The Week in Cricket: 20/01/2013

Once again, no Bangladesh Premier League involved as I haven’t been following it.

South Africa get a Kane-ing in Kimberley

The indurately named ‘De Beers Diamond Oval’ was the scene of one of cricket’s most-loved phenomenons – the South African choke. Now, the Proteas are a much different proposition to teams of teams gone by but would still have expected to have been too much for New Zealand in this match, but hampered what looked at one point to be a straightforward chase by a slew of run-outs.

South Africa’s potent pace attack lacked Dale Steyn but gained Morne Morkel from the last ODI, but New Zealand still posted a healthy 279-8. Morkel took 3 wickets(including his 100th ODI wicket) but still went for 71 off his 10 overs. More than half of these runs came from a memorable 145 from Kane Williamson who despite the pitch being a belter to bat on had to watch teammates come and go. Only Grant Elliot (48) provided any sort of backup. The most enjoyable thing to watch about Williamson’s innings is the way he got to grips with the early conditions with Tstotsobe and Kleinveldt moving the ball around nicely, and from then on paced his innings brilliantly, knowing that he had plenty of time to construct a big total. His domination was all encompassing that he remained undefeated

New Zealand complete their first series win in South Africa in any format. © Gallo Images

In reply, Kyle Mills bowled Quinton de Kock for 25 but Graeme Smith and Colin Ingram looked to have the chase under control, guiding the score to 155-1 in the 38th over. From then on, the wheels started to come off. For all New Zealand’s frailties over the years, nobody has doubted their technique and athleticism in the field, and on this occasion they were electric. James Franklin broke the  Smith – Ingram partnership by running the former out, and the score was 167-2. This brought in Faf du Plessis who in the absence of AB De Villiers who was serving a suspension for a slow over-rate in the previous ODI was captaining the side and in a rich vein of form. He faced 6 balls and was on 2 runs before he was run-out by Nathan McCullum. Next in, Farhaan Behardien on debut, who went on to score a sensible 31 before himself being run-out by Guptill in the 45th over. Wickets fell steadily, including two more run outs (Miller and Kleinveldt courtesy of Nathan McCullum and Guptill respectively), and despite a couple of lusty blows from Morne Morkel down the order, only managed to haul themselves on to 252 all out. Previously no chasing side had ever failed to win on this pitch, and perhaps this would still be the fact had it not been for a monumental fielding effort from the Kiwis and in the field, and some canny bowling from Kyle Mills as well. This also happens to be New Zealand’s first series win in South Africa in any format and they are due a huge amount of credit to have salvaged something so magnificent from this tour given what preceded it in the Test series. I suppose credit must also be given to Michael Hesson who still remains unpopular and no doubt there might well still be trouble behind the scenes. Things might come to a head in the immediate future given the announcement that Ross Taylor is returning to cricket after a self-imposed exile with the Central Districts. Perhaps the current regime is worth sticking with a little while longer?

Phil Hughes saves Australia from series defeat in Hobart – Sri Lanka to go with split captaincy as the Jayawardene era (Part II) comes to an end.

Once again Sri Lanka have come up short in a limited overs tournament when it mattered most at the final hurdle. Although not as galling and gut wrenching as our defeats at Barbados, Lord’s, Mumbai and Colombo and to be honest there were some positives to take from this CB series, but the inability to stick the knife in to the opposition and twist, has cost us dearly. We’ve been pretty good playing at the Bellerive Oval in ODI cricket, but as in the first ODI of this series, we were out done by a Phil Hughes century (138). The SL bowlers stuck to their guns well enough but Australia’s innings of 247 came from two main partnerships; Hughes and George Bailey (17) put on 60 for the 3rd wicket and then 98 for the 4th with David Hussey (34).

In reply, Sri Lanka started pretty well. Dilshan and Jayawardene opening put on 57 for the first wicket, but a relatively inexperienced middle-order fell to pieces there after. This is with the exception of a typically battling half-century from new ODI captain Angelo Mathews (67). He kept the chase alive before departing in the 44th over. Thirimanne, Chandimal, Kushal Perera and Thisara Perera didnt contribute enough and this led to a 32 run loss. So this is the end of an era for Sri Lankan cricket as Mahela Jayawardene’s captaincy comes to an end. Under his guidance we have scaled the heights of the ICC rankings in all three formats of the game and put in some memorable performances in the World Cup and World T20. Perhaps it is fitting that we managed to go so close yet so far in his last ODI series. Nevertheless, Angelo Mathews could not have wished for a better skipper to do his due diligence under. However, with all this came rumours that the sports minister, Mahindanada Aluthgamage has decided that Mathews is not ready yet to captain the Test side and wants to split the captaincy between the formats. Ceylon Today reported that bizarrely, Thilina Kandamby would be named Test captain, despite not being in the Test squad or even worthy of a place in the T20 squad. Island Cricket then followed this up and got verification from Aluthgamage that there will indeed be three different captains for the three formats, but Thilina Kandamby will thankfully not be tasked with leading the side in the longest format of the game. The Sports Minister also mentioned that yet another new selection committee will be formed, and only after that will the captains be named – although everyone expects Angelo Mathews to be among those names. The chairman of selectors is tipped to be Sanath Jayasuriya, whose position I’m sure will in no way blur the already hazy and distorted line between sport and politics on the island. Personally I believe it should once again be given to Aravinda De Silva as few people connected with Sri Lanka cricket has an idea of the young players in the system and would be able to put plans in place to nurture their development, which should be our main aim in this transitional period of Sri Lankan cricket.

Once again, Sri Lanka have to settle for a decent tournament performance, instead of walking away with the trophy outright. © Getty Images

Rohit Sharma and Raina win the series for India

This current ODI series has drawn in some fantastic and noisy crowds as a result of the matches being taken to some of the lesser known grounds in the country. The fourth ODI however was played at the more familiar Punjab Cricket Stadium in Mohali. Nevertheless, on a chilly day in the Punjab the crowd was still noisy and the atmosphere was pumping, despite the few Mexican waves that went around. Batting first, England put on 95 runs for the second wicket with Alastair Cook and Kevin Pietersen – both finishing on 76 after Ian Bell had departed for 10. England finished on 257, thanks to the injection of late runs by Joe Root (57 off 61). Bowling-wise the damage was done by Ishant Sharma (2-47), Ashwin (2-63) and Jadeja (3-39). Eoin Morgan once again, failed to notch up a score of any note, and his place on the tour to New Zealand is under quite a lot of threat from the likes of Jonny Bairstow.

In reply India made the chase look pretty straightforward thanks to two mercurial innings by Rohit Sharma (83) and Suresh Raina (89). I  have been critical of Sharma in the past, as he really should be an established Test player by now. He has all the talent in the world and is one of the most aesthetically pleasing batsmen in the world when he gets going. As Sunil Gavaskar eluded to during his commentary stint in the TMS box, temperament is the main thing when it comes to international cricket – assuming that since you have been picked in the first place, you possess the talent and natural ability anyway. The fifth and final ODI will be held at the stunning ground at Dharamsala but of course is now a dead rubber. However, after the pastings that England have dished out to India, no doubt the home side would like to send the tourists on their way home with a more comprehensive series defeat than the one they already have.

Rohit Sharma and Suresh Raina made what could have been a tricky chase, look pretty simple. © BCCI

Rohit Sharma and Suresh Raina made what could have been a tricky chase, look pretty simple. © BCCI

A bone of contention arose in this match as Steve Finn had Suresh Raina out on 40, only to have the wicket ruled as a dead-ball as he had dislodged the bails in his delivery stride. As many have pointed out this has been a major factor in his bowling since his introduction into the England side and was noted during the South Africa tour at home. England were duly aggrieved to have Raina spared, but they really cannot blame the umpires or the rules (which at least need reaffirming, if not changing) in this case. If Finn is to persist with this, then he must deal with the consequences that this will cost him wickets (or lack thereof) and which in turn could cost England matches. We will never know if India would have won had Suresh Raina not made those extra 49 runs, but it can be assumed that it played a major part in India securing the series win.

England touring party to New Zealand announced

Tim Bresnan’s elbow injury hasn’t gone away completely and it has shown in some rather average performances from the Yorkshireman this year. Chris Woakes has taken his place on the Test party to New Zealand. It is hard to disagree with this decision as Chris Woakes has been earmarked to lead the England attack for some time. It may be argued though, the a fully fit Bresnan would have been a different prospect on the New Zealand pitches but with the situation with his elbow, it was the right decision to send him back to Yorkshire to heal. With New Zealand’s fragile Test batting form, this could be just the right time for Woakes to make his Test debut. The Test squad also features Jonny Bairstow and Graeme Onions in the place of Eoin Morgan and Samit Patel who are joined in the ODI squad by James Harris but not however, by Craig Kieswetter who will return to Somerset to cart County pros around Taunton. It is the Lions squad though that features some interesting names. Craig Overton, Toby Roland-Jones, Ben Foakes and 31 year-old Rikki Clarke.

Despite only being 22, James Harris has long been earmarked as a potential England player. © Getty Images

People have rather downplayed this tour of New Zealand, but I am rather looking forward to it. England will be strong favourites, and despite New Zealand’s dismal Test display in South Africa, if they learn the lessons from that series, coupled with the confidence gained from winning the ODI series, they might just give England a run for their money. They might well lose the series, but as they showed in Sri Lanka and going back even further against Australia, they seem to have one big performance in them.

Pakistan Super League to hand out life insurance

It wasn’t a surprise that Pakistan decided to jump on the T20 tournament bandwagon, given that their players only really stand a chance of earning the big bucks in the BPL and the SLPL, and even then the big bucks often go missing in the post. Given the security situation in the country the organizers could face a hard task of trying to convince the world’s leading T20 players to join the party. The Professional Cricket Association has warned players off going to Pakistan, and in particular the England players. Rest assured that most of the centrally contracted players would be allowed to go anyway. Nottinghamshire have previously banned their players from joining the IPL and presumably the same applies to the PSL.

However, to negate the feelings about security in Pakistan, the PSL authorities have offered life insurance policies of $2m on top of the players fees which will be tax-free. Of course this only applies to foreign cricketers, but the very top players stand to earn about $100,000 for just under a fortnight’s worth of cricket. The money on offer could be just what some players needed to take up the opportunity to make some serious money, regardless of the security risks. On Thursday, Ajmal Shahzad tweeted;

Definately going to have a little deeper look into the #PSL tomorrow … could be a very good opportunity …

After all, the PCA have already expressed their concern at security in the Bangladesh Premier League, and players from all over the world are taking part in that including Owaish Shah, Ravi Bopara, Joe Denly and Luke Wright. The situation is no doubt different in Pakistan, and the PSL authorities are working to provide the safest conditions possible for what they hope will be an internationally recognized tournament.

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