Sunday, July 31, 2005
I think this is going to backfire. For there are obvious weaknesses in this English batting lineup. To avoid defeat against Australia, the batting needs to fire big time and that means that a LOT of things need to go right all at the same time. A LOT. Firstly, Strauss needs to regain his touch as does Vaughan. Bell needs to mature so fast it is almost cruel to expect. Pietersen needs to repeat his Lord's heroics and Freddie somehow has to find a way to play Warne. Now these things may happen and if they do all will click beautifully making me look like a fool BUT I am trying to emphasize that this is a high-risk approach England are taking. They have just the Plan A and no Plan B whatsoever. They simply have no buffer.
No buffer that Graham Thorpe used to provide. My insistence on Thorpe has been well-documented. See here and here. But now that he is no longer there I would have at least gone for Paul Collingwood to lend stability to the lineup. He is in fine form having scored 3 hundreds last week - 2 in a match. He looked the part in his sole test and he has also had a very good Natwest series.
Throughout the 90's the England team suffered from the pick-and-drop approach. Now they are erring on the other side of the spectrum. They are resisting change to what I think is only a moderately good batting lineup and refusing to be flexible. That is not the approach that is going to be of any help in halting the Aussies.
Thread open for comments and discussions.
8:06: Raina looking very nervous. Survived a shout first ball and dropped a second. But both batsmen now tickle boundaries to leg to get going.
8:27: Both looking fairly comfortable and scoring at a brisk rate thanks in large part to the inconsistency of the bowlers. A couple of boundaries full of flair from the youngster Raina who finally seems to have got over his nerves.
8:40: Kaif and particularly Raina are now on fire smashing boundaries. Lawson horribly wayward.
8:46: West Indies have completed 11 overs and they have bowled an astonishing 11 wides so far. That's 1 wide per over and 2 overs extra. None of the bowlers want to be left behind as each has got his name on the wide sheet. However the main culprit remains Lawson with 6 wides - this is getting almost boringly simple. I wouldn't mind a wicket now just to spice things up a bit ...
8:48: Oh My God !!! Just when I said it. A good delivery accounts for Kaif !! 68/2 and game not over yet people. The Wall walks in ... I was expecting Yuvraj ... mental note: expect the unexpected
9:02: O O !! Raina goes. An innings full of attractive but risky strokes. Not sure about him just yet. 82/3
9:17: 3 boundaries in a row for the Indian captain !! 3 very positive strokes and each different - regaining the momentum for India here
17.5 Best to Dravid, FOUR, fuller this time, and Dravid duly drives through the cover region for his third successive boundary, room and width and full in length, and Dravid duly obliges
17.4 Best to Dravid, FOUR, short and wide again!! and Dravid goes after it, interntionally plays it in the air to the thirdman region, one bounce and it crashes into the advertising boards there
17.3 Best to Dravid, FOUR, shot!!! Best bowls it a bit quicker, offers Dravid a bit of room, and Dravid pounces on itm, cuts it hard and the ball runs away to the point fence like a tracer bullet
9:54: Going on pretty smoothly ... this is the sort of thing I expected ... of course with Dravid there you can be pretty assured; good to see Yuvraj back in the runs 141/3 and only 38 needed
10:07: Excitement !! Just when I thought this was such a tame affair. India should still romp home easily though.
31.4 Lawson to Yuvraj Singh, OUT: good length delivery on the middle and
off stump line, Yuvraj plays all over it and gets cleaned up!
second wicket for Lawson - India four down
India 143/4, Partnership of 61
Yuvraj Singh b Lawson 28 (58b 3x4 0x6)
R Dravid 35* (49b 4x4) JJC Lawson 6.4-0-38-2 (6w)
was a nothing shot in the end, just stood his ground and tried to
hit through the line, he missed the bowler hit !
Dhoni is the next man in
31.5 Lawson to Dhoni, one run, Dropped! not again! flicked away in the
air, straight to Smith at backward point who puts down an easy
chance - this is cricket at its worst
Another 50 to Dravid - lot of aggressive shots towards the end. It is quite pointless to go on raving about the amazing consistency of the man ... he is quite undoubtedly Mr. India ... just 4 needed now
10:26: OOOOH ! What a finish
35.6 Lawson to Dhoni, SIX, what a finish! short and drifting down the leg side, Dhoni swings hard and gets it on the middle, ball sails over the fine leg fence - India win by 6 wickets!
Good strong win for India. The bowlers came to the fore again first up. Then with the bat Raina showed some promise and Kaif and Yuvraj found some runs. Sehwag's form remains a worry though. Man Of The Match ??
10:37: Yes !! It is Rahul Dravid. Leaving now ... probably will write more on the game later. We have a couple of days off ... Wednesday we will play Sri Lanka again and Sourav Ganguly will be back ... will add a whole new exciting dimension to the game
Saturday, July 30, 2005
Then of course, it will be interesting to see how Dravid uses him when India are fielding first cause that's where the problem has been on most occasions but I'm hopeful that he will allow Harbhajan the freedom to demonstrate his art.
And hence the questions flow. Mostly all to be asked of Greg Chappell and Rahul Dravid.
1. WHY NOT LAXMAN ???
2. Why Yuvraj at 3 ?(Corollary of 1)
3. Why Kaif at 4 ?(Corollary of 1 & 2)
4. Why Raina ?(Corollary of 1)
Is this some kind of trick ?? I better hope it is. Otherwise it is pretty daft. To not play someone of the calibre of Laxman in the opening game ... I mean if you are looking to blood the youngsters surely the best time would be against the inexperienced Windies or once our qualification for the finals has been guaranteed ?!?!
For all his great reputation and acumen, I am williing to give Chappell the benefit of the doubt. But I hope he has a real good trick up his sleeve otherwise ... sorry to say ... the Chappell era would be just a continuation of last season's pathetic abysmal lows.
Update 1: Zaheer Khan has just clean bowled Mahela Jayawardene to leave Sri Lanka tottering at 60/3. Heck, he's given that annoying pest Russell Arnold a loose ball to hit a boundary first up !! (This is one thing that the new management has desperately gotta work on ... the inconsistency in bowling)
Update 2: Another wicket would be great - just about now. After a torrid 20 balls Dilshan has finally broken the shackles with a boundary - shouldn't have let him do that - but well ... wicket ! wicket ! get a wicket !
Just read on the Times website that Laxman had been ruled out with back spasms in the morning . Bit of a blow that ... and for me ... being too hasty to criticize ... but hell it was not mentioned anywhere on Cricinfo bulletin ... how was I supposed to know ?? Anyway this now puts the above questions into irrelevance and India are up with a fight on their hands
Update 3: Brilliant !! Harbhajan Singh has struck twice in 2 overs to dismiss Dilshan and Arnold but on the flip side he gave a boundary the next ball on both occasions - to that sleeping giant Jayasuriya ... batting at Number 6 due to a shoulder injury !! Really at 117/5 this is now a 50-50 game ... get Jayasuriya here and we are almost done !
Update 4: OK ... I said it would now be Jayasuriya between India and victory ... but there is an unexpected twist here ... in the form of Lokuhettige (pardon me if I got the spelling wrong) who seems to be a mightily aggressive character. He has taken a liking to the spinners ... hitting 3 4s and a 6 ... to score 20 off 17 balls and is fairly taking the game away from India ... wicket please !! Will Dravid get back the quick men ?? Although I tend to think one of the spinners might get him out if they keep tempting him ... the only problem is only 67 runs to play with. Also Dravid has to get in half of the remaining overs from his fifth bowler ... now I dont blame him really ... he had to go for the attack right away at the start ... interesting to see how he handles it from now on.
34.2 Pathan to Dilhara, OUT: width outside the off stump and Dilhara goes after it, ball clips the inside edge and crashes into the stumps, bowling change works for India, Sri Lanka six down Sri Lanka 140/6, Partnership of 28 LHD Dilhara b Pathan 21 (20b 3x4 1x6) ST Jayasuriya 12* (15b 2x4) IK Pathan 7.2-2-30-2 (1w) was not a wicket taking delivery and was was outside the off stump, Dilhara dragged it back on to his stumps, sad end to a promising innings - this match is not over yet!
Dravid's move works !! Yippee !! So happy for him. Game on ... though he went against my instincts of sticking with the spinners ! Jayasuriya still there though and that tough cookie Chandana walks in ... but get one of these out ... and we are really into the tail
Update 6: Just as I thought it was all over Zaheer strikes !! Wow this is getting exciting 34 runs with 3 wicktes left
Update 7: That wily fox Jayasuriya is taking Sri Lanka home. Aah ... so close yet so far ... it still needs a couple of good balls though now one must consider Sri Lanka reasonable favourites to romp home
Update 8: All over. Jayasuriya takes them home aided by an impetuous innings by Maharoof. Credit to the Indian fielders and bowlers for putting up a fight but in the end just lacked the firepower to blast out the lower order resistance. Not that that is a particularly new problem for this Indian team. But Greg needs to note it quickly and try to find ways to cover this deficiency. Full marks to Dravid first for a captain's innings and then for a well-led fight on the field. After all, we are ranked #7 in the World compared to Sri Lanka's #2. However I don't see too many ways we can improve as of now with this particular set of players. I dont know how many of you feel that this match resembled a good deal to the match against Pakistan in the ICC Knockout last September. India, batting first were rocked by the Pakistani pacemen, shored by Dravid and then kept in the fight throughout by the honest efforts of the bowlers only to lose it at the end. The score that day was 200 today it was 205. Different conditions of course but similar pattern of play and scoring.
Anyway off now ... will post more analyses later ... and hope the team puts up a strong performance against the West Indies B side tomorrow.
Wednesday, July 27, 2005
"In this technological age it should be possible for a computer programmer to sit at a screen and digitally devise the ultimate bowler for the ultimate end at the ultimate Test ground.
The specifications might be thus: tall, with long arms to obtain bounce and exacerbate variations in such; a straight run to counter the gravitational pull of the slope from left to right; delivery from close to the stumps so that movement off the slope does not angle down the leg side and a straight ball offers a challenge; pace but not so much that a batsman cannot spot a modicum of movement and be drawn into following it; Job's patience; Nelson's strategical acumen; the ruthlessness of Vlad the Impaler. Press "enter". Bugger, it's Glenn McGrath."
Then of course that which is digital, automated, computerised has to be under human control - some human should be and will be able to conquer it - all that it needs is -
"England, though, can draw on that in their plans to counter him. They will not encounter him in such conditions again but they do need to formulate a strategy. This could take several forms.
The first is to test his patience as much as he does that of the batsmen. His off-stump line will not be so perilous to ignore because no other Test ground in England has such a slope. If he continues just to plug away - he is, by his own admission, a defensive bowler in that he induces error through the long-term application of pressure - then it becomes a waiting game. Who will crack first?"
Saturday, July 23, 2005
Pietersen has delivered. In the most trying circumstances, he scored a very creditable 55 and is currently valiantly holding up the last shreds of resistance. Pietersen has justified his selection but not the exclusion of Graham Thorpe. People might argue that it was Pietersen's knock in the first innings that kept England in the hunt at least until Day 2. No question but I argue that a combination of Pietersen and Thorpe would have given England a realistic chance of taking a lead and then who knows how the momentum might have changed. Ian Bell has clearly done nothing in this game and while it may sound real harsh on the youngster to judge him on a sole performance, unfortunately the first Test of an Ashes really is no place to allow people to find their feet.
It is unfair to single out Bell - Trescothick is always a suspect especially at the start of an Ashes series. Much was expected of Strauss - while he may still come good, it could prove too late against the Aussies. After all Strauss' USP was to score big at the start of the series to set the tone which he did in SOuth Africa and at home last season - he has not been able to deliver that on the big occasion. Vaughan is a man for crisis situations - but again if the flow continues this way the series could well be lost before it is realized. Flintoff looks totally out of sorts too.
When the English top-order is firing, Thorpe can be a bit of a luxury; but in a situation like this he would have been absolutely invaluable. I still think he should have a quiet chat with the selectors about their plans for the second Test - things could still be salvaged - any further delay in taking action and the Ashes can be bid goodbye for another 2 years at least ...
Friday, July 22, 2005
Don't really mean to go into his notorious exploits - skipping tours due to family problems, abandoning the team on the morning of a Test match, making himself available and withdrawing himself within a few hours, spending a whole test with mind completely elsewhere to be subsequently left out in the cold for a year ... no, not even his (in my opinion) pretty stupid public announcement of accepting a full-time coaching job with New South Wales. All thse reek of bad timing but today on the second day of the first test of a potentially thrilling series his announcement of retirement is baffling to say the least.
True, dropping him was a HUGE mistake. And I say this despite Pietersen his replacement top-scoring today ... for Thorpe and Pietersen are not like-for-like replacements at all. In fact I would stick my hat out and say that had Thorpe been playing today he might have well taken England to 220 ... and the Test match could well have been on the other end of the scales. As it stands, the Aussies are overwhelming favourites - they are likely to wrap this Test up, take the confidence to Edgbaston and a 2-0 lead seems an overwhelmingly likely occurence.
I had clearly maintained that England would sooner or later require the services of Graham Thorpe. With the top order in the kind of form it is in, it was inevitable that Thorpe would be sent another SOS - much like he was against South Africa at the Oval - where he responded with a championesque 100 !! Looking at England's batting performance yesterday I for one felt that that call would come as early as Edgbaston Pietersen's heroics notwhithstanding .... in place of Bell perhaps or at the expense of Giles ... but this enigma has to go and announce his retirement the very next day ... WHY ?? ... he could be rightly angry with the selectors but to let his anger jeopardize the chances of himself and his team in this manner ?? Or did he truly not want to play ?? Or was it just another whim - another in a long list ?? I refuse to believe that he was afraid of the challenge ... Does he wish to make the selectors grovel before him requesting his comeback ... surely he should know bettter than that ...his last act like much of his career will remain a mystery. A great batsman he undoubtedly will be remembered as, much more so than his mate Nasser Hussain ... but he just could not get the kind of farewell Hussain did ... in reasonable part thanks to his own injudicious acts.
Thorpe was one of the first great players to make his debut after I started watching cricket. From his very first ODI against Australia I noticed a certain amount of quality in him, an observation vindicated by his debut century. There seems little point noting Thorpe's great innings - they are all over the electronic media today - the Lahore Abstinence act, the twilight crusade in Karachi, the series winning innings in Sri Lanka, the swashbuckling 200 in New Zealand (the fastest at the time), the tail-shepherding masterpieces in the West Indies ... just to name a few ... but what is most poignant is his contribution in his last series (sorry Bangladesh) last "real" series in South Africa ... while he scored next to nothing in the matches that ended in a result the series would have been clearly lost but for his heroic hundred at Durban and life-saving 86 at Centurion. Such is the story of Graham Thorpe - enigmatic but one which delivers acts of brilliance exactly when needed most ... he will surely be missed for the Ashes. OR will he ?? Something tells me he might yet be asked to make a comeback ... ah well ...
Sunday, July 10, 2005
England are a good team - but I still think the Ashes is just 1 step beyond them this time too ...
Saturday, July 02, 2005
Anyway, it is a pity that the ECB have decided to scrap the Natwest series from next season. It is one of the few ODI tournaments in the World that produces great cricket - well not always, but it has this time and it definitely did in that glorious summer of 2002.
So the Natwest Trophy is shared huh !! I hope that won't be the case with the Ashes though - it would be a pity to see it end at 2-2. Btw anyone knows what the bookies say now about the Ashes and how much have the odds changed since the moment the Aussies put their foot on British shores ??
Surely they must have wished that the substitution rule was in force for this game ....
Update: Destroying the monotony, Geraint Jones has hit a SIX ... albeit slightly streaky ... hmm
10:54 Central Time Partnership of 37 in 17 overs ... nice ... mainly because they survived that long ... now is the time to start scoring a bit
11:23 Central Time Partnership still going and England look like they are in with a shot ... they might regret allowing Andrew Symonds to bowl his 10 overs for 23 though
11:37 Jones making a fight of it !! Go England !! Another 6