Too highly rated?

I see Kevin Pietersen has been knocked off the top spot in the ODIs by Ricky Ponting. Very difficult to argue with that – Ponting is surely the stand out batsman in both forms of the game. Looking at the other batting rankings, it is difficult to find fault, although on current form, Shiv Chanderpaul ought to be in the test top three at least. Also, I struggle to understand how Mahela Jayawardene doesn’t break into either top ten, while Hussey retains a top five place in both. He’s very good, granted, but is he top five?

Jason Gillespie

The bowlers are altogether more perplexing. For one, how can Shoaib Akhtar still be at number 10 in tests? He’s played four tests since the start of 2006 and taken only a handful of wickets. Maybe in the current game, not playing is the way to climb the rankings. Likewise, Jason Gillespie (22) is still deemed a better Test bowler than Lasith Malinga (28)!

Agreed, it must be difficult to devise a workable system. Also, stats don’t tell the full story. But things start to look decidedly suspect when you inspect the Best Ever Ratings, which is a list of players at their peak. Ponting at four is just about fair enough, given his recent dominance. However, Peter May above Viv Richards shows a flaw, while Matthew Hayden in the top ten is just crazy. KP (21) is one place higher than Sachin and two places higher than Wally Hammond. Enough said.

For the bowlers, I half expected to see the list packed high with bowlers of yesteryear, given how modern bowlers are meant to have struggled, but it does put Murali, McGrath, Pollock, Waqar and Warne in the top 15. Of course, Warne should be in the top three, if not top of the pile. Wasim Akram limps in at number 57 behind the likes of Ntini, Shoaib and Harmison, which doesn’t seem right.

That said, like most critics, I can’t think of a better way. There must be some bright spark at Cricinfo with a formula….?

World Cup squads announced

My tooth is out, and I’m all doped up. Who said drugs are bad?

The World Cup squads have been announced. For Australia, the main surprise was the inclusion of Shaun Tait who was preferred over Stuart Clark. As Tait is from my home town, I’m personally delighted, although I doubt he will play much, at least after the first group games. Scotland might be facing a new ball attack of Tait and Lee, which would be a rough initiation for them. Clark is not happy about being omitted but has vowed to come back next season as a better bowler.

Meanwhile, Australia’s cheif medical officer has come out to warn injured Andrew Symonds about rushing his come-back. The Australian dressing room is full of half-fit players, and given the lack of fitness and form of so many players, I do not think Australia can really be favourites for this tournament anymore. Even a player of Symonds ability can’t just be rushed back into the side and perform at top level.

England on the other hand have a fairly predictable World Cup squad, the only major changes are the return of Pieterson and the omission of Mal Loye. It’s tough on Loye given the job he has done in Australia, but the other alternative of dropping Bopara would not have made much sense, and would have left England’s squad top-heavy with openers.

I still can’t understand why Alastair Cook hasn’t appeared in the frame at all in coloured clothes though.

Meanwhile, as I write, Pakistan are in awful trouble against South Africa in the 5th ODI in Johannesburg. Pollock, South Africa’s ‘old man river’ has defied the years and ripped the Pakistani top order apart by taking 5 for 23.

Lee v South Africa

Ouch. 5 for 22 are very fine figures, especially in one-day cricket. But for Pollock’s 46, South Africa’s eventual score would have been far worse. And I note Lee’s back to being a tailender, and not the future all-rounder Australia think he’ll become…

Drama at The Wanderers

What a day. England began it on 263-4 – nightwatchman Hoggard and his struggling captain Vaughan – and it wasn’t long before Hoggard became 5th man out. Flintoff and Jones made 4, between them – Jones got a good one, but Flintoff’s waft was reminiscent of his younger days. 263-4 became 278-7 and SA were cock-a-hoop

Vaughan meanwhile was still stuck in the mud. Feet not moving and his head was wobbling around. Drizzle was falling, and it was getting extremely dark – a bowlers paradise and a batting nightmare. Just what Smith would have wanted.

Giles, Vaughan’s best mate incidentally, helped him through by attacking South Africa and running hard. Yet more poor captaincy and bowling by South Africa – not a yorker, slower ball or anything remotely full was bowled all session – allowed England to smash them around to all parts. Smith is not an instinctive Captain – field changes are only ever made in a reactive move, and I’ve lost count of the number of shots that have flown through 3rd slip and gully. It’s caution, caution, caution for South Africa – all the time. They are a nervous team, and quite honestly don’t deserve to be level in this series.

Harmison came in at 329-8 and SA completely lost the plot.

Again – no slower balls, no yorkers and no decent bouncers were bowled, as Harmison smashed Pollock & Ntini wherever he wished. He left good length balls with Atherton-like measure! Vaughan had finally found his feet, and regained more than a tenth of his form which I mentioned yesterday. 5 or 6 glorious boundaries, including his trademark cover-drive and short-arm pull through mid-on, and a brilliant 50 partnership between him and Harmison brought England to 411/8 when the real drama started…

…they went off for bad light! 16 had been taken off the over, and Smith was effing and blinding at being in this position. He had yet another chat with Steve Buckner who decided the light wasn’t good enough for the fielders. This was the best light of the day – the sun was shining, clouds thinning and the sky was blue! Vaughan was, understandably, a trifle peeved – 82* and approaching a superb hundred, running SA ragged. Bob Willis, commentating for Sky, said the decision was absurd and even suggested Bucknor should retire…which was perhaps a little harsh.

Vaughan, in his post-day interview was obviously confused and questioned the “consistency” of the decision, especially given how poor the light was at the start of the day.

Another of cricket’s ridiculous rules and lack of flexibility – and, possibly, a case of bullying by Smith who had lost the plot.

My other complaint of the day is with Pollock. He is a superb, fantastic seam bowler – a joy to watch. However, how many more wickets could he have taken in his career if he insisted (or wanted) 3 slips, all the time? Someone today suggested he’s more concerned in his average, and in conceding runs, than taking handful of wickets. Their whole tactics throughout this series have just dumbfounded me, sorry to go on about it.

Only 2 full sessions were played today roughly, and a win for each side which brings the total to Eng 3-2 SA

Smith is negative.

G.Smith does it again. He has arguably one of the greatest bowlers of his generation – Shaun Pollock – a bowler who also happens to average 30 with the bat. Does he get a 3rd slip? Does he balls. You’d think Pollock would demand one.

I’ve counted 4 edges fly through where 3rd slip ought to be, and still the SA Captain fails to react. Defensive, negative tactics. England 108-1 and Strauss looks ominous.

Nailbiting finish

This is nailbiting. England only need 3 wickets – de Villiers and Pollock are in, and not giving much away. They’ve clearly given up trying to win it, with only 28 overs left. Can England muster one final effort, or will SA deny them?

[Will bites fingernails]

South Africa’s day

South Africa won this first day of the second Test. Pollock bowled quite beautifully, and Steyn looks a seriously good prospect for SA cricket. His line today was so much better than the previous Test – and his pace is consistently 85+mph.

Harmison fired too – and snaffled out Rudolf thanks to a superb catch at short-leg by Thorpe. Harmison really is key to England’s success in this Test but SA have a longer lineup than at Port Elizabeth – they have to win the first session tomorrow to really get back into the game.

So, South Africa – in terms of sessions – win the day by 3-0 despite 3 wickets by England in the final session.