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Sri Lanka Wins a Test

Sri Lanka has squared the Test series against South Africa, leaving the decider to be played in Cape Town.  The win was by a resounding margin of 208 runs and was Sri Lanka’s first Test win since the retirement of Murali.  They went 15 matches without a win.

Notably, South Africa went into the match without pace bowling sensation, Vernon Philander.  He was injured before this match and was a great loss.  Since his debut against Australia recently, he has played an incredible three Tests and taken 24 wickets at 12.37, bagging five wickets in an innings on four occasions.   Not all nations boast Australia’s embarrassment of pace bowling riches and they were big shoes to fill.

But full credit to Sri Lanka.  Their trouble in the AM (After Murali) era has been bowling other teams out and they did it in style this Test, mowing down South Africa for 168 and 241.

Australia’s Pace Bowling Riches

Australia has put away India in the 1st Test in Melbourne.  Australia won comfortably in the end but typically of recent times for Australia, it was a match of stumbles, comebacks and excitement.  However, in this match, Australia displayed one quality that it has not shown for a long time and that was sustained, tight, pace bowling.

I have to say that Mitchell Johnson is not missed.  Well, he was but in a good way.  I was watching today as Australia applied the blow torch, thanking God in heaven that I did not have to dread Johnson coming on to spray a few around and give a couple of “four balls” an over.  On the other hand, where did Ben Hilfenhaus come from?  Last time I saw him bowl – almost one year ago – he was awful.  He looked sensational this Test with pace that I never knew he possessed.  The new selectors can pat themselves on the back over that decision.

With this trio, one wonders if Harris and/or Cummins were fit, would they be automatically brought back?  I don’t think so.  Unless Australia decides to go without a spinner in say, Perth.  Australia should not be too excited yet – this pitch, which Bill Lawry and I thought was an excellent Test wicket, offered plenty of assistance.  I want to see how these guys go on a flat track.

Australia won this Test on the backs of the fast bowlers and not just with the ball.  All three made important contributions with the bat.  Siddle’s 41 in the first innings was very important, as was Pattinson’s 55 for the match without being dismissed and Hilfie provided 34 runs.  To put that into perspective, the pace trio made 134 runs.  Clarke, Marsh, Warner and Haddin (four batsmen) made a combined 110 runs.

But let me not forget Ricky.  In a bowlers’ match, he was the only batsman to pass 50 twice and he made the highest aggregate of the match (122).

I would also like to note that perhaps “The Wall” has a few holes in it.  While it seemed a disaster for Australia at the time when Siddle bowled Dravid from a no ball, in the end, by the end of the match, Dravid had been cleaned bowled (and I mean clean) by all three Australian quicks!  I would suggest that is a first.

And finally, I thought it was poetic justice seeing Hussey, as he made the highest score of the match, be given not out, when he was out, a whole three times and the Indians had no DRS to fall back on.  True, Hussey could have had his own DRS in the first innings when he was wrongly given out first ball.  You could argue that this was the perfect argument against DRS – it all comes out in the wash.  And I happily accept that reasoning.  What I don’t accept is one nation being allowed to dictate terms to the sport’s governing body.  Either the DRS is mandated and adopted in all Tests, or it is abandoned.  How ridiculous would it be in a tennis tournament if challenges were in place from match to match, depending on the whim of each player?  I can’t really see much difference in Test cricket at present.

Exciting times as we head to Sydney.

When the Shortest becoming the Tallest is not Enough

New Zealand has won a thriller in Hobart and levelled the series 1-1, winning its first Test match against Australia for 18 years, and the first in Australia for 26  years.  One has to feel for poor old Dan Vettori who has played against Australia for all his life without so much as a single win and he missed the big event.  No disrespect intended to Vettori but one wonders whether his late withdrawal was a blessing in disguise.  I don’t think it hurt the Kiwis to have the extra seamer on that wicket.

Many wrote-off New Zealand before this match, including myself but we were short-sighted.  Before the series started, many were saying it was going to be very competitive, so after a stumble in the first Test, it should not have been a surprise to see New Zealand bounce back.  It is common in the modern era for visiting teams to struggle in the first Test of a series simply because they have not had time to acclimatise.  I’m not talking about getting over jetlag but getting used to local conditions.

The match had a thrilling conclusion, as have many Tests in the past few months.  This one even had the DRS in play, adding to the drama.   New Zealand had actually won the match for a few minutes when Lyon was given out lbw.  This was referred and overturned, leaving New Zealand the task of taking the final wicket again.   They did that with seven runs to spare and got to have that winning feeling twice in the one afternoon.

I’m not going to have a rant about the woeful Aussies because that would detract from an excellent Test match and a good effort by the Kiwis.  There is no doubt that they have serious troubles in the batting department and their colossal batting collapses are noteworthy.  To illustrate the point, they have been dismissed for less than 100 several times in the past 12 months and in this match, they were 7-75 in the first innings and lost 7-40 to lose the match in the second.

Whatever the case, it is heart-warming to see Test cricket providing great finishes on a regular basis.  I hope that this can help to keep the shorter forms of the game at bay.  It is interesting to note that even though some of these matches may not have been of the highest standard from a skill perspective – some of the batting has been appalling – it does not seem to detract from the excitement.  Some might even say that the shorter forms of the game are contributing to the poor batting in eroding the patience of the batsmen and their ability to play properly on a pitch offering the bowlers some assistance.  Ironically, countering that argument, we had David Warner who was pigeon-holed as a T20 specialist until five minutes ago.  In just his second Test, he stood tall above all other batsmen, scoring a century, carrying the bat and almost winning the match for his side.  Without Warner, Australia could have been out for under 100 yet again!\

And now for some stats on those ones that “got away” for Australia.  I don’t really know if you can derive anything meaningful from these but they make interesting reading.  There have been just nine matches in Test cricket history decided with a margin of less then ten runs.  Three of those were over 100 years ago and all won by Australia.  Five of the remaining six have been lost by Australia in the past thirty years (against four different nations).

Coming from the other perspective, when trying the close out a match with the ball in hand, Australia has failed by just one wicket three times since 1994.  If only DRS was in place just over a year ago when India prevailed by one wicket in Mohali.

I hate to indulge in sounding my own trumpet but I did tell you to “Brace yourselves for Bracewell”.   I have to admit that I said it more because it was a good headline than anything else but nonetheless, I was right.  Bracewell now has three Tests under his belt and has snatched victory from defeat for his side in two of those matches.  That he was not awarded man-of-the-match was unfortunate.  It is true that Warner’s efforts were worthy but when one bowler routes the opposition and wins that match for his team, he is clearly the motm. 

Can someone tell me, is it true that Channel 9 viewers are deciding the motm?  I seemed to glean that during the 1st Test.  If it is true, it is an utter disgrace that CA must stop immediately.  While it might be OK in X-factor and Australian Idol, letting the Australian public decide motm in Test matches is unacceptable.  When is a visitor ever going to get the award?  Not that it means much, but If you are going to have it, you might as well do it properly.

Sehwag Sizzles Through the Stratosphere

It took over thirty years of concerted effort for man to break through the 200 barrier in One Day cricket.  That was Sachin Tendulkar on 24 December 2010.  Last night, less than one year later, against the West Indies in Indore, Verinder Sehwag made a quantum leap by smashing 219 from 147 balls.

His innings included 25 fours and 7 sixes – 142 runs in boundaries.  What an innings – just another to add to the already outstanding CV of Sehwag.  There have been plenty of times where a batsman has scored fast enough to make 200, if his innings was pro rated, but the trick is sustaining the pace for long enough.  This is something Sehwag has been able to do before – his highest Test score is 319, made from just 304 balls.  Not exactly fast enough to make 200 in a One Dayer but very impressive scoring over a long period of time.

Congratulations Sehwag – you are a star!