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.