Thursday, 20 December 2007

Ben on...the twists and turns of the Chappell–Hadlee

For the third year in a row the Chappell–Hadlee trophy has changed hands. It has got to be the most dynamic cricket tournament. Pity about the quality of the cricket this year.

Sunday, 9 December 2007

Ben on...bad news I am having trouble accepting

I managed to miss this until today, but Sportsfreak is reporting that Shane Bond has signed with the rebel ICL from next season. The only other people who seem to be running this are Sportal and they are only reporting the Sportsfreak story (with the addition of an ambiguous statement by Steve Addison). Apparently the deal is that Bond will start with the ICl next year, but will have dispensation to play in the Black Cap tour to England as a non-contracted player immediately before the ICL tournament.

With all due respect to the Sportsfreak guys, I'm going to have to wait until I hear this in the mainstream media (it'll come out next month Sportsfreak reckons) before I can accept it. I know the money being offered is staggering and a few T-20 games a year will be easier on his body, but I simply cannot conceive of why the world's favourite cricketer would turn Judas – the fall is just too great. (And the uniforms too ugly!)

Wednesday, 21 November 2007

Ben on...worthy opponents

Next up in the test schedule is Bangladesh. Given the pasting in South Africa, could it be that this coming series will give closer results than previous encounters? Jonathan Millmow seems to think Bangladesh are a big threat. And as if that isn't disheartening enough, apparently Afghanistan reckon they can give us a fight.

Sunday, 18 November 2007

Ben on...other blogs you may like

Things have remained slow here at Mike on Cricket, even after the start of the cricket season. (It feels like there's something missing, but I can't put my finger on it...) So I have decided to steal some content from other blogs and have added a blogroll. The blogroll is greatly padded out by two whole new blogs, Sideline Slogger and Googlies and Grass Stains, both part of Stuff's burgeoning list of blogs.

All these blogs should make my life easier, as I can just point to them instead of making my own posts. I could, for example, have pointed to Richard Irvines' very funny post about the last defeat not being as bad as it could have been instead of bothering with my own meagre effort to say the same thing. I could also add Paul Holden's and Hamish McDouall's opinions on Matthew Sinclair to complement Karl's. And my clever post about New Zealanders and ducks that I never had the time to write has been done for me in Sideline Slogger.

Tuesday, 13 November 2007

Karl on ... the wrong batsmen are playing

What seemed quite apparent to me in the weekend's loss to South Africa were two things - our best batsmen were woefully out of touch and clearly hadn't played any cricket in a long time; and our new opening partnership look out of their depth.

A good coach should ensure that his players arrive on a tour with their eye in, and a good coach should ensure that the best 11 players take the field, not his favourite 11. There seem to be quite clearly issues between John Bracewell and two of our more experienced players: Lou Vincent and Mathew Sinclair.

The new selection panel should force Bracewell to play both of these players. Sinclair's 189 not out in a day just cannot be ignored.

And why did they not spend a couple of weeks in Darwin playing a NZ B side?

Monday, 12 November 2007

Ben on...the biggest losing margin, the thinnest of silver linings

Quite a lot has been made about this test being our heaviest defeat. (Have you voted in the poll?) While 358 runs might be the biggest losing margin we've ever suffered, surely our loss to Pakistan in 2002 by an innings and 324 runs was a worse defeat – in that game Inzamam-ul-Haq alone scored more than we managed.

Friday, 26 October 2007

Ben on...getting better the less we play

New Zealand is going into the test series in South Africa surging up the ratings table. We have recently passed Pakistan and are now in 6th place. This was partly due, of course, to Pakistan falling in the ratings in their recent series loss to South Africa. However, New Zealand has really improved during 2007; our rating has increased from 93 to 99 this year. All the more remarkable since we haven't played any test cricket since December.

Sunday, 23 September 2007

Ben on...losing the tournament in the semis

Here is a list of world championship semi-finals New Zealand has played:

World Cup: 1975, 1979, 1992, 1999, 2007; Champions Trophy: 2000, 2006; T20 Championship: 2007

Eight semis. We have gone on to appear in only one final, the 2000 Champions Trophy, which we won.

It would seem that if we could just break through that semi-final barrier, nothing can stop us winning the tournament.

Friday, 14 September 2007

Ben on...the new "international" competition

In response to the ICL, the BCCI has formally announced a new T20 competition. It is to be a direct competitor to the ICL, but will feature teams from other cricketing nations and will be ICC sanctioned.

NZC is quite bullish about the competition and Stephen Fleming was at its launch. At first glance however, their enthusiasm is baffling as New Zealand hasn't been invited. The competition will be fought over by the top few teams from India, Australia, England and South Africa. Good for them, but what about the rest of the world?

There is hope though. NZ and Aus are looking at starting a trans-Tasman T20 league. I guess this means that an NZ team that wins this league could sneak into the new "international" competition by pretending to be Australian.

Wednesday, 12 September 2007

Ben on...Fleming quits, loses captaincy, but stays

Finally we get some clarity about what Stephen Fleming is doing. We will no longer see him in ODIs or as test captain, but – thank the cricketing gods – he is not going to the ICL.

Ben on...Oram knocked back down the order

Today's Stuff article on the Black Caps at the T20 Championship contains the vague mention of Jacob Oram almost being knocked out by Brett Lee. The BBC is equally unspecific, saying that Oram was "unsettled" by a Brett Lee bouncer. The Australian has the details however:
In his first outing since seriously damaging his ankle last February, Brett Lee bowled impressively, claiming the first wicket of Brendon McCullum and flattening key all-rounder Jacob Oram with a bouncer which stuck the batsman's helmet and flew out to point.

Oram lay on the ground for some time being treated by New Zealand physiotherapist Dale Shackle before continuing but didn't last long.

Thursday, 6 September 2007

Ben on...the Black Caps T20 prospects

With the Rugby World Cup having started this morning, the NRL finals series already tense and England and India fighting out an exciting ODI series, I need to build up my interest in the twenty20 championship.

Shaoib Akhtar has managed to generate a bit of heat before the series has even begun by hitting a team mate with a bat. Unfortunately, his absence will make the tournament rather less interesting. The most exciting news coming out of the New Zealand camp – generating considerably less heat than in the Pakistan camp – is that McCullum won't be keeping, to keep him focussed on opening the batting.

But anyway. Who is going to win? Or more importantly, will New Zealand win?

New Zealand has gone to South Africa with a very good squad. It is not too different from the team that came 3rd in the World Cup (though the absence of Fleming is very significant). We have what must be the most potent weapon in Shane Bond and some batsmen with real push in McCullum, Oram and Styris. Ian Chappell rates us highly, second only to Australia in this tournament.

However, our strengths possibly camouflage our weaknesses. In T20, a team's overall bowling strength is determined more by the weaker bowlers, and a single outstanding batsmen contributes more than any number of decent sloggers. Bond knocking batsmen over with a strike rate of 12 at an economy rate of 6 is largely neutralised if Martin is going for 9 an over from the other end, and we don't have a Ponting, Smith or even a Fleming in our batting line up.

So how well will we do?

I'm not prepared to stick my head out over T20. It's all just too unpredictable. Instead I am going to rely on statistics. (Get ready for one of the most outlandish, most audacious use of numbers that has ever tried to pass itself off as statistics.)

Unfortunately, there isn't enough data on T20. However, there is plenty of data on tests and ODIs. Based on the test and ODI rankings, Australia should waltz home; they are 30 points ahead on the test table and 5 points ahead on the ODI table. But, I am going use the assumption that T20 is to ODIs as ODIs are to tests. We can see that since Australia is so much a better test team (rating of 141) than a ODI team (rating of 129), they should be correspondingly less good at T20 – I calculate a rating of 117. New Zealand on the other hand is spectacularly better at ODIs than in tests. Our test and ODI ratings of 99 and 114 give a T20 rating of 129, giving us a huge advantage over Australia.

But is it enough to win the tournament? Well, unfortunately, the Windies' shockingly bad test rating of 72 gives them the edge. Even combined with a mediocre ODI ranking of 102, their T20 rating of 132 just might be enough for them to squeak home in the final.

Sunday, 2 September 2007

Ben on...Warne's favourite Black Caps

Shane Warne has decided to tell us his pick for the top 50 cricket players that he has played with or against. The list ran in his cricket column in Times Online: introduction, 50-41, 40-31, 30-21, 20-11, 10-1.

He has only three New Zealanders on his list:

Chris Cairns (New Zealand)
Test matches 62
Runs 3,320 at 33.53
Wickets 218 at 29.40
He played the most incredible shot off my bowling during a game in Hamilton. Placing his left leg into the rough, he swivelled to face square leg and hit the turning ball over that area for a huge six. At one stage, he was probably the best all-rounder in the world, despite struggling with injuries.

Stephen Fleming (New Zealand)
Test matches 104
Runs 6,620 at 39.64
Catches 159
Definitely the best captain I have played against, which is why he is in the 20s rather than the 40s. His understanding of tactics and plans are second to none, and he has the temperament to stay calm when things are going against him. Also a classy left-handed batsman and excellent slip fielder.

Martin Crowe (New Zealand)
Test matches 77
Runs 5,444 at 45.36
“Flem” will bristle at ranking below Crowe –– but 23 is my favourite number so he can’t take it the wrong way. I played against Crowe early in my career and did not bowl to many more elegant batsmen in the years after he retired. He picked up length early and seemed to have all the shots, allowing him to score quickly.

Thursday, 30 August 2007

Ben on...the ICL

I've been wanting to post about the Indian Cricket League since it was first announced. At the time I thought the idea of a rival cricket tournament was quite exciting. The ICC were in the process of grossly mismanaging the World Cup and the BCCI had been turning into the bully of the world cricket playground. Even if the whole purpose behind the ICL was to simply make money for a media kingpin disappointed at missing out on TV rights, I was happy to see the possibility that these two arrogant, venal organisations might get black eyes.

However, every time I started to make a post, the fortunes of the ICL would plummet, making my post irrelevant. But every time it seemed like they were sunk, they would sign some important player or overcome some hurdle or there would be some other twist, and suddenly the ICL would have new life. When Lalu Prasad Yadav gets involved in an issue in India, it has officially become a farce.

The story in New Zealand has also run something of a roller coaster, with Fleming being approached, Chris Harris signing then not signing, retired cricketers being possible signings, fears that the ICL will strip New Zealand of its talent, rumours of Shane Bond being offered $600,000 and then NZC being set to support the ICL. Now today, NZC has made their position clear, with a statement that they will not support the ICL. (There are also a suggestion that any contracted players will be hit with breach of contract suits if they join the ICL.)

This statement clears things up considerably. Not completely however, as we still don't know the intentions of the contracted players that might have been approached. (And there are hints that Fleming at least is seriously considering it. The article I linked to above about the breach of contract suits suggests that some officials want Fleming punished for not committing to NZ cricket.) It would be a great shame if any contracted Black Caps joined the ICL. I like Richard Boock's suggestion: if they want to play in a "tinpot Twenty20 circus alongside other has-beens and wanna-bes", then let him go. Surely the negative reaction they'd get from their New Zealand fans and the complete downer of finishing their career in a shoddy sideshow of a tournament would be punishment enough.

Thursday, 9 August 2007

Ben on...Twenty20 squad announced

The 15-man squad to contest the Twenty20 Championship has been announced, chosen from the preliminary 30-man list. Or rather, 15 guys were crossed off. Here is the squad below, also showing the guys who were left out.

Andre Adams
Shane Bond
Neil Broom
Grant Elliott
Stephen Fleming
James Franklin

Peter Fulton
Mark Gillespie
Chris Harris
Paul Hitchcock

Gareth Hopkins
Jamie How
James Marshall

Chris Martin
Michael Mason
Brendon McCullum
Nathan McCullum
Peter McGlashan
Craig McMillan
James McMillan
Warren McSkimming
Iain O'Brien
Jacob Oram
Jeetan Patel
Aaron Redmond
Bradley Scott
Scott Styris
Ross Taylor
Daniel Vettori (captain)
Lou Vincent

The notable (but not too surprising) omissions are Fleming and Franklin.

The newcomers are Gareth Hopkins, Nathan McCullum and Bradley Scott. Hopkins has in fact represented NZ in 5 ODIs as a wicketkeeper – he didn't actually face any balls the one time he did get to the crease, though he has taken 8 catches. He looks to be very good cover for Brendon McCullum behind the wickets and should do okay if given a chance to bat. Brendon's brother, Nathan McCullum, impressed with some strong hitting in the recent Emerging Player's Tournament in Australia. Bradley Scott is an Otago all-rounder who will fill Franklin's place.

Wednesday, 8 August 2007

Ben on...jelly beans and things

I don't understand the jelly beans either D; it's all just a bit too English. Dylan Cleaver seems to have got the joke though. He has put together a list of 'meaningful' items that could be thrown on the pitch.

Tuesday, 24 July 2007

Ben on...two more years of Braces

So New Zealand Cricket have announced that John Bracewell's contract is to be extended for another two years. This was pretty much to be expected.

Other interesting news in the announcement are
It is hard to muster up much of an opinion on Bracewell's reappointment in the middle of the off season. It is fair to say that Bracewell had some good success during his time; however, the team has not shaken its top order brittleness nor the tendency to choke in critical games.

The other changes are very interesting however.

It is very good to hear that John Wright will be involved with the team. He was a very good coach of India and many of the Indian players flourished under him (many of whom are now struggling).

It is particularly good news that we have good specialist bowling and batting coaches. It always seems that we perform well as a team while the players generally fail to excel personally. If we could combine our impressive team performances with some strong individual performances, we must be much more successful.

I am also pleased with the fact that Bracewell's powers will be slightly curtailed. While it may be the case that he has never used his selection veto, right from the beginning I had the sense that he was being made out to be bigger than the team. I recall when he was first appointed that it was thought that his veto over selections might interfere with the dynamic Fleming had with the team.

Monday, 16 July 2007

Ben on...emerging players in action

The currently running Emerging Players' Tournament is giving us a look at some of NZ's new talent. All of the uncapped players in the Twenty20 Championship squad are playing, as well as a couple of other youngsters not in the squad, Hamish Bennett and Rob Nicol.

New Zealand should hope to do well in this tournament, which consists of Twenty20 and limited over rubbers. We seem to have sent what amounts to an A side, while the other teams include an Australian Centre of Excellence squad, an Indian state side (Karnataka) and the South African emerging players.

The tournament started yesterday, with a win for NZ over the South Africans in the Twenty20 rubber.

Thursday, 12 July 2007

Ben on...Twenty20 squad

The preliminary 30-man squad has been named for the Twenty20 Championships. The list is long enough that pretty much all the current regular internationals not effected by injury make the list. Missing due to injury are Kyle Mills and Daryl Tuffey. Michael Papps and Matthew Sinclair were also not selected, presumably not being seen as Twenty20 material. And there is still room in the list for a few non-regulars, Chris Harris and some new faces. In the following list, those in red have no top-level international experience. With the World Cup having just concluded, a new team has to be built for South Asia 2011. With luck, we may see some potential members of that team given a chance here.

Andre Adams
Shane Bond
Neil Broom (Otago)
Grant Elliott (Wellington)
Stephen Fleming
James Franklin
Peter Fulton
Mark Gillespie
Chris Harris
Paul Hitchcock
Gareth Hopkins
Jamie How
James Marshall
Chris Martin
Michael Mason
Brendon McCullum
Nathan McCullum (Otago)
Peter McGlashan
Craig McMillan
James McMillan (Otago)
Warren McSkimming (Otago)
Iain O'Brien
Jacob Oram
Jeetan Patel
Aaron Redmond (Otago)
Bradley Scott (Otago)
Scott Styris
Ross Taylor
Daniel Vettori
Lou Vincent

Sunday, 8 July 2007

Ben on...NZ for WSC 08/09?

According to this article in The Australian, NZ and South Africa are pencilled in to play in Australia in 2008/9. Awesome. Unfortunately, the gist of the article is that the three teams might not compete in a tri-series because the international programme is just too crowded. The first real evidence that the 28-year old tournament is in jeopardy. This follows on from suggestions during the last series that the event may have had its day (something about 1/3 of the tournament featuring teams that aren't Australia being something of a problem).

It would be a real shame if the Australian tri-series weren't to happen. It really is a fantastic tournament. The victories and close losses in the World Series Cup are some of my best memories of cricket (and here are some of Mike's memories). It just the best ODI tournament out there – except maybe for the Chappell–Hadlee, but certainly better than the World Cup. Long may it continue.

Tuesday, 3 July 2007

Ben on...the record finally broken?

I was briefly excited seeing the headline for the Cricinfo bulletin for the current match between Sri Lanka and Bangladesh – "Bangladesh bowled out for lowest Test score". Could it be that our lowest innings total record of 26 has finally been broken after over 50 years? No. It was only Bangladesh's lowest innings total – a mammoth 62, which doesn't even make it into the bottom 40 innings totals.

Ben on...the coming season

NZ Cricket have released the schedule for the home series against Bangladesh and England, so it looks now like we have a mostly complete schedule for the next year or so:

  Twenty20 World Championship South Africa
12, Kingsmead Twenty20 vs Kenya
15, New Wanderers Twenty20 vs Sri Lanka
(the rest of the series TBA)
  NZ in South Africa
25–28, Goodyear Park vs South Africa A
    1–4, Sedgars Park vs South Africa A
8–12, New Wanderers 1st test vs South Africa
16–20, SuperSport Park 2nd test vs South Africa
23, New Wanderers Twenty20 vs South Africa
25, Kingsmead 1st ODI vs South Africa
30, St George's Park 2nd ODI vs South Africa
    2, Newlands 3rd ODI vs South Africa

Chappell–Hadlee Trophy in Australia

11, W.A.C.A. Twenty20 vs Australia
14, Adelaide Oval 1st ODI vs Australia
16, Sydney Cricket Ground 2nd ODI vs Australia
20, Bellerive Oval 3rd ODI vs Australia

Bangladesh in New Zealand
19-22, Seddon Park Northern Knights vs Bangladesh
23, Seddon Park Northern Knights vs Bangladesh
26, Eden Park 1st ODI vs Bangladesh
28, McLean Park 2nd ODI vs Bangladesh
31, Queenstown Events Centre 3rd ODI vs Bangladesh
January 2008
    4–8, University Oval 1st test vs Bangladesh
12–16, Basin Reserve 2nd test vs Bangladesh
February 2008
  England in New Zealand
2, QEII Park Canterbury Wizards vs England
3, QEII Park Canterbury Wizards vs England
5, Jade Stadium Twenty20 vs England
7, Eden Park Twenty20 vs England
9, Westpac Stadium 1st ODI vs England
12, Seddon Park 2nd ODI vs England
15, Eden Park 3rd ODI vs England
20, McLean Park 4th ODI vs England
23, Jade Stadium 5th ODI vs England
25–26, University Oval Otago Volts vs England
28–1, University Oval Otago Volts vs England
March 2008
    5–9, Seddon Park 1st test vs England
13–17, Basin Reserve 2nd test vs England
22–26, McLean Park 3rd test vs England
May 2008
  New Zealand in England
15–19, Lord's 1st test vs England
23–27, Old Trafford 2nd test vs England
June 2008
    5–9, Trent Bridge 3rd test vs England
13, Old Trafford Twenty20 vs England
15, Riverside Ground 1st ODI vs England
18, Edgbaston 2nd ODI vs England
21, County Ground 3rd ODI vs England
25, Kennington Oval 4th ODI vs England
28, Lord's 5th ODI vs England

Friday, 22 June 2007

Ben in cricket

Hamish Marshall, as you may have heard, has turned down an offered NZ Cricket contract so that he can play in England as a local player through his Irish passport.

Good luck to him. Given his recent form in internationals, his position in the Black Caps is very uncertain. With the new restrictions on overseas players, playing as a local player gives him many more options. He could well leave Gloucester for a more high profile club.

I was astounded to read however, that if he did move he could earn a wopping NZ$210,000 a season, over four times greater than the NZ$48,000 he was offered by NZC. There may be more to the numbers, but that is still an amazing comparison between a county contract and an international contract.

Who knew there was that much money in cricket? In domestic cricket? It certainly gives a new perspective on those players who choose to stay in New Zealand.

Thursday, 7 June 2007

Wright stays

John Wright has turned down a job offer from Cricket Australia and will be staying in New Zealand - for a wee while longer anyway. Let's just hope New Zealand Cricket pulls finger and offers him a post sometime soon.

Thursday, 31 May 2007

Contracted players list

New Zealand Cricket has just announced its list of players contracted for the 2007/8 season. They are:

Shane Bond
Stephen Fleming
James Franklin
Peter Fulton
Mark Gillespie
Gareth Hopkins
Jamie How
Brendon McCullum
Craig McMillan
Hamish Marshall
Chris Martin
Michael Mason
Kyle Mills
Jacob Oram
Michael Papps
Jeetan Patel
Scott Styris
Ross Taylor
Daniel Vettori
Lou Vincent

I heard the idiots on Radio Sport speculating about the make-up of the list this morning. One idiot claimed his sources said Jesse Ryder was a shoe-in (so he clearly doesn't follow the sports news then). The other idiot wondered how low Stephen Fleming would rate on the list "now he has retired from test cricket". And these people call themselves sport's journalists.

Monday, 28 May 2007

Jesse Ryder - idiot

There has always been a fair amount of innuendo whispered about Jesse Ryder. The closest it ever seems to appear in the open is when a newspaper article refers to him having "a history". But here is something which gives us something a bit more concrete to go on. Ryder failed to turn up for a match for Ireland yesterday (he was playing as their overseas professional). The Ireland coach has not surprisingly announced that the young Kiwi is unlikely to play for his team again.

Saturday, 19 May 2007

Karl on ... how much cricket do we play?

I've just posted a piece on how I'm convinced we're playing less test cricket than ever. Well, I've done a quick crunching of the numbers and the results are interesting.

We're not playing less test cricket than, say, 10 years ago. But overall we do seem to be playing less cricket. In terms of days of cricket played, 2005 and 2006 have been real lowlights, with 54 days of cricket in each year. 2007 is showing to be a bit of an anomaly but that's largely because of the tedious World Cup. Between now and the end of the year, if we're lucky New Zealand will play five tests. That will be the lowest since 1991.

Year Tests ODIs
1995 10 19
1996 6 22
1997 10 17
1998 6 23
1999 13 26
2000 9 25
2001 8 23
2002 8 31
2003 6 29
2004 10 25
2005 7 19
2006 8 14
2007 0 24

Karl on ... finding the edge

The Listener's Paul Lewis wrote an article recently which I agree with wholeheartedly. In Finding the Edge, he writes that the key to New Zealand succeeding in one-day cricket is succeeding in test match cricket. Have a read of it - I find it convincing, but then on this matter i'm easily convinced. My one area of disagreement with the article is that Lewis says that the focus on one-dayers in recent years has been in addition to, rather than at the expense of, test cricket. I disagree. I think we are playing much less test cricket than ever before. Although later today I'll do an analysis of how much we have played and report back!

Sunday, 13 May 2007

Ben on...don't play Zimbabwe

While news has been slow on the domestic scene, there has been action in other cricketing countries. India has avenged it's World Cup loss to Bangladesh. The West Indies have begun their tour of England. But the biggest news of the moment is that the Australian government has instructed the Australian cricket team not to go on their tour of Zimbabwe.

The issue of a potential boycott began to be raised during the World Cup. This was followed by hand wringing by the government and an even number of pro and anti comments by former players. It looked to be heading in the same direction as previous debates over tours to Zimbabwe, which ultimately left everyone except the ICC looking meek. It has taken hard man John Howard to finally take definitive action to cut cricketing ties with Mugabe's Zimbabwe.

Someone had to do it, and I'm glad it was Australia. It means so much more for the strongest cricketing nation to pull out of a tour. (Also, however, I feel uncomfortable about a government restricting its citizens from travelling, so I am rather two-facedly happy that it wasn't New Zealand that took this drastic step when it was an issue here a couple of years ago.)

Saturday, 12 May 2007

Ben on...job opportunity

Any budding coaches out there keen to help improve the Black Caps' batting performance?

NZ Cricket is taking applications for a head batting coach.

Wednesday, 9 May 2007

Ben on...the sudden end to the season

We're not the only people to go quiet after the end of the World Cup. I went to see if had any cricket news, only to find that their sports section no longer has a cricket subsection.

Ben on...squashball in a teacup

I'd be surprised if Sri Lanka make too much of the fact that Adam Gilchrist used a squash ball in his glove in the World Cup final, despite their threats of taking it up with the ICC. It looks too much like sour grapes for the losing finalist to complain, and the early comments on it seem to suggest the use of a squash ball inside a glove is not illegal.

It's a pity this little controversy has arisen over Gilchrist's incredible innings, but I don't think it will tarnish it in any way. We all know that Gilchrist is capable of innings like that without the help of squash balls.

I have to say though, that I do think Sri Lanka has a point. While it has been claimed that using a squash ball in your glove is no different from using padding, Dileep Premachandran made the observation that having the ball in his glove fixed a problem Gilchrist was having with his bottom hand and artificially changed his array of scoring shots, shifting it away from the off-side. (A Barbados paper also has a report about how the ball might have given more power to his shots by acting as a spring.) He was clearly using it as a batting aid, not for padding or protection. I'm not quite sure what the laws say about artificial aids, but I just don't think they're on.

It isn't something to make a fuss about, but I hope he doesn't do it again and I hope others don't try stuff on as well.

Tuesday, 1 May 2007

New Zealand averages

player           runs average
Scott Styris 499 83.16
Stephen Fleming 353 39.22
Peter Fulton 297 37.12
Craig McMillan 228 32.57
Jacob Oram 165 33.00
Brendon McCullum 117 23.40
Ross Taylor 107 17.83
Lou Vincent 101 33.67
James Franklin 95 95.00
Hamish Marshall 81 40.50
Jeetan Patel 34 34.00
Dan Vettori 28 7.00
Mark Gillespie 2 2.00
Shane Bond 2 2.00
Michael Mason 0 0.00

player wickets average economy
Dan Vettori 16 27.93 4.57
Shane Bond 12 16.38 3.05
James Franklin 11 30.09 5.06
Jacob Oram 10 25.20 4.03
Scott Styris 9 26.88 4.24
Jeetan Patel 7 35.00 4.50
Craig McMillan 3 36.67 4.88
Michael Mason 3 44.67 4.87
Daryl Tuffey 0 – 6.67
Mark Gillespie 0 – 8.95

The future of Speed

Yesterday there was talk of a vote of no-confidence in ICC head Malcolm Speed. And then a sign fell on his head at a press conference. I believe that moment has sealed Speed's fate. It was a moment of great television that could easily be seen as both an omen of doom and an emblem of incompetence, and you don't get a worse combination. Like Don Brash clumsily walking a plank during the election campaign, this is a moment which cliche lovers will immeadiately call "a tipping point".

Two New Zealanders in the World XI

Cricinfo has surveyed its staff to find a World Cup XI and two New Zealanders made the team. Scott Styris was unanimously voted the best all-rounder of the tournament and was selected at number 5. And Shane Bond slipped into a bowling spot ahead of Shaun Tait and Nathan Bracken.

I think the selection of those two players in fair. They were real highlights in the New Zealand effort, but few amongst the rest of our crop did their talents much justice. Pre-tournament we might have expected players like McCullum, Oram and Vettori to be up there - but they couldn't quite pull it together.

Sunday, 29 April 2007

Ben's finally over

The final of CWC '07 resembled the tournament in miniature: completely dominated by Australia, very nearly ruined by inflexible officialdom and ultimately a damp squib.

Saturday, 28 April 2007

Ben on...Sri Lanka need a miracle

Australia are such overwhelming favourites for tonight's final that it is hard to see how Sri Lanka have any chance of winning. The World Cup has not always gone to the strongest team however.
  • In 1983 India beat the invincible Windies.
  • Australia won in 1987, back in those long lost days when they weren't actually very good.
  • In 1992, Imran Khan's Pakistan came through, even though they barely deserved to make it to the semis.
  • Setting a precedent for themselves, Sri Lanka took they title in 1996, despite having been the world's whipping boys up till then.

Ben on...rating the Black Caps

With the Black Caps losing again, Richard Boock has regained his mojo and is writing with venom, lambasting the team for being a bunch of lemmings. He has also put numbers to his disappointment of the players individually. Jonathan Millmow has also rated the players. It is interesting to compare their respective assessments.
Player    Boock Millmow    Player    Boock Millmow
Bond 8 8.5 Mason 3 5
Fleming 5 7 Oram 4 6
Franklin 3 7 Patel 5 7
Fulton 7 7 Styris 9 9
Gillespie 1 4 Taylor 3 5
Marshall 4 – Tuffey – –
McCullum 4 6 Vettori 5 6
McMillan 4 6 Vincent – –
Martin – –
Boock is, not surprisingly much harsher (avg. ~4.5) than Millmow (avg. ~6.5). And pretty blinkered as well. If he can't see, for example, the great work that Franklin did supporting Bond at the top of the innings he's clearly just an inveterate bellyacher. And if the joint "best gloveman at the World Cup" can only rate a measly 4, Boock's standards are clearly too high.

Ben on...statistics say "World Cup crap"

Throughout the Cup, we've been bombarded with articles about the disastrous organisation of this World Cup. The failures of the World Cup included small crowds, lack of atmosphere, too many restrictions on attendees (I particularly liked the fact that attendees were specifically permitted to take water into the grounds, but couldn't take in glass bottles, plastic bottles or tins, presumably having to carry the water in their cupped hands), too many minnows, too many minnows qualifying for the Super 8, its interminable length... Sometimes it seemed like the ICC had intended for it to be a disaster.

All of this might have been forgivable if the cricket had been good. But of course, the cricket stank on the whole. And the statistics prove it. Even accounting for the minnows, a good 2/3 of the matches were one-sided, with victory margins of greater than 50 runs or of more than 5 wickets with 5 overs to spare. Worse than any previous World Cup. And worse also than the prevailing trend for the 2000s of about 50% of games being no-contests.

Friday, 27 April 2007

Ben on...World Cup still alive

With the Black Caps knocked out of the World Cup, naturally my interest in the tournament has died away. But Australia's win over South Africa has re-energised the tournament.

A Sri Lanka–South Africa final I can take or leave. I wouldn't particularly like to see Graeme Smith win the World Cup, but I've no particular interest in seeing Sri Lanka win either.

However, the fear of Australia winning the Cup again is something that I can get passionate about.

Go Sri Lanka!

Thursday, 26 April 2007

Fleming resigns from ODI captaincy

The big news of the day is that Stephen Fleming has resigned from the captaincy of the New Zealand ODI side. Fleming says he wants to continue with the test captaincy and wants to play ODIs as a specialist batsman, but that he feels that he needs to concentrate on his batting and on test matches.

I had actually had a sneaking feeling all season that Fleming might retire entirely after the World Cup, so in many ways this decision came as a relief. Fleming has been an absolute corner-stone of New Zealand cricket for a decade and his loss would be hard to take. He still has a great deal to offer New Zealand and this decision will allow a graduated exit which should take advantage of his skills, while also allowing someone else (probably Dan Vettori) to step out of his shadow. Let's hope this is what happens, and that people like Adam Parore don't get their way and Fleming is discarded entirely.

One problem, I guess, is that Fleming will cast a long shadow. Few players have his stature and his continued presence may cause problems. It is all too easy to imagine an unhappy player going to Fleming for advice behind Vettori's back. This sort of thing can be very problematic and Ganguly's presence in the Dravid-led Indian side seems a very good example of how it can have a corrosive effect. I don't know whether it will be too much of a problem with New Zealand though. We certainly don't seem to be as cliquey as other sides and there is a degree of trust and openess amongst players.

Before I finish this article I want to remind you of a couple of things. Victory in the Champions Trophy in 2000 and the 3-0 crushing of Australia in this year's Chappell-Hadlee. The New Zealand ODI side under Fleming's captaincy hasn't just seen good times, it has seen some of the best.

Wednesday, 25 April 2007

Ben on...always the flower girl and never the bridesmaid

Well how can I sum up the semi final? Basically it boiled down to us being outplayed and chocking in the same game, but if you know the result you already know that.

Damn you for knocking us out of the Cup Sri Lanka, but good luck in the final, I sincerely hope you beat Australia or South Africa.

So in the end, the third ranked team in the world finished third in the World Cup. That's an equation for disappointment, but not despondency. It is also true to our World Cup form – until tomorrow, no one has played in more semi-finals than us; we are the most consistent team in World Cups, for better and for worse.

So we get the chance to better our record in four years time. But really I don't think we can do it unless we get a bit better ourselves.

The end of the World Cup dream

How could a World Cup which began with so much promise end for New Zealand in two such horrendous defeats? How can the side which thumped Australia 3-0 suddenly turn into a side which can't bat, can't bowl and can't hit the wickets when fielding? If we have learnt one thing from this World Cup is that the New Zealand team is mentally weak. Australians respond to pressure with aggression. Sri Lanka respond with quiet determination. New Zealand gets the shakes. You could see it from the start of the semi-final. The no-balls, the wides, the balls sprayed all over the wicket. The batting was even worse. Styris and Fulton held out for a while, but the middle order folded like well-designed deck chair.

Perhaps I am just bitter as I write this. The semi-final is not yet over and for the second time this week I am feeling angry at having got up before 3am to watch nothing but heart-break and disappointment. Perhaps I need to find some positives. The form of Scott Styris and Peter Fulton should count then. As should Shane Bond's bowling in the first three-quarters of the tournament. And the fact that a country of only 4 million people can reach the World Cup semi-finals is something we should all probably be proud of. But at the moment, none of this consoles me. I don't feel proud, I just feel let down.

Sunday, 22 April 2007

Ben on...ratings news

I have been keenly anticipating the update to the ICC player ratings as I was sure Shane Bond had a good chance of closing the gap with Sean Pollack at the top of the ratings. The previous update had seen Bond close the gap by about 50 points to less than 100. Considering Pollack's poor return at this tournament (7 wickets at 40.0 and econ. 3.54) compared to his previous couple of years, I couldn't see how he could maintain his rating of 900-odd. While Bond's 12 wickets at 12.83 and econ. of 2.58 was surely going to be handsomely rewarded with ratings points.

Well, the ratings have now been updated again. And it is clear I don't understand the system., as the gap between the two is now wider than it was at the last update.

So Bond is still at 2. Vettori's ranking is also unchanged at 7. Oram just makes the top 20. The only other Black Cap bowler worth noting is Patel, whose ranking of 57 comes after only 22 games and 32 wickets.

The batting is typically dire, with Fleming the best coming in at 21. Styris and Fulton however have managed to lift themselves out of the 40s, where the majority of our line-up seem to linger. Styris is now in the top 30, with his rating showing a similar spike to that he showed the last time he was in the West Indies. Fulton is now 35, and his rating is still hobbled. Another 20 or 30 points and he could well be our next batsman in the top 30. (I told you it was dire.)

Ben on...the captains on...that big thumping

In the press conference after the Super 8 game between Australia and New Zealand, Ricky Ponting had a good gloat:

If they don't think that's going to affect them at all then how is any psychological edge ever gained in a game of cricket? If we don't take something out of today's game then nobody ever can.

We've just beaten New Zealand by 215 runs in a world cup game so they've got a lot of thinking to do.

What a pig. Still, after a win like that you have the right to say whatever you like.

Stephen Fleming was philosophical:

We talked the talk and really wanted to win this game. But there's no doubt we've had one eye on the semifinal.

There was nothing riding on the match and if it took an edge off us we were always going to be in trouble and I guess that's what happened today. You've got to be playing above yourselves to beat Australia and we were certainly well below that today.
And this is probably a fair assessment of the game. It would have been great if we could have won it, but the fact that less was riding on the match made it that little bit harder to gain motivation.

He also tried to turn things around and sound confident, but it was a pretty sorry sort of bravado:

We are a dangerous side, we can play like we did today or we can play a semifinal and chase down 350. We are even more dangerous now that we've got two games to win the world cup.

Australia are playing great cricket and I wonder ... 'Are they going to have a bad day?' We hope to get past Sri Lanka and then create a bad day for them in the final.

Hoping that we get to the final and Australia trip up is about the best we can do.

Saturday, 21 April 2007

Ben on...New Zealand no hope to win Cup

My secret hope that we might lift the World Cup has been extinguished. It isn't that we lost. Good teams can drop a game here or there. It isn't even the extent of the loss. We were after all missing two vital players and it was a dead game. New Zealand has no chance of winning the World Cup because Australia has no chance of losing it.

Australia have ploughed their way through this tournament without revealing a single weakness. I cannot see how they could possibly lose their last two games, except by extreme bad luck – and Ricky Ponting's luck is exceptionally good. They deserve to win the Cup. Any other result would frankly be the biggest upset of the tournament, bar none.

I still feel we are even money to make the finals however. We've played some incredible cricket so far. We bounced back after the Super 8 game against Sri Lanka and there's no reason we can't bounce back again. And if we make the finals, we'll give the Aussies more of a run for their money.

Tuesday, 17 April 2007

Ben on...Australia win trophy!

In what may auger the results of the World Cup, Australia have romped to victory in the ICC Pub Quiz Trophy earlier this week, beating chokers South Africa in a play off round.

New Zealand made it through to the semis with a competent, well-prepared effort, but in all too familiar fashion, staged a collapse just when they were looking their strongest in the Celebrity Babies round. Stephen Fleming on his teams performance:

I'm gutted, Ham Marshall bought a stack of New Ideas with him, and I thought our gossip was going to very, very strong indeed. We argued and argued over Bruce Willis and Demi Moore's kids names. I wrote down Scout, but Macca rubbed it out and put Brownie. That's quizzing, I guess.

Ben on...Ireland win their World Cup

Let's all raise a glass of Guinness to the Irish who are now an official ODI side by virtue of having beaten two full members.

Ben on...getting to the final

Sri Lanka rested themselves out of their chance to make it to no. 1 on the points table, which means we won't be playing Australia in the semis, which increases our chances of making it to the finals greatly.

We have the slimmest of slim hopes of making the no. 1 spot ourselves. Doing some calculations on the back of an envelope, I've concluded that if we were to score 300-odd in our match against Australia, we would have to bowl them out for about 180 to shift the net RRs enough for us to overtake the Aussies. If we were to chase, we'd have to catch their total by about the 30th over. So we should just assume we'll be meeting Sri Lanka at Sabina Park.

So what do we need to do to beat Sri Lanka in the semi?

The Cricinfo bulletin for today's match made the interesting point that Sri Lanka is prone to batting collapses. They did it today, and collapses against South Africa (195 for 5 to 209 all out) may have lost them the game and against England (175 for 3 to 235 all out) made that game much closer than it should have been. Their middle and lower order batsmen are fragile. And we have wicket taking bowlers who can take advantage of this by knocking off the top order (Bond) and exposing the middle order to be cleaned up (Vettori). In addition, we are the only team that has restricted our opponents to under 4 runs an over overall. Even with Sri Lanka's big hitters, we should expect the semi to be a low scoring affair.

The biggest danger for us of course is the Sri Lankan bowlers. For which I have no specific answers. In truth, the news is bad. In the 2000s, our batsmen averaged 23.9 against SL, while they averaged 29.3 otherwise. Surely we can rely on Scotty though, and we'd probably only need one other to go with him. Perhaps if we could hold Fleming back until Vaas has lost his venom.

Monday, 16 April 2007

Ben on...likely semi-final opponents

There are two games that will determine where the Black Caps finish on the table and who they will play in the semis, Australia's games against Sri Lanka and New Zealand. SL also play Ireland (which presumably will effect Ireland's points on the ODI Championship table now that they are an official ODI team), but we can easily assume that SL will win that one comfortably. Aus v. SL has probably been played by the time you read this and my analysis will be out of date already, but anyway, here are the possibilities assuming no huge changes in net RR:

Aus win both: Black Caps v. SL in semi
SL win, NZ lose: Black Caps v. SL
SL lose, NZ win: Black Caps v. SL
Aus lose both: Black Caps v. Aus

We're all but guaranteed to finish 2nd or 3rd and will most likely play SL again. This time however, the game will be at the harder, bouncier wicket at Sabina Park, Jamaica. I'd like to think we'll benefit more from the change in venues, but at any rate, the game should have a quite different hue from the previous match against SL.

Ben on...good captaincy, or just a good toss

Richard Boock is full of praise for Fleming's tactical captaincy in the win against South Africa, highlighting his marshalling of his slow bowlers, particularly his use of McMillan, and his field placing, and lauding his strangulation of the Saffies' run rate at the death. He also praises his batting contribution.

Kris Srikkanth however seems to think it was all in the toss.

Sunday, 15 April 2007

Ben on...righting the ship

There is no better way to answer your critics than with a complete return to form. According to the Guardian:

With this performance, New Zealand disproved the suggestion, which took root during Sri Lanka's consummate conquest, that they are human after all.

Friday, 13 April 2007

Wheels tumbling off the wagon?

The nature of New Zealand's defeat against Sri Lanka means we have to ask if the wheels are falling off the New Zealand wagon. The batting was poor, the fielding weak and the bowling atrocious. You can't get a more depressing mode of defeat than that. If this was simply a one-off abberation then I suppose it was a good time to get it out of the way. But I worry that it might be more than that. Against weaker opposition the flaws in our top-order and our back-up bowlers have been hidden, but against Sri Lanka they were ruthlessly exposed. Australia and South Africa are unlikely to allow us too much wiggle room in these areas either.

Stephen Fleming certainly has a few things to worry about before Saturday's game against South Africa. One thing which he will be trying to shove to the back of his mind is his recent form against Chaminda Vaas. In his last three matches against Sri Lanka Vaas has pinned Fleming lbw for 0.

If there was one positive to come from the match it was the continued good bowling form of Dan Vettori. Cricinfo's latest statistical analysis comes in two parts. The first looks at the terrible ODI batting pedigree of Michael Vaughan (interestingly it concludes that Craig McMillan is the only established top order batsman with a worse record), but the second looks at Dan's stunning form in ODIs since 2003. He has taken 117 wickets at 26.03 in that time and conceded less than 4 runs per over. Only Murali compares.

Thursday, 12 April 2007

Ben on...the business end

Things are going to heat up for the Black Caps with tonight's match against Sri Lanka, far and away the toughest opponent so far.

Indiatimes has a nice run down of NZ's prospects in the match, discussing the Black Caps' form* and the players most likely to give us trouble.

Strangely though, the article doesn't take into account the predictions of Indiatimes' own astrologers. According to the stars, it is going to be a close game, with New Zealand barely favoured to win.

*The article has NZ in second place, though we are in fact first on the points table. This is probably just a simple mistake, but it does perpetuate the never-ending tendency of Indians to underrate the Black Caps.

Ben on...the Guardian on...England's timid defeat of Bangladesh

Well there are unconvincing wins, and then there are wins that creep up on you in a fake inspector Clouseau moustache and a big pair of plastic glasses without lenses and still hope to get past you by persuading you they're genuine. That was seriously shoddy stuff on a pitch tailor-made for the English team.

Ben on...Sachin, traitor to his country

This is the stupidest story I have read about the World Cup so far. Here's the gist of it:

Complaint against Sachin for dishonouring flag

NEW DELHI, April 11: A complaint has been filed with Delhi Police against cricketer Sachin Tendulkar for allegedly dishonouring the tri-colour [India's three-coloured flag] during the Indian team's stay in the West Indies last month.

The Delhi Police is seeking legal advice whether they can proceed on a complaint for an "offence" allegedly committed outside the country.

The controversy erupted as a private news channel showed a photograph of Tendulkar with a knife about to cut a cake in the presence of Indian High Commissioner to Jamaica KL Agrawal at a function.

"I am disturbed that a person of Tendulkar's stature dishonouring the tri-colour. He should be a role model and by cutting a cake with tri-colour he disgraced both the nation and the national flag," complainant Subodh Jain said.

Wednesday, 11 April 2007

Ben on...Sri Lanka weakened

It is terrible form to be pleased about injuries in opposing teams, but Malinga's absence in Friday's game could make all the difference.

Ben on...Bond dissected

That article on Shane Bond that Mike mentioned is back up. It's a good one too. It starts off with a recap of Bond's recent history and how damn good he is, just in case it hasn't been told too often. (There do in fact appear to be people who haven't really heard of Shane Bond. I was astounded to hear on the radio commentary yesterday that "New Zealand doesn't have any world class players, well maybe Stephen Fleming".) However, the rest of the article is more informative. It talks about Dayle Hadlee working with Bond in changing his action to prevent injuries and some of Bond's thoughts about the World Cup and fast bowlers, which I think are quite revealing about how the team is going about things in the Caribbean.

Here's another article, about Fleming the super captain, which could have been recycled from the previous World Cup. Again, I think this revealing – it hints at just how healthy things are within the team.

Tuesday, 10 April 2007

Good article, bad article

Two Cricinfo articles for you today. The first sees a whole heap of praise lumped onto Shane Bond's head. The second doesn't make quite so nice reading for New Zealand fans, in it Craig McMillan talks about retirement. Retirement?! The guy is barely 30. I guess it can't be that easy being Craig though, most New Zealanders have an odd love-hate (or hate-hate) relationship with him.

Hmmmm. Okay. It looks like I only have one article for you. Between starting this post and ending it, Rahul Bhattacharya's article on "Shane Bond the thoroughbred" has vanished from the ether. If it reappears, I will link to it again.

The Black Heads

Richard Boock's column in today's Herald looks at the not so exciting world of cricket administration. In particular Boock speculates on John Bracewell's future (our good performance in the World Cup probably means an extension to his contract) and who the new CEO for New Zealand Cricket might be. Boock seems to think Justin Vaughan is a shoe-in for the Chief Black Head position. My grandmother once told me that I am somehow related to former all-rounder Vaughan. I am not really sure how much credence to give that claim, she has previously conjured all sorts of tenuous links between my family and a wide array of Shortland Street stars, famous cowboys of the Wild West and former Prime Ministers of the United Kingdom. Nevertheless, I think this is as good a reason as any to put my backing behind Vaughan's application. The fact that Vaughan always seemed an organised and sensible cricketer (Cricinfo described him as "an interesting, if not particularly classy, player") helps too.

New Zealand winning the World Cup!

With 8 points and a net run-rate of +1.73 New Zealand are top of the Super Eight table. Australia, with 8 points and a net run-rate of +1.51 have been relegated to number 2.

Sunday, 8 April 2007

New Zealand, masters of the middle overs

The latest Cricinfo statistical review looks at the effectiveness of World Cup sides between overs 20 and 40. Not surprisingly New Zealand does rather well. Batting we have scored 552 runs off 534 balls (6.20 runs per over) at an average of 138. Bowling we have conceded only 405 runs off 606 balls (4.10 runs per over) at an average of 22.50.

Looking at how individuals have performed in the middle overs, Scott Styris appears near the top of both the batting and bowling charts - scoring 182 runs for once out (off 185 balls) and taking 6 wickets at 12.16 and an economy rate of 3.02. Shane Bond's figures in this part of the game also look good - he has effectively taken 5-26 off 9 overs. Cricinfo is so impressed by Bondy's bowling that it has added a whole extra table just to look at how "the best bowler of the World Cup" has performed in each period of the game.

Ben on...the Tigers turn

The second half of the Super 8 round has started with a bang – Bangladesh has thumped South Africa by 67 runs, led by a fine 87 from Mohammad Ashrafal. A result that will no doubt please most followers of the game. As the Guardian over-by-over commentary:
Objectivity in sport is a myth. I want Bangladesh to win, big time. Clear? I doubt there is anyone in the world outside of the RSA who doesn't agree with me.
Who wouldn't be happy for Bangladesh? Personally though, I am also enjoying the schadenfreude over South Africa getting beaten. I've always found them arrogant. And I know I'm not alone; the Guardian commentary (Bangladesh innings) referred to SA as 'bullies' several times.

Well, their arrogance did them no favours in this game. To begin with, they played Gibbs despite the fact that he was injured, and weakened their batting further by playing Nel for Hall. Then they played the Bangladeshi bowlers with too little respect.

This loss has cost SA their no. 1 spot in the rankings and could have jeopardised their semi-final spot. They have three Super 8 games left against WI, NZ and England, and any one of these teams could pinch a semi spot after today's result.

Thursday, 5 April 2007

Greg Chappell resigns

Chappelli's little brother (Chappellg?) has just resigned as coach of India. His resignation letter seems to have been accepted with unseemly haste by the BCCI and - although he cites "personal reasons" for his resignation - Greg couldn't resist a dig at his former charges before he left.

Chappell's resigniation letter doles out some effusive praise to the BCCI, the media, support staff, family and Indian cricket fans. But he doesn't have an awful lot to say about his former charges. And what he does have to say is a bit waspish:

"I am grateful to the players with whom I have worked in this time for the challenges that they presented me with and which I tried to meet in a professional, methodical and interesting way in the interests of the team and the individual."

Translation: "Thanks for teaching me how not to deal with arseholes".

Mind you, the players don't seem particularly happy about things either. Even the usually restrained Sachin Tendulkar had a bit of an outburst.

But this is my favourite response. In it a journalist asked Anil Kumble if Chappell's style created any insecurity amongst the players. Kumble replied "yeah, probably because of the way he approached [coaching]. That is his style". Kumble then got into a bit of an argument with the journalist, implying that the media needs to take some responsibility for inventing stories out of nothing. So what was the headline for the article? "Veteran Indian Spinner Anil Kumble Attacks Coach Greg Chappell". And the first line? "Veteran Indian spinner Anil Kumble today made a veiled attack on cricket coach Greg Chappell, saying his style may have created insecurity among players."

Oh, the irony. A journalist gets attacked for manufacturing stories, but ignores the attack and uses a non-committal answer to a loaded question to manufacture a headline about something completely different instead. You just couldn't make it up.

Brett Lee update

While his compatriots continue to bludgeon their opponents in the West Indies, Brett Lee has apparently headed to India to further his Bollywood singing and acting career. I wonder if we could persuade a couple of Aussies - say Ricky Ponting and Matthew Hayden - to join him until after the World Cup is over?

Wednesday, 4 April 2007

Aussies casting their eyes towards NZ

As the World Cup starts to move towards the business end, the Aussies are starting to cast their eyes around to see who might stand in their way. And the first to attract their attention is Shane Bond. Here the Melbourne Age looks at how Bondy is doing in the Cup and what the Australian cricketers should be looking out for.

From the pen of Tom Scott

Tuesday, 3 April 2007

Ben on...preferred semi-final opponent

I'm intrugued by a couple of replies to some of the posts over the last few days, namely Karl's suggestion that South Africa might be a bogey team of New Zealand and Suhas's suggestion that we might have more chance of beating South Africa.

To analyse this, I turned to Cricinfo's Statsguru. In the table below, I have compiled each of Australia, South Africa and Sri Lanka's* overall win ratio, overall win ratio against NZ, win ratio in the last 50 games (last 3 years or so) and win ratio against NZ out of those last 50 games.

Opponent     Win%   WinNZ% 50Win% 50WinNz%
Australia 64% 71% 69% 64%
South Africa 64% 64% 73% 80%
Sri Lanka 48% 45% 54% 44%
So what can we make of this? I think it clearly shows that South Africa has been our bogey team in recent years. They've been winning well, and thrashing us. In contrast, our record against Sri Lanka has been better than ever, despite their relative good form recently. The real surprise is that we have improved our record against Australia by such an extent recently.

Based on these stats, I'd suggest that we might want to meet Sri Lanka in the semis and hope that South Africa is beaten in their semi against Aus.

*The three teams looking most likely to get into the semis along with New Zealand – accepting that this is mere speculation. Expect, now I have made this prediction, that England will power through their remaining matches and South Africa to stumble against Ireland.

More stats

Wow. Today is turning out to be a real bonanza for the stats fan sitting inside me. Cricinfo has just published a bunch of interesting stats about the Bangladesh game. Amongst them are the revelations that no New Zealand bowler has conceded less runs off his ten overs than Shane Bond did today (although Sir Paddles once bowled 12 overs while conceding only 10 runs) and the fact that Fleming just bought up his 1000th World Cup run and has now hit more 4s in World Cup matches than anyone except for Sachin Tendulkar.

More averages

The domestic season final almost passed without notice in the excitement of the World Cup. And we never really took the chance to look back over the domestic season to look for rising stars.

The obvious star of the season was of course Michael Papps. 1005 runs at 91.36 was just senstational. The problem Papps might face is that he his international reputation has been damaged by last season's conks on the head by Brett Lee. Once you get a name for being poor against the short ball, it is very hard to lose it.

Other batting stars include a bunch of other southern stalwarts like Neil Broom (644 runs at 71.55), Gareth Hopkins (514 runs at 85.66), Aaron Redmond (555 runs at 55.50) and Gregg Todd (522 runs at 52.20). Of the North Islanders Hamish Marshall (766 runs at 54.71), Rob Nicol (519 runs at 51.90) and old Wellington campaigner Michael Parlane (613 runs at 51.08) stood out. There are not an awful lot of new names there. Youngsters like Ross Taylor (348 runs at 49.71), Jesse Ryder (498 runs at 41.50) and BJ Watling (564 runs at 37.60) had solid rather than spectacular seasons.

The bowling averages were again dominated by the older crowd. Andre Adams (32 wickets at 18.78), Ian O'Brien 34 wickets at 20.85), Chris Martin (31 wickets at 21.70) and Graeme Aldridge (33 wickets at 25.84) were the best performed. Leigh Burtt (20 wickets at 28.05) was one of the few youngsters to make much of an impression.


We are approximately half-way through the World Cup, so it seems as good a time as any to look at who might have a shot at the player of the tournament award. A look at the batting averages shows one clear-cut leader - Matthew Hayden. The big bully tops the aggregates and the averages with 395 runs at 98.75, scoring almost 100 runs more than his nearest rival. Of the New Zealanders, Stephen Fleming is looking reasonably good with 280 runs at 70.00 - and he would have looked even better if it weren't for two stupid run-outs. Scott Styris (258 runs at 129.00) isn't too far behind.

The bowling averages also put forward a strong early contender. Lasith Malinga hasn't just taken 13 wickets at 12.61, he has also looked the part of a sensation. Stupid hair, fast-inswinging yorkers, spectacular almost-match-winning spells - he is just electric. The only weakness he has shown has been his tendancy to leak runs (he is going for 4.92 runs per over). Shane Bond hasn't quite got the same strike rate, but his 8 wickets at 10.50 look even better when you see that he is only going at a miserable 2.29 runs per over. Given that he skipped an easy game against Canada and almost everyone else (Glenn McGrath included) is going for over 4 that is pretty damn impressive.

When you couple Scott Styris' 8 wickets at 15.50 with his run-making, he is starting to look like one of the real stars of the Cup. The second part of the tournament is going to be where the flash-in-the-pans get sorted from the real contenders though. So lets hope Scotty keeps his head (if not his hair) and stays in this kind of form for another two weeks.

An Ugly XI

As a counter-point to Ben's find of the India Times "Hunks of the Cup", Marie has sent me the link to "The International Cricket Ugly XI".

I can't believe Scott Styris was only made vice-captain.

The Black Heads

In the Guardian's over-by-over coverage of this morning's crushing victory over Bangladesh, contributors distracted themselves from the tension-free cricket by discussing New Zealand's predilection for giving their sports teams nicknames - "Black Caps", "Black Sticks", "All Blacks", "Tall Blacks" and so on. Then someone asked:

"Do these NZ nicknames apply to their sports administrators too? In which case the chiefs would be Blackheads and the accountants Blackadders and they'd all sit on Blackboards,"


Monday, 2 April 2007

Ben on...overoptimism

Anyone else being made nervous by optimistic reports like this, this and this?

New Zealand has been storming through the World Cup so far. We've won all four games, each within 41 overs, and we should expect to win the next two (against Bangladesh and Ireland) also. This puts us in a strong position to make the semis. However, it must be realised that one of the major aspects of this fantastic success (the other aspects being the incredible form the players are in, the huge confidence they have and the amazing professionalism that they've been taking to the game) is the fact that in these first six games, we will not have played any of the top six teams. This will inevitably make our record look good.

I still think we'll make the semis though. Getting there will probably require picking up at least one of the last three games, which is a prediction we can be fairly confident about. It's the predictions of us making the final that make me nervous as that is a straight prediction that we'll win the semi (and that we'll make it to the semis). The memory of 1992 is too fresh for me to be comfortable with that level of optimism.

Ben on...a slow news day

News has been a bit slow recently for the Black Caps. Apparently not even the game against the Windies was interesting enough to comment on. So here's something trivial and slightly amusing from the Times of India to pass the time until the game tonight: Hunks of the Cup!

I can't bring myself to read the bios of the hunks, though I do note that there are as many New Zealanders in this list as there are in the Wisden 40. And that they are the same players – I wonder if there is anything in that.

An Australia vs New Zealand final?

Ian Chappell is predicting a World Cup final between New Zealand and Australia. Or rather, a one-sided thrashing between Australia and the only team capable of putting up a tensy bit of fight.

Friday, 30 March 2007

Ben on...what if it rains?

The Black Caps are currently 100/3 off 26 overs chasing 178. Easy victory surely, and Styris and McMillan are ambling along at half a clip above the required rate ("ticking along nicely"). But what if it rains? Well no problem in this case, they are 19 runs ahead of the Duckworth–Lewis target. I know this because I worked it out using the on-line calculator.

Thursday, 29 March 2007

The Wisden 40

The new issue of the Wisden Almanack is out. This issue includes a list of the 40 "leading cricketers" in the world and this list has very handily been published online. It includes three New Zealanders - Shane Bond, Stephen Fleming and Dan Vettori. Each gets a nice write-up, although I do wish the English would stop referring to the New Zealand side as "faceless" like they do in Shane Bond's profile. As seems to be usual with Wisden, the only countries that really seem to exist are those which have played a major series against England in the past year.

Ben on...Malinga's double hattrick

If Sri Lanka had won today, it would have been one of the greatest comeback in the history of the game. With South Africa's third wicket falling at 160, it is unthinkable that they might get within one wicket of chasing 210. That Sri Lanka got within a whisker of winning was largely thanks to Malinga's four wickets, coming in two interlocked hattricks:

Malinga to Pollock, OUT, BINGO! Finally Malinga strikes, that is a superb bit of bowling. It's a slower ball on the stumps, Pollock just does not pick it, plays inside the line of the ball and loses his leg stump. Even with the game all but gone Sri Lanka are fighting. Pollock played a good hand but now he's gone!
SM Pollock b Malinga 13 (24b 1x4 0x6) SR: 54.16

Malinga to Hall, OUT, ANOTHER! Andrew Hall goes off the very first ball! It's another speared-in yorker, Hall just about manages to dig it out, but he can't keep the ball down ... it bobs up into the air for the man at cover to pouch easily! Is there a twise left in this game
AJ Hall c Tharanga b Malinga 0 (1b 0x4 0x6) SR: 0.00


Malinga on a hat-trick. What a funny little game this has been.

Malinga to Kallis, OUT, Would you believe it? Malinga has got the hat-trick! Full, furious, outside off stump, Kallis goes for a square-drive and nicks it behind. Loud appeal. Kallis stays rooted. Even louder appeal and Harper raises the fatal finger. SA eight down and choking real badly.
JH Kallis c Sangakkara b Malinga 86 (110b 4x4 0x6) SR: 78.18

Malinga to Ntini, OUT, And then they were one! Malinga gets four in four. Unbelievable! Screaming yorker and Ntini drives, plays all over it and ball crashes into the middle stump. Malinga is slinging down magic deliveries and SA are nine down.
M Ntini b Malinga 0 (1b 0x4 0x6) SR: 0.00

Wednesday, 28 March 2007

Ben on...Scott Styris to no. 7

According to Indiatimes, New Zealand's best performer at the World Cup is Scott Styris. He is no. 7 on the batting ranking (and actually no. 2 on the short all-rounder list). Our next best ranked player is Shane Bond, no. 17 on the bowling list.

It seems the ratings are just a convolution of the batting or bowling averages, so probably don't mean much. However, the ratings caught my eye because they currently have New Zealand as the no. 1 team.

Tuesday, 27 March 2007

Ben on...the future of the Pakistani and Indian teams

With reports of effigies being burnt and houses being attacked, it's great to see that some people are able to make light of India and Pakistan's World Cup exits. While the BCCI considers the future of the players of the Indian team, an e-mail is doing the rounds showing the predictions of some smart Photoshopper of the future of the members of the Pakistan and India teams, ranging from rickshaw driver to fishmonger to hairdresser.

Monday, 26 March 2007

Bond no. 2

The latest player rankings are out - and Shane Bond has moved up to number 2 in the world. Shaun Pollock (10 overs, none for 83 against Australia) is the only man ahead of him at the top of the list.

Ben on...Bond strikes again

You would have heard that Shane Bond hit Lou Vincent in the nets and broke his wrist. Vincent is going home (though it sounds like he had a pretty good time while he was there).

Apparently it will be Hamish Marshall that will replace him, despite the amazing form Michael Papps is in.

Sunday, 25 March 2007

Ben on...the higher mathematics of cricket

So I have worked out the schedule for the Super 8 stage. The qualifing teams are given a code, A1, A2, B1,... But the code isn't based on where the teams finish in the group. It's based on the teams' seedings, which is presumably based on their performance some time in the past. Except where a team outside the top 8 seedings qualifies, in which case only the seeding of any qualifying top 8 team in that group is relevant, but not relative to any non-top 8 teams that qualify, but rather relative to the top 8 team that didn't qualify. So the code for any qualifying non-top 8 teams is based on based to be arbitrary.

Look at it this way. Only the top 8 teams were supposed to qualify and the schedule of who was going to play who in the Super 8 was drafted based on that, starting and culminating with the blockbuster matches of West Indies vs Australia and England, respectively. Any non-top 8 teams with the cheek to qualify can just fit in wherever their qualification has made a hole in the schedule.

I guess it doesn't matter what the schedule is as everyone in the Super 8 plays everyone else at some stage. However, it seems such a clunky, inelegant system. It's pretty opaque as well in that it is hard to see what the intention is, let alone the fact that no one ever bothered to tell us how it works.

Saturday, 24 March 2007

Ben on...New Zealand's next game

Help me out here. Who do the Black Caps play first in the Super 8?

In the schedule for the Super 8, teams are designated by their group and either 1 or 2, e.g. C1. It seems obvious to me that this represents where the team finished in their group. So New Zealand is team C1 as we finished 1st in group C. We are therefore playing team D2 in Antigua in our first game. This should be Ireland.

I guess another interpretation is that it isn't where a team finishes in the table, but what their seeding is. But even then, B2 should still be Ireland.

Then why do the Herald, Stuff and the BBC all have the Windies as New Zealand's first Super 8 opponent? What am I missing?

Friday, 23 March 2007

Ben on...Bob Woolmer's murder

I didn't want to comment on this earlier, as I wanted the rumours to die down and the consipracy theories to run their course and for Bob Woolmer's death to be revealed as simply a tragedy for the Woolmer family and a very sad event for the Pakistan team. However, it turns out the unsubstantiated reports were true and Woolmer was murdered. This is absolutely chilling news. Whether it was an insane disgruntled fan or an underworld hit is just too awful to speculate.

Interesting reading

I know, I know - the World Cup is on and so is the final of the domestic competition. But real life keeps intruding on my cricketing commentary. I at least have one small offering for you this morning - a report into Andre Adams' onfield "assault" case. It is actually fairly easy and interesting reading - and includes some fascinating details about the event and Adams' state of mind. It also includes references to some other events which raised my eyebrows - I knew Tama Canning was involved in some sort of on-field scuffle in 2004, but I didn't know it involved head-butts and "effectively criminal behaviour".

Ben on...NZ qualifies with points

With the win over Canada this morning, New Zealand became the first team to qualify for the Super 8s with points. (Others have effectively qualified, but we don't know how many points they will take into the Super 8. Hence the blanks in the table I have added to the right.)

It was another dominating win, despite some poor bowling early in the Canada innings (read the Stuff report to hear about the bowling). In fact, it was as good a win as we have had so far. As with the previous two games, we had them beaten by the end of the 41st over.

Opponent totalNZ total at end of over 41
Kenya183 all out249/3

Ben on...turn around for Vincent

Lou Vincent's commanding 101 against Canada brings his tournament tally to 101. Which is not bad. Certainly an improvement on his status yesterday when he was voted the 6th worst in the World Cup by the people following the Cricinfo commentary of the game between Pakistan and Zimbabwe:
4.20pm Ok, the polls are shut. And here is the result ...

1 Rana Naved-ul-Hasan
2 Andrew Flintoff
3 Younis Khan
4 Virender Sehwag
5 Dan van Bunge
6 Lou Vincent
7 Mike Hussey

Thanks for the thousands of emails ... our servers are fried, but thank you.
I think almost everyone in the team has put in an encouraging performance in at least one of the three games so far. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that Tuffey (1 match, 0/40 off 6) is the only player who hasn't put in a performance yet.

Thursday, 22 March 2007

Ben on...poll results, Bracewell to go

In the upgrade to a new template, the poll has disappeared. The question was something about whether Bracewell should be retained as coach. Here are the results as they stood:

Yes - look at the Chappell-Hadlee series1
No - look at the two years leading up to the Chappell-Hadlee series4
No - he has done an okay job, but I would rather have John Wright14
It depends entirely on how the side does in the World Cup7

That's 18 out of 26 for him to go. Harsh.

Ben on...looking ahead

There are still four days left of first round games, but the list of likely qualifiers for the Super 8s is starting to firm up. New Zealand will surely go through as the first qualifier in group C (making them C1), with England likely to make it also (C2) (though if there's going to be another upset, it will be in their match against Kenya). The Windies will surely top group D, with Ireland second (D1 and D2). Australia and South Africa have qualified, but still have to fight it out to qualify as A1. The biggest question is who will qualify along with Sri Lanka (C1) in group C, Bangladesh or India.

(So, some big games coming up over the next few days. India/Sri Lanka, with India needing a win to stay in the tournament – run rate won't come into it; Australia/South Africa, the heavy-weight battle; England/Kenya, 'cause the upsets might not be finished.)

Richard Boock has given his view of how New Zealand stands at the start of the Super 8. I think his analysis is a bit off though. He makes a big deal of the two facts that New Zealand will start the Super 8s with points and that the West Indies won't get to play Ireland in the Super 8s (with Sri Lanka in the same situation if Bangladesh qualifies). However, this analysis ignores the facts that we had to beat England to get those points and that the Windies will have had the chance to play Ireland before the Super 8, and will almost certainly have scored points from the game to carry over into the Super 8 stage. I think it is best to consider the games between the Super 8 qualifiers in the first round to be part of the Super 8.

Incidently, there has been talk of how New Zealand should be getting behind England to qualify for the Super 8, so that we get to carry the points forward. However, now that we have beaten Kenya, it is in fact to our advantage if Kenya qualifies. We'll carry the points forward regardless of which of England and Kenya qualifies, but if England qualifies we'll be competing with them for a semi-final spot.

Boock's predictions are a bit awry also, I believe. He reckons that our first Super 8 game (against D2) will be against the Windies. By my reckoning, our first opponent will be Ireland. Then either India or Bangladesh, then the Windies, then Sri Lanka, before our last two games against Australia and South Africa. In terms of wrapping up a semi-final spot early, this is a good draw. The first three games are the easiest, and if we were to pick up a couple of wins in those games we'll only need one win in the second three.