Archive for the ‘Trans Tasman Trophy’ category

From promising to disappointing

December 11, 2011

 

These are extremely frustrating times for fans of the New Zealand cricket team. I used the words ‘promising position’ last evening and the Kiwis showed why one can never bank on them converting promising positions to winning ones.

Kane Williamson looked in great touch yesterday and wanted to start off from where he had left it overnight. He perished in the third ball of the day, trying to force a drive without getting to the pitch of the ball. This seems to be his only streaky area.

Ross Taylor and Dean Brownlie looked to survive the demons of the first couple of hours but couldn’t manage doing it. Australia had a major issue in having no bowler to sustain the pressure that Siddle and Pattinson created. Therefore, Siddle was given an extended first spell, and after the first hour when Siddle had to be rested, Pattinson immediately came back for a second spell. Both Taylor and Brownie looked comfortable against Starc. Starc tried bowling around the wickets and it never really threatened the batsmen. Neither could he beat the bat from over the wickets.

Either Siddle or Pattinson were bowling from one of the ends, all through the first session. So, had Williamson and Taylor survived their initial spells, they could have had huge run scoring opportunities coming out of Starc, Lyon and Hussey. But the problem was that both Siddle and Pattinson were too good to get through. At the same time, these Aussie bowlers were fortunate enough to find the edges, unlike Martin, Boult and Southee who, in spite of bowling in good areas, never found the edge when Australia came out to bat.

What could have easily been a lead of 300 plus, was restricted to 240. And, only Boult and Southee helped it 240. Otherwise, run scoring was so difficult all through the first session that when keeper Young was leg before to Siddle, the lead was just 204. Bracewell was at the crease, with Southee, Boult and Martin left. From an overnight score of 139 for 3, the visitors were bundled out for 226, in little over two and a half hours. Credit to Micheal Clarke for persisting with Siddle and Pattinson all morning. And credit to both the bowlers for utilizing the conditions to the fullest.

Phil Hughes has lived to fight tomorrow. There was a long spell of rain after tea and this could be a blessing for New Zealand. The sun has hardly come out in the first session at Hobart. If there is a concentrated effort to keep bowling in the corridor tomorrow morning, there is no reason why they can’t pick up wickets. I thought some extra effort was lacking today.

Ross Taylor resorted to more defensive fields as edges and mistimed shots went for boundaries. I think giving Taylor the captaincy ahead of McCullum is one of the first mistakes in the John Buchanan era. Vettori’s presence was missed in the fourth innings and he’ll probably be missed tomorrow as well, more for his ideas than for his spin bowling.

169 runs. 10 wickets. Anyone fancy a Kiwi win?

The greenest I’ve ever seen.

December 10, 2011

The biggest worry for me at the end of the first day was the Sun coming out early on day two. In Brisbane, Australia were lucky with the overhead conditions. Here, fortunately for New Zealand, overhead conditions were favourable early on, especially after the rain and early close on the previous evening, and they made the most of it.

Chris Martin has hit fantastic form and he would look to take all the confidence to the tests against South Africa. His natural deliveries going away from the left handers, have accounted for all the three top order southpaws.  Ricky Ponting walked as soon as the ball hit his pads, even before Nigel Llong raised his finger.

New Zealand have unearthed a superb prospect in Trent Boult and he straight away looks a long term candidate. I now think they have overestimated Doug Bracewell’s abilities. Boult was able to sustain the pressure Martin and Southee exerted and this was something that never happened in Brisbane. Bracewell took some confidence from his spell to Micheal Clarke in the first test and he produced another decent effort today. I don’t think they’ll leave out Vettori, given his batting performances, on wickets like these but even if they had made up the ‘hamstring issues’, four seamers worked out perfectly today. Iain O Brien pointed out that there is a pressure to pick wickets that comes along with such seaming and overcast conditions. Bowlers from both teams have delivered the goods. If New Zealand’s top order is bad, Australia’s has serious issues as well. They were pathetic today.

Although it was refreshing to watch a contest where ball dominated bat, there was the feeling that there is almost no batsman left out to fight and survive such paceman-friendly conditions. I would like to see how Kraigg Brathwaite goes in these conditions.

There was some loose bowling to Pattinson and Siddle, which narrowed New Zealand’s lead. Bowlers’ getting distracted to the tail has become a very common phenomenon and this is a mental issue where the coaches can help.

Another major help for the visitors was the fact that the Sun came out in time for their second innings. McCullum and Guptill still couldn’t survive the new ball. This has been a miserable series for Martin Guptill and I hope they don’t drop him for the tests ahead. The pitches in New Zealand for the tests ahead will be much more placid and he’s too good to be out of this team. Ryder was stumped to Micheal Hussey down the leg side and these are dismissals a test batsman cannot afford, more so, when the team badly needs a big knock from you.

Kane Williamson was all class today. He’s got out caught behind only once out of three dismissals in this series. The other two were pretty unfortunate dismissals. He showed a lot of intent and took the attack to Peter Siddle. He played terrific shots of both front and back foot, and his balance was awesome. Ross Taylor survived the early play-and-miss and he improved through the course of his stay. Both of them have put New Zealand in a very promising position. I will be praying for sunlight early in the morning tomorrow.

For those who couldn’t watch the action, Ian Chappell has called this Bellerive pitch ‘the darkest I’ve ever seen’.  ‘Not the greenest but the darkest’.

To my eyes, it is almost as green as the square and if this is not the greenest, wonder how today’s batsmen would have handled the greener ones Ian has seen.

NZ staring down the barrel

December 3, 2011

There were seven hours of play today and the test now lies firmly with the hosts. The Gabba continues to remain their fort.

New Zealand have only themselves to blame. They did manage to keep the pressure for two and a half hours before lunch. Two wickets fell and only a hundred runs were scored. Australia still trailed by 40 runs with Haddin and Clarke batting. Both are chancy batsmen and both kept on playing that way. It is in situations like these that captains should never lose the initiative, keep attacking, and make statements to the opposition. I know Taylor had only around two and a half bowlers at his disposal but the body language and the energy levels of the fielding unit were discouraging after lunch. As soon as New Zealand’s total was surpassed, they seemed as though they had conceded a 300 run lead.

Micheal Clarke’s energy levels never dropped. He already had a life yesterday and lady luck stayed with him today as Reece Young and Jesse Ryder put down chances that weren’t straightforward but ones that you would back yourself to take at this level. His shot making was magnificent and runs came at a brisk pace. He is susceptible to a line just outside off stump and he made a conscious effort to leave balls there.

Earlier, Ricky Ponting was dismissed leg before by a typical in coming Chris Martin delivery. Ponting played across and completely missed the line of the ball. As pointed out by, I think, Micheal Slater, his issues are more mind-related. And Clarke’s performances are generally energy-related. It was a good opportunity for Micheal Hussey to score big and bat New Zealand out of the game. He succumbed to a bat-pad off Vettori, pushing forward in defense. Southee and Martin were the main bowlers in the first session with Vettori keeping things tight.

Post lunch, New Zealand needed a good long spell from their fourth bowler and Doug Bracewell actually delivered. Clearly, there were instructions from his captain as to what areas he needed to bowl and he did respond well. Clarke was beaten regularly. An inside edge swung very late, just before Young’s gloves and the chance went a begging. A little wide one was slashed and the ball travelled quickly to Ryder, who spilled the chance at third slip. Haddin, as ever, wasn’t timing the ball early in his innings. He should have been attacked more. The Kiwis should have sent across a message that they were just a wicket away from finishing the innings and starting to build their own lead. Instead, they almost went through the motions.

I couldn’t believe Doug Bracewell was given the second new ball ahead of Southee, at a time Southee could have finished the Aussie lower order. Yes, Bracewell did bowl well before that but Southee was fresh after lunch!

Clarke holed out to deep square leg after tea and Siddle was quickly undone by a brilliant Vettori over. The lead was only fifty by then. Enough pressure wasn’t exerted on Pattinson and Starc and both of them gave Haddin a lot of support for his assault. From Australia’s perspective, Pattinson and Starc can certainly spend some time batting and aren’t complete jokers. But NZ couldn’t even ensure the tailenders’ retaining most of the strike.

This is turning out to be yet another game where NZ have been close but haven’t clinched the game at the key moments. They faced half an hour of chin music from Pattinson and Siddle and in the last half an hour of the day, and lost McCullum. Pattinson looked outstanding with the new ball and looked like picking a wicket every other delivery. Martin Guptill was found fishing from start to finish. He’s still alive though and should realize that the only way New Zealand can save the game is by playing positive cricket. Excessive defense won’t help the cause tomorrow and this line up isn’t good at it either.

Keeper Reece Young was struck hard on the nose by a Vettori delivery that bounced extravagantly. He started bleeding instantaneously. He went away and had ten stitches on the outer lip along with two inside. Brendon McCullum was very much available and it would have been so easy to cool off and return for the second innings. But the man was back on the field, as quickly as he could. Salute him for the spirit he showed today.

Vettori, Ponting and bad light..

December 2, 2011

Conditions in the morning were flatter than those on day one and batting became a much easier art. Pattinson and Starc looked slightly different bowlers but they obviously have enough skill to remain test class bowlers. Vettori and Brownlie continued to prosper and runs came quickly. Bowling teams around the world devise various strategies for various batsmen but they have certainly not realized what kind of a force Vettori can be with the bat. There doesn’t seem to be a specific plan for him and time has come for all opponents to plan and prepare for smart knocks like these. One of the ideas would be to keep bowling a full length on middle and leg (with protection) because he keeps shuffling, and scores a lot through square leg. He makes a mockery of off stump and outside off stump lines by picking those balls early and pulling them to square leg.

Clarke and his men looked clueless till Vettori himself had a brain-snap, when on 96. He had just scored a boundary and certainly wanted to get his hundred in quick time. He had timed the drive to long off well and there was no single on offer. Hussey’s direct hit ended an innings of sheer brilliance, and one which would have taken New Zealand to 350 and more. Peter Siddle was just too good for Reece Young. He was caught on the corridor, edging to first slip. Doug Bracewell was the next man in. He never looked convincing and edged Nathan Lyon to slip. And Ross Taylor’s statements are quickly going to the drain.  Tim Southee played a handy little cameo and helped the total near 300.

Nathan Lyon finished with four wickets and although three of them were tail enders, it was an excellent effort from someone who has never played here. I wonder if not having played at the Gabba actually helped him because Australia generally play four quicks here! Peter Siddle was in good form and Australia will be needing him to fire in the second innings as conditions are likely to get flatter.

 

When it comes to bowling and fielding, world cricket has few teams more efficient than New Zealand. Warner and Hughes had five minutes to negotiate before lunch. Vettori squeezed in one tight over quickly, and they got another over to have a go at the openers before lunch. Southee’s first ball was short, swinging in towards the left handed Warner. The direction and the bounce were perfect. Warner didn’t have time to drop his gloves and the Kiwis had a breakthrough in four minutes.

Chris Martin is more effective to the left handers because he has a natural delivery that goes away from them. Phil Hughes got an edge to one such delivery and Martin Guptill completed a fine catch at gully, diving low to his right. Khawaja and Ponting steadied the ship after the two early wickets. Both of them played to the merit of the ball. Ponting looked to score on every opportunity. The Channel Nine team did pick two or three occasions where his technique looked short of the mark. On one, the head was a yard away from the line of the ball while defending. Too much of his body weight was falling towards cover-point and he was clearly falling over. The encouraging thing for all his fans is that the boundary shots are still coming freely. But surely, he is not as high on confidence as, may be, on determination.

Ponting wanted a single on the very first ball after tea, a single which gave an indication that he wanted to get off strike as soon as possible at the start of the new session. South Africa is the only other team that would have managed to pull off a run out on this occasion. Kane Williamson pounced on the ball, picked it up cleanly and an underarm throw on the dive proved curtains for Usman Khawaja. I am sure more senior batsmen at the other end would have refused the single, because this wasn’t good running but an effort to get to the non striker’s end after a 20 minute break.

That run out sparked off a period where New Zealand exerted pressure on the batsmen, after Khawaja and Ponting had calmed things down. Southee got great shape and maintained good line outside off. Chris Martin bowled a spell of inswingers  at an awkward length that troubled Ponting.  The short leg for Martin was surprisingly absent and on one occasion, he survived a bat pad. The close in fielder did come a few overs later but he should have been there since the beginning. I did wonder if Brendon McCullum should have been given the job now and Taylor a couple of more seasons’ time. McCullum is proactive and is very much involved in the affairs, but as captain, his on-field decisions would be made earlier!

Micheal Clarke looked all class as he arrived. One moment of indecision nearly cost him his wicket. He half- left a ball which eventually took his bottom edge and hit the stumps. But Doug Bracewell had overstepped. I can’t remember any major chance apart from this. Vettori bowled well with his variations but he would be more useful with some turn on this pitch. I don’t know how much effort is being put in to impart turn on the ball as over the years, he’s been picking wickets only with his variations. On the whole, Ponting and Clarke had a relatively easy time as there were only two and a half bowlers, effectively. Martin was easily negotiable and Vettori and Southee were the real pressure bowlers. I will certainly try Trent Boult in place of Bracewell, at Hobart.

First session tomorrow is big. Two early wickets will bring in Haddin and the long tail. Remember, there is no Johnson around this time. If there is bright sunshine in the morning, these two and Hussey could make quick runs and New Zealand could be under pressure in the third innings. Southee holds the key.

There was some debate regarding umpires not having to offer light to the batsmen, and having to take their own call. Mark Taylor said that was absolutely fine as it would only bring in more consistency and reduce controversy. The only thing the umpires should do is, carry on with play under light that is practically free of any danger to the players, instead of simply referring to a value on the light meters and taking decisions.  As simple as that.

 

Day One,Woolloongabba..

December 1, 2011


Everything was picture perfect till drinks in the first session. Ross Taylor won the toss and decided to bat in spite of the heavy cloud cover. Brendon McCullum is one man who certainly doesn’t understand cloud cover and he went about his job in his usual way. Martin Guptill was trying to set himself up at the other end while Baz was blazing away at the other. Full balls were driven, shot balls were cut and the slightly wide ones were slashed hard and went over the slip cordon.

Peter Siddle wasn’t overwhelmed by the conditions. He was on the corridor straight away and got both swing and seam. McCullum didn’t allow James Pattinson to settle to a rhythm with the new ball but the latter came back and bowled quite beautifully in his second spell. One hour into the test, I thought this opening partnership was looking good and the prospect of Williamson, Taylor and Ryder was mouthwatering. And it would have been an anomaly if New Zealand had converted that good start.

It was similar to a Sehwag-Gambhir partnership. McCullum was hurting the Aussie attack. Guptill looked as determined as ever but was trapped by a full delivery from Siddle. The most important lesson to any bowler around the world was that these Aussie bowlers looked to pick wickets by bowling fuller length balls. It would have been so attractive to hit the deck short of a length and look dangerous on this Gabba pitch but they generally, hit length.

I hadn’t quite recovered from the shock of seeing Nathan Lyon in the eleven and ended up being pleasantly surprised by the way he bowled. Captain Clarke certainly has a major say in the way Lyon is handled and he did a wonderful job this morning. Firstly, bringing Lyon on to bowl before lunch and then giving him the catching men at both forward and backward short leg. Lyon, for his part, bowled beautifully. The trajectory was brilliant, there were serious revolutions imparted, the line and length were good and overall, it was good to watch. Kane Williamson handled spin so well when he played the tests in India. He is still an excellent player of spin. But I thought he wasn’t prepared for the kind of pressure Clarke and Lyon exerted so early on in his innings. He got out to a classical off spinner’s trap.

Mitchell Starc seems to have a hell of a lot of potential. He can be three dozen times the force Mitchell Johnson is.  He could have got more wickets if he had stuck to a particular corridor today. He bowled a tight line to McCullum from over the stumps and then came around the wickets, stifled him for width and McCullum immediately gave his wicket away, hitting it straight to point. Maiden test catch for David Warner and maiden test wicket for Mitchell Starc. And out of all dismissals, Ross Taylors’ was the poorest.  He probably wanted to get on fluently straight away. But that’s not the way to build a test innings. Pattinson was troubling him in his second spell with balls swinging and zipping past the outside edge. On a full ball, wide outside off stump, Taylor went for a drive without getting to the pitch off the ball and chopped it on to the stumps. He wasn’t settled enough to play that shot and that was poor, poor temperament from the skipper.

It was 4 down for 94 at lunch and the usual top order failure had happened again. From the bowling perspective, Siddle was the pick of the bowlers, identifying the line from where he got the right amount of movement outwards, while Pattinson was second best. Things got worse in the first over after lunch as Jesse Ryder cut one ball straight to point. 5 down for 95 and in came Mr.Cricket, Dan Vettori.

It was another typical Vettori innings. He left balls which had to be left. He picked the length early on some, shuffled and scored through square leg. Those were definitely pre-meditated. He had a smart sweep shot for the spinner, and an effective late cut. He drove through the covers on all possible opportunities and he kept the scorers busy. Most importantly, he had a very decent defense!

Dean Brownlie never always offered the straight bat. He played a steady second fiddle to Vettori. He doesn’t have a great defense but playeda bit of a gritty knock. Nathan Lyon went defensive in his spell after lunch, to both Vettori and Brownlie. Starc was given a longish spell and showed what he’s capable of.  And yes, I forgot to mention Captain Clarke dropped a sitter at first slip, off Brownlie; Peter Siddle was the unfortunate bowler.

As tea approached, the light went bad and Siddle and Pattinson should have been bowling when Micheal Hussey was given the ball. I remember there were at least four men on the fence. That was probably the one major error of Clarke that I can remember today.

I don’t know when Hilfenhaus will return but whenever he will, he’ll have a lot of juniors fighting for spots. This battery of Siddle Harris,Cummins, Pattinson, Cutting and Starc looks very encouraging for this rebuilding team. And Nathan Lyon looks like he’ll be around for quite some time.

For the Kiwi batsmen, it was another familiar story. Poor shot selection and poor temperament. John Wright should be a very dejected man. But they don’t need to go too far for somebody to look up to. Someone has averaged more than 40 in the last three years and has been a regular rescuer to the batting unit several times. And generally, bats at No.8.

The Aussie summer is here!

November 30, 2011

If this was anywhere else but Brisbane, New Zealand would have been favourites. I still think they’re the better team, on current playing form.

David Warner has a nice natural batting technique. I don’t mind him playing test cricket before he reached a thousand first class runs. But Phil Hughes is the big surprise. He doesn’t seem to have the necessary tool kit for a test opener at all. I was listening to Sir Geoffrey on ESPNCricinfo and he didn’t waste any time in calling Hughes’ technique as ‘poor’. Hughes has survived with a 126 in the second innings at Colombo and an 88 at Jo’burg.

You have to feel for people like Simon Katich and Chris Rogers.

Now look at the visiting dressing room. Two experienced batsmen, both very good with the short ball, and both have enough ability to make excellent starts on a pitch like the Gabba. A couple of years back, New Zealand had Taylor, McCullum and Vettori scoring the bulk of the runs. McIntosh is gone. There is no place for Flynn or How or the Marshalls. So consider Ryder, Taylor and Williamson behind Guptill and McCullum. This could be the time when the Kiwis can actually start performing big in the test arena.

I wish Grant Elliot made that No. 6 spot ahead of Brownlie.

In this test, I guess it will come down to how well both middle orders handle the short stuff. There is no doubt Southee and Martin will have a go at Ponting and Clarke. Khawaja and Hussey will look to be more disciplined. They’ll have to counter the steady seam bowling of Doug Bracewell. Ross Taylor has said yesterday that Bracewell has the ability to become a ‘great world class all rounder’.  And that was surprising. He was a little better than ‘steady’ at Bulawayo but these are big words!! Will have to see how he goes tomorrow!

It seems Cutting has been bowling extremely well at the pre match training. He’s the home boy as well, so I’ll surely have him play. And let me tell you Nathan Lyon has never visited the Gabba before this week! So it’s a no brainer now. I’ll play four fast bowlers. Moreover, this Kiwi line up, apart from Brownlie and Young, is quite strong against spin. And there’s rain forecast for days 1, 4 and 5. Why would you play Nathan Lyon??

The key for the Aussie attack will be patience. Guptill, Ryder and Williamson are all tough nuts to crack. Mike Hussey has revealed that these young quicks are totally new to this environment and that the players are just getting to know each other! And that’s where Australia stand at the start of this summer. Not too long ago, McGrath would say ‘whitewash’ and look what kind of statements come on the eve of this year’s opening test.

Very disappointing to see Cummins miss out on the Gabba test. He could have absolutely ripped apart the Kiwis here.

My weight is behind the Kiwis pulling off a massive performance and taking the Gabba away from Australia.

Lawry and Taylor are hours away! Can’t wait!

My line ups

March 18, 2010

Been waiting for this series for a long time now. Exciting.

New Zealand

Tim McIntosh

BJ Watling

Peter Ingram

Ross Taylor

Martin Guptill

Daniel Vettori

Brendon McCullum

Daryl Tuffey

Tim Southee

Brent Arnel

Chris Martin

I don’t think Jeets can play at Windy Wellington. And I’m tired of watching the old players come back into the team and fail again. So no Mathew Sinclair.

Australia

Simon Katich

Shane Watson

Ricky Ponting

Micheal Clarke

Micheal Hussey

Marcus North

Brad Haddin

Mitchell Johnson

Nathan Hauritz

Ryan Harris

Doug Bollinger

It’s a shame Doug Bollinger has to play a test for Australia. Had Hilfenhaus been fit, he’d have been the man of the series. I’ve picked Watson so that he edges to slip four times out of four and gets dropped. Chris Rogers is the man for that slot. They are fooling around with Phil Hughes.

GO NEW ZEALAND.