The Reverse Sweep – Recapping Everything Cricket this Week

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This week we look back at the memorable India-Australia test at Mohali and bow down to the majesty of VVS Laxman. We also look at Sky Sport’s hilarious Ashes trailer featuring Ian Botham and Roman Gladiators (I kid you not), report on the ICC Awards, bring you up to date with our joint venture with World Cricket Watch to name the all-time Australian and England Ashes XIs and ponder on some gallows humour from Ricky Ponting.

The Reverse Sweep is an irreverent and acerbic round-up of the week that was in cricket. For similar musings on the sport that God would play, please visit our blog also entitled The Reverse Sweep – selected as one of the 50 best cricket web sites in the world by The Times. Alternatively, you can follow us on Twitter @TheReverseSweep.
A very very special finish in Mohali

A fairly turgid test for three days sprung to life in the final two as conditions suddenly became more difficult for the batsmen (a lesson for the BCCI maybe?) and the finish was as memorable as recent photo finishes at Cape Town, Kolkata, Centurion and Cardiff.
Yet again Australia’s propensity for batting collapses (see our piece on this from earlier in the year) came back to haunt them as they went from 87 without loss to 192 all out in their second innings. However, despite not being a vintage Australian side, they certainly do not lack grit and competitive spirit and it took a truly wonderful innings from their nemesis VVS Laxman in a magnificent ninth wicket stand with Ishant Sharma to deny a battling Australia and Ricky Ponting his elusive first test win as captain on Indian soil.
Since starting their domination of test cricket in 1995 when they toppled the West Indies in the Caribbean, Australia had been streets ahead of the rest, but the retirement of greats such as Warne, McGrath, the Waugh brothers and Gilchrist has seen Australia come hurtling back to the pack. They can now be best described as workmanlike and the fact that it was players like Watson, Hilfenhaus and Bollinger who stood out in this test tells us everything we need to know – all good players, but not fit to hold a candle to those that came immediately before them.
Mitchell Johnson is often described by Australian observers as ‘a once in a generation cricketer’ – a phrase they seem quite keen on down under. In the first innings, Johnson looked the real deal with an excellent five for on an unhelpful pitch, which was preceded by a breezy 47 that provided much needed momentum to Australia’s innings. But the old waywardness returned in India’s run chase and it was no surprise that India’s winning runs came off a Johnson delivery that went down the legside. He makes Stephen Harmison and Morne Morkel look consistent.
Elsewhere, Australia appear to have real problems at number six where Marcus North struggled again and also in the spin department where Nathan Hauritz was horribly impotent. These are two chinks in the armour that Andy Flower and Andrew Strauss should be looking at exploiting in the upcoming Ashes series.

As for the hosts, the debate over whether India are deserving of their status as the number one test side in the World will likely roll on until we see how they fare on forthcoming tours of South Africa and England. But one thing is for sure – they don’t seem to know when they are beaten – surely a trait of all the best teams in any sport.

In what was a truly memorable and nailbiting finish, Laxman again showed that he is the man to see his side over the line in a run chase and Sharma deserves equal credit for the sterling support he provided in their match-winning ninth wicket partnership. Laxman has always been our favourite Indian batsman (see Heroes: VVS Laxman) and for the second test in a row he led his side over the winning line in a testing run chase. His dodgy back certainly didn’t stop him from continuing his remarkable record against the Australians, which now reads as six hundreds, 11 fifties and an average of 56 in 25 tests. On form, there is no better batsman to watch in world cricket.

His partner in crime Sharma is India’s Johnson. Woeful in the first innings when he went for over six runs an over and didn’t register anything in the wickets column, Sharma bounced back to alter the course of the match twice. First, he precipitated Australia’s second innings collapse with three quick wickets and then he showed immense resilience in that stand with Laxman. Elsewhere, Zaheer Khan bowled like a lion to show what India missed on the recent tour of Sri Lanka, whilst Sachin Tendulkar continued his good run with the bat.

Unfortunately, there is only one test left in this mini-series. So, just like the wonderful mini-series against South Africa earlier in the year, it would seem that the BCCI has erred in only making this a two test series. Surely, the three ODIs that follow could have been canned in place of another test? Preferably at Kolkata too, where the crowds come out.

Ian Botham stinks the place out in Sky’s Ashes trailer

Whilst Australia toil on the subcontinent, the English media are getting ready for the Ashes and Sky have come up with a hilarious trailer (see video below), which features Ian Botham in a none too convincing role as a Roman General. It’s certainly not Shakespeare’s Henry V on the eve of Agincourt that’s for sure.

Swann falls as Finn soars

Graeme Swann missed out to Sachin Tendulkar in the ICC Awards this week when the Little Master was named Cricketer of the Year. He can have no complaints, despite a magnificent year as during the qualifying period for the award – August 24, 2009 to August 10, 2010 – Tendulkar scored 1064 test runs at an average of 81.84 and hit 914 runs in 17 ODIs at 65.28, with the cream on top of the cake being the first ODI double hundred against South Africa at Gwalior. Some good news for England fans though as Steve Finn deservedly picked up the Emerging Player of the Year after registering 32 wickets at 23.21 in his eight Tests to date – the big test now awaits the tall paceman down under this winter.

The Greatest England and Australia Ashes XIs

As the Ashes draw ever nearer World Cricket Watch and The Reverse Sweep are jointly running their Ashes 100 day countdown. We are now in the middle of naming our all-time England and Australia Ashes XIs based solely on performances in the battle for the little urn. So far, Victor Trumper, Arthur Morris, Don Bradman, Allan Border and Steve Waugh have been named for Australia, whilst Jack Hobbs, Herbert Sutcliffe and Len Hutton have been chosen for England. Check out the stories on either site as the rest of the XIs are unveiled.

Quote of the week

Ricky Ponting may do a good impersonation of Mr Angry at times. Think the Gary Pratt run out at Trent Bridge in 2005 and also Punter’s ruck with Zaheer Khan in the Mohali test. But, he is capable of the odd quip such as his comment about VVS Laxman’s bad back in the aftermath of defeat:

I hope his back’s pretty sore for next week as well and he can’t play.

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