Thursday, 31 March 2005

More ratings has published its own ratings for members of the New Zealand team in the recent series. They were somewhat more generous than Cricinfo, but not overly so.

Mills in, Vettori out

What? According to this story Kyle Mills has replaced Dan Vettori in the team to face Sri Lanka in both tests of the upcoming series. Surely there must have been someone else they could have called up? I can understand the logic of picking a pace man to replace Vettori with the wickets at Napier and the Basin likely to be greenish and with the Sri Lankan batting line-up being somewhat less experienced against seam bowling, but Kyle Mills?

Wednesday, 30 March 2005

Player ratings

A new feature over at Cricinfo is the publication of player ratings at the end of a series. Each player who contributed is marked out of 10 and a justification for that rating is given. Peter English has been given the task for the New Zealand vs Australia series and he has been very harsh, but fair. Of the New Zealanders only Dan Vettori (8), Hamish Marshall (7.5), Nathan Astle (6.5) and James Franklin (6) received a rating higher than 5, but Franklin can count himself a better performer than Jason Gillespie (5.5), Michael Kasprowicz (5.5), Matthew Hayden (4) and Michael Clarke (3). Sitting equal and below Clarke were Stephen Fleming (3), Ian O'Brien (3), Chris Martin (2), James Marshall (2), Paul Wiseman (2) and Craig McMillan (1 - ouch!). I feel a little sorry for James Marshall and Paul Wiseman - who both managed at least one average score with the bat in the only test they played along with one piece of brilliance (Marshall's run-out of Clarke and Wiseman's ball to bowl Martyn).

Changes to Mike on Cricket

Some of you might already have noticed that a recent post was made by someone other than me. Mike on Cricket is now accepting pieces from guest bloggers and three new contributors have been welcomed aboard. They are Karl, Ben and Dan. Please make them feel welcome. If you would like to become a contributor to Mike on Cricket please get in touch.

Injury update

New Zealand Cricket has issued an update on the fitness of injuried New Zealand players. Sadly Shane Bond's return is still scheduled for Zimbabwe in August and not Sri Lanka on Monday.

Tuesday, 29 March 2005

Karl thinks ... there are a couple of positives from the Aussie series

I'm taking a couple of positives from the recently concluded series against Australia (desperately trying to look for positives). There's also a couple of negatives.

Firstly, the negatives.
I'm worried about how we overwork one or two key players. Daniel Vettori couldn't walk the morning of the first test, and yet shouldered a huge burden throughout the series. Nathan Astle has recently come back from injury - a message sent out when he was looking at a comeback was that to protect his body he would be taking a minimal bowling workload in future. The third test showed that he is considered a third seamer and had to shoulder a heavy workload accordingly. Two of our few world class players are being overworked and I think there's a large risk they'll be back on the sidelines with Jacob Oram and Scott Styris.
From the one-day series - there were nothing but negatives. Five matches, seventeen players used. To my mind only Hamish Marshall redeemed himself, although Craig McMillan started to look good and played more maturely than he has for a while.

The positives.
Going into the test series with Sri Lanka, there is the post-Australia effect, documented recently on CricInfo.

In the tests, my main positives were the play of Daniel Vettori, Hamish Marshall, Nathan Astle and, to a lesser extent, James Franklin.
Daniel Vettori is just pure class. While he didn't take many wickets, he still genuinely troubled the Australian batsman and showed he's a handy batsman. His back is of real concern, especially with his admission he couldn't walk the morning of the first test - see
Hamish Marshall showed he's a good back-foot player with great timing.
Nathan Astle batted himself back into some good form and was probably the most consistent of the batsman. He also bowled well in the third test - I just hope it doesn't impact on him physically.
James Franklin matured a lot in the series. After the mauling he received over in Australia pre-Christmas, he could've been expected to go to pieces. Instead, he ends the series with his best figures yet, with a useful 6 wicket bag and starting to trouble the batsman.

End of the series

Sometimes I hate cricket. No. Sometimes I loathe cricket. Watching a depressingly predictable end to a depressingly predictable test was one such moment. It was so fittingly apt that the series would end with Ricky Ponting tearing the New Zealand bowling to shreds, getting a reprieve when blatantly LBW and then smashing the winning runs two balls later before celebrating with one of those arm pumping, screaming pieces of hubris that only Australians seem to get away with. It is easy to see what there is to hate about such moments.

But. And this "but" requires you to forget the current series completely. But there is one positive aspect of the series that I want you to reflect on. It is that we are not due to play the Australians again for bloody ages. According to Cricinfo a tour of Australia is scheduled for November 2006, but I suspect that this is just for the annual ODI series we set-up last year. As far as I can work our the next test series will not be until 2008/9. No wonder Stephen Fleming saw this series as his test farewell to Australia. And it won't just be Fleming who will not be around next time. In 2008 Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne will be 39. Adam Gilchrist will be 37. In fact of the Australian team who just thrashed us so badly, only Ricky Ponting (34) and Michael Clarke (27) are still likely to be playing.

Third day summary

I was so depressed by the failure of our openers in the closing stages of yesterday that I forgot the positive things that we saw earlier in the day. Andrew McLean did not forget and has written a good summary covering James Franklin's bowling and Stephen Fleming's captaincy.

Monday, 28 March 2005

Sri Lankan Board chaos

I wonder if this will have any effect on the Sri Lankan tourists? I suspect the new board might want to be seen to make its mark on the side - don't be too surprised to hear of changes to the coaching staff or selectors if the tour gets off to a bad start.

Poll results and a new poll

Last time I asked you what makes fast bowlers so sulky. One of you thought it was because their backs are under such pressure. One of you believed that they weren't frowning - it was just the G-forces pulling their mouths back. Three of you thought that fast bowlers were frowning in concentration because they find walking and breathing at the same time so hard. Two of you said that it was because the spinners get all the cute girls. And three of you thought it was because fast bowlers know what's on Daryl's video tape.

My new poll asks you to judge our new players. Let me know who you think is going to have a good and long career in the New Zealand team (please note that you can vote for more than one player).

Mike on Cricket is back

Well my holiday is over and I have returned to a damp and slightly chilly Wellington. A week or so of isolation means I can't really say much about the cricket with authority. But I heard short snatches of commentary whenever I took my car up a nearby hill (and it is amazing how many excuses you can find to drive a car up a hill when you need to) and one thing which has struck me is that there is a sense of a changing of the guard within the New Zealand team. Stephen Fleming's retirement is now within mentioning distance, while new faces are starting to establish themselves. For a while it seemed that every series would bring in an anonymous new player who would quickly vanish without trace when an old guard player returned (Michael Mason anyone?). But members of the old guard are growing fewer and those that remain are finding it harder to take their chances when they do return. And it is the new players who are starting to lead the way in grit and determination.

Okay, so the results haven't changed yet. But a new sense of team culture and character is starting to appear to replace the fading Young Gun image. And a change of culture might be just what the side needs.

Friday, 18 March 2005

Back on 28 April

As mentioned below, I am heading away for a summer holiday. I will be going here, where there will be no television, no radio and no internet. Hence, there will be no Mike on Cricket.

I will be back on Easter Monday to revel in the glorious victory of a resurgent New Zealand cricket team. Take care and I will chat to you all again then.

Australian team selection

Brett Lee has been omitted again and the line-up is unchanged. Interestingly after being told he was not playing Lee tried to charter a plane back to Australia so that he could play in a domestic match for New South Wales - only to be told that by the New South Wales selectors that he was not wanted. Oh dear.

2nd test preview

It is a very, very gloomy morning here in Wellington. Mist has sunk to sea level and the forecast is for the gloom to remain. Its not actually raining at the moment, but the forecast is for southerly winds (and for our foreign friends it might be useful to point out that the south where our southerlies comes from is covered in ice and penguins), some rain and continuing low cloud. This weather is set to continue for the weekend, with things beginning to pick up on Sunday afternoon. This means I would be unlikely to post much about the cricket even if I were going to be here. Which I am not. You see, I have picked this weekend to start my summer holiday. Perfect.

Cricket looks unlikely, but not impossible, today. Days like this in Wellington usually end one of three ways. Either the wind stays low and the gloom and mist hangs around, the southerly picks up and we get real rain for a while but the mist disperses - or the wind picks up and shifts direction and the mist disappears into a sunny day. The forecast would seem to indicate that we are in for option two - southerlies and a period of rain. And if that were to happen then expect a delayed start with the possibility of some cricket this afternoon.

Apart from the weather there is not too much for me to say. Peter English has said a little in Cricinfo - but he doesn't add much if you have already heard the news that Paul Wiseman might come into the New Zealand side. And I actually suggest you don't read this article unless you absolutely have too, because English makes the horrendous error of saying New Zealand has never beaten Australia at the Basin, forgetting the classic test of 1989/90 - played, incidently, in weather very similar to this.

Michael Slater

Michael Slater has been a revelation on this Australian tour for two reasons. The first is that he is a brilliant commentator - certainly the member of the current Sky line-up that I enjoy listening to most. And the second is that he is suffering bipolar disorder. I have e-mailed Sky Sports to say how much I have enjoyed his commentary, if you want to do the same (or to make any other comments about the TV coverage) - the email address is:

Thursday, 17 March 2005

Shane Warne

According to a fascinating article by Louis Nowra in this morning's Sydney Morning Herald Shane Warne's announcement that he is moving to England is "the equivalent of the boy who is so outraged at being given out in a game of backyard cricket that he heads off home with the only cricket bat".

Rice on cricket

The first sign that George W Bush is expanding his war against brutal tyrannies to include the cricket boards of Kenya, Pakistan, and Zimbabwe?

"I am going to make a promise to the Foreign Minister right now and that is that I will even try to understand cricket."
The US secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, acknowledges the importance of the game in Indo-Pak relations, as she arrives in New Delhi

Wednesday, 16 March 2005

New Zealand stonewallers

Having sighed as I read a typically Anglo-centric Wisden list of "The XI worst debuts"(*), I had resigned myself to seeing New Zealanders overlooked in the Guardian's list of "The ten greatest rearguard actions". Instead I was pleasantly surprised to see Mark Greatbatch's test (number 4) and the Danny Morrison/Nathan Astle act against England (rated number 2) high on the list. Its good to see that New Zealand's glorious history of boring batting has been remembered, even if our incompetence in the same field has been sadly overlooked.

(*) How on earth could they neglect Ken Rutherford - or Chris Kuggeleijn who not only made a pair but spent most of his only test in bed with food poisioning?

Second test preview

All the news seems to be that Brett Lee won't be playing at the Basin, so expect to see him charging in with a stiff southerly at his back come Friday.

As for the New Zealanders, well there has been call for changes in the batting order but John Bracewell has sensibly batted aside suggestions that players like Jesse Ryder, Jamie How, James Marshall or Peter Fulton be introduced. Blooding new players into a demoralised team being done over by the best in the business is not a good strategy. But it does beg the question, who else out there is performing? An analysis of the State Championship averages show that only six players have scored over 500 runs. They are:

Lou Vincent (563 runs at an average of 112.60)
Peter Fulton (797 runs at 72.40)
Jamie How (563 runs at 51.18)
Jarrod Engelfield (525 runs at 47.72)
Michael Parlane (517 runs at 47.00)
Greg Todd (511 runs at 42.58)

Jesse Ryder drops just below this group with 498 runs at 49.80 (with 236 of those coming in one innings against CD's dobbers), while James Marshall has 176 runs at 35.20 and Craig McMillan has 140 runs at 35.00 (those two missing games while representing New Zealand in pyjamas).

If a change were to be made, the figures clearly indicate that it should not involve Lou Vincent. Craig McMillan would be the obvious player to drop and, on form, Peter Fulton would be his most obvious replacement. Fulton though has a reputation for being a somewhat nervous starter and early nerves are not the things you want to be showing the Australians. Baring injury or calamity, expect to see the batting order remain unchanged until the Sri Lankans reach these shores.

Tuesday, 15 March 2005

On the ball

A new feature at Cricinfo is On the ball, an in-depth analysis of batting and bowling during a particular game. In the latest edition, On the ball looks at the first test and suggests plans for the next time Daniel Vettori bowls to Adam Gilchrist (don't), and plans for the Australians when they next bowl to Hamish Marshall (keep it full and straight). The article also looks at how Shane Warne stuck to a simple plan and waited for Marshall and McMillan to get themselves out in the second innings.

Monday, 14 March 2005

Good news, bad news

According to the Black Caps website Scott Styris is undergoing investigative surgery on his knee and will be out for the second test and Jacob Oram is now out of not just the Australian tour, but the Sri Lankan tests as well.

Day Four

So after three days of holding firm, New Zealand fumbled to a miserable loss on the fourth. It was an ending as sad as it was predictable. Andrew McLean has a nice summary on Cricinfo in which he outlines the ruthless of the brilliant Australian attack - but we should also look at the way the New Zealanders played. There were seven LBWs, the result of poor footwork stemming from a lack of confidence and a lack of a plan. The side knows what it needs to do in the first innings of a test, but a run of failures means that its primary aim in the second innings is to not get out - particularly when playing against Australia. They weren't trying to set up a total for the Australians to chase yesterday, they weren't trying to bat out the match - they were simply trying to hold up the Australian juggernaut. And that is the wrong way to go about things. We don't necessarily need to send the side to a psychologist, but we do need to get them focussing on their own technique and their own game.

Saturday, 12 March 2005

Hamish on the pull (not to be confused with Daryl Tuffey)

Ian O'Brien

Speaking of bowlers, I have now had an opportunity to spend some time watching Ian O'Brien. I watched him once in a four-dayer for Wellington a year or so ago during which some rather dim kids couldn't work out how to pronounce the name on the scoreboard, "OBRIEN", and kept loudly mocking Obri-ann for his weird name. I thought during that match that he looked a notch faster than the rest of the Wellington attack, and a speed radar reading of 144kmph yesterday confirmed that. He is a bustly bowler with a rough kind of action and bowls "into" the wicket, getting more bounce than batsmen seem to expect. He is also a bit loose, but perhaps that is just first test nerves. I think he is showing a bit of promise.

Lucky and unlucky bowlers

I would hardly describe Shane Bond as "lucky" given his injury problems, but according to a fairly comprehensive Cricinfo study that is what he is. Bond and Chris Cairns feature on a list which determines which bowlers take the greatest proportion of wickets with "potential wicket-taking balls" (ie balls which beat the batsman). The luckiest bowler of them all, by a huge margin, is Nantie Hayward who has taken 35 wickets but has only beaten a batsman 34 times. I would like to see a replay of that 35th wicket. No New Zealanders appear on the list of "unlucky" bowlers (headed by Ashley Giles), although Dan Vettori does feature on the list of players who have the most catches dropped off their bowling.

Friday, 11 March 2005

Hamish Marshall

There is a type of player who occasionally appears in cricket with a very average first-class record but who still manages to put in brilliant performances at the highest level. These players tend to be batsmen with limited technique but a great deal of grit and determination, and the level of grit and determination increases exponentially as the level of the opposition rises. Jeremy Coney (7872 first-class runs at 35.14, 2668 runs for New Zealand at 37.57) was one. Tony Greig (16660 first-class runs at 31.19, 3599 runs for England at 40.43) another. Andrew Jones (9180 first-class runs at 41.80, 2922 runs for New Zealand at 44.27) was a third. For Jones and Coney, their first-class figures improved only after they had established themselves at test level.

It is early days yet, but it looks like Hamish Marshall could be the latest in this movement. And currently he is the most extreme example (2146 first-class runs at 27.51, 212 runs for New Zealand at 212.00). Long may he, and all gritty and determined players, continue to shine.

A nation of Brett Lees

The Australian thinks that its not just the benched fast bowler who packs a sulk when things don't go his own way.

Thursday, 10 March 2005

A new poll

For some reason my last poll decided to vanish off the planet. Oh well, it wasn't very interesting anyway. My new poll concerns the prima donna nature of fast bowlers (think Lee, Akhtar and Heath Davis). Can you tell me why they tend to be so highly strung?

First day impressions

I am sitting at home watching the replay of the entire day's play on Sky. Here is a summary of my thoughts while watching:

1. Stephen Fleming looks totally out of touch.
2. Brett Lee's sulky look is almost as good as Shoaib Akhtar's.
3. Craig Cumming is hook happy. I suspect the Aussies will aim to test the shot out during the rest of the series.
3. The miracle that is Hamish Marshall just keeps getting better.
4. Can Ricky Ponting make any sort of decision without his team needing to convene a group conference first?
5. Joe Bennett was the guest on the Dilmah tea party - and the Dilmah tea party is not shown as part of the replay. Bugger.
6. Chris Cairns has absolutely no future in commentary.

Technical issues

For some reason the system behind this blog is starting to play up and this has delayed the appearance of some posts. I hope things come right, but if they don't then there might be further delays.

Cricinfo's test series preview

I quite like this. Peter English is Cricinfo's Australasian editor and he has managed to capture the feel at the start of the series very well indeed.

The first test

Has anyone else got a really bad feeling about the first test? Don't you just wish this season were over? We are facing two whitewashes from Australia following on from another whitewash at the hands of England and I can't think of a New Zealand side at a lower ebb. It brings back memories of that terrible centenary year of 94/95 - but even that season contained a test victory over South Africa.

Brett Lee 12th man

And according to his agent he is devastated. Oh well, nothing wrong with a little dissention in the Australian ranks.

Meanwhile New Zealand have named Ian O'Brien in the starting eleven at the expense of Paul Wiseman and Craig Cumming comes in to make his test debut. Lou Vincent returns to the side on the back of some brilliant form for Auckland and Hamish Marshall plays in only his third test since his debut way back in 2000.

Tuffey's misconduct

I haven't seen it anywhere else yet, but the Sydney Morning Herald has the story behind Darryl's misconduct charge - and it doesn't sound nearly as bad as the rumours started by the New Zealand Herald's mention of "a milkshake, a video and two British backpackers".

Tuesday, 8 March 2005

More bad news for Darryl Tuffey

This does not sound good for Darryl.

Test series preview

Andrew McLean has previewed the test series for Cricinfo. He is not at his most optimistic:

If there is a third certainty after death and taxes, Australia winning the coming series 3-0 is right up there. I've rarely struggled to be optimistic about New Zealand's chances against anyone in the past, but, having seen Test humiliations at Brisbane and Adelaide, another outrageous run of injuries, and an embarrassing effort in the five home one-dayers that have just ended ... the next month doesn't bear thinking about.

Fixing the backs of all those future Shane Bonds

Hum. According to the Paediatrics magazine which just crossed my desk and the boffins at the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine in Washington there are better ways to make kids bones stronger than school milk. Feeding them a cup of "turnip greens" each day. Or two-thirds of a cup of tofu. Or a cup of broccoli. All these contain the same amount of calcium as a cup of milk.

I have to say that I found this article hilarious. I mean, are these people mad? What sort of lunatic would suggest that supplying kids with a cup of tofu or broccoli every day would do anything but create a new compost heap behind the school cafeteria? And I have no idea what turnip greens are, but they sound bloody horrible. Nope. The Campaign to Bring Back School Milk has taken this study in its stride and is marching confidently onwards.

Doctorin' the pitch

A few years ago Indian Cricket accused New Zealand Cricket of doctoring pitches during an ill-fated tour of this country. The tour took place in the midst of an experiment in which curators had been asked to prepare pitches with "pace and bounce" to generate more exciting cricket than is seen on the typically low and slow New Zealand wickets. That experiment mostly came to a calamitous halt after the Indian tour thanks to wickets which were successfully spiced with pace, bounce but also with more sideways movement than my manager evading questions about a pay rise. But in one place the experiment was a success - Jade Stadium in Christchurch. And now, just when we really, really don't need it, a fast and hard deck is ready for test cricket. Welcome to New Zealand Brett Lee, we have done everything in our power to make your visit a pleasant one.

Monday, 7 March 2005

Things are not that bad

Okay, so we got thrashed by Australia again. But there are thrashings and then there are thrashings. Zimbabwe have just proven that there are worse places to be a cricket fan.

It is interesting to note how different the New Zealand test team will be from the one day side. Gone is the entire pace attack - Mills, Hamilton, Cairns, Canning and Wilson are out, and replacing them are O'Brien, Franklin and Martin. It could be a selection of horses for courses as Martin and O'Brien are both short of a length bowlers and that should suit the fast Jade Stadium surface. And incidently, who on earth decided to help the Australians by starting the test series on a surface tailor-made for their bowlers?

Friday, 4 March 2005

A glimmer of hope

Four overs, two maidens, no wicket for seven.

Shane Bond completes his first spell in first-class cricket since injury.


Injuries at the top level has meant call-ups for those from the first-class circuit, creating gaps at that level. This means that the next round of the Shell Trophy will be a very interesting one with a whole pile of newcomers. The Herald has a breakdown of who is likely to be appearing. One player I am surprised to see missing from their list is Richard Sherlock. The young Canterbury pace man was selected for New Zealand 'A' in South Africa where he was hitting the 150kmph mark, then moved to Christchurch to play for Canterbury and has yet to appear for them at all this season. Still, Te Ahu Davis is making a mark with some pace (albiet not particularly well aimed sometimes) for Northern.

Wednesday, 2 March 2005

Poll results and a new poll

Well it looks like Twenty20 has a way to go yet. In my last poll I asked whether you saw it as a threat to the one-day game and twelve of you shouted "no", while only four of you meekly whispered "yes".

My new poll was posted just after the deeply depressing fourth ODI against Australia. I want you to cheer me up and tell me that this is just an abberation.

Uh oh

Things might get even worse. This is in this morning's Herald:

Fleming later offered to resign as the New Zealand captain.

"It still hurts. The team hurts a lot, as they probably should do." he said.

It sounds like someone is feeling let down by his team-mates and disillusioned with the game.

"Basin result a disgrace"

Jonathan Millmow really got stuck into the Black Caps in this morning's Dominion Post. Harsh it might be, but the fact remains that our bowlers seem unable to get even the fundamentals right - as Millmow points out, "line and length are basics of the trade."

Tuesday, 1 March 2005


How poor is our current bowling line-up? Even Bangladesh has two good left-arm spinners to complement their rubbish pace men.

Brett Lee update

It was teenage tailender Bruce Martin who Brett Lee tried to maim in 2000 in an incident which led to the first calls for him to be dropped from the side for being a psychopath. The umpire who officiated in that match, Dave Quested, reiterated to the Australian this morning his belief that Lee deliberately ran almost a metre past the crease to deliver a ball that "whistled past [Martin's] nose".

Wellington preview

Stephen Fleming (captain)
Nathan Astle
Craig Cumming
Hamish Marshall
Craig McMillan
James Marshall
Chris Cairns
Brendon McCullum
Jeff Wilson
Kyle Mills
Lance Hamilton

Look at those names. After the Australian tour how many of those would you have picked to be in the New Zealand team on 1 March 2005? Fleming obviously. Astle and Cairns almost certainly. McCullum and Hamish Marshall probably. But Craig Cumming? Jeff Wilson? Lance bloody Hamilton? Not likely. On paper this would have to be one of the weakest one day teams we have ever sent out onto the park. We have an attack led by a real estate agent from blimmin' Central "Dobbers" Districts for crying out loud. But despite this I am still feeling reasonably confident that we won't get thrashed today. Fleming is due some runs and Hamish Marshall and McMillan are doing well in the middle order. I can't see our bowlers tearing the Australians out, but swing and accuracy do well at the Basin and if Wilson and Hamilton can overcome their nerves than that is the least they can manage.