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