Oz go Backwards to go Forwards… or Sideways… or Backwards Again?!

Australia have gone all retro-England on us with their latest ODI squad selection. Potential but inconsistent T20 performers Chris Lynn, D’arcy Short and Ben McDermott have all been ditched to make way for the likes of less explosive but more reliable players such as Shaun Marsh and Usman Khawaja. Though Marsh has done well in the IPL, you can’t help but think that Australia have pushed the panic button… and kept pressing! The selectors can’t seem to make their mind up about Peter Handscomb and one innings from him in the Big Bash seems to have confused them even further. All this fuels pressure on their bowling attack to limit opposition to totals that were the norm five years ago but not today.

Could it all click for Oz at this summer’s World Cup or will their fall continue?

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Solving Australia’s Batting Woes!

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Will Pucovski (243) and Josh Phillipe (41 & 104) were amongst the runs in the opening round of 2018-19 Sheffield Shield matches. It was good to see young batsman such as Sam Heazlett and Will Bosisto in their respective state XIs as well, even if they didn’t quite churn out Pucovskiesque innings. Question marks still linger over much of Australia’s batting line-up, what with Shaun Marsh’s inconsistency, Mitchell Marsh batting far too high at times and Usman Khawaja (Now injured) and Aaron Finch both needing to back-up encouraging performances against Pakistan in UAE, Pucovski could well have put himself to the front of the selection queue. With Peter Handscomb having fallen away horribly after a promising start to his Test career and Glenn Maxwell clearly not fancied by the selection panel, the twenty-year-old Victorian’s path to the national XI is being cleared of obstacles.

Another player that peaked interest in the opening round of this year’s Shield was leg-spinner Lloyd Pope. Not all that long ago, Pope terrorised England at the Under-19 World Cup with an eight-wicket haul that went viral. In truth, aside from that match-winning performance he had a quiet tournament. His maiden First Class wicket, trapping Steve O’Keefe LBW, saw him go viral again even though his two wickets cost in excess of a hundred runs. It was extremely alarming however to see the reaction of the Australian media. Labelling Pope as the “New Warne” is surely both unnecessary and unoriginal.

Back to batting and another player who could possibly solve Australia’s batting problems… Meg Lanning. There are some that say there’s no need to suggest women cricketers aim to play in men’s teams and that women’s cricket is a good enough sport on in its own right. I’m not necessarily suggesting that run-express Lanning represent her country’s men’s team but it’s worth pointing out just how good she is. Still only twenty-six, she has in excess of 3000 ODI runs from just 68 matches. She averages north of 53 with twelve tons and eleven fifties. She’s fresh off the back of another hundred against Pakistan in Kuala Lumpur.

It’ll be interesting to see just how much Lanning can achieve in her international career and who lines up for Australia’s men’s team come next year’s Ashes encounter in England.

Over to you Craig!

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There’s a major flaw in regard to my cricket blog. It’s that I don’t actually watch much cricket! I don’t have a TV and I certainly don’t have BT Sport or Sky Sports. I don’t spend all my days camped at county cricket grounds either. When I woke up this morning and checked the score of the second Ashes Test, I realised that being a day/night match and a delayed weather interrupted one at that, that if I popped around to my parent’s house I could catch plenty of the action. I gained authorisation from the wife and got in the car (Having got dressed obviously!). I’d missed Cameron Bancroft’s cricket class day one dismissal but saw David Warner’s impatience and necessity to keep scoring cost him his wicket. What the silly little jump was for I don’t know! I then saw Mark Stoneman drop a catch. I like Stoneman’s phlegmatic demeanour but the drop was a shocker and had Usman Khawaja made 150, would Rocky have been ruffled come his turn to bat? Fortunately James Anderson did for Khawaja straight after the interval, courtesy of a smart catch by Hampshire’s James Vince. Then came the moment. I remember watching cricket on TV during my teenage years. I remember Dominic Cork’s knock against West Indies, Ryan Sidebottom being robbed of an LBW against Pakistan and Usman Afzaal celebrating an Ashes fifty as though it were a double hundred. I remember being in a small cabin in Scotland watching Geraint Jones hold ‘that’ catch via a tiny, fuzzy, black and white TV. I’m honoured to say that Craig Overton’s maiden Test wicket, that of Steve Smith clean (Or dirtily?!) bowled in Adelaide will live with me forever. In a world where footballers are yellow carded for celebrating, the unbridled joy on Overton’s face, the reaction of his teammates confirmed that sport is a better place for a show of emotion. Had Anderson or Broad claimed that wicket, England would have been cock-a-hoop but not in the way that they were for the Somerset man. Of course it will never be the same for Overton. You only take your first Test wicket once and he may never take another. Whatever happens in his life though, he will have that moment to share with the grandkids!

Batting Mentality

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Moeen Ali, Jonny Bairstow and Chris Woakes currently find themselves at positions six, seven and eight in England’s Test batting order. If it weren’t for the absence of Ben Stokes then Moeen would be at eight not six and Woakes would drop to as low as number nine.

At domestic level, in First Class cricket Moeen would either open or be first drop, JB would find himself positioned at four or five and Woakes would come in at six. If England are to get a grip or at least be competitive in the 2017-18 Ashes then each of the aforementioned players must remember that they are top order batsmen, regardless of where they sit in the England line-up. They each have many a First Class century to their name. Moeen and Bairstow obviously have a few at Test level too and Woakes is capable of achieving such.

It’s this supposed strength in depth of England’s batting order that should be crucial in helping the team compete in Australia. England’s tail, in particular Stuart Broad, have regressed over recent times and are likely to be peppered with short stuff for the remainder of the series. For that reason it’s even more important that England’s engine room deliver. Of course it’s understandable that when there is less batting to come, a player will be more inclined to be extra aggressive and risky but Moeen and JB should be comforted by the knowledge that they’ve still got one (Woakes for JB) or two (JB and Woakes for Mo) quality batsman behind them.

Australia will be cocksure after their victory in the first Test in Brisbane but England were on top on more than one occasion during the series opener. If the visitors can put the home side under pressure again then they are there for the taking.

Switching to the home side’s batting, Usman Khawaja is under extreme pressure to convince otherwise his international career may become like Shaun Marsh. Marsh is another man who remains under pressure and unloved by some, that’s despite a vital half-century in Brisbane. Wicketkeeper Tim Paine is also part of the Ozzies’ batting line-up and his domestic record won’t fill any home fans with confidence. England may need to turn to the likes of Mark Wood, Craig Overton or more excitingly Tom Curran, if they are to exploit Australia’s weaknesses.

It’s quite simple then. Bat like batsmen and bowl better. That’s England’s tactical pep talk ahead of the second Test in Adelaide. Come on boys!

Four Day Test Matches

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Four days, four innings, one innings of 100 overs per day, as simple as that… or is it?

You know about my plans to restructure world cricket…

https://sillypointcricketsite.wordpress.com/2016/12/12/a-complete-restructure-of-international-cricket/

Well maybe to aid this, chopping a day off Test matches wouldn’t be a bad idea.

In the third Test between Australia and South Africa in Adelaide last November, centuries were scored in the first three innings of the match. Usman Khawaja used up 308 deliveries and 465 minutes in his first innings before the perceived to be rather attritional Stephen Cook, scored at a strike rate of 43.33 in compiling 104. Following that, debutant Matthew Renshaw faced 137 deliveries in making 34 not out to get Australia home… on the fourth day!

In conclusion, results can still be achieved and there would still be room for ‘old-fashioned go-slow’ players.

Say for example that in the first innings of a Test between England and Zimbabwe that England are 300 all out in 75 overs. Spectators who have paid their money deserve near enough a full day’s play, so Zimbabwe could acquire England’s lost 25 overs and therefore have 125 overs in their first innings, 25 of which would begin on day one. The exception to this could be that if a team only acquires 10 overs or less, they could have the option not to take them because of the risk of losing wickets late in the day and start with the standard 100 overs, not for example, 110 overs, the following morning. If England made 355-8 in 100 overs then so be it, wickets not lost would not be carried forward in any way. Innings could still commence at any point during the course of the day as we enter the third and fourth innings but the slate is clean at the halfway point. For example: England 300 all out in 75 overs, Zimbabwe 280 all out in 66, England would start their innings the 42nd over on day two but would not acquire Zimbabwe’s lost overs or if they did they would only acquire 34 not 59… or maybe they could acquire all 59, these are all possibilities to be considered.

Rain. Bloody rain! Why can’t things be simple?

Would it be only fair that both sides lose an over for every five minutes lost?

There’s definitely room for thought but as a starting point for trimming Test matches to four not five days, I don’t think that my idea’s that wide of the crease.

International Duck Watch!

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Tests

Wahab Riaz (Pakistan)

Riaz was dismissed LBW fifth ball to New Zealand’s Colin de Grandhomme (1-29) in the second Test in Hamilton. Soon after, commencing their second innings with a lead of 55 New Zealand’s openers Jeet Raval faced one delivery without scoring and Tom Latham (Golden duck in the first innings) is yet to face!

Usman Khawaja (Australia)

How do you follow a first innings 145?

Drop down the order and fall LBW second ball to become Tabraiz Shamsi’s (1-49) second Test wicket however Australia (Warner 47, Smith 40, Renshaw 34 not out) won by seven wickets. South Africa though win the series 2-1.

Ajinkya Rahane (India)

LBW sixth ball to England’s in-form Adil Rashid (3-81) as England fought back before India fought back in the third Test in Mohali. India (Kohli 62, Ashwin 57 not out) trail by twelve runs with four wickets remaining.

ODIs

Brian Vitori (Zimbabwe)

Zimbabwe number eleven Vitori fell second ball to Sri Lanka’s Asela Gunaratne in the Tri-Series final. Vitori then dismissed Dhananjaya De Sliva with the very first delivery of Sri Lanka’s reply. Vitori finished with figures of 3-52 as Sri Lanka (Kusal Mendis 57) won the final by six wickets. Earlier on debut, Zimbabwe’s Tarisai Musakanda top scored for his side with 36 from 37 deliveries. Just making his debut in a final, as you do!