Friday, 30 September 2005

The press goes wild

After yesterday's slow news day, everything seems to have hit the presses today. And most of the hitting is happening over at Cricinfo. First in line to do some whacking is Mark Greatbatch, who has just been appointed coach of English county side Warwickshire.

Another former big hitter is up next, with Chris Cairns attracting the attention of Andrew McLean. McLean weighs Cairns options for him and decides that getting him back into the side is going to take some effort.

Turning away from New Zealand and towards our neighbours across the Tasman, John Stern runs his eyes over the Aussies and the Rest of the World and decides that the upcoming Super Series is going to be a run-fest. Stern does wonder about motivation, sensibly enough he says he can't envisage Andrew Flintoff running in as hard in these matches as he did in the Ashes. Playing for self-esteem and pots of cash is not quite the same as playing for national pride. I mostly agree with Stern on that point, but some players certainly will have motivation. Shoaib Akhtar will want to show the Pakistani selectors what they have been missing out on, while the big egos amongst the top order are going to be clashing for "world's best batsman" bragging rights.

Elsewhere, the head-shaking and hand-wringing has already started in Sri Lanka where their 'A' side is performing badly against New Zealand and South Africa.

Moving away from Cricinfo, we find that the newspapers are starting to tie on their cricket boots too. In the New Zealand Herald Richard Boock talks to Dan Vettori about the 'doosra' and bending your arm when bowling. Meanwhile, over in the Dominion Post, Jonathan Millmow also talks to Dan, but on far less controversial topics such as bowling with Murali and encouraging kids to read books.

Travelling back across the Tasman one final time, we find that the Australian press has a couple of stories of interest. First up is a ratty Matthew Hayden, who sends the Australian selectors a rather Tony Soprano-like warning via the Melbourne Age. And finally World XI captain Shaun Pollock who admits to the Australian that he is going to steal England's blue-print for tackling the Aussies.

Thursday, 29 September 2005

Seddon Park

It used to be that Hamilton had the best cricket pitch in the country and was the best place to watch cricket, but how things have changed. A disastrous "upgrade" of the playing surface in 2002 led to three years of unsuitable pitches and a lottery of a test match against India. The pitch was dug up and replaced last year, but this did little to improve things. Cricket was again taken from Hamilton when the Tsunami match ended in a handful of overs and a barrel of invective from Shane Warne. Now, to rub salt in the wound, Westpac has just announced it is cutting its ties. Sigh. Poor old Hamilton. I doubt getting the name "Seddon Park" back is going to be much consolation.

A thriller that nobody saw

New Zealand 'A' and South Africa 'A' played out a real thriller in the final round robin match the tri-series in Sri Lanka. New Zealand 'A' lost by the finest of margins, but it doesn't matter too much as they still made it through to the final - which will also be against South Africa 'A'. Matthew Sinclair hit a sparkling 64 (off 57 balls) for the New Zealanders and, with the help of James Marshall (56 not out) and Peter Fulton (43), saw New Zealand 'A' through to 239/8. South Africa 'A' reached the total with one wicket and one ball to spare. Best of the New Zealand 'A' bowlers was again Chris Harris (3-24 off ten), while Jimmy Franklin and Chris Martin chipped in with a couple of wickets apiece.

Wednesday, 28 September 2005

Leaking boards

Greg Chappell and the BCCI have had a behind closed doors discussion about preventing confidential material being leaked to the media. The details of this private meeting were, uh, leaked to the media.

KP and Paris

Dear oh me, have we come to this? Remember when cricket was all about thrilling statistics and vibrant debates about the LBW law? Now all we get are trashy stories about Kevin Pietersen drinking with Mickey Rourke and dallying with Paris Hilton. What happened to the innocent game? The paragons of virtue past - men like WG Grace, Keith Miller and Ian Botham - must be turning in their graves.

NZ 'A' replacement players

It really is a slow news day. The fact that the big news is Inzy claiming he was misunderstood and really does want to play for the World XI says it all really.

The best I can serve up for you is the exciting news that Craig Cumming, Paul Wiseman and Warren McSkimming (groan) have been called up to the New Zealand 'A' side to replace those players selected to play for the top team in South Africa.

Tuesday, 27 September 2005

Chris Cairns responds to the axe

Richard Boock has reported that Chris Cairns is showing a bit of determination after his axing from the New Zealand side.

I guess I should really let you know what the tour itinerary is too. Here we go:

Oct 14: NZ v South Africa A, Benoni
Oct 16: NZ v South Africa A, Potchefstroom
Oct 21: NZ v South Africa A, Johannesburg (twenty/20)
Oct 23: NZ v South Africa, Bloemfontein
Oct 28: NZ v South Africa, Cape Town
Oct 30: NZ v South Africa, Port Elizabeth
Nov 4: NZ v South Africa, Durban
Nov 6: NZ v South Africa, Centurion

Inzamam snubs Super Series

Hmmmm. This wasn't supposed to happen. Pakistan captain Inzamam al-Haq is throwing a real tantram about being called up for the World XI team. Apparently getting selected as a replacement and to just the test side (and not the ODI team) was not good enough. In addition Inzamam has indicated he might not attend the ICC Captains' Conference or the ICC awards ceremony.

Chris Cairns dropped

That latest New Zealand team has been named, and Chris Cairns is not in it. If we are honest, Cairns' form has been terrible lately - especially with the ball. James Franklin, who had been told to focus on becoming a test specialist, is the man called up to replace him. The bolter in the side is off-spinner Jeetan Patel, who has a terrible domestic record and has done little for New Zealand 'A' on their tour to Sri Lanka. Still, I assume John Bracewell knows a little something about off-spin bowling so perhaps he has seen something the rest of us have missed.

The full squad for the ODI tour of South Africa is:

Stephen Fleming (Capt)
Daniel Vettori (Vice Capt)
Andre Adams
Nathan Astle
Shane Bond
James Franklin
Hamish Marshall
James Marshall
Brendon McCullum
Craig McMillan
Kyle Mills
Jacob Oram
Jeetan Patel
Scott Styris
Lou Vincent

Monday, 26 September 2005

NZ 'A' victorious

A devestating spell of bowling by Chris Martin saw the New Zealand 'A' side through to a comprehensive victory over their Sri Lankan counterparts. Martin took 6-23 as the Sri Lankans were bundled out for 166 chasing New Zealand 'A's 238/6. Stars with the bat for New Zealand 'A' were Jamie How (56), from James Marshall (68) and from Chris Harris (35 not out ).

Greg Chappell's email

The Indian coach's email had to appear on the internet at some point, and here it is.

The email is fairly lengthy, and very comprehensive. Backstabbing, accusations of lying, a snipe at John Wright - its all there. I was going to post some highlights here, but it is all very revealing and is well worth a read in full. Here is one little tempter to get you to click:

...[Ganguly's] nervousness at the crease facing bowlers like Shane Bond from NZ was also affecting morale in the dressing room.

Sunday, 25 September 2005

NZ 'A' vs South Africa 'A'

The New Zealand side has not started the tri-series well, following its close lose to Sri Lanka 'A' with a thrashing at the hands of South Africa 'A'. James Marshall (32) and Jamie How (31 not out) were the only players to show much form with the bat as the team struggled to 169. The South Africans cruised home by 6 wickets, with only Darryl Tuffey (2-24) and Chris Harris (1-17 off 9 overs) doing much to restrict them.
Fans burn Greg Chappell in effigy as the Indian team return from Zimbabwe

The English first-class season

The English season has drawn to a close, so its time to see how the New Zealanders did:

Batting
Andre Adams - 373 runs at 33.90
Nathan Astle - 273 runs at 34.12
Stephen Fleming - 908 runs at 60.43
Craig McMillan - 169 runs at 24.14
Craig Spearman - 930 runs at 34.44
Scott Styris - 484 runs at 30.25

Bowling
Andre Adams - 36 wickets at 33.83
Nathan Astle - 3 wickets at 39.00
Craig McMillan - 3 wickets at 50.00
Scott Styris - 31 wickets at 23.54

A deliberate distraction

The contents of Greg Chappell's email to the BCCI are dynamite, but Sambit Bal sees something suspicious in the fact that they were leaked at all. Could it be that the email was released by the BCCI to keep the headlines away from its own corrupt "elections"?

Saturday, 24 September 2005

Gayle, Dravid and Inzamam get the call

Well, no surprise here. Chris Gayle and Rahul Dravid have been added to the Rest of World team for the one-day matches and Inzamam al-Haq has been called up to play in the test side. These players replace the injured Herschelle Gibbs and Sachin Tendulkar.

India plunges further into chaos

According to Cricinfo the Indian coach, Greg Chappell, has sent an email to his bosses at the BCCI complaining about the behaviour of his captain, Sourav Ganguly. Only a short time before the email was sent coach and captain had apparently posed together for photos. Ganguly was quoted by a journalist as saying "You can imagine the character of a person who within hours of a truce goes and writes such an e-mail."

Friday, 23 September 2005

First up loss

In the first "proper" match of their tour to Sri Lanka, New Zealand 'A' was narrowly defeated by Sri Lanka 'A'. Jeetan Patel and Chris Harris bowled well on a very slow pitch, but were only able to restrict the Sri Lankans to 251/6. In reply the New Zealanders made 239 with Peter Fulton and Matthew Sinclair both getting half centuries.

Super series issues

How do you select neutral umpires for a match involving Australia vs the Rest of the World? Do you bring in officials from non-cricketing nations? Will we have Icelandic umpires signalling for off-side every time the ball goes behind square? Will we have American umpires waving their arms to signal "safe" everytime a batsman completes a run?

Sadly the answer is "no". We are just going to have two umpires from Australia and two from the rest of world. Aleem Dar, Darrell Hair, Rudi Koertzen and Simon Taufel are the men who have been picked - presumably Hair getting in because the ailing Australian side needs every bit of help it can get.

In another piece of news, which I don't think anyone has really noticed yet, umpires will be allowed to consult with a television umpire on all decisions. Which I guess includes LBW appeals. This is not something that I would be particularly opposed to. But I do feel that there could have been some open discussion and a chance for players and fans to comment before that decision was made.

Shane Warne in sex scandal

Hands up who is surprised? All the sordid details can be found here.

Thursday, 22 September 2005

Rest of the World XI reserves

Herschelle Gibbs and Sachin Tendulkar have both withdrawn from the Rest of the World side to take on Australia next month and there has been a good deal of speculation on who might replace them - with names like Michael Vaughan and Kevin Pietersen being bandied around in papers like the Telegraph and websites such as Clubcall.

This is all a little odd given that the Rest of the World XI selectors named the team's six reserves some months ago and three of those reserves are specialist batsmen. Maybe I am missing something, but surely the named reserves will be the first port of call for the selectors and two of Inzamam al-Haq, Rahul Dravid and Chris Gayle will be the players summoned downunder for the one-dayers?

Maybe someone needs to have a word in the ear of the British press. And that person might also like to mention to the Telegraph that Kevin Pietersen is already in the team...

Shane Bond

The BBC has an interview with Shane Bond which is worth reading. Bond says he wasn't at full steam on the Zimbabwe tour, but was pleased to have bowled "one very quick spell" and to know that the speed is still there if he wants to use it. Bond also discusses his career goals and says that he had set a goal of 200 test wickets and 200 ODI wickets, but has revised that figure to 100 test wickets ("and beyond") and 150 ODI wickets given his injuries and the fact that New Zealand doesn't have a lot of test cricket scheduled in the next few years.

Scott finally scores some runs

Scott Styris has finally scored some runs for Middlesex this season, albiet on a featherbed of a pitch. Styris hit 100 not out in his team's 401/5 to take his run tally for the season to a slightly-less-pathetic-than-yesterday's total of 482 at an average of 32.12.

Rest of the World XI issues

If John Wright is worried about coaching a team consisting of the world's best players (excluding Shane Warne), he is not showing it. Meanwhile it has been confirmed that Sachin Tendulkar won't be fit to play.

Wednesday, 21 September 2005

No crime and too many Freds

The Telegraph idly speculates on what might happen to English society if cricket permanently usurps football's place at the top of sports' popularity chart. In summary they say that by 2025: crime will have been all but eliminated; teachers will need to be issued with guidelines on how to cope when all the kids in their class are called Fred (including the girls); and supermarket carparks will be demolished to make way for playing fields.

Scott Styris speaks

If you want to see what Styris has to say, go and visit Andrew McLean's online column. As usual, you won't be missing much if you decide to ignore him.

On a tangential note, it is good to see Andrew McLean return to the ether after a spell away.

Tuesday, 20 September 2005

Australia drop Hayden and Martyn

The Australian selectors have sprung some changes for the upcoming matches against the Rest of the World XI. Matthew Hayden has been retained for the one-off test, but has been cut from the one-day side. Meanwhile Damien Martyn clings on to a one-day place, but has been dropped from the test team. Jason Gillespie and Michael Kasprowicz have been cut from both squads.

"Wood ball" makes inroads into China

The ICC is making China a target for development, and the Chinese seem to think this is a good idea. The Guardian sees this as part of a general picture in which cricket is moving away from a colonial backdrop. Whether that is a particularly accurate or useful observation is questionable, but I do like the quote used in support of it.

Cricket is 'an Indian game accidentally discovered by the English'.


From Ashis Nandy's "The Tao of Cricket: On Games of Destiny and the Destiny of Games" (1989).

NZ 'A' triumphant again

Another day, another almost meaningless victory over a Sri Lankan invitational side. Still, a crushing victory is certainly a better way to warm-up for the serious stuff than a crushing defeat. A Jesse Ryder century and a not out 77 by Chris Harris saw New Zealand 'A' rattle up a mammoth 323 for 6 batting first. The Sri Lankans struggled to 170 in reply with most of the New Zealanders snaring a wicket - Jesse Ryder backing up his century with two wickets in his only over.

Monday, 19 September 2005

NZ 'A' off to a winning start

The New Zealand 'A' side defeated a Sri Lankan Invitational XI by 8 runs in the first game of its tour of Sri Lanka. Jesse Ryder scored 88 and James Marshall 56 as the 'A' side was dismissed for 261. The Sri Lankan's replied with 253/9, James Franklin (4-40) doing most of the damage. Click here for the match report provided by New Zealand Cricket.

Fleming on Notts

The BBC website has an interview with Stephen Fleming in which he discusses his season at Nottinghamshire.

Sunday, 18 September 2005

Fleming captains Notts to victory

Stephen Fleming has led his Nottinghamshire side to victory in the English county championship. Fleming scored 1 and 6 not out in the last match of the season against Kent to take his tally to 853 at an average of 65.61.

Prime Minister Waugh

Former Australian Opposition Leader Mark Latham has revealed that his Labor party approached Steve Waugh in 2003 and saw him as a future Labor leader. Waugh has confirmed he was approached by the party, and that while he doesn't feel cut out for politics - he hasn't ruled a political career out as an option either.

Ganguly asked to step down

After several days filled with rumour, it has been revealed that new Indian coach Greg Chappell suggested that Sourav Ganguly step down as Indian captain. The incident is being portrayed as "an honest opinion expressed during mutual discussions", but the details don't reflect that the discussions were particularly friendly. As Cricinfo reports:

...

Ganguly once again asked if Chappell was serious and Chappell replied that he should consider the long-term future of Indian cricket and think about his legacy rather than his immediate future. He added that it was a decision that he should take himself, and if and when he chose to step down, he should do so with good grace.

Ganguly then stormed off to the dressing-room, summoned Dravid and Chowdhary and informed them that he was packing his bags and leaving because Chappell didn't want him in the team. Chowdhary then asked Chappell to join in and it was decided that the captain leaving in the middle of a tour would be disastrous. Ganguly stayed on, but the matter didn't stay inside the dressing-room.

"By choosing to go public, Sourav has drawn the battle lines," said a source close to team. "It's now difficult to see how they can both work together. The Indian board will now have to choose between one of them."


So it is not looking good for one of Chappell or Ganguly, but as with most internal debates the team is likely to be the biggest loser.

Saturday, 17 September 2005

The news on Saturday

The general election is attracting more attention here than cricket today. Funny that. Still, we can be pleased that at least one columnist knows where the real priorities lie. Richard Boock's column in this morning's Herald is one sanctuary in an oasis of polls, accusations, counter-accusations, soap-boxs and baby kissing.

Meanwhile, Cricinfo tells us that in other parts of the globe the Indian side has fallen into even greater disarray; Muttiah Muralitharan has been forced to deny any involvement with a suspiciously wealthy "bar dancer"; India crushed Zimbabwe; and Ricky Ponting faces and inquest.

Friday, 16 September 2005

A skunk hairdo, terrorism and something called the Red Sox

For an American take on the outcome of the Ashes, here is an odd little article from the Washington Post. Kevin Pietersen's hair, the London bombings and baseball all manage to sneak in, but neither Andrew Flintoff nor Shane Warne rate a mention.

Inspired after finding this piece, I decided to look elsewhere in the US for coverage. The most obvious place to start was in the country's other big paper, the New York Times. Sadly the best they could manage was a piddly little sidebar which read:

ENGLAND: BONKERS FOR THE BASHERS Tens of thousands of fans lined the streets of central London and jammed Trafalgar Square to hail the England cricket team after it beat Australia in the Ashes series for the first time in nearly two decades. "Kangaroo Bashers" was the boast on T-shirts worn by many fans who crowded the 1.5-mile parade route. The parade also included the victorious England's women's team, which beat Australia in a series for the first time since 1963.


Looking further afield I found this patronising piece from a student in the Indiana Daily Student; this even more patronising piece from a British journalist for TV network NBC; this article in the Houston Chronicle; and this snippet (scroll down to find it) from the Chicago Sun-Times - which at least has the manners to admit it doesn't know what it is talking about.

Sigh. There was a period in the 1970s when the US led the world in journalism, and more pertinently in sports journalism. Those days seem long gone now.

Replacement players

Sky News speculated this morning that English captain Michael Vaughan was likely to be called up to the World XI side to replace an injured Sachin Tendulkar. Now the Sydney Morning Herald tells us that Hershelle Gibbs has withdrawn from the one-day matches with an injury.

Given that Gibbs is an opener and that Marcus Trescothick did so well for England against Australia and that he has also made the shortlist of ODI player of the year, he could be the man called up as a replacement. The selectors might also see bringing in Vaughan and Trescothick as a way to bring in more of the high-profile World Champion beating English side, which currently only has two players in the World XI.

Given that England is still only ranked 7th in the world for one-day matches, I am not sure whether the selection of Vaughan would be merited. He has a very average ODI record (1730 runs at 28.36) and despite captaining England to such success recently, he should be ranked fairly low on the list of replacement batsmen. On a dispassionate analysis of form and the team make-up, one obvious replacement player should be Inzamam al-Haq - who has been in scorching form and who would happily slot in behind an explosive opening partnership of Sehwag and Tendulkar/Trescothick.

A former employee wants his job back

While Ian Butler is still scrubbing out toilets for Northern in the Littlewoods Gaming Liverpool Competition Premier League, his fellow uncontracted former international, Matthew Sinclair, has been given a chance to demonstrate he still has something to offer on the 'A' tour of Sri Lanka. And Matthew tells us that it is a chance he plans to take.

Thursday, 15 September 2005

ICC awards

How many New Zealanders got nominated for a 2005 ICC award? One. Dan Vettori made the shortlist of 18 for "one-day international player of the year". Given he did most of his damage last year in test cricket I think he was unlucky not to get a nod in that category too. And how did Hamish Marshall miss out on a mention in the "emerging player of the year" shortlist?

Ashes DVDs

One for the Christmas stocking. I wonder when the Zimbabwe vs New Zealand 3-disc special edition is coming out?

Match-fixing rumours nixed

All those stories about match-fixing in the Videocon series have proved to be totally without foundation.

Wednesday, 14 September 2005

John Howard lost the Ashes

A spokesman for Kim Beazley, Australia's leader of the opposition:

"You can have your rugby tests, you can have international soccer, but this is what matters ... there has been a frittering away of the spirit and [Mr Beazley] holds that weasel [Mr Howard] responsible for it. He's lost it for us, we will never forget, it's a crime."

The paper round

Ahhh, here we go. I was expecting Cricinfo to do a round-up of the Ashes coverage, and here it is in all its pomp. Dan also wanted to know what the Aussie papers are saying, so here is coverage of the final day from the Melbourne Age, here is The Australian's list of the ten reasons the Aussies lost the Ashes and here is the same paper's gracious summary of the series. Ricky Ponting meanwhile signs the series off with some naval gazing in his own column.

Both Aussie papers also report the story that the series might have been Shane Warne's last ever in whites.

In other news, the Australian defeat looks like it may have an impact on the upcoming Super Series - with the ICC indicating that if Australia continues with its sub-par performances then it is unlikely to repeat the experiment.

Tuesday, 13 September 2005

Dan on...the celebrations starting

I walked past Trafalgar Square otday on the way to work. Couldn't walk through it as it is already swarming with people, trucks and scaffolding. Today's victory parade ends there and will go from Ludgate Circus and along Fleet St and the Strand. Everyone is very, very excited. It will be somewhere between England winning the Football World Cup in 1966 and the Rugby World Cup in 2003.

I'm just pleased for Pietersen, who Geoffrey Boycott was infamously (and somewhat ironically, given Geoffrey Boycott) accusing on Saturday of suffering from hubris - defined by Boycott as not living up to the hype Pietersen courted. The hooked sixes of Brett Lee at 96 mph seemed pretty much to live up the the hype for me.

Just want to read a few Aussie newspapers now...

New Zealand news

The press seems to be squeezing stories from New Zealand cricket as hard as it can. I suspect Ashes fever has left them searching for a local fix.

The Manawatu Standard has a piece on Jacon Oram, while the Waikato Times features Dan Vettori - who tells us that the Australians are still top with him.

Elsewhere, the Black Caps website talks about Ian O'Brien's place on the 'A' side's tour to Sri Lanka, possibly in an attempt to justify his selection ahead of Ian Butler.

The schedule for the tour of Sri Lanka, by the way, is:

Triangular Tournament:
16th - New Zealand A warm-up match - Colombo (Police Park)

21st - Sri Lanka A v South Africa A - Colombo (R.Premadasa)
22nd - Sri Lanka A v New Zealand A - Colombo (R.Premadasa)
24th - New Zealand A v South Africa A - Colombo (SSC)
25th - New Zealand A v Sri Lanka A - Moratuwa Stadium
27th - Sri Lanka A v South Africa A - Colombo (Colts)
28th - New Zealand A v South Africa A - Colombo (R.Premadasa)

October
1st - Final - Colombo (SSC)

First-class matches
3rd - 4th - v SLC Development XI (not first-class) - Colombo (P.Sara)
7th - 10th - v Sri Lanka A - Asgiriya Stadium
13th - 16th - v Sri Lanka A - Colombo (Colts)
19th - 22nd - v Sri Lanka A - Colombo (R.Premadasa)

Corruption probe

Cricinfo has reported that two ICC anti-corruption officials are investigating India's poor performances in the Videocon cup and New Zealand's decision to rest Shane Bond and Daniel Vettori in the penultimate match. In a way I am glad to see the ICC doing something proactive for a change, but I also have my regrets. Once it appears the whiff of corruption does not easily go away, and the mere mention of it leaves the matches with a hollowed out and slightly grubby feeling.

From the sublime to the ridiculous

From the height of England vs Australia, to the soggy backlot which is New Zealand 'A' vs Sri Lanka 'A'. Oh well, at least it is cricket. Richard Hadlee tells us that Michael Papps is the player he will be watching most closely, while Cricinfo is more interested in the tendency of New Zealand sides to end up in war zones.

It ain't over till the fat boy spins

How close did Shane Warne get to retaining the Ashes with his bowling? And how badly did he let England off the hook when he dropped Kevin Pietersen on 15?

What an exhausting, nail-biting finish to a classic series. I guess I am not the only New Zealander to have spent half the night propping open aching eyes in front of the telly. And to have spent the other half of the night lying in bed unable to sleep.

It will take a few days for the weight of this victory to sink in, but if you want a clue about how excited the English are, here is a good place to start.

Monday, 12 September 2005

Why liking cricket makes you sexy

There are only two things to be understood about cricket. First, that it is the language of love. Men who are drawn to this game, who understand its linguistic ironies and subtleties of play, who take the time to teach you about technique rather than physique, who enjoy the commitment of a Test, of taking things slow, over days, weeks, sometimes months or years, will be passionate and skilful lovers.


Something surprising from the Times.

The second thing the Times wants you to understand about cricket by the way, is that it is "feminine".

Ricky Ponting is Shane Warne’s mum and the auntie of every man on his team. He is maternal, a vixen protecting her cubs, a goddess claiming her children back from the mouth of hell. He’s secure in his femininity.


Hmmm. Maybe I should have just stopped at that first paragraph.

Sunday, 11 September 2005

Raindance for the Ashes

www.raindancefortheashes.co.uk. Get your barbies and lawnmowers out for the English.

Rigor on the Ashes

Mark Richardson, a little prematurely perhaps, starts to celebrate the fall of the "evil overlords" of cricket in the Herald on Sunday. While the Aussies are not quite buried yet, the BBC at least is taking an optimistic view - with the "Weather outlook good for England" and a forecast of more rain headlining its cricket pages. Incidently, the BBC sports section might like to check its own weather pages a little more closely - the 24 hour forecast actually being pretty good for the hours of play and the long-term forecast is even better.

The Worst Indies

I don't want to bias the results of my new poll, so go and vote before you read any further. Tony Cozier - the bespectacled white man who sounds like a Barbadian Barry White - has written an article in the Trinidad and Tobago Express (reprinted at Cricinfo) which outlines the chaos which is West Indian cricket. Meanwhile a feature in the latest Wisden Monthly tells us exactly how bad the current team is.

A dent in the wallet

New Zealand Cricket has just announced that 2004/5 was a poor year in terms of its finances. Given the cancellation of the Zimbabwe tour, I am willing to bet this year is not going to be much better.

Poll results and a new poll

Ha. Two polls asked you exactly the same set of questions. In the first poll, held on the first days of the first Ashes test, you told me in overwhelming numbers that Australia were going to crush the English like bugs and win the series at a canter. Now, two days into the final test of this drama, you have changed your tune. In the latest poll all sign of Australian domination has gone. None of you thought the Australian steam-roller was going to keep going. Six of you did think the Aussies would nick the series at the last second and two of you lack the confidence to back either side. Eight of you told me England would scrap their way to victory and a solid nine believe the end is nigh for the ageing Australian juggernaut and that it is the turn of the English to rub Aussies noses in the filth.

You lot might as well be the dirthering multitudes which are making the outcome of the current general election in this country so impossible to pick.

My new poll looks at the sordid world of cricket administration. You can vote for as many boards as you like in this poll, so let me know which organisations you wouldn't back to succesfully organise a game of beach cricket and which you wouldn't trust with your wallet or your sister.

Friday, 9 September 2005

Dan on Mr Roebuck's two-cent's worth...

A fine, if sweeping, analysis of cricket, football, Thatcherism and social upheaval. And why Flintoff is the new Botham.

Final Ashes test, day one

I was woken up this morning by Morning Report on my radio, which happily told me that England had finished day one of the final test on top with Andrew Strauss the day's star. Two minutes later and Breakfast on my television decided to tell me that Australia had finished day one of the final test on top with Shane Warne the day's star.

On reflection I suspect the Breakfast analysis was probably closer to the truth. The Oval sounds like it is a batsman's paradise and the English stacked their batting at the expense of their bowling and should therefore have been aiming for more runs. Having said that, five weeks ago who would have called a day one score against Australia of 319/7 a below-par effort?

Zimbabwe plunges further into the abyss

A week to go before the first test against India, and most of the players have allegedly signed a petition demanding the resignation of the Zimbabwe Board's chairman and managing director.

Thursday, 8 September 2005

Akram on Crowe

Wasim Akram was asked which he thought was the better batsman, Brian Lara or Sachin Tendulkar. His response?

"I have bowled to both Tendulkar and Lara and I have found Lara more attacking. Tendulkar has a tighter technique, no doubt, but Lara can single-handedly win the game for his team. I am not saying Tendulkar cannot do it but Lara has maybe done it more often than him. If you are asking me who the best batsman I have bowled to is, then it's not Tendulkar and not Lara as well. It's Martin Crowe... "

End of a mission no-one wanted to be on

The New Zealand Herald has a nice summary of the 35 day tour to Zimbabwe which ended yesterday. Not to be outdone, the Black Caps website has a summary of the stand-out moments from the tour.

The post-mortem

The one-day final between India and New Zealand is receiving a good deal of analysis, which is not a surprise given how rabidly some people seem to be looking for signs of frailty and decline in the Indian side. The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has actually intiated a "thorough and complete review of the performance of its players" after the final. They needn't have bothered though, because Shane Bond has already provided them with a break-down of what the Indians did wrong.

Meanwhile, back on this side of the Pacific Richard Boock has been doing some post-match analysis of his own. Richard's piece is mostly puff about Nathan Astle (but nice puff), although he does point out that New Zealand has risen to third place in the ODI rankings.

Wednesday, 7 September 2005

Victory over India

The New Zealand side has triumphed over India and we might now start to think that the team is on the rise again. Cricinfo clearly thinks so in this analysis of “the big boys”. It is notable that the big boys in this article, and in this match, were Nathan Astle, Dan Vettori and Stephen Fleming. Shane Bond doesn’t even get a look in, and that is a good thing given we were starting to look like a one-man team.

Top performers for New Zealand in this series with the ball were Shane Bond (11 wickets at an average of 8.63 and an economy rate of 3.11), Dan Vettori (7 wickets at 21.11 and an economy rate of 4.11), Kyle Mills (6 wickets at 22.83 and an economy rate of 4.08) and Jake Oram (7 wickets at 28.00, but an economy rate of 5.32 and far too many loose deliveries).

With the bat in hand there were a number of stand-outs. Nathan Astle (192 runs at 64.00 with a strike-rate of 75.88), Stephen Fleming (224 runs at 45.00 and a superb strike-rate of 94.53) and Lou Vincent (246 runs at 61.50 and a staggering strike-rate of 128.12) topped the list. Craig McMillan (159 runs at 31.80 and a strike-rate of 97.54) and Brendon McCullum (130 runs at 43.33 with a staggering strike-rate of 146.06) put willow to leather in typically robust fashion, while Scott Styris (167 runs at 41.75 and a strike-rate of 71.98) only embarrassed himself when the team really needed him. Hamish Marshall (27 runs at 6.75) had a miserable run and Jake Oram (55 runs at 13.75) didn’t do too much better.

The performances have meant that the ICC bowling tables have taken a fair old battering. Dan Vettori is now the 9th best one-day bowler in the world, while Shane Bond returns to the table after a year’s absence and rockets to number 14. Even Kyle Mills has hit the tables hard and is now at a career high placing of 24. The only disappointment was that Jake Oram has slipped out of the top 10 and now sits in 11th place.

New Zealanders haven’t been boosted nearly as much on the ICC batting table, with Stephen Fleming still our top placed batsman with a rating of 22. Astle, Cairns, Marshall and McMillan are playing musical chairs, swapping positions with each other willy-nilly, and occupy a patch in the ratings between 33 and 37. Lou Vincent’s 172 against Zimbabwe proved almost worthless in terms of the ratings and he is still in the basement at 68.

Stats are one thing though, the games themselves are another. Last night’s victory was not just an excellent result statistically, it was also an excellent match to follow. The Indian innings was a cat and mouse affair as the New Zealanders kept clawing the Indians back just as they looked to accelerate away. Dan Vettori can take much of the credit for that in an exceptional spell. Shane Bond was unlucky and beat the edge a dozen times before taking a wicket and his battle with Ganguly made for great viewing – Ganguly looked deeply uncomfortable and his back leg kept making involuntary retreating motions, especially after he copped a short ball which hit his arm and helmet. The sight on Bond hobbling off the park before the end of his spell was a deeply worrying one, but the news this morning is that it he twisted his knee slightly and that the injury was a minor one.

Anyway, I could ramble on for a while. Which is all a bit pointless given that other people have already rambled for me. Go here to read the Cricinfo match report, here to read what the New Zealand Herald has to say and here to see the Indian press call their side chokers.

Tuesday, 6 September 2005

Maia Lewis retires

Given the amount of time she has spent out of the game because of injuries, it is a surprise that the New Zealand Women's team captain lasted this long. Cricinfo has paid her a nice tribute.

New Zealand 'A'

The New Zealand 'A' side is on its way to Sri Lanka for a six week tour incorporating a one day series with South Africa and Sri Lanka and a three match first-class series against the hosts.

One player who is missing from the squad is Ian Butler, who is instead playing for Northern in the high octane world of the Littlewoods Gaming Liverpool Competition Premier League. Having not had his contract renewed with New Zealand Cricket, Butler seems to be burning his bridges to this country altogether. Unless of course, New Zealand Cricket simply decided that Ian O'Brien is a better player and are the ones busy setting fire to the river-spanning structural devices.

Zimbabwe collapses further

I didn't think we needed more proof that Zimbabwe Cricket is the most inept Board in international cricket, but clearly someone wasn't convinced because they felt obliged to once again shoot themselves in a foot which is quickly turning into a bloodied stump. The Board has just withdrawn the contracts of four cricketers who it felt were not performing and has said that they will not be able to play for Zimbabwe again. Just to rub salt further into a gaping wound, the Board then announced that other players in the squad will have their contracts reviewed at the end of the month. Madness.

How the Ashes might bring down computer networks

From an article in Melbourne's Age:

British companies may face network problems this week, with millions of workers expected to use the internet to keep up with the fifth and decisive Ashes Test, a network firm says.

Computer firm Network General said as few as 10 workers logging on to a live commentary from the Oval on Thursday could reduce a computer network's performance in an office by 50 per cent.

"While every company is aware of the risks posed by computer viruses, few will have ever considered Ricky Ponting and Michael Vaughan's men a potential threat to their computer networks," Stuart Beattie of Network General told the Press Association.

The Aussie attack

In an email to me my uncle Neil pointed out something which should have been very obvious about the Australian bowling attack. He reminded me of those Australian bowlers who have previously had the most success on English soil - players like Terry Alderman (83 wickets in England at 19.33) and Paul Reiffel (30 wickets at 22.96). Honest toilers who relied on swing and seam rather than pace. The fact that the Australian selection policy seems to be to find bowlers faster than the English is a reflection of their disarray. A thinking selection panel would have turned to traditional Australian virtues instead of trying to copy English ones.

Videocon final preview

In its preview of the final, Cricinfo just can't stop talking about Shane Bond. Which is fair enough given what blimmin' good form he has been in. Meanwhile Bond himself chips in with a column in which he puts even more pressure on India's top order and outlines exactly what he plans to do with them. It smacks a little of Australian-style hubris, so lets just hope Hubris' close mate Nemesis isn't waiting around the corner. If Bond needs any help with his planning, then Cricinfo's regular stats maestro, S Rajesh, is on hand to point out exactly where Sourav Ganguly's weaknesses have been.

Elsewhere the New Zealand Herald tells us that Chris Cairns is out of the match and diplomatically tries to explain why this is not too much of a concern. The Herald states that New Zealand is in such good heart that it has a number of players of the same class as Cairns who can step in and fill the breach. I kinda wish they had told the truth and said that the reason we have a number of players of his class is because his class has sunk to about the level of Kyle Mills.

The Christchurch Press focuses on the New Zealand team selection and speculates the line-up will be easy to pick. I guess we will see shortly whether the Press' prediction that Cairns, Patel and Adams will miss out is correct.

Meanwhile much of the Indian press seems to be priming for a backlash against their own side by reprinting a press agency story telling us that the team now has a great chance to shed its tag of "final floppers".

Monday, 5 September 2005

Chappelli on Ned Flanders

In the midst of a discussion about the make-up of the Australian team for the final Ashes test Ian Chappell suggested that the Australian Coach, John "Ned Flanders" Buchanan, should leave tactical matters to Ponting and his senior players. "… That would leave Buchanan free to concentrate on organising the net bowlers and ensuring the practice balls aren't lost," he said. Ouch.

Sunday, 4 September 2005

Comments

The blog now has a filter to get rid of those nasty spam comments. Sadly it means you have to go through an extra step if you want to post a comment, but please don't let that put you off.

The season ahead

The schedule for the New Zealand domestic season has been released, and you can review it here. One thing that immeadiately leaps to mind when you put this schedule alongside the international schedule is that finally some effort has been made to match these together. The State Shield one-day series starts just before the Sri Lankans arrive for ODI matches in late December. The first-class season begins in early December to allow national players to be involved and then takes a break until February and March - where it is nicely timed to peak at the same time as the test series against the West Indies.

The two schedules are still not ideally matched, it seems unfair to strip domestic sides of their international representatives just before the season's climax, but this is still a significant improvement over recent years where the national side was left without warm-up matches before international fixtures.

Saturday, 3 September 2005

The world turned upside down

Well I'm back from my wee break and am taking the opportunity to catch up on cricket news. I'm afraid that as I am so far behind on events that I don't have anything insightful for you, although I do have a little story which is slightly related to cricket.

Despite sunshine, warm blue waves and a steady supply of excellent cocktails I found the first few days of my holiday unbearably tense. I had no access to cricket news beyond a yellowing copy of the Fiji Sun newspaper which told me nothing about the fourth Ashes test that I didn't already know. Because I was so desperate to discover the outcome and inspired by the fact that this ageing paper actually carried cricket news, I decided to trek through humid and mosquito-ridden Fijian cane fields in search of a village with a shop that sold more recent newspapers. It took me much longer to walk to the village than I was advised, and by the time I finally got there I was hot, exhausted, bitten in a million places and thoroughly dehydrated. I was also dismayed to find a sign forbidding entry to the village to people who didn't live inside. This made me obvious game for a scam artist who said I could enter the village if I made a donation of $20, which he promised he would "personally pass to the chief". I handed over my cash and was then subject to the full-on village tour by the grateful tout before he finally led me to the shop. Having now seen the standard of facilities in the village's community centre, church and the chief's (empty) house I was starting to suspect the shop was not going to be a flash affair. I was not let down. The shop sold lollipops, bleach, rice in large sacks and 12 volt batteries. And that was it. No water for suffering tourists and, even worse, no newspapers.

By the time I returned to my resort I had a splitting headache and a face as red as an angry Ricky Ponting's. I was also no closer to finding the result. On the positive side, I did have a lollipop.

It wasn't until another guest arrived bearing a vaguely newish (but still yellowing) newspaper a couple of days later that I finally discovered what all of you had already known for at least 72 hours. Mind you, even at this stage all I had to go on was the news that Ricky Ponting was in trouble for having a spazz on Australian radio "after his side's defeat in the fourth test".

Thankfully I now have Dan's excellent piece to update me. And, having spent the last couple of days wondering if Ricky Ponting was suffering the same kind of "mental disintergration" that his side so lovingly prides itself on dishing out to opposing captains and hoping that he really was whining as badly as he sounded in my imagination, I have Richard Boock to tell me that it is all true and, even better, Peter Roebuck to tell me that the long reign of the Aussies is officially over. Sigh. A week away and the world has turned upside down.

Friday, 2 September 2005

Karl on The return of S.E. Bond

Not much has come out of the tour of Zimbabwe for New Zealand. The return of Shane Bond, however, is a real positive.

Following the two tests, where he had figures of 3-21 and 10-99, his ranking on the ICC rankings site has moved back up to 14th. After 12 test matches he has taken 56 wickets at an average of 20.8 runs. He has never gone wicketless in an innings yet.

His one-day figures are remarkable. So far in the tournament against Zimbabwe and India, he's taken 10 wickets for 51 runs, after 19 overs. He has now bowled in 29 ODIs (he's played in 30 matches, but one was rained out) and has taken 61 wickets at 16.72. On four occasions he's taken 4 wickets in an innings and on three occasions he's taken more than 5 wickets. Those seven occasions were:
4-37 against South Africa, Jan 2002
5-25 against Australia, Jan 2002
4-38 against Australia, Jan 2002
4-21 against Bangladesh, Sept 2002
6-23 against Australia, March 2003 (World Cup)
6-19 against India, Aug 2005
4-17 against Zimbabwe, August 2005.

As is seen from these figures, he plays very well against Australia. In fact, his career figures against Australia, at a time when they were the best in world cricket, are 22 wickets in 6 matches at an average of 10.45.

This all points to a very exciting summer coming up for New Zealand fans. Five ODIs in South Africa in Oct-Nov, 3 against Australia in December and 4 against Sri Lanka in Dec/Jan, before the West Indies tour in Feb/March should see him rise significantly in the ODI rankings also.