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Posts Tagged ‘glenn mcgrath’

Mitchell Johnson, after a disappointing Ashes series (even allowing for his fine showing at Headingley), is showing English crowds what he’s capable of. After taking a wicket with his only ball of the rain-curtailed Twenty20 series, he was at it again at The Oval, taking 3 for 2 from his 7 overs as Australia won by 4 runs.

The potency of Johnson and the equally impressive Brett Lee as a strike partnership may have Australian fans pondering what might have been if the two had bowled together in the Test series. Whilst Hilfenhaus, Siddle and Clark picked up plaudits in some quarters, it’s hard to escape the feeling that the series was ultimately decided by two awesome bowling spells (particularly, of course, Stuart Broad‘s at The Oval) which Australia’s pacemen couldn’t quite deliver.

Speculation is of course an idle pastime, but there are certainly plenty of Poms who reacted to Lee’s injury at the start of the summer in much the same way as they did four years earlier when Glenn McGrath managed to injure himself in a warm-up without so much as an Owais Shah leg-biter to blame. I don’t think anyone is saying that Lee would have had as much impact as McGrath undoubtedly would have in 2005 (indeed, I made that point at the time), but the Aussie pace attack might have been a little more stable with his involvement.

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In all the (admittedly irresistable) excitement about Flintoff, 1934 and all that, it’s important to remember that 2009 is not 2005. The tension has been similar, but mainly because both sides have alternated between dominance and capitulation, rather than because the standard of cricket has been as high as it was during the much exalted series of four years ago.

England, certainly, have looked much less impressive with the ball than they were at their mid-decade peak, with even Flintoff only occasionally managing to dispel the impression that he is something of a nostalgia act (today, of course, has been a glorious exception). The batting, too, is less assured – perhaps surprising, given that Ian Bell was in the 2005 side.

It’s hardly revelatory to suggest that Australia’s bowling attack is weaker than it has been for any Ashes series for nearly two decades, but it’s nevertheless accurate. Whereas the Aussies used to have the best bowlers in the world, Hauritz isn’t even necessarily the best spinner in Australia, and comparing McGrath to Hilfenhaus or Siddle is a bit like comparing Elvis to Jimmy Ray, at least for the moment.

So, it’s not time to start planning that chapter in your memoirs about the ‘legendary summer of 2009’ just yet, but unfortunately, this Ashes series seems to be having a similar effect on my mental health to the 2005 edition.

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Brett Lee is injured, and may yet miss the whole (or at least the bulk) of the Ashes series. For English fans, the temptation to make a comparison with Glenn McGrath’s injury in 2005 is almost irresistable, but Lee in 2009 is not quite the frightening prospect that McGrath was four years agoMitchell Johnson has well and truly supplanted Lee as Australia’s most threatening pace bowler, and until his strong showing against the England Lions, the latter wasn’t necessarily an obvious selection for the First Test.

Lee’s injury does, however, raise one or two interesting questions about Australia’s selection for the First Test. Although Lee was absent throughout Australia’s ‘comeback’ series in South Africa, his experience (and in particular his familiarity with English conditions) would have been invaluable for the tourists. But in his absence, there are opportunities for others. Will Nathan Hauritz play? Does this injury give Shane Watson or Andrew McDonald a chance to play? I suppose we’ll have to wait and see.

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The second season of the IPL (or the first season of the SAPL, if you prefer) gets underway this weekend, so here’s the lowdown on the teams taking part:

Bangalore Royal Challengers
Bangalore’s main pre-season activity was the purchase of Kevin Pietersen and KP will join a host of his fellow countrymen in Kallis, Steyn and Boucher. Last year the Royal Challengers finished seventh of eight teams, with only 4 wins, and Rahul Dravid didn’t look much of a Twenty20 batsman last time out, so it is to be hoped that the signing of Pietersen and the availability of Nathan Bracken following injury last year will improve things.

Zaheer Khan has departed to the Mumbai Indians in a swap deal for Robin Uthappa, but Steyn and Bracken – when available – should be enough to keep the bowling up to standard. Nevertheless, the Royal Challengers are unlikely to be amongst the favourites for the competition this year (although as Rajasthan showed last year, the odds may not be a fair indicator of each team’s relative chances).

Chennai Super Kings
Initial indications are that Chennai look strong again this year. Matthew Hayden’s retirement from international cricket means he is available for the whole competition, and new signing Andrew Flintoff, if fit, could potentially be the archetypal IPL all-rounder. In addition, MS Dhoni remains a potent threat.

Last season, the Super Kings lost out to Rajasthan in the final on the last ball, and the squad looks good enough to go one better this time around if fortune (and fitness) favours the Super Kings.

Delhi Daredevils
Dehli have been hit by the loss of Shoaib Malik and Mohammad Asif, but have added Australian master blaster David Warner and English duo Paul Collingwood and Owais Shah. Perhaps most important of their new additions is ‘Dirty’ Dirk Nannes, a Twenty20 specialist who has been part of successful Middlesex and Victoria teams in the shortest form of the game.

Dehli also have the likes of Sehwag, Gambhir, Vettori, de Villiers and McGrath at their disposal, so if the Daredevils can get the make-up of their side right, they have a strong chance of success. The fact that most of their overseas stars will be available throughout may lead to the odd selection problem, but they will be problems of the sort that other franchises would like to have.

Deccan Chargers
Last year’s wooden-spoon winners in dead last place, the Chargers suffered heavily in the batting department as Shahid Afridi, Scott Styris and even Herschelle Gibbs failed to live up to expectations. he has been recalled, and they have a preponderance of all-rounders having also added Dwayne Smith and Ryan Harris.

RP Singh is also under pressure after a disappointing season last year, as is Chaminda Vaas, and Fidel Edwards’s arrival should improve the effectiveness of the bowling unit. In all, there is some hope for a better performance this year, although it would be hard for the Chargers to do any worse.

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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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After what seems like about a thousand games of cricket, the Indian Premier League has now reached the Semi-Final stage. Here’s a brief roundup of the teams still involved

  • Dehli Daredevils: Having Glenn McGrath in the side has obviously helped, but the Daredevils still had to wait on other results to make the final four after losing to Punjab. Dehli probably won’t be many people’s tip to win the whole thing.
  • Chennai Super Kings: After a strong start, the Super Kings suffered when all their Australians left part-way through the season to tour the West Indies. With Stephen Fleming also unavailable for the rest of the season, Chennai will struggle to replicate the explosive form of April, but they still have enough quality (especially in their bowling, with Ntini, Muralitharan and Balaji) to win.
  • Kings XI Punjab: Punjab should be strong on confidence after beating Rajasthan by 41 runs on Wednesday, and Luke Pomersbach is tailor-made for twenty20. With the likes of Pomersbach and Kumar Sangakkara (who’s made five 50s in 18 innings of twenty20), as well as plenty of young Indian talent, the Kings XI are serious contenders.

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