Tuesday, 31 October 2006

Aussies feeling confident

The Australian tells us that a semi-final against New Zealand gives Australia "a dream run to the [Champion's Trophy final]." Apparently New Zealand is not even capable of beating Australia on our own merits, because according to the article "only an inadequate performance will prevent Australia from [reaching the final]".

Monday, 30 October 2006

NZ vs Australia semi-final

So we will be facing Australia in the semi-final of the Champions Trophy. I suppose if we are going to win any kind of cricket tournament, we will invariably have to have to beat Australia at some point. But it is unfortunate that we have to play them in the semi-final of this tournament, if only because the pitch is going to suit them down to the ground. The match will be played in Mohali, the same ground where Australia so comprehensively outplayed India. Not only is it a good batting wicket with plenty of bounce - which will suit Australia's flat-track bullies - but if it suits any one type of bowler over the others then that bounce means it will suit Australia's taller pacemen. Mohali might as well be in Perth.

Perhaps even more of a concern than the pitch is Glenn McGrath's return to his parsimonious best, while Mitchell Johnson finally looks to be fulfilling all the hype.

Hum. This is an awfully negative assessment isn't it? Perhaps I have been reading too much Richard Boock lately.

PS Posting has been sporadic lately because the site has been down an awful lot. Let's just hope Blogger can pick up its act a wee bit.

Saturday, 28 October 2006

Keeper on keeper

In today's Herald former New Zealand wicket-keeper Adam Parore runs his ruler over Brendon McCullum and likes what he sees. In fact, Parore rates him ahead of both Mark Boucher and Adam Gilchrist, both of whom he claims are rather rubbish. Hmmmm, I wonder if he watched Mark Boucher's man of the match performance for South Africa last night - breath-taking legside catch off Ntini included?

Friday, 27 October 2006

Boock on New Zealand

Richard Boock has written a lengthy piece on the New Zealand performance in the group stages of the Champions Trophy. It includes an assessment of how each player in the squad has performed. Perhaps the funniest bit in the whole piece is the way Boock contorts himself to give only grudging praise to Shane Bond - perhaps because he is unwilling to contradict his knuckleheaded call to drop Bond just a few days ago.

Roebuck on a world gone mad

Peter Roebuck's latest column deals with something that no cricket writer should have to discuss. In the column Roebuck discusses how Pakistani journalist Osman Samiuddin has become the latest innocent victim of George Bush's War on Human Rights. Samiuddin has suddenly found that he is unable to travel the world to do his job and write about cricket. Why? Because he has a beard, was born in Saudi Arabia, is a Muslim, and is fond of travel.

Thursday, 26 October 2006

Go jumpin' Jack go

In a timely decision given his good form in the first two one-dayers of the Champions Trophy, Cricinfo has decided to give the aspiring talent of the week treatment to Jeetan Patel.

Semi-finals here we come

New Zealand is the first team to qualify for the Champions Trophy semi-finals thanks to last night's victory over Pakistan. And what a great feeling it is to sit back and reflect on an excellent all-round performance and watch the other sides scrapping out for the chance to play us.

Odds are Australia will be our semi-final opponents, but they will have to beat India first. That game will be yet another of the "must wins" that the tournament has thrown up so far. And the number of these "must wins" must surely be the reflection of the tournament's excellent format. After the first round of games every match has been a do or die experience for at least one of the teams involved. The ICC should be congratulated for not trying to overmilk the sacred cow by overstuffing the round-robin with unnecessary (but money-spinning) matches. I just wish the Indian crowds were a bit larger, such interesting contests deserve a bit more atmosphere.

Ben on...a win as wins should be won

In last night's victory over Pakistan, the Black Caps finally put together a pretty much ideal game:

An opener got a start and provided momentum at the top of the order (Fleming's 80) and a middle-order batsman provided the innings with a backbone (Styris' 86) and stability for the lower order to hit out (Oram 31 off 26, McCullum 27 off 13). Then Bond breaks the opening partnership (22-1), the other bowlers chip away (45-2, 65-3, 83-4), Bond breaks the dangerous mid-innings partnership (177-4) and a fine piece of fielding all but wraps the game up ("substitute Ross Taylor pulls off a blinding pick-up-and-throw from gully to ping the non-striker's stumps").

There were three standout perfomances, Fleming, Styris and Bond (3-45), but ultimately it was just an excellent team performance.

Wednesday, 25 October 2006

New Zealand vs Pakistan preview

South Africa did New Zealand a big favour last night by beating Sri Lanka. The result means that a New Zealand win tonight will see the Kiwis through to the semi-finals on the Champions Trophy.

By way of a preview we have interviews with New Zealand captain Stephen Fleming and his possible successor, vice-captain Dan Vettori. We also get the news that the pitch will be a good one and that chemicals will again come into play, through the use of something called APSA-80 to reduce the impact dew has on play.

Tuesday, 24 October 2006

Drop Bond?

Shane Bond has only been back for one game, but already Richard Boock is campaigning for the almost unthinkable - he is petitioning the selectors to drop the fast bowler.

Another year, another empty cabinet

Here come the ICC awards again, and New Zealand once again misses out being nominated in every single category - except for the meaningless consolation award which is the Spirit of Cricket. Cricketer of the year? Nup, no New Zealanders there. One day cricketer of the year? Nope. Test cricketer of the year? No. Emerging player of the year? Nup. Women's player of the year? Course not. Captain of the year? You're kidding right. Umpire of the year? Billy who?

Of course, things might be better if we played a bit more bloody cricket.

Saturday, 21 October 2006

Ben on...a sticky wicket

Apparently the glue used to hold the pitch together in last night's match, when New Zealand became unstuck, was PVA. I wonder if they can peel it off like fake skin after the match.

Friday, 20 October 2006

A brief absence

This is likely to be my last post for a few days. There is a long weekend ahead here in New Zealand and I am travelling up to Auckland to visit family. Normal services should resume on Tuesday.

Taylor flies in

Teams are only allowed to bring a new player into their Champions Trophy squad if someone else is withdrawn. This means Ross Taylor's arrival in the sub-continent is probably a very bad sign for Scott Styris.

Bond fit again?

An MRI scan has indicated that Shane Bond is not suffering any significant injury so he may still play a part in the Champions Trophy. Personally I am not going to hold my breath though.

The postman delivers

Gavin Larsen's latest column over at the Black Caps website is a particularly good one. In it he praises the depth of talent coming through at the top level of New Zealand cricket, but expresses the concern that players like Shane Bond, Daniel Vettori and Jacob Oram remain both injury prone and irreplaceable. He also raises the spectre of Stephen Fleming's retirement. Something that most of us will be dreading.

New Zealand vs Sri Lanka preview

Richard Boock continues his early season good mood with a glowing piece on Stephen Fleming. The glow is made extra warm thanks to some unusually positive comments from John Bracewell. What has bought on all this back-slapping and early season joy? I suspect somebody is putting happy juice in the tea of New Zealand cricket's two foremost curmudgeons.

Cricinfo's preview includes the bizarre rumour that industrial adhesives have been used on the pitch to stop it from breaking apart. Even if this is true, I suspect the toss is again going to have too much influence on the outcome. Apart from that comment, Cricinfo does not appear too excited about the game. "Two teams that are more than competent at one-day cricket promise to put up a show worthy of the occasion" is their summary. Given that "the occasion" is a round robin match in a second tier tournament this is not particularly high praise.

As if to dampen down any remaining enthusiasm for the contest, Stephen Fleming predicts that occupying the crease and grinding things out will be the way to win.

Thursday, 19 October 2006

Struggling to find 11 fit players

Wasn't it just a few days ago that John Bracewell and Stephen Fleming were talking about how great it was to have a fully fit squad? What happened?

Has Ricky Ponting lost faith in Glenn McGrath?

I know it is early days in the season and Glenn McGrath is returning from a long layoff, but last night Ricky Ponting didn't seem to put much faith in the champion fast bowler. The Aussie captain held McGrath back until first-change and then after two short spells sent him packing to the outfield. By the end of the innings McGrath had resorted to arm-waving and pleading to get the ball back. In all he only bowled 8 overs in three short spells. And, according to Cricinfo, in those spells McGrath looked rusty and failed to reach even the 130kmph mark. McGrath is 36 and Australia really do need him to be at his best if they are to regain the Ashes. Figures of 8-0-42-1 are not the end of the world (or even particularly bad figures), but Ponting's actions may indicate that he has lost a little faith in his bowler.

The glorious uncertainties of cricket

There was a certain amount of gloating in the Australian press when England went down to India earlier in the week. The usual Aussie brashness seemed to making a return after a winter of discontent. This morning's result is going to put a bit of a dent in that.

The West Indies win over the world's number one team came with the help of some of the Caribbean's lesser lights - Jerome Taylor, Ian Bradshaw and Runako Morton sharing the stage. Taylor is only 22 but has already suffered more than his share of injury concerns, but he is really starting to kick on now. Let's just hope he can stay fit and fast. Bradshaw is another player I enjoy watching. Something about his old-before-his-time walk and his steady bowling reminds me of Ewen Chatfield. He is just the kind of player the mercurial Windies need. And speaking of mercurial, then there is Runako Morton. A 31 ball duck against Australia in one match, a brilliant 90 not out against them the next. Morton's redemption is certainly something to bring a smile to the face of even the most puritanical fan.

And what is perhaps the best thing about this result? That it means the match between Australia and England has just taken on a whole lot more significance. Whichever team loses that match will be eliminated from the tournament. In a few days' time expect gloating to cover one nation's back pages and a whole bunch of "it was a meaningless tournament and we are glad of the rest anyway" on the other's.

Wednesday, 18 October 2006

Notes from a passenger list

You wouldn't usually expect an aircraft passenger list to provide too many highlights, but the list from a recent England-Australia flight did include an interesting snippet:

Chadwick, Adam, Mr (MCC museum curator)
William, Glenys, Mrs (MCC historian)
Urn, Ashes, Mr (ceramic pot on wooden plinth)
Garland, Laura, Miss (Mr Urn's spokesman)

I bet Ms Laura Garland has an interesting job. Perhaps not quite as interesting as "Mr Urn's" though.

Tuesday, 17 October 2006

An outside assessment

Here are some interesting pieces, Cricinfo editorial assistant Sriram Veera ran his eye over the New Zealand team in Baroda and posted his impressions. He certainly liked what he saw of Mark Gillespie. He wasn't nearly as impressed with Shane Bond's first outing for a while and did some nice spotting with regards to the batsmen. Hamish Marshall looks vulnerable outside off he reckoned, and Scott Styris doesn't appear fit. Meanwhile Jacob Oram struggled with his cut shot against the spinners and Brendon McCullum looked all at sea on a turning wicket.

A tale of two captains

New Zealand vs South Africa matches in recent times have been dominated by the captains of the respective sides. The games have become less about nation vs nation, and more about Stephen Fleming vs Graeme Smith. Last night was perhaps the most extreme example of this. Stephen Fleming scored 89 out of 195 for New Zealand and Graeme Smith managed 42 out of South Africa's 108.

In truth it wasn't the best of games. Right from the start you could see the pitch was going to play a part. It looked to me like they took the worst of New Zealand's low, slow wickets and then baked it until it started to crumble.

Still, a victory is a victory and a convincing victory over a certain South African wanker is even better. The bowlers did their part very well - so much for rust - and even if Fleming's was the only score of substance, then at least the rest of the side hung around with him for a while.

On the downside the stupid experiment with Lou Vincent sent in as a top order thrasher continues. I can't see how this benefits the side (particularly on poor pitches) and I am convinced the role is doing terrible things to his game.

Anyway. There are better experts than me commenting on the game. So go here and read a real match report.

Has the ICC hired a spammer?

I wondered this when I saw the comments in my last two posts from "Cricket in the blood". But the website he promotes with much enthusiasm, http://iccchampionstrophy.indya.com is actually pretty fine so I forgive him. The catch - if there is one - is that it exists to sell live streaming of the Champions Trophy matches. Still, there is plenty to enjoy there without having to spend a penny.

Monday, 16 October 2006

Drugs in cricket

Until now, cricket has appeared blessedly free of performance enhancing drugs. That all seems set to change thanks to this tiny little article. Pakistan's strike bowlers, Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammed Asif, have been sent home before bowling a ball in the Champions Trophy "after testing positive for performance enhancing drugs following an internal Pakistan Cricket Board drugs test.


The first game of the season is tonight. And this morning Shane Bond woke up with a sore back.

Sigh. It was all so predictable really. I am starting to genuinely believe that there is something psychosomatic in Bond's injuries. Perhaps he has had so many injuries now that he becomes overly tense and nervous before a match, tense and nervous enough to cause his body problems?

Still, there is some black humour to be found in Bond's breakdown. For a start it will cause Ian Chappell and Mark Richardson no end of frustration, having just rendered their newly published columns instantly obsolete.

Anyway. Back to the match. In his preview of New Zealand vs South Africa for Cricinfo, Anand Vasu seems to lean towards picking New Zealand as favourites. On the positive side of the ledger, we haven't suffered the kind of preparation Herschelle Gibbs has enjoyed. And, as South Africa's only recent matches have been against Zimababwe, they have not exactly been playing competitive cricket lately. And perhaps the biggest thing currently in our favour could well be South Africa's captain. The man Dylan Cleaver has dubbed "the skipper the world can't stand".

But I have to admit that I found Jonathan Millmow's forecast that our underdone bowlers will wilt (see below) convincing. And John Bracewell's rather predictable bout of hubris leaves me expecting the arrival of hubris' mate, nemesis.

If I am forced to make a pick, then I am going to go with whichever side wins the toss. You wouldn't think the toss would matter too much on the sub-continent, but I am willing to bet the heavy evening dew is going to start to take effect on the day-nighters sometime soon. Expect the New Zealand seamers or Ntini and Pollock to be a handful once the sun goes down.

Saturday, 14 October 2006

Another day, another warm-up

A victory against Ben's old hometown side Baroda last night saw plenty of players get a useful tune-up. Shane Bond played his first game of the summer and put in a full ten overs (1-39). Jacob Oram had a tidy spell (7 overs, 0-17) and Mark Gillespie again impressed (3-19 off 7). Of the batsmen Astle, Marshall, Styris, Oram, Vettori and Bond all spent valuable time in the middle.

It has to be said that the opposition didn't seem much cop. The only recognisble name was YK Pathan, and that is just because he is the much more famous (and talented) IK Pathan's little brother.

Friday, 13 October 2006

Bond, the statistical breakdown

How important is Shane Bond to New Zealand? Just ask Cricinfo which has conducted a comprehensive statistical analysis. And what do all their stats tell us? That he has a better bowling average than anyone else who has played one-day cricket. That he has a better strike rate than anyone else who has played one-day cricket. And that he takes a higher percentage of top-order wickets over tail-enders than anyone else who has played one-day cricket. And all that makes him pretty damn useful. Useful enough that New Zealand's chance of winning any given match rises from 46% to 53% when he is in the side.

Gillespie in the wickets

This morning's Herald contains an interview Richard Boock conducted with Mark Gillespie. The interview also contains a brief assessment of New Zealand's first opponents in the Champions Trophy. Richard Boock noted that the team batted impresively in their first warm-up match while the bowlers "proved economical, if not overly penetrative."

Meanwhile New Zealand had its own warm-up match to play. And we didn't do too badly against a side that contained a handful of recognised players - including pace man Zaheer Khan. Batting first we made 246/8 with Vincent, Fleming, Marshall and Styris all getting some valuable time in the middle. Our second string bowling attack then restricted the MCA President's XI to 207, Gillespie starring with 3-37 along with Jeetan Patel who took 3-39. Jimmy Franklin and Kyle Mills also returned impressive figures, both bowling with an economy rate of under 3.

Thursday, 12 October 2006


Yesterday Jonathan Millmow predicted in the Dominion-Post that New Zealand would struggle at the Champions Trophy because the bowlers are lacking time in the middle. This is not going to help. While Sri Lanka and the West Indies warm up with some qualifiers against Bangladesh and Zimbabwe, we had a match scheduled against a "MCA Presidents XI" stuffed full of people I have never heard of. And then it was rained off without a ball being bowled.

Wednesday, 11 October 2006

A neat trick

This is something that those of us tied to a computer all day might find particularly useful. It is a wee data download from Cricinfo that will mark all of the Champions Trophy fixtures on your Microsoft Outlook calendar. Perhaps the best thing about it is that it adjusts the times and dates for New Zealand time. I now have a handy reminder to turn on the telly at 10pm on Monday 16 October so I can watch New Zealand's first game.

Tuesday, 10 October 2006

Bond aiming for pace

Now this is good news. Shane Bond isn't just bowling again, he is bowling FAST.

Terrorism and cricket

A-Qaeda, Tamil Tigers and now Shiv Sena. Being a cricketer is certainly not the safest of careers at the moment.

Hughes on Warne

Hey, I thought it was the English press who always tried to sabotage their own team's morale? But this season it has been former Australian players like Greg Ritchie and Kim Hughes lining up to pour scorn about their current side into the back pages of an eager Australian press.

The return of summer

All the signs have been pointing towards summer, but the real thing is finally here. Peter Roebuck has returned to the cricket pages. His first column of the season is an unusual one. With a terrorist plot linked to the Ashes, the world of politics has suddenly become open game for cricket writers. And - as you would expect - Roebuck is much better at assessing and commentating on the situation than the proper journalists.

A blog to follow

A blog about New Zealand cricket written by a student from Bangalore currently living in Texas? It sounds unlikely, but it is actually very good. So pop over and visit Rain stops play and if you ever find yourself in Austin Texas, look out for the guy in a Beige Brigade uniform.

Monday, 9 October 2006

Al-Qaeda targeted cricketers

According to the UK's Sunday Times the 7 July bombers who blew up buses, trains and people in London may have received instructions from al-Qaeda to attack the English and Australian cricket teams during the 2005 Ashes series. The plan may only have been changed because one of the bombers, Shehzad Tanweer, was a cricketer and objected.

Saturday, 7 October 2006

Boock on Bond

Misleading headlines. Don't you hate them? In today's New Zealand Herald Richard Boock talks to Shane Bond about the upcoming season. During the course of their discussion Bond mentions the Ashes and states that such an intense contest is hardly likely to leave Australia and England in much shape for the World Cup. Bond discusses how demanding test cricket is and Boock responds by asking whether he would consider giving up on tests himself to concentrate on being fit for the World Cup. Bond's response is to say "I haven't thought much about that" and then points out that this would not really be his decision anyway. The headline for this interview? "Bond open to test rest option".

Chaos in Pakistan

There is no better soap opera than cricket in Pakistan. And today provided yet another twist. Younis Khan refused the captaincy of the side and chose to do so during a press conference where he announced "I don't want to be a dummy captain". The PCB has said that "Younis' decision to renounce the captaincy was a breach of discipline" but responded by retaining the player in the squad and forcing its own chairman to resign. Hardly the normal method of dishing out discipline.

Friday, 6 October 2006

Champions Trophy form

Cricinfo has shuffled the stats around to pick the form sides coming into the Champions Trophy. New Zealand's form has - as we all know - been very patchy. 17 wins in 33 matches since the last tournament makes for a win percentage of around 51%. Where we might have an edge though is in the form of our bowlers. Shane Bond tops the averages for all bowlers playing in the past two years (36 wickets at 18.11) while Dan Vettori (44 wickets at 26.43) and Kyle Mills (41 wickets at 27.03) are not too far behind. The secret to success then, is predictably to keep our attack fit.

If stats aren't your thing, then Richard Boock is here to help. In today's New Zealand Herald he provides a handy team-by-team guide. Richard hedges his bets by picking not just one favourite, but the four teams he thinks are most likely to triumph (Australia, South Africa, Pakistan and hosts India).

Thursday, 5 October 2006

Dan the (bats)man

Everyone knows Don Bradman averaged 99.94 in tests, but did you know he averaged 103.63 while batting at number three in the batting order? Why is that important? Because Cricinfo has compiled a list of the best batsmen at each spot in the batting order. Bradman is always going to stand out in any list of batting achievements, but he does have to share this list with one DL Vettori, who snaffles the World XI's number 8 batting slot with an average of 36.21. Glenn Turner also makes an appearance in the rankings, in one day cricket he makes a spot at the top of the order his own with a ODI average of almost 50 as an opener.

Hamish on Gloucestershire

Following up on Jonathan Millmow's talk to James Franklin, the Press's Geoff Longley has a chat with Hamish Marshall about the county experience. Marshall clearly enjoyed the experience more than Franklin, but then so he should with 1218 runs to his name and an average of over 60 for the season.

Longley also reveals that the entire New Zealand team has been passed as fit for the Champions Trophy. I am betting that won't last long. The only previous time I can recall New Zealand having a full strength squad was at the start of last season. And that time Bond, Oram, Vettori and company all crocked themselves as soon as the cricket started.

Tuesday, 3 October 2006

Jimmy on Glamorgan

Jonathan Millmow talks to James Franklin about his experience in Wales in this morning's Dominion-Post. While he is typically understated, it seems Jimmy wasn't taken with the place, the county circuit or his own form. Luckily for us however, he is "champing at the bit" to play for New Zealand again.

Monday, 2 October 2006

A change in the weather

You can usually rely on Richard Boock to find the downside to anything, but today he surprises his readers by running his eye over the recent ball-tampering fiasco and finding the bright side. The key to Richard's conclusion are comments by arbitrator Ranjan Madugalle expressing bemusement at the umpires' failure to take a moderate line on the ball-tampering issue given that "it is an allegation of cheating". Boock concludes that the whole issue has done the game a great service because "world cricket has identified an elite umpire who, through his bloody-mindedness and lack of tact, can be considered more an enemy of the game than a servant of it."

I guess Boock is not going to be on Darrell Hair's Christmas card list. But he isn't the only one. Darrell seems to be running out of friends very quickly indeed.