David Green brings the 3rd issue of his weekly column entitled The Reverse Sweep looking at some of the talking points, highlights and humorous stories in the Cricket World over the past week.
Nothing gets past Monsieur Green as he’s as innovative as the ‘Dilscoop’ and the KP ‘cross swat’ put together.
Schizophrenic England play snakes and ladders again
England bounced back yet again yesterday to trounce South Africa by seven wickets in Port Elizabeth with James Anderson taking a career best 5/23 as the Proteas were blasted out for 119. Coming less than 48 hours after a woeful bowling performance at Newlands had enabled the hosts to rack up 354/6 in their 50 overs it showed that predictability is certainly not something you can accuse England of.
Andrew Strauss and his men now move onto the final match in Durban with a huge opportunity to win the series, which not many observers would have predicted at the start of the tour. The batting especially when Kevin Pietersen begins to fire again looks potent and Anderson and Stuart Broad are always likely to take wickets with the new ball (even if at times they will leak runs too). If England can add some depth to their seam attack and more importantly some consistency to their performances, then its future fortunes in the 50 over game suddenly look very promising.
South Africa have proved to be just as inconsistent as England and sorely miss Jacques Kallis for the runs, wickets, solidity and balance he adds to the side. Mark Boucher is a place too high at six and if the much vaunted triumvirate of Smith, De Villiers and Duminy fail to fire then the Proteas are susceptible to ignominious defeats such as yesterday.
With such inconsistent teams, only a fool would dare to predict the outcome on Friday…… but I’ll stick my neck out anyway and go for an England victory to seal a 3-1 series success.
Teenage debutants make their mark
Not wishing to brag but last week this column sagely predicted that Umar Akmal and Adrian Barath were Test debutants to watch. My faith (and certainly that of the Pakistani and West Indian selectors) paid off in style with both teenagers making a hundred on debut.
What made their feats even more impressive was the fact that both compiled their centuries in the face of adversity in what were ultimately losing causes for their sides.
Barath made his ton in the second innings with his side following on over 250 runs behind Australia and with wickets falling regularly at the other end. Spotted by Brian Lara at an early age, Barath is only 19 but obviously has some ticker to go with his immense talent.
Umar, who is also 19, produced an even more notable performance in a close fought Test match in Dunedin. Coming to the crease with his side 74/3 (which soon became 84/5) in response to New Zealand’s 429, Umar stroked his way to 129 from only 160 balls demonstrating that he is a serious talent. Then in the second innings with Pakistan chasing 251 for victory he again came to the crease with his side in deep trouble at 24/3 and made a contrasting 75 to nearly help Pakistan over the line. But for a stunning caught and bowled by Shane Bond he probably would have won the game with a century in each innings.
Ganga is the man to revive the West Indies
Despite the brave efforts of the less heralded members of the West Indian side, Australia barely had to move out of first gear to win the 1st Test at The Gabba by an innings in just under three days. With Jerome Taylor, their most experienced bowler, and Ramnaresh Sarwan either injured or doubtful and leading batsmen Chris Gayle and Shivnarine Chanderpaul looking out of sorts, a repeat looks on the cards for the 2nd Test in Adelaide on Thursday.
The West Indian selectors missed an excellent opportunity for this tour. There is talent coming through the ranks in the Caribbean as Barath, Kemar Roach and Travis Dowlin showed in Brisbane, and Trinidad & Tobago ably demonstrated in the Champions League in India. What the team needs is a strong leader to mould them into a cohesive and confident unit. For all his natural talent and bonhomie, Gayle does not strike me as a natural captain; if he was any more laidback he would fall over!
Daren Ganga should have been appointed captain instead of Gayle with a remit to inject the same level of commitment, belief and style as he has into the Trinidad & Tobago side. Maybe two more heavy defeats in the last two Tests will precipitate this?
Aussies impress at start of quest to regain Ashes
The 1st Ashes Test at The Gabba is less than one year away and Australia made a solid start in building towards this with an easy victory against the West Indies at the same venue. The bowlers all took wickets with Nathan Hauritz and Ben Hilfenhaus the standouts. Credit should be given to Hauritz who came in for a lot of stick before the Ashes series and who has proved since to be a more than adequate spinner.
On the batting side, Australia still have a bit of a quandary about their opening partnership. Despite a duck at The Gabba, Shane Watson hasn’t let anyone down since he came into the side at Edgbaston and he does offer the side balance with his medium pace. However, is he really good enough to score centuries as a test opener? Surely he is only keeping the position warm for Phillip Hughes or Chris Rogers?
Sehwag and Gambhir lead Indian cakewalk
Virender Sehwag, without question the most exciting batsman to watch in the world, produced another spectacular hundred (131 off 122 balls) to give India a blistering start to the 2nd Test in Kanpur against Sri Lanka. With Gautam Gambhir scoring his seventh century in nine Tests and Rahul Dravid his second consecutive ton, India amassed 642.
With commentators around the World predicting a similar bore draw to the 1st Test in Ahmedabad, the rejigged Indian bowling attack, with the returning Sreesanth to the fore, tore through the Sri Lankans twice to win comfortably by an innings.
Kumar Sangakkara will be very disappointed with the soft performance of his team and will be worried in particular by the ineffectiveness of his bowlers. Murali does not look the player he was and the light seems to be fading fast on what has been a fantastic career. The master’s apprentices Mendis and Herath also went at over four an over for the majority of India’s innings and the seam bowling cupboard also looks a little bare .
As such these are uncertain times for Sri Lanka even if they have the batsmen in Sangakkara, Jayawardene, Dilshan and Samaraweera to help them draw more games then they will lose. That elusive first test victory in India looks a long way off and a turnaround in the 3rd Test, which starts on Wednesday in Mumbai, seems unlikely.
The name is Bond, Shane Bond
The best Test of the week was in Dunedin where New Zealand defeated Pakistan by 32 runs in a stirring see-saw encounter.
The main talking points centred on a debut and two comebacks. The former refers of course to the brilliant debut of Umar Akmal, which we have already focussed upon. The most significant comeback of Shane Bond was no less spectacular with the 34 year old speedster taking 5/107 and 3/46 to see the Black Caps over the line. The second comeback saw Mohammad Asif returning for his first Test for two years and taking match figures of 8/151.
In what was a close fought encounter Pakistan captain Younis Khan’s decision to ‘rest’ from this series probably cost his team dear as the failure of the top three to give Pakistan a good start in each innings meant that they were always chasing the game. Not exactly good leadership skills, Younis.
The Reverse Sweep XI – England’s Test best of the noughties
From this issue onwards, each issue of The Reverse Sweep will contain a fantasy XI picked by yours truly –please comment, agree, disagree or trash as you see fit!
The imminent end of the noughties provides a wealth of opportunity to compile fantasy teams, so for starters here is my England Test XI of the decade:
1. Marcus Trescothick – but for illness he would still be opening the batting for his country. Perhaps no player is missed more by England than Tresco.
2. Andrew Strauss – the current captain has scored 18 tons in 67 Tests and is an obvious pick.
3. Michael Vaughan (Captain) – his best batting performances for England were generally as opener but as captain he should bat at three.
4. Kevin Pietersen – leading runscorer in his debut series (the unforgettable Ashes of 2005) and hasn’t looked back since.
5. Graeme Thorpe – made significant contributions to momentous series victories in Pakistan, Sri Lanka, the Caribbean and South Africa to secure his place over Paul Collingwood.
6. Andrew Flintoff – when he was at his peak in 2004 and 2005, before injuries took their toil, he was the undisputed best all-rounder in the World.
7. Geraint Jones – there is no outstanding candidate out of the plethora of keepers used by England this decade. Jones wins the day as Alec Stewart’s best work was in the 1990s.
8. Ashley Giles – the ‘King of Spain’ wins the pick ahead of Monty (too inconsistent) and Swann (not played enough Tests). The balance he added to the side was never really fully appreciated by critics but certainly was by his team mates and coach.
9. Matthew Hoggard – a hugely consistent performer and a vital cog in a formidable seam attack that drove England’s success in 2004 and 2005.
10. Steve Harmison – frustratingly unable to maintain the form that saw him ranked the number one bowler in the World in 2004, but on his day simply unplayable.
11. Andrew Caddick – could just as easily have been Simon Jones or Darren Gough, but Caddick shades it for me
Here comes the bride
And finally as a possible riposte to Shoaib Akhtar, who as we saw last week is apparently out of cricket for the next few months due to a liposuction operation, Gautam Gambhir has come up with another novel reason for missing a Test match.
Gambhir, who has been accumulating tons like Sir Donald Bradman in recent times, will miss the 3rd Test against Sri Lanka to attend his sister’s wedding. I wonder what Geoffrey Boycott makes of that?
That’s all for this week folks.
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