Thursday, December 8, 2011

Shifting sands of Australian cricket.

Change is said to be as good as a holiday, and after watching the Australians lose focus, foresight and fundamentals in a tormenting Ashes series last winter it seemed the cricketing world had finally flipped itself against the once mighty giants of the cricketing globe.

England proved a worthy opponent on the batter friendly tracks of its southern cousins, racking up progressive leads on day three and pounding the aussies into submission with a cross section of seam and end tying spin bowling.

Willow Dreams

He weld his blade like a dark knight slaying the hate filled dragon, driving and cutting him away from where he stands, swerving only to see the rush of blood race through his hands to the weapon. His memory evoking thoughts of his by-gone heroes that once graced the hallowed turf of his home ground.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Bill Jacobs

This week saw the passing of legendary cricket administrator and football broadcaster Bill Jacobs, aged 93. Bill had been battling a bout of pneumonia.

Bill Jacobs with fellow doyen Richie Benaud. Picture: Stuart Milligan Source: Herald Sun

Bill Jacobs was a fine keeper-batsman, playing 266 consecutive matches for Fitzroy between 1937-38 and 1955-56, capturing 448 dismissals (279 catches and 169 stumpings). This places Bill fifth on the all-time list of wicketkeepers for dismissals, although nobody effected more stumpings in a VCA career. He played in 6 VCA Finals for the Lions, resulting in 3 premierships (1938-39, 1939-40 & 1953-54).

Following his retirement as a player, Bill moved into cricket administration and served as a VCA Delegate from 1957-58 to 1968-69, as a State Selector from 1959-60 to 1971-72 (and 1982-83), and as Assistant Secretary of the VCA in 1973-74. Bill managed Australian teams to South Africa (1966-67) and the West Indies (1973), as well as managing the Rest of the World team in Australia (1971-72) at the request of the Australian Cricket Board. He was awarded Cricket Victoria life membership following his retirement as a delegate in 1969.

Friday, July 29, 2011

KFC Big Gamble League

New Uniforms for the launch of the Big Bash t20 League in Australia. They all look like bike riders from the Tour de France, not cricketers.
This week saw the rebranding of the new t20 cricket league in Australia, splitting it’s once rich in heritage State sides in colorful step-children of its former self.

Cricket Australia see the rebranding and revamping of the league as a huge step forward into gaining a stronger foothold in the already saturated market of professional sports leagues in Australia, with this now being the fourth in as many as years, with soccer, netball and baseball all going though a similar process of late.

What is different? Just about everything, for starters there are now two sides based out of Sydney and Melbourne, players are not auctioned off or even placed in a NBA style draft – but sold as free agents for a 7 game slogfest now known as the KFC Big Bash League. The title of the league gives it a cartoon dusting of a real competition with no mention of the words Australia to help identify it with the region for which the cricket is actually being played.

With the above issues it would seem that I’m on a punshing article of negatives headed straight for throat of Cricket Australia, but I’m not, well not quite.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Hampshire Record a 10 out of 10

Hampshire made it ten home Twenty20 wins in a row with a comfortable nine-run victory (on the Duckworth / Lewis method) over the Essex Eagles at The Rose Bowl.

It's a run that stretches back to the final group match of last season's competition, and it was made possible by another excellent innings from James Vince (55). having shared the majority of it with Sean Ervine (45) for an 85-run fourth wicket partnership, the innings proved the real difference between the two sides as Hampshire made an above-par (for a Rose Bowl wicket) 151-7 in their innings.

Hampered by a number of stops for rain, the Essex reply never really gained any momentum, finishing on 122-6 off the 17 overs they were given.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Double Wicketkeeper KO for Essex Rose Bowl Clash

Both Hampshire and Essex have suffered last minute wicket-keeping selection problems ahead of tonight's Friends Life t20 clash at The Rose Bowl.

Nic Pothas will be absent for the Royals while visiting captain, James Foster is suspended for the game, which begins at at 7:00pm.

Royals' Overseas Stun Sharks

Hampshire put clear water between themselves and the chasing pack as they extended their lead at the top of the Friends Life t20 South Group with a 35 run victory over South coast rivals Sussex at The Rose Bowl.
As it was last Friday, the Royals’ spin trio of Shahid Afridi, Imran Tahir and Danny Briggs led the way as Hampshire completely strangled their visitors’ run chase, skittling them for 91 having earlier made 126 themselves (Afridi top scoring with 29).

Monday, June 27, 2011

Afridi Five-Fer Repays Rose Bowl Patience

It was a while coming, but wasn’t it worth it! After a year and a half of waiting, Shahid Afridi finally made his Royals debut at The Rose Bowl, and what better way to announce his arrival than with a stunning 5-wicket haul to repay all those who had shown faith in him during his time away.

So enthralling was the sight of one of the best all-rounders in world cricket at his peak that the fact that Hampshire fought back following a tricky first innings to record a 16-run victory against Gloucestershire was somewhat eclipsed.

But the team’s mettle in rallying to snatch victory in a match that was interrupted by rain twice should not be underestimated. Nor should a valuable contribution of 47 with the bat from Jimmy Adams to give them the platform from which to build a score of 139.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Rose Bowl Ready for Afridi's Royal Coronation

Hampshire play their first home T20 match in nearly two weeks when they take on Gloucestershire at The Rose Bowl on Friday night.
Having fitted in four away trips (to Gloucestershire, Somerset, Glamorgan and Essex) in that time, it will be the home fans’ first chance to see a side that has changed in a few considerable respects from that which beat Glamorgan by two wickets in their last home fixture.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Briggs Spins Web Around Dragons

Danny Briggs bowled and batted Hampshire to a fourth consecutive victory in the Friends Life t20 against a plucky Glamorgan side.

Having won the toss, the visitors were held tight on the crease and could only muster up a very modest target of 120; Briggs finishing with excellent figures of 4-24.

But following up, Hampshire made harder work of the chase than they might have, losing regular wickets after reaching the 50 mark.

However, that only served to give the crowd a thrilling finish as the Royals won by 2 wickets in the final over; fittingly, Briggs scoring the winning runs.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

West Indies not to play at Lords 2012.

West Indies are set to become the first touring team since the 1998 Sri Lankans to miss out on a Test at Lord’s, after it emerged that the England Wales Cricket Board had offered next summer’s fixture to Cardiff, in spite of the fact that the host county, Glamorgan, bid little more than half the £1million offered by MCC for the privilege.

Relations between the ECB and MCC hit a new low on Monday evening, when the launch of the new Sri Lanka Premier League, scheduled to be held in the Long Room on Thursday, had to be cancelled because the event clashed with a Friends Life t20 fixture between Middlesex and Essex.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Jones Set to Fire Against Dragons

Friends Life t20

Wednesday 8 June 2011 (Start: 19:00)
The Rose Bowl

The Hampshire Royals will be looking for their fourth consecutive Friends Life t20 victory on Wednesday against the Glamorgan Dragons.

The match is due to start at 7.00pm at The Rose Bowl with gates opening at 5.30pm.

Hampshire manager, Giles White makes one change to the squad that defeated Kent Spitfires by twenty runs in a rain-hit, five-over-apiece match on Sunday.

Leg-spinner Imran Tahir is rested for the fixture with Simon Jones potentially in line to deputise against his former employers. Jones got the nod in the aforementioned victory at Tunbridge Wells, taking two wickets for the price of just two runs in his one allowed over. However, such as substitution would mean a slight change in emphasis, swapping spin for seam.

Liam Dawson and Johann Myburgh are included in the squad and would both prove useful spin options despite both being more obviously recognised as batsmen. At the top of the order, meanwhile, Michael Lumb and Jimmy Adams will be looking to continue their excellent starts to the campaign. The pair combined to hit eight sixes in nine balls to guide their team to victory over the Spitfires on Sunday.

A victory for the Royals would extend their 100% winning record in the competition this season – a run which has taken the Rose Bowl club to the top of the South Group table.

The Opposition:
Glamorgan, meanwhile, have only played one match in the competition so far - a convincing win in a rain effected match against Middlesex. Captain Alviro Petersen made up 72 of the 199 runs his side posted in a match that was not only delayed by rain but also the malfunction of the flood lights part way through the Middlesex innings.

They name an unchanged squad, minus the injured Gareth Rees, for their trip to the South Coast so expect the Dragon’s big threats to come in the form of the first three batsmen. South African, Petersen has shown to be a leader in all formats, averaging close to 33 runs.

Meanwhile, Tasmanian opener Mark Cosgrove has returned again for another stint having scored more than 2,000 runs for the county in all competitions last season; a feat which also saw him become the third highest scorer in Twenty20 cricket.

These two, coupled with the Western Australian come Englishman, Jim Allenby - who is a powerful striker of the ball and a vital cog to Glamorgan in the shorter formats of the game, averaging 27.69 - should make Glamorgan a tough prospect on a Wednesday evening.

The orginal article was for Hampshire CCC and can be found here
Words: Stuart Appleby / Olly Reid


Sunday, June 5, 2011

Cook in the sun at Lord's SL vs. ENG @Lords

Choice of game

Some people talk of making a pilgrimage to the holy turf of the home of cricket. For me it was about seeing the victorious England from a winter of triumph against Australia return to Lord's as holders of the urn, welcomed by a bursting crowd and glorious English sunshine.

Team supported
I spent one part of the winter watching England from the confines of the couch, with an extra blanket for warmth, and another being in Australia, witnessing the demise of my home country as it handed the Ashes to England. It would surprise most people to know that I wished for a good England side; with all that it had achieved, a strong showing for its home fans is what they deserved.

A radio is the only companion required for a Test match at Lord's. Henry Blofield's outrageous descriptions on Test Match Special of the game in front of you may annoy in any other format or place but his pomp and pronunciation provide the perfect backing track to all things English in a day at Lord's.

Key performer
Alastair Cook stood head and shoulders above his team-mates; a century on the opening day of Lord's would have been perfect but his nearly-100 nonetheless made the best impact. He was the only swimming rat when the ship seemed to be sinking in the opening session, and Cook carried his team and worked with Ian Bell to restore the English order.

Interplay I enjoyed
Eoin Morgan brought the Lord's crowd to life after Bell's fall for 52 runs. Prior to this Bell and Cook had shown caution in their pursuit of mending the English innings. It was Morgan who lit the fire, first against Rangana Herath: punishing him down the ground into the waiting laps of the MCC members, and then pushing the run-rate to a one-day level that had the crowd applauding.

Filling in the gaps
There is much to do at Lord's to pass the time. Some of this is always spent perusing the shop looking at souvenir after souvenir, thinking whether buying a paper weight with a bit of the turf hidden within it is a justifiable purchase, and how to explain this to the wife. Or there are the people, celebrities and eccentric Englishmen in full colour. Blazers are the choice garment at the pavilion but elsewhere you see the first signs of the end of winter as spectators wander the ground in shorts, revealing pale pairs of legs.

Player watch
While making his way towards the practice nets during the second session, Steve Finn stopped in front of a large throng of school kids and signed every miniature bat, cap, ticket or poster, not leaving one kid without his scribble. On completion of this mammoth task he was loudly cheered by the crowd.
Shots of the day
Cook reached and went past his fifty with three fours off Dilhara Fernando who tried in vain to pepper the Ashes hero with short balls.
Crowd meter
A full house greeted the sunshine that bathed Lords' to create an almost heavenly place to watch cricket. The sun warmed the spectators' necks as much as it warmed the playing field.
Marks out of 10
10. An almost-century, great bowling, attacking batting, a full house and the sun made this the best day of all the days I have attended at this sacred place of cricket.

This article was orginally for ESPN CricInfo and the orginal can be found by clicking here.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Lumb and Mascarenhas Star as Sabres are Put to the Sword

Hampshire started the Friends Life t20 campaign in style with a well-played seven-wicket win against Somerset at The Rose Bowl.

A blistering spell from the smiling assassin, Dimi Mascarenhas – who also caught the eye thanks to a fetching new hair colour – saw him claim figures of three wickets for just 19 runs. That, coupled with James Vince’s “right place, right time” fielding to claim two catches in the deep, restricted Somerset to 145-7 after 20 overs. Michael Lumb then made a glorious return to the club, scoring a well balanced 53. His first-wicket partnership of 90 with Jimmy Adams (39) set the platform for the Royals to reach their target even more comfortably than their nine remaining balls would suggest.

The result firmly wipes out the Royals’ two point deficit with which they entered the competition (due to a poor pitch in the corresponding fixture last season). They will now hope to get off the mark proper with a second home T20 match against the Surrey Lions on Friday.

Somerset won the toss and elected to bat but were quickly on the back foot in the power-play as Mascarenhas took his three wickets in double-quick time. Marcus Trescothick (2) was his first victim in the second over of the game, flashing hard to the off-side for the ball to take an edge to Neil McKenzie who took a blinding catch in the slips.

And the all-rounder struck again in his very next over from the Pavilion End, removing Roelof van der Merwe (15). The South African had been drafted in at the last-minute as cover for Kieran Pollard in the first eight FLt20 games of the summer. However, he didn’t have long to enjoy his debut as he had his off stump pushed back as a seaming ball nipped away, taking a bit of pad to the delight of the crowd.

In his third over Mascarenhas had that trademark smile beaming again as he had James Hildreth (2) hanging his bat out to dry with Nic Pothas collecting up the careless snick. Somerset were in trouble at 37-3 after just 5 overs and needed to build an innings to post a suitable score.

So Peter Trego took it on himself to steady the Somerset ship, putting on a strong 50 runs from 30 balls (including four 4s and three 6s). But it wasn’t long after Somerset reached the magical three figures that Trego (55) was dismissed off a diving catch from James Vince. The youngster was like a magnet to balls played into the deep all game; this time athletically swooping at long on to give captain Dominic Cork his first scalp.

Nick Compton - the last of Somerset’s danger men - put up a similarly defiant stand of 37 before he was dismissed in similar fashion; bowled Cork, caught Vince - this time diving away to his right in the deep. Somerset then went on to lose three wickets in 11 runs to finish at 145-7 after 20 overs, Chris Wood and Imran Tahir getting the last couple.
And Hampshire wasted no time in attacking the visitors with a flurry of boundaries in the opening exchanges; Lumb and Adams the tormentors-in-chief. Lumb, particularly, was in blistering form, proving any who had been too quick to doubt him just how wrong they were by smashing six 4s and three 6s in his 33-ball stay at the crease.

Alas, he was undone only by an unbelievable catch from Arul Suppiah. Lumb had looked to bludgeon Trego over the ropes once again – and would certainly have succeeded had Suppiah not jumped out of his skin to catch way above his head on the ropes.

At 90-1 after 10 overs Hampshire seemed to be well in control and James’ Adams and Vince kept the scoreboard ticking at around 8 runs an over. And though neither would be able to see it through to the end, a patient and intelligent innings from both – along with a solid unbeaten knock from Neil McKenzie (17) – was exactly what was needed and what was carried out.

With just one run required Vince was bowled on 31, leaving Benny Howell to watch a wide down leg to bring up the final run needed. Man of the Match went to Mascarenhas, but all played their part.

This article was done of behalf of the Hampshire CCC and also features on the club website click here for the official link with images from the game.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

RIP "The Spin Doctor" Terry Jenner

Former Australian Test cricketer, and mentor to Shane Warne, Terry Jenner passed away today at home in Adelaide, aged 66. Terry Jenner became best known as Shane Warne’s spin mentor, but he was a successful bowler in his own right, playing nine Tests in the 1970s.
As a legspinner, Jenner was happy throwing the ball up and spinning it hard, and his best series came in the West Indies in Australia’s 2-0 victory in 1973. His Test-high 5 for 90 arrived in Trinidad, taking his series haul to 13 wickets, when he led the squad’s spin attack of Kerry O’Keeffe and John Watkins. There were only three more games in a baggy green for Jenner, and his career ended in 1975 with 34 Test victims – and eight appearances as 12th man.

Born in Perth in 1944, he represented Western Australia but moved to South Australia four summers after his debut, having been stuck behind Tony Lock, England’s slow left-arm spinner. He enjoyed the conditions and extra responsibility in Adelaide and after a couple of seasons was called for the tour of New Zealand.

Terry Jenner in his playing days His first Test came in the series opener of England’s 1970-71 visit, and he collected the wickets of John Edrich and Geoff Boycott in the drawn affair. His most famous involvement in that Test series came when, batting at No.9, he was hit in the head by a John Snow bouncer. The incident resulted in Ray Illingworth taking his side off the ground following an angry response from the SCG crowd.

Jenner, who played a single one-day international, finished his first-class career with South Australia, where he formed a strong partnership with offspinner Ashley Mallett.

After winning three Sheffield Shield trophies, he stepped down in 1976 with 389 first-class wickets at an average of 32.18. His tally included 14 five-wicket hauls, and he once recorded 10 wickets in a game.The only Australian Test cricketer to be jailed – he spent two years inside for embezzlement – Jenner credited his time coaching Warne for turning his life around.

Jenner started coaching Warne during the legspinner’s brief stint at the Academy in the early 1990s, and was on hand regularly during Warne’s record-breaking Test career to refine his action. The success he had with Warne opened up many avenues, including being an ABC commentator. His roaring voice, telling young spinners to “give it a rip”, was heard across Australia.
He suffered a massive heart attack while coaching in England in April 2010 and never fully regained his health.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Friday Night Lights

It has been sometime since I was last up at the Rose Bowl, that being the Monday bank holiday post Royal parties which turned into a blustery afternoon sheltering myself in the members bar watching Hants put on a score fit for a Sunday social.

With a long week put behind me it was with a good mood to dash out the door for the bus that was late enough to inflect at least 1 pint in the pub next door. The ground itself was clearly lacking those that figured Sky TV was the way forward out of the Southern breeze and this put a dampener on proceedings to only see a scattered collect of supporters, none of this was helped by the fact that Northamptonshire had also rested Chaminda Vass, the upside was that young Danny Briggs was returned by the English Lions last minute to be involved.

Despite the cool prevailing wind that now seems to be a constant up at the Rose Bowl, and grabbing my dinner of which a bowl of chips and pint seemed satisfying, it dawned on me that as the sun kissed the far side of the ground (opposite to the members) why the grandstand was placed where it is? Considering all the evening cricket played sitting in the members is a never a warm prospect as the shadows grow longer.

Hampshire isn’t exactly helping the crowds though the gates; showing early signs of a bank holiday style collapse before James Vince took control with a well made and durable 58; Liam Dawson did pitch in with a plucky 41 but the finishing total of 200.

Hampshire toiled at best with the bowling of Dimi and Jones, the later making a bee-line in a flurry of boucers, quicker balls over a 89mph (and the collective stadium waiting for him break in half) With an early wicket to Dimi having Newton caught-and-bowled for 23, yet this was the end of the fun as Niall O’Brien punished the Hants bowlers with his superbly hit 121 which included 10 fours and 3 sixes that sparked some life from even the home fans.

Little went right for the Hampshire attack although Mascarenhas, back after almost a year out with an ankle injury, looked well in the flesh and his bowling while not having any fruits for the labor, didn’t look labored and let’s hope he’s back for the rest of the year. But there was nothing he could do to stop O'Brien.

I must admit to being one of the few that snuck out the backdoor of the ground with 10 overs remaining, knowing the match was on Sky I figured a cheap beer from the fridge at home and consoling from my wife might make it better. It only made it warmer; the result was another one of those games where you could see it wasn’t enough; a theme is starting to form with Hampshire lets hope we can change the storey in a couple of weeks as we begin to defend the T20 Trophy.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Derby; What a Sh*thole


It's been sometime since I got myself back in front of the keyboard for an extended period of time having spent the Royal Wedding treking the countryside north of the Hampshire county lines.

Before my title brings a raft of death threats from those of the middle lands of the England, it is in relation to a storey I was told, and have been re-told many a time by a group of Derbyshire’s finest in regards to Dennis Lillie stepping out of the changing rooms at the County Ground for the first time, on a grey over cast summers day, looking to the sky and remarking on his feelings of the place.

More amusing is the shock I had when I too was given the opportunity on a holiday with my wife to escape off for a couple of hours leaving her in the female version of day-care call Westfield, so as to escape to the County Ground just within arms length. As my friend Dave flashed his media pass and we came in from the side of the ground to see Middlesex looking to finish off Derbyshire’s 1st innings. The mood at the ground on a bright balmy Good Friday was of a casualness I had not seen on my travels to Lords or the Rose Bowl, deck chairs, camping chairs, blankets and packed lunches was the norm as mad dogs and Englishmen were baking themselves in the midday sun.

As I made my way around past the old scoreboard now media block, which my initial thought was of a toilet block only to notice a toilet does sit beneath it. The miss-matched stands show clearly where the old square was rotated and now leaves plenty of room at each end for picnic chairs and dogs to roam leisurely. The members pavilion a 2 storey old style club house that resembles a school class-room block from the 80’s houses a raft a old photos.

The Clubhouse
After a few quick beers to calm the raging thirst from my walk I settled to discussing cricket with a Derbyshire member, our mood turned towards the strength of the championship and its importance regardless of those that are in attendance. In doing so I noticed that to my left seemed a very new building compared to the redbrick's I have seen and went to investigate, it was here I found the beginning of change at Derbyshire County. A brand new indoor facilities with conference rooms and indoor training nets, along with a club shop and plenty of seating out the front.

With this discovery I found my large lunch and beer consumption over taking my urge to stay awake, and like most people post lunch I settled down for a small kip, only being mildly interrupted by that familiar crack of leather on willow from time to time, followed by a polite applause. On waking up from a the usual day-dream of scoring winning runs for Australia in the Ashes I made my way back up the pavilion to again sit with further friends and family of Dave and watch as the sun moved across the ground and the discussion lead to the change of the square, the removal of the old stables and that famous Dennis Lillie quote.

A rush of blood from Chris Rodgers denied him a 50 against his old club on return with just 20 minutes to play, an announcement rings around the ground of free entry on Saturday and again the shadows grow longer as the pints get emptier. Making my way around the ground to the car I spot a few who may of had a few too many in the sun and a dog that looks as bored as many of the wives sitting next to pink bellied men.

Bottom left; a couple of resting bodies.
Whatever Dennis did or didn't see here I'm unsure as this seems like the perfect meeting place. Where the beauty in the ground is in the holder and of those they share the meeting with. Minus the chrome fittings and corporate boxes, large over baring media centre and flash hospitality rooms sits a perfect little ground for all its collection of people to sit and bask in cricket which ever way you like it.

Finding time to talk to the ground staff.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Images From The Green. No.1

A monthly image taken from my travels around cricket grounds. This months image is from the early start of April, and was taken by my wife Selina at Broadhalfpenny Down.

The season’s first wicket, by Selina Reid

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Heaven is a cricket ground.

Photo by Selina Reid

For nearly 30 years between 1750-1780, Broadhalfpenny Down was the centre of the Cricketing world. The hospitable Richard Nyren, owner of the 'Bat & Ball' and one of the foremost players of the time, provided the headquarters for the Hambledon Club; a place of much feasting and carousing for the top cricketers of the day.
This happy brotherhood took on and beat the Rest of England in a series of matches for enormous wagers watched by huge crowds. The Hambledon Club established and refined the laws of cricket. It was also responsible for developments in the game, such as length bowling, a third stump, and improving techniques. As more cricket was being played in London, the centre of gravity inevitably moved from Hambledon and the Marylebone Cricket Club, formed in 1787, became the authority for the laws and the general governance of the game.

Photo by Selina Reid

The Broadhalfpenny Brigands CC was set up to restore the playing of cricket regularly on the historic Down. The Brigands have always sought to play their cricket in a spirit of jovial comradeship mixed with keen competition and to extend a warm welcome to the many visiting teams and spectators who come to enjoy sharing in the delights of cricket on Broadhalfpenny Down.

And it was Sunday pasted that I found myself driving up to enjoy the historical pastures of this most famous of cricketing grounds as a debutant for the Brigands CC. I have long been one of the many stopping on my countryside travels to enjoy the pleasure of watching the men in white dance across the living memoirs of crickets past. It was this Sunday after much chatting and finding links from a work collogue that I would get my chance to walk out of that pavilion.

The day itself could not have been nicer for the opening of the ground, a warming ray of sun greeted all in shorts and t-shirts, and by 13:45 the ground had already accepted many a picnic blanket on its boundary as well the greeting of the two sides. The changing rooms smelled of leather pads, cricket balls and my nerves had me changed into training shorts and shirt much earlier than required. I quick jog along the far side of the ground watching the cow’s shift much like clouds made me remember the simple reason for playing cricket was the joy of being outside in the warm glow of the summer sun.

Photo by Selina Reid

The pitch itself smelled like it had just been cut and the markings of the lines freshly painted in anticipation of the game to begin. The side itself (Brigands CC) a mixture of old hands and young terrors, public school boys mixed with those of naval importance as the applauding for the opening batsman continued to drift back towards the cows.

What happened next you half expect as you open in bowling in April, a little bit on the short side and cut away for 4. What happens after defines a bowler in terms of how they return, to have him hanging his bat in the sun lent an air of noise and a finger raised, and the mind relieved at my first wicket.

What was to happen in the next hour was nothing short of either the cricketing gods shining a light on a hopeful season or a dream coming true. As a 28 year old club cricketer of the average standard that most joy comes out of playing any cricket,  let alone that of a standard fit for boasting. Today was a five wicket day, you’re never sure when they will come about you’ll sometimes take 3 or maybe 2, but that perfect 5 wickets is always just an edge short or a dropped catch away.

Five wickets, I’m sure the trees that hide the ground from the road have heard many a rattle of stumps and bails hitting the turf. Today was my day to bask in that joy of the 5th wicket falling, and after my 7th over as I trotted back towards the rope, with no applause or adoring fans to meet, just a small hear d of Jersey cows with more thoughts on eating grass than that of the game played on it.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

And so it begins.

England has been blessed in recent days with a coming of the sun to burn away any lingering thoughts of the harsh winter. And with the county season again choosing to start early all those souls that sit side-by-side within office blocks or at home looking at retired photographs of the cricket they once played can now start to think of the summer again, even if a touch earlier than normal.

The County Championship, the now not so popular competition among those under 25, fr many April is the time to dust off the pads, sand back the blade of choice, play a few defensive shots in front of the mirror before the wife walks in and start to dream of big scores in June. The shoulder aches after the first official rolling of the arm and the smell of the freshly cut square as you walk past the ground is tempting you to begin play early.

County cricket on the other hand is in full swing with all teams reporting for duty over the weekend of April madness in the sun drenched grounds across the counties. I for one was lucky to escape the clutches of 'home duties' and made it down to the Rose Bowl Sunday to watch an interesting 3rd day of cricket from the new stands. I arrived to the ground on or about 11:00 only to hear the sound of many an appeal as the last 3 batsman were returned to the hutch by 11:20, oh the dismay of an early collapse, and not just from the batsman as Simon Jones & Dominic Cork both having to leave the field for treatment (Simon not returning) De Wet the new South African/Englishman found early wickets be it off no balls.

I have a habit when watching County cricket to always be wishing the best from my fellow countrymen (Australians) no matter which county they are playing for. I have many a story of  an over night case of man-flu stopping me from getting to work, only to jump trains in the morning to see certain player obtain a 100. This day Di Venuto the 37 yr old veteran who's time in the gold & green are long past the Tasmanian opener, yet I always admired his gritty batting and on this day it seemed I might of got a milestone had it not been for the young Hampshire spinner Danny Briggs bringing my joy to an end on 40 as I opened the bag of sandwiches. My day concluded with an 'almost' historical moment as Stokes took to Dawson like a bowling machine putting him over the ropes 5 times only for a conference call to Nic Pothas insuring a 6th was not to leave the ground.

And so now my summer has begun a touch before the calendar tells me so, and a lot earlier than my wife would like. This week I shall begin the ritual of following the weather reports across 3 different websites and 2 news channels, the kit bag will be given an airing out, and the cricket shoes a wipe down, the whites still seem to be cream but the mind is completely bonkers on this silly little game. This weekend brings the early fixtures of the year, time to air out the arm pits with a few loose overs, and see if the bat works. Saturday brings a pre-season club match in Otterbourne and Sunday brings a debut at The Cradle of Cricket, and the weekend will bring further musings of a summers cricket is all that matters from April and September.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

The Rule of 4.

Yesterday as England was in the grips of the hottest day for 2011 at a mild face warming 21 degrees, so much so that men small & large were removing t-shirts at an alarming rate. With the sun showing its wares this early in April the mind tends to drift ahead a few weeks to the start of the cricket leagues, when I say ‘cricket’ leagues I don’t mean your jaguar driving, freshly pressed whites and bats with sponsor’s logos. I’m talking of the time of year when grass stained trousers show the signs of a veteran.

Having suddenly noticed someone had slipped him a Fosters, Warney quickly disposes of the venom

With the season sharply approaching and the weather now drawing more of us towards the green grass of the beer garden it made sense to look into proper preparation to a day playing cricket. There are many debates on the use of beer before, after and sometimes during sporting conquests. With many feeling its usage should be at a minimum, and others think maybe 1 is alright. My good friend Andy and I found ourselves pondering the theory of the pre-match drink, and where it sits in loosening up a player who is tense on the day leading up. We know or have been told of horror stories of nights gone wrong and days in the field ruined by an over indulgence of the amber fluid kind.

Andy tells of a great little tale from his university days when preparing for a big game against a Rival University the captain had specifically requested no pre match drinking. All the team were waiting at the bus for the 11th man, 15 minutes late Johnny Smith rocks up with his bit of skirt (she was only wearing a dressing gown – sparking riotous scenes) from the night before p*&@”d out off his mind. After a 2 hour journey he is still drunk on arrival at the crease as the innings went along his hangover grew. Dear old Johnny was not in a good state at tea! Unsurprisingly they lost the game and Johnny lost the rest of his student loan in fines.

Very few can drink and play cricket, Ponting an exception to this.

I stand on a simple mathematical equation, one not as difficult as the duckworth lewis method, but just as important to the fabric of cricket life, it is simply named ‘The Four Beer Rule’ and is in affect from the first Friday of any cricket season to the final Friday in August.

The Four Beer Rule for me works on many levels, as I'm a big fan of the ‘one round’ where the sum of those in attendance must be equal to task of necking the no. people in the amount of beers, with 4 being the limit to a round.

4 being the limit to a round back home (Melbourne) works well, mainly as you can tend to get a round in for under tenner ($2.50 for a beer) for 4 people, and if you can’t you are clearly in a bar/pub too fancy for the likes of you and your mates. Being under a tenner means that everyone can afford a round for 4. Plus it means you can take out of the bank exactly a tenner avoiding those moments passed 4 pints when your brain tries to trick you into thinking a 5th & 6th is a great idea washed down with tequila.

Now the ‘one round’ works well in groups of 3 and 4, but I find when drinking with just one other mate that 2 pints is not enough to discuss the days play at the cricket or to come up with good selections for the following days racing, and this where the double round should be employed yet not straying from The Four Beer Rule, with each member buying 2 lots of 2 pint rounds, finishing your night on the round figure 4 pints, and not opening up the wallet for more than a tenners worth.

Many will feel that they can test and find faults in such a theory and I have watch many who have failed to take hold of The Four Beer Rule and lose their way home with nothing more than a lamb sandwich to talk to. I know that there is always an exception to any rule, and we may find that within our cricket club the likes of ‘Bruce’ or ‘Pig’ can indeed put away beyond a tenners worth of rounds in a night, and it is these men that we try to avoid. We are all informed of drinking in moderation, but what is moderation? To me this is a bit airy fairy and doesn’t give your cricketing male who values figures and statistics a point of reference.

Good luck in the weather and remember – DON’T BE A FOOL, KNOW YOUR RULE

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Matthew Salmon - Positive Cricket

Matt Salmon has a busy summer ahead of him, once getting past his college exams he will have sun filled days not just playing cricket, but coaching at his home club of Petersfield, Dorset County juniors as well as his involvement in the English Schools Cricket Association (ESCA) national finals. As he said to me he shall be “eating, sleeping and breathing cricket”

It has been a rapid rise for Matthew into the coaching ranks, having started his cricket playing at a late stage of colts in 2007 with Petersfield U15 in a familiar fashion to many of us being asked to help fill in for a side lacking in numbers, this helping hand led to a successful season with lot of wickets and runs.

Like many of us, Matt's first experience of cricket was enough to pull him deeper into the fabric of life at a vibrant cricket club, having suddenly found himself involved coaching U11’s at Petersfield, he was getting full use of his Level 1 Course. From this and a family connection between his father and Dorset Under 11’s Coach Don Crawford, Matt found himself putting in the early stages of a coaching apprenticeship under Don.

Matt described his first year at Dorset in 2009 as a chance to observe and be involved in small groups specializing in wicket-keeping, but also found himself coaching seam bowling and general batting technique. From this humble beginning of retrieving cricket balls and laying out markers Matt had shown a knack for getting the best from the young chargers in his command, and in January 2010 he was given the opportunity to be heavily involved in the pre-season preparations of the side until Easter, it was with his infectious enthusiasm that he was named as Assistant Coach of the U11 Dorset side.
It was around this time that Matt’s story takes a dramatic turn in events, with such a quick rise into the ranks of junior coaching, and having embarked on his Level 2 Course Matt found himself short of breathe and struggling to play cricket. On examination by a doctor he was diagnosed with a very rare form of lung & throat cancer. With the diagnosis of a damaged lung, a large tumour is his left lung and 7 weeks of intense radiotherapy scheduled, Matt was only able to find a small amount of time to return to the nets of Petersfield CC. It seemed that the fresh air , the friendly nature of a cricket club and the continued chasing of cricket balls was just the medicine for Matt as on his return to the doctor it seemed that his lung had almost fully healed itself. Some would call such an event a miracle, from talking to Matt it was clearly a result of a positive sense of being.

With the cancer setting him back a mere 2 weeks in hospital, a time he describes as a lonely moment when all he could think of was his friends, fellow team-mates and returning to cricket, Matt returned to coaching with Petersfield CC and Dorset in a bumper season for the youngsters as they went on to win all bar a single match against Somerset, including a memorial 9 wicket victory over Hampshire.

From his achievements with Dorset junior program Matt found himself invited to be involved in the National ESCA cricket finals being held at Derbyshire’s County Ground, being involved in both the ASDA QWIK finals and also the hard ball finals, whilst he was up there he had the opportunity to meet the English cricket team’s king of the lads Graeme Swann on the final day. Matt's 2010 was one of ups and downs and was to finish off with a surprised nomination and short list for Hampshire & IOW's Outstanding Personal Achievement to Sport, which he unfortunately did not go on to win.

2011 could well be Matt's last year with Dorset, as he is hoping to attend university in the Autumn, but despite his drive to attend Nottingham University to study physiotherapy, coaching will not be far from his mind, and he hopes to continue his involvement within a County set-up during or after his return. The way Matt speaks of coaching, is not of a career choice or opportunity to be famous, but is for the joy of helping others and the pleasure you can receive in return from seeing them do well.

It obvious that Matt's illness has changed his outlook on not just coaching, but life itself and it reflects in the way he talks of his philosophy of fun while learning and providing the players with a stress free platform from which to step towards success. An answer you don’t expect from a 19 year old.

**This article is part of an ongoing series for the Hampshire Cricket Board on people involved in grassroots cricket. If you know of any extraordinary people involved in the Hampshire Leagues, please get in contact with the Cricket Observer. All past and present articles can be found in the HCB Archive**

Monday, March 28, 2011

SECL Rule Change

I recently had the opportunity to attend what some in cricket clubs loathe, AGM’s. these meetings of the mind between club and league can produce the most nodding heads in the room as we all struggle after a long day at the office to again listen to the monotone sounds of a large committee of volunteers discuss the basics of a league that is variably unchanged for 100’s years.

Personal I enjoy the meeting of captains and teams prior to the beginning of battle, this time off the field allowing the competitive cricketer the opportunity to lay down ones weapons at the door and talk in peace of the past season, hopes for the coming one and what we have done in the months of ice and snow.

The Southampton Evening Cricket League (SECL) is a traditional evening competition for which I have been told fables of players such as Robin Smith & Malcom Marshall fame strutting around on the municipal grounds of Southampton, with images of crowds 6 deep on the boundary edge. These days the 4 soon to be 5 division league is much more in the aide of those who cannot find time to escape life’s’ duties on a weekend, or for those clubs looking for an extra game (that’s where we fall) With expansion this season to 5 Divisions it shows a distinct rise in those taking up the game, even if it is in its shortest format of 16 over’s. The more men wearing white the better I think the world would be.

With the 80th year of the AGM a change was to come in the form of a new bowling rule, currently a team can bowl 1 bowler a maximum of 4 overs per a match, with most teams relying on the use of 4 bowlers. The new rule proposed was to restrict teams to 2 bowlers of 4 overs and the rest to make up the 8 remaining overs.
The committee and the argument from those in favour were to bring more people into the game, and to restrict sides with 4 “star” bowlers knocking over the opposition quickly.
For 80 years the SECL as far as can tell has always been a competitive league, based on results. In the past no club has been forced to bowl only 4 bowlers and are well within their own rights or team ethos to give everyone ago, but they haven’t for fear of losing. An argument was spoken of a side who are named after one of the major sponsors of the league and their situation of an aging team that wishes to stay competitive in the future by blooding youngsters (15-17yr olds) this season, and they fear the threat of 4 seam demons making light work of the juniors.

Is this not your choice? Yes I can see that without these youngsters you may not field a side, and heaven forbid you may even lose a few games, and at worse it could be a season of relegation battles rather the trophy and trebles, but in a league based on wins and losses why should I care if you field a young team or an old team, for its not the age of the side but how we play the game that counts.

Teams must be responsible for the way they choose to have club involvement, some sides are your all winning no losing, others like a mixture of both winning & fun and then others are there just for the post match beer. Our side falls in the middle ground of fun first with the by-product of happy team, a winning team. And our skipper has managed the difficult task of keeping people involved and winning as best he could last year, and might I add with success having won the Division crown.

For those who bowl tend not to bat, and those that bat will not be bowled is the general rule of thumb within the side. This generally allows our team of all-rounder’s to be given a chance to perform in one part of the game. Now this worked and allowed us to win games as well enjoy our Thursday afternoons in the fading sunlight, had we not won games I doubt anything would have changed for our 4 bowlers would still been given the ball more than they were given the bat.

By encouraging sides to find a 5th bowler this could prove detrimental to the league, many of the sides we played found it hard to have 4 solid bowling options let along a 5th and in some cases a 6th. Even in the top Divisions you don’t want to be showcasing men unable to hit the strip. The by-product of this will result in pie-chuckers getting more overs therefore increasing the runs and lowering your chances of wickets, so in the end you will have more batsmen walking the boundary and topping up the tan than you will actually batting, so in the end 1 extra person gets to bowl, where as 8 more men get to watch the openers bat.

The SECL would have been better off introducing a retiring batsman rule of say 50 runs, thus allowing a team to rely on batting as a unit rather than putting all its eggs into one basket of 2 openers. When looking at some of the averages and discussing this with other sides it was clear that teams having a strong opener/s were keeping the rest of the side watching birds. By having this rule you appease to every cricketers thoughts process, not everyone can bowl, but every loves to bat. And is this that brings the pleasure to the amateur player, you never get caught by the good wife practising your googly in the mirror its always that blazing cover drive that see’s us using cooking spoons as MRF’s.

Out with the Old, in with the Bold.

It was as if all the lead up matches had been taken as they were warm-ups for the real show. As Ponting strode out to the wicket with a gritted face of determination knowing that this is career defining moment either way it ends up. Having failed against the lesser sides and claiming his big score was only around the corner, he was now to turn the corner.

A knock of courage when the entire stadium is against you for most of the tournament the media as well, stories of broken TV’s, match fixing all a ploy by the local tabloids to throw off the World Cup holders. It was a tough ask for any team to win 4 World Cups in a row, a feat not even achieved at a football level. Since Steve Waugh's men began the dynasty in 1999, the football title has changed hands four times: from France to Brazil, then Italy and now Spain. Winning one world tournament is exceedingly difficult, let alone three in succession.

This was not an Australian side of aging superstars like the one that claimed the Ashes white wash on home soil,, the side was one with a foot firmly planted on both sides of the fence, with veterans in Michael Hussey, Ricky Ponting, Brad Haddin & Brett Lee at least 3 of these have seen the last of World crickets 6 week festival and one will be hard pressed to hold his spot down for the next. Australia took the risk of playing an all pace attack in a land of dusty roads, the results were either going to be bowling sides out for little or giving them a lot. Unlike the summers Ashes tour no blame I feel can be laid on the selectors as for once they took the best available, some will talk of Doherty instead of Krezja but what one did the other would have done no better.

It was the single loss to Pakistan that in truth sent them home a little earlier, having lost that match it set them up to play India much earlier than they would have liked. Winning would have enabled a match-up of less importance against a sloppy West Indian team. Hindsight can be life’s burden when dealing with the past, but if the stars align this Indian side should go on to win the trophy. India’s batting towards the tail is like fighting a centipede of runs, the further you get down the order the more runs are available. Even the dismissal of Sachin and the denial of his 100th century in front of partisan crowd of color and sound, was not enough to put out the flames of runs burning in the scorched outfield.

That is little consolation to this 2011 Australian squad, roughly half of whom didn't experience any of those earlier successes. Times change, and to be beaten by an India side that was better than Australia is no disgrace. Ponting's team entered the tournament with the No.1 ODI ranking - for now, they still hold that position - but were far from being the favorites’.

There were factors beyond their control that contributed to their lack of success. Their two frontline spinners, Nathan Hauritz and Xavier Doherty, were unavailable due to injuries, as were fast bowlers like Clint McKay and Ryan Harris, who could have added variety. Two weeks in the middle of the tournament without a match, when their clash with Sri Lanka was washed out, didn't help either.

But ultimately, Australia just weren't good enough. Four teams will reach the semi-finals, and will deserve to be there. Australia did not play well enough to join them. That is not to say that the powers that be should blindly accept that nothing can be done. Moving on and making hard decisions will allow regrowth and rejuvenation.

The selectors will be loath to make any major changes, including to the leadership, before the review of Australia's on-field performance is completed around August. After the Ashes debacle, they have their own jobs to worry about without rocking the boat further. Why pre-empt the review, they will ask. But it would be wise to use the Bangladesh trip to look at some new faces, men who might become key players for Australia over the next few years.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

The last of the Winter Reads.

The sun is starting to win the battle against the clouds into my front room which can only mean that the days shall given extra time and the season is only a few weeks away. So with a flurry of reading I have come across my final two winter reads for the off-season.

The summer rarely brings an end to the turning of pages, but these books tend to be of the statistical variety rather than of the stories of great series and moments in history.

My first review is of the IMRAN KHAN by Christopher Sandford, I must admit that this book was plucked from a discount counter only catching my eye on by the staring Imran on the cover and my memory casting itself back to 1992, the year I actually started to take an interest in the sport. As a 10 year old growing up in an English household in the sprawling Northern suburbs of Melbourne, England were favourites to win the World Cup, the first of its kind played in the colourful pyjamas’ that we are now all common with as standard attire.

Following the fortunes of the English side around the lounge room television with my extended Dorset bred family I watched the Pakistani’s take victory from England. Imran Khan to me stood out as beacon of power, grace and brilliance as he led them to an unlikely victory at the MCG. I only knew the much needed stories of his love life and those tails of 1992.

As I opened the pages of this biography, I found this to be more a collection of notes taken from other biographies. Christopher Sandford seems to have read everyone else’s views and placed his own amongst them. Imran is intriguing character painted as crickets playboy of the 70’s his love life is written length of his trips to London and his love of all the beautiful women and if I was a lover of the tabloid types I would have found the lengthen moments of this time interesting, but in truth it just dragged out.

Much of this biography talks of the man outside of the ropes and his early political ambitions within his manoeuvring to gain control and power among the Pakistan Cricket Board. As a direct reference point to Imran not much is left out by Sandford, including the collection of series statists from almost unknown cigarette sponsored one-day series played in Pakistan/India. Imran’s early days are well research as his rise though the Warwickshire ranks and Oxford elite. The only fault I found with this book is its dragging need to go in-depth of series nor I or many others knew were happening and on the sub-continent, and yet the thin coverage of his greatest moment in the World Cup victory and the tournament itself.

Having read much about Imran in past books, some of these featured in the Winter Read reviews. I felt that Sandford left the great image of Imran holding the World Cup on the MCG as a passing moment rather that a timeless achievement.

This book is the definitive collection on all things Imran Khan including his move into Pakistan politics and building of his Cancer Hospital, and for those who wish to get an outsiders view on a private man I would suggest this read. If you are breezing reader who enjoys a story as much on the romance of the sport as its characters I advise you look to else ware.

My final review of those books we use to keep the cricket fires burning can best be described as a nightstand leveller, a book that is a good little page turner for those times before we slip into our dream worlds of taking wickets for our prospective countries on sun soaked days. The World According to Bumble by David Lloyd, is a collection of short stories in no particular order and are the musings of the better known Sky Sports commentator.

David is known as the joker in the pack among the team Sky’s television troupe, and his thoughts on all things cricket, pubs, county championship and what makes a good cricketer are as detailed as a brown painted wall.

I’m sure David Lloyd has a vast amount of cricketing knowledge from his days as an English player and coach, and in many ways he has seen the game from all its angles even behind the stumps and sat at a press conference, yet this book seems to jump from jokes of players in dressing rooms (Freddie Flintoff and cup of ice story worth a read) to the improvement of the Lancashire Leagues don’t seem to sit as well side by side in this large script short chaptered book.

Despite the lack of meat in the read this is the perfect book for the new found lover of cricket, and would make for a good addition to the cricketing bag for the season to be read in short bursts while either waiting to bat or in those times of an early exit from the field. I would look forward in anticipation of a serious book from David Lloyd as what he does cover briefly could do with further detail in a book all to itself.

Make this your final read before the season and prepare your mind for the laughs to come from the misfortune of teammates or giggles of the pranks to come of a season in the sun.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

A little bit of Pakistan in Essex

With a cricket World Cup now moving into the important rounds for the top 8 nations in the world it is understandable that there will be cricket news to slip under the radar such as Tasmania winning the Sheffield Shield for the 2nd time in its history, Raul Dravid lining up for the MCC against Nottinghamshire in the season opener and the trail of former Essex cricketer Mervyn Westfield accused of dishonesty in a 40 over county match in 2009.

How this has been swept under the carpet with the lead up to the new county season is beyond me! Had this had been a Pakistan or Indian player it would have made front page news. The News Of The World and other media outlets quite rightly jumped all over the red-faced Pakistan cricketers caught in the middle of the "no ball" scandal.

Mervyn Westfield it is alleged to have bowled a certain number of wides in a 40-over match against Durham last season, a match that screen live on Sky and had vast sums of money bet on the out come in the sub-continent. The ECB seems to have tried to forget about this scandal within its own competition and was partly saved by the Pakistan scandal happening at almost the same time as news of this broke.

With Mervyn now due in court, I think it is time that the ECB and other domestic competitions look into such behavior of players and officials. The County circuit is known for its poetic grounds and mid-week play in-front of 3 men and a dog, but if these 3 men have a vested interest in who is bowling wides & no balls who is to say that this is not happening else where during the season. A raft of international inquires could push the dodgy bookmaker away from the international dressing rooms and into the suburban outposts of county change rooms.

The other intriguing fact about this case is that Mervyn unlike his Pakistan counter parts continued to play cricket. The ICC leant on the Pakistan Board of Control to stop them from playing yet the ECB and ICC have not held Mervyn back one bit, so much so that he has continued to play for the 2nd XI and took four wickets in their one-day trophy final defeat of Lancashire. He has also been playing club cricket for Wanstead and was named their player of the year 2010. Mervyn's contract was not renewed for this season.

It baffles me that the County Championship has not come out with a statement of intent to look into any allegations, and take a hard line on anyone found to be involved in any form of match fixing no matter how trivial. This is a blight on the game of cricket at an international level and is clearly not just confined to Pakistan, we should looking to name and shame anyone involved in such a practice.

The offence of conspiracy to defraud, under the Criminal Justice Act 1987, carries a maximum jail sentence of 10 years and an unlimited fine.

Monday, March 21, 2011

The Streak has ended.

The streak has ended, 34 matches across 3 World Cups. A tense 4 wicket to Pakistan has given them top spot in the group.

The Australian top order was shut down with the use of seam from Gul (3-30) and showed up the Australians as truly lacking a confident match winning batsman amongst them. Ricky Ponting again will become the scape goat for much of the Aussie media as he struggled at the crease, and sparked unwarranted controversy when not walking on a full blooded nick to the keeper. The umpires original decisions was not out and it took a Pakistan review to see the back of him.

I didn't see anything wrong in Ponting standing his ground, and has long been one to wait for the umpires decision before leaving. With the introduction of the review system, why not make the opposition earn your wicket if the umpire is unsure. And I think we need to get used to the possibility of seeing more of this type of stand-off between batsman, bowler and umpire.

Australia had not faced a serious challenge in previous games and the result will surely stiffen their resolve ahead of the knockout phase of the competition, where a clash with India awaits. Their batting display against Pakistan was an oddly subdued effort and Shane Watson had already been bowled for nine by the impressive Gul before skipper Ricky Ponting was dismissed in controversial circumstances.

Australia have been saying how they wanted a test after easing through most of the group stage but the batting wasn't up to it on a difficult surface that offered spin and a touch of uneven bounce. Two batsmen desperate for a substantial innings, Ponting (19) and Cameron White (8), both struggled leaving the lower order exposed to an attack that had all the bases covered on a surface offering spin and reverse swing.

After their batting subsided with 20 balls unused, Australia's only chance was to bowl Pakistan out, but in the event it required Lee himself to do most of the damage. He removed both openers in a fiery new-ball burst before returning to claim Younis Khan and Misbah-ul-Haq with consecutive deliveries in 23rd over, leaving Pakistan wobbling on 98 for 4.

The remaining members of the pace attack were found wanting, With attacking fields set by Ricky Ponting, further boundaries were notched up by Kamran and Shafiq, who had to battle some pain after twisting his ankle, but Lee kept his side in the match singlehandedly.

This match didn't have the do or die emotions of the England/West Indies as both sides progressed though, but Australia will now face one of the top seeds to India a little earlier into he knock out phases than they'd like. Australia I think will struggle against India and we could be seeing the end of the tournament for the men in green & gold. For all the beating up of the associate nations like a school yard bully, on a testing surface Australia were found to be searching for answers from each other, rather than from within.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

World Cup Catch-up Report.

It has been over a week since my last review, and if anything I have been too far away from my PC to have an opportunity to put fingers to keys to describe what I have been witness to.

Australia found themselves in cruise control against a Kenya side that showed plenty of fight to continue to charge in time and time again against some of the best batsmen the world has to offer. Australia have not yet been truly tested in this World Cup, they have not been clinical in their victories if anything they seem to building to a final performance rather than setting the fields alight.

Michael Hussey on his return gave a full performance of cut and thrust one-day cricket as he glanced and pulled his way to 54 runs, before trying to clear the ropes and falling short. Michael Clarke seemed sure to make his debut World Cup 100 as he teamed with Hussey for 114 between them, at 93 it was all but assured only for he to seemingly throw his wicket away with uncharacteristic attempt to clear the fences.

The highlights seem to all be from Kenya, as the associate nation knowing in its heart no chance of chasing the 325 required. AA Obanda sent the partisan crowd into cheers as he smashed a Shaun Tait slower ball well back into very deep mid-off, for which Tait replied with an 85mph flare of pure speed to knock back his middle stump. CC Obuya put together a tidy innings amongst the boring as he showed first-rate shot selection on his way to well deserved asterisk next to his 98 and was a true shame not to have reached three figures against the current trophy holders, his innings was not without its hiccups as he ran his brother in the early overs, and this may have been the reason he was so keen to stay out on the field till the end.

Ricky Ponting will be acutely aware that his team were far from impressive especially in the field. The bowlers, except for Brett Lee, certainly looked rusty as Kenya posted their best World Cup total. No spinner was able to get in a bowling groove, and as the game moved further along to its 50 overs it has the feeling of net session rather than pool match. With Canada tomorrow morning I can’t see Australia really moving out of this cruise mode anytime soon, if anything a big match might spark more of a fire.

And then there was England, oh England, the great entertainers of this tournament with the ability to dazzle the spectators and bedazzle themselves as they go from having both hands on the wheel to seemingly jumping out of a speeding car. It is now quite obvious that this is a tiring side that needs a break, whether that break comes of an exit in the tournament the days shall tell. You can see in the frustration on Strauss’s face, even the anger from Swann showed a spinner who is pleading for a break. And then we come to Prior who’s dismissal showed that he is on a bad run of form that nothing other than a afternoon in the stands will only fix, Prior needs to move away from the opening spot you can see it in his eyes that he is on edge and in a position where he is just waiting for the mistake, and this mental torment is not helping his glove work either as he scraps and lets balls fly past his ears.

Before I start to go into the issues of the English innings as they again were involved in a cliff hanger of a match against Bangladesh, it must be said that when poise was needed it was the Bangladesh that showed the mental strength to gut out a win from an England side that started badly but also pulled itself together only to not find the final internal urge to fight for the last remaining overs.

It was clearly a sluggish track for which runs would have to be earned not given, England batting first put on a 225 which in the conditions seemed a manageable score if not slightly behind what might have been. Trott again just improved his standing in this World Cup with 67 grafted runs from 128 balls, and I feel will come out of this cup the most spared of the English for any criticism. Morgan scored his first fifty in World Cups. He now has 154 runs from ten innings at an average of 15.40. In ODIs overall, he averages nearly 39 with four hundreds and 11 fifties. Collingwood had an opportunity late in the game batting well down the order to steady the sinking ship, only to find himself short of the crease and run out on 14.

The left-arm spin of Abdur Razzak was especially impressive. It was he who stunted England's ambitions with his first-ball removal of Matt Prior, and he did not concede a single boundary until Ravi Bopara larruped the third ball of his final over through the covers. Even then, Razzak had the last laugh, as two balls later Bopara tried the same trick and picked out Naeem Islam in the covers. It was Razzak's earlier spell that set the tone, however, as he and Naeem squeezed all ambition out of England's top-order in a boa-like alliance that resulted in 19 singles and nothing else between overs 7 and 17.

With England having to do the talking with its now injured and jaded pace attack. Anderson again was having a torrid time finding line, length and a variation to tempt the batsman into anything untoward. Swann despite his protest resulting in a 10% reduction in his match fee was the pick of the bowlers again along with Shazad who if anything with the injuries to others has shown he is a great asset with variation and intensity.

Yet as Strauss raised his hands to his cover his head in frustration of watching the 58 run 9th wicket stand between Mahmudullah and Shafiul Islam, the man who had the game in the palm of his hand was the eventual - and rightful - Man of the Match Imrul Kayes, the less-vaunted of Bangladesh's opening batsman, who slipstreamed Tamim Iqbal during a captivating 38 from 26 balls that put Bangladesh firmly ahead of the run-rate, before settling down to play the holding role with a chanceless 100-ball 60.

Last week Bangladesh was being showered with brickbats - literally - after a spineless surrender in Dhaka. Now those same players will be garlanded by a jubilant nation they now have a real chance to propel themselves to the quarter-finals. England, meanwhile, must ride the rollercoaster for the sixth match in succession. Another slip-up, and this time it really will be the end.

Monday, March 7, 2011

England vs. South Africa

England 171 (Bopara 60, Trott 52, Tahir 4-38) beat South Africa 165 (Amla 42, Broad 4-15) by six runs

If there is anything I will recommend for the remaining weeks of this competition is wake up and watch England whenever and whoever they are playing you will get everything and sometimes a little more.

It wasn't very clear at the end of the England innings as to if they had been taken by a ruthless attack, or the pitch had played a part in the 171. Bopara again keeps his head above water in the eyes of the selectors with a scratchy 60, and without repeating myself from previous posts he still doesn't look comfortable in his own kit. Trott again showing that he is emerging into a classic one-day player and at this rate will be a mentioned in the same breath as some of the greats of this format with his 52.

At 171 I had South Africa to blitz this target, Smith and Amla could put this on most days in a canter. The wicket proved to be one of the best so far  [discounting the Bangladesh dust bowl Thursday] Despite the tricky pitch, South Africa had broken the back of the run-chase after an opening stand of 63 between Graeme Smith and Hashim Amla. Looking seemingly in total control South Africa tighten up at the crease and in doing so lost 3 wickets for 19, the biggest being Kallis very early off Broad. Who should be said deferred the use of the review and instead went to Prior himself to check the catch, Prior gave him the nod of yes, and Kallis tucked his bat under his arm (if only they all played so nice)

AB de Villiers, who began the tournament with back-to-back hundreds, and du Plessis are normally free-flowing batsman, but they decided to consolidate rather than attack during their 42-run stand. It wasn't a major problem for South Africa at the time with the asking rate remaining comfortable, but it conceded the momentum and when the breakthroughs came England still had runs to play with.

Anderson produced a great burst of reverse-swing as he trimmed de Villiers' bails and then clattered JP Duminy's stumps two balls after he'd been reprieved by the DRS having been given caught down the leg side. It had been a controversial moment because there didn't seem enough evidence to overrule the on-field umpire, but Anderson soon made it irrelevant. In between those two wickets, Bell showed brilliant alertness at short leg as he stopped du Plessis's shot and flicked it to Prior in time to complete the run out.

With the loss of Duminy you could sense that despite a target only 40 odd runs away, it seems a bridge too far and the South Africans looked defeated from the players balcony. Michael Yardy, the weak link in the attack, then had Peterson caught behind trying to cut but the mandatory ball-change at 34 overs meant the threat of reverse swing was momentarily removed. Strauss showed inspired captaincy in keeping Swann back and bowling Pietersen and Yardy in tandem, a spell that could well have ended KP's tournament with a hernia.

Because of the extensive use of the spinners Strauss was able to return to his quicks at the death and with 12 needed Tim Bresnan found van Wyk's inside-edge which crashed into the stumps. Then it was over to Broad who trapped Steyn lbw with his first ball and Morkel had clearly decided to try and finish the game quickly when he got the final edge.

Despite being another thrilling match, this again was in a different light to the India, Ireland or Dutch game in its dimension and direction in which the game flowed. South Africa and Smith again will be wearing a chockers tag for the remaining group matches which they should pass unchecked. And England will now have to deal with a KP exit which leaves that not just short an opener, but also a spare spinner. England have sparked a final World Cup flame and keep the dream alive, and if anything have proven that anything is possible not only for them, but for the remainder of this tournament.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Punt Road Oval says farewell

Further to my article last month on Richmond CC leaving the famed Punt Rd Oval. This weekends Premier First XI match between Richmond and Hawthorn-Monash University is likely to be the last Premier First XI match at Punt Road Oval. The club has invited a number of past champions to attend the second day of the match on Saturday for the historic occasion.

Punt Road Oval, or the Richmond Cricket Ground, has been the Tigers' home since November, 1855. The first documented match there took place on Boxing Day, 1856, when Richmond defeated Melbourne by 40 runs. Apart from approximately 700 VCA/Premier First XI matches in the past 105 years, the ground has hosted a number of important representative matches including:

First-Class Matches

1932-33 Victoria v Tasmania
1999-00 Victoria v Tasmania
1999-00 Victoria v New South Wales
2000-01 Victoria v New South Wales
2001-02 Victoria v Queensland
2001-02 Victoria v New South Wales
List A Matches
1999-00 Victoria v ACT
2000-01 Victoria v New South Wales
2000-01 Victoria v South Australia
2001-02 Victoria v Queensland
2001-02 Victoria v South Australia
Women's Test Match
1990-91 Australia v India
Women's ODIs
1988-89 Australia v England
1988-89 Ireland v New Zealand
Women's National Cricket League Matches
1997-98 Victoria v New South Wales
1997-98 Victoria v New South Wales
1997-98 Victoria v Western Australia
1997-98 Victoria v Western Australia
1998-99 Victoria v South Australia
1998-99 Victoria v South Australia
2000-01 Victoria v South Australia
2000-01 Victoria v South Australia
2002-03 Victoria v South Australia
2002-03 Victoria v South Australia

As I wrote in my last article it will a lost memory of cricket being played on this central city ground, and true shame for the lovers of the game in Victoria. For many outside of Melbourne this will seem as story that is all to familiar, of cricket grounds being swallowed by the city influx.

Below are some photos sourced from the Victoria Premier Cricket website on the 1st day of the final match.

Doug Ring- Bill Johnson Scoreboard named after two Legends of the club.

The view from the scorers box high up. Notice the famous old stands
Construction continues, and to the far side the busy Punt Rd traffic, passing time stuck in Saturday traffic watching cricket.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

England vs. Ireland

Ireland 329 for 7 (K O'Brien 113, Cusack 47, Swann 3-47) beat England 327 for 8 (Trott 92, Bell 81, Pietersen 59, Mooney 4-63) by three wickets

getty images

The moments are starting to happen, and they all seem to be around England. Wether its heroic one man knocks from the Dutch superstar to keep his team in the match, to a graceful captain’s knock from Strauss to bring England back from the brink. And then Ireland .....

Kevin O'Brien stunned England with the fastest hundred in World Cup history as Ireland secured their greatest victory with a monumental three-wicket triumph in Bangalore. O'Brien clubbed a magnificent 113 off 63 deliveries as Ireland earned the highest World Cup run-chase with four balls to spare. After he'd added a match-changing 162 with Alex Cusack, John Mooney joined him to play the innings of his life and help write another famous chapter in Irish sport.

England won the toss and entered the arena with plenty of confidence, and this showed in the batting as Pietersen, Trott and Bell kept the score moving to a sizable total for any side let alone Ireland. Towards the back end of the innings it seemed that England was comfortable in the score they had produced as the lower order threw its wicket away cheaply.

Ireland did not start well, Porterfield was the 3rd opener this WC to be out first ball as he dragged the ball onto his stumps, Ed Joyce and Niall O'Brien all played neatly their contributions were seemingly too insignificant in such a huge pursuit.

As Ed Joyce departed it seemed he had taken Irelands chances with him, O’Brien’s innings was like watching a heavy weight fighter against an amateur, he just bossed the bowling taking 16 off Yardy with a blaze of 4’s and 6’s, and 24 runs off both Anderson and Bresnan. O’Brien reminded me of the clubbing efforts of Symonds in South Africa against Pakistan, or Matthew Hayden when in full brutal flight, bringing up his hundred off 50 balls with a tuck for two into the leg side to beat Matthew Hayden's World Cup record of 66 deliveries. It led to a reveal of his the purple head-do as part of Ireland's charity fundraising campaign.

There was still a twist in this game as England blundered again opportunity to close the match off due to nervous fielding, It will be largely forgotten because of what followed, but Trott wrote his own place in the record books when he reached 1000 runs in his 21st innings to equal the mark set by Viv Richards.

Ireland surely I feel have done enough for test status, many will argue it’s all been at World Cups and no other competitions, but Bangladesh beat one full status nation once and the ICC rubber stamped its rise into the full international ranks. After this victory, coupled with the rise of many Irish players within county cricket now is the right time for the country to be involved in the 5 day game. If anything they will offer countries like Zimbabwe, Bangladesh and to some extent NZ a good opposition. The ICC must ride this wave with Ireland and help make this their opportunity to progress the sport.

The vote that has asked for the associate members not to be involved in the next World Cup to be staged in Aust/NZ is looking more foolish the further this tournament continues, yes there will be white washes from time to time, without them we shall lose story lines and David & Golaith victories. The World Cup so far has proven that teams like the Netherlands and Ireland have earned their place and are an inspiration for other developing nations in cricket.