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Monday, May 31, 2010

England again hit by a cyclone called Tamim Iqbal


Cyclone isn't something that is going to cause mass destruction only once, but can strike again and again due to winds blowing around a central area of low atmospheric pressure. Over the years, Bangladesh has seen cyclones cause mass destruction. Now, let us not get deeply into meteorology, but if I think about yesterday's play between England and Bangladesh, a different sort of cyclone was seen at Lords as it rained fours and sixes from Tamim Iqbal's bat with England's fielders and bowlers running for cover. Just like wind blowing at a high speed in cyclone, here too the ball went at the speed of knots from Tamim's bat! It was no doubt a fantastic knock and it made even better that he played the knock with the team being in a a spot of bother as they were made to follow on.

Tamim Iqbal has a uncomplicated style of batting as if it is short, he would look to pull, or cut it and if it is fuller in length, he would look to play the drive. Yes, he plays on the up and doesn't have much footwork, but has a great eye and succeeds more often than not, so why should he change his style of batting, especially with wickets being batsmen friendly?

Yesterday's knock was no doubt a delight to watch as he played aggressively against the new ball and when Swann came into the attack, he was taken to the cleaners. Swann is arguably one of the best bowlers going around against the lefthanders, but Tamim negated his threat by playing some great slog sweeps and used his feet well as he made Swann look innocuous. He didn't spare the quicker bowlers either as they were also smashed all over the park.I really love the pull shot that he plays against the quicker bowler on one leg. It is a bit reminiscent of what I saw of the former Westindian great Greenidge on a highlights package sometime ago. Tamim must be cloud nine as not many get the chance to score a hundred at Lords. Players of the calibre of Tendulkar and Gavaskar haven't scored a hundred at Lords!

Another good sign for Bangladesh was, it wasn't just one batsman who did well as Junaid, Jaharul and Kayes all played well. Kayes doesn't have the talent of Tamim and to be frank, before this match he looked a misfit in test cricket, but credit has to go to him for doing well in this test. He made use of whatever little height he has by standing upright and not looking to take on the short ball which clearly has been his weakness. in the end, he got out for 75 to a short ball, but gave very good support to Tamim. Junaid has already shown in Bangladesh that he is a gutsy player, who can play long innings. Yesterday, too he stood upright and showed good judgment against the short ball. Yes, his tendency to come half forward leaves him vulnerable against the short ball, but he more than makes it up by not taking his eye off the ball and plays with soft hands. He has already got a half century in this innings and for Bangladesh to draw the match, he needs to get a big score. The efforts of Tamim, Junaid, Kayes and Jaharul has meant that they have a realistic chance of drawing the match.

As far as England's bowling were concerned, I felt that they weren't exactly on the money, but it has to be said that with the sun coming out, the wicket became flat.

Anyway my views on England's bowlers

Finn- He continues to impress me as he came hard at the batsmen on a flat deck and of course, his ability to bowl a fuller length would always help him. He has a wise head on his young shoulders.

Anderson- Late in the day he bowled reasonably well with the old ball and bowled a incisive spell with the new ball. He was perhaps unlucky not to get more than one wicket as Junaid was lucky to survive a lifter. More than anything else, I liked the fact that he didn't look down and out and bowled a very good spell late in the day.

Bresnan- I felt that he bowled ok in Bangladesh and looked like a workhorse, but has gone back to his old ways as in this test match, he hasn't found his length and has been all over the place. If he wants to play more games for England, he has to show consistency.

Swann- The Lords pitch doesn't have anything in it for the spinners and the credit has to go to Tamim and co. for playing him well as usually he is very effective against lefthanders.

Finally Tamim's breathtaking display with the bat and good support from others has meant that Bangladesh have a real good chance of drawing the match, but they need to be careful of the first hour on the fifth day as Finn and Anderson would come hard at the batsmen and look for wickets with the brand new ball.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Can Kumar and Yadav come good?


In recent times, Indian cricket has seen few bowlers, who have shown some promise, but have faded away very quickly. One can think of Sharma, Sree, RP.Singh, Pathan etc. All the bowlers so mentioned showed a bit of promise, but at present they are in the wilderness as they are all short of form and fitness. So, the tour of Zimb. is important for India as they need to find some decent quicker bowlers.

Among the bowlers, I have seen, I have been impressed by both Kumar and Yadav. V.Kumar isn't someone, who is going to bowl quick as he is a medium-pacer, but I think he can be a effective bowler for the Indian team as he has a very good fc record and more importantly for a medium-pacer he has a big heart. In modern times, I have seen medium-pacers, especially from India, who have mainly tried to bowl off cutters and would hope that batsmen may throw his wicket away. A fine example would be Irfan Pathan as he no more depends on swing, but tries to bowl cutters or slower bouncers. It can occasionally help in t/20 cricket as the batsmen are always looking for quick runs, but in the longer forms of the game, he would become predictable and get smashed. So, it is good to see that Kumar doesn't seem to be a bowler, who is mainly looking to contain the batsmen and hope that he would make a mistake.

The first time I saw Kumar in IPL 09, he definitely could bowl a very good outswinger and had good control. The worry was he seemed to depend mainly on that outswinger and was predictable, but I have been impressed by what I have seen of him in this year's IPL as well as the only game he played in the T/20 world cup. First of all, I have noticed that he can occasionally bowl a surprise bouncer and more importantly when he tries to bowl short he puts lots of effort into it and usually doesn't bowl a half-tracker. He also has a decent slower bouncer and his inswinger has improved. His greatest asset is, he tries to make things happen. Yes, he may have to improve his bowling in the end overs, but make no mistake, Kamar can surely become a decent bowler for India as he has the right attitude for a medium-pacer.

As far as Yadav is concerned, he is perhaps the quickest bowler in India as he can bowl at 140+. His greatest asset is, he seems to have a good build for a quick bowler. Yadav has more of a round arm action which is reminiscent of former Pakistan's quick bowlers. It should surely help him to get reverse swing on subcontinental pitches. He may not be of express pace, but can be a slippery customer and can surprise the batsmen for a bit of pace. I do hope for India's sake that unlike other quicker bowlers, he doesn't fade away quickly.

Finally, for India to remain as the number 1 test team or to do well in one-day cricket, they need some good seam bowlers as Zaheer can't play forever so, hopefully Yadav, Kumar or someone else would make their mark during this short tour of Zimbabwe.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Has Hildreth come of age?


In county cricket, one player I have always kept an eye on is Hildreth. From whatever I have seen of him, he is a promising batsman as he is a fine timer of the ball and has a wide range of shots. The downside is, he hasn't been consistent enough in the last few seasons. He has also been known as a player, who can score heavily only on that feathered, Taunton. So, it is refreshing to see that in 2010, Hildreth has been scoring heavily for his county, Somerset.

During his younger days, Hildreth was said to be good at other sports like football as he played for England independent schools and was also good at squash, tennis and even rugby, but took up cricket as his main sport. A lot was expected of him, especially after he scored a century against Durham with Akthar in the opposition bowling attack, but unfortunately he struggled to make his mark from 2003 to 2008 and seemed like another player, who promised much but won't fulfill his potential. 2009 was a better year for him as he averaged in the mid 40's and more importantly in 2010, he has been able to perform even better as he has scored 590 runs at an average of 65.55. I know that his critics would always point to the fact that he plays on that batting paradise Taunton and that helps. Yes, it is true that this season he has scored lots of runs at Taunton and even last year he got that mammoth 303 against Warwickshire again at Taunton, but it doesn't take away the fact that he has been in tremendous form this season.

Secondly, he got that 102 against Yorkshire when Somerset were chasing a stiff target and his knock of 131 against Warwickshire came in a low scoring match and that has to be considered. Actually, his 131 proved to be the difference between the two teams as rest of the batsmen struggled to do well. He also made 99 at Manchester and a century at Southampton. So, it is perhaps a bit unfair to say that he is a flat wicket bully.

I don't see too many question marks over his technique though, he can get into the habit of playing from the crease. If a player plays on very good batting tracks like Taunton, the advantage for a young player is, he can play his shots and build his confidence, but it can sometimes lead to lazy footwork. Actually, I was more worried about Hildreth's temperament as in the past he has given his wicket away, but he has been scoring heavily this season and more importantly is doing well under pressure.

Hildreth is a good player to watch, especially can play some delightful shots through square of the wicket on the off side and contrary to what many think he does have a decent technique. I do hope that he continues to score heavily this season and would hopefully get a chance to play for England in the future.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The rare art of bowling left arm chinaman


If we look at the history of test cricket, it can be said that there have been some outstanding spin bowlers, who have played for their respective teams. One can think of great off spinners, slow left arm orthodox spinners or even for the matter leg spinners, but there haven’t been too many, who have taken up the art of bowling left arm chinaman.It is quite surprising that even bowling leg spin has been popular, but not the left arm chinaman variety. It maybe due to the fact that one has to use the wrist to bowl it, but the same can be said about leg spin as one has to use the wrist to bowl it as well. Anyway, whatever maybe the reason the simple fact is, there haven’t been too many, who have taken up the art of bowling left arm chinaman. It is also interesting to see that subcontinent, which has seen many great spinners over the past, hasn’t produced even decent left arm chinaman bowlers, but on the other hand, Aussies have produced some fine chinaman bowlers. It maybe due to the fact that wickets in Australia are hard and bouncy and that factor encourages youngsters, who aspire to become spinners to take up either leg spin, or chinaman as it is hard for a finger spinner to bowl on wickets that doesn’t turn much, but a wrist spinner would likely extract more turn and can use the bounce the Australian wickets can offer to good effect. So, in this article let us look at the rare art of bowling left arm unorthodox spin, or left arm chinaman.

A left arm chinaman bowler uses his wrists to spin the ball from off to leg, or he can also have a googly that turns away from the right-handed batsman. As expected, the ball will turn sharply as a left arm chinaman bowler uses his wrists, but it is not easy to control the flight and direction as bowling with a wrist action can never be easy.

If we think about left arm chinaman bowling, questions like who was the first to try this rare art and how did the word chinaman came into existence can surely arise. To answer it, one may have to go as far back as 1890’s when it is said that South African all rounder, Llelyllen bowled a bit of left arm unorthodox spin. Llelyllen also bowled medium pace, but it looks like he was the first cricketer who bowled left arm unorthodox spin. Many people though, say that Achong was the first one to bowl left arm unorthodox spin.

As far as the word chinaman being used instead of unorthodox spin is concerned, one can say that there is a very interesting story behind it. It is said that Ellis Achong or more popularly known as Puss Achong, the first cricketer of Chinese origin to play test cricket was bowling in a test match at Manchester in England in 1933 and was able to get Walter Robbins stumped by the wicketkeeper Barrow, but as Robbins walked back to pavilion, Achong said to the umpire: "Fancy being done by a bloody chinaman” So, one can say the art of bowling left arm unorthodox spin came to be known as chinaman thanks to Achong!

Now, let us look at some of the other fine exponents of left arm chinaman bowling.

1)Fleetwood Smith- He is popularly known as Chuck Fleetwood Smith. Smith played for Australia during the mid 1930’s. He could bowl both the chinaman and the wrong un. Fleetwood Smith could only play 10 times for Australia and that was on expected lines as he had to battle for a test spot with such legendary names like O’Reilly and Grimmett, but he had his fair share of success, especially in 36/37 when he took 10 wickets for 239 runs at Melbourne against England to help Australia make a come back in a series in which they were 2-0 down. Actually, he was dropped for the first two tests. He is unfairly known for giving away as many as 298 runs in 73 overs against England at Oval, when Hutton took Australia’s attack to the task by scoring 364 and that incidentally was the highest individual score by any batsman at that time. It was also the last time he played for Australia, but his record of 597 first class wickets at 22.64 shows that if legendary names like O’Reilly and Grimmet hadn’t played during his time, he could have been a fine bowler for Australia.

2)Johnny Wardle- During the 50’s, Wardle was a key member of the England team. He didn’t had it easy, as the side had a strong bowling attack what with the likes of Statham, Tyson, Bailey and Trueman battling for the pace bowling slots and Laker, Lock and Wardle as the spinners. It was a bit unfortunate for Wardle that he had to battle with Surrey’s chief wicket-taker Tony Lock for a place in the England’s side yet, Wardle carved a niche for himself by taking 102 wickets at just 20.39. He mainly bowled slow left arm orthodox spin at home, but used the chinaman variety when playing away from home and he could also bowl the wrong un. His main success came against Pakistan in 1954 as he took 20 wickets at just 8.8 and was devastating in South Africa too in 56/57 when he took 26 wickets at 13.8. He also played a key part in England’s successful tour of Australia in 54/55, especially at Sydney when he took 8 wickets in the match. It was a tour in which England relied heavily on the fearsome pace of Tyson and the accuracy of Statham and Bailey, but Wardle too played his part by taking 10 wickets at just 22.9. The Yorkshireman ended his career with no less than 1846 first class wickets and that is indeed a staggering achievement!

3) Sir Garfield Sobers- Sobers was more known for his exceptional batting and aggressive quick bowling, but he could also bowl left arm orthodox spin and the chinaman variety and that is why he is rightly regarded as the greatest all rounder of all time as he was outstanding at so many aspects of the game. He started his career by bowling slow left arm orthodox, but later became good at bowling even left arm chinaman and quickish medium pace. A true cricketing genius.

4) Lindsay Kline- He played for Australia in the mid 50’s and early 60’s. Kline played only 13 tests for Australia and most of them when playing away from home. It was a time when they had Richie Benaund in the side and as expected, he got limited opportunities, but he made his mark by taking a hat-trick against South Africa in 57/58. Kline was also occasionally known for his resolute batting as he played for almost 100 minutes at Adelaide to help Australia to draw the match against the Calypso kings, the Caribbean team in 60/61.

5) Inshan Ali- The slightly built Trinidadian played for the Caribbean team in the 70’s. He didn’t had much success when he played test cricket though, he did take a 5 wicket haul against New Zealand in 71/72, but was a useful bowler in first class cricket as he took 328 wickets for Trinidad.

6)Paul Adams- Adams was known for his unique action which came to known as a frog in a bender. He was first spotted by the former South African all rounder Barlow and made his debut in test cricket at the tender age of just 18. As he had a very unique action, many batsmen just got flummoxed by it at the beginning of his career. It can be seen by the fact that he took 8 wickets in just 2 tests against England in 95/96 and played a key part in helping South Africa to defeat England at Cape town as South Africa won the series 1-0. He also was successful in India as he took a 6 wicket haul at Kanpur by flummoxing the Indian batsmen again with his unique action as even the likes of Azhar, Tendulkar and Dravid succumbed to his left arm chinaman bowling in the first innings, but Azhar’s heroics with the bat in the second innings and a wearing pitch meant that his efforts went in vain as South Africa were crushed by 280 runs. As the years went by, the batsmen started to get adjusted to his action as his mystery was unraveled. The critics thought that he didn’t had much variety as he lacked a googly. The Aussies played him easily in 97/98 and former players like Bob Simpson also thought that the then captain of South Africa, Cronje set negative fields for Adams. He slowly faded way from the international scene and retired from first class cricket in 2008. His record of 134 wickets at 32.87 though, does show that he did reasonably well for South Africa.

7)Bevan- Micheal Bevan was always known for his ability to win matches for Australia as a batsman from hopeless situations in one day cricket, but people do forget that he was also a useful left arm chinaman bowler. He showed his class as a chinaman bowler in South Africa in 96/97. Most knowledgeable fans that I have discussed with, or former players like Simpson, Ian Chappell, and Shane Warne himself have said that South African batsmen are good against finger spin, but do tend to struggle against wrist spin. It was proved right at least at Johannesburg in the first test in 96/97 when both Bevan and Warne combined together to help Australia crush South Africa by an innings and 196 runs. In the second innings, Shane Warne with his magical leg spin bowling bamboozled the top order and Bevan with his quickish left arm chinaman bowling ripped through the South African lower order as South African batsmen fell like nine pins. It was a good series for Bevan as he took 9 wickets at just 19.55. He subsequently struggled in English conditions as a chinaman bowler and Bevan as a batsman was always suspect against sustained short pitch bowling because of which he only played in 18 tests. His record of 29 wickets at 24.24 though, does show that he was a useful chinaman bowler.

8)Brad Hogg- He played for Australia in the late 90’s and the early part of the new millennium. Hogg couldn’t play many tests as Australia had the legendary Shane Warne and Macgill in the side. I would also like to add Bevan as Bevan was selected to play for Australia in tests as he could also bowl left arm chinaman, but Hogg carved a niche for himself in the shorter version of the game. He took 156 wickets at just 26.84 in one-day cricket. He made his test debut way back in 96/97 at Delhi in India, but he played that test only because Shane Warne was out with a finger injury and as soon as he came back into the team, he found himself in the wilderness, but Hogg did well for his state, Western Australia and finally came back into the Australian one-day set up in 2002/03. I still remember the match at Hobart against England when Hogg was struggling to get wickets and was getting smashed around by both the innovative Knight and the power hitter Trescothick, but once both were gone, he took 3 important wickets as he bamboozled the opposition with his googly to help Australia win by a narrow margin of just 7 runs. He also became the main one day spinner for the world cup in 2003 as Shane Warne failed a drug test. He surely had a great time in that tournament as he took 13 wickets at just 24.76 as he helped Australia to retain the world cup. The subsequent retirement of Warne from one-day cricket meant that he became the main one day spinner for Australia. In the 07 world cup too he was successful as he took 8 wickets at 29.5 as again Australia were successful in retaining the world cup. I would always remember the deadly googly that he bowled to get Freddie Flintoff of England stumped in a crucial super 8’s match in that tournament. It also was the time when Warne retired from test cricket and Macgill too was on the decline as a test spinner which paved the way for Hogg to play test cricket, but he was already 36 and was able to appear in just 7 tests for Australia. He was also a useful lower order batsman for Australia.

In recent times, there haven’t been many chinaman bowlers though, both Mahmood of West Indies and Casson of Australia have shown some promise, but at present both are in the wilderness. Mahmood in the recently concluded champions league bowled some useful spells. He is not a big turner of the ball though, seems to have good control and Casson too showed a bit of promise in the Caribbean in 2008, but at present, he is battling to get into even his state side, the New South Wales. Other than those two, there is Katich who was encouraged to take up the art of bowling left arm chinaman by none other the former Australian captain Steve Waugh himself. Katich does have a 5 wicket haul against Zimbabwe to his credit, but it is fair to say that he is very much a part-time spin bowler.

Finally, one can say that with the advent of T/20 cricket, flat wickets and bigger bats being used, the art of bowling left arm chinaman would be fully extinct in a few years time. I sincerely hope it doesn’t happen as watching a left arm chinaman bowler bamboozling the best of batsmen with turn and bounce has always been a connoisseur's delight.

Friday, May 21, 2010

County Championship at its best


Yesterday, it was a great day in county cricket as in the first division we saw some thrilling matches that went right down to the wire. First up, Durham chased down a relatively low score, but at one time they were in a spot of bother at 37 for 3. Lancashire looked set to win at Edgbaston when Warwickshire were 30 for 3, but the ice cool Trott and the dangerous slogger Carter made it look like 441 can be chased down. Saj though did the trick by bowling a superb slower yorker to dismiss Carter and Lancs won in the end by 65 runs. At Taunton, it looked like yet another dull draw was on the cards before Tres gave the ball to part-timers like Hildreth and Compton to encourage Yorkshire to take the bait and declare quickly. Yorkshire did declare at the score of 333 with Somerset being given the chance to chase down 362. At Taunton, no score is safe and Somerset were able to chase that target for the loss of just 4 wickets. At Trent Bridge, the strugglers Hampshire looked good for their first victory, but suddenly lost their way only for McKenzie to make a superb hundred under pressure and don't forget the gutsy Herath too as he supported McKenzie at the other end to help them win their first match of the season by just two wickets.

Anyway, let us look at all the exciting matches in detail

In the match at Canterbury, it seemed like a draw was on the cards, but the wicket started to break up and Kent lost their way to hand Durham only their second victory of the season. Durham have to be praised for coming up with some very good plans in the second innings. I have said it a few times that Key's front foot goes nowhere and is vulnerable to edging it behind the stumps or on a wicket that isn't coming onto the bat like at Canterbury being caught at short extra cover. The plan worked as he got out by spooning a catch to the short cover fielder of a fuller length delivery. Jaarsveld is a gutsy player who can play a long innings, but he tends to shuffle a bit which helps him to get into a good position to play the pull shot, but from the time I have seen him play for South Africa, I have rarely seem him play a good cover drive. The idea of leaving the gap open at cover worked for Durham as Jaarsveld tried to play a cover drive and as expected he edged it to be caught in the slips. Azhar Mahmood unlike other Pakistan's players has always shown the inability to play spinners as he lunges forward. Shane Warne used to get him out for fun with his quicker delivery, but in CC it was Blackwell who did the trick by getting Azhar out partly because the pitch was keeping low and Azhar's inability to play the arm ball helped.

Durham after executing their plans superbly were suddenly chasing a score of just 169, but at 37 for 3 it didn't look good. Experienced players like Blackwell and Benkenstein though, played carefully to take Durham close to the target and once Blackwell got out, the young prodigy Stokes just smashed everything in sight to take Durham to their second victory of the season.

At Edgbaston, Lancs were all over Warks as on that amazing second day Warks were bundled out for just 113 in reply to Lancashire's 354. The Bears team though made a fightback by reducing Lancs to just 33 for 6 before Saj played another fine knock to take Lancs to 198. I have to also say that Anderson gave Saj good support. In 2010 Saj has not just been in great form with the ball but with the bat too!!!

After that amazing second day when 20 wickets fell, Lancashire surely looked like had the upper hand as Warwickshire needed 441 for a amazing victory, but didn't they give Lancs a run for their money as they eventually made 375. It looked all different at 30 for 3 as the old warhorse Chapple again came to the party for Lancs. Before the season started, there was a feeling that he was on the wane, but that is just nonsense as not just this season, even in 2009, he took 35 wickets at just 25.25 and he missed 5 games during that season. In 2008, he took 42 wickets at just 20!!

Anyway, coming back to the match, at 30 for 3 they were staring down the barrel, but the ice cool Trott started to forge some useful partnerships. He and Troughten came up with a partnership of 89 and even Clarke helped Trott to take the score to 205, but when Ambrose got out, it looked all over as they still needed another 197 runs to win the match. At that time, Carter came to the crease and as usual smashed another crucial fifty to create panic among Lancashire's players and supporters. Carter is a sort of player who can be very useful when chasing a huge total as he can score quickly which would take the pressure off the main batsman at the other end. Yesterday as Carter was able to slog a quickfire fifty, it made Trott's job easier as he could play his natural game. Lancs were under the pump as suddenly the opposition needed just 95 runs for a famous victory, but I heard on the commentary that Saj produced a superb slower yorker to end Carter's knock and once he was gone, it was always going to be difficult to chase down a target like 441 as Trott suddenly had to be the aggressor as tailenders like Miller and Rankin are rabbits with the bat in hand. Anderson picked up a couple of wickets and the match ended when Trott after playing a great knock of 150 got out. Warwickshire may have lost by 65 runs, but they can be proud of their fightback. It has been a good season for Lancs, but the fielders have to take the catches. Against Somerset catches were dropped and even yesterday Prince dropped a catch and another straightforward chance was dropped of Trott. The team has to remember that catches win matches!

At Taunton, it looked like another boring draw was on the cards before Tres gave part-timers the chance to bowl overs as he wanted Yorkshire to got after them and set a target for Somerset to chase down. Interestingly, they took the bait and declared at 333 for 4. So, Somerset were suddenly chasing a target of 362 for victory. At Taunton, no target is safe as the wicket is a batting beauty. As expected, Tres and co. took up the gauntlet and chased it down. Tres again gave a good start and Compton did well. The partnership of the match though, came when the expereinced Bruyn and Hildreth put on more than 100 runs in double quick time to make sure that Somerset would likely win the match. Somerset needed about 170 of 20 over which became 132 of 16 overs, but both Bruyn and Hildreth continued to attack to bring the equation down to just 49 runs of 7 overs. Bruyn isn't going to bring too many fans to the ground, but he is a every effective cricketer. Hildreth on the other hand, can play some exciting strokes though, his temperament can be suspect, but yesterday he was at his best.

Once Bruyn got out, they sent Buttler to bat at number six and the general feeling was the tree Trego should have been sent ahead of him as he can smash it a long way, but thankfully for Somerset Buttler came to the party as Somerset won the match in a canter with Buttler getting 14 runs of the penultimate over to end the match. The credit has to got to Hildreth as he was able to score at a strike rate of over 150 and of course, they have to thank Yorkshire for declaring the innings on a flat pitch like Taunton.

In the match at Trent Bridge, the championship leaders Notts were defending a total of 281 on the last day. Notts should thank the young Hales for that as he made 134 to take Notts to 315.

Hampshire though have a good team have been struggling this season as before this match they hadn't won a single match. At 52 for 2, it looked like they may yet again fail to win, but the hero of the match for Hampshire, McKenzie and the player, who for some mysterious reason continues to get picked in the side Benham took them to 127 before Benham again failed to convert a good start into a big score. Ervine too got out, but at 213 for 5 it looked like Hampshire would still chase it down. However, in a matter of a few minutes it all changed as Pothas and Cork got out in quick succession to leave Hampshire in a precarious position at 214 for 7. Balcombe too didn't last long as they suddenly needed 57 runs to win with just two wickets in hand. The hero of the match McKenzie was still there in the middle and with the new ball being taken, McKenzie was able to score quickly and take them to a tense victory. McKenzie has always been a very good player of pace, but isn't that good against spin. Credit though has to go to McKenzie for holding his nerve in a close contest and one can't forget Herath either as he gave McKenzie good support at the other end.

It was a great day in county cricket as there were some exciting matches on show. It shows that county cricket is alive and kicking and the talk of coming up with a new format just doesn't make any sense.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Saj Mahmood and Stokes


I see that Saj has again performed reasonably well against Warks not just as a bowler, but as a batsman too. He has been a real enigma as he has the potential to succeed, but even after playing 8 years of CC has struggled to make his mark at the highest level.

I saw him for the first time on T.V in a 40 over game against Hampshire about 8 years and straightaway I could see a tall guy who could get a bit of awkward bounce and has a bit of pace, but he has been disappointing for England. The problem with Saj is, he tries too many things like slower deliveries or bouncers instead of looking to mainly bowl at a good length spot with the odd fuller delivery to get the edge.


In the exciting match against Warwickshire, I heard on the commentary that he bowled a superb yorker to dismiss the dangerous Carter, but that is Saj for you as he can bowl a awkward bouncer or a fine yorker, but can't bowl decent line and length. He has shown some good form with the bat too, but the time seems to be running out for Saj as just recently in SA in a couple of t/20 matches he again couldn't bowl decent line and length and got smashed around. Selectors can't continue to give him chances forever. He has already played 8 tests and 26 onedayers and averages almost 40 in both forms of the game.

On the other hand, the young Stokes has been in great form with the bat for Durham as he has averaged 74.66 for the Durham side! I have seen him bat only a few times, but he does look like a good prospect though, has to improve as a bowler. Stokes surely has a bright future ahead of him. Hales is another young player who has done well this week by getting a crucial hundred against Hampshire. It is also interesting to see that after leaving Lancashire, Mullaney is doing very well for Notts.

It is always good to see young players doing well in CC and I hope that the likes of Stokes, Mullaney and co. continue to do well and play for England.

Bangladesh in England


To start with, England are doing rather well in international cricket as England won back the Ashes, reached the semifinals of the champions trophy, beat Saffers in South Africa and that is never easy, drew with South Africa in the test series, beat Bangladesh away from home and of course, I have to mention the T/20 world cup victory. So, it would be a daunting task for Bangladesh as they have to play England in England and that too in early May with swing bowlers likely going to succeed.

If Bangladesh give England a fight it would be a good achievement as the conditions are against them. It doesn't mean that they should go into the match with a defeatist attitude, but they shouldn't feel disheartened if they lose as they have a young captain and a young team. It would be a great learning experience for them for sure.

Anyway, let us look at some of their key players


Tamim Iqbal- He was in great form in Bangladesh as he smashed all the England's bowlers to smithereens, but it would be tough for him to succeed in England as he looks to hit most of the deliveries on the up. He is just about 21 and shouldn't look to change his instinctive game, but with age, it would be better if he matures as a player and doesn't look to hit every ball to the boundary and plays according to how the situation demands.

Tamim has the potential, has a decent technique and has succeeded even in places like NZ.

Sakib- For a 23 year old, I like his temperament. He has already come good with both the bat and ball against teams like India, Lanka, England and SA and that isn't a bad achievement. He is a fine strokemaker though, needs to think twice before he looks to again slog sweep Swann as Swann is a superb bowler against lefthanders.

He is a decent bowler too as he bowls with good control and rarely goes for too many runs.

Mohmadullah- If I look at all their batsmen, I think Rahim and M'ullah have the best technique. He plays late and that is something I like about him. He is a fine timer of the ball and it is high time, he concentrates solely on his batting as I don't see much potential in him as a bowler.

On the downside, just like other Bangladesh's batsmen, he can lose his concentration and throw his wicket away. I still expect him and Rahim to do reasonably well in England.

Rahim- He is one batsmen in the line up, who puts a price tag on his wicket. He is a gutsy player and has a fine technique. Rahim can sometimes make mistakes as a keeper, but has the talent to become a fine keeper. I do expect him to do reasonably well in England.

To succeed in England, one needs good quick bowlers, but they sadly don't have any. Murtaza looked like a decent quick, but is injury prone and isn't in the squad. S. Islam though has a high average can get a little bit of swing with the new ball, but won't trouble England's batsmen. Most teams take sometime before they develop some good new ball bowlers and the same can be said about Bangladesh as at present they don't have any.

Among others, Siddiqui seems to have a fine temperament though, perhaps lacks the technique to succeed as a batsman away from home.

The big worry for Bangladesh is, Sakib is down with chicken pox and Tamim is struggling with a wrist injury. Both are main players for Bangladesh and I would hope that they play in the test series.

Bangladesh would play their test matches at Lords and Old Trafford respectively. The Lords pitch has become a good batting track, but in early May, it may assist the swing bowlers more. The track at OT would no doubt have more pace and bounce, but on the fourth and fifth day can assist the spinners. In early May, the track at OT would help the seamers more as there would be a touch bit of sideways movement on offer. Reverse swing can be another factor at OT, but it would be more evident during the later part of the summer

Actually, Bangladesh have been playing better this season as they did fight hard in NZ and gave England a run for their money in the second test at home.

Finally, just like many other cricket fans, I do hope that Bangladesh develop as a cricket team!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Laxman's heroics at Sydney


In another blast from the past, I would like to have a look at Laxman's splendid knock at Sydney in 99/00. Everyone knows that Lax. has scored heavily against a champion team like Australia and his epic knock of 281 at Kolkata would be talked forever, but in 99 it was different as Lax wasn't sure about his place in the side as he was struggling as a opener. During that time as India lacked good openers, the management would send Laxman to open the batting and he was never going to be good as a opener so, he struggled a bit at that position. However, his knock of 167 at Sydney in 99/00 changed it all as it made the cricketing world to take notice of this wonderfully gifted cricketer from India. It also made the Aussies aware that even in the future he would likely trouble them.

If I look back at the match, it was played on a Sydney track that was quite similar to the track on which Pakistan played Australia last year. Lots of rain around meant that there was moisture in the wicket and there was grass on the pitch. In that context, it was really surprising that Tendulkar chose to bat first. The Indian team had already lost the series as they had lost the first two matches yet, they could have given Australia a run for their money in the final test, but Tendulkar surprised everyone by electing to bat first and that too with a certain McGrath in the opposition ranks to take advantage of the helpful conditions on offer.

As expected, India lost early wickets and Tendulkar again seemed to be the only man who could play McGrath and co. He played McGrath and co. with aplomb as he showed his full range of shots before he got out to a bad decision. As soon as he got out, batting on that wicket again looked difficult as India were bundled out for just 150. McGrath had another five wicket haul, but a five wicket haul always seemed like a child's play for McGrath. Indian management may have been left ruing about the decision to bat first.

Australia couldn't bat on the first day as rain again played spoilsport, but when they got the chance to bat on the second day, the sun began to make its presence felt and that made Indian camp's decision to bat first look even more foolish. India's best seamer in the 90's, Srinath though got a early breakthrough and after playing a steady knock, the younger Waugh got out to a straight delivery from Ganguly. Langer and Ponting though, took the match away from India's grasp by getting big hundreds. I saw a bit of Langer's knock in highlights and I reckon he could have been out about 10 times and I'm not exaggerating lol! Sri bowled him of a no ball, but that wasn't the end of the story as Sri continued to have no luck throughout the day. Tendulkar in that match seemed to be following the ball as he would change the slip cordon as soon as the ball would go through that area. Unfortunately for Tendulkar and the luckless Sri, every time he made a change in the slip cordon, it would go through the gap for a four. It happened so many times and that too of the same bowler, it may have even made Sri think why did he become a bowler?? The only consolation for Sri was if I remember correctly he did hit Langer on his helmet, but his figures of 2 for 105 just didn't do any justice to how well he bowled in that innings.

Australia made 552 in the first innings and with a lead of over 400 runs, India were staring down the barrel. Yes, compared to the first day's pitch, it had eased out a bit yet, there was some help in pitch for the quicker bowlers and with the Indian team depending too much on Tendulkar during that tour, it looked like a lost cause. It became worse as Tendulkar for once got out cheaply and India were tottering at 33 for 3. It was at that time Laxman stepped up to the plate and played an outstanding knock. It all started because McGrath bowled a bouncer and smashed Laxman on his helmet as the crowd started hooting and applauding. As I said, Laxman at that time was struggling to come to grips with opening the batting, but the bouncer bowled by McGrath and the crowd just seemed to have woken up a sleeping tiger as after that blow on his helmet at most he may have played a couple of false shots, but most of the deliveries Australia bowled hit the middle of his bat and just raced to the boundary. At the other end, wickets kept falling, but when the Aussie bowlers were bowling to Lax. it was a different story altogether.

At his best, Laxman's balance is always so good. He doesn't play with much footwork, but his wrist work and balance makes him a very hard batsman to bowl to. I do remember a few pull shots that he played of Lee which made my jaws drop as he smashed it to the boundary on front of the wicket of a tearaway quick like Lee. He seemed to be going after mainly Lee as he got smashed for 52 runs in a spell of 5 overs! His ability to find gaps with ease by using his wrists could be seen by everyone as whatever defensive fields Steve would set, Laxman was still able to pierce the gap and find the boundary. The majestic flick was in full force too. He was batting in a league of his own and that made Steve to even give the ball to pert-timers like Ponting and Slater!

Laxman reached his century of just 114 balls and those days scoring at a rate of around 100 was unheard of in test cricket and the opposition had bowlers like McGrath, Warne, Lee and Fleming. His innings finally came to an end as he got out for 167 of just 198 balls. Lee got his wicket, but it was Laxman who got a thunderous applause from the crowd for playing one of the best knocks against quick bowling in recent times. As expected, once he got out, Australia wrapped up the match by getting the tailenders out in no time, but if I have to remember that test, it would be for Laxman's fantabulous knock.

Laxman may have played knocks which were more elegant to watch like his 281 against the same opposition in the famous test at Kolkata, but this knock of 167 showed how talented he was and some of the strokes he played in that knock still amazes me.

Actually, India may to thank Lee for producing that bouncer that hit Lax. on his helmet as otherwise, we may have never seen him at his best. He would have been dropped for sure as he had a bad time in Australia before he played that blistering knock at Sydney.

It is no doubt one of the best knocks I have seen as I have rarely seen batsmen playing the likes of McGrath and co. with such authority as Laxman did in that knock.

The video isn't of great quality and a few of the pull shots he played of Lee are missing still one can watch some fine shots played by Lax.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Stan McCabe


In the history of test cricket, only few cricketers have been able to captivate the imagination of cricket enthusiasts with their cricketing skills. Here, I am thinking about cricketers, who could fill the stadiums with their magical cricketing skills. Cricketers, whose performances would be talked about for a long time to come.

In Stan McCabe, we can think of a player, who with his batting prowess enchanted the cricket fans. His knocks are even now talked about by cricket enthusiasts!

McCabe made his first class debut for New South Wales in 1928/29. He didn’t had the best of starts to his first class career as he got dropped once the senior players came back to the side from international duty. He had his breakthrough season in 1929/30, when he scored 844 runs at 56.27 though he couldn't score a century.

He was selected to tour England in 1930 under the captaincy of Bill Woodfull mainly because he could also bowl brisk medium pace. It was a inexperienced side that toured England yet, they were able to defeat a strong England side which had legendary names like Hobbs, Sutcliffe, Hammond, Leyland, Tate, Duleepshinji, Lawrood and co. mainly thanks to Bradman's heroics. McCabe though, in his first series didn't do well as he made just one fifty and picked a few key wickets and he even thought of giving up the game as he found English conditions tough to handle, but for a timely advise by his teammate Clarrie Grimmett of asking McCabe to play with a full face of the bat which helped him to perform a touch better as the tour progressed.

He again had moderate success against the touring Caribbean team and the South African side in 31/32 and 32/33 respectively. It has to be said that with the likes of Griffith, Francis and Constantine in the side, the Caribbean line up did not had a bad attack and even the South African side had the likes of Bell and the left arm medium pacer, Quinn, who was rated highly by none other than Bradman himself. The Australian side was too strong as they crushed both the West Indies and the South African side, but McCabe found runs hard to come by. So, there were question marks over McCabe's ability to succeed at the highest level.

The next season though, changed it all as McCabe had his breakthrough series against England. The series played in 1932/33 in Australia is famously known as the bodyline series for Jardine's tactic of employing maximum fielders on the leg side which allowed the bowlers to bowl down the leg side and that made runs scoring risky and difficult as any batsman had to get runs through a packed leg side field. It was mainly done to curb the run machine Bradman from scoring runs.

The series started with England thumping Australia at Sydney by 10 wickets by using Bodyline tactics. The match though would be remembered more for McCabe's stunning knock of 187. Larwood and Voce were employing the deadly bodyline tactic, but McCabe met fire with fire and scored 187. He was said to be a courageous hooker and puller, but everyone who saw that knock were said to be astonished by the fact that how he could safely pull and hook the likes of Larwood and co. and one has to think of the fact that they were employing the dangerous Bodyline tactics. His courageous batting made England’s hard nosed captain Jardine to even remove Larwood from the attack and had to bowl Hammond and Verity. He received a thunderous applause from the 46000 strong crowd, who had come to witness the match. It is interesting to note that he had told his mother to refrain from rushing to his side if he got knocked over before, proceeding to hook Larwood out of the attack in Sydney. He was praised by many cricket enthusiasts and even the fearsome Larwood, who throughout the series bowled that bodyline attack praised him.

Wisden about that knock,

"He scored off Larwood's bowling in a style which for daring and brilliance was not approached by any other Australian during the tour"

McCabe about that knock,

"it was really an impulsive, senseless innings, a gamble that should not have been made but came off against all the odds”

The 32/33 series was won by England as Jardine’s bodyline tactic was successful because they were able to restrict Bradman from being a run machine, but the protagonists of that tactic Larwood and Jardine both were not in the squad when Australia toured England in 1934. Larwood was sacked and one can say that he was harshly treated as he was just following the captain’s orders and Jardine was no more in the side too. It was a series which was won by Australia 2-1 as Bradman was back to his old ways of plundering opposition bowling attacks, but everyone was impressed by McCabe’s batting prowess in that series. He was in sublime touch as he made 483 runs at 60.37 and was effective even with his medium pace bowling as he took a few key wickets in that series.

Wisden about his batting in that series in 1934,

"In 1930 he gave the impression of still having a good deal to learn; he was inclined to be somewhat slapdash in his methods. The intervening years had clearly made a great difference in him. Losing nothing of his power, he displayed a wider and safer range of strokes."

He was in great touch when Australia toured South Africa in 1935 as he scored 2 hundreds. South Africa had a very good batting line up at that time as they had the likes of Mitchell, Rowan and Dudley Nourse though, the bowling attack may not have been that good, but one can’t take the credit away from McCabe as he was at the peak of his prowess.

GordoninPortsmouth about his knock in South Africa,

"Set 399 to win, McCabe had Aus storming to victory at 2/274 - of which McCabe scored 189. In the end with a typical high veldt storm closing in the South African captain Herbie Wade lead his team from the field claiming McCabe's fierce hitting in the gloom was endangering his fielders. Of course within minutes it was raining in biblical proportions and the legend goes the South African captain merely wanted to spare his guests from a soaking. Still an amazing innings by McCabe by all accounts"

In 1936/37 when England toured Australia, he didn’t had the best of starts to that series as Australia found themselves 2-0 down. It was even said that McCabe’s relationship wasn’t exactly very good with Bradman. At that time, McCabe was the vice captain with Bradman being the captain of the side and it is said that there was a divide in the side with some players supporting Bradman and others McCabe. It wasn’t a great time for Australia as they were 2-0 down in that series and it is even said that McCabe and few others were called by the Australian board to pacify the situation. In that context, it is remarkable to see that Australia came back so strongly in that series as they won all the last 3 tests to win the series 3-2! McCabe came back to form with the highlight being his 112 in the final test at Melbourne as Australia retained the series.

The 1938 tour of England was McCabe’s last tour of Australia. He was again appointed as the vice captain of the side with the series being drawn, 1-1, but as Australia had won the previous series they were able to retain the Ashes. McCabe made his mark in that series too with an amazing knock of 232 at Trent bridge. It is still said that McCabe’s knock of 232 at Trent bridge is one of the greatest knocks of all time. McCabe scored 232 in just 235 minutes and hit 34 fours in that knock! He came in at 111 for 2 after England had made a massive score of 8 for 658 declared and from 111 for 2 it soon became 194 for 6 as McCabe kept losing partners at the other end, but McCabe continued to smash England’s bowlers all over the park. He took most of the strike as he took a heavy toll on the leg spinner Wright by scoring 44 runs of a 3 over spell from the leg spinner. It is amazing to see that he and the last man Fleetwood Smith put on 77 runs and 72 of them were scored by McCabe! Hammond is said to have tried everything to stop McCabe from scoring runs, but nothing could stop McCabe from playing one of the greatest knocks of all time. The match ended in a draw mainly thanks to McCabe’s knock. The crowd who came to watch that match were said to be spellbound and even Bradman after that knock said, “If I could play an innings like that, I'd be a proud man, Stan”

It sadly was the last time McCabe played for Australia as foot injuries and the world war ended his career. He played his last first class match in 1941/42 for New South Wales.

It is amazing to see that a cricketer who wasn’t even properly coached went onto capture the hearts of so many cricket aficionados by taking on the quickest of bowlers and succeeding with aplomb. He is no doubt one of the true greats of the game.

Finally the legendary Sir Len Hutton on McCabe,

“ I knew him well. It would be hard to think of a greater Australian batsman. He had qualities that even Bradman hadn't got. I always liked to watch him bat and he was a most likeable fellow”

I thought of re-posting the blog about this great cricketer.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Cometh the hour Cometh Mr. cricket!!!!!!!!


So what was that???? I thought I had seen lots of games and there wasn't anything which was going to surprise me on a cricket field, but yesterday's match was something else as to score about 50 runs in three overs, with the opposition having a plethora of slower bowlers, on a pitch that was slightly helpful to spinners and that too in a semifinal just can't be described in words. I just have to bow to the prowess of Hussey. My commiserations to Pakistan's fans as Pakistan were very good yet they lost. I don't know what England's players would be thinking about it. If any of the players had watched it on the T.V, they would have got goosebumps for sure.

It all looked different when Australia won the toss and elected to bowl first. Both captains may have been in a dilemma with the rain around and the moisture in the wicket. In fact, it was a good toss to lose for Pakistan. I say it again that once a team negotiates the first few overs safely there has been no significant movement to worry about at either Barbados or St. Lucia. Too much has been made about the early moisture in the wicket.

Anyway, Pakistan played out the first couple of overs safely and it clearly looked like for once Pakistan were using their brains. Once the moisture dried out, it became easy for batting as both Akmal and Butt took the fight to the opposition ranks. Akmal would either make room to smash it for a four or was looking to play lofted shots. Butt was really timing it well and was also finding gaps through the off side. Interestingly, Butt could have been out, but none of the Aussie fielders appealed for the catch! Now how can Australia not appeal for a catch??? It made me remember watching a video on youtube when the current Indian selector, Srikkanth had got out hit wicket but leaving Jones, none of the Aussie fielders appealed and neither did the umpires see it. During those days, there was no third umpire either. unfortunately I couldn't get that funny video, but it shows that even the hard-nosed Aussies sometimes may not appeal.

After a brisk start, Pakistan seemed to have lost their way as David Hussey's bowling and Warner taking some fine catches in the outfield pegged Pakistan back. The hero for Pakistan was of course Umar, who at a crunch time came to the party by playing some audacious pull shots and lofted strokes against the Australian fast bowlers. Razzaq smashed a few lusty blows to take Pakistan to 191. It was about 25 runs above the par score and at that time Umar seemed to have taken the match away from Australia but it wasn't to be.

Pakistan started well with the ball too as they got Warner and Watson out quickly. Amer gave a warm welcome to Warner with a short delivery to say that he can't slog by coming forward and got him the next ball. Watson again seemed to be in a mood to sledge as he and Amer exchanged a few words. He also had the sense to smash the dibbly dobbly medium pace of Razzaq. I still can't believe that it required Australia to smash the medium pace of Razzaq and as expected he was taken out of the attack. Watson though, undid all the good work by getting sucked into a plan by Pakistan. Pakistan deliberately had a long on fielder for Watson as he does hit those lofted shots down the ground well and with the left armer's angle there was a good chance of it going straight to the long on fielder. It worked very well for Pakistan as Watson hit it straight to the long on fielder and guess what? he got out to Amer which made him look like a fool!

Clarke came to the crease and played a typical knock as he took 19 deliveries for his 17 runs. He got out as Akmal stumped him, but ironically Akmal could have shown his talents of missing a stumping as more overs Clarke plays, better it is for the opposition. As Clarke got out, the obstacle for Australia was removed. White smashed some great hits to keep Australia just in the game. He is no doubt one of the cleanest strikers of the ball. Just at the right time Pakistan got the crucial wickets of White and Smith. It looked like the fat lady had sung as they required 48 runs of 17 balls, but cometh the hour cometh Mr. cricket as Huss played a knock that I would struggle to describe in just words to take the game away from Pakistan.

I think the turning point of the match came in the 19th over as at that time, they required 34 runs of 12 balls and it looked like a daunting task. Huss paddle swept the first ball for a four, but with seven balls to go, they required 22 runs and that isn't easy. Huss again got a crucial boundary of the last ball of the penultimate over. 18 runs were required of the last over and that still looked like a daunting task as Huss was up against one of the better bowlers in T/20 cricket, but that four of Amer just about kept Australia afloat. More magic was yet to come form Huss's bat as he smashed a rank bad long hop from Ajmal for six. I could clearly see that Huss was waiting a little longer for Ajmal to deliver the ball as Ajmal stops mid-way through his action before he delivers the ball. It shows that cricket is more than just a game of bat and ball. The next ball he slog swept Ajmal for another six. The pressure now was on Ajmal, who had a couple of options of either firing it in or just trying to bowl it a touch wide of off stump as Huss was mainly looking to slog sweep. Ajmal could have fired a yorker, but he went for the other option of bowling it a touch wide of off stump yet, Huss was able to get some bat onto it and get a boundary past the backward point fielder. It again shows cricket is more than just a game of bat and ball. The scores were level and Pakistan's players were just stunned. Pakistan did most of the things right yet, they were staring down the barrel! Huss duly finished the match with another six and that was the end of a great contest. Ajmal could have bowled a better last over as he could have fired in yorkers instead of length deliveries, but leaving that first delivery, the over wasn't that bad. It was just unbelievable batting by Huss. Ajmal also seems to struggle against lefthanders.

I just feel for Pakistan's players and fans as they deserved to win the match, but one man just played a knock that was out of the world which bought tears to Pakistan's fans and players. Australia with this win have got the momentum and they would play the final at their favourite ground Barbados. It would require England to play out of their skins to get past Australia at Barbados.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Australia v Pakistan preview

Just like yesterday's semifinal, I would like to do a preview for today's semifinal between Australia and Pakistan. Australia have clearly looked the best team of the tournament as their batting is strong, bowlers have always looked for wickets and of course, I don't have to say much about their fielding as they are always outstanding in the field. Pakistan on the other hand, are a mercurial side, who looked dead buried in the super eights, but just like a typical Pakistan side they did well when it mattered as they defeated South Africa to reach the semifinals.

Anyway, let us look at both the teams

Australia

The Australian team have looked good in every department. Batsmen have always looked to attack and have succeeded. The openers, Warner and Watson have been outstanding for Australia as they have invariably given them quick starts. Both of them can also get good scores which, makes them even more dangerous.

Australia's middle order is also very strong and it can be seen by the fact that White, Hussey brothers, Haddin and even Smith can bat at any slot in the middle order. All of the above mentioned players are proper batsmen and can do the job of rotating the strike as well as getting the big hits. The one weak-link can be their captain himself Clarke as he has played like a tortoise. I'm not sure that he should come in at three.

The bowling too is strong as they have Nannes, Tait, Johnson, Smith and Watson. All their bowlers look to take wickets and that is why Australia have been successful as in the end, it is the bowlers who win matches. I have already said before in my blog that Nannes is one of the best T/20 bowlers and if he wasn't a late developer, would have also played test cricket. He easily has the best bouncer going around. I have been a bit surprised by Tait as he has been reasonably accurate, but no batsmen would like to face bouncers or yorkers bowled at 150+ kph. He is a key bowler in the end overs as his yorkers would likely be to good for the lower order batsmen. Johnson seems to like bowling as the first change bowler and has been a consistent performer for Australia in this tournament. Smith seems to be getting better as a bowler and I was impressed by his ability to get sharp turn against the Caribbean team. I won't forget Watson either as he is a key member of the side because he opens the innings and can bowl his full quota of overs and that helps the balance of the side. He is no doubt slightly underrated as a bowler.

Pakistan

Pakistan haven't been at their best in this tournament, but they are a mercurial side, so no one can take them lightly.

Pakistan's top order has been suspect in recent times, but Butt and Akmal have made a few useful scores in this tournament. Both have to be at their best as the Australian bowlers would come hard at them. The number three position has been a problem area for them as both Hafeez and Latif have been tried but have failed. I have never been impressed by either of them. It would be better if Afridi just like he did in the last world cup comes up the order and bats at 3. He gets more overs to bat and if he gets going can cause mayhem in the oppoiton ranks. It is a huge gamble, but I think the gamble can work. Umar Akmal is a vital cog in the side as he can play proper cricketing shots and get quick runs. Occasionally he tries to slog too many, but make no mistake, they need him to fire against Australia. Razzaq can hit a few lusty blows by clearing his front leg and smashing it for sixes, but Australia would look to come hard at him with pace.

Among the bowlers, they would no doubt rely on their spinners. Ajmal has played lots of domestic cricket and is a very good T/20 bowler. He just doesn't give any pace to work with and has that doosra. Abdul Rehman has been impressive and again shows the value of having a decent left arm spinner in the side. Afridi hasn't been at his best, but make no mistake, he is a big match player. Amer is a exciting prospect, who gets nice shape with the new ball and bowls yorkers in the end overs. I'm a bit surprised that no one has gone after Razzaq upfront, but if Australia can target him, Razzaq can be a bit of weak-link as he has lost a yard of pace and can be predictable. I think Pakistan can also look at the promising all rounder Azam as Hafeez isn't just not doing well as a batsman, but his bowling can be predictable.

One area in which Pakistan just can't compete would be the fielding department as Pakistan are no good in the field. Having said that, Pakistan fielded better in their match against South Africa. So, there is perhaps some hope about their fielding!

Australia are the favorites to win the match, but they would be wary about facing the mercurial Pakistan side. The pitch at St. Lucia could help spinners, but yesterday it did help England's quicker bowlers as there was a bit of moisture in the wicket. So, if Pakistan win the toss would they go for first bowling? I still think they should back their strength and that is their spinners and bat first with spinners getting the chance to bowl on a wicket that would have slowed down a bit.In the end, I just hope that the match would be an exciting contest.

England continue to impress


England continue to impress as they yet again played superbly to defeat Lanka and reach the finals of the world T/20. I expected the England team to do well as the team is good on paper, but my major worry was the consistency. In tournaments, England have rarely been consistent, but in this tournament they have exceeded my expectations by playing very well not just in one game, but in most of the games.

As far as the match was concerned, Lanka won the toss and elected to bat first. Yes, even though it was a late start, there was a bit of moisture in the pitch, but once a team would get through the first few overs, it was still a good batting track. Lanka though, caved in meekly and lost early wickets. Other than the Lankan management, anyone could say that Jayasuirya is well past his best, but they again sent him to open the batting and as expected he got out. England's fielding again was top notch as Wright took a very good catch to dismiss Dilshan. I have said this a few times that I have never seen England field as well as they have done in this tournament. It isn't just the catches England's fielders have taken, but all those patrolling the boundary have rocket arms and opposition batsmen would think twice before stealing another run.

Anyway, coming back to the match, the big wicket was that of Mahela and here Broad has to take the credit as he extracted a touch bit of movement to get the edge. So, with Mahela gone, Lanka's hopes of getting a decent score vanished into thin air. Swann again bowled beautifully and Yardy supported him well. A lot has been written about Swann and he deserves all those accolades as he is one of the best spinners going around, but what about Yardy's contributions to England's success?? The theory of having a left arm spinner in T/20 cricket is good, but it doesn't mean that any tom, dick and harry can bowl left arm spin and escape without getting punished like we saw with Jadeja who got hammered. Yardy though, is a different kettle of fish as for a bowler who mainly bowls darts, he mixes it up well by occasionally giving it a bit of flight. Yardy also has the best E/R in domestic cricket. The successful combination of Swann and Yardy has been one of the main reasons why England have qualified for the finals.

For Lanka, Mathews played a brilliant knock though, didn't get much support from the other end. He was also helped by Bresnan as he bowled a poor last over. Oh I had just praised him in my last blog as I thought he bowled better against NZ, but has again gone back to his old ways of trying all those slower bouncers and not getting it right. Slower bouncers have worked for Broad, who bowled very well yesterday and Siders, but Bresnan looks much better when he is bowling full and straight.

A score of 128 was never going to be difficult on a good batting track, but Lanka's mistakes in the field made it impossible to defend. Lumb should have been run out twice and they dropped a catch of him as well. A few misfields didn't help them either. Lumb and his partner Kieswetter though, know only one way to bat and that is to attack and I like that. In T/20 cricket, I stress that it is imperative to take advantage of the overs in the power play and both have given England good starts. I heard that England have the best scoring rate in the first 6 overs and would have anyone expected England to do that?? It is much better to be 60 for 2 after the first 6 overs than a team scoring 30 for 1 after the six overs. The main reason behind South Africa getting knocked out in the super eights can be attributed to their top order not scoring quickly in the first six overs and as a result it was constantly putting enormous pressure on the middle order.

Once both Lumb and Kieswetter got out, KP took apart the Lankan attack and the match came to an early end. The way KP nonchalantly picked that slower delivery of Malinga and dispatched it for a six is a warning signal for England's opponents in the final as he is looking in great touch. The only worry would be Colly's form and maybe Bresnan's inconsistency.

England look strong, but if as expected they meet Australia, it can be tough for England to win as Australia look the better side.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

First semifinal preview

The ICC Twenty20 World Cup is now approaching the business end of the tournament as only the semifinals and the final are to be played. Any of the four teams, who can peak at the right time can win the trophy. Australia have looked the best of the four teams, but the other three teams can still win it by playing better than their opponents in just couple of matches.

Today's semifinal is between the consistent England and one can say the unpredictable Srilanka. England have shown a level of consistency which isn't expected of them in the shorter formats of the game, but Lanka have tended to depend on a few individual players and whenever they have clicked, the team has done well.

Anyway, let us look at both the teams

Srilanka

The Lankan team has heavily depended on Mahela to get the runs. The classy Mahela hasn't disappointed them as he has played some magnificent knocks. Mahela has shown how to anchor an innings by rotating the strike and by punishing the loose ball on offer. Yes,he has been dropped a few times by the fielders, but just like a class player often does, he has made the opposition pay for their mistakes and has got the big scores.

The rest of the batting line up has been disappointing, but the good sign for them is Sanga got a valuable 66 against the Caribbean team and played a crucial knock against India. The out of form Dilshan too got some runs against India and with Mathews showing his worth against the Indian team by playing a destructive knock, the batting line-up seems to be getting better which isn't good news for England. The major worry for them has been the form of Jayasuriya and it is clear to anyone that he is well past his best and perhaps is picked for his slow left arm bowling. I think with Dilshan getting some runs against India, he should open the batting and not Jayasuriya.

The bowling too has been a bit patchy, but they would be encouraged by the fact that Malinga has found some form as he took wickets against both the Caribbean team and India. His ability to bowl yorkers in the end overs makes him a deadly weapon. Mendis may still play in the semifinal as England have played him in only game, so he can be a bit of surprise element, but the way most teams have played him in recent times, I don't think he can cause too many headaches for England's batsmen. The other option of course is Randiv, who hasn't done a bad job. Lanka would surely miss the services of their expereinced campaigner Murali, but he can't play forever. I don't see their seamers bowling too many overs upfront as they would look at their spinners which also consists of part-timers like Jayasuriya and Dilshan to choke the batsmen.

England

England have been one of the form teams of the tournament and dare I say have looked like a side that can go all the way and win the tournament. The most impressive aspect of the team has been England's fielding and I have never seen England's fielders having such good arms from the boundary.

In the group stages, England played a couple of rain affected games with the D/L method keeping the team on tenterhooks, but in the super eights they were in great form. KP has been the main player and it is good to see that he would play today's match. The ability to come in at three and dominate the opposition attacks even after the power play is over makes him a vital cog in the side. Lumb hasn't always got decent scores, but I would rather have a player, who averages around 20-25, but has a good strike rate to a player getting decent scores, but having a strike rate of just around 100. In t/20 cricket, the overs in the power play becomes so important and any team needs aggressive openers to take advantage of it.

Morgan coming in at 5 is a huge plus for England as he is such a good finisher and the track at St. Lucia should suit his style of batting. The captain has struggled for form which is a bit of worry, but on the other hand, the lower order batsmen like Wright and to a lesser extent Bresnan have chipped in with crucial runs.

The seamers have been steady and I especially, liked the way Bresnan bowled against NZ. The main strength of the England team has been the spinners. Both Swann and Yardy have come in the middle overs and have choked the opposition into making mistakes. Swann is one of the best spinners going around, but Yardy's success may have surprised a few. Yardy shows the importance of having a decent left arm spinner in the team, but it doesn't mean that one can pick any tom, dick and harry like Jadeja.

If I see both the teams, one can say that England have looked the better side. Lanka have depended on Mahela for the runs though, against India a few of their batsmen found some form and their bowling has been a bit patchy.

I think the match would be won or lost in the middle overs as both teams would look to choke the batsmen by using spin. One advantage Lanka has is, their batsmen play spin better and they also have Malinga to bowl those yorkers in the end overs.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

South Africa's next wicketkeeper


To start with, South Africa have been lucky that Boucher has been very good for them for more than a decade. He has scored over 5000 test runs and has effected 494 dismissals. Anyone would be proud of such a record, but he isn't getting any younger and sooner rather than later has to retire. So, the question would be, who can replace Boucher? Here are few of the candidates, who seem to be promising.

Kuhn- The 25 year old Kuhn plays for the Titans team. He indeed has a impressive FC record as he averages 44.73 and is rated highly by many Saffer fans. His list A record or his T/20 record isn't great which is surprising as he is said to be a attacking batsman. Kuhn is said to be the favourite to replace Boucher and has already played a T/20 match for South Africa.

Vilas- Vilas who plays for the Lions team also has a very good FC record as he averages 43.34. His list A and T/20 records too are good and in fact it is better than Kuhn. 2009/10 wasn't a good season for him as he only played a couple of games and the former South African keeper Tsolikele is the number one keeper of the Lions side now.

Smit- I have seen a few Saffer fans saying that in first class cricket Smit is the best wicketkeeper, but his FC record isn't as good as Kuhn. It has to be said that these days selectors generally look for a wicketkeeper, who can be a good batsman and Smit may sadly miss out.

Mosehle- The young Mosehle is rated highly by Jennings, but he is just 20 though, we may hear more about him in the future.

Bradley Barnes- The 21 year old is again rated highly by Jennings especially, as a wicketkeeper. Everyone who saw him were said to be impressed by his ability to stand up to the stumps during the under 19 world cup in 2008.

Tsolekile- I have already mentioned Tsolekie. He played for SA when he was very young and his technique as a batsman was exposed. His keeping too wasn't great, but has found some form in the 2009/10 season as he averaged nearly 60 for the Lions side.

Other candidates include Van Wyk, but he is over 30 now and of course there is Ab De Villiers too, but as we saw from the recently concluded test match against India that he may not be a good choice. He was just about adequate as a keeper against England in his debut series in 2004/05, but I doubt whether he has donned the role of being the wicketkeeper too many times since that series against England. It would be better if AB concentrates on his batting and not think about keeping wickets for SA.

It is up-to one of the above mentioned players or maybe someone else to take up the mantle of being the wicketkeeper for South Africa in the future.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Batting against short pitch stuff


One of the finest sights in cricket is, fast bowlers bowling short and the batsmen looking to take on the short pitch stuff and succeed. It is a huge challenge for any batsman as it is hard to take on bowlers, who are bowling quick and are looking to bounce the batsmen out on bouncy tracks. In cricket, I don't think there has been a single batsman, who has looked comfortable against short pitch stuff as even Bradman's average came down a bit in that bodyline series, but it is about devising a method that would make the batsmen effective against it. Batsmen may look to take the aggressive route and look to pull, hook or even guide the ball over the keeper's head by playing the upper cut or devise a defensive method like swaying away from the ball.

If I look at the various batsmen, who have succeeded in test cricket I can think of different batting styles. One of the modern day greats, Ponting is the best puller I have seen. He is always ready to take on the short pitch stuff and more often than not succeeds. He has taken on the best quicker bowlers in his time like Akthar at Perth in 99/00 and has succeeded by picking the length very quickly or that superlative hundred at Old Trafford in the unforgettable Ashes series in 05.

The other great player of this era, Tendulkar was another one, who frequently pulled and even hooked during his heyday. He was able to take on Aussie bowlers like McDermott and Hughes on a pacy Perth wicket at the age of just 19 in 1992 and score a century. The best innings that I have seen him play was just a 40 odd he made against Ambrose and co. on a treacherous pitch in the Caribbean in 97. No batsmen knew when it would bounce or it would keep low on that pitch, but Tendulkar picked the length quickly and smashed the likes of Ambi and co. all over the park before a bad decision ended his innings. The factor to look at was how quickly he picked the length and his head being very still. He is of course a genius as on that pitch most batsmen were just looking to survivie. As years went by, injuries took its toll on him and he has almost left playing that pull shot. He still can easily sway away from the line as he uses his lack of height to good effect and even plays the upper cut. Occasionally he still plays the pull shot like we saw in the IPL, but Tendulkar has been able to modify the way he plays bouncers and still is getting lots of runs.

Steve Waugh early in his career decided not to play the pull shot as he was getting into lots of problems against the short pitch stuff by playing that shot. He failed in the Caribbean in 1991 and again against the same team in 92/93 he didn't do well, but worked hard on his defensive technique and was able to come up with a technique which, wasn't pleasing to watch but effective. Most of the times he would move towards the off stump and was able to keep short pitch deliveries down by playing with a loose bottom hand. He was able to survive as he worked very hard on his technique and had a very good temperament. He showed his class by getting a double hundred against the Caribbean team in 94/95. His twin brother Mark was more of a gambler as he would pull, hook and even play upper cuts in his younger days. It helped him to succeed against the Caribbean quicks in 91, 92/93, 94/95 and against Donald and co. in 97. He has one of the best averages against the Caribbean bowlers, who played from 77 to 95( the period in which the Caribbean fast bowlers terrorised the batsmen) Another batsman, who comes to the mind would be Vaughan and he employed the pull shot beautifully against Australia in 02/03. If Vaughan was great at pulling in that series, the Indian maestro Dravid's ability to sway away from the line by keeping his eyes on the ball to deliveries which is just slightly short is exemplary.


Among modern day players, Sehwag doesn't play the pull shot, but can survive as he has a decent technique against short pitch stuff and that shows even a player like S'wag plays within his limitations. He knows that any bowler won't be accurate all the time, so he usually waits for a delivery that is slightly short and wide and if a bowler bowls it a touch wide to Sehwag, I don't have to say what will happen next! KP on the other hand, deliberately stays back to the quicker bowlers and uses his height to good effect by getting on top of the bounce to pull it.

One can see that every batsman, who have succeeded in cricket have their own way of playing short pitch bowling, but they rarely got into two minds of whether to pull or play defensively and that is when the problem can start. If I look at some of the young Indian batsmen they seem to get into two minds of whether to pull or play defensively.

So, let us have a look at the Indian batsmen, who are playing in the T/20 world cup.

Vijay- He is a fine timer of the ball, but struggles to move back and across and transfer his weight onto his front leg. Vijay just backs his eye to get a boundary by hitting it in the air which can also be risky. If he perhaps works on a few things, he can succeed as he keeps his head pretty much still and that helps him to maintain his balance. Being tall for a batsman, he can get on top of the bounce as well.

Ghambir-I'm surprised by his struggles in the tournament. Ghambir has always come across as a good player of short pitch bowling, but seems to have got into two minds of whether to pull or leave it. Yes, he got a brute of a delivery from Roach in the last match, but has generally struggled. His tendency to slightly back away from the stumps hasn't helped him either. More than anything else, he seems to have lost a bit of confidence, but he is a class player for sure.

Raina- Raina's problem is, him being predominantly a front-foot player and just doesn't want to play a pull shot. At best, he heaves it over the mid wicket region. Raina doesn't seem to be a natural leftie and if that is the case, he may struggle to keep the short ball down as it is difficult to control the shot with a weak bottom hand.

Sharma- He can look at ease against the short ball, but his biggest weakness can be his shot selection as he can try to play some cute little shots and get out by looking silly.

Dhoni- In this team, he perhaps has the best technique against the short ball and if India get a bit lucky and play in the finals at Barbados should probably move up the order.

Yuvraj- Contrary to what many think, he controls the pull shot well by getting on top of the bounce and can keep it down too, but just like few others, has been let down by very bad shot selection.

Yusuf- He is predominantly a front foot slogger and likely would always struggle against short pitch stuff. I'm not sure about him playing in international cricket.

I think with time Indian youngsters would do better against short pitch stuff and I always believe that it is perhaps a bit easier to adjust to the slower conditions of the subcontinent than it is for the subcontinental players to adjust to the bounce and most international cricketers tend to have similar views.

Of course, in the past India have produced some fine players against quick bowling like Hazare,Gavaskar, Amarnath, Vishwanath, Vengserkar and the likes of Tendulkar, Dravid, and Laxman. The youngsters in the present team too can succeed as they have the talent. It is just that they may have to work a bit on their technique to find a way to be effective against it and more importantly have a good temperament to take on the short ball.

Monday, May 10, 2010

India falter again


It was yet another dismal performance from the highly fancied Indian team. I actually don't know what to say as they were below par in bowling, batting and fielding. It was a woeful performance for sure.

India again won the toss and elected to field. Now even if Dhoni wants to take advantage of the new ball with a bit of moisture in the pitch, India should have the bowlers to take advantage of it, but they only had Zak and Nehra. As expected, Dhoni used his part-time bowlers very early in the innings and the Caribbean batsmen took advantage of it and got 169. The track at Barbados does help both the quicker bowlers and even the spinners, but there is no place for part-timers as they would be exposed on that sporting track.I say it again that I have seen better bowlers than Jadeja at the club level.

Gayle played a magnificent knock as he smashed the Indian bowlers all over the park, but was helped by some innocuous bowling from the part-timers in the Indian team and of course, poor fielding. Gayle deserved a century but unfortunately got out for 98.

The Indian batsmen again got a barrage of bouncers and crumbled under pressure. To be fair to Ghambir he got a brute of a delivery that would have got most batsmen out. I don't see too many flaws in their technique though, some of them may have to improve their back foot play. More than anything else, the tendency of the Indian batsmen of being in two minds to whether pull or sway away from the line isn't helping them. ( I would like to talk more about facing short pitch bowling in my next article) Dhoni scored a few runs, but the damage was already done and in the end India lost. Interestingly, I saw Harbie coming ahead of Jadeja. So can this Jadeja now be called tail beginner?

I liked the intent shown by Caribbean bowlers like Taylor, Roach and Sammy as they came hard at the Indian batsmen and even their fielding was good. India have to hope for a miracle to get into the semifinals, but to be frank, they don't deserve to be in the semifinals.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Super eights day 3


Yesterday, couple of matches were played in the super eights with the match between NZ and Pakistan being a very close contest and the other one surprisingly being a one-sided contest with England coming out on top.

First up, let us look at the match between the Kiwis and Pakistan. Pakistan won the toss and just like their neighbours India strangely elected to bowl first. If I look at the Pak. line up, I don't see the solidarity in the top order to chase a target, but they do have good spinners to defend the total.

Anyway, Pakistan included Rehman and that was a good move. I have said it many times that I like the idea of having a left arm spinner in the side for a T/20 game and the wicket being a bit two paced made Rehman a formidable force. Kiwis got a brisk start with McCullum finally finding some form, but Taylor again was disappointing. His inability to play shots through the off side isn't helping him. If he improves his play on the off side, it would surely help him even in test cricket. Styris, Vettori and N.McCullum somehow got NZ to a decent score of 133 which wasn't a bad score on that Barbados wicket. I still can't understand Hopkins playing in the side, though I guess McCullum is a reluctant keeper. NZ can also take a gamble by sending Mills up the order as he can smash it a long way. For Pakistan of course, their spinners especially Rehman was very good.

After the first innings, Pakistan would have been the happier team going back to the pavilion, as a score of 133 is perhaps 15 runs short of a par score at Barbados, but NZ's inspired selections, Mills and especially Butler came to the party. Mills is the right sort of bowler for a wicket like Barbados as he isn't quick, but gets a bit of bounce. Bowlers who tend to bowl at 83-85 miles per hour and can get bounce can always be effective on double paced wickets. Bond gave them good support to help Kiwis win a thriller by one run.

Pakistan though had their chances. Yes, their batsmen were again rocked by back of a length bowling, but Butt played a very mature knock of 67 and with Razzaq smashing a few sixes, it looked like Pakistan may win the match yet they lost. The architect of the victory was Butler for keeping his cool and bowling an amazing last over. Unlike Mills, he went around the wicket to cut the angle against Butt. Butt was trying to give some room to virtually every delivery, so it was a good ploy by Butler to go around the wicket. At the start of the last over Butt played a streaky shot and got a boundary through the third man region for four and perhaps Vettori could have had a third man as Butler was bowling from around the wicket. Butler kept his composure to again follow Butt and bowl a great yorker though, Butt and Rehman scampered for a single. So, with one ball remaining and just a couple of runs required to win the match, the super over was on the cards, but NZ got a touch lucky on the last ball as Butler didn't bowl a great last delivery with it drifting down the leg side yet, Rehman hit it straight to square leg fielder to get out as they lost by one run!!! In hindsight, one can say that Butt may have not run that single and could have faced the last delivery or even Amer could have come up the order, but those are instinctive decisions and the management can't be blamed. Pakistan's fans must be really heartbroken though, they still have a slight chance of reaching the semifinals. The match surely wasn't for the faint hearted!

The hero for NZ was the injury prone Butler. He may have suffered from major injuries in the past, but his ability to hit good areas and get bounce can always be a asset to the NZ side. He also kept his composure in the last over.

In the second match, it was the KP show. He is no doubt the danger man in the England's side as he can come in at number three and dominate the opposition.

South Africa looked nervous in the field with a wicket of no ball and couple of drop catches. Kallis and Boucher looked at each other only for the ball to go between them to the boundary and Duminy dropped a sitter. Actually, it all started well as Botha got a early wicket and perhaps should have bowled a few more overs upfront and the same can be said about Steyn. I say it again that Steyn is a attacking new ball bowler and should be used upfront.

As far as KP'S knock was concerned, what can I say? He was at his usual imperious best as he chipped down the track to medium pacers and sometimes played a guessing game with the quicker bowlers as he occasionally would stay back in the crease and make use of his height to get on top of the ball to pull it. He is no doubt a hard man to set field to. Botha came back to put the brakes on the scoring as he got KP out. Botha can be useful on Caribbean tracks as let us say his unorthodox action helps him on double paced wickets with his deliveries stopping on the batsmen. The batsmen on their part have to play as late as possible. Anyway, coming back to the match, it was a good comeback from South Africa with at least De Villers taking a great catch near the boundary to dismiss the dangerous Morgan. England eventually scored 168 which, was a good score on that pitch, but at one stage they threatened to get 180 and that would have put the Saffers completely out of the game. KP did mention that maybe SA missed a trick by not going with two spinners and I think he has a point as the wicket at Barbados does offer something for the spinners.

England's seamers bowled well at the start, but it was the spin duo of Swann and Yardy who, really did the trick. Swann is one of the best spinners going around at the moment, so his success may not have come as a surprise, but a few maybe surprised by Yardy' success. Yardy does have a very good record as a bowler in domestic t/20 cricket. He is a left arm spinner who has a round arm action and rarely bowls bad deliveries. On Caribbean wickets he was always gong to be effective. Duminy tried his best, but with the top order and the dangerous Morkel failing to counter the spinners, it was too much for Duminy and co. to do. Rarely do a team win a match if they don't have wickets in hand and have to score more than two runs per every ball of the last 6 or 7 overs and as expected, SA lost.

England have a good team though, losing KP as he goes back to England to attend the birth of his first child won't help. SA may have thought why didn't it happen before yesterday's match as they would have escaped from that savage hitter! No team would like to lose a number three batsman who, can score quickly and get big scores though, the team still has enough quality players like Morgan to win the match.

South Africa won't be happy with their fielding efforts in the match and have to look at some of their tactics like not changing the strategy of giving one over spells upfront. The strategy of giving one over spells is fine as the batsmen won't get used to any bowler, but if a bowler is bowling really well like Botha yesterday, then the tactic has to be changed. Steyn not being used upfront can be another mistake they are doing and South Africa also didn't pick an extra spinner for the match.

South Africa though, should be happy that their next opponent Pakistan too are sailing in the same boat as they are also struggling to make a mark in the tournament.