Sunday, May 18, 2003

Cricketing Update

The test series between the West Indies and Australia is over, but the scheduled series of seven one day internationals has now started, with a double header having been played in Kingston Jamaica over the weekend. Australia's one day specialists have flown in for the event, including Michael Bevan, Ian Harvey, and Andrew Symonds. The players in both the test and one day sides probably feel more like going home, as they have been playing more or less continuously since August last year.

The key question going in to the series was just how much longer Australia could keep up their winning streak. Prior to the series they had won 17 one day internationals in a row, easily a record. Quite frankly it seemed unlikely that Australia could win all seven games and keep the winning streak alive. However, if they could, their next three games after the series would be extremely easy games against Bangladesh in July, so that would probably mean extending the streak further to an astounding 27.

Australia probably still won't win all seven games in the series, but after two games this weekend, it still remains possible, because Australia won both games and the winning streak is now 19 games.

In Saturday's game, the Australian top order was only so-so, but 50s from Ponting and Lehmann had Australia at 5/183 off 39.4 overs. This is one of those positions from which things can rapidly go bad if you lose more wickets quickly, but which is fine if you don't. As it was, Australia didn't, and fine innings from one day specialists Bevan and Harvey led to Australia ending up with a very good 5/270 off the 50 overs. After a rain interruption, the target was revised to 208 off 37 overs. The West Indies were always a little behind the run rate required, and lost regular wickets, eventually scoring 8/205, losing by just two runs. This wasn't quite as close as it looked, because the West Indies needed about 14 off the last over and 7 off the last ball, and a couple of fours late in the final over when it was too late made the margin look better. A fairly comfortable win, although Australia were a little sloppy in the field. Harvey completed a fine all round performance by taking 3/37 off 7 overs.

Both Darren Lehmann and Ian Harvey had to withdraw from today's match with injuries. Many people would have thought that this would be a great chance to give young potential star Michael Clarke a game, but not the selectors. Instead they brought in two bowlers, Bichel and Gillespie.

Personally, I think this created a side that was a little unbalanced and was potentially a little weak in the batting department, but this didn't matter especially, for the bowlers did a great job. The bowlers were all great, with McGrath thankfully returning to something near peak form with 4/31, Lee taking 2/22, Hogg 1/27 off 10, Gillespie 1/28 off 9. West Indies were all out for a miserable 163. Australia had absolutely no trouble knocking off the runs, losing only two wickets. Hayden and Ponting scored fifties, as Australia won with one ball short of 15 overs to spare. An absolutely crushing win.

Australia didn't look sloppy today. Perhaps a clean sweep is still possible, although with Sarwan and Lara in the West Indian team you think they will likely pull off a win somewhere. Still, Ponting remains in great form, and McGrath no longer looks underdone. It's a shame McGrath couldn't have spent his time bowling his best rather than sledging last week.

In the one day tournament in Sri Lanka, the home side won a low scoring match against Pakistan. Sri Lanka batted first, and were at one point at 8/139. Eventually they managed to scrape together 172, thanks partly to a useful 19 from Muttiah Muralitharan. Muralitharan then completed a fine day by taking 5/23 to bowl out Pakistan for 160. Sri Lanka now top the points table in that competition, but are still in some danger of missing out on the final, due to having no bonus points from their three games, whereas the other sides each have two. That means if all three teams end up with two wins, Pakistan meet New Zealand in the final. Sri Lanka need to either beat New Zealand, or hope that New Zealand beat Pakistan.

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