One Day Cricket Rules – OK?

The ICC has released rule changes to the game of One Day International (ODI) cricket which will be broadly introduced for a long term trial on 31 July.

However, Australia and England will trial those rule changes from 7 July in the NatWest Challenge. I hadn’t absorbed this until recently but there is a NatWest Series – the triangular series being played at present and it is also deemed necessary to have a NatWest Challenge. This is the traditional three match head-to-head ODI series between Australia and England. Now, I like ODI cricket and all, but I have to wonder if all this one day cricket and just a single first class warm up is the ideal preparation for an Ashes series.

I have been having a read of Steve Waugh’s Ashes 2001 diary and note that the NatWest final was 23 June 2001. There were then three day matches before the first Test and no NatWest Challenge. I had thought of doing the odd “what they were doing four years” ago flashback. But on 30 June 2001, Steve Waugh and his family went to Euro Disney with his family. So I’ll be sticking to 2005.

Anyway, back to the rule changes. They are:

1. An extension of the fielding restrictions that apply for the first 15 overs to 20 overs. But there is a twist: It will be mandatory for the restrictions to apply for the first ten overs. The other ten overs will be applied at the fielding captain’s discretion, in two blocks of five overs. These blocks will be known as Powerplay (which I think is an ice hockey term) overs and just two fielders will be permitted to field outside of the “circle”. However, the two men in catching positions rule will not apply.

2. The 12th man will become a substitute. At any time in the match, the twelfth man can be introduced, replacing one of the starting eleven for the remainder of the match. He will have full rights playing rights, being able to bat and bowl.

For those of you who don’t care about ODI cricket, the first Test starts on Thursday, 21 July. I’ll be all-nighting at andrewg’s on the Gold Coast to see it in.

Stick that in your pipe and smoke it

One would presume that yesterday’s performance by the English will have left the British tabloids gagging on their headlines. Their boys couldn’t beat the “team that couldn’t even beat the worst team in the world”. They couldn’t even take a LOSER’S bonus point from a bunch of sheilas!!

And so it was that as the moon and sun aligned, order was restored to the cricket universe.

But in all seriousness, it’s only one game. Perhaps Australia will kick on from here and dominate but I expect not. The English one day team is a very good team and may well inflict more damage and yet win the tournament. A One Day match is exactly that – “one day”. The fuss from the British press over a couple of losses by the Aussies has been immense, if not unexpected.

Sure it has been a long drought for the Brits and we would expect them to rejoice when the opportunity presents but I’m pleased that the Aussies won for the sake of the tabloids. That aside, I was rather enjoying the Aussies suffering a bit of humiliation. It’s good for their character and will make them much harder to beat in the battle for The Ashes!

Brett Lee and Andrew Symonds made welcome returns. Symonds looked very focussed (and sober) as he compiled a controlled 73. Lee impressed with his pace and venom as McGrath and Lee had England three down for just six runs after six overs.

Probably most encouraging for the Aussies was Dizzie Gillespie’s return to some sort of form. He was been very ordinary but yesterday bowled with more pace and better everything (line, length, less wides, less no balls…).

And congratulations to Darren Gough. In posting 46 not out (from just 47 balls with seven x 4) coming in at number ten, he made his highest ODI score, top scored for the innings and shared a new England ODI record last wicket stand with Steve Harmison (50 runs unbroken). All of that while keeping some interest in the match as England tried to gain a bonus point (failing by 4 runs).

Panic Stations?

I was planning to take the weekend off and write only about the Sunday “main event” – England versus Australia. But how exciting – Bangladesh’s first ODI victory over Australia cannot be ignored.

Notwithstanding Australia’s rusty start to the tour, following Bangladesh’s dismal performance this English summer, nobody gave them a realistic chance of upsetting the World Champions. A few eyebrows were raised when Channel Seven’s stats gurus gave Australia just a 74% chance of victory before the match (which was revised to 95% at the half way point).

As is my commitment, I’m not going to bore the readers with a blow-by-blow description of the match. However, I will say this: I watched the first 60 overs of the match – the first time in a long while I have watched a complete innings of a One Day match, and I cannot remember being so bored for 40 overs of cricket. It reminded me of why I have become les interested in the One Day form of the game. The first few overs aside, where Bangladesh prospered, the first 40 overs was so lacking in imagination and initiative, that it defied comprehension.

I should qualify that by saying that I am not “jumping into” Martyn and Clarke and blaming them for the loss. However, their handling of the situation does bare some analysis. One the one hand, they came together with Australia really struggling on a pitch that was giving some, but not alarming assistance to the bowlers. They steadied the ship and allowed Australia to post what most believed would be enough runs. On the other hand, they batted very conservatively and Australia finished with just five wickets down. Ian Botham was rightly bewildered as to why they waited so long to up the tempo. He was certainly proved correct – Australia scored 93 runs in the final ten overs and 51 in the final five. Clearly, the onslaught should have come at least five overs earlier. Why did Martyn and Clarke wait so long? I can suggest a few reasons:

1. They are out of form and were trying there best.
2. They over rated the hostilities of the pitch.
3. They under rated the abilities of the Bangladesh batsmen, and therefore the need to post more runs.
4. The Australian’s confidence is low and they did not want to risk losing further wickets at an earlier stage.
5. They were under instructions.

I don’t know if all of those reasons are true. Probably not. But some must be.

It’s not time for the Australians to panic. Yet. The situation will need strong leadership from Ponting.

Let the British Press have their time in the sun. I haven’t seen the Sunday morning headlines but I’m sure they are joyous.

Let the Poms lick their lips.

But the tour is young and the Ashes themselves are a long way off.

Consider this:

1. The Australians are coming off two months without cricket. All players were strongly encouraged by team management to have a rest after the tour of New Zealand and not to play County cricket. It’s a common thing in football codes when Southern Hemisphere arrive in the middle of northern winter and are short of a gallop. They are beaten!! The Aussies really are still blowing out the cobwebs.

2. English conditions take getting used to, even if you have been playing a lot of cricket.

3. Speaking as someone who is old enough to have retired from competitive sport, I can testify that old bones take longer to warn up! No disrespect to the likes of McGrath but some of the veterans will still be hitting their straps. The Aussies are masters of “peaking” and it is common to see them perform below their best early in Ashes tours before prevailing. Next week at Wimbledon we will see the top players move through to week two without playing their best tennis (although they do not have the luxury of being afforded an inconsequential loss).

The Aussies have a lot of work to do and perhaps they will yet be defeated. But it is too early to panic.

Congratulations to Bangladesh. The warm weather would have been welcomed by them. They played well to the end and forced a victory that few expected, even late in the game. Special mention should be made of Mashraffe Mortaza (1/33 from 10 and a telling 1/5 from the first spell of six overs) and man of the match, Mohammad Ashraful who carried the side to victory with 100 from 101 balls. Oh, the score was Aust 5/249 (50 overs) and Bangladesh 5/250 (49.2 overs).

And finally, if you are a betting man, a few dollars on England tonight will most likely be money well spent.

TNT – He’s Dynamite

Shahid Afridi literally exploded onto the international cricket scene on 2 Oct 1996. In his second match (and his very first visit to the crease) he posted what was, and still is, the fastest century scored in One Day cricket – by a long way. The damage was 102 runs from 37 balls against Sri Lanka – 11 sixes and 6 fours left little need for running.

The next best is Jayasaria with 45 balls, tied with a recent Afridi onslaught against India. Afridi has also posted three of the seven quickest half centuries (two of those being part of the above centuries) and also comes in all the way down at number 12 (which is a rapid 50 from 21 balls).

All in all, Afridi has 26 fifties and 4 centuries in one day cricket. Afridi also bowls more than occasionally useful leg breaks and has taken 171 wickets in his 208 One Day Internationals.

But all of this is old news. The reason for the article is that after many years, Afridi has recently made a successful and impactful transition to Test cricket – and the timing could not have been better for Pakistan. Afridi was recalled for only his 15th Test match, to a demoralised Pakistan as part of the necessary “last 11 standing” selection policy for the 3rd Test against Australia last January. Although he took no wickets for 115 runs, he made a spirited and promising second innings 46, before being run out. This ensured his place in the one day tournament.

During the one day series he consistently blasted scores of 20,30 and 40 batting at number eight but the key input was his bowling, which improved as the tournament against Australia and the West Indies progressed. He ended up with 10 wickets and I believe that this was the key reason for his retention in the Test side. His batting, while potentially match winning is not likely to be consistent. Afridi has never been prone to change his game and thank goodness for that. With Afridi carrying his weight as a front line bowler, Pakistan could play him as a “bonus” batman, either as an opener or down the order.

Since the Australian tour, Afridi has played in the Test series against India and the West Indies (after being overlooked for the first Test against India, which Pakistan lost). In those matches he has performed with the bat and the ball, making 360 runs at 45.00 (a century and two half centuries) and taking 14 wickets at 21.57. Those are seriously good numbers for an all rounder.

In the recent one day series against the West Indies he was named player of the series having made match winning contributions with the ball in the second match and the bat in the third match.

Perhaps it is just a short period in the sun for Afridi but long may it last. Shahid Afridi is great for Pakistan and world cricket alike.