The Reverse Sweep

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David Green aka "The Reverse Sweep"This week we preview the crunch test in Johannesburg where England will be looking to secure their second successive test series victory in South Africa. We’ll also preview the final test of the series between Australia and Pakistan as well as naming the Reverse Sweep XI of young players who could star in 2010 and beyond. Also contained within are details of the lifesaver that is Test Match Sofa, which means that ex-pats like me can now get live on-line ball by ball commentary of England’s away tests.

The Reverse Sweep is an irreverent round-up of the week that was in cricket. For further insight into this wonderful game of ours please visit my blog also entitled The Reverse Sweep, which is normally updated on a daily basis.

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All roads lead to Johannesburg

Even the most ardent England supporter would admit that their side is somewhat fortunate to be 1-0 up going into the final test at Johannesburg. It has taken a readily available dosage of luck, a typically conservative approach from their opponents, an admirable team spirit with a refusal to accept defeat and a South African second innings collapse at Durban to put England in this enviable position.

One of England’s main strengths in this series has been the fact that they have carried no passengers. Each member of the XI has made at least one telling contribution so far in the series. Indeed, if as likely England name an unchanged side it will be the first time since 1885 (and only the sixth time in test history for all sides) that the same XI has played throughout a four or five match series.

The Wanderers pitch is being prepared to produce a result on a ground that has already seen positive results going back to 2002. Andrew Strauss will therefore be hoping that his men can emulate Michael Vaughan’s side of 2005, which won the decisive test match of that series at the same venue. That match saw a sparkling 180 from Marcus Trescothick and an inspirational bowling performance from Matthew Hoggard. Who will be the heroes this time?

Conservative Proteas have one final roll of the dice

Although a rueful South African can count themselves unlucky to be 1-0 down in the series, they have only themselves to blame for their profligacy. Conservatism in selection, declarations, bowling changes and field placings have all contributed to their plight. Undoubtedly, if they had a better frontline spinner than the poor Paul Harris, the Proteas would now be 2-1 up.

Finally with one roll of the dice left, the South African selectors decided to gamble and included the uncapped Wayne Parnell and Pakistan born spinner Imran Tahir in their squad. Alas their boldness was not matched by their administrative skills and it has subsequently been found that Tahir does not meet the qualification requirements, so has now been withdrawn from the squad.

This is an abysmal mistake as one would have thought that during the course of Tahir’s supposed four year qualification process, someone at Cricket South Africa would have checked the required rules and regulations. So now Graeme Smith and co are left with red faces and a seriously undermined Harris in tow. Perhaps they should have asked the ECB for some advice as obviously naturalising non-English born players is something of a specialty!

Coach Mickey Arthur has been honest enough to admit that he has instructed The Wanderers groundsman to prepare a result pitch to suit his seamers. The fate of the series therefore rests with who wins the dual between Morkel, Steyn and Parnell (who will replace the injured De Wet), and the English triumvirate of Anderson, Broad and Onions.

A fascinating prospect awaits with the toss likely to prove pivotal.

Australia looks for clean sweep at Hobart

After Pakistan’s capitulation in Sydney handed Australia a rise from the dead victory, Ricky Ponting’s men will be looking to secure a series whitewash at Hobart in the final match of the series.

Whilst the Australians have looked vulnerable at times during this series and the one that preceded it against the West Indies, no one can fault the spirit and camaraderie that exists within the team. Ponting should take much of the credit for this as he should for turning average players like Watson and Hauritz into seemingly decent test match cricketers.

Pakistan appears to be in complete disarray with a complete over-reaction back home to the Sydney defeat adding to the pressure. Mohammad Yousuf seems like a reluctant skipper and confusion reigns as to whether vice-captain and wicketkeeper Kamran Akmal will be dropped for Hobart. Akmal had a shocker behind the stumps in Sydney dropping Hussey on three occasions during his match-winning hundred. But he has a good test match record and should be supported rather than castigated.

It would come as a great surprise if Australia fails to complete a whitewash although Mohammad Asif, arguably the best bowler in the World at the moment, may have something to say about that.

Overbloated Tri-series is just what ODIs do not need

I bet that India and Sri Lanka are sick of the sight of each other; especially the respective bowlers of Dilshan and Sehwag. Unbelievably, despite playing each other in a test, ODI and T20I series, which finished just after Christmas they are now facing off again as part of a Tri-Series with hosts Bangladesh.

This is another ODI series that international cricket does not need. For me, the only notes of interest to date are that firstly Bangladesh are getting closer but not yet close enough to competing with and beating the top sides. The other note of interest is that India appears to have found a new batting star in Virat Kohli; more of whom later.

Saved by the (Test Match) Sofa

Now I live in the South of France so normally I have to follow England away tests on Cricinfo when I am at work.

Something to do with some rubbish called broadcasting rights.

I’ve made countless fruitless searches on Google to find free commentary elsewhere.

And then a shining light appeared from nowhere.

A novel idea called Test Match Sofa.

A bunch of blokes (and a girl) broadcasting on the net from salubrious Tooting.

And actually it’s very good and arguably even better than TMS to boot.

There’s swearing, jingles and no Geoff Boycott in sight.

So I was able to listen at work on the edge of my seat to the final day in Cape Town.

Even if you can get TMS or Sky check out Test Match Sofa anyway for the 4th test and enjoy….

The Reverse Sweep XI – Youngsters to shine in 2010 and beyond

Who will be the new names to shine in 2010 and the new decade? The Reverse Sweep XI of likely stars is detailed below, with all players minus one exception under 23 and that player (Khawaja) only four weeks past his 23rd birthday. Some are already establishing themselves in international cricket, others beginning to make mark in domestic cricket.

1. Adrian Barath (West Indies), Age 19 – A brilliant century on test debut at the Gabba followed directly on from an impressive contribution to Trinidad & Tobago’s march to the Champions League Final. The next West Indian batting star has arrived.

2. Alex Hales (Nottinghamshire) – Picked mainly on the strength of his superlative 150 not out from 102 balls (including eight sixes) in a Pro 40 match against Worcestershire last summer, which I was fortunate enough to see. The tall right-hander could prove a suitable successor to Marcus Trescothick at the top of the England order in time.

3. Usman Khawaja (New South Wales), Age 23 – Pakistan born Khawaja is likely to become the first Muslim to represent Australia. He is certainly making waves for New South Wales, where he is firmly established at first drop in a powerful line-up. A possible outsider for the Ashes in November?

4. Virat Kohli (India), Age 21 – ODI and first-class averages in excess of 50 and increasingly mature performances for India in the current Tri-Series in Bangladesh suggest that Kohli is at the head of the queue to replace Sachin, Laxman or Dravid when they eventually raise their bat for the last time.

5. Umar Akmal (Pakistan), Age 19 – A brilliant start to his test career followed impressive displays in the World T20 and Champions Trophy. Looks an absolutely sparkling talent and certainly one to watch when Pakistan tour England in the summer.

6. Mitchell Marsh (Western Australia), Age 18 – The son of Geoff and brother of Shaun has had limited first-class exposure to date, but has already set pulses racing Down Under. An immensely powerful batsman who also bowls useful medium pace, Marsh is about to lead the Australian side in the under-19 World Cup.

7. Craig Kieswetter (Somerset), Age 22 – The latest South African born player to qualify for England. The Somerset keeper qualifies in February and don’t be surprised to see him in the ODI team at least by the end of the year.

8. Shakib Al Hasan (Bangladesh), (Captain), Age 22 – Granted I am not really sticking my neck out on this pick. Left hand batsman and slow-left armer Shakib is already Bangladesh’s best player and captain, and will be looking to surprise England in the imminent home and away series’ in 2010.

9. Mohammad Aamer (Pakistan), Age 17 – The astonishingly talented Aamer is already an automatic pick for Pakistan in all formats and became the youngest bowler ever to take a five for in test history in the Boxing Day test at the MCG. The left arm quick evokes the great Wasim Akram and will be a serious danger to England’s batsmen in the summer.

10. Wayne Parnell (South Africa), Age 20 – The left arm quick could make an immediate impression if selected for the Johannesburg test. Even if he doesn’t, expect him to make the test side shortly, where Parnell will hope to repeat the wicket taking ability he has already displayed in the ODI and T20I arenas.

11. Kemar Roach (West Indies), Age 21 – The pick of the West Indian seamers in the recent series with Australia where he reassembled Ricky Ponting’s elbow. Roach should help play a key role in the renaissance of the West Indies cricket side over the coming years.

12th Man. Rory Hamilton-Brown (Surrey), Age 22 – Millfield educated Hamilton-Brown has just been appointed Surrey’s new captain at the age of 22. If all goes well, the hard-hitting middle order batsman and off-break bowler could be knocking on the England door in one to two years.

That’s all for this week folks.

Read previous editions of The Reverse Sweep:

The Reverse Sweep – Issue 7

The Reverse Sweep – Issue 6

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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