January 7 2009

Test Cricket Wins

The series was lost but the final test match at Sydney was very much alive. For Australia there was a chance to restore a litlte pride; for South Africa there was a chance to wrest the number one spot in the world rankings. What we got was another wonderful example of the best that only test match cricket can offer.

The roller coaster ride that began in Perth and continued in Melbourne didn’t stop at Sydney. Every time one side looked like taking the initiative the other side would wrest it back. This was test cricket at its very best and when Ponting declared with Australia 375 ahead he gave us every opportunity for a finale that was worthy of a remarkable series.

Granted, the pitch was dicier than both Perth and Melbourne. Granted, the injured Graham Smith was unlikely to bat, so South Africa were effectively one wicket down before they even began the second innings. The question was not so much could South Africa win but could Australia take nine wickets — or ten if Smith decided to fight through pain.

The scorecard shows that the Aussies did take the wickets. The scorecard does not show the drama that we witnessed after tea: the threatening dark clouds; the ninth wicket stand between Steyn and Ntini that took their team to within ten overs of saving the match; the fact that Smith braved the pain in his finger to try and save the match. These are memories that will live on long after the shorter games are forgotten.

So well done South Africa for winning the series in such emphatic style and grace. Well done Australia for salvaging some pride in the final test. The world rankings show Australia still at number one. What this summer has shown is that the ranking is shaky. The prospects are exciting for world cricket.

Long live test cricket.

December 30 2008

The Fall Of a Giant

The giant that was Australian cricket fell long before Hashim Amla hit the winning runs at the MCG today. Even the most optimistic of fans would have to admit that the cracks which appeared early this year are now gaping wounds. Gone are Warne, McGrath, Gilchrist and Langer, and gone with them is the mighty Australian juggernaut.

The retirements of so many great players was supposed to pull us back to the pack while the depth of our domestic system was supposed to keep us in front. That was an illusion. Our new team has been outplayed by India and outclassed by South Africa. The records show us at number one still but no one is under the illusion that the ranking reflects reality. We are, at best, number three, now, and sliding.

The giant has fallen. The fair weather fans are starting to jump. The rest of us will see it through just like we did in the eighties. Hopefully, unlike the eighties, we won’t have long to wait before the giant rises again.

C’mon, Aussie, c’mon.

December 21 2008

Australia Versus South Africa: First Test, Day 5

It’s all over. The South Africans ended up losing just four wickets in getting to the target of 414. Now come the repercussions and the realization that Australia is no longer the world beater it used to be. Everyone in the team has to take the blame: Ricky Ponting’s captaincy is suspect; the batsmen are playing foolish shots; the bowlers can’t take twenty wickets.

So we look forward to the rest of the summer. Can our boys lift from this demoralizing defeat and win the next two tests? It’s a hard ask.

December 20 2008

Australia Versus South Africa: First Test, Day 4

The day began well from an Australian perspective. Haddin smashed his way to 94 before throwing his wicket. He received great support from Krezja and Siddle. By the time the last wicket fell Australia had set South Africa a target of 414. The pitch is still playing well and I really think the target is achievable especially against our bowling attack.

There was a moment of hope when McKenzie went cheaply but Smith and Ambla smashed the door wide open. Our bowlers don’t look like breaking through. Even the breaks due to rain didn’t dent their concentration.

The rain delays didn’t take any time away from the match because the day was extended until 8:00pm. That only gave South Africa more time to eat into the total. Even the wickets of Smith, after a magnificent 100, and Ambla towards the end of the day haven’t slow them down. The South Africans should romp this in tomorrow.

December 19 2008

Australia Versus South Africa: First Test, Day 3

The roller-coaster continues on its merry way, providing euphoria one minute, despondency the next. The hoped for denouement didn’t come as quickly as I hoped it would and South Africa managed another 40 runs for a total of 281. Mitchell Johnson got his eighth wicket but really deserved to finish with nine. Bret Lee went wicketless again which is a concern.

The pitch isn’t bad at all. If the batsmen are patient they can make runs. The Aussies obviously weren’t patient and our top order failed again. A total of 400 is achievable here, yet Australia were suddenly 7 for 162. This is worse than their effort in the first innings. Thankfully Haddin and Krejza were still there at stumps and had taken the score on to 228.

What does this roller-coaster ride have in store for tomorrow?

December 18 2008

Australia Versus South Africa: First Test, Day 2

This test match has given us two fantastic days of play. The rollercoaster ride continued today as Australia began the day with one wicket in hand. That wicket didn’t fall until 50 minutes had gone and more than 30 runs were added. The final score of 375 all out was better than I had hoped given that we were 3 for 15 at one stage.

South Africa’s batsmen batted well and looked to be in total control at 3 for 234. Then Ponting threw the ball to Mitchell Johnson and the last 40 minutes of play produced one of the best bowling performances I have ever seen. Johnson took 5 wickets for a handful of runs and looked unplayable. Australia had wrested the initiative back and left an ecstatically silly grin on this fan’s face.

December 17 2008

Autralia Versus South Africa: First Test, Day 1

Who says test cricket is boring? The shorter form of the game just doesn’t have the drama of test cricket. If the rest of the summer follows the pattern set on this first day then we are in for a corker of a series.

Australia is definitely looking beatable these days. At 3 for 15, Hayden, Ponting and Hussey in the sheds, Australia looked extremely shaky. Hayden must be close to retiring, surely. Katich and Clarke dug in and took us to 150. They were looking good. Then they were gone — Clarke to a horrible shot — and, suddenly, it was the South Africans on top again. Symonds and Haddin then swung it back our way but with Symond’s departure the door was open once more. Lee closed it briefly but the close of play saw the game in South Africa’s hands again.

I’m excited to see what day 2 will bring. How much will our last wicket add to the total? Will our bowlers step up?  I don’t think 350 is enough unless our bowling shows a huge improvement.

December 1 2008

And Another One Bites the Dust

What a great start to my 47th year! It didn’t matter that I had to work; there were so many rewarding moments:

1. The Cricket

Australia demolished New Zealand in the second and final test match. It was good to see Brett Lee back in some form. He was fast, accurate and a joy to watch. Even better was Ricky Ponting’s one handed, diving catch which ranks as the best I have ever seen. Even better than Derek Randall’s screamer a couple of decades ago.

So it’s a 2-0 whitewash and we look a little better than we did a the start of the season. With a little luck and a lot of guts we may beat South Africa and retain our number one ranking.

2. Presents Delayed, Advent Calendars Opened Instead

The Librarian told me that Mum and Dad had contributed to my birthday present so I decided to open all my presents when they arrived in the evening. This was disappointing to the Master Builder but he was mollified by the fact that he could open the first window on his Lego Advent Calendar. That was a real treat for him. Each window contains a lego piece which is much better than the bargain basement calendars we usually get.

Master Builder also wanted a different edible treat each day (inserted into the now empty window). He said that he was disappointed that last year’s effort saw practically the same thing every day. The Librarian has endeavoured to meet the request for a different daily treat, Master Builder in his Lego Calendar and Game Guru in the calendar we purchased last year.

3. Sri Lankan Food

We were invited to Uncle E__’s for a birthday celebration; we share the same birthday. There were sandwiches, cutlets, pancake rolls, lavaria and love cake. I haven’t had lavaria in a long time so this was pretty special. I even managed to get the Master Builder to come into the party room although he didn’t eat anything.

Master Builder did have a moment, apparently. I was helping G__ with Wii Music when Uncle E__ came into the room and announced that he had received a stern drubbing from Aunty C__. He had tried to engage Master Builder in conversation which didn’t go down too well. In the end Uncle E__ and I had a good conversation about the hills and valleys in life.

4. A Gathering at Home

We went home in the evening and Mum joined us a little later. Dad was arriving by bus so I decided to wait a little longer before opening my presents. W arrived before Dad did and, eventually, we decided that I should go ahead and open everything. So that’s what I did.

Youngest Bro provided me with the means to purchase my own present and I will do that in the near future. Game Guru gave me an Iron Man Blu-Ray disk which is something I really wanted. I was really pleased, especially since he used his own money. Librarian, Master Builder, Mum and Dad gave me the biggest surprise of all – Lego Mindstorms. I was a very happy forty-six year old fart. The Lego will have to wait for batteries but that’s just something to look forward to.

The day almost ended on a sour note because Dad took his time getting to our place which infuriated Mum. There were daggers stared and harsh words spoken. Dad was also in a selfish mood, wanting Youngest Bro to copy disks from work before he left. I told Dad that it wasn’t fair on Youngest Bro or the owner of the software but he kept interrupting to say he’s done it for years. In the end I found an old copy of Microsoft Office which we don’t need anymore and that appeased Dad. In the end it all turned out fine and Youngest Bro can go to Mauritius on Wednesday with a clear conscience.

A big highlight of the evening was the cake made by my beautiful wife. The Librarian concocted the best ginger cake I have ever tasted. It went down a treat with everyone. Even Master Builder liked it. I’m looking forward to many more of this delicious treat.

November 10 2008

A Brand New Blog

Woohoo. A new blog hits the web and it is mine. Let’s start by asking “what was Punter thinking”?

I am referring to the 4th and final cricket test match between Australia and India. Australia had hit back hard after lunch yesterday. We needed to keep hitting hard after tea. But no! Ponting took the foot off the accelerator and India effectively batted us out of a victory and the Border-Gavaskar trophy. Why?