Quote of the day

This was actually said last month as part of a musing about limited overs cricket, but it’s worth a wider audience:

Bottom line: anyone who cheers the end of a Shane Bond spell because it lets the batsmen go back to pasting dodgy kiwi medium pacers around the park is a philistine.

The Matthew Hayden show

Prior to the penultimate game of the Super Eight’s, Matthew Hayden was just three runs behind the tournament’s highest run scorer in Jacques Kallis. He was favoured to move into pole position but has surged to it with yet another century of muscle and class. Is he playing better than his golden year of 2001? While most teams are struggling in the first ten overs (the average being 36 runs for 1.4 wickets) Hayden hasn’t set a foot wrong. Gilchrist seems to be rather quiet but is himself averaging 37 with the bat in the World Cup.

The pre-match news is Shane Bond is out crook and Jacob Oram having earlier been ruled out. Mark Gillespie and Michael Mason play in their place. Shane Watson makes a welcome return for Australia forcing Brad Hodge out. Shane Bond was the real danger man for Australia, a bowler who seems to have the wood over the Aussies. New Zealand will surely miss him.

Australia have moved into a more than healthy 215-2 after 32 overs and look to post a really big one. In light of recent adventures New Zealand might fancy their chances in getting them.

Check out the scorecard here and leave your comments below.

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.

England vs New Zealand, and I’m not going

The New Zealanders are bringing back Jacob Oram and Kyle Mills. But Shane Bond isn’t yet fit. With the greatest respect to Oram and Mills, I’m not shelling out money to watch them.

Anyway, chat away yonder, my merry readers. An England victory here would be a great leap forward towards them making the finals.

UPDATE – Oh, Bond’s been included. New Zealand are batting first, so I might wander along after all.

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!

Meanderings on the Commonwealth Bank series

Well, so far so good from an Australian point of view. It’s nice to see the Australians decked out in something other then ghastly canary yellow for a change. Easier on the eyes.

For me the best thing is that Adam Gilchrist is back in form. That is great news for spectators as there’s not many players in the world who hit the ball better. Add to that the form of Andrew Symonds and Cameron “Bear” White and there’s some real firepower in the Australian batting lineup. Hits Away!

Not that I think that it will be a cakewalk for the Australians; I expect that both England and New Zealand will do much better in their remainding games against Australia. There are some quality players in the England and New Zealand teams, something that the Australian media tends to forget. I just hope that the Australian players do not forget it either.

My favourite non-Australian player is Shane Bond, and I’m glad to see his titanium-filled back is holding up well enough. He bowled well again against the Australians in Hobart, and Englishmen who have had trouble and strife with the Australian bowlers this summer will be dismayed to find that he’s actually better then any of the Australian pace attack. They’ll have to be on their toes against him in Hobart today.

Given that, I think New Zealand should be favourites to win today’s game, simply on the Bond factor alone.

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.

Scorecard

Broadcast Views

Reverse Swinging Mark has his say on Sky’s broadcast roster.

The classic sports arrangement consists of a commentator who actually describes what’s going on out in the middle, alongside a ‘colour’ man who, well, adds the colour to the picture the commentator has described – effectively providing deeper analysis of what’s going on.

Every other sport seems to recognise this – football commentary is left to the professional commentators (Motson, Davies, Tyler) with ex-pros like the exemplary Andy Gray, just providing the ‘colour’ – the same with Rugby Union where Miles Harrison and Stuart Barnes have developed a level of understanding that rugby hasn’t witnessed since Gareth Edwards and Phil Bennett were strutting their stuff.

Sky Cricket’s problem is that they have too many ‘colour’ guys and not enough commentators – in fact, they haven’t actually got any at all. You need balance to ensure that the commentary flows with the game – but instead, with Sky, we get a series of ex players who feel that they have to continually justify their presence with elaborate analysis of every thought, word and deed of the players in the middle – plus a whole lot more beyond that, without realising that all we actually need is some sort of insight into what is actually happening, and why. No one is doing orthodox commentary, because no one has been asked/told to – so the Sky product is fundamentally flawed.

As it happens, I tuned in my television to watch the New Zealand vs Sri Lanka Test match, and to my surprise the first voice I heard was that of the veteran West Indies commentator, Tony Cozier. Whether or not he’s emigrated to New Zealand, or doing some freelancing, I have no idea, but it was a delight to hear him.

Cricket in New Zealand is broadcast by Sky NZ, and it suffers from almost the opposite problem to that described by Mark- too much commentary, and not enough colour. I’m not sure where Jeremy Coney has got to, but the rest of the local commentators are too descriptive and.. boring.

Unfortunately, there’s not a great market for Test cricket in New Zealand. Shane Bond is giving the Sri Lankans a royal grilling before a nearly empty stadium, and so when broadcasting in this sort of environment, it is important to ‘pep it up’ a bit. You do not need the ‘Barmy Army’ to create atmosphere but you do need to have more then 15% of the seats sold.

This isn’t meant to be an attack on Sky NZ, who are doing a great job- the camera work is as good as anything Nine in Australia can come up with. The graphics are smart and professional. They just need to think ‘outside the square’ somewhat to liven things up. If they hired Tony Cosier to this end, then they have made a good start.

In other (non-Ashes) news…

There’s more cricket then the Ashes going on. Just to keep everyone up to date….

Sri Lanka play New Zealand in a two-Test series starting this morning NZ time. A thoughtful bit of scheduling, that, to not clash with the Second Test. The good news from a neutral point of view is that Shane Bond is actually still fit despite playing in the Champions Trophy, so his performance will be worth looking out for. Sadly, I don’t think he’ll ever get recognised for what he could have been- the best bowler in the world, when he’s fit and firing.

Sri Lanka have a real fast bowling find of their own in Lasith Malinga, who seems to have come on in leaps and bounds as well. Given that Chaminda Vaas isn’t getting any younger, it’s time for Malinga to stand up, and given the constant problems New Zealand have in their top order, he can really cash in.

****

Pakistan can’t stay out of the news, with the drugs ban on Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Asif being overturned. With all the Ashes excitement, I do not know enough about the case to comment, but it certainly will be a shot in the arm for Pakistan to have them back in the side. They weren’t needed in the first ODI against the West Indies, but there is four more to come.

And it is past time that West Indies fired up and made a statement and went out and won this series. I’ve seen a lot of West Indies in the past few months, and while they keep promising, they still haven’t actually delivered anything. There seems to be a new spirit in West Indies cricket, but they remain fragile; the onus is on them to prove that they can roll with the punches, otherwise they’ll be bit-players at their own party when the World Cup comes along.

Bond (Shane) is back

Why couldn’t his parents call him James? I would’ve. The former policeman is back – which is great news for New Zealand cricket, as they’ve missed his cutting-edge. One minor point though is his age – he’s 30. Bowlers are supposed to reach their prime aged 29-33 (I think?), but only if they’ve been long-established in their 20s. So, although age is against him, he still has an opportunity to lead their pace-attack for a few years.