Sunday, 3 January 2010

New Year Cricket in Sydney

I must admit, I've been a distant correspondent this season, perhaps with due cause owing to the small matter of releasing my first book in publication. Even so, I've been unusually quiet. There's something about being there that sparks ones interest though and through the showers and a on again off again and again day at the Sydney Cricket Ground, I found myself excilerated and in need of writing what I experienced. For those who have sat at a major gound and watched fortunes ebb and flow as conditions and effort come together, with know that you don't watch cricket in its live form, you experience it. The day started with three and a half hours of waiting, for although international cricketers will stand in the rain and practice their skills, they won't play in it. As the big white shroud was removed then replaced then removed then replaced, the sheep and goats stood for comparison. Some grumbled, some contemplated leaving, some even booed, but the real devotees sat quietly and contemplated. They formed plans and waited to see how they stacked against the Skipper. Meanwhile, Channel Nine went back to normal programing and friends resorted to sending me text messages to find out what was happening at the ground. By 1:30pm, most had worked through the calculations of weather, conditions and mottled green pitch and watched the coin flick, rise and come down Australia's way. Even those raised on the maxim that you always bat when you win the toss (unless the conditions are perfect, the opposition on the back foot, your bowlers rampant and the pitch very likely to last the distance ... in which case, you bat anyway) had reached the conclusion that Ponting should ask Pakistan to bat. He didn't. In the end, it was his inability to quickly respond to changing conditions and fear of gambling that made him play safe. Of all his captaincy failings, its the one he's least responsible for. What followed was a top order masacre, during which the top seven totalled 53 and Johnson and Hauritz 59 of the remaining 74 until a total - if that word can be applied to such a small sum - of 127 was reached. Four of them played bad shots but all of them were subjected to great bowling. Phil Hughes failed. He failed to score but he failed to impress in any of the ten deliveries he faced, which was, nine more than he deserved. Dropped first ball in the gully by Umar Akmal - an absolute sitter a ball-shy five year old would have been accepted to swollow - he waved the bat and hopped about until edging the ball to second slip for no such second chances. He had been handed the worst of the conditions to bat in but he looked like a man in so much of a hurry to run after and catch a bus that he disregards the conditions and gets run over by a taxi in the attempt. Having been heavily critical of the selectors when he was dropped, he showed no evidence they were wrong today. Mind you, he lasted nine balls longer than Ponting, who turned his first ball from hip to hands, straight to Umar Gul at a deepish square leg. Watson was Sami's third victim soon after and Australia was relishing in the Skipper's choice at 3-10. Hussey batted well for 28 and Clarke got a corker of an off cutter from Asif which hit the top of middle stump but North and Haddin joined the list of poor shots and 6-51 it innings destroyed. Johnson (38) and Hauritz (21) added an enterprising partnership of 44 but with Asif (6-41) now cutting a swathe through the Australians after Sami's early haemorage-causing opening spell, they eventually bled out on the generously grass-covered black soil of the centre wicket. As one texting correspondent asked, how could Sami have a Test bowling average of 50 plus? Pakistan saw through a few fiery overs from Doug Bollinger. Again, whilst the cricket world acknowledges Mitch Johnson bowls better with a slightly older ball, wasn't this an obvious time to throughout the gameplan and let him loose for two or three overs? In the end, wouldn't any of "Australia's most successful captains" have done that? Throughout the day, Yousef did an excellent job leading his men, although a tighter reign on Umar Gul might have proved prudent. He certainly appeared to have his knickers in a twist at the Australia lower order and at one stage held up the bowler to walk from backward point to the batting end and offer batting advice to Nathan Hauritz and gave Johnson a big serve soon after. Yousef moved his bowlers about well, midful of the cool day and the need to go for the jugular. Palistan are well in charge.


  1. Good stuff Lango. Glad to hear you and the young fella had a day out at the cricket. I was at a Xmas show with the misses and her work people. While it was fun and filled with great food my eyes were often turned to the phone with score updates.

    With Pakistan at 1 for 112 they've shown that with hard work you can stick around. The pitch isn't as bad as the Aus batsmen made it look. I haven't seen Hughes' dismissal yet and admit that some blokes got absolute corkers but for god's sake when the chips are down you need to dig in. Haddin and North played awful shots, Ponting has picked up a nasty habit of playing down peoples' throats and Johnson undid some good work.

    Clarke and Watson got done by beauties. Great disciplined bowling consistently by Pakistan brought deserved wickets. As Lango's mate points out - how does a guy with a bowling average of 50 cut threw a side like that? Sledgie remarked to me that after his third wicket, Sami looked like it was just the way it was meant to be. That may have been his last wicket but Asif bowled out of his skin by the sounds of it. If Pak go on to make 350 plus, with a 26 test number three with an average of 27 (!), Aus should be dead in the water. It will be interesting in the aftermath what Ponting has to say about the toss. Personally I think he made the right decision; he can't be blamed for some poor shot selections - except for his own.

    Well done Pakistan. Another cricket lesson for Aus.

  2. Having been at the ground, Australia should have bowled. 1-0 up and their batsmen under pressure on a wicket that is unlikely to wear out. With only two session to bowl, the Aussie pacemen could have gone for broke. I'm a bat first man but today was the exception, I don't care what Richie and others thought.

  3. yep, i agree too. it looked so green! low cloud! the outfield would have to have been slow.

    Punter can't call to bowl first after his english stuff up... it just hangs over his sense of reason.

    i for one think this is great for cricket: it will test the character of the aussies in the 2nd dig, makes a result very likely (in favour of the pakis- which make s the seriess more interesting) and just adds another direction to a summer of cricket that has had LOTS of twists, turns and variables.
    HOORAY for Test cricket!

  4. certainly some Q-marks must hang over several players now... although conditions will be taken into account.

    i don't need to "say" anything, but...
    Ponting (not a form question, just, "what the hell are you doing when clearly you are affected by your injury!) ...and did he say to everyone after Hussey went out, "go the tonk" or just Haddin? the plan once 3 walls of the house toppled should have been: smash at everything, get to 100 ASAP, declare, get some time on the stickey at the Pakis!
    i wanted to put in Siddle (due to his inability to break-through, not his miserly offerings to the batsman) but after he asked the question this morning, and North didn't know the answer, i'll take it back!

    now, having looked at the bowling card, i must say, it is a very "team" oriented card.
    good toil from all the boys, reads like Haury was unrewarded as listening to the first 2 sessions on the radio, it sounded like he was getting a lot out of the pitch and through the air... that's cricket i guess.

  5. Having watched Ponting captain the Test side for years now I know that there could have been vines and shrubs growing out of that pitch and he still would have batted. It's a moot point.
    Is it a failing of his: Of course.

    I say, Thank god we won the toss and batted, because if we had bowled or lost the toss then the Test would probably be finishing today, with the Pakis suffering a humiliating defeat.
    We played a couple of bad shots and they bowled beautifully, but the difference in the conditions between day 1 and two were marked.
    The weather we cannot do much about.
    And while I prefer a closer battle between bat and ball the first day's pitch was a disgrace.
    I can only surmise that in these days of curators preparing "5 day result pitches" that it was intentionally undercooked so that it didn't fall apart after lunch on the fourth day.
    The Hobart Test now looks like being a cracker and it leaves me thinking "will I get a ticket"?

  6. One thing you have to be careful of when looking at a green pitch is to over-react. I love the fact the curators produced a pitch unlike the normal roads or dead pieces of rubbish that is all too common nowadays. I just can't see why you'd choose to bat last on any pitch if you can help it. With so much play lost Aus should have just made sure they were there at stumps. Pakistan bowled exceptionally well; no doubt about it. But it certainly wasn't 10 corkers that got the 10 wickets. Backing your bowlers is a very brave move and speaks wonders of your confidence in your attack. Perhaps Ponting doesn't have that level of confidence? With the way Aus have been skittled already this summer I'm actually surprised he backed his batsmen.