Thursday, 30 December 2004

End of the tour

So Sri Lanka have gone home, as they probably should have done from the start. Given the scale of the disaster in that country it was the right choice, although I suspect the team could have done more for their countrymen by remaining here and using the proceeds from the tour for disaster relief. In the end though, it is hard to play cricket when you are grieving.

So what does this mean for our summer? Well it means no international cricket over the holiday period and I suspect that means financial difficulty for New Zealand Cricket. It also means that the fans will have nothing to watch but domestic cricket and the short end-of-season tour by Australia. And that might be no bad thing. The domestic game could do with some time under the spotlight and with all the international players available it should also be more attractive. The standard of the games should also be higher and that will do great things for the development of the second tier of players.

When I first heard the Sri Lanka tour was cancelled, I was disappointed - understanding but disappointed. But now I have thought about it a little more, and have reflected on the appalling standard of our test play recently, I have decided that time spent playing first-class cricket and relearning the basics is just what our players need and I am quite looking forward to following the fortunes of a Northern Districts team with Daniel Vettori back on board.

Review of the year

Lynn McConnell has written a review of the year for Cricinfo. He doesn't reveal anything particularly insightful - we are better at the one-day game than the test game and Daniel Vettori is back to form - but it is still worth a read.

Wednesday, 29 December 2004

Martin Crowe replies

Martin Crowe has replied to Andrew McLean's criticism with no small degree of vitriol.

Andrew McLean's recent article criticising Sky TV's opening-game coverage of the New Zealand-Sri Lanka tour is so way off the mark that it needs not only correcting but a serious look at the man writing it.


Tuesday, 28 December 2004

The showboater baits the booing Australian crowd

Shoaib showboater

Today's Sydney Morning Herald includes a piece by Peter Roebuck on the battle between Justin Langer and Shoaib Akhtar at Melbourne. The battle made for great viewing - Akhtar may be a completely loopy showboater, but he is bloody fantastic to watch.

Monday, 27 December 2004

Hawk-eyes and poor knowledge

Andrew McLean is not someone you would ever accuse of lacking cricket knowledge, and he uses some of his knowledge today to point out some of Sky's awkward failings.

Friday, 24 December 2004

Poll results and a new poll

It seems half of you are pessimists and half of you optimists. In my last poll six of you were bouyed by the one-day results in Australia, and six were still depressed about our prospects in the upcoming tests.

My new poll asks you to reveal your dearest cricket-related wish. Vote now and make sure that Santa is not left uncertain about what he should pack on his next visit to New Zealand.

Thursday, 23 December 2004

Cricket in 2004

Peter Roebuck has reviewed cricket in 2004 and decided that it was a troubled year. I can't add much to his analysis, except to emphasise that the ICC is failing. Petty politics, greed and decisions which are often nothing more than weak-willed cop-outs are doing the game tremendous harm. It is time for decision-making to be taken from the hands of national board representatives, who appear to care only for the success of their own national sides, and put into the hands of professional administrators with a clear directive to do the best for the game as a whole.

There is a wide belief that the new anti-chucking law was the result of Sri Lanka calling in favours owed to it by the other members of the sub-continental clique to ensure that Murali can keep bowling Sri Lanka to success. Whether this is true or not, the process of decision-making demonstrated by the rumour is indicative of an organisation where national self-interest holds sway over the best interests of the game at large.

It is appropriate for administrators of national boards to do the best they can to improve cricket in their country. Martin Snedden's aim should be to do all he can to lift cricket in New Zealand. And Snedden is a talented administrator with a lot to contribute to the debate about what is best for world cricket. But while he should be able to contribute to this debate, he should not be part of the final decision-making process - because there are often conflicts between what is best for New Zealand cricket and what is best for world cricket. The best thing for cricket internationally is to have a clear, unambiguous rule on chucking. The best thing for Sri Lankan cricket have Murali bowling his doosra. You cannot allow the game to be tainted by intrigue, or even the rumours in intrigue, by letting the adminstrator responsible for Sri Lankan cricket (or New Zealand cricket, or English cricket) decide how the international game should be run.

The "Black Caps" website

Golly. A new New Zealand cricket website. Some of the stats seem a little ropey and it is a little hard to navigate - particularly if you are looking for information on the domestic game - but it has some very comprehensive and informative player profiles (make sure you click on "full profile" after clicking on a player's name). A nice add-on to the old website.

Wednesday, 22 December 2004

Battle of the Keepers

Andrew McLean starts speculating on the make-up of a World XI to play Australia by looking at who might challenge for the keeper's spot. McLean sees it as a showdown between Kumar Sangakkara and Brendon McCullum.

There are plenty of other places to start speculating - who will open the bowling, who will open the batting - but wicket-keeper seems a nice, low-key place to start. It is a bit surprising to see that Brendon McCullum has managed to get into the reckoning so early into his career, but a review of the rest of the world shows that wicket-keepers are having a rough old time. Mark Boucher has been dumped from South Africa; Geraint Jones has been untidy; Kamran Akmal, Carlton Baugh and Dinesh Karthik are even newer to top-level cricket than McCullum; and on recent performances, players from Zimbabwe and Bangladesh should concentrate on drawing the odd match before they start thinking about World XIs. So based on form and recent results, McCullum is probably in with a good shot of selection if he can outplay Sangakkara over the Sri Lanka series.

The problem is of course that selection will probably hinge on more than just form and results. The matches are all about drawing an audience and that means ensuring that the largest (and richest) viewing populations are catered for. I suspect this will mean that the World XI will contain at least one player from every major cricketing nation and that those nations with the biggest television viewing populations will have more players selected than those without. Even if New Zealand ends the series as the number two ranked nation in the world, don't expect us to have more than one player in the side.

Monday, 20 December 2004

The Herald on Sunday's review of the year in cricket

The Herald on Sunday managed to find a few speks of joy in a year of misery, although it surprisingly omitted Chris Martin's bowling heroics against the Proteas.

Hamilton's pitch

Apparently there are problems with the wicket at Westpac Trust Park. Again.

We are a month away from test cricket there and it is a worry that they are already talking about problems. The groundsman is optimistic, but even his comments indicate that at best the pitch will be low and slow. I used to think that Hamilton was just unlucky in that it would have had good wickets but for the weather, but the recent history of the ground indicates that it hosts either low-scoring lotteries or slow-scoring borefests.

Auckland no longer deserves test match cricket and Hamilton needs to improve on recent pitches. Perhaps it is time to experiment with new venues, Hagley Oval has the best pitch in the country and McLean Park just hosted a magnificient first-class game in which Northern Districts scored 400/9 in the fourth innings to win. You might argue that those grounds do not have the capacity of Eden Park or Westpac Trust Park, but it is unlikely that a test match would fill them anyway. And 7000 fans packing out McLean Park would create a much better atmosphere than 10,000 in a mostly empty Eden Park.

Saturday, 18 December 2004

The invention of the pads

Ouch! Wisden has printed a summary of the match which resulted in the introduction of the pad in 1836. The whole thing is worth reading, but here is what happened after England's best cricketer of the time (Alfred Mynn) faced the country's fastest pace bowler (Samuel Redgate):

Mynn beckoned Lord Beauclerk to him as he staggered into a tent before showing him his leg. Beauclerk, one of the virility cult who were against any leg-guards, was appalled at what he saw. He immediately sent for a stagecoach to take Mynn back to London. But Mynn was so huge, and the leg so inflamed, that he could not get inside, so he lay flat on the roof, where the luggage usually went. The uneven roads of the 1830s would have added considerably to Mynn's discomfort. He began his recovery at the Angel Tavern in St Martin's Lane in London, before moving on to St Bartholomew's Hospital, where eminent surgeons debated whether they could save his leg or not.

Perhaps this is how we can handicap the Aussies. I'd like to see them score 350 runs a day against Shoaib Akhtar without pads on...

Richardson's fine figures

Cricinfo has analysised Mark Richardson's career, and decided he was quite handy really. Mark himself has shown quite a relaxed (but clearly knowledgeable) approach to statistics, when asked by the press whether he minded ending his career stuck on 9994 first-class runs he said "no" and commented, "if you stick a decimal point in the middle of those figures it's the same as Sir Don Bradman's test average."

Thursday, 16 December 2004

A State of madness

After two rounds of competition the State Championship now goes into hiding until mid-January. Meaning that the only chance for a New Zealand (or potential New Zealand) cricketer to play a match lasting more than 50 overs before the first test against Sri Lanka will be if they happen to play for Auckland during that team's warm-up match against the tourists. This is pure madness. Our players have patently forgotten how to play the longer version of the game and the best way to remind them is to get them to play four-day matches. Not only that but the first-class competition is a chance for the players on the fringes to showcase their test credentials. Instead, the players will be fed a month of one-day domestic and international slog-a-thons which will only drive their test game further backwards and will prevent promising stone-wallers like Nick Horsley from even getting a chance to shine.

I understand that New Zealand Cricket wants to squeeze as much money out of the summer holidays as possible, and that means staging one-day matches, but this poorly thought-out excuse for a season is only going to lead to disastrous international performances. And that will cause the crowds, and the money, to evaporate. Surely, surely somebody sat down and thought about this before drawing up the season's itinerary.

As an aside, the one-day side for the matches against the Sri Lankans gets picked today. Presumably on the form of the players in the four-day competition. Sigh.

Wednesday, 15 December 2004

Kookaburra goes kooky

Wardy pointed out that Kookaburra have introduced a new cricket bat with an interesting design. What next? Studded leather pads and motorcycle boots with sprigs?

Tuesday, 14 December 2004

Dipak's batting order

Dipak Patel was on the radio this morning proclaiming the virtues of Jamie How. I usually switch off when Dipak is proclaiming, because the objects of his affection are mostly dobbers from Central Districts who have just taken an inexpensive four-for on a vicious greentop somewhere in the wops (Michael Mason, Lance Hamilton, Andrew Schwass etc etc). But How is an opening batsman who has just scored three centuries in the first three innings of the first-class season, so I sat up and listened. Dipak announced that if he were to pick a test team right now, it would open with How and Michael Papps and have Fleming, Astle and Sinclair (in that order) to follow. Dipak believes Scott Styris can no longer justify his place at number four and that Sinclair is a much better player at five than he is as an opener. I agree entirely with Dipak's logic. The only player I would have a question mark over is Michael Papps due to some pretty average recent form, but in the absence of competition he would probably still have to be picked. Oram and McCullum are capable of good work at six and seven respectively, but given the nature of New Zealand pitches I might be tempted to slot another batsman into the order - Hamish Marshall perhaps.

Other players in good form at the start of the domestic competition are Kerry Walmsley, Tama Canning, Andre Adams, Chris Martin, Lou Vincent, James Franklin and Craig Gaffaney. If Vincent maintains his form, he could well come back into the reckoning. To boost his chances he might consider taking Mark Richardson's place at the top of the Auckland batting order.

Monday, 13 December 2004

Chappell on Bracewell and Fleming

A column by an Australian in an Indian paper attempts to analyse the problems with New Zealand cricket, and Ian Chappell tells the Mid-Day Mumbai that all the problems stem from John Bracewell.

There might be something in what Chappell has to say, but not too much. Chappell claims that Bracewell's presence and power has sidelined Stephen Fleming and caused the captain to lose interest. In my view Fleming's captaincy in Australia was weak not because of Bracewell's influence, but because his team was weak and the Australians had too few weaknesses for him to attack. Illness may have played a part and he was certainly starting to look more like the Fleming of old in the one-dayers. But one look at his face in the closing overs of either match should have demonstrated to anyone watching that his passion is not waning.

The fact is, John Bracewell is an abrasive character and he loves getting up Australian noses. Ian Smith's new book reveals that Braces' dislike of Australians goes back a long, long way (to the underarm incident and the disrespect shown by Australian officials in the aftermath) and it is not showing any signs of dying away soon. Chappell's piece reeks of a personality clash, and I do not believe he would have written it if someone else was in charge. The crux of Chappell's column is that coaches should not have a say in tactics or a say in team selection. Unfortunately for Chappell's argument that is not the view of most cricket-playing nations. If he were to be consistent then he should also be telling the Mid-day Mumbai that John Buchanan and John Wright are too powerful.

While we shouldn't have any concerns about the extent of Bracewell's influence, we should be a little worried about his abrasiveness. His time in Gloucestershire was marked by a player exodus (although the players who remained became remarkably loyal to him) and it is possible that this may happen with the New Zealand side. Certainly it is easy to see Ian Butler becoming disillusioned very, very quickly. And I do wonder if Mark Richardson's loss of enjoyment of the game might partially stem from this source. Despite this abrasiveness, I don't doubt Bracewell's ability as a coach and have been impressed with some of his unorthodoxy in keeping players fresh and interested during gruelling tours.

Saturday, 11 December 2004

Poll results and a new poll

The test series was a big disappointment, and poor performances were almost universal. It is not surprising then that the votes for most disappointing performance were shared around quite widely. Scott Styris topped the poll, but only one vote seperated him from the recently retired Mark Richardson, who shared second place with Kyle Mills and Craig McMillan. Stephen Fleming and James Franklin both received one vote.

The Australian tour ended with a soggy anti-climax, but this week I want you to tell me how much those first two ODIs cheered you up and what you think this might mean (if anything) for our test prospects.

Bloody Bracewells

Brother Brendon, feeling left out by Johnny's outburst against Hawkeye, Australian curators and Australian umpires, has decided to throw his own little tantrum. In an e-mail to Ken Rutherford he accused the New Zealanders of being "over-coached" and said that they keep "coming up with stomach bugs, ear aches [and] swollen glands at the mention of hard-work". Ian Butler copped the biggest barrage, with Bracewell describing him as a "pea-hearted, selfish bloke" that "Johnny doesn't want in the team". This might explain why Kyle Mills was preferred to Brendon for most of the tour, but clashes somewhat with John's statement that Butler was one of the players who developed most on the tour and that he is "one of the guys that are going to be the next ten years of our cricket."

Friday, 10 December 2004

Mark Richardson retires from all cricket

Mark Richardson has just announced that he will retire from all cricket following Auckland's next first-class match. He stated that he lost the desire to play cricket during the tour to England. How will we ever replace him?

Braces unleashes

It won't surprise anyone who remembers him from his playing days, but John Bracewell has just thrown all his toys out of the cot. And, just like in his playing days, while he may sound paranoid - he probably has a point. Despite the groundsman's denial, it does seem mighty suspicious that the wicket for tonight's match has been swapped from a spinner's paradise to a pitch so green that Australia are planning to leave their only spinner out altogether. John has also hinted that he believes Channel Nine have rigged Hawkeye, I am not sure whether I agree with that but I certainly agree with his point that Australian umpires have a blind spot when it comes to Matthew Hayden and the LBW law.

Wednesday, 8 December 2004

The All Blacks and the All Yellows

In a very interesting piece in Cricinfo (although I might just find it interesting because he agrees with me), Lynne McConnell compares the Australian cricket team to the All Blacks and looks at the fundamental problems in the New Zealand game.

The 2nd ODI

Heavy rain is forecast in Sydney and the wicket is looking old, low and slow. It seems New Zealand are banking on the wicket to win them the match, and Australia the weather. We have picked slow wicket masters Vettori and Harris, while the Aussies have gone for an all out pace attack in the hope that rain will spice up the wicket.

Kasprowicz has been dropped and I think that gives a nice air of desperation to the Australians. They must still be the firm favourites, but it is nice to force them to make changes for once.

Tuesday, 7 December 2004

Something to ponder

Next year, after we have played Sri Lanka and Australia at home, the world champions will play a Rest of the World XI in a three match one-day series in Melbourne for $1,000,000. This doesn't sound too interesting from a New Zealand perspective, except for one thing: under the criteria (written by the Australians) the "World Champions" are defined as the number one ranked ODI team in the world as at 1 April 2005, and, if we can beat Australia and Sri Lanka, New Zealand will be the number one ranked ODI team in the world on that date.

Monday, 6 December 2004

New Zealand Cricket - upgraded

The New Zealand Cricket website has been upgraded and you are apparently able to follow the first round State Championship matches live, although there seems to be some bug in the system as I write. While that section is still suffering teething problems, you can definitely access an extensive database of statistics, including individual player records for U-19 matches which you cannot find anywhere else. The only real flaw appears to be the lack of a date to the records, so you cannot be sure that they are fully up-to-date.

Tortoise vs tortoise

Mark Richardson's running race continues to captivate the imagination. The Pakistanis are now talking up Inzamam ul-Haq's chances in a race against Darren Lehmann.


Monday mornings are much easier to deal with when you have a victory under your belt. And what a victory! What a shot in the arm! A sensational match to remind us all that the one-day game is not yet a dinosaur that Twenty20 will make extinct.

Intelligence won us the match. It was the cleverness of Cairns' slower ball and Vettori's control which reduced the Australian batting and the impish innovation of Marshall and McCullum with bat in hand that saw us through to 247. Prior to the intervention of the imps, Astle and Sinclair laid down some rock-solid foundations. Bill Lawry busily wrote us off at this point, lamenting the lack of aggression. I see hope for the future in the fact that Australians no longer know what it means to build an innings. What will they do when Gilchrist finally hangs up his super-charger? Peter Roebuck saw more than mere imps running around in the New Zealand team, in this morning's Sydney Morning Herald he remarked how the side seems so much the stronger by virtue of the inclusions of a bearded gentleman who gave his name as Chris Cairns and a little chap apparently taken straight from the set of The Lord Of The Rings. Hamish Marshall might well have just won himself a new nickname.

Sunday, 5 December 2004

ODI preview

The Aussie press aren't paying much attention, they seem more interested in domestic cricket and the upcoming series against Pakistan, but New Zealand are about to play three one-day matches against the world champions. It is actually a series we should do quite well in - an attack of Shane Watson, Brett Lee, Brad Hogg and Michael Kasprowicz is not nearly as intimidating as an attack with Glenn McGrath, Jason Gillespie and Shane Warne. Meanwhile the New Zealand side has been boosted by the return of Chris Cairns and Ian Butler. Butler's inclusion might not be the odd decision his appalling one-day form for New Zealand and for Northern Districts makes it seem. The mouthy fast bowler has been spitting tacks over the fact that Kyle Mills was prefered to him in Brisbane (and who wouldn't?) and a fired up quick might be just the counter we need for Brett Lee's pace. Don't expect his overs to come cheap though.

As you would hope and expect, Stephen Fleming has been talking up our chances. On the other hand Mark Richardson, who is not playing, he has returned to New Zealand in a rather defensive state of mind.

In other news, the President of New Zealand Cricket is touting Craig McMillan as the national side's next captain - which is news that I am sure will cheer some of you up.

Friday, 3 December 2004

Mark Richardson's thoughts on Australia

Mark has been talking to the BBC again, and this time he talks about how ruthless and methodical the Australian cricketers are. He sounds somewhat defeatist and ends with an almost fearful "the horrific thought for us is that we have three more Tests against these guys coming up at home with only the reprieve of two dates with Sri Lanka. And Muttiah Muralitharan's doosra." Which makes him sound a little like a man under siege. To make us feel better he adds a few of the usual platitudes about "not giving up", and at least he is not talking about retirement.

The most insightful thought in his piece comes from Jacob Oram, who seems to be hardening nicely after his Australian experience. Jacob said he would "much prefer to be beaten up by a champion than beat up a weakling." If he keeps performing at the same level as he has been lately, some of Jacob's opponents will hopefully be muttering the same words in the not to distant future.

Wednesday, 1 December 2004

Something for New Zealanders to cheer about at last!

Poll results and a new poll

There was not too much change from the results of my previous poll - which asked the same question about how well we would do against Australia but was posted before the first test debacle. It just goes to show that people are either pessimists or optimists and results are not going to change that. 13 people voted this time, 5 said the Aussies would thrash us without reprieve, 4 said we would lose but would also show a little spine and 4 weirdos fervently believed we would show Aussie what for.

I don't want to hang anyone out to dry and I don't believe picking a scapegoat is going to help, but my new question is hard to avoid. Reflect on the tour and vote for who you felt most disappointed by. Not the person you want sacked. Not the person you want to see hanged, drawn and quartered. Just the person whose failure you felt most keenly.

It doesn't get any tougher than this

In his latest column, Justin Langer tells the BBC that the New Zealand cricketers will never find test cricket as tough as it has been in the past week. Which, I suppose is a good way of looking at things from a New Zealand perspective. The summer is only going to get easier.

We were burnt horribly in the crucibles of Brisbane and Adelaide, but we can take a small degree of comfort from some flashes of iron amongst the ashes. Brendon McCullum and Jacob Oram came away looking harder, more confident players. And of the oldsters, Daniel Vettori and Paul Wiseman rediscovered their aggression and form. Others, like Chris Martin, can take pride in the way that they never stopped fighting.

On the downside, we have learnt that Kyle Mills is not a test cricketer, Scott Styris does not have the technique or temperament to deal with top-class bowling, Matthew Sinclair is not an opener and that James Franklin's nerves can still get the better of him. Despite these concerns, Franklin and Sinclair are worth persevering with. Sinclair has already shown that he can score runs against good attacks from lower in the order and if we bring in Papps to open and move Sinclair to Styris' spot at number four the batting starts to look more secure. Richardson has voiced concern that he couldn't cope with Australia and is starting to talk about retirement, but he has shown his class in the past and will find Sri Lanka at home easier to deal with. McMillan, Styris and Marshall should be sent away to spend some time in the domestic game - and if they can score runs and Sinclair doesn't then the path is open for their return.

The bowling is still an issue but our seam merchants will do much better on New Zealand soil. I just hope that the pitches are not made too easy for them - because it conceals our bowlers' weaknesses and teaches them nothing about how test cricket should be played. I am hopeful that the form shown in Australia by Vettori and Wiseman will encourage groundsmen to prepare better pitches for the summer tests. If they do and if he can master his nerves, Franklin still has the talent to swing through any side. Of our other pace bowlers, Butler is still in the wings, the rehabilitation of Tuffey is progressing without too much concern and there are some youngsters of promise about - Te Ahu Davis and Richard Sherlock amongst them. The best news, and whisper it carefully so as not to hex it, is that Shane Bond is bowling again. So things are not looking as black as the test series makes them seem.

In the longer term, we do need to produce much better wickets in this country if we are going to improve. A look at last weekend's club competition in Wellington showed that over half the top level sides were dismissed for less than 100. Only one side made 200. This does nothing for our development. Young batsmen need to learn how to build an innings and to do that they need to play on pitches where a freak ball is not going to dismiss them at any stage. And bowlers need to learn to do more than just land a ball on its seam.

Tuesday, 30 November 2004

The end - at last

Journalist Malcolm Conn stated:

"The greatest blessing is that there is no third Test against New Zealand, preventing further ridicule and plummeting ticket sales."

No further comment necessary.

Australian hubris

Bloody hell, the arrogance found in the Australian is just becoming unbearable. Take a look at this extract from this morning's paper:

As Australia prepare to extinguish the final moments of this dreadfully lopsided Test series against New Zealand in Adelaide, news that Pakistan safely touched down in Perth last night should be greeted with a mixture of joy and relief.

However dodgy Shoaib Akhtar's action may be, this Test summer needs revitalising by the flamboyant Pakistani paceman and his largely unknown team-mates next month with a toe-to-toe contest the Kiwis have not been able to provide.

Completely outplayed in every department by one of the greatest sides ever assembled, New Zealand will resume this morning on the final day of the second Test at 5-149, needing a historically impossible 315 for victory or an act of God to force a draw.

Showers are forecast today but nothing that should prevent the Australians from a final mop-up operation to claim a 2-0 series win.

After taking the first Test in Brisbane by an innings and 156 runs little more than a week ago, it is a blessing that Australia's late return from conquering the final frontier of India prevented the scheduling of a third Test against the hapless Kiwis.

Instead there will be the inaugural Chappell-Hadlee three-match one-day frolic, beginning at Melbourne's Telstra Dome on Sunday, a welcome opportunity for the Kiwis to regroup in a version of the game more suited to their limited pool of talent.

There was nothing entertaining about yesterday. It was simply an inevitable grind towards victory by an imposing side that set up the game with a successful coin toss and some joyous batting on the first two days.

From the moment New Zealand captain Stephen Fleming called heads and was confronted with tails, the last faint flicker of hope for a contest evaporated in the baking Adelaide sun.

The clouds rolled in yesterday as if a blanket was being pulled over a lifeless corpse. Not even the floodlights during the final session could offer a glimmer of hope.

Continually whipping England has been a constant and relentless payback for all those Ian Botham-inspired years of misery when Australians could wistfully blame World Series Cricket and the South African rebel tours for some painful collective failures.

But it's one thing sticking it up the Poms as part of some century-old family feud and quite another belting your poor, defenceless little brother around the head.

This painful few weeks should be an ever stronger wake-up call to Cricket New Zealand and the International Cricket Council highlighting just how much work must be done around the world to bring opposing sides up to Australia's professional standards on and off the field.

Australia can hardly be blamed for taking the game to a new level of skill and professionalism, but if other teams cannot follow, the lack of competition may start to wear thin.


Doesn't the arrogance in that make your blood boil? I hope Jonathon Millmow takes note. Some of it seems remarkably similar to words he wrote about Bangladesh not that long ago. And the Australian should keep in mind that most of "one of the greatest sides ever assembled" is creaking with old age and that Australian dominance of the game is not going to last forever with so few youngsters challenging for positions.

Dipak Patel

A little aside in Cricinfo's stats corner this morning points out that of the all the all-rounders who have ever played test cricket, Dipak Patel has the worst record. Poor old Dipak, I remember when he first came into the side (against the West Indies in 1986/87) he was touted as the long-term solution to our problem at number 3 in the batting order. After a disastrous couple of years we realised that he wasn't much cop as a batsman, relegated him to number 10 in the batting order and stuck a ball in his hands. His first test wicket came at a cost of about 349 runs - and until he took a second, he held the world's worst bowling average. Apart from the opening-the-bowling trick at the 1992 World Cup and a 99 in a dead test, I really can't remember him ever contributing much to the side at all - so how on earth did he manage to play 37 tests?

Two different Aussie views

Peter Roebuck doesn't pity us, but he does remorselessly dissect our train-wreck of a tour. While Roebuck doesn't cut us any slack, Chloe Saltau in the same paper has decided to patronise us by proclaiming that half an hour of sprightly batting from Oram and McCullum heralds a New Zealand revival.

The headlines to these two stories tell it all - Feels like fulfilling obligations is Roebuck's view of the pointless mismatch, while Saltau proclaims that the Plucky Kiwis live to fight another day.

Australian pity

It seems that New Zealand cricket has sunk so low, even the Australians are taking pity on us.

Sunday, 28 November 2004

The walking issue rumbles on

In contrast to the controversy which erupted when Matthew Sinclair failed to walk in Brisbane because he didn't see the slip fielder collect a low catch, has anyone else noticed the complete lack of interest in the Australian media when Matthew Hayden refused to walk off a completely straight-forward caught and bowled?

And will and umpire EVER give Adam Gilchrist out lbw?

A cure for our ills

The Sydney Morning Herald has the answer to all our problems - New Zealand should loot Australia's own overflowing pool of talent. In summary the SMH suggests that frustrated young Australian cricketers might be tempted to follow Sean Devine's track to New Zealand. Allegedly New Zealand Cricket has already pondered making recruitment drives to the subcontinent and offering talented young Asian cricketers a spot in our academy.

Friday, 26 November 2004

Second test preview

You get the sense that the Aussies are no longer aiming to just win against New Zealand, they are aiming to annihilate us in as short a time as possible. Ponting and his selection panel are playing just the one specialist spinner, Warne, and this is probably with the view that while the Adelaide pitch will crack and take turn on day five, the game is likely to be well over by then.

While you can hear the cockiness croaking out of Australian throats, the New Zealanders are being portrayed as a team under siege. The Australian press reported that McMillan abused a photographer who tried to snap him at practice and Richardson swore loudly and threw his bat when he nicked a ball in the nets. I suspect that this is probably just Australian arrogance manifesting itself ("we have those kiwis so beat that they are falling to pieces!"), McMillan is likely to abuse someone on the best of days and Richardson always places a high value his wicket. Certainly the players themselves have appeared clear-minded and focussed during interviews and are showing no other signs of strain.

In a way the first test failure means that the pressure has actually been taken off. No-one expects us to do well, so any defiance will come as a pleasant surprise. Last week I was feeling nervous as hell before the first ball was bowled, this week I am feeling fine. I suspect the New Zealand players might feel something of the same.

In team news, the Australians have picked the same twelve as last week and are likely to play the same eleven. New Zealand has brought in Franklin and Wiseman for Mills and McMillan.

Thursday, 25 November 2004

Mark Richardson warming up for the only thing in Oz we might actually win.

Something to cheer you up

Actually, I have two things to cheer you up with. The first is the picture of Mark Richardson, and the second is the story it comes from. If you don't want to register to read the story (its in the Sydney Morning Herald), the short version is that Richardson is likely to challenge Darren Lehmann to the traditional end of tour running race and the biege brigade have already made him a green and gold running suit to match Richardson's classy outfit.

Wednesday, 24 November 2004

A new poll

In my last poll I asked you how well you thought the New Zealand cricket team would do in Australia. One voting bloc of four people (and I know who you are) tried to rig the results by all suggesting that we would win all our matches and Scott Styris would end the series as the world's best batsman and the world's best left-arm fast bowler. Sadly, that bloc failed to head off challenges from the pessimists who insisted we would lose every match and all our best players would be injured (6 votes) and the not-quite-so-pessimistic bunch who thought we would lose most of our matches but would show occasional bursts of defiance (5 votes). No-one thought that we would give Australia as good as we got.

This week you might get a slight sense of déjà vu. I want you to tell me how well will New Zealand do in Australia? Let's see if you are feeling any better or worse about the tour in light of the result in the first test.

Great minds think alike

Or it could be that the problem is just so bloody obvious. Mark Richardson's latest column for the BBC discusses New Zealand's second innings frailty.


Lynne McConnell as good as calls John Bracewell a big girlie blouse in a piece in this morning's Cricinfo.

What he says makes a little sense, but the fact is, the presence of Marshall and Butler would not have saved us. Selection is not the issue anymore. Our batting in the second innings is. The last four New Zealand losses have come in very quick succession and all of them are marked by dismal batting in the second innings. I suspect that the reason for this is not for want of different players or a lack of talent, but lack of a plan. We know what we should do in the first innings - in England the plan was to plant a platform and then attack, in Australia it was to grind out a total - but we never seem to have any idea what we are doing in the second. Our players seem to play a jumbled mix of half-hearted defence and half-hearted attack, and that is no recipe for success.

Tuesday, 23 November 2004

It was 30 years ago today

On 23 November 1974 - eight days before the start of the first test between Australia and England - Clem Jones, the Lord Mayor of Brisbane, noticed that the curator of the 'Gabba was rolling the pitch sideways. The Lord Mayor objected so strongly to this practice that he sacked the curator on the spot and took over the job himself. Jones' decision was vindicated as Australia won the match by 166 runs and went on to a 4-1 series victory. Perhaps in honour of this, the Lord Mayor later had a stand at the 'Gabba named after himself.

A 'keeper opens up

Come on people, where are your suggestions? You can't all have given up hope on the New Zealand just yet. While you are thinking, have a look in the Australian to read Ian Smith's views on cricket in New Zealand. It might cheer you up a bit.

Monday, 22 November 2004

Mr Fix-it

Okay. Let's forget the horrors of the weekend and start thinking about the future. The New Zealand team only has a couple of days to regroup for the second test. There is no time to call up replacement players, so what would you do to make sure we do better. And lets try to stay positive.

I think I would replace McMillan with Wiseman and bring Franklin in for Mills. I know the batting failed in the first test, but the top order has a big reputation and it is time that they lived up to it. We bat a long way down so can spare a spot in the batting order and Adelaide is likely to take spin, so Wiseman needs to come in. Mills did well with the new ball and then fell away badly, Franklin will give the attack more variation and more consistency.

Sunday, 21 November 2004


Welcome to "Mike on Music". I bought Jim White's new album yesterday, "Drill a hole in that substrate and tell me what you see". You might have heard Jim in his duet with Aimee Mann, the sublime "Static on the Radio" which appears on this album. The album is generally more gothic, lost and shambolic than the single hints at, and is none the worse for that. This is southern style Americana at its finest. Ah America, what a fine country. All that space. All those crazies. All those papers, television programmes and radio shows where cricket is not even mentioned.

Now New Zealand need to bat out the test

Let's just pretend yesterday didn't happen. Is anybody doing anything interesting this weekend? Its a glorious, sunny day here in Wellington so I plan on spending it in my deckchair reading Douglas Coupland's new novel in the sun before heading out to see "Hero" at the Embassy this evening.

Friday, 19 November 2004

Oram reaches his century.

The walking issue rises again

So do you think "the Australian" will follow-up this article about Matthew Sinclair frustrating "Australia's attempt to bring back honour" in the game of cricket with a feature on Justin Langer's failure to walk off a clear caught behind?

First day match report

You might have to register to read Peter Roebuck's columns, but it costs you nothing and the Sydney Morning Herald won't even send you any advertising. In addition, his analysis of the game is superb.

250/7 is not a horrendous score. But it is not a match-winning score either. You really need 400+ on that wicket to give yourself a chance and the Aussies are now likely to get the best of the batting conditions. Their plan will be to roll us early, to bat once and then to roll us again on a worsening pitch. Our plan is even more simple, we should occupy the crease for as long as possible, restrict the Aussies first innings score and force them to chase a decent total in the second.

Thursday, 18 November 2004

A real preview

Here is the real deal, Peter Roebuck assesses the two sides before the first test and says things don't look good for New Zealand. Meanwhile, The Australian doesn't even bother to look at our chances and instead starts speculating on how many runs the Australians will score and how many batting records they will break.

In updated team news, I heard that Kyle Mills has come in for James Franklin (groin strain) just as I was climbing into bed last night. It didn't help me sleep. Bracewell said he wanted to bring in a swing bowler to replace a swing bowler - which is a good theory but sadly there is a difference between a left-arm bowler who swings the ball late and a right-arm bowler who swings the ball from the hand. Mills will always look like he gets more swing, but because the ball starts swinging early he gives the batsman more chance to react and, in my book, will be far less effective at taking wickets than Franklin would have been.

Wednesday, 17 November 2004

Pitch report

Pull on your white hat, put on a weird South African/English/Australian accent, start abusing Bill Lawry and whip out the keys, its time for the first pitch report of the summer.

I could wait until tomorrow and examine pictures of the pitch while stroking my chin and warbling about humidity and player comfort levels, but instead I think I might just see what the groundsman has to say. In summary, the pitch is green, but has not been too badly effected by the recent heavy rain and should be a good one.

It also seems that Ricky Ponting does want to bat, no matter how green the wicket might be:

"We feel it's about time that we really got a big first innings total," Ponting told his match-eve press conference on Wednesday.

"We've batted well without nailing down that big score we've been after, so we've spoken about that and we're hoping to be able to do that as well.

"We are going to be very aggressive right through this series as we were in India."

Ponting indicated that if the toss were to go his way he would bat first to try and dictate the tempo and direction of the match.

"Generally, Australian teams like to bat first and the wicket will offer some assistance early tomorrow morning, especially if the weather stays humid, the ball should seam around a bit," he said.

"Teams batting first here generally do pretty well so hopefully the coin comes down for me the right way tomorrow. The conditions here generally suit Australian teams more than opposition teams, it's a great venue for us to start our season."

In team news Brett Lee has been made 12th man for Australia while New Zealand are still dithering. I am picking McMillan will come in for Marshall and that Butler will be the unlucky pace man to miss out in favour of Oram, Franklin and Martin.

So what chance have we got of victory? The groundsman seems to think Australia are going to crush us and the bookies seem to agree - they have made us 17/2 long-shots and the Aussies 1/2 favourites.
Get out your protractor. A photo of Brett Lee taken yesterday.

Winning the toss

Remembering the results on the 'Gabba in 1985 and 1987 (one side won the toss and blasted the other out) and hearing that the wicket is looking green, I assumed that winning the toss would be vital to the outcome of the first test. But then I heard Matthew Hayden say that, while the first session on the 'Gabba has to be negotiated carefully "...once you're in there's a lot of runs on it”, so I decided to have a look at the past few years to see what sort of track record the errr, track has. And the track record is a disturbing one - either Australia bats first and whacks up a mammoth total, or the opposition bats first and crumbles. Whichever happens, Australia win (since 1990 there have been thirteen games, nine Australian wins and four draws). Here is the full breakdown:

1990 – Eng made 194 after Aus won the toss and bowled (Aus won)
1991 – India made 239 after Aus won the toss and bowled (Aus won)
1992 – Aus won the toss and made 293 against WI (draw)
1993 – NZ won the toss and made 233 (Aus won)
1994 – Aus won the toss and made 426 against Eng (Aus won)
1995 – Aus won the toss and made 463 against Pak (Aus won)
1996 – Aus made 479 after WI won the toss and bowled (Aus won)
1997 – Aus made 373 after NZ won the toss and bowled (Aus won)
1998 – Aus won the toss and made 475 against Eng (draw)
1999 – Pak made 367 after Aus won the toss and bowled (Aus won)
2000 – WI scored 82 after Aus won the toss and bowled (Aus won)
2001 – Aus scored 486/9 after NZ won the toss and bowled (draw)
2002 – Aus scored 492 after Eng won the toss and bowled(Aus won)
2003 – Aus scored 323 after India won the toss and bowled (draw)

Given that the wicket does look green, I suspect Fleming will be tempted to put Australia in if he wins the toss. And given that the Australian ethos is to bat first and bash up a big total fast, Ponting will probably want to win the toss and bat. Which means that the toss (and my analysis) might actually end up being completely irrelevant.

Psychological warfare and the Aussies

The BBC has employed Mark Richardson and Justin Langer to write for its website during the forthcoming series. In their first columns, Richardson tells us that everyone in Australia is a bully and while he staunchly tries to deal with the constant barrage of Aussie criticism, Justin Langer whines that the New Zealanders are tough and uncompromising.

I just hope Ian Chappell doesn't visit the BBC site that often, otherwise there might be a few cracked heads spread around to show bullied Mark and whining Justin what tough and uncompromising really means.

The chucking controversy

With all the moaning, groaning, accusation and counter-accusation it is hard to get down and figure out the nitty gritty of the new chucking law. The first thing you should do is ignore all those who talk about how chucking "is now allowed" and that umpires "will have to get out their protractors" and coaches will start "teaching kids to chuck". The fact is, the existing law allows a degree of flexion and this law is far more complex than the new one - fast bowlers are currently allowed 10 degrees of flex, medium pacers 7.5 and spinners 5 degrees. So if umpires were going to have to use protractors and coaches were going to teach kids to bowl with bent arms, then that would already be happening.

The fact is the new law is a more sensible, streamlined version of the existing law and that existing law is far better than the punitive old law which meant bowlers were essentially expelled from the game with no way back if they were found to bend their arms at the point of delivery. The problem with this sensible, streamlined new law is that the degree of flexion allowed is too high. It is stated that any flexion below 15 degrees has no measurable impact on a delivery. But what does this say about Murali's doosra which he can only deliver with 14-15 degrees of flex? Surely if 15 degrees of flex has "no measurable effect" then Murali should be able to bowl the same delivery with 10 degrees of flex? The fact that he can't says to me that 15 degrees of flex does have a measurable impact.

Monday, 15 November 2004

North Island vs NSW, South Island vs Tasmania?

It seems New Zealand Cricket is trying to persuade the Aussies to let us back into their domestic competition (a "New Zealand" side played in their one-day competition in the 1960s and 1970s). I think this would be a great idea for New Zealand cricket, but I am not sure what the Aussies would get out of it. For the New Zealanders it would mean starting the season earlier with less chance of rain intervening and tougher opposition. For the Aussies it would mean, ummm, long flights across the Tasman to play on low, slow, seaming wickets in front of one man, his dog and an empty stand. So I have my fingers crossed that Martin Snedden and his team will be successful in their negotiations, but am not overly optimistic that they will succeed.

Sunday, 14 November 2004

A first up loss

A pretty weak outcome with the game raising particular concerns about the middle order. Sinclair had a good double and it was a relief to see Richardson have a good dig in the second innings, but the rest of the batsmen flopped miserably. I am doubtful with a sick Fleming and a knacked Astle will stiffen the batting line-up too much. Cricinfo has stepped in to encourage us by pointing out that New Zealand batsmen have always been rubbish.

At least the bowlers gave us a little bit of cheer, bowling NSW out for 286 in their first innings.

Meanwhile, the outcome and his illness have Fleming worried.

Friday, 12 November 2004

The ethics of walking

This link will take you to a long, but fascinating, article on the ethics of walking. It raises some very interesting points about the way cricket is played, the most fascinating point for me is a reminder that cricket is a game ruled by Laws not rules and an umpire can only give a player out if someone appeals. It is a game played by means of a judicial process in which a plantiff, who makes his case by appealing, makes an accusation against a defendant which is considered by a neutral figure who then passes judgement. The author of the piece, Mukul Kesavan, points out that the defendent, the batsman, has a right to silence - a right not to incriminate him or herself. Equally interesting is his point that modern walkers may simply be reacting to modern technology which can better pick up when a batsman has nicked a ball. Failing to walk is becoming harder to defend from an ethical standpoint because television means the public can make an instant judgement on the appeal for themselves, and this judgement impacts on their impression of the batsman's moral character.

Stuart MacGill thinks we are crap

All out for 213 against NSW on a wicket without much pace and bounce. This has made Brett Lee cocky, but Stuart MacGill saw no joy in taking such easy wickets. The Sydney Morning Herald agrees with MacGill.

And in another article, the SMH focuses on the Australians in the New Zealand side.

Steve Waugh opines

From this article in the Herald we can tell two things; 1, Steve Waugh is still a master at messing with the mind of an opposing captain (can you think of a better way to dent Flem's confidence?) and 2, as his shot at Mark Richardson demonstrates, he sure knows New Zealanders.

Thursday, 11 November 2004

New Zealand's best batsman and a new poll

Well it is official, Martin Crowe is without doubt the best batsman to have ever pulled on whites for New Zealand. You can have your batting averages, you can have your PWC ratings, but my poll is the most accurate and most scientific measure known to man. To confirm the final standings, Crowe won exactly half the votes with 6 and was followed by Glenn Turner with 4 votes (33%). One old-timer voted for Martin Donnelly and one child of the '80s and '90s for Andrew Jones (both on 8%).

My new poll is a test of your confidence. Australia has Brett Lee on the bench and Katich, MacGill and Bevan can't even get a sniff. New Zealand has Scott Styris at number four in the batting order. So which side will triumph?

"Sledging made me a better captain"

Well this post comes to you in a round-about way. The clickable link to the Mid-day Mumbai will take you to an article about Stephen Fleming's new book - available in Whitcoulls and Unity Books a few dozen metres from my desk as of yesterday, and presumably not available within a thousand miles of Mumbai. The article tells how Greg Matthews startled a young Stephen Fleming by sledging him while Flem was in the field and then followed up with a six page letter to the future New Zealand captain.

The Postman delivers

Dan sent me a link to Gavin Larsen's picks for the next World Cup and made a few comments of his own (they are posted under the piece about Murali if you want to take a peek). Gavin's picks do seem very conservative don't they? Given the World Cup is still a good three years away I was surprised that he has selected a pace bowler (Adams) who will be 33. But when you look a bit closer you realise that he had to be conservative as the core of New Zealand players are still remarkably young. Fleming is 31, McMillan is 28 and Vettori is only 25. Astle, Cairns and Harris are all on their last legs and who knows if we will ever see Bond again - but the rest of the current crop should all be available in 2007. And that makes it hard to pick any outsiders.

One outsider I will stake my hat on is Richard Sherlock. The Dominion Post reported the other day that he was clocked at over 150kph during the 'A' tour of South Africa, and I suspect that might mean he will be rushed in to add variation to the dribbly New Zealand pace attack very, very soon.

The thought of the New Zealanders as young guns cheers me up a little bit in the dim, dark, brutal days when we are reduced to letting a thuggish moron captain the national team (it depresses me to think that perhaps the selectors saw captaincy potential in Scott's mean-spirited and arrogant sending off of Ashafrul in the last ODI). The only Australians under 30 who are likely to play in Brisbane are Michael Clarke, Jason Gillespie and Ricky Ponting. And Gillespie and Ponting are both 29. Looking wider than the starting XI, there is not a single youngster amongst the bowlers given contracts this year by Cricket Australia - McGrath (currently 34), Warne (35), MacGill (34), Gillespie (29), Hogg (33), Kasprowicz (32) and Lee (29). By the time of the next World Cup the youngest of that crop, Brett Lee, will be 33.

Who knows? By 2007 Australia might be rubbish and Scott Styris might actually have learnt not to act like a thug and not to swing wildly at good balls.

The nightmare begins

Fleming is still in doubt, Vettori has gone down with a shoulder injury and - dear Lord - Scott Styris has been made captain of New Zealand. The days can get no darker.

Wednesday, 10 November 2004

The doosra is back

It looks likely that the ICC will declare Muttiah Muralitharan's doosra legal - just in time for Sri Lanka's tour of New Zealand. According to a new study 99% of bowlers extend their arms beyond the legal limits. Mind you we could be lucky, Murali is still recovering from a shoulder injury and might struggle to be fit by December.

First game preview

Stephen Fleming is laid low with a virus, Shane Warne looks like he will be fit to play and Kyle Mills still hasn't had a hair cut. It is a bad start to the New Zealand tour.

The warm-up match against New South Wales starts tomorrow. This should be a good gauge of how competitive we will be in the test series as the NSW team is a strong one. It has already been announced that NSW will play Brett Lee in their starting line-up, and they could also potentially play Darren Lehmann, Michael Clarke and Simon Katich - who are all competing for a spot in Australia's middle order.

It is a bit of a concern that we are warming up for a test at the hard and fast Gabba wicket by playing a match on the SCG, a wicket famous more for spin than pace, but quick stuff from Lee is quick wherever it is bowled.

The Spin is back

The Guardian's weekly email newsletter on cricket, the Spin, is back. The Spin is only published during the English cricket season and when the English team is on tour. When it is up and running though, it covers all teams and all countries. It is witty, irreverent, astute and, best of all, completely free. While you can read it at the Guardian website, you can also ask them to send it straight to your mailbox, which is somehow much friendlier.

Tuesday, 9 November 2004

Oooooh! Ratings!

The Test Cricket Ratings Service has its own web-site, which explains how the ratings work and why New Zealand has sunk to 7th in the world. The web-site also includes historical analyses, match reports and more numbers than there are in Shane Warne's cell-phone.

This should keep Karl and Ben busy for a couple of days.

And I suggest Jonathan Millmow and his Bangladesh-bashing colleagues check out the historical charts to see exactly how rubbish the New Zealand side was for so many years.

Latest PWC ratings

Karl saved me the bother of analysing the latest PWC ODI ratings by doing it himself. And this is what he discovered:

Scott Styris has hit his best all-rounder rating in ODIs and is in the top 30 for batting and bowling after New Zealand's predictable demolition of Bangladesh. The series saw no changes in the top tens, mainly because none of the players in either team was in the top ten. Fleming held on to 13th place, while Vettori has moved up five to 13th, continuing his successful tour.

With that Scott Styris news, I was kinda glad I didn't have to break this to you myself. And I will dispute the "none of the players in either team was in the top ten" bit of Karl's analysis. My quick scan of the tables showed that Jacob Oram is still the fifth best one-day bowler in the world.

Monday, 8 November 2004

"Its Kiwi pop-guns from 22 yards"

This morning's Australian assessed our chances of beating Australia - and concludes we haven't a shit show. And they did that without even mentioning that Scott Styris will be batting at number four.

Sunday, 7 November 2004

What the Sunday papers say

In the Herald on Sunday Chris Cairns speculates on the Bangladeshis' poor body language and form, comes up with some thoughtful ways to improve their skills and wonders if Scott Styris wears foundation. Meanwhile Mark Richardson also ponders on the crapness of Bangladesh and points out that their only decent bowlers are left-arm spinners - which is not exactly the best preparation for our batsmen, who are about to tour a country which has none. Richardson also praises DVD piracy and defends his waffling by saying that at least it is better than the commentary during the one-dayers.

Over in the Sunday Star-Time the major stories are hidden offline, probably because they are steals from other papers - an old article full of praise for Glenn McGrath from the Sydney Morning Herald and brickbats for Shane Warne from the Victorian's own paper, the Melbourne Age. Ken Rutherford doesn't make it online either, but all he has to say is that the Aussie bowlers really are pretty good.

Over the ditch in the Sydney Morning Herald Peter Roebuck sums up the Aussies tour of India and concludes that no-one can challenge them now, except maybe the English. And Mark Waugh gets stuck into the Indians, their pitches and their captain in particular. Poor Sourav, does no-one like him?

In Melbourne's Age, the big story for New Zealanders is a feature on Stephen Fleming. Elsewhere Ricky Ponting whines about the Mumbai pitch, Chloe Saltau wonders how the Australians can best rig the "World XI" to play them next year so they can make lots of money and Brendan McArdle says that Brett Lee would do best to become a line and length bowler and learn to shut his mouth, but should still be picked so that the good bowlers can have a bit of a rest.

A sting in the tail

It is all very well having a number of tail-enders capable of scoring runs, but is anyone else becoming concerned about out top-order failures? At least Sinclair is scoring runs and Astle seems to be working his way back into form, but the rest of the side better start pulling up their britches before we reach Australia.

Friday, 5 November 2004

"Worn-out Aussies up for grabs"

As the Sydney Morning Herald reports, Stephen Fleming and John Bracewell have been talking up New Zealand's chances of putting one over the Aussies in the upcoming test matches. I have to admit to holding my head in my hands after reading this article. The thought of our pop-gun attack fronting up to the best batting line-up in the world was already causing me to sweat, and Fleming and Bracewell adding extra hubris to the mix is only going to tempt nemesis even more.

Thursday, 4 November 2004

Millmow on Bangladesh

Jonathan Millmow's article on Bangladesh (mentioned below) is now online here.

Bangladesh - in or out?

In this morning's Dominion Post (no online version I am afraid), Jonathan Millmow launched into Bangladesh and called for their expulsion from the test arena in very strong terms. Meanwhile, Martyn Watterson wrote a piece for NZPA which tells how much the people in this impoverished country love their cricket and how eager they are to improve.

As everyone knows, it took New Zealand 26 years to win its first test match. So we should be the last to call for Bangladesh's expulsion. And our record prior to that first win could have been even worse because for many years we were only allowed to play three day test matches and escaped with draws in games we would otherwise have lost.

International cricket is now too comfortably uniform to allow the five day test to be tampered with - you might as well try to re-introduce the eight ball over. But I think there might be a good deal of merit in the idea of tampering with the length of games. Test matches with Bangladesh are currently lucky to last four days. A three day test match would give them something achievable to aim for - an honourable draw. And their opponents would have to fight that much harder to win. There would be no batting for two days to set up a huge total - sides would have to score more quickly and declare earlier against them - and teams would have to bowl well to get them out twice in such a short space of time.

You could argue that a three day test match would make it even harder for Bangladesh to win their first match. But I don't think it would at all. Their opponents would be rushed and more likely to make mistakes, and declarations would be more sporting and more likely to offer a chance of victory.

The recent test series between New Zealand and Bangladesh was a predictable bore. But imagine what might have happened if we had played three day tests rather than five day matches. With 30 minutes to go at the end of day three of the last match, Bangladesh were eight wickets down. They managed to fight out those last 30 minutes, but that merely put the match into day four. Think of how tense and exciting that 30 minutes would have been if the result had been hanging on them. New Zealand would have been desperate to get those last wickets. Men would have been crowding the bat. The Bangladeshis would have been fighting hard, knowing that they only had to last seven or eight more overs. It would have been test cricket at its finest.

Wednesday, 3 November 2004

What in the world is up with the world's wicketkeepers?

As Tim deLisle points out in the Times, it is all chaos on the wicket-keeping front. Mark Boucher, Pathev Patel and Moin Khan have all been dropped; Gilchrist is getting smack from the Melbourne Age; and Kumar Sangakkara has decided he quite likes Oscar Wilde. Of the world's test keepers, only Brendon McCullum's life is without controversy, but given what is happening to his colleagues he must be shaking in his boots waiting to see what tomorrow will bring.

Tuesday, 2 November 2004

Peter Fulton's big day

In Matthew Sinclair's absence with a minor ankle injury, Peter Fulton has been given his chance to play for New Zealand. Fulton is a 25-year-old top order batsman (although he is not usually an opener) who plays for Canterbury. He has already scored almost 2000 runs in first-class cricket at an average of 44.41 and has a triple century to his name (scored against Auckland in March 2003). Fulton is a very tall and correct right-handed batsman who plays beautifully straight. At 25 he is a bit of a late bloomer, but that is often a good thing in New Zealand batsmen. Andrew Jones made his debut at 28, while Ken Rutherford was given the nickname "Noughtaford" by his West Indian opponents after his first matches for New Zealand at 19 and even Martin Crowe has a dismal time in his first season of top level cricket.

The New Zealand batting line-up is cramped with talented players, but Fulton has a good opportunity to make a mark for himself against a weak Bangladesh attack. It is a chance he will probably need to snatch with Sinclair returning for the second match and such hot competition for places in the middle order. With all that engine-room talent, I suspect that Fulton might be gently encouraged into taking up opening as a full-time occupation. I have already said that his plays correctly and straight - and those are attributes that will hold him in good stead at the start of an innings.

Monday, 1 November 2004

Steve Waugh tells us 11 things about Glenn McGrath

And McGrath is a very scary man. You should see what he does to his eggs for breakfast.

On the road to Mitchelldom

Andrew McLean describes John Bracewell's abruptness with the Bangladeshi media. It is sad to see, cricket in Bangladesh needs all the encouragement we can give it and a few words to the media is not that big an ask.

Friday, 29 October 2004

A tea interval

I am shifting this weekend and won't have my phone reconnected until next week. So postings might be limited over the next few days.

The British Medical Journal

Most people think doctors play nothing but golf, but if you flick through the BMJ then you might get another impression. First it ran a paper comparing Indian and Pakistani cricket results, which engendered a high degree of controversey ("The BMJ needs to decide whether it is a Journal or a magazine") and also this letter. The medical journal followed this controversy up by running an article asking "Is cricket the magic glue that unites South Asia?".

Richard Boock joins the debate

In this morning's Herald, Richard Boock compares Fleming, Turner and Crowe - and cites three centuries against the 1980s West Indian attack as the reason why Crowe should be seen as the greatest.

Boock goes on to describe "the generation" gap that exists between the stars of the 1980s and the stars of the modern era. Although it still contains his usual quota of generalisations and assumptions, it is an unusually thoughtful piece.

Thursday, 28 October 2004

A new poll and New Zealand's best batsman

My last poll asked you who should open the batting with Mark Richardson in the forthcoming tests against Australia. One of you voted for double century maker Stephen Fleming, four of you voted for current opener Matthew Sinclair and five of you voted for Michael Papps.

My new poll was inspired by Stephen Fleming's achievements in Bangladesh - he is now New Zealand's most prolific runs-scorer. Ben asked me who I thought was New Zealand's best ever batsman and it sparked a lengthy debate between Karl, Ben and I. So now we are going to ask you to decide for us. To help you vote, here is a little information:

According to the PWC system, Glenn Turner had the highest rating of any New Zealander by a mile - 843. Bert Sutcliffe got as high as 787 and Martin Crowe reached a peak of 776.

If you looked at where those three were placed in the rankings, as opposed to simply looking at the ranking score, then you can see that Crowe spent most of the period from 1988 until 1994 ranked in the world's top five batsmen. Glenn Turner spent between 1972 and 1977 doing the same - and hit number one a couple of times, including an extended spell in 1975. Bert Sutcliffe only spent a short period in 1956 in the top 5, but his ranking was more consistent through-out his career than either Turner or Crowe.

Andrew Jones' rating never climbed above 667 and he was never rated higher than the ninth best batsman in the world. But, no-one else earned the nickname "God" or celebrated a test century by giving the Australian press box the fingers.

Of the current players, Fleming might have scored more runs than anyone else but he has yet to rate over 692 and has only broken into the top 20 a handful of times. Mark Richardson has hit the heights of 775 and has spent the past couple of years hovering around the world's top 10.

Martin Donnelly might have made the list in another age. He only played briefly for New Zealand in a career interrupted by the Second World War and the lack of tests at the time - but in that short time he did manage 200 in England and such was his reputation in English county cricket that he was named the best left-handed batsman in the world.

In terms of bare batting averages, we can see the following:
Martin Donnelly 52.90
Mark Richardson 47.03
Martin Crowe 45.36
Glenn Turner 44.64
Andrew Jones 44.27
Bert Sutcliffe 40.10
Stephen Fleming 39.75

Of course, all statistics are problematic when trying to compare batsmen of different eras. Karl tried to work around this by comparing the careers of Turner and Crowe against different nations.

Turner's averages: against West Indies 65.76, Pakistan 39.18, and Sri Lanka 23.66. He never played against South Africa or Zim.
Crowe: against WI 45.33, Pak 57.23, SL 52.25, Zim 62.25 and SA 20.5.

On a purely aesthetic level, Ben pointed out that not even a Fleming cover-drive could beat the grace of a Martin Crowe hook shot. And Crowe could also score runs in the most trying conditions (remember his century in Pakistan against Waqar and Wasim at their fiercest?) while both Sutcliffe (post-injury) and Turner had reputations for being suspect against short, quick bowling.

As an aside, while looking around the PWC website I noticed something about Martin Donnelly's contemporary, fast bowler Jack Cowie. Cowie only played a handful of tests in the 1930s and 1940s but between 1945 and 1949 he was consistently rated in the PWC's top ten and spent 1947 as the world's best bowler - above players like Tiger O'Reilly, Keith Miller and Ray Lindwall. As far as I can tell, Richard Hadlee is the only other New Zealander to reach No. 1 in the bowling charts.
Fleming on the drive

Wednesday, 27 October 2004

Peter Roebuck

Peter Roebuck once said some very uncomplimentary things about New Zealand and I held a grudge against him for years, but he is also a bloody good cricket writer. I have learnt to ignore Cricinfo and to instead wander over to his column in the Sydney Morning Herald to find out what is happening in Australian cricket.

Fleming's day

He now has more test matches than any other New Zealander and more test runs. He also has his 8th test century and, although I only saw highlights of his innings, it looked a very classy knock too. There is no better player to watch cover drive than Stephen Fleming.

Mark Richardson's run of getting out to aggressive strokes continued and this might soon become a bit of a concern. He expressed a desire last season to break out of his sheet-anchor role and play a few shots, but I think someone should tell him that we need a sheet-anchor. It is all very well to have silky Flemings, bludgeoning Astles and wristy Sinclairs in the side, but silky, bludgeoning and wristy can all be a bit flaky and we need someone who is never going to give his wicket away cheaply.

Tuesday, 26 October 2004

A change for the better

According to the Herald, Scott Styris has sustained a foot injury and might miss the test. This could be very good news as it will allow Marshall to come into the side without the need to rest Astle.

This is good news because unlike Astle, Scott doesn't need the practice - it's not like he is going to score any runs against Australia anyway.

Sunday, 24 October 2004

What the Sunday papers say

Dylan Cleaver in the Herald suspects that Bracewell will do some tinkering for the second test to give a couple more players a chance to warm-up for Australia.

Cleaver states that the most likely change would see Marshall come in for Astle. His reasoning seems pretty spot on but I would be disappointed if this were to come true. Astle, more than anyone, is a player who needs time in the middle to get him into form. I'm not saying that Marshall doesn't deserve a chance to impress after his magnificent one-day form, but getting Astle - one of our premier batsmen - into good nick for the Aussies should be the first priority.

And I can't find it online, but Ken Rutherford had a real rant about the new South African coach in this morning's Sunday Star-Times. He couched his words in polite language, but the whole article can essentially be distilled to read "Ray Jennings is a two-faced, arrogant and psychopathic arsehole who is going to drag South African cricket into a new dark age." And Rutherford should know, he used to be Jenning's assistant at Gauteng. While I can't give you Ken's piece, I did find this Wisden article which gives a taste of Jenning's character.

Sanath Jayasuriya

It is a bit surprising to see Sri Lanka doing so well against Pakistan, sure they have a good batting line-up - but their bowling attack looks so weak without Muralitharan that it is hard to imagine them bowling a top side out twice. But a stunning double century from Jayasuriya and a devestating spell from Dilhara Fernando has left them in total control of what was originally shaping as a very even contest.

The turning point of this match occurred when those two players were joined at the crease with Sri Lanka at 337/8. At this point Jayasuriya went beserk and, of their 101 run partnership for the ninth wicket, Fernando contributed a solitary run. Jayasuriya's innings ended at 253, his third double century.

Jayasuriya's career might well have turned out very differently. He made his debut back on the 1990/91 tour to New Zealand, back in the days when Sri Lanka were still generally regarded as easy-beats - the Bangladesh of the era. His presence was later one of those that lifted Sri Lanka from the bottom of the world rankings, but he could have had only a very brief appearance on the test stage. His first ball in test cricket was a short wide ball from Chris Pringle, Jayasuriya made an ugly and wild slash at it and it flew just wide of gully. This was his only turn at bat in the match and if the mishit had gone to hand, he would have faced one ball, played one atrocious shot and probably would have made way for someone less rash for the next game. As it was he ended up with 35 streaky looking runs and, with so little competition for places, he retained his place and never looked back.

Saturday, 23 October 2004

PWC ratings

The Dhaka test had quite an effect on the New Zealand rankings on the PWC tables - especially for the youngsters. Ironically Craig McMillan was one of the few older players whose ranking actually improved (courtesy of Scott Styris' downward spiral), despite the fact that he didn't even play!

Mark Richardson 13 (down 3)
Stephen Fleming 23 (down 1)
Craig McMillan 33 (up 1)
Scott Styris 34 (down 1)
Nathan Astle 35 (no change)
Jacob Oram 39 (no change)
Matthew Sinclair 42 (up 4)
Brendon McCullum 47 (up 21)

Darryl Tuffey 15 (no change)
Chris Martin 20 (down 1)
Daniel Vettori 31 (up 9)
Jacob Oram 40 (up 2)
James Franklin 45 (up 27)
Paul Wiseman 59 (down 1)
Ian Butler 67 (down 5)
Scott Styris 75 (unchanged)

Vettori's rating score of 491 is still a long way from his peak at 661, but it is a considerable improvement on his recent depths.

The Daily Star

Here is some insight into the New Zealand victory from a Bangladeshi perspective, courtest of the Daily Star. In a related article the Star tells us that Habibul Bashar, Bangladesh's best batsman by a mile, is to miss the second test as well.

Bashar has scored over 2000 runs in test cricket at an average of 35.84 and has scored three of the eight centuries ever scored by Bangladeshi batsmen. He is also ranked number 32 in the world by PWC - above Nathan Astle, Craig McMillan and Scott Styris. Given that their next ranked batsman comes in at 64, you can see why they are missing him.

Andrew McLean

Andrew McLean appears to have come from nowhere to be New Zealand cricket's Mr Ubiquitous. He writes for Cricinfo, he reports on Radio Sport, he has his own cricket show. And he is informative, thoughtful and very likeable. Try to catch him, it is not too hard.

Boock on Marshall

Richard Boock actually has something positive to say for a change - and applies a little analysis. In looking at Hamish Marshall's chances of a test spot in the next game, he reviews those New Zealanders who have scored their maiden first-class centuries in a test match.

Friday, 22 October 2004

Vettori glory

He flighted the ball. He spun it sharply. And he had loop.

Dan Vettori's 16 post-injury wickets at 75.93 just became 24 at 52.87 and his career average fell from 38.14 to 36.63. All in all, this has been a very good test for Dan. As it has been for someone who loves to see good spin bowling.

Read those first three sentences of this post again. They made me very happy.

Brendon McCullum

Take a look at the picture below. Notice anything about it? McCullum is not wearing a helmet. Apparently he decided he didn't need one - even when the quicks returned with the new ball. Cocky young fella ain't he?
McCullum on the hook (courtesy of Reuters)

Thursday, 21 October 2004

McCullum's maiden ton

Some might denegrate the attack it was scored against, but the fact remains that Brendon McCullum scored a century to drag New Zealand out of danger in extremely trying conditions. The pitch was tricky, the heat and humidity high and the spinners not too bad.

For a while it looked like McCullum might not achieve the greatness that beckoned in his glory days as a youth player, but given that he is only 23 he still has plenty of time to make good on that early promise. With the retirement of Robbie Hart the test keeping spot looks his for years to come.

By the by, I think the Bangladeshis made a mistake to take the new ball with the spinners on top and with McCullum and Vettori on strike - both better players of pace than spin. It will be interesting to see how many those two can score and whether this will be the turning point which will allow the New Zealanders to put their feet on the throat of this match.

Poll results

Last time I asked you what you thought the scoreline would be in the New Zealand vs Bangladesh test series. Seven of you were cocky enough to vote for a 2-0 scoreline in favour of New Zealand. Five of you were slightly more cautious and voted for a 1-0 score. One very pessimistic person (who might have been me) glumly predicted that it would rain and that the series would be a 0-0 wash-out.

This time I am asking you to think ahead to the next challenge. Australia's bowlers won't be quite so forgiving of poor technique and footwork as Bangladesh's. So who do you think should face the new ball at Brisbane on the 18th of November?

New Zealand Oxford Dictionary

Oxford are publishing a New Zealand version of the dictionary in November, something I think is long overdue. I always thought it was wrong that New Zealand law and legislature is based on definitions from the Oxford English Dictionary when the languages of the two countries will always suffer subtle differences. The Australians have their Macquarie, and hopefully the NZOD will become our standard reference text.

You might be wondering what this has to do with cricket. Well, the reason is that one of the new words to appear in the New Zealand Oxford Dictionary is "dibbly dobbler", meaning a bowler of barely medium pace. I am not sure whether a photo of Chris Harris will be included next to the entry.

Coverage of the test

I am enjoying the daily reports from the test on the NZ Cricket website. I was disappointed with the website when it first appeared, and it is very light in terms of player information and statistics, but if they can maintain a standard of writing as high as this then I will be very happy.

County news

According to the Dom this morning, Scott Styris has just signed to play for Middlesex next season. Let's just hope that he does a Craig Spearman and decides to stay in Blighty for good.

Wednesday, 20 October 2004

Portrait of an athlete

Jimmy's fine trick

What can you say? James Edward Charles just took the second hat-trick in New Zealand test cricket history - after left-arm spinner Peter Petherick took one in Pakistan way back in 1976/77.

Franklin's final delivery was an absolute cracker, pitching outside off and swinging back in to bowl Baisya - who did not play a shot.

And finally, after a day of dreary, dreary cricket, we have some action.

Tuesday, 19 October 2004

The weather

The rain ruined a great test match in Chennai. Thankfully it doesn't look like it will do the same in Dhaka.

First test preview

I thought I would share a different perspective with you this morning - one from the other side. Here is Bangladesh news agency "The New Nation's" preview of the first test.

Monday, 18 October 2004

Mark Richardson

The world's premier number-11-turned-opener contributes a column to the new Herald on Sunday. So far, his appears to be the most intellectual piece in the newspaper - which appears to be covering all of its bases by looking like a serious paper, but reading like a tabloid. I'm not sure that I agree with everything he says here, but it is certainly more stimulating than reading bloody Scott Styris say "its time for the boys to step up to the next level" in the Dom.

A luke-warm warm-up

Well, we didn't embarrass ourselves, but I don't think we learnt too much either. The light-weight pace attack put in a decent performance, although it is hard to judge what sort of quality our opposition was.

This morning's New Zealand Herald says that Jake Oram is likely to share the new ball in a very slim looking pace attack for the first test. John Bracewell has stated that he wants players to be in a position where they are forced to take responsibility for their performance. He suspects players go into cruise mode if they know that they have back-up. I like this thinking. It has its dangers of course - if we go into a test with two real pace bowlers and Styris as the third seamer, then we are onto a hiding to nothing if one of those quicks breaks down. But against Bangladesh that seems to be a gamble worth taking.

In other news, Peter Roebuck continues his recent trend of eulogising Australian batsmen. This time he goes into raptures over Damien Martyn.

Friday, 15 October 2004

Not a good start to the tour

So the first day of the warm-up match is over and two bugbears have raised their heads already. Firstly our new opening combination was not a success and secondly, and probably of even more concern, it rained. On the positive side of the ledger, Fleming and Marshall both got some good time in the middle.

The next test will be when we are in the field and I am biting my fingers a little over how our worryingly thin-looking pace attack will perform.

And what is with this weird 12-a-side thing that seems to be catching? The 'A' side did it in South Africa and now the top team is doing it in Bangladesh. What's wrong with a normal match with normal match conditions? I don't care if one extra player gets on the park - to my mind a first-class match where the players actually have something riding on the outcome is still the best preparation for a test match.

Thursday, 14 October 2004

Essential reading

Okay, so it costs $50, is already out of date and most of what is contained within can be gleaned from the internet anyway - but the 2004 New Zealand Cricket Almanack is still required reading. Why? Because there is something reassuring solid about facts when they are printed on paper. Somehow Mark Richardson's batting average of 47.94 feels more real just because it appears in the Almanack. It is history now. He might score 20 ducks in his next 20 innings, but the Almanack will still show that at the start of the 2004 season he still had a better average than Martin Crowe, Andrew Jones, Bert Sutcliffe and Glenn Turner.

And remember, you cannot lie in bed flicking through

For the record, the Almanack's players of the year are Stephen Fleming and Chris Martin while the promising players are Michael Papps, Brendon McCullum and Peter Fulton. Lets hope this year's crop of tyros prove more successful than the promising players selected ten years ago (Roydon Hayes, Blair Pocock and A.T. Reinholds).

You might raise an eyebrow at Martin's choice as a player of the year. But, despite the appalling England tour, the Almanack tells me that he still took 24 test wickets at 25.58 in a season when Darryl Tuffey could only manage 19 at 41.84, Jacob Oram 16 at 46.25 and Daniel Vettori 16 at 75.93.

Okay. I am going to stop finding interesting figures in the Almanack now. I am going to put it down and do something useful. Although, first I might just quickly look up Martin's career bowling average. And Darryl Tuffey's record in domestic cricket last season. And Dan Vettori's bowling average since he returned from injury...

Marshall in ahead of Astle?

According to the Dominion Post, it looks likely that Skippy Sinclair will be opening with Mark Richardson on the Bangladesh tour and that Hamish Marshall and Nathan Astle will be fighting for the one open spot in the middle order.

This is an interesting proposition. Sinclair should do well opening against a Bangladesh side in spinner friendly conditions, but if he is successful does that mean he should be retained as opener against Australia in conditions and against bowlers far more suited to swing and seam? I still have my doubts about Matthew's technique when he starts an innings. The static feet mean that when his eye is in the stroke-play is wristy and glorious, but when his eye is not in and the ball is moving - he gets himself into trouble. Could his selection simply be a temporary measure until Papps returns to fitness? Possibly, and that could leave us with a very pleasant conundrum later in the season - with Astle, Marshall and Sinclair all pushing each other for the middle order spot.

The battle between Astle and Marshall is an interesting one in itself. Marshall is the young up and comer who still has a lot to prove and I suspect many of you are surprised to hear that he could even think of competing with Astle. But Nathan's form since his return from injury has not been that good, and he has a history of taking a long time to warm into the season. I suspect that if you pitched both into a match right now Marshall would outdo Astle, but later in the season with some batting under his belt and a working knee I am betting Astle will be an automatic choice.