Sunday, August 03, 2003

Cricket wrap up

Blogging has been light today. I had a very pleasant walk around parts of the East End, followed by plotting to take over the world, or at least Europe dinner at Samizdata HQ.

But, a quick cricket update. There isn't much to say about the rest of the South African innings. They took the score from 3/530 to a South African record of 6/682 before Smith finally declared. Not much to say. Dipenaar scored 92, and I thought that Smith would declare on his dismissal at 5/630 but no. South Africa kept batting. Wicketkeeper Boucher scored a fast and entertaining 68 off 51 balls. After his dismissal Smith batted on for even a few runs further, but the declaration eventually came. England were set 509 to make South Africa bat again. Neither this nor saving the match, were never likely, but England got off to an okay start, scoring 52 before the loss of the first wicket. However, this was that of their best batsman, Michael Vaughan, out caught by Pollock in slips yesterday evening to a terrible shot. Trescothick was out soon afterwards caught in the outfield by Adams to an equally bad shot, and Hussain and Butcher took the score to 2/129 at the close of play.

This morning the two batsmen resumed. Both of these players are capable of scoring a double century on a (very) good day, and while they were in it was possible for England supporters to have some (slight) hope that the match could be saved. They took the score from 2/129 overnight to 2/186. However, both were out and the score was then 4/208. It was then just a question of how long it took South Africa to finish the game off. Stewart was out for a duck in what may well have been his last test match, and McGrath, who is frankly out of his depth playing test cricket, was out for 13. It was then 6/208 and the match looked almost over. However, there was one little surprise. Andrew Flintoff started batting marvellously for England, scoring 142 off 145 balls, including 5 sixes and 18 fours. The tail stuck with him while he did this, and England supporters at least had something to cheer. I had turned off the TV when Hussain had got out, and I personally saw none of this, but Brian Micklethwait assured me later that it was a marvellous innings. Still, Flintoff was eventually the last man out when he was stumped off Adams attempting to hit another six. Great stuff, but still a loss by an innings and 92 runs. Ntini was again the best of the bowlers with 5/145 making it a fine ten for the match. The man of the match judges wimped out, giving the award jointly to him and Graeme Smith.

England have a lot of regrouping to do before the next test. Frankly, they need to figure out just who isn't up to it, who is a has been, and which new players should be selected to replace them. Personally I would drop Stewart, Hussain and McGrath, but it will be interesting to see what the selectors do. There are quite a few good plauyers in this England side: Vaughan himself, Trescothick, Betcher, Flintoff, Anderson. However, England have to really motivate them and make the most of them: not easy after these two matches.

Meanwhile, Australia played Bangladesh in the second one day international in Cairns. Not too differnt from the first. Bangladesh batted first (although they won the toss this time) and scored way too few runs. The wickets were shared around the Australian bowlers, they fell regularly, and Bangladesh were all out for 147. Australia shuffled the batting order to make sure everyone got a bat in the series - not a tactic I am fond of but at least they played a full strength side - and knocked off the runs easily. Symonds and Bevan opened the batting. Symonds was out early for 7 and the score was 1/17. Martyn joined Bevan, and was superb, eventually ending up with 91 off 51 balls. As it happened, Martyn had 90 with ten runs required and a century was possible, but there were no "team orders". Bevan scored a couple of fours, and Martyn missed out. Australia won the match with almost 30 overs to spare.

Still, great to see Martyn back. The Australian middle order is much stronger with him there, as he is a much classier act than either Lehmann or Love. Some journalists have suggested he might have to fight to get his place back, but I think this is ridiculous. The Australian selectors know how good he is. His last innings for Australia before this week was a brilliant 88 not out despite a finger injury in the World Cup final. It was overshadowed in that match by Ponting's innings, but selectors don't forget things like this. Martyn was deservedly man of the match, and Australia are 2-0 up and have won the series. The third match is in Darwin on Wednesday, and we are expecting another mismatch.

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