Not the Champion tournament it could have been

The first ICC Champions Trophy was a speculative venture by the ICC, and perhaps one of its most successful. It was held in 1998, and the format was a simple, eight-team knockout totalling seven fixtures in Bangladesh. The aim of the tournament was to raise funds for cricket in that country and it was very successful in doing so.

Wisden’s Matthew Engel was told it was the most successful event ever held in Bangladesh since they had become independent, such was the impact.

The ICC, in their wisdom, decided to try again, holding a similar event in Kenya in 2000. This was notable for New Zealand’s first ever success in an event like this, and the general success of the event gave rise to various notions that this could be a useful biennial tournament.

However, since then, the event has been given a formal title – the ICC Champions Trophy – and by being incorporated into the ICC’s huge television deal with Rupert Murdoch’s GCC organisation, the Champions Trophy has lost its way. The early events were quick and easy jaunts to some new places for cricketers, but the last three events have been held in established cricket centres, as part of the regular circuit. However, it has failed to capture the imagination of the world cricket community or the playing fraternity. This year’s event, for example, is widely seen in Anglo-Australian cricketing circles as an unwanted distraction to the build up to the Ashes. For both sides, the Champions Trophy will hamper their proper preparation.

Moreover, since the 2006-07 season is finishing with the 2007 World Cup in the Caribbean, the rest of the cricket world is likely to view the Champions Trophy as little more then a warm-up to the main event; one where teams can be tweaked and game plans be finalised. It has blown way out of size for a tournament of this nature. The early events were very quick affairs. There are six ‘qualifying matches’ in 2006 – a far cry from the 1998 event, which had seven for the entire event. So all in all, the Champions Trophy has become a real orphan of the international cricket calendar, unloved and unwanted by the people involved in the game, foisted on them by thoughtless administrators.

For those of us that remember the two early success stories, this is a tragic waste.

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.

Belated Bangladesh vs Australia 3rd ODI Open Thread post

Me bad. Sorry I’m late. I think Will might dock my wages. :(

Mark Cosgrove has made his ODI debut for Australia, making his niche as the fattest man to play for Australia since Greg Ritchie.

Bangladesh are 81 for 4 after 30 overs, and have a lot of problems ahead.

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.

Dav Whatmore, Bangladesh coach and all round good guy.

This is a man who clearly knows a lot about cricket.

BANGLADESH may have pushed a weary Australia in the first Test but their coach, Dav Whatmore, believes Ricky Ponting’s team is certain to reclaim the Ashes this summer. Whatmore, whose side has played Australia and England in Tests in the past year, said Australia’s persistence made them favourites.

“I think they will do very well,” he said on Tuesday. “I think they will win it. The measurement of a good team is over time, it’s not just over one series, as is presently the case with England beating Australia last year. They’re going to have to repeat it to be considered a good team like Australia.”

Course, he used to play for Australia, but I’m sure he’s being impartial. His Bangladesh side is proving to be harder then anyone expected them to be.

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.

Never too old to learn

Brett Lee is making good use of his time in Bangladesh, talking to Wasim Akram about reverse swing.

Wasim Akram has given Brett Lee, the Australian fast bowler, a tip or two on reverse-swing and believes he will unleash it on England in this winter’s Ashes. Lee and two of his Australian bowling mates, Nathan Bracken and Mitchell Johnson, approached Akram, now a television commentator, during the second Test against Bangladesh earlier this week.

“These guys want to improve, so they want to ask the top cricketers [for advice] and that’s good,” Akram told AAP. “I did tell them the little details about reverse-swing. I think soon in the Ashes we will be seeing Brett Lee bowling reverse-swing.”

Akram, perhaps the finest practioner of the art of reverse swing, tormented many batsman during the 1990s in partnership with Waqar Younis. “It was about action, about seam, a lot of talk about reverse-swing,” Akram said. “Brett Lee is a sight to watch in world cricket. Any bowler comes to me from any nationality, I am there to help.”

I’m very glad to see the Australian bowlers go out of their way to learn. Wasim Akram was one of the all time great bowlers, a player I loved to watch, and I’m glad that he’s been willing to teach. One of the best ways for players to learn is to ask, and I hope that when he’s retired, Lee in turn will help all comers in the finer points of fast bowling and reverse swing.

Bangladesh lose Test but win admirers

Bangladesh wasted their chance to spring a massive surprise on Australia in the First Test, and it was no surprise to anyone that the roused Australians would react with their customary vehemence to quell Bangladesh’s resistance in the Second Test. So it came to pass, but the agency with which this was inflicted was perhaps an even greater surprise then Bangladesh’s inspiring First Test performance.

In a golden age of batsmanship, we cricket lovers have had a chance to see some delightful innings. Back in the 1980’s it was a rare thing for an Australian summer to be punctuated with a double century, but now it is a rare summer we don’t see one. However, I’ve never seen anything quite so unlikely as Jason Gillespie’s 201 not out at Chittagong.

It’s not that he can’t bat. Australia’s recent cricket history is dotted with examples of ‘Dizzy’s stout defensive efforts with the bat. Quite a few nations have experienced the frustration of trying to dig him out, and Australia’s top order batsmen know that they can bat normally and not worry about him giving his wicket away. However, his method of stern and stubborn defence is not especially effective in quick scoring.

This monumental innings by Gillespie did not see a change of his traditional modus-operandi. A stout defence, a cover drive, and a dab around the corner provided him with the bulk of his runs, and it was only after he was well into his second century that he became more adventurous. He was kept company for the bulk of his epic by the redoubtable Mike Hussey, who scored the most un-remarked upon 182 that he’s ever likely to score. Together they put on 320, and sealed the fate of Bangladesh who had been skittled on the first day for 197.

Bangladesh’s response to this huge deficit was discouraging, with only Shahriar Nafees and Habibul Bashar showing the required skill and discipline. The Bangladesh batsmen benefited from some sloppy Australian fielding on the fourth evening, but fell quickly to Warne and MacGill on the fifth morning, with only a delightful cameo by Mohammed Rafique to give the Bangladesh supporters cheer.

So is it really a case of one step forward and two steps back? I do not think so myself. While Bangladesh will be embarrassed that it was Jason Gillespie that filled their boots against them, rather then one of the more established batting stars, the result in Chittagong surprised no one. But the First Test did surprise everyone, and there is no denying that there is some real talent in the Bangladesh batting lineup. Bangladesh have started a long way behind the field, and while progress has been slow for them, it is nevertheless clearly there. They did not win any Tests this time round, and it will be a while before they do against Australia but they did win admirers.

Happy Birthday Jason Gillespie!!!

Gillespie gets to 201 not out, and Ponting declares.

Not sure about this. Getting 100 is heroic. Getting 200 is taking the piss.

Update: see the video here.