Saturday, 6 December 2008

Ben new cricket blog

Uh oh! Mike's back to reclaim his blog. I'd better get out here.

I've now set up my own cricket blog:


You'll find it at

It's time I had my own place and my own identity. No more "Ben on...", no more being mistaken for Mike.

I'm also setting up my blog as a sandpit for me to try out some web design. You won't actually find any design there yet – I'm just using a fairly standard theme at the moment – but I'll get to some design soon.

I hope you will all join me over there. And continue to hang out here as well. Maybe without me muscling in and taking over, Mike will be inclined to post more often.

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Ben on...testing like an ODI

It must have crossed the mind of every Black Caps' fan at some stage that if we are so much better at one-day cricket then we are at tests, why don't we just play our tests like we play our ODIs?

There are of course fundamental differences between tests and ODIs beyond the limitations on overs and clothing colour:
  • No fielding restrictions in tests
  • More mileage for bowlers in tests to get wickets than to restrict runs
  • The red ball – somehow it is more dangerous than the white
A different strategy is required in test batting than for ODIs, a strategy based around accumulation – taking the shine of the red ball, grinding down the bowlers and taking the field out of the equation by waiting for the bad balls.

It is all obvious stuff and I shouldn't be insulting your intelligence by writing it down.

However, if it is so obvious, then why do the Black Caps batsmen repeatedly fail to stick to this strategy? I think they may simply be incapable of playing anything other than in an ODI style.

When you bat in ODIs, you generally give up about 10 runs in your average in exchange for about 30 points in your strike rate. (E.g. Martin Crowe: test average 45.36, SR 44.65; ODI average 38.55, SR 72.63.) However, for many of our batsmen, this isn't the case and their ODI average is much closer to their test average, or even higher. How, Ryder, Fulton, Taylor – 4/5 of our top 5 – have better ODI averages than test averages though their SRs look about right.

So how can we deal with this, or even possibly use it to our advantage?

We can't use the traditional test strategy as it is clear that simply throttling back on the SR isn't helping the averages of our players.

So should we structure our batting line up like an ODI team? There is a movement in this direction in certain teams where the openers are often the most aggressive batsman. Hayden for example, or Sehwag. In fact, I got thinking along these lines reading a post by Suhas about Ryder playing as an opener. I don't think this is the answer in our case. Using Ryder as an opener would almost certainly go the way of all the other transplanted middle order batsmen. It might work if we had Glenn Turner to partner him, Fleming to come in at 3, Crowe at 4 and Astle at 5, i.e. if we had a batting line up so strong we could sacrifice Ryder.

I have a far more radical suggestion, based on the fact that our batsmen seem to do so well when partnered with a tail-ender; take the 50-run partnership between O'Brien and McCullum in the Adelaide test for example. Perhaps we should simply bat our rabbits amongst our top order. Suddenly scoring in boundaries, something we're good at, become premium, and rotating the strike, something we're poor at, becomes undesirable.

In that vein, here is my suggested line up:


The state of the game

Ben tells me that I haven't posted since August. And I suspect it was a long-time between posts before that one. Well, you can hardly blame me. Posting bad news gets pretty tiring pretty damn quickly. And over the past season all we New Zealand cricket fans have had is bad news. Have we reached the bottom of the barrel yet? Does the end of John Bracewell's reign give us a glimmer of hope? I am not convinced on either point. The state of the game here is too fragile, and it is hard to see why any sports-minded young New Zealander would want to become a cricketer. Unless the performances of our national team start to improve, the next few decades could well see the end of the game's status as the nation's favourite summer sport.

Peter Roebuck has already penned an obituary for New Zealand cricket. But he pins the cause of death on a funny thing. He blames "splinter groups" and points to former players who carp from the sidelines without contributing. But it is hard to blame former players when a) so many of them have been forced from the game against their will and b) former New Zealand players have always carped from the sidelines. I mean, what on earth would our commentators talk about if they weren't allow to complain? For goodness sake, we can't all be brown-nosed sycophants like Mark Nicholas. And thank heavens for that.

I largely agree with Roebuck that the New Zealand game is in trouble, but the splinter groups and the complainers are just symptoms of the problem - not the causes. The real blame lies with those who govern and with the elements. It lies with the people who stabbed Shane Bond in the back, who pushed Stephen Fleming, Hamish Marshall, Lou Vincent and all the others away, the people who took money from India in exchange for a summer without cricket and who cowered when they demanded we break our word with our best bowler. And it lies with the ICC for enabling the BCCI's abuses of power. But also with the tsunami and the primal forces of violence which have cost us whole tours, and with the local weather which keeps the grass long enough for sheep and cattle to enjoy, and too long for local batsmen to develop a decent back-foot game.

It is true that green wickets have always been a problem, but good technique seems to have evaporated with good governance. Martin Crowe blames poor technique on new coaching methods and perhaps he has a point. He may be a carper, but he also knows batting.

Anyway. As with any team going through a bad spell, bad luck seems to follow us around. But luck always changes. We are due some good fortune, and I just hope that it arrives in time. Perhaps it will come in the form of a promising youngster? If we want to look for that glimmer of hope, then perhaps the best place to find it is in the promise of Corey Anderson, or Trent Boult, or Kane Williamson. And perhaps we should also look with an optimistic eye to the promise global warming holds for our wickets and for our youngsters' back-foot defense.

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Ben on...overtaken!

So the West Indies has leapfrogged us and gone to 7th on the table. Last time we played them, in 2006, we were 5th and leading them by well over 20 points. In fact, it was that series in 2006 that sent the Windies to their all-time low of 72 points. What has happened in the last 2 1/2 years that has led to this reversal of fortune?


Since early 2006, our rating has been knocked by two losses each to South Africa and England and one to Australia. (I also suspect we took a hit from some good older results expiring from the rating system.) A draw against Sri Lanka and two wins against Bangladesh weren't enough to bolster our ratings appreciably. (In fact, this years 1-0 win against Bangladesh actually hurt us.)

This has equated to a fall in our rating from 101 to 81.


Demonstrating just what a load of crock the whole rating system is, the West Indies have improved their rating from 72 to 81 without winning a single series. Since 2006 they have been beaten by India, Pakistan, England, South Africa and Australia and have drawn 1-1 with Sri Lanka. But inconceivably they are a better team by 9 points. I assume that the expiry of some terrible earlier series must be contributing to this shift.


However inadequate the ratings system is, I think it is fair that NZ and WI are now fighting it out for bottom place. At the conclusion of the upcoming series, the ranking table should give a fair reflection of the relative strengths of all the teams.

Ben on...wrapped up

So the series in Australia has wrapped up with the Black Caps being thoroughly wrapped up.

The results were

Brisbane: Loss by 149 runs
Adelaide: Loss by innings and 62 runs.

An embarrassing series, but actually a mild improvement on 2004 as we scored over 100 in every innings and ensured that no Aussie tail-ender scored a 50. (How's that for cold comfort?)

Looking at the tour stats, no one really excelled. Both McCullum and Taylor batted at 40 or above. Everyone else averaged less than 30. The most penetrating bowlers were the part-timers Redmond and Ryder. The pick of the full-timers was O'Brien with 7 wickets at about 30. The best innings performance was Southee's 4/63.

It was a tough series and was always going to be. Just something to be endured. It would have been nice though if there could have been a few bright moments to make it worth following.

One day we will challenge Australia, and it may even be when the current young guns grow up, but right now we just aren't at the same table.

Just to give us hope, I'll point out that in the first few years of the Trans-Tasman Trophy, it was dominated by New Zealand:

Season Venue Aus
NZ Draw Holder
1985/86 Australia 1 2 0 New Zealand
1985/86 New Zealand 0 1 2 New Zealand
1987/88 Australia 1 0 2 Australia
1989/90 Australia 0 0 1 Australia
1989/90 New Zealand 0 1 0 New Zealand
1992/93 New Zealand 1 1 1 New Zealand
1993/94 Australia 2 0 1 Australia
1997/98 Australia 2 0 1 Australia
1999/2000 New Zealand 3 0 0 Australia
2001/02 Australia 0 0 3 Australia
2004/05 Australia 2 0 0 Australia
2004/05 New Zealand 2 0 1 Australia

Saturday, 29 November 2008

Ben itchy rash

Yesterday's wickets:
Johnson to How, OUT, bad ball, bad shot and How's got to go, Johnson dishes it out very wide outside off and invites an ugly slash past the covers, the ball gets the toe edge of his bat and Haddin takes one of his easier catches

Hauritz to Ryder, OUT, Hauritz gets his man, he pitches it short of a length and Ryder shapes to pull across the line, he gets plenty of wood on it but slams it to Michael Clarke's right at short midwicket, he flings himself sideways and pulls off a stunning catch, superb reflexes there as he cups it with both hands

Hauritz to Redmond, OUT, Redmond falls right in to the trap and Hauritz has two after lunch! He flights it on middle and leg, he gets on his knee and attempts the slog sweep which fetched him two sixes before lunch, however this time Symonds is there at deep midwicket and he cups it easily over his head after sprinting a few yards to his left

Symonds to Fulton, OUT, great reflexes from Katich! Symonds bowls it back of a length, Fulton reads the length early and shapes to pull but fails to clear short midwicket, Katich flings himself to his right and catches it with both hands, the Australians are really delighted for Symonds

Clark to Taylor, OUT, Taylor gets the slow death from Koertzen, Clark gets the ball to bend back in off the pitch, Taylor tries to flick across the line but the ball hits him just above the knee roll and in line with middle and leg stump at least, Koertzen thinks about it before giving him out, Hawkeye indicates that it hit him too high

Lee to Flynn, OUT, that's a ripper! Lee fires that from round the wicket, lands it on a good length and gets it to swing in sharply through the air, Flynn fails to get right behind the line and the ball clips his pad and cannons on to the top of the off stump, the bowling change has worked
Even accepting that Taylor was unlucky, that's five wickets to rash shots. Only one wicket, Flynn's, was genuinely deserved by the bowler. What was going through their heads when they heard it was a batsman's wicket?

Redmon still reckons 500 is on the cards. I'm picking 330, the lowest 1st innings total at Adelaide since 2002.

Friday, 28 November 2008

Ben on...some good news written about O'Brien

Nothing like a little scandal to get you noticed by the media. It's been picked up that O'Brien has actually had a really good year. (Perhaps the article is accompanied by the list of the world's leading test wicket-takers in 2008 cited in the article. It's not on-line, so here is a link to such a table.) We know this of course, and anticipated it.

Ben on...race to the bottom

Even though the Trans-Tasman Trophy isn't up for grabs in today's test at Adelaide, there is still something worth fighting for – the position as the world's second worst major test team.

Let's put some numbers to this.

Currently (from ICC Cricket Rankings):

NZ 1967 points/24 matches = 81.96
WI 1791/22 = 81.41

If we lose this test: NZ = 80.85 (falling below the West Indies)

If we draw this test: NZ = 82.7

If we win, heaven forbid: NZ = 86.4

I calculated this by the following relevant formula (which applies if the difference in the rating of competing teams is 40 or more):

Calculate the series results by taking one point for each match or series win and half a point for a draw, then calculate a new points total by summing the product of the series result and 90 points more than our old rating and the product of Australia's series result and 10 points less than our old rating, then find our new rating by taking the ratio of our new points total and the new number of tests and series played in the last three years.

It is, as you can tell, a maddeningly opaque system with far more precision than it needs considering there is no real championship associated with it. It also really bugs me that we have a situation where the Windies could overtake us in this way (due in large part because of the rained-off test in Bangladesh). If they want to be second-worst, they should bloody well come here and take it from us!

(I could now calculate the possible results for the WI tour, but I've had enough of fiddly calculations for the time being. I used to have a spreadsheet that could calculate it. Imagine that! A championship that requires a spreadsheet to work it out!)

One day I'll take a closer look at alternative ranking systems, but I'll put forward one suggested system now: ditch the points, retain the ranking list; if you beat a team higher than you on the list you go up one ranking, otherwise the rankings don't change.

Ben on...[censored]

I wonder if the journalist who wrote this piece

Black Cap faces censorship after 'faggot' furore

is the same one who wrote this beat up a couple of days back

Black Cap alleges Gabba 'faggot' taunts

And if so, do they feel stick now?

Apparently OB wants to keep blogging, which is great, but you can be sure that it won't be the same. If the blog had been vetted earlier, would the censor have had a problem with the fagot comment? The comment wasn't controversial until some dim journalist decided to beat it up.

Thursday, 27 November 2008

Ben on...domestic cricket round up, round 3

The third round of the State Championship is just finishing, so it would be good time for me to wrap up round 2, and round 1 for that matter.

Round 1

Just to throw the points table completely out for the whole season, round 1 of the State Championship consisted of just one match, Auckland v. Canterbury:

Auckland 398 & 175
Canterbury 169 & 331
Auckland win by 73 runs

Top batsman: Tim McIntosh scores the first century of the tournament, 140 (&9), inevitably prompting the suggestion that he be picked to open for the Black Caps.
Top bowler: Brandon Hiini gets a 7/148 match. He's compiling a very good record, now just in his third season.

Round 2

Now the business starts. All teams involved in this round.

Northern Districts 275 & 181/7
Otago 277
Match drawn

Central Districts 213 & 335
Auckland 207 & 203
Central win by 138 runs

Wellington 428/8 dec.
Canterbury 162 & 224
Wellington win by inn. and 42 runs

Top bat: Matthew Bell is back with 146, his 18th century for Wellington, a record number for a province. 18 doesn't sound like much of a record and I was intrigued at how many the century machine Glenn Turner had managed, so I looked him up. The point about the record is of course that the centuries were scored for one province. Turner scored 13 for Otago and 1 for Northern Districts, so he isn't even all that high for total NZ provincial centuries. Of course, he has 7 for NZ, 9 for the 'New Zealanders', 1 for South Island and a staggering 72 from his 284 matches with Worcestershire, for a total of 103.
Top bowl: Ewen Thompson had a 7/79 match in destroying Auckland. Of special mention however is the return of James Franklin, who picked up 4/56 over two innings. I think he was taking it fairly easy. I went down to watch a session of the Wgtn/Cant. match, but Franklin didn't get a spell.

Round 3

Again three matches, though the round was largely doomed from its early stages where rain at a couple of venues delayed play, then not helped by certain batsmen's utter reluctance to get out. An aggressive declaration by Canterbury, conceding a 178 first innings lead to Otago ensured that game went to four innings.

Wgtn 533/5 dec.
Auck. 441/7
Match drawn

ND 325 & 249
CD 479/9 & 99/2
CD win by 8 wickets

Otago 352 & 113/5 dec.
Cant. 174/5 dec. & 285/7
Match drawn

Top bat: Where to begin? Eight centuries in total this round. Starting from the smallest: Sinclair 101, Woodcock 102, Watling 111, Bell 122 (increasing his record and pushing for another place in the BCs?), Boom 140, McIntosh 191 (another huge century, but I maintain that he is not consistent enough for the BCs), Franklin 219 (he's back as a batsman as well as a bowler), Ingram 247 (a CD record)
Top bowl: It really was a batsmen's round and I'm tempted to not even mention any bowling. Under the circumstances though, decent bowling performances must be worthy efforts. We actually had a five-fer: Burtt 5/119, which he followed up with 0 in the next innings, meaning that his team mate's 5/54 match was actually the much better haul. [Edit: The team mate was Ellis.]

Points table

Phew, that was a lot of work. I'm not sure I can keep this up all season.

Ben on...I'll teach you to squander our superb bowling performance!

You can read it different ways, but this article suggests that the NZ bowlers are mightily pissed at the underperforming batsmen and are taking it out on them in the nets.

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Ben on...whinging Kiwis beaten up

The news over in Aus is that the crowds have gone feral and the Black Caps don't like it. "Crowd turns on Kiwi 'faggots'" is the headline in the Daily Telegraph. "New Zealanders say they were called faggots" is the Herald Sun's headline for the same article.

The story seems to be based on a sliver of a comment in Iain O'Brien's blog (which has become a sensation since it was discovered a couple of days ago):
The crowds here are pretty good, ruined by a few, actually quite a few, idiots who think a day out at the cricket is just to abuse the guys playing any way how. You get called anything and everything. Embarrassing for these guys really, as a lot of the others around them are cringing. I don't know how many times I've was called a 'fagot' this afternoon!
(Note that the Aussie papers felt it necessary to alter his spelling of 'fagot'.)

Doesn't sound to me like 'the crowd' is turning on our fagots – just a few, well quite a few, idiots in the crowd. And it doesn't sound like the 'New Zealanders' are saying all that much about it. Just one guy dropping a quick comment amongst a much larger story.

Cricket crowds are nasty, as everyone who has been to a match knows. But there's no issue here. Just a beat up.

Ben on...Bracewell's legacy for new coach

From The Herald:

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Ben on...a new coach, a new leaf

Callooh! Callay! The Black Caps have a new coach!

New Zealand Cricket have appointed Andy Moles as the new coach and have hastened Bracewell's departure – Moles is to start in two and a half weeks, in time for the West Indies tour.

(For anyone who is wondering what's going on because didn't he just turn that job down? Mott is the guy who rejected the position.)

By accounts, Moles was not high on the short list, behind Mickey Arthur, Graham Ford and Matthew Mott. So we've ended up with the fourth choice. And that's not counting John Wright and Greg Shipperd and other worthies not up for selection. On the one hand, it's a matter of "anyone but..." On the other hand, we can count the advantages of having a less-fancied coach.
  1. Hey, this is the NZ cricket team, when we did we last deserve first pick? Moles should fit right in.
  2. Moles ought to be coming to the position with a bit of humility. We can hope that he won't make the same sort of demands as Bracewell did when he started and hopefully he won't try to exert himself over the team in the same way.
  3. Again, that bit of humility should help him be receptive to learning from the mistakes of the previous administration.
While some in New Zealand will be familiar with Moles from his two years at Northern Districts, it is fair to say that he is a bit of an unknown. He led ND to victory in the State Championship last year and has overseen the development of Tim Southee and Daniel Flynn. However, there isn't much there to judge him on. His previous stints at Scotland (chased out by a cabal of senior players) and Kenya (where the infrastructure is so crap, the best coach in the world wouldn't have made a difference) likewise tell us little.

So we'll have to judge him by his results with the Black Caps alone.

The Black Caps are in a real trough at the moment. After briefly being the 2nd ranked ODI team in the world, we have slipped to 5th. We are also going to be 8th in the test rankings by the start of the Windies tour. The only way is up.

Ben on...more internet finds

Miss Field catches up with the Brisbane test, suggesting that the underperforming players should be dropped: Watson, Hayden, Ponting and the whole NZ team. (She's blogrolled.)

There's currently a big rave on about analysing your blog, so I thought I'd have a go at that. Since I write 91% of the blog at the moment, I suppose this analysis applies largely to me.

The Typealyzer reckons I'm an ESTP, a 'doer'.
The active and play-ful type. They are especially attuned to people and things around them and often full of energy, talking, joking and engaging in physical out-door activities.

The Doers are happiest with action-filled work which craves their full attention and focus. They might be very impulsive and more keen on starting something new than following it through. They might have a problem with sitting still or remaining inactive for any period of time.
The GenderAnalyzer is 91% sure Mike on Cricket is written by a man, if any of you were wondering.

Monday, 24 November 2008

Ben on...stuff found on the internet today

A quick squiz at the Aussie blogs finds not much excitement about the weekend's test. JRod covers it, Stu mentions it and Beer and Sport make fun of Jesse.

Better add Stu and Beer and Sport to the blogroll.

I'll also add Damith to the blogroll. He's been badgering me about it in the comments so it would be only fair to acknowledge the work he has done in keeping our comments section alive. He also says nice things about our man Dan. (I'll add HoldingWilley to the links. It's a great site though I never seem to find the time to keep up with it.)

Closer to home, Sportsfreak critiques the test in a remarkably upbeat mood and the Public Address juggernaut finally posted about cricket, not in the sports blog Field Theory, but in Emma Hart's blog. Also, the Sideline Slogger has pointed me towards a blog by our very own Iain O'Brien! Awesome! He's covering every day of every test that he's in, in impressive depth. A great insight into what really goes on for pro cricketers. Highly recommended.

A new section has appeared on the Black Caps site, an archive. It's a bit rough, but the content is breathtaking. A treasure trove of stats. Did you know that there have been 18 double centuries scored at the basin? I should probably also add a link to the CricketArchive, which is the Aladdin's Cave of cricket statistics.

Ben on...a failed experiment

Despite logic and sense being against it, McCullum is likely to bat at 5 again in Adelaide. Vettori backs him to play up the order and says "initially Brendon did really well in England". He's referring to the match at Lords where McCullum scored 121 match runs. The only other time he has impressed at 5 was an innings of 66 against Bangladesh.

He averages only 26 batting at 5, whereas his average at 7 is 33.46. It seems clear his natural place in the order is at 7. Batting him at 5 is a luxury we could just afford when we had Oram to take his place down the order, but the middle order needs more solidity just at the moment.

Shifting Brendon out of the top order also allows us to figure some balance into the batting order. Our current 3, 4 and 5 all bat at strike rates over 50, which is a mite too reckless against a good new-ball attack. I would be keen to see Flynn promoted all the way up to 3. Flynn bats at a much more sedate SR of about 40.

Shifting Flynn up into the new-ball firing range would be a big experiment too. He did a good job in the middle order at Brisbane, fighting to save both innings. However, it would be much better to have the match saved from 3 than from 6. (Ryder has done a decent job of this, but I'd rather he was an innings builder than an innings saver.)

Anticipating Fulton to come in for Elliott, this is a batting line-up I would like to see:


Sunday, 23 November 2008

Ben on...a quick game's a good game

Thank heavens it was over quickly. I would not have enjoyed spending more of the day pretending like I wasn't thinking about how the game was going.

There was a lot of talk during the match about New Zealand still being competitive, right up until Katich was dropped. The truth is though that NZ was out of the match from about the point McCullum fell in the 1st NZ innings. We were behind Aus then and never caught up and the faster it was over the better.

So we've got a couple of extra days before the next test. I'll have to find something else to blog about. Domestic cricket perhaps.

Ben on...the rhythm of NZ cricket

I suspect that students of dramatic theory could identify and classify the unerring pattern of NZ cricket defeats. I suspect there might be something operatic in the grand shifts from hope through despair to tragedy. Imagine Vettori as Siegfried and Australia as the Nibelungs and you'll understand what I mean.

The basic rhythm of an NZ test defeat looks something like this (using the current test as an example):
  1. Rising dawn of hope (Aus rolled for 214)
  2. Tables turned (NZ rolled in turn)
  3. Misery reaches a nadir (last two Aus partnerships add 82 runs)
  4. Inevitable countdown to defeat (metronomic fall of 4th-innings' wickets)
  5. The end (game over by lunch, day 4)
I suppose a parallel can be drawn to the traditional dramatic structure of exposition–rising action–climax–falling action–denouement. If the parallel is poor it is because the whole thing is so poorly scripted.

Friday, 21 November 2008

Ben on...Australia in disarray

Heh. We're not likely to see a day like yesterday again for a while, so let's indulge in some schadenfreude while we can.

Being at the receiving end of some disciplined, half-way decent bowling has knocked Australia around so badly they are starting to doubt who they are.

"Confused Australia battle identity crisis" is the headline in Cricinfo. Should Australia continue the 'all-out attack all the time' approach that has served them well or do they rebuild from the ground up, finding themselves a new attitude.

The Age sees things as being even more serious (following the defeat by India, not NZ it should be admitted) and sees the weakening cricket team as a constitutional crisis. "This nation deserves a team to again be proud of" wails Peter Roebuck. Australia, the multi-cultural paradise of altruistic firefighters, shouldn't be represented by a mamby-pamby team that sets defensive fields and doesn't get through it's overs. Peter is a fan of the all-out attack, mental disintegration, no friends on the cricket field approach. Vettori should be accorded full respect, and taken apart ruthlessly.

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Ben on...reasonable achievements

Wow! Aus 60/3 at lunch, day 1. NZ lead the Trans-Tasman clash with only about 29 sessions to play in the series.

Would it be unfair for me to make a pessimistic post now? After all, I've been composing it in my head all morning.

J-Rod has some upbeat advice for how NZ can beat Australia. Basically, bat well, field well, captain well, bowl well. Sounds like too much to hope for. I reckon we'd do better to lower our expectations. Winning a test is an unrealistic goal and we should be looking for some smaller victories. Here's a few suggestions:
  1. Win the toss in each test.
  2. Last 10 days.
  3. Have one of the Black Caps lead one of the stats, such as leading wicket taker or highest strike rate.
  4. Keep Ponting's average below 30 for the series.
  5. Every opening stand to last at least half an hour.
  6. Hasten Hayden's retirement.
  7. Make Ponting sweat about his captaincy at least once in each test. Maybe an unbreakable late innings partnership or someone defying every attempt to set a field.
  8. A first innings lead. (Wouldn't that be nice!)
  9. Drive Symonds to drink.
  10. Player of the series.

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Ben on...beaten by our own future coach

What would be more satisfying for a coach? To take a bunch of green underachievers through a challenging growth, from character-building defeats to hard-fought near-losses to scrappy wins to finally achieving some respect. Or taking a well-drilled bunch of confident cricketers and sitting back while they do their work without you lifting a finger. The first scenario sounds the more fulfilling (especially if the coach is alcoholic and the gutsy efforts of his proteges convinces him to give up the bottle), but in reality would involve more hair-tearing than satisfaction. Only a saint would find it appealing.

The choice for potential NZ coach/current NSW coach Matthew Mott is not quite as stark. NSW aren't exactly all-conquering (bottom of the Sheffield Shield table). However, after the weekend's game (NSW def. NZ by 6 wickets) he would be a saint for not immediately tearing up any NZ coaching contracts he might have on his desk.

Being beaten by NSW's B-team is fairly embarrassing, and has sent the team into a panic. However, it is just a warm-up, it doesn't count. Warm ups are only there to give the team a bit of practice and to sort out any problems with the team. In that respect, the loss to the NSW juniors was a great victory – everyone got some time at the crease and we worked out that our fragile batting is more of a liability than our weak bowling.

The loss doesn't bode well for the test series however, but then that doesn't tell us anything we didn't know.

Let's quickly preview the series.

We have two tests in the series, at Brisbane and Adelaide. This is identical to the tour in 2004 (including being preceded by a tour to Bangladesh), a series where Australia handed us defeats by an inns & 156 runs and by 213 runs. A more recent series, at home in 2005, gave similarly discouraging results, two losses by 9 wickets and a rained out thrashing. Going back through history, 2001 in Aus was Fleming's famous poke in Waugh's eye, but even that was only a series of three draws. We have to go back to 1993 to find our last victory against Australia, with Aus being led by Alan Border and our bowling headed up by Danny Morrison.

Now, Australia – just returned from being given a good spanking by a fired-up India – is a team in free-fall. They have clearly been greatly weakened by recent retirements, their captain is lacking confidence and there are dangerous divisions within the team. However, this will do little to bridge the gap between the teams, it is just too great. Consider also that the last time we toured Australia (that 2004 series I mentioned above) we had a fantastically stronger team, with Richardson, Fleming, Franklin, Astle and Oram playing, and we still got thrashed. The decline in the Aussies since 2004 has been more than matched in the Black Caps. So we should probably expect similar results.

Players to watch

Vettori: First test series against Aus as captain. How will his leadership and tactics compare with Ponting's?

Taylor: First series against Aus. Taylor's going to be carrying the NZ batting crew in the years to come; wouldn't we like to see him do it right now.

O'Brien: The star of 2008 and our secret weapon.

Symonds: First series back from his alcohol-fuelled meltdown and raring to repair his reputation. First test series against NZ believe it or not.

Lee/Johnson/Clark/Watson: So who is Australia's main strike bowler now? Who's going to rise to the top?

Thursday, 6 November 2008

Ben absence

There are some notable missing players in the squad named for the 1st test in Australia. Jacob Oram is of course out of the squad with an injury. Patel stays home, at least for the Brisbane test, saved from taking a trip over just to be 12th man. Martin coming into the squad is the other change worth reporting.

There is another player notable in his absence, not because of selection issues but because he is still injured. James Franklin has not played a test for New Zealand for nearly 2 years (a fact that is slightly misleading, as the whole of the NZ team played no tests for the better part of 2007). He had surgery on his knee in November 2007. The recovery time was supposed to be 6 months, which would have put in the frame for the tour to England. Well we are now in the 12th month and he still isn't in the picture for selection for the Black Caps.

For those who aren't aware, or have forgotten because he has been away for so long, Franklin with 76 wickets from 21 tests is the best bowler currently on the New Zealand scene. And he was also starting to show his potential with the bat, making him a real all-rounder. Damn but it is frustrating to have him close, but not close enough to being available.

Apparently in the emerging players tournament in July, he was not troubled in extending himself for short bursts. Which is barely encouraging. Wellington will be starting off their domestic season on the 17th with a match Championship match against Canterbury, so hopefully Franky will be lining up for that and we can get some idea of how he's doing.

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Ben on...'bring back Bond' is back

Looks like we'll be fighting for the Trans-Tasman Trophy not only without Jacob Oram and Chris Martin, but also without Shane Bond, according to the major newspapers yesterday.

That Shane Bond has no interest in returning to play for New Zealand (and would have retired from tests even if he hadn't left for India) is old news. However, I predict an annual excitement about his imminent return (which should run shortly after Shane Warne's annual plea to be asked out of retirement in the news cycle).

We had this year's story a couple of weeks ago when there was excitement over the fact that the BCCI was willing to talk to the ICL. According to the story, if the ICL was accepted as an unofficial but sanctioned tournament, Shane Bond's exile would be over and he could be free to play in the test series against Australia. This article ignored firstly, as I mentioed above, that (i) Shane Bond was retiring from tests and (ii) doesn't want to play for New Zealand at all anyway, but was also misguidedly optimistic about the outcomes of the talks when (iii) there is in fact no way in Hell the BCCI was going to accept the ICL.

In the end, the BCCI refused to consider making any consessions to the ICL unless they basically closed down their tournmant, which is pretty much as aggressive as you can get in peace talks. The BCCI wants to destroy the ICL and isn't concerned about any casualties.

If you are interested in revisiting the legend of Shane Bond, Cricinfo is reviewing the interview that prompted the story in the papers.

He is also currently playing in the ICL tournament, 7 wickets @ 28.14, decent enough but not electric.

Saturday, 1 November 2008

Ben on...the surprise performer

I'm not going to analyse the performance of the individual Black Caps, I'll leave that to others, and I'm not going to praise Vettori, he has his well-deserved man of the series award. But I do want to highlight one player whose performance has not only been great, but has exceeded expectations.

In the test series Iain O'Brien picked up 8 wickets at 11.87. The best of the specialist pace bowlers by 7 wickets.

So he had a great series in Bangladesh. However, he also had a great series in England, picking up another 8 wickets from 2 tests at 23.12, again the pick of the pace bowlers.

His selection for the England tour was derided, but for the better part of a year, O'Brien has been our best seamer.

Friday, 31 October 2008

Ben on...Bangladesh, the agony and the agony

Prior to this tour, Bangladesh's greatest achievement in tests against New Zealand was avoiding an innings defeat. Things could only have gotten better.

1st test choke

When Bangladesh had the Black Caps at 52/4 in their first innings in the first test, they had a solid hold on a possible victory. Their grip loosened as the BCs recovered, but defending a target of 317, the game was Bangladesh's to win.

They couldn't do it of course. No doubt, the first test was a good one for Bangladesh, despite the fact that it was lost. And they can justly feel that grim satisfaction of knowing that they lead for most of the match. However, this wasn't the "one that got away". Bangladesh have failed to capitalise on a dominant position a number of times. Most famously perhaps, they squandered a 150-odd first innings lead against Australia in 2006, and they also let Pakistan squeak home by 1 wicket in 2003. They've butchered a few other first innings leads by poor second innings efforts.

One day they will turn a first innings lead into a win against a major team. And that will be great for the game in Bangladesh. However, I reckon the path ahead for Bangladesh doesn't lie in these fortuitous tests.

Fighting draw

The draw in the second test was of course a better final result for Bangladesh than the first test loss. They were however under the cosh for almost the whole of the game. At 44/6, chasing a follow on target of 162, you should have been expecting another loss. The 7th wicket fight back turned the match and saved the test. It was therefore the defining moment of the whole test series for Bangladesh.

It is performances like this that will move Bangladesh cricket forward. Sad as it may sound (and as insufferably arrogant it may be coming from an NZ fan), Bangladesh have to more regularly force the opposition to bat twice before they can think about winning matches.

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Ben on...the follow-on target

Vettori's declaration on 262/6 was a good attempt to be aggressive and just what this game needed. And his three wickets were just what we needed.

On the last day, we'll be chasing 17 wickets. Very gettable. The only problem is the likelihood that NZ will have to bat again between the two Bangladesh innings, taking up extra time and requiring another calculation of when to declare. However, Karl has just pointed out to me some interesting aspects to the follow-on law (law 13).

Apparently the follow-on target depends on the length of the match, not just the grade.
Length      Target
5 days within 200 runs of opponent's total
3 or 4 days 150
2 days 100
1 day 75
The interesting aspect is that the length of the match is determined from when the first ball is bowled. So this will be a two-day match, with a follow-on target of 162, which is not all that low a total for Bangladesh. That dramatically decreases the likelihood of NZ batting again after the first Bangladeshi innings.

Monday, 27 October 2008

Ben on...prospect for the match

The third day of the 2nd test has been rained out, following the washout of the first two days. Even if the weather turns and allows play on the 4th and 5th days, surely there is no point continuing with this test. How could there possibly be a result in only two days?

Well, in fact there have been a few test matches decided within two days. It is also worth considering that extra time can be added to the remaining days, allowing a few extra overs, so we actually have a fraction over two days left. Assuming an extra hour can be added to each day, that should give a total allowable number of overs of 210.

Bangladesh have had many 3-day tests recently and a quick look shows that several of those were completed within 210 overs. During a disastrous 2005, Bangladesh were beaten by England in two tests in 190.1 and 190 overs, respectively, and twice by Sri Lanka within 182 and 198.1 overs. Also, they were beaten by NZ earlier this year within 195.5 overs at Wellington.

However, Bangladesh can take heart from history, as NZ has been rolled in some embarrassingly brief tests. NZ's first test match in 1930 lasted only 189.4 overs and the first NZ–Aus test lasted a scarcely believable 145.2 overs. There are a few other examples also, the most recent of which being a thrashing in 188.4 overs by South Africa in November last year.

Friday, 24 October 2008

Ben on...Cricinfo goes a little bit beige

Cricinfo has a new blogger, Paul Ford, a founding member of the Beige Brigade. (Who we can safely assume is closely related to Paul Holden of Stuff's Sideline Slogger.)

Paul contributes to the blog called Different Strokes, which features 'views from the outside'. I don't know where they draw the boundary, but clearly the Beige Brigade lie outside it.

His first post, Paul analyses Bangladesh and New Zealand based on their performances in the first test and concludes that New Zealand were deserving winners 'by a freckle'.

Thursday, 23 October 2008

Ben on...a great escape

Awesome! Forget the 1st innings, ignore the quality of the opposition (and anyway, it's not like we've proven ourselves to be vastly superior) and don't let Cricket with Balls belittle us, the last innings of the test, chasing down more than 300, was a grand achievement.

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Ben on...a five-day test

1st test: The 55-run opening partnership got me interested, the 90-run second-wicket partnership got me hopeful, but the 172 runs still required keeps me circumspect.

Also, that run out of Ryder's is the sort of snag that could start the unravelling of the whole innings.

Thursday, 16 October 2008

Ben on...Ashraful vs New Zealand

Bangladesh lost the 3rd ODI in the 8th over of the NZ innings. Up to that point, Bangladesh had done well to keep the scoring in check and to dismiss Ryder and McCullum. But in the 8th over, How whipped out two boundaries to set the scoring on a path to a final total that was well out of reach for the Bangladeshis. From that over, NZ's run rate never decreased, and Bangladesh were never up with the required run rate in their innings.

In the eyes of some Bangladeshis however, the game, and the series, was only lost on the first ball of the 16th over of the Bangladesh innings. Playing that delivery, Ashraful shuffled across his stumps to get around the ball and scoop it over leg side, but instead letting it get past him and into his stumps. It was a shot so bad that he felt compelled to apologise to the nation. But for that one ball, that one shot, that decision, the series could have been won. It was that close.

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Ben on...lovin' those new uniforms

Like the new Black Caps' uniform? No? Join the Facebook group.

Could be worse though. Check out the rejected designs.

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Ben on...3rd ODI

ODI 3 to kick off in a couple of hours. Rather nervous. Can't really rely on Bangladesh's weakness to counteract NZ's capacity for epic failure.

The Bangladeshi fans can smell the fear.

The match is being played at Chittagong. Apparently the pitch there is slow but hard. A batting paradise it has been called, with some dew to assist the team bowling first. If things run similar to the first two matches, that won't help us too much.

Thinking positively however, there are several Black Caps who might have been expecting to go home with a bit of a boost to their averages who need to get their act together. For everyone to come out of this ODI series in the black, the top of the scorecard is going to have look something like this:

Ryder        65
McCullum 60
How 100
Taylor 70
Styris 95
Flynn 20 (not much of an average to maintain)
Oram DNB

Monday, 13 October 2008

Ben on...a Bangladeshi voice

I've been on the look out for a Bangladeshi blog to read during this series. The closest I have found is this fan site:

Saturday, 11 October 2008

Ben on...phew!

Wow. A 75-run win after being 117/7 might be New Zealand's biggest escape – but even if it isn't, it is easily one of the most important.

Friday, 10 October 2008

Ben on...mighty Bangladesh

I don't know what I feel worse about, the loss or having been infected by the overconfidence surrounding this tour.

Way to go Bangladesh. Win 7 against top-flight opposition. Only England and West Indies left to go. Let's give Bangladesh its due and review those wins.

1999 World Cup vs Pakistan

Bangladesh record their first major victory, by 62 runs over a Pakistan team who had already qualified for the next round and who clearly didn't mind losing to their brothers.

2004 vs India

Now a proper test-playing nation, Bangladesh won their 100th ODI, beating their neighbour by 15 runs, suggesting that Dav Whatmore was going to perform a miracle with Bangladesh as he had done with Sri Lanka.

2005 vs Australia

Not exactly welcomed in England just ahead of the Ashes, the Tigers give their critics a black eye with a 5-wicket win over Australia on the back of a masterful century by Ashraful.

2006 vs Sri Lanka

On a roll now, winning a big match every year. 4 wickets against Sri Lanka.

2007 World Cup vs India

Bangladesh's incredible World Cup. Helped keep India out of the Super 8s by beating them by 5 wickets.

2007 World Cup vs South Africa

Bangladesh didn't progress any further in the World Cup, though they showed they belonged with a big 67-run win over South Africa.

2008 vs New Zealand

Swaggering into Bangladesh like they were already the 2nd best team in the world, the Black Caps failed to take seriously their own efforts to talk up the opposition and were beaten in every facet of the game.

Thursday, 9 October 2008

Ben on...worst case scenario

With the Black Caps self-destructing in the 1st ODI (149/6 off 40 as I write), threatening to cause major embarrassment to all the commentators predicting the Black Caps rising in the rankings and to me for my uncharitable assessment of Bangladesh's chances in this tour, it is timely to crack open the Predictor and work out what might happen to our ranking if the results don't follow the odds.

NZ lose 1

NZ fall to 113 points (from 116), holding fourth place from India by half a point.
Bangladesh up to 47.

NZ lose 2

NZ fall to 109, past India and Pakistan into sixth place.
Bangladesh up to 51.

NZ lose all 3

NZ fall to 105, dropping another rank past Sri Lanka into seventh.
Bangladesh up to 54, still sadly no where near reaching West Indies on 95.

Ben on...Glossy! New!

Just got a signed e-mail message from Daniel Vettori himself about the site:

We're Back!

Welcome to the new! Thanks for your patience while we got our new website ready. We hope you like it!

While the BLACKCAPS have been warming up for our series in Bangladesh, our website has undergone a transformation.

We've written to you, as a supporter of the BLACKCAPS, New Zealand Cricket or the game in general, that our new online presence is back and better than ever.

To receive regular updates on the latest news from our new look newsletter, just register on the site.

Thanks once again for support,

Daniel Vettori

And I have to say, the new site is pretty. The shambles that was the old site has been cleaned up – it now seems quite straightforward to actually find stuff. It also hits the usability notes: it's focussed on users, the pages aren't excessively busy, the navigation isn't as messed up as it was in the old site. Design wise, it's a winner.

It certainly beats the pants off the other associations, which all use pretty bog-standard templates. Cricket Australia | Tiger Cricket | ECB | BCCI (using a .tv domain, showing their priorities) | PCB | Cricket South Africa | Sri Lanka Cricket (MIA) | WICB

As I get most of my cricket from online sources these days, it's encouraging to see New Zealand leading the world in exploiting the internet. (We are kinda let down by this site though.)

That having been said, although there is a shitload of information on, there isn't a hell of a lot happening there. Perhaps there's some dynamic, interactive content coming, but until then I'll visit the site for the official word on schedules, but not much else.

Monday, 6 October 2008

Ben on...Bangladesh preview

The international season kicks off on 9 Oct with the 1st ODI of NZ's tour of Bangladesh and the 1st test of Aus's tour of India.

However, you would hardly know that there was anything on other than the Aus–Ind grudge series. Jeez, even the Eng–Ind series over a month away is getting more coverage.

So it is up to us to provide some shallow analysis of what the tour to Bangladesh is about.

The Black Caps are currently in Bangladesh for a 3-ODI, 2-test series. This is New Zealand's second tour to Bangladesh and the fourth series the two teams have played against each other. To date, there have been simply nothing in the way of fireworks between the two teams. New Zealand have won every full international by wide margins.


For Bangladesh, this series is the highlight of their home season. In fact, this series is their home season. No one else is visiting. They will be touring South Africa themselves, but they will be done with international cricket for this season by the end of the year.

The Bangladesh stocks have been hit by losses to the ICL, and much has been made about the fact that their list of probables includes six rookies. In my assessment however, while they will be hurt, Bangladesh will not be devastated by the ICL defections, and six rookies in a list of 24 isn't all that dramatic.

The confidence out of Bangladesh is ... mixed – "The players are charged up to play good cricket but I don't know why," according to one. Their hope is to win one match out of the five. Pfft. Fat chance. While anything can happen in cricket, Bangladesh is just too weak and New Zealand, for all our struggles against stronger teams, do not lose to weak teams. If Bangladesh wins a match in this series, it will be a major upset.

In fact, I'm going to give you the numbers. A NZ cricket fan expressing confidence his team will not lose has no credibility, so I'm going to have to prove my point with facts and figures.

Against proper competition (i.e. test-playing nations apart from Zimbabwe), Bangladesh has won 6 out of 119 ODIs. Their chance of losing a single ODI is therefore about 95%. The chance of losing three in a row is a product of the chances of losing each of them – about 85%.

In tests, Bangladesh has failed to win a single test against this competition after 45 attempts. Being as fair as possible, let's assume the chance of this happening is only 50%, so we're assuming Bangladesh has been neither lucky nor unlucky to get this result. A quick calculation on the back of an envelope equates this with a 98.5% chance of losing a single test, or a 97% chance of losing two tests.

Giving a grand chance of not winning a single match in this tour of 82.5% or nearly 5 to 1.

Players to watch: Mohammad Ashraful, with more test centuries than the rest of the squad combined ... in fact, the only current player to have scored test centuries – cripes! ... Ashraful is the great hope of Bangladesh and surely the rock that any success will have to be built on; Shahadat Hossain, Bangladesh's most penetrative bowler; Enamul Haque jnr, Dav Whatmore's protege and the other left-arm spinner in the competition; Imrul Kayes and Shamsur Rahman, two rookie batsmen looking to make good on the opportunities offered by the ICL defections

New Zealand

For New Zealand the equation is quite different: "hiding to nothing".

The Black Caps have to win every game or the tour will be a failure. And when they do win, what would they have gained? The ODI wins will push us up to no. 2 in the ICC rankings, but beating the 9th ranked team to go ahead of a team (England) we comprehensively beat a few months ago shows how bunk the ranking system is. Will the tour provide preparation for the Aus series in November? Well, it didn't work out that way last time.

Players to watch: For the individual players, there may be something more interesting riding on this tour. For several players – Redmond, Elliot, Flynn, O'Brien – this tour will be something of a second chance to stake a claim for further selection. A failure here could at least raise doubts about their selection in the rest of the season. This is of course Jesse Ryder's first appearance in a test squad. You'll recall that Ryder scored 196 ODI runs in February at a SR of 100, showing he has the stuff for the mid-length version of the game. If he did exactly the same in the tests we'd be pretty pleased, but what we really want to see is that he as a test game to complement his limited-over game.

Monday, 29 September 2008

Ben duds for summer

Looks like the Black Caps are getting their own version of the Walla-bra. The Black Caps have a new sponsor and are getting a new look, shown off here by the team's designated models Scott Styris and Chris Martin.

The new uniforms are produced by Canterbury (hence the faux futuristic look and that bloody bra). They are lightweight and highly breathable. They can also tell the player how cold or hot they are by little sensors on the shirts that change colour with temperature – as if a player standing about on a cricket field isn't highly sensitive to the sun on the back of his neck or the chill making his fingers ache. It gets better though. There are three types of 'super' trousers, for bowling (with a ball polishing patch), fielding (shock-proof) and batting (ventilated).

Friday, 26 September 2008

Ben on...Solid Energy NZ A, limp and listless

New Zealand A (who NZ Cricket seem to like to call Solid Energy New Zealand A) started the A Team Triangular Series in southern India with a hiss and a roar, thrashing Aus A by 129 runs. This gave them a good headstart on the table with 5 points. However, they then proceeded to lose the rest of their games by wide margins, and under the humiliating points system used at this tournament, saw their points dwindle away to a final total of 2.

Still, there were a couple of good performances.

Peter Fulton, with four solids scores and an average of 55.5, pushed his claim for a spot in the Black Caps should any of the incumbents not perform in Bangladesh. And on the basis of this A performance, Redmond with his 28 runs from three innings has his work cut out for him holding his place against Fulton.

Mark Gillespie took 7 wickets from his four matches at a SR of 30-odd. Jeetan Patel also did well with 6 wickets at a good average of 23.

Beyond these three though, there wasn't much to write home about. Apart from a 50 by Neil Broom, none of the non-internationals did anything impressive.

I don't really understand the point of A series cricket, but I can see three things that might come out of an A-team tournament.

The first is that it gives out of favour players an opportunity to play themselves back into contention. Fulton is a beneficiary in this case. James Marshall is not.

A series give fringe players the opportunity to find form and get practice. Gillespie, Patel and Elliot have made use of this opportunity. Redmond, not so much. Daniel Flynn could have benefited from a run in this tournament.

The third advantage of A series is that it gives up-and-comers the chance to impress. It is pity that the emerging players, the likes of Greg Hay and Martin Guptil, didn't manage to draw attention to themselves.

Thursday, 25 September 2008

Ben on...close shaves

I didn't find the time to comment on the controversy around the Champions Trophy in Pakistan and its postponement. My position would have been that I support NZ Cricket's decision not to send a team to Pakistan. I actually think that the threat posed by terrorism is very small and I typically wouldn't agree with a decision that allows terrorism to impact on our regular lives in this way. However, the NZ cricket team has had several close shaves while touring terrorism-wracked countries, so I think it is only reasonable that they are reluctant to put themselves at risk.

Recall these close shaves:
  • 2002 tour of Pakistan called off after a suicide bomb was denoted outside the hotel they were staying at.
  • 1992 tour of Sri Lanka disrupted after a terrorist attack outside their hotel, the grisly after-effects of which several of the NZ team were to witness.
  • 1987 tour of Sri Lanka curtailed after a bomb blast at a bus station that killed over 100. It didn't occur close to where the team was at the time, though they had passed the bus station half an hour earlier.
It was reported last night that the Black Caps were scheduled to stay at the Marriott Hotel at the very time it was hit by a terrorist attack that killed 53 people and injured hundreds more. If they had been there, there is every likelihood that some of the team could have been injured or killed.

Even though the Marriott bomb occurred half a world away, it must qualify as another close shave.

Friday, 19 September 2008

Ben badly hit is Bangladesh?

Shock news out of Bangladesh, less than a month ahead of the New Zealand tour, is that 13 Bangladeshi players, including six current internationals, are joining the ICL and effectively leaving international cricket.

New Zealand will be the first team to try out the newly weakened Bangladesh, with our own weakened side, and the powers that be are not happy.

So just how badly will these defections affect the Bangladesh team?

The internationals amongst the rebels include Habibul Bashar, Aftab Ahmed, Alok Kapali, Shahriar Nafees, Farhad Reza, Dhiman Ghosh and Mosharraf Hossain. Of these, the biggest losses are Bashar, with his 50-test experience, and Nafees, the 22-year old prodigy and the only other of these players to have a test batting average over 25. All the others are, quite frankly, replaceable. The sad fact about Bangladesh cricket is that many of its players have simply failed to add anything to the team. Another point to note is that Bashar was approaching the end of his career and his form had already slipped away. Losing Bashar is analogous to losing Fleming – clearly a big loss, but one that the team could ride out. Losing Nafees is more like losing a Ross Taylor.

My feeling is that most of the talent in the current Bangladesh team has remained. Their talented captain Mohammad Ashrafal is staying (reportedly turning down a $500,000/year offer from the ICL), as are Tamim Iqbal (who scored a couple of 50s against us last year) and Shahadat Hossain, their only bowler to have a test average of less than 40, amongst others.

Losing 13 players will certainly hurt Bangladesh. Several of the rebels are first choice picks for the national team, while the others would otherwise be the replacements for the first choice players. Take 13 players out of the top two tiers of NZ cricket and...well, it doesn't bear thinking about. Bangladesh apparently has a robust domestic cricket scene, so it could well be that the weaker of the rebels could be replaced fairly easily. I therefore think that the impact of the defections will not be as great as the numbers suggest. However, the fact that they have a large pool of mediocre players to replace losses in this way, highlights the great loss that Nafees will be.

In the longer term, the damage could be greater, but I might consider the long term implications in another post.

Thursday, 18 September 2008

Ben on...ruminations on the summer schedule

I'm pretty happy with how my tabulation of the cricket summer came out. It makes it quite easy to see how the various tours are laid out:
  • Tour to Bangladesh
  • Half month break
  • Tour of Australia begins, then is broken just as it gets up to speed
  • Players have about a week to disassemble and make it home before the first test in the leisurely series with West Indies
  • Another half month break in the international schedule for some domestic cricket
  • Then back to Oz for some one-dayers that really should have been part of a tri-series
  • More domestic cricket
  • Rushed tour by India
The two month gap in the Oz series is the stand-out head scratcher, but the four-day break between the WACA and MCG ODIs in Oz is a mystery (or does it just take that long to cross the Australian continent?). The Boxing Day 20-20 makes an unwelcome return and climaxing the Oz series with a 20-20 is a real 'who gives a fuck'.

My biggest beef with the schedule though is the number of tests. You'll note that each of the four tours includes only two tests. Two-test series are for losers; either the other guys just don't want to play with you or they don't have time for you. Obviously we're not going to agree to more than two tests with the Bangladeshis, 'cause we just don't rate them. Equally, India don't want to hang around for longer than they have to. Australia are usually pretty fair with us, so two tests is probably all they can reasonably spare this summer. The real disappointment is the West Indies series, the showcase of the summer. It's a shame the Windies couldn't give up one of their tests against England to allow them to extend their tour here by a test, but that's probably too much to ask.

I'm hoping that this pattern of short test rubbers is not the way of the future. I suspect that it has been necessary this year because Australia's window is the same as ours, so we have had to fit one of our away tours within our home window.

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Ben on...Basin facelift

So we all know the Basin is a great cricket ground. But don't you think it's just a bit shabby? Especially that bit at the northern end – when the game's gone a bit boring and you're thinking of heading into town, you walk past the R.A. Vance Stand sightscreen...then something happens, a batsman starts opening up or Mark Gillespie is brought into the attack, and you have to stop and watch in that open area by the gates, in the cold shadow of the grandstand with the breeze down the Cambridge–Kent wind tunnel up the back of your shirt, standing amongst the autograph hunters and tomato sauce covered food wrappers from the carts beside the city's worst toilet block.

Well. The happy news is that the Basin is getting a new stand (maybe), right in that area, between the R.A. Vance Stand and the Bank.

The City Council has plans for a 'flyover' to take traffic past the northern face of the Basin, and the new stand will hide the new road from view within the ground. There are a couple of other interesting details. It seems that the flyover will allow the Cambridge–Kent boulevard to be extended right up to the entrance to the ground. The flyover might also be further back than the current road, allowing the Basin to extend its boundaries out a bit. Also, Adelaide Rd is currently being examined for improvement, so the whole area might be get a facelift. (I understand chances of light rail running to the Basin is pretty slim though.)

Only one international match scheduled for the Basin this season, and it's the last of the summer: 2nd test v India, 3–7 April.

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Ben on...Boock's gone soft

Richard Boock is quite a combative cricket writer. He often rubs me the wrong way with his whinges about the crapness of the Black Caps and how they should be winning more. Recently, he has caused a storm at the Sunday Star Times. Two weeks ago he wrote an article in response to Brian Lochore's denunciation of political correctness. The article attracted such vehement response (no surprise perhaps when even the title of the article makes reference to "Brian the Bully") that he devoted last week's article to the responses he received.

They are a couple of very good articles. Well written and with their points well presented. And clearly heartfelt and very brave.

But anyway. It seems that he got enough feedback on his article to continue the topic for a third week. In the latest Sunday Star Times, Boock writes about a cricket team that included J.M. Barrie, Arthur Conan Doyle, A.A. Milne, P.G. Wodehouse, E.W. Hornung and Rudyard Kipling, a team that you might expect did not enjoy a lot of victories. He uses this team as an example to rebut the idea that sport is just about winning and losing, and to make the point that it is really about participation. I found this to be a pretty temperate attitude coming from Boock.

It's a fine sentiment and one that extends to following sport as well as participating. You get knocked back a lot being a Black Caps' supporter. On one hand, those many defeats make the victories all the sweeter, but on the other hand, setting aside the disappointment of the defeats and the joy of the victories and cricket remains an exciting, beautiful, compelling game. Roll on summer.

Sunday, 14 September 2008

Ben on...bad boys

So the news about Andrew Symonds is that he has been dropped from the Australian team for the upcoming tour of India for reasons of poor discipline, most notably his failure to show up for a team meeting, choosing to go fishing instead. He was dumped from the series against Bangladesh for this misdemeanour, after which he went to ground and was reportedly considering quitting international cricket. Apparently, we were told, he was suffering the stress of being a top-flight cricketer, like Trescothick and Tait before him, and that he is seeing a psychologist to get back on track.

For someone so evidently self-confident and reportedly laidback, this seems an unlikely theory. This report suggests that Symonds is less like Trescothick and Tait and more like Shoaib Akhtar, with alcohol in place of performance enhancing drugs and fishing in place of intraparty biffo. It isn't stress that's getting in Symonds' way, but his over-sized ego.

Whatever the reason, he's going to have to scratch India off his to-do list. And you'd have to say that that is a damn shame – Symonds' form has been outstanding recently and he has a great record against India. Myself though, I've never been a fan of the clown makeup, and his naked unfriendliness on the field makes him an ugly player to watch. No doubt he'll be back for the series with NZ, but I just hope that he has been knocked down a peg or two.

Meanwhile, our own larrikin Jesse Ryder is set to make his test debut in the Bangladesh series. Ryder knocked himself down a couple of pegs and is returning to the team chastened and apparently ready to make amends. This means not drinking while in Bangladesh, which might not be too much of a challenge.

It's awesome to see him back. He's tipped to play at 4, where he will fit right in to a top order with the promise of talent but bugger all experience. Assuming a top 5 of How, Redmond, Taylor, Ryder and Flynn, we're looking at a total of 26 caps.

Saturday, 13 September 2008

Ben on...the summer schedule

With the election date having been announced, we now know all we need to know about the summer's entertainment.

It's a good summer too, with trips to Bangladesh and Australia, then a visit by the West Indies (who we have seen quite a bit of recently, which I heartily approve of), followed by a return to Australia (seriously, the tour is interrupted by a whole other tour) and then the Indians visit (who we see too rarely sadly).

I have compiled the 08/09 cricket fixtures into one big table that also shows the days between fixtures. I always seem to find it difficult to find a comprehensive list of matches, so I've done one for myself. I'll put a link in the sidebar so we can come back and check it any time we want. (And please do come back and check it. It took frickin' ages to do all the CSS, so I would like to think my table will be appreciated.)

October 2008

Tue 7To be confirmedTo be confirmed

Thu 91st ODI v BangladeshShere Bangla National Stadium

Sat 112nd ODI v BangladeshShere Bangla National Stadium

Tue 143rd ODI v BangladeshChittagong Divisional Stadium

Fri 171st Test v BangladeshChittagong Divisional Stadium
Sat 181st Test v Bangladesh
Sun 191st Test v Bangladesh
Mon 201st Test v Bangladesh
Tue 211st Test v Bangladesh

Sat 252nd Test v BangladeshShere Bangla National Stadium
Sun 262nd Test v Bangladesh
Mon 272nd Test v Bangladesh
Tue 282nd Test v Bangladesh
Wed 292nd Test v Bangladesh

November 2008

Thu 13v New South WalesSCG
Fri 14v New South Wales
Sat 15v New South Wales
Sun 16v New South Wales

Thu 201st Test v AustraliaThe 'Gabba
Fri 211st Test v Australia
Sat 221st Test v Australia
Sun 231st Test v Australia
Mon 241st Test v Australia

Fri 28
2nd Test v AustraliaAdelaide Oval
Sat 29
2nd Test v Australia
Sun 30
2nd Test v Australia
December 2008
Mon 1
2nd Test v Australia
Tue 2
2nd Test v Australia

Fri 5Auckland v West IndiesEden Park Outer Oval
Sat 6
Auckland v West Indies
Sun 7Auckland v West Indies

Thu 111st Test v West IndiesUniversity Oval
Fri 12
1st Test v West Indies
Sat 13
1st Test v West Indies
Sun 14
1st Test v West Indies
Mon 15
1st Test v West Indies

Fri 192nd Test v West Indies McLean Park
Sat 20
2nd Test v West Indies
Sun 21
2nd Test v West Indies
Mon 22
2nd Test v West Indies
Tue 23
2nd Test v West Indies

Fri 261st Twenty20 v West IndiesEden Park

Sun 282nd Twenty20 v West IndiesSeddon Park

Wed 31
1st ODI v West IndiesQueenstown Events Centre
January 2009

Sat 3
2nd ODI v West IndiesAMI Stadium

Wed 73rd ODI v West Indies Westpac Stadium

Sat 10 4th ODI v West IndiesEden Park

Tue 135th ODI v West IndiesMcLean Park

February 2009
Sun 11st ODI v AustraliaWACA

Fri 62nd ODI v Australia MCG

Sun 8
3rd ODI v Australia SCG

Tue 10
4th ODI v Australia Adelaide Oval

Fri 13
5th ODI v Australia
The 'Gabba

Sun 15
Twenty20 v Australia

March 2009

Fri 6Twenty20 v India Westpac Stadium

Sun 81st ODI v India McLean Park

Wed 11
2nd ODI v India Seddon Park

Sat 14
3rd ODI v IndiaEden Park

Tue 17
4th ODI v IndiaWestpac Stadium

Fri 20
5th ODI v IndiaAMI Stadium

Sun 22
NZ XI v IndiaBert Sutcliffe Oval
Mon 23
NZ XI v India
Tue 24NZ XI v India

Thu 261st Test v IndiaSeddon Park
Fri 27
1st Test v India
Sat 28
1st Test v India
Sun 29
1st Test v India
Mon 30
1st Test v India

April 2009

Fri 32nd Test v IndiaBasin Reserve
Sat 4
2nd Test v India
Sun 5
2nd Test v India
Mon 6
2nd Test v India
Tue 7
2nd Test v India