Australia cricket news
Nobody’s happy about that fact, but we might as well get used to it because when he shuts that toolish mouth and plays cricket, he can score some runs.
One thing we really like about this Australian team is that it’s a lesson to everyone on the importance of having diversity within your team. Australian wickets tend to herald change, whereas an incoming England batsman is typically ‘much like the last guy, only more so’.
You need to mix things up. If blocking and leaving isn’t a valid strategy, England tend to gradually move towards ‘really, really blocking and leaving’. In contrast, Australia have one opener trying to split the leather every chance he gets and another who basically just likes standing at the non-striker’s end.
Sometimes obduracy is the better approach. Sometimes giddy pummelling is the way to go. Australia’s opening partnership is almost like a fact-finding mission, allowing the rest of the team to gather information on how they should approach things. Whichever opener’s out first, do the opposite.
The perfect team
Good sides are rarely one-dimensional. That goes for batting and bowling. The perfect cricket team would be a sickly mélange of top chaps and bell ends of all shapes and sizes, boasting a troubling array of mental health problems and physical abnormalities. It would be like a cross between the Hunterian Museum at the Royal College of Surgeons and my local pub on days when a herd of idiots decide to stop in after the football.14 Appeals
It’s been suggested that this could be Ryan Harris’s last Test. He’s scheduled to have a load of loose knobbles and flakes of bone dug out of his crappy knee shortly after it finishes. Although he’s then got seven months or so to recuperate before Australia’s next Test, he hasn’t actually got many opportunities to prove his form and fitness. The Australian cricket team might move on.
Dennis Lillee, angling for an improved contract with Cricket Australia, is currently talking up the younger bowlers (and therefore himself), but that talk doesn’t actually equate to wickets. We’ve been here before. Australia have had plenty of promising bowlers for quite some time now, but there’s a gap between being capable of performing in Tests and doing so consistently.
We’re not saying Lillee’s bag o’ bairns are bad bowlers or that they won’t become top Test bowlers one day. We’re just saying that it’s wrong to be blasé about the potential loss of a bowler like Harris, acting like you’ve got readymade replacements and it’s no big deal.
Ryan Harris is currently on 96 Test wickets, incidentally.8 Appeals
Ahead of the third Test between South Africa and Australia, Hashim Amla has said:
“There’s a lot riding on the last Test and fortunately we’ve got a bit of momentum.”
Let’s very quickly examine how ‘momentum‘ has influenced the series thus far.
Australia won the first Test and thus gained momentum. They then lost the second Test. South Africa lost the first Test, but won the second despite not having momentum.
So basically ‘momentum’ has had precisely zero impact on performances and results thus far.15 Appeals
No, he did. One of the three deliveries he faced in this Test match didn’t see the fall of his wicket. He really hung around.
When Shaun Marsh was brought back into the Test side, we wrote:
“Whether you think he’s good or not largely depends on whether you consider ‘his best’ to be the norm or an occasional aberrative state.”
Sometimes it’s nice when someone defies your expectations, but there are also occasions when all you want is for someone to carry on exactly as they have been doing. For example, it was impressive to see Hugh Laurie somehow become an American leading man in House, whereas if something’s got Matt Berry in it, you pretty much know what you want from him.
We’ve highlighted this before, but it’s worth linking to Shaun Marsh’s Test scores again in light of recent performances. Six ducks and two 140-plus scores in 15 innings. Majestic stuff.12 Appeals
We’ve not actually seen it yet, but we’re hearing great things about Quinton de Kock’s dismissal; that maybe it was the stupidest in a winter which has seen its fair share of stupid dismissals. It’s surely no coincidence that Steve Smith was the bowler.
Much is made of the fact that Steve Smith makes the most of his occasionally freakish batting technique. He also makes the most of what he has as a bowler.
Here is a list of Steve Smith’s bowling attributes:
- Quite bad bowling
- An annoying face
- A stupid, double-elbowed chicken dance action
The combination of these things appears to incense batsmen into rash behaviour. Many players seem intent on hitting Smith out of the attack just so that they don’t have to look at him any more. Then they flat-bat a full toss to midwicket.15 Appeals
Cricinfo are making reference to ‘toss drama’ but don’t be misled. The second Test between South Africa and Australia demands your attention in a relentless, whinging, shirt-tugging way. We briefly wondered why we hadn’t really latched onto the Under-19 World Cup or why we didn’t feel moved to write anything about Ireland’s victory over the West Indies, but the answer’s obvious. It’s this.
The South African team
- Alviro Peterson OUT – Dean Elgar IN
- Ryan McLaren OUT – Quinton de Kock IN
- Robin Peterson OUT – Wayne Parnell IN
It’s also worth noting that Quinton de Kock, a wicketkeeper, will not be keeping wicket. AB de Villiers – who isn’t really a wicketkeeper – will retain the gloves. They’re his gloves. Stop looking at his gloves. Get your own gloves.
The South African scorecard
In the time it took us to write that last section, South Africa lost two wickets. We’re going to come up with a terrible headline and click publish now so that there’s somewhere relevant to leave comments for the rest of the day.
Update: Dean Elgar wasn’t out by the time we clicked ‘publish’, opening up the possibility that this headline could appear less and less appropriate as the day wears on. Remember kids, don’t headline articles in haste. It could come back to haunt you, like a low-key ghost which is faintly irritating without being in any way scary.32 Appeals
Ordinarily we don’t report on injuries – and not just because we don’t report on anything in any meaningful sense. However, Ryan McLaren’s rattled brain is more significant in that it will shine a light on the impact Mitchell Johnson has had on the South Africans.
We’re not talking about the physical impact. McLaren has mild concussion after unwittingly nodding a bouncer into the back of some imaginary net, so the physical impact is obvious. We’re talking about the impact Johnson has had on the home team’s approach.
“We feel we need to strengthen the…”
McLaren’s selection gave South Africa a fourth seam bowler and a middling batsman. In a sense, he gave them neither one thing nor the other – although that’s harsh because he’s a good, if unremarkable player. However, in replacing him, they will need to choose which side to land when dropping down off the fence.
Option one is to go for Wayne Parnell. Parnell’s being talked up as an all-rounder these days, but he’s the kind of all-rounder who’s good for a few on a flat one-day pitch. In short, he’s exactly the sort of all-rounder who’s an out-and-out bowler when Mitchell Johnson’s involved. However, it’s being reported that he’s been bowling at over 150km/h (93mph) this season, so he’d give them something with the ball.
Option two would be to pick another batsman. South Africa have long had a reputation for reverting to conservatism when threatened, shortening their tail however they can. This has seemed unfair in recent years when Imran Tahir has been given a fair few matches when he could long ago have been discarded for being a liability. But with the pressure on, will they revert to type?
We’re not saying that either option is the right one because, on the evidence of the first Test, there is no right answer. It’ll just be interesting to see how South Africa go about putting together their jigsaw now that they’ve accepted that the big Kallis-shaped piece won’t ever be recovered from down the back of the sofa.18 Appeals
It’s not just England then. South Africa have been forcefully Johnsonned and are probably already considering reverting to a more conservative team for the second Test. Five bowlers is great when you’re top of the world and full of confidence, but let’s just see what happens now that they’re rattled.
But bring in a batsman and it’s over. The problem for South Africa wasn’t the sixth wicket partnership, it was that they were 43-4. Even Australia aren’t happy with that kind of batting score – and they’ve been winning from that position.
Vehement letter-C denier, AB de Villiers, has been the only man to show resistance thus far. He may have averaged almost 80 in 2013, but for how much longer is he going to keep wicket? We can’t see it lasting. Not sure why. We just can’t.11 Appeals
If there’s one thing Australia have been lacking, it’s dull, steady, three-an-over partnerships in the middle order. Today they got one and they look like a proper team again.
Even while gaily twerking atop England’s comatose body, there was a fragility about the Aussie Test team. How odd that they should give the impression of solidity through Shaun Marsh, the flakiest cricketer since… well, since Shane Watson, who he replaced.
Marsh is a true all-rounder when it comes to flakiness. Physically, he’s only ever one ill-advised blink away from a major muscle strain and behaviour-wise, he’s been known to partake of liquid refreshment. He once made reference to having a favourite vodka. Honestly, who has a favourite vodka?
Then there’s performance. It takes real commitment to the art of making a balls of things to maintain an average of 35 in first-class cricket when you’re also capable of looking as skilled as Shaun Marsh. At the age of 30, this is only his ninth first-class hundred. And just look at this run of Test scores. It’s demented. It’s top form or no form and no middle ground. Yet somehow this is the man who delivered much-needed easy-not-to-watch functionality.15 Appeals
“We’ve got the best fast bowlers.”
“No, we’ve got the best fast bowlers.”
“Not being funny, but actually, I think you’ll find we’ve got the best fast bowlers.”
“Yeah, right, whatever. Have you even seen our fast bowlers?”
The build-up to what promises to be a fascinating Test series between South Africa and Australia has been a bit one-note and we haven’t really learnt much from it.
The Kallis-shaped, Kallis-sized hole
How did South Africa become the top-ranked Test side? They scored plenty of runs and they fielded four cracking seam bowlers as well as a spinner. Very few sides can manage this because very few sides can field a guy who averages eight runs more than Kevin Pietersen with the bat and who also happens to be a darn handy pace bowler in his spare time.
Of course Jacques Kallis is irreplaceable, which must therefore beg the question: how exactly are you going to replace Jacques Kallis?
Wayne Parnell and Ryan McLaren seem the most likely beneficiaries, which means shedding around 30 runs an innings and gaining precisely what in terms of bowling? Not a lot when you’re talking about a fourth or fifth bowler.
This South Africa side is not what it was.
Long handle deployment
Complete these two sequences:
- Steyn, Philander, Morkel…
- Johnson, Harris, Siddle…
What comes next is the word ‘attack’. If the main threat comes from the seamers, how will the batsmen approach the spinners? Probably with a fairly wild look in their eyes, you’d think.
But that goes both ways. A handful of spin bowlers can dismiss batsmen intent on survival, but there are plenty more who can outfox a psychopath who’s lost all perspective.
Robin Peterson isn’t even his mum’s favourite spin bowler, but he thinks he might profit from being underestimated and he might well be right. Nathan Lyon’s in a similar position and, as has been pointed out, how might the Ashes have gone in England had he been selected from the start?
Okay, it probably warrants a mention. The one thing we would say about this is that while Mitchell Johnson’s on a six-month hot streak, Dale Steyn’s maintained a pretty decent temperature for many years. We’re not sure whether that’ll prove pertinent, but we have greater faith in the latter ‘turning up’ and then remaining ‘up’ once there.20 Appeals