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Tendulkar Takes Two Hundred and the Holy Grail

Pop the champagne – Tendulkar last night hit exactly 200 hundred not out in the second ODI against South Africa.

Was 200 in an individual innings the final frontier of One Day cricket?  Did Tendulkar achieve the mark just in time (i.e. who knows how long 50 over cricket has left)?  Whatever the case, it is fitting that the greatest One Day batsman ever has set the high water mark.

While debate can rage about who is the best batsman ever (i.e. in all forms of the game), or at least  the second best, there can be little double about Tendulkar’s place at the top of the ODI heap.  Tendulkar has scored more than 17,500 ODI runs – 4,000 ahead of 2nd.  He has scored 46 centuries – 17 in front of second.  His average is 45.12 – better than everyone else in the top 25 ODI aggregates except for Kallis (and he is just 0.3 behind him).

Whatever you think of One Day cricket, it is exciting that someone has finally broken the 200 barrier.  Many have been poised to do it but only one has succeeded.  The Little Master.

Oh, India scored 401 and won at a canter.

Thank God That’s Over

The supposed words of the immortal Keith Miller after being dismissed for a first ball duck, where he made no serious attempt to play at the ball were, “Thank God that’s over.”  Miller has never confirmed nor denied the story.  The scene was the Surrey tour match on the 1948 Ashes tour.  Australia was in the process of scoring a record 721 runs in a day and Miller had come to the wicket 2-364, pretty much at the halfway mark of the plunder.  Miller knew mind numbing cricket when he saw it and he let his sentiments be known.

The Australian public also knows mind-numbing cricket when they see it and they have spoken with their feet and even more tellingly with their TV sets.

When last year Cricket Australia announced that they were abandoning the “tired” tri-series format, most people said, “Good”.  What most of us didn’t fully realise was that we hadn’t thought through was what was tired.  It was 50 over cricket that is tired, not the format.  What CA has provided for the Australian public is even more boring than a tri-series.

I suspect that CA’s main purpose was to eliminate games where the home team was not playing.  Who wants to see five straight ODIs against the same two opponents?  Even if the tourists were competitive, it would be rare for a series to be 2-2 after four matches, so that means in most cases, at least the final match will be a dead rubber.

Friday, two weeks ago, a the only T20 match against Pakistan, the World Champions, was played at the MCG.  Just over 60,000 attended and TV ratings were excellent.  Two days later, on Sunday, Australia played the West Indies at the same ground and just 20,000 attended.  TV ratings were terrible and channel nine lagged a distant third.  Now, it’s not comparing apples with apples – Australia’s opponents were not the same.  And Sunday night is a “school night”.  However, the numbers speak.  Last night – Friday night again at the MCG, the crowd was a miserable 15,000.

Surely it is time to abandon 50 over One Day Cricket.  Why do we play it?  So the cricket establishments can make some money and so the fans can get some excitement (the two are closely connected). There is no deep tradition in One Day cricket.  So why persevere with it when there is a form that achieves the stated objectives far better.

How enthusiastic are the players about 50 over cricket?  If you listen to the Australian cricketers at the moment, you’d believe they think it is great.  Don’t be fooled.  Australian cricketers like any cricket when they are winning.  What about the captain himself, the senior stateman?  He thinks 50 over cricket has a lot of relevance.  What else is he going to say?  Why would Ponting advocate dropping ODI for T20 when he has retired from T20?

I’m going to join the masses who are calling for the scrapping of 50 over cricket (and replace it with T20).  I’m still a fan of a 50 over World Cup – I still think it has relevance.  Remember that the first World Cup was played before One Day cricket was even really played.  The intention was to find the best cricket team in the world, in a tournament.  I think that still has a place.   One Day cricket is far more divergent from Test cricket than is was in 1975 – it is a distinct game.  However, it still offers the chance to indentify the best cricketing nation at a given time.  Test cricket does not allow that and T20 is not sufficiently long to Test cricketing character.

So lets get on with it and usher in the new era. We then might have more time to play Test cricket and the we won’t have the ridiculous situation where the top ranked teams fight out it out for the top spot in a paltry two Test series.

Amla the Almighty

Eden Gardens lit up as India snatched a last gasp victory against South Africa.  By the time the final wicket was taken, the last wicket pairing of Alma and Morel had survived almost 25 overs, there were barely three overs remaining and the crowd had worked itself into a frenzy.

Perhaps Smith thought that he was owed a miraculous escape given the recent series against England.  But it was not to be.  Harbajan Singh took his fifth wicket of the innings and ground erupted.  It was tantalisingly close for poor, old Smithy.

If Smith has anyone to thank for trying, it is Hashim Alma.  While no other South African passed 23, Alma dug in and took 394 balls, and in doing so he scored his third century of the series.  In fact, he made scores of 253 not out, 114 and 123 not out – 490 runs for one dismissal.  In just three innings, Alma faced 1033 balls (that is more than three complete ODI innings) and just one dismissed him!  That is pretty amazing.

Springbok Stew

India has put South Africa to the sword and it looks like the new World Order will be maintained – with India remaining atop of the Test ladder.  That is, if India can close out the match having lead on the first innings by 350 runs, with two days remaining.

South Africa arrived in India – the “land of one billion opportunities” – to play a two Test series.  South African captain, Graeme Smith was interested in just one opportunity: To win the series and finally get his hands on that mace – the symbol of world Test supremacy.

Smithy has waited to win this mace for quite some time.  It seemed a formality that it would be his in March 2009.  All his team had to do was beat a beleaguered Australian team at home – a team they had just beaten in Australia – to claim the prize.  But after two Tests, his dream was in tatters.

The South Africans arrived in India with a less presumptuous attitude.  In fact, Smith left at home the purple robe and ring, set with a single Kimberley diamond, that he has had made for the occasion when he is presented with the mace.  What a surprise to see the Boks win the first Test by an innings.  All they had to do was close out the second Test to finally climb to the top of the ladder.  Smith sent for the robe and ring – special delivery.

At 1-218 on the first day of the second Test, it seemed South Africa was in the clear.  With the score 2-228 at tea, Smithy sent the robe off to the dry cleaners, just to make sure everything would be perfect.  He put the ring on his fat mitt – just to make sure that it still fit.  Nothing could go wrong now.

But go wrong it did.  And how.  South Africa was nine down by the close off play.  On day two, South Africa was dismissed for less than 300 and over the next two days, India proceeded to belt almost 650 before the declaration.  No less than four Indian batsmen passed 100.  Steyn could manage only one wicket and Paul Harris compiled a tidy 1-182 from 50 overs.

Still, Smithy can save the day.  It will take some work but in the land of one billion opportunities, he doesn’t have to look far.  Smith will be at the crease at the start of day 4.  All he has to do is bat for the better part of two days and he can still get his hands on the mace.  And wear his purple robe.  And the diamond ring.  And yes, I’m making this up.