Monthly Archives: December 2011

Changes for the SCG and Beyond

It’s been happening every year for the last few and I’m sick of it. The time difference between Kuwait and Melbourne is insane and yet I’ve stayed up for dull, one-sided contests. At least South Africa is down the same time zone. Last year, it was game over once Australia were rolled over for 98 in their first innings; and this year’s showing from India was woeful. The Aussie fans will love it for sure, not so much the Indian ones who witnessed something eerily similar during the English summer, minus the injuries. Which probably makes it even more unfathomable.

Maybe I’m being a little unfair. The first three days were actually a tad entertaining, with the teams neck and neck. No batsman could make it past 75, so an arithmetic geek would have probably proclaimed that the guy who does so would grab hold of the initiative and propel his team to victory. Cowan 68, Ponting 62, Siddle 41, Sehwag 67, Dravid 68, Tendulkar 73, Ponting 60. And, *drum roll* Hussey 89 during the delicate Aussie second innings. There it was, and Australia built up a sizeable enough lead in their second innings to bat India out of the game.

The teams move on to Sydney during the new year now, and you would hope that it doesn’t end up being 2-0 for the sake of this usually competitive series. Australia still have a few problems to fix, especially with their batting, but the pacers look fine enough. Whether they play two spinners at the SCG against a team like India remains to be seen. There are reports of a grassy wicket being prepared, so maybe not. I get the feeling Ponting is due a big score now (something like 150+ is my hunch) but if they don’t get rid of that muppet Haddin, they’re nuts. Pattinson is absolutely terrific as a pacer, if he’d only stop sledging after every ball. You don’t do that after playing just three tests, noob.

India……sigh. Please don’t let it be 2-0. Looking down the team sheet there seem to be too many problems to ignore, though. Gambhir’s form has disappeared, and Laxman hasn’t crafted an overseas innings in ages. I’ve already bracketed retards like Kohli and Raina into those types who swear and cuss at the opposition in Hindi/Hinglish in the safety of their Dilli and Kolkotto home grounds while playing limited overs matches. Take them abroad in the test team to England, Australia and South Africa – they get blitzed. Heck, Kohli was even found out in the West Indies earlier in the year. I don’t count on him scoring anything significant this series. Then there’s Dhoni. He’s not a batsman in my opinion. Maybe it works out for him when he’s playing on dead wickets at home, coming in at 500-5 and scoring a quick 60 odd against tiring bowlers and fielders. But he cannot accelerate from 200-5 to 350 or bat with the tail, none of that. The Indian innings is effectively over once you get them 4 down. So what’s he in the team for? Keeper? I’m sure there are plenty of others who can bat better. Captain? Well, he’s getting whitewashed and is scoring nothing so…

India’s only hope is that the blokes who notched up a score in the first innings (Tendulkar, Sehwag, Dravid) somehow manage to carry on and take them upwards of 350. If that doesn’t happen, it’ll probably be 2-0, then 3-0, 4-0 or 3-1 or something like that. Large scale changes are in order for this team if that ends up being the case. As a tiny positive, can’t believe I’m really saying this, but their bowlers did a good job. The Indian bowlers, yeah, them. w00t.

India v Australia: Moments from the Past Decade

Always loved these two teams go head to head. Pretty epic contests, every single time. Here are a few moments from the last 12 or so years that were more than a little watchworthy.

1. 3rd Test, Sydney 2000 (Australia won by an innings and 141 runs)

When the great Aussie side were in operation, a touring side being over 300 runs behind when they walked out for their second innings was pretty routine. What was not was for a batsman to then tonk them for boundary after boundary in a desperate rearguard effort to help salvage a draw. India were reduced to 33-3 with both Dravid and Tendulkar back in the hut; an innings loss was a mere formality. Enter VVS Laxman. From memory, he was hit on the grill near the neck area pretty early on ducking into a Lee bouncer. It was then that he decided to say, ‘F**k this sh*t!!’ and pounded Australia to all parts of the SCG for the entirety of Day 3. 167 was the total he ended up with, amassing as many as 27 boundaries to get there. The next highest score was 25 by Ganguly. Yes.

India still lost by an innings and 141, but it was classy entertainment all round. More importantly, it was the beginning of Laxman’s pet project to destroy the Aussies every time he encountered their attack. Two more centuries have come from his blade at the SCG, in his two other matches hence. And he’s going to be seen early 2012 in the vicinity as well. Watch out.

2. 2nd Test, Kolkata 2001 (India won by 171 runs)

This match and series was Houdini in action. There was no way Australia should have lost after enforcing a follow-on. Christ, who does? But they underestimated the true nature of the pitch I bet; it had become more of a road than it was on Day 1, when they marched on to 445, led by a Steve Waugh century. In reply, India were bowled out for a paltry 171, came back on and well, you know the script. I don’t even need to tell you which pair of batsmen did the run scoring. Thus ended the commendable Aussie 16 match winning streak up until that point. India was labelled as the Final Frontier by the Waugh brigade. A Champion team they were, but they were unable to pocket a series win in India for whatever reason.

3. World Cup Final, Johannesburg 2003 (Australia won by 125 runs)

I watched this game when there was a war going on outside of my house (*cough*, true story), yet this Punter innings was a lot more brutal I’d have to say. India getting Gilchrist out at 1-105 proved not to be a relief, as Ricky coming in at #3 twanged 8 sixes on his was to a mammoth 140*. South African Airways had organized an air display between innings but it paled in comparison to what Ponting had managed over his two hours at the crease. For all intents and purposes, he ended the contest in the first fifty. Perhaps a supreme optimist might have thought that if Tendulkar could get going, the Indians might stand a chance. As it turned out McGrath disposed of him in the first over and that was that.

4. 2nd Test, Adelaide 2003 (India won by 4 wickets)

Back in the day, to get to Australia and back without a near-whitewash was mission impossible. India managed 1-1 out of four tests. Granted, Warne and McGrath were out injured but the Indian team could only play against whoever was against them on the field. Not that the attack was mediocre, Stuart MacGill was a handy spinner right through his 200+ wicket career and Bichel was no bunny either.

Adelaide was the venue of the victory; Rahul Dravid batted for over 835 minutes to ensure that India were in the game despite a knock of 242 from Ponting. 233 he ended up with, and whilst chasing 230 in the final innings, it could have gotten a little pear shaped with Tendulkar’s departure, but Dravid with a firm 72* saw it through to the end to ensure a win on Australian soil for the first time in a generation. Oh, and that other guy – Laxman? Yeah, think so. Made a 148 as well. Same old story, same old.

5. 3rd Test, Nagpur 2004 (Australia won by 342 runs)

This time around the Aussies did not mess up. They entered Nagpur already one up in the series and were comprehensively helped by Ganguly and Harbhajan wimping out after seeing the unusual green pitch on offer. Damien Martyn led the charge in both innings with the bat, compiling a century and a 97, while Gillespie polished off the fabled Indian top order for sub-200 scores on both occasions. Dravid 2, Tendulkar 2, Laxman 2. Chasing 543. Game over. The Aussies had finally conquered the final frontier.

6. 2nd Test, Sydney 2008 (Australia won by 122 runs)

Who cares about the result of this one? Nobody came out of this fixture clean. Harbhajan Singh – you know you called the bloke a monkey, just fess up and shut up. Cricket Australia – pretty toothless to roll over in front of the BCCI to save your financial backsides. Symmo – you did nothing wrong. You were a victim of racial abuse, complained to CA and they hung you out to dry. Pity. All this while you were just trying to settle into the Aussie test scheme of things. Tendulkar – Won’t make your legacy, but protecting that mediocre spinner in your side wasn’t in any way noble. BCCI – congratulations on scripting yet another drama on an Aussie/English tour. Steve Bucknor – need a fresh pair of eyes, mate?

For what it’s worth, Australia won by a hundred and twenty two.

7. 3rd Test, Delhi 2008 (Match Drawn)

Probably the least spectacular on my list, but check out the incidents from this game on YouTube if you can. Laxman did his customary Aussie bashing with a double century, but it’s the Gambhir 200 I’m talking about. Fraught with ruffles with the fielders, including one with Katich blocking him from taking a run at one point. There was also an incident where he elbowed Watson and was subsequently handed a one test match ban. This match was also Anil Kumble’s last test, and this series Saurav Ganguly’s as well.

8. 1st Test, Mohali 2010 (India won by 1 wicket)

Test matches in the sub-continent usually have the climaxes only in the third and fourth innings, and this one took that notion to the absolute extreme. 216 was what India were chasing on the final day, and Gambhir was adjudged incorrectly LBW for a duck right at the start. (Why don’t the BCCI like UDRS anyway?) Sehwag’s 17 and Dravid’s 13 were not handy enough and when Tendulkar departed at 119/6, it looked to be a tall ask. Laxman was still out there of course, but he had a bad back. No problemo, even after 124/8 as he and Ishant Sharma stitched together an 80 run partnership to get closer to the target. Before Sharma was incorrectly LBW in yet another muddle of a decision. Pressure mounted when last man Ojha walked in, but Laxman did it yet again. Ojha was given not out on an absolutely plumb LBW of course, but it evened out to the two previous shockers. Laxman’s 73* denied Ponting his first ever win on Indian soil. What a guy. Pure drama at the end, there.

Liar of the Year?

So all that hogwash about not needing surgery on his ankle was just that, huh? Just you folks at home wait until Perth comes around and we’re led by the legends of our game, Vinay Kumar, Abhinay Mithun and another random bloke called Dinda. Punter triple ton time would be my punt.

The Kiwis Can Beat Big Brother After All, Eh?

I couldn’t really come up with a series prediction before this one got underway, but I definitely didn’t go for 2-0 to the Aussies as I would have a few years ago, when they were in their heyday. Unfortunately they are not. Which is what folks like Mark Nicholas and Ian Healy must realize sooner rather than later. Channel 9’s broadcast is usually pretty watch-worthy, but their commentators have to move on with the times. It ain’t an effing funeral when Australia have lost, mate!

New Zealand’s media is arguably the opposite. They on the other hand, don’t know how to handle a win. When Chris Martin has bowled one of the Aussie top order rookies through the gate, it’s always a case of it being a poor shot and never a good ball. This, as well as New Zealand always turning up against the Aussies usually turns what should be a dull contest on paper, into a riveting sledge-fest at times.

Day 1 of Brisbane was an anti-climax. After I had woken up at 3 AM to watch. Disappointingly, the Kiwis seemed to be in limited overs mode. None of those balls that got rid of their top order was ever going to hit the stumps, they should have been left alone. The shots were horrendous – usually seen employed in the death overs of an ODI, not at the start of a five dayer for crying out loud! The frustrating McCullum fell to – you guessed it, a square cut. The other guy who made minced meat of the Aussie A side at the practice game – Jesse Ryder, succumbed to the same fate at a stage when he should have been rebuilding post the Lunch session. And captain Rossco managed to drag one on from outside off stump. All that avoidable carnage left them at 96-5, and Dan the man Vettori stepped out to save them as always. He made 96 himself, before an unnecessary run forced him to make his way back. Still, it was as much as the top order had put together.

On the other end was a Dean Brownlie, half-Aussie, whose runs through the series proved to be invaluable. He upped the total to 150 in a similar Kiwi first innings implosion at Hobart, before bravely proclaiming that it was enough on that greentop. Right he was, as the Kiwi quicks polished Australia off for 136. New Zealand’s second innings effort ebbed and flowed, with everybody getting a start before falling prey to the difficult pitch on offer. Ross managed to clock up a valuable 56 though, and even Chris Martin managed 2*.

Which took us to Day 4, one of the more exciting days of tests I’ve seen this year. After Australia’s 47 all out at Newlands a coupla’ months ago anyway. Chasing 241, David Warner held one end alight right through the end only to see his ten teammates collapse one by one at the other. Phil Hughes’ awful technique ensured that he was c Guptill b Martin four times out of four this series, and 72-0 became 159-3, and 194-7. Clarke and Hussey both made ducks, and New Zealand grasped the game then and there. Ideally you never give the Kiwis a sniff in any form of the game – else they’ll choke you. The Aussies did, losing the match by 9 runs. Pure theatre right at the end, as Warner and Lyon tried hard to get over the line. Good on New Zealand, winning a test against Australia for the first time since the early 90s, and for the first time in Aussieland since the mid 80s. Hope they can keep this up for the summer against South Africa at home.

The Vodafone man of the match poll was flawed. Bracewell deserved it, but Warner got it thanks to the tons of Aussies who voted in. What a joke.

So where do Australia go from here? They have a summer against India coming up, and they must see it out with a drawn result at least. Phil Hughes must be dropped – he simply has to fix that godawful technical flaw he has, edging to slip every third ball. It’s getting very difficult for Ponting not to be dropped for good, and Hussey has had a horror show since Sri Lanka though I’d say he still has some credit left thanks to his exploits prior. Clarke is pretty alright at #5, and he seems to be leading well with the bat. The bowling presents a slightly better picture, if inexperienced. Nathan Lyon is the Aussies’ thirteenth spinner since Warne and he seems to be a keeper for the time being. Pattinson has impressed, but Mitchell Starc is just like that other Mitchell he’s replaced, and he should aim higher. As for Siddle, pitch. it. up. mate.

Australia v India and New Zealand v South Africa should be corkers. Can’t wait.

By the way, to those of you slamming the Hobart pitch, get a life. If you don’t like attritional test cricket, don’t watch the sport. Simple.