Sunday, 23 September 2007

Ben on...losing the tournament in the semis

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

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

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

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

Friday, 14 September 2007

Ben on...the new "international" competition

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

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

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

Wednesday, 12 September 2007

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

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

Ben on...Oram knocked back down the order

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

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

Thursday, 6 September 2007

Ben on...the Black Caps T20 prospects

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

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

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

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

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

So how well will we do?

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

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

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

Sunday, 2 September 2007

Ben on...Warne's favourite Black Caps

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

He has only three New Zealanders on his list:

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

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

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