A Tour For the Ages

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You have to give credit to Australia. This afternoon’s victory, with a ragtag team of passable cricketers, a couple of debutants and only Ponting as an all-time great was testament to the sheer willpower that resides in the Australian cricket team. They really had no right to win that game, with only the sublime Bracken threatening as a bowler, but they scrambled and grafted and never let their quarry get away, and got a well-deserved victory out of it.

It was a fascinating game of cricket, with each side cruising to unassailable dominance at various stages, only for the other to mount an improbable fight back. When Australia were 1/150 inside of 30 overs, with Ponting batting near a run a ball, 350 was a fair target, so for South Africa to pull them back to 249, thanks to another fine spell from Steyn, and brilliant discipline during the power plays should have set the game. Likewise Kallis and De Villiers had the game in the bag at 2/140, but couldn’t take it home.

That South Africa lost was, in my opinion largely due to Duminy, until today the young hero of the South African side, inexplicably getting stuck in the middle of an otherwise perfectly weighted innings. How do you blame a guy who got 35 at better than a run a ball?

He was set, yet could only muster two boundaries between the 40th and 47th overs, when South Africa desperately needed them. The powerplay, which should have been the making of the partnership with Boucher was instead a succession of scrambled singles. Admittedly Bracken bowled brilliantly, but at this stage of the game there’s an element of put up or shut up, ie hit out or get out, particularly with the fiendish Morkel padded up. Instead the game dripped just out of reach of South Africa, and they could never quite reel it in.

The batting power play is an addition to ODI cricket which has elevated it again, and makes me fervently wish the ICC had come up with the likes of it 10 years ago. If they had shown the kind of forward thinking the ABA did with the introduction of the 3-point shot, for example, the scourge of Twenty20 might never have reared up. In any case, series on both sides of the Tasman have been significantly improved through its addition, and the way Gayle and Chanderpaul took to the skies, and first the Husseys, then Duminy and Boucher got bogged down shows just how mercurial this element can be.

It genuinely has the potential to be anything from 60-70 runs to the batting side, or 20-30 for 3 if they get a few things wrong, or the bowler a few things right. Today these two teams, only really separated by a few sessions and the occasional masterful innings in the test series, couldn’t figure out a way through, and watching Duminy in particular try and force shots against his natural game was a useful primer in how to approach the issue. The remaining three one dayers now loom as must-watch cricket; the first installments have been classics, and each side is desperate to present its case.

South Africa want nothing more than to walk away from Australia unimpeachably victorious, having finally broken the side which has inflicted so much misery on them since their re-emergence into the international game. Australia will be smarting mightily from the test series loss, and the stakes for them are all-too visible on the face of Ponting. When he missed a shy at the stumps for s sharp Duminy single their was raw disgust boiling in his features the likes of which I’ve never seen before. This means a hell of a lot to him, and the legacy he had imagined for himself rides on what he can eke out from the likes of Hilfenhaus and Marsh. Whichever way it falls, it will be ridiculously compelling viewing.

– Duncan

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7 Comments

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7 responses to “A Tour For the Ages

  1. limpydaddle-dingwadder

    It is not too much of a stretch to call this team a ‘B’ team. On the batting side- Symonds, Clarke and Jaques. Bowling- Clark and Lee. For all the talk about the depth of Oz cricket these replacements ( Hilfenhous, Ryan, Hopes etc) don’t look that much better than many of our own domestic bowlers. They still play with the confidence though of being in ‘The best team in the world’ which adds dimensions to their game.

    While the Africans have perhaps the best attitude in cricket- fighting qualities, grittiness etc -Hence they win lots of games- Steyn apart, they don’t have any real exciting players in my eyes- That is why i watch only bits of these games rather than most. That and the tiresome commentary team. If it was the Indians or Sri Lankans (c’mon Mendis) then different story but gritty old S.A v Oz B is not as compelling for me as it obviously is for you.

    Personally I would love to see some more of our domestic comp.- so many tight games and a good look at our future etc.

    I think an Oz win would be better for our chances in the upcoming Chappel Hadlee.

  2. I totally agree with the Australian attack, it has very much a New Zealand look about it, which is both satisfying and depressing. I guess it does lack a little for star power, but with Amla, Duminy and Morkel the SA team has a few future stars for sure, and I love Kallis, for all his foibles.
    The commentary team are just unforgivable, a magnificent cricket era is being talked down to nothing by these imbeciles.
    Re: Domestic cricket, I heartily agree, it’s hard to feel well informed when all you have are numbers to go on, and the series can throw up some fantastic moments.
    But Mendis! Mendis! I need to see him bowl so badly, his figures drive me nuts.

  3. Tim

    Its true that Duminy had something to do with SA’s loss but I think he, and the team itself, were more a victim of SA’s reluctance to change the batting order. The order change issue is one which i’ve heard debated by serious crickets players and fans for ages – for me it’s a no brainer, in one day cricket, the next batsman in should ALWAYS be dictated by the situation. Yesterdays game was a prime example. It didn’t take a genious to figure out that Duminy was not the man for the job – hes a great batsman, technically almost perfect, great temprament, but he’s not a hitter. Bringing Morkel in, with either Boucher or Duminy to follow (I would prefer the latter becuase of his speed between the wickets) was definatly the answer.

    I’ll have to disagree with LDDW on the excitment level of this series. Other than an Ausi India series (and of course NZ vs any of the powerhouses) Australia v SA to me is the most enthralling cricket you could watch. I also enjoy the channel 9 guys. True, Mark Nicholas is a sycophant, and Bill Lawry and Ian Healy are dicks, but by and large I think the rest are pretty good (shame on the cricket fan who says anything bad about Richie)… He’s probably right about an Aus win being better for us though.

  4. I actually take Australia vs South Africa over anything non-NZ, almost over anything. Something about the way their temperaments align just makes the cricket extremely compelling. You don’t often see either side capitulate, the way NZ and most other sides do, there’s something in their blood which will not allow it, so you know the path to the conclusion will stained with blood.
    On changing up the order, I agree entirely. I think egos must be involved, that a batsman doesn’t like the implcation that they’re unable to perform the deed that someone further down the order can. Like sending Mills in over Flynn would offend him. But that’s the worst possible reason to make a cricketing decision. It’s the last taboo though, one that is very rarely altered when just about everything else has been sacrificed at the alter of performance.
    You will never convince me on the C9 team. They’re horrible, and even when they’re not horrible they lack anything like the oddness and insight of a Jeremy Coney or a Neil Manthorp… Ron Snowden, Phil Quinney, all the Radio Sport provincial guys just wipe the floor with those boneheads. Fuckin’ Slats. No way Tim, no how.

  5. Tim

    The Flynn Mills situation is a perfect example. Think about how often you have a situation where 3 and 4 bat through the middle of the innings, setting you up for a big last 10 overs, then get out, and 5 and 6 come in (who more often than not are accumulators becuase you tend to presume you’ll lose 3 or 4 in the first 25-30 and want accumulators around for the 25-40 over period), and then those guys come in and try and “establish themselves” for 5 overs etc etc. It pisses me off actually. NZ is one of the worst at it (Dad attributes it to Vettori’s lack of vision).

  6. limpydaddle-dingwadder

    Just one more thing on the domestic cricket coverage or lack of it:

    Are our local competitions so mind numbingly dull that they don’t warrant a 30 second score summary on either of the two major national television news bulletins? Wouldn’t people like to know that one of our supposedly first choice bowlers (Gillespe)lost the game for his team by conceding two sixes off the last two balls while conceding 71 off 8 overs? Wouldn’t people like to follow the progress of How trying to get back in the team or whether or not Ryder can break 40 in a one dayer? TV3 and Tv1: YOU ARE SHIT IN YOUR COVERAGE OF CRICKET!!

    All this pisses me off. Obviously.

    But I feel better now.
    Thanks Deadball.

  7. @Tim: Yeah the way our one day side is at the moment (sans Oram) does have a stodgniess about the lower-middle order which comes from an assumption of upper-order failure. Until recently that was one of the more reliable fixtures in world cricket, but the likes of Ryder and Taylor are changing that, leading to this sluggish 30-45 period. I think the fact that Vettori’s already talking about standing down (see Rattue’s well-observed Herald column today) says all that needs saying on that issue. Plus any Bracewell appointee’s always gonna be a patsy of some stripe or other. Mark’s an astute observer of the game.
    @LDD: Those are hideous figures! Thanks for bringing them to my attention. Gillespie cannot be retained, I feel like he’s due an absolute nightmare-meltdown at international level, the kind that Ponting and Clarke (who’ll be back by then) dispense in their sleep. If our selectors show the kind of foresight they’ve newly acquired with batsmen then maybe we’ll be saved his blushes.

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