Welcome to the fourth instalment of The Reverse Sweep – an irreverent round-up of another hectic week in the world of cricket. This week has seen India rise to the top of the rankings after another incredible innings by Virender Sehwag, a Mohammad Asif inspired Pakistan level the series with New Zealand, and England becoming only the second team to win a ODI series in South Africa. We’ve also seen the West Indies bounce back from humiliating defeat in Brisbane to have the better of a drawn Adelaide Test, where the dreadful Umpire Decision Review System has been exposed as the farce it is.
India on top of the World
India easily defeated Sri Lanka again to win the series 2-0 and supplant South Africa as the number one side in the ICC Test rankings. This has provoked debate amongst observers around the World as to the validity of the rankings with detractors arguing that India need to win away rubbers in places like Australia and South Africa before it deserves the number one spot. It is true that the current rankings system could do with a revamp and a World Test Championship would be a better option, but it is the same for everyone so India should be accepted as the number one team.
In any case, their tenure at the top is likely to be short as quite amazingly in 2010 India is only scheduled to play two test matches (against Bangladesh) with the Indian board preferring to concentrate on the T20 and 50 over formats. It is to be hoped that the elevation of India to the number one spot will reignite interest in the Test format in the World’s biggest cricket market.
The star of the show in Mumbai was the irrepressible Virender Sehwag who scored the fastest 250 in the history of the game and only just failed by seven runs in becoming the first batsman in Test history to record three scores in excess of 300 (Bradman scored two 300’s and one 299!). Not since Viv Richards has the game seen such a destructive batsman. No wonder that the Indian maestro has his own religion entitled Sehwagology. Maybe some of the hyperbole that goes in the direction of Sachin should be bestowed on Viru instead?
Chris Gayle – an apology
I owe you an apology. Last week I suggested that Daren Ganga should be captain of the West Indies inferring that although you are probably the coolest guy on the planet, you were perhaps a little too laidback to extract the maximum from your side. I was wrong. You were clearly so cheesed off by the three day capitulation at the Gabba that you decided to play a proper Test match innings with no slogs to cow corner or airy wafts outside off stump. And look what happened? You carried your bat for 165 not out and nearly inspired your side to a famous victory. You also put in a good performance in the field with intelligent bowling changes and field settings. And look what happened? The boys really responded – a great all round performance by Bravo, lion-hearted bowling from Benn, more promise from Roach and sharp catches gobbled up all round. You really looked like a team on the up especially when Taylor and Edwards return.
So, I’m sorry Chris and do please continue the good work at the WACA and square the series with the ever so slightly over confident Australians.
The Reverse Sweep
Watson misses his (only?) chance
It’s probably because I am English, but I couldn’t help laughing when Shane Watson missed an attempted slog off Sulieman Benn to be bowled four runs short of his maiden Test ton.
I wonder how many people like me think that he may never get so close again…
Leave the technology to the boffins
If the farcical scenes at Adelaide are anything to go by, the ICC will have a serious rethink on the Umpire Decision Review System (UDRS). Players and umpires alike seem confused by the system and if anything, contrary to one of the objectives of UDRS, it seems to undermine the authority of the umpires. Indeed, Mark Benson mysteriously chose to leave the Test match after the first day following a number of altercations with a particularly chirpy Ricky Ponting. We await to hear the real reasons for Benson’s departure today when the ICC will reveal all.
I’m with Dickie Bird on this one. He told the Daily Telegraph in the UK his thoughts on UDRS: “I would never have brought them in. They are taking the authority away from the on-field umpires, and the whole thing is causing more problems than it’s worth.”
Test cricket has been played for over one hundred years quite happily. The reviews work for run outs and stumpings, but let’s leave the rest to the on-field umpires.
Durban downpour secures series win for England
With the final game being washed out without a ball being bowled, England were confirmed as 2-1 series victors; in turn becoming only the second side after Australia to win a ODI series in South Africa. A great achievement and certainly not one that was expected by many observers before the series started.
Andrew Strauss and Andy Flower shouldn’t (and are unlikely to) get carried away. The bowling, aside from James Anderson and Stuart Broad, looks a bit light especially on surfaces not offering much assistance to the bowlers and to say England lack consistency would be an understatement. However, the batting line-up suddenly looks formidable especially when Kevin Pietersen regains full form and fitness, and Strauss now has at his disposal a team that can beat anyone on its day.
South Africa look very vulnerable without the runs, wickets and balance offered by Jacques Kallis. If Graeme Smith or AB DE Villiers fail to fire the batting has a brittle look about it, and with Dale Steyn struggling for form the bowling attack can be a little toothless at times.
The two sides now move onto the widely awaited Test series with the momentum lying with the visitors. If England can get Anderson fit and Pietersen back into form in time for the 1st Test at Centurion on the 16th December, then they have a real chance of repeating the feat of Michael Vaughan’s victorious side of 2004-05 by winning a close series 2-1. That said, if Kallis is fit (it looks 50-50 at present) and South Africa pick a balanced attack then expect the Proteas to come firing back.
Awesome Asif levels series against the Black Caps
An excellent all-round performance by Pakistan with the magnificent Mohammad Asif to the fore saw Pakistan square the rubber 1-1 at Wellington to set up a tantalising series decider at Napier on Friday.
Asif certainly showed what Pakistan had been missing with match figures of 9/107 in only his second Test back (he also took eight wickets at Dunedin) from a two year enforced sojourn. If he can stay fit and on the straight and narrow, then he will inevitably become the spearhead of what looks an excellent and varied attack with Mohammad Aamer, Umar Gul and either Danish Kaneira or Saeed Ajmal.
On what proved to be a difficult surface for the batsmen, it was Pakistan’s who proved the stronger with Umar Akmal again shining in both innings. New Zealand’s brittle batting let them down with only Ross Taylor rising above the mediocrity.
My money is on Pakistan securing a 2-1 victory in Napier, and I also predict that they will run Australia close when they tour there next – the first Test starts in Melbourne on Boxing Day.
The Reverse Sweep XI – The World Test best of the noughties
After last week’s England Test best of the noughties, here is my Test World XI for the same period. Please comment, agree, disagree or trash as you see fit!
1. Matthew Hayden – the batting bully from Queensland pips Graeme Smith to one of the opening berths for scoring a startling 29 Test hundreds in the decade.
2. Virender Sehwag – the most destructive opening batsman in Test history just has to be in the XI. Other openers considered were Strauss, Gambhir and Langer.
3. Ricky Ponting – Australia’s best batsman since Bradman is an automatic pick so next in line Dravid and Sangakkara miss out.
4. Sachin Tendulkar – his peak was probably in the nineties but his K2 is still better than mere mortals Everest’s – even that of Jayawardene, Yousuf and Chanderpaul. .
5. Brian Lara – like Tendulkar, he was probably at his peak in the nineties, but before his retirement in 2007 he had scored over 6000 runs at over 54 with 21 hundreds in the noughties. Just squeezes in ahead of Pietersen, Inzamam and Laxman.
6. Jacques Kallis – some would say he plays more for himself than the team but a test batting average of 59 and 200 test wickets in the noughties secures his spot in my team
7. Adam Gilchrist – like Sehwag, Gilchrist could win a test in a session by destroying opposition attacks. Perhaps the best wicketkeeper-batsman of all time.
8. 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.
9. Shane Warne (Captain) – another all-time great and automatic pick for this side. Will we ever see another like him? I pick him as skipper too and reckon he would have been better than Waugh or Ponting as a captain.
10. Glenn McGrath – the metronome was a phenomenal bowler and competitor and like his compadres Ponting and Warne is an automatic pick.
11. Muttiah Muralitharan – imagine having to face Warne and Murali together! That’s why he gets in ahead of another seamer like Vaas, Lee or Harmison.
That’s all for this week folks.
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