Underdone Aussies get the job done


sbsb.jpgAustralia entered the Trans-Tasman series with plenty of questions.

How would they rebound after losing over 250 Tests worth of experience after the Ashes?

New Zealand’s preparation left a lot to be desired. After an easy win in the traditional Prime Minister’s XI match, they played two matches against the Cricket Australia XI. The first two-day game in Canberra was a draw, while the second game in Bankstown was called off after the CAXI piled on 1/503 in 121 overs.

That poor preparation would hurt them at the Gabba.

First Test: 5-9 November, The Gabba. Australia won by 208 runs

Australia loves playing at the Gabba. Since 1989, they have won 19 of 26 Tests, with seven draws. They would make it 20 from 27 against New Zealand. David Warner (163) and Joe Burns (71) opened with 161 runs. Usman Khawaja continued the rout with 102 not out as Australia reached 2/389 at stumps. Khawaja finished with 174 – and Adam Voges 83 not out – as Australia declared at 4/556.

Kane Williamson was New Zealand’s savior, scoring 140 as New Zealand was dismissed for 317. Mitch Starc (4/57) and Mitch Johnson (3/105) did the bulk of the damage.

Declaring on the third evening at 4/264 (Burns 129, Warner 116), Australia had two days to get 10 wickets while New Zealand needed an almost impossible 504. Nathan Lyon, who’d bowled tightly in the first innings, took 3/63, with two each to Mitch Marsh (2/25), Hazlewood (2/68) and Starc (2/69) as New Zealand were dismissed for 295 in 89 overs. Captain Brendon McCullum (80) and Williamson (59) offered resistance and took the game into day five.

Second Test: 13-17 November, WACA. Match Drawn.

The WACA run-feast was remembered for the flat pitch and “bore draw” cricket as well as the record-breaking double tons to Warner and Ross Taylor and Johnson’s retirement.

Any hopes of a result were dashed by the third day. Responding to Australia’s 9/559 declared, New Zealand had advanced from 2/140 to 6/510, with Taylor 235 not out. Warner’s 253 (he’d scored 244 on the first day as Australia made 2/416) established Australia’s massive total. By the time Taylor (290) had finished on the fourth morning, New Zealand were 65 runs in front. While Starc had worked hard for 4/119, Johnson’s 1/157 off 28 overs stirred retirement rumors. Smith (138) and Voges (119) batted Australia into safety by day four’s end. With a draw guaranteed, talk turned to why Australia didn’t applaud Taylor’s big innings. After all these years, the “ugly Aussies” tag is still hard to shake. The last day was all about fare welling Johnson. He was given a guard of honour when arriving to bat and scored 29 off 45 balls before taking 2/20 off six overs in the final innings. A fitting end.

Third Test: 27-29 November, Adelaide Oval. Australia won by 3 wickets

After another drawn tour match – this time against a Western Australia XI – New Zealand moved to Adelaide for the day-night Test, heavily hyped by Channel Nine, who’d conveniently launched their new HD channel the day before. The first day also marked the one year anniversary of Phillip Hughes’ passing.

Before the end of the first day, it was clear day-night cricket would work, with almost 50,000 at the Adelaide Oval. It was also the closest game of the series. More importantly, the much-debated pink ball survived with few dramas.

Shaun Marsh was a surprise replacement for the injured Khawaja, while Siddle came in for Johnson.  Starc (3/24) and Josh Hazlewood (3/66) dismissed New Zealand for 202, with Siddle (2/54) finally taking his 200th Test wicket.

Entering day two at 2/54, Smith scored 53, but it looked in vain as Australia slumped to 8/116. Lyon should have been out for a duck after mistiming a sweep off left arm spinner Mitchell Santner that ballooned to slip. Following five minutes of deliberation from Nigel Llong, Lyon survived due to lack of evidence. It would cost New Zealand, with Lyon pushing onto 34 and combining with Peter Nevill (66) and Starc – defying his broken foot for 24 not out – as Australia reached 224. Hazlewood (6/70) ripped through New Zealand to leave them 5/116 at stumps. A crucial 45 from Santner – proving to be a more valuable spinning all-rounder than Mark Craig – set Australia 187.

The Aussies were in trouble at 3/66 before Shaun Marsh (49) and Adam Voges (28) complied 49. Then Mitch Marsh (28) joined his brother for 46. When Shaun Marsh went, Australia needed 11 runs with four wickets left. Boult (5/80) gave New Zealand every chance but Siddle (9 not out) got Australia home.

The 2-0 margin seemed right. Australia won big in Brisbane and withstood an improved Black Caps side in Adelaide.




Frank Worrell Trophy part three: The Aussies Rise and the West Indies’ Demise



The 1984-85 Frank Worrell Trophy loss was significant for Australia. Kim Hughes’ tearful resignation from the captaincy after the Brisbane loss became cricketing folklore. New captain Allan Border began Australia’s slow rise to the top, winning the 1987 World Cup and the Ashes in 1989 and 1990-91.
When Mark Taylor took over in 1994 he’d inherited a powerful team. The Australian squad touring the Caribbean in early 1995 included Michael Slater, David Boon, the Waugh twins, Ian Healy, Shane Warne and an emerging Glenn McGrath.
With all this star power, it was Brendon Julian who set the tone in Bridgetown. He took 4/36 as the West Indies were dismissed for 195 in 48 overs. Healy (74 not out), Steve Waugh (65) and Taylor (55) gave Australia a lead of 151. McGrath (5/68) and Warne (3/64) combined to dismiss the West Indies a second time for 189. Taylor and Slater quickly erased the 39-run target, earning Australia a 10-wicket win.
After a draw in Antigua, the West Indies found their menace with a brutal nine-wicket win at Port of Spain. Australia was dismissed for 128 (Steve Waugh 63 not out) and 105. The West Indies only scored 136 (McGrath 6/47), but Curtly Ambrose (match figures of 9/65) and Courtney Walsh (6/85) ensured it was enough.
The final Test at Sabina Park is remembered for Steve Waugh’s 200. Chasing 265, Australia was in trouble at 3/73. The Waughs compiled 231, with Mark scoring 126. Greg Blewett (69) then joined Steve for a 113-run stand. By stumps on day three, the Frank Worrell trophy was all but Australia’s, with the West Indies 3/63, still 203 behind. Following the rest day, Paul Reiffel (4/47) and Warne (4/70) dismissed the West Indies for 213 to win by an innings and 53 runs.
Australia maintained their dominance in 1996-97 with a 3-2 victory. Healy scored a hometown ton (161 not out) as Australia won in Brisbane by 123 runs and Mark Taylor took “that” slips catch in the 124-run SCG win. Ambrose kept the series alive, taking 9/72 as the West Indies won by six wickets at the MCG. After a horrible Carlton and United series (Australia missed the final, with Pakistan beating West Indies 2-0), Australia found an unlikely hero in Adelaide. Michael Bevan was renowned for his brilliant “closer” batting in one day cricket, but Test success had eluded him. With Warne coming back from injury, the Canberran’s left-arm chinamen became crucial. He took 3/46 at the Gabba and 2/40 at the SCG. While Bevan was erratic – mixing the unplayable wrong-un with full tosses and long hops – he got it right in Adelaide. Bevan took 4/31 as the West Indies collapsed for 130. He scored 85 not out – supporting Matthew Hayden (125), Blewett (99) and Mark Waugh (82) – as Australia replied with 517. Bevan took 6/82 in the second innings to secure an innings and 183 run win. Ambrose’s final Test in Australia reaped seven wickets (and 30 no balls) as the West Indies won by 10 wickets in Perth.
The West Indies nearly won in 1999. Australia won the first Test easily but the West Indies won at Kingston (10 wickets) and Bridgetown (one wicket). Brian Lara hit 153 not out as the West Indies chased 308. While McGrath took 5/92 off 44 overs, Warne bowled just 24 overs for 0/69. Warne was dropped for the last Test at Antigua, which Australia won by 176 runs to draw the series. It was the last series for Healy, dumped for Adam Gilchrist and denied a Gabba farewell.
Australia’s 5-0 win in 2000-01 was the last long-form series. Merv Dillon finished with 16 wickets at 29.93 while veterans Lara (321 runs at 32.10) and Walsh (11 wickets at 43.72) tried their best, with Lara’s 182 in Adelaide the West Indies’ only hundred. The Waughs and Slater topped 300 runs while McGrath, Jason Gillespie and Colin Miller’s blue hair took 61 wickets between them.
The West Indies have won just one Frank Worrell Test since, with 14 losses and three draws. The sole win came in the final Test of the 2003 series. Chasing 418, Ramnaresh Sarwan (105), Shivnarine Chanderpaul (104), captain Lara (60) and Omari Banks (47 not out) helped the West Indies to 7/418 in 129 overs.

Thirteen years after his SCG double ton, Lara added one more in Adelaide 2005. He scored 226 from 405, including 202 on the first day. Of course, the West Indies collapsed in the second innings and lost by seven wickets.

Since 1995, Australia has won nine Frank Worrell Trophies, including seven in a row from 2000/01. They should comfortably make it eight straight this summer.

Frank Worrell Trophy part two: The Terrifying and Terrific West Indies



After the humiliating 5-1 loss in 1975-76, the West Indies started building the terrifying fast bowling attack that would dominate the eighties and early nineties. The West Indies won 20 and drew nine Test series’ from June 1980 to February 1995.

The retirements of Dennis Lillee, Greg Chappell and Rod Marsh in 1984 sent Australia into a tailspin for most of the decade.

Australia showed some fight with a drawn series in 1981-82, starting on Boxing Day.

Against Michael Holding (5/45), Colin Croft (2/39), Joel Garner (2/59) and Sir Andy Roberts (1/40), Kim Hughes grafted an unbeaten hundred, over half of Australia’s 198. We all remember the pandemonium late on day one, with Lillee dismissing Desmond Haynes, nightwatchman Croft and Sir Viv Richards to reduce the visitors to 4/10. Larry Gomes scored 55 on day two but, Australia looked like taking a slim first innings lead before David Murray (32 not out) and Garner gave the West Indies a three-run advantage on the third morning. Lillee finished with 7/83. Allan Border (66), Bruce Laird (64) and Graeme Wood (46) set the West Indies 220 to win, with Holding taking 6/62. Spinner Bruce Yardley took 4/38 as Australia won by 58 runs. Lillee completed a 10-wicket haul and passed Lance Gibbs as Test cricket’s highest wicket taker.

After a draw in Sydney, the West Indies retained Frank Worrell with a five wicket win in Adelaide.

Australia travelled to the Caribbean in 1984, losing 3-0. The West Indies’ biggest win was in the fourth Test in Antigua, belting the Aussies by an innings and 36 runs. Allan Border grafted 98 as Australia was dismissed for 262. At 2/43, Australia had a sniff. Then Richards (178) joined Richie Richardson (154) for a 308-run stand. Carl Rackemann took 5/161 as the West Indies amassed 498 in 146 overs. Garner (5/63) and Malcolm Marshall (3/51) finished off a demoralized Australia in 66 overs.

A few months later, the West Indies came back to Australia and won 3-1, their first win down under in five years. It was all over before Christmas, with the West Indies winning in Perth (an innings and 112 runs), Brisbane (eight wickets) and Adelaide (191 runs). Australia finished a horrible summer brightly, winning by an innings and 55 runs in Sydney, with the South African-born Aussie Kepler Wessels scoring 173.

In 1988/89, the West Indies returned to Australia. While Australia – captained by Border – was improving, the West Indies still won 3-1, wrapping the series up by Christmas with wins in Brisbane (nine wickets), Perth (169 runs) and Melbourne (285 runs). The WACA Test is remembered for Merv Hughes’ unusual hat-trick. He dismissed Curtly Ambrose and Patrick Patterson to end the first innings and got Gordon Greenidge first ball of the second innings. Hughes finished with 13/217 but Australia still lost. Australia’s seven wicket win in Sydney was aided by Border’s all-round contribution. Border took 7/46 with his left arm spinners to dismiss the West Indies for 224 on day one. David Boon hit 149, supported by Border (75) and Steve Waugh (55 not out), as Australia replied with 401. Desmond Haynes crunched 143, but four more wickets to Border (match figures of 11/96) ensured an easy chase.

It was much closer in 1991, with the West Indies winning their home series 2-1. The West Indies were led by Marshall (21 wickets at 20.80), Patterson (18 at 22.72), Ambrose (18 at 27.38) and Courtney Walsh (17 at 25.05). After winning the Ashes in 1989, Australia were forming the team that would dominate cricket in the nineties and 2000s. Mark Taylor (441 runs at 49) and Mark Waugh (367 at 61.16) scored the runs while Craig McDermott (24 wickets at 23.50) and Hughes (19 at 31) took 43 wickets between them.

The 1992-93 series in Australia was historic for many reasons. It was the last time the West Indies would win the Frank Worrell Trophy and gave superstars Brian Lara (277 at the SCG) and Shane Warne (7/52 in the second innings at the MCG) their moments to shine. The frustration of the Aussies was captured in Adelaide. Chasing 186, Tim May (42 not out) and McDermott were grinding Australia to an unlikely win that would secure Frank Worrell for the first time since 1975-76. After 88 minutes of resistance, McDermott gloved a Walsh bouncer and the West Indies won by a run. The West Indies finished the job in Perth. Ambrose (9/79 for the match) feasted on Australia as the West Indies won by an innings and 25 runs inside three days, turning a 1-0 deficit into a 2-1 victory.

Continued in Frank Worrell Trophy part three: The Aussies Rise and the West Indies’ Demise












Frank Worrell Trophy part one: The Rivalry Begins


This summer, Australia and the West Indies contest the 25th Frank Worrell Trophy.

While Australia has owned Frank since 1995, the trophy was one of the most coveted prizes for over three decades.

Named after Sir Frank Worrell (who played 51 Tests and 208 First Class games from 1941 to 1964), the trophy debuted in the ground-breaking 1960-61 series in Australia.

It started with the famous tie in Brisbane. Set 233, Australia looked certain to lose at 6/92. Alan Davidson (80) and captain Richie Benaud (52) complied 134, meaning Australia needed six runs with four wickets left.

Then it got messy.

Davidson was run out – 7/226.

Benaud was caught by wicketkeeper Gerry Alexander off Wes Hall – 8/228.

Wally Grout and Ian Meckiff tied the scores with two wickets left. Surely Australia would push an easy single and take a 1-0 lead.

Grout and Meckiff were both run out to force the tie.

Australia and the West Indies traded big wins before Ken Mackay and Lindsay Kline forced a draw in Adelaide. Chasing 460, Australia was 9/207 before the pair shared an unbeaten 66. Mackay survived nearly four hours for his 62 not out, while number eleven Kline batted almost two hours for 15 not out. Australia grinded at less than two an over in the second innings, a rate now alien with today’s high scoring rates.

Australia secured the series 2-1 with a two-wicket win at the MCG.

As well as being a captivating series that gave Test cricket some desperately needed spark, it established the Frank Worrell Trophy as a genuine contest.

Australia toured the West Indies from March to May 1965, with the Windies reversing the 2-1 result of four years ago. They won by 179 runs at Kingston (first Test) and 212 runs at Georgetown (third Test). They won Frank Worrell with a draw at Bridgetown before Australia got a consolation 10 wicket win at Port-of-Spain. Sir Conrad Hunte (550 runs at 61.11), Rohan Kanhai (462 runs at 46.20), Basil Butcher (405 runs at 40.50) and Sir Garfield Sobers (352 runs at 39.11) filled their boots, while Lance Gibbs (18 wickets at 30.88), Hall (16 wickets at 28.37), Charlie Griffith (15 wickets at 32) and Sobers (12 wickets at 40.83) took 61 wickets between them.

Australia then began a three-peat from 1968-69.

The West Indies won the opening Test in Brisbane by 125 runs, but the Aussies dominated from there, winning the Boxing Day Test by an innings and 30 runs. Graham McKenzie took 8/71 to dismiss the West Indies for 200. Bill Lawry eclipsed that by himself (205), combining with Ian Chappell (165) as Australia posted 510. Seymour Nurse (74) and captain Sobers (67) provided some resistance as John Gleeson (5/61) spun Australia to victory. Two wins in Sydney, 10 wickets and 382 runs, secured the 3-1 margin.

A successful Caribbean tour in 1973 ended with a 2-0 win. After draws in Kingston and Bridgetown, Australia won by 44 runs at Port-of-Spain and by 10 wickets at Georgetown.

Lead by Jeff Thompson (29 wickets at 28.65) and Dennis Lillee (27 wickets at 26.37), Australia won 5-1 in 1975-76. It was 1-1 heading into the MCG Boxing Day Test. Seven wickets to Lillee and centuries to Gary Cosier and Ian Redpath helped Australia to an eight wicket win. They won in Sydney by seven wickets, by 190 runs in Adelaide and by 165 runs in Melbourne. It was this humiliation that fuelled the West Indies’ ruthless domination of the eighties.

With World Series Cricket underway, Australia sent an ACB-loyal team to the Caribbean in 1978, captained by Bob Simpson. The West Indies selected WSC players for the first two Tests. In the first Test at Port of Spain, Australia were dismissed for 90 in 35 overs and 127 from Alvin Kallicharran gave the West Indies a 315-run lead. Graham Yallop (81) ensured the Aussies fought a bit harder, but the West Indies still won by an innings and 106 runs. After winning at Bridgetown by nine wickets, the WSC West Indians dropped out due to disputes with the WICB. Australia took advantage of this with a three wicket win in Georgetown. The weakened West Indies still secured a 3-1 series win with a second win at Port of Spain (198 runs) and a draw at Kingston, which was marred by a riot that cost Australia victory, with the West Indies 9/258 chasing 369.

With the game reunited, the 1979-80 series was reduced to three matches, sharing the summer with England. After a draw in Brisbane, the West Indies won by 10 wickets in Melbourne and 408 runs in Adelaide.

Coming up – Frank Worrell Trophy part two: The Terrifying and Terrific West Indies














The Rise of the Women’s Game



Women’s cricket will receive a massive boost next month when the inaugural Women’s Big Bash League (WBBL) starts.

Running in tandem with the men’s BBL, it will be played over the Christmas-New Year holiday period, culminating with the January 24 Final, preceding the men’s BBL Final.

All eight BBL franchises will be represented in the WBBL. Sadly there’s no spot for the ACT Meteors, who play in the Women’s National Cricket League (WNCL).

The WBBL has attracted some of the best domestic players, including Southern Stars captain Meg Lanning (Melbourne Stars), Ellyse Perry, Alyssa Healy (Sydney Sixers), Holly Ferling (Brisbane Heat). The Perth Scorchers have splashed on internationals, including the West Indies’ Deandra Dottin – described as “the female Chris Gayle” – England’s Charlotte Edwards and Katherine Brunt, and New Zealand captain Suzie Bates.

The WBBL continues the rise of women’s cricket, especially at international level. The Southern Stars are number one in ICC rankings (combining Test, ODI and Twenty20 results) after winning the Ashes four games to three. They beat England in the one-off Test and won the ODI series 2-1. While England won the Twenty20 series 2-1, the Stars’ win in the second Twenty 20 game secured the Ashes. They also beat Ireland’s Twenty20 side 3-0.

The Stars have gained crucial exposure through Twenty20 cricket, with a handful of international matches telecast live on Channel Nine before the men’s games.

In January 2016, the Australia v India Twenty20 series will be combined with the Southern Stars’ T20 series against India, including a blockbuster Australia Day double header at Adelaide Oval. Following that, the Stars play three ODIs against India in Canberra and Hobart.

International women’s cricket began 1934/35, when England toured Australia and New Zealand. It expanded to South Africa (1960), India (1976), West Indies (1976), Pakistan (1998), Sri Lanka (1998), Ireland (2000) and Netherlands (2007). Test matches have been sporadic: England (92 Tests) and Australia (71) have played the most, followed by New Zealand (45), India (36), South Africa and West Indies (12 each). Ireland, Netherlands, Pakistan and Sri Lanka have played a combined six Tests since 1998.

One-day cricket, beginning in 1973, is far more popular, with England (289 games), New Zealand (278), Australia (275) and India (211) the dominant nations. The Southern Stars have dominated the Women’s World Cup with six titles, followed by England (three) and New Zealand (one). The 2017 World Cup is in England.

Introduced in 2004, Twenty20 has run concurrently with ODIs as the main form of international and domestic competition. There have been Twenty20 World Cups; England won in 2009 and the Southern Stars have won the last three (2010, 2012, 2014). India will host the 2016 tournament.

The WNCL limited-overs competition (the Ruth Preddey Cup) has been around since 1996-97, with NSW Breakers, South Australian Scorpions, Queensland Fire, Victorian Spirit, ACT, Western (Australia) Fury and Tasmanian Roar. The Breakers and Spirit have dominated the competition. NSW have played in 19 consecutive finals for 17 titles, while the Spirit have won two (2002-03 and 2004-05) and lost 10 finals. The Breakers qualified for a 20th consecutive final – against the Scorpions – on Sunday November 29.




Remembering Phillip Hughes



November 25, 2014: New South Wales are playing South Australia at the SCG. South Australia is 2/136, with Phil Hughes (63 not out) closing on the hundred that should earn him a Test recall against India.
Then, on the third ball of Sean Abbott’s 10th over, it happens.
Cricinfo’s ball-by-ball commentary is usually full of description and analysis from their live scorers. It’s a fun way to keep up with the cricket. The text commentary for that game is basic description. The final ball of Hughes’ life is written as:
48.3 Abbott to Hughes, no run.

The match was immediately abandoned, along with the other Shield games, as we waited to see if Hughes would pull through.
He died on November 27, three days short of his 26th birthday.
While this year’s Adelaide Test has been hyped as the inaugural Day-Night Test, the first day is the anniversary of Hughes’ death.
So how has the cricket world reacted since the tragedy?
The outpouring of grief from cricketers nation-wide, the majority who’d never met Hughes, was heartwarming. Sydney’s Paul Taylor – a former grade cricketer – recognised Hughes’ passing with a simple act: putting his cricket bat and his Mosman cap by his front door and took a photo for his Twitter account. The humble gesture started a social media wave: #putoutyourbats became the symbol for ordinary Aussies to remember Hughes. When Tony Abbott was dumped as PM this year, the hashtag was parodied as #PutOutYourOnions.

The numbers 408 (Hughes’ Test cap number) and 63 also played a part. The Saturday after Hughes’ death, many junior cricketers retired at 63 to honour him. A commemorative plaque was placed at the SCG in time for the fourth Test against India.

The first Test was meant to start at the Gabba in early December, but was shifted to just before Christmas, with Adelaide (Hughes’ adopted home) opening the four-Test series from December 9.
The Adelaide Test was a time of celebration and healing. David Warner, who played in Hughes’ final match, signalled his intent with 145 off 163 balls. When Warner reached 63, the crowd gave a standing ovation, with Warner looking up at Hughes and raising his bat. When Steve Smith (145 not out) reached his hundred, he walked to the big “408” painted on the ground and raised his bat. Michael Clarke – who gave a brave and touching speech at the funeral – made 128 as Australia declared at 7/517.

The biggest test came in the 30th over of India’s innings. Mitchell Johnson bowled a bouncer which hit Indian captain Virat Kohli. The Australian players made sure Kohli was alright. Johnson – who had terrorised the Poms the previous summer – was visibly distressed.

A run-in between Warner and fast bowler Varun Aaron in the second innings, after Warner (enroute to another hundred) was bowled off a no-ball, threatened to undo the goodwill.

Nathan Lyon had been bowling during the Shield match against South Australia so it was appropriate that Lyon won the game for Australia on the final day. Chasing 364, Kohli (141) and Murali Vijay (99) were batting India towards an unlikely victory. At 2/242, Lyon (1/116) began his 25th over. Lyon trapped Vijay LBW and got Rahane five balls later. Kohli kept fighting but Lyon got the better of India’s vulnerable tail, finishing with 7/152 off 34. 1 overs. India lost 8/73 to fall by 48 runs.

Australia won the series 2-0 under Steve Smith, with Clarke’s hamstring injury ruling him out after Adelaide. Considering the emotional turmoil Clarke had suffered, the rest helped, refreshing him for the World Cup win in March.

Sean Abbott was heavily affected by Hughes’ death. In the immediate aftermath, some thought Abbott would never play cricket again. In a testament to the young man’s mental courage, he came back strongly. While Australia was playing in Adelaide, Abbott returned for NSW against Queensland at the SCG. He took 2/53 in the first innings and 6/14 off seven overs as the Bulls – needing 179 to make NSW bat again – collapsed for 99. Abbott continued his healing for the Sydney Sixers, taking nine wickets in 10 games at 30.44. He finished the Shield season with 23 wickets at 27.21. He played for Australia A in India and continues to play for NSW in domestic cricket.

One of the biggest changes after Hughes’ death was the helmets. Masuri started including a “stemguard” – made of foam and a rubber and attached to the back of a helmet, while not impeding a batsman’s head movement. Initially trialled in early 2015, the Stemguard helmets are now available for everyone.

KP: a loudmouth or just misunderstood?



Many were surprised by Ian Bell’s omission from the South African touring squad.

One of the loudest critics was Kevin Pietersen, labelling the decision “pathetic”, with a bonus dig at Alistair Cook, “Captain Cook himself, he can go two years without a Test hundred yet he can play every single game”.

Would Bell appreciate KP’s support? His reaction on Twitter was humble and diplomatic, saying he’s going to enjoy family time then try to win his spot back. No KP histrionics needed.

While some believe KP’s willingness to speak his mind and avoid the mind-numbing ‘cliché speak’ is refreshing, others believe ‘The Walking Ego’ is on a power trip, desperate to stay relevant while England move on without him.

Aussie fans remember KP bursting on the scene during the 2005 Ashes; tall, confidence bordering on arrogance, silly skunk hairdo and lots of strokes. His 158 at the Oval historically secured the Ashes. KP fulfilled his on-field potential, scoring over 8,000 runs in 104 Tests at a tick under 50.

KP also showed that an abrasive off-field personality can hurt even the most talented player.

His nine year Test career was dotted with controversies.

While playing with Nottinghamshire in 2003, KP voiced his displeasure when Notts were relegated to Second Division and even threatened to sue.

One year after the Ashes triumph, KP criticised the South African quota system and later described Proteas captain Graeme Smith as a “muppet”. While KP may have been bitter that he had to leave South Africa (partly due to the quota system), this petulance smacked of sour grapes.

KP was made captain in 2008 under Peter Moores. A year later, KP and Moores butted heads, with KP declaring he couldn’t work with Moores. While KP got his way with Moores’ sacking, he also lost the captaincy.

In 2010, KP was dropped from England’s ODI team. Rather than take it on the chin and get back to the nets, KP vented his frustration with an explicit tweet. While it was removed, the damage had been done. Two years later, KP was in trouble again for Twitter misuse, openly criticising Nick Knight’s commentary skills.

Arguably KP’s biggest controversy was “text-gate”. During the second Test of the 2012 home summer against South Africa, KP was caught sending the South African players derogatory tweets about English captain Andrew Strauss, including advice on how to dismiss him. KP was dropped for the final Test at Lord’s, which South Africa won by 51 runs to claim the series 2-0.

England’s nightmare Ashes loss in 2013-14 was the final straw for KP. He scored a relatively modest 294 runs at 29.40 (with just two fifties) and was dropped for good. Was he a scapegoat or was it a convenient excuse to finally get rid of him? His arrogant dismissal in Adelaide probably summed up his series. With England 2/66 chasing 570, KP was on four when he advanced Peter Siddle and hit him straight to George Bailey at mid-wicket. Cricinfo’s ball-by-ball commentary described it as ‘Very very poor indeed from such a great player, flicking right into the trap and now England are in trouble.’

As a Twenty20 freelancer (with stints in the IPL, Caribbean Premier League and South Africa’s Ram Slam T20 Challenge), KP played for the Melbourne Stars in the 2014/15 BBL. He scored 293 runs at 42, with a high score of 67 not out. In interviews, KP was articulate, confident and candid. He also impressed with guest commentary for Channel Ten. Many negative perceptions of KP were changed. Was he actually a decent bloke after all this time?

Then he tried to come back for the 2015 Ashes. KP did everything right, scoring 355 not out for Surrey against Leicestershire. With those runs behind him, surely he’d walk into the England team again? Andrew Strauss, now National Director of Cricket, declared there was no room for KP. There’d been plenty of bad blood between the pair. Strauss, commentating in the MCC v Rest of World match, called KP a naughty word off-air. KP hit back in his controversial biography, saying Strauss let a bullying culture run through the England team. Critics of KP would call this karma; all of KP’s big mouth antics had finally caught up with him.

To be fair to KP, he hasn’t done anything illegal (though the texting drama pushed some moral boundaries); he comes off selfish, arrogant and unafraid to voice his opinion when he doesn’t get his way.

KP’s stint with the Stars showed if he concentrates on batting, he’s actually fairly likeable. For all his controversy, he’s actually a talented cricketer and deserves to be remembered for on-field runs rather than off-field stupidity and soap opera drama.





The Black Caps Head South


On November 27, New Zealand plays in Adelaide for just the fifth time in 40 years.
Adelaide Oval hasn’t been kind to the Black Caps, with three big losses and a draw.
Jan 26-31, 1974: Australia 477; New Zealand 218 and 202. Australia won by an innings and 57 runs
New Zealand’s first Adelaide Test was in 1974, the first series in almost 30 years. Australia went into the third and final Test with a 1-0 lead. Beginning on Australia Day, the Aussies were a formidable 6/332, with Kerry O’Keefe (58 not out) and Rod Marsh (44 not out) capitalising on early runs from Doug Walters (94) and Greg Chappell (42). O’Keefe and Marsh continued on the second morning, their partnership reaching 168. Marsh scored 132 and O’ Keefe 85. Spinner David O’Sullivan toiled away for 5/132. The poor old Kiwis never stood a chance. By stumps on day three (with a rest day to follow), they were 4/98 in their second innings, following-on from 218 all out (O’Keefe 3/55). Day four was abandoned and New Zealand lost 6/104 on day five, defeated by an innings and 57 runs. Geoff Dymock took 5/58 while captain Bevan Congdon (71 not out) showed some resistance in New Zealand’s second innings.
Dec 11-15, 1987: New Zealand 485/9d and 182/7; Australia 496. Match Drawn
New Zealand returned to Adelaide in 1987 with brighter prospects. They drew in 1981/82 and won 3-1 during six home and away Tests in 1985/86. Australia took a 1-0 lead into Adelaide and kept that advantage after a high-scoring draw. Batting first, Andrew Jones (150) complied 128 for the second wicket with John Wright (45) and 213 with Martin Crowe (137) for the third wicket. Strong lower-order runs allowed New Zealand to declare at 9/485. Captain Allan Border, who’d single-handedly dragged the Aussies through the dire eighties, was rewarded with 205, sharing partnerships of 116 with Steve Waugh (61) and 154 with Peter Sleep (62). Australia ensured a draw by batting into day five, (wicketkeeper Greg Dyer scoring 60 from number eight), as Australia made 496. Richard Hadlee bowled 42 overs for 5/68. Jones (64) and Dipak Patel (40) enjoyed some second innings batting practice. Australia won the series with another draw in the MCG Boxing Day Test.
Nov 26-30, 2004: Australia 575/8d and 139/2d; New Zealand 251 and 250. Australia won by 213 runs
It was 17 years before New Zealand (now nicknamed the Black Caps) visited Adelaide for another Test. The 2004/05 edition was a minimum two-Test series. Australia won by an innings at the Gabba and won almost as easily in Adelaide. Mark Richardson (in a lovely beige and brown body suit) did manage to beat Darren Lehmann in the post-match 110 metre “sprint” (complete with beer keg hurdles). At least the race was for a good cause, with $200 going to Intellectually Handicapped Children (IHC) and $1000 to the Shane Warne Foundation.
The actual Test match was a snooze. Australia made 8/575 declared as Justin Langer (215) compiled 137 with fellow opener Matthew Hayden (70), 103 with Ponting (68) and 184 with Lehmann (81). Half-centuries from Shane Warne (53 not out) and Gilchrist (50) continued the torture. Daniel Vettori bowled 55.2 overs for 5/152. Captain Steven Fleming (83) and Nathan Astle (52) provided some resistance as opening bowlers Glenn McGrath (4/66) and Jason Gillespie (3/37) dismissed New Zealand for 251. Resuming at 0/57 on day four, Australia declared at 2/139, with Hayden (54) and Langer (46) adding 93. The target of 464 was well beyond the Black Caps, in trouble at 4/34 after 20 overs. Vettori (59), Jacob Oram (40), Astle (38) and Brendon McCullum (36) dragged the game into the fifth day and creating anticipation for the Richardson v Lehmann race. McGrath (2/32), Kasprowicz (2/39), Gillespie (2/41), Lehmann (2/46) and Warne (2/79) shared the wickets.
Nov 28-Dec 1, 2008: New Zealand 270 and 203; Australia 535. Australia won by an innings and 62 runs
New Zealand returned to Adelaide four years later, again given the minimum two-Test series. Australia, again, complemented a big Gabba win with an even bigger win at Adelaide. New Zealand was competitive on day one, reaching 6/262 (Aaron Redmond 83, Ross Taylor 44). The tail fell in the second morning, with Brett Lee taking 4/66. Australia’s reply was highlighted by big tons for Brad Haddin (169), Michael Clarke (110) and fifties for Ponting (79) and Mike Hussey (70). Trailing by 265, New Zealand were 0/35 heading into day four. Another five wickets to Lee (5/105) saw New Zealand lose 10/168 in 65 overs.

The Hard Life of the Spinner



You have to feel for Mark Craig.

The New Zealand off-spinner has endured a rough time in Australia, taking a combined 6/438 in Brisbane and Perth and 1/271 in three tour matches.

Before the Australia tour, Craig had played 10 Tests for 38 wickets, including 7/94 against Pakistan and 8/188 on his debut against the West Indies. This is a harsh reality check.

Most of Craig’s wickets have come during “garbage time”, when the Aussie batsman chased quick runs to force a declaration. In the first innings Craig took 0/156 off 31 overs at the Gabba and 3/123 off 23 overs at the WACA, both times conceding more than five runs an over. His first wicket in Perth came in the 131st over.

Some of the best international spinners have been humbled down under.

Mulari took 800 wickets in 133 Tests compared to 12 in five Tests in Australia. It was the infamous Boxing Day Test in 1995 which sparked the no-ball furore that dogged his career, especially in Australia.

Graeme Swann took 15 wickets in the 2010/11 Ashes win. Three years later, he abruptly retired after England lost the Ashes in Perth.

Ashley Giles’ Test career was ended after the 2006 Adelaide Test, taking 2/149 and crucially dropping Ricky Ponting in the first innings.

Giles’ replacement Monty Panesar took eight wickets at the WACA, but is remembered for being Adam Gilchrist’s plaything in the second innings. Monty managed just five more wickets in four Tests and was dropped after England’s MCG loss in 2013/14.

Leg-spinner Scott Borthwick took over from Monty in Sydney, took four wickets and hasn’t been seen since.

One of the few international spinners to genuinely thrive in Australia (though India’s Ravi Ashwin has taken 21 wickets in six Tests) is Anil Kumble, with 49 wickets in 10 Tests, including 8/141 at the SCG in 2004 (12/279 for the game). Kumble was tall and bowled at near-medium pace. His lack of turn was compensated by his bounce, subtle change of pace incredible accuracy.

So why is it so hard for international spinners – many arriving with big reputations – to succeed in Australia?

Aside from Sydney and Adelaide, spin is hard to bowl in Australia. Spinners have to toil hard on flat or unsympathetic pitches and can’t get used to conditions like local spinners. Most international teams come to Australia every three to four years. The spinner plays a crucial role in Tests: they need to keep it tight in the first innings and cash in when it turns on days four and five. Spinners who can’t do this – like Craig – are mercilessly punished by Aussie batsmen. The same theory partly explains why Australia struggle with the sub-continental spinners or the swinging ball in England.

So how can visiting spinners succeed in Australia?

The obvious answer is for overseas spinners to play more Shield cricket while still active Test players.

South Africa’s Johan Botha has played with South Australia and the Adelaide Strikers since 2012, though he hasn’t played a Test since 2010. England’s Adil Rashid played for South Australia in the state-based Big Bash in 2010/11 and helped them win the title.

New Zealand’s Daniel Vettori took 37 wickets in 12 Tests in Australia and has played with the Brisbane Heat in the Big Bash League since 2011, graduating to head coach in 2015. Like Kumble, Vettori is tall and relies on more on bounce, accuracy and change of pace than turn.

If current overseas spinners can be lured to play Shield and Big Bash cricket, they will have time to prepare for Tests and avoid a potentially career-ruining pastings.



The Nines are back


The third edition of the Auckland Nines has been announced.

The tournament will be played on Saturday February 6 and Sunday February 7, 2016 at Auckland’s Eden Park.

Defending Nines champions Souths will play traditional rivals Sydney Roosters, Parramatta and Melbourne in Pool Waiheke.

NRL premiers (and 2014 Nines winners) North Queensland face Newcastle, Penrith and the Wests Tigers in Pool Rangitoto.

NRL runners-up Brisbane play Canterbury, Manly and hometown favourites the NZ Warriors in Pool Hunua.

Last year’s Nines runners up Cronulla play St.George-Illawarra, Canberra and Gold Coast in Pool Piha.

The Australian Women’s team – the Jillaroos – will play the Kiwi Ferns again during the tournament.

Pool Hunua: Canterbury Bulldogs, Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles, NZ Warriors, Brisbane Broncos
Pool Waiheke: Sydney Roosters, South Sydney Rabbitohs, Parramatta Eels, Melbourne Storm
Pool Rangitoto: Newcastle Knights, North Queensland Cowboys, Penrith Panthers, Wests Tigers
Pool Piha: St. George-Illawarra Dragons, Canberra Raiders, Cronulla Sharks, Gold Coast Titans

The Nines rules include:

  • Two nine-minute halves and a two-minute half time period.
  • Nine players a side with six unlimited interchange players
  • Scrums only from a double knock on.
  • One on-field referee, two touch judges, two in-goal judges, no video referee.
  • Five-minute “golden try” extra time in qualifying rounds, unlimited “golden try” for the finals.
  • Tap restart after a 40/20.
  • Bonus point try (scored under the posts) is five points. Drop kick conversions worth two points.
  • The scoring team drop kicks to restart play.
  • Five-minute sin bins (Five in 2014).
  • Five-tackle sets.


The NRL’s third edition of the Nines continues rugby league’s experiment with the shorter game. The World Sevens was a popular pre-season tournament from 1988 to 2004, featuring local teams and international sides. Manly won three times in the nineties (1990, 1994, 1995) before the tournament was stopped in 1997. It was revived in 2003, with Parramatta (2003) and Wests Tigers (2004) winning. The 2004 edition featured a four-tackle rule instead of six.

Super League held two Nines tournaments in 1996 and 1997. The inaugural tournament was played in Fiji, with 16 international teams. The 1997 tournament was held in Townsville with just 12 teams. New Zealand won both tournaments, beating PNG and Western Samoa.