Sunday, 29 April 2007

Ben's finally over

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

Saturday, 28 April 2007

Ben on...Sri Lanka need a miracle

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

Ben on...rating the Black Caps

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

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

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

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

Friday, 27 April 2007

Ben on...World Cup still alive

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

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

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

Go Sri Lanka!

Thursday, 26 April 2007

Fleming resigns from ODI captaincy

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, 25 April 2007

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

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

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

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

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

The end of the World Cup dream

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

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

Sunday, 22 April 2007

Ben on...ratings news

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stephen Fleming was philosophical:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, 21 April 2007

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, 17 April 2007

Ben on...Australia win trophy!

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

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

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

Ben on...Ireland win their World Cup

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

Ben on...getting to the final

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, 16 April 2007

Ben on...likely semi-final opponents

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, 15 April 2007

Ben on...righting the ship

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

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

Friday, 13 April 2007

Wheels tumbling off the wagon?

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

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

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

Thursday, 12 April 2007

Ben on...the business end

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ben on...Sachin, traitor to his country

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

Complaint against Sachin for dishonouring flag

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, 11 April 2007

Ben on...Sri Lanka weakened

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

Ben on...Bond dissected

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

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

Tuesday, 10 April 2007

Good article, bad article

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

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

The Black Heads

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

New Zealand winning the World Cup!

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

Sunday, 8 April 2007

New Zealand, masters of the middle overs

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

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

Ben on...the Tigers turn

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

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

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

Thursday, 5 April 2007

Greg Chappell resigns

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brett Lee update

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

Wednesday, 4 April 2007

Aussies casting their eyes towards NZ

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

From the pen of Tom Scott

Tuesday, 3 April 2007

Ben on...preferred semi-final opponent

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

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

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

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

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

More stats

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

More averages

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

An Ugly XI

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

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

The Black Heads

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

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


Monday, 2 April 2007

Ben on...overoptimism

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

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

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

Ben on...a slow news day

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

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

An Australia vs New Zealand final?

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