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A Decade of Domination – Part Two

A Decade of Domination – Part Two
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The Reasons
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The reasons for Australia’s dominance are many. They include selection policy, infrastructure (strong domestic competition and the ACA), lack of strength in the cricket world and most importantly, the players who came together in the past 10 years. I will be focussing on those players. It is true that most of the Australian team is well into their thirties. The fact is that the team has been together for a long time and this stability has resulted in great strength.

During the past decade, Australia has had more of its fair share of all time greats. “All time greats” is an over used term but not in the case of this team.

Warne and McGrath
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I have no doubt that the single most important factor of Australia’s dominance is Warne and McGrath. Of course, they are their own men and very different bowlers but I bracket them together because they are the common thread in the past ten years. Warne came to his peak in 1993-94 and McGrath stepped up as a force in the momentous series win against the West Indies in 1994-95. Both players have been there for the whole time (barring injury and suspension). Between them, they have nearly 1100 Test wickets. Warne is the highest wicket taker of all time and McGrath is fourth. Both players are truly great cricketers in their own right, both are the “player of a life time”. By definition, the term “player of a lifetime” indicates that only one, if any, player should be labelled such in any given era. The fact that two such players’ careers have almost exactly coincided has been of immense benefit to Australian cricket.

Warne is arguably the best spinner of all time, McGrath is undeniably one of the best new ball bowlers the world has ever seen. McGrath can almost be counted upon to take two wickets with the new ball. Often more. And of course, Warne has had the ability to do the amazing and unexpected at any time.

Australia’s batting has been strong and there have been super stars, who we will get to, but I site these two bowlers as the most important because to win a match, you need to take 20 opposition wickets. It is of little use to score 1000 runs if you can’t bowl the opposition out. Just ask New Zealand.

In the summer of 2003-04, we experienced life without both Warne and McGrath (and Gillespie) and two of the four matches were drawn with not a minute lost due to rain. For the past ten years, a drawn match that Australia has played in has been almost unheard of, unless there has been significant bad weather. In fact, Australia was in the habit of winning matches in three or four days. The reason for this has been the ability to score quickly and lead by McGrath and Warne, to consistently rout the opposition.

The Waughs
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Mark and Steve Waugh were core members of the team for most of this decade. Both made significant contributions to winning and saving many matches. Mark’s value as a catcher should not be underestimated, as has been highlighted in recent seasons. The twins’ greatest hour together was in the epic fourth Test against the West Indies. But it was rare for them to perform in tandem.

Steve Waugh was possibly the greatest fighter the cricket world has ever seen. Steve Waugh played many, many innings where he scored a century to save the innings, sometimes with the ‘keeper and sometimes with the tail. My favourite Steve Waugh match was at Manchester in 1997 when he scored hundreds in each innings, batting with a broken hand for the entire second dig. South Africa in particular revered the Waughs, especially Steve, and they were dominated by both players for almost a decade.

Steve Waugh’s impact on the decade as a player and later as captain were profound. His leadership through example as a player and then as captain were inspirational. If required to chose a man to bat for your life, Steve Waugh would be the choice of many.

Gilchrist
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I have sung Gilchrist’s praises many, many times over the years. He came into the team halfway through the last decade and Australia has hardly lost a match since. Gilchrist may not been the main reason but he is truly one of the all time greats and adds to the strength of the team immeasurably. While I don’t rate him in the top level of ‘keepers, he is a fine keeper and to have a batsman of his ability at number seven is indeed a luxury no team has ever had. Ever.

Ponting
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Ponting has graced the Australian team sheet for almost all of the past decade. He still seems young (and is, at a shade over 30) but has scored 6946 runs in 88 Tests at 56.47. Those of the figures of a great batsman, and I believe that by the end of his career, he will be in the top ten of all time.

Hayden
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The big man has had a relatively short career in terms of Tests. He only came into the team properly in 2001. He made his Test debut in 1994 following a mountain of Shield runs, but played just 13 Tests in the seven years up to 2001, for very meagre returns.

It is true that Hayden has had a lean time in the past 12 months but considering that and his modest beginnings, it is amazing that he still averages 53.46. This is a reflection of the domination of Hayden between Feb 2001 and July 2004. For just over three years, Australia rode on a mountain of Hayden runs, as he swept aside all before him.

During that time, Hayden scored 4523 runs at 69.58, with 19 centuries. This included a world record 380 and he twice scored two centuries in the one match. He scored centuries in four consecutive matches against South Africa, just failing to make it five in a row, with a score of 96.

It should also be remembered that starting in 2001, Hayden started one of the most successful opening partnerships in history, with none other than Justin Langer.

The Best of the Rest
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In the interest of not being too generous with the terms “great” and super star, I have left the list at seven players. Still a rather long list for a ten year period. There is a long list of players who have verged on greatness and have played important parts in Australia’s success since 1995.

Mark Taylor: Successful captain and let us not forget a very good opening batsman. Of course, his rough trot as captain has left an impression that he was some sort of Mike Brearly. Note true – 7525 runs at 43.49 with 19 centuries and a top score of 334 not out are some serious runs.

Ian Healy: Quickly forgotten in the wake of AC Gilchrist but a magnificent gloveman, unparalleled keeping to Warne. Healy was a great team man, a fighter and scored many useful runs (four centuries) when the chips were down.

Michael Slater: Dazzling opening batsman. One of my favourites ever to watch. 5312 runs at 42.83 with 14 centuries.

Justin Langer: Often underrated and maligned. Probably the hardest work ethic of any of the team and has the rewards for it. 6607 runs at 46.52 with 21 centuries, three times past the 200 mark. And of course, is the other half of the famous Hayden and Langer opening duo.

Damien Martyn: Seemed destined not to fulfil his great potential. Debuted in 1992 and then spent seven long years in the wilderness. Has now played more than fifty Test and in recent times has really excelled (was the Test player of the year last year). Ironically, following criticism of his ability to handle spin, was instrumental in several wins on the subcontinent. Who’d have guessed? 3947 runs at 51.25 with 12 centuries.

Jason Gillespie: A great support for McGrath, Gillespie will probably go down as a great in his own right. 248 wickets at 25.72 and counting.

Stuart MacGill: MacGill is worth mentioning because at any other time or in any other country, he would have been a super star. He typifies Australia’s embarrassment of riches. Fortunately for MacGill, Warne has had his share of setbacks and has taken 160 wickets at 28.82, mostly as first reserve spinner. He has just once displaced Warne from the team.

It is also worth noting the domestic evergreens, destined never to have significant Test careers. They include: Law, Love, Hodge, Elliot, Bevan, Hussey, Lehmann (for a long time), Cox, Maher, Bichel and Kasprowicz (for a long time).

The Future
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Many Australian fans have been contemplating life beyond Waugh, McGrath, Warne, Hayden and Gilchrist for some time. The recent Indian summer probably made some worry (or even panic) about it before time was due. There were many who wrote off Warne and McGrath in the 2003-04 season. But they are back and as good as ever. But of course, they can’t go on forever.

The selectors have the difficult job of keeping the team on top. I think that over the past ten years, Hohns, Border and Boon etc have done a good job. There has been the odd brain explosion, such as the Symonds fiasco in Sri Lanka but overall, they have made hard decisions when they counted and got the results.

In some cases, we might see players exiting the Test scene before they really have to, simply to avoid a mass exodus occurring at the same time. The simultaneous exits of Marsh, Lillee and Chappell should not be forgotten. We have seen the selectors move the likes of Border, Boon, Healy and Waugh on before they really had to, and this has been important. As long as there are worthy replacements, we might see the axe fall more ruthlessly in the coming two years. (I won’t name names but Matthew Hayden might be nervous).

In assessing the role of selectors and administration in the role of building this great team, I am drawn to recall the observations of the great Rugby League player, Brett Kenny. Parramatta won the Sydney premiership in 1981-1983 and 1986 and had possibly the best back line of all time (featuring Kenny, Sterling, Cronin, Grothe and Ella) as well as Ray Price. Most of those players left in 1987 and 1988 and the team failed for the next decade, much to the public consternation of the Eels administration – “we got it right in the eighties so why isn’t it working now?”. In response, Kenny made commented that the Parramatta administration had always taken credit for building the great team of the early eighties but really, it had happened completely by accident.

I can’t help but think that rings true in any situation where this a great team. While Australian cricket has done lots of things right, which increased their chances, lady luck plays a hand in throwing together the likes of the Waughs, McGrath, Warne, Ponting and Gilchrist for such a long period of time.

I am waiting for the coming Ashes series with great expectation. Each Ashes tour seems to be previewed by “this one will be much closer”. However, this time, England seems to be the real deal. That being said, they might be surprised that Australia is as strong as ever. It’s not time for a preview yet, but it is possible that this Ashes tour may be the closing chapter for some of the players in the current Australian team, and the end of a golden era – a Decade of Dominance.

A Decade of Domination – Part One

A Decade of Domination – Part One
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It is ten years this month since Australia defeated the West Indies, in the West Indies (it was actually 3 May 1995 when the final wicket fell in Kingston). Therefore, Australia has been the unofficial world champion of Test cricket for ten continuous years. To celebrate, I will look at the rise of Australian cricket, why we have stayed at the top and “the rest” – are we really that good or is that the rest are so bad? I’ll look at the captains, their personnel, the dynamics and the politics and then see what the future might hold.

I say that we were the unofficial world champions from that point in 1995 because there was no official ICC Test world championship table. While the West Indians were fairly undisputed champions at that time, they were at the beginning of the end and there were some pretty useful other teams around (South Africa and Pakistan to name two). However, using the boxing methodology that Tubby Taylor subscribed to: If you beat the champions, you must be the champions. Right? It is on that premise that I present “Australian Cricket 1995-2005: A Decade of Domination”.

This article is about Test cricket but it should be acknowledged that Australia is at the top of the One Day tree and has been for a long time, playing in the last three, and winning the last two World Cup finals.

I will not attempt to delivery an anthology of all series and matches. Of course, some milestones and moments of glory may be relived but this is more about assessing who and what has made Australia so good. Was it good planning or was it by accident?

When Mark Taylor took over from the great Allan Border, there were plenty of mountains to climb. While AB had built a tough and competitive team, he had left a few things on the “to do” list. They included beating the West Indies in a series, winning a series on the sub-continent – it had been over 25 years since Australia had beaten either India or Pakistan at home, and winning a series against the Boks. Border’s last campaigns were drawn home and away series against South Africa and in fact, Australia had not beaten South Africa in a series since 1957-58 – a very long time, even taking into account the Apartheid exile.

Taylor went on to tick off most of the things on the list. A loss in his first series, against Pakistan, in Pakistan was quickly followed by the West Indies victory. By the time Taylor handed over to Waugh, the South Africans had been conquered and Pakistan had also fallen at the second attempt. That still left India.

Under Steve Waugh, the Australians enjoyed the best win-loss ratio ever enjoyed by a team (41 wins from 57 Tests) and also the longest winning streak in Test history (16 matches). But victory in India was so close, yet still so far away. All others were swept aside but not Dravid and VVS Laxman.

The Ponting era began with a 3-0 whitewash in Sri Lanka in 2004, followed by a series win in India later that year. It must be acknowledged that Australia went two nil up in the first three Tests under the caretaker-captaincy of AC Gilchrist, and lost the final Test upon Ponting’s return. Nonetheless, the victory still comes under the Ponting era. At this point in time, Australia has recorded series wins home and away in each of the most recent series, against every Test nation, except for the last series against India, in Australia. That was drawn 1-1. It is a record that is unthinkably close to perfection. (Footnote: Australia has not had away series against Bangladesh or Zimbabwe)

Before discussing the reigns of the successful leaders, Taylor, Waugh and Ponting, it is important that we go back in time to understand what the current success was born out of. I believe that we must go all the way back to World Series Cricket (WSC).

Days of Darkness
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WSC tore Australia cricket apart. I don’t propose to discuss the evils and virtues of WSC here. The fact is that it happened. My opinion is that it had immeasurable long term benefit for the game as a whole. And it tore the game apart.

The period immediately following the reunion of WSC and establishment cricket saw rocky times. Politics was rife as establishment players such as Border, Hughes, Hogg and Yallop diced for positions with the Chappells, Walters, Hookes, Marsh and Lillee. The fight was not only for positions on the team but also for the leadership. The theatrics of the Hughes and Chappell (G) juggling act are those of folklore. During this time, Australia was able to stay close to the top by virtue of the truly great players mentioned above.

When Kim Hughes fell on his sword in 1985, all that remained was Border. Border, due to his undisputed ability, was the only establishment man to be accepted by the inner sanctum of Lillee and Marsh etc. With the departure of Hughes, the final link, Border aside, to a painful era, it seemed that the wounds of the past would heal and Australian cricket could start afresh under the somewhat reluctant leadership of Captain Border.

But let us not forget that immediately before the 1985 Ashes tour, that the team was completely gutted by the first of the so called South African Rebel tours. I was reminded of the significant impact this had on Australian cricket while watching the most excellent ABC production: Cricket in the 80’s – Rookies, Rebels and Renaissance. Border categorically states that he was distraught.

Over the next two years, Australian cricket hit rock bottom. This included home and away losses to the Kiwis and a series loss in Australia against Mike Gatting’s English team. We should remember that England were not exactly world beaters at the time. England won the series 2-1 and incredibly, those two victories were Gatting’s only wins in 24 Tests as captain!

Out of the Mire
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It was widely acknowledged that something had to be done. In Border’s own words “We weren’t even getting the basics right.”. Enter a new era in cricket: The Coach. And enter (or rather “re-enter”) a word that like it or not, accept it or not, was pivotal in Australia’s rise to the top: “Simmo”. That’s right, Robert Simpson and his methods are acknowledged by them all, from Border to Waugh as being essential to turning Australian cricket around and instilling a work ethic that lead to success. Now that Simmo is long gone, and Steve Waugh, the last link to that era, is gone, when I look at some of the current Australian fielding, I wonder if that work ethic might be losing some priority.

The other major development during this time was the founding of the Australian Cricket Academy in 1987. The role of the ACA was to identify cricket talent, capture that talent and nurture the potential to build Test cricketers. The right people (such as Rod Marsh) were in charge and it worked!

Things turned with a shock World Cup victory in 1987 and over the next seven years, Border’s team and Border, grew in ability and stature and started to knock on the door of being the best team in the world.

The Taylor Era
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Tests: 50
Wins: 26 (52%)
Losses: 13 (26%)
Draws: 11 (22%)

Mark Taylor is my favourite captain during my time of following the game (30 years). I enjoyed his open and honest manner, as did the media, especially after some episodes of surliness from Captain Grumpy. I think Taylor was a good people manager who saw cricket for what it was: A game. Sorry guys, but it is really just a game.

Taylor was an excellent tactician, was aggressive and always played for the win. He was very positive and always batted first when he won the toss. Of course, possessing the greatest spin bowler of all time (and wanting to bowl last) may have contributed but I believe that it was also the expression of a positive and confident mindset. A reflection of this aggression (and the fire power to match) was the low number of draws under Taylor (22%). This has been a characteristic of Australian teams since Taylor up until the present.

And Taylor had the Midas touch – that magical ability to break a partnership with the unexpected, usually a shock bowling change or an unorthodox field setting. It was very rare for the opposition to make a big score against Australia. It is true that the bowling attack was impressive, to say the least, but it was very well used.

I would like to say that “choking chasing small totals” syndrome died with Border. Since Border, Australia has successfully chased many targets, both large and small and rarely failed. It is true that there have been some failures (chasing 150 in 1997 in England and more recently, the debacle chasing 107 in India). It should also be remembered that it is not uncommon for teams to stumble chasing smallish targets on the fifth day because conditions are difficult and the human mind can be weak!! It has been happening throughout the cricketing ages to all teams, at all levels.

I believe that the syndrome lay in Border’s personality. Border was self effacing to a fault and didn’t seem to want to accept that a win was possible until it was actually secured. I remember that in his final ODI at the SCG, with the crowd begging him to bowl and Australia in a commanding position, he said he only allowed himself to bowl the final over because there was more than 36 runs required!! While humility is very Australian, it doesn’t always serve well when chasing small targets.

Taylor did seem to regard the series victory as the primary objective. Such was the teams dominance that the series was often wrapped up with a game to play. Enter “dead rubber” syndrome. More than half of Taylor’s teams losses were “dead rubbers”. It didn’t seem to bother Tubby but others such as Steve Waugh did express some annoyance. Waugh had made it quite clear that he hated the tendency and under his leadership, the team would play to win every match they played.

The Waugh Era
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Tests: 57
Wins: 41 (71.9%)
Losses: 9 (15.8%)
Draws: 7 (12.3%)

At the beginning of 1999, Steve Waugh took the reigns from Mark Taylor following the teams comprehensive defence of the Ashes in Australia.

Waugh’s first assignments as captain were abroad and perhaps he found that the job was not as easy as he envisaged.

His very first Test as captain saw Australia thrash the West Indies, bowling them out in the final innings for just over fifty. Waugh made a duck (like Taylor, who made a pair in his first Test as captain) but the team had humiliated the opposition. Waugh scored centuries in the next two Tests but Australia could not halt a rampaging Brian Lara, who almost single handedly won both matches (with epic innings of 213 and 153*). The last match was won by Australia, thus squaring the series.

A rain-marred series in Sri Lanka ended with the home team winning the series 1-0 after easily winning the first Test. Waugh’s match count was 7-2-3-2 (P-W-L-D).

Dead rubber syndrome was dead alright!! Waugh’s team was losing matches that counted. But of course, I jest. Waugh and his men were about to demonstrate just how to go about winning every match.

Following the loss to Sri Lanka, Australia played a single Test against Zimbabwe on the way home. Match one of the winning streak and also the great Ian Healy’s last Test. Australia then played series against: Pakistan (at home), India (at home), New Zealand (away) and the West Indies (home) and all of those series were clean sweeps. Winning streak: 15

Then followed the much anticipated tour of India. Steve Waugh’s chance to win in India – the unachievable goal of every Australian captain since Lawry. The first Test (in the shadow of the passing of Sir Donald Bradman) went well enough with Australia extending the winning streak to 16 and going one up in the series.

Then followed one of the most celebrated and discussed Tests of all time. We all know that Australia lost the match, having forced India to follow on. And in this match, and looking back to Lara’s performances in 1999, I believe we can see Steve Waugh’s only significant weakness as captain. If Taylor had the Midas touch, there must have been times when Waugh wished some had rubbed off onto him. Several of Australia’s few losses under Waugh came from a position of strength in the match and the series and were achieved by a single innings or partnership that could not be broken. I’m not sure of the reason but I think there are times when some iron-jawed determination could have been replaced with some imagination.

Steve Waugh’s era was the most successful of any captain, for any country, at any time. During this time, Australia was awarded the World Team of the Year in the 2002 Laureus World Sports Awards. It’s a big deal. Really. Steve and some of the boys even went http://www.laureus.com/awards/winners/team02.php

Waugh finished with the most number of wins of any captain and the best win ratio.

After a drawn home series against India, and after many dramas over the preceding 18 months, Waugh retired and handed over to the One Day captain, Ricky Ponting.

The Ponting Era
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Ponting’s reign thus far has been short. He has lost just one of the 14 Tests he has been in charge for. Ponting hasn’t done much wrong and I would assess that his strongest asset so far, put simply, is that he has inherited a “super team”. A team of super stars.

Ponting’s first Test series in charge was away against Sri Lanka. Australia struggled in each match, but clean swept the series. The next series was in India and ironically, the series was won, but under the “caretaker” captaincy of Adam Gilchrist.

Much will be needed of Ponting’s character over the next few years, as he will most likely be in charge as most of his team of super stars retire.

Anything but an “Arthur Morris”

I should start by clarifying the subject and stating unequivocally, that to be compared to Arthur Morris is always a high compliment. Arthur Morris was a left-handed opening batsman who played for Australia in the late forties and through the fifties. He was a key member of the 1948 “Invincibles”, and was, in fact, the most successful batsman in that Test series on average and total runs. Bradman (173 not out) and Morris (182) shared a monumental partnership of 301 at Leeds, in the fourth Test as Australia famously scored 404 in less than a day to win the Test. One can only find good things to read about Arthur Morris, both on and off the field.

This article is about Adam Gilchrist and some discussion that transpired around his century in the 3rd Test against Pakistan, in Sydney earlier this year.

During Gilchrist’s onslaught in Sydney, an ABC listener called Jim Maxwell to say that in all of the Australian innings where Gilchrist had scored a century, except for one, at least one other Aussie had also made a ton. Some discussion followed about whether this diminished some of his Gillie’s achievements. I’m happy to say that Jim stood buy Gillie and declared that he still rated him as one of the very best ever.

Evidently, someone at the Daily Telegraph must have been listening because an article along those lines featured in the Telegraph the next day. I was fortunate enough to be having dinner at Hungry Jacks with the family and was reading the Tele (something that I normally would not do) and it listed all of Gillie’s centuries and those others that had scored well in the innings. Australian coach, John Buchanan (whose comments are generally best ignored, in my opinion) expressed that Gillie had played “another Arthur Morris”.

This refers to Bradman’s final innings (the match after the previously mentioned Leeds Test) where Bradman mad a duck (which every person in the world knows). Morris was at the other end when Bradman fell and indeed was at the other end when all other wickets fell. He made a sensational 196 (run out) from a score of the 389 and Australia won by an innings with only two other batsmen passing fifty in the match. Of course, Morris’s wonderful innings is not remembered due to other events.

The parallel being drawn with Gilchrist is that many of his wonderful centuries have been scored while someone else takes the limelight. In Sydney, Gillie made 113 while Ponting ended up with 207. Gillie was at the end another time when Ponting made 200, in the West Indies. Gilchrist and Hayden plundered Zimbabwe with Hayden making the then world record score of 380.

However, to say that Gilchrist’s contributions were superfluous to requirements or have come as easy runs in the majority of cases is simply not true. I am perhaps the biggest fan of Adam Gilchrist in the world, and the suggestion galls me.

As it was late in the day, I wondered if Hungry Jacks may not miss one copy of the Telegraph and considered taking it for the list of innings. However, my conscience got the better of me and I have done my research. And it confirms what I believed: Many of Gilchrist’s “double acts” were rescue missions. The most spectacular of course being his very first century, scored as he and Langer won the day in Hobart, against Pakistan. I have listed all of his efforts below and you can see that there are several cases where he came in at five down with Australia in big trouble. Even recently against New Zealand, he rescued the situation with Katich.

And few obvious points:

Gilchrist gives the guys at the other end the chance to make big scores by staying with them.

And visa versa – Gilchrist, even scoring at the pace he does, needs a partner at the other end so that he can keep batting. Having a recognised batsman at the other end (who is busy scoring a century) gives him his best chance to make a century.

How many centuries more would Gillie have scored if he had not run out of partners? As recently as the last Test played, he was left stranded on 60 not out.

And my opinion is that playing with Gilchrist is inspirational. There is no doubt in my mind that Australia would not have won in Hobart without Gilchrist. Langer got the man of the match because he had made 70 in the first dig along with his second innings hundred. I think the award should have gone to Gillie – the pace at which Gilchrist scored (and always scores) made such an enormous target seem achievable because it was achieved in half the time expected (mathematically reducing the chance of getting out).

Gilchrist does not need any defending. I don’t think that anyone was seriously trying to denigrate his achievements. They would not be so bold. But even the hint of it gets me on the defensive. Not only is Gilchrist a once in a lifetime player, his behaviour off the field has always been exemplary. As he waited and waited for Healy to move on, he only ever had good things to say about Heals. Of course, that was prudent but it always seemed genuine. His love and support of his leaders (especially Steve Waugh) is admirable, he interviews well and is natural and charismatic in the ads. It should also be mentioned that he has joined Steve Waugh in humanitarian work in India. And that is not to mention Gilchrist’s stance on walking. That deserves a separate discussion in itself.

Gillie’s centuries
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1. 149 not out (163 balls). Hobart, Nov 1999 v Pakistan. 4th innings. Came in at 5/126 with Aust requiring a further 243 for victory. Famously won the match with Langer (126).

2. 122 (112 balls). Mumbai, Feb 2001 v India. 2nd Innings. Came in at 5/99 chasing India’s 176. Shared a 197 run stand with Hayden (119), helping Australia to 359 and eventually victory by 10 wickets.

3. 152 (143 balls). Birmingham, July 2001 v England. 2nd innings. Came in at 5/336 with Australia already in front of England’s first innings of 294 thanks to S Waugh (105) and Martyn (105). Shared a last wicket stand of 63 with McGrath (1) in eigth overs as Australia made 576. Australia won by an innings and 118 runs.

4. 118 (158 balls). Brisbane, Nov 2001 v New Zealand. 1st innings. Came in at 5/260 following a 233 opening stand (Hayden 136 and Langer 104) and then a collaspe that was typical of the time. Helped the lower order to 486 and was last man out. Match drawn following a bad weather is remember as one that Australia was lucky not to lose – but only after NZ trailed by 199 on the first innings and Australia made an extremely sporting declaration.

5. 204 not out (213 balls). Johannesburg, Feb 2002 v South Africa. 1st inninsg. Came in at 5/293 (Hayden already out for 122) and put on 317 with Martyn (133) as Australia made 7/652 and won by an innings and 360 runs.

6. 138 (108 balls). Cape Town, Mar 2002 v South Africa. 2nd innings. Came in at 5/176 with Australia chasing 239. Partnership with of 132 with Warne (63) helped Australia to 382 and victory by 4 wickets.

7. 133 (121 balls). Sydney, Jan 2003 v England. 2nd innings. Came in at 5/150 chasing 362. Partnership of 91 with Steve Waugh (102 – yes, that innings) as Australia struggled to 363. Australia lost by 225.

8. 101 not out (104 balls). Port-of-Spain, April 2003 v West Indies. 1st innings. Came in at 3/371 at the fall of Lehmann (160). Shared partnership of 171 with Ponting (206) ad Australia made 4/576 and went on to win by 118 runs.

9. 113 not out (94 balls). Perth, Oct 2003 v Zimbabwe. Came in at 5/502. Shared a partnership of 233 with Hayden (380) as Australia posted 6/735. Aust won by an innings and 175 runs.

10. 144 (185 balls). Kandy, Mar 2004 v Sri Lanka. 3rd innings. Came in at 1/11 with Australia still trailing Sri Lanka by 80 runs on the first innings. Shared a partnership of 200 with Martyn (161) and saved the test. Australia made 442 and won by 27 runs.

11. 104 (109 balls). Bangalore, Oct 2004 v India. 1st innings. Came in at 5/256 and shared partnership of 167 with Clarke (151 on debut). Australia made 474 and went on to win by 217 runs.

12. 126 (151 balls). Brisbane, Nov 2004 v NZ. 2nd innings. Came in at 5/222 with Australia 131 in arrears of New Zealands 353. Shared a partnership with Clarke of 216 as Australia recovered to 585 and won an innings and 156.

13. 113 (120 balls). Sydney, Jan 2005 v Pak. 2nd innings. Came in at 4/318 with Australia 14 runs in front of Pakistan’s 304. Shared partnership of 153 with Ponting (207) as Australia made 568 and won by 9 wickets.

14. 121 (126 balls). Christchurch, Mar 2005 v NZ. 2nd innings. Came in at 6/201 (Gillespie had been night watchman) with Australia 232 in arrears of New Zealand’s 433. Shared a partnership with Katich of 212 as Australia recovered to 432. Australia won by 9 wickets.

15. 162 (146 balls). Wellington, Mar 2005 v NZ. 1st innings. Came in at 5/247. Shared partnership of 256 with Martyn (165). Final score 570. Match drawn due to rain.

New Zealand wins a Test match

Australia may not be currently engaged in action, but there is cricket going on around the world.

Please let’s hear it for the Kiwis. Discounting a series against Bangladesh in October 2004, NZ has won their first Test match since March 2004, when they beat the Boks in Auckland. In the interim that have been beaten in three series against the world’s two best teams – flogged at home and away against Australia and away to England. As can be the case, as long as your morale is not totally shattered, being put up against the best (and losing badly), can make playing the lesser lights seem that much easier.

In this series, New Zealand has scored handsomely in both Tests, while they managed to bowl Sri Lanka out twice in the second Test, thanks to James Franklin and Chris Martin. It is interesting to note that the Kiwis who showed some promise against the Aussies (Hamish Marshall, Astle, Vincent and Franklin) have sparkled against a weakened Sri Lankan attack. Also note that after taking two wickets at 198.5, Chris Martin managed 6/54 in Sri Lanka’s first innings.

In India, Pakistan and India are at 2-2 in the ODI series, with Pakistan successfully chasing 316 from a maximum of 48 overs.

Over in the Caribbean, the West Indies have lost the second Test to trail 0-1 in the four Test series. Special mention to Makhaya Ntini who after just one wicket in the first Test as Hinds and Chanderpaul both plundered double centuries, took motm figures of 13/132 (6/95 & 7/37). Special mention also to Brian Lara. Say what you like about him: He might be soft-headed, egocentric, illusive and enigmatic but the man is a batting genius. Having not played a first class match for five months, he walked up cold (I guess he had a net) and reeled of 196 (with the next best of his team mates being 35).