Wednesday, 31 January 2007
In truth, the umpiring in this series has been dreadful so far. The no-balling is a particular aggrivation for me. The no-ball rule is designed to prevent a bowler taking an advantage. Not only is the overly strict interpretation being dished out in Australia occasionally proved to be wrong, but it also serves little purpose. Jeetan Patel will get no advantage from bowling one centimetre over the popping crease, so why should he be punished for it? Sure, he should be no-balled if he clearly oversteps by a decent margin - but Asif Rauf's vigilance just appears like petty officiating just for the sake of petty officiating. Frankly, I think we would all be better off if he keep his eyes on the ball - and not on the bowler's feet.
I watched [Roger] Federer the other day and thought, 'What a true champion'. He's the sort of guy you want to watch because he plays the game well and he's humble about it. But you watch Australia and just their egos, you know what I mean? Sure, you're talented, you've got great players and you win most of the time, but as blokes they've got no time for you. So to take them on and stick it to them is my motivation. I personally think that they think they're bigger than the game. Baz [McCullum] does it well. We're not intimidated by them and that's the biggest thing. If you're intimidated by Australia, you're beaten. You've got to stand up to them. You might not be their friends, but at the end of the day I don't care if I'm not friends with those guys. They're the enemy.
Cricinfo and the Australian have already picked up on the comments and Cricket Australia has felt obliged to issue a nonchalant "we don't care" response. The coverage in the Australian is also interesting for another reason. In passing it notes Jacob Oram's century against Australia and adds "Strangely this wonderful innings was not enough to win Oram the man of the match award. Instead it went to Ricky Ponting...". It is strange indeed. Especially as those generous words appear in the same paper which only days earlier called Jacob Oram "a second rate Chris Cairns".
Tuesday, 30 January 2007
Monday, 29 January 2007
Amazing effort by Oram (fastest 100 by a New Zealander) and McCullum – a partnership of 137 from 88 balls. Just to demonstrate how tough things got for them, the required run rate got as high as 78 in the last over. But contributions from the top order ensured they had a platform to attack from.
Friday, 26 January 2007
In his own words:
"I have been fighting this day for about eight months. I so desperately wanted to go to my fourth World Cup, but deep down inside I knew that I was lacking motivation and the enjoyment levels were just not there." (more)
I think it is fair to say that he will retire as a favourite Black Caps for the vast majority of New Zealand fans. It wasn't just that he was so good, but that he was such an understated Kiwi about it.
A few tributes have already begun to trickle in:
I noted another little piece of arrogance on the home page of Cricket Australia. The user poll asks "Who would you prefer Australia to play in the Commonwealth Bank Series finals?" New Zealand at 60% at the moment, which is encouraging. (This guy will definitely be voting New Zealand.) I recall the series in 1990–91 when there was talk about Australia throwing a game so that England, the more glamorous opposition, would get into the final.
I think I might prefer New Zealand to play England in the final actually. With a win each against each other and two wins each against Australia with a bonus point in every game will see England and New Zealand both reach the final, shutting Australia out. I wonder if Cricket Australia has considered that scenario.
Thursday, 25 January 2007
Wednesday, 24 January 2007
Perhaps the one positive we can take from the batting is that with Oram back in the side there appears to be a much better balance to the line-up.
Okay. Those are the negatives out of the way. Now onto the positives. The fielding was electric and demonstrated that the fluffs against Australia in Sydney were blips and not the norm. And the bowlers were brilliant. Especially Dan Vettori, who showed why he is floating so high in the LG ratings at the moment (prior to this series he was ranked at 5 in the world).
The good bowling form of our cricketers should not be underestimated. Cricinfo recently pointed out that the New Zealand test attack is statistically the equal of Australia's and currently the third best in the world. If we apply the same analysis to ODI figures we can see that New Zealand rates even better than that(1.). Perhaps it is time we start giving their good form as much attention as the bad form of our batsmen?
- The Cricinfo analysis works by adding together the ratings of each teams' four best bowlers. A lower rating is therefore better. In test matches our score is currently 62 (Bond is ranked 6, Franklin 13, Vettori 20 and Martin 23). In ODIs our best rating players are currently Vettori (5), Bond (10), Mills (11) and Oram (19) , giving us an exceptionally good rating of 45. This puts us second only to Australia.
The table hasn't been updated yet, but when it is, it will show SE Bond as the second fastest bowler to 100 ODI wickets, with 54 matches, an average of 19.53 and a strike rate of 27.15 (actually, the table doesn't show strike rate, but a quick calculation shows that Bond's SR is second only to Shoaib Akhtar's). A great achievement.
Tuesday, 23 January 2007
The SMH archfully points out that Shane Warne was executive producer of the money-spinning interview and then with a tone of annoyance pronounces:
Usually, retired players talk up their career highlights. Here is a case of a player, an executive producer of his own tell-all interview, downplaying one of the darkest incidents in Australian cricket.
Is there method to Bracewell's madness this time? If there is, I can't see what it is.
Boock is also seeking feedback on Bracewell's performance. Click here and post your own comments.
Personally the thing that continues to get me is that no-one in the team seems to know what their role is. I know I keep harping on about this, but the comments Bracewell makes in this article about Brendon McCullum's place in the batting order just seems to reinforce my concerns even more. If Bracewell has a plan, he should probably tell the players.
Monday, 22 January 2007
Perhaps that is a hint to their vulnerability. Maybe it is chasing low scores that is Australia's weakness. I suggest that a winning score against Australia might be 150 or less. In light of this, McMillan's valiant innings yesterday might not have been all that helpful a contribution.
Other highlights include the bowling of Michael Mason, Mark Gillespie and Dan Vettori. Mason was a revelation - bowling with more pace, bounce and accuracy than he has shown before. Gillespie continued his great impression in the side with a spell that was full of short, fast balls on a good line just outside off. And Vettori was, well, Dan meeting his usual high standards.
In fact, so good were those performances that the game was there for the taking. A Mickey Mouse spell in the middle overs when Franklin dropped a dolly off Clarke and Marshall and Vettori butchered a chance to run-out Hussey despite having all the time in the world. For a while the players seemed overwhelmed by the occasion, the jeering and abusive Australian fans and the apparent invincibility of the world champions. But there is even an upside to those bad times - we came through them. Who else watched Clarke loft the ball to Taylor and thought "oh no, here we go again"? Taylor juggled it, but held the chance and suddenly the New Zealand team was back on the up. From that moment, the pressure on the Australians did not let up. For 90 overs yesterday we had the Aussies on the rack. If we can manage to keep the pressure up for only 10 more overs we can beat them.
Sunday, 21 January 2007
Perhaps the solution to the problem with the top order is not to make the players nervous and edgy by rotating them in and out of the team. Perhaps the solution is to drop them and not give them a contract so they face the prospect of having to look for a proper job.
While the article is not quite what it makes itself out to be, it is enlightening in one sense. It tells us that the mastermind of the rotation policy is high performance manager Ric Charlesworth who "believes one of the most important changes needed in New Zealand cricket is 'cultural'". Charlesworth apparently believes that keeping players nervous and on edge is good for them.
I did a paper on management theory once. They taught us pretty much the same thing about managing people in the workforce. Keep them worried that their job isn't secure and they will be better workers. Didn't strike me as a good way to build team spirit to me then, and it still doesn't seem like a good idea now.
Elsewhere in the same paper Michael Donaldson invents his own rating system for ODI batsmen. He uses this new system to prove that New Zealand doesn't have the batsmen to win matches. Personally I didn't think we needed some new stats to prove that.
The final odd piece of cricket theory in the Sunday-Star Times is a piece by Denis Edwards. This one isn't available online, but in essence Denis' theory is that New Zealand crowds are too nice and that means our players don't try hard enough. He claims that the Australian dominance is because their infernal crowds forge iron hard characters. Hum.
I have a final theory for you. I am feeling faintly hung-over, vaguely annoyed at the newspaper and a little bit pessimistic. So my theory is that New Zealand won't start improving until it hits rock bottom. And, given we are about to play Australia in Sydney with Michael Mason replacing Shane Bond in the starting line-up, rock bottom might well happen today.
Saturday, 20 January 2007
"Gone are the innovations that made him such a terrific leader in the past. It's all a bit too patterned and uninspiring and it just doesn't look like our players are having much fun. There is nothing special about anything we do."
Words like "stagnant", "disorganised" and "going backwards" also make an appearance. Someone clearly didn't get out of the right side of bed this morning.
Friday, 19 January 2007
But it seems that Ian Chappell has not just become a paragon of onfield virtue. The following comes from an article written by well-known leftie John Pilger:
During the recent Ashes series, Ian Chappell, one of Australia's most admired cricket captains, walked out of the commentary box when [Australian PM John] Howard walked in. After seeing for himself conditions in a refugee prison, Chappell said: "These are human beings and you can't just treat them like that ... in cricketing parlance it was like cheating. They were being cheated out of a fair go."
Thursday, 18 January 2007
He said he couldn't put his finger on the reason for the batting problems, but said it wasn't just a matter of confidence and form was a fickle thing.
"Each guy will have a different issue. Some of them are technical issues on the faster wickets and some of them are technical issues on slower wickets and changes of pace," Bracewell said.
"With some of them maybe it is just confidence. Don't bracket them all in the same category, it just so happens a lot of them are out of form at the same time.
Wednesday, 17 January 2007
But, while the match has attracted predictable comment, the bigger headlines are being reserved for a familiar story – Shane Bond’s back. Let's hope it really is muscular pain and not something more serious.
Tuesday, 16 January 2007
Monday, 15 January 2007
Bond's current stats are:
After his 53rd ODI, Saqlain Mushtaq's stats were:
But the major reason I suspect I don't feel that down about the result is because I was expecting it. And that probably doesn't say too much about the state of New Zealand cricket.
Still. As I noted above, there were positives. And if you compare the performances of New Zealand's new faces to the Australian new boys you do have something to be cheerful about. I thought Hilfenhaus was very average, displaying very little of the pace and aggression he was said to have had. He was particularly lucky to get a wicket, Brendon McCullum was sawn off thanks to a terrible lbw decision. And speaking of bad decisions, Cameron White only prospered after surviving a very close appeal first ball. Nice to see umpiring in Australia is still as good as ever. White might have done well with the bat, but he really didn't look like much of a threat with the ball. He is certainly no new Shane Warne.
I would certainly pick Taylor and Gillespie in my side over those two any day. I suspect Peter Roebuck might agree.
Actually, Roebuck's piece is an interesting one. While the New Zealanders "played superbly in patches" and Gillespie and Taylor made "fine impressions", much less direct language is used to describe the new Australians. "Ben Hilfenhaus has followed in his captain's footsteps. Happily, he has been chosen when his confidence is high. Like Ponting, he comes from an unfashionable part of town. Already, he has managed to reduce his bowling to its simplicities..." Meanwhile, two paragraphs dedicated to Cameron White describe one stroke and fail to mention his bowling at all. Roebuck's praise of these two appears all puff and smoke, with very little genuine admiration shining through. The best he can manage is to say that Hilfenhaus' bowling is simple and White plays a nice slog over mid-wicket.
I am probably imagining it. But it seems to me that the Age expected Peter Roebuck to write an article praising the Australian youngsters, and he obliged despite a lack of conviction.
Sunday, 14 January 2007
While batting for Prince Edward School in 1996, Vermeulen was given out lbw. He was adamant that he had edged the ball onto his pad, and he made plain his displeasure by ripping the stumps out of the ground and locking himself in the dressing-room. There would seem to be more to this incident, because he was suspended from school, axed from the Mashonaland Schools team, and barred from playing for Old Hararians, which had an arrangement with Prince Edward to include boys from the school in its club sides.
In June 2003, Vermeulen was sent home from Zimbabwe's tour to England after he defied an ostensibly reasonable instruction that he travel on the team bus from Chester-le-Street to the squad's Durham hotel.
Vermeulen's bad mood might have been prompted by the fact that he had become just the 13th player in Test cricket to record a pair on the same day. But he couldn't have been too bleak earlier in the tour at Hove, when he scored 198 against Sussex and then refused to field a ball because "it's too cold".
While it all might seem quite amusing from a distance, the fact is that this is a man with serious problems. Telford finishes but warning that Vermeulen is not the only Zimbabwean cricketer living a troubled life:
Another Test player, well respected and admired, has fallen victim to self-mutilation and slashes his arms with a razor blade. Still another player, who is easily counted among Zimbabwe's greatest, punishes himself for a poor stroke by refusing fluids and running long distances.
Sometimes cricket is not at all a funny old game ...
Saturday, 13 January 2007
And what on earth were the Australians thinking with their new uniforms? Did they not notice that Pakistan AND South Africa already use the same strip?
Friday, 12 January 2007
It was all over in only 21 balls and then the lounge went quiet as the men went back to the sun and the burnt meat outside. But for a few minutes I felt like I was part of something really big. It wasn't just Lance Cairns that drew them inside - I was the one who called them. I wasn't just part of that magical male and grown-up moment, I helped make it.
By 1987/88 rolled around I was a newly minted cricket fanatic. My best memory from that series is of Dipak Patel taking a stunning catch on the boundary to win a match New Zealand seemed certain to lose. John Bracewell responded to the catch with a roar and a fruity fist thrust towards the loudest section of a braying Australian crowd. I remember a cameraman catching a stunned Australian in that moment - a beer in one hand, his cheeks puffed out in a drunken burp and his eyes filled with complete bewilderment.
Other memories followed. Chris Pringle bowling a maiden over to Bruce Reid in the last over of a match where Australia only needed one to draw and two to win. Shane Bond ripping out Adam Gilchrist's stumps with a 150kmph inswinging yorker. The booing of pantomime villains like Dean Jones and Greg Matthews.
All this, and we still haven't mentioned the underarm.
If you need me over the next few weeks, don't expect too much in the way of a response. I have an appointment with my couch, some cold beer and a very big television screen.
New Zealand's history in the VB (now Commonwealth Bank) series:
Winners Australia 3-1
Runners-up New Zealand
3rd side India
The series Trevor Chappell bowled underarm to Brian McKechnie with New Zealand needing six to win off the last ball. The man who instructed him to do that - his brother Greg - won the Player of the Series.
Winners Australia 2-0
Runners-up New Zealand
3rd side England
New Zealand won preliminary stage courtesy of five straight wins. But the two finals were disappointingly one-sided as Australia won by six wickets and 149 runs.
Winners Australia 2-0
3rd side New Zealand
New Zealand would have been in the final had their batting not collapsed in the latter stages leading to them losing their last two games.
Winners Australia 2-0
Runners-up New Zealand
3rd side Sri Lanka
Australia won the final easily, and their only defeat in 10 matches was by one run to New Zealand in the second game.
Winners Australia 2-0
Runners-up New Zealand
3rd side England
New Zealand were a distant second to the hosts and in the finals never threatened an upset.
Runners-up South Africa
3rd side New Zealand
Best tournament to date. Any permutation of finalists was possible with two matches to go, but Australia bounced back from defeat by South Africa to beat New Zealand in the last game.
Winners Australia 2-1
Runners-up South Africa
3rd side New Zealand
New Zealand never in the hunt. Australia, for the first time, fielded a specialist one-day team; Mark Taylor and Ian Healy, both mainstays in the Test side, were axed, and Steve Waugh became captain.
Winners South Africa 2-0
Runners-up New Zealand
3rd side Australia
Australia failed to make their own final for just the third time in 23 years. Shane Bond took 21 wickets. Having done all the hard work, New Zealand left their worst performance for when it mattered most: crumbling for 190 against South Africa in the first final.
Thursday, 11 January 2007
It always seemed to me that Wrighty got better as his career wound down, but Cricinfo has just revealed how much better he got. Amongst all test players, only Imran Khan's record improved more than John Wright's once they hit the age of 35. When he was younger than 35 Wright averaged 33.34 in tests, after that age he averaged 53.09. An improvement of nearly 20 runs an innings. If he became that good in his late 30's, imagine how much better he must be now he is in his early 50's!
Tuesday, 9 January 2007
New Zealand cricket has always when blessed with good bowlers and fielders, but we have always struggled to produce high quality batsmen. Taking the long view, terrible collapses are a trend that we can trace to that stark 26 in the 1950s or even to the first test following the end of the Second World War - where we lost by an innings despite Australia declaring for under 200. Current collapses might not be an aberration, but simply a return to form following some exceptional years in the '80s and '90s.
We might try to dispute this thought by pointing to batting averages. After all, even in the '80s we would have struggled to put together a team with a better combined batting average than Fleming, Astle, McMillan, Styris, Oram and Sinclair. But averages don't always tell the true story - especially in times when sides like Bangladesh and Zimbabwe are around and new bat technology makes hitting a ball to the boundary so much easier.
The LG cricket rating system (formerly the Deloitte ratings) was adopted by the ICC because that gives a better indication of a player's status at any moment in time. And a glance at how New Zealanders' fare there is perhaps a more honest indication of ability.
As of today the highest rating New Zealand batsman on the LG test rankings is Stephen Fleming who is at 16, where he rests between Paul Collingwood and Ian Bell. After him you need to drop to 35 before you reach another New Zealander - Jacob Oram. The next top order batsman to rank is Nathan Astle at 38 and he is followed by Dan Vettori at 39. Scott Styris is at 43, and Brendon McCullum at 49 is the only other New Zealander to make the top 50.
A team with a batting line-up of Paul Collingwood, Tillerkaratne Dilshan, Imran Farhat, Kamran Akmal and Dwayne Bravo isn't going to strike too much fear into an international opposition - but that line-up is in fact better ranked than the current New Zealand team.
Perhaps the most sobering thought is that we haven't even mentioned the openers yet. The best of those in the current crop is Craig Cumming, who at 76 is ranked below the likes of England's Owais Shah and Pakistan's Asim Kamal.
Rotation isn't going to solve the problem if we simply don't have the players with the ability to consistently score runs at the highest level. All we are doing is exposing the flaws in a wider number of players.
What we need to do is to go to the root of the problem.
None of this solves the problem right now. Perhaps the best solution to our current woes is one that New Zealand Cricket has already started to apply - more tours to places with better batting conditions for players at the development stage (the recent trips to Darwin being the best examples).
McMillan had a terrible couple of seasons which seemed to turn the country against him. Mention the words "stupid reverse sweep" and someone in New Zealand will inevitably curl their lip and mutter his name under their breath. And there was a period where all it took for a bowler to take his wicket was to make him angry (and that didn't look hard) and watch him try to slog the ball out of the park.
But if you can remember back past the bad times you should remember some much better ones. McMillan belting Shane Warne for six to bring up 50 in his first test, his assault against Pakistan at Hamilton in 2001, test centuries against Sri Lanka, India and England.
McMillan's 64 ball 29 not out at Auckland wasn't the world's best or prettiest innings. It included a lucky escape or two and some terrible uncertainty against Malinga's slingers. But it was also a very mature innings. If McMillan had an undoing during his summers of discontent it was poor decision making, and at Auckland his decision making was good.
McMillan is only 30 and still has the same skills he had during the early years of his career. He has always been aggressive player and I hope he remains one. But that aggression needs to be shackled and kept for when it benefits him and the team. Australian cricket is littered with players who have returned from testing times and long absences as much stronger players - if McMillan wants inspiration, he can't do worse than look towards Martyn, Hayden and Langer for starters.
Monday, 8 January 2007
Sunday, 7 January 2007
Paul Lewis in the Herald has pointed out that one man was involved in both of New Zealand's two lowest scores in ODI history. John Bracewell. Lewis also states that:
[L]ast night's batting effort, if it can be so called, was topped by the controversial Craig McMillan (29 not out). In the eyes of many cricket fans, if McMillan is the man guarding the citadel, it's a good reason to sneak out of town under cover of darkness. Or, at the very least, to fetch your car and beat the traffic.
He is a bit harsh here. McMillan at least showed that he deserved his recall. His performance was one of the few highlights for the Black Caps. Mark Gillespie's brilliant return with the ball was another and he is staking a real claim for a permanent spot in the squad. Shane Bond might not have returned the figures, but he did do one thing which pleased me no end - he got his swing back. His first spell last night saw him bowl consistently very fast (every ball hovering around 150kmph) and with a nasty swerve on the ball. Two crushing inswinging yorkers were more deserving of an upheld lbw decision than several of those given against the New Zealanders (Adams and Taylor in particular).
The selectors should also be rapidly coming to the conclusion that Adams lacks penetration and that Mason is a real liability unless there is something in the wicket. The fact that both these players are in the squad to play on the batsman friendly wickets of Australia is a real concern.
Saturday, 6 January 2007
Friday, 5 January 2007
Thursday, 4 January 2007
Excluding the rubbish that is 20-20, New Zealand cricketers played a total of 54 days of cricket through 2006. Whoever organises our international playing schedule should be sacked. I would prefer seeing the Black Caps go and thrash Bangladesh than play no cricket at all. In 2007 we will at least have more ODIs than 2006. Before we even play at the World Cup, we’ll play 13 games against Sri Lanka, England and Australia (and potentially more if we make the VB series finals). We will definitely play at least 3 at the world cup (against England, Canada and Kenya) and probably more. Unfortunately, after the world cup there are no more matches scheduled until December, when NZ is away in South Africa.
Of the 14 ODIs played, we had a good record – 9 wins and 5 losses for a win % of 64.3%, second only behind Australia. 6 of those games were against Sri Lanka (3 at the start of the year, 1 at the Champions Trophy and 2 at the end of the year). We finished even on 3-3. NZ played 5 against the West Indies (won 4, lost 1), and got to the semifinals of the Champions Trophy (beating South Africa and Pakistan, losing to Sri Lanka, and losing to Australia in the semi-final).
Only one player played in all 14 matches – Brendon McCullum, while Peter Fulton and Daniel Vettori both appeared 13 times.
Of the batsmen, Nathan Astle had a successful year, passing 50 on 5 out of 12 occasions and converting one of those into a century. The batting highlight of the year was the emergence of an heir-apparent for Astle – Ross Taylor’s 128 in his third ODI was sensational, particularly given the pressure of high expectations placed upon him. Players to finish the year with averages over 30 were Taylor (63.0); Astle (58.6); Fleming (35.5); Vettori (31.6) and Styris (30.2).
As in the test matches, the standout bowler was Kyle Mills. He played in 7 matches, taking 16 wickets at 15.25. Jeetan Patel had a great year taking 14 at 20 in 8 matches and Shane Bond showed his strike-power by taking 21 in 11 matches at 22.04. Both Daniel Vettori and Jacob Oram didn’t take many wickets but had good economy rates of about 4 per over.
The most frustrating aspect of the year has been the persistent injury problems to a number of core players – particularly Oram, Styris and Mills. For once, Shane Bond’s international appearances were unaffected by injury (probably helped by the lack of opportunities to play international cricket). The selection policies by the end of the year were becoming hard to stomach – playing Shane Bond in pointless 20-20 matches but not in ODIs is difficult to understand, as is depriving your best batsman (Fleming) of important game time to help him get his form back.
Yugan noted in a comment on another topic what his ideal World Cup eleven would be. The 2006 year would back him up with the following:
1. Stephen Fleming (c)
2. Brendon McCullum (wk)
3. Ross Taylor
4. Nathan Astle
5. Scott Styris
6. Peter Fulton
7. Jacob Oram
8. Daniel Vettori
9. Kyle Mills
10. Shane Bond
11. Jeetan Patel
If this team played at the World Cup I think that NZ has a very real chance of making the finals, if not winning. The mixture of batting with aggressive shotmakers and quality strokemakers mixed with a bowling side that can bowl sides out and contain, is a quality one that I think few others can match. As a one-day unit, they are also starting to achieve a level of consistency that they haven’t in the past. I think playing a month of cricket against Australia will sharpen them up very well. The key will be the selectors settling on a side very soon after arriving in Australia and then allowing that side to really start to hum.
Six players turned out for NZ in every test – Fleming, Vettori, Astle, Franklin, McCullum and Martin.
The batting by New Zealand was very frustrating and was marked by a lack of application and poor selection policies, with a lot of experimentation with openers. Only Stephen Fleming among the specialist batsmen redeeming himself with a fine 262 against South Africa in a 256 run, eighth-wicket partnership with James Franklin. The most consistent batsman for New Zealand was Daniel Vettori, who passed 50 on four out of 11 occasions. Four players finished the year with averages over 30: Fleming with 47.5; Vettori with 35.18; Styris with 34.57 and Franklin with 34.37.
The bowling was more consistent. The standout bowler who had a breakthrough year was Kyle Mills. In 3 tests he took 14 at 18.64. Shane Bond played 4 of the 8 tests and had a return of 18 at 26.16 – not matching the expectation heaped upon him but a good return given the lack of tests. Daniel Vettori took 21 at 28.57, finishing the year with a superb 7-130 against Sri Lanka. Rounding off the bowlers were James Franklin who took 29 at 29.96 and Chris Martin with 24 at 33.54. The bowlers were consistent without being devastating, but did show that they could bowl sides out, which is better than a number of recent NZ attacks.
The highlight of the year for me was the superb partnership between Fleming and Franklin in South Africa. It was a great return for Fleming and really showed Franklin’s potential. Another highlight was Kyle Mills emerging as an international class player.
I had two lowlights – the lack of tests played by NZ and the Muralitharan run-out incident.
The lack of tests is very frustrating. As a direct result of this I think our batsmen are losing the ability to play test cricket. Better scheduling in NZ for home series can make it a more financially attractive option and a two-test series is condescending to the fans. 2007 currently has no tests scheduled until NZ tours South Africa in December/January.
The Muralitharan run-out should never have been an issue in a professional game. A number of journalists have an outmoded view of what the game should be in the professional era. This is a professional game. We want our players to win and that has to involve capitalising on stupid mistakes made by the opposition. The whole incident has demeaned Brendan McCullum’s huge input to the team and reflects poorly on NZ sports reporters.
Note: Stats from http://nz.cricinfo.com/db/STATS/BY_CALENDAR/2000S/2006/
Currently, on the points table, Wellington lead the competition having won 3 matches and lost 1. Wellington have been very consistent, until this week's loss to ND in Taupo.
Wellington - 14 pts
Auckland - 9 pts
Otaog - 8 pts
Canterbury - 8 pts
CD - 7 pts
ND - 5 pts.
None of the players has really set the competition alight.
The bowling statistics show that the highest wicket takers after four matches with 7 wickets each are Chris Harris and Brandon Hiini, both from Canterbury. Interestingly Craig Cumming has taken 6 wickets for Otago. Black Caps hopefuls include Iain O'Brien, who has taken 6 wickets at 18.2 in 3 matches, Daryl Tuffey who has taken 2 at 86.5 in 4 matches and Chris Martin who has taken 2 at 44.5 in 2 matches.
The batting statistics show the highest run scorer, with 200 runs at 50.0, is English import Alun Evans for ND. Craig Cumming is close behind with 183 runs at 61 - he also has the only century of the competition. Black Caps hopefuls include Craig McMillan who has 116 runs at 38.66 (HS of 69), Mathew Sinclair with 89 runs at 44.5 (HS of 67) and Lou Vincent who has 2 ducks and a score of 26. In the weekend Jacob Oram had his first game back, scoring 43 and not bowling.
Brendon McCullum, Stephen Fleming (capt), Ross Taylor, Peter Fulton, Hamish
Marshall, Craig McMillan, Daniel Vettori, James Franklin, Andre Adams, Mark
Gillespie, Shane Bond, Michael Mason, Jeetan Patel
So Fleming finally returns (replacing Nathan Astle) and Craig McMillan has another chance in the middle order.
The second squad is for the tri-series in Australia. It includes:
Stephen Fleming (capt), Nathan Astle, Ross Taylor, Peter Fulton, Hamish
Marshall, Brendon McCullum, Craig McMillan, James Franklin, Dan Vettori, Jeetan
Patel, Andre Adams, Mark Gillespie, Michael Mason, Shane Bond
New Zealand has reserved the right to interchange players at any time on the month-long tour, so Kyle Mills, Jacob Oram and Scott Styris are likely to appear at some stage.
James Marshall is the unlucky current player who fails to make either squad.
Wednesday, 3 January 2007
The Sri Lankan claimed a catch that he had dropped and then picked up off the ground. The Sri Lankans have stated that Dilshan didn't realise it wasn't taken cleanly, but I find that impossible to believe. Ironically the Cricinfo journalist covering the series, Charlie Austin - the same man who kicked up the huge fuss about Murali's run-out - simply remarked that Taylor was dismissed "thanks to an electric one-handed diving effort in the gully from Dilshan. He was given out without referral to the television umpire despite doubts as to whether the ball had brushed the turf on pick-up." Where is the fuss about this one Charlie? Perhaps it is time to introduce neutral journalists as well as neutral umpires?