Saturday, 31 December 2005

Wellington and ND win

Despite a return to form by Nathan Astle, Canterbury failed to beat Wellington in Rangiora yesterday. Meanwhile some useful runs by James Marshall helped Northern Districts overcome Central Districts.

The Sri Lankans

At last. On the day of the match the New Zealand press finally gives us a run down of the Sri Lankan team. The focus of this piece is on Sanath Jayasuriya after our old nemesis was dropped for the team's recent series against India, but we also get a good assessment of the team's strengths - its top order batting and the spin attack led by Murali.

A further assessment of Murali's skill follows here.

Bowling tactics

Good to see Captain Dan and John Bracewell still have their thinking caps on. Expect to see lots of shuffling in the bowling today as Dan targets the start of the Sri Lankan innings.

The ratings game

As Cricinfo tells us, the series against Sri Lanka is a great chance for New Zealand to consolodate its place in the world ODI rankings. We are currently in 4th, but only by a fraction of a point above India and Sri Lanka. A series clean sweep will take the New Zealand ratings score from 109 to 115 - and should ensure our automatic entry to the knock-out stage of the ICC Champions Trophy in October 2006.

Friday, 30 December 2005

The New Zealand top order

How, Vincent, Fulton and the anti-footwork, anti-practice Scott Styris. Not a top order to inspire a lot of confidence. How and Fulton have only one cap between them and, despite 75 ODIs, it still feels like Lou Vincent is an unproven quality. Before we get too panicky though, we should recall that the more experienced collective of Astle, Fleming, Vincent and McMillan has been dreadful lately. My feeling is that even if this experiment throws up just one new top order talent, then it was worth doing.

Thursday, 29 December 2005


Now the previews are starting to flow. With a straight-face Brendon McCullum attempts to explain a weird twirling, laughing dance by the New Zealand bowlers at practice while saying he hopes the first ODI won't attract any drunks. Meanwhile the Herald focuses on the effect last year's tsumani had on the Sri Lankan team.

Meanwhile we also get a few previews on the domestic front. Here is one for Auckland vs Otago and another for Wellington vs Canterbury.

Scott Styris' feet

You could say Scott Styris is his own man, a renegade who likes to follow his own lonely path. Or you could call him an idiot. Having already said he doesn't believe in practice, he now says he doesn't believe in footwork.

Actually, I am doing Scott a diservice. His point is a little more complex than the headlines make out. Styris rightly states that most international wickets are so good that the ball bounces true and therefore footwork isn't quite as necessary as it is at lower levels. While I agree with this point to a degree, I think Scott is significantly underplaying the skills of international class bowlers. Shane Warne could turn the ball on glass, Glenn McGrath could get seam movement and bounce on play-dough and Chaminda Vaas could swing the ball in a vacuum. Lack of footwork might work against lesser bowlers, but it will only get Styris in trouble against bowlers of that class.

Wednesday, 28 December 2005

Bond and Adams

Just a short post today because there is not much to say. Andre Adams is injured, but Shane Bond is raring to go.

Tuesday, 27 December 2005

Australia vs South Africa

There is nothing like a Boxing Day spent dozing off your Christmas supper in front of a television showing live cricket. Its even better when the cricket involves two teams full of mouthy idiots who like nothing better than to wind each other up. Anybody who followed the dig-filled build-up to the second test in Australia would have loved watching the onfield action involving Andre Nel, Graeme Smith and Shane Warne.

How could the ICC possibly contemplate banning this sort of behaviour? It is just so blimmin' entertaining.

New Zealand vs Sri Lanka

You would have thought that with news thin on the ground at this time of year there would be a great opportunity for cricket writers to get out their pens and write the odd preview of the upcoming New Zealand vs Sri Lanka series. But sadly Richard Boock is the only one to oblige. The best the others can come up with a piece borrowed from Peter Roebuck and the Sydney Morning Herald.

Friday, 23 December 2005

Boock gets it wrong

Golly! The New Zealand selectors have decided to start waving the axe around. Nathan Astle, Craig McMillan and James Edward Charles Franklin have all been dropped, while Jamie How, Peter Fulton and Andre Adams are all in the side to play Sri Lanka. It also looks like the selectors are expecting Stephen Fleming's sore finger to come right, because he has been retained.

I am pleased Fulton got in, he has a superb record in the domestic game and deserves a shot after several years of consistent form. Jamie How's selection is a little more puzzling. He had a brilliant year last year, but has struggled for form so far this season. Jesse Ryder will probably be feeling a little unlucky to miss out, while Hamish Marshall will be counting his lucky stars.

The full squad is:

Stephen Fleming, Daniel Vettori, Andre Adams, Shane Bond, Chris Cairns, Peter Fulton, Jamie How, Hamish Marshall, Brendon McCullum, Kyle Mills, Jacob Oram, Scott Styris, Lou Vincent

Summer posting

The next few weeks promise a two-day Christmas jaunt up to Paraparaumu, a New Year's eve break at the beach and a wedding in the Wairarapa. It will also hopefully involve numerous trips down the hill to Oriental Bay and much splashing around in waves. Posting here is therefore probably going to be light.

Sri Lanka ring the changes

I hope John Bracewell is watching. The Sri Lankan selectors have radically overhauled their side for the tour to New Zealand. Out are Upul Chandana, Nuwan Zoysa, Thilan Samaraweera and Dilhara Lokuhettige. In are Malinga Bandara, Lasith Malinga, Ruchira Perera, Sanath Jayasuriya and Jehan Mubarak.

Zoysa has an excellent record in New Zealand (12 wickets in 7 matches at 17.00 and an economy rate of 3.77) and I am surprised he has been dropped. Jayasuriya was preditably returned to the side after his surprise dumping before the disastrous series against India.

Sri Lanka has had a bad time of it lately, but we should be cautious before we write off any side that contains Chaminda Vaas and Muttiah Muralitharan.

"Bill Lawry is just a one-eyed old fart"

South African journalist Telford Vice is unlikely to get a good reception next time he mingles with his Australian colleagues. In a hyperactive rant written as South Africa clawed its way to a draw in the first test Vice offers such choice observations as:

"Bill Lawry, meanwhile, is just a one-eyed old fart: not worth feeding, or getting worked up about."

"Who turns me off entirely? Our own Tony Greig. It's not just that he has made a career out of stating the obvious, it's that he's just plain poor."

Oh dear. I can't see him getting a Christmas card from either of those two this year.

New Zealand vs Sri Lanka

Richard Boock seems to have the inside oil once more. And as is usual for Richard, the oil is icky and rancid. He tells us that the New Zealand side to play Sri Lanka in the first two ODIs is likely to include all three of Hamish Marshall, Craig McMillan and Nathan Astle. Astle I can understand, but Marshall and McMillan? Just how much more stubborn can John Bracewell get?

Thursday, 22 December 2005

Great stonewallers

Mark Richardson easily made Cricinfo's list of great modern stonewallers. With the current New Zealand side full of shot-happy sloggers, it is no surprise that he was the only Kiwi to make the list. Just to further remind us how much we miss him, here is a link to an old Cricinfo article telling us exactly how dull and valuable Richardson was.

Domestic cricket

A round-up of yesterday's play:

Canterbury predictably completed their thrashing of Otago.

Jospeh Yovich continued his great early season form and saw Northern Districts take the advantage against Auckland.

Central "Dobbers" Districts beat Wellington at the Basin. The selectors there to watch Jesse Ryder would have been disappointed when he was run-out without scoring in the second innings.

Cap'n Dan

Stephen Fleming has chipped a bone in a finger and that makes him an unlikely selection for the first match against Sri Lanka which starts next week. Fleming's vice-captain, Dan Vettori, doesn't sound too dismayed by the news.

Wednesday, 21 December 2005


The Australians might complain that New Zealand cricket grounds attract drunken idiots, but at least they don't attract drunken rascist idiots.

Canterbury vs Otago

Poor old Otago. The days when they were one of the toughest sides in the country seem long gone. A double collapse against Canterbury had them looking down the barrell of a two-day defeat, but a stubborn last wicket stand has at least bought them another few hours of cricket today. Otago might be forgiven for collapsing on this particular occasion, given they were facing perhaps the fastest attack in the country. We all know about Shane Bond, but they also boast tyros Richard Sherlock and Hamish Bennett. I was a bit amused to read in the NZPA that Bennett ended with his best figures in first-class cricket. This should not come as a surprise because the article earlier points out that this is Bennett's debut.

A classic test

The recent Australia vs South Africa test at the WACA was a real throw-back. It had a batsman who grafted for 8 hours as Australia ground out a big second innings score. It had another batsman who batted for over 7 hours as South Africa struggled to safety. And despite commentators hyperbole about "heroic match saving innings" the game ended in a rather tame draw.

Brad Hodge's 203 was a particularly un-Australian affair. If that is what we can expect from him, then I am not convinced he will remain in the side for long while attacking players like Michael Clarke lurk in the wings. Admirable as the innings was, the fact is that the time it took did not leave Australia enough time to win the match. However, perhaps Hodge was just being a little overcautious given his relative inexperience at the highest level. His profile tells us that "[o]n his day, he is unquestionably among the most attractive players to watch in Australian cricket". And he seemed a genuinely nice and modest bloke. Which makes a great change from the likes of Warne, Hayden and Symonds.

Tuesday, 20 December 2005

Happiness is a warm bat

An article in this morning's Dominion-Post addressed the subject of happiness. It quoted a variety of studies which demonstrate that happy people tend to be more successful. One study apparently proves that happy cricketers have better batting averages than their grumpy colleagues. I wonder if anyone has told Craig McMillan?

Rain and wickets

Not a lot of cricket is happening in New Zealand at the moment, and when the clouds do break all that happens is that a lot of wickets fall. I seem to remember whole summers like this when I was younger.

Oh well, at least we have matches in Ahmedabad and Perth to keep us occupied. And what about the news that Pakistani pace man Shabbir Ahmed has been banned for a year for persistent chucking. Good grief! That might ruffle a few feathers. Not least amongst commentators who complain that the new chucking laws are too weak.

Monday, 19 December 2005

Wellington vs CD

John Bracewell and Glenn Turner went to watch Wellington play Central Districts, allegedly to run their eyes over Jesse Ryder. Instead they have just seen Jimmy Franklin bowl superbly to take 7-30.

Wellington vs CD preview

The Dominion-Post has provided a nice preview of the Wellington vs Central Districts match due to start today. The key angle is predictabe, Jesse Ryder's form, but the news that John Bracewell and fellow selector Glenn Turner will be watching the game indicates that the Post is not alone in its interest.

Jordan Sheed

The Press has an article on the success of Otago's experiment in turning middle-order batsman Jordan Sheed into an opener. Interestingly the Canterbury paper has chosen to publish this article on the same day that the Canterbury team - including Shane Bond - is due to play Otago at Carisbrook. Nothing like building up the opposition to make smashing them down feel like a whole lot more fun.

Matthew Hart's testimonial

It was nice to see so many turn out for Matt, but it was a bit sad that Hamish Marshall's trot of bad form is the main focus of media interest in the game.

Mark Richardson

Mark Richardson has never done anything by halves. He dedicated himself to playing for New Zealand as a left-arm spinner. When he got the yips he worked hard and dedicated himself to playing for New Zealand as an opening batsman. When he felt his enjoyment waning he quit. Now he has decided to become a cricketing journo. Having established himself on television, he set about ensuring his journalistic skillset is complete by writing. His penmanship has appeared in the New Zealand Herald for some time now, and now he is starting to appear in other publications - including the Australian glossy "Inside Cricket".

Sunday, 18 December 2005

The news on Sunday

Not an awful lot to bring you today. There is not so much as a domestic match on at the moment so perhaps we can forgive our weekend journos. And amongst the puff pieces there are a few gems.

Andrew McLean kicks off proceedings with a look at the value of New Zealand's domestic scene. He ends with a rather good quote from Player's Association representative Heath Mills:

Domestic cricket is never going to be a breeding ground for international cricket until they [the selectors] show some faith in it.

Next up is Dylan Cleaver, who joins McLean in being offended by John Bracewell's dismissal of the media and public as "misinformed". Cleaver also highlights some parallels between McMillan and Bracewell, and these make McMillan's continued selection a little easier to understand (if not forgive).

Cleaver also brings us our final piece. He talks to one of the world's best coaches about Hamish Marshall's infamous throw-downs, and Billy Ibadulla gives them the thumbs down. Billy also runs his eye over McMillan and Nathan Astle and provides some excellent insights into their techniques.

Ganguly's dismissal

Sourav Ganguly's dumping from the Indian team is to be discussed in India's Parliament. Ironically the politicians are saying that they need to intervene because "of politics in the game".

Friday, 16 December 2005

Domestic cricket

Hmmm. Perhaps I am just incompetent, but for the life of me I cannot find any sign of a State Championship points table anywhere on the New Zealand Cricket website. The nearest I can get is a link labelled "Points table" which leads me to page which tells me who played who in the last round. How annoying. I think we can assume that Wellington is currently in the lead given they are the only side to win both of their games, but I hope this oversight is patched up soon.

Chappell-Hadlee series

It now looks like the Chappell-Hadlee series will stand alone from the VB series and is likely to be squeezed in between the end of the tri-series and the start of the World Cup.

Jesse Ryder

Jesse Ryder has scored 212 runs in two innings this season. Hamish Marshall has scored 4. Jesse Ryder has a first-class batting average of over 50. Hamish Marshall's average is about half that. You would think that Ryder should be shoving Marshall out of the way on his way to a place in New Zealand's top order, but no. Instead even his coach is saying the selectors should leave him be for another year.

Ryder has had his problems in the past and developed a bit of a reputation as a drinker, but he is also immensely talented. The selectors must have him in mind for the World Cup and I can't think of a better time to introduce him than now, with two moderate sides in the West Indies and Sri Lanka about to arrive.

Thursday, 15 December 2005

Cricketing tales

Most collections of cricketing stories contain the same tired old tales. A new Australian collection claims to be something different. And, if the first example is anything to go by, then I would be very pleased to see Tales from the sport's field in my Christmas stocking.

The first tale is typical. It is called The Towel. It tells of how at the end of a day's play in a Sheffield Shield match at the SCG in 1928, Archie Jackson borrowed a towel from teammate Alec Marks and failed to return it. Marks' mother was aghast; it was her best towel.

The next day, a red-faced Jackson replaced it with a new towel, still in its wrapping. Marks' mother was unimpressed, for the quality of this new towel was far inferior to the old. "I can't understand Archie's behaviour," she said. "He always seemed like such a nice boy."

Three years later, Marks visited Jackson as he lay dying from tuberculosis. Jackson raised the matter of the towel, saying he already knew at the time that he had TB and made a point of not lending or borrowing others' towels, but had forgotten that day.

Rather than return it, he had bought another. "The man behind the counter said it was the best towel in the shop," he said. "I hope your mum liked it."

Marks, feeling a lump in his throat, told Jackson his mum had declared it the best towel she had owned. That night, he went to his mother's linen closet, took out the towel Jackson had bought, sat down on his bed, put his head in it and cried.

The book is written by Alec Marks' son, Neil, and is reviewed here.

Samsung cricket fan of the year

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The Postman on pitches

Gavin Larsen has recovered from his last dismal effort at column writing and has rallied to supply us with some very shrewd comments on the subject of drop-in pitches. I wish it were possible for New Zealand to have more dedicated cricket grounds, but it seems unlikely given the cost. Drop-in technology is the obvious solution and it seems a simple enough concept, so why isn't it working?

Great oaks from little acorns grow

Cricinfo's latest piece of statistical wizardry comes in an analysis of best and worst starts to a career. Ken Rutherford leaps to mind when I think of bad starts, but his advance (from a batting average of 1.71 after 4 tests against the West Indies to a career average of over 27) doesn't even warrant a mention. Perhaps he was overshadowed by Marvan Atapattu, who has taken his batting average from an almost unbelievably dismal 0.16 to a very respectable 38.48.

Martin Crowe makes the list of players whose average in his first 10 tests was significantly below his career average. He clambered from a sad looking 20.68 after 10 tests to end on a masterful 45.36. His mate Mark Greatbatch stakes a claim on the reverse list, his average after 10 tests plummeted from 65.50 and eventually ended at 30.62 - putting him second only to "the not quite new Bradman" Neil Harvey (95.00 to 48.41).

The only other New Zealand to make the list was Chris Cairns. After 10 tests his bowling average was a Dipak-Patel-like 43.10, but he ended his career with the perfectly respectable 29.40.

Ganguly gone for good?

After all that drama with Greg Chappell and being sacked as captain of India, Sourav Ganguly fought back and (perhaps with some backroom help from certain selectors) managed to get himself picked as a batsman in the Indian side. This was the cue for all kinds of remarks from both Chappell and Ganguly along the lines of "there wasn't a feud and we have always really respected one another".

Predictably enough Ganguly has suddenly found himself dropped again, despite scores of 39 and 40 in the victorious first test against Sri Lanka. Can Indian cricket get any more Byzantine?

Domestic match reports

Usually the coverage of domestic cricket in the papers leaves a lot to be desired. The Dominion Post usually provides us with decent coverage of Wellington games, but from the others you mostly get a perfunctionary reading of the scorecard with the odd quote from somebody involved in the game and are left with the distinct impression that the writer didn't actually see a single ball being played. That's why the write-up of the Auckland vs Canterbury game in this morning's Press is so refreshing. I am not sure who author John Coffey is, but long may he remain at the Post's Sport's Desk.

Wednesday, 14 December 2005

A rating system for umpires

At the bottom of a not very interesting story about umpiring problems, Cricinfo has dropped this little snippet:

Cricinfo has been monitoring umpires' performances in detail for several months and we will soon be unveiling our own ratings system.

This strikes me as being a very interesting development. Certainly it could help motivate umpires, but it could also make their job even more stressful and less attractive.

One thing I would like to see is a better system for appointing umpires to the elite panel. At the moment it seems to be that once you are there, you are there until you retire - at which point a new umpire gets plucked from complete obscurity. I am not entirely sure how to make a system work, but maybe a ranking system that extends beyond the elite panel to include umpires involved in ODI and domestic cricket could help.

Macca strikes back

This morning's Press contains an interview with an unsurprisingly belligerent Craig McMillan. Sigh. The guy has so much natural talent, but he really needs to control some of that aggression. Adam Gilchrist showed us in the Chappell-Hadlee series how easy it is for opposition players to wind him up and get him to do something stupid.

A great stand

I have been following Northern Districts fortunes in the first-class competetion over the last couple of days via the New Zealand Cricket website. When the scored slumped to 38/5 against Central Districts' clutch of deadly dull seamers I almost switched off. Especially as journeymen Mark Orchard and Jospeh Yovich were at the crease. But the journeymen did good. In fact, the journeymen did bloody brilliant - taking the score through to a staggering 360 before being parted. A partnership of 322 after coming together at 38/5, has there ever been a more impressive recovery? No wonder Orchard is tired.

Australian tri-series

The Herald is reporting that next season the Chappell-Hadlee series might be integrated into what used to be called "World Series Cricket" and which I think now goes under the moniker "VB Series".

If the rumour is true, all those ODIs will make great preparation for the World Cup.

Tuesday, 13 December 2005

The Cricinfo ticker

I thought this looked kinda cool, but then got irritated and turned it off after about 30 seconds. The "Cricinfo ticker" is a not-so-little bar that will sit at the bottom of your screen constantly flashing cricket scores and news updates. See something of interest and you can click on it and the relevant page on the Cricinfo website will instantly appear. I found the bar a bit too large and the constant flashing of new headlines quickly became very distracting. If I want to read the latest stories I can always visit the website, and if I want to follow the score in a game there are already much better ways of doing that. Still, it is free, it is a tiny little file and perhaps you might like to try it yourself.

ICC insanity

In an editorial for the Australian, Malcolm Conn points out the utter hyprocrisy and madness in the ICC "getting tough" on players making off-field comments. Why on earth has the ICC decided to act on this trivial little issue while it lets cricket in Zimbabwe disintergrate? As Conn says, "Players can be fined for having bat logos a few millimetres too big but the ICC has no standards for playing or administration among the major cricketing nations".

Monday, 12 December 2005

Poll results and a new poll

In my last poll I asked you whether Craig McMillan was classy or clown-like and an overwhelming majority (12 to 6) told me that he should be wearing a red-nose with the mutton-chops. I suspect McMillan's performances in the Chappell-Hadlee series had a bit of an impact on my poll, that stupid pull-shot in the second match certainly didn't help.

My new poll stems from a comment reputedly made by New Zealand coach John Bracewell. Bracewell allegedly said he had to stick with his current squad because New Zealand's first-class competition was not capable of producing international quality cricketers. If true, this will clearly create huge problems for New Zealand in the near future. Do you agree with Bracewell? Or do you think that the competition which once produced Richard Hadlee must surely be capable of creating the new Kyle Mills?

Karl on ... the strangeness of rankings

The revised ODI player rankings are out and make for strange reading, given the recent series against Australia exposed our bowling and showed how good some of our batsmen can be.

In the bowling rankings, NZ have six players ranked in the top 30 world players: Dan Vettori is 5th, Shane Bond 13th, Jacob Oram 17th, Kyle Mills 18th, Scott Styris 25th and Daryl Tuffey 30th. One of those is a world class player, two are injured, one has lost his way, one is a useful dobber and the other is Kyle Mills.

Amongst the batsmen, NZ have one player in the top 30: Fleming at 26th. Then we have Styris at 36th, Cairns at 37th, and Astle at 38th. Lou Vincent, who found good form recently is at 48th, and the standout player of the series, Brendan McCullum is 57th.

Karl on...cricketer of the summer (so far)

So far, my pick for the cricketer of the summer to date is either the groundskeeper from Wellington or the groundskeeper from Christchurch. It has often been the rule of thumb that cricket should never be played in NZ pre-Xmas because of the state of the grounds. Although that rule has been modified in recent years to never in the North Island. And now we have two games in a row with over 640 runs scored. Great stuff!

Jacob Oram

In his first 70 ODIs Jacob Oram took 83 wickets at 28.57 and an economy rate of 4.01. At the end of the 2004/5 season he was ranked number 5 on the ICC bowling rankings.

Since he returned from injury in the first match of this season (against Zimbabwe) Oram has taken 7 wickets at 51.14 and has conceded an average of 6.29 runs per over. What on earth has happened? He doesn't appear to have lost much pace, but his action - rebuilt after the injury - seems to have made it impossible for him to put two balls in a row in the same spot (unless that spot is full and on leg stump) and seems to have done for his once devastating bounce and seam movement.

Accuracy is clearly the top priority which Oram is trying to fix, but the loss of bounce and seam movement seems to indicate to me that there is a problem with his release of the ball as well. And this makes me wonder what on earth he is doing bowling for his country when such fundamental parts of his game need so much work.

(Oh dear, the "focus on the positive" campaign did not run for long did it?)

Sunday, 11 December 2005

Time to stop complaining

Yes, Craig McMillan still isn't scoring runs. Yes, our death bowling is still awful. Yes, Jacob Oram's form with the ball has disintergrated beyond all recognition. But the fact is, even with these flaws, we beat Australia. So let's ignore Dylan Cleaver and his co-conspirators in the press for a day, stop concentrating on the negative for a while and focus entirely on the positive:

New Zealand probably has the best middle to low order batting line-up in world cricket.
Dan Vettori is probably in the best form of his career.
One chance apart, Brendon McCullum looked a class above Adam Gilchrist (Adam Gilchrist!) with both bat and ball through the entire Chappell-Hadlee series.
Hamish Marshall is starting to show glimpses of his class.
Lou Vincent is really starting to assert himself onto the game.
Scott Styris' "mental training" finally seems to have paid off and he has managed to go through one entire match without playing a stupid shot.

Friday, 9 December 2005

New look Aussies

The Australian team to face New Zealand in the final ODI has a very new look to it:

Ricky Ponting (capt), Adam Gilchrist, Simon Katich, Brad Hodge, Andrew Symonds, Michael Clarke, Michael Hussey, Cameron White, Nathan Bracken, Stuart Clark, Michael Lewis. Super sub: Mitchell Johnson.

I can't tell you too much about new cap Mitchell Johnson, but some of us - those who visited Melbourne for the World XI matches - are forever scarred by the name Cameron White thanks to a drunken member of the Barmy Army who yelled "Cameron. Cameron. Why are you here?" for three entire days. Apart from that useless nugget, I can also tell you that he's a blonde-headed leg-spinning allrounder.

Toon Cricket 2005

A charity cricket match involving Mark Waugh, Wasim Akram, Bob the Builder, Mojo the evil monkey and Noddy? What? This is just plain weird. Even worse it just doesn't make any sense. I mean, what does this mean:

The key moment of the match was when skipper Waugh distracted Johnny Bravo into his narcissist ways by flashing him a mirror resulting in Fred who was batting, with Johnny getting run out.

This is not the way to convince educationalists that cartoons are good for children's mental development.

New Zealanders against high quality pace

This article in the Herald implies that New Zealand has had its share of problems against really fast bowling. However, I don't actually think the Herald provides a convincing argument. In New Zealand's favour we were also the most successful side to play against the West Indian pace machine of the '70s and '80s. I admit we struggled against Akram and Younis, but then we were unfortunate enough to play several series against Pakistan when those two were at their irresistable best.

Any look at comparative bowling figures will throw up the odd anomaly. The Herald has provided a very selective list and you have to wonder why they didn't include great fast bowlers of the modern era such as Jeff Thomson (career average 28, average against NZ 32), Malcolm Marshall (20 vs 21) and Andy Roberts (25 vs 65).


The media seems to have let Brett Lee's latest beamer slip under the carpet, but I am not so sure it should. I accept the conditions were slippery, but the fact is that Lee has a terrible history of this kind of thing. If players can be suspended until they sort out troubled bowling actions, why can't Lee be suspended until he sorts out his control problems? Someone is going to really get hurt one of these days.

Having discussed Lee's history a thought struck me. I had a hazy memory of this first-class match way back in 1999/2000 when no-one had really heard of Lee. I can't find a match write-up anywhere and there is no note on the scoresheet - but I am sure Lee got in trouble for deliberately overstepping by several metres and bowling a beamer at one of the Northern Districts' tailenders. I even recall angry commentators discussing the fact that criminal action could have ensued if Lee had caused an injury with that ball.

I spent some time last night trying to find my Almanack for the 1999/2000 season without success. Does anyone else recall this incident or have access to the Almanack? Or is age getting to me and I am thinking of an entirely different match and/or player?

Perhaps - if it did happen - that particular incident was simply the result of an excitable youth and I don't want to go too far down the path of accusing Lee of bowling his latest beamer deliberately. But I do think Australia (or the ICC) needs to look at the fact that these balls only ever seem to come out when Lee is under pressure. It could be that his control disintergrates as the nerves kick in, and this is probably something that can be addressed by appropriate remedial action.

Thursday, 8 December 2005

What the hell was that?

How can a side which boasts not just one, but three, top order batsmen who don't even seem to know what a cricket bat is used for possibly have got so close to scoring 322 off Australia?

On Monday I couldn't see a light at the end of the tunnel, but now it is bright and shining clear. Stephen Fleming will be back on Saturday and surely (surely) the selectors will also call up Jesse Ryder or Matthew Sinclair or Peter Fulton to fill the top order vacuum. Craig McMillan's poor bunt to midwicket must surely cost him his place, while the Marshall twins looked no more convincing than they have all season (although James was unlucky in the mode of his dismissal).

Yes, we have other concerns apart from the top order - Jacob Oram is a shadow of the bowler who was once ranked fifth in the world and Shane Bond is still injured - but the side showed flair, guts and a heap of talent last night.

Wednesday, 7 December 2005



Bugger. Bugger. Bugger.

Karl on the master blasters

There's a great article on CricInfo about 11 of test cricket's greatest six-hitters. Not surprisingly, Chris Cairns features. My favourite description is of Shahid Afridi:

What would the nature of the six-hitter truest to his art be like? Here is an estimate: he would eye the hit out of the ground from the very first ball he faced; take no heed of the match situation or the number of fielders on the boundary; and hit plenty of sixes without making too many runs, since he would also be out quickly most of the time going for broke. In other words, he'd be a bit daft.

Of course, Cairns has the record for most sixes in a test career (and is about to be passed by Adam Gilchrist). In the record for most in an innings, second on the list with 11 in an innings is Nathan Astle during his fantastic double century against England in 2002.

Karl on the continuing Zimbabwe crisis

As Mike reported before, the latest in the Zimbabwe crisis is the arrest of the game's administrators Peter Chingoka and Ozias Bvute. These two are those at the centre of the crisis in Zimbabwe cricket at the moment. The arrest of these two could be the corner that Zimbabwe cricket needs to turn to get back on the right track - at a stakeholders meeting earlier in the week the players said that they would not play were these two to remain on the board.

The charges that have been laid relate to foreign currency transactions. The financial state of Zimbabwe Cricket is in such a state that the Harare Sports Club hasn't been paid rent for two months and the players haven't received money they were due from the recent series against NZ and India.

A new face for the Basin

The Basin Reserve is about to recieve a multi-million dollar upgrade which will include a new stand. Don't get too alarmed though, the new stand will be on the Western side of the ground and does not look like it will be invading the grass bank. The only downside to all of this is that it seems we are going to have to spend the next three years calling it the "Prime Finance Basin Reserve". And if test cricket makes a return to New Zealand's best cricket-watching arena, I won't be complaining too much about what I have to call it.

Careers on the line

Jonathan Millmow states in this morning's Dominion-Post that the careers of the Marshall brothers, Craig McMillan and Nathan Astle are all on the line tonight.

In his article Millmow states:

All good players – but how long can they test the patience of the most high powered and ruthless band of selectors in the game anywhere?

John Bracewell, Richard Hadlee, Glenn Turner and Dion Nash, hardly a quiet unassuming group without opinions on the game...

I found this a very interesting and, perhaps deliberately provocative, statement. It certainly doesn't really fit with the story Millmow is writing. I have heard from a pretty reliable source that the Dominion-Post is getting ready to bust open a big story about conflict inside team management and I wonder if this passage might be a bit of a set-up, something to whet our appetites for what is about to follow.

Ponting on practising

Not surprisingly, Ricky Ponting doesn't have much time for the bizarre aversion to practice shown by Scott Styris and Hamish Marshall.

On the telly last night Scott said it was more important for him to focus on the mental challenges of shot selection than it is to practice actually hitting a ball. Given that Scott demonstrated on Saturday that all his hours of non-practice have taught him absolutely nothing about shot selection, this is not an argument he should be running.

Good news in Zimbabwe at last

Peter Chingoka, the chairman of Zimbabwe Cricket, and Ozias Bvute, the managing director, have both been arrested. It seems that they may have been dipping their sticky fingers too deeply into the Board's pots. Hopefully this will pave the way for a complete overhaul of the Board and its structures, but with Robert Mugabe still in charge of the country I am not holding my breath.

Tuesday, 6 December 2005


The site was down briefly today because work was being done on the Blogger server. As a result I wasn't able to update it until this evening. Hope you didn't miss me too much.

Mark Ellis strips off

What a surprise, one of the people who got up to mischief at the Auckland ODI was serial stripper Marc Ellis.

Status update

I am feeling a bit brighter today. Jesse Ryder tonked 133 for Wellington yesterday and could well have booked himself a spot in the New Zealand team for the third ODI. Not only that, but Brendon McCullum has been doing what he does best - yapping and bigging himself up.

I still hold little hope for tomorrow's game, but I am starting to think maybe we can improve on Saturday's dismal performance.

Only two things are preventing me from making a full return to optimism. The first is Scott Styris, who maintains that practising is a waste of time. Scott, if it was good enough for Bradman, it should be good enough for a waste of ego like you. The second is the weather. To steal weather-girl Toni Marsh's phrase, it is currently "persisting" heavily in the capital. Lets just hope this muck clears up in time for tomorrow's match.

Monday, 5 December 2005

ODIs? What ODIs?

If, like me, you are looking for cricketing solace take a gander at the New Zealand Cricket website. Because the domestic season starts today and this site has links to live coverage of all the State Championship matches. In the first round Canterbury take on Wellington, Central Districts play Auckland and Northern are up against Otago.

TVNZ has a surprisingly good little rundown on the teams. Auckland has made the most gains over the winter and really will be the side to beat this year. To add to TVNZ's summary, I am going to do a little work for you in discussing the foreign players plying their trade in New Zealand first-class cricket this season:

Northern Districts has Welshman Alun Evans, a 30 year old middle order batsman with a so-so record and no county side to call home since Glamorgan released him in 2002.

Otago have replaced Muhammad Wasim (who had a terrible time last year) with young South African Jonathan Trott, who has an excellent record with the bat and can also bowl right-arm medium. Trott now bases himself at Warwickshire in England and, given he is playing here this season and not in South Africa, has presumably decided to pass on representing his homeland at international level.

Wellington has its own young South African all-rounder in Grant Elliott. Elliott has played for a number of South African sides without ever establishing himself in any of them.

Finally, and perhaps most impressively, Canterbury have landed former West Indian quick man Nixon McLean. This is likely to be a shrewd move by McLean, who will have a good few weeks of cricket to make an impression before his national side tours. Let's hope it goes well for him, because it sounds like he has had a bad run with injuries lately.

Following NZ from afar

David O'Connell is a New Zealander living in South Korea. In this article for Cricinfo he discusses how hard it is to be a cricket fan living so far away from the game, and outlines his hopes for a thrilling contest against Australia. Poor bastard.

More thoughts on the first ODI

It has taken me a long time to compose myself after Saturday's debacle. I spent most of Saturday night feeling angry and then, when I realised that there wasn't really anyone to get angry at, I spent most of Sunday feeling depressed. It seems Richard Boock has been right all along.

The facts are that:
- the New Zealand team was thrashed
- this thrashing is part of a clear downward trend
- our fans humiliated us
- our players do not have the class to reverse the situation
- even our coach says those players are scared of the opposition.

There has always been a pessimist inside me who, even at the best of times, likes to remind me that New Zealand has the smallest population base of all test nations and that cricket is not our first sport. In 1958 we put together what is generally regarded as the worst test XI ever, a side that even recent Bangladesh and Zimbabwe teams would thrash. Ever since then we have survived by virtue of one or two champions in a team of team players. Saturday showed us just how close we are to sliding back into the cricketing abyss.

This morning we are told that "the axe is hovering" over some of the batsmen, but truth be told the selectors have no option but to stick with the current crop. The domestic season has not even started yet and it is beyond expectation to think that Jesse Ryder, or Craig Cumming or Peter Fulton can step up from club cricket to take on the might of Australia.

Sigh. Perhaps I am wrong. Perhaps in a few days' time I will squirm with embarrassment at posting this. But at the moment I honestly can't see things getting better.

Saturday, 3 December 2005

The first ODI

Does anyone else want this summer to end already?

First Chappell-Hadlee ODI

The start of the cricket season arrives at long last, and fingers crossed that the New Zealanders put up a good showing. Shane Bond is doubtful, but that doesn't worry me too much. Eden Park is the deadest wicket in the country for fast-bowling and if it runs true to form then I expect the slow and medium paced bowlers to be the key to this match.

Friday, 2 December 2005

Cricinfo preview

Cricinfo's Australasian editor, Peter English, betrays his Australian roots by taking a dim view of the Chappell-Hadlee series. Thankfully not all Australians are of the same mind, with 67.8% of people voting on the Baggy Green website saying the series is a good idea.

Another reason to join the 431 club

If you didn't join New Zealand Cricket's 431 club for the chance to win a trip to the Caribbean for World Cup 2007, you should join now so that you get free online video highlights of the Chappell-Hadlee matches. This more than certainly makes up for having to read this innanity from Gavin Larsen, who argues that McCullum or Vettori should open the batting for New Zealand.

Malcolm Speed looks away and ignores the screams from the train-wreck labelled "Zimbabwe cricket"

The ICC has finally spoken out on the issue of Zimbabwe. It has said that what is going on in that country's cricket fraternity is "an internal matter" and that they will be taking no action. Does anybody else feel angry?

Upbeat stories

Look Richard, here are some examples of how to write a cricket story without leaving your readers crying into their breakfast cup of tea. Daniel Gilhooly on Chris Cairns' and the importance of a plan to beat Australia. Phil Hamilton on why Australia might be just the tonic Hamish Marshall needs. And here, Jonathan Millmow even manages to turn news that Shane Bond has a stomach bug into a positive piece.

Perhaps Richard needs some proof that negative journalism doesn't just get the readers down, but it also gets the players down - so here is Jonathan Millmow again, this time talking to Craig McMillan who admists to feeling burnt by negative stories.

The composition of the NZ side

Richard Boock has revealed that Lou Vincent is likely to open the innings against Australia tomorrow, thankfully squishing rumours that Dan Vettori was going to take on the job. But with Vincent and Astle at the top of the order and players like Styris and McMillan to follow the batting order still has a brittle look. There are no grinders and grafters in there who would be willing to hold back on the silly strokes if the scoreboard reads 80/5.

Perhaps I am being too negative? Reading Richard Boock this morning has certainly put me in a negative state of mind. He is in the midst of an unprecedented bout of gloom-mongering, which is exceptional even by his gloomy standards. Lou Vincent is such a chipper and upbeat young fellow that Boock must have felt that a double dose of doom-tempting was warranted to counteract it. Because not only does Boock say that it would be a "mindboggling assignment" for New Zealand to win the Chappell-Hadlee trophy after a road strewn with "tales of the hapless and the hopeless", but he also takes the time to pen another piece - "the pessimist's guide to beating the Aussies."

Sigh. I am not sure how much more of Boock and his wet blanket of doom I can take. Can someone please get Terry Maddaford to take him aside and give him a talking to? Because Maddaford knows how to present bad news. His recent piece of the dearth of opening batsmen looks at the problem and then at the steps being taken to rectify it. This is a much better method of dealing with an issue than just smothering the topic with a soggy blanket of cloying and inescapable depression.

Gilchrist fading?

Peter Roebuck has called for Adam Gilchrist to take a rest. Roebuck says Gilchrist is clearly tired and his recent performances reflect that. This is not a surprise given how many matches Australia play and how much the 'keeper/star batsman is required to do, but Gilchrist himself is brushing the idea aside.

Thursday, 1 December 2005

Taking the Mick

The Aussies are slowly realising their team has to play New Zealand shortly so are starting to gear up for the series with the odd article or two. First up is a piece on Chris Cairns and Jacob Oram. Even though it is short, this piece does get things rather spectacularly wrong in that the author is clearly completely unaware that Chris Cairns was dropped from the New Zealand side - a back injury has neatly been invented to explain his absence. This mistake is probably a fair enough call given the appalling run of back injuries we are having, but I am less forgiving about the photo they chose to accompany the article.

The second piece is much longer and looks at new Australian quick Mick Lewis. Lewis is allegedly squint eyed and stubble covered and clearly relishes being a bit of a nutter. In the article he proudly boasts of threatening to shoot Matthew Hayden and of puncturing a batsman's lung with a deliberate full toss.

Finally, having patronised New Zealand and then issued veiled threats, the Aussie media finishes off with a whine about how useless the entire series is anyway. Sigh. They make such good guests don't they?

Brad says bye

Remember Brad Williams? Blonde, piggy looking Australian quick. Played against New Zealand against a couple of years back. Well, it looks like he has just shot down any chance he had of ever making a return to the Australian side with a little hissy fit that has got him banned for the entire season.

The start of the season

December the third and the first ODI of the summer is now just a couple of days away. The cold southerly that has plagued the country is breaking up and the forecast for Auckland is looking pretty damned fine. At this end of the island, Wellington harbour is still and glassy and the fountain is playing on a sun-bleached Oriental Bay. It might be only 10 o'clock in the morning but it is December, cricket is almost here and as a result I can almost smell the charred meat on the barbeque and taste the Summer Ale.

Brendon McCullum is getting pretty excited too. Over at the Herald he is busy yabbering away to Richard Boock, probably making as much a pain of himself there as does in the middle.

Wednesday, 30 November 2005

Green Aussies

Perhaps it is to demonstrate solidarity for their green bowling attack? Or perhaps it is because they have rediscovered their mongrel and want to ditch the yellow image? Whatever, the Australian team will be in green when they play New Zealand.

Aussies rediscover their mongrel

Peter Roebuck thinks Australians play much better when they are being rowdy, obnoxious jerks and don't try and pretend that they are nice chaps who eat cucumber sandwiches and walk when they nick behind. Sadly, he also thinks that they have rediscovered their mongrel side just in time for the Chappell-Hadlee series.

Boock on Marshall

Richard Boock has produced an unusually conservative piece in the Herald this morning on Hamish Marshall. Its a little bit disappointing when Boock comes over all conventional, it makes it hard for bloggers like me to find something to talk about.

More injured fast bowlers

Darryl Tuffey will be out for six weeks with a bicep injury and Ian Butler's season has just gone from bad to non-existent after a bulging disc has ruled him out until next year. Still, if there is any consolation to the news about Butler's injury it is that he is clearly onside with New Zealand Cricket again - high performance coach Ashley Ross is the one in charge of his recovery programme.

Tuesday, 29 November 2005

Umpires in Oz

Billy Bowden has been accused of being overawed by the Australians in the past and of being too easily convinced by their appeals. It looks like those accusations might pop up again. Billy is not the only umpire guilty of this and it does seem incredible how many poor decisions go in the Australians favour when they play at home.

I am not sure whether the decision-making is affected as much by the level of appealing (although the Aussies do appeal an awful lot and always with supreme confidence), or by the flow of a game or series. It seems to me that the side on top always gets decisions in their favour, and perhaps the Australians just get more decisions in their favour because they are on top more than most. The recent Ashes series is an example of one series where Australia has been on the recieving end of bad umpiring, and that was when the English side was in the ascendance.

Monday, 28 November 2005

Karl on ... A weekend of club cricket

With nothing much on, the Waikato Times report on Black Caps playing club cricket over the weekend. Dan Vettori took 7 for 20 off 17 1/2 overs. Hamish Marshall was apparently "looking good" in getting 49 on a flat track. Ian Butler got a half century but didn't appear to do anthing with the ball.

With five days to go until the first ODI against Australia, Vettori doesn't seem to have any nerves about taking on the captaincy. The batsman don't inspire at the moment but there's not any choice - the State Championship starts next Monday, which will start us all talking about who should be tried in place of Marshall/Vincent/Marshall/McMillan.

Strange what passes for news sometimes

This is the biggest story in Australia at the moment. In summary, the execution of an Australian drug-smuggler caught in Singapore is scheduled to take place on the same day as an Australian "Prime Minister's XI" match several thousand miles away. Oddly enough the Australian Prime Minister is expected to attend this particular cricket match, much to the absolute outrage of opposition parties who all but call for an outright ban on cricket and a national week of mourning.

Yes, Australia (like New Zealand) feels that it has an obligation to exert pressure on countries who still execute criminals (unless they are the US of course). Yes, what is going to happen to Nguyen Tuong Van is ghastly. But the fact is, the guy knew the law, broke the law and has been convicted by a fair and impartial justice system. In this case, there is absolutely no political value in the Australian Prime Minister making a martyr of him. I would suggest that a campaign should instead ask "does the threat of capital punishment really deter criminals from breaking the law?" and look at those who have been wrongly convicted and executed. One guilty person's death should have nothing to do with any Australian anti-capital punishment campaign, and should certainly not impinge on the actions of the Australian Prime Minister or a bunch of cricketers.

Lou Vincent needs YOU!

You. Yes, you. Lou Vincent wants a word. Stop being such a worry-wart and start cheering the New Zealand team on. All of you. And yes, that does include you Richard Boock.


If West Indian cricket has any hope of regaining the heights of the '70s and '80s, then it probably lies in the hands of Dwayne Bravo. What a series he is having against Australia, he missed the first match through injury but scored a priceless century in the second and just took 6-84 in the third - including the caught and bowled of the decade to dismiss Shane Warne.

Bravo looks innocuous with his technically sound but unspectacular batting and his steady medium pacers. He sounds innocuous too, being a timid and quietly spoken interview subject. But Bravo is probably exactly what the Windies need after a decade where flash and arrogance has got them nowhere. Hard work, a level head and concentration are Bravo's virtues and I hope they take him far.

Sunday, 27 November 2005

Poll results and a new poll

My last poll asked you to predict how New Zealand's season would pan out, and most of you (twelve votes) were of the same mind - we would lose to Australia and beat everyone else. Two cocky bastards thought we would beat everyone, one thought we would only beat the West Indies and two sad souls see nothing but doom, gloom and thrashings all round in the future.

My new poll looks at Craig McMillan. He is perhaps the most polarising figure in New Zealand cricket and I want to know what you think of him. Is he just a clown who is always going to be a clown, or is this season going to be the one where he puts the stupid shots aside and becomes the world-class batsman he should be?

A round-up of the Sunday news

As seems to be the trend, the Herald on Sunday is packed chokka full of cricket, while the Sunday Star-Times looks blankly around the sporting world ignoring everything which is not rugby or league.

Adam Parore kicks off the Herald's coverage with a plea to the New Zealand selectors to be more adventurous and select more new players while, ummm, not making the current crop nervous by dropping anyone. Hum.

We get a bit more sense from Mark Richardson who calls Australia's non-selection of Glenn McGrath arrogant and a move which has the potential to back-fire. Let's hope he is right.

Chris Cairns is the next in the Herald's impressive stable of ex-cricketers and he, showing his increasing maturity, discusses his thought process after being dropped and echoes Richardson in seeing exploitable arrogance in the selection of the Australian team.

Meanwhile, the Sunday Star-Times grudgingly gives us a story about the non-selection of McGrath and, at the same time, speculates that Dan Vettori might open the batting against Australia. Hmmmm. Just focus on your bowling Dan. Stick to what you are in the side for and let specialists do their job.

Our final article of the weekend looks at a predictably confident Craig McMillan.

An angry gesture?

Oh dear. I had thought that with Ganguly removed from the captaincy, Greg Chappell's reign in India might be in for a period of stability and calm. But no. He has apparently been caught on film raising his middle finger to an Indian crowd.

A tragic anniversery

Ten years ago today nine people were killed during a one-dayer between India and New Zealand at Nagpur when a wall at the ground collapsed.

Friday, 25 November 2005

Bond and Marshall in county cricket

Shane Bond and Hamish Marshall have just signed contracts and will join Craig Spearman at Gloucestershire next season. I am sure the stint will be of benefit of Marshall, but are we really willing to risk Bond's fragile back on the exhausting county circuit?

The Australian team to play New Zealand

The team has just been announced and is:

Ricky Ponting (c)
Adam Gilchrist
Simon Katich
Michael Clarke
Brad Hodge
Michael Hussey
Andrew Symonds
Brad Hogg
Brett Lee
Nathan Bracken
Stuart Clark
Mick Lewis
Cameron White

Notice the obvious omission? Glenn McGrath is apparently being rested, and that leaves a very inexperienced looking pace bowling line-up. Lee we know about and I suspect early season New Zealand wickets will be one of the few places in the world to suit Bracken's dobbers - but who the hell is Mick Lewis? Ah, here we go - he is a 31 year-old pace man who bowls with "tremendous pace and hostility". Apparently.

Can it get any bleaker for Zimbabwe?

Tatenda Taibu, Zimbabwe's young captain and best hope for the future, has just resigned from the captaincy and announced that he no longer wants to play for his country.

Cap'n Dan

Richard Boock tells us that New Zealand Cricket will confirm that Stephen Fleming will miss the first two matches against Australia and that Dan Vettori will take over as captain for those matches.

How does Boock do it? There must be something about the grumpy old git that people like, because he is always first to break a story.

A New Zealand side without Fleming at the helm seems almost unthinkable. And since his batting has improved so dramatically in recent years, a New Zealand batting order without him looks pretty slim. I guess a side permanently without Fleming is something we are all going to have to get used to one day.

At least we are unlikely to experience the same traumatic change of power that India has. For those of you who have missed the news, Rahul Dravid has been appointed captain of the test side - but he will have to work with his bitter and influential predecessor Sourav Ganguly, who has been selected to play as a batsman.

Thursday, 24 November 2005

A round-up

There are quite a number of news stories floating around this morning, so I thought I would lump them all into one posting rather than drip-feeding them to you. First up is actual, you know, cricket with the match between Pakistan and England at Faisalabad threatening to end in a result.

Next up is a list of the best and worst performed players in the fourth innings of a test match. The reason I have included this is not because of the predictable news that Richard Hadlee ranks as one of the best fourth innings' bowlers, but because Chris Cairns surprisingly ranks as the worst. Also of interest is how badly Geoff Howarth performed towards the end of matches, averaging a pitiful 14.27. I am tempted to make a comment about nocturnal activities on the previous four nights of a match leading to that decline, but I am going to restrain myself.

In this piece Henry Olonga offers the ICC another convincing argument why they need to take action on the Zimbabwe issue, an argument which I am sure they will ignore.

Moving onto more local stories, Richard Boock refuses to tell us what Stephen Fleming's "personal medical matter" is and repeats requests to respect Flem's privacy - but does it all in such a way as to provoke more interest rather than deflect it. Just to show Richard that Aucklanders are not the only people who can tease, Jonthan Millmow decides to do the same thing for readers of the Dominion-Post. People in Christchurch don't take kindly to such underhand and provocative behaviour, so the Press simply offers them some nice comments about that nice chap Chris Cairns.

Gavin Larsen is a nice chap too, so he can't help but follow the Press' lead and write his own article on Cairnsy. Larsen does show a little bit of spine though in commenting that he agreed with the initial dropping of Chris.

Okay. There are a few other stories I could bring you, but they are pretty dull and one of them might force me to say nice things about Scott Styris so I think I will stop right here.

Wednesday, 23 November 2005

New Zealand team to play Australia

The New Zealand team has been named for the Chappell-Hadlee series and it contains no surprises (well, maybe one). Hamish Marshall is retained and Chris Cairns has been recalled. The one slight alarm is that comment that Stephen Fleming "may not be available for the first match following a personal medical matter".

The full side is:

Stephen Fleming (captain)
Daniel Vettori (vice captain)
Nathan Astle
Shane Bond
Chris Cairns
James Franklin
Hamish Marshall
James Marshall
Brendon McCullum
Craig McMillan
Kyle Mills
Jacob Oram
Scott Styris
Lou Vincent

Good news on the injury front

According to Richard Boock, both Chris Cairns and Jacob Oram should be fit and firing to face the Aussies in two weeks' time.

I do still worry about Jake's bowling. By all accounts his revised action (designed to preserve his back) makes him about as lethal as a marmalade brick and, unlike Boock, I am not taking too much comfort from figures of 2-26 in an early season match against an Academy side.

Richard also tells us that Hamish Marshall is still looking in terrible nick, but nevertheless is likely to be selected to play Australia. Putting a man who can't seem to stop edging behind into bat against Glenn McGrath seems to me to be the purest of follies. Let Hamish find his feet again in domestic cricket.

Tuesday, 22 November 2005

Pakistan vs England

Golly, the second day of the second test in Paksitan had almost everything; controversial wickets, big-hitting, a player doing something so bad he was immediately slapped with a three-match ban, explosions - you name it, it was there.

Surprising then, given the quality of viewing on offer, that this piece of blogging should appear on the same day proclaiming "the strange death of test cricket". The piece might be about Indian cricket, but I suspect it could be applied right across the test playing world.

Monday, 21 November 2005

Pre-season knockabouts

As the domestic sides gear up for the start of the first-class competition, there are a number of trial matches going on around the country. Scott Styris and Kyle Mills impressed as Auckland played Northern Districts in a two-day match, while Jacob Oram was the star as Canterbury beat a High Performance XI at Lincoln.

The Postman returns

Gavin Larsen has begun writing a column on the Black Caps' website. His first offering is here, and resembles Gav's bowling - an innocuous little piece but right on the mark.

Sunday, 20 November 2005

The Herald on Sunday

I flicked through my Sunday-Star Times this morning with something approaching despair. I thought last week's cricket supplement might herald the start of summer and the arrival of cricket on the sports pages. But no, this week all we get are twenty pages of rugby and a small piece about Chris Cairns hitting 50 in a club match. Sigh.

Still, if the Sunday Star-Times won't oblige us, then the Herald on Sunday will. In the Herald we can read Dylan Cleaver on the rise of Jesse Ryder and the fall of Hamish Marshall; an article proposing that Brendon McCullum be pushed up the batting order for the Hadlee-Chappell series given Hamish Marshall's terrible form; and Mark Richardson on, ummm, the grim form of poor old Hamish Marshall.

Roebuck on Zimbabwe

Combine one of our favourite cricket writers and one of our pet crusades and what do you get? A well-written piece calling for the heads of Zimbabwe Cricket thats what. Not that Roebuck's article is going to have any impact of course. If threats on the life of an international cricket captain won't get the ICC to act, an internet-bound diatribe is not going to do much.

Friday, 18 November 2005


For a Pakistani perspective on the series against England, you could do far worse than visit the excellent Sundries.

Matt Hart's benefit

Northern Districts stalwart Matthew Hart is to have a benefit match in December and it is looking to be a star-studded event. I don't want to repeat myself - having given Hart a bit of a rave when he announced his retirement a few months ago - but he is one of those players who deserves recognition. Hart was one of the most promising players of his generation, but got caught up in the disastrous "dope-smoking" tour of South Africa in 1994/5. While Dion Nash and Stephen Fleming shrugged the scandal of the tour off and went on to great things, Hart seemed shell-shocked and his New Zealand career never recovered. That didn't stop Hart from playing cricket though, and he spent the next ten years with his head down and dedicating himself to his Northern Districts side. Between 1990 and 2005 Hart played 95 matches for ND and if anyone deserves a bulging Westpac Park on 16 December, then its him.

Thursday, 17 November 2005


This excellent piece updates us on the state of cricket in troubled Zimbabwe. And it is not good. What does it take the ICC to act? As Martin Williamson says:

When a national captain is forced into hiding by threats made against his family by someone who has been brought in as some kind of enforcer by the national board, then it should concern the ICC. When all the provincial chairmen of a country produce a detailed document highlighting some serious governance and financial issues, then it should concern the ICC. When almost all the professional players of a Test-playing country are prepared to stand up and accuse their own board of intimidation and demand the resignation of the chairman and managing director, then it should concern the ICC.

Art and cricket

Oh dear, I picked up this link from Cricinfo. If you want to see what happens when an artist decides to cash in on the Ashes, go and have a look.

Roebuck on the Windies

Peter Roebuck has cast his rule over the West Indies side and has found them wanting, not merely as cricketers - but as men as well. It seems to be the month for cricket writers to be crotchety.

Injuries, injuries, injuries

Jake Oram and Andre Adams are both struggling to the be fit for the Chappell-Hadlee series, Oram with a bruised foot and Adams with a busted finger.

England vs Pakistan

What is it with England and exciting cricket lately? Its as if the '80s and '90s never happened. If the first test in Pakistan doesn't bring the crowds there back to test cricket, nothing will.

Taranaki's finest

Yep. It had to happen. Sooner or later the rest of the world was going to notice the yobbish behaviour in Taranaki. Here is how the Guardian's cricket correspondent reported the incident involving Aftab Habib:

...The Spin still remembers disturbing the right-on gentility of Guardian Towers by thumping the desk in disbelief when Aftab Habib, making his debut, was bowled by Chris Cairns to make it 40 for six (soon to become 45 for seven). Habib played once more for England, scoring 6 and 19 at Lord's before being dropped for ever with a Test average of 8.67 and a new-found reputation for gross negligence on and around off-stump.

Now news arrives that Habib was recently forced to retire during an innings because he was being sledged to hell and back. In itself, this is remarkable enough. But to discover that the incident took place during a club game in New Zealand is an indignity too far: if Margaret Thatcher felt sheepish after being roughed up in the Commons by Geoffrey Howe, imagine how Habib must feel after being driven from the field of play by a bunch of amateurs from a country where all the tough-nuts play rugby.

The three assailants reportedly believed Habib should have been given out caught behind, but when the umpire disagreed they surrounded the batsman and imparted their wisdom. "It was completely out of order," said Habib. "If I'd stayed batting, I felt it would have carried on because the umpires weren't dealing with it how I felt they should. And anyway, I should be established in the England middle order now, not squabbling with third-rate Kiwis." Well, he didn't say that last bit actually, but then he probably didn't need to.

Thanks Taranaki. Once again you have done your country proud.

Wednesday, 16 November 2005

Hooking kids on cricket

It is interesting to note that this initiative came from the Players' Association and not New Zealand Cricket. In principal the concept of taking international cricketers to talk to kids in low-decile schools is an entirely good idea, but it does make me wonder about the role of the Association. It seems a short step from the Players' Assocation doing promotional work like this, to the Players' Association controlling when and where players make any kind of "appearance". It would be tragedy if we were to end up with a situation like that in rugby and football, where all contact between players, the public and the media is heavily controlled and usually requires some kind of fee.

Tough journos

If you think Richard Boock can be harsh, you haven't seen Osman Samiuddin in action. Mohammad Yousuf (formally known as Yousuf Youhana) might have a test record which includes over 4000 runs, an average of 47 and 13 centuries, but that doesn't stop Osman from saying that he lacks substance and damning him with almost every word of this essay. Perhaps the lowest moment comes when he contrasts Yousuf's cameo ("and that is an insult to cameos the world over") in the thrilling first test against England with the determination shown in the same innings by ... Shoaib Akhtar.

Tuesday, 15 November 2005

Dan on top

Dan Vettori has told the Waikato Times that he wants to bat at the top of the New Zealand batting order. Sigh. Maybe as a pinch-hitter in the odd ODI Dan, but please, please, please can we have just one bowler who wants to concentrate on his blimmin' bowling?

Marshall's woes

If Richard Boock is the grumpy old man of New Zealand cricket, then the Black Caps website is the insanely cheery and optimistic fanboy. Hamish Marshall's problems must be heavy indeed if Black Caps are starting to diss him.

Another "Dad's Army" joke

Only this time the joke is Australia. Richard Boock will be pleased.

Oddly enough the author of this joke appears to be a bit of a grumpy old fuddy-duddy too. His hypothesis is that the Australian team is doomed (doomed, doomed!) because the state sides are all full of old lags hanging around because they get paid well and all the youngsters are off playing Aussie Rules instead.

The latter part of this argument is ironic, because Aussie Rules was originally designed as a game to keep cricketers fit during the winter (you will need to scroll down to "origins of the game").

Monday, 14 November 2005

Dan signs for Warwickshire

Dan Vettori has signed to spend the 2006 English season with the Mark Greatbatch coached Warwickshire. The interesting thing about this deal is that it covers the entire season - which makes it different from the contracts recently enjoyed by Scott Styris and Nathan Astle amongst others. Given the state of Dan's back, I am not entirely convinced this is a good thing.

Taranaki's shame

Blimmin' idiots. You'd think that of all the places in New Zealand, Taranaki - with its bloody history of inter-racial violence and hatred - would have learnt a little bit of tolerance and acceptance by now. If the local associations aren't going to act, I suggest that it is time New Zealand Cricket stepped in.

Sunday, 13 November 2005

Poll results and a new poll

My last poll asked you about the future of the Super Series and, if you lot are anything to go by, the future looks bleak. Two of you thought the future had a series and that the World XI must get better with time. Two thought that the fact the series made a profit means the future is bright. The rest of you saw the concept consigned to the dustbin of history - with five saying the small crowds are the kiss of doom and six saying that the pathetic efforts of the World XI are the primary reason we will never see Dan Vettori play in the same side as Graeme Smith ever again.

My new poll looks at the season ahead. The New Zealand side started the season in a blaze of glory against Zimbabwe and India, but the wheels fell of a little in South Africa. How do you think the next few months are looking?

Friday, 11 November 2005


In today's Herald, Richard Boock talks with John Bracewell. Although Boock jibes at Bracewell with a sneer about "yelling don't panic in the best tradition of Dad's Army's Corporal Jones", Bracewell is actually refreshingly honest in admitting that his top-order failed in situations that should actually have suited them.

Boock and Bracewell go on to discuss the role of all-rounders in New Zealand cricket. Usually when you talk about New Zealand all-rounders you are talking about bits and pieces players - bowlers who aren't quite up to international class but can also swing the bat a bit, and batsmen who struggle in the top order but can also throw down a few dobbers. I find the whole subject a bit depressing because this is the type of player who only ever fits into a team that can't do better. You can also find them in sides like Kenya and Bagladesh (is there a better example of the type than Khaled Mahmud?). Boock's contention is that the lack of these players is why New Zealand failed in South Africa - my response to that is to say that we should stop trying to turn players like Franklin, Mills and Adams into all-rounders and should concentrate on making them the best bowlers they can possibly be. If Bracewell is as confident in his top-order coming right as he says, then he should be comfortable with the New Zealand side having a long tail.

As an aside, does anyone else find Boock's Dad's Army jibe oddly amusing? Richard Boock is such a grumpy old fuddy-duddy that it seems entirely appropriate for him to use TV shows from the 1970s as a cultural touchstone. When I read that line I instantly had an image in my head of Boock composing a letter to TVNZ complaining about the poor standard of modern comedy and couldn't help but laugh out loud.

Thursday, 10 November 2005

The "rift"

Yesterday (see below) Richard Boock told us that a rift had developed between Stephen Fleming and John Bracewell over the non-selection of Chris Cairns. Today he is busy pointing at Jonathon Millmow and saying "he said it!" while quoting Snedden, Fleming and Bracewell - who all deny that the rift ever existed.

I s'pose its a good way to sell newspapers. Make up a story about conflict and then follow it up with the angry denials.

Wednesday, 9 November 2005

Kath and Kim visit Lord's

According to this TVNZ feature on Lord's, floodnights cannot be installed at the ground because of opposition from local residents in "effluent" St John's Wood. Oh dear. I suppose that explains why the Lord's grass is always so green...

Is it cowardly to pray for rain?

The Guardian's online cricket coverage is superb. It is the John Parker to the Bryan Waddle which is Cricinfo. Cricinfo and Bryan tell you what happens with each ball, the Guardian and Parker keep you entertained between the balls and only occasionally veer off to discuss the game being played infront of them. The Guardian's coverage reached its apogee during the Ashes and now its coverage has been turned into a book.

As one reviewer says "Other sites might have told you it was overcast but no sign of rain, but where else would you read that skies were 'John Major grey and about as threatening as meeting the former PM in a dark alley'".

Graeme Smith is a dick

The Guardian's weekly cricket newsletter, the Spin, points out that Graeme Smith is becoming the new Dean Jones or Greg Matthews - the cricketer everyone loves to hate:

Ever since the retirement of Sri Lanka's Arjuna Ranatunga, a man who made Napoleon look like a doubt-plagued ditherer, the cricket world has been crying out for a captain to love to hate. But the evidence is mounting that Graeme Smith, the South African wunderkind, appears to be cultivating enemies at a strike-rate that even Ranatunga at his most Machiavellian might have struggled to match. And while Ranatunga used to attract venom for his overly generous embonpoint ("You don't get a runner for being an overweight, unfit, fat c*nt," as Ian Healy once pointed out to him), it is Smith's attitude that seems to be rankling.

Australia, of course, have never forgiven him for telling tales about their sledging after his Test debut in March 2002. And in his autobiography Michael Vaughan recalls how Smith kept calling him "queer" during last winter's series. Vaughan even claims to have discerned misgivings among South Africa's senior players about the then 24-year-old Smith's "power freak" approach to captaincy.

Now the Spin should point out at this stage that it has never found Smith anything other than personable, but then it has never upset him by scoring a Test century at the Wanderers [Nor is it likely to - Ed]. And a couple of incidents over the weekend suggest that Smith is increasingly not the flavour of the month. First came a stinging indictment in a Sunday Times interview with Kevin Pietersen, whose defection to England did not impress Smith. "I didn't speak to him," he said of his recent trip to Australia, where Smith captained the ICC World XI in the Super Test. "I don't waste my breath speaking to him." And if that left anyone in any doubt, Pietersen added: "It's a waste of my breath even opening my mouth to say hello to the bloke."

Then there was a strange moment in the fifth ODI against New Zealand at Centurion, when Stephen Fleming, Smith's old nemesis, took a slip catch to dismiss AB de Villiers. Fleming stood motionless for a second, then ran in a strange circle to the bowler via short extra cover, whooping like a banshee. A couple of glances in Smith's direction at the non-striker's end betrayed his intention: he was taking the mick. Vaughan notes how after every wicket during the South Africa tour Smith was "the one celebrating most". And Fleming, about to go 4-0 down in the series, had clearly had enough. The Spin suspects that what really riles opposition captains is that Smith is an old head on young shoulders. But, hey, while he continues to rub people up the wrong way, the Spin will not be complaining.

Sign me up for the bandwagon.

New Zealand in freefall?

Hmmm. Maybe it is not Richard Boock who is the crazy pessimist, but me who is the crazy optimist. Dylan Cleaver has just leapt on the bandwagon to proclaim that the New Zealand side is in "freefall", while Boock tells us that the situation has just gone from bad to worse with a rift developing between Fleming and Bracewell.

It is interesting that both Boock and Cleaver use the word "freefall". It is also interesting that they both work for the Herald. Similarly, it is interesting that while Boock seems quite happy to jump up and down and point out that Scott Styris got fined 25% of his match-fee for umpire abuse in the final match - he seems to have forgotten entirely that Charl Langeveldt got fined 75% of his fee and that the South African coach got fined 25%. If Styris' offence is a sign of a side disintergrating, what do the South African offences herald?

I think I'll wait for further developments, or December's Chappell-Hadlee series, before I start getting too depressed just yet.

Tuesday, 8 November 2005

A Gayle full of hot air

Chris Gayle was perhaps the most lacksadaisical of an extraordinarily lacksadaisical West Indian team during the first test against Australia. He mooched in the field, tossed down little offies and swung his bat in the most uncaring of manners when the team really needed to knuckle down. Peter Roebuck was as unimpressed as I was with his performance and gives him both barrels in his latest column.

Monday, 7 November 2005

"Stupid super-sub rules"

In discussing last night's lose Stephen Fleming said:

"...the only influence the toss had was that it meant it was 12 versus 11 because of these stupid super-sub rules. I have no time for them."

(link here)

Which is fair enough, given that the rules are actually stupid. But I do wonder if, and how, the ICC might respond to Flem's comments. At this stage I am willing to bet that their only response might be to punish Fleming for daring to speak out of turn.

"The quicks and the dread"

I like the title of this article, which helpfully supports some of the points I made in my last post and which also decries the lack of pace bowlers coming through the Australian system. Interestingly one of the people interviewed for the piece, former quick Geoff Lawson, bemoans the involvement of bio-mechanists and technicians. He points to Shane Watson as one player who has had his action remodelled to give him a longer career, but at a detriment to his ability to take wickets. Lawson sees a future in which Australia is full of "a bunch of blokes who can bowl medium-fast" but can't actually get anyone out.

Australia vs West Indies

I spent some of my weekend watching the West Indies collapse in a heap against Australia. Some quarters of the Australian press seem to see this result as some sort of redemption after the Ashes - but truth be told the Windies were far more miserable than the Australians were glorious.

The West Indian batting and bowling was abysmal in the second innings and the feilding was so lackadaisical you had to wonder if they realised this was a test match and not a warm-up game against a bunch of long-haired yokels.

The fact that half the Australian team were long-haired yokels probably contributed.

Of those long-haired yokels I didn't think many were up to test class. Hussey was out twice to the pull shot and that doesn't herald well for an opener; Watson was leaden footed with the bat and really needs to do more with the ball if he is going to be a threat as a bowler; Katich and Clarke both continued poor trots; and - despite his second innings figures - I really don't rate Nathan Bracken. Hussey can blame nerves and Katich and Clarke are both players with talent going through a dim spell, but Bracken at least really doesn't look like a long-term prospect. I am probably going to be proved wrong, but four wickets of dubious merit on a Gabba pitch on a moist and humid morning just after rain don't count for much in my book. I can see him being effective in New Zealand and England where pitches seam and the ball swings, but unless he shows hidden reserves of talent then his 125kph dobbers won't do much more than block up one end on most grounds.

125 kph dobbers? A bit of swing and seam in loaded conditions? What's wrong with that you might ask. And fair enough too, given that this describes almost every New Zealand bowler since the dawn of time. But while those attributes do suit New Zealand conditions they don't often crop up in Australia - the 'Gabba apart. I can't see Nathan Bracken performing any better at, say, the WACA than Simon Doull (1 for 78), Shayne O'Connor (3 wickets for 109) or Willie Watson (1 wicket for 170).

End of an irritating tour

The tour of South Africa ended last night on a sour note - with the most comprehensive defeat of a reasonably balanced series and some bitter on-field antics.

It was a tour with few positives and exactly the same negative notes that we have been hearing for a while now - early wickets proving a problem at the top of the order and a bowling attack that lacks much firepower once Shane Bond's first spell comes to an end.

Hamish Marshall is one player who really does need to take a good, long look at his technique. He has had a miserable start to his summer and the number of times he is being caught behind the wicket says to me that there is something fundamental wrong with his cricket at the moment.

Unlike Richard Boock however, I don't like to dwell for too too long on the negative. And there have been some positive aspects to come from the tour. Despite our problems, and injuries to players like Scott Styris and Jake Oram, we were still largely competitive and there were real glimpses of talent from players such as Lou Vincent and Andre Adams. The form of Kyle Mills was also a big plus (who would have thought those words would ever leak from my keyboard). I think we should go into the Chappell-Hadlee series against Australia next month without too much trepidation.

Saturday, 5 November 2005

Astle's 200th

Nathan Astle's 200th ODI might have been a wash-out, but it still made a good excuse to bring the statto's out. Cricinfo, as always, was the first to oblige with a very interesting analysis of Astle's career. Amongst the interesting gems they tell us are that he is a match-winner; averaging 55.46 in victories, and just 21.60 in defeats. He has also been crap against some of the minnows - his combined average against Bangladesh, Canada, Netherlands, Scotland and UAE is just 12.89. And finally, his bowling is much better in the second innings of an ODI than in the first. A reflection perhaps that his style of bowling suits wickets which have lost their juice and bounce.

Friday, 4 November 2005

Attitudes to cricket

I read Richard Boock's article in the New Zealand Herald this morning and then I read Peter Roebuck's column in the Sydney Morning Herald. This got me to thinking.

Boock's article is entitled "Tour so far produces more questions than answers" and Roebuck's is entitled "Captain's knock fails to make the young guns fire". Both then are clearly intended as critical pieces. However, Roebuck gets distracted from his stated purpose (pointing out the failings of Australia's newest cricketers) by his clear love of spectacle and his pleasure at seeing performances as good as those given by Ricky Ponting and Corey Collymore. Roebuck's writing can't help but reflect this enjoyment and admiration. In contrast Boock's piece is such a tightly bound knot of negativity that you have to wonder if he actually likes cricket at all. There is absolutely no sense of pleasure in his writing. He reminds me of a smoker who wants to quit but finds himself outside in the rain sucking on a cancer-stick despite himself. I suspect Boock can't not watch New Zealand play cricket, although he has grown to hate it.