Archive for January 2010

The one dayers

January 28, 2010

Sydney and Adelaide were two very similar games. Pakistan collapsed, Asia style in Sydney. And in Adelaide, Fawad Alam and Umer Akmal did a face saving but insufficient rescue act. I can think of Ravindra Jadeja and Virat Kohli doing something on those lines, in vain.

Australia batted first in both the matches  and posted a chasable score. The Pakistan bowling was quite good considering the conditions and the pitches.

Watson showed good form on both occasions but one cannot afford to bank on form every single innings. He simply premeditated to hit Asif across the line from good length. He hit one but missed in the next attempt. Asif had tempted him again and the ball found the gate. Watson is in good nick but not in perfect nick. The odd attempted pull is still being mistimed.

The other opener, Shaun Marsh, is not in convincing form. He made a patient 83 in Adelaide but it was more of a fighting knock rather than a second fiddle to Watson. Watson’s free scoring helped him spend more time in the middle. Marsh never got the measure of Ajmal.

Ricky Ponting, yet again, has succumbed to the pull this summer. Rana Naved bowled very smart lengths first up. He was forced to defend off the back foot, first two deliveries. On going for the pull on the third ball which was actually a touch fuller than the first two, he missed and was caught LBW. Again, had Aameer held that sitter in Hobart, we culd have expected Pup to make it to the toss with Strauss, come the Ashes.

Clarke is the best batsman in the team on current form. In Adelaide after two early wickets, he made sure there were no further breakthroughs. There was not a single boundary in his first 50 runs. He and Hussey built the innings brilliantly. The acceleration was so smooth that I cannot recall a single non text book slog. Clarke has truly come of age. He fully deserves the vice captaincy and such leaders are missing in the Pakistan side. It was he who set the match up for Australia and he was clearly my man of the match. Ryan Harris did bowl tidily but two of his five wickets were free gifts from tail enders.

From a ‘leg spinner who can bat’ in the test line up,  Cameron White has become an essential  middle order one day batsman. His fielding has been brilliant and his body language, exemplary. He’s one cricketer who will get 10 out of 10 for body language.

These totals of around 260 proved to be adequate only because Pakistan’s batting is in poor order. But the bowling is in safe hands.Asif,  Aameer, Gul, Rana Naved, Sami, Kaneria and Ajmal form a group of high value . More importantly, this group has performed in it’s latest assignments.

I wonder at the staggering difference in the levels of quality between the bowling and the batting unit.


Day 2, Hobart

January 16, 2010

Ponting and Clarke consolidated in the first session, piling up a big score from the work they’d done on the first day. Clarke’s knock can be termed as an excellent one and Ponting found form and spent time in the middle. But the pitch was flat and conditions were perfect for batting at the Bellerive Oval.

On 166, Clarke lost concentration  and left one that spun from outside leg stump and hit middle and off. Marcus North was under scrutiny before the start of the match and was very positive in his approach today. A liitle too positive I can say, for, his feet were moving a lot more than what was required.  He looked like a very busy one day player and tried his best to score some runs and find form.  He still got out nicking one to the keeper but I think he has enough class to make that No.6 position his own. Also, as Slater mentioned, Australia, as a winning side can afford to give him more space before he settles down permanently in that line up.

Haddin came in and played a cameo. Scored runs quickly and helped Ponting declare quickly.Ponting himself, after such a long struggle this summer, ended up with a double ton in front of his home crowd.

Salman Butt and Imran Farhat are far from convincing test openers and they are playing just because they opened the last time  Australia toured here, and also because the country doesn’t have competent openers. Both may play a few attractive cover drives but are very susceptible to normal swing bowling, full and just wide of off stump.  Khurram Manzoor looked hopeless. Pathetic. He looked exremely nervous, which is not a good thing while batting in Australia and got out playing away from the body, trying to smash one for four without any foot movement.

Yousuf looked determined. He was his usual self but met with disaster today. You need to be sure of how good your partner is in running between the wickets. Yousuf drove one, beautifully past mid off and there were three runs for the taking. Butt was always running for just 2 runs and Yousuf committed too much for the third. When a left hander is chasing a ball and needs to throw it back behind him, he has to pick it up with his left hand, turn around and then throw. Mitchell Johnson on this occasion, overran a liitle, picked the ball with his wrong hand, took some time to transfer it to his left hand but did one thing right. The throw was to the right end and reached Haddin perfectly on a single bounce and Yousuf was way out. He was left fuming at Butt.

The opener made another crime in not making a start from the non striker’s end. Umer Akmal, the batsman this time knew there was a single but Salman Butt took his second wicket of the day as Umer was run out as well, having sent back.

Australia were very lucky in getting those two runouts as Yousuf and Umer could have proved tough nuts to crack in such conditions.

Day 1, Hobart

January 16, 2010

I wondered why Mohammad Sami was left out of the side after that majestic  performance in Sydney. Leaving out Gul would have been unfair. Sami should always remain in the scheme of things for Pakistan. Their fast bowling department looks in great shape now.

There was help for the bowlers early in the morning and Pakistan picked up three wickets in the first session which is a very good start. Things could have been much better for the visitors had Aameer not dropped a sitter off Ponting when he was on a duck. I mentioned at the start of the summer that this season could be crucial in deciding Ponting’s future and had that catch been held, Ponting’s position would have come under some scrutiny. An Indian batsman with that kind of experience is allowed more space to come back to form by the selectors but in Australia, the player himself and the selectors realise the urgent need for performance. Also, in India, the media gets to the player before anything.

Asif, as usual, was really good in pitching the ball up and finding movement. Katich was beaten by an inswinger and was caught plumb in front but Asoka De Silva declared it not out. The decision was referred and the umpire did not know the signal to be used to reverse a decision. I think he was unaware and not absent minded. He signalled not out and then immediately raised his finger. So that was two howlers for one appeal.

Watson looked chancy with some uncertain pull shots. He looked a little over confident and cut one straight to gully. An opener should never get out in such a fashion and that shot showed he’s not a regular opener. Every test opener needs to respect opponents and conditions every single match day. Watson was trying to carry over previous form into this innings and paid the price.

Yousuf’s field to the openers in the little overcast morning was a little disappointing. There were just 2 slips and 4 men were trying to save a single on the off side.

Mohammad Aameer was pacey and it was good to watch that amount of pace on good tight lines. He’s kept up his good form from New Zealand and I once again hope he’s not spoilt by ‘fast bowling coaches’. He was rewarded with Hussey’s wicket . Such an experienced batsman can still nick a 17 year old and get out for a low score. Again goes to show you need to pay due respects to the opponents and the conditions every time you get into the middle.

Ponting’s elbow is the reason why he’s struggling with his pull shots. He looked vulnerable, yet wanted to play the shot at every opportunity. He did struggle to get set but Pakistan had to pay the price for that drop catch. Ponting’s effort to fight it out and play a long knock has to be applauded.

Micheal Clarke got beaten regularly early in his innings as Asif proved too good for him. Even in such times, Yousuf employed just two slips. Sure, his captaincy is not attracting too many fans now. Later on as the Sun came out, both these batsmen managed to survive and develop a good run rate with their shot making abilities.

Clarke, apart from struggling with that initial movement, played a very tidy innings. He provided very good support to Ponting when the captain was struggling. Kaneria was good while he strayed on the leg side a bit, but he had the two best players of spin bowling in the host team to cope with. His ploy of inviting the drive from wide outside the off stump didn’t work. Both batsmen negotiated him with ease.

Punter and Pup made it Australia’s day in the end but it could very easily have been Pakistan’s.

Day two, SCG

January 5, 2010

The pitch on Day 2 was still helping the bowlers while the batsmen could score if they were prepared to play the waiting game. Marcus North dropped a sitter from Farhat’s edgeoff Siddle early in the day. The early wicket, had he caught it, would have made a huge difference to the day’s proceedings. The Aussie bowlers beat the bat several times but couldn’t find the edge. And when they did find the edge, none of them appealed! It was a faint edge off Iqbal’s bat and the batsman looked back a little anxiously.  The Aussies thought he had been beaten yet again and showed frustration. The Hot Spot clearly showed that Iqbal had kissed it.

This incident showed the amount of human element present in  decisions. You need to appeal to get a batsman out. The batsman probably knew he was gone and there was a smile from Billy Doctrove. Technology proved it was close and it was out. But none of the Aussies appealed. You cannot eliminate those little imperfections from the game. Why didn’t Iqbal walk then? The ICC says Reviews will make batsmen walk. They had the Hot Spot and the review system in place. Was Iqbal so sure that the Aussies weren’t going to appeal? Or was he sure he didn’t nick it?  Why did he turn back then? Or was he not going to walk inspite of all this? Well, all I want is the decision review system removed. Let us challenge the umpires more.  And let us keep the human element in it. We can use the technology to evaluate the umpires but let us keep it away from the game.

Pakistan should have planned to play as long as possible and go for an innings victory. Instead, they kept playing their shots and didn’t mind losing wickets while scoring runs. The only thing that saved them today was the fact that they managed to score a lot of boundaries and developed a considerable lead. They could have been bundled out for a small total very easily. Only Mohammad Yousuf played sensibly. His batting was a treat to watch.

Faisal Iqbal should have never played test cricket. If you look at the way he gets beaten, it will be similar to how a tail ender gets bamboozled by a fast bowler. He was set up well by Ponting and Siddle. The ball wide of off stump was mistimed and was caught brilliantly by Watson who was standing midway at the point region, as a catcher.

One batsman ( Umer Akmal) alone could have been allowed to play an attacking role but even Kamran and Misbah were going after the bowling, not considering the risks. While Faisal Iqbal gave a lot of respect to Hauritz, Umer showed Hauritzhis place by hitting him for four boundaries in the first over he faced. Misbah tried to emulate Umer but was caught behind attempting an ambitious pull shot. Umer himself missed one on the leg stump and was caught LBW.

Peter Siddle was the only bowler to bowl some testing stuff. Bollinger was very ordinary and could not display any swing even in such favourable conditions. Shane Watson was more threatening than Bollinger. Mitchell Johnson is ‘spearheading’ the attack and that will tell you why Australia is struggling against Pakistan in a test match at Sydney. In the end, the edges to the third man fence and the lofted shots over mid wicket brought Pakistan a 200 run lead. This should be good enough in such bowler friendly conditions although they could have done better justice to their batting potentials.

Day One, Sydney Cricket Ground

January 5, 2010

I’ve always been a huge fan of Mohammad Sami. Even on flat decks in the sub continent, he had the ability to bowl full and pick up wickets regularly. The administrators these days do not realize the potential of players these days. They want to be ‘transparent’ and answer the stake holders by simply dropping players after a few bad outings. Nobody seems to know the art of grooming a talent.

Ponting probably thought he and his batters would make light work of the Pakistani bowling and post a mammoth first innings score. He hardly respected the conditions. As a cricketer, you always need to give due respect to the opposition and the conditions. Ponting paid for his mistake.

Sami was deadly. The pace was high. He was enjoying the bounce and movement in the wicket. There was swing in the air as well. He found his rhythm very quickly. He looked like picking a wicket of every single ball. The odd bouncer was there but he kept bowling full and at the batsmen. Comeback kid Hughes could do little to the full and pacey delivery. The attempted drive went straight into the hands of second slip. Ricky Ponting hardly expected the short ball first up and it was right on the money. He just helped it along to deep square leg where Umar Gul took a very good catch diving forward. The hatrick ball to Watson was too good. The Yorker, which very few fast bowlers bowl with authority these days, crushed his toe. The appeal for LBW was turned down. The ball had hit him just outside off and the review upheld the original decision. The Sydney crowd already got to witness such drama after the delayed start due to rain. Australia were 2 down for 5 runs after the first half an hour of play.

The batsmen had to work hard to score runs, And the bowling was of such quality that they had to work hard to even survive. The contest between bat and ball was edge of the seats stuff. Mark Taylor rightly said that such a first day pitch was missing in the game over the last few years. Batsmen have been having it too easy even on the first mornings.

Meanwhile Watson was playing as straight as possible. Although I do not like him as opener, I should say he’s in truly good form. He left as many balls as possible and looked in good touch. Only batsmen in such good form can nick rippers like the one Sami produced to dismiss him. Watson was squared up. It was a beautiful sight to watch. Sunday morning. New Year’s test. Sydney Cricket Ground and Australia 3 wickets down for 10 runs on the board.

 Meanwhile Asif was teasing the batsmen with his gentle pace and movement, both in the air and off the pitch. Even Richie Benaud would have rarely witnessed such green and overcast conditions at the SCG on the first morning of the New Year’s test. Clarke and Hussey were no good. Both were beaten regularly. Asif pitched one on off stump luring Pup into the drive. What created the gap between bat and pad was the away movement in the air and the length of that delivery. And once it pitched, it found the gap and the timber as well. Hussey mistimed a pull off Asif because of the lack of pace from Asif. The top edge went high up and Misbah ran behind from second slip to complete a good catch.

Earlier, Asif had wrapped North on his pads and it looked very close on first sight. Billy Doctrove gave it out and North referred the decision. Hawk Eye showed that the ball was going over the stumps. The ball had hit him below the knee roll and there was no way the ball would have missed the stumps. Atleast, it was not high enough to overturn the original decision made by the on field umpire. I am certainly not convinced with Hawk Eye and the number of frames it offers per second. It was definitely ‘rubbish’ as Ian Chappel described it. Such a review will surely play on the umpire’s mind and influence his following decisions. North wasn’t there to stay for long as he followed an away swinger and was caught behind.

 You can’t say Haddin plays that way. At such a situation, you ought to take responsibility and curb your stroke making instincts. Haddin succumbed to a poorly timed shot off Asif and the tail was in by tea time. Hauritz and Johnson scored some easy runs as the bowlers as usual (of late) were less attacking to the tail.

 Asif ended up with six wickets on a day where Sami deserved six and Asif, 3 or 4.

Australia on the mat by stumps, Day One at the Sydney Cricket Ground

Welcome back Mohammad Sami!!