Category Archives: Australia

A Slight Reinvention

I know this blog’s been coasting around the interweb with a few posts every now and then – more like one a month, without any solid direction or succinct analysis that might attract long-term readers. That’s now going to change.

I have the entirety of December off (well, almost) so this eight test home season, you’ll be privy to my sarcastic balderash for every day of every test match, with a few scatterbrained thoughts from any limited over fixtures. By that, I mean the 50 over games of course. The tontee-tontees can go to hell. I’m not bothered.

So sit back, and have a cup of coffee as me at my figurative TBF desk do my job of trying to up the ante of this blog. You can thank me later.

Can Somebody Just Shoot the Channel 9 Commentary Team!

Unfortunately no one’s going to. In fact, with these guys it’s a question of whether you‘d rather get shot:

a) in the left eye
b) in the right eye
c) in the left ear
d) in the right ear
e) in the mouth

They just flat out s*ck. All of them. It doesn’t help that the ones from the Packer era were handed lifelong contracts; which means its infitesmally difficult to push retards like Tony Greig out and Ian Chappell out of the box. Ageing Richie Benaud and Bill Lawry won’t be around the scene for much longer, so the bunch will go from bad to worse I expect.

Here’s a play by play, in no particular order:

Shane Warne: A rather recent addition, and I can see why people would take to him – he lightens up the commentary by a mile. I don’t mind most of him really; he calls the game the way it is and is happy to talk about and elaborate on the strengths and weaknesses of both teams. BUT. Terribly self indulgent and when he spontaneously likes a point he’s made, he tends to repeat himself, several times in the same sentence. I caught some Ashes 2010 footage the other day and there was this incident when England appealed for a Watson caught behind but didn’t opt for the referral. Which is when Warnie turned into a broken record:

“They’ve appealed but not gone ahead for a referral which is quite bizarre because they have appealed and then decided not to go to the third umpire, I mean why appeal so confidently and then not go for a referral. I can’t understand this…they’ve all appealed and Strauss has not gone for a referral”

Jeez. Shut up you dolt. We’ve already caught you the first time around.

Michael Slater: Give. Me. A. Break. With this guy. So excitable, like a kid in a candy store or something. What ticks me off the most is him not listening to the other two in the box when they’re talking and then repeating the same thing five minutes later. But he hits his worst when he partners with Healy. They annoy the hell out of me, “Slats and Heals”. Slater in particular just jabbers all kinds of rubbish and keeps swooning over New South Wales players. Occasionally he asks the other two a sensible question and simulates a bit of worthy chat or banter but in essence it’s justs “oohs” and “ahs” from him the rest of the time. And whats with the auditioning to become the voice-over guy for movie trailers?:

“Ponting was the Australian skipper with the world at his feet until one day…”

Mark Nicholas: English, but has never played a test match in his life. And it shows. He is simply over the top, and makes absurd calls like Usman Khawaja’s flick shot “being very Asian-like”. What a w*nker. Other examples from summers gone by include adding adjectives in front of players names – “Evergreen Strauss”, “Wonderful Murali”!? Can’t stand his hyperbole or the toffee accent, too frikkin polished. And. He thinks this non-event was “one of the great balls”?

Ian Chappell: Ah, Chappelli. The one with the “I”. As in “I did this” and “I did that”; I find myself yelling “SHUT UP YOU GOOSE!” everytime he’s on and begins to ramble along. I do value his opinions, but they are usually negative, pedantic and repetitive. Especially the whinging about things which no else gives a sh*t about, while ignoring what is actually happening in the game.

In summary, Chappelli’ll find his little gripe for the day, and proceed to bang on about it for the next 6 hours. It’s dedication to irritation like that that becomes so easy to fault. Whether it is his time for a short leg, or his all-time favourite rant about the positioning of the slips cordon, or the colour of the grips on players’ bats, he manages to continually pick out something really abstract to whine about and follow through. Even if every international captain and player took entirely sensible decisions onfield, I bet this guy will still find something to cry and moan to. Again, he’s from the times of Kerry Packer, so sacking him is out of the question. He’ll get a gig every summer until I die of depression if it has to come to that.

Bill Lawry: I don’t think Lawry’s retired yet, and he’s still good. Belongs to the dad’s army gang, so he’s generally very listenable. So you can’t really blame him when he refuses to get caught up in the banter between Slats and Heals or Tubbs – notice that he’ll always drive back the focus to the cricket. Good stuff, Bill. But gets a bit premature sometimes, unwanted calls of “HE’S GONE!” and “SIX” when someone remotely looks to be hitting a boundary or is potentially about to be caught is just ridiculous. And his terrible over exaggerated predictions – sometimes he’ll call a score for Australia that they’ll never get close to. All said and done though, this guy is far from the worst. Hope he stays on a wee bit longer.

Mark Taylor: From memory he entered the box right after he retired in the 90s. He looked to be slipping into the Slats mould at first, but I don’t know what’s happened; either he or I have changed, I really don’t mind him. Best of the younger lot in my book. He has a pretty open mind when it comes to looking at all aspects and all sides and it’s easy to see why he was such a good captain. But mumbles rather than speaks which is a turn off. A nice mix of layman and expert speak if and when you can decipher him. Whereas initially I thought of him as too vanilla for a commentary stint. My only gripe with him is his constant insisting that <insert curator of ground where current test is being played at> “is one of the best in Australia”? Doesn’t that go without saying? Or does skill and ability not come into it when nurturing and selecting them?

Richie Benaud: The oldest of the bunch, and the most recognizable voice of the Australian summer. Though he’s losing his marbles as the days are passing by and after its become three in the box, all he does is spew out something entirely weak and illegible every few minutes or so. Still, reminds himself not to overdo it which is good. Doesn’t have much fuel left in the tank I imagine.

Tony Greig: Does this guy commentate every shift of every session? I swear, every time I tune in he has to be on. Keeps raving on about the “wonderful technology on offer here in Channel 9” and reads an ad every five frikkin minutes. Gatorade, Vodafone memorabilia, KFC, and I even remember him plugging Desperate Housewives a few summers back. As if he has ever seen a f*cking episode in his life. And where the hell is he from? Born in South Africa, played for England and now commentates in Australia? I reckon he should just stick to Sri Lankan games so he can lodge up there and stop annoying the rest of us. He’s clearly past it.

Ian Healy: There’s a reason why I saved him for last. Needs a bullet. Simple as that. Worst sports commentator ever, let alone from Channel 9’s cricket bunch, Healy has no challenger to a global crown. The waffle that comes out of his mouth is cringeworthy most of the time. It’s prolly the keeper in him, the constant barracking and cheerleading for Australia. In one of the ODIs in the tri-series just gone by, he was adamant that Australia would get a wicket in the last 2 or 3 overs because he couldn’t accept the fact that they were going to lose. There’s nothing too sickening about a bit of hometown bias but I doubt Healy can see that there’re two teams playing. He dismisses everything that comes off for the other teams as “lucky” and the one that clinched it for me was the other night when he said that even if David Warner did nothing else in his career he’d still be a “legend of the game” and remembered as such. Huh?

Gilly should just come in and kick him out, just like he did so in the test team all those years ago. But I doubt it, for Gilly just hops on when the team are in Perth and hasn’t committed to commentary yet. Then again, I suppose he’d get successfully neutered and Channel 9d if he does and turn into one of the boys in there soon enough. Same old script’s been playing for years.

PS: I bet the segway stunt in the 2011 Boxing Day test was staged.

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Overall, they’re all a pain to listen to, and after a while, their voices just become noises in my head. What happened to the days when there was actually an international presence in the commentary box? Michael Holding from the Windies was a great caller, and there was also a Pakistani I believe. It doesn’t help that the only one among the panel who watches some international cricket that Channel 9 don’t cover is Tony G, who I cannot stand. It gets painfully obvious that outside of the Australian home summer very few of the others catch any test cricket: they neither know what the current rules are nor what the players have accomplished recently and even when they’re getting fed the stats they still manage to scr*w it up half the time. There is a terrible lack of knowledge of visiting players and teams. This is nothing new, by the way. They’ve been like this for as far back as I can remember.

Most folks in Australia are apparently equally peeved about Channel 9’s team, and a handy escape is to sync C9 video with ABC radio’s grandstand commentary. It wasn’t that bad when I tried it this summer really – Kerry O’ Keefe is terrific, and Harsha Bhogle is decent at worst. But Glenn Mitchell……no please no. He is a shocker. He will scream and shout even when absolutely NOTHING has happened. Doesn’t bode well for the radio listener, who cannot see a thing of what’s going on: “…and OH DEAR that has HIT HIM ON THE PAD! NOT OUT says Aleem Dar.” I was listening to the cricket on ABC during the Ashes in 2010 (when Hussey and Haddin were rearguarding at the ‘Gabba), and Glenn was making it sound like a wicket was about to fall every ball. Just settle down mate!

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Cheers for listening to that rant then. Nothing new here all said. Even Adolf Hitler’s of the same opinion.

The Life and Woes of India

Incredible. Another whitewash. I think we all knew it was coming after that first innings implosion at Perth; there was simply no comeback from there on. Rahul Dravid, a bloke nicknamed ‘The Wall’ was watching his stumps shatter every innings, Tendulkar couldn’t get past 25 and VVS had transformed into a Bangladeshi tail-ender in disguise. It’s a great pity really, for 8-0 over the past year has wiped out a decade’s worth of progress. Obviously Ganguly was the driver behind the success during this period, but we will forever remember this generation – Dravid, Tendulkar and Laxman, and perhaps to an extent Sehwag as the guys who made India strong overseas. Until now.

So where did we lose it? Day 3 of Melbourne was probably it. At 214/2 trailing Australia’s first innings 333, we should have taken the game by the scruff of the neck and posted a mammoth 400 or 500 to seal the deal. But. You know the script. We couldn’t even get to 300. Ditto Trent Bridge in the England tour. These are matches which we had the mental strength to win back when we were #1. Not anymore, unfortunately.

Rather, there must be something wrong with the rankings – should this team ever have been #1? These players have never won in Australia, never won in South Africa, and the only time they beat England was in 2007, by a margin of 1-0. Their best result in places like Kiwiland and the Windies is 1-0 (2006 and 2008 respectively). They have even failed to beat the Lankans in Lanka since something like 1994…..what a joke. Number #1? Stop kidding me. It appears as if India can only reach the top by accident. Never by design. And once there, it can’t stay for long. Anybody who were hoping for this side to build a team of an era like the Windies or the Aussies can go LoL themselves.

The momentum from the Ganguly-Wright era is drawing to a close, and it’s just as well that Cricket Australia didn’t budget for the fifth day in their final projections in each of these tests.

PS: Ishant Sharma can try bowling his Adam’s apple. Might get some reverse.

The 10 Best Tests of 2011

Whenever wisecracks yell out that T20 has killed, crucified, murdered, assasinated and whatever, test cricket, it has a splendid year. Test cricket, that is. Duh. When ever has T20 had a good year?

10. Sri Lanka v Australia at Galle (Australia won by 125 runs)

If tests in the subcontinent are boring, Galle in Sri Lanka is the region’s test capital. Why? 740/3, 952/7, 500/2 declared. That’s why. It came as such a relief therefore, when wickets started falling like ninepins during Sri Lanka’s first innings effort in the first test against Australia. Bowled out for 105, the Aussies could start up their second innings from day 2, guaranteeing us a result. That’s all we ask for, from Sri Lankan pitches.

The other two matches in the Warne-Muralitharan trophy, as it’s called, were draws and yet the ICC served up a warning to Galle for producing such an unfriendly wicket!? Maybe they were expecting the usual?

9. England v India at Trent Bridge (England won by 319 runs)

Trent Bridge, in contrast, is a superb test venue, second in England only to Edgebaston in my book. During the second England – India test of the summer, India were still fighting hard to get a foothold in the series after going down 1-0 at Lord’s. Day 1 saw England reduced to 124/8 before Stuart Broad bravely counterattacked to take the score to a respectable 221. Rahul Dravid and India seemed to be running away with India’s innings at 267/4, before – you guessed it – Broad scalped a hat trick. I suppose it was effectively five wickets because Yuvraj fell before the first hat trick ball, and Dravid skied a catch afterwards, seeing that he was suddenly left with the tail. England thus restricted India’s lead to a paltry 67, before marching onto the field and pwning Sreesanth and co. The game was in the bag. 1-0 became 2-0. Then 3-0. Then 4….you get the idea.

There was also a moment of controlled controversy as Bell was walking off for tea during day 3. I suppose that helps us remember a close test match even better.

8. West Indies v Pakistan at Guyana (West Indies won by 40 runs)

A team like the Windies go several years without a victory, be it home or away, so it’s always awesome to see them win. Props to Bishoo and Chanderpaul, whose last wicket stand in the disastrous second innings took the total from 105/9 to 152 all out. The scorecard says that the Windies won by 40, so that effectively sealed the match. Chanderpaul has always been solid as ever, but Bishoo was a #11 AND was making his international debut. Respect.

As an aside, the West Indies are the only team who wearwhite jerseys for their test matches. None of the mustard, ivory or all the other off-white tripe. Test cricket = White. Respect, like I said.

7. India v West Indies at Mumbai (Match Drawn)

There’s a reason why 2011 has been such a good year for test matches – there haven’t been too many draws. The fact that this test was a draw because of a mere technicality stands the format in good stead.

Beating India in India is next to impossible, but the West Indies of all teams came so close during the third of their three match test series. Going into the last over, all four results were possible – an India win, a West Indies win, a draw, and a tie. With 2 required off the last ball with one wicket in hand, first innings centurion R. Ashwin thought it was fine if he ran just the one. A pat on the back for him, he created some history for test cricket.

About his first innings century – I’ve never seen such a disappointed crowd witnessing a debut century. Why? Tendulkar was dismissed for 94 a few hours earlier, in pursuit of the irrelevant 100th youknowwhat. We can thus conclude that Ashwin wanted some of the limelight out of the entire affair there. And while we’re at it, we can celebrate the fact that both Tendulkar and Ashwin have one hundred international centuries put together in international cricket. How cool is that?

6. England v Sri Lanka at Cardiff (England won by an innings and 14 runs)

So draws emanate out of technicalities, and wins come from draws. Everybody had given up at Cardiff by the time day 5 rolled along. The weather had been dreadful, and only one innings had been played so far. Sri Lanka had made 400 batting first, to which England (or South Africa A in slang) replied with a sturdy 496. With just a handful of overs to survive in the final day then, Sri Lanka get bundled out for 82. Blink and you miss a wicket stuff. Not till the last pair got together did they actually try to get over their trail of 96 but with the supreme English attack on the prey, even that proved to be a lost cause.

5. South Africa v Sri Lanka at Durban (Sri Lanka won by 208 runs)

Whenever the South Africans get ahead, they’ll let themselves slip to get back amongst the pack. When the opposition is a team starved of overseas test wins, Sri Lanka, they’ll gobble up the opportunity. End of story.

4. Australia v New Zealand at Hobart (New Zealand won by 7 runs)

This was a classic. After the usual loss to big brother at Brisbane, the same old cliches were being drafted in about Kiwi cricket. Until the Hobart groundsman made a pitch so green that it would put the Pakistani flag to shame. What resulted was a closely fought four day affair that eventually culminated in a 7 run win for the black caps. David Warner thwacked a rearguard century only to see his teammates at the other end lose Australia the match, messing up what should have been a regulation chase of 241 in the fourth innings.

Sri Lankan and Indian groundsmen, take note.

3. South Africa v India at Cape Town (Match Drawn)

One all with everything to play for going into the third test at Cape Town. South Africa posted a par 364 thanks to a sublime Kallis 161, before India matched it shot for shot to end up on 362 all out. The Indian innings included a marvellous battle between Tendulkar and Steyn, a spell for the ages. With a lead of just 2, South Africa collapsed to 233/7 in their second innings, and the Indians should have fancied polishing them off within 250. Unfortunately they ran into the brick wall – Kallis – again, and he batted with the tail to push upwards to 341. There was no chance of a result from that point, but it was an engaging spectacle of fast bowling versus tentative pokes by the bat.

2. South Africa v Australia at Cape Town (South Africa won by 8 wickets)

Batting first, Australia posted a better than average 284 all thanks to Clarke’s Steve-Waugh esque batting with the tail to accumulate a personal score of 151. South Africa, for their part chased down 236 in their fourth innings to win the game.

In between whiles was the most unexplainable passage of play you could see. South Africa 96 all out. Australia 47 all out. Did somebody bomb the pitch? Many Aussie fans online were in splits over the Saffers’ 47/9 collapse, only to see their side top it with a 47/10 effort. At one stage, the Aussies were 21/9 before the last pair in Nathan Lyon and Peter Siddle more than doubled the score to 47. How the hell?

1. Zimbabwe v New Zealand at Bulawayo (New Zealand won by 34 runs)

Yeah, the Zimbots had won their first test on their return to the test fold against the Bangas, but not many fancied them against a superior New Zealand. Led by Brendan Taylor though, Zimbabwe managed to remain within touching distance of the Kiwis throughout the first four days, before bravely proclaiming to chase down their fourth innings total of 366 on day 5. Embarassment for the Kiwis beckoned as Taylor smashed a century enroute to 265/4, before the other Taylor – Ross, brought on Daniel Vettori. Dan had flown the thousand miles just for this one test, having retired from the shorter formats post the World Cup. Yet he still had it in him to kill the Zimbabwean chase with three crucial wickets.

Like I said, lap it up, T20 fans. We’re lovin’ it on the other side. It’s that finger licking good.

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.

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.