Tuesday, 16 July 2013

The first Ashes test was one to remember

Champagne moment: James Anderson was man of the match in England's win over Australia
James Anderson  (30) took 10 wickets and man of the match. Image taken from http://www.dailymail.co.uk. He is really the bowler with the best form in the world right now, following his success at the Champions Trophy.
England were the strong favourites going into the game at Trent Bridge and were dominating before the Australian number 11, Ashton Agar, came to the crease. England made 215 in the first innings and Australia were on 117-9. Agar and Phil Hughs made a record 10th wicket partnership by any team (163 runs). Agar produced the record number of runs by a test match number 11 (98).

A number 11 making 98 runs does not happen in cricket. Yes, amazing acts of determination and defiance take place, but number 11 bowlers do not make scores like 98. Include the fact that Agar is 19 years old and this was his test debut, and a cricket fan like me cannot compute the possibility that this happened. Of course he moved up the order in the next innings.

Australia managed to get 280 (Agar 98, Hughs 81), a lead of 65 runs. England had a very good second innings thanks to an Ian Bell 109. They made 375 all out, leaving AUS with 316 to win. The Aussie openers made good scores, giving AUS a chance (Watson 46, Rogers 52). However wickets fell and Australia needed 80 runs with one wicket left.

Such was the determination of the last batsmen (Brad Haddin and James Pattinson) that before lunch on day 5, England were scared. It was visible that they were doubting they would win. England eventually got Haddin’s wicket and won by 14 runs. Haddin (71 off 147) and Pattinson (25 off 57) nearly stole the game for Australia.

Defiant: Ashton Agar (19) stunned everyone coming in at 11 and scoring 98. If his bowling can become as good as his batting he will go far. Image taken from http://www.theaustralian.com.au.

The match was filled with as much controversy as I’ve ever seen in a test. First Ashton Agar was given not out by the third umpire when he should have been given out stumped. His foot was not behind the line [England lost out because of this decision due to Ashton making another 92 runs]. Then Jonathan Trott was given out LBW because all the available technology pointed to him being out, but the side-on hotspot could not be utilised because of a technical glitch. The ex-England cricketer and commentator Sir Ian Botham felt certain it was an edge onto the pads [England lost out again]. The umpires later apologised for this!

Then the most memorable moment in the test came. Stuart Broad clearly edged a ball to slip. The umpire gave him not out. Australia had no reviews left. Whether the umpire had just made a mistake, was not concentrating or was trying to make up to England for Trott’s dismissal, it is unknown. In the end a lot of people have voiced their frustration at the incident. Many say that Broad should have walked, the ex-West Indian great and commentator Michael Holding said that Stuart Broad should be banned from cricket for not walking, calling Broad’s actions “contrary to the spirit of the game.

The incident occurred when Broad was on 37. He finished on 65. This means that he made 28 more runs than he should have, twice the amount England won by. One way to look at it would be that England won because Broad stood his ground. Although, both the controversies involving Agar and Trott cost England more than 28 runs.

In my opinion if the umpire was really just giving Broad a lifeline because of the mistake involving Trott then Broad should have walked. If the umpire thought Broad was not out then I think it would be fine for Broad to stand his ground.

There are five test matches in this Ashes series. England are 1 – 0 up and the second test starts this Thursday at Lord’s in London. The other tests are on 01 August, 09 Aug and 21 Aug.

Monday, 01 July 2013

What has happened to Australia?

The Proteas' next series is three weeks away (in SRI: 5 ODIs, 3 T20Is). Even more prevalent though is the question: what has happened to Australia?

It is in disarray. The cricket team of course, not the country.
George Bailey (30) was run out for 4 against SRI in this ICC Champions Trophy. Image taken from: http://www.cricket.com.au/images/australian-men
When I was growing up I watched Ricky Ponting, Adam Gilchrist and Matthew Hayden fiercely dominate any bowling attack they played against. Now there is only Shane Watson and Michael Clarke.

When I was young I admired the sheer brilliance of Glenn McGrath, the tenacity of Brett Lee and the wit of Shane Warne. Now there is only Mitchell Starc and the tired Mitchell Johnson.

What has happened?

Can you just blame poor succession planning?

Was it perhaps just a coincidence that the next generation of Australian cricketers could not live up to the past one? Was it is just life, just something that happens, that the Australian cricket team has lost quality over time?

I am sure they have not always been good. I think every country has its good periods and bad ones.

But the fact that Australia is going through one of its least successful periods now, that it has just sacked their coach Mickey Arthur and replaced him with Darren Lehmann and that it is facing discipline issues leaves me wondering if something is causing the country's cricket to deteriorate.

Don't get me wrong, Australia is still decent. But compared to how they used to be...

If there is something hurting Australian cricket it may go deeper than the players. Officials, bureaucracy, politics, the food they eat, I don't know. Something.

For the champions to get knocked out in the group stage, and not only that but be last in the group and leave with only one point in three games thanks to a no-result against NZ, something must have gone wrong.

Michael Hussey retired from international cricket last December, the last great Australian batsman I think, apart from Michael Clarke, at least as far as I can tell for a while.

As a rule in South Africa, that we can't support Australia and should even despise them, I grew up anti-Ausie. However it was a love-dislike relationship. I loved to dislike Australia. Things have changed now for two reasons: as a journalist I try to play down my personal preferences in everything and I just feel sorry for Australia. They were our arch-nemesis. A bit like Vageta was to Goku, so Australia was to us. The 'villain' was stronger than the 'hero' for ages until the villain joined the good guys. Then he became undoubtedly weaker than the 'hero'.

Why can't Australia get better again?