Monday, April 14, 2003

Things I promised

After the cricket World Cup, I stated that I would continue cricket blogging and that I would cover the Australia v West Indies series. As cricket fans will know, the first test in this series was played over the weekend, and nothing from me. It seems I was still a little cricketed out, and I didn't feel like doing blow by blow coverage. (Scott Wickstein's blow by blow coverage was admirable, however). Cricket fans will know by now that Australia scored a comfortable nine wicket victory. Australia went into the match without their two best bowlers Glenn McGrath (who is in Australia tending to his sick wife - my best wishes to both him and her) and Shane Warne (suspended for being an idiot). They were also without batsman Damien Martyn, who looks like he played when not fit in the World Cup final, and aggravated his injury. (He may well consider it worth it, as he had a very good game in the final and he won't get play in many World Cup finals). The West Indies were without former captain Carl Hooper (who was not playing for inscrutible reasons to do with internal West Indian cricket politics, and Ramnaresh Sarwan, who was injured.

West Indies batted first on the first day and were soon 5/53. Really that was it Australia were on top, and they stayed there for the rest of the match, regardless of the fact that there was some good batting from the West Indies after that. In the first innings, Shivnarine Chanderpaul batted superbly, scoring a brilliant century off 69 balls, one of the fastest in test history. He was then given out to an incorrect LBW decision. Still, the West Indies were all out for 237, which was not nearly good enough. THe Australian bowlers clearly missed McGrath and Warne. In particular, the two spinners (Hogg and MacGill) brought in to replace Warne were a bit loose. Neither of them is Warne. (Nobody is Warne. That's why it's such a shame he is an idiot).

For Australia, Langer and Ponting then scored centuries, and although the rest of the order (with the exception of Adam Gilchrist who scored 77) were a little disappointing in the end, they scored 489, which was ample.

The West Indies played much better in their second innings. Brian Lara found some form, scoring 110. Even better, Daren Ganga scored a maiden test century. There is a type of player you see once in a while, who enters international cricket, plays a few games, and for a while doesn't quite look good enough. Then, suddenly, he will put together a performance that indicates that he does belong there after all. Ganga has been that kind of player, and he played that kind of innings on Saturday. He batted for a long time with his captain Lara, and Lara gave him the right sort of encouragement and he really rose to the occasion. This must have been heartening if you were a west Indian supporter.

However, not in terms of this match. On the fourth morning, Jason Gillespie bowled a fine spell for Australia, reducing the west Indies from 5/382 to 398 all out. Australia were set 147 to win, and got the runs for the loss of only one wicket. Langer (who was also once the sort of player who looked out of sorts at international level, but then came good) scored 78 not out and Ponting 42 not out. A good but not great win by the Australians.

Positives for Australia: Langer and Ponting's form. Signs that Gillespie may be stepping up to eventually become the main strike bowler. Negatives: Hayden remains out of sorts with the bat. The fielding was a little scrappy. The replacement spinners aren't Shane Warne. What is Darren Lehmann doing in the side?

Positives for the West Indies: excellent form for the two senior batsmen Chanderpaul and Lara, plus the hundred from Ganga and good support from Jacobs in the first innings. Good bowling from Drakes in the Australian first innings. Negatives: even though these players had good games, they were resoundingly beaten, and the West Indies have few good players other than these. In particular, their bowling is well below par.

I see no reason to update my forecast series result of Australia by 4-0, particularly given that Glenn McGrath will be back for the third test. If Lara starts scoring triple centuries, this might change, but I still cannot see them being able to bowl Australia out for scores low enough to win, at least not on good pitches like this one.

In other cricket news, South Africa yesterday played their first game since their debacle in the World Cup. They were thrashed by a below strength (ie without Sachin Tendulkar) Indian team by 153 runs in a one day tournament in Bangladesh. South African cricket continues to be in real trouble.

(Also, Pakistan last week won a one day tournament in the United Arab Emirates against Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe, and Kenya. This tournament was so meaningless that it is barely worth mentioning).

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