Tuesday, April 29, 2003

Brief cricket update

Two games I mentioned as in progress have now finished. Sri Lanka batted nearly as well as did New Zealand in their test in Colombo. Sri Lanka scored 483 in reply to New Zealand's 7/515, thanks to a fine 144 from new Sri Lankan captain Hashan Tillakaratne. At that point, a draw was the only likely result. New Zealand lost wickets in their second innings to be 5/133 off 60 overs with about 30 overs to play thanks to good bowling from Muttiah Muralitharan. If Sri Lanka could have taken the remaining five wickets almost instantaneously to set Sri Lanka 180 to win from 25 overs, then the last hour and a half could conceivably have been fun. As it was, Stephen Fleming and Mark Richardson, the two best batsmen in the New Zealand team, were still there, and they simply batted out the draw carefully. Fleming scored 69 not out to go with his 274 not out in the first innings. He could have attempted to score quite runs to try to get his second century of the match, but he wasn't taking risks, and quite right too. It's a shame this series is only two matches, because the two sides look evenly matched. I will look forward to the second match in Kandy.

In Australia's tour game in Barbados, Australia scored an easy 6/358 declared in their first innings (to follow up the local side's 290), before bowling the locals out for 162 in their second innings. Five wickets to MacGill (ten for the match), and two to Hogg. The Australians then lost four wickets getting to the target of 95 to easily win the match. Australia fiddled with the batting order. Captain Steve Waugh opened the batting and was out for 1, after scoring 46 in the first innings. I think Waugh would really like a big score in the third test, as he has done little with the bat on this tour so far. On the other hand, he has batted once in two test matches, so this can hardly be held against him.

Going into the third test, all the noises coming out of Barbados are that Australia will play an attack consisting of four quick bowlers and Stuart MacGill. That is, Brad Hogg will be making way for Glenn McGrath. This is a little hard on Brad Hogg, as he has played decently. Still, that's the way it goes, I guess. MacGill has been the more successful spinner on the tour so far, even if at times Hogg has looked the better bowler. The Australian side will be a little weaker in batting terms, as Hogg is a good lower middle order bat, whereas McGrath is what is known as a "genuine number eleven". That said while the West Indies will certainly play an extra bowler in the third test, Australia's batting is still easily strong enough to hit them all over the park. Chanderpaul and Jacobs will both supposedly be back for the West Indies for that test, but I think that Australia getting McGrath back is a bigger deal. I am predicting another big win for the Australians. More cricket writing from me probably after day one of that game (ie Friday evening British time).

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