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Archive for July, 2009

Australia Looks Solid On A Rain Curtailed Day

Friday, July 31st, 2009

There were not many surprises in the Australian team apart from the omission of Phil Hughes and Mitchell Johnson being retained. Shane Watson made a good come back to the test side by scoring an unbeaten 62 on a truncated day at Edgbaston.

Ricky Ponting won the toss for the first time in this series. Australian openers started off the day cautiously but once they got their eye on, the strokes flowed from their willows. Greame Swann came in to break the partnership trapping Simon Katich in front of wicket, but by that time Australia had laid a solid foundation. Ricky Ponting gave good support to Watson despite edging a few deliveries of Flintoff.

England went to the match with Ian Bell as the solitary change as Steve Harmison finds his place in the sidelines. Their bowling looked ordinary and lacked energy compared to the Lord’s Test and Australia dominated the useable 30 overs with a glorious run rate of above 4. As expected, Flintoff struggled against right-handers though few of his deliveries probed Ponting in the last over of the day.

The pitch is absolutely flat and will be a graveyard for the bowlers. If there are any major interventions of rain on day 2, then England will go into the penultimate test match with the 1-0 lead. If Australia want to seal a victory in this test match, then they have to score 450+ runs before tea on Day2.Given the nature of the pitch, it would be very easy. However, if England emulates Australia’s effort, then a draggy draw would be the apparent result.

Australia Feels The Heat As Battle Resumes Today

Thursday, July 30th, 2009

The inclusion of Shane Watson at the top-order will be a gamble that Australia takes after dropping specialist opener Phil Hughes. The biggest advantage of Watson’s come back will be the boost that the bowling department gets, considering the lack of form of their ‘spearhead’- Mitchell Johnson. Johnson has had a forgettable tour in which he has struggled terribly. This is quite contrary to what we witnessed in South Africa, where the hosts were probed and tested by ferocious fast bowling from Johnson.

Phil Hughes has been a weak link at the top as he finds it difficult to combat the short deliveries. Flintoff dismissed him in similar fashion in both innings at Lords where Australia lost to England after long 75 years. Though Phil Hughes is a teenage prodigy and has the potential to play at the international level, his techniques need refinement. Playing first class cricket would be the best option for him to improve, as Australia is famous for their strong domestic circuit.

Shane Watson, perhaps one of best all-rounders in world cricket today, will also have a point to prove after coming back from a short break. Australia will be under a lot of pressure to make it 1-1 after the demoralizing defeat at Lords. They will be relieved by the exclusion news of Kevin Pieterson due to injury, however would be wary of the presence of Andrew Flintoff, who annihilated the Australians at the home of cricket.

Edgbaston Awaits Another Humdinger

Wednesday, July 29th, 2009

‘Never ever give up’ is the motto of the Aussies when they enter the cricket field. This is perhaps the legacy carried forward from Steve Waugh, one of the greatest Australian captains in the history of the game. The Australian team has displayed this character on several occasions and they have managed to pull off many stunners. Ricky Ponting, though not as charismatic as Waugh, infused the same theory into every game they played. Australia’s 2 runs defeat in their 2005 Ashes encounter is a wound the team still carries after long 4 years.

The second test of the 2005 Ashes series was a cliffhanger and England held their nerve to beat Australia by mere 2 runs, which eventually cost Australia the Ashes. England started the final day as favorites to win the match. Australia needed 107 runs to win with just a couple of wickets in hand. As the day progressed, we saw a determined Shane Warne, Brett Lee and Michael Kasprowicz fighting hard with all their limited batting skills in pursuit of an highly unlikely victory. The last pair added a valuable 59 runs before Kasprowicz was given out for a ball he didn’t nick.

The grieving memory of that blip is still haunting the Australians and if they manage to defeat England this time around, they can make a come back to the series and can heal the wounds of the defeat in 2005.

The Halt Looks Apparent For The ‘Rawalpindi Express’

Tuesday, July 28th, 2009

It was one of the finest pieces of fast bowling, when Shoaib Akthar ran through several batting line-ups in the 1999 World Cup. His extensive run-up and stiff action were not the attributes of a generic fast bowler. Right from the start, he has topped the headlines of several newspapers in Pakistan, either for his on-field performances or off-field controversies.

His blistering speed has been his main weapon against his opponents. He has used it effectively against several batsmen. However, his pursuit for breaking the 100-miles speed barrier ruined his chances of cementing his place and lead to several injuries. He was banned for two years after testing positive for using Nandralone, however, was reprieved upon his appeal. After the doping saga, he couldn’t be a part of the national squad on a permanent basis, due to various reasons.

Shoaib Akthar’s exclusion from the probable list for the Champions Trophy is a clear indication that the selectors are looking forward to a group of youngsters, who would form the core of the Pakistan team in the 2011 World Cup. Though his career is virtually over, there is a remote chance of a recall, if he improves his fitness and performs at his best in the county matches.

Commercialization of the Gentleman’s Game

Tuesday, July 28th, 2009

Since the first cricket test played in 1877, cricket has evolved drastically and diversified into three main formats and other local formats. Test cricket remains as the heart and soul of cricket, while one day cricket and now T20 are tagged as the popular versions of the game. Cricket has been generating billions of money from the sub-continent, especially from India, where people keep cricket close to their heart and celebrate every cricket match as a national festival. Advertisers pour in to be a part of every cricket carnival where cricketers are considered as demigods. Corporates are behind them for making them brand ambassadors of products, because of their superstar value and it is no wonder that cricketers are amongst the highest paid sports professionals now.

IPL has helped several international and domestic players to secure their lives through its lucrative pay packages and helped them to get priceless experience through its generic flavor. The IPL has contributed a lot to team India’s current success, with players like Yusuf Pathan, Ravindra Jadeja, Abhishek Nayar and several others being the beneficiaries. It has also amplified the flow of money into cricket. The prize money, sponsorship, players’ salaries and all other attributes have outdone the prevailing trend and IPL became the benchmark in the world of cricket.

Notwithstanding its attractiveness, arguably, IPL has resulted in the premature retirement of several great players like Adam Gilchrist, Matthew Hayden and the latest update to the list is Andrew Flintoff. Can the players alone be blamed for this especially when West Indies players boycotted their series against Bangladesh due to contract issues? We can argue that the players should give preference to their country first than any other commitments. However, the fact is that, at the end of the day money matters!

Will Australia Overcome The Menace Of Freddie?

Sunday, July 26th, 2009

As the countdown to Edgbaston begins, the Australians are pondering on different issues ahead of the crucial third test. With Brett Lee ruled out and the dismal form of Mitchell Johnson, Australia will have to rely a lot on their rookie fast bowlers– Ben Hilfenhaus and Peter Siddle for making early inroads into the formidable English batting. Above all, the main cause of concern will be their batsmen playing against Andrew Flintoff, who has been a menace for Australia right through this Ashes series.

Though everyone lauds the effort of Flintoff at Lords, we cannot forget the fact that his performance against the right-handers has been a blot in his resume. In his 12 Ashes Tests, He has picked up 42 wickets out of which only 18 have been the right-handers. Out of that 18 wickets, there were only 6 specialist batsmen. The current Australian XI consists of 6 lefties, which is an apparent advantage for Flintoff.

The best strategy to combat Flintoff will be mixing up the right-handers at the top of the order and including Shane Watson ahead of Marcus North. Watson will be handier than North in English conditions, as Australia will be desperate to seize a win in order to stay alive in this series.

Salvaging The Vintage Edition

Friday, July 24th, 2009

There has been lot of discussion across the globe pertaining to the saving of test cricket from becoming obsolete. Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC), the lawmakers of cricket, have been brainstorming on this issue for a while and come up with several solutions including ‘Day-Night’ matches.

The lack of interest for test matches has been being prevailing since 2004, after the introduction of T20 matches. The huge success of the Indian Premier League has fastened the demise of Test cricket. Andrew Flintoff’s retirement from test cricket has brought the spotlight again on IPL that provides a lucrative income stream for the players. It is rather apparent that the opulence provided by the IPL is resulting in the premature exit of several great players. Let’s see some solutions by which we can keep the test matches alive.

Starting the matches on Wednesday

This will increase the revenue of the match, since the last couple of days will fall on Saturday and Sunday. People will be quite happy to spend their weekends to support their home team.

The 20-20 Intervals

Currently there are 3 sessions, which are Lunch, Tea and Post-Tea. The mandatory overs bowled per day can be reduced from 90 overs to 80 overs. This would help to create 4 sessions of 20 overs each, which will avoid the ‘bad light’ issue, which happens very often these days. This will also help the players to charge up as they would be getting sufficient breaks. By reducing 10 overs everyday, the pace of the game will also improve.

Mandatory sporting wickets

An ICC committee should review each turf before the matches to ensure that they are made without any bias to the home team. It will make the match more competitive as the ‘home advantage’ factor is eliminated.

Test World Cup

The concept of a World Cup for test matches is quite a complicated topic, however there are few ways by which this concept can be applied properly. In the preliminary stage, the 8 test teams will face each other in a home and away match. There will be 40 match days in this round (8 matches * 5 days) followed by 20(4*5) in the semi finals and 5 days in the final. Altogether there will be 65 match days and this can be stretched to the whole season like the football leagues are conducted.

Above all, the cricketing fraternity that includes players, boards, officials and most importantly, the spectators should love and favour this version of the game. If the test matches are overlooked, the coming generation would find it hard to understand the feats by the great legends like Don Bradman and Garfield Sobers.

The 4 Stalwarts From Down Under

Thursday, July 23rd, 2009

The Australian team is facing tough times since their great players are frequently hanging their boots after every tournament. The present situation of the team could be attributed to the retirement of their all-time great players like Matthew Hayden, Adam Gilchrist, Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne.

These folks have changed the entire dynamics of the game through their peerless career. Each one of them was special in their expertise and niche; when they played, they ruled the game and history was rewritten on several occasions. They were truly instrumental in getting the ‘Invincible’ tag for Australia. They carried on the legacy given by Steve Waugh, who enlivened the Australian team in the mid 90’s to perform at a different level and to become the world-beaters. These players have been the backbone of Australian cricket for the past few years and the void created by their exit is hard to fill.

Biggie Haydos

Mathew Hayden’s debut hasn’t been a mesmerizing one and it had triggered his exile from the national side for some time. He cemented his place in the Australian team with the help of an astonishing batting display against India in its own backyard.

Later, he alongside Adam Gilchrist forged one of the best opening partnership pair ever in the history of One Day Cricket. He seized the record of highest individual scorer in test cricket from Brian Lara. However, Lara retrieved it back after a short period of time.

He is known for his behemoth presence, which intimidates the opposition bowlers. To add to the bowlers’ woes, he comes down to the track before the ball is bowled, which forces the bowlers to keep it short, which eventually is Hayden’s strength.

Mathew Hayden will always be remembered for his powerful stroke plays, true dominance over all types of bowlers and his prowess in all formats of the game.

Dazzling Gilly

‘Just hit the ball’ is the philosophy of Adam Gilchrist, when it comes to batting irrespective of the format. He has revolutionized the role of the wicket-keeper batsman with his explosive batting. He has de-railed several lethal attacks, which includes the onslaught against Sri Lanka in the 2007 World Cup and several other matches.

Gilly’s overwhelming strike-rate of 96.94 in ODI’s, after playing 287 matches is indeed incredible. He was at the helm of the Australian cricket team, when they posted their first series triumph in India in 2004 after a long gap, when Ponting left out due to injury.

His entry into the test team changed the whole dynamics. His presence at No.7 helped the top order and middle order to play with sheer confidence, which apparently made the Aussies stronger than before. Australian batting has gained a lot from the solid starts provided by Gilchrist. His physical & mental fitness has been tremendous during his playing days.

When he came joined IPL after a gap of 14 months from his retirement, he exhibited the same energy he had when he played for Australia. When he led the Deccan Charges to triumph after their dismal performance in the previous version, it was yet another epic in his dazzling cricketing career.

Conjurer Warne

Shane Warne has been a surprise factor for Australia, ever since his debut. His first delivery during The Ashes, the one that pitched outside leg and hit the offstump of Mike Gatting, is considered as the ‘ball of the century’. He has been an aberration for Australia’s pace bowling legacy, which produced several legendary fast bowlers like Dennis Lillie and Glenn McGrath. It is still a mystery on how he could perform like this, which his predecessors and successors couldn’t do.

He has got 700 odd test wickets, majority of which came from the seamer-friendly tracks in Australia. His flippers were the deadliest in his arsenal and it was effective on all types of wickets. It was a paradox that Warne couldn’t replicate these performances against India. He had haunting memories each time Australia toured India. Finally, in 2004, on his last tour, he helped Australia to seal their solitary series triumph in India after 1967.

Like his cricketing skills, he has been always in the headlines for his flamboyant character, which finally led to separation from his wife. Despite all controversies, his contributions to the Australian cricket are peerless as Australia is still struggling to fill the shoes left by him.

Accurate Pigeon

If you want to know what ‘surgical precision’ is, then look at the video clips of Glenn McGrath’s bowling. The lanky fast bowler from New South Wales has fascinated the cricketing world with the accuracy of his bowling.

He could neither bowl at the pace generated by Brett Lee nor could he swing the ball like Wasim Akram. His run-up was quite simple, just like a warm up, and then followed by a smooth action. His main weapons were the steep bounce that he got due to his height and the line, which he bowls just a whisker outside the off-stump that leaves the batsmen clueless. When his fellow bowlers struggled, he has come up with magical spells that have won several matches for the Aussies.

Aggression was another attribute of Glenn McGrath, a typical Australian trait. That pedigree has led to several bickers on the field, which also got him the appointment with the match referee. McGrath was the Man of the Tournament in the 2007 world cup. The final match, which was won by Australia, has been his last appearance in the Australian colors.

Lord of the Lords

Tuesday, July 21st, 2009

It can’t get any better than this! The long hard wait of 75 years is over and what a way Flintoff has wrapped up the Australian innings with a hostile and fiery spell. It was his final appearance for England in the longest version of the game at lords and nothing less than yesterday’s feat would have satisfied ‘Freddie’.

The final day started off with England as the favorites. However Australia too looked upbeat about clinching a thriller with Michael Clarke and Brad Haddin at the crease. England was in search for that solitary wicket which would expose the Australian tail. Flintoff drew the first blood of the day by removing Haddin in his first over and put England on the brink of the historic win. Mitchell Johnson had provided an excellent support to Clarke, who was bowled by Greame Swann, when he tried to play on the up. After the exit of Clarke, it was just formality, but Johnson showed some character and played some magnificent shots. Finally Swann removed Johnson to complete an emphatic win and recapture the castle after 75 years.

Flintoff was firing on all cylinders in his last match at Lords. His reverse swinging inswingers against the right-handers proved lethal during his fiery spell. All the wickets he got on the last day were of peach deliveries. It would not have answers even from the batting maestros. He was right on the money from the first ball and his length perplexed the Aussie batsmen. Flintoff showed with his performance, why he is being called as ‘People’s Hero’ and he has given them the best gift, which the Brits will cherish for long.

History Beckons The Arch Rivals

Sunday, July 19th, 2009

This Lords Test will go down in history, irregardless of its result, apart from a draw. If Australia wins, then they would create the record of the highest successful run chase in the history of cricket. Vice versa, England will end their 75-year-old winning drought at the Cathedral of cricket, against the mighty Aussies.

Earlier, England declared at their overnight score of 311/6, with Australia needing 521 to win the test match. Andrew Flintoff jolted Australia with his rattling pace, dismissing Phil Hughes and Simon Katich in the early overs. Greame Swann joined the party with a couple of wickets after Stuart Broad sent back Ricky Ponting with an inswinger. A slaughter had looked apparent at that time. However, Brad haddin joined Michael Clarke and the pair put Australia in a position, from where they could seriously look for a victory. Australian batsmen cannot be blamed completely for their dismal batting as Hussey and Hughes fell due to poor umpiring. This would trigger off another controversy, if Australia come anywhere close to their target of 521 runs.

England looked solid on day four after their enterprising declaration, which would get them six sessions to bowl-out the Australians. Flintoff showed no signs of injury as he bowled long overs with good pace. He was rewarded with the wickets of both the openers, though Phil Hughes’s dismissal was doubtful. Swann bowled with lot of variations and he got couple of wickets, which included an arm ball to dismiss Marcus North. Stuart Broad became the second fastest English bowler after Ian Botham to get 50 wickets. He couldn’t get a better one than Ponting’s wicket, as he scalped the Australian captain with a perfect inswinger.

Another nail-biter awaits the spectators at the home of cricket and it won’t get any bigger than this. To seal a win, England needs to take five wickets and Australia need to score 209 runs. Test Cricket is joining the excitement created by the T20 matches. If we witness more test matches of this quality, then Test Cricket will definitely have its place in cricket, even if there are 100 T20 matches played in a year.

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