Posts Tagged ‘Australian Cricket team’

Shane Watson’s vice may be his saviour

Shane Watson has been called many things in his injury-riddled career. I have heard him called a pea-heart, a legend, a “sometimes” team man, a little ‘c’, a big ‘c’ (a fact related to me by a rather prominent figure in the Australian cricketing media), a top bloke, a terrible bloke, a Queenslander, a Tasmanian and everything in between.

He’s a divisive figure who, for someone who doesn’t seem to say, and sometimes even do, much, inspires the scribbling and yelling of a lot of words fair and foul. Who am I kidding, mostly foul.

But there’s one attribute that seems to have wriggled through the crammed door of adjectives about Shane Watson to stand proudly on its lonesome, seemingly enshrined as fact by the public: Shane Watson is a selfish cricketer.

The perception is that he relishes playing for himself, his average and for the betterment of his bank balance and reputation. Whether this is fair or not, it seems to just be taken as fact by many punters.

So the elevation of Watson to the position of Australian vice captain didn’t sit well with people who thought that he was a guy who cared more about the angles of his ferociously-gelled spears of hair than the results of an Australian cricket team fighting to remain relevant with the big guns.

After so many years of indomitable characters and out-of-this-world success, the Aussie public had come to expect victory. Victory was wrongly associated with a whole-hearted commitment on the part of the players, and the 1990’s Aussie team had its history rewritten as a unified ball of cricketing godliness, rather than several smaller, once-in-a-generation balls names Warne, McGrath, Waugh, Ponting and Gilchrist.

When results started to worsen, as they tend to when your team doesn’t consist wholly of the best players in the world, people started to ask questions of players’ commitment. And so we have Shane Watson’s predicament.

This isn’t to say that Shane does himself all the favours he could, or is a shining beacon of selflessness ala Peter Siddle. He’s not likely to re-injure himself for the coat of arms.

But people tend to look at you differently when you’re winning. Flaws are puttied up with the Selleys of victory, and the joiners of success lacquer the hell out of that old, decaying timber giving it a pleasant, if thoroughly artificial, gloss.

Unfortunately for the Aussies, there was no structural integrity to the extremely fine looking footstool that was the 1990’s, early 2000’s cricket team, and as all the crucial legs started retiring, citing reasons of getting old, cantankerous and grey, the stool simply fell apart due to the hairy, sweaty feet of public pressure.

If you didn’t understand all those carpentry analogies, neither did I. Basically the Aussie cricket team now ain’t what she used to be, but people’s expectations haven’t changed accordingly.

But back to Shane Watson. He came to the fore during a time when the Aussies had been towelled up by Andrew Flintoff. What’s a strapping, blonde, fast-bowling and hard hitting allrounder to do in a time like this? Be selected for Australia because we want one (a Flintoff)? You betcha!

And so we had our own Flintoff, except his name was Shane.

He was pretty good. Then he got injured.

Then he started to get really good. Then he got injured.

Then he started to play consistently, and really well, scoring lots of runs and even taking some very handy hauls with the ball. He did this at a time when he was at the peak of his physical powers, and had no other role but to go out there, opening the batting, and pound bowlers around the park.

Similarly, he succeeded when he was thrown the ball and told to take wickets. He bowled at the stumps, catching batsmen LBW with late-swinging deliveries. LBW and bowled were his key modes of dismissal; Watson was doing it all himself.

Then we picked him as vice-captain and the runs dried up, and he got injured again so he couldn’t bowl. We moved him all around the order. People started to turn on Shane, blaming him for the failings of a team that isn’t nearly as good as the one ten years ago.

He didn’t look overly compromised as a cricketer. He was never compared to the aesthetic nightmare that is Phil Hughes, for example. Watching Shane Watson never made one want to gouge one’s eyes out with a hot, blunt pot handle.

He still looked good. The complaint was that he was thoroughly unconvincing when he got past the ‘see ball, hit ball’ point of his innings.

Can you see that Shane might have made the connection between the responsibility-free role he enjoyed before he had the vice captaincy run with his own success? This was a time when he was opening the batting every time, given the go-ahead to get out there and do what he willed to the bowlers, and bowling when he was tossed the ball.

It was a simpler time. It was a better time. He only had to focus on his own game; not engaging in cricketing frivolities like fielding positions, batting orders and media conferences about team morale.

Catch ball. Hit ball. Bowl ball. Simple.

Selfish? Maybe. But this formula was the most successful in this very talented individual’s career.

And if Shane Watson starts playing like he did before he was elevated to the vice captaincy, which is not beyond the realms of possibility, then I for one would be a happy Aussie cricket fan. He was our Allan Border Medallist for 2010 and ’11 on the back of a couple of years of domination in all formats.

Sure, he couldn’t quite figure out how to hit a century, but there were more than enough 70’s, 80’s and wickets to make up for it. If giving up the vice captaincy triggers an immediate return to form, then all power to him.

The only problem is that it leaves Australia in a very awkward position of having one guy who should be captain, another who probably should be vice but isn’t, and nine other guys who aren’t guaranteed a spot in the side.

So while Shane may have done the right thing by himself, he’s certainly stumped me about what to do about the vice captaincy.

But it’s an honorary position anyway right? Who really needs a vice captain?

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Leadership rumours extend to Aussie cricket team

As the race for the leadership of the country heats up very quickly, then dies just as quickly, rumours were circulating about Mitchell Starc making an eleventh hour stand for Labor leader. Similarly, Simon Crean stood for the captaincy of the Australian cricket XI and for the key role in the latest Milo and Weet-bix ads, thereby ensuring his position as the most powerful person in Australia.

Granted, most of these rumours were started by me, but my job as a blogger is to simply report the facts, no matter how self interested or untrue.

But we have seen a bigger explosion of captaincy candidates in the wake of Michael Clarke maybe possibly (definitely) being out for the fourth Test match than there were Spartacus’s at the great Roman slave’s sentencing.

We’ve seen Ed Cowan, little Ed, the acclaimed scribe of the side, throw up his hand as leadership and captaincy material. Ed says that the more balls he faces the more runs he will score (thus his upcoming autobiography, his fourth, More Balls). But as well as showing off his mathematical skills, he also deigned to say that if he does the little things right, packs his bags on time, wears his sponsors cap at a jaunty angle and complains at the right times to big Uncle Mickey he might have a shade of a shot at having the little ‘c’ next to his name. Just to clarify, though, you don’t need a ‘c’ next to your name to be a leader, says Ed.

Spoken like a true usurper. Remember one week after the ides of March, Pup.

Little Davie Warner, too, a bladesman of some repute, not just due to how he waves it about but also because he’s just as likely to slay 100 foes as fell himself. What precisely David Warner could offer his teammates that Phil Gould couldn’t I have no idea. He could probably tell them that it’s mate versus mate, Commonwealth State versus former Commonwealth State, but beyond that I imagine his tactical nous and off-field diplomacy and speechmaking doesn’t compare to his opening batting partner. Importantly, however, his batting average does, and in a country where all that seems to matter is averages of batting score and tattoos, that might be enough to see Davey get the gig. In fact, it might be worth giving him the job to justify the millions spent on all that media training.

“Look how far we’ve come! Even Dave can present well to the media.”

I kid, of course. Compared to Ed Cowan anyone is made to look like a bumbling baboon, including myself.

And moving right on to the next of the baboons in the queue, scratching their noodles in the hope it will impress someone around the joint. Of course I speak of Shane Watson, the golden-haired, golden-armed, golden-batted golden boy of Australian cricket. It’s a pity his whole body is made of gold and is in constant need of buffing and rebuffing (pun) because otherwise he might be able to do simple things required of a professional sportsman these days like not get injured and be able to scribble ‘three things Shane can do better’ on a piece of napkin.

Then again Shane just had a baby, and that was the sole reason he was in Australia. I’d probably go back home to see my baby be born. After all, your baby’s going to be alive much longer than your cricket career. Unless you’re Sachin Tendulkar of course, who’s been playing cricket for literally as long as I’ve been alive. Scary and weird, scary and weird. Time to give it away Sachin.

It really doesn’t matter who skippers this Test match, does it? We’ve already confirmed that we’ve been flogged in India. Why even play this dead rubber? It can only lead to further humiliation of our boys, and I’m sure the Indians wouldn’t want to see that. They are, after all, humble, loving folks who welcome strange looking Australians to their shores with endless hugs, plates of vegetarian spiced stew and admiration for their captain. And who wouldn’t admire an Australian team captained by Shane Watson. Or Ed Cowan. Or Dave Warner.

All fine people and fine players whose spot in the side is completely and utterly guaranteed by virtue of their indispensable run-making of late.

In fact, let’s go all Port Adelaide on this biz-naz.

11 captains to take the field for the Aussies. You heard it here first.

Rotation makes the world go round

The duality of my career as a medical doctor and Australian fast bowler has left me in a state of personality flux of late.

My Hyde side, the Australian fast bowler, must be wild and free, doing as he pleases and sneering at those who stand in my way. Batsmen often report, after gazing upon my countenance, the sheer terror evoked by what appears to be an utterly evil (Uttersonly evil? Anyone?), malicious personage hurling a pound of leather in their direction. I can understand. I’ve never faced my bouncer, but I’ve faced more than a few people who have, and the look on their face was terrifying even for the man who delivered said bouncer.

On the other hand, my Dr. Jekyll, the  man in uniform, respected by all, tries to make sense of the medical misnomers that are put to him. Granted, my Jekyll may have a bit of help from a certain female every now and then, diverting from the script of the classic, but that’s not to say his conclusions are not as valid as Dr. Nick Riviera’s, or any other respected man of the profession.

As you could imagine, Australia’s fast bowling “Crisis” would have struck a major chord in a man juggling the juggernaut fast bowler and medical man all in one body.

The fast bowler in me wants to tell these big sissies to harden up, run in and simply take pleasure in knocking batmen’s blocks off. A simple pleasure, but one that never gets tiresome.

Yet the doctor side of me (my better half, you might say) urges treading the path with caution when attempting to solve the puzzle that is the human body and its physical capabilities. We are, we have been reminded of late, delicate things whose powers can be extinguished very quickly and easily. Even the colossal physical specimen of Michael Clarke has been cut down by the hamstring scissors.

When he-who-does-not-bowl-fast can also be injured in the game of cricket, what hope do those who do have? Do we criticise the rotation policy employed by the Australian decision makers with too much Hyde-like vigour, while ignoring its creditable Jekyllian qualities?

As Australians we have the tendency to romanticise the trails blazed by rough, gruff, batsmen-hating quicks like Lillee, McGrath and Thommo. But just as the NFL have been safeguarding themselves against potential lawsuits from former players by tightening tackle regulations, Cricket Australia have realised that cricketers don’t want to have dodgy backs and crook shoulders for the rest of their existence.

While some wear these burdensome reminders of battles fought long ago with fierce pride, others have expressed that they would like to help their children build tree houses and billy-karts in the future. I reckon they’d probably like to be able to get out of bed and make a cuppa without reaching for the Neurofen too.

In fast-bowler form, such sentiment would be shrugged off as weakness, and the greater good would be respected: bodies must be sacrificed for the war to be won.

But there comes a time in most professions where people realise that what it is that they do, while it is their livelihood, it is not their entire life. As cricket descends further and further into professionalism, and Twenty20 tournaments become increasingly meaningless, modern day quicks have surely realised that injuring oneself for the greater good of the Buenes Aires Braisers or the Cootamundra Cricketers, and clubs with similarly illustrious histories, is just… hate to say it… not worth it anymore.

As an aside, I might mention that the other dastardly thing about professionalism is that people get paid much, much more than they did in the past. Those glorious times when fast bowlers made a living selling their sweat to lesser men are long gone, and money is now achieved through contracts and other associated nasties. This pitfall will surely be made more of later in this article. Or will it? (Yes, it will)

That’s not to say that Test cricket, the ultimate form of the game, should suffer because of the misdeeds of the limited over tyrants. The oversaturation of pyjama cricket places stress that is more than just physical on a cricketer. People travel much, much more than they did in the past. I know the surlies among you will shrug this off with the distain you shrug off a 150kph bouncer to the point of the elbow, but believe it or not some people feel the desire to rub it.

An international cricketer playing all three forms plays cricket overseas for six to nine months of the year, plus their three month home season. And sometimes, when the holes in the Swiss cheese align, a bunch of them all get injured at once. It’s just happened, and it’s no one’s ‘fault,’ per se.

Despite my earlier bollocks, I’m no doctor, and I really put trust in the methods of the learned few rather than the ignorant majority. The home remedies suggested by former fast bowlers both international and backyard include a health regimen of no strength training, bowling through the pain and more time in the nets. And diets? Pfft! Vitamin profiles are a myth.

I’ll take the vitamin supplements, analysis of individual’s body mechanics and manageable workloads any day over the voodoo wisdom of those who suggest it’s all bollocks.

I suppose that the question that is worth asking is when rotation should be implemented. This is certainly a worthy topic of discussion.

For example, was “resting” Peter Siddle and Ben Hilfenhaus the best course of action in the final Test against South Africa in Perth. From a cricket perspective, it definitely was not, but if you honestly thought those two guys were being rested and weren’t out due to injury then I want some of what you’ve been having.

Being a fashionable cricket fan, obviously players should prioritise Test matches and make it their aim to be fit for every single one. Their preparation should focus solely on this, with the other two forms being peripheral.

Which is a shame when, in the fashionable cricket heirarchy, the most peripheral form is also the one that pays you twenty times as much for a twentieth of the work.

Well that sure throws a spanner in the works.

The Pup eclipses Don Bradman (in one statistic)

Four double centuries in a calendar year is almost unheard of. It’s in Bradman territory. Wait, no, it actually is unheard of, and is beyond Bradman territory.

Bradman, the guy who holds every record that ever existed in the fine art of willow-wielding, has been eclipsed by one in the record for most doubles in a calendar year by Aussie captain Michael Clarke. Twas three, tis now four.

Excuse me while I yell expletives into my morning muesli. I am simply in awe, waking up to yet again see Pup deep, real deep, into triple figures.

On top of that, we had a day of cricket that was a throwback to the decade of Aussie dominance; 482 runs in 86 overs at 5.5 runs an over. When Hayden, Langer, Ponting, Martyn, Gilchrist and co. were kicking around, this sort of scoring was requisite, but Aussie fans haven’t had too much time to kick back with a tinny watching Antipodeans carve people with accents different to our own to the boundary again and again lately. Some might think that would have gotten boring after a decade. Some would be wrong.

I suppose that before I lose my proverbial gushing over Clarke I should pay attention to the two goons who hung around in the back, looking tough, while Clarke beat the pulp out of the “Best attack in the world.” Warner clubbed another run-a-ball century, not terrible going for a guy who many thought was holding his bat the wrong way in the nets.

The Huss scored a ton too. He’s a pretty good player.

But Clarkey, the boy with the arabic sleeve tattoo, must have gotten a taste for all this praise that’s been directed to his mailbox lately. Either that or, as Brydon Coverdale from cricinfo said, he is playing on God mode.  I also love the fact that he managed to slip the word pwnage into a cricket article.

The sublime patch of form from Michael reminds me of a 2006 Mohammad Yousuf, where peeling off centuries was akin to peeling potatoes for the newly branded, newly bearded and newly converted wonder. Nine centuries in a year is alright by anyone’s standards. Ricky Ponting did something similar in 2003, smashing three double-tons and scoring 1500 runs at over 100 a throw.

But Clarke has only played eight tests this year. If someone told you that you were going to score a double century in every second game you play, you’d probably take it. And let’s not forget that in January, in Sydney, he scored a triple century, not just a ‘mere’ double. In fact, he hasn’t scored a ‘normal’ or ‘classic’ century, in the sense of being dismissed with a 1 numeral preceding the other two digits, in the whole year. I suppose there’s still time to rectify that.

The style of the one last night is what impresses me the most. Clarke is leading a team by playing aggressively (224 from 243 deliveries in one day), and encouraging his teammates to do the same. He looks like a wall in defense, and though his attacking shots never had the ridiculous flurry of Brian Lara or the sheer brute force of Chris Gayle, they still seem to career to the boundary rather quickly.

His straight driving is the highlight, and is reminiscent of Tendulkar’s straight drives from half a decade ago, back when he wasn’t being castled by Test debutants.

Speaking of being castled, Ricky’s dismissal today was an oddball, as was Ed Cowan’s. Ricky and his stumps both ended up on the deck after being bamboozled by what looked like a relatively innocuous outswinger from Jacques Kallis. The mail with Kallis is that, at the age of 37, he’s still slightly quicker than you think.

Cowan jammed down on an inswinging yorker from the burly all-rounder, only to have it balloon back gently to the man with the stats, like a patient daddy giving catching practice to his three year old daughter in pink. They were two of the weirdest dismissals I’ve seen in a while.

It was a shame to see Kallis pull up with a strained hammy after taking a brace of poles from 3.3 overs. It was a case of what could have been for the Proteas. Had their partnership breaker been available to send some down for the rest of the day things might have turned out differently. I’m not a big believer in turning points, but from the moment Kallis went off the field, at 3/70 odd, the Aussies scored 2/400. Coincidence?

As for Clarke, surely there must come a point when all this will stop, and people can go back to getting up him for going out with Lara Bingle. It was only two or three years ago that this was normal transmission. I’m sure the South African bowlers would like it to stop as soon as they take the paddock tomorrow, but I really don’t see that happening.

Sorry gents, but more leather chasing is on the menu.

Wallabies fail to thrill; Cricketers pick up the scraps

In sport, there are ways to do things and ways not to do things.

In the two biggest international games this weekend, we’ve seen one Australian team play with a bit of self belief and impose themselves on a side that is fancied as the best in the world. The Wallabies also played.

By my count, the sessions won in the Test match being played at the Gabba would be five for the Saffas and the Aussies four. The three sessions played today, however, were won more emphatically than any of the three that belonged to the Proteas on day one, as well as the session before lunch on day three.

1/376 in today’s play, a throwback to scoring rates of ten years ago when the Aussies were in their pomp. Hayden and Langer would thrash boundaries at will to the delight of the crowd, and if they gave way the stands could look forward to Punter, Gilly and whoever was in form at the time.

Granted, today was a longer day, having to make up for the first entire day lost at the Gabba since 1990, but it was still good scoring.

I could only imagine my Dad watching Ed Cowan ton up earlier in the day. He would have called all and sundry to let them know what he good player he was. I know he certainly told me what’s where and who’s what about Ed Cowan on Skype yesterday, all with a wry grin on his face; a grin that comes from the success of a player one has picked for greatness. Love you Dad.

I managed to catch the final session, and saw Hussey and Clarke playing attractively and aggressively. Huss compiled his 86* swiftly, though not without its foibles. He looked to be sorted out by Morne Morkel on multiple occasions.

More intemperate batsmen would have lashed out in frustration, edging the big quick to slip or some such rashness. But the Huss forgot the delivery as soon as he missed, and often followed it up by dispatching Morkel to the boundary. Slats was more than correct to point out the difficulty of refocusing after four straight plays-and-misses, to then follow them up with an elegant cover drive for four biscuits.

Clarke played some sumptuous, breakfast delaying shots. I had to wait until 9am, cricket’s end in Norway, to begin grilling my Kneipp. By then I’d watched Clarke play one of the best cover drives I’ve seen, and possibly the best straight drive, again off Morkel. He offered the full face, didn’t play it with any big effort, saw it onto the juicy section of the bat and watched it flow to the boundary.

Kneipp: A delicious way to start the day

The side-on angle of this shot was the most telling thing about it. The frame of his body was textbook. His arms and shoulders and torso formed a perfect square that didn’t alter in shape as he raised his left elbow in the playing of the shot. His front foot was forward, more than just a forward press, which allowed him perfect balance in stroking the cherry to the fence.

A thing of beauty, people.

Which is perhaps a pertinent segue to the thing that was not of beauty: the Wallabies on Saturday night Norway time.

I’ve previously written of the proverbial merde that has been heaped in, around, and on the Wallabies in the past. It’s gotten to the point where I feel like a father of a forty-year-old uni-dropout working at Subway. I’m just disappointed, that’s all.

That is very, very unfair of course, considering the terrible amount of injuries sustained within the squad. Given a fully fit Wallabies side I think the contest would have been much closer than the abysmally one-sided 33-6 event I watched over two bottles of homebrew.

I think all of this writing off of Quade Cooper will be short lived. Sure, what he said was dumb, but I think he is a player who, when in form, can lead a side to great things, just as he did with the Reds.

The forgotten man in all of this is James Horwill, who was one of the biggest inspirations of the Reds’ win in 2011. He led a forward pack that dominated the best packs in Super Rugby. They didn’t do that because they were the best eight, but because they played like filthy animals.

Beau Robinson looked like a world beating seven, outplaying Schalk Burger in their clash with the Stormers and matching the great Richie; Scott Higginbothan had his breakout season and Ben Daley got through more work than a contractor with a blank cheque.

When Kevvy gets back one would expect him to rev up the boys in a different way to the myriad of captains we’ve had in his absence. For this reason I think Horwill, and not Genia or Pocock, is the best captain in a fully fit Wallabies side.

Whatever happens in the next few games, we must at least admit that the Wallabies are just not there yet as a team. The lack of attacking flair is a problem, whatever people say about scoring tries. We must remember that Robbie Deans saying tries aren’t everything was take dramatically out of context by the Rugby scribes, but in an Australian market who love runs, wickets, goals, tries and everything else, it was probably not the ideal thing to say at the time.

The Reds in 2011 weren’t all about scoring tries, but they were damn good to watch. It’s the best rugby I’ve seen played by an Australian side in five years. Let’s hope we can channel some of it in the games to come.

And if we can’t, flick over to the cricket, because some of the shotmaking today was quite special.

Good thing Rob Quiney did all that net bowling

The last thing Rob Quiney thought he would be doing was bowling on the first day of a Gabba Test match was bowling six overs to give his highly fancied quicks a barely earned spell.

As it turned out I woke up to see the last ten overs bowled out by the Huss and the debutant, a disappointing way to start off my watching of evening sessions in the morning. Due to logistics, you understand, I haven’t yet been able to commence my morning session viewing in the dead of night.

Had the two most obstinate of batsmen, Kallis and Amla, broken the proverbial camel’s back?

As far as I know, camels are supposed to thrive in Australian conditions, so much so that I remember a guide telling me in a tour of Alice Springs’ surroundings that we had to export camels back to where they came from, such was their success in our climate.

Hopefully cricketers take inspiration from the tales of wild.

Our pace battery is desperately in need of a recharging (hyuck hyuck hyuck), their minds in need of a refocusing. I read that they need to bowl fuller, a strategy that worked ever-so-well against India last year in the series sweep. Why stray from a successful plan?

Well, when batsmen are in horrid form and don’t want to be there, it’s much easier to take wickets. Unlike the Indian batsmen, however, I saw a glint in the eyes of Kallis and Amla as I quaffed my muesli this morning. A glint that said: ‘Sledge me, bounce me, do whatever you want, but I’m still going to be there.’ These two are in the habit of making bowlers and captains stray from their plans.

Many have criticised Kallis for this exact approach over the entirety of his career, bitching about his slow scoring and unwillingness to be Brian Lara. Maybe he just isn’t as naturally gifted in strokeplay as Tendulkar, Lara and Ponting, but the fact that his average is higher than all of them speaks to a steely, gritty, ugly resolve that leads to him not getting out. Ultimately, not getting out also means he accrues runs.

Some have even said run-getting is an incidental side effect of staying at the crease, which I do not believe to be quite fair.

Kallis’ strike rate was above 60 in his innings of 84* today, not bad considering that’s above the career average of Tendulkar and co. Amla went at a comparatively steady (read: boring) 43.47 in his 90* off 207 deliveries. Sometimes not watching every delivery of a Hashim Amla innings and only seeing the end result is just as rewarding, in the same way one doesn’t have to see every metre of the Zambezi River to appreciate Victoria Falls.

It was in this situation that Quiney found himself, practically giving centre wicket practice to two of the most affluent run-makers of the past few circumnavigations of the sun. I could imagine that when Allan Border gave Rob his cap this morning this wasn’t what he had in mind.

Sure, he has delivered 756 rocks in his first class career before this game, but most of these would have been in the second session of the second day of a shield game at the MCG with the score on 4/4-squillion and his bowlers knackered to the point of giving up the game entirely. The G’s drop-in wicket has broken many a fast bowler’s, or for the purpose of this article, camel’s, back.

The more ideal scenario for Rob would have been coming in at 1/150 with the shine having been tonked off the pill by a David Warner onslaught. Quiney’s job from there would have been to mash the par-boiled souls of the Saffa quicks with a slowly compiled debut century.

Twasn’t to be.

Is there hope for the Aussies to save this game with the score as it is now, 2/255?

Possibly. Bowl full and straight tomorrow morning and dismiss the two keystones (that’s right, TWO keystones) of the Proteas’ batting lineup and who knows what can happen.

I wouldn’t count on it though. Looks like my prediction from yesterday is already up shit creek.

The Big Winter of Cricket (and the Autumn Tour)

My first Winter of Cricket is upon us.

While I thought it would be hard to psyche up about the flinging of red leather as the snow falls around me, I’ve found the lead-up to these mouthwatering Tests has more than satiated my appetite for information and banter alike.

The obviously deliberate leaks of the Aussies ‘Dossier’ on how to get Saffas out added momentary fuel to the fire, though I must have been sleeping through the furore because I woke up this morning and there’s no counter comment, no mud slinging, not even some name calling or intrigue-accusing. I feel like I’m going to have to take it upon myself to start some rumours or something. Unless the news cycle just passed me by (I did wake up later than usual today).

As for sledging Hashim Amla and bouncing Jacques Kallis… well. They seem like sound plans, seeing as Kallis probably still has the scar from when Mitchell Johnson almost knocked his block off in 2009. That still has to be one of the best spells of fast bowling I’ve ever watched.

Too much claret at lunch, Jacques?


Amla is a run machine, sure, but maybe some well-timed comments about the lack of a Castle Lager sticker on his shirt (did I write that out loud?) will flap the unflappable. Not that that was what the dossier was suggesting with all its delicate language. It was a positively marvellous piece of literature, skirting around F and C bombs, dancingly suggesting they ‘really test’ Kallis or ‘engage him (Amla) in psychological warfare.’ The euphemistic nature of this document must be impressed upon naive readers, and surely a translation should be put out.

Something to the tune of: “Try to kill Kallis by bowling as fast as you can at exposed areas of his cranium” and “Break Amla down mentally until he is mushy pulp in your hands, bending to your will, giving you his wicket how and when you choose, but only after you have publicly humiliated him in front of thousands by making him duck and weave well-directed bouncers (though not as well-directed as the ones you shall deliver to Jacques) and have him replicating a frustrated trout fisherman in his attempts to nick your unplayable outswingers.”

Sounds like a good plan to me.

But I still think it’s all a big ploy, like the infamous Buchanan-gate of 2000.

Despite all the cricket reading, nothing can get you quite as fired up as banter between the boys (and girls) about the cricket. The girls weren’t particularly up for the cricket chat on Tuesday night, but the boys certainly propped up the team.

A night of brewing is often dominated by manly discussion. That night we bottled our german-style altbier and talked cricket. Mostly backyard cricket actually, but a bit of the upcoming Winter of Cricket was pored over and rigourously debated. Took me back to the place where the seasons make sense and Boxing day is spent horizontal watching people throw balls at each other. How I’ll miss that first morning of laziness, listening to either Jim Maxwell or Slats (depending, of course, on whether you are working or not) describing the action.

But to the bit you’ve all probably been waiting for; the cricket.

I really don’t know what to predict with this one, but I do think that one of the Tests, most likely Adelaide, is going to be a run fest. I think that will be a draw and the quality quick bowling will yield results in the other two tests. I think the Aussies, even sans Shane Watson, our best player by a bit, have the quality to take a game of these guys if they play out of their skin.

So I’ll predict a 1-1 drawn series. I was tempted to go 2-0 to the Saffas because of the quality of their batting and the fact that we have two unproven bowlers no matter which line-up we choose, but I have faith in Pattinson to crack some skulls and get the job done, possibly even outshining two of his three more fancied South African rivals.

I am backing Dale Steyn to knock over plenty of Aussies early, unfortunately. I think Dave Warner may be the the Daryll Cullinan to Steyn’s Shane Warne, though that might be taking it a few steps to far.

Should the Aussies play four quicks at the Gabba? Definitely. And at Perth too. I think the more we can use these guys and expose them to Tests the better off we will be. Mitchell Starc belies his slightly too full length with good lines and decent movement, which should make him a weapon at the Gabba and Perth. James Pattinson is be the best fast bowler in Australia right now, and should be until he retires.

In Adelaide I would go with Lyon, but I think picking a spinner for the sake of consistency alone would be a mistake.

If our batsmen do the business we should have no problem taking 20 wickets and winning one game.

There’s also a rugby tour on.

After a brief hiatus, the festival or sport resumes.

Stand, spray and deliver.

Critiques from the arm chair