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.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

England vs. India

India 338 (Tendulkar 120, Bresnan 5-48) tied with England 338 for 8 (Strauss 158, Bell 69, Zaheer 3-64)

This was one of the greatest matches in the history of the World Cup, perhaps even one of the finest 50 over contests, full stop. As Strauss said last Saturday, these are the kinds of occasions cricketers dream about, although presumably when they think about them in their sleep the ending works out a little differently.

On an evening that simply beggared belief, England tied with India in an incredible finale in Bangalore. Andrew Strauss was England's inspiration, producing an extraordinary 158 from 145 balls, the highest score by an English batsman in World Cup history, as England threatened the unthinkable, and set off in full pursuit of India's seemingly unobtainable total of 338 - a score that had been made possible by a brilliant 120 from Sachin Tendulkar.

The pursuit of 14 from the final over was enhanced when Ajmal Shahzad, a late replacement for Stuart Broad, deposited his first ball over the boundary. Two were needed from the final delivery bowled by Munaf Patel. Swann middled his cover drive but it went straight to a fielder as the batsmen completed a single. So a hoarse, exhausted crowd, partly diminished by the departure of home supporters who thought the game was up, were not sure whether to celebrate or not. In a curious sort of way, both sides may have felt relief.

Once the dust has settled England may take more from this victory than India. They proved that they can compete with the best, even on the subcontinent. Bear in mind that England had lost 11 of their previous 12 matches against India in this country. India have shown so far that batting at home is the easy part, bowling is hurting them. India have shown across the first 2 games that they are giving up too much in the field and the bowlers don't seem to have a plan. England on the other hand have shown a lot of fight to keep the World Cup alive, the average game against Netherlands that still gave them a result, and then to find something extra when every pundit close to a microphone had written them off. Lets not let the gloss of a draw hide the fact that Jimmy Anderson is struggling in India and the proud horse in the stable looks rattled at the moment.

The World Cup has sprung into life with this match, and as the group games move on this is the moment so far of the tournment that all have spoken about.