Wednesday, 31 January 2007


It was a good win for the New Zealanders last night, although a bonus point would have been nice. That bonus point might have come too, if it weren't for some poor umpiring. The Guardian's over-by-over coverage tells us that Nixon was incorrectly judged to be not-out by the umpires in both the 46th and 48th overs. And Jeetan Patel had a catch off his bowling ruled not out because the umpire incorrectly no-balled him. We shouldn't grumble too much though, because a poor decision not to refer a stumping chance off Ross Taylor to the third umpire benefited New Zealand.

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.

Vincent sledges the Aussies

We all know Lou Vincent has a big mouth (it comes with having a big chin), but he might be rueing some of the words that popped out of it on Newstalk ZB recently:

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

A better result by the youngsters

After being thumped by the India under-19 team in their first test, the New Zealand youngsters responded with a 73 run victory in the second test. A couple of names are starting to make themselves noticed too. Tim Southee took 12 wickets in this match (six in each innings) while Michael Tairoa scored a century. Andrew de Boorder, Kyle Williamson and Carl Anderson have all managed a decent score or two in the series so far as well. De Boorder scored 516 runs at an average of 258 in the domestic tournament that preceeded this series, while Tairoa managed 456 runs at 91.2 in the same competition.

Jake vs Freddie

Jacob Oram's century against Australia the other night sparked a fair amount of admiration from across the ditch. Not least amongst his new admirers are Fox Sports, who note that they were expecting a brilliant all-rounder to play in Australia this summer, show no fear of his opponents and win matches for his side. Its just that they mistakenly assumed that player would be Andrew Flintoff.

Monday, 29 January 2007

Cricketing names

Cricketers have often come with epic sounding names. The West Indies are particularly good at them. Eldine Bapiste. Garfield St Auburn Sobers. Vanburn Holder. But England might just have selected the best of the lot. Ebony-Jewel Cora-Lee Camellia Rosamond Rainford-Brent has just been picked for their women's World Series team.

A last ball thriller

Did anyone else watch the Twenty20 match between Auckland and Northern Districts last night? If you thought the end of the Australia vs New Zealand match was tight, you should have watched this game first. Needing 12 to win off the last ball Andre Adams despatched a Graeme Aldridge no-ball for four (in Twenty20 no-balls cost two extra runs). Aldridge had to bowl another ball and Adams smashed that ball for six. 12 runs off the last ball to win. Now there is a finish you won't see too often.

Ben close, so very close

Australia 343/5, New Zealand 335/5. With a huge 678 runs scored, New Zealand got within 8 runs. So, so close.

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

Ben on...Nathan Astle, tributes

The news is out, Nathan Astle has quit international cricket. What an absolute shock.

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:

Stephen Fleming
Gavin Larsen
Martin Crowe
Dylan Cleaver

Ben on...Aussie arrogance

Quite a bit is being made of John Buchanan's claim in his progress report that the development of the Australian bowlers wasn't being helped by the boor batting efforts of England and New Zealand (see here, here and here) . His comments have certainly got Jonathan Millmow's knickers in a twist, who reacts by noting that Australia's batting hasn't been that flash either, which is a bit unfair as Buchanan does say that Australia's batting hasn't been satisfactory.

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.

Ben on...Astle to quit


Press conference at 4pm. Make sure you tune in.

Thursday, 25 January 2007

The talent pool

Here is sobering news for those who are hoping there are some talented young players about to break through the ranks - the New Zealand Under-19 side just lost by an innings to India in a "test" at Lincoln. The Indian Under-19s scored 499/8 dec and then rolled our youngsters for 302 and 147.

Ben on...the 100-wicket club

I almost missed it, paying so much attention to Shane Bond's march to 100 wickets, but Jacob Oram also achieved 100 ODI wickets in Tuesday's match. And Mark Gillespie got his 10th wicket. Congratulations to them all.

Wednesday, 24 January 2007


Last night's hard fought victory over England was a long time coming. But we shouldn't get too excited just yet. The New Zealand batting remains woeful. At the halfway point in our innings our score was 67/5. Even on the low scoring Adelaide wicket that was just not good enough. Perhaps the thing that had me most concerned was Ross Taylor's innings. Coming in with wickets falling he clearly wasn't sure whether to attack or defend. 15 off 44 balls and a dismissal to a rash stroke was the result. It was an uncharacteristically scratchy innings and perhaps proof that poor form and lack of confidence is contagious.

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?

  1. 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.

Ben on...Bond's 100th

He kept us waiting for a week, but Shane Bond has finally taken his 100th wicket: MS Panesar c Astle b Bond 6.

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

Thank goodness for Jonathan Millmow

Jonathan Millmow's columns from Australia come as a complete relief to those of us who read the local papers. Whenever Richard Boock is too overcome by his bitterness or the Sunday-Star Times is too overcome by its insatiable demand for salacious headlines to be objective, it is time for Millmow to cut through their muck and seek out the truth. Here he takes the latest Sunday-Star Times sensation and politely pronounces it "a load of old cobblers". You see, Jonathan uses an old journalism trick in order to reach this conclusion - he talked to the people directly involved. I wonder if the Sunday-Star Times thought of asking the players if they were rebelling before going with the "Bracewell faces rebellion" headline? Because if you read their article you won't see any quotes from them. Just an unattributed and unreferenced comment that Nathan Astle was "less than impressed" with being rotated out of the side and a few words from people who might have heard something said by someone else.

Warnie's revisionism

I watched Michael Parkinson's interview with Shane Warne over the weekend. I quite enjoyed it. Especially when Warne's pat answers to questions about his sexual infidelities were accompanied by an increasing amount of sweat pouring from his head. But the Sydney Morning Herald points out that Warnie took considerable liberties with the truth in relation to the book-keeping incident early in his career. In summary Warne forcefully maintained during the interview that he was a naive 22 year old at the time who was introducted to "John" the bookie only as a "friend", that he accepted money from this friend on a one-off basis, answered some questions "around Christmas 1994", again on a one-off basis, and then cut-off relations when he found out "John" was a bookie. As the SMH points out, Warne was in fact 25, and the formal enquiry into the matter concluded that he was introduced to "John" as a "friend who bets on cricket" and that "John" then stated he was a bookie; that he gave advice to "John" on at least three seperate occasions between October 1994 and February 1995; and that it was "John" who ended the relationship, not Warne.

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.

Roebuck on McMillan

Peter Roebuck's latest column for the Australian papers looks at Craig McMillan. And Roebuck likes what he sees. Oddly enough, this piece didn't seem to satisfy Aussie demands for all things Macca - so they added this article as well.

Bond back

Shane Bond has been selected to play for New Zealand in this afternoon's match against England. What exactly caused his back problem in the first place has yet to be determined. I wonder how confident he will be? And how willing he will be to bowl at full stretch?

Braces gets shirty

Richard Boock reports in the Herald that John Bracewell is getting rather shirty with the press. The last time Bracewell did this he claimed that he did it to focus the press on him rather than on his team - who he felt were under siege and needed time out of the spotlight. He can't claim that excuse this time. According to Boock's report Bracewell's answer to most questions was "you'd have to ask the players that."

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

Ben on...Australia's weakness

So Australia is dominating the Commonwealth Bank Series. No surprise. Still, there has no been no sense so far that they are going to break any records in this series. In fact, they didn't look all that comfortable chasing down 155 and 218 in their last two games.

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.


Okay. So we lost. But I regret my pessimism. At 38/3 I almost turned my telly off in disgust. But then some good things started to happen. After Astle, Marshall and Fleming had made Brett Lee look unplayable, Ross Taylor wandered out and started hitting the ball as if he were facing a school-boy. After he went, McMillan overcame an extremely nervous and indecisive start and started to play like only he can. I would go so far as to say that this was his best innings in one-day cricket ever. He continued to shine in the Australian innings, bowling with mongrel but never losing too much control.

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

Ben on...McMillan is back

Defending 218 in the 5th match of the tri-series will be a hard ask (Australia currently 72/3 and looking comfortable since the 3rd wicket). But win or lose, Craig McMillan's 89 from 87 was an excellent innings.

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.

Strange theories

The Sunday-Star Times headline is "Bracewell faces rebellion" and the sub-heading reads "A number of Black Caps are anxious and unhappy about coach John Bracewell's controversial rest-and-rotation policy and have taken their concerns to New Zealand Cricket Players' Association chief executive Heath Mills." However the article itself quotes Mills as stating "...the vast majority [of players] seem to be quite relaxed about it. I have to be clear in saying the players have not come to me as a whole and said they were unhappy." Hmmm. Sounds like a bit of a beat up to me then.

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.

Patel vs Vettori

Cricinfo has done a comparison of bowling figures for matches in which both Dan Vettori and Jeetan Patel have bowled. The conclusion is that Jeetan has been more penetrative (19 wickets at 21.84 compared to 11 wickets at 37.27), but Vettori has been harder to get away (run rate of 3.83 compared to 4.68).

Saturday, 20 January 2007

Parore on "fading stars"

Adam Parore has fired a broadside at some of his old team-mates today. In a column for the Herald he targets our star batsmen who have "hung on past their prime". Fleming comes in for particular attention, with his captaincy also coming under "the Wicked Keepers'" angry glare.

"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

Ben on...Styris to miss tri-series

It looks like Scott Styris won't be joining the Black Caps in Australia. He twinged a hamstring in his 74* against Otago on Tuesday, so didn't take the field against Canterbury today (Auckland looking like they will score big). And that pretty much rules him out of playing in the tri-series.

Ian Chappell, moral champion

Ian Chappell has always been one of the better Australian cricket commentators. The only thing about him that ever annoys me is his holier-than-thou attitude when it comes to onfield behaviour. This isn't because I disagree with him, it is just that it seems so hypocritical coming from the captain of a team dubbed "The Ugly Australians" for their histrionics, bad behaviour and sledging.

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."

Jake Australia bound

He may have been extremely cagey to start with, but Jacob Oram finally admitted in an interview with Hamish Bidwell that he is about to get on a plane for Australia. It will be interesting to see if he gets to Sydney in time to take on Australia on Sunday.

Jake strikes form

Good news for the Black Caps, Jacob Oram seems back to his best with a good performance for CD against Otago yesterday. Oram hit an unbeaten 70 from 69 balls and picked up 2-44.

Thursday, 18 January 2007

Bondy's back

Great news! No bone damage.

Sangakkara on New Zealand

I have said it before, and I will say it again - the Sri Lankan tourists who came to New Zealand were a remarkably articulate and thoughtful lot. And they are talented cricketers to boot. Kumar Sangakkara was perhaps the best on both counts. Here is his summary of the team's tour to New Zealand.

New Zealand's batting woes

The Sydney Morning Herald tells us something that we already know, that the New Zealand is having a terrible time with the bat. Just one score over 228 in the last 7 matches. And John Bracewell doesn't exactly sound like he is on top of the problem:

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

New Zealand vs England, Hobart

Another disappointing batting performance by the New Zealanders was the deciding factor in last night’s match against England. Richard Boock didn’t think much of the game at all. In fact as far as he is concerned New Zealand just rolled over and let England win. Jonathan Millmow isn’t nearly as jaundiced and named the match “the best show in town” on the back of the suffocating New Zealand bowling which almost stole the match. Meanwhile, the English press are flat-out relieved and the Aussie press has become predictably dismissive, arrogant and cocky in light of the performances of their own team.

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

New Zealand "best of the losers"

In slavering anticipation of today's match between England and New Zealand, the Australian has cautiously declared that New Zealand are the "tepid favourites" in the "battle of the losers". High praise indeed.

Whatever happened to Anthony Stuart?

In light of Shane Bond's hat-trick the Sydney Morning Herald has gone looking for the three Australians to do the same. One of them is Anthony Stuart, current coach of the Wellington team. But as far as the Australians are concerned, coaching in New Zealand means he has as good as vanished. Still, at least they provide a reasonable profile of the man.

Monday, 15 January 2007

Astle's dismissal

New Zealand's most famous blogger, Russell Brown, has a rant about Nathan Astle's dismissal in his latest posting.

Ben on...the Shane Bond countdown

A relatively poor ODI series against Sri Lanka (3 wickets at 28 from 3 matches) pretty much sank Shane Bond's chances of being the fastest bowler to 100 ODI wickets. However, yesterday's 4-61, taking him to 99 wickets, should allow him to be fastest equal with Saqlain Mushtaq after tomorrow's match.

Bond's current stats are:

matballsruns wktsbbaveeconsr
522636 1912 99 6/19 19.31 4.35 26.62

After his 53rd ODI, Saqlain Mushtaq's stats were:

matballsruns wktsbbaveeconsr
532797 1944 101
5/29 19.24 4.17 27.69

Australia vs NZ, Hobart

My brain knows that we lost by 105 runs. And it knows that we lost our last 7 wickets for only 23 runs. But somehow yesterday's loss doesn't seem as bad as all that. Perhaps it is because I only caught snippets of the collapse on the radio while at a friend's barbeque. And perhaps it is because New Zealand's inexperienced brigade all put in good performances (Gillespie and Patel both bowled well, although Patel's figures were ruined by a late surge - while Taylor and Fulton provided the batting highlights). And perhaps it is because Shane Bond's hat-trick added a fair amount of gloss.

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

Ready for a barrage

Jonathan Millmow tells us from Hobart that the New Zealand team is convinced Australia is going to try and attack them with the short ball. He also reports that the New Zealand team for today's match against Australia is likely to include Craig McMillan - with one of Hamish Marshall, Jeetan Patel, Andre Adams or Michael Mason excluded. Given that excluding one of the latter three will only give us four front-line bowlers, I am willing to bet Marshall will be the one to miss out.

More on our batting stocks

In the Herald Dylan Cleaver takes a long hard look at the New Zealand top order, and doesn't like what he sees. In particular he looks at the number of successes and failures by our batsmen.

McCullum and Marshall to return to England

It looks like both Brendon McCullum and Hamish Marshall will be returning to county cricket next season.

Tri-series to end?

Richard Boock speculates in this morning's Herald that this might be the last tri-series to be played in Australia. Boock notes that Cricket Australia are reviewing the format and might be concerned about the profitability given the number of games that don't involve the home side.

Mad Mark

The recent adventures of mad Zimbabwean batsman Mark Vermeulen have provided plenty of good copy - especially here. Trying to attack spectators with a metal spike, walking up to Robert Mugabe's house and demanding entry of the AK47 toting guards, burning down Zimbabwe's national cricket academy - all mind-bending stuff. With Vermeulen facing 25 years in gaol for the latter offence, Telford Vice has written an excellent look back at his problems. The article is largely sympathetic, but does include a few new tales from the life of one of cricket's strangest characters:

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

An interesting coach

Here is something worthy of a little bit of comment. The new coach of the Auckland 'A' team is Paul Strang. You might remember Strang as a gritty lower order batsman for Zimbabwe and a very useful leg-spinner who once took 8 wickets in an innings against New Zealand and 10 wickets in the match. Lets hope Strang can teach the odd young New Zealander to bowl the googly, leg-break, topspinner and flipper as well as he did.

A commentary on commentary

I usually last a game or two before the Channel 9 commentators start to grate on my nerves. But having to put up with them through the Ashes has meant my tolerance levels are exhausted already. Mark Nicholas in particular has worn out his welcome. The brown-nosing to the Australians, the overuse of hyperbole (everything is "marvellous", "wonderful" or "unbelievable") and the failure to add anything useful leave me pining for Bill Lawry - which is really saying something.

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

My memories of the tri-series

The first time I can remember watching a match from the annual Australian tri-series was in 1982/3. I had been dragged by my parents to a BBQ and quickly got sick of having to interact with kids who were either older than me or girls. I retreated into the lounge and claimed a bean-bag near the telly. The lounge had been full earlier in the afternoon, but it had begun to empty as the New Zealand team collapsed to 44/6 chasing Australia's 300. I wasn't really interested in cricket, and I was secretly wishing that the match would be over quickly so I could see what else was on (and probably hoping it was CHiPs). I did have a bit of interest though and knew who my favourite player was - Lance Cairns. So when Lance heaved a ball into the boiling and bubbling masses of the MCG crowd I was excited enough to yell out for my Dad. He stepped away from the barbie outside, peered in through the ranch-slider, smiled patiently, said something and then disappeared again. Then Cairns started hitting more sixes. With each new hit I called out to tell Dad, and with each one he spent more and more time at the ranch-slider. Other men began to join him. The lounge filled back up again. The next few overs are still vivid in my mind. Cairns hitting the ball into the crowd with one hand. Dennis Lillee shaking his head in disbelief. The Australians who had seemed so commanding and in control only a few moments earlier suddenly looking like hunted rabbits. The lounge bubbling over with excited talk and men with beer in their hands ("did you see that? One handed!").

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.

Ben on...tri-series anticipation

Stuff is previewing the tri-series. The article updates the state of the NZ team, assesses the squads of the three participants and includes a history of NZ in the tri-series, which I am copying below. This history was great for reminding me of the Black Caps' triumphs in Australia; some of the best cricket I have ever seen has been in past instalments of this series. The history also shows that NZ is pretty good at keeping England out of the finals.

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
Runners-up India
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.

Winners Australia
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

Australia, here we come

The Australian begins its coverage of the tri-series with a John Bracewell interview. In it Braces does his best to fire up the English with some typically combative talk.

Bring back Wrighty!

Okay. So we can't have John Wright as coach of the New Zealand team (or at least not until after the World Cup anyway), but maybe we should bring him back as a player? We do need at least one decent opening batsman after all.

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

Batting woes

Is the recent trend for New Zealand sides to collapse at the drop of a hat a problem that we don't have the resources to solve? This thought suddenly struck me. Perhaps it isn't that our current players are talented batsmen who have some kind of mental block at odd moments, perhaps they just aren't that talented to begin with.

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.

We need to change the emphasis on letting players "play their natural game" and start to teach the basics of good batting technique at an earlier age.
We need to consider using concrete or matting wickets more often and at a higher level than we do now. New Zealand wickets from first-class level down are almost all low and slow. Scoring runs on low seaming wickets is best achieved by coming forward and swinging the bat hard at the ball. This does not teach young players to use footwork and soft hands like they need to do on good wickets.

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).

Craig McMillan's return

If there is one reason to be pleased that Craig McMillan is back in the New Zealand team, it is that he can now put his country music days behind him (link "borrowed" from the Beige Brigade website). But that shouldn't be the only reason.

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.

Brimful of Binger

Songsmith, actor and occasional hurler of beam balls Brett Lee is currently sitting at number 4 in the Indian pop music charts with his song "You're the one for me" (click to watch the music video).

Monday, 8 January 2007

Shane Bond talks to the SMH

The Aussies have a thing for Shane Bond. As they should - he has 24 wickets at 11 against them. So it is no surprise that the first sign of hype of the tri-series should come via an interview with the quick in the Sydney Morning Herald.

Rotation, rotation, rotation

John Bracewell's rotation policy is quite justly coming on for a huge amount of criticism. For starters, Jonthan Millmow gives it a blast in the Dominion-Post and Suhas has artfully dissected it on his blog, Rain Stopped Play. While I agree with all the comments made, my concern about criticising the policy is that Bracewell's character - a stubborn mule - means that it will only make him use the policy even more often.

John Wright for England?

Geoff Boycott is calling for England coach Duncan Fletcher to be sacked and replaced by John Wright. Lets hope the incoming New Zealand Cricket CEO can nab Wrighty and stuff him into Bracewell's chair before that happens.

"We all love this new 'Black Hacks' show"

Richard Boock has just put in a very early entry for the worst column of 2007.

Sunday, 7 January 2007


What can you say about last night's result? "Comical, embarrassing and alarming" is a good start. Stephen Fleming came up with those adjectives and perhaps it was his frustration with the performance which allowed him to open up a little and reveal a difference of opinion between him and coach John Bracewell. Fleming noted that changing the team around so much made it difficult for the batsmen to "get a feel for Sri Lanka's testy attack". Let's hope this marks the end for the rotation policy.

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

Farewell to McGrath, Warne and Langer

Anyone who watched any of the covreage of the final Ashes test will be sick of farewells for McGrath, Warne and Langer. But if you want something in addition to overly sugared praise, intrusive music and super-slow-motion replays then you could do worse than reading Peter Roebuck's farewell in the Age. My favourite quote from the piece is this one, "Nothing in [Warne's] opening overs or work at slip indicated that he had prepared himself in the modern way, with an ice bath, harmless refreshments, an early night, several laps of the oval and an hour's toil in the nets. Instead, he misfielded at slip. Although Warne's future is beyond prediction, he is unlikely to shrink."

A quiz

Here is a fact that might surprise you. Of batsmen who played 10 or more innings in 2006, who had the best batting average? Hussey? Sangakkara perhaps? Yuvraj Singh? Nup. It was Nathan Astle.

Friday, 5 January 2007

Thursday, 4 January 2007

Karl on ... 2006 – the ODI year in review

If our test year was dry, in comparison our ODI year was a drought. We played 14 ODIs – the fewest of any test playing nation. Bangladesh (28) and Zimbabwe (29) had at least twice as many, and even Kenya had more (16).

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.

Karl on ... 2006 – the test year in review

2006 was a very dry year for NZ test cricket fans, with only 8 test matches. The team won 3, lost 3 and drew 2. There was a home series against the West Indies in March (2 wins and 1 rained-out draw), an away series against South Africa in April (2 losses and 1 draw) and the home series against Sri Lanka in December (1 win and 1 loss).

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

Karl on ... my favourite quote of the SLvNZ series

In game one the ball was hit toward Muralitharan fielding on the boundary. Bryan Waddle on Radio Sport said "They'll safely run because Muralitharan can't throw". Silence for a moment. Then "Well, he can throw but not from the boundary".

Karl on ... 4 rounds of the State Shield

The first four rounds of the State Shield have come to an end, with almost all teams having played each other (round five is later this week).

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.

Squads named

Two New Zealand teams have just been named. The first is for the fourth ODI against Sri Lanka and includes:

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

Millmow gets even grumpier

It must be the shocking weather. It seems to be driving most Wellingtonians to frustration. But whatever the malady, it is starting to get to Jonathan Millmow. Yesterday he had a wee rant about Stephen Fleming's continued ommision from the New Zealand team, and today he has a rant about almost everything to do with yesterday's match. Mind you, I don't really blame him. A cold, drizzly day; a low-scoring match; most of the star players absent; and the interesting parts of the game didn't involve either batsmen or bowlers. If there were any highlights then they all involved the fielders - McCullum's brilliant leg-side take, two superb run-outs by Marshall (with McCullum's help) and Vettori, and a shocking piece of cheating by Dilshan Tillerkaratne.

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?

Tuesday, 2 January 2007

Billy on Robbie Williams

An interview with Billy Bowden appears in the latest issue of the Daily Telegraph. The oddest thing about this is Billy's answer to a question about who he would most like to have around for dinner - he answered "the good lord Jesus" and Robbie Williams and said he hoped that Jesus would help Williams mend his wicked ways.

Where's Flem?

Jonathan Millmow is getting frustrated about the absence of Stephen Fleming from the New Zealand team. As he notes, Fleming is out of form and needs some time in the middle. John Bracewell reasons that Daniel Vettori needs more captaincy experience, but that seems like muddled logic to me. Getting the best team in the best possible form seems to me to be more important than tinkering around the edges with contingency plans.


Geoff Longley reports in the Press that the pitch for today's one-dayer is likely to be a slow and not a particularly good one. The weather forecast is for cold southerlies and showers. Not exactly the kind of weather to bring in the punters.