Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Of umpires, 'scattergun' Johnson and Freddie's knee - Lord's Test 2009

England have broken their Lord’s hoodoo against Australia, and done it in style. There were some questionable decisions but, as I can attest from personal experience, people tend to remember the decisions that go against them when they lose and don’t worry too much if their team won. Having said this, the umpiring has not been of the standard required for test cricket. Perhaps this is because umpires are now trying to second-guess what the TV replay is going to show – I don’t know.

But on to the cricket. Phillip Hughes has to stop trying to tread on the square-leg umpire’s toes every time a short ball is bowled at him – imagine him against the West Indies of old – he’d have had a test career with the longevity of an ice-cube in an oven. Toughen up son! Get your back foot in line and you won’t have to worry as much about edging to the slips. You looked like a timid schoolboy.

Michael Clarke looks the goods, and Hussey managed to get some semblance of form and was a touch unlucky (just a touch!). Punter did a magnificent job of keeping Broad’s confidence up. I think he’s trying to keep him in the side for the next test and trying to keep Harmison out. But Harmie will play in the next test – take my word on this. Broad will need a haircut and this will be just the excuse England need to drop him.

But what of scattergun Johnson? He once again got wickets with his elusive straight ball. Keep him in the side I say…he’s great entertainment. Perhaps he’ll be kept in for his batting.

Nathan Hauritz continues to do his best to disprove my theory that only his mum would have selected him for Australia. Perhaps his mum should have picked the whole team. He continues to masquerade as a test-class spinner, and seems to be doing a good job of it.

Freddie once again proved that only having one good leg is not enough to stop him single-handedly wresting the Ashes from Australia’s grasp. Personally, I thought Strauss missed an excellent opportunity in the first innings to send Freddie in at number three when England had just put on 186 for the first wicket. A quick 40 or 50 would have been the equivalent of a few solid punches below the belt. It would have been worth the risk. I predict that by The Oval, Freddie will be roaring in, in a wheelchair, and still delivering 150kmh thunderbolts.

KP continues to limp and this means that England is two legs short of a fit cricket team. Surely a team with only 20 legs between them did not beat Australia. Bopara continues to promise a Gower-like innings without actually delivering one, Collingwood still refuses to smile while batting, Prior just belts it, and is very entertaining as a result, and Cook is looking bewildered by the crap bowling he gets to play him in at the beginning of his innings and the way his technical flaws are studiously ignored until he has got some runs. Strauss can obviously only go downhill from here!

Graeme Swann finally showed some of the flight and guile that has taken him so many wickets in the last year. Possibly the ball of the match that got Clarke.

Punter Ponting has some decisions to make. Is Lee fit and will he better his bowling average of 40 in the last series if he is selected here? Is Stuart Clarke fit, and will either of these bowlers replace Johnson’s stoic batting at number 8? But Punter he has re-affirmed his faith in Johnson and Hughes – surely the proof that their places are in jeopardy – but there is no reserve specialist batsman.

Monday, July 13, 2009

The Saga of Punter's Bottom Lip - Of time-wasting and the absence of Warne and McGrath (1st Test)

The first test ended in a draw...Siddle didn't take a bag of wickets, Hauritz outstripped expectations (including mine), Punter scored a magnificent hundred as did three others, the umpiring was woeful, Collingwood showed enough guts for the whoe team, and KP played perhaps the worst shot of his career - so far.

However, as I predicted, Punter's bottom lip was in evidence in the last session. His unhappiness about England's time-wasting tactics was more from frustration that he couldn't land the killer blow. One session, three wickets needed, a new ball, and batsmen of the class of Panesar and Anderson, and he still couldn't finish it off. Don't let the time-wasting issue distract you...Australia weren't good enough to bowl England out twice in the time available - with the aid of a bit of rain.

Also, as I predicted, Mitchell Johnson got wickets with surprise straight balls. Poor old Cook was so worried about his off-stump he forgot to hit one that was going to hit middle. Johnson struggled get anything near the stumps for 90% of the time. This hardly boded well for his ability to bowl out the tail - those guys simply aren't good enough to hit anything wide to the fielders - and so it proved.

It is now clear (as it always was to true cricketing fans) that without Warne and McGrath, Australia would win less tests. The batting is still OK, although they weren't really tested this time, but the bowling is average for test match cricket.

Umpiring. My god...I can remember at least four LBWs given not out that were clearly out (2 on each side) and I saw Andrew Strauss robbed of a run when the ump gave a leg-bye to a ball that missed the middle of his bat by a centimetre or so. Even so it was a gripping last day and good for the series. It's all still alive.

My sources (and they are as reliable as rain in the Sahara) tell me that Harmison is a shoe in for the next test, and that Siddle is looking for a brighter zinc cream. They also tell me that Simon Jones watched the England bowlers this weekend and reckons that he could do better even if he only has one good leg. Watch this space...who knows what could happen at the England selection table.

That's all for now...keep tuned in for the exciting installment of The Saga of Punter's Bottom Lip

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Punter's pout or Flintoff's knee - what will have the biggest impact on the Ashes?

OK, the Ashes are starting and it is time for me to start staying up until the ungodly hours of the early morning to watch the action live. Who will win? Some people may say ‘Who cares who wins,’ but they are philistines and do not deserve any attention. Cricket is, after all, the best game in the world. Anyhow, on to important matters.

I foresee that the series will be close and that England will win (I think the couple of nights staying up watching the Tour de France have already made me delirious). In between the following events;

  • Punter Ponting sulking when things are not going his way,
  • Andy Strauss suffering anxiety attacks every time he watches Flintoff running in to bowl (wondering which part of his world class all-rounder is going to break this time),
  • the whole of Australia, except his mum, wondering why Nathan Hauritz was picked and what he’s going to do from now on,
  • and the whole cricket world wondering why on earth Cardiff was picked to host the first test and what on earth the Welsh know about cricket?. I suppose they did give us Simon Jones and that can't be underestimated - England could do with him now.

    I think England will win 3-1.

Some further predictions:

  • Peter Siddle will probably take the most wickets for Australia assisted by the glare coming off the zinc cream on his lips (no one has told him the sun doesn’t shine in the UK).
  • Michael Johnson will settle into a line a whole metre outside off-stump and take wickets with his surprise straight ball.
  • Jimmy Anderson will befuddle the Australian top order with his swing bowling hoping they are good enough to get an edge. He will have a better than even chance of having nervous break down as they keep wafting and missing causing him to question what he has done to deserve such poor luck.
  • Alistair Cook will vainly try to bend his surgically straightened front leg and not to fall to Stuart Clark’s unerring off-stump line.
  • Flintoff will break both his legs and still carry on resolutely taking a series-winning 5 wicket haul in the final test.
  • Punters bottom lip will cause bad light to stop play as it blocks out the sun when things are going against Australia.
  • Steve Harmison will magically re-find his form in county cricket and be ignored by the England selectors for the whole summer.
  • Shane Warne and Ian Botham will be called upon to don their whites due to injuries and have a gripping battle as Botham tries to score the quickest hundred in test history while saving England from defeat.

I kid you not...this will all happen. I stand by my predictions and will wager at least 10 cents on the outcome.