Tag Archives: Ricky Ponting

And Then a Hero Comes Along

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England is a nation which has long become obsessed with odd characters, perhaps in lieu of real sporting success. Eddie the Eagle might be the perfect example, but without question the most pertinent current specimen is Monty Panesar. That’s him smiling above, having just played a not inconsiderable role in scraping a draw for England from the yawning jaws of defeat. I have to say that this was the most enthralling last session of a win-impossible test match since Graeme Smith and his broken limb strode purposefully (but ultimately fruitlessly) to the wicket at the SCG six months ago.

Unlike that instance, when South Africa froze on the brink of pulling off an unlikely draw on the way to a dominant series win, the game was already an outlier, a consolation prize for an aging team on the verge of some public and private humilations. Here we’re being asked to believe that a team with a few substitutions is now young and dynamic, balanced by age and experience in a few key areas. That description far more aptly fits this English side, who had an appalling game, particularly with the ball, but will come out of this shot full of adrenaline, whereas Australia will be thoroughly deflated.

That the latter could dominate so comprehensively and still be psychologically damaged from the match is, in large part, down to the courage and cockeyed skill of James Anderson and Monty Panesar. This is noteworthy because, as mentioned above, the English public largely took Panesar to heart because he can play the part of the fool so well. He has been a very effective spin bowler for a team which suffered through the Wiseman-esque era of Ashley Giles for a number of years, but it is the way he approached the other elements of the game of cricket which drew the obtuse love of his public.

Put simply, Panesar was a bumbling incompetent at all disciplines save the one he was selected for. He has amassed 14 ducks in his 51 innings test career, and scored zero in six of his first ten turns at bat. His fielding was similarly awful, he would bound around the boundary from wherever Michael Vaughan had tried to hide him, and collapse in a mess of limbs while the ball more often than not eluded his enthusiastic attention. And let’s not start on his arm from the deep. For these reasons the deeply perverse English sporting fan embraced him with a rare fervour. The fact that he was a patka-wearing Sikh, a brown face the country could wholeheartedly embrace when race riots and tube bombings were ringing in its ears, surely added to his appeal.

But this evening he used the bat which had so bemused him early in his career to help England to a draw which stretched unlikely to the limits of its definition. I can only hope that every one of the 20 newly-contracted New Zealand cricketers was watching, because the bravery Collingwood, Flintoff, Swann, Anderson and Panesar displayed today was stirring stuff, and starkly contrasted with our own recent efforts to save games which appeared lost. After Pieterson went at 31, and Strauss not long after, few in the boistrous Cardiff crowd would have had much hope for the match, but they were treated to a near-classic in the end.

This was as much due to the Australian bowlers as the English batsmen, which raises my hopes that this series might challenge the ’05 version for interest, if not quality. Hilfenhaus looked penetrating, asking pertinent questions in both innings, Hauritz was searching and Siddle (who sported some truly appalling slave beads – Austrlian cricketers’ pieces of flair are invariably truly frightening) balanced a couple of critical four balls late in the day with the absolutely essential wicket of Collingwood. Mitchell Johnson though, who I picked, with little originality, as the breakout star of the series, was terrible, spraying a new ball which should have perfunctorily cut through the lower order all over the crease. He was not the worst Australian of the day, though.

That honour goes to Ricky Ponting, who appeared to lose his nerve with England nine down, and began equating balls bowled with chances created. He gave North and Hauritz the final few desperation overs, when Hilfenhaus should have been bowling yorkers on middle and off, and as a result gave numbers ten and eleven the seeds of confidence which would grow to a draw which felt like an emphatic win.

The series moves to Lord’s, and England will need to reflect their averages and (sometime) reputations with the bat to change the script. With the likes of Cooke, Strauss, Flintoff and even Pieterson underperforming, and an opposition attack which is solid but not lethal, that is a good possibility. The country is definitely engaged now, which should help, and the way an oddball spinner wielded the willow will galvanise his teammates – now they have to turn this minor miracle into resolve and strength, and make this series sing like it has so many times in the past.

– Duncan

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Baseball vs Cricket Averages

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So I decided to go ahead and try and create my baseball style averages for cricket, reverse engineering Henry Chadwick‘s conversion of the key cricketing statistic to baseball, to try and get a sense of a batsman’s worth from something beyond their average. The average is an incredibly useful tool in cricket, but I guess there are a few others which are starting to gain some currency. Strike rate, particularly in the short form of the game, is key, but conversion rate (the number of times a half century becomes a century) is perhaps underweighted when the worth of a batsmen is considered.

It forms part of the following numbers, anyway, though more by inference than a direct comparison. I think the most useful way of conceptualising this is that the first number reflects the rate at which a batsman scores over fifty (regardless of whether they went on to a century), the second the frequency with which they score a century. The closer the numbers, the better their conversion rate.The final number is their batting average.

Like baseball, it’s rendered as a decimal figure, with 1.000 being perfect, that a batsmen scores fifty or better every time they bat. What’s interesting about the numbers is how well they tally with baseball, that the best bastmen of our time have a score of consequence roughly one in every three times they head out to bat. I’ve taken a random smattering of the great batsmen of our time, plus a few noteworthy New Zealanders. Obviously Ryder’s numbers are skewed at the moment, but they back up the extremely favourable impression we have of him. Anyway, here they are…

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9 Reasons Cricket Has Lost Its Mind in 09

1. Bangladesh had as many players sold as Australia, and for more combined money, at Friday’s IPL auction.

2. Amongst those unsold was Brad ‘I am not a crook’ Haddin. The current Australian ‘keeper unwanted by any of the franchises. Something tells me the rest of the world doesn’t share Ponting and Clarke’s faith in their gloveman. Australia’s getting pretty sensitive about the situation, as the fate of this banner at Adelaide proves…

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It was removed not, as you’d imagine, due to the glaring absence of an apostrophe, but because it was deemed ‘offensive’ by security guards. No point in speculating about whether a banner reading ‘McCullums a lump of shit’ would’ve met the same fate…

3. Australia have now lost five ODIs in a row, for the first time since we last ruined their summer at the Chappell-Hadlee in 2007. If they drop another tonight at the SCG (a track where our loss-win ratio is a comparitively decent 2:1, and one that takes turn) it’ll tie their record for most consecutive losses. Should they drop the next two we’ll overtake them for third in the ODI rankings, where they sit after starting the year in first. This prospect so terrifies them that… Continue reading

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Halfway Home

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That was one of the most complete fielding performnces I’ve seen from a New Zealand side. Ten of the side got their name on the credits, and they played with the kind of energy and enthusiasm that only a young side with a real belief in one another can. I think McCullum’s comments regarding the side not carrying the scars of prior defeats with them are very pertinent here, but that runs into the Australian side too.

Their new players are used to viewing New Zealand as poor relation, but we lift to play Australia, and even in defeat have made them work harder than the side’s respective reputations would suggest.

The two runouts were perhaps the most telling parts of the innings, the captain and vice-captain (and the side’s best players) lost to brilliant ground-fielding, and the pressure created by tight bowling and hungry fielding. There were inches in each instance, the kind created by hours of training and maybe the slightest hint of complacency in the Australians. I could be wrong, but each throw (particularly Broom’s) had a zip to it that suggested Travis Wilson’s efforts as a fielding coach have paid mighty dividends already. Continue reading

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An Un-Australian Day

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Sky’s inspired decision to use Australia Day as an opportunity to revisit some of Australia’s sporting low-points was neatly overshadowed by their once-mightiest team continuing its freefall. This just days after Andrew Symonds called NSW’s decision to play McCullum in their state Twenty20 final “Un-Australian” – what, then would he make of his team’s play yesterday?

Having won the toss on a placid Adelaide pitch, in front of a packed house with the opportunity to put a bit of a shine on a thoroughly depressing summer, Australia played its worst game of cricket in recent memory.

After Warner and Marsh perished swiftly, Hussey and Ponting did the typical Australian thing and batted as if nothing were amiss. And while they were both in, nothing was. Ponting looked particularly venomous, at one stage flaying four consecutive fours off Ntini and then Steyn. For a moment you allowed yourself to believe that perhaps we were going to witness something enormous, the routed remnants of a great army finding it in themselves to forge a final, defiant victory.

But there was something else in Ponting’s batting, a deep, malign frustration, with his teammates and the hand he’d been dealt. His demeanour seemed to angrily ask why he was fated to lead this particular side. When he and Hussey – who is unrecognisable as the imperious Mr Cricket of a few short seasons ago – both departed within a few balls of each other Australia’s swift start and nascent recovery was in the balance. Into the breach strode David Hussey and Brad Haddin, with the latter perishing to a shot of such breathtaking arrogance it seemed to sum up Australia’s entire summer. Continue reading

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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? Continue reading

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Boxing On?

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Today 15 men will walk out on to the Melbourne Cricket Ground in front of 90,000 baying fans and decide whether now is Australia’s time. After nearly two decades of unparalelled dominance, and of fighting back from the brink before, this looks like their last hope to stave off the inevitable march back to the land of cricketing mortality.

Since the end of the domestic season earlier this year against India, when batsmen from both sides put together fairly handsome scores, typical of high summer in Australia, the baggy green has started to look a little faded. In series against the West Indies, India, New Zealand and the first test against South Africa the top six are split cleanly into two even packs: those who’ve improved or maintained their averages, and those who’ve done the reverse.

Ponting 40.7 (vs  his career average of 56.7), Hussey 35.8 (vs. 61.5) and particularly Hayden 23.5 (vs 51.3) have all slid backwards while Clarke 48.2 (vs 46.9,) Symonds 44.9 (vs 42.2) and most notably Katich 59.5 (43.5) have improved. Unfortunately the three missing out aren’t nearly making up for those cashing in, with the difference being 49.5. This means Australia’s top six, until recently the most formidible run machine in test cricket, is effectively playing one (extremely good) batter down. Continue reading

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