Archive for December, 2008

Kevin Pietersen has apparently called for emergency talks with the ECB over the role of coach Peter Moores in the England setup. Once Giles Clarke gets back from holiday, KP is believed to be very keen to discuss the state of his working relationship with the beleaguered Moores.

Given that it’s only three weeks until the squad departs for their tour of the West Indies, any further breakdown in the working relationship between captain and coach (who weren’t ever the most comfortable of bedfellows, and have certainly had their differences) could be potentially disastrous for the tourists.

The outcome of these ‘discussions’ could have far-reaching consequences for English cricket, if all the stories are to be believed.

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What happens now?

Do Australia bounce back from their first series defeat since 1992 and restore themselves atop the Test cricketing world?

Or is it over for the Aussies? Do South Africa establish themselves as the new Australia, merciless and ruthless with a deadly bowling attack (yes, even Paul Harris) and annoyingly successful batsmen, as Australia sink down the rankings to the level currently occupied by England?

Does Ponting survive (as captain, I mean, he is surely not in danger of losing his place as a batsman)?

Answers on postcard (or, alternatively, in the comments)…

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Whilst the attention of the cricketing world has been elsewhere, Bangladesh have been battling away in Dhaka, taking their Test match against Sri Lanka into a fifth day. The fact that the Tigers’ supremely unlikely chase of 521 will continue tomorrow is largely due to Mohammad Ashraful and Shakib Al Hasan, both of who will resume tomorrow to try and extend their partnership of 74.

Ashraful in particular looked impressive while making his first half-century in nearly 20 innings, and Al Hasan is a contender for the home side’s man of the match, given his five-for in the first innings. Earlier, Tamim Iqbal had made 47 before getting out rashly.

For the tourists, Bangladesh’s fightback is an inconvenience, but the might of Murali is likely to be too much for the hosts to hold out. And Mendis will be back in the side for the Second Test, so things will only get harder for the Tigers.

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After an indifferent tour of England, Dale Steyn has returned to the form he showed earlier in the year with a ten-wicket haul against Australia in the Second Test.

South Africa are on the brink of what would probably be a historic series victory Down Under, and the power of their pace attack is a big factor in their recent success. Their continued effectiveness against top-level batsmen is almost enough to make me accept the absence of Andre Nel from the side.


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Either England’s selectors have come to their senses, or the crazed combination of staunch conservatism and random stick-a-pin-in-Playfair changes has accidentally happened upon something approaching reason.

Not only is Michael Vaughan, who was given a central contract as part of the ECB’s continuing commitment to 2005 nostalgia, not included in the squad for the strangely logical reason that he is in poor form, but no less than two of my Ones to Watch have been selected to tour the Windies – Adil Rashid for the Test side, and Steve Davies in the One-Day squad.

What’s next? Batsmen being dropped for not making runs? An acceptance that Alastair Cook is not a Twenty20 opener?

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Australia have, for the second Test match running, let South Africa off the hook. In Perth, they allowed to tourists to chase down a preposterous 414 for victory, and in the current match at the MCG, they conceded a first-innings deficit despite a strong performance from Peter Siddle in particular which had at one stage reduced the tourists to 184/7 in reply to Australia’s 394. Although JP Duminy deserves credit for his remarkable innings, it is tempting to speculate how many he would have scored against a more experienced attack.

With Brett Lee (who would, in fairness, probably have been dropped anyway) out with a foot injury, the hosts will most likely go into the final Test with a massively inexperienced bowling unit. The days of Warne and McGrath seem now to be of a different era, even though it’s only 2 years or so since they were both in the Australian side.

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Australia’s bowling attack has been crying out for someone to back up Mitchell Johnson in the wicket-taking stakes, and Peter ‘Vicious’ Siddle seems to have volunteered. He took the wickets of Smith, Devilliers and McKenzie as Australia put South Africa well and truly on the back foot in the Boxing Day Test.

Stuart Clark’s recovery from injury may now be more of a pressing subject for the consideration of Brett Lee (13-2-68-0) than it was a couple of days ago.

The tourists, meanwhile, are in trouble.

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Christmas Youtube: Boxing Day

It’s Boxing Day, and in Australia that means it’s the Boxing Day Test. The long history of playing cricket in Melbourne on December 26th has thrown up a number of memorable moments, mainly of success for the home side – the Aussies haven’t lost a Boxing Day Test since 1998 – and for Shane Warne in particular, from his 7-52 in 1992 to his 700th Test wicket in 2006.

Another legend of the game who has enjoyed a special post-Christmas present in the past is Sachin Tendulkar, who made 116 in 1999, during the same match that Brett Lee took his first Test wicket.

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Australia go into the Boxing Day test in the unprecedented position of being 1-0 down in a home series against South Africa. Ricky Ponting will undoubtedly have asked Santa to bring him some wickets, as the inexperienced Australian attack only managed 14 of them in the First Test, 11 of which were taken by Mitchell Johnson.

Matthew Hayden, too, will be anxiously rushing down the stairs on Christmas morning to see if Father Christmas has left him an extension to his Test career. Everyone’s favourite incomprehensible Aussie opener is in dire need of a big score to justify his continued inclusion in the side. The MCG and Boxing Day Tests in particular have been a happy hunting ground for Hayden, and he badly needs to make another big score there this time.

For South Africa, their Christmas list will have been headed ‘more of the same’. Their reputation as chokers will have many expecting a collapse at the MCG, but the incentive of becoming the number one side in the world with victory in the two remaining Tests should be sufficient motivation to keep them concentrated on the task in hand.

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In this season of goodwill to all, the ICC seem to have extended an olive branch to the rebel Indian Cricket League by holding talks with Subhash Chandra, the ICL’s owner.

Meetings like this have been held before, of course, but notable this time was the presence of former BCCI president and current ICC vice-president Sharad Pawar. This may be an indication of a softening in stance from the previously hard-line BCCI.
I think most cricket fans would like to see this issue resolved now, and I hope that meetings such as this will help bring about an end to the international exile and leper-like status imposed on the likes of Mohammad Yousuf and Shane Bond.

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Australia, still reeling from conceding 414 runs in the fourth innings of the First Test, have made some changes to their attack ahead of the Boxing Day Test. Ben Hilfenhaus has been called into the squad as an extra option, Krejza has been swapped for Hauritz, but Siddle stays.

The logic of bringing in Hilfenhaus is that he could cause South Africa the same sort of problems that Johnson did in Perth. What this means for the struggling Brett Lee is unclear, but Siddle, who took only one wicket at the WACA, is the more likely candidate for being dropped.

The change of spinner seems a little less clear in its motivation, and in general there’s not much that suggests all of Australia’s problems will disappear before Friday.

The main factor that will fire up the hosts is likely to be the sour taste of home defeat, not a familiar flavour for most of the side.

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The IPL transfer window opens tomorrow, with franchises allowed to trade players between themselves until January 22nd.

Following this, there’s an auction scheduled for early February for International players who weren’t involved last time around. Notably, this may include the likes of Kevin Pietersen and Andrew Flintoff, depending on the outcome of discussions between the ECB and the BCCI. These discussions could also lead, according to some recent reports, to a revival of the idea of some IPL matches taking place in the UK.

The only thing I can say for sure on this is that Pietersen’s century and Flintoff’s 62 today won’t have harmed their potential value.

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