Archive for December 2009

Day 2, Napier

December 15, 2009

New Zealand needed a good start and McIntosh knew this was his last chance to perform. He played each and every ball to it’s merit. With him batting, Pakistan could have started with Aameer. Gul tested Watling with good pace and tight lines but the young debutant played as sraight as possible. That was one big positive with Watling. He presents a straight bat as far as possible. The bowlers gave nothing away, the first half an hour producing just 13 runs. And with the initial hard work done, Watling gave it away with a loose slash on the off side which went straight to gully. Both bowlers bowled testing lines on a pretty flat day 2 wicket.

There was a rain delay for about 10 minutes in the middle of the first session and the groundsmen were strolling in the park instead of rushing to cover the wicket. I know it’s a laid back country but the rain was quite thick and any groundsman would have rushed to cover the pitch.

I was looking forward to Kaneria’s bowling in this pitch. The bounce was there to be exploited and his googlies were always going to be unknowns to the Kiwi batsmen. He had to be played very positively and that’s how Guptill started off. Two wonderful drives on the off side off the front foot but Guptill never took off from there. His backlift was too high to face Kaneria and the bowler knew how to exploit it. He delivered a googly which was a little high on pace and Guptill was plumb in front. He was never going to bring his bat down on time.

This was a great opportunity for Ross Taylor to put ip a big century. He was finding the sweet spot very consistently and was playing Kaneria with due respect. There was no gap between bat and pad and played Kaneria very straight. And all of a sudden, he tried to whack the ball over mid wicket without fully getting to the pitch of the ball. I know there was no necessity for that shot but thats how Taylor plays. Can’t complain. He’s too gifted.

If theres a problem with Flynn, its playing spin. Kaneria is too good a bowler for the likes of Flynn. Now that he’s failed again, he would be the man going out on the return of Jesse Ryder.
McIntosh meanwhile was well set. The time he had spent in the crease had to be used up to make a big century but an attempted sweep shot of Kaneria got him. I wondered if McIntosh would have ever practiced playing the sweep.
In came the new Mr.Cricket. Or rather the king of cricket as Ian Smith calls him. Best bowler, selector, captain, coach apart, he has turned out to be the best performing batsman. He’s matching Ross Taylor for the most runs scored by a Kiwi in a calender year. Thats also a measure of the strength of the so called batsmen.

Both Dan and McCullum knew they had to score runs to move ahead in the game. McIntosh took the life out of the bowlers with a very valuable and patient knock but the score was just 136 when half the side was lost. And the way they did it was terrific. Both of them shuffled to the off stump at the time of the delivery. They were ruining the lines of the fast bowlers. The bowlers ran out of ideas. And the timing was so sweet they managed 180 odd runs in one session  post tea at five runs an over. Bad balls were induced and were duly punished. McCullum shifted to the off side and when he saw the ball on good length on on his body, he simply defended it. Had it been a limited overs game, he would have had to whack it anyway. Since he had the time and the responsibility to play a long knock, he simply respected the delivery. And on seeing a loose ball after shifting to the off stump, he punished it anyway. The running between the wickets was top class. Pakistani bowlers were clearly outplayed. They would have never dreamt of such tactics by this pair. And the captain was too new to react.
It took a great ball to end that great innings from McCullum. Gul pitched it shot and the ball came in sharply at McCullum’s chest. He could only fend that behind to offer a simple catch.Very valuable knock that was. Gul was trying to reverse the ball. He gave his heart out even atthe fag end of the day. Some bowlers trying to bowl inswing with the old ball try to hide the ball using their non bowling hand. I wonder if that can just alter the rythm and take some pace away. I’m not sure but the non bowling hand could lend a lot more support and enhance the balance and the pace (if not used in covering the ball).

I did expect NZ to take the lead by stumps. At lunch, it didn’t look easy. At tea,it looked more difficult and at stumps, the lead was there!, with 4 wickets  still in the bag. Long live Daniel Vettori!

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O’ Brien breathes fire

December 11, 2009

The fluctuation continues. At one point, I thought Pakistan were saying   ” We’ll match your ninety nine”  but NZ could not finish things off. Yet again, bowling to the tail lacked penetration. From 5 down for 55, you should not allow the opposition to get away to 223.
Both sides are extremely unpredictable and the beauty of the sine wave of this series was on show again today.

Pakistan chose to bat and rightly so. One would have expected Jeetan Patel to join Dan for Napier but the 4 fast bowler theory paid off. Tim Southee is a much improved bowler than what he was while getting dropped last year. He started with a couple of balls short and wide of the of stump. Salman Butt despatched them for boundaries but Southee came right back. He pitched one full and around the off stump, the pace and swing found the gap between bat and pad and uprooted Butt’s middle stump.
Happy Birthday Tim Southee!

Cometh the hour, Cometh the man.. they say. “Get his wife a job here, we can’t let him go now..” were the words of Ian Smith on commentary.Iain O Brien produced a perfect spell of test match fast bowling. Mind you, the pitch was very good for batting. The bounce looked true and there was good pace in the wicket. There was a hint of seam movement but by no means was a totally bowler friendly one.

Faisal Iqbal was set up beautifully for the short one on his throat.He was never going to keep that one down.
Mohammad Yousuf had no opportunity to open his account. He survived a run out when young debutant Watling showed his class on the field.And when he tried to get off the mark with a slash on the off side off a ball not wide enough for that, he managed to edge the ball to second slip. McIntosh plucked that out of thin air.
Next came Umer Akmal. The law of averages caught up with him. After scores of 129, 75,46 and 52,he played a poor shot steering a wide one straight to gully.
Misbah was done in by a beauty. Absolute ripper. And at one stage,Iain O Brien’s figures read 4.2 overs, 4 maidens, 3 wickets for 3 runs and those figures exactly represented his rythm. This (courtesy Cricinfo) should give you a fair idea. Very sad he’s retiring now.
Quite warm in Napier, not much breeze either. A clean shaven Iain O’Brien charges in

10.1  O’Brien to Faisal Iqbal, no run, starts with ball in the channel outside off, defended towards point

10.2  O’Brien to Faisal Iqbal, no run, nice line again, just outside off, left alone this time

10.3  O’Brien to Faisal Iqbal, no run, wider outside off, batsman is happy to leave it to the keeper, that was a 143kmh delivery

10.4  O’Brien to Faisal Iqbal, no run, 141kmh this time, but doesn’t bother the batsman as it is well outside off

10.5  O’Brien to Faisal Iqbal, OUT, O’Brien strikes in his first over! a 138kmh short ball, rises sharply, Iqbal looks to defend, gets it on the splice of the bat and lobs towards Guptill at gully

10.6  O’Brien to Mohammad Yousuf, no run, finishes with a length ball just outside off, 144kmh, steered towards backward gully by Mohammad Yousuf

12.1  O’Brien to Mohammad Yousuf, no run, good start to the over from O’Brien, full and just outside off, blocked by Yousuf

12.2  O’Brien to Mohammad Yousuf, no run, slightly wider outside off, shoulders arms

Three slips in place

12.3  O’Brien to Mohammad Yousuf, no run, on off this time, 140kmh, Yousuf gets behind the line and defends

12.4  O’Brien to Mohammad Yousuf, no run, testing over from O’Brien so far, a 143kmh bouncer now, Yousuf is quick to get under it

12.5  O’Brien to Mohammad Yousuf, no run, short of length on off, Yousuf opens the face and guides it towards gully, Guptill onto it

12.6  O’Brien to Mohammad Yousuf, no run, back of a length, angling into off, Yousuf gets forward and defends towards point, and that’s drinks

14.1  O’Brien to Mohammad Yousuf, no run, length ball on off, Yousuf defends to the leg side after walking forward

14.2  O’Brien to Mohammad Yousuf, no run, superb delivery from O’Brien, a stifled appeal from the keeper for caught behind, that one squared up yousuf who was fishing for it outside off, beaten, 140kmh

14.3  O’Brien to Mohammad Yousuf, no run, much better from Yousuf, a confident leave to a delivery just outside off

14.4  O’Brien to Mohammad Yousuf, no run, short ball from O’Brien, outside off, Yousuf sways out of the way, 143kmh

14.5  O’Brien to Mohammad Yousuf, no run, full and just outside off, Yousuf blocks it towards gully

14.6  O’Brien to Mohammad Yousuf, OUT, O’Brien has got Yousuf for a duck, massive breakthrough, Yousuf looks to slash a back of length ball outside off, away from the body, outside edges it to the left of second slip, where McIntosh latches onto it

16.1  O’Brien to Umar Akmal, no run, Umar Akmal gets forward and opens the face to get his first ball towards gully

16.2  O’Brien to Umar Akmal, no run, short ball, O’Brien keeping the pace up, 143kmh, not too far outside off, Akmal drops his wrists and sways out of the way to let the ball go

16.3  O’Brien to Umar Akmal, no run, another short one, gets behind the line and defends, bottom hand comes off as he plays

16.4  O’Brien to Umar Akmal, no run, a late decision to leave the ball, it was a lot fuller this time, just outside off

16.5  O’Brien to Umar Akmal, no run, back of a length, into offstump, 146kmh, Akmal walks across defends towards the leg side

16.6  O’Brien to Umar Akmal, no run, length ball into off, gets well forward and blocks towards gully

18.1  O’Brien to Imran Farhat, 3 runs, a bit of width, Farhat throws his bat at that, mistimed but enough on it to beat fly over extra cover, brings up the fifty

18.2  O’Brien to Umar Akmal, OUT, O’Brien, why are you leaving? short ball gets Umar Akmal this time, short ball 144kmh, Akmal prods at it and gives catching practice to Guptill at gully, another duck, 4.2-4-3-3 are O’Brien’s figures, a dream spell

18.3  O’Brien to Misbah-ul-Haq, no run, 145kmh, length ball outside off, Misbah lets it go to the keeper

18.4  O’Brien to Misbah-ul-Haq, no run, has Misbah fishing outside off at that one, nearly getting the edge

18.5  O’Brien to Misbah-ul-Haq, no run, fired in full towards middle stump this time, played towards square leg

18.6  O’Brien to Misbah-ul-Haq, OUT, O’Brien saves his best spell for his last Test, a short of length ball that straightened, Misbah feathers a regulation catch to McCullum

20.1  O’Brien to Kamran Akmal, no run, into legstump this time, blocked off the backfoot towards the leg side

20.2  O’Brien to Kamran Akmal, no run, back of a length outside off, defended towards the off side

20.3  O’Brien to Kamran Akmal, no run, 144kmh, beats the outside edge outside off, Kamran Akmal pushes hard at a straight ball and doesn’t connect

20.4  O’Brien to Kamran Akmal, no run, short ball on middle and off, defended off the backfoot

20.5  O’Brien to Kamran Akmal, no run, nearly had another one, poor poor shot from Kamran Akmal, it was short and wide outside off, Akmal has a waft at it, there was a half-shout for a caught-behind, hang on, New Zealand call for a review, HotSpot didn’t show anything though there seemed to be a sound as ball passed bat, Kamran survives

20.6  O’Brien to Kamran Akmal, 3 runs, punched off the backfoot through covers to get off the mark

Kamran succumbed to a quick climber from Martin and all the while, Imran Farhat was flashy outside the off stump and was very unconvincing with the short stuff. He carried his bat but never deserved the century he ended up with, especially as he showed no sense of responsibility with wickets tumbling at the other end. Don’t tell me he was trying to counter attack.

Tuffey looked easily negotiable. He was short on pace and gave the impression that age was catching up with him. I thought Vettori should have come into the attack half an hour into the secod session as Aameer and Farhat weren’t broken through.

Im praying for a big total from the Kiwi batsmen tomorrow. If there was a time for them to deliver, it’s now. Bat your lives out, for O Brien deserves a grand farewell.

P.S. Kiwi fans have some good news. O Ber has admitted he hasn’t received good news on his UK visa and that his departure could be delayed by months. The Australian visit is round the corner.

Day 2, Wellington

December 7, 2009

Iain O Brien is the most down to earth fast bowler today. He’s a gentleman cricketer and all his aggression lies in his bowling. He puts his heart out every single ball and any captain will be pleased to have such a dedicated resource. His bouncers have been really quick and the Pakistan batsmen have struggled to cope with them. With such intensity, a slower ball could be an extremely effective weapon in his armory. I was shocked to see the news of his retirement and NZ cricket will severely miss his services.

After 161 for 6 overnight, Dan would have badly wanted to skittle Pakistan out for less than 200. Fair expectations but Kamran got going. And when the tail wags, there is increased frustration in the fielding team. Here is where a coach should plan a ‘demolish the tail’ package. The fielding team expects the tail to fold up instead of actually attacking the lower order batsmen. Vettori himself was delivering two quick balls per over out of frustration. I have never seen him do that.

 There was a huge off cutter by O Ber to Kamran and the overruled appeal was referred. After confirmation of NOT OUT, the batsman showed better body language and it looked as if it was a moral victory for the batsman.

The Pakistani lower order, for it’s part, didn’t expect so many runs out of itself and started playing too many aerial shots. They could have tried to occupy the crease more.

I admired the beauty of the sine wave of this series. Take this first innings for example. Farhat and Butt stayed together for 32 overs before stupid middle order batting brought them to 161 for 6. Kamran and Gul then helped Pakistan to 262.

And what followed that was shame. You practice there, it’s your fort, you know which strand of grass is longer, which one shorter and it’s criminal to get all out for ninety nine.

Full credit to the Pakistani bowling attack. The reason why Aameer’s picking regular early breakthroughs is his length. I love bowlers consistently bowling full lengths.

I thought Asif wasn’t quite running full steam. He was also a little slow on pace but very accurate.

People think Aameer is the man for the future and all that but we’ve seen enough ‘great prospects’ disappear all of a sudden. We cannot be sure. Due to the amount of cricket played today, almost every series needs a couple of new bowlers in the squads.

First morning, Adelaide

December 7, 2009

No swing. No movement. No Hilfenhaus and perfect batting conditions. Gayle and Barath committed suicide. Barath’s innings in Brisbane was most talked about last week but no one seems to have noted his tendency to play away from the body. Balls outside off stump are irresistible to Barath. He hardly got to the pitch of the ball, played away from the body and handed the ‘loud and obnoxious’ Bollinger an easy wicket.

Bollinger was trying to fill the big boots of Hilfenhaus but never looked as dangerous. Gayle couldn’t keep a short ball down and got out poorly. Gayle’s position in the test squad is to be scrutinized. People know how aggressive Sehwag is but look at his shot selection. The difference lies in the balance and shot selection. Gayle cannot keep gifting his wicket away this way and continue as test skipper. This is not the way forward for the West Indies.

 Sarwan’s cover drives, along with Mark Nicholas, Bill Lawry and Richie Benaud made my day.

Test century makers this week are Sehwag, Dilshan, Umer Akmal and Dwayne Bravo. Changing times.

Port Elizabeth

December 3, 2009

The Cape Town game was a bad day in the office for England. Everything seemedto begoing in SA’s way and they slaughtered their way to a mammoth 350. And they weren’t going to let a repeat of 434 happen.

Coming to St.George’s park, all the talk was on Smith winning the toss and chosing to bat in such conditions but Im sure he was a little carried away by the big total they posted in the previous match. Anderson and Broad were brilliant in the opening spell, bowling as straight as possible and hitting good lengths.

I’ve always believed full lengths with the new ball will surely fetch wickets,whatever be the format and even on a relatively flat pitch. Because that is when the batsman meets the ball with least control. The uncertainty of the behaviour of the ball is maximum when it’s a little fuller than good length. Broad pitched it up, Smith missed and was caught in front of leg stump. LBW appeals in front of leg stump generally go in favour of the batsmen, especially for left handers but this was a fine decision by the umpire. Smith shuffles in huge amounts and I doubt he’ll ever change that. Amla was stifled by some tight bowling and in trying to force the pace after five dot balls, held out at mid wicket.

The Duminy-De Villiers pair is one of the most exciting to watch but not a secure pair after the loss of two quick top order wickets. Duminy got out to a false pull shot, a shot which a lot of school and club batsmen get out to and AB was a little unlucky to be caught in front of leg stump off Bresnan.

Once 4 wickets were down, good captaincy took over and Strauss brought Anderson back into the attack. Even at the international level, it would have been so easy to go back to defensive mode and give Swann the ball.

Anderson did exactly what was expected of him. He uprooted Boucher’s off stump with a ball that moved a trifle away from it’s original line. Ryan Mclaren did not have the substance to pull SA out of that mess. Alviro Petersen made yet another half century and was the only one who could hold his face high up.

This South African side has a very depleted look. Thank goodness Morne Morkel is back now but I’ve always wondered why he was dropped in the first place. Kallis is sorely missed and perhaps even Ntini’s stability with the ball. And someone like Justin Kemp at that No. 6 slot should do this side a lot of good.

119 was simply not enough for SA to defend. The only bright point of their bowling was Morne Morkel’s performance. He showed good pace and rythym and is going to pose a threat in the tests. Trott played another masterful knock to steer England home.

Beware South Africa, KP is warming up nicely for the tests.

The Centurion ODI

December 2, 2009

The schedule for this series is something I admire and something from which other boards badly need to learn from. The 5 ODIs are spread over 3 weekends and matches held only on Fridays and Sundays. Fridays host the day nighters while Sundays host the day games. Brilliant. Very unfortunately, the first game in Jo’Burg was a washout.

The quality of bowling has deteriorated drastically over the past decade. Here’s a short list of bowlers, I feel are far from international class.

Tim Bresnan

Sajid Mahmood

Pragyan Ojha

Praveen Kumar

Mitchell Jihnson

Nathan Hauritz

Johan Botha

Some have been very successful recently and I’m sure I’ll be taking some stick for some of those names. But I’m pretty sure none of these would have found a spot in national teams ten years ago.

Such an elite English county format has not been able to produce bowlers better than Mahmood and Plunkett.

Coming to the match, SA badly need to find a replacement for Amla in the one day set up. Amla is good, very good but I’m sure SA has someone better. After the quick dismissals of Smith and AB, Duminy should have played with some caution but continued with his natural flair. His casual shot resulted in a simple caught behind. I have wanted James Anderson to flourish and establish himself as international class and I’m pleased with his success. He’s a very natural bowler and keeps himself athletic and fit.

Apart from Anderson, the bowling attack consisted of Wright, Mahmood, Bresnan and Rashid. Two of them belong to my list above and the other two weren’t too successful. SA fell to the dibbly dobbly cutters and medium pace from Trott and Collingwood. They gave an impression of a very sluggish wicket. And the same pair demolished SA’s bowlers and won the match for England with their bats. They had to start watchfully and they did that. SA did not have good enough slow bowlers. Both Colly and Trott enjoyed the ball coming on nicely to the bat. It was a stroke filled partnership and Colly ended up with plenty of reasons to celebrate for.

Most capped English ODI player

2nd highest in the list of ODI run getters for England

An extremely effective bowling spell

A match winning century

Its amazing to observe the kind of maturity batsmen display immediately on arrival to the international scene. Trott’s going to be a huge asset to this English team. Duminy is another who gives us the impression that he’s here to stay for a long time. Marcus North, Umer Akmal and Grant Elliot among others are the ones to watch out for in the coming decade. Alviro Petersen was the only batsman to put up a steady innings. SA had a chance when Strauss and KP fell quickly but they couldn’t make further breakthroughs. This was a match to remember for Collingwood and Trott.