The Ashes

Two ridiculous reasons why England will win this World Cup

In the 2009 Ashes, Kevin Pietersen played the first two matches before getting ruled out of the remainder of the series due to an Achilles tendon injury. Three games later:

The following year, Stuart Broad returned home after playing the first two matches in the Ashes, due to a torn abdominal muscle. Guess what?

I rest my idiotic case.

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Kallis scores a ton; Watson scores a 40 – nothing’s changed in 2011

Admitted, it has only been two days of test cricket in two matches; but one can sense, that for some, things will never change.

In South Africa, a fascinating contest between the top two teams is taking place, where after two days, the game seems fairly even. For that, the credit should go to Kallis. The bulwark of South Africa batting for more than a decade, has once again risen to the big occasion, and given his team the best possible position to win the game. As much as I am a big fan of Tendulkar, I find it a bit condescending that some people label Kallis as the ‘Tendulkar of South Africa’. Kallis is a legend in his own right, and if there is anyone who can catch up with Sachin in terms of Test centuries, only he stands a realistic chance. He has been ridiculously consistent all across the globe, and unlike other contemporary batting superstars, I don’t recall him being in any kind of poor form over the course of his career. The only thing which can stop him right now is his age and the toll on his body every time he comes out to play.  Now, that he is unlikely to bat in the 2nd innings unless it is necessary, India will have gained some more confidence in their search for that elusive series victory in South Africa.

Across the seas, in Australia, you would be forgiven for having a sense of deja vu. Australia bat first, lose wickets at regular intervals, and concede the first day’s honors to England. The story of the series, really. There were some changes in the storyline of course; Australia had a new skipper and a new number 3 batsman, one of whom had a creditable outing. Hughes waited till he got to the 30s before giving his wicket to Tremlett; and thanks to rain, Australia were not bowled out in the first day itself. All these aside, what amuses me, is Watson’s inability to post a big score. Here is one of Australia’s in-form batsmen, who looks rarely troubled when he is at the crease, has the ability to both attack and defend capably, and has the important responsibility of setting the agenda for the game, given his batting position, form and situation of the series; but there he is, once again, looking set for a big one, before losing concentration to throw away his wicket. If North was infuriating for his wild inconsistencies, Watson is infuriating (to the Aussies!) for his  ridiculous consistency in throwing away good starts. Given that Hughes is still fighting his own personal battles with technique, it is imperative for Watson to get big scores at the top of the order, and relieve some of the pressure faced by the brittle middle order. You can have all the technique and talent in the world, but if you can’t make use of it, what is the point? He would do well to look at a fellow allrounder in South Africa for inspiration.

Finally, here is the wisest quote of this infant year, so far:

You can make something out of anything. You can say Michael Beer is the first person to stick his tongue out 24/7 to play for Australia.

Usman Khawaja on his ‘history-making heritage’

My 2011 wishlist for International Cricket

I had a terrible year...how about you guys?

 

Its the end of a fascinating year in cricket  – a year which included among many others, a maiden World T20 title for England, a thrilling end to Murali’s career, Laxman’s numerous houdini acts, the spot-fixing saga in England, Bangladesh whitewashing New Zealand in ODIs, Modi’s crash and burn, Sachin breaking barriers in ODIs and Tests, the declining fortunes of the Aussies, and of course, the Ashes retained by England. I can only hope for another year like that in 2011:

  • Khawaja scores a breath-taking ton in a losing cause against England at Sydney, as Collingwood scores a gritty double century to prolong his career.
  • Zaheer grabs a 10 wicket haul and Sehwag scores a double century to seal a historic series victory in South Africa, despite the best efforts of Amla and  Steyn.
  • Pakistan and New Zealand take part in a thrilling ODI series, at the end of which, Ijaz Butt starts off on a rant, as to how it is all a big conspiracy to defraud Pakistan cricket, when someone reminds him that Pakistan have won.
  • The World Cup final is contested between India and England, which ends in a dramatic tie, after valiant performances by the unlikely duo of Strauss and Jadeja.
  • IPL 4 is won by Ganguly-led Kochi, after a whirlwind knock by Clarke (yes, Michael!) just pushes them over the line against Lara’s Pune (Clarke vs Lara, get it?).
  • England and India take part in a run-filled Test series featuring marathon batting knocks by Cook, Trott, Dravid and Harbhajan.
  • West Indies and Pakistan take part in a Test series, which is filled with countless mentions of how Darren Bravo’s stroke-play reminds one of Brian Lara, and how Amir’s return to international cricket is a disgrace to the beautiful game (cricket, in this instance!)
  • New Zealand skipper, chief selector, part-time cricket board chief – Dan Vettori, blasts the media, after taking umbrage to the remark that he was a poor man’s Shakib Al Hasan, at the end of another whitewash against Bangladesh even as coach Wright longs for another stint with India.
  • Zimbabwe invite Sri Lanka to take part in their domestic competition, after Sangakarra is left fuming at the lack of games for his team. Sri Lanka accept the invitation and travel to Zimbabwe, upon which the entire season is washed out due to rain, leading to the skipper’s remarks that it was the “worst first class season of my life”.
  • Things move fast in South Africa where Hashim Amla takes over the reins after De Villiers decides to take a break, to spend more time developing his music career. Paul Harris is the leading wicket taker of the year, after batsmen throw their wickets away attempting to slog him, after bearing the brunt of Steyn and Morkel.
  • India’s tour of Australia is mired in controversy, after new Aussie skipper Watson accuses India of deliberately destroying Johnson’s career by smashing him all around the park with scant respect. It completely overshadows career defining performances by Pujara, Unadkat, Ferguson and Beer.
  • Finally, the leading run scorer and wicket taker of the year are, Ian Bell and some fast bowler Pakistan unearthed at the beginning of 2011.

Have a good 2011, everybody!

All I want for Christmas – a cricket-related wishlist

Its Christmas time, and what better way of spending time, than watching some high quality cricket, around the clock, and from around the world. First, of course there is the Ashes, with the possibility of England retaining the Ashes well before the New Year; then there, is the India-SA clash, with both teams itching to prove that they are the better team. We also have a Pak-NZ clash down under, where two teams who have had tumultuous years will be desperate to start the new year well. Here, then, is my Christmas wish-list:

The Ashes

  • For Australia to display the same performance they did at Perth.
  • For England to show that their performance in the same match was just a matter of one bad game.
  • For Watson to finally score a century (hey, I’m in the Christmas spirit!)
  • For Ponting to display some of his old batting brilliance.
  • For Beer to play, so that we can all be subjected to some creative, and some horrible, puns.
  • For Swann to showcase a masterclass of spin.
  • For the English bowling to prove that they don’t need Broad again (wishful thinking, really)
  • Finally, for Australia to lose in a nail-biting finish.

India-South Africa

  • For the Boxing day test, to be a contest worthy of a clash between the top two teams in the world.
  • For more bowler-friendly conditions for the two teams.
  • For India to show some spunk in the batting, in tough conditions.
  • For the Indian bowlers to jog their memory, and try to remember how to take wickets.
  • For Harbhajan to forget his batting and concentrate more on his bowling.
  • For Zaheer to stay fit for the next 3 months at the least.
  • For the likes of Amla, Kallis, Dravid, Tendulkar and Laxman to display some vintage Test batting.
  • For Paul Harris to be smashed out of the attack.
  • Finally, for India to win the Test, so that the 3rd Test will be worth watching.

Pakistan-NZ

  • For the series to go ahead without one controversy, atleast!

Merry Christmas, everybody, and have a joyful new year!!

The return of Mitchy’s Australia

Well, well, that was unexpected. I have to admit….I didn’t see that coming. I was pretty sure that Australia would fail to win any of the tests in the remainder of the series, after Adelaide. Like many, I have been proved wrong, and like a few, I am pleased.

I say that I am pleased, because as much as I love to see Australia getting thrashed, it is no fun, when there is barely a contest between two sides. The reason why I hated the Australian team of the late 90s and early 2000s in the first place, is that they barely allowed the opposition to compete with them on the same level. When one side dominates the other, so often, it can be off-putting, most times.

That’s why I am glad to see the return of Mitchy’s Australia; because that’s who I associate a contemporary dominant Australian team with. When Johnson is in the right frame of mind, with the bat or ball, everything falls in place. We got the first glimpses of the return to form, on day 1 of the Test, when he was batting. Unlike most batsmen before him, his head was still, he stroked the ball confidently, and when he decided that the ball had to go, there were no half measures with the swing of his blade.

Then came, his turn with the ball. After enduring months of scorn and ridicule from the press and public alike, justifiably, for his inconsistencies, he roared back to deliver one of the best spells of swing and pace. The English batsmen, who haven’t been troubled since the first day at Brisbane, suddenly found themselves unsure of whether to go back or forward; and before they could make up their mind, they were either trapped in front of the wicket, or had to parry the ball somwhere into the slip cordon.

And just like that, Australia were back in the game. Johnson’s performance was so typically Aussie, that when the team realized that he was back to his best, they started to resemble the team of old. Testosterone levels gradually increased throughout the day, and the verbals started to fly, with even an invitation for an after-game joust, extended to (or by) Prior. The balls started to find the fielders, boundaries were contained, and even Mr Grumpy (Ponting) began to smile more and more.

Just to prove, that this was not an one-innings or one-bowler miracle, Ryan Harris joined the party in the second innings. Bowling with sustained pace and bounce, he skittled out the middle order, who very strangely, gave up the fight easily. After all the talk of preventing complacency, they still seemed to be surprised by the fightback shown by the Aussies, and resembled a pale imitation of the team which played in Adelaide.

This is not to say, that Australia’s problems are solved. Their batting, with the exception of Watson, Hussey and Haddin, still seem to be iffy, and Ponting’s participation for the rest of the series seems to be doubtful. It also remains to be seen, if the bowlers can sustain the improved performance for the next two games. And finally, there is the small matter of deciding, if they want to keep going with the 4 man pace attack, or introduce a spinner to mix things up a bit.

England will still remain favorites to retain the Ashes, for the simple reason, that bad games like the Perth Test, have been very rare for them over the last 18 months. They will be hurting, and the likes of Swann and Collingwood, will have lots to prove, after their disappointing performaces. Its unlikely that England, with the likes of Flower at the helm, will make the same mistakes again. They will come to Melbourne with a fresh game plan and stronger mental attitude.

All in all, it will make for a riveting last leg of the series; because, finally, we have two teams competing on the same level. For that, we have to thank Mitchy…for reminding his team-mates – that there is the Ashes at stake, and more importantly, what the Australian fighting spirit is all about.

When in Australia, go for Beer!

How much more shambolic can Australian selectorial policy get? They dropped a rookie left arm spinner with a poor first class record, and replaced him with a rookie left arm spinner with a poor first class record (or even lack of a first class record)! How hard is it to swallow your pride, accept your mistakes, and pick tried and tested players, for the biggest series of the year? Either way, the selection of Beer will give lots of opportunities for some terrible puns through the next two weeks, for bloggers and commentators alike.

At least, they dropped North, and i doubt if Smith could do any worse. Bollinger isn’t fit enough to figure in this side, and it will be interesting to see, if Johnson will come back in the playing XI, and more interestingly, how will he respond?

PS: If the Beer experiment works out, I can see Fosters swooping on him for an endorsement deal!

The Squad for the third test:

Shane Watson, Phillip Hughes, Ricky Ponting (capt), Michael Clarke, Michael Hussey, Brad Haddin (wk), Steven Smith, Mitchell Johnson, Ryan Harris, Peter Siddle, Michael Beer, Ben Hilfenhaus.