Australia Resurgent : Who woudda thunk it ? Just a couple of months ago, the Aussies were in the doldrums after having been comprehensively beaten at home by the visiting South Africans. Most observers ( including me ) thought that this was the end of Aussie dominance and that they would be savaged when they toured South Africa. Symonds was out as was Brett Lee due to injury. The pace attack was green and the spin attack non-existent. The batting was in shambles and Ponting ‘s captaincy was under fire. And yet, today all the problems ( except the spin attack) have been resolved and the Aussies look more dominant than ever.
Truly a magnificent performance by all , espescially the newcomers — the scintillating Phil Hughes and Marcus North and the young pacemen Hilfenhaus, Johnson and Siddle. Hughes who scored two centuries in the second Test looks like a worthy successor to Hayden and he is only 21 ! Mitchell Johnson bowled well earlier but raised his game to even greater heights , bowling with sustained pace and venom, ably supported by Hilfenhaus and Siddle. The old guard too kept up it’s end with Ricky Ponting , Michael Hussey, Michael Clarke in the runs and Brad Haddin apparently well-set at wicketkeeper. The only time that they looked at all vulnerable was on the first day of the first Test when South Africa had them on the ropes at 38 for three. However, first Ponting took them out of trouble and then debutant Marcus North, Brad Haddin and Mitchell Johnson propelled them to 466.Australia haven’t looked back since . The second test was even more demoralizing as both Graeme Smith and Kallis were injured with Smith being ruled out for the rest of the series. For South Africa, the bowlers have done their share but the batsmen have just not been upto facing the Aussie pacemen, all credit to the latter. It will be interesting to see what changes the two sides make for the final test now that it’s a dead rubber. I can’t help feeling that the Springboks were a tad overconfident going into the series. Quite the opposite now.
India triumphant. India , too, I thought were over-confident starting their tour of New Zealand and this was reflected in their two ODI losses. Perhaps, also, they were getting acclimatised to the weather and the conditions in New Zealand. Now , that they are used to the conditions , they’ve hit their stride and have won the first three ODI’s handily. The batsmen seem to be in good nick with different players stepping up at different times, none more so than the opening pair of Sehwag and Gambhir. The fielding has been typically spotty with only Suresh Raina and Yuvraj providing touches of brilliance. The bowling has been just good enough though Munaf Patel has been a disappointment , with Irfan Pathan not much better. How long will they persist with these two ? Hope the reserves are given a chance in the last ODI.
England -West Indies has been a strange series. After the Windies won the first Test , skittling out England for only 51, I thought they were on the verge of great things. The pace attack with Jerome Taylor and Fidel Edwards was reminiscent of the Windies glory days when Courtney Walsh and Curtly Ambrose were operating with the new ball and the Windies were a real team. However, the flat pitches on offer for the rest of the series made for a plethora of runs but precluded a result . Both the third and the fifth tests went down to the wire and, in both cases, the Windies tailenders offered stout resistance keeping England at bay. Both sides consequently had something to cheer about but it is difficult to assess how good they really are thanks to the placid nature of the pitches.How good is the batting, really ? Windies won the series 1-0 but their batting collapses in the second innings raise questionmarks about their batsmens’ resolve. They still play ” Calypso Cricket”, going for rash shots when a cautious, more sedate approach is required . The 1-0 win however will raise spirits in this hotbed of cricket where victories have been in short supply in recent years. I myself was rooting for England to win at least one match because of Flintoff. He’s been one of my favorites and showed great courage and unselfishness in bowling his heart out while seriously injured. One hopes that he recovers soon and is able to resume his career , hopefully in the upcoming Ashes series . Though England failed to tie the series , they have to feel good at the nature of their fightback following the disastrous first Test.The pace attack needs to be overhauled as both Harmison and Sidebottom disappointed . The English conditions will be more conducive to swing and should enable them to trouble the Aussies later on this year.
It’s such a pleasure to read the cricket commentary in English and Australian newspapers. The coverage in Cricinfo is fine but somewhat workmanlike , focussing as it does on results. On the other hand, reading the newspaper reports and the reader responses provides another dimension to the game. Here are some gems :
” Matt Prior had a brilliant game in front of the stumps, a very ordinary game behind them.Only Nell Gwynne was much worse at keeping her legs together ” Manchester Guardian. ( Who’d have thought to connect Charles I’s mistress withthe game of cricket ? ( LOL)
One reader was unhappy with the English team’s performance and prospects and thought they should get some re-inforcements from the women’s team . ” That Jenny Gunn might be worth a look for the Ashes . Tall, quick , with good away movement. Could we borrow her for a bit ? ”
When Fidel Edwards bowled a torrid spell, including some bouncers , to Kevin Pietersen and then got into a staring match with him, the BBC commentator likened it to ” a duck ( Edwards) quacking at a passing yacht ( Pietersen).”
In the S.Africa – Australia second Test, Jacques Kallis was dropped by Michel Clarke of Brad Hilfenhaus . Peter Roebuck wrote that the unlucky Hilfenhaus ” must have kicked a few cats while walking under a ladder.”
Unlike other games , the charm of cricket lies in things other than the result. It manifests itself in the sideshows , in the stands and on the field, in the give and take between players and spectators. Writing such as this provides spice and flavor to the game even when the result is a draw.
Final Note: I hope the Indian selectors are paying close attention to the impact of fresh blood in the Australian team. Does this give you any ideas, fellas ?