Sunday, 30 April 2006

A good test for Wellingtonians

If John Bracewell wants to build a really successful test side, this test seems to be saying that the way to do it is to pick more Wellingtonians. Three are in the side, two have scored centuries (one a double) and the other has taken all the South African wickets to fall so far. I hope Mark Gillespie, Matthew Bell and Jesse Ryder sit somewhere nice and close to the phone during the build-up to the third test.

Saturday, 29 April 2006

Karl on...a statistical enigma

Much is made of Stephen Fleming's relatively low average, for someone who is clearly a talented batsman. A recent article on CricInfo gives some food for thought on this. George Binoy did some analysis of his stats over his test career prior to the recent series against the West Indies:

As a batsman, Fleming hasn't turned many heads. Although he has 6194 Test runs - the most by a New Zealand batsman - he averages only 39.20. Because conditions in New Zealand are quite heavily tilted in the bowler's favour, Fleming's away performances overshadow his exploits at home. He averages 65.45 in Asia and his record in Sri Lanka - 733 runs, the most for a visiting batsman, at an average of 104.71 - is second only to Sachin Tendulkar.

His home average is only 32.98 (44 tests), while his away average is 44.81 (52 tests)

Looking at his stats gives interesting reading.

Up to the current test, his average against each country is:
Australia: 25.18 (14 tests)
Bangladesh: 74.00 (4)
England: 32.13 (16)
India: 32.63 (13)
Pakistan: 47.5 (9)
South Africa: 30.15 (11)
Sri Lanka: 68.18 (11)
West Indies: 46.86 (11)
Zimbabwe: 37.64 (11).

He has now scored a century against every country except India (HS: 92) and Zimbabwe (HS: 84), having overtaken his previous highest against South Africa of 99. For each country, except the West Indies, he averages more in the country than against them at home.

Fleming the traveller, is a world-class player. Fleming, the New Zealander at home, is not!

Mike on Fleming's innings

Ben beat me to the point about Fleming's standard deviation, according to this statistic the New Zealand captain is the least consistent batsman currently playing test cricket.

He also beat me to the point about Fleming's innings, what a stunning effort. This innings also took Fleming's batting average to over 40 for the first time since his third test over 11 years ago. And we should not forget James Franklin - who at times resembled a clone of Fleming such was the quality of his play. I am currently feeling a little jaded after deciding to stay up until New Zealand was dismissed last night. At 279/7 this seemed like it would only be a matter of overs. I finally slunk off to bed at around 2am with the score at around 450/7.

Ben on...Stephen Fleming's fabulous innings

Stephen Fleming b Prince 262 (423) 31×4 2×6

Awesome, awesome, awesome.

Won't do his standard deviation much good though.

Thursday, 27 April 2006

Cricket at ANZAC Cove, photo courtesy of the Australian War Memorial Museum.

ANZAC cricket

It is a couple of days' late, but here is something to commemerate ANZAC day. Most New Zealanders know the famous photo of soldiers playing cricket at Gallipoli in 1915, but did you know that there is a story behind that picture? According to this transcript of an old ABC Radio programme the game was played to distract the Turks while ANZAC Cove was evacuated. The "pitch" was about the only place on ANZAC Cove that was both flat and out of sniper range (but not artillery!).

The transcript is interesting for more than just that snippet though. It goes on to talk about the importance of cricket as a symbol for everything British and Australasian troops were fighting for in both world wars - to quote one speaker, "things like fair play, or the rule of law, and accepting the umpire's decision and playing within the rules, and the never-say-die attitude which cricket was seen to represent, was clung to very firmly, and well, I suppose, lovingly." The programme also goes on to tell some classic wartime cricket tales.

Second test preview

I am kind of glad I wasn't around last week. I suspect any comment from me on the debacle which was the first test batting performance would not have been constructive.

Anyway, with top order failures and Shane Bond's injury it looks like all the standard cliches are going to apply to this tour. The only hope I see is in the hints that the Newlands pitch may take spin and South Africa have no-one who comes close to Dan Vettori in that department.

Hashim Amla comes into the South African side with a big reputation and a poor start to his test career. This is more than a little reminiscent of another opener who played against New Zealand way back in 1998/9. That player was the man Amla is replacing - Herschelle Gibbs - and he promptly peeled off scores of 34, 211 not out and 120 against us.

I suspect the opener coming into the New Zealand side hasn't quite got the talent that Amla or Gibbs have, but Michael Papps does have guts and a cricketing brain on his side. We know this because we saw them strewn all over the pitch when Brett Lee bowled to him last season. He also has height, or a lack of it. The combination of "Two Metre Peter" and "Two Apples Mike" is sure to confuse the South African new-ball bowlers. A bouncer to Papps will become a half-volley when bowled to Fulton.

The other player who may come into the New Zealand side is Jeetan Patel. Patel has an awful first-class record, but has really impressed in the one-day game, spins the ball hard and takes wickets. As noted above there are rumours that the wicket will take turn early and if they are true then expect Patel to play. Don't assume that the rumours are anything more than noise though. The South Africans don't seem to be taking the wicket too seriously, they have picked one spinner and bracketed him with Andre Nel as the most likely candidate for 12th man duties.

Wednesday, 26 April 2006

Normal services should resume presently

I'm back online.

The full details of my absence are very dull. It turns out that the technician who tried to install my phone and internet connection managed to do everything except plug my phone and internet into the right cable. The technician blamed the failing connection on a malfunctioning burglar alarm. It took a week and the help of a very friendly burglar alarm repair person to work out that the cable connected to my utilities was not the one connected to the Telstraclear network.

If you ever need a burglar alarm installed I heartily recommend the services of William from Security First - he spent a good two seconds "fixing" the fully functional alarm and four hours getting the phone and internet working and connecting my new home theatre to a ridiculously large 50" plasma screen. And for this great service he charged exactly nowt (although I felt so guilty I did sign up for a security monitoring service and bought a couple of extra motion detectors).

I have to admit that the home theatre and the ridiculously large 50" plasma screen are another reason why I haven't been around much. The bulk of my "cricket fan of the year" prize from Samsung arrived on Monday and it has been very hard to drag myself away from the gigantic, deafening and crisply defined Andrew Flintoff thundering around my lounge while "the Ashes" DVD whirrs around on its crystalline stand. If you think Flintoff's bodyline attack against Brett Lee looked painful at the time, wait until you see and hear it from my couch.

Tuesday, 25 April 2006

Ben on...bad, bad news

No more Shane Bond until...well, the Champions Trophy in October I suppose. Out for four to six weeks, past the end of the season.

Ben on...mad, mad science

I was intrigued by Richard Boock's description of Bracewell as a 'mad scientist'. I guess it's a reference to his experimenting with the top order, though it probably has as much to do with the fact that it is hard to say mad without adding scientist to it.

I've got to say, taking a stab to see if something works and then ignoring all the data seems pretty poor science to me. More bad than mad.

So it got me wondering, what would a mad scientist do with the New Zealand team?
  • Splice Mark Richardson and Craig McMillan together to get a batsman who's patient and aggressive
  • Put a metronome in Ian Butler to give him some consistency
  • Dissect Lou Vincent; give his right knee to Shane Bond, his left knee to Franklin, his ribs to Hamish Marshall, his humility to Scott Styris, his sense of humour to Richard Boock
  • Clone Jacob Oram
  • Go back in time and abduct Mike Hussey's parents so that he's born in New Zealand

Monday, 24 April 2006

Karl on ... local media roundup

Over the weekend Richard Boock called for an end to John Bracewell's mad scientist routine and to drop Marshall from the opener position (where he's failed) to no.3 where he's been successful. In the same paper, Mark Richardson praised the failed decision to promote Kyle Mills to no.3 and called for Bracewell to keep the non-specialist openers (Marshall and Fulton) in the opener spots ahead of the specialist (Papps and How).

And NZPA report (carried on Stuff) that Shane Bond wants to rip into South Africa but isn't confident yet his knee will be right in time. They also report that James Franklin has a knee problem and that Hamish Marshall is having trouble breathing after being hammered by Ntini in the first test so may not play.

Ben on...fingers crossed

Shane Bond is confident of returning for the second test. He reckons his knee is getting better. (Unfortunately, he also mentions some niggly pain in his backside. I hope this doesn't stop him from playing.)

We'll know more after tonight's practice session. Thankfully there's been a rediculously long break between tests, giving Bond more time to recover.

Friday, 21 April 2006

Ben on...player ratings - they used to be so good

There's a bit of excitement around because Jacob Oram, in his first test back, has re-entered the official ratings with a ranking of 29.

That's pretty good. But how does it compare with his record before his injury? And how much did he have to make up for missing so many series? We don't know because the ratings site doesn't include historical records – "Historical records and extra functionality will be added over the coming months," we have been told for months and months.

The old rating site used to be great, back when they were done by PricewaterhouseCoopers. You could find out how a player's rating had changed over any time period, with graphs. You could compare two players or switch between a player's test and ODI ratings. It was one of the marvels of the internet. But then it was taken over by the ICC and – as with seemingly everything the ICC touches – it has turned to rubbish.

Continuing delay

Sorry I have been absent for a while, and things are set to continue this way for a little longer thanks to a malfunctioning buglar alarm in my new house which keeps short-circuiting the phone lines.

Ben on...first test over - wat nou?

It is awfully quiet around here with Mike not about.

I've looked around the papers to find interesting articles about the series in South Africa. Apart from Richard Book's latest tirade, there was little to be said about the first test, either in New Zealand or South Africa.

This article might be interesting, but I wouldn't know. It seems to be about 'krieket' and mentions Nieu-Seeland.

Tuesday, 18 April 2006

Ben on...bad news not so bad - or was it?

Mills performed fantastically well on the first day of the test, filling in for Bond more than admirably. However, seeing the carnage caused by Ntini on the second day makes me wonder just how dangerous Bond might have been with the variable bounce of this pitch.

Mills has another chance to show his worth in our second innings. The South Africans are confident they are building a defendable total and it will probably take most of our line up to reach the target. I feel that Mills has unrealised potential as a lower order batsman and any contribution he makes may be critical.

Saturday, 15 April 2006

Ben on...Bad news

Despite looking good in the nets yesterday, Shane Bond was ruled out after practice today.

This is a big blow of course, but with the team likely to be Marshall, Fulton, Fleming, Styris, Astle, Oram, McCullum, Vettori, Franklin, Mills, Martin, we still have quite some bowling firepower.

Thursday, 13 April 2006

Good news

Shane Bond got through his first session in the nets without incident.

Enforced absence

I am moving house over the next few days and - because of public holidays - disconnection and reconnection of my internet service is going to take much longer than I had hoped. Not only that, but because all my services (phone, television, internet) are bundled I am going to be without much contact with the outside world at all until Wednesday next week. This will mean limited (if any) posting from me and - even worse - no late nights spent watching the first test in South Africa.

The 'A' teams

This is interesting, New Zealand is sending TWO 'A' teams to a tournament in Australia in June and July. Both teams will play in a variety of four day, one day and Twenty20 matches against sides from India, Australia, Pakistan and South Africa.

The teams are:

Team One: Peter Fulton (State Canterbury Wizards; captain), James Marshall (State Northern Knights; vice-captain, Graham Aldridge (State Northern Knights), Brendan Diamanti (State Central Stags), Mark Gillespie (State Wellington Firebirds), Jamie How (State Central Stags), Michael Mason (State Central Stags), Nathan McCullum(State Otago Volts), Peter McGlashan (State Northern Knights), Warren McSkimming (State Otago Volts), Jesse Ryder (State Wellington Firebirds), Ross Taylor (State Central Stags), Lou Vincent (State Auckland Aces)

Staff: Richard Hadlee (manager); Bob Carter (coach); Ashley Ross and Mike Hesson (assistant coaches and video analysis)

Team Two: Craig McMillan (State Canterbury Wizards; captain), Matthew Bell (State Wellington Firebirds; vice-captain), Hamish Bennett(State Canterbury Wizards), Gareth Hopkins(State Otago Volts), Bruce Martin (State Northern Knights), Chris Martin (State Auckland Aces), Kyle Mills (State Auckland Aces), Rob Nicol (State Auckland Aces), Mark Orchard (State Northern Knights), Michael Papps(State Canterbury Wizards), Jeetan Patel (State Wellington Firebirds), Matthew Sinclair(State Central Stags), Richard Sherlock(State Canterbury Wizards)

Staff: Dayle Hadlee (manager), Mark O’Donnell (coach), Vaughn Johnson (assistant coach)
Two of the more interesting aspects of these teams are that Richard Hadlee is taking a hands-on role as the team manager for one and that Matthew Sinclair has been selected. It will be interesting to see what effect this selection has on his plans to play in South Africa.

Wednesday, 12 April 2006

Shiv resigns

Shivnarine Chanderpaul has resigned as captain of the West Indies. Poor guy. He didn't seem a natural leader to start with and he never looked comfortable in one of the roughest jobs in world cricket. I can't see a better candidate though. Brian Lara has never done well in the role, Chris Gayle is too casual and Ramnaresh Sarwan has issues with his form.

Harbhajan shows his wiles

This week's copy of the Spin shows us how Harbhajan Singh has earned a reputation as a trickster and magician, and it has nothing to do with his bowling:

The road from Ranchi airport to Jamshedpur is long, tedious and contains more holes than one of the Spin's more cogent arguments. Mosquitoes keep you company en route and the honking of the driver's horn skilfully ensures against a quick nap. The heat is unbearable and the terrain reminiscent of one of the desert scenes in Star Wars. And it all takes three hours. If you could fly, you would. The journalists, of course, had no such luxury, which might have been punishment for accusing England of overusing the sweep shot at Delhi. But the England team - with the exception of the backroom staff and Jimmy Anderson - transferred straight from the charter flight from Guwahati onto a smaller plane that headed direct for Jamshedpur.

The Indians, meanwhile, had to rough it on the road. All, that is, except for Harbhajan Singh, who clearly knows which side his naan is buttered. The Spin smelt a rat the moment our flight touched down at Ranchi. Showing a turn of pace normally reserved for caught-and-bowled chances, Harbhajan sprinted down the aisle to grab his bag from an overhead locker, then legged it from the plane in the direction of ... the England aircraft! Yes, while the rest of his team-mates were wearily preparing themselves for the non-ride of a lifetime, Harbhajan had decided to take the pitch out of the equation by flying with the opposition.

Ever since Sourav Ganguly commandeered the Indian team bus to take him and his personal entourage from Napier airport to the team hotel (minus, of course, the team), the Spin has always had a healthy regard for Indians who take unilateral decisions on the matter of transport. But the team management were not quite so impressed. The Indians seemed unaware that Harbhajan had left them to be with his mates in the England team, while the English management were simply bemused. As for the journalists, by the time their luggage had failed to appear 90 minutes after landing, a case of airport-rage was on the cards. Next time Harbhajan looks twitchy, the Spin is going after him.

Wisden online

Here is one for the stattos. In conjunction with Cricinfo, Wisden has put a large chunk of its considerable history onto the web. I couldn't actually get much to work, but I assume this is just a teething problem. It wanted my Cricinfo ID and when I entered it, sent me to a blank page. Oh well, problems like this just seem to be par for the course for most new websites.

Tuesday, 11 April 2006

Karl on ... BN vs AUS, Day 2

Two stunning days in Fatullah have left Bangladesh in an unusual position - being on top in a test match, against Australia. The game is far from over. One area the Australians are superb in is taking advantage of any slackening in pressure from the opposition.

The Aussie media aren't taking things well.
The Daily Telegraph has the headline "Pathetic" and says "Presented with half-a-million dollars in the morning for being the world's best side, heavyweight Australia were left scratching for pennies in the evening after a shocking batting collapse on day two of the first Test in Dhaka."
The Sydney Morning Herald says "Originally hoping for a quick kill, Australia are in danger of falling prey to one of the biggest upsets in Test history ".
The Australian says "the fact that Australia agreed to a program that excluded practice matches and only two cursory training sessions in which to acclimatise to sub-continental pitches smacked of a team that expected minimal opposition."

On Stuart MacGill, the Australian points out "He now boasts 190 wickets in his 39th Test. In the 130-year history of the elite game, only Pakistan seamer Waqar Younis (33 Tests), and Australians Clarrie Grimmett (35) and Dennis Lillee (36) have claimed as many scalps in fewer matches."

Monday, 10 April 2006

Bangladesh vs Australia

Having watched Bangladesh - led by 20-year old Shariar Nafees - rattle up 427, Australia are currently 50/3.
Shariar Nafees. Go you good thing!

Fast scoring batsmen

Here's a question for you - of those New Zealand cricketers who have scored at least 1000 test runs or faced 2000 balls, which batsman has scored at the fastest rate? Chris Cairns? Craig McMillan? Ian Smith maybe? Or John R Reid?

Nope, its Richard Hadlee. Paddles comes in at number 38 on the all-time world's fastest scoring batsmen list with a strike rate of 57.6 runs for every 100 balls faced. Top of the list are Shahid Afridi and Adam Gilchrist with staggering returns of 86.2 and 82.1 per 100 balls respectively.

One of the more interesting things about this analysis of scoring rates is how many modern players appear high on the list. Nine of the top twenty are still playing today.

Does this mean test cricket is getting faster and faster? Possibly, but a look at the bottom twenty reveals a handful of fairly modern names too - several of them New Zealanders. You don't expect to see Blair Pocock and Trevor Franklin on too many "best ever" lists, but there they are with almost record breakingly slow run rates of 29.8 and 23.0 runs per 100 balls. Franklin in fact is one the slowest scoring batsmen to have ever played the game, coming in only three places behind the slowest of them all - former New Zealand captain of the 1950s Geoff Rabone, who scored at a mind-numbingly dull 21.22 runs per 100 balls.

The first question most New Zealanders might have about the list of slow scorers is "what about Mark Richardson"? Well, he actually made his runs at a fairly respectable clip - scoring 37.6 runs for every 100 balls he faced. This puts him almost exactly halfway between New Zealand's fastest ever and our slowest ever, and at around the same rate as Andrew Jones (39.2).

So what does all this say about the state of test cricket? Well, I think it shows that test cricket was played at a fairly consistent speed right up until the end of the 1990s. It is only in the past few years that things have gone a little haywire and we are at a point now when scoring 300 runs in a day has become almost mundane. Richardson's apparently undeserved reputation as a dull and stolid blocker is perhaps proof of how easily this change has been accepted as normal by the public. Is this increase in run rates a good thing? In my opinion it is. But I think those running the game need to be cautious and make sure things don't go to far. Things as they stand are great, anything further and there is a risk that cricket might be reduced to the slogger's match that one-day cricket has become.

The batting world turns upside down

As Ben has pointed out Chris Martin just put on 95 runs in a partnership with Brendon McCullum. Chris Martin!

I think someone must have put something in the Batting God's tea because not only did he allow that to happen, but he just watched Bangladesh smash Australia for 355 runs in a single days play. For the loss of only five wickets. While Brett Lee went for 0-65 off 15 overs. And Shane Warne was tonked for 112 off 20 overs for no reward.

Cricket vs baseball

The Boston Globe has an interesting interview with Amartya Ray, an Indian cricket fan working for the local baseball team. Ray admits his first love is still cricket, a game which the Globe describes as follows:

"...the British game in which batters hit bounced pitches with flat bats and run back and forth between two posts to tally runs."

I love it when Americans try to describe the game. I mean, what the hell is that?

Ben on...Chris Martin, batting hero

I can only guess whether Chris Martin's 9 not out in the match against the rest of South Africa is his highest score in an international. However, I'm more confident in believing that the 95 he scored together with McCullum is the biggest partnership he has been involved in.

Sunday, 9 April 2006

The South African team

Well, apart from the fact that century-makers Neil McKenzie and Jean-Paul Duminy didn't make the cut, the most interesting aspect of the South African team is that Graeme Smith is only rated a 50/50 chance to play in the first match. Another interesting point is that this side has been selected for the entire test series:

Graeme Smith (captain)
Jacques Kallis (vice-captain)
AB de Villiers
Herschelle Gibbs
Ashwell Prince
Jacques Rudolph
Mark Boucher
Shaun Pollock
Nicky Boje
Andre Nel
Makhaya Ntini
Boeta Dippenaar
Andrew Hall
Garnett Kruger
Hashim Amla
Dale Steyn

South Africa tour, day 2

Jimmy Franklin and Stephen Fleming were the stars of day two but we are still not in quite as good a position as Bangladesh are against Australia - they are currently 163/1 after 35 overs. It won't last of course. Cricinfo says the wicket is easy paced, and if Shahriar Nafees can bat so well on it against Brett Lee and Shane Warne - don't you just dread what Matthew Hayden and Ricky Ponting might do against Shahadat Hossain?

Saturday, 8 April 2006


Okay, we all knew that Shane Bond would break down as soon as he arrived in South Africa - but who would have thought the team manager would beat him to the hospital?

First day of the South African tour

Ouch. Richard Boock and Mark O'Donnell see New Zealand's batting as the side biggest problem, but with South Africa 'A' ending day one of the tour on 355/3 then perhaps they should be looking at the bowling.

Michael Holding lets rip

In his playing days Michael Holding had the nickname "Whispering Death". Well, he isn't doing much whispering anymore and in an interview with Cricinfo he claims that political issues are preventing some bowlers from being reported for illegal bowling actions. Expanding on this already controversial stance, he then mentions Shoaib Akhtar by name and explains exactly why his action is so wrong.

Friday, 7 April 2006

CD win the State Championship

A last day collapse against Lance Hamilton has seen Wellington fall at the final hurdle and Central Districts win the State Championship.

McMillan takes up poker

You could never say that Craig McMillan has a poker face, but his style of batting definitely has the ring of a gambler to it. While his former comrades in the New Zealand side step into the unknown, McMillan is staying at home to try his hand at serious card playing. Lets just hope he doesn't win too big and decide to pack away that bat - I am still hopeful it has plenty of runs in it yet.

Thursday, 6 April 2006

Format of the State Championship final

Something really does need to be done about the format of the State Championship final. Competition leader Wellington went into the game only needing a draw, and a draw is what they have been playing for since ball one. 596 runs in 250 overs is not much in the way of entertainment. Wellington deserve some advantage for earning the most points in the competition, but surely the fact that the final is played at their home ground is enough of a reward?

Fleming predicts tough battle

In a chat on his arrival in South Africa Stephen Fleming eyed up Makhaya Ntini's form and the post-Australia effect (thanks for the link to that one Karl). Unfortunately John Bracewell couldn't seem to stop himself from interjecting and putting in another dig against Lou Vincent and Matthew Sinclair:

"New Zealand playing conditions are often green seamers so there are not too many guys volunteering to bat up top. So the top-order batting has been a problem going back a long time to John Wright and Bruce Edgar.

"But that's why we've chosen two specialist openers and a specialist number three for this tour, guys who want the job in Michael Papps, Jamie How and Peter Fulton."

I think we all get it now John. It couldn't really be any clearer, even if you just came out and said what you really mean - "Vincent and Sinclair both said they would prefer to play in the middle order, and that makes them big girl's blouses".

Wednesday, 5 April 2006

Styris and real fans

In this morning's Press Geoff Longley gets John Bracewell to open up a little. Bracewell dismisses speculation that Scott Styris is "out of favour" and reveals that the test side might incorporate both Styris and Oram by shifting Fulton up the order to an opening slot. Great stuff! I like the line of thinking and I like the way Bracewell has articulated it. Lets hope he continues to work on those communication skills.

Meanwhile the Dominion Post talks to the die-hards down at the Basin enduring gloom, wind and slow cricket. I plan on being one of them one day. I see a retirement filled by days on the bank with a radio clutched to my ear.

Former coach of New Zealand to select Australia teams?

The Sydney Morning Herald is reporting that former coach of New Zealand Steve Rixon is a strong possibility to replace long serving Trevor Hohns on the Australian board of selectors.

South Africa

The New Zealand side left for South Africa yesterday and arrived to meet a South African team licking its wounds after a 3-0 mauling by Australia. The best the South Africans can say about the series is that they left their best for last, with Australia only managing to just scrape home in the final test.

The South African team clearly has some problems. Cricinfo's player ratings reveal an attack that is overly reliant on one man (Makhaya Ntini) while Shaun Pollock is now very clearly in the twilight of his once great career. Jacques Kallis may still be one of the best batsmen in the world, but gremlins seem to have crept into the techniques belonging to Graeme Smith and Herschelle Gibbs.

Does New Zealand have a good enough attack to exploit those gremlins and penetrate their techniques? Perhaps. Tall right-arm pace man Stuart Clark did the damage for Australia and some of the flaws he made use of have already been successfully mined by tall right-arm pace man Chris Martin. Martin could be our secret weapon. He can go from magnificent to mush from one series to the next, but freshness seems a key to his form and after an empty New Zealand summer he only just began to hit his straps as the West Indies prepared to go home. Martin has forged a superb record against the Proteas so far, with 29 South African wickets at 20.20 - including 11 at 26.00 on the continent.

If Martin does strike form and can combine with Shane Bond, Jacob Oram and Dan Vettori then we have a very tasty looking bowling attack. Against Australia the South Africans prepared seaming wickets to nullify Shane Warne's spin and to suit their pace men. Only Ntini was capable of taking advantage and any wicket that suits his bounce will suit Martin and Oram just as well. Given the current state of the South African bowling attack, Bond and Vettori should have a monopoly on any other type of wicket.

Despite the theoretical advantage we have in the bowling, South Africa are not going to be push-overs. Since they resumed playing test cricket we have played in the country six times and have a record of four losses and only one victory. Smith, Gibbs and Pollock might be in form slumps, but they have all demonstrated their class in the past and none of them is ever going to just lie down and give up. We also have problems with our own batting order, with an inexperienced top order and a middle order lacking two of the country's best players.

And don't forget Ntini. Michael Papps in particular will have watched his bouncers with a shiver running down his spine.

Oh and, ummmm, it looks like I can say yay me at last!

Tuesday, 4 April 2006

Why people don't watch domestic cricket

I was at the Basin for an hour or so before play began yesterday and spent most of that time wishing I was staying for the whole day. Now I am glad I didn't. 86.5 overs. 184 runs. Two wickets. And this is the grand conclusion of the domestic season.

Monday, 3 April 2006

The media on John Bracewell

You may have noticed that more and more commentators are starting to question coach John Bracewell's decisions. Until now however, no-one has quite dared to go as far as to compare Bracewell with sacked All-Black coach John Mitchell. Andrew McLean has just dared take that step.

The thing that frustrates me most about Bracewell's reign is that it could so easily be a great one. If Bracewell just thought a little more before he spoke, if he made an effort to communicate with journalists rather than belittle and dismiss them, if he treated his players with a little more respect. Yes, some of his decisions have been odd ones and some players (Kyle Mills, Hamish Marshall) seem to get a hell of a lot more rope than others (Matthew Sinclair, Lou Vincent) - but all coaches make odd decisions. The problem Bracewell now has is that his decisions are increasingly coming under the microscope by journalists and the public who - frankly - don't think much of him. And journalists and the public don't think much of him because he doesn't show journalists and the public any respect. Ultimately Bracewell's greatest failings are not his ability to coach, but his ability to communicate.

Bracewell was a grumpy bastard as a player, he is now a grumpy bastard as a coach. I just hope for his sake that it is not too late to teach the old dog how to make friends and influence people.

Sunday, 2 April 2006

Poll results and a new poll

My last poll asked you to look into the distant future and tell me where New Zealand cricket will be in 5 years time. On balance it seems we will be slightly worse off than we are now. Two of you optimistically thought we would be thrashing the Aussies so often it would become boring, five of you thought we wouldn't be collapsing in the second innings quite so often, seven of you thought things would be pretty much the same as they are now, eight of you predicted we would be struggling to recover from the retirements of Fleming, Bond and Vettori and two of you thought the Xbox generation would fail to step up and that we would be being thrashed by Nepal on a regular basis.

My new poll also looks to the future, but only into the next month or so. Vote and let me know how well the New Zealand side will do on the tour to South Africa.

Weekend paper round

Geoff Longley writes in the Press. Not surprisingly he thinks Cantabrian Shane Bond should have won the Redpath Cup for bowler of the year instead of Chris Martin, who left Canterbury last season to play for Auckland.

In the Sunday-Star Times Michael Donaldson compares hard-working bowlers Mark Gillespie and Ewen Thompson before the start of the State Championship final.

In the Herald Richard Boock gets really steamed up because Scott Styris might be dropped from the New Zealand team. If Richard is this angry now, I can't wait to see him if Styris does actually get the chop.

I thought there might be a little tension at the Herald's cricket desk, because Adam Parore has responded to Richard Boock's fury by criticising "a number of media commentators ... fixated on ... selection policy" and praising Styris' competition - Jacob Oram. But perhaps Boock is getting a little tired of all the shouting, because his rant about Saint Scott has been followed by a nice profile of Oram.

Away from the Styris/Oram battle,Dylan Cleaver talks about Matthew Sinclair's move into exile, a theme Mark Richardson and the prolific Richard Boock also take up.