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.