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Posts Tagged ‘stuart clark’

Four months after Australia’s poor showing at the World Twenty20, a number of the players involved in the Aussie set-up have managed to claim an international Twenty20 trophy by other means, with Brett Lee, Stuart Clark, Nathan Hauritz, Philip Hughes, David Warner and Simon Katich all involved in New South Wales’ victory over Trinidad & Tobago in the Twenty20 Champions League final.

Lee in particular showed his class in the final, hitting 48 from 31 balls and then taking 2-10, whilst Clark (3-21) and Hauritz (2-23, including the wicket of Kieron Pollard) also made telling contributions with the ball.

Now that the focus shifts to Australia’s ODI series against India, the main concern for those involved in both the Australian and NSWelsh sides is the lack of time to rest before the first ODI on Sunday. Two-thirds of the Australian touring party has been involved in the Champions League, and if similar situations continue to arise, then the sort of club vs country row that often fills column inches in football could be on its way to cricket soon.

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Club cricket takes a new turn this week with the inaugural Twenty20 Champions League. Here’s a brief run-down of the sides involved:

  • The Cape Cobras, although without the injured Graeme Smith, will still have plenty of firepower with JP Duminy and Herschelle Gibbs the main threats. The lack of access to the large pool of overseas talent that the IPL teams will enjoy could be an issue, though, as could a lack of familiarity with subcontinental conditions from the non-internationals amongst the squad.
  • The Deccan Chargers boast a wealth of talent, with Adam Gilchrist, Andrew Symonds, Chaminda Vaas and Scott Styris all in the squad alongside Indian players of the quality of Laxman and RP Singh. One of the IPL sides will be expected to win the competition, and the Chargers will certainly fancy their chances.
  • The Delhi Daredevils pulled off a coup in securing Dirk Nannes‘ services for the tournament, and some of his fellow Victorians may be cursing that decision on Friday when he could well open the bowling against the Australian side. Meanwhile, Gambhir, Sehwag and Dilshan could be an irresistable top order combination if they all hit form. The loss of Paul Collingwood to injury is unlikely to be felt too deeply (except by Collingwood himself, who has ‘a little niggle in his buttock’, no less).
  • The Eagles are on paper the weakest team in the competition, but the likes of Dillon du Preez and Ryan McLaren have overseas experience, and Twenty20 competitions have proved ripe for surprising results in the past, so they shouldn’t be underestimated.
  • New South Wales could upset the IPL hegemony, with the likes of Simon Katich and the famously big-hitting David Warner providing the runs, whilst Stuart Clark, Nathan Hauritz and Brett Lee will be a potent attack. If the problems which the Australian national side had in the World Twenty20 can be overcome, then NSW could be heading home with some silverware to go with their international players’ natty new white jackets.
  • Otago‘s chief asset, as ever, is the power-hitting of Brendon McCullum, but brother Nathan can also contribute. Dimitri Mascarenhas, available as neither Hampshire nor Rajasthan have qualified, has a strong track record in this format with both bat and ball, and is a strong addition to the squad.

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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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Australia begin their Ashes warm-up in earnest tomorrow with a tour match against Sussex, and all eyes will be on the bowlers as the Aussies try to determine what their strongest attack is. Of the five pace bowlers in the squad, only Mitchell Johnson can feel confident of his place in the side for the First Test in two weeks’ time. That leaves Brett Lee, Stuart Clark, Peter Siddle and Ben Hiflenhaus to battle it out for the remaining places. Leaving aside the various possibilities regarding spinner Nathan Hauritz and all-rounders Shane Watson and Andrew McDonald, the Sussex match (and next week’s match against the England Lions) could be seen as a shoot-out between the four pacemen. But who should play?

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Peter Siddle claimed his first-ever 5-wicket haul in Test cricket to give Australia a clear advantage over South Africa in the Third Test, and has alsogiven the hosts hope of hanging onto their status as the top-ranked Test team in the world.

If Australia do go on to win, or at least to prevent South Africa from winning, will they still actually be the best team in the world? Probably not. But they are seemingly starting to recover from their recent slump, and when Lee and Clark are fit and firing alongside Mitchell Johnson (and perhaps Siddle, if he can continue in the same vein as today), they will be very good, certainly better than – not quite picking a name at random – England.

In short, I don’t think anyone in the Northern hemisphere should be buying ‘Ashes winners 2009’ T-shirts just yet (unless they’re one of those ubiquitious Aussie bar staff).

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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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At the time of writing, Australia and South Africa stand 1st and 2nd in the ICC Test rankings, so this, in theory, should be Australia’s toughest home series.

Both sides come into the series following wins over Test minnows (Bangladesh in South Africa’s case; New Zealand for Australia), but it is the sides’ relative performance on their respective tours of India that gives the tourists real hope of causing an upset.

Australia have arguably never been more vulnerable at home. As well as suffering the psychological blow of defeat to India, the home side are missing Stuart Clark and haven’t yet found their best XI. Nathan Hauritz is replaced by Jason Krezja, and Peter Siddle gets another chance to stake his claim for a Test spot

For South Africa, much hangs on the form of their fast bowlers. If Steyn and Morkel bowl as well as they are able to, then they will cause problems for the Australian batsmen. Paul Harris, who is likely to play in the First Test, will also be a crucial figure for the tourists, who – on paper at least- should have a strong enough batting lineup to cope with Australia’s makeshift attack.

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