A Response to Sir Richard Hadlee

In one of today’s New Zealand papers, the great Sir Richard Hadlee blasted former Test cricketer Brett Lee who embarrassed and terrified English media personality, Piers Morgan.

For those who have lived under a rock recently, Morgan attacked the English batsmen and said he could face Mitchell Johnson. Brett Lee said he would gladly bowl to Morgan in place of Johnson, Morgan accepted.

So at the tea break on Day 2 of the boxing day Test, Morgan faced up to Brett Lee. He was wearing padding, including a helmet and was smiling and laughing before he faced up to an over from the Aussie speedster.

Morgan was struck four times before Lee bowled him. Hadlee has said it was unfair for Morgan to face up as there was no way he could possibly defend himself or play against a former Test cricketer. 

Hadlee then pointed out the bleeding obvious, saying that what happened was dangerous. Facing any fast bowler is dangerous. They bowl a 156g leather ball, in Lee’s case, at 150km/h. Of course it is going to hurt if it hits someone. But when you step in front of a fast bowler willingly you know the risks.

Hadlee even went as far as to say that the ICC should step in and hand a sanction to Lee, who is contracted to the Sydney Sixers. 

There are a number of issues that it seems Hadlee has paid no attention to. The first being that Morgan was the man who challenged Brett Lee. In fact Morgan goaded and sledged Lee before the event, inviting him to bowl as fast as he could.

Morgan was kitted out in plenty of protection. Maybe Hadlee thought they were still in his era with little protection and no helmets. But I digress. Piers today Tweeted that he had no issue with the way that Lee bowled at him.

Now on to the simple farcical suggestion of the ICC sanctioning the Aussie quick. The ICC have no power over Lee in this situation. He was not completing this exhibition as part of his contract with the Sydney Sixers. He completed this in his own time with his opposition completely aware of the risks.

For those who haven’t seen the six thunderbolts, view it here and make up your own mind.

 

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Kallis: Greatest of all Time?

Barely a month after the legendary Sachin Tendulkar retired, perhaps the greatest all-rounder and South African cricketer has announced his retirement from the game. But where does Jacques Kallis stand amongst the greatest all-rounders in history?

The benchmark for all-rounders is easily the legendary Sir Garfield-Sobers. The West Indian scored 8,032 runs at an average of 57.78. He also took 235 wickets at an average of 34.03.

Jacques Kallis has scored 13,174 runs at an average of 55.12, placing him in fourth position on the all time run scoring list. He has taken 292 wickets at an average of 32.43. Kallis also has the second most catches by a non-wicketkeeper with 200.

But those two brilliant individuals aren’t the only men brought up in the discussion of the best all-rounders. There is of course the larrikin-like Keith Miller. One of the first top-line all-rounders, he had the best statistics of any all-rounders at the time of his retirement in 1956.

On batting he is not within cooee of Sobers and Kallis given he scored 2958 runs at an average of 36.97. However, he could hold his own with the ball, collecting 170 wickets at a terrific average of 22.97, even collecting 10 wickets in a match on one occasion.

Perhaps what sets Sobers and Kallis apart from Miller was their record breaking batting statistics. Sobers scored 365 at the age of 21, the youngest ever triple centurion and was the first batsman to hit six consecutive sixes in one over in first class cricket.

Kallis is ranked as one of the all-time greats purely on his batting and at the time of writing is 78 Not Out in his final innings. Were he to score a century in his last Test he will achieve a feat unable to be completed by the likes of Ricky Ponting, Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and Brian Lara.

Kallis, for a long time, has been a lynch-pin in the South African line-up. Batting at number four he has commonly been the man to put the opposition to the sword after a good start by his top three.

South Africa will now have to face a confident Australia without the man they have relied upon for close to 20 years.

So just who is the best? Well, it’s quite simply the same situation when Don Bradman and Sachin Tendulkar are compared. With the two men playing in completely different eras it is difficult to determine, categorically, which is the best. 

Kallis is easily the best all-rounder of his era and Sobers the same. Both men changed the dynamics of not only their team but the approach of the opposition. 

Kallis will be sorely missed, by not only the South Africans but world cricket.

Sobers blasts away in his hey-day

Kallis celebrates one of his 44 Test centuries

Keith Miller takes it to the attack in 1956.

Boxing Day Test Preview

Now that the small issue is Christmas is out of the way, it’s time to turn our attention to the showpiece of December- The Boxing Day Test. 

Australia have already wrapped up the series and the Ashes were our early Christmas present but Michael Clarke has said he wants to win the series 5-0. For England they are in disarray. Off-spinner, Graeme Swann, has retired from Test cricket and wicket-keeper, Matt Prio has had a disastrous series with both gloves and bat.

Australia will more than likely play the same 11 that won them the first three Tests, their only concern being the fitness of Ryan Harris after the bowler reported some knee soreness. 

For England, Monty Panesar will replace Graeme Swann, with Johnny Bairstow replacing Matt Prior behind the stumps.

England’s main issues this series has been an inability to score big in their first innings and their inability to bowl a consistent line and length. They had Australia dead-to-rights in Brisbane but lost their accuracy, allowing the Aussies back into the match.

If Australia were to win yet another toss then it’s obvious that they will bat first. Shane Watson has a surprisingly good record at the ground and will want to continue where he left off from at the WACA.

For England, they will need further improvements from Alastair Cook and Michael Carberry. Carberry has been consistent but needs to make a big score, for Cook, he needs to find the form of 2010/11.

Stuart Broad will reportedly play after he was cleared of any break in his foot from a Mitchell Johnson yorker. Whilst Ryan Harris should be fine to play despite some knee soreness.

So, here it is, the Boxing Day Test. Who will be victorious? The might of the Baggy Greens? Or will the English finally turn it into a five day contest?

Australia Regains the Ashes

In the middle of Day 5 of the Third Test at the WACA, Mitchell Johnson speared a ball into the ribs of James Anderson. Anderson popped the ball up on the leg-side to a diving George Bailey and thus Australia once more hold the Ashes.

Set 504 runs to win, England’s second innings couldn’t have got off to a worse start when Alastair Cook was bowled by Ryan Harris. A wonderful maiden Test century from Ben Stokes merely staved off the inevitable.

On the morning of Day 4, Shane Watson scored a blistering century with George Bailey then blasting the English attack to allow captain Michael Clarke to declare. 

England, for the first time in the series, showed some spine with the bat. A fine half century to Ian Bell helped England’s cause until he fine-edged the ball to Brad Haddin. Stokes continued to be a thorn in Australia’s side until Nathan Lyon struck, catching the youngster’s under-edge and Brad Haddin did the rest.

The collapse then began with Graeme Swann popping the ball to bat-pad and Tim Bresnan mis-timing a drive down the ground, being caught by a flying Chris Rogers. Mitchell Johnson finished with four wickets and continued his impressive record at the WACA.

Steve Smith Comes of Age

Four months ago I wrote an article  on Steve Smith, following his 89 in the Third Test during the Winter series. He ended up making his first Test century later on in the series. 

Fast forward to the Australian summer and Smith hadn’t cashed in completely on his good form in England. Until the first innings of the third test. With his side struggling and staring down the barrel of being lucky to make 200, he dug in with the veteran, Brad Haddin.

Controlling his innings early on, he combined with Haddin for a 124 run stand before the keeper fell for 55. Mitchell Johnson joined him at the crease and they put on 59 runs before Mitchell Johnson departed early on day two for 39.

Smith’s hundred took him 208 deliveries to craft. He showed terrific concentration and control, preferring to wait for the bowlers to bowl at him, rather than make the mistake of chasing anything wide. Something that some of his more experienced counterparts failed to do.

He put his unorthodox style away and was determined not to gift his wicket. In stifling heat he didn’t allow the English to get under his skin. As former Australian captain Ian Chappell said, he played an innings very similar to the way Michael Clarke constructs his long stays at the crease.

For Smith it was an important hundred. He was beginning to come under some heat in regards to his form, with some people questioning if he was up to Test match standards. He has more than answered those questions and will surely become an integral part of Australia’s middle order in the future.

Ashes Third Test Preview

With the Aussies sky high following their demolition of England in Adelaide they have the chance to reclaim the Ashes at the WACA. Rated as one of the fastest pitches in the world, the English will have to find some way to combat the Australian seamers who have collected 32 English wickets in four innings.

In Brisbane they were caught off-guard at the pace and bounce generated by Mitchell Johnson with the majority of wickets falling due to batsmen unable to deal with the short-ball. The English attempted a more attacking style of play in Adelaide but their shot selection was poor, chasing 570, a number of them were caught deep on the leg-side.

The English have not won a game at the WACA since 1978, when Australia was decimated due to World Series Cricket. Out of the 12 matches the two sides have played there, the 1978 match is the only time England has won at the ground.

Australian Captain, Michael Clarke has already declared that if he wins the toss he will bat first. Whilst the bounce can trouble batsmen, England’s Stuart Broad seems the only opposition bowler who can dent the Australians and topping out at 140 km/h, he won’t exactly send shivers through the Australian line-up.

Former Test opener and current West Australian coach, Justin Langer, has said the pitch is one of the best he’s seen and will be conducive to a five day clash. 

The WACA has traditionally seen fast scoring early on in the match, with the pitch allowing for the ball to travel onto the bat at speed. David Warner and Adam Gilchrist have enjoyed that pace in the past, with Gilchrist notching the second fastest Test century of all-time and Warner the fourth fastest Test century.

Whilst the possibility of Australia playing four pace bowlers has been raised, coach Darren Lehmann has said that Nathan Lyon will more than likely play as the bounce in the pitch will bode well for the off-spinner.

The WACA is also the adopted home of Mitchell Johnson, with the left-arm bowler collecting 6/38 and 4/44 the last time he faced England at the ground. If the English think they’re going to have any respite then they’ll surely be mistaken.

Michael Clarke looks set to announce an unchanged line-up for the third consecutive Test. With Australia claiming two wins by more than 200 runs why change what’s working?

For England it’s expect they’ll name Tim Bresnan in place of either Monty Panesar or Graeme Swann with a batsmen expect to replace Ben Stokes in the middle order. The English showed some spine towards the end of Adelaide but were on the back-foot the entire game. If they win the toss they will need to cash in during the first innings or face chasing yet another monster total.

Most pundits had already written off England’s chances of winning here even before the series had started, saying that the WACA Test was Australia’s to lose. With Australia currently in terrific form it’s hard to go past the green and golds winning at their most successful ground.

It’s time for the Australians to bring on the pain at the WACA. The English can’t play Mitchell Johnson and with fellow pacemen Peter Siddle and Ryan Harris claiming wickets at Adelaide the Aussie pace battery will be full of confidence. 

I predict a win inside four days if Australia win the toss.

Johnson celebrating the wicket of his bunny, Alastair Cook, in the WACA Test of the 2010/11 Series.

 

WACA Drinking Game

What would the cricket be without a cold one or six? With the Third Test at the WACA coming up what overdone cliches will we hear over the five days? Why not ply yourself with a case and indulge in the WACA drinking game? See below and follow along:

1 Finger:

Mention of the “Fremantle Doctor” favouring pace bowlers.

Mention of the fast and bouncy pitch making it difficult for opposition batsmen.

Large boundaries

Fast outfield

Adam Gilchrist’s century in 2006.

2 Fingers:

Mention of the score-board with the words of “grand, old, pretty.” (Mention of it coming from the North West Murchison Cricket Association is downing your drink).

Mention of Warner’s 69 ball century against India.

Mention of Australia’s win record at the WACA.

Mention of Mitchell Johnson’s love for the WACA.

Mention of the bounce affecting LBW.

Mention of Tony Greig losing his hotel room key in the cracks.

Mention of the ability to leave the ball due to the bounce.

3 Fingers:

Mention of Craig McDermott’s best Test bowling figures.

Mention of Shane Warne’s 99 against New Zealand.

Mention of Matthew Hayden scoring 380.

Mention of the Gloucester Park Race Track (Someone asking Warne for a tip is downing your drink).

Down your drinks:

Mention of Terry Alderman injuring his shoulder tackling a pitch invader.

Mention of Dennis Lillee and Javed Miandad’s mid-pitch stoush.

Mention of Lillee’s metal bat.

Mention of England’s only Test win at the WACA during World Series Cricket.

Mention of Shane Warne getting out on 99 to a no ball.

Drink something you don’t normally drink:

Mention of Glenn McGrath’s best Test bowling figures.

Mention of Mark Waugh hitting Daniel Vettori on to the Lillee-Marsh Stand.

Mention of Andrew Hilditch getting out by handling the ball.