Category: Australia cricket news (page 1 of 58)

How to dismiss Faf du Plessis – make friends with him

Faf du Plessis is a competitor. That’s the kind of thing people say. It’s a shorthand way of saying that he only seems capable of playing to his full potential when there’s a stronger taste of conflict to proceedings.

Performing in what is never called the crucible of county cricket, du Plessis didn’t really make any runs. Quite often he fails to do so in Tests too.

Then there are the good days, when he looks cut from a different cloth. Nothing silky. It would be some sort of high quality durable fabric, possibly with water repellent properties and a rough finish.

Psyched up for his Test debut, he made 110 not out off 376 balls to earn South Africa a draw after they’d been 45-4. Today, having spent the week being harangued for being a ‘guilty‘ man, he made a hundred in a day-night Test when everyone else struggled.

This particular adrenaline-sharpened form of Faf didn’t even get hit in the nads.

Australia should probably stop doctoring their own pitches

Giant house of cards (CC licensed by Tjflex2 via Flickr)

Giant house of cards (CC licensed by Tjflex2 via Flickr)

Playing Australia is like playing Jenga with a house of cards when each of the cards is drunk.

Before they played Sri Lanka, David Warner spoke of batting “well into the next day” but the team repeatedly folded as if prepared by Miura.

Against South Africa at the Waca, they built a little first, almost as if they wanted to deliver a more spectacular collapse. As falling Lego bricks bounced off the carpet, it was hard to avoid the conclusion that this maybe wasn’t just a spin thing.

That has now been confirmed. In the second Test in Hobart, they folded like junk mail in the first innings before buckling like a belt in the second, losing their last eight wickets for 32 runs.

As you’re no doubt aware, Australia only ever collapse because the pitch has been ‘doctored’. Somehow the playing surface is always tampered with in such a way that the opposition can bat completely normally while the poor, honest, play-by-the-rules Aussies go down like round-bottomed skittles placed on an icy slope.

Quite why Australia have started preparing their home pitches in this way is beyond us.

Australia fold like junk mail

Junk mail (CC licensed by Farouq Taj via Flickr)

Junk mail (CC licensed by Farouq Taj via Flickr)

Any batting side can fold like a Bargain Booze leaflet pushed through the door, but it takes a certain amount of preparation to do this when it’s really expected of you. Confronted with a robust hard-to-open letterbox, Australia crumpled impressively.

We watched the first six overs of their 85 all out against South Africa. Vernon Philander’s first over was a heap of shit – none of his first six balls were within 18 inches of the stumps – but still David Warner managed to depart. Kyle Abbott started more consistently and he too took a wicket off the last ball of his over.

Pretty soon after, we went to bed. South Africa had taken a wicket with dross and now they’d found their line, this wasn’t going to take too long.

Playing at home usually cures Australian batsmen of all their ills, so they’ve really had to build up to this. The Sri Lanka tour knocked out one supporting pillar and the one-day series against South Africa knocked out another. This allowed a third pillar to fall despite early reconstruction efforts in the first Test. It seems like they’re trying to build on sand now.

You wonder whether this level of failure would have been possible without those preparations. It might seem ostensibly irrelevant, but we reckon Australia would have made a half-decent total had they picked some bowlers people had heard of for that South Africa one-day series or had they perhaps just not played it at all.

Brad Hogg shoved vitamin C up his jacksie – and there are still some unanswered questions about the story

Another day, another pre-Christmas autobiography by a gnarly old Australian cricketer. Brad Hogg’s The Wrong ‘Un surely warrants a mention though, if only for the anecdote about when Steve Waugh tricked him into thinking that some vitamin C pills needed to be inserted into his outbox.

The story itself has pretty much just been told in the previous sentence. “I felt uncomfortable for a few days, but I never got a cold,” he adds.

However, the background to this is extraordinary.

Firstly, Hogg apparently arrived for that debut tour with a seriously chafed groin after spending an hour on a mechanical nightclub bull before departure.

An hour. Presumably that’s cumulative rather than in one sitting, but still – that seems a hell of a long time, even before we ask how he came to conclude that would be ideal preparation for his first overseas international cricket.

Hogg also says that he was unnerved by room-mate Michael Bevan literally sleeping with his eyes open. As far as we can tell, that terrifying freakishness is something that’s pretty much just mentioned in passing.

Mop-up of the day – Batting collapses don’t just come against spin, apparently

A true collapse comes after a start. Throwing a load of Lego bricks over the floor is just a mess; putting them together to build some sort of tower before watching it keel over – that’s a collapse.

Like England last week, Australia took the time to set the scene. A 158-run opening partnership is more than just foundations, which was just as well because they then lost 10 wickets for 86.

At least two of the culprits were predictable – Usman Khawaja and Mitchell Marsh.

Khawaja felt that he’d been made a ‘scapegoat’ after being dropped in Sri Lanka following a series of scores that read 26, 18, 11 and nought. He clearly thought he’d bottomed out and was on the way back up. This view has been entirely vindicated as he was dismissed for four on his return to the side.

As for Marsh, we haven’t seen any of today’s play, but over on Cricinfo, Brydon Coverdale said of his dismissal that “the biggest worry was the distance by which he missed the ball.”

Australia love the idea of having a seam-bowling all-rounder and they do tend to give them plenty of rope.

On the plus side…

At least they won’t have to face quite so many bowlers in the second innings. Dale Steyn has been ruled out of the series with a fractured shoulder.

Steyn seems caught in a perpetual recuperation cycle of late and one wonders what we’ll see of him in years to come. Bowlers evolve, but Steyn has always been an adrenal sort of player and if he’s unable to force his body to physical extremes, you can’t help but feel he’ll be blunted.

It says it all that his departure isn’t the body blow for South Africa it might once have been. They’d sooner have him than not, but the relentless rehab means they’re uncertain what they’ll get from him while they have solid replacements in reserve.

From what we saw, Steyn spent much of the first innings trying to bounce the shit out of David Warner and Shaun Marsh, even though the soundtrack of every Waca Test ever has been some sage old Aussie telling everyone how bowlers always get carried away bouncing the shit out of the batsmen when in reality the best approach is to pitch it up.

Back to collapses

Australia against Sri Lanka and England against Bangladesh were spin-induced collapses. With England embarking on a tour of India, many people are predicting a few more.

If you’d like some further reading, this piece on Graeme Swann’s comments about the culture of English cricket and its view of spin bowling is well worth a look. You could also watch the video if you’d for some reason like to encourage the notion that video clips are a better way of presenting information on the web than easy-to-scan text.

We agree with much of what Swann says. If spin is fundamentally something of an afterthought, there’s little point getting angry at the tweakers selected when spin bowling does come to the fore. Nor can you realistically expect a specialist coach to swan in, click his fingers, and teach the bowlers how to reliably and accurately click theirs in little more than a fortnight.

He also expresses our recurring point that English batsmen have a lot of catching up to do and that it is again because of the environment in which they develop.

An Australia team versus a South Africa team – this time it’s international cricket

The main thing we take from day one of the first Test between Australia and South Africa is that the five one-dayers they played in South Africa recently weren’t proper international matches and so they probably shouldn’t have bothered.

Australia’s bowling attack for those matches was a recurring theme in our weekly Cricket Badger newsletter (sign up here). Plenty of players were injured, but a few were rested too, meaning Australia got to showcase the full extent of their pace bowling weakness in depth.

Chris Tremain, Joe Mennie, Daniel Worrall and Scott Boland. The names are so unfamiliar, it feels a bit like you’ve somehow found yourself reading an article about 1980s baseball players. They all got panned and Australia got panned. And what did it prove?

Ten years after we first predicted it, squad rotation is now part and parcel of international cricket. But while a rested fast bowler here or there is one thing, there is a threshold beyond which matches cease to have any real meaning. At what point is a team international in name and attire only?

Management of resources is part of the game, but with different teams taking different approaches, you’re not always seeing like pitted against like.

Never mind the mismatches, if a weaker nation beats a deliberately compromised but otherwise stronger nation, does that even count for much? If the defeated team can easily explain away their defeat, that devalues the contest and denied even the opportunity to record an unarguable victory, the weaker nation’s fixtures are diminished.

Outside of World Cups, one-day matches have always been a little more transitory, but as this Australia v South Africa Test series wears on, it’ll be intriguing to look back on the one-day series that immediately preceded it and ask whether it really was genuine international cricket.

What the use of Mitchell Johnson’s head as a toilet brush says about the Australia cricket team

It’s increasingly fashionable for captains and coaches to talk about building culture within their team – shared values and working together and all that crap.

Mitchell Johnson’s autobiography, Resilient, features a colourful anecdote from his time at the Cricket Academy in Adelaide which sheds light on every aspect of the culture that underpins Australia sides.

“Every night we’d pile into the common room and watch Neighbours before dinner. I was always a bit willing as every time there was an ad break there would be an all-in wrestle on the floor until the show started again.

“In one wrestle I was dragged through the door and into the bathroom by a heap of guys and somebody pushed my head into the toilet. I wasn’t impressed and the red mist descended. Somehow I managed to break free and I grabbed whoever it was by the front of the shirt as I got up and someone grabbed mine.

“I raised my right fist and he did the same. Then we looked at each other. It was Watto.”

Hopefully the red mist isn’t the product of a very severe urinary tract infection in this story.

Assuming it isn’t, what we’re left with is: watching Neighbours, wrestling like children who’ve spent too long cooped up indoors and faecal peril.

And afterwards all you’re left with is Shane Watson’s fat face staring back at you as he threatens to hurt you, but doesn’t.

Why has no-one asked Jonathan Trott’s mum how we can stamp out match-fixing?

Photo by Sarah Ansell

Photo by Sarah Ansell

We don’t normally report on excerpts from cricket autobiographies because, you know, read the book.

We have to make an exception for this majestic exchange from Jonathan Trott’s Unguarded though. (We haven’t read it, but he wrote it with George Dobell, so we’re pretty confident it’s excellent.)

After Pakistan Cricket Board chairman Ijaz Butt uttered his immortal line about “some English players” and “loud and clear talk in the bookies’ circle” back in 2010, the players in question got the hump.

At nets the following morning, Trott asked Wahab Riaz: “You going to accuse us of match-fixing again?”

Quite why Trott confused Wahab with Ijaz Butt is unclear. Maybe Wahab had said something too, or maybe Trott believed Pakistan to be operating with some sort of Borg-like group consciousness. It doesn’t matter either way. What matters is Wahab’s response.

Wahab went with: “Your mum knows all about match-fixing.”

Quite apart from the fact that this was crying out for a “no, you are” riposte, this was nevertheless an excellent meaningless schoolboy insult and we heartily approve.

Trott didn’t agree and so hit Wahab round the head with his pads before attempting to throttle him.

In this weeks’ edition of The Spin, Andy Bull starts with this incident before exploring the merits of sledging with particular reference to Australia.

We’ve already said all we need to say on that matter: It’s a myth that Australia play better when they’re aggressive. What actually happens is that they become gobbier when they’re winning.

Australia’s pace bowling has weakness in depth

Mitchell Starc is injured, James Faulkner is injured, Nathan Coulter-Nile is injured, Pat Cummins is injured, James Pattinson is injured and Josh Hazlewood is being rested in case he gets injured. The way things are going, he’ll probably end up missing the next Test with bedsores.

Australia coach Darren Lehmann has said these absences provide an opportunity for someone else to make a name for themselves – a Mick Lewis kind of name, presumably.

In the second one-day international against South Africa, Australia opened the bowling with Chris “Who?” Tremain and Joe “No, Seriously – Who?” Mennie.

Tremain fared the better. Not only did he keep his economy rate down to 7.80 runs an over, he also took a wicket. Cricinfo commentary records it as “heaved hard and violently out to deep midwicket”.

Shaun Marsh and his duck tax

It’s common for people to ask: if Shaun Marsh is the answer, what is the question? As often as not, the question is “who’s the selectorial equivalent of a last desperate roll of the dice?”

Australia have not been making runs in Sri Lanka. In the first two Tests their scores were 203, 161, 106 and 183. Against that backdrop, a duck from a top order batsman doesn’t feel too costly – and if there’s a one in ten chance that the duck-scorer might instead make a hundred, you might as well take a punt. Enter Shaun Marsh.

Selecting Marsh is all about what might happen; very rarely about what probably will happen. In Tests, he makes good hundreds interspersed with a hell of a lot of ducks. His first-class record meanwhile is not much better than reasonable, so there aren’t really grounds for optimism there either. You select Shaun Marsh in hope. It’s quite heart-warming in a way.

The problem for Australia is that Marsh inclusion also comes with a cost. For every “he’s finally cracked it!” there’s a long stretch of “oh no, he hasn’t” to bring the world back into order.

The selectors appear to be onto him however. In December, he made 182 against the West Indies. He was then dropped. This has seemingly allowed him to pay his duck tax in the nets because upon his return to the side, he’s made another hundred.

Or maybe this is all part of the Marsh masterplan. Two hundreds in two Test innings might earn him a long stretch in the side to disprove himself. It’s inadvisable to commit to dice-rolling in the long-term.

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