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Archive for the ‘Australia’ Category

Not Really Invincible But Definitely the Strongest

Tuesday, October 27th, 2009

It is not surprising to see an Australian team emerge as the winner in an ICC Cricket tournament; however, the way this Australian outfit bounced back after their dismal Ashes campaign is peerless. They have got the perfect combination and the perfect replacements, though it won’t fill the shoes of the former greats.

Australia struggled terribly in the ICC World T20 and this was followed by an abysmal effort in the Ashes series which made them look pretty ordinary. An almost white wash by Australia in the ODI series against England was just a beginning. Even then, there were those who believed that Australia did not have the arsenal to defend the Champions Trophy they clinched in 2006.

In the initial stages, Australia’s performance justified the skeptics and they were almost on the brink of another oust. After winning that nail-biter against Pakistan, Australia peaked at the right time by winning the semi-final and the final matches comprehensively.

So we might see another strong team in the next World Cup that is not so far from now. This will intensify the battle for the World Cup as India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and South Africa have strong bids for the next World Cup.

Another Exhilarating Series of Ultimate Cricket

Tuesday, August 25th, 2009

It was more than a life-saver for the test cricket. More than 60 days of grueling series, Ashes 2009 lived up to the hype that loomed much before the start of the series. There would be significant changes in both teams, when they face-off in the next Ashes in 2013. The Englishmen, who‘ve tasted success in the last couple of series in their home soil will cherish the memories for the next four years. The long wait would be hard for the Australians, who will seek payback in the next edition.

After some fascinating test series since 2008, it is hard to believe that test cricket in on the brink of demise. Though there is a shrink in the spectator- turnouts, the overall quality has increased. Several innovative methods are in the reckoning of ICC to improve the quality of test cricket. Creating ‘Elite’ and ‘Plate’ groups is good suggestion, which will avoid the clash of contest between strong and weak teams, that wouldn’t generate any sort of interest among the spectators.

It has been a series to forget for Ricky Ponting, as Australia were stripped off from the helm of Test cricket. They are being placed at the 4th position, which is the worst after the rankings has been introduced. Australia is finding it hard to make the right combinations to form the core of the Australian team. It will be an uphill task for Australia to regain the supremacy they had till 2007 that made them ‘Invincible’.

England will savor this moment for a long time after having a tough season filled with controversies. Andrew Strauss and Andy Flower have done a fantastic job to regroup the team which had been hit by the Pieterson-Moles spat. Amid the euphoria, England should not lose their focus of getting to the top of rankings.  The immediate task will be to find a replacement for Andrew Flintoff, which apparently is a very big ask.

A Day of Below-par Bowling and Absurd Batting

Friday, August 21st, 2009

The first day of the final test matched promised a lot but delivered little, despite some mesmerizing fast bowling and solid batting performances. Once again, the English middle-order ruined the momentum setup by the top-order, ended the day at 307/8. The pitch was not as fast as Ponting expected; however, the ball was coming on nicely to the bat. Australia will definitely lack a specialist spinner in the coming days as the part-timer Marcus North was getting some zip and turn off the pitch. Brett Lee also could have been reckoned as there was considerable hint of reverse swing from the afternoon.

England piled up 108 runs in 26 overs in the pre-lunch session, despite losing Alastair Cook early. Alastair Cook once again edged a swinging delivery from Siddle to Ponting at slip. The English captain then forged a partnership with Ian Bell and the duo added 102 runs for the second wicket. Ben Hilfenhaus came back to break the partnership by dismissing Andrew Strauss. Peter Siddle made further inroads by dismissing Paul Collingwood and Ian Bell to leave England in tatters. Debutant Jonathon Trott played exceptionally well under pressure. He stayed like a rock at the crease, however he hardly got any support from any one. Andrew Flintoff played his penultimate innings and hardly made any impact. He looked composed in the beginning, however gave away his wicket by chasing a wide delivery from Mitchell Johnson. Stuart Broad and Graeme Swann took England score past 300 runs. Peter Siddle ended Swann’s resistance to complete a memorable day.

Australia wouldn’t be happy with their overall bowling efforts, notwithstanding an inspired performance from Peter Siddle, who’s having a great series so far. After pondering on different combinations for the decider, Australia went with all quickies, relying on Stuart Clark and Mitchell Johnson’s form. Helfenhaus and Peter Siddle were exceptional as usual; however Mitchell Johnson once again showed his wayward approach by bowling 8 wides and three no-balls. Stuart Clark looked like his shadow of Headingly, failed terribly in probing and testing the English batsmen. Australia had to employ Marcus North to step-up the over- rate as it apparently fell short due to the inclusion of 4 pacers. North had puzzled the English batsmen with his flight and turn on a first day pitch, which gives the clear indication that the turf will assist slow bowlers from day 3. Australia will definitely miss Nathan Hauritz, who had bowled well on seamer-friendly tracks too.

Australia now has the slight edge and with the relatively new ball, they can bowl out the next couple of wickets in no time to seize the advantage. They will have to bat really well to get a good lead, as they will be batting last on this deteriorating pitch. England on the other hand, will be looking to score in excess of 400, which would be a par-score here at the Oval. It will be interesting to see how Stuart Broad extends his innings

All Set for the Final Battle

Monday, August 17th, 2009

Australia and England go into the final test of an ashes series with one victory each. ‘The Oval’ will decide the ‘urn-holder’ on August 24th. England went into the last test with a 2-1 lead; however, Australia hold a slight edge this time as a draw can help them to retain the Ashes  as they had dumped England 5-0 at home in 2006-07’. The Oval test will be the swan song of Andrew Flintoff, who was instrumental in England’s last triumph. He will be keen to end his test career on a high and an Ashes victory would be the best.

After the victory at Headingly, Australians are right on track. Their batting looks solid and they have a ferocious bowling attack, which will have more vigor when Brett Lee comes back. Australian batting has been spot on so far expect for an out-of-form Michael Hussey. Marcus North’s consistency at 6 has been a blessing for Australia after the exit of Gilchrist. Mitchell Johnson’s return to form will make the selection tough for the final test. Stuart Clark proved his worth in the fourth test with a blistering performance with the ball. Brett Lee has been lethal in the practice match at Canterbury and is most certainly to make the cut for The Oval. If Australia goes with 4 seamers as they did at Headingly then Siddle will be left out, but if Hauritz is included for the final test, either Johnson or Stuart Clark would sit out despite their good form.

England will be looking for a big farewell party for ‘Freddie’ by winning the last test and the series. They were the strong contenders for this series victory until the 4th test match at Headingly, where they looked ordinary without Flintoff. Replacement for Ravi Bopara is still a conundrum, even as Mark Ramprakash, the veteran middle-order batsmen, who hasn’t played a test since 2000, was in the reckoning. Finally, Warwickshire batsman Jonathon Trott sealed the spot and gears up for his debut at The Oval.

It will be an electric five days at the Kennington Oval, which awaits another cliffhanger. A big match on the cards!

Anticlimax at The Oval

Friday, August 14th, 2009

There is perhaps a small similarity between Sir Don Bradman and India’s Independence. Don Bradman played his final innings on 14th August 1948, which was on the eve of the first anniversary of India’s independence. Though Australia had already won the series, the final test at The Oval wasn’t a dead rubber. It would be the last time that cricket’s one and only legend, Sir Donald Bradman would bat for Australia in his lifetime. The stage was set and Don was a whisker away from creating history – 7000 runs in test cricket at a sublime average of 100. He needed just 4 runs in his final innings.

England won the toss and chose to bat first on a smoggy day; however, they were bundled out for just 52 runs. Ray Lindwall ripped through the English batting and claimed 6 wickets. In reply, Australia got off to a great start. Bradman came to the crease when Eric Hollies dismissed Sid Barnes. All eyes were on the legend and the second ball faced by Bradman ended his innings.Hollies bowled a slow leg-break and Bradman couldn’t pick it up.

When he walked off after being dismissed, it was almost certain that it would be his last appearance. Australia finished off the first innings with a mammoth lead of 337 runs. England never looked confident to overhaul that total and ended up losing the match by an innings and 149 runs. Bradman did not get a chance to bat in the second innings and completed his career at 6996 runs at an average of 99.94 runs.

Bradman had a chance after that to make the average 100 runs, however he turned down the offer to bat again for Australia. That was perhaps the decision, which got him so much honor that he probably wouldn’t have got if he had got that 4 runs in the final test. In the centenary year of his birth people still love him and adore him for the qualities of being a great cricketer and a great man.

Aussies are Back at The Helm

Sunday, August 9th, 2009

The Australian cricket team is going through a transition stage, which is probably one of the toughest in their history. They had lot of setbacks recently, ever since their key players, Adam Gilchrist, Mathew Hayden, Glen McGrath and Shane Warne retired. The controversial exit of Andrew Symonds, their utility player, further more put Australia’s ‘invincibility’ tag at stake. Their early exit from the ICC World Twenty had justified the skeptics.

Their Ashes preparation also did not turn out as expected. They lost their strike bowler Brett Lee due to injury during their warm-up match at Worcester. Australia started well in the test match at Cardiff, but fortunes didn’t favor them at the end helping England to seal an unlikely draw. At Lords, Australia was defeated by a bashing margin of 115 runs. As the rain interrupted Edgbaston test ended in draw everyone thought that the encore of 2005 series looked apparent. England came strongly hard at the Australians right through the series and the spectators booed Captain Ricky Ponting whenever he entered the field.

Australia’s main problem was the poor form of Mitchell Johnson, who spearheaded Australia’s bowling attack in the absence of Brett Lee. Johnson struggled to keep the line and length, which hurt Australia’s chances until till the fourth test.

At Leeds, the absence of the duo stalwarts; Kevin Pieterson and Andrew Flintoff, proved too much for England as they were bowled out for 102 runs in the first innings. The solid foundation given by the top-order and a superb century by Marcus North helped to end Australia’s first innings on a high. Johnson came back to form with a fiery piece of fast bowling, claiming 5 English wickets, which helped Australia to seal a mammoth victory by an innings and 80 runs.

After the victory at Leeds, Australia look very much solid, recalling the memories of their vintage form. The Ashes is not yet confirmed for the Australians, however their bid has been reinforced after the victory. Now, England would desperately go for Andrew Flintoff, as they cannot afford another defeat in the series decider at the Oval. It has been a ravishing test series so far and no one expect a blip in the excitement at the Oval. A high-voltage contest beckons from the Kennington Oval.

It’s been 4 Years now, the wound hasn’t healed yet

Friday, August 7th, 2009

Apparently, none of the Aussie players, the spectators and the former players would ever forget the Edgbaston test of the 2005 Ashes. It is still a wound that is hard to heal for every Australian. We can never forget the grim face of the helpless Glenn McGrath when Kasprowicz was given out (though it wasn’t a catch) as Australia fell 2 runs short of victory. McGrath could not play the match due to injury.

England scored a speedy 407 runs in the first innings with good contributions from Trescothick, Pietersen and Flintoff. A few lusty blows from the tail-enders helped England to score above 400 runs, which proved good on a deteriorating track.

Australia lost Hayden in the second over, however Ponting and Langer steadied the ship. At one stage they were 115/2 then bundled out for 308 runs and England gained a valuable 99 runs lead. Lee bowled with fiery pace to remove the English top-order before Shane Warne ran into the middle order with 6 wickets. Amid this hiccup, Andrew Flintoff played a gem to take England to 182 runs, giving Australia a target of 282 with more than 5 sessions to complete.

Australia lost wickets at regular intervals and they ended the 3rd day at 175/8. The target looked very tough with 2 wickets in hand. However Brett Lee and Shane Warne weren’t ready to give it up. After Warne departed, Kasprowicz, the last man joined Brett Lee to continue the fight and in the end, a wrong decision from the umpire helped England to seal the victory in a cliffhanger.

Today, when Ricky Ponting goes for the toss, this defeat would be in his mind than ever before. Australians will have to work their tail off to win over the enthusiastic England, who look solid even without Kevin Pietersen. If Brett Lee makes the cut to the final XI,  it will bolster the bowling department, however doubt remains over his lack of match practice.

© The Daily Mirror

© The Daily Mirror

Fall From The Summit

Tuesday, August 4th, 2009

When we put the performance of Ricky Ponting as a captain in perspective, statistically, he is slightly below Steve Waugh. However, it hardly reveals the current form slump of the Australian Team. Andrew Strauss, the captain of England has asserted that the Australians no longer have the aura, which their predecessors possessed.

Australia has played 50 test matches till date since January 2005, out of which they have won 31 test matches, which is not a bad conversion, either. However, after the retirement of Glenn McGrath in 2007, Australia has played 25 test matches and they could manage to win only 12 tests with a bleak success rate of 48 %. In this period they even suffered a demoralizing defeat from the hands of India by a whopping margin of 320 runs and suffered innings defeat twice in a duration of 8 months.

Although Australia is going through a patchy period, their captain Ricky Ponting is still considered as one of their best captains ever with 2 World Cup triumphs under his belt. As far as captaincy is concerned, Ricky Ponting has helmed Australia to victory in 38 out of 59 Test matches. His preceding captain and one of the best captains ever, Steve Waugh has led Australia in 57 Tests and managed 41 wins out of that, which is slightly above Ponting’s feat when we go statistically.

Does this analysis hold any logic? To be very frank, it doesn’t.  After Steve Waugh took over the captaincy from Mark Taylor, the Australians evolved as a very formidable team under his leadership. He infused ruthlessness and professionalism in to the team and made the difference. Ricky Ponting was lucky in his early stages as the captain because he had players like Hayden, Gilchrist, McGrath and Warne who were in their peak form and could change a match by their individual efforts. This is perhaps the problem faced by the current Australian team. They don’t have any match winners apart from the seniors and lacks a consistent strike bowler.

Matches have become even more competent as the teams have realized the fact that Australia are brought to earth and are more vulnerable than before. We can perhaps relate this to the great West Indies in the early 90’s but it will be too early to make a call on this. If we go by the lines of Andrew Strauss, Australia no longer holds the ‘favorites’ tag and will face stiff challenges in the 2009 Champions Trophy and in the 2011 World Cup, where Australia defend their title

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.

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