Monday, January 31, 2011

Lancashire in court battle.

A high court challenge has been set for the Old Trafford upgrade, to be February 28th.

The Lancashire CC has already spent $1.5m in set-up costs and the delay in the development is only going to add more this already growing bill. The club said it could lose £5m funding from the North West Regional Development Agency, if the legal action was not cleared by April 2011.

The upgrade was set to be complete in time for the 2013 Ashes Series, and would involve a revamping of stands, new pitches and the pavilion. Lancashire CC has already had a loss of £2m in grants due to the delay.

This is further evidence of the Cricket Observers recent article regarding County clubs over spending on stadia and conference facilities, rather than putting the money into the cricket department themselves.

Derwent Holdings, challenged the original planning permission after Trafford Council rejected Derwent's application for a smaller Sainsbury's store at White City on the grounds that it would impact on trade.

However, Derwent have argued that the council gave permission close by for a Tesco's store, a development which is part of the Lancashire CCC plans.The plans were called in by Communities and Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles for review, who sent them back to Trafford Council which approved the proposals in September.

Derwent Holdings Ltd is one of several companies set up by the Kwik Save founder Albert Gubay.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Alan Bundy and the Evolution of a League

As the cricket grounds around Hampshire start to the thaw out, it’s nice to take the opportunity to look past the grounds, and discuss the game from the seated position of those that have influenced and seen it grow over the years.

Alan Bundy is one of these fine people that have given not just their ideas, but time to see the Southern Electric Premier Cricket League prosper into what we all enjoy today. A former goalkeeper who played County Football locally and semi-professionally in Canada during the 60’s. Alan is now a retired structural engineer, whose ability to organise has had him at the helm of the SEPCL during its inception in the ECB structure. He continues to be involved in its ongoing development.

After a life as a footballer in Canada during the early stages of its professional leagues, Alan Bundy the goal keeper became Alan Bundy the gloveman at 32 for the Merlin CC evening side and later part time keeper with the Deanery CC. He talks of his passion over ability that kept him in the team, and his ability to be a good organiser of men that made him one of the early team managers in the league.

From behind the stumps to sorting out the team sheets, this led Alan to standing in the middle for his club. In 1988 John Wolfe, incoming chairman at the time of the Southern League looked to Alan and others to help form a team of independent umpires. This was the inception of the South Coast Panel of umpires. From 1989 Alan was involved in umpiring County Second XI & Minor Counties for 9 years, having the opportunity of standing with the likes of Dickie Bird and John Holder. Alan talks fondly of meeting Paul Collingwood in a match against Berkshire, when probed on what he first noticed of the recently retired England test player he said “he was a nice guy”.

In 1999 the ECB began to transform the county leagues into “Premier” competitions after the Lord MacLaurin “Raising the Standards” report. During this time when Mark Readman was Chairman and Alan was League Secretary, Alan played a key role in the shaping of the league we see today. Having been part of the Management team for some years he became chairman in 2000, while continuing to umpire until 2005.

ECB Premier League Accreditation wanted all ‘Time Cricket’, something the Management Committee would find hard to sell to Clubs used to result cricket. The final decision of the League was a split format, nine ‘Limited Overs Games’ plus nine ‘Time Games’. With this presentation the Southern League obtained partial ECB accreditation. As time has passed the ECB fully accepted the split format and gave SEPCL full ECB Premier accreditation

A believer that all forms cricket have their merit. Alan has passion for the contest that is timed cricket, and hopes that it is not pushed out of the league by those that are too result driven. He relishes the quest of a batsman hanging on late in the summer evening as his side is slowly sinking, or the attacking nature of the opening spells of a team fielding first. With this in mind Alan passionately believes the SEPCL keep timed cricket as part of it’s schedule.

His most satisfying achievement in the Chair of the League was in 2003 helping to have the Hampshire Academy accepted into the league. This meant dual registrations for promising young players taken from member clubs to play for the Academy, something he felt may be hard to sell to the member clubs. However accepted it was. Alan talks of a discussion many years ago with Maurice Tremlett, father of Tim, when Maurice said there is no point in playing my young son in the first team just to field, he needs to bowl and bat if he is to progress. This chat often comes to mind when he sees the success and development of young academy players under the stewardship of Tony Middleton, opening the bowling and batting against the best in the SEPCL. Alan is still a strong supporter of the development program and its progression.

* To read the orginal article from the Hampshire Cricket Board click here.

**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, January 24, 2011

Around The Grounds - Sydney Cricket Ground SCG

Also or formerly known as Sydney Cricket Ground No. 1; Garrison Ground (1848-1877), Association Ground
End names Paddington End, Randwick End

Established 1848 Capacity 44002

Situated in Moore Park in the city's east, the Sydney Cricket Ground is one of the world's most famous cricketing venues. For a stadium in a major centre, it has a relatively limited capacity (a little over 40,000) but this has the direct benefit of ensuring that spectators are close to the action from virtually any point in the ground. Its limited capacity is, in fact, essentially the result of the extension over recent years of seating to most parts of a stadium now devoid of its long famous hill and instead dominated by the Brewongle, Churchill, O'Reilly, Noble and Doug Walters Stands. The green-roofed Ladies pavilion remains, still one of cricket's most famous landmarks.
Cricket has been played at the ground from as long ago as the 1848, and then known as the Garrison Ground, but many other sports, predominantly football codes, have established a presence, to such an extent no less that a bike track actually ringed the playing surface between the 1890s and 1920s. This relationship has also been tested by the generally strained connection between the SCG Trust (the body appointed to control the ground) and the New South Wales Cricket Association, the low point of which was reached in the late 1970s when Neville Wran's State government created legislation to reconfigure the composition of the Trust and bring Kerry Packer's World Series Cricket to the ground.

By the time of the first Sydney cricket test in February 1882, the ground could boast two grandstands; the Brewongle Stand at the southern end and the original Members' Stand, which had been built in 1878 in the north west corner where the current Members' Stand now sits. On opposite sides of the ground to the stands two spectator mounds were built. They became known as The Hill and the Paddington Hill. In 1886, the Members' Pavilion was rebuilt at a cost of £6625. Membership was levied at two guineas.

In 1896 the Ladies' Stand was opened, along with a concrete cycling track which circled the inside of the ground. One of the carpenters who built the formwork for the track was George Bradman, father of Don Bradman. In 1898 floodlights were built over the cycling track so that night events could be held. In 1904 the scoreboard was rebuilt at the top of The Hill and in 1909 the Sheridan Stand, named after Phil Sheridan, was opened at the southern end, replacing the earlier Smokers' Stand.

The SCG Trust has announced the MA Noble, Bradman and Dally Messenger Stands will be demolished and rebuilt before the 2015 Cricket World Cup, it will increase ground capacity to 48,000 spectators. Finally after the 2015 Cricket World Cup, the Trust is keen to redevelop the Bill O'Reilly stand, further increasing the grounds capacity. The ground will be a near complete modern "bowl" stadium with the exception of the two heritage listed Members and Ladies stands.

The SCG in its early days was known as favourable for batting, and many a mammoth scores were produced on the ground, including a 425 not out by Sir Donald Bradman during the 1929-30 season. The first test was played at the SCG in 1882, Australia won that game by overhauling England's scores of 133 and 232 with scores of 197 and 5 for 169. The 1928-29 season was a big one for cricket. On 15 December, the largest ever crowd to attend a cricket match at the SCG, 58,446, saw Australia and England play. With changes to the ground seating the record is unlikely to be beaten.

These days the SCG is better known as a spinner’s wicket, ironically enough, Shane Warne, arguably the greatest spinner in the history of cricket made a horrible debut here at the SCG and was torn apart by the Indian batsman, notably Ravi Shastri who scored his first and only double hundred here in 1992.

The SCG has long been the final venue for the summers Test series, regardless of which nation is in the country at the time. These days tours are continued with ODI’s and T20’s.

Moments at the SCG.
  • England retained the Ashes against Australia in a dominating finish to the series winning by an innings and 83 runs. With centruions on the score card in Ian Bell [115] Alistair Cook [189] & Matt Prior [118]
  • Don Bradman made his first visit to the ground in the 1920-21 season to watch the Fifth Test of the Australia and England series. In that game Charlie Macartney scored 170 to help seal a win for Australia.
  • Night cricket came to the SCG in 1978 with the first World Series Cricket match to be played at the SCG on 28 November that year. A crowd of 50,000 packed the ground.
  • Despite not having the greatest beginning of his career at the ground, Shane Warne has taken the most wickets with 64, the next closest is Stuart McGill with 53, proving how much of a spinners wicket it has become.
  • The first women's club cricket match was held at the SCG in 1886 when the Fernleas played the Siroccos. Although cricket was not seen as an appropriate game for women, women's cricket associations were formed in Victoria in 1905 and other states in the 1920s and 1930s.
  • In the last test of the 1970-71 English tour, England fast bowler John Snow struck Australian spinner and tailender Terry Jenner on the head with a bouncer. The Sydney crowd let Snow and the English know they were not happy with this, cans were thrown onto the field and England captain Ray Illingworth took his team from the ground.


The Mott Effect

A quick news story found while flipping my way though cricket stories, I came across the early signs of Matthew Mott already getting the Glamorgan ship in order, getting the signature of Jim Allenby, the Australian-born All-rounder who had an improved season last year. There was fear that that Glamorgan would lose players after the events of last season, but it seems the signing of Mott and Petersen has convinced the young gun to re-sign with the Dragons.

Capturing 53 wickets and scoring 1,432 runs. The Dragons have agreed to a further 1 year extension.

Glamorgan will be seeing more of this from Allenby in 2011

Orange Report V - vs. South Australia

With a return to form in the loss to NSW, ten Doeschate and Tasmania were greeted with a good conditions and the same wicket used for the ODI as they were paired up in a top of the table clash with south Australia. Tasmania won the toss, and of course chose to bat.

It was an early walk to the wicket for ten Doeschate, as Tasmania lost quick wickets 3/31 at the end of the 5th. Starting slowly the Dutchman worked the ball to fielders, finding his batting cramped by the South Australian spinners. After 10 overs Ryan ten Doeschate had 7 runs from 18 balls, not exactly lighting it up. Tasmania and found themselves in deep trouble at this point 55/5 after 10 overs.

The Dutchman seeing the need for runs before he ran out of partners started to play his shots against Christian, taking 6 from his over and a further 5 from Borgas. The big hitting would be his undoing in the end as he tried to sweep Rashid, hitting him hard and flat into the hands of Aiden Blizzard, scoring 22 from 30 balls. Not his biggest score, but he would be Tasmania’s leading runs scorer as they were strangled by SA, never getting a partnership going Tasmania had left South Australia a poultry 110 to chase.

It was all too easy for South Australia; they chased the score losing only the single wicket of Klinger, as Blizzard & Harris raced to the total in 11.3 overs, finishing the Tigers off with a 6 over long on. South Australia was clinical and ruthless in the chase, showing why they are top of the Big Bash table. Tigers are still in the play-off spots, but will have to recover quickly for Thursdays match against Western Australia.

Despite not bowling again, Ryan ten Doeschate walked away as the best of a bad match for Tasmania, and now seems to have settled his batting into the line-up. While not lighting it up as of yet, there is more confidence in his strokes.

Stay tuned to Cricket Observer for further Orange Reports.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Winter Reads II - The Cricket War by Gideon Haigh

I must admit it’s been some time since my last winter read up here, in this time I stopped and started a book, that in the end I’m using it to keep my desk level. My journey to Australia over the Ashes had me wanting to think of other times, so picking up the Cricket War by Gideon Haigh gave me the perfect insight to cricket in 1977.

Haigh trawls painstakingly through players' memoirs, contemporary accounts and reflective thoughts, and adds more than a dash of drama from the events of 1977. A time when players were paid poorly and the opportunity to make a living from game was not available to all.

Kerry Packer wanted cricket on his TV channel, and with the ABC not willing to give up its boys club with the ACB, Packer took it on himself and signed 35 elite international players for his own televised series. Cricket had never been played under lights and players and never been paid this much to perform. The book moves though the highs and lows of those involved in World Series Cricket, as well as accounts of those left behind by the game, that shaped the game.

The rebel armies of Chapell, Grieg and Lloyd wore colored clothing, even providing cricket the first sight of a helmet and battled as hard on the field, as they did in the courtrooms to keep the game together. Looking back on this change in cricket is an interesting read, and with the IPL auction having finished just over a month ago, the comparisons in the ideals and motives seem similar. Franchises have been bought and players auctioned for head-spinning sums. Inevitably, it reminds many among us of the previous revolution in the sport and it makes re-reading of the Packer saga timely.

Gideon Haigh was a mere 11 years old when all this upheaval happened during the launch of WSC, and to think he was 26 when the first copies were published, it is a book of impressive detail and research, that allows the reader the hindsight of what has come after. But even Packer would never have imagined it would come to 20-over games.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Orange Report IV - vs. NSW

High Fives all round, as ten Doeschate gets some much needed form back.

The Ryan ten Doeschate roadshow made its way into Sydney, with Tasmania taking on a star studded NSW line-up including Dave Warner, Khawaja & Hughes. It has been a horror run for Ryan ten Doeschate of late, struggling with both ball & bat, had a few of us thinking we may have to leave this journey early.

The sun was out, George Bailey winning toss did what all good captains do and chose to bat first. And the choice was a good one as Tasmania keeping the runs ticking in the early over’s. Debutant Cummins had a great first day in NSW colours collecting both Lockyear and Wells in his first over. Bailey and Birt didn’t allow this set back to slow the run rate. Tasmania reaching 50/2 and the end of 6 over’s, this pace continued until the loss of Bailey for 27 leaving Tasmania 83/3, and Ryan ten Doeschate coming to make amends for his recent lack of form.

The Cricket Observer held its breath as he took a rising ball to the body, working a leg bye out of the situation, and he was off the mark. Taking a back seat to Birt, Doeschate worked singles down to third man. Building confidence with each ball ten Doeschate had enough of the little stuff, picking up a wide half volley from Coyte he square drove though backward point for a blistering 4. The Dutchman continued the next few over’s to build a partnership with Birt as the two of them worked the strike, Birt gaining a life when Warner dropped him at long off.

Moving into the 15th over Tasmania 109/3 and looking to add more, Ryan came alive, pouncing on a length ball from Copeland to dispatch him over the sight screen for 6, proving it wasn’t a fluke he sliced Copeland just missing out and settling for 4 runs. Henriques would in the end get the better of him, as he tried swinging for mid wicket, only to balloon and edge for a simple catch. A much improved innings from our Dutch superstar 25 from 19 balls, a few boundaries, and a middle order partnership with Birt of 49 runs. The Tigers finish 6 for 152. The Blues bowled well to restrict Tasmania to just 69 runs off the last 10 overs. Pat Cummins, a 17-year-old on debut, took 3 for 29. But the veteran Stuart Clark was also brilliant taking 1 for 23 from 4, and Scott Coyte bounced back from a hammering against WA to finish with 0 for 22. Travis Birt top scored with 47 on a tough wicket. Leaving NSW with a tricky target to chase.

NSW with its strong batting line-up are a tough task, and they showed why 41/0 at the end of 5 overs. ten Doeschate was thrown the ball to try and break the partnership of Warner & Khawaja. His luck with the bat may have improved with the break, but his bowling was a gift to the batsman, Warner hitting him for a 4 & 6 on consecutive balls, Khawaja didn’t hold back either adding to his pain with a no ball slapped for 4. He finished 1-0-16-0, and that again was his night, Bailey going with Naved to help close out the game.

NSW needing 18 off the last over and could only manage 15. Rana Naved kept his nerve when all around him were losing theirs. A dropped catch, missed run out, and tough wide call saw five needed off the last ball. But Ben Rohrer could only manage two and the Tigers go to the top of the table. They weathered the early storm and held their nerve at the end. Tasmania moved to top the Big Bash table with one game remaining against SA.

A better return from our unofficial man, 25 with the bat saw him really contribute to the Tasmanian win. The next match is against South Australia in 5 days time. Check back to the Cricket Observer for further reports, for past reports click on The Orange Zone.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Clouds gather over County Cricket.

Leicestershire recorded a record loss of £404,862 at the end of their traumatic 2010 season, offering further evidence of the serious financial problems affecting the majority of county cricket clubs. The county have been left with net current liabilities of £233,717, prompting their auditors Thomas May & Co to note that "these conditions ... indicate the existence of a material uncertainty which may cast doubt about the club's ability to continue as a going concern".

However Mike Siddall, whose position as acting chief executive was confirmed in October following the resignation of Neil Davidson as chairman, said Leicestershire have already taken steps to improve their financial performance in 2011. That is likely to mean they do not employ a second overseas player for the Friends Provident Twenty20 competition, as they aim to restrict wages that increased by more than £230,000 last year.

Paul Haywood, who has succeeded Davidson as chairman, wrote in his notes to members in the county's annual report: "In almost every category of income, the forecast budget has not been achieved and, in most categories of costs, the budgets have been exceeded."

Cricket, and County Cricket at that, is not beyond what we have seen in football of recent, as sides are wound up due to a basic of "not paying the bills" It is naive for cricket and its followers to think it is beyond such a grim reaper just because they are a county and not a city. The continued over payment of overseas players who's sole purpose is a 4 week holiday during the T20's is not cost effective.

The ECB either needs to turn away from overseas players or begin to resrict clubs to a single player for the season, rather than a selection of games. Player contracts are not the only things killing clubs, the requirement on Test Cricket selection and multi-purpose buildings has seen counties spending millions of ££'s trying to recoup money by any means possible. This is leading to clubs still being in debt, Lancshire CC and the mighty Red Post Box Pavillion, along with a lack of Test cricket has left the club with a £546,000 red hole. Yorkshire too have a loan of £21 millon for which it has already had to defer payments of £3m to Leeds Metro University. Where are these clubs planning on making any of this money back? Weddings? Business Lunches? Meat Raffles?

Cricket is forgetting its roots of quality, affordable entertainment. Pushing itself closer to it's winter cousin football in regards to over inflated ticket prices, as seen in the lack of attendance at the Pakistan tour while in Warwickshire. The need for stadia and sports teams to branch out into other revenue streams to help off-set the costs of cricket is vital, but at what cost? If the value of such building projects could leave a building and no club, the price is too high.

Likewise, we as cricketers and cricket watchers need to back our counties with our attendance and support, regardless if they have invested in a prize pony for the T20 series, as an Australian I encourage the ECB to back its own players by releasing them back to counties whenever possible, and to use the phrase associated with the supermarket shopping "Buy British."

Australian World Cup Squad

Hauritz can stop worrying, he has done enough for the World Cup Squad.
The Australian squad for the World Cup has been announced and a few unsurprising changes have been made. Most notable missing from the squad is Peter Siddle and Xavier Doherty were not included while John Hastings, the Victoria allrounder, was named along with the injured duo of Ricky Ponting and Michael Hussey.

Hussey and Ponting do have time to recover before the tournament reaches the knockout stages, with the quarter finals beginning on March 23. Australia's opening match of the campaign is against Zimbabwe in Ahmedabad on February 21.

Nathan Hauritz is the sole recognised spinner but Steven Smith and David Hussey will also be relied on to deliver regular overs, Hauritz while being on the outside of the Test team this summer, and watching Doherty play in the 1st ODI, has been in sizzling form in domestic cricket with both bat & ball, playing his way over Doherty. David Hussey's mix of hard-hitting batting and part-time offspin have earned him a trip, despite him playing his first one-day game in more than a year on Sunday.

Tim Paine's inclusion is an obvious choice as a reserve wicket keeper, but also gives Australia an opening option as a batsman which was shown in his knock against England in the Prime Ministers XI match, with Shaun Marsh and David Warner both not being able to return to the side.

While Australia are now mid-table in Tests, they remain the No.1 side in the 50-over game and are aiming for their fourth consecutive World Cup win. Seven players who were part of the unbeaten 2007 success in the West Indies will attempt to achieve more glory.

The 15-man squad is:
Ricky Ponting
Michael Clarke
Doug Bollinger
Brad Haddin
Jon Hastings
Nathan Hauritz
David Hussey
Michael Hussey
Mitchell Johnson
Brett Lee
Tim Paine
Steven Smith
Shaun Tait
Shane Watson
Cameron White

Monday, January 17, 2011

Mott to become a Dragon.

New South Wales are on the lookout for a new coach after Matthew Mott confirmed he was heading to the UK to take the reins at Glamorgan. Mott, will depart at the end of the current Australian domestic season, ending his four-year stretch as head coach at New South Wales.
He has a strong record with the Blues, having guided them to the Pura Cup in his first season in charge, in 2007-08, followed by a Big Bash triumph in 2008-09. He became known on the world stage in October 2009, when he steered New South Wales to the inaugural Champions League Twenty20 title in India, where they defeated Trinidad and Tobago in the final.

The Blues are again in a strong position this summer under Mott's stewardship; they sit on top of the Sheffield Shield table and just one point from the competition leaders in the Ryobi Cup. However, at New South Wales he has always had a vast array of international players under his command; 19 of the state's 32 contracted players this season have represented Australia.

His challenge will be very different at Glamorgan, where off-season turmoil has resulted in the departure of the captain Jamie Dalrymple, the cricket manager Matthew Maynard and the club president Peter Walker. Nor has the club had much joy on the field; they missed out on promotion from the County Champion second division, and came last in their Clydesdale Bank 40 group and second-last in their Twenty20 pool.

This is a great coup I think for Glamorgan cricket, Mott has shown the ability to manage top international and grade players, and built a strong development system in his time at NSW. His experience in the Pura Cup and Sheffield Shield I think could raise Glamorgan cricket out of division 2 this season. With such strong links back in NSW grade cricket I would expect him to bring over some young exciting Australian talent to bolster the depleted Glamorgan squad.

The slogan for Glamorgan cricket this season should be “Watch this space”

Friday, January 14, 2011

Aust. Vs Eng T20 Series 1-1

The T20 series between Australia and England has been and gone, 1-1. England breaking a record for most consecutive wins, Australia breaking a drought of 5 games. Both games showed the beauty in this smaller format of the game, and if you weren’t a convert over these two nights then you never will be.

The games had everything, great batting, diving in the field, fast balls and flying stumps, to slower balls confusing batsmen. All finished with a nail biting last ball gasp that had the crowds up and down in their seats, at the spectacle before them. I must admit I wasn’t a huge fan of this format when released, and the vision of watching balls fly over fences soon lost the dazzle it once had, as I felt sorry for the bowler. Like all formats of cricket it has evolved, with bowlers becoming smarter and spin starting to become a factor in towards the close of games. Batsman have shown a respect to the bowling instead of throwing wickets away, and reverse sweeps, paddle shots are as common nudging and guiding balls to third man.

England has shown over its past 8 victories that fielding, and bowling to that field is just as important as scoring runs. In Adelaide they strangled Australia with Yorkers and change of pace bowling from Shahzad taking no wickets but with an economy rate of 6.25 going for only 25 runs in his 4 over’s. Yardy’s (4-0-28-2) spinning darts and various pace had the Australians prodding rather than swinging at every delivery. Ian Bell has shown an attacking influence from the first ball in this series and Davies has proved a capable replacement for Kieswetter in the keeper/batsman position. I have been most impressed with Eoin Morgan the Irishman is always pushing his name forward for test selection with his middle order stability to any innings regardless of format, and with him still at the crease you felt England were always a chance to win.

Shane Watson was made for this format, the burley Queenslander having watched his hometown sink in Ipswich came out under the bright lights of Adelaide and took hold of the bowling early dispatching 9 boundaries in his 59, and then when all hope seemed gone in the Australian field, he dragged the team to the finish line with 4-0-15-4 to an almost victory at the death. And of course in any great production we must have the unlikely hero. In Adelaide it was the man Collingwood didn’t know in Woakes who not only took the prize scalp of the Australian Captain, but also scored the winning run in a 19 not out performance. In Melbourne it was the much talked Aaron Finch, the nuggety Victorian gaining praise from more than Bill Lawry for his grunting 53 from 34.

The biggest difference in the sides performances was based around the middle over’s of these matches. England while losing wickets did not slow the run rate, and were able to find the boundary and work 2’s and 3’s where possible. Australia on the other hand got bogged down fending off a change of pace and looking for the big shot, rather than working the strike ball by ball.

Both these matches were perfect examples of top class T20. The recent saturation of this format has made many games very similar in approach and results. With the run rate getting out of hand and the finishes determined prior to the last ball. The last two nights has seen two quality sets of players lock horns in a ball by ball battle under lights that has been of the highest quality. While too much can be a good thing with T20, matches like these better serve the product than endless professional club sides slapping each other around.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

A great, in the shadow of the greatest.

The back story behind this article is a conversation I had with my Captain on a Thursday night regarding people we had seen while attending Test Matches at Lords. Of course this is the magic of Lords seeing all the greats come out to enjoy a day on the lawn. And us, the well travelled spectator enjoying the hunt for a glimpse of those we admire, and for the brave at heart maybe asking for a signature.

Our conversation made its way to Arthur Morris, New South Welshman and opening batsman with the Invincible Australians. Known well for being Bradman’s partner in crime during the 1948 tour of England someone we both felt many people had forgotten. It wasn’t till this Ashes series that my phone blinked with a message of discovery from my Captain, for he had come across an interview from the evening’s session of TMS on his podcast with Arthur Morris. Now I must admit the man himself is only words in books to me, I have never heard him speak, and to be frank wondered if he was still alive.

Powering up my laptop, at an hour my wife was more used to me settling down, I searched out and sat back on the couch to listen to the tales told by this great man. one that lived in the shadows of those around him. We have to remember that the Invincible side of 1948 were a side of large personalities in Bradman and Miller, who shine bright in the spotlights of societies graces, Arthur was certainly not forgotten to the keen eye and was described by cricket writer Gideon Haigh as “The acme of elegance and the epitome of sportsmanship”

The war tragically robbed Arthur Morris of some prime years in his cricketing life, but from listening to him speak you know he was grateful just have helped his fellow man. As an 18 year old he holds the feat of being the first and as far as records go the only 18 year old to score a hundred in each innings of his first-class debut in 1940. From this sort of beginning a baggy green was always going to fit the head of this run machine. Some of the greatest moments in Bradman’s history have been shared with Morris, even the 1948 side for which was known as Bradman’s Invincible’s, its leading runs scorer was Arthur Morris, in fact only 3 players have a higher average in an Ashes series.

Arthur Morris’s average of 87 during the 1948 series stands out as amazing considering ,Bradman average 72.57. It was Morris that teamed up with Bradman during the famous chase of 404 at Headingly, as the two paired together with Morris making 182, while Bradman was not out on 173. And it was Morris in his famous account of the day Bradman finished with “that” duck, as it was he that stood at the other end watched his pal leave the Oval for the last time, Morris went on to score 196.

As you listen to Morris speak of his life’s shadow in Bradman he bears no grudge, and celebrates the magic that was The Don in everything that he says. A man that never liked the limelight, preferring players who can play off the back foot. He still doesn’t understand the yelling and arm waving after wickets, and regards Bedser the greatest bowler he ever faced. If anything listening to Arthur speak on this podcast awoke a feeling of me that not all we do is necessary when playing this great summer game, and the joys of a well played shot is as pleasurable as the friends for which you enjoy it with.

I’m not going to give you the link to the podcast, all ask is that you search it out for yourself and revel in a simple kind of cricket, I encourage any young cricketer to listen to the interview and listen of how he talks of his team and country as being more important than any result, trophy or recognition.

Victoria batsman Ray Harvey dies

Ray Harvey 1926 - 2011

Ray Harvey - one of six brothers of whom two, Neil and Merv, went on to play for Australia, while a fourth, Mick, also played for his state - has died in Melbourne at the age of 85.
His first-class debut came in 1947-48, although he had already made his mark when scoring 86 for Victoria against Australian Services as a 17-year-old in 1943-44. In a side which contained three Harvey brothers, he scored 42 and 22 not out, but despite being given a long run in the team he failed to pass fifty.
He was in and out of the team -more out than in - over the next few seasons, getting his chance when regulars were on Test duty, but finally looked the part when drafted in near the end of the 1952-53 summer, converting his maiden fifty into a career-best 121 against Western Australia.

In 1953-54 he was a regular in the Victoria side, recording two more hundreds and making 699 runs at 49.92, and that earned him a place in the Australia XI against the England tourists at the start of the following summer in what was effectively a Test trial. But his form again fell away markedly, and in 15 matches over the next six season he passed fifty only twice, in consecutive innings at the end of 1958-59.
For Fitzroy in Victorian Premier Cricket he was a major player, scoring 19 centuries and 9,146 runs in first-grade competition, both of which were club records. Like his brothers, he also represented his state at baseball.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Cricket Observer Twitter Time!

The Cricket Observer shall be getting its twitter on during tonight’s Hampshire match. Starting @ 8pm.
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Orange Report III vs. Victoria

It was again a rain soaked evening to meet Ryan ten Doeschate at Bellerive in Hobart . And with the match delayed for 30minutes as the ground staff cleared the water logged pitch, the out field was looking slow and neither team looked interested in batting first. Tasmania had a welcome boost in the bowling department with Ben Hilfenhaus returning from National duty and his swinging ball would be handy in these uncertain conditions. Even in these conditions you still had favour the champions of this format Victoria , also with Peter Siddle on return and Dwayne Bravo in the ranks.

Winning the toss Tasmania sent Victoria in to taste the wet conditions, having lost time at the start the match would be reduced to15 over’s. With Victoria thrown in it was up to Tasmania to make the decision count, and with Xavier ‘remember me’ Doherty taking a wicket in the first over, and Hilfenhaus followed up with another in 2nd, Victoria 7/2 and Maxwell and Hodge in the warmth it was now left up to new recruit Prior to build something with Wade. This didn’t last long as 2 over’s later Naved-ul-Hasan got another breakthrough getting Wade to feather an edge. The English Patient and Calypso King started again to get the Vic’s on track as they had dropped to 22/3.

Ryan ten Doeschate had been given the night off at The Gabba, not seeing the ball and struggling with the bat. A chance for redemption as he was handed the ball in the 8th over, but bowling to a strong veteran in Prior was not going to be easy. The English keeper cut his first ball for 2, and then smashed his next for 6, before rubbing it in as he nudged him for 4. Finally a slower ball got Prior off strike only to leave the Dutchman with 2 balls to Bravo. A great 5th ball had Bravo defending strong, yet it didn’t end well another 4 struck by Bravo left ten Doeschate licking his wounds with a 17 run over, and the ball given back to Hilfenhaus.

The 11th over saw Jason ‘the other spinner’ Krejza finally stopping Prior on 51 with a caught and bowled. Krejza also was able to dislodge Calypso King Bravo for 22 and Quiney in the same over to suddenly swing the power back in Tasmania ’s favour, Victoria now into the tail at 103/6 with 3 over’s remaining. A great last couple of over’s by Naved, herald two wickets as the Victorians are restricted to 8 for 107. Matt Prior was a great signing getting 51 from 29. Krejza and Naved bowled well to take three wickets each at the death. Ryan ten Doeschate 17 run over saw him again as spectator in the field as he continues to struggle in the wet conditions Australia has had since the start of the Big Bash.

Tasmania started the chase well, Lockyear and Wells moving to 49 before the loss of Lockyear. With Tassie well ahead of the required run rate it all looked a bit of a formality as they batted well to finish Victoria off with 4 over’s to spare. Great win for the Tigers. They bowled and fielded brilliantly to restrict the Bushrangers to 8 for 107 and then Wells and Bailey have raced to the victory target in just 11.3 over’s. Wells played really well as a stand-in opener for the absent Tim Paine. His 51no off 33 balls featured some outstanding stroke play and he was supported firstly by Rhett Lockyear and then by the skipper George Bailey.

Tasmania find themselves top of the league with 2 wins from 3. Ryan ten Doeschate has only featured heavily in the first match against WA. The conditions it must say have not been favourable for the overseas professional, with an 8 day break now until the next match against NSW on the 19th, we here at the Cricket Observer hope he starts to get some much needed form back. Having spent the last few months travelling from England to Zimbabwe , New Zealand and now Australia plying his trade you know that the big scores are only just around the corner.

Don’t forget to go to THE ORANGE ZONE for more news stories on Ryan ten Doeschate.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Future is finger lickin' bleak for Australian cricket

ALL the right noises will be made about reviving Australia as a Test nation, but the harsh reality is there is a big, fat greasy chicken meal standing in its way. It is called the KFC Big Bash.

Yes, yes, we know there will be a "major, deep-seated review" after the Ashes.

Just like there was when Australia lost the Ashes a few years ago.

But this time, Australia is cornered. The room for improvement is minimal.

We can talk about heads rolling and attitudes changing, but here is the reality ... the game here is heading in a different direction and it's not coming back. Next season, Australia's priority will be a revamped KFC Big Bash featuring eight city-based teams from around Australia.

It has been three years in the planning and Australia is gearing up to promote the daylights out of it and hopefully sell it as part of a massive television rights package in a few years' time. You can't be a KFC outlet and fine dining experience at the same time. But Australia knows which way it is going.

"It's just not cricket without the Colonel" is one of its summer slogans and it has given KFC the title of "the official restaurant of Cricket Australia". If, as Wisden editor Scyld Berry claims, the price of this push is that our batsmen perform like headless chickens, so be it. Australia will simply wear it.

You can have all the Ashes reviews you want but the future is planned - along economic lines - and you can't have two futures. The Big Bash has become such a high priority that the Cricket Australia board is on the verge of cutting the time-honoured Sheffield Shield final to make room.

It is not quite true to say Australia has to choose between one or the other forms of the game, but if this summer has taught us anything, it is that the skills of our young players are moulded by finger-lickin' cricket. If your concern about the Australian team is its lack of patience and discretion outside off stump, prepare yourself for long-term suffering. That issue will become worse before it gets better.

Coaches at the Centre of Excellence in Brisbane saw a quantum shift about four years ago as young players wanted to learn different footwork than what had been the norm for a century. Instead of putting their foot close to the pitch of the ball, they wanted to get it out of the way so they could slog - or put it straight down the pitch like Steve Smith does, opening options on both sides of the wicket.

In 50-over and 20-over cricket, batsmen are told "just get bat on ball".

By contrast, you can bet anything that when the ball was swinging and seaming this series, Test batting coach Justin Langer would have been delivering the opposite message "just leave as many balls as you can".

Very few batsmen do both well, but Australia's chances of finding batsmen of patience will not be helped by the fact that we are entering an age where Flash Harrys will be king.

Australia should note the fact that as great as batsman Alastair Cook was on this tour, England has no place for him in the shorter forms of the game this summer.

This is why Australia desperately missed Simon Katich. Graft was gold and Australia could not find a nugget to save itself.

And they will be harder to find in our new world.

Twenty20 cricket is becoming more of a lure for young players now because it can make them rich and famous quicker.

The thought of becoming Ricky Ponting seems a galaxy ride away, but they might just be able to be Dave Warner, who picks up hundreds of thousand dollars a year playing T20, despite the fact that he battles to get a first-class game for NSW.

Over the next two days in India there will be an IPL auction where some run-of-the-mill batsmen will be paid millions of dollars.

Like it or not, cash is king in cricket. This is the way the game is going. The era of the headless chicken is upon us.

Orange Report II – vs. Queensland

The second part in our ongoing series to bring you the all the news on “our” Dutchman Ryan ten Doeschate, and tonight see’s him and his Tasmanian teammates taking on a strong Queensland side featuring Australian player James Hopes, with Andrews Symonds not returning this season, and Andrew Flintoff pulling out due to retirement and reality TV. The Bulls were able to recruit Michael Lumb, the Hampshire who has really stepped up in the county season in 2010.

A very soggy and wet evening met Tasmania , There has been so much rain in Queensland recently and Brisbane has not been spared. The Bulls have had to train indoors for weeks. James hopes won the toss and elected to bat, going with the theory that it will be easy to chase a rain effected target, and can adapt the batting better.

And a good choice it was to bowl first, with the ball moving around on the soggy deck, Cosgrove was dropped first ball. Queensland got Paine early on an inside edge onto the stumps in the 2nd over, and Lockyear joined him in the sheds 2 over’s later with a hint more movement off the seam. Tasmania were struggling in the conditions at 29/2 off 5 over’s, it didn’t help them trying to push the rate either as Cosgrove found his large lunch effecting his speed as he was run out, and Birt suffered the same fate.

In came our man Ryan ten Doeschate, with Tasmania 46/4 after 8, the overseas recruit needed to settle the innings and get the runs flowing. A short wide ball was guided to third man for a single and he was off the mark first ball. The following ball back of a length and edged, to his surprise and many others at the Gabba Ben Dunk dropped a peach. A life was gained from the now nervous Dutchman, it wasn’t long, and in fact it was the very next ball. A slower thigh height full toss from Neser, Doeschate tried to turn to leg, got a leading edge and James Hopes taking a captains catch flung his right arm out diving away and pulled in a screamer. The Dutchman’s short stay was only 3 balls for a single run. Bailey hung around for a little longer notching a trying 37 and Faulkner helped out with a bottom order 24. 118 were not nearly enough runs, even in the adverse conditions, and some tight bowling would be required from the Tigers.

The weather was not great, yet playable for QLD. And Ryan ten Dosechate looking to make amends with the ball much in the same manner as he did against WA. Things started well for the Tigers removing Lumb & Simpson early. Then entered Hopes, with not a big total to chase at home, the captain went about it quickly striking the often wide deliveries of Drew and Xavier Doherty (remember him) for boundaries. At one point Hopes had 5 four’s in an over against Drew, and was punishing the lack of direction of Tasmania . At the 10 over mark QLD were in control with a loss of only 2 wickets and 90 on the board, and still no sign of the Dutchman.

And for the remainder of the match the Dutchman would be a spectator, as QLD put on a clinic after losing two wickets early James Hopes and Lee Carseldine cruised to the victory target. Their partnership was 94 unbeaten off just 68 balls. Hopes was magnificent with 65 from 44.

Not a great showing from our man of the orange land, and both he and the team will be looking to put this behind them. With Victoria heading down to Tassie for the next match on the 11th of Jan. the confines of home could provide a better performance.

Check back here again on the 11th for the 3rd instalment of The Orange Report – Cricket Observer, The Unofficial Home of Ryan ten Doeschate.

For past reports Click on The Orange Zone.

Friday, January 7, 2011

The Greatest Test Match that never was.

The scene had been building over the past 4 days in Cape Town, the sun shining the crowd pouring in over the new year Test to see a great tussle between the world’s top 2 Test playing nations. India won the toss and sent South Africa in, putting faith in Khan & Sreesanth to get the job done early on a bowlers deck. And they didn’t disappoint removing Smith and Petersen early and cheaply. And then Kallis settled into his role as saviour, grinding out his runs with Amla.

India made a fight back late in the day taking Amla (59) and de Villiers (26). Sreesanth again the executioner. And at the end of day 1 Kallis was standing firm on 81, alongside him Prince with 28. Day 2 brought more people though the gates to see the spectacle unfolding as these two sides were locked in a strong battle of ball and bat. Yet the pitch turned against the home side as victims were found in swing and movement of Khan & Sreesanth, leaving Kallis fighting for partners as he powered on to 100 (taking his series average to a remarkable 166), then 120. Still there was work to do, and the Indian bowlers were not in a forgiving mood. Blitzing the SA tail before finally removing the rock Kallis for 161. Sreesanth with 29-0-114-5.

With 362 set early India stepped into the warmth of the Cape Town sun Gambhir keen to get the board ticking early. Yet he too found willing partners missing as Sehwag & Dravid left early. Entered the Little Master helping himself to further runs to inflate his already bulging sack of achievements, Gambhir & Tendulkar scoring 176 in a 3rd wicket partnership that left Gambhir on 93, but the wise man, with an even wiser bat hadn’t finished filling his boots. Tendulkar looked like he would run out partners until the surprise batting of Singh (I say surprise only as he is a No.8) who since the Kiwi series has been in fine batting form, helped Tendulkar add a further 78 between them. Yet as The Little Master was removed so close to a further 150 (148) and the tail left with stumps on the ground, India had only just rolled over the SA target, finishing with 364.

So the scene was set after 2 and a bit days for the last 3 Days to be the start of a Test within a Test. Rain threaten to ruin the opportunity as South Africa looked to set the bar high. This innings would belong to Singh as the pitch started to shift, and the cracks opened up the spinners dancing feet left the top order stumbling early, and again Kallis was called on to obtain some much needed leverage. Nudging and pushing in an innings that only had 8 fours struck Kallis began building his total, Prince (22) this time would not be by his side, and nor was deVilliers (13).

Good sides always try to find a winner whenever it all looks gone, and Boucher scratched around with Kallis to put on a further 103. It was Tendulkar of all people to end this partnership that threaten to take the game away from India his skidding, low dragging ball undoing Boucher on 55. Steyn and Morkel tried to help Kallis reach his 3 figures. And he did, the first South African to score 100’s in both innings of a test match. Holding his bat they left the field leaving India with hard graft but 339 to obtain in a day.

I must admit looking at the total it would have been tough, but not out of reach for a team with so much fire power in the batting department. Gambhir nursed a thumb injury but was prepared to open, Dhoni known for his flurry of runs in T20, Laxman, Dravid the list goes on. The only other team I could think chasing this would have been a Steve Waugh lead Australian side. Here was India ’s chance to show they had fight, character and a little bit of grunt, and mark themselves against the best.

As the day opened up much was spoken about a steady start, a clear head in the first session. But it was clear come lunch that India had given up the ghost early, as Dravid watched balls outside off glide into Boucher’s gloves and padded ball after ball from Harris, eventually leaving with 64 from 271 balls, even the entrance of Tendulkar didn’t stir the pot he too built a score of 14 from 146. India played the sort of Test cricket that non-cricket lovers believe to be always, India protected averages and pay-cheques instead of record books and heroic status. India showed no heart in not attempting a half day chase and instead left the series at 1-1. They don’t mind smashing it up against New Zealand but find no heart in trying to chase South Africa .
This could have been the best, the scores showed; the bouncing balls and helmet calls made this seem like something timeless. But in the end it was just another draw on a sunny day as the leather never touched the willow.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Orange Report

Previously at the Cricket Observer we brought you a story about the first Dutch player to play in Australian domestic cricket. Ryan ten Doeschate signed with Tasmania mid 2010 and the arrival of the 6ft All-Rounder brought some attention to the game in Holland .

So we are all on “Dutch Watch” as the Big Bash T20 kicked off, I shall be bringing you an update of how his progress is going. If you happen to miss our earlier reports about the Dutch Legend , we shall be setting up in the next few days a dedicated page to our unofficial man Ryan ten Doeschate.

Tasmania’s opening match was against Western Australia , who has star quality themselves within the import ranks with the return of Chris Gayle to team up with Shaun Marsh at the top of the order, and former England paceman Sajid Mahmood. Tasmania won the toss and chose to bat first at the WACA, and found themselves in a bit of a hole after 5 overs losing Cosgrove and Lockyear cheaply. Birt [43] steady the ship with Paine. Paine also lost his new partner Bailey [20] on his way to 71 runs, even teaming up with Ryan ten Doeschate to put on a 17 run partnership before the Flying Dutchman was brought down in the 19th over for 12 runs, which also included a SIX off Coulter-Nile before being undone by a full toss the next ball.

Tasmania were 6/189 a respectable score line, considering they would have the evening bowling conditions and score board pressure with them. It was with the ball in his hands that Ryan ten Doeschate made his mark snaring the prize scalp of Chris Gayle in the 7th over bowling a full ball outside off, Gayle chased it only to put it straight in the hands of the waiting Birt at backward point. A game changing moment and more was to come from the same over, as he also wrapped up local star Pomersbach for 7 runs as he too tried to punish the Dutchman, dancing after his ball only to spear it to Xavier Doherty (remember him) at long on. The Orange Machine was unlucky not to have run out Voges in the same over missing from 10 feet. All this in his ONLY action packed over for the match finishing, with figures 1-0-3-2

With Gayle joining Marsh in the sheds early, it was Tasmania in early control as their other import Naved ul-Husan wrapped up the middle order, while Australia’s lost spinning sensation Krejza picked up a couple, to see WA dropping the first home round match by 63 runs, all out after 19 over’s for 126.

A small appearance from Cricket Observers Dutchman with ball and bat, should have the Tasmanian’s looking to give him more a run in their next match - 7th of Jan. against Queensland at The Gabba. Login soon for your next Orange Report, Cricket Observer is the unofficial home of Ryan ten Doeschate.

Advanced Hair XI

As children we all liked to imagine the ultimate line-ups of players in the same team, some even including where Superman would bat in the Steve Waugh lead Australian side. And as the rain continues to tap on the windows of my workplace I must admit the mind tends to walk off, it was a wandering afternoon when after seeing Jaques Kallis notch up his second 100 in the 3rd a deciding test match against India, the first South Africa to do such a feat that I noticed the extensive thatch work done on the great man’s head.

This is a man that had nothing and now has everything under the helmet. Which made myself, and workmate Andy start to think of many a great hair transplant cricketers, and the fact you could put together a very useful 11 we thought.

And so the afternoon was lost. The obvious choices were there early Warne, Gooch, Matthews, Crowe all of them have given us many a cheesy line on TV commercials. Doug the Rug was an easy one, and on some internet searching we also came up with a few others from our friends in the sub-continent. Ricky Ponting made the grade, it’s never been officially released but anyone that has followed the Tasmanians rise though the ranks can see there was a ‘patch’ in his career that seems to no longer be there. So he makes the side with an asterisk, but I’m sure we will all agree. Hamid Hassan the Afghan super star makes the side, but due to not being involved in test cricket he has no averages.

I must admit this side is very batting heavy with Sehwag batting a lot lower down the order than he may like, but we felt with Kallis, Crowe and Matthews we have plenty of part timers to couple Warne and Doug in the bowling department. Plus who needs bowlers when you’re scoring 800 runs.

Ricky Ponting is the official Captain, with Vaughn as his deputy(great conversations in the dressing room before play). Greg Matthews being the elder statesman we felt he wouldn’t be that agile in the field so like any good Village side we stuck the old man behind the stumps.

Advanced Hair XI
Graeme Gooch
Michael Vaughan
Ricky Ponting* C
Jacques Kallis
Martin Crowe
Virander Sehwag
Greg Matthews wk.
Shane Warne
Naved ul-Hasan
Doug Bollinger
Hamid Hassan

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Is it cheating, if you never knew you cheated?

During the 3rd day’s play in the 5th Ashes test, Alistair Cook staring at another opportunity to scratch his name with triple figures takes a ball from Michael Beer, and nudges to short leg where Hughes leaps in excitement at an in close catch.

Yet on replay it clearly showed the ball dropping short and bouncing into his hands. Botham on Sky Sports is heard to have said:

“Terrible. Cheating. How much do you it to bounce into your hands?

“He [Hughes] knows he hasn’t caught it. There’s no appeal. Someone else says something and then he goes up”

The Australians do a have small record of this sort of thing, in Sydney of all places they were accused of claiming bouncing balls against India in the spiteful test match of 2008. Clarke like any captain has come out in support of Hughes claiming he is not a cheat and that he questioned the reflex catch to the umpire.

Personally I think Botham was, and has been quick to attack the Australians for cheating whenever a catch is over turned by the review system. Which has also made fools of the English, none more so than Prior during the Gabba test as he screamed and hollered for catches, that never seemed to touch anything.

The review system had a very busy day, having to give Bell not out with ‘hot spot’ not giving any proof to the sound heard on snick-o-meter. Now the Snicko is not used by the ICC and cannot determine anything. Yet it was the light feather that never seemed to be there that gave Ian Bell a dilated pupil as he stared at the exit gate of the SCG, only to be the one that got away. Hot spot got Ricky Ponting hot under the collar during the Boxing Day Test, with it looking like a slight touch. And on further replaying the Ian Bell flick, I think maybe this technology is not the best.

The technology is there to right the wrongs of a bad choice by an umpire, not to accuse people of cheating. And with teams given so many appeals per a match, why not challenge that by appealing everything, and putting the player in a position to use an appeal to save his skin. The system is flawed, in the sense that is not helping the game but making appealing worse and whenever a game lends itself to calling out cheats at every moment it must be put away.

Clarke has come out in support of the technology, and Strauss hasn’t had much to say against it either. Clarke has asked that if it is there, that all be involved or none at all. And with India backing away from it, then it shows the playing field is not level.

Personally I think the video review works great for run outs/ catches, and hawk eye has helped with correcting poor LBW appeals, but hot spot is still not there for me and has shown a weakness the others don’t have. If it’s there it has to be 100% or, as close to 99% as it can be, and for me it’s not even close

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Advance Australia Fair .....

As the stumps rattled and the English crowd erupted into medley of song at the MCG, you could sense that Australia now had to start to look forward rather than continue to dismantle the do’s and dont's of matches past.
The obvious question rises as this once great cricketing nation is pulled back to the pack of its competitors as to who will replace the old and outgoing:

Ponting 36 captain, No.3 batsman
Katich 36 opening bat.
Hussey 36 strong middle order batsman
Haddin 33 keeper, may still a few but not many left in him.
Harris 31 and struggling with injury

You could almost put Doug Bollinger in this group of players that have lost a lot of form in the long format of cricket. From spending a couple of weeks of this Ashes summer based in Melbourne and having the opportunity to get up close and chat with a few coaches, it seems all is not lost for Australia. Its U19 program has produced some fine cricketers who’s opportunity I think will come sooner rather than later. The question is whether CA and the cricketing public will give them a chance? Australia has had so much success that to watch it rebuild could be painful, but fruitful all the same.

The captainancy seems to be the difficult one. Based on form alone Ponting would have gone early than his finger gave him excuse for, but is Michael Clarke really the next captain? I personally cannot see it. Clarke is CA poster boy, great with kids, a media darling, blonde and marketable. Yet his own form in question without the badge of honour makes you wonder that too much too soon could have him fall victim to his own cheesy smile. As I see it Haddin would make a great captain, but only for a few years due to age, this it seems would be a good route to go. Let the old dog behind the stumps nature the young as they come though and a suitable captain among the Gen Y is found. Then there is that old line “better the devil you know” – yes he has lost a Ashes series on home soil, a crime fit for a life in exile living on Easter Island, but with no other suitable replacement why not?

Phillip Hughes has to be kept in the system, with all his wrongs there are too many rights. An aggressive opener that punishes anything on off stump will only require opposition sides to focus on bowling good areas. Also the longer he is in the team and around Justin Langer [batting coach] the better he can become. The only other player to push him out could be Shaun Marsh, Swappy’s son who has shown a love for the 50 over game, but like his partner in crime Dave Warner is yet to settle in well enough to the longer days in the sun. An outside look could be Michael Hill, a bias choice I must say having played and grown up in my local area. His ton against a strong English touring side coupled with his 34 runs in only 9 Sheffield appearances says that this product of that U19 set-up is worth keeping an eye on.

Hussey in the middle order is a hard nut to replace, and I hope he goes on to play till he is 40 like Tendulkar. Like a good wine, Michael just seems to get better with age, even when knocked hard by the press prior to the Ashes series. He has plenty of Aussie grit and determination as a batsman, and I think is under rated as one of the best gully fieldsmen I’ve seen. His fielding coupled with his general demeanour makes him a perfect teammate in the Australian dressing room.
His replacement is a difficult one and only brings up a couple of choices of maybe Cameron White, Callum Ferguson or Steven O’Keefe – Cameron to me with his fielding in slips would be a good replacement, his batting is not yet up to the patience of Hussey, but could be over time. Yet it is his personality as well that I think lends him to a good fit within a team that needs positive people.
Haddin’s replacement in my eyes is one of the easier choices to make, Tim Paine has shown to have good gloves and a great bat that will only get better and in my eyes is the next Australian keeper.

I have heard a lot about the lack of bowling stocks as Mitchell Johnson failed to find his feet in Brisbane, but again there is a host of players waiting for a chance, it’s just age and with that comes a lack of over’s. NSW duo Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazelwood form a twin tower attack for the future but at 19 and 20 they seem a little green to be thrown to the Test match wolves, but I’m sure will be given a chance after this series.
Peter George from South Australia has shown a strong improvement bell curve, having also been given the opportunity in India, a mine field for even the best bowlers where I felt his greenness was shown up against the master batsman in the Indian side, yet he too holds a strong future. James Pattinson, brother of the one test wonder Darren, who if not for him trying too hard in the nets while travelling in India, suffering stress fractures would have been given the nod over George during the series. The young Victorian has shown great pace and placement in the T20’s and as an angling left hander with a Niti style swing has proved another great work horse from the Victorian bowling stable produced by Saker.

And then there are the others, Steve Smith a spinning all-rounder or a batting middle order player? Kwaja has been marked early on for great things and showed patience and thought as he played a hard earned 37 on a rain delayed debut, for me the Pakistan born Australian plays in the Ian Bell mould and could bat anywhere from 3 - 6. Alex Keath is another great hope for the future being lured away from Australian Rules Football by Victoria, the right handed batsman making 100 on his Futures league debut and has shown his cloud also has a silver lining.

As an Australian in England during the first two test matches it was hard to see the bright side of life, having had the opportunity to see it firsthand. I have no doubt Australia will walk away from this series a better team. Maybe not in 6 months as the ripple effect will dislodge a few egos, and of course faith has to be put into the selectors to see this talent and allow it to grow within the team.

*Not heard of any of these young guns? Click on the players to bring up their CricInfo Profile.