Tag Archives: the-ashes

Weekend musing – cricket, the Ashes, a ‘lifeless’ pitch…..

The MCG curator must have felt sorry for the English cricket team with the pitch he turned out that was more in keeping with slower English conditions. As I expected, the match ended in a draw with the Aussies retaining a 3-0 lead in this Ashes series.

Since stumps were called yesterday, I have read and listened with interest to the pundits advocating long and loud for a ‘better’ pitch at the MCG. Those making the call include Cricket Australia CEO James Sutherland, Cricket Victoria CEO Tony Dodemaide and MCC CEO Stuart Fox. A comment was even provided by the Australian captain Steve Smith. Apparently, the pitch was ‘lifeless’ and needed to provide ‘more variation’. Smith’s observations appear a bit disingenuous given he and his team were batting to save the match and prevent an unlikely England win. I am sure he and the other Australian batsmen were pleased that the ball was bouncing straight and true on day five of the match.

Correct me if I am wrong, but test match cricket has three possible results….a win, loss or draw and, unlike in most other sporting contests, the ‘dead rubber’ matches are still played. While limited over matches have their place in the lexicon of cricket, they should not be used as a yard stick to judge test cricket. They are different games with different expectations. In my opinion, the commentators have been blinded by the hit and giggle of the short form of the game and seem to want all cricket played the same way, finishing with a win or loss.

Having been raised watching five day test matches, I find the battle of wits and skill over the extended period to be a true ‘test’ of ability. It is clearly still a popular form of the game as more than 88,000 flocked to the first day of the MCG test, even though the series had already been decided in Perth the week before. I did read with interest pitch critics saying the pitch was to blame for the fall off in attendance after day one. I think those writers conveniently overlooked the fact that Boxing day was a holiday but many people needed to return to work the next day.

Have a great New Year!

Weekend musing – The Ashes, Peter Handscomb, Mitch Marsh, Tim Paine…..

I didn’t see a 3-0 start to this Ashes series on the cards but after watching the first three test matches, it appears Australia’s bowling
is a cut above the English and the Aussie batsmen seem to have been able to make runs at important times in each match. With the Ashes firmly in our grasp, all the carping at the selector’s decisions prior to the first test seem like so much hot air now. Just stuff to fill tabloids and the internet. I think we over analyse things at times.

Before the Perth test I didn’t think Peter Handscomb deserved to get dropped and when Mitch Marsh bowled only nine overs without taking a wicket I thought the selectors had pulled the wrong rein. How wrong was I? Marsh came out and made 181 and his partnership with Steve Smith probably won the test match for Australia. Perplexingly, at the start of the English second innings he only bowled three overs and that was it for him for the match. I thought he was brought in by the selectors to support the bowlers but he only bowled a total of twelve overs across two innings. I am perplexed, but on his batting alone, it is hard to say the selectors got it wrong.

I was a supporter of Tim Paine from the start of the series and now people are starting to sing his praises. As I mentioned at the time he
was always considered to be the heir apparent to Brad Haddin, but finger injuries cruelled his chances and now he is getting his opportunity and taking it with both hands, literally!

The Melbourne test is now a dead rubber, but day one is sold out and last time the English were here it was also a dead rubber with over 90,000 people attending that game. Seemes everyone loves a winner.

Have a very Merry Christmas and a wonderful New Year and we will muse again in the New Year!

Tuesday musing – Farewell Ange and Aussies off to a bolter in the Ashes

I have been a longtime supporter of Ange Postecoglou and was especially pleased when he was appointed as Socceroos coach to replace Holger Osieck. There can be no doubt that Ange has turned the team’s fortunes around as at one stage the Socceroos had slumped to number 100 in the FIFA world rankings but he now has them back at 39 after qualifying for the World Cup. Ange also managed to win an Asian Championship along the way so he is definitely leaving the National team in a lot better shape than when he took over. Given that success I was most disappointed that he decided to pull the pin on his time as the manager of the team. A bit like David Gallup, I am puzzled as to why you would walk away after having scaled the mountain the hard way. It reminds me of David Hall, who was the original trainer of Maykbe Diva. After the first Melbourne Cup win he went overseas to pursue a training career leaving the Diva with Lee Freedman to chalk up two more wins. At least he had the first win! The search is now on for a new manager and I have heard many names mentioned including current Sydney FC coach Graham Arnold, Brisbane Roar coach John Aloisi, former Western Sydney Wanderers coach Tony Popovic, Melbourne Victory’s Kevin Muscat and, in a blast from the past, Aussie Guus Hiddink. I hope the powers that be stick with a well credentialled Aussie coach. Personally I think Arnold has the ability to do the top job. He already knows the difficulties having been the Socceroos coach from 2006-2007 and he has been a success in the national competition with his A League side currently holding all three trophies.

Great to see the Ashes series has started as it is the most anticipated series in world cricket. In the recently completed First Test, the Australians gained the ascendancy after being able to scratch out a slim first innings lead then managed to take some crucial, early second innings wickets. The Aussie speed trio of Hazlewood, Cummins and Starc were wonderful and had the English on the back foot in both innings. Providing the three can stay fit, they will be more than a handful for the English over the final four tests. A special mention to the skipper too. Steve Smith’s innings was the real difference between the sides and the only reason the Aussies had a first innings lead. Without his contribution we would have been facing a sizeable deficit to make up and that would have completely turned the tables. Our top order needs to take a leaf out of Smith’s book and seek to occupy the crease rather than go after quick runs all the time. After all it is a ‘Test’ not a 20/20 game.

Weekend musing – World Cup qualification, Socceroos, Elyse Perry, the Ashes, Shaun Marsh….

It was great to watch the Socceroos qualify on Wednesday for the World Cup in Russia. I didn’t think they played that well, but deserved the win and deserved the free kick and penalties which resulted in the goals. It is hard to fathom how the Honduras captain could come out and suggest the referee was on the take! While I didn’t think the Australians played to their potential, the Hondurans were very ordinary. Australia’s big problem is the best finisher in the side is Tim Cahill and he is now 38 years old. Cahill himself wants more game time for Melbourne City to hone his skills for the World Cup, but at 38 he doesn’t get to as many contests as he may have in his prime. His finishing against Syria won the game for Australia, but his contribution between goals was negligible. This is a delicate balance because they need him in and around the team. I do not envy the task of Melbourne City manager, Warren Joyce.

Also great to see Elyse Perry get a 200 for the Australian women’s cricket team. She is a genuine all-rounder in all forms of the game and a match winner. I doubt Australia has produced a better all-rounder in men’s or women’s cricket. Not only that, she has also represented Australia in women’s soccer. What a player!!

Speaking of cricket the men’s squad for the first test was announced today with a few surprises. Shaun Marsh being re-called for an 8th time was a big shock, but Cameron Bancroft almost picked himself with his recent record. Also out of left field was the selection of Tim Paine as the keeper. Before he started breaking fingers he was the heir apparent to Brad Hadin, but Paine isn’t even the first choice wicket keeper for Tasmania so what do the Australian selectors know that the Tasmanians don’t? While it was out of left field I support the move because he is a very good keeper and a very accomplished batsman. Marsh effectively taking Glenn Maxwell’s spot is the real bolt from the blue. Maxwells’ shield form has not been that bad with a couple of 50’s and a 45 not out in the most recent game so his form had been okay compared to Matt Renshaw. I have questioned the selectors before and most of the time they seem to get it right, but Marsh has more often than not been a disappointment when selected for Australia so I can’t agree with them there.

Have a great weekend!

Friday musing – Ashes washup, Nat Fyffe…..

Chris Barwin HillsWell the Ashes are over and Australia has lost 3-2 with none of the five games going into the fifth day. When you examine the averages it is hard to see how Australia lost. Joe Root was the only English 1440188864611batsman to average more than 40 for the series, while Australia had Chris Rogers, Steve Smith & Dave Warner who all averaged over 40. Warner got a half century in each test without going on to get a hundred. Then you look at the bowling and while Stuart Broad took the most wickets with 21 the next best Englishman got 12 wickets, Australia had four bowlers who took 15 wickets or more.

In a series where the ball seemed to dominate the bat, no bowler really dominated. Broad’s 21 wickets has to be considered in the context of his match winning 8-15 in the fourth test, take that away and he averaged just over 1.5 wickets an innings. The 21 wickets is less than 2.5 wickets an innings which is hardly a domination compared to previous series. It was more like one bowler stood up each innings and then didn’t do much else and that applies to both sides.

In the final test Shane Warne was harping on about the selectors making a mistake and not playing Peter Siddle for Josh Hazlewood in the 4th test. To that stage Hazlewood had taken 16 wickets at an average of 25.75, not bad numbers really, but he was not really providing the Glenn McGrathish pressure that allowed them to playUnknown two left arm bowlers. Here I think was the major selection blunder playing the two left arm bowlers who were a bit all over the place. I would have dropped Mitchell Johnson for the last two tests and played Siddle or Cummins. They eventually played Siddle and he surprised everyone with a stellar performance in the final test.

Overall, if you win three games as easily as England did, you deserve to win back the Ashes.

Turning briefly to the AFL there was a lot of discussion earlier in the week with the Nat Fyffe incident with many of the pundits calling for his suspension. Quite rightly the MRP chose not to impose any fine or suspension. The incident was a free kick for too high, but nothing more than that. Having said that I am an unabashed Fyffe fan and hopes that he wins the Brownlow and goes on to get the Norm Smith medal in a Freemantle grand final winning team.

Have a great weekend!

Weekend musing – Jason Day, Fifth Test, James Hird……

Chris Barwin HillsWe should start with the good news – it was great to see Jason Day salute in the US PGA early on Monday morning. I had predicted that he would win a major in 2014, but unfortunately he had a hand/wrist injury that upset his season and then when in contention for this
year’s US Open he had an attack of vertigo. A most deserved win and it was also refreshing to see the good sportsmanship displayed by Jordan Spieth. Spieth suggested that it was the best loss that h1363998228672e had ever had and I suppose if second place takes you to number one in the world, you cannot really complain. After his amazing win in the Australian Open I understand he has had the lowest total for all 4 majors ever. With Day, Spieth and Rory McIlroy at the top of the world rankings the golf should be pretty interesting over the next 5 to 10 years.

Continuing the good news theme it was great to see some application from the Australian batsmen in this test. I went to bed with the score at 0-82 on the first day and was pleased to wake and find they had moved to 3-287 which put them in a good position to 1440188864611push for a victory in Michael Clarke’s final test match. After the second day’s play, the Aussies have strengthened their hold on this test by having the English 8 for 107 at stumps. With Peter Siddle’s excellent bowling performance one can only ask the selectors why he wasn’t in the team before now!

I had previously stated that I would not discuss the Essendon supplements saga again until the WADA case outcome was known, however, the events of the week with James Hird’s departure from the club does change the situation somewhat. I read an article written by Tracey Holmes titled “The siren has sounded on Hird and 1384012800000all that is left is sadness” and I think it about sums up my views on the events of this week. As an Essendon supporter a lot of people asked me my for my views on Tuesday and my immediate response was sadness. It was also clear from the players that flanked Hird on Tuesday that most of the players were emotionally struck by what had happened as well. There are a lot of James Hird haters out there and I am sure they will get around Caroline Wilson and congratulate themselves on a job well done, they finally got their man.

Have a great weekend!

Weekend musing – Cricket, the Ashes, AFL, the vernacular……

Chris Barwin HillsI sat down over the last two nights hoping to enjoy an Australian revival in the 4th test at Trent Bridge only to witness the abject failure of any of our recognised batsman to get in behind the line of the ball. Yes, there was a bit in the pitch, but not that much. I am sure the batsmen were spooked by Alistair Cook winning the toss and bowling which would have to be just about a first in England. I lyonthought the worst offender in the first innings was Michael Clarke. As captain of the team and coming in with the team in diabolical trouble he first tries a pull shot and was lucky it dropped into no mans land and then he has a swing at a wide ball. Surely the captain has to show more than application when the chips are down. Even when Ricky Ponting lost the Ashes in 2005 he battled his guts out to try and turn things around. We are now hoping for a miracle. Perhaps three days of rain.

I thought the crowd figures for the Richmond v Hawthorn clash last Friday night were interesting. There was 66,000 people there which was apparently a record between the two clubs. This is quite surprising when both teams have memberships of 70,000+. I understand that not all members turn up to watch their team play, but given the size of both memberships and both teams vying for the top 4, 66,000 could be considered quite disappointing.

There is one term that has entered the AFL vernacular which I am getting quite sick of very quickly and it is the “competitive beast”. I think if I hear one more commentator or one more player describe someone as a competitive beast I may just throw up.

Have a good weekend and let us hope the Gelding has a speedy recovery!

Friday musing – Serena Slam v Grand Slam, Test match cricket, Cameron Smith plays 300

Chris Barwin HillsI first turn my attention to the Serena Slam. Apart from Serena Williams essentially referring to herself in the third person, I cannot understand why she is not considered a Grand Slam winner. I know it is considered to be holding all the championships in the one calendarUnknown-2 year, but I cannot see the difference. If any player holds all four championships at the same time they should be considered winners of the Grand Slam. Forget the Serena Slam it is a Grand Slam.

It is amazing the difference a week can make in cricket. I went to bed last Saturday night thinking that Australia had a good chance to bat through the day and consider launching an attack on the last day to try and win the test match in Cardiff. I was disappointed to wake up Unknownand hear they were all out and the top scoring batsman was Mitch Johnson. Surely if Johnson can make 77 runs, the other specialist batsmen should have been able to cobble together a decent score! The disappointment of last week was put aside this morning when I woke up to hear that Australia had amassed a score of 337 for the loss of one wicket.

This brings me to one of my hobby horses – test pitches. Too often these days pitches are prepared to favour the team that wins the toss and bats first. A traditional test match pitch should offer some hope to the bowlers in the first session, last night there was nothing in that pitch at all and the only wicket to fall was to a somewhat profligate shot. I think it might be time for the ICC to step in and have the match referee involved in the pitch preparation.

Congratulations to Cameron Smith for his 300th NRL game this weekend. I am not a huge NRL fan, but I must say that Cam Smith is one of the more impressive people in Australian sport. Not only is he a great player and a great leader, but he handles himself well in Unknown-1
public no better than the recent controversy that he was somehow landed in. He has chosen not to comment on the matter in public and wants to meet with Alex McKinnon and sort it out behind closed doors. How refreshing!

Have a great weekend!

Friday musing – Golf, Cricket, Spring Carnival…….

Chris Barwin HillsThe thing that really piqued my interest in the sporting arena this week was the story about Phil Mickelson calling 16 year old US born Australian Ryan Rufflels (the son of former tennis player Ray Ruffels) to try and get him to Arizona State University on a golfing scholarship. Apparently Ryan plays off plus 6 and in a recent monthly medal at the Victoria Club shot rounds of 10, 9, 7 & 9 under. Wow! Golf seems to be producing some real prodigies at the moment and hopefully Ryan can go on and create a name for himself. Which country would have the bragging rights? I think that while he was born in the US, he grew up in Australia and took up golf in Australia, I consider that to be enough to claim him as an Aussie.

It was interesting to see that less than 25,000 people for the International T20 match against South Africa last Friday at the MCG. That is a disappointing crowd and casts a bit of doubt about the overall interest in the cricket coming into a summer where Australia will be hosting the One Day World Cup. Apart from the Ashes that is always well patronised, the cricket does seem to be losing its mojo. I have mentioned this in the past and in my opinion, it has a lot to do with the year round coverage of cricket throughout the world. The football is played over a period of six-seven months and then there is the build up and anticipation for the following season which is all very well staged managed by the AFL. The international cricket season has started with very little sense of anticipation and not helped by the recent test flogging at the hands of the Pakistanis. Time will tell if they can build some momentum into the World Cup.

The major races of the spring have now been completed and there was a number of notable performances, however, I do not think that any horse stamped its authority on the spring. There was not a dominant sprinter, there was not a dominant weight for age performer and there was not a dominant stayer. Having said that the “one off” performances of Terravista, Adelaide and Protectionist (you could also add in Admire Rakti in the Caulfield Cup) where truly great performances.

Have a great weekend!

Friday musing…..the Ashes, Australian Open, Hewitt, Arsenal…..

Chris Barwin HillsWell the Aussies wrapped up the Ashes in record time and in the end it was great to win and win well, but it was something of an anti-climax given the meek way the English capitulated. Clearly their batting let them down throughout the series and the only ones who could put their hands up would be Stuart Broad and Ben Stokes. Michael Carberry was passable, but he got a lot of starts at the top of the order and only once went on to make a 50. He reminded me a bit of Usman Khwaja, not how he batted, but the fact he continued to get a start and didn’t go on and post a decent score.

One of the quirkiest statistics from the recent series was the batting performance of Nathan Lyon. He batted six times for sixty runs, but was not dismissed in any of those six innings and as a result did not have a series average. I am not sure about the record for the most consecutive number of “not outs” in Test cricket, but it must be right up there.

While the Aussies won the series 5-0, their batting was still brittle at times and the forthcoming series against South Africa will reveal how much progress has been made. It has been widely discussed how well Brad Haddin batted in the series and I think he was the first batsman ever to score greater than fifty in five consecutive first innings of a series. Certainly he was the first to do it in an Ashes series. If Australia need to rely on him and the tail to bale them out in South Africa we will be in for a rude shock. Rogers, Warner, Clarke & Smith all made two centuries in the Ashes series, but to be successful against the Proteas we will need more partnerships. I doubt we can win the series, but it would be good to be competitive.

Moving away from the cricket to the tennis, it was good to see Lleyton Hewitt win a tournament in Australia last weekend. I have never been a particular Hewitt fan, but there is no doubting his competitiveness, his passion for the game and his passion for the Davis Cup. He has battled a lot of injuries over the last five years and most other sportsmen would have given up by now. It is hard to think of too many former Number 1 players who have hung around well after their star has dimmed. Good on him and I hope he does well in the Australian Open.

Bad news about Theo Walcott from last weekend, but one small positive is that at least it happened in January so they can utilise the transfer window if they wish. Better news with Oxlade-Chamberlain fit to resume, Giroud & Ozil likely to play and Ramsay & Gibbs pretty close. It is time to extract revenge on Aston Villa after that poor start to the season.

Have a great weekend.