Right. Here’s me attempting to sum up the week gone by in the cricketing world. I’ve left out news from the Big Bash and the Caribbean T20 as I have not been following them closely enough.
Sri Lanka fight back Down Under
I have yet to mention Sri Lanka’s impressive ODI turn around in the CB series on this blog yet, so this seems a good a time as ever. After the chastening Test series and the 101-run hammering received at the MCG, things looked ominous. But the bowlers finally came to the party in fine style. Angelo Mathews and Nuwan Kulasekera took 2-24 off 10 and 1-24 off 9 respectively as Australia found runs hard to come by. Glen Maxwell even went as far as to say that Angelo Mathews was “unplayable” on the Adelaide pitch. This match saw the ODI debuts of three promising players. Ben Cutting and Kane Richardson for Australia to add to their young and (largely) injured pace attack, and Kusal Perera standing in for the injured Dinesh Chandimal behind the stumps for SL. Perera has a reputation for being able to clear the ropes on a consistent basis and as a tidy wicket-keeper as well. However, the Man-of-the-Match went to Lahiru Thirimanne for an excellent 102 runs, and was at the crease for all but the first three balls of the SL chase. Thirimanne has been heraleded as the next big batting talent from the island but concerns remain whether he can come in at the top of the order in Test matches as people seem to think is his destiny. Whatever happens, it is clear that he has all the talent to succeed and be a fixture in the Sri Lankan batting line-up for years to come, provided he is properly managed in terms of exposure to T20 cricket.
Next up the party rolled on to the Gabba. The sun was out and the pitch looked hard and true. Perfect batting conditions as both Michael Clarke and Mahela eluded to at the toss. Nobody asked Nuwan Kulasekera what he made of the pitch though, and it seems like SL dodged somewhat of a bullet by not batting first as they witnessed an extraordinary spell of deadly in-swing from Kulasekera as he took his first five-wicket haul in ODI cricket, taking 5-22. In chase, Sri Lanka made an almighty hash of it, but managed to crawl home.
The 4th ODI was rained off today with Sri Lanka needing 223 to win, but many deemed the conditions playable. Marais Erasmus and Paul Reiffel had different opinions. Roll on Hobart.
India flex their muscles against England
It is nice to see India have shared out this ODI series among some of the lesser known international circuits in the country and as a result the crowds have been positive. England won by 9-runs in Rajkot but India immediately pegged them back in Kochi. 286 was always going to be an imposing total but India’s new fast bowling talent Bhuvanesh Kumar drove the point home with some excellent swing bowling, taking 3-29 including England’s three key batsmen of Cook, Pietersen and Morgan.
The next match was held in Ranchi – MS Dhoni’s home town. India didn’t disappoint either. India’s unheralded pace attack ripped out the England top order as Kumar, Shami Ahmed and Ishant Sharma accounted for Cook, Bell, Pietersen and Root, and left it for India’s very much heralded spin duo of Ravindra Jadeja and Ravichandran Ashwin to do the damage lower down the order. 155 was never going to be a problem on the Ranchi pitch and even Ajinkya Rahane’s off stump being seriously violated by Steve Finn didn’t do much to prolong the inevitable. Gambhir, Kohli and Yuvraj laid the foundation but there would have been a sense of anti-climax about the place had Dhoni not had a chance to bat in front of his home crowd, which he duly did, promoting himself up the order.
The last two matches will be held in Mohali and the beautiful Dharamsala – one of my favourite grounds. The conditions in the Punjab will be much more similar to the ones the England players are used to back home, and nothing like the extreme heat of Kerala experienced in the 2nd ODI. The seaming conditions will also make England more than a threat in those matches
James Franklin keeps his cool and guides New Zealand home at Paarl
After delivering some leisurely thrashings in the Test series, South Africa would have been forgiven for thinking that they could just turn up and roll the New Zealand over. Both teams gave debuts to two players. South Africa playing 19 year-old Quinton de Kock behind the stumps and “young” Rory Kleinveldt who I was surprised to learn was 29, and New Zealand fielding Mitchell McClenaghan and James Neesham, Neesham had a pretty inauspicious match, with bowling figures of 0-22 and being trapped lbw for a duck by a rampant Ryan McLaren. It was McClenaghan though who caused South Africa problems first up. The 26 year-old left-armer from Auckland took the wickets of Smith, De Villiers, Peterson and Steyn to record figures of 4-22. He got able support from a surprise source – Kane Williamson took career best figures of 4-22 with his occasional off-break. South Africa were all out for 208.
There was a healthy crowd at Paarl, taking in the weekend sunshine, and they were treated to the usual Kiwi batting collapse as they wilted to 81-5. Step forward fast-bowler turned dashing middle-order batsman James Franklin – whose batting talent at one point had him opening for the Mumbai Indians in the IPL. Time was never an issue, and Franklin took plenty of it (124 minutes) to reach his 47*, but it was the manner in which he went about it that impressed. Previously, BJ Watling had hit 45 off 78. Captain Brendon McCullum chipped in with 26 but Franklin still looked to be fighting against the tide. He found support from Nathan McCullum (24 off 21) and his bowling partner Kyle Mills (26 off 40). It was the partnerships with Mills and Nathan McCullum that proved most telling. Together, these two and Franklin took the score from 105/7 to 187/9. This brought Mitchell McClenaghan in to face Ryan McLaren who had taken 4 wickets previously and Dale Steyn who was wicketless and seriously pissed off about the fact. In fact, Steyn would have won the match had Quinton de Kock managed to hold on to an edge from a flashing cover drive from Franklin that just evaded his gloves and went for four vital runs. On the face of it, McClenaghan did exceedingly well to last for the 15 deliveries that he did, allowing Franklin to bring the match home.
Sarah Taylor to join the men’s game?
The main story in English cricket came in the form of Sarah Taylor who is the best cricketer in the women’s game at the moment. Women do play with men in the county leagues around the country but as of yet it is unheard of for a woman to represent a men’s side in the County game. This week it emerged that Sarah Taylor and Holly Colvin were training with the Sussex 2nd XI with a view to playing a few matches, prompting speculation and debate. Sussex themselves took steps to quell said speculation, mentioning that both Sussex’s 2nd XI keepers – Callum Jackon and Leo Cammish – are in full-time education and would be unavailable for parts of the season, leaving the position of wicket-keeper available for someone like Sarah Taylor to fill. The club statement said,
“There may be an opportunity for Sarah in the future but at the moment the key thing is for her to train with the Second Eleven. Then we can see if she has adapted to the environment and then if we have an opportunity to play her, we can potentially take it a step further.”
Taylor herself seems to want to challenge herself in the men’s game, and perhaps even harbours intentions of playing with the men in limited overs cricket where the disparity between the men and women in terms of strength and physicality would be less of a problem. Whilst I wish her all the best in this endeavor I cannot help but feel that this undermines the women’s game. Should it no longer the pinnacle of the women’s cricket to represent your country and win all the things that Sarah Taylor has won with the England team? Iain O’Brien who has bowled to Taylor in net sessions at Wellington said that the difference between facing 70 mph bowlers as is the norm in women’s cricket and facing bowlers who can touch 95 mph is massive. This however does not make women’s cricket inferior in any way – unless women cricketers start aspiring to join the men’s game. That is when women’s cricket starts to be inferior and if and when that time comes, it will be a sad day for all of cricket. Why should a player who has proven herself in the women’s game have to prove herself in the mens all over again? Nevertheless out of sheer curiousity I await Sarah Taylor’s and Holly Colvin’s debuts should they ever come, for the Sussex 2nds eagerly.