CRICKET: World Twenty20 – England Bounce Back

England have bounced back following their shock loss to the Netherlands by winning their match against Pakistan in the Twenty20 World Cup in South Africa. England won by 48 runs, having scored 5/185 (Kevin Pieterson 58 from 38 balls & Luke Wright 34 from 16 balls). Pakistan could only manage 7/137 in reply (Younus Khan 46 not out from 31 balls).



In the other match played, South Africa scored 5/211 (AB De Villiers 79 not out from 34 balls and Jacques Kallis 48 from 31 balls), defeating Scotland by 130 runs. Scotland scored 10/81 (Kyle Coetzer 42 from 32 balls faced) in 15.4 overs. Scotland have now lost both their opening matches and will almost certainly be eliminated from the competition for the Super 8 round.



Australia must win their upcoming match against Sri Lanka if they are to have any hope of making it through to the round of 8. The pressure is now on the Australian team following the exile of Andrew Symonds following his breaking of team rules and return to Australia.



I have been saying it for some time now – both on and off this Blog – the Australian test cricket team is in decline and coming back to the field. The recent test series results against India, New Zealand and now South Africa seem to show that it is indeed so. It had to happen – just as it happened to the world dominating West Indian team of yesteryear. Teams rise to the top and come back to the mix as another rises to the top.

Which is the top team now? Is it South Africa or is it India? England pretended to make a claim for the top ranking a little while back, but these two teams seem far more serious in their respective attempts. A test series between these two teams will perhaps show us the answer.

In the mean time it is likely that South Africa will defeat Australia in the current test series in Australia to the tune of 3 – 0. That is my prediction.

The ridiculous inclusion of Andrew Symonds while injured in the last test match came home to bite Australia when Brett Lee went down injured. Lee now appears to be out injured for some time and will join Stuart Clark on the sidelines – as will Andrew Symonds belatedly. Shane Watson will also be on the sidelines and his inclusion in the last team is as bewildering as that of Symonds, given that Watson was also injured and requires surgery.

It seems incredible to me that the replacements coming into the Australian team are simply those replacing injured players. The inclusion of Doug Bollinger is one that I have thought logical for some time, while Ben Hilfenhaus and Andrew McDonald are unexpected in my view.

If the selectors are going to keep Mitchell Johnson and Peter Siddle (which I suspect is a given), then I would also include Bollinger and Hilfenhaus, as well as McDonald. Who would go to make room for these three? Lee and Symonds (as well as Watson) have already been forced out due to injury. I would put Hilfenhaus in ahead of Nathan Hauritz. We just don’t have a spinner that currently cuts it at international level.

The selection that really bothers me is that of keeping Matthew Hayden in the side – if the selectors don’t know that it is time for him to go then surely Matthew Hayden must know! Even if he scores a reasonable or big score in the final test it is time for Hayden to make way for Phillip Hughes. Hayden has done little to justify his continual selection in the test team for some time and it is now becoming a sad tragedy to see this former great test opener heap embarrassment upon himself and the national team with each failure. It seems any big scores are now punctuated by a plethora of insignificant contributions with the bat from Hayden.

And one other thing – the attempt by Mike Hussey to take that skier in the last test – if you can’t see it in the sun there is little he can do about it. It looked embarrassing but there was little Hussey could do to change what was. The bigger concern for Hussey is his own poor form in the batting department. He must begin to contribute more soon too or he also could face the chop.

BELOW: The Michael Hussey attempted catch

BELOW: Graeme Smith speaks to Mark Taylor after South Africa won the second test and the series

Coming Back to the Field… Competition at Last!

In my last post before the Australian-Indian test series in Australia, I was concerned at the lack of competition for Australia in cricket. Australia has of course won the series 2-1, however, the series was extremely close in the end and the second test which was won by Australia was sadly decided by poor umpiring in reality. India would probably have won that one if not for the poor umpiring.

Still, the good news is that cricket is becoming a competition again, with Australia coming back to the field somewhat. With the retirement of Glen McGrath, Shane Warne, Damien Martin, Justin Langer and now Adam Gilchrist, the Australian team is definitely coming back to the field – though clearly they are still very good and the best team in the world.

Brett Lee has stepped up and is the spearhead of the Australian attack – and is one of the best bowlers in the world. Stuart Clark is usually a brilliant partner in the Australian attack for Brett Lee and is another class bowler. However, the bowling stocks seems to fall away after these two, with Mitchell Johnson being a little too erratic at this stage (though he seems effective still in the way of wicket taking) and Shaun Tait being disappointing. Stuart MacGill is not the bowler he was and there is therefore no effective replacement for Shane Warne in the area of leg spin, with no seemingly effective fulltime spin bowlers of any form.

In state sides there is Bollinger in New South Wales, who seems to be the goods at such an early stage of his first class career, but there seems little more apart from Nathan Bracken (also from New South Wales).

With the departure of Adam Gilchrist there is now an opportunity for Brad Haddin to step up to the Australian team. After Haddin there seems to be daylight in the way of wicket keeper batsmen.

The future for Australian batsmen seems to be fading also, though there is still an extremely strong top order in the current Australian team. Matthew Hayden has indicated he will be sticking around for a little while, which is good news for Australia as there seems to be quite a dropping away of talent in the way of opening batsmen after Phil Jacques, with Simon Katich seemingly too old to be around much longer (though he is arguably in the best form of his career).

Ricky Ponting, Michael Hussey, Michael Clarke and Andrew Symonds are a class above many other batting combinations around the world, with not a real lot seemingly to step up to the lofty standards these four have now set. Certainly Michael Clarke seems a clear choice for a future Australian captain, but what sort of team will he lead – a question that will be answered in time to come with much interest.

Certainly Australian cricket is very healthy and is probably the strongest in the world, yet admitting the great talent in Australian cricket, the Australian team is coming back to the rest of the field and we can look forward to more competitive cricket – or so it seems. The future will tell the story and it wouldn’t be at all surprising that with future retirements from the team, other players from the Pura Cup will step up and have grown into the same class that has set the Australian team above the rest of the world for so long.