Australia runs over South Africa

Just a little post to mention how well the Australians came back strongly to win the test series in South Africa sweetly avenging their home series loss a couple of months ago.

The big difference between the two sides has been Mitchel Johnson who ran in with all his energey ball after ball and over after over to stun the South Africans with some exceptional fast bowling. Ponting’s captaincy was superb as well after he was hit out at by the Australian media and ex-cricketers recently. They also found a good bowling combination with spinners and part timers doing a good job.

If Brett Lee comes back to this side, Australians will be able to reign their number one position for some more time though South Africa will keep challenging them once they figure out what was missing this time!

PS:- The South African cricket seems to be a in a little bit political mess recently with coach Mickey Arthur and captain Graeme Smith having differences with Mike Procter, the new Convener of Selectors

The REAL Test Cricket only in Australia, South Africa and England?

If you check the difference between the ongoing Australia-South Africa test match and the Pakistan-Sri Lanka one (or West Indies-England) you will understand one thing. One is real test cricket where as the other two are comedy cricket choreographed for the respective flat-pitch heroes in those countries.

Quality of pitches

It is really pathetic that countries like Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka and now West Indies as well are making one sided pitches that suit only the batsmen. Of course, majority of the fans do like big scores but that doesn’t mean that a 5 day match can accomodate only two innings of 600+ runs per innings. The first two tests in West Indies during the past two weeks were pathetic. Even worse was the Karachi encounter of the Sri Lankans last week where Younis Khan became a greater hero. The batting records of the current leading test batsmen are actually farce compared to the greats like Sunil Gavaskar, Greg Chappel or Garry Sobbers. At the moment mostly people get to play in flatter tracks and hence a realistic comparison based on batting average or records is not really worth that effort.

South Africa – Australia Series

The first test match between the touring kangaroos and proteas is looking really awesome where fortunes changed every day. The commitment of these two countries towards test matches is amazing and the battle between them makes me skip every other stupid match around. Only in England I can see the same level of interest which basically means that only Australia, England and South Africa are really serious about test cricket where as other countries are busy selling Twenty 20 cricket or creating a generation of flat pitch bullies.

I wish they spent 10% of the money saved from IPL etc to create 4 or 5 test quality sporting pitches!

Weekly Tidbits: Australia, Pakistan in more trouble, IPL auctions…

It was quite an interesting week of cricket – ODI cricket for a change, though I would have preferred to talk more about Test cricket.

South Africa mows down the clueless Australians

South Africa won the ODI series 4-1 thereby going on top of the ICC ODI rankings. The last match that was played last week had a new fast bowling hero – Tsotsobe – who ran through the Australian top and middle order after Hashim Amla‘s matured innings gave them a big total. Tsotsobe’s left arm seam bowling is a good asset to their attack which is otherwise dominated by right-armers.

Australia deep down under further

Soon after the South Africa’s successful visit, the Kiwis started their campain in Austraila on a winning note as well. In fact, the New Zealand’s batting lineup is not anything great but the Kangaroos were tamed by the Kiwis in the low scoring first ODI in Perth, mainly due to the lack of confidence with the Aussies.

The Australians managed to create controversy as well with their Wicket Keeper Haddin calling it all wrong and cheating the spirit of the game. With Symonds‘ radio outburst not settling yet, clearly Cricket Australia is not heading anywhere in particular. Moreover, Australia’s decision to rest Ponting came as a huge surprise as this could be the indication that the dashing Australian captain could be soon axed – from his captaincy responsibilities – ahead of the Ashes series in England during June-September this year.

Pakistan cricket in dolldrums

Though with the axing of Shoib Malik the Pakistan team as a whole may benefit, the governance of the PCB and its future took a beating when ICC decided that Pakistan will not get to host Champions Trophy due to the perennial security issues there. On top of that Miandad, the ever controversial Pakistan cricketer, has resigned from his role of the PCB Director. In another setback to PCB, a court has now suspended PCB’s ban on ICL players. With the injury scares, dope scandals still on and no team visiting Pakistan, it’s not going to be a good year for Pakistan Cricket.

India is doing good

The Indian cricket team touring Sri Lanka right now had a couple of good outings whereby they took a 2-0 lead. The Indians, despite lack of match practices, did not look rusty and the batting, bowling and some exceptional fielding of the younger side overpowered the Lankans. It looks like Mahendra Singh Dhoni hardly misses a toss.

The week ahead

England is taking on West Indies in their first test match on 4th Feb where as Australia will play New Zealand in Melbourne and Sydney this week. India’s remaining one dayers in Sri Lanka will also be completed this week.

The high-profile IPL Season 2 auctions will be kicked off this week as well. The main focus will be the English players who are first-timers at IPL.

On a low profile there’s also a Kenya-Zimbabwe match this week.

Looking forward to the exciting week of cricket, in particular the England – West Indies test match and Australia – New Zealand one-dayers.

A Historic Series Win for South Africa in Australia

It was just amazing to see the way the South African bowlers ran through the deep down under Australia to win the boxing day match at Melbourne and hence the series. With just one test remaining in Sydney next week, I would not be surprised if the South Africans go for the kill and win the series 3-0. This would also mean that South Africa can be the #1 team on the ICC rank table soon.

Everything is right about S.Africa

The only missing factor in this South African test side was Shaun Pollock who was magnificently replaced by Dale Steyn. The aggressive Smith lead from the front even in fourth innings’ and youngsters Duminy and De Villiers came in too good both with bat and exceptional fielding. And the rejuvenated team even inspired Jack Kallis as he was an unnaturally aggressive player through out this series. So bowling, batting (despite missing Prince) and fielding was exceptional and the team spirit (just like the current Indian test side) without too many old faces out there outplayed the oldies like Hayden, Symonds and an injured Lee.

What is going wrong with Australia?

Right from the top order, with Hayden failing, Australia is having troubles. Michael Clark played a couple of good knocks but the ever-reliable Mike Hussey was not in good form and that was the main difference. To make things worse, Australia recalled Symonds who looked overweight and out of touch. Looks like the Australians have not fixed their main problem for the Sydney test team selection as well except for sitting out Lee and Symonds. They really need to get rid of Hayden who is no teenager anymore!

Difference between India’s & South Africa’s outings down under

India could not win the series down under earlier this year. The main difference was captaincy. Anil Kumble may have been a match winner for years for India but he was not aggressive enough in Australia this year. This is the era of aggressive test captains (Ponting, Smith, Pietersen, Dhoni etc) and hence, if not for Kumble as the captain, I thought India could have won the series despite the controversies

Going forward, I strongly believe that Australia’s dominance is over and the top four test teams Australia, South Africa, India and England may now compete each other for the top spot.

Once again Kudos to Proteas!

Yet Another Fantastic Win: Is Australian Cricket Nose-Diving?

We got to see yet another fantastic test match chase a couple of days ago when the Proteas beat Australia in their den – that too at the much heralded and ‘fiery’ WACA (Perth) pitch. In fact, before getting into the details of the match let me tell you that this is not the Perth pitch that I have enjoyed watching (on TV) as a child. There’s fiery bounce here anymore and pace factor is only as much as that of any batting pitch in England. But that does not take the credit away from the South Africans who chased 414 successfully to enjoy their Christmas this year.

Exceptional start by the Proteas

South Africa gave the indications of beating Australia in the first 15 minutes of the match itself when they took 3 quick Australian wickets for a mere 15 runs. Hayden & Ponting’s bad form continued though the middle and lower middle order along with Katich managed to push Australia to an excellent 375 runs under 100 overs, despite Ntini’s heroics. This seemed like a great score for Perth. In between, S.Africa has their excellence in the field with Duminy and De Villiers taking exceptional catches and saving runs in stunning acrobatic fielding.

Mitchel Johnson rips through

In the absence of somebody like Ashwell Prince, the South African batting order looked pale and it proved to be so as they were all out for 281 runs giving almost 100 runs lead to Australia in the first innings. Mitchel Johnson was exceptional with the cherry when he ripped through the South African batting lineup and took 8 wickets. Bret Lee looked to me like a mediocre medium pacer trying to prove himself in the international cricket. With this kind of a lead, on Day three-first session, anybody would have picked Australia as a clear winner in Perth but cricket is all about uncertaininty right?

In the second innings, South Africa had some success in the first thirty overs when they took four Australian wickets. Hayden and Ponting again were ineffective so was the middle order but Brad Haddin‘s gem of an innings take them to 319 setting an (almost unachievable) target of 414 in exactly five sessions.

Smith, Kallis, De Villiers, Duminy…

Graeme Smith and Kevin Pietersen have quite a few things in common – Both are South Africans, they bowl part time spin, both are aggressive captains even when they play test matches and they are from the same age group. Smith started the fourth innings with a lot of aggression and scored a fine century and the rest of the team just carried that aggression but in a controlled way. However, I thought it was Jaques Kallis‘s gem on Day four end that underlined what S.Africa was eyeing to do on the fifth day. His vigorous pulls off Siddle in an over resulted in a Six and a Four that left South Africa at 227/3 on Day 4. This meant that only less than 190 runs to win on the fifth day with 7 wickets remaining!

The grand final day

On any other day against the erstwhile Australian team, the South Africans would have lost this match. But the debutant Duminy supported an in form De Villiers – amongst aggression and sledging from Lee and co – to take the Proteas to a famous Perth win and a 55 thousand strong WACA crowd was still figuring out whatever happened – so was Ponting and co.

Is it Perth?

Though I do not want to take any credit away from the Proteas, the pitch looks pretty placid for Western Australian standards. One may recall that India convincingly beat Australia on Perth less than a year back and hence this pitch is no more the Australian strong hold.

Mr. Punter slammed the pitch for their defeat but I would like to ask him why then his batsmen failed in the beginning itself. Even if the pitch was bad, the S.African batting was not that strong (with Prince missing) compared to the Australian side and why could not they take 6 wickets on Day 5?

The reason is very simple. Just like Harbhajan Singh is a big zero without Anil Kumble, since Shane Warne and McGrawth there’s nobody on the Australian side who could lead the attack. Their bowling team is just trying things on their own individualistic ways and not as a team. On some day’s Clark clicks and some other days Johnson. But the most experienced bowler, Bret Lee, being out of form their bowling attack looks weak

As long as they don’t fix this and find a proper replacement for Matthew Hayden, the Australian cricket is bound to go down the ranks soon enough. Hayden’s exit is imminent post this series and Ponting‘s captaincy may not stay for more than an year from now.

Weekly Tidbits: England is back, Nathan Bracken to Bowl Spin, Dhoni’s Gesture and more…

England resumes…

The England team is finally back in India to complete the tour. Looks like the ECB’s security advisor gave a go ahead to the tour after his short diplomatic visit to India last week. I am sure the cricketing fraternity and BCCI will be relieved! And the PCB must be wishing that they had enough money to buy any number of cricketers and cricket boards around the world!

Are the English players really happy?

Bracken to bowl spin???

Well, that is quite a strange news! Nathan Bracken, the ODI pacer of Australia, is working on improving his test selection chances and the opportunistic route that he is taking is via spin bowling. Everybody knows that Team Australia is in the lookout of the right composition for their test side and the main problem is lack of good spin bowlers. It seems, Nathan even unleashed his spin against Tasmanians in a domestic match and took 8 wickets!

Could it bring a positive change to Australia and Bracken?

On a lighter note, could Shaun Tait have done it as well 🙂 His injuries and fears are related to express fast bowling alone, so…

Dhoni’s gesture

India’s no-nonsense captain, known for his unorthodox ways of living life and cricket, has donated his income from two matches for the terror victims in Mumbai. Good gesture MS! I wish many others, who are after running high profile restaurants and fitness clubs, did a similar job.

PCB considering neutral venues

The Pakistan Cricket Board is seriously considering the option of a neutral venue, for the planned tour of India to Pakistan, due to the terror situation in both countries and the looming worries of a military action. At the moment this seems to be the only chance for Pakistan to play some test matches in the next four to five months or so.