“Arise, Sir Brian”

Thank goodness I remembered my walkman, mon. Otherwise, as I walked home from the station, I would have missed the Prince of Trinidad pull the third ball of the 88th over to the shortish Adelaide Oval square boundary, to bring up his 200. His sixth in Test cricket. Lara’s innings today was many things: A return to form, salvation for his wallowing team (the next best score being 34), a master class, his 11,000th Test run and an unexpected opportunity to pass Allan Border’s world record of 11,174 runs. It was all things Lara. I arrived home very happy.

It seems such a short time ago that Warne passed Muralitharan as the world’s highest wicket taker. And a short time before that when Murali sweet aside Courtney. And when the great McGrath became the just the second fast bowler past 500.

We make much of milestones. Is it too much? During the first Ashes Test, some batsman passed so many thousand runs. I think it was Martyn passing 4000. I little later I think Ponting went past 7,000. One of my good friends contested that recognising these “occasions” was pointless and altogether made too much of a meaningless statistic. Though I’m not sure that he said it so well. Spirited discussion followed as I did not altogether agree. Things became quite heated, I like to think because of sleep deprivation. But all was well.

My opinion is that if and when Brian Lara passes 213 tomorrow, that will be an occasion worth celebrating. That many runs is a rare and wonderful achievement. Border’s mark has stood for more than 12 years. And Gavaskar’s mark for six years before that. The fact is that Lara will have scored more runs at Test level than any other batsman. Ever. But that doesn’t make him the best batsman of all time. It is a fact that Bradman is the best batsman ever. Bradman has had no peer and never will. I recall Greg Chappell being a little embarrassed when he passed Bradman’s Australian mark of 6,996. I don’t know why – it meant that Chappell was a bloody good player, that cricketers get to play more cricket these days and that having your career disrupted by a terrible war didn’t enter the modern players’ minds. It didn’t mean Chappell was a better player. Nobody would think that. And I’m sure Bradman would have been pleased. To him, more runs was always a good thing.

The true statistical measure of the best is his average – in batting and bowling. It is largely reflective. Of course, there will always be some allowances to be made such as lower middle order batsmen having a higher number of not outs and openers having to face the new ball with every innings. Perhaps strike rate is a factor. I’ve heard plenty of discussion over who was better: Lillee or McGrath? Miller or Sobers? Warne or O’Reilley? Not once have I heard it argued that McGrath must be better then Lillee because has taken far more wickets. All cricket lovers understand these concepts. The best part about cricket is that Bradman aside, there is no clear cut best. Batsman and bowlers are so different in so many ways that we all get to choose our favourites. And of course, there is nobody alive who has seen all of the greats.

So why celebrate these milestones? Because cricketers and cricket fans alike are human beings. And humans like to accumulate – for better or for worse, in the human race, we like to build our empires – money, property, cars, shoes, toys and handbags flow on to wickets and runs. Why do we celebrate birthdays? Beginning a new year doesn’t change our lives. We don’t become a better or worse person with the passing of another year. A 100 year old may have lived a good or a bad life but 100 years is always worth celebrating. Anyone who has made it to 100, by whatever means, as long as they are legal, deserves to have a fuss made. It’s not an easy thing to do. Any cricketer who can make 10,000 runs or take 400 wickets is special, for whatever reasons. Who could think of more contrasting players than Waugh and Lara. But they are both exceptional in their own ways.

The other obvious reason for celebrating statistical milestones is that almost every true lover of cricket loves the stats. We love records. We love to analyse all of those numbers. We care when the seventh wicket for Australia versus the West Indies at Bellerive Oval is broken. I know it’s sad, but I get excited when my car’s odometer clicks over the from, say, 79,999 to 80,000 km. All those zeros – it’s beautiful. Of course we celebrate when three zeros come up (well, I suppose that the English supporters were not celebrating much when three zeros came up in rapid succession last night). So what if it’s meaningless – perhaps it is. But celebrating is good!!

I hope Lara pushes on tomorrow, past the magic 214. I hope AB is there to see it. Perhaps he will be out early or will lose his partners. Who knows. One thing that you can be sure of: Brian Lara will not walk to the crease tomorrow morning wearing red shoes.

It’s called stumpcam Bill

With not much noteworthy cricket to comment on over the past few days, I thought I’d recount an exchange between Ian Healy and Bill Lawry. After watching some footage (obviously from stumpcam) nicely confirming a no ball that had just been called, Bill made his cliché comment “Brilliant camerawork there.” After a few seconds of contemplation Ian suggested “Well it is stumpcam Bill, so it’s not really camera work.” Bill’s comeback was, “So you’re a cameraman now as well as a doctor.” (Not sure about the doctor reference but Healy must have had some wise words on medicine as well. Nice agro guys – the producer will be pleased.

The single subject to have dominated this test is who will play in the next Test for Australia. With both new boys (Hodge and Hussey) coming up with the goods, and the anticipated return of Langer for Adelaide, what the selectors might do was a hot subject. I will say this: Making, or staying in the national team should be about taking your opportunities. For the most part, the Australian selectors have adopted that approach. True, some people seem to receive more grace than others, but there can be valid reasons for that. Symonds will rue not taking his chance. With not much need for him to bowl in this match, he needed to impress with the bat. Running himself out was not a good idea. The other man not to have taken his chance, and who I suspect may have blown his chance is Michael Clarke. His mode of dismissal, caught at deep point, reminded me a lot of a shot played by a brash Michael in India quite some years ago. That proved to be Slater’s last shot in Test cricket for a few years.

Of course, the collapse from 0/231 to all out for 406 was rather noteworthy. If nothing else, it gave Hodge the chance to contribute something meaningful, which of course he did. If he’d made 60 out 600 with every other batsman making a century, who would really care. But as it was, he held the innings together as the rest of the batsman surrendered. On the collapse, I’ve included some scorecard extracts from the 2001-2002 summer. That was the summer where Hayden and Langer set the world on fire with three double hundred open stands. What happened after those stands with a fragile middle order is quite interesting for comparison.

Of course, congratulations to Matthew Hayden – he has scored centuries in the four consecutive Test matches – for the second time in his career.

And Bravo! Dwayne Bravo has posted a half century as he and Denesh Ramdin hold the Aussies up. Australia may even need to bat again.


Test # 1565
Trans-Tasman Trophy, 2001/02, 1st Test
Australia v New Zealand
Brisbane Cricket Ground, Woolloongabba, Brisbane
8,9,10,11,12 November 2001 (5-day match)

Result: Match drawn
Series: 3-Test series level 0-0

Toss: New Zealand
Umpires: SA Bucknor (WI) and DJ Harper
TV Umpire: PD Parker
Match Referee: JL Hendriks (WI)
Man of the Match: B Lee

Close of Play:

Day 1: Australia 294/6 (Gilchrist 13*, Warne 18*, 90 overs)
Day 2: Australia 435/7 (Gilchrist 88*, Lee 60*, 119 overs)
Day 3: Australia 486/9d, New Zealand 29/0 (Richardson 10*, Bell 6*, 6.4 overs)
Day 4: New Zealand 186/5 (Astle 51*, Cairns 25*, 57 overs)
Australia 1st innings R M B 4 6
JL Langer c Vettori b McMillan 104 317 231 13 0
ML Hayden c Richardson b Cairns 136 251 195 20 2
RT Ponting c Vettori b Cairns 5 9 7 0 0
ME Waugh lbw b Astle 0 3 5 0 0
*SR Waugh c Parore b McMillan 3 31 24 0 0
DR Martyn c Vettori b McMillan 4 9 10 0 0
+AC Gilchrist c sub (L Vincent) b Cairns 118 242 158 17 1
SK Warne c Sinclair b Cairns 22 55 40 2 0
B Lee c Parore b Cairns 61 132 93 9 1
JN Gillespie not out 20 43 31 3 0
Extras (lb 4, w 1, nb 8) 13
Total (9 wickets dec, 131 overs, 550 mins) 486

DNB: GD McGrath.

FoW: 1-224 (Hayden, 62.4 ov), 2-233 (Ponting, 64.5 ov),
3-235 (ME Waugh, 65.5 ov), 4-256 (SR Waugh, 74.2 ov),
5-260 (Martyn, 76.5 ov), 6-263 (Langer, 78.6 ov),
7-302 (Warne, 92.4 ov), 8-437 (Lee, 120.3 ov),
9-486 (Gilchrist, 130.6 ov).

Test # 1571
Trans-Tasman Trophy, 2001/02, 2nd Test
Australia v New Zealand
Bellerive Oval, Hobart
22,23,24,25,26 November 2001 (5-day match)

Result: Match drawn
Series: 3-Test series level 0-0

Toss: New Zealand
Umpires: SA Bucknor (WI) and SJ Davis
TV Umpire: JH Smeaton
Match Referee: JL Hendriks (WI)
Test Debut: SE Bond (NZ).
Man of the Match: RT Ponting

Close of Play:

Day 1: Australia 411/6 (Ponting 92*, Warne 31*; 90 overs)
Day 2: Australia 558/8d
Day 3: New Zealand 71/2 (Richardson 25*, Fleming 16*; 35 overs)
Day 4: New Zealand 197/4 (Fleming 71*, McMillan 51*; 86 overs)
Australia 1st innings R M B 4 6
JL Langer c Vettori b Cairns 123 198 154 20 0
ML Hayden c Bond b Vettori 91 212 140 11 1
RT Ponting not out 157 309 218 20 1
ME Waugh b Vettori 12 15 16 2 0
*SR Waugh lbw b Bond 0 20 18 0 0
DR Martyn lbw b Vettori 0 2 1 0 0
+AC Gilchrist b Vettori 39 59 50 7 1
SK Warne b Astle 70 135 107 11 0
B Lee c McMillan b Vettori 41 59 55 5 2
Extras (b 3, lb 5, w 2, nb 15) 25
Total (8 wickets dec, 124 overs, 508 mins) 558

DNB: JN Gillespie, GD McGrath.

FoW: 1-223 (Langer, 46.2 ov), 2-238 (Hayden, 49.4 ov),
3-253 (ME Waugh, 53.5 ov), 4-266 (SR Waugh, 58.6 ov),
5-267 (Martyn, 59.3 ov), 6-336 (Gilchrist, 73.4 ov),
7-481 (Warne, 106.6 ov), 8-558 (Lee, 123.6 ov).

Test # 1582
South Africa in Australia, 2001/02, 3rd Test
Australia v South Africa
Sydney Cricket Ground
2,3,4,5 January 2002 (5-day match)

Result: Australia won by 10 wickets
Series: Australia wins the 3-Test series 3-0

Toss: Australia
Umpires: DJ Harper and DR Shepherd (Eng)
TV Umpire: SJA Taufel
Match Referee: RS Madugalle (SL)
Test Debut: JL Ontong (SA).
Men of the Match: ML Hayden and JL Langer
Man of the Series: ML Hayden

Close of Play:

Day 1: Australia 308/5 (Martyn 1*, 89.3 overs)
Day 2: Australia 554, South Africa 93/4 (McKenzie 20*, Ontong 8*, 37 overs)
Day 3: South Africa 154 and 209/2 (Kirsten 82*, Kallis 32*, 69 overs)
Australia 1st innings R M B 4 6
JL Langer c McKenzie b Boje 126 276 211 19 1
ML Hayden c Kallis b Pollock 105 240 198 14 1
RT Ponting run out (Ontong/Boucher) 14 28 19 3 0
ME Waugh c Boucher b Donald 19 80 34 3 0
*SR Waugh b Pollock 30 51 64 3 0
DR Martyn c McKenzie b Boje 117 225 166 13 0
+AC Gilchrist c Boucher b Kallis 34 63 50 3 0
SK Warne b Pollock 37 50 46 6 1
B Lee b Boje 29 63 62 4 0
SCG MacGill c Henderson b Boje 20 20 23 2 0
GD McGrath not out 1 6 2 0 0
Extras (b 4, lb 8, w 1, nb 9) 22
Total (all out, 144.2 overs, 554 mins) 554

FoW: 1-219 (Hayden, 61.3 ov), 2-247 (Ponting, 68.6 ov),
3-253 (Langer, 70.3 ov), 4-302 (SR Waugh, 84.3 ov),
5-308 (ME Waugh, 89.3 ov), 6-356 (Gilchrist, 105.4 ov),
7-439 (Warne, 118.6 ov), 8-502 (Lee, 136.5 ov),
9-542 (MacGill, 142.5 ov), 10-554 (Martyn, 144.2 ov).

The grass is always greener

I’m not sure that tomorrow’s second Test between the West Indies and Australia warrants much of a preview. Best approach this one with little expectation, I think. Many may be distracted by another sport even – at Telstra stadium, Australia has scored just this minute. And around the world there is much splendid cricket taking played. Not least, the exciting conclusion of the first Test between Pakistan and England at Multan.

Less than an hour ago, Pakistan (274 & 341) sealed a thrilling fight back, defeating England (418 & 175) by just 22 runs. In a match reminiscent of England’s last summer, they dominated on the first innings and wobbled in the second – only on this case the wobbles lead to a fall. There was a last rally as England recovered from 7/117 to 7/166, needing just 32 runs for victory. But Shoaib Akhtar and Danish Kaneria put paid to that. Shoaib took three of the last four wickets, spectacularly bowling Jones and Giles. What a mess. Star performers:

1 point – Freddie Flintoff (4-68 & 4-88 and 44 first innings runs)
2 points – Trescothick (193 in the first innings and 4 catches)
3 points and MOTM – Salman Butt (74 & 122)

In Hyderabad, South Africa has started its Indian campaign. India recovered from 3 for 5 and then 4 for 34 to post 9/249 on the back of 103 from Yuvraj Singh. After 48 off from 36 by Smith, the Boks have stumbled to 3/140.

And let’s hear if for Boof Lehmann. 301 big ones for the Redbacks against the Sand Gropers. Not out. Not bad for an old man. South Australia is poised to overcome the Western Australians. For those of you who are interested in the progress of Dizzie Gillespie (I am), he took one first innings wicket to Paul Rofe’s six! He started the second innings with a bang, trapping Murray Goodwin lbw with the first ball of the innings.

For the record, I am looking forward to tomorrow’s Test in Hobart. I think this might be the first time the Windies have played at the home ground of DC Boon. The West Indies have five very well credentialed batsmen. Surely a couple can get some runs.

How many lives does a Kat have?

The Australian selectors sprang a small surprise in announcing the twelve for the second Test which starts in Hobart next Thursday. Many expected either Hodge or Symonds to replace the injured Shane Watson. By selecting both players and dropping Simon Katich, the selectors have left their options open until the final 11 is named. They could do one of three things:

1. Continue the quest for an all rounder in the Test team.

2. Go with five specialist bowlers and replace Watson with MacGill. Remember that in Gilchrist, the team already possesses one of the best all
rounders the world has seen.

3. Go back to the 6-1-4 line up and give Hodge a well deserved opportunity.

Last time Katich was dropped, I had some scathing words to say. That was in Sri Lanka and the decision was made by the tour selectors. On this occasion the national selectors have had their say and it is hard to argue with. Katich has averaged just 29 in his last ten matches. Worse still, he has scored just three runs in his last three matches, from four innings. It think it’s a shame as I think Katich has what it takes. However, further analysis reveals that in his 38 innings, Katich has been dismissed 12 times for under ten (that’s 31.6% of the time) and 19 times for under 20 (50%). That’s way too many failures. I suspect that we have seen the last of The Kat. He won’t be getting nine lives.

I’m tipping that Symonds will get the nod next week. In selecting Symonds, the selectors have indicated that they are very interested in the all rounder project. Trevor Hohns had this to say: “Symonds has been in red-hot form with the bat, and his medium pace and off spin adds a lot of options to the bowling attack. He thoroughly deserves his opportunity at Test level again.” Those words would not fill Brad Hodge with high hopes. Besides, Roy and Trev are both Queenslanders. That is not withstanding that Hodge today smashed 177 from 178 balls (23 x 4, 5 x 6) against the West Indies. They stay he has good timing!

This is a huge chance for Symonds. I think there is a strong chance that he will give the Windies a touch up. His Test birth in Sri Lanka was not easy and the Windies fast medium attack on a friendly Bellerive track should suit him very well. I think Watson is about to have his place stolen. As Hohns, says, Symonds has a lot to offer, especially against sub-standard Test opposition. His main “failing” is age – Roy is an amazing athlete and he has a few years left in him yet but he is just over 30 and I believe that Watson’s youth was counting in his favour.