Category Archives: New Zealand

Why Have The Kiwis Become Such A Walking Selection Contradiction?

Let’s face it. The 2-nil whitewash at the hands of…wait for it…the West Indies!, was embarrassing, even for this lot. Add to that the departure of John Wright as coach and the revelation that the only teams they are better than in the rankings now are Bangladesh and Zimbabwe. Can’t get worse, right?

Er…no it can. Have a glance at their squad for the India tour coming up later this month.

What a total joke. They’ve left out Dean Brownlie – the only guy who could hold a bat in Australia recently; the man who replaces him is James Franklin. Who was also “rested” from the Windies tour so he could prepare for the World T20 by playing in the English domestic competition. Now he’s been recalled for a two test tour of India; how is that gonna help prepare for the WT20?

Ditto Tim Southee. Seven tests ago, he was the leader of their attack going into Aussie territory; a couple of tests later he was deemed as not good enough for South Africa and dropped in favour of Mark Gillespie. Now he’s back again.

The icing on the cake? They just had a former Aussie high performance bowls director announcing this team at a presser. WTF.

Saffers versus Kiwis. Game on.

The last twelve months have been weird as hell. Thinking back to around about this time last year, Australia had just gotten themselves pummeled by England in the fifth and final Ashes test at the SCG. If you had told me then that they would whitewash India the following year – the then #1s, while the new #1s – England, would in turn get whitewashed by the basket case that is Pakistan, I would’ve coughed into my soup.

But stuff like that is exactly what has happened. And we had a superb 50 over World Cup in between whiles as well as classy bilaterals between the West Indies and Pakistan, Australia and South Africa, and Australia and New Zealand. Unpredictable was how they rolled, as all the two test affairs tapered to neither here nor there 1-1 results, leaving the average fan wanting that extra third test, to see which side could have hypothetically got their noses ahead.

Up next then, we have South Africa flying to the corner of the planet that is New Zealand, a place where they’ve generally toured well in going by statistics. Thanks to the abject failures of #1 and #2 in their respective away series, the Proteas can climb up the ladder to the top of the pile to claim the top ranking for themselves. The catch? They’ve got to whitewash the blackcaps in the three match series.

Doesn’t seem likely does it? Here’s why:

1. Like it or not, weather will always relegate large chunks of games in New Zealand to damp squib affairs. Be surprised not, if Game I at Dunedin is rained out. It’s the closest international venue to the south pole and overcast skies are always around the corner. Yes, even during the summer months. Once we’re through with that encounter and the scoreline still reads 0-0, there goes the Proteas chance of a whitewash.

2. Number two. New Zealand ain’t going to roll over. They have ripped apart Zimbabwe leading in to this series, prior to which they come off a morale boosing win at Hobart against big brother Australia. 1-0 down is as far as they’ll go I reckon. Watch out for great performances from Two Toes, the Wunderkid and Rossco, if his groin fixes itself in time LoL.

3. And. When was the last time a South African sports team grabbed their chance when the finish line’s been in sight? That’s right, never. Ditto here. My prediction? 1-1, with the Saffers conquering Hamilton. Expect Steyn and Philander to rip through the Kiwi top-order that game.

Knowing how fortunes have panned out over the past year, I’m most likely going to be wrong with the Kiwis thrashing South Africa 3-0 or something weird such as that. Still, an educated guess is always on I reckon, so here it is: South Africa 3 New Zealand 0? Not gonna happen.

PS: I like the ways tours to New Zealand are structured. Looking at the FTP, most of them comprise of 3 Tests, 3 ODIs and 3 T20s. None of the 2 Tests, 7 ODIs balderash. They do distribute their food evenly, them Kiwis.

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.

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.