Sunday, 31 December 2006

Cleaver on the fringe

Dylan Cleaver has an interesting piece in the Herald today. He looks at some of the players at the fringe of the New Zealand side, such as Bradley Scott, Jesse Ryder and Peter McGlashan. The "less mature" Ryder comes in for particular attention.

Friday, 29 December 2006

Bowling dross

Richard Boock thought New Zealand bowled a pile of dross yesterday, and I agree. "Some of the most inept bowling imaginable" fails to give the attack justice. Figures like 9-0-64-0 (Gillespie), 6-0-60-0 (Mason) and 7-0-54-0 (Adams) might look bad, but even they manage to look inflated because after reaching 201 in 24 overs Sri Lankans eased back and hit cruise control. The fact that there were 27 extras is perhaps more indicative of the rubbish served up. Gillespie can be excused a few nerves, but he concedes 4.89 runs per over for Wellington so I don't think that is only problem. Mason showed in the last Twenty20 match that he can be lethal when conditions suit seam bowling, but yesterday again demonstrated that he is cannon-fodder on a good batting surface. Adams might be another suffering some nerves. It is a fair while between drinks for the Auckland all-rounder and I suspect he is a little too desperate to succeed.

The "rotation policy" is becoming an issue for me. It makes sense if it is used to test out and give experience to young players like Ross Taylor - but when it is used to bring in players like Mason who are in their 30s and have tried and failed before - it loses a lot of its value. Indeed its only value then becomes to give players like Bond and Oram a rest.

Winning is a habit. And the best preparation New Zealand can have for the World Cup is to start winning. Yes, its going to be a long season and yes, players need a rest. But if a rotation policy is going to be in place then it should be used to rest one key player at a time - not half the damn team.

Thursday, 28 December 2006

Taylor in Napier

After so much waiting and anticipation for Ross Taylor's inclusion in the New Zealand team I wouldn't have been surprised to have seen him fail miserably in his first game back. But instead he smacked a brilliant unbeaten century against Sri Lanka. Along the way he suffered pretty severe leg cramps. The last New Zealand batsman to suffer leg cramps was Mark Richardson and I bet Ross wouldn't be too unhappy to end up with a similar career record. Cramps apart though, you couldn't pick two more different players than Richardson and Taylor. Where Richardson was technically correct with a rock solid defence, Taylor seems to rely on a good eye, fast hands and a very heavy bat. It took a while for Taylor's feet to start moving (nerves perhaps?) and sometimes he played across his pads, so he isn't the most classical batsman - but when he started playing shots he played beautifully. His opening boundary - an off-drive off Vaas - a gentle flick off his toes for six off Malinga and a trio of thumping leg-side wallops will live in the memory for a long time.

Canning's "retirement"

It looks like Tama Canning didn't so much retire, as go before he was sacked. According to Cricinfo he turned up late on the last day of his last game and with a hangover. Auckland Cricket were in the process of reviewing his conduct (and his contract) when he decided to quit the game.

Saturday, 23 December 2006

Poll results and a new poll

My last poll wasn't very popular. Clearly boring questions about a domestic competition didn't thrill you. I asked who you thought would win the State Championship this season. Central Districts won out with a measly 5 votes. Canterbury followed with 4 and Wellington with 3. Northern Districts won 2 votes while Otago and Auckland didn't win any at all.

My new poll asks you to choose your favourite scandal of Shane Warne's lengthy and extraordinary career.

Posting is likely to be light for the next couple of weeks. My family are coming to town to celebrate Christmas and I am on holiday until the 8th of January. Take care and have a fantastic holiday season.

How to beat New Zealand

Kumar Sangakkara reveals all in his column for Cricinfo.

Thursday, 21 December 2006

Ashes catches

This is a very dangerous time killer. Here's a hint for you though. If you jump in line with a seagull you will jump much higher.

The genius of spin

Shane Warne may be a dickhead and a prat, but he is also one of the greatest bowlers of all time. In Peter Roebuck's words "He took a bag of tricks onto the field and dipped into it with the cunning of a rat and the theatricality of a tragedian." He also seems to be on the verge of retirement.

I wonder what Warne will do once he has gone? Lawrence Booth expressed an interesting view on him a few days ago. Lawrence said that Warne does not enjoy taking wickets - he has to take wickets. They validate him. As Booth wrote, "...he has made such a mess of his private life that the middle of the pitch is his sanctuary, the place he can do what he does best." So what will Warne do without that sanctuary? Where does his life go now?

In many ways cricket has probably kept Warne in check to a degree. Being a sportsman means strict routines and requires discipline. Discipline is something Warne has always struggled with and with cricket gone it is possible that his already scandal-filled life will spiral out of control. I am not sure whether it will though. He already has a post lined up to commentate for Channel 9 and he knows that television will not tolerate his bad behaviour (having been sacked from a commentary role once before). He is also rumoured to have reconciled with his wife Simone. Lets hope he can keep it together. Cricket can't afford to lose its geniuses.

Wednesday, 20 December 2006

Test cricket in crisis?

No-one turned up to watch Sri Lanka play New Zealand recently. But then nobody turned up to watch India beat South Africa either. Australia and England might draw record crowds, but that isn't going to last long if England keep losing. Chloe Saltau in Melbourne's Age has taken a look at the state of test cricket around the world and is starting to grow concerned.

I am not so sure we should start worrying just yet. While attendance at test matches is down, I don't think interest is. I have heard more talk about test cricket over the past few weeks than I ever have. And coverage in the media has been almost overwhelming. People still love the game, but I suspect they don't have the time to dedicate an entire day to it. So what is the solution? Well, I am sure New Zealand Cricket must make very little of its money from paying customers. 1000 people paying $15 a head will contribute only a fraction of the income provided by those massive TV rights. So why not charge nothing or only a nominal fee? If people pay $15 then they will want to get their money's worth and will only go if they know they can spend the whole day at the ground. If they were to be charged nothing, they would be much more likely to take a long lunch and pop in for a session, or take the kids down for an hour.

In my opinion, test match cricket isn't dying. But it is losing its atmosphere and has clearly lost its importance to New Zealand Cricket. The priorities are now the money-spinning ODIs and Twenty20s.

In the past I have also advocated for test matches to be taken to the provinces. Martin Snedden said recently that this is not viable because of the contracts New Zealand Cricket has with the major grounds. This is a great pity. But better scheduling might help. Test matches in November and early December are not going to get a crowd anywhere in this country. The Boxing Day test quickly became a wildly popular institution in Wellington and its loss still is a mystery to many.

I can accept that high summer and the holiday season is the time when ODIs can make even more money, but Karl has suggested timing test matches with regional holidays. Staging a test match in Wellington over Wellington Anniversary Weekend seems a very sensible idea and still leaves the Christmas period free for money making.

Test cricket has long been the jewel in cricket's crown and the shabby treatment it has received in New Zealand is to the detriment of the game and its popularity. You do not limit a "series" to two games, shove them into the darkest corner of the season and then complain that the game is losing popularity. The New Zealand public still love the longest form of the game and New Zealand Cricket should acknowledge that. Cheaper (or free) entry, better scheduling and series containing more than two matches will see the crowds return.

The aim of New Zealand Cricket of course is not to draw crowds, but to make money. The ODIs might pay the bills, but even with free entry test cricket can still be a money earner. If it wants to wear its purely financial hat then New Zealand Cricket might considering looking at test cricket fans in a different light. Instead of seeing the people who come to the ground as punters to be exploited, they should look at them as atmosphere generators who will make the TV coverage even more valuable.

Tuesday, 19 December 2006

Twenty20 squad named

The New Zealand team to play Sri Lanka in two Twenty20 matches on 22 and 26 December is:

Stephen Fleming (captain), Andre Adams, Nathan Astle, Shane Bond, James
Franklin, Peter Fulton, Mark Gillespie, James Marshall, Brendon McCullum, Peter
McGlashan, Jeetan Patel, Ross Taylor

It is good to see Ross Taylor in the side. I find it surprising that James Marshall is in though. He has had one good knock this season - a brilliant 128 for Northern Districts against Wellington in the State Championship - and is only averaging 33.37. His twin brother Hamish is averaging 50.42 and might have been a better bet. I pleased Andre Adams is there. He has been blistering for Auckland recently, averaging 62.35 with the bat and 19.64 with the ball. McGlashan has come in to play as a keeper allowing Brendon McCullum will play as a specialist opener. If it comes off, this might be a move New Zealand could consider for the World Cup.

Snedden and Canning go

I wondered about retirements yesterday and today two important cogs in New Zealand cricket announced that they were moving on. Martin Snedden and Tama Canning have both announced that they are retiring. Snedden will be the bigger of the two losses. He has been at the head of New Zealand Cricket since 2001 and has provided steady, professional leadership. In a way he marked the transition from the amateur to the professional era in New Zealand cricket. He was the sharp lawyer who over from an opera singer, and he was also the CEO who oversaw the player contracts dispute and the introduction of professional first-class cricket.

Canning has been one of those bits-and-pieces cricketers that New Zealand seems to produce in spades - only he is actually an Australian. Canning came to New Zealand with the hope of making it to the top in international cricket. Not good enough to establish himself as either a batsman or a bowler, he still managed to make himself invaluable to Auckland by means of gritty, determined knocks in demanding situations and by taking vital wickets at vital moments. Canning played four ODIs for New Zealand a couple of seasons ago but found himself competing against a number of players trying to fill the same vacancy. Against the likes of Jacob Oram, James Franklin, Kyle Mills, Andre Adams, Scott Styris and Dan Vettori he was always going to struggle to establish himself. At the age of only 28 he seems to have lost his passion. I wouldn't be surprised if the struggles of his Auckland team in the first-class competition have contributed to this.

Monday, 18 December 2006

Perth, 17 years ago

Marie just sent me this link, along with the words "Even if one of the NZ team had done half as good a job as this we might have saved the test... "

The batting

Sri Lanka booted our arses at the Basin. So where did it all go wrong? I'll give you a clue. Here are the New Zealand batting averages for the series:

NJ Astle – 52 runs at 13
SE Bond – 15 runs at 5
CD Cumming – 119 runs at 29.75
SP Fleming – 75 runs at 18.75
JEC Franklin – 45 runs at 15
JM How – 70 runs at 17.5
BB McCullum – 74 runs at 24.67
CS Martin – 4 runs, no average
JDP Oram – 18 runs at 6
MS Sinclair – 83 runs at 20.75
DL Vettori – 114 runs at 38
Hmmm. Notice anything odd about that list? Like the fact that the blimmin' top order frickin' failed yet a-bloody-gain. Crickey. How many more times do we have to hear Stephen Fleming mouth the words "the top order let us down" before we manage to fix the damn problem? I know New Zealand hasn't got the largest pool of talent in the world, but somehow, somewhere there must be a solution.

Maybe the selectors could consider picking the 22 year old who averages 45.82 in first-class cricket? Or the other 22 year old who just hit 217 and who averaged 43 when given a chance in last season's Twenty20s (at a run rate of 245.71)? Maybe they could look at what members of the New Zealand team were doing out drinking one night in the middle of a damn test match they were in the process of losing? I dunno. Fixing the problem isn't my job. That's the job of the coach. And at the moment I really don't envy him.

The end of summer?

You might have noticed that I don't post much when New Zealand is doing poorly. In fact, posting (or talking) about cricket is usually the last thing I want to do in those circumstances. If I do post I usually end up sounding like a grumpy old curmudgeon like Richard Boock - and that is no fun for anybody.

As I write today New Zealand is staring defeat in the face at the Basin Reserve. Stephen Fleming has only just played a pointless little wafty drive to be caught behind.

This could possibly be Fleming's last act as a test cricketer. He is 33 years old and this is the last test match New Zealand will play for 11 months. This might also be the last test match for a couple of other key New Zealand players. Fleming, Shane Bond and Nathan Astle might all look at the upcoming World Cup in the West Indies as their last hurrah. If this is the case then what a dreary way to end. I would like to have seen them all go in a blaze of glory. Bond ripping down yorkers while Fleming and Astle blast the side to victory. But instead we have watched Bond play as a stock bowler trying to limit run-scoring while Fleming played one of those irresponsible drives we thought he had put behind him. Who knows, perhaps Astle might yet redeem them with an innings filled with those booming drives? I don't know. Perhaps in a couple of hours I will feel stupid for having written this. But I suspect I will instead be watching a replay of Astle being given out lbw off Murali or caught behind off an attempted booming drive.

Friday, 15 December 2006

A terrible mistake

I was planning to take today off to watch the cricket. And then the small report I had to write before Christmas became a 350+ page beast. And now I am sitting at work watching the sunlight reflecting off the glass-like surface of the harbour and wishing I were on the grassy bank at the Basin.

Thursday, 14 December 2006

Poll results and a new poll

My last poll asked you what the result of the New Zealand vs Sri Lanka test series would be. Nine of you optimists picked a 2-0 scoreline to New Zealand and eleven thought it it would be 1-0. Three of you thought it would 1-1 and everyone was confident rain wouldn't lead to a 0-0 draw. Two people lacked faith in the kiwis and thought it would end 1-0 to Sri Lanka. Three people (all of whom I think are probably my friend Marie) voted for a 2-0 outcome in the Lankans favour. The fact that one of the people who voted that way voted after the result of the first test shows that they probably weren't all that serious.

My new poll asks you who will win the State Championship. To give you a bit of a guide, here is the scoreboard after the first three rounds:

  1. Canterbury, 16 points
  2. Wellington, 10 points
  3. Central Districts, 10 points
  4. Northern Districts, 6 points
  5. Otago, 4 points
  6. Auckland, 2 points

Is grumpiness contagious?

John Bracewell has always been a grumpy bugger. And now his players seem to be copying him. First of all Jacob Oram complained before the first test that the New Zealand media always attack the team when they fail and then dismiss their successes by focusing on the opposition's faults. Then Dan Vettori started complaining that "There's nothing to look forward to as a spinner in New Zealand". Now Stephen Fleming has just appeared on the national news to accuse the Sri Lankans of trying to distract the fans from their first test loss by whining about Murali's dismissal. Fleming picked out Sangakkara for particular attention, claiming that he was being "selfish" in taking the century raising single anyway (it was the first ball of an over, so he was exposing Murali to the strike for five balls) and that the bowlers were itching to target the batsman to get some revenge in Wellington.

EDIT: Link added to story about Fleming's attach

Sangakkara on touring New Zealand

Apart from raising "the spirit of cricket" when Murali had his brain-explosion I have been pretty impressed with the leadership of the Sri Lankan team. Mahela Jayawardene seems thoughtful and well spoken and now Kumar Sangakkara has stepped forward with a reflective and positive article on the Sri Lankan tour.

Larsen on the spirit of cricket

Gavin Larsen's latest column for the Black Caps website is a cracker. He opens by reminding us of how kids always use the word "safe" in backyard cricket before wandering out of their crease and then turns his ire on the Sri Lankans irresponsible use of the words "spirit of cricket" to cover their spinner's recent childish mistake. Building up a head of steam at this point Larsen then opens fire on the Sunday-Star Times coverage of the Murali run-out:

Headlines such as “Brendon McCullum – hang your head in shame” was inflammatory, unbalanced, out of context and poor judgement, to my mind. Sold a few papers though, I’m sure.

Wednesday, 13 December 2006

Not your typical tour diary

Ashley Giles isn't the world's most popular cricketer right at the moment, but he might win a few fans with the honesty on show in his Ashes diary. Here are a few highlights from his first few entries:

Marcus Trescothick's departure is not a total surprise. He's a close mate and told me in Canberra he was struggling. None of us realised it was this bad and that he'd get to this point so quickly.


Go out in the afternoon with the intention of getting drunk. After five days of pressure, worry and not sleeping you just go out and get wasted.


Some bloke says I am a disgrace to my country, that I have cost England the Test and I should bow out gracefully. That was nice. Have a shower, go down to the hotel bar - drink to forget again. The same bloke phones, wakes me up the next morning to apologise for the message. Apology accepted. What can you say?

Tuesday, 12 December 2006


The first test saw a few changes in the ICC cricket rankings. Shane Bond is back up to 5th in the world while James Franklin has reached his highest ever ranking score and a place at number 12 (just behind Chaminda Vaas who is in at 11). Chris Martin is at 23 and Dan Vettori (who didn't have much chance to improve his bowling score) is at 25. Interestingly Jacob Oram (54) still sits behind Nathan Astle (53) on the bowling charts.

The batsmen didn't do much for their ratings. Stephen Fleming remains at 14th place and behind him are Jacob Oram (30), Nathan Astle (35) and the rapidly rising Dan Vettori (39). Scott Styris is at 42 and then there is a long gap before we find Brendon McCullum (52), Matthew Sinclair (61), Hamish Marshall (64) and Craig Cumming (67). Sadly the chart doesn't go low enough to tell us how Chris Martin's 0 not out contributed to his rating.

Amongst the Sri Lankans, Kumar Sangakkara saw his century rewarded with a batting ranking of 7th while Muttiah Muralidaran maintains his number 1 ranking in the bowling charts.

Video of the Murali run-out

Here you go. Here is the video of Murali's run-out so you can make your own mind up.

Monday, 11 December 2006

The McCullum beat-up

The front-page banner in the Sunday-Star Times read "McCullum, hang your head in shame". What is he supposed to be hanging his head about? Running out Murali while the batsman went for a wander down the wicket.

I suspect the sub-editor who wrote the banner and Greg Ford, the sports writer who wrote the piece inside the paper, have never played a game of cricket in their lives. If they had they would have known that one of the fundamental rules of batting is that you must stay behind the crease until the ball becomes dead. The fact is, Murali chose to go for his wander while the ball was still in the process of being fielded. While it was a sad way to go and I felt a good deal of sympathy for Sangakkara who could well have gone on to steal the match from New Zealand I don't have that much sympathy for Murali. It was a very stupid thing to do and he got punished for it. End of story.

I was chatting about the event with Ben and Karl yesterday. Ben and I were involved in a similar incident back in the days when we both played social cricket. The player who was run out was actually my cousin, Andrew, who knew nothing about cricket but had been dragged into the side to make up numbers. After completing a run he went for a pointless little wander outside his crease. Knowing Andrew he had probably spotted something shiny in the grass and wanted to see if it was anything interesting. He was duly run out. And subjected to a fair amount of abuse from his team-mates for being so stupid.

Thankfully most of the real cricket journalists know a beat-up when they see one. Richard Boock and Jonathan Millmow (not online) are both strongly in favour of McCullum's actions. Geoff Longley isn't quite so convinced, but at least he is still rational.

Justice sometimes take a while

In 1988 Najvot Singh Sidhu was a big star and a permanent fixture in the Indian cricket team. That year he and a friend beat a man to death in a car-park. Sidhu was charged with murder and then acquitted, with a very bad smell left hanging over the case. Now, in 2006, Sidhu is no longer a cricketer but is (or was) a quirky commentator and a politician. A retrial has just found him guilty of "culpable homicide not amounting to murder" and he has been sentenced to three years in prison for the crime.

Saturday, 9 December 2006

Weak batting, strong bowling

It is a strange day when New Zealand suffers a middle order collapse after a solid start - we are far more used to seeing poor starts followed by a middle order revival. Luckily for us, the bowlers came to the rescue - aided by some timid Sri Lankan batting. Richard Boock thinks the batsmen should be offering the bowlers peeled grapes and chocolates in thanks. I am not so certain. Vaas, Malinga and Muralitharan all bowled well and most of the batsmen can't take too much blame for their dismissals (Oram being a notable exception). Perhaps Adam Parore might have more of a point though, he thinks our batsman should have been more aggressive and should not have allowed the Sri Lankans to dictate.

The Sri Lankan second innings was an odd affair. It seemed to me that the wicket has become easier to play on and the Sri Lankans seemed very comfortable at the start of their innings. Jayasuriya was desperately unlucky to be run-out from a Bond deflection and those that followed him largely self-destructed. I felt particularly sorry for Silva who made a pair on debut. Still, at least he doesn't have too far to look for comfort. The man he replaced, Marvan Atapattu played 88 tests despite scoring five ducks (and a 1) in his first six innings.

Friday, 8 December 2006

Day one

What a great start to the home season. I couldn't believe how well the New Zealanders played and was surprised when I turned on the radio this morning and heard the day dismissed with a few words about poor pitch conditions and Sri Lanka's "average" pedigree. Having watched the whole day's play I was rather unimpressed with that assessment. And I am sure the Sri Lankans would have been even less impressed with the assessment of their talent. A side with Murali, Vaas, Sangakkara and Jayawardene can hardly be called "average". Especially when they arrived in the country with such great recent form.

I was pleasantly surprised to see that Richard Boock and Jonathan Millmow didn't agree with the idiots on the radio.

From my perspective the New Zealanders bowled superbly yesterday and there wasn't a moment when they let the pressure drop. In contrast the Sri Lankan bowlers threatened only in patches. Malinga and Vaas looked very dangerous at the start of the New Zealand batting effort but it didn't last long. After a couple of overs Malinga went from bowling very fast (hovering around 147 kmph), accurately and with swing to bowling fastish (142kmph) and wildly while Farveez Maharoof didn't look nearly as threatening at first change.

Matthew Sinclair made a great impression on his return. He seemed to have more time than any of the 15 batsmen on display yesterday. Unfortunately his one poor shot of the day led to his downfall. Cumming struggled in the early overs (nicking one no-ball to slip) but began to look more comfortable as the pressure eased.

Sadly the weather forecast indicates that not much cricket is likely today. If play does get under way then expect Sri Lanka to come out more strongly and anxious to make up for yesterday's drubbing.

Thursday, 7 December 2006

Karl says...meanwhile, on the other side of town

While the Black Caps were demolishing Sri Lanka today, round 3 of the State Championship got under way, with some impressive action.

Firstly, a display of controlled aggression from Ross Taylor who strengthened his claims to be in the first XI test and ODI teams - 217 in CD's total of 394 all out against Otago. What is impressive is the way he did it - 217 in 212 balls with 2 sixes and 26 4s. His 200 came in 191 balls. Is it too early to label him Nathan Astle's heir-apparent?

Secondly, Mathew Bell gave the selectors another opener to think about with his 101 in Wellington's 351 for 5 against ND.

And in Auckland v Canterbury, Canterbury were bowled out for 251, with Black Caps discard Peter Fulton top-scoring with 68. Interestingly Lou Vincent finished the innings with 1 wicket for 2 runs!

Wednesday, 6 December 2006

Suhas on Sinclair

Bangalore-raised and Austin Texas-based New Zealand cricket fan Suhas has written an excellent article profiling the trials and tribulations of Matthew Sinclair's career. It is well worth a read.

Match conditions

The forecast for Jade Stadium over the next few days is for cold and cloudy weather. The pitch to be used is the same portable pitch that has been in use for the past few seasons. Two test matches have been played on this wicket with the following results:

2001/2 - England 228 and 468/8d beat New Zealand 147 and 451
2004/5 - New Zealand 433 and 131 lost to Australia 432 and 135/1

So not good pedigree for New Zealand, but at least we have that 222 by Nathan Astle to consol us. I heard the curator predicting a pitch which is more like the 2001/2 wicket than the one used a couple of seasons ago. That and the weather conditions would indicate that seam is likely to dominate for at least the first few days. If the sun gets a chance to come out it could settle into a hard, bouncy wicket which is good for batting, but don't bet on that happening.

Tuesday, 5 December 2006

Warne Pounded

Dick Pound, head of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has written a book. And in a chapter on the worst excuses he has heard for positive drug tests he has this to say about one Shane Keith Warne:

"Warne said his mother had given him a diuretic so that he would look slimmer on television, without mentioning the shoulder injury from which he was trying to recover. The diuretic was a masking agent that could have hidden the possible use of steroids that would help the injury cure faster. He had returned to play almost twice as quickly as the experts had predicted."

As Cricinfo has helpfully reminded us, at the time of his offence Cricket Australia said his testimony - and that of his mother - as "vague and inconsistent".

Early season form

I know the season has only just started, but here is a bit of a form guide going into the first test based on performances in the first two rounds of the State Championship:

Dan Vettori - 246 runs at 123.00
Nathan Astle - 104 runs at 52.00
James Franklin - 140 runs at 46.67
Brendon McCullum - 182 runs at 45.50
Matthew Sinclair - 131 runs at 43.67
Craig Cumming - 111 runs at 37.00 (plus 50 and 8 not out against Sri Lanka)
Jamie How - 86 runs at 28.67
Stephen Fleming - 55 runs at 18.33
Shane Bond - 8 runs at 8
Michael Mason - 17 runs at 8.5
Ian O'Brien - 0 runs at 0
Jacob Oram - 0 runs at 0
Chris Martin - 0 runs at 0

Shane Bond - 7 wickets at 10.57
Michael Mason - 11 wickets at 15.54
Dan Vettori - 6 wickets at 22
Ian O'Brien - 9 wickets at 26.22
James Franklin - 5 wickets at 36.60
Jacob Oram - 1 wicket at 56.00
Chris Martin - 3 wickets at 74.00

Some of the stats for those who missed out on selection also make interesting reading:

Rob Nicol - 245 runs at 122.50
Tim McIntosh - 273 runs at 91.00
Craig McMillan - 174 runs at 87.00
Hamish Marshall - 217 runs at 72.33
Jesse Ryder - 183 runs at 61.00
Peter Fulton - 136 runs at 45.33
Ross Taylor - 100 runs at 33.33

Mark Gillespie - 9 wickets at 21.33

These figures make Mark Gillespie's non-selection even more of a surprise. I am also left worried about the lack of cricket played by Jacob Oram and by the form of Chris Martin. Martin seems to struggle at the start of every season though, and at least he has a good number of overs under his belt.

The lack of runs made by much of the top order is a bit of a concern. Astle and Sinclair (and to a lesser degree Cumming) are the only ones to have spent extended periods of time in the middle. This is especially notable when you look at the amount of runs scored by those who missed out on a spot. I guess the problem we face is that we have too many middle order players competing for a very limited number of spaces. The lower order is so strong that we can afford to play Oram at six. That only leaves three middle order places and one of those is sewn up by the captain. With Astle another certainty then New Zealand's large stock of good middle order batsmen are left scrambling for the one remaining spot. You could say that all of Nicol (an unfashionable dour player I rate particularly highly), McMillan, Marshall, Ryder and Fulton were unlucky to miss out - but the fact is that they are all going to find it very hard to break into the team.


Podcasting is something I have got into a little bit lately. For those that are not techno-savvy, a podcast is an audio file you download and listen to - either on your computer or via an MP3 player. I have an iPod and having something to listen to on the train in the mornings is very handy. The only thing I haven't really found is a good cricketing podcast. Cricinfo has started providing a few, but I haven't really been that impressed by them so far. But now John Morrison and Daniel McHardy's Cricket Club radio show is available as a podcast. If you have never tried podcasting before, now is your chance to give it a try. You don't even need an MP3 player. Simply download the iTunes software (it is free) and you can just listen through your computer.

Monday, 4 December 2006

A classic piece of online commentary

From the Guardian's over-by-over coverage:

117th over: Australia 392-6 (in reply to 551; Clarke 54, Warne 4) Seeing Giles get a wicket on this pitch, with Monty in the stands, is a bit like seeing Lorraine Kelly look radiant in a particular dress. It's nice and all but you can't help but wonder: how good would Ms Johansson have looked?

Ben on...India's run in to the World Cup

India's mauling at the hands of South Africa in the just completed ODI series (0-4, including losses by 154, 106 and 80 runs and 9 wickets) will not be helping their preparation for the World Cup.

Given that the tour to New Zealand was abandoned because it was believed that defeat would not be good preparation ("There is no point in touring there because any loss will only raise pressure on the team like the last time"), I wonder if perhaps they chose to pull out of the wrong tour.

The end of the path for McGrath?

My very first selection for the State Virtual Cricket competition was Glenn McGrath to be the best performed bowler in the first innings of the second Ashes test. He returned the worst bowling figures of his career. Bloody typical.

McGrath’s lack of pace has started an instant barrage from the English press. “Decline of McGrath is clear to see” trumpets a headline in the Daily Telegraph. "His time is nearly up" claims Angus Fraser in the Independent.

I was originally going to use this blog to counter these arguments. After all, McGrath took 6-50 against England just last week and he might still be suffering from the effects of a heel injury. Then I noticed a column penned by McGrath himself. In this column the medium pacer claims that his heel is fine. And that he has good rhythm and bowled well. And that its all the pitch's fault.

Hum. The first claim and the last claim might have some merit. But if McGrath thinks that he bowled well then he is clearly delusional. I would have accepted it if he admitted that he had had a bad day. Or even that the injury was having an impact. But to claim that he "was pretty pleased" with the pile of old rubbish he delivered on Friday and Saturday and that his "rhythm was the best it's been all year" is to be in denial. Perhaps the English press has a point?

Sunday, 3 December 2006

Poll results and a new poll

My last poll asked you who should open for New Zealand. John Bracewell must have had half an ear listening because first choice pick Jamie How (25 votes) got the nod. Second place getter Matthew Sinclair (14 votes) also made the team, but as a number 3 rather than as an opener. Peter Fulton (11 votes) just pipped Craig Cumming (10 votes) in the poll, but missed out on a test position. A handful of votes tipped Stephen Fleming (5 votes) to take a step or two up the order while Matthew Bell (3 votes), James Marshall (2 votes) and Hamish Marshall (2 votes) all had their fans.

My new poll asks you what the result of the New Zealand vs Sri Lanka test series will be. So start clicking that voting finger.

Saturday, 2 December 2006

NZ Test team named

The team for the Sri Lanka series has been named.

The squad is: Stephen Fleming (captain), Nathan Astle, Shane Bond, Craig Cumming, James Franklin, Jamie How, Chris Martin, Michael Mason, Brendon McCullum, Iain O'Brien, Jacob Oram, Mathew Sinclair, Daniel Vettori.

The changes from the last test match against South Africa in April are:
- no Papps, Styris or Mills (all injured).
- returing to test cricket are Sinclair, Cumming, Mason and O'Brien.

So Cumming is the favoured opener, Sinclair makes it ahead of Marshall and Fulton, and O'Brien comes back on the weight of good domestic form.

Sinclair deserves to come back. I also hope that Iain O'Brien isn't a player who is sensational at domestic level and can't step up. He's a good medium-quick who seems capable of bowling well internationally.

One of the 13 is to be dropped from the starting 12 - I'd pick it to be between Mason and O'Brien with the other to be 12th man.

Friday, 1 December 2006

Otago vs Sri Lanka

Given the weather much of the country has been experiencing in the past few days, the good people of Dunedin have been lucky to see much of the Otago vs Sri Lanka match. In the end they have actually been able to see a reasonable amount of cricket the first day and a bit. Sri Lanka will be glad of the batting practice and most of their batsmen have managed to spend a fair amount of time in the middle, Sanath Jayasuriya's first-ball duck being the obvious exception. But the Sri Lankans probably won't be so pleased with the quality of the opposition. Here is the Otago squad for the game:

CD Cumming (captain), JW Sheed, AJ Redmond, GR Todd, NT Broom, GJ Hopkins, NL McCullum, SB Haig, BE Scott, CM Smith, GS Shaw, MJ Harvie

Only captain Craig Cumming is anywhere near selection for an international team and at best he is an outside chance for a call-up. The bowling attack consists of two honest toilers in Gareth Shaw (49 wickets at 25.22) and Bradley Scott (86 wickets at 28.32) an off-spinner with an average over 40 (Nathan McCullum) and two newcomers (Mathew Harvie and Craig Smith) while the batting line-up only includes two established players with batting averages over 30 (Cumming with 34.40 and Broom with 31.75).

Otago is not one of the country's stronger sides at the moment and appears even weaker when players like James McMillan and David Sewell have been removed from the line-up.

As a result Sri Lanka are unlikely to get the kind of hard match they need to get themselves ready for a test match. And New Zealand has missed an opportunity to give some of its key and fringe players an opportunity to show off their talents. Both sides might both have been better off if a match versus an Academy or 'A' side had been played instead.