Welcome to the festive instalment of The Reverse Sweep – an irreverent round-up of another hectic week in the world of cricket. This week’s issue includes our take on another Collingwood inspired escape by England, Chris Gayle’s devastating century in Perth, the biggest pratt in Cricket (Shane Watson) and previews of the Boxing Day tests in Durban and Melbourne. The List celebrates Christmas and batting mavericks as it details the top ten master-blasters of the last 30 years.
Collingwood saves England again
As a fairly turgid test match meandered to a draw at Centurion yesterday afternoon and The Reverse Sweep struggled to stay awake on the sofa, thoughts began to turn to the Boxing Day test in Durban. Even when Kevin Pietersen was needlessly run out, the hero of Cardiff Paul Collingwood joined the seemingly immovable Jonathan Trott and even Graeme Smith must have been thinking that three or four overs with the new ball would only be required before a draw could be confirmed.
Then debutant Friedel De Wet woke up spectators, The Reverse Sweep and Smith alike with a devastating spell to remove Trott, the hapless Ian Bell, and Matt Prior in quick succession. With Paul Harris accounting for Stuart Broad and Graeme Swann caught in front by Morne Morkel, England suddenly looked like going 1-0 down.
Step in Collingwood and last man Graham Onions to negotiate the last 19 balls and see England to safety amidst tension not seen amongst the Barmy Army since the desperate rearguard at Cardiff. It can only be hoped that England are inspired to repeat in Durban what they achieved at Lords.
Bye Bye Bell, hello Siders?
Surely Bell’s place will come under scrutiny for a fifth bowler who was sorely missed at Centurion. The most likely replacement is Luke Wright as no doubt England will try and play it safe. However, this would be a mistake. Broad and Swann are both good enough to bat a place higher in the order (Swann averages a touch under 40 for God’s sake), and England need a genuine fifth bowler not ‘jack of all trades, but master of none’ Wright. Ryan Sidebottom would seem to be the best option. He looked sharp in the warm-up before the first test and would add variety and fire to the attack.
Selection poser for Proteas
Assuming that Dale Steyn is fit for Durban, the South African selectors have a real selection dilemma before they announce their XI. After De Wet bowled the Proteas to the brink of victory at Centurion, it would seem churlish for him to make way for Steyn. That leaves Morkel, who was impressive at Centurion, and Makhaya Ntini, who received deserved plaudits for reaching 100 caps, to fight it out for the last spot.
It’s a real poser for Smith and coach Mickey Arthur and with Jacques Kallis probably now fit to bowl, the Proteas attack suddenly looks ominous again. The Reverse Sweep has a hunch they will opt for Steyn, De Wet and Morkel so as to have three fast bowlers who regularly reach 90mph+.
Hurricane force Gayle
In the last few weeks we have had the privilege of seeing some incredible batting from some of the biggest hitters in the game with Virender Sehwag and Tillakaratne Dilshan particularly to the fore. Indeed, Dilshan followed by his 160 in Rajkot with another century as Sri Lanka squared the five match series in Nagpur.
Not to be outdone, Chris Gayle also came to the party last week with a devastating 70 ball century (the 5th fastest in Tests) in Perth. Gayle’s feat was even more impressive considering that his side were replying to Australia’s 520/7 declared and were handicapped by injuries to Adrian Barath and Shivnarine Chanderpaul. He certainly backed up his pre-match comments denigrating the ability of Nathan Hauritz – the six Gayle hit off him to get into the nineties was simply huge.
Improving West Indies looking good for the future
Quality, belief, spirit and desire. No it’s not a post-match interview with Arsene Wenger, but words that can be used to describe the West Indies’ performances in two close fought encounters with Australia in Adelaide and Perth. Coming after the three day debacle at The Gabba, it was an impressive fight back by Chris Gayle’s side.
As The Reverse Sweep has suggested before, the West Indies seems like a team on the up. There are still significant problems of course as the insipid first day performance in the field and the collapse on the third day in Perth demonstrated. And don’t get me started on the shambolic West Indies Cricket Board. But with a bit more luck and know how, they could have conceivably drawn the series, which even against a fading Australia would have been a notable feat.
The West Indians also showed that they have more strength in depth than many observers feared. Adrian Barath came in for his debut at The Gabba and instantly looked at home with his excellent ton. Travis Dowlin and Narsingh Deonarine both came in because of injuries and performed well. Kemar Roach looks an excellent prospect and will form a potent pace triumvirate with Fidel Edwards and Jerome Taylor when they return from injury. And Gayle showed with his contrasting centuries at Adelaide and Perth that despite his laidback demeanour he really does care about test cricket and the West Indies.
Cricket needs a strong West Indian side, so let’s hope these signs of recovery continue to manifest.
Rage against the machine
In the UK, the latest dross from the X Factor has been beaten to the prestigious Christmas number one slot by US rockers Rage Against The Machine with their charming ditty “Killing In The Name”. This rather surprising state of affairs came about thanks to a Facebook campaign by disgruntled music lovers fed up with the bland dirge served up by Simon Cowell and his cronies.
The Reverse Sweep feels the same way about the dreaded Umpire Decision Review System (UDRS). Kemar Roach was the latest victim of this bizarre system dreamed up by the fools at the ICC. Roach and fellow tailender Gavin Tonge were 36 runs away from helping their side beat Australia in Perth and whilst it was unlikely that the plucky pair would reach their target the UDRS removed the last whiff of hope. After being given out caught behind, Roach referred the decision to the third umpire. Although the ball was close to the bat, there was no noise and no mark on hot spot. Yet the decision stands. Only the ICC could come up with a system to reduce the number of umpiring errors and then allow some of these said errors to stand. Utter madness.
Is Shane Watson the biggest tosser in cricket?
Come on Shane even you must have been embarrassed by that? I know getting a test wicket is quite a rare event for you and no doubt you were excited to get Chris Gayle out. But that celebration was ridiculous, childish and in fact downright effeminate. Still, I suppose given some of your previous antics we shouldn’t be surprised – Gayle certainly wasn’t.
In the best putdown of the week, Gayle when asked if he was surprised by Watson’s antics said “Not really, he’s that sort of person and I didn’t expect anything better…” I guess that one is logged in the Gayle memory banks for the one day series in February.
I really hope you don’t score that elusive first test century now Shane as I think you might spontaneously combust. Come to think of it maybe that wouldn’t be such a bad thing.
Rough justice for Benn
Sulieman Benn should feel aggrieved that he has been suspended for two one day internationals following his fracas with Brad Haddin and Mitchell Johnson in Perth, when the two Australians only received small fines. Haddin was just as much at fault as Benn and in any case it was all a storm in a teacup. It’s good to see passion on the cricket field.
Match referee Chris Broad has some explaining to do especially as the injustice was compounded by his lenient treatment of Watson (see above). If you feel as strongly as I do, you can sign a petition to free Sulieman Benn here!
Pakistan in the mood to put Aussies on the canvas
A quietly confident Pakistan have made the distance across the Tasman Sea via a short stop in Hobart en route to Melbourne for the Boxing Day test. Although they have problems of their own with a brittle batting line-up that relies heavily on Captain Mohammad Yousuf and teenager Umar Akmal, there is strong belief that the Pakistani attack can cause severe problems for a misfiring Australia.
Australia have developed an English like capacity for batting collapses recently. Indeed it ultimately cost them the Ashes and they were lucky that it didn’t cost them the Perth test as well. With Ricky Ponting struggling to be fit and the Pakistan pace trio of Umar Gul, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Aamer in the groove following the series with New Zealand, the Aussies could end up choking on their turkey.
Expect a close series and lots of fireworks.
The Reverse Sweep List – Cricket’s Christmas Crackers
Tis the season to be jolly and all that malarkey and to celebrate, this week’s Reverse Sweep List comprises my favourite master-blasters of the last 30* years: the batsmen that can take any attack apart on their day. It is also a fitting tribute to the recent exploits of Messrs Sehwag, Dilshan and Gayle.
(*The list is restricted to the last 30 years to only include the batsmen that The Reverse Sweep has seen live in the flesh – hence why Gary Sobers and others are not on the list)
1. Viv Richards – Still (just) heads the list with that 56 ball ton (the fastest ever in Tests) against England in Antigua particularly prominent in the memory banks.
2. Virender Sehwag – Audacious hitter who will probably usurp King Viv before he takes his pads off for the last time.
3. Adam Gilchrist – Either when hitting his team out of trouble or applying the gloss when they were ahead, Gilchrist was a simply devastating batsman.
4. Sanath Jayasuriya – Reinvented the role of opener when firing Sri Lanka to the World Cup in 1996 and is the template for Sehwag, Dilshan and Gayle.
5. Chris Gayle – Mr Cool may be the most laidback man in the World but when he is on fire, does anyone hit a cricket ball further?
6. Tillakaratne Dilshan – Since he started opening, Dilshan has been unstoppably brutal in all forms of the game and he has collected tons at a formidable rate
7. Matt Hayden – The Queenslander built a fearsome reputation as a bully of hapless bowlers in Tests and the 50 over game.
8. Gordon Greenidge – 344 to win in 78 overs? Not a problem for Greenidge as he smashed 214 not out against England at Lords in 1984 as West Indies cantered home.
9. Ian Botham – The only Englishman on the list simply because of the happy and nostalgic memories of the summer of 1981 as Beefy destroyed Australia.
10. Yuvraj Singh – A wonderful clean hitter of a cricket ball as the six sixes in an over off Stuart Broad testifies.
That’s all for this week folks and Merry Christmas to one and all.
Read previous editions of The Reverse Sweep:
The Reverse Sweep – Issue 5
The Reverse Sweep – Issue 4
The Reverse Sweep – Issue 3
The Reverse Sweep – Issue 2
The Reverse Sweep – Issue 1
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