Posts Tagged ‘Michael Clarke’

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.

Advertisements

Dear Sport, sincerely, confused blogger

Dear Sport,

I’ve been watching, reading, listening to and generally just been around you a lot for the past few weeks, and I think it might be time for a break.

Rest assured, it’s not you. It’s me. Well it is you really, but it’s more the effect that your actions have had on me, and so therefore we can sort of pretend that it’s just me being emotional. Right? If not you can go get stuffed.

But before you go all Kanye West on me, I’m actually going to finish what I have to say. Frankly sport, you’re performances recently have been far from the best video, sorry, performances of all time.

I’m confused, Sport. I’m confused both mentally and sexually.

First you tell me that the Melbourne Demons are copping a half a million dollar fine for tanking, but they actually didn’t tank. They just intended to tank, and tanked in a premeditated way, but on the field they actually didn’t tank. That was confusing and just plain linguistically irresponsible Sport. At the time I didn’t know if I could forgive you, but I have and I’ve since moved on.

Then you tell me that the Sharks are in trouble, Sport. You tell me that they’ve contravened some code that no one really seems to know anything about. What’s more, it seems that the people who are supposed to be protected by said code actually don’t care, and just defer to the guy (or girl) with the syringe in some sort of zealous act of faith in club protocol and spirit.

“These people mean me no harm, they’re just doing their best to make sure I’m more hormone than human.” This attitude confuses me, Sport. Why don’t you tell those who play you they’re doing something wrong? Or at least tell the people who have been doing it to come forward and admit they’ve done something wrong. Or maybe those who administered the drugs? Or maybe those who oversaw the systematic cheating of the drug laws to show an ounce of courage and admit they made a mistake?

No? That’s too much to ask for? Well what about the dudes who’ve been on the case of this four two years? Can’t they just come out and tell us whodunnit? No? Even that’s too much to ask for. Well gee, Sport, I thought we were closer than that. I just… don’t really know what to say.

And that wasn’t even the end of it, Sport. Last of all you tell me that cricketers have homework? They actually have to write things down? I don’t know where you come from, Sport, but when I want to get better at something I don’t just sit down and write about it (except for writing, ironically). Surely making them jump through some flaming hoops or running on the heads of man-eating crocodiles would be far more effective for physical specimens like Shane Watson than writing ways that the Aussies can improve in India.

In fact, I actually did Shane Watson’s homework. And James Pattinson’s. I didn’t do Khawaja and Johnson’s homework, I don’t really care for them too much… But here it is! Sorry it’s late:

Score more runs.
Take more wickets.
Field better.

See? All done? Amazing right? Who knew, it just got lost somewhere in the WordPress ether. Can they play in the third Test now, Sport? Pretty please?

Well, if that’s really the attitude you’re going to take, Sport, I don’t really know where this can go.

I just… I just…

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.

Indian pitches just ain’t cricket

I’m not here to make normative claims about how cricket should be played.

You know what, screw that, that’s exactly what I’m here to do.

There is some grand, glorious old-style cricket happening in the world right now, and it sure ain’t being played by the poms.

No, it’s being played right here in the greatest country on God’s green earth. And I’m not talking about Norway, which each day edges closer to its white winter fate. It already snowed a fair bit, with the white stuff covering up any natural beauty this country is famed for. Then it changed its mind. “Give the tourists another chance,” Norway’s gaia told itself (I’ll need to bone up on my Norse mythology at some point). Now it’s tooing and froing between pseudo-snow, rainy drudgery or some teasing sunshine (in -5 degrees). Make up your mind!

The cricket, meanwhile, of the glorious, as-it-was-meant-to-be variety is being played in damn Straya. Best country that ever was. What’s better is that Straya also happens to be winning, which makes good cricket even better. In fact, I might argue that it’s not cricket at all if Straya aren’t winning, but that’s a battle for another day.

Why does this particular brand of cricket happen to be so hopelessly, stupendously fantastic that it will receive no complaints from this scribe? It’s because it is being played on wickets that actually allow a cricket ball to bounce above knee height, wickets that reward bowlers of fast and slow varieties if they ply their trade well, and wickets that give batsmen opportunities to play shots that aren’t drives.

Meanwhile, the inventors of cricket, those Poms with all their poor dental health and odd tasting Weet-Bix and Vegemite, are having to superglue their bat to the ground so as not to be yorked (no pun on English town intended, chortle chortle) by half trackers served up by spinners who have been tonked in and out of the Indian side whenever they leave the shores of the Asian subcontinent. Hell, even Harbhajan is cleaning up between his arthritis treatments and assisted spongebaths.

Why does this grind my loin bones so much? Because it sucks, basically. This isn’t what cricket is about.

Real cricket is about the first two days of the Test in Adelaide. On the first day the bat utterly dominated the ball, and rendered the fearsome Saffa attack as useless as mammarial features on a male bovine creature, as my father quoth oft.

They scored at over five runs per over on that first day! In Test cricket? Are you daft?

It was aggressive, interesting and exciting batting.

On the second day said toothless tigers showed some steel and dismissed the rest of the Aussie bats for about 100 runs. Contest between bat and ball? You bet.

Meanwhile, in India, a total of 269.4 overs have been rolled over by trundlers sundry and all. Guess how many of those have been completed by bowlers who attempt to bowl over 100 kmph?

Forty nine. That’s right. 220.4 overs have been bowled by spinners. India opened up with two spinners, and selected Zaheer Khan, the man who last year against Australia resembled a horribly ageing crocodile struggling to devour steaks given to him by zoo handlers, as their lone pace ace. Sometimes you just gotta put a crocodile down.

Guess how many wickets these 49 overs yielded for quickies? One. The same number of times Rob Quiney has managed to get off the mark in three Test innings.

Jimmy Anderson got that wicket, early in the first innings of the match. I’m fairly sure the only reason this happened was that Gautam Gambhir, the man he dismissed, had gone without a strong coffee that morning and was half asleep upon receiving it.

Either that or Gambhir just felt sorry for Anderson, knowing that the rest of his five days would be spent hammering balls into the wicket in the hope of it getting to the keeper, but instead seeing a puff of dust and ‘Poof!’ “Not again,” thought Anderson. The ball had once more turned into a cup of tea that the batsman could take and drink from before whacking it to the fence, or handing it benignly to Giles the butler at silly mid on if he was feeling nice.

Meanwhile, in the city of churches (Straya style) there are six quickies all with a fighting chance of getting a pole, and spinners are rightfully being dispatched over the fence at will and falling victim to brutal jeers from parochial Aussie crowds. Imran Tahir was reported to have told his chihuaua that he doesn’t think they are in Lahore anymore.

To be fair, though, it’s no worse than poor old Bryce McGain got a few years back, and any Proteas fan would have done the same had the situation been reversed.

I’m sure the Poms would be loath to play two spinners in their Test side. In Indian conditions, however, where pitches have the pace of Benn Robinson carrying an ankle injury, what choice do they have? They even had to drag Monty Panesar out of Sydney Grade cricket to fill another tweaker’s spot. It will go down as a selection masterstroke, though, with Monty picking up a bundle of wickets, including a five-fa already in India’s second innings.

Here’s the problem. Cricket was designed so that there would be an even contest between bat and ball. Some of the roads they churn out at the MCG stretch this a little, but when a quickie is forced to bowl two metres outside off stump simply to prevent being hit for boundaries every ball, there’s a serious problem.

Simon Katich was once asked about his slow scoring rate in the second session of a day’s play in India. His response was something to the effect of:

“That’s a stupid question. Were you watching the game? They were bowling a metre outside off stump every ball. How am I supposed to score off that?”

The answer, of course, is that the reporter was not, in fact, watching the game at all. They were too busy googling Sachin Tendulker and making sure his name was still the top of the ‘most searched’ list on Cricinfo.

And I don’t blame the reporter either. Watching cricket on dead tracks is dead boring.

It’s time someone gave those Indian groundsmen an elixir of something; anything that would make cricket on the subcontinent resemble something close to what it is was supposed to be.

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.

You stay classy, Robbie Deans

Every day I open up the Herald, or the Roar, or Fox Sports and someone else has lined up and had a crack at Robbie Deans.

Possibly for good reason, I don’t know, but inevitably after reading their rant about how this guy can’t pass and that guy shouldn’t be selected, my loins start to get a bit hot, my collar tight, and I’m tempted to yell something about New Zealanders sabotaging our rugby.

I bite, and buy into the furore over the coach’s job, something that I have a fair bit of skepticism (read: cynicism) about due to protracted hours spent trawling Fox Sports comments calling for coaches’ heads after a 50-4 victory.

“The try we let in spoke of a soft defence, which is the coach’s fault. He must go now!” a commenter would say, having clearly not watched his side run in 15 unanswered tries only to shut up shop for five minutes to allow their opposition to take one positive thing out the fixture.

But I digress into pet-hatery and cheap shots. I sincerely apologise, dear reader. And it’s not like the Wallabies are running in 15 tries.

The day after X former Aussie rugby player/overly zealous footy journo spruiks a new coach, or says Robbie is the worst thing since seeded watermelons (who thought of those?), Robbie hits the headlines again, deftly deflecting the criticism with the nonchalance Michael Clarke deflected wayward Dale Steyn deliveries to fine leg last week. And I feel bad.

Robbie, why do you have to have the consummate media ease of Anthony Mundine, the temperament of Jacques Kallis and the humble nature of Pip’s surrogate father Joseph? (I’ve decided literature shall become part of this blog now)

He makes me feel so terrible for constructing and burning those effigies of him in my bathroom, for bashing at my keyboard in patterns that decry his coaching credentials, and for yelling wildly at Norwegians in my local supermarket about how “the Wallabies are a disgrace!” When these tall, attractive Scandinavians say nothing back, clearly befuddled by what must seem like a scene in a nightmare, I only yell louder, telling them about the death of a once-proud rugby nation, the poor service from halfback and the fact that online streams don’t offer Marto, Kearnsy and the gang in commentary.

Robbie makes me hang my head in shame, trudge down to the shop of coach criticism, and hand them my middle finger and my receipt. The clerk who serves me is not angry, he’s just disappointed.

Robbie’s just so classy. I wonder if he’s actually guilt tripping emotional suckers like me?

Or maybe he’s just a really good bloke, and the rest of us are terrible blokes.

The question for me now is not whether Robbie is a poor coach, it is whether he should keep being such a professional in the face of a constant barrage of media abuse. If I were him, I would have told everyone to take a hike quite some time ago, then taken a hike myself back to the cushy Crusaders job and a blank cheque.

Instead, he continues to attempt to rebuild a team that is injury afflicted, low on confidence and stacked with players who will never go down as Wallaby greats, with a few exceptions of course.

Why does he accept criticism with such good grace? Why does Robbie invite Campo back any time after being treated with a vitriolic spray about why he is actually the worst person who ever lived? Let’s not forget hat Campo has form in this regard, having had more than a few bad words to say about Robbie on more than a few occasions.

In fact, much of Campo’s criticisms, if you read them, involve how his under 10’s team can pass and run better than the Wallabies. To be fair, I’m pretty sure most of the guys in gold can do that better than your charges Campo, and that the ‘simple’ solutions everyone is touting have probably been gone over a nauseum by a national side clearly searching for answers.

Realistically, this is a poor Wallabies side.

With James O’Connor, Quade Cooper, Steven Moore, James Horwill, Will Genia, David Pocock and possibly a few others back that may change, but at the moment the best Australian XV is poor by international standards, and I really don’t expect too much from them in the upcoming games.

If they show a bit of courage and a bit of intent in the next game against the Poms I will be a happy boy. If they at least hang in there and do the tough stuff like tackle well, run hard and dive on the ball when it’s on the deck I will give them a pass mark.

But the coach can’t teach you this stuff lads, it has to come from your own desire to win.

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.

Stand, spray and deliver.

Critiques from the arm chair