Notes from the pavilion for October 27th

Pakistan struggling against the odds, and Mark Boucher’s record

Pakistan have their work cut out to get something out of the First Test against South Africa. The Proteas scored 450, on the back of a big hundred by Jacques Kallis, who certainly would have had a point to prove to the selectors who left him out of the Twenty20 team. Then the rather unlikely sight of a South African spinner on top, Paul Harris taking 5 for 73. That left Pakistan all out for 291, and it could have been even less if it wasn’t for some stout lower order batting. Now South Africa in their second dig are 76 for 3, and the lead is already beyond 200. (scorecard)

The other notable feat of the Test is that South Africa’s keeper, Mark Boucher, has passed Ian Healy’s record for the most dismissals in Tests. He’s a worthy holder of the record, a fine gloveman who has mastered his craft. The one disappointment in his career would have to be that South Africa have not really produced a spin bowler worthy of his talents. On the rare occasion  that I’ve seen him up to the stumps, he’s certainly looked the goods though and it is notable that in Pakistan’s innings he did get two stumpings. There’s nothing wrong with his abilities at what is the ultimate test of a keeper’s skills. (stats)

Ye Gods! A Test match is happening!

We don’t get a lot of South Africans or Pakistanis in these here parts, but there IS a Test match going on as we speak- South Africa, batting first, are 104 for 1, with Gibbs on 50 – Smith out for 42.

Ahh. White clothes and a red ball. God is in his heaven and all is right with the world, et cetera!

Meanwhile, England play Sri Lanka in a Fifty/50 tonight, and Australia play India tomorrow. But who cares? Tests are the best!

Bunch of choking bottlers

South Africa really are a most monumental, unabashed, incomparable Eddie[1] of winning bottlers ever conceived. You have to laugh, really. I’m assuming they’ve lost, having only just been informed by a surprisingly demure text message which read: the boks have done it again.

Bless ‘em.

[1] My suggestion for the collective noun of losers: an Eddie (the Eagle) of losers

I must be getting old

I remember back in the day when going at 5 runs an over was a fair rate of knots. In this brave new world of Twenty-20, even 10 an over isn’t always enough, as the West Indies found out this morning. Pity Chris Gayle, who scored the first ever International century in this form of the game, 117 off 57, and still ended up on the losing side.

A hell of a way to make a living, being a bowler in this day and age.

Here’s hoping South Africa can put on a decent show

We are two days out from a ‘brave new world’, with the Twenty20 World Cup about to start in South Africa. I must confess to having mixed feelings, at best, about this form of the game. It certainly can be entertaining, but it is a form of cricket that seems to be fundamentally slanted in favour of the batsmen, leading to ‘slogathons’, rather than an even contest between bat and ball.

But my own preferences are neither here nor there. It seems to me that for the sake of cricket generally, this tournament needs to be successful. 2007 so far has not been a cricketing year to get enthused about; there has been very little Test cricket so far, and the 50 over World Cup was such a let down that it damaged rather then enhanced the game. The English summer failed to reach memorable heights either, with jelly beans rather then batting or bowling providing the most talked about incident.

So it is incumbent on South Africa to put on a good show to boost the morale of cricket lovers. Having the tournament being won by a rank outsider, rather then Australia, would also help this cause. But at the very least, happy cricketers playing exciting cricket in front of large crowds is certainly a step in the right direction. The good news on that score is that the South African authorities seem to have taken on board the lessons to be learned from the West Indies tournament.

Twenty20 Champions League

Momentum is gathering for an international Twenty20 Champions League to take place involving teams from India, Australia, England and South Africa. This could be an interesting way to expand the game and also it would provide much needed financial stimulus to first-class teams, although there might be pressure on to include privately owned franchises as well.

I personally don’t care that much for the ultra-short version of the game, but as something that keeps the game in the public eye it can’t be a bad thing. What could be a bad thing is the conflict between first class teams and international boards over the availability of International players.

The joker in the pack is the Indian Cricket League. We live in interesting times!

Three lions of South Africa

First there was Kevin Pietersen. Then a growing army of South Africans, fed up with their lot (and what a lot…), joined him over here as part of a growing band of Kolpakians. Allan Donald was soon poached – and now Jonty Rhodes is next. What ever is going on in South African cricket?

I think it’s great having Donald and Rhodes over here. I don’t believe a foreign coach is necessarily a bad thing, but you do have to wonder how and why South Africa are unable to employ such high-profile former players.

“As with the rest of the support team we want the right person to do that job,” said England coach Peter Moores. “When we’ve got the right bloke we can look to bring him in and see how he goes. We have seen that in other specialist positions for coaches.

“We are talking about people who could make a genuine difference to international performances – and they don’t always grow on trees. If we get a fielding coach we want him to influence fielding in England not just at England level.”

From Cricinfo.

Thanks for coming

Gadzooks – yet another one sided match. And in a tourney of one sided matches, this was about the most imbalanced. “They’ll choke,” said the Aussies on the boat this morning after a choppy overnight crossing from Musquite, and choke they did. All the confidence the Boks showed in Barbados against the English had evaporated. What they could have given for the captain’s performance that Jayawardene provided yesterday!

And so on to Barbados for the final. All we want is a proper game of cricket. Can the plucky Sri Lankans test the Aussies? So far they have lost no more than six wickets and they’ve bowled out every opposition – it would be harsh if they are not recoronated world champions. But all the more delicious for all that! That said, it would be wonderful to see Adam Gilchrist score some runs in the final. So far he was scored two runs in the two innings I’ve seen.

Before we get stuck into a few sundowners on St Lucia, here’s a team we’ve put together entitled ‘Thanks for coming’. It’s a team that at the start of the tournament could have been the stars, but they have flattered to deceive. No doubt, we have missed out the odd loser or two.

1. Michael Vaughan 2. Chris Gayle 3. Sachin Tendulkar 4. Ross Taylor 5. Inzi 6. Michael Hussey 7. MS Dhoni 8. Shaun Pollock 9. Shahid Afridi 10. Saj Mahmood 11. Makhaya Ntini

Ian Valentine is a freelance journalist blogging the World Cup for The Corridor

Live chat: Australia v South Africa, 2nd semi-final, St Lucia

So much for essay writing, this is going to be far more interesting. The two, of course, haven’t played since the group stages, and Australia still haven’t lost a game. Will this be the one? South Africa have won the toss, and elected to bat.

Catch Will, and the scorecard, over here. In the meantime, chat away!