neutral grounds, played 14, SA won 7, SL won 7.

So Tuesday’s game between the two will not only put the winner into the final of the VB series, but give one of these nations an edge.

I’ll tentatively tip Sri Lanka to win this one.

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.

Rotation policy poster

Flickr user frigginawesomeimontv has a whole load of photos, mostly excellent, of today’s match between Australia and South Africa, including this gem from the crowd:

Rotation policy poster (a photo)

Triangular tournaments in Australia

I am so not entertained by the ODI Triangular tournament currently going on in Australia. The format is tired and stale, and the current game, between Australia and South Africa, is suffering because of the slow, low pitch, which makes for hard work for both bowlers and batsmen.

I would much rather just have three or five ODI games between Australia and the touring sides, rather then the traingular format. What do readers think? I’m especially interested in the views of English readers, where the triangular format has only recently be introduced.

South Africa v Sri Lanka, VB Series, Perth

What a dull match. It threatened interest when Murali grabbed a couple during South Africa’s run chase, but ultimately Sri Lanka were doomed after the 20th over (thereabouts; I’ve been up since 4am bulletining the game, so forgive any tiredness-induced inaccuracies). They lost 9 for 85! Utter carnage, and such a waste too.

Sanath Jayasuriya played beautifully, and ought to have been raising his bat to the crowds for another hundred; his lazy cut into the hands of seemed to send shivers down the Sri Lankans’ spines. To a man, their response to Jayasuriya’s downfall was to replicate it to the best of their ability: poor shots; lazy shots; silly shots; and the running between the wickets was laughable.

It’s a shame when teams let themselves down. Sri Lanka have so much ability, you do wonder how good they could become if they added consistency and responsibility to their bow. Now go and read my bulletin.

Gimme a tailender

It’s perhaps a bit disconcerting that I should admit this, but what the heck. I find the current India / Pakistan series completely dull and utterly arduous. I’m not actually watching it – more’s the pity – but, by all accounts, it sounds like a dreadfully painful match. I want Ashes cricket and I want it now. I want Steve Waugh to be grinding a hundred; Mike Atherton to scratch out one of his even uglier innings; I want Merv Hughes to spit at Peter Such, and laugh at his pathetic attempts to get bat on ball; in fact, I want a return to genuine tailend batsmen.

The loss of tailenders has been a disaster to cricket. They are now a rare beast, lurking among the local leagues around the world. For the lower-order batsman playing for their countries, they can now either hold up and end or score relatively freely. WHAT? I didn’t sign up to that, thanks very much. What about our tailend heroes? Tufnell, Such, Fraser; Hughes, May, McGrath; Walsh, Ambrose, Benjamin. And, of course, Danny Morrison, although his record-efforts of saving a Test (correct me if I’m wrong, which I usually am about anything historical) do edge him out of the class of a genuine muppet.

I want these back. I don’t want super-slick, multi-dimensional, do-it-all (and B&Q) players. I want batsmen that can bat brilliantly. When the batsmen roll their arms over, I want them to do a Bob Willis impression (his bowling action, not his suicidally-dull voice) and make a fool of themselves. Nevermind if they concede 12 or 30 from the over – give us some chuffing entertainment and stop taking it all so seriously. And I want brilliant bowlers; bowlers who couldn’t bat even if they had weekly training sessions with Boycott and Bradman. I want them to fall over, ideally on their stumps, or on their arse, with predictable regularity. Make them look foolish, and give the fans what they want!

Not a clue what I’m on about, but perhaps it explains my dislike of cricket’s new found “slick” and shiny and business-oriented nature. Graham Gooch, when he did his Bob Willis impression, had me in fits. It wasn’t that funny, in actual fact – it just demonstrated cricket’s ability to be bigger than just a game; for there to be interesting and funny parts to the days play. Tailenders were apart of that (“Way hay, it’s Such and Tufnell! Here. We. Go!”). Nowadays, the emphasis is on etching out as many runs as possible, an admirable statement of intent – and one I admire especially when England play – but let’s not forget cricket is a game, and everyone involved should treat it as such.

Commentators allured to Twenty20 madness

Last week in Australia was one which may in hindsight be seen as a
historical turning point. Monday night brought the first home Twenty20
international won comfortably by Australia in front of a record crowd for
the Gabba of 38,894 patrons who left slightly deafer than when they came in
thanks to an atmosphere more reminiscent of a disco than a cricket ground.

But this was not the historical event: everyone has known for some time the
potentialities of Twenty20 cricket and their implications, not so much for
Test cricket as for one-day cricket, whose humdrum nature is shown in even
more stark relief. The truly fascinating development was the role of the
Channel Nine commentary team, who abandoned all pretence of being
disinterested critics of the spectacle before them, and turned into carnival
barkers: ‘Hurry hurry hurry, step right up and see the AMAAAAZING cricket
match!’ During South Africa’s insipid and incompetent reply to the
Australian total, viewers were told repeatedly that what they were watching
was the most exciting innovation since penicillin. One expects this from
Tony Greig, of course, who has been selling ghastly gew-gaws for years. But
here were Mark Taylor, Ian Healy, Mark Nicholas and Michael Slater, almost
tumescent with excitement, essentially doing the same: selling us a
one-sided one-dayer as though it was the Tied Test. No wonder Rich and
Chappelli had the night off; George Galloway on Celebrity Big Brother was a
model of parliamentary dignity compared with Slater’s desperate attempts to
endear himself to his temporary bosses. This reinvention of cricket
commentary as infomercial raised some provocative questions. Is the
commentator there to call the game, or to sell it? Is his duty primarily to
the viewer, to his employer or – strange anachronistic notion, this – to the
game of cricket? The commentators here are on a slippery slope, but they
look determined to slalom down it.

It was almost a relief to watch the comparative dignity of the opening VB
Series game on Friday evening, another damp squib thanks to the serene
inertia of Sri Lanka’s Martin Van Dotball, but with a soundtrack neither so
hysterical nor hyperbolic. It was possible to savour instead the
restoration of heart-warming traditions like the sound of Murali being
no-balled by one of those famously knowledgeable and hospitable Melbourne
crowds – something, of course, to which the commentators were far too polite
to refer. But ho! What have we here, with Nicholas and Healy at the
microphone? Mr Smooth and Mr Shrewd wearing false moustaches as part of a
beer promotion involving a talking Boonie doll! Pure ruddy gold. Kerry
Packer might have gone to his reward, but his spirit is alive and well. If
you can bear to sit through the eye-glazingly dull games, there’s some
veeeeerrry interesting stuff going down in Aussie cricket at the moment.