Category: Australia cricket news (page 1 of 58)

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.

Where is the ICC’s Test mace?

Not much more than a week ago, Australia captain Steve Smith was presented with the ICC Test Championship mace in a closed ceremony. The media and public would of course have been clamouring to attend such a spectacular and meaningful event.

The nature of the presentation gave rise to an obvious question. If an ICC Test Championship mace is handed over and no-one is there to see it, is that team really the top-ranked Test nation?

The answer, it seems, is no – or at the very least ‘probably not but let’s see how this final match goes’.

Australia could stay top if they (stop laughing) beat Sri Lanka in the next Test; India could go top if they win their next two Tests; and either England or Pakistan could theoretically go top if they win the fourth Test at the Oval. There are of course many permutations and it’s hard not to conclude that life’s too short before turning your attention to far more important questions.

Far more important questions like where they hell is the Test mace right now? Where does it live?

The mace should really be something of a nomad, tucked into the kit bag of whichever Test captain currently has the right to wield it, but this seems unlikely.

Many people would doubtless feel it appropriate for the mace to bed down each night at The Home of Corks, but we don’t believe this is the case, otherwise that ground would be entitled to call itself The Home of The Test Mace. This would clearly supersede its preferred Home of Cricket nickname on the grounds that such a name would at least be accurate.

More likely the mace lives in Dubai at ICC headquarters, but does it just sit there, idle? Surely in uncertain situations such as the one in which we currently find ourselves, it should be loaded onto a private jet ready to be deployed.

Imagine becoming the top-ranked Test nation and not instantly being handed a giant mace. Just imagine it. Just imagine how that would make you feel.

Pakistan play spin better than Australia

Different matches and – to be fair to Australia – different degrees of difficulty too. All the same, it seems a fair conclusion to draw.

In England, Azhar Ali and Sami Aslam seemed uncertain whether to milk Moeen Ali or just belt him for sixes. In the end, they reached the conclusion that they’d do both. It wasn’t as if the seamers were doing much better. England ended the day looking a bit fast-medium and more than a little tetchy.

Meanwhile, in Sri Lanka, Australia folded as if prepared by Miura. Bowled out for 106 in their first innings, they sustained much of the damage in three balls from that homicidal capybara, Rangana Herath, who gummed a hat-trick.

Australia’s woes wouldn’t be half as funny if they hadn’t spent much of the build-up to this series talking incredibly earnestly about their gameplans for facing spin.

“It’s about making sure you have a plan from ball one,” said Steve Smith with conviction. “You’ve got to be able to bat well into the next day,” added David Warner – as if that were in any way an option.

Kusal Mendis doesn’t think they’re gonna need a bigger boat

Once upon a time, a colleague of ours, who we’ll call Gill (because that’s her name), asked another colleague, who we’ll call Stefan (because that’s his name), for help with her computer.

We can’t remember the specific issue. It was just one of those generic computer problems that crops up from time to time in offices throughout the world. Stefan was best-qualified to offer some sort of solution and he was basically sitting next to her.

“Stefan, I can’t…” began Gill – finishing that sentence with a few pertinent details.

Stefan ignored her.

After a few seconds of persevering alone, Gill tried again. “Stefan, how do I…?”

Again, Stefan ignored her.

There were maybe ten people in the room and we all watched in silence as Gill repeatedly pleaded with Stefan for help. Every single time, he blanked her. Gill’s frustration built, as did the tension in the room.

Gill was somewhat combustible anyway, but this was especially annoying. After a few minutes of being blatantly ignored, she exploded. She stood and shrieked at him about what an arsehole he was and then fled from the room.

After a moment, another girl followed her. When she returned, she revealed that Gill was in the toilets crying.

We all sat in silence, stony-faced.

After a few minutes of this, Stefan looked up from his computer, glanced to his right, and then asked: “Where’s Gill?”

It is quite extraordinary to maintain that level of obliviousness to what is going on around you, but Sri Lanka’s Kusal Mendis would appear to be a man cut from similar cloth.

The first Test between Sri Lanka and Australia saw 44 individual innings and of those, just two exceeded 50. This was not an easy pitch to bat on. This was a hard pitch to bat on; a treacherous pitch even. If a batsman had any regard whatsoever for what was happening around him, he would have been spooked. He would have been justifiably spooked.

In that context, Steven Smith’s 55 was a tour de force.

Kusal Mendis made 176.

One can only conclude that Kusal Mendis simply didn’t notice the danger.

All in all, it wasn’t a great match for Australia, but they did at least set a world record: 25.4 overs without a single run scored.

Well batted, chaps.

Kusal Mendis has played an innings

We haven’t seen any of this Sri Lanka v Australia Test. It’s on Eurosport 2 which stopped working a couple of months ago. The prospect of speaking to BT to try and get the channel working again led us to conclude that it is best left unfixed.

We have apparently missed a remarkable innings from Kusal Mendis.

In 1877, Charles Bannerman made 165 out of 245 for Australia against England in Test match number one. At 67.3 per cent, that remains the highest proportion of runs made by one player in a completed innings. Bannerman did however have the advantage of being an opening batsman.

At the age of 21, with just one Test fifty to his name before this match, Kusal Mendis swanned in at number four and made a hundred. When he reached three figures (with a six) his team’s score was just 134. Being as Sri Lanka were bowled out for 117 in their first innings, he had therefore made not just a ridiculous proportion of the runs in their second innings, but getting on for half of their runs across both innings.

Australia made 203 in their first innings. Batting has not been easy. Mendis was in fact the first to reach 50 in the match. At the time of writing, they’ve gone off for bad light but when they return he’ll resume on 169 out of a total of 282-6.

Kusal Mendis has played an innings.

What is a format-spanning points system for?

Photo by Sarah Ansell

Photo by Sarah Ansell

Last week we asked whether you would care if the Ashes included limited overs matches. This was slightly mischievous on our part because while the series could in theory be affected by the mooted system which would see points accrued across formats and an overall winner recognised, the truth is that no-one really wants to mess with the Ashes.

As far as the challenges facing Test cricket are concerned, the Ashes is not the canary in the mine. The Ashes is the one man with breathing apparatus in the mine. As Test series between India and Sri Lanka and South Africa and West Indies fall around him, England v Australia stands there solemnly, slightly perplexed by the death toll.

But – whisper it quietly – Test cricket is bigger than the Ashes. Or at least the sport would be better off if it were. It’s one of this site’s perhaps overfamiliar refrains that diversity is one of cricket’s greatest strengths and a major part of that is having more than two countries playing five-day matches with some degree of enthusiasm.

A subconscious negotiation?

Teams always want to win – players want to win every game – but when one team cares more about one format and the opposition cares more about another, you do sometimes get the sense that some sort of invisible subconscious deal takes place. A ‘you can have what you want if we can have what we want’ kind of thing.

It’s not in any way deliberate, but there are fine margins in top-level sport and it doesn’t take much to tip the balance one way or the other. If enthusiasm is a finite resource, how it is rationed can have a very real impact. Could bringing the formats together not offset that just a little?

Maybe not

If nothing else, there is no saying that anyone involved would buy into a format-spanning points system and if no-one cared, it would basically be worthless.

But what if people did care?

Consider an alternative scenario in which a nation historically inclined towards one-day cricket took the 50-over leg of a tour 4-1 and would ordinarily struggle to rouse itself for the Tests that followed. No side sets out to do this, but those piffling little two-Test series can sometimes appear hard to get up for, can’t they?

In this scenario, all the investment put into the one-dayers stands to be unravelled by a poor performance in the longer format. At eight points to two with ten points needed to win the tour and another eight points still available, players might just find extra motivation to try and win. It needn’t even be that. It could just be the will to fight for a draw at a point when previously they’d have been likely to write the match off as a loss. That might make for better cricket. It could also bring in a few extra fans keen to witness the tour decider.


Think of when you’ve invested time and effort in something. No-one likes to feel that’s wasted. It’s what keeps people playing Farmville long after it’s ceased to be fun. It’s what got Concorde built. For all that we’re supposed to lack commitment these days, human nature means people are naturally disinclined to cut their losses.

We’re not saying a points system is a cure-all. We’re not even saying it’ll work. But if there’s a chance that it could be a way of persuading people who care about short format cricket to also care more about Test cricket, we’re inclined to say that it’s worth giving it a whirl.

What’s the worst that could happen? That if it becomes popular and widely-adopted we might all start to question why the Ashes doesn’t follow the same format?

Would you care if the Ashes included limited overs matches?

Cricket was the real winner - but which format?

Ben Stokes would. Reacting to plans to implement a points system spanning the formats for cricket tours, he said: “I think it would be rubbish. They’ve changed a lot of things, but Ashes is Ashes, it’s a massive series for England and Australia and I don’t see why it should get changed.”

This rather overlooks the fact that pretty much all the other Test series he takes part in are anything but a big deal. As we see it, the Ashes would remain exactly the same, but everything else would get a bit of a leg-up. However, Stokes’ comments do raise an interesting question: how would you feel if the Ashes were restructured so that it included T20 matches and one-day internationals as well as Tests?


Yes. That was our initial reaction. So then we tried to work out why we felt that way.

Test cricket is our preferred format. It can at times be breathtakingly dull, but the sheer breadth of possibilities is what makes it endlessly fascinating. Different players, different pitches, different weather, different approaches, different match situations. With that in mind, surely it makes sense that even greater scope would make for an even more appealing event.

The outsider’s view

There is a tendency within cricket to see the formats as being pitted against one another. Rather than perceiving Twenty20 cricket as a gateway format to Test cricket, we instead take sides lest our favoured format be killed by its shorter (or longer) rivals.

But this isn’t really the way things are. It may seem that way from within, but for most people who don’t consider themselves fans of the sport, it doesn’t matter what the format – it is all just cricket. All three formats are just aspects of the same thing. Bat and ball. Runs and wickets.

People with only a casual interest in cricket cannot for the life of them understand how England can play Australia without it being the Ashes. They may well understand the rivalry, but they don’t necessarily understand the history.

The truth is, the rivalry is more important than the history. The rivalry is the essence. It is what drives things. It is what has created the history.

The rivalry is the Ashes – and that rivalry spans the formats.

A parallel

The Tour de France comprises 21 different bike races. At the end, they recognise an overall winner. People who follow the race may or may not care who wins the points jersey or the mountains jersey or any of the individual stages, but they will all care who wins overall.

Last year, the Tour started with a 13.8km time trial – competitors rode alone, against the clock. Stage four was 223.5km and other than stretches of cobblestones, almost entirely flat and everyone rode in a bunch. Stage 10 was 167km and finished at the top of a mountain.

These are very different challenges and the three stages therefore gave rise to three different winners. But it was all part of the same race. At the end of the three weeks, the overall winner was recognised. An all-rounder. Someone who had conquered everything. For all its complexity, the Tour remains at heart a simple event.


We use the Tour de France as an example deliberately, because its epic nature is its very essence. The Ashes is also an epic contest and it’s hard to argue that adding a greater number of challenges would make it less so.

People are fond of saying that Twenty20 is just a few overs of slogging, but you could equally say that Test cricket is ‘just’ risk-free accumulation without time pressures. You could say that Test bowling is just keeping it tight and waiting for mistakes. These things aren’t true, but even if they were, each different challenge would still contribute to the whole.

It is the range and number of challenges which makes the Ashes the epic contest that it is. So we have to ask: a Test series or a cricket series – which would be more alluring?

Either India or Australia will be/have been knocked out – but who could have predicted the outcome (and when)


We changed what time this site’s daily email went out recently. We can’t be bothered checking what time range we set it to and we also can’t be bothered working out what impact British Summer Time will have. As such, this post is a preview of the India v Australia match written in the knowledge that you may well be reading when the result is already known.

We wouldn’t be making any predictions anyway. Predictions can quickly look foolish. They have a thing that constantly tries to predict which team’s going to win running throughout each match of this World T20. It’s called The Win Predictor. The Win Predictor is making a good case for being rebranded The Momentum Disprover.

At one point quite early on in England’s match against Sri Lanka, The Win Predictor indicated 100 per cent likelihood of an England victory. England did win, but not before it had later had Sri Lanka’s likelihood of a win up around 70 per cent.

We made a comment about The Win Predictor effectively taking the piss out of its own earlier predictions during that game and one of the founders of the website behind it (CricViz) got in touch. We felt bad, because it’s not really the Win Predictor that’s at fault, it’s the game it’s trying to model.

T20 matches tend to progress in surges. Get a partnership and the run-rate can skyrocket. A wicket or two and it can come to a standstill. The swings can be so swift and dramatic that it can make earlier predictions look preposterous. Your general feeling as a viewer is: ‘Why should I pay heed to this prediction now when the one five minutes ago was so wildly different?’

Like we say, it’s not the predictor that’s the issue here, it’s the format. At the same time, that uncertainty is what keeps us watching. One thing’s for sure though. As far as India v Australia goes, the big story is already known: New Zealand knocked one of them out.

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