Thursday, 30 November 2006

State virtual cricket

If you want to play State virtual cricket and haven't yet enrolled, then get your gears on. First round picks must be made by 6pm tonight New Zealand time (around 6am GMT).

The troubles of Stuart MacGill

Peter Roebuck's latest column is a bit of mystery. The focus is on the steps Stuart MacGill needs to take if he is to save his cricket career. But, quite why that career needs saving in the first place is left unsaid. We know that MacGill has been surprisingly overlooked for the second Ashes test and Peter tells us that the leggie has been "in hot water" with his club and state sides. But we are never told what it is MacGill is alleged to have done. We are told "he had taken exception to an umpire's decision", but don't know exactly how he reacted to that decision. We are told that "his bursts of fury and generally testy demeanour prompt[ed] a delegation of senior players to conclude that he was fast becoming more trouble than he was worth", but aren't given any examples of this bad behaviour. While Peter Roebuck might be too gentlemanly to air other people's dirty laundry, I suspect the rest of the Australian press will not be so polite. Expect to see the unedited beans spilt shortly.

Tuesday, 28 November 2006

Sri Lankan tour preview

The Sri Lankan team have arrived in New Zealand feeling a little underdone. While they will have only one first-class match before the first test, this is actually only a little more time in the middle than most of the New Zealanders will experience.

The Lankans have toured New Zealand every year for the past three years and an 'A' side toured 4 years ago, so they should be getting used to conditions here. Having said that, Sri Lanka have not done well on those tours. They lost last season's ODI series 4-1, lost the 2004/5 test series 1-0 and also lost the only ODI played in that same season.

Another concern the Sri Lankans must have is that the core of their side is ageing. Indeed, of the players currently under contract with the Sri Lankan board only Lasith Malinga, Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara are under 30 - and both Jayawardene and Sangakkara are 29. Perhaps the team is not yet as elderly as the Australians, but age certainly seems to be having more of an impact on match fitness. Chaminda Vaas is still an excellent bowler, but he is in danger of losing a pace contest against Nathan Astle. Sanath Jayasuriya is another who appears to be rapidly approaching his expiry date.

New Zealand on the other hand still looks relatively youthful and fit. Daryl Tuffey recently broke down again, but apart from that most players seem fit and firing. The opening spot is still an issue, but players like Tim McIntosh, Rob Nicol, Craig McMillan and Jesse Ryder are performing well in first-class cricket and must be applying some pressure on the incumbents.

Early season wickets in first-class cricket have so far been very good, but the chance of there being some bad weather before the start of the first test must be high. Expect Vaas and Malinga to pose a threat on damp green wickets, but unless the weather throws us a surprise don't expect to see much trouble from Muttiah Muralitharan.

My pick then is to see a series dominated by the seamers, and by New Zealand.

Monday, 27 November 2006

Roebuck on a mismatch

Peter Roebuck has been looking for some kind of positive in the awful first test mismatch. He has found one in the battle between Shane Warne and Kevin Pietersen.

The opening dilemma

Dylan Cleaver is obsessing over the opening spot in the New Zealand order just as much as the rest of us are. He is also seeking out views.

Friday, 24 November 2006

A useless fact

I am getting sick of the Australian dominance. I have resorted to trawling Wikipedia for distractions. By the way, did you know that "googly" is rated the fifth hardest word in the English language to translate into another tongue?

Ashes day one

What a let down. All that hype and anticipation and England bowl like a dog's breakfast. I am willing to predict that the end of day two will see Australia looking as strong as Auckland in their match against Otago.

As Peter Roebuck tells us, yesterday was all about two captains. Both played strong hands but only one got much support from his team-mates. In 2005 the first ball in the Ashes was bowled by Steve Harmison to Justin Langer. A Harmison bouncer sent Langer reeling. In 2006 the first ball of the Ashes was again bowled by Harmison and again the target was Langer. This time the ball went so wide it was caught by second slip.

England are already without the services of Simon Jones and have to play with Kookaburra balls that fail to swing. If Harmison continues to bowl like he did yesterday then their bowling attack suddenly starts to look very thin.

In short then, England are going to have to start improving very, very fast or the Ashes will be back in Australian hands quicker than boiled asparagus.

Thursday, 23 November 2006

Ashes - first session

I noticed Freddy Flintoff wore a black armband during the first session at the 'Gabba. Australia are currently 109/1 and Steve Harmison is bowling like a drain. Perhaps Freddy thinks that England's chances of retaining the Ashes are dead already?

Happy birthday

Bruce Edgar is 50 today.

A possible contender for New Zealand

He's 26, a left-hander, an opener and has scored 10 first-class hundreds in 57 matches. He is also picking up his bat this morning with 173 runs already next to his name on the scoreboard. I wouldn't be surprised if Tim McIntosh's name starts to appear in the national selectors' notebooks shortly.

And speaking of openers, has anyone else noticed the name at the top of the Canterbury batting order? Given how confident he appears in his own abilities, I wouldn't be surprised if Brendon McCullum is putting his hand up to take an opening spot for his country.

Wednesday, 22 November 2006

SMH on Shane Watson

In these days of the polished hype machine and slick PR management it is unusual to find much honesty in journalism. So it was refreshing to see this article by Brendan McArdle in the Sydney Morning Herald. The subject? Shane Watson. The conclusion? A talented egotist whose exploits don't match the hype.

Tuesday, 21 November 2006

The ten best Ashes sledges

Taken from Simon Briggs' "Stiff upper lips and baggy green caps":

1 Mark Waugh to Jimmy Ormond on his Test debut, 2001: “Mate, what are you doing out here? There's no way you're good enough to play for England.”
Ormond: “Maybe not, but at least I'm the best player in my own family.”

2 Merv Hughes to Graeme Hick et al: “Mate, if you just turn the bat over you'll find the instructions on the other side.”

3 Hughes again: “Does your husband play cricket as well?”

4 Mike Atherton, on Merv Hughes: “I couldn't work out what he was saying, except that every sledge ended with ‘arsewipe’.”

5 Dennis Lillee to Mike Gatting: “Hell, Gatt, move out of the way. I can't see the stumps.”

6 Derek Randall to Lillee, after taking a glancing blow to the head: “No good hitting me there, mate, nothing to damage.”

7 Ian Healy, placing a fielder yards away at cover when Nasser Hussain was batting: “Let's have you right under Nasser's nose.”

8 Tony Greig, England’s South African-born captain, to the young David Hookes, 1977: “When are your balls going to drop, Sonny?”
Hookes: “I don't know, but at least I'm playing cricket for my own country.” Hookes hit Greig for five consecutive fours.

9 Rod Marsh, late Seventies: “How's your wife and my kids?”
Ian Botham: “The wife's fine – the kids are retarded.”

10 Bill Woodfull, Australia’s captain in the Bodyline series of 1932-33, responding to Douglas Jardine's complaint that a slip fielder had sworn at him: “All right, which one of you bastards called this bastard a bastard?”

Countdown to the Ashes

The first day of the first Ashes test is only days away now and the hype is almost overwhelming. Picking a winner is actually harder in this atmosphere of information overload than it is in a series with no hype whatsoever (New Zealand vs Sri Lanka anyone?).

Just look at the Sydney Morning Herald's Ashes page and you will see what I mean by information overload.

One thing that might help us in picking an Ashes winner is to compare each squad player by player. Tim de Lisle does this in his Ashes Buzz blog to come up with a composite XI consisting of the best players on both sides. He ends up with a team containing seven Australians and four Englishmen as follows:

1 Andrew Strauss
2 Matthew Hayden
3 Ricky Ponting
4 Kevin Pietersen
5 Michael Hussey
6 Andrew Flintoff
7 Adam Gilchrist (wkt)
8 Shane Warne (capt)
9 Brett Lee
10 Matthew Hoggard
11 Glenn McGrath

I might be tempted to swap Justin Langer for Matthew Hayden and Steve Harmison for Brett Lee, but overall I agree with Tim's picks. And when you look at it that way Australia does seem to have an edge. They might have a weakness in their captain and you cannot deny that their star players have left their best days behind them, but overall they present a much more solid and well-rounded XI than the English.

Sunday, 19 November 2006

Poll results and a new poll

My last poll asked what you thought of the New Zealand side picked to play in the Champion's Trophy. 10 of you thought it looked pretty strong while 6 of you worried about the thin looking bowling attack. 15 people correctly predicted that injuries would be an issue while a large number had an issue or two with the selections. Most people seemed to think Mark Gillespie deserved his place, as only 2 people questioned it. 11 of you threw your arms up in the air at the thought of Hamish Marshall being thrown to the lions once again while 16 felt that Ross Taylor and Jesse Ryder should have toured.

My next questions asks you who should open for New Zealand in the first test against Sri Lanka. Michael Papps is injured so he does not enter into the calculations, but we are still left with an array of choices.

Anoraks on display

When the domestic season gets underway you usually find an article or two mocking those diehards who turn up on a cold, windy Tuesday to watch first-class cricket. And here is this season's offering. And it is actually a little different. It is sympathetic, indepth and written by a cricket fan.

Thursday, 16 November 2006

Ben on...lopsided matches

There were a fair few one-sided matches in the Champions Trophy recently, but nothing to compare with a recent match between St Peter's and St Phillip's High Schools in the Hyderabad Cricket Association's Inter-school Under-13 Tournament.

St Peter's scored a massive 721 for 0 in 40 overs, B. Manoj Kumar and Mohammed Shaibaaz Tumbi scoring 320 and 324, respectively, breaking Tendulkar and Kambli's record for the largest partnership. St Phillip's was then bowled out for 21 – a 700-run victory to St Peter's, or in other words, a victory by a factor of 34.33.

Ben on...a new old look for summer

The Black Caps have a new uniform for the Twenty20 matches against Sri Lanka ->

It's the uniform from the 1992 World Cup!

A prescient choice hopefully. This was the tournament where Mark Greatbatch demonstrated the effectiveness of all out aggression, smacking 14 6s, and were Martin Crowe scored at nearly a run a ball over the whole tournament, hitting 47 4s.

The season opens

I was a bit off in my prediction that the opening first-class match of the season would be over in two days. Otago ended day one at 352/4. My weather forecast seemed a bit off too. Yesterday's forecast was for horrible rain to set in today, but that seems to have been revised to "lovely and sunny". Clearly the weather gods have decided to send all that rain and wind Wellington's way instead. We clearly haven't had enough of it yet.

Anyway, since my ability to predict the future appears to be wonky I thought I would try a few more predictions. 1) Sri Lanka will win every match in New Zealand, 2) Australia will win the Ashes, 3) New Zealand won't win the World Cup and 4) a flying pig won't drop huge bundles of cash into my lap.

Sri Lankan teams named

The Sri Lankan teams for the tour to New Zealand have been announced. The team for the test matches is:

Mahela Jayawardene (capt), Kumar Sangakkara, Sanath Jayasuriya, Upul Tharanga, Tillekaratne Dilshan, Chamara Kapugedera, Chamara Silva, Prasanna Jayawardene, Farveez Maharoof, Chaminda Vaas, Lasith Malinga, Dilhara Fernando, Akalanka Ganegama, Muttiah Muralitharan.

And the one day side includes:

Mahela Jayawardene (capt), Kumar Sangakkara, Sanath Jayasuriya, Upul Tharanga, Marvan Atapattu, Tillekaratne Dilshan, Chamara Kapugedera, Chamara Silva, Farveez Maharoof, Chaminda Vaas, Lasith Malinga, Dilhara Fernando, Muttiah Muralitharan, Malinga Bandara, Ruchira Perera.

Wednesday, 15 November 2006


Phew! That conference was hard work and I had even less free time to blog than I anticipated. So what did I miss in the four days I was away from my computer? Well I missed all four days of Pakistan thumping the West Indies, I missed Marcus Trescothick suffering a return of his mental illness and withdrawing from the Ashes, I missed my chance to rant about silly matches such as the XIII vs XIII game between England and New South Wales, I missed Scott Styris' injury, I missed Monty Panesar being racially abused in Sydney and I almost - but not quite - missed the start of the New Zealand domestic season.

The latter comes amidst a howling storm in Wellington that makes summer seem a very long way away. The summer's first first-class match comes as Canterbury take on Otago in Christchurch. The forecast for that part of the country is for relatively fine weather for today followed by rain over the next two days. Its not the ideal start, but knowing the usual state of the South Island's early season wickets two days is probably all we need for a result. Live coverage of the match can be found on the Black Caps website.

Friday, 10 November 2006

Light posting ahead

I am attending an international conference for the next four days. The last one was in Dublin. The next one is in Cairo. This one is in Wellington. Oh well, I guess they don't play much cricket in Ireland or Egypt anyway.

Tuffey on the comeback trail

Daryl Tuffey is making his return to the Northern Districts team today in a warm-up Twenty20 match. Let's hope he can quickly return to the form that saw him once ranked the sixth best bowler in test cricket.

Thursday, 9 November 2006

State virtual cricket

State are running a free "virtual cricket" tournament this summer. Pick a batsman and a bowler each week of the season and gain points for each run the batsman scores and for each wicket taken by the bowler. Registrations are now open.

New Zealanders can't play spin

Cricinfo's latest stats analysis looks at players who perform particularly well (or poorly) against one particular country. The most alarming thing about this analysis is a list which shows bowlers who perform well against one nation. What is alarming about this list? Well, 7 of the top 10 players on the list had New Zealand as their easy-beat team. And all 7 are spin bowlers. Here they are:

GAR Lock (Eng), career average 25.58. Average v NZ 7.80
FJ Titmus (Eng),career average 32.22. Average v NZ 16.46
KJ O'Keeffe (Aust), career average 38.07. Average v NZ 24.04
S Ramadhin (WI), career average 28.98. Average v NZ 15.06
DL Underwood (Eng), career average 25.83. Average v NZ 12.20
S Venkataraghavan (Ind), career average 36.11. Average v NZ 22.81
Mushtaq Ahmed (Pak), career average 32.97. Average v NZ 20.05

There are a few other interesting snippets from the article. New Zealand has proved the nemesis of some great players, including Gary Sobers (career average 57.78, average v NZ 23.76) and Zaheer Abbas (career average 44.79, average v NZ 17.83) - but has also proved cannon fodder to a couple of others (Adam Gilchrist averages 76.91 against us while Mike Atherton averaged 68.00). Dan Vettori also has an interesting kicking boy and an interesting nemesis. While Dan averages 22.16 against such great players of spin as Sri Lanka - he averages only 70.06 against South Africa, who have a reputation for being very poor players of the turning ball.

Tuesday, 7 November 2006

Roebuck on captaincy

In his latest article Peter Roebuck looks at how different captains have coped with playing against Australia. Stephen Fleming comes in for particularly high praise. But I wonder if Roebuck bothered checking New Zealand's test record against Australia under Fleming before filing his piece? I know there were some close and competitive matches, but ultimately the record still reads: 5 draws, 9 losses and a grand total of 0 wins.

The houses on Richard Hadlee St and Martin Crowe St

Here is some positive news, it is an update on the "cricket village" built in Sri Lanka using money raised by New Zealand Cricket's tsunami appeal matches.

Monday, 6 November 2006

The implications of Hair's sacking

In the Daily Telegraph Scyld Berry sees a precedent in the sacking of Daryl Hair:

"Any umpire who in future makes a decision which angers one of the Asian Test-playing countries — India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh — can expect the wrath of the Asian bloc to descend upon his head."

Picking a team

There has been some debate in the comments about the selection of future New Zealand teams. John Bracewell waded into the argument today, announcing to the Dominion-Post that he is considering pushing Brendon McCullum up the ranks to open and that Hamish Marshall’s continued selection depends on his form for Northern Districts.

Personally, the first thing I would like to see in ODI team selection is some revision in the roles our batsmen are expected to play. Bracewell outlined Vincent’s role last year. His view was that since New Zealand’s batting line-up is so strong, we might as well have a slogger at the top of the order. If the slog comes off it is all well and good, and if it doesn’t then our long tail should be able to compensate for the loss of an early wicket. New Zealand’s constant top order collapses make that plan utterly redundant. Vincent is a good player and he should be retained. But he should be in the team to do what he does best, punish bad balls, push quick singles and rotate the strike. If I were coach, I would spend some time with him to get his mind-set right. As Mark Greatbatch showed, once you become a slogger it becomes very hard to stop playing rash strokes.

So I would open with Vincent. And I would partner him with Nathan Astle. Stephen Fleming has done a good job as an opener, but one of the roles of the middle order is to rebuild once early wickets have been lost and I would back Fleming to do that better than Astle. Brendon McCullum has talent to burn, but I suspect that at the top of the order his aggressive hitting would be as ineffective as Vincent’s. I would save him for the death where he can perform miracles against tiring bowlers and an older ball.

Ross Taylor deserves his chance. He would follow Styris (presuming he is fit).

So I would have a top order of Vincent, Astle, Fleming, Styris and Taylor. I would then play Jacob Oram, Brendon McCullum, Dan Vettori, James Franklin/Jeetan Patel, Kyle Mills and Shane Bond. One of Patel and Franklin would play depending on the state of the wicket. Franklin can be very poor on bad days, but his record is good and I think he is still improving. Peter Fulton and Mark Gillespie would also make the squad.

That leaves one spot left in the World Cup squad of 15.

At this stage I wouldn’t give that spot to Hamish Marshall. If Jesse Ryder’s early season form for Wellington is really good, then I would consider bringing him in. But at the moment I would be tempted to pick Matthew Sinclair ahead of Ryder. I know Sinclair has been given lots of chances, but he has been in tremendous domestic form and the wickets of the West Indies (which are predicted to be low and slow) should suit him. I don’t know whether taking him to Australia for the VB series would be a good idea though. Australian wickets really don’t suit his low-footwork game and he has had traumatic tours there in the past. Perhaps he should be in the squad for that tour, but should avoid any games in Perth.

That gives me the following squad of 15 for the Caribbean; Vincent, Astle, Fleming (c), Styris, Taylor, Oram, McCullum, Vettori, Franklin, Patel, Mills, Bond, Sinclair (or possibly Ryder), Gillespie and Fulton.

For next month’s tests against Sri Lanka I would bring in Jamie How to open. How would be another player that I would take aside and give a talking to. I would tell him that he is going to be picked as a specialist test opener and that his role is to provide support to the stroke-makers. If How’s early season domestic form is poor, then I would pick Auckland stone-waller Rob Nicol for that role instead.

Anyway, at this stage my first test XI against Sri Lanka would: How, Vincent, Fleming (c), Styris, Astle, Oram, McCullum, Vettori, Franklin, Mills and Bond. Mark Gillespie would be twelfth man to provide bowling cover. If it were a bit later in the season then I think I would pick Chris Martin ahead of him, but Martin hasn’t had much bowling lately.

One final note. Daryl Tuffey is on the comeback trail and played some tough pre-season cricket for Sutherland in the New South Wales club competition. I’m not counting on his return to the top level just yet, but he is one player to keep an eye on.

Saturday, 4 November 2006

Swing the axe

In today's Herald both Adam Parore and Warren Lees rattled on about how John Bracewell needs to bring out the axe and exchange Marshall, Vincent and Fulton with Ross Taylor, Ross Taylor and Ross Taylor.

Hair sacked

A sigh of relief past through world cricket today as controversial umpire Darrell Hair was sacked by the ICC. The move means Hair will no longer be able to umpire international matches and effectively ends his career.

ICC awards

Well, the ICC international awards were held last night. Not that they are really that "international". The judges came from India, Australia, Sri Lanka, South Africa and Pakistan and - oddly enough - they awarded 11 places out of 12 in the test team of the year and 10 out of 12 in the ODI team of the year to players from India, Australia, Sri Lanka, South Africa or Pakistan. Andrew Flintoff (test and ODI team) and Shane Bond (ODI team) were the only players from England, New Zealand, the West Indies, Zimbabwe or Bangladesh who won selection.

For the record, Ricky Ponting won test player of the year and Michael Hussey won ODI player of the year.

Friday, 3 November 2006

Worst prize ever

The official ICC Champions Trophy website is running a competition. The competition tagline says "Get up-close and personal with your favourite starts ... you could accompany the drinks cart at the ICC Champions Trophy ...", but this is probably the worst prize ever dreamt up for a number of reasons.

Firstly the draw for this prize will be made on 30 November 2006. The winner is supposed to be accompanying the drinks cart during the Champions Trophy final on 5 November 2006.

The next problem with the competition is that despite saying the winner will "get up-close and personal with your favourite stars" one of the conditions of the competition is that "The winner (one person only) will not be permitted to communicate with the players at any time while on the field." And if you wanted an autograph you are also going to be out of luck, "The winner (one person only) will not be allowed to carry any material with them while on the field."

Oh, and finally the winner is also "... responsible for making their own transportation arrangements to and from the stadium [in Mumbai]."

Hum. This is one prize I am not going to miss too badly if I don't win it.

A YouTube experience

Here is a nice flashback, Shane Bond destroys the Aussies.

Thursday, 2 November 2006

Vermeulen in trouble again

Not content with being sent home from the 2003 Zimbabwe tour of England for "persistent misconduct" and then being banned for ten years for throwing a ball at a spectator a few months ago, Zimbabwean Mark Vermeulen is currently in Police custody after he was seen driving away from an arson attack which destroyed the Zimbabwe cricket academy facilities in Harare.

Drug bans

Shoaib Akhtar has received a two year ban for using nandrolone and Mohammad Asif received a one year ban. Reading between the lines of the PCB press release it appears Asif came clean while Akhtar pleaded not guilty and then failed to convince the Board of his case. Presumably he was unable to provide any of the herbal medicine that he claims caused the failed test result.

Interestingly a two year ban is the minimum ban under the ICC's doping rules, so both Akhtar and Asif have got off lightly. Asif seems to be the luckier of the two, given that part of the PCB statement says that "Pakistan physician Darryn Lifson confirmed he stopped [Asif] from taking a banned substance a few months back." So he was caught and let off without punishment, and then he was caught a second time and given half the minimum penalty. Hmmm, not quite the hard line that the PCB had promised.

Despite the relatively light sentence this is likely to mark the end of Akhtar's career. He will be 33 when the ban is lifted and that is pretty old for the quick bowler. Asif is only 23 and still looks to have a future in the game.

The end of the road

Wanted: Top order batsmen. Must look good in black AND be able to hit a cricket ball.


Lou Vincent 34 runs at 8.50
Hamish Marshall 10 runs at 3.33
Peter Fulton 11 runs at 3.67

It isn’t hard to spot where the New Zealand challenge for the Champions Trophy was derailed. Fleming and Styris looked solid enough and Astle managed one half decent knock, but a top and middle order that contains two and a half decent players is not going to win any kind of international tournament. The top order malaise has gone on for too long. Vincent needs to be told that his role is to bat and not to slog, Marshall needs some time in domestic cricket to regain his confidence and Fulton needs a bit of work on his back-foot technique.

Our next match is a test against Sri Lanka in Christchurch starting December 7. I wouldn’t like to be a selector picking our batting line-up for that match. Batting at the top level is hard, so I don’t think it is appropriate to call for axings unless we are sure that there is international class talent waiting in the wings. One of the problems we have is that we just don’t know how much talent there is available to us. Players like Ross Taylor and Jesse Ryder need to be given a chance to show that they have what it takes. Throwing them into a test match might be a step too far, especially as both have built their reputations around attack rather than defence. So I would retain Vincent and Fulton for the tests and, if they continue to fail, bring in Taylor and Ryder for the one-day series against Sri Lanka so we can assess their ability before the rigours of the VB series and the World Cup.

As Karel pointed out in the comments section, there are some positives we can take from the tournament. Bond’s radar still isn’t quite right, but his pace and swing are back. Dan Vettori is a world-class all-rounder and Jacob Oram is not far behind. And, perhaps the biggest bonus we can take from the tournament is that Kyle Mills is finally starting to look like he really belongs at the top level. His 10 wickets at 11.80 included an excellent haul of 4-38 in last night’s defeat.

Wednesday, 1 November 2006

NZ vs Australia preview

New Zealand have two things going for them heading into tonight's Champion's Trophy semi-final. The first is the highest run-scorer in the competition (Stephen Fleming) and the second is the bowler with the best strike rate in one day cricket (Shane Bond). Australia believe they have the answer to Fleming’s form with the bat – Brett Lee and Nathan Bracken. Bracken might be Scott Styris’ only competition for the title of the world’s ugliest cricketer, but he also rated the world’s 4th best bowler in one day cricket and his height is certainly going to make him hard to play on a hard Mohali wicket. If Fleming has a weakness then it is against balls that move away from him, and that means Bracken’s left-arm angle might present him with a problem.

Bond's bowling figures against Australia make for great reading:

10-1-53-3 (Melbourne)
8-1-28-2 (Sydney)
9.2-2-25-5 (Adelaide)
9.3-2-38-4 (Melbourne)
10-0-63-2 (Colombo)
10-2-23-6 (Port Elizabeth)

Every single one of those bowling efforts has included the wicket of Ricky Ponting. Trends are made to be broken though, and Bond is still under a bit of an injury cloud - despite the positive headline in the Dominion-Post Bond admits that he does not yet feel fully fit. Ponting certainly doesn't seem concerned. He has stated that Australia have been focusing on Kyle Mills as much as they have been focusing on Bond. Perhaps that is just talk though. John Bracewell is certainly flapping his mouth around like a boxer trying to talk up his chances.

Australia has won 15 out of the last 17 matches between the two countries. And the trend in those matches has been for either Australia to romp home or for a match that goes to the wire. This is one trend that is expected to continue. A New Zealand win is currently at $3.50 at the TAB. On the basis of Australia's last match in Mohali, expect those odds to shorten if we win the toss and to lengthen considerably if we lose it.

Ben on...the countdown

Predicatably, Shane Bond is being touted as the key to tonight's semi-final against Australia. He certainly does have a good record against them (avg 10.45 against a career avg of 19.02), so hopefully he will do well tonight.

If he does well, it will help him in possibly becoming the fastest ODI bowler to reach 100 wickets. Currently the record is 53 games (Saqlain Mushtaq) and at the 100-wicket-match mark, the best average and strike rate were 19.24 (Mushtaq) and 26.24 (Shoiab Akhtar), respectively.

The countdown starts here:

Matches left: 5 (currently 47)
Wickets required: 10 (90)
Runs to conceed: 211 (1712, current avg 19.02)
Balls to bowl: 215 (2408, current SR 26.76)