Northern Exposure

It’s hard to believe but after two days of the Wanderers Test, Australia seems to be in charge. However, we have seen that before. Australia started well with their big challenge – bowling South Africa out – but it looks like their work is cut out.

It’s also hard to believe that Marcus North’s wonderful achievement is in danger of being over shadowed by Mitchell Johnson. Let’s start with North. He made 117 in his very first Test innings. The first Western Australian (player) to score a century on debut. The 17th Australian to do so and the first Australian against South Africa. He showed ice cold composure, even during the nineties. His defence was rock solid and shot selection excellent even if some of his off driving was, let’s say, streaky.

And I saw it all. God Bless Maddie (daughter) for pointing out that I could watch the cricket on my phone! I’ve said before that I don’t have pay TV and I still don’t. My phone had previously only showed free-to-air coverage. This time they are really giving my money’s worth. I lay in blissfully in bed watching Johnson and North showed real spine as North crawled towards 100 big ones.

Unfortunately, as I drifted off to sleep listening to Aunty (good old ABC), the last thing I heard was North getting out to Harris (Harris loves Australian left handers, it seems). Harris had completed 17 overs, 1-38 (2.24 rpo). I say it was unfortunate that I drifted off to sleep because at the end of Harris’ next over, he had figures of 1-64 (3.55 rpo) and Johnson had progressed from 57 to 83. That’s right: Johnson wrote himself into the record books with 26 runs from a single over 4-4-6-.-6-6. Steyn replaced Harris and Johnson smashed him for three fours. Johnson’s express trip towards his first century was curtailed next over when Siddle and Hilfenhaus lasted just four balls of it, Hilfie just one ball.

So there you have it: Australia’s debutants batted at one, six and eleven and they made 0, 117 and 0. For that matter, it was a funny old scoreboard. Five scores over 62 and six scores under ten! So here’s one for you all, how many times have there been three debutants and one made a century and the other two, ducks? Haha.

Luckily, I regained consciousness just as Johnson’s day got even better when he dismissed Smith for a duck. Bloody beauty – 1 for 1. Hilfenhaus’s day also got better when he took a wicket with his second ball in Test cricket. Bloody beauty 2 for 2. Siddle chipped in, claiming Kallis for just 27 (but past 10,000 Test runs) and South Africa was limping at 3-51. At stumps the score is 3/85.

Way over in the Caribbean, old Engerland has rattled off another huge score (6/600) and captain fantastic, Strauss, has rattled off another super century (142). The Windies have lost Gayle (6) and it’s hard to see them holding out this time (well, I do have more British readers than in the Caribbean).

I’ve died and gone to cricket heaven.

Boo for the selectors

The South Africa versus Australia series kicked off tonight. On a sporting pitch, Australia is 2/36 just after drinks.

Australia overlooked Bryce McGain which was a good decision. Spinners don’t do well at the Wanderers, McGain bowled badly in the warm up match and he deserves some punishment for missing the plane. The selectors inexplicably dropped Doug Bollinger and retained Andrew McDonald. Whatever for? What chance does the team have if the selectors will not even pick the best of an ordinary bunch. At least it moves McDonald down the batting order but it is a very defensive move and rather hard to understand. Australia couldn’t bowl South Africa out. How does selecting three bowlers help?

Glenn Mitchell just suggested that South Africa do not regard Australia with any awe. You don’t say. Australia is fielding three debutants for the first time since 1985. Merv Hughes, Geoff Marsh and Bruce Reid all started in the match before Steve Waugh in the 1985-1986 season. You may recall how low Australian cricket had slumped at that time. I don’t think they are there yet but it makes you think.

Anyway, the score is now 3-38 so I guess that we shall see how the bowlers go fairly soon.

Younis Khan the Mighty

As the first Test between Sri Lanka and Pakistan heads towards the end of day four, and edges towards a draw, new Pakistan captain, Younis Khan, can stand tall. He has saved the day for his side, having made an undefeated triple century – 306 and still counting. Pakistan have already batted for 40 overs more than Sri Lanka, but are still 78 runs short of Sri Lanka’s mammoth 7/644. But who cares? Not Younis Khan for one – it would be a great relief for the match to be safe after chasing leather for two days.

This match concludes tomorrow but before it ends, Australia and South Africa will be underway, closely followed by the 4th Test between the West Indies and England.

Just another day in paradise

It’s cricket galore at the moment and it’s records galore as well. For starters, Sri Lanka has the record for the bravest cricket team. That’s an unofficial dongles award. The first Test match on Pakistani soil for 14 months is underway and Sri Lanka is the visiting team and I think that deserves some mention.

In the interests of taking one’s opportunities, the groundsman has assisted the PCB in maximising the length of the match by preparing the batsmen’s paradise at the National Stadium in Karachi. This has helped the records to flow as Sri Lanka declared at 7/644. The intrepid Jayawardene (240) and Samaraweera (231) shared a partnership of 437. Not quite Barnes and Bradman (234 apiece) but close – and higher.

What is it with the Sri Lankans and huge partnerships? They seem to have had more than their fair share. In the history of Test cricket, there have been just 14 partnerships of 400 or more. Sri Lankan pairs hold the top two, by a very long way. To put that even more into context, Sri Lanka have been playing test cricket for not much more than 5 minutes and in the past 12 years, there have been seven partnerships of 400 plus and four of those are credited to Sri Lanka. Jayawardene and Sangakkara have both participated in two of those efforts – the only two batsmen, aside from Bradman, to have featured in two partnerships of over 400 runs.

In the Caribbean, a resurgent England wasn’t quite able to overcome an allegedly resurgent West Indies, for whom the wheels didn’t quite fall off. In the third Test (really the 2nd), England fell just one miserable wicket short of squaring the series. The last wicket pair for the Windies held out for the final ten overs. At any rate, it was a far better showing for England, with Andrew Strauss setting the tone with a magnificent captain’s knock of 169. My reference to “2nd Test” was that the official 2nd Test was called off after a few overs. It’s old news now, I know but I had to say something. Only in the West Indies. We’ve had a match called off in the past because of a dangerous pitch. And now it seems Vic Richard’s very own ground has been built on an enormous sand pit. Stay tuned for the next instalment, starting this Thursday.

Also kicking of this Thursday is the much awaited return Test series between Australia and South Africa. The warm up match concluded overnight with Marcus North pressing for a Test spot. He made a brace of fifties and took 6-69 in the second innings. While I don’t see him as a world beater, he must be a better proposition then McDonald as a Test number six. I mean, his first class batting average is comfortably above 40 (44.4). For that matter, his bowling average is also over 40 but number six MUST be a batsman. If McDonald is in the team only to boost the Victorian quota, please know this selectors: North may play for Western Australia but he was born in Victoria.

And in case anyone cares, please note that Victoria lost its third straight domestic limited overs (50) final last night. The Bulls polished them off, winning by 10 runs or something (I can’t be bothered checking).

And one final thing: Steve Bucknor will be retiring from umpiring. Three cheers. His final Test match will be the third Test in the South Africa v Australia series (thank heavens that challenges will be used in that series). He will finish is career with a couple of one dayers in Barbados. He was a character and a good umpire in his day but unfortunately his day is long passed.