Tag Archives: the-ashes

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.

Friday musing – ashes cricket, Mitchell Johnson, Jacques Kallis……

Chris Barwin HillsAt this time of the year cricket is the most dominant sport with tennis just kicking off with a build up to the Aussie Open.

The Poms have finally won a toss and sent Australia in to bat. I remember the old ABC cricket books used to have a section devoted to captains who invited the opposition to bat. It is not all that unusual these days, with Michael Clark getting away with it in the Melbourne test. I went along on the first two days and up until the second session on day three, the Poms held the whip hand. From there Australia wrapped up the match over the next three sessions, a big surprise. The prevailing philosophy is still to win the toss and bat and I think that Alistair Cook should have done so in Sydney, but time will tell.

Mitchell Johnson was again awarded the Man of the Match award and that makes it three out of four tests this series, but Chris Rogers & Nathan Lyon must have been very close as well with Brad Haddin again performing well. I understand Johnson has the best percentage of Man of the Match awards to tests played of any Australian test player. Not a bad achievement for a sometimes maligned figure in Australian cricket. I think in the past he has produced herculean performances dispersed with poor performances, but in this series he has been very consistent and does not seem to be spraying the ball around as much.

Speaking of Man of the Match awards, the news that Jacques Kallis was retiring did not come as a great surprise, but you would have thought he would have seen out the summer with Australia due to tour there next month. Kallis is certainly one of the best all-rounders of all time and compares favourably with Sir Garfield Sobers who is regarded as the benchmark for all-rounders. Kallis has the record for the most Man of the Match awards in test cricket with 23 from 166 matches. A true great of the game.

I always thought that Shane Watson had the attributes to be a very good all-rounder and at times he has shown us what he is capable of, but a fragile physique has mitigated against him. Test wise I think his bowling and catching ability are up there with Kallis, but unfortunately his batting falls a long way short.

Fingers crossed for the 5-0 whitewash of the series.

Have a good weekend and happy New Year!

Friday musing – cricket, the Ashes, soccer, Arsenal……..

Chris Barwin HillsWell what good timing for a Musing with the Aussies securing the Ashes on Tuesday! I thought Australia were a good chance in the series on the back of some pretty encouraging performances in England earlier in the year, but I did not think we would win the first three Tests in good style.

I mentioned last week about the toss playing a big part in teams winning and the last six results in Ashes test matches have seen the team winning the toss and batting coming out on top. You would think that the team batting second should have the best of the batting conditions, but England have not capitalised at all and have trailed in each of the first three tests. So much so that Australia have declared four of their six innings to date.

Mitchell Johnson seems to be most pundits pick for man of the series so far, but Warner, Haddin and Clarke are not far behind and when you factor in the performances of Siddle, Harris, Lyon and Smith, you can see why Australia are winning. That is not to down play the performances of Rogers and Watson who have also been solid contributors. Bailey has saved his spot because the team is winning and they can afford to give him time to settle. He certainly did his job on Monday morning.

I think the performance of Nathan Lyon needs a special mention. He has been much maligned and I have been guilty in that regard, however, you look at his scalps so far in the series and he has picked up crucial wickets. In the last test he got Cook in the first innings and Stokes in the second who were their teams highest scorers. He has earned his spot.

I can now go to the Boxing Day test and enjoy the cricket. Some would say it would be better to still have the series alive, but it is like being 10 goals up on Collingwood going into the last quarter just knowing you can enjoy the game.

Last week I lauded the Gunners for making the knockout phase of the Champions League for the 14th straight year and then they go out and lose to Manchester City 6-3. That is a tennis score isn’t it? Man City have been irrepressible at home this year and I suppose you could look on the positive side and say “well at least Arsenal got 3 goals”. I think the fixturing so close to the away game in Italy may have had an impact, but for the top team to concede 6 goals it is a bit of a worry.

Have a great weekend and a very Merry Christmas and we will muse up again in the New Year!

Friday musing – the Ashes, Champions League, Arsenal……..

Chris Barwin HillsWith the result of the test in Adelaide and the results of the other tests recently it became very obvious that winning the toss goes a long way to winning a test match. This has always been the case, but it does seem more so now with the way pitches are prepared. Captains have always been preferred to bat first, but usually the pitch offered a fair bit of assistance to the quicks, particularly in the first session. The side batting second usually had the better of the conditions so you could still set up a win batting second.

It all seems to have changed with the “drop-in” pitches as they don’t seem to offer as much bounce early nor spin later. There has been some suggestion that there be a toss for the first test of a series and then it be rotated after that, but I would not agree with that suggestion. I think the better idea is for a return to the old style of pitch preparation which gives both sides an even chance.

Good to see the Gunners make it through to their 14th Champions League knock out phase in a row. Interesting how Napoli miss out with 12 points and yet St Petersburg get in with 6.

Have a great weekend!

Friday musing – Essendon, James Hird, the Ashes….

Chris Barwin HillsI was disappointed to see the Essendon saga rear its head again this week, although it would seem that the major spotlight is on the AFL and not my club.  There is still a bit more to play out on this matter obviously and if the Herald-Sun sees fit to put it on the front page and then devote 4 pages at the front of the paper instead of the sports pages, then it still must sell papers.  I just want to put it all behind me and concentrate on football.

One of the issues seems to be James Hird getting paid.  From what I understand him not being paid was part of the original sanctions, but not part of the final deal.  Certainly not a Hird/Essendon problem, but certainly a problem for the AFL.  I know it is quite a different set of circumstances, but police that have been charged with serious criminal charges are suspended on full pay.  Hird has not been found guilty of any criminal charges and it is only governance issues so good luck to him.  Given that it appears the AFL fed most of the leaks to the papers perhaps they have been hoist by their own petard.

With regard to the cricket what a good toss for Australia to win, but the first day produced 4 players getting a start and not going on and getting a century.  At the time of writing Michael Clarke has made his second century of the series and Brad Haddin has just got his 3rd half century of the series and Australia look like batting their way into a position where they really could not lose the test.  It is amazing when you on the back foot in a series that the catches don’t stick  with the Poms dropping three on day one.

Great to see the Gunners season rolling on, their defence seems to be holding up pretty well this year and they haven’t forgotten how to score.

Friday musing – Ashes, sledging, Jason Day & more

Chris Barwin HillsWell I don’t think we can let an Aussie win in a Test match go without a bit of commentary, particularly as the Aussies were closing in on a record number of tests without a win.

Mitchell Johnson produced one of the great all-round performances in a test match in my time
following cricket. 103 runs for once out and 9/103 with the ball, so by my reckoning he is leading the averages with bat and ball at this stage. We all know one test doesn’t make a summer and in the last Ashes series in Australia he only produced one good performance, so I am not getting carried away, but it was a damn good start for a player that thrives on confidence.

Cricket is often identified as a ‘team sport for individuals’, but the contrary view to that is
that batting partnerships are intrinsic to winning matches. Australia produced three of the best partnerships of the test and won the game with Haddin/Johnson in the first innings and Warner/Clarke & Haddin/Johnson again in the second innings.

Speaking of Warner, we all like sportsmen that break the mould and speak their mind, however, I think he went a bit too far with his comments about Jonathan Trott.  He should’ve just left it as “a few of their batsmen looked a bit scared out there”.  Clearly Trott was showing signs of stress and perhaps Warner’s comments helped polarise his position and in turn prompted him to return to England and seek help.  It was interesting to read Greg Baum’s article in the Age during the week about cricketing suicides. It is clearly an issue and while we don’t like to see them make runs, I don’t think anyone gets any joy from the cricketers, or any sportsmen for that matter suffering mental
breakdowns.

Away from the cricket it was also good to see Jason Day salute in the Golf World Cup. I thought
given what happened in the Philippines he performed very well and it was a fine gesture to donate a portion of his winnings to the victims of the typhoon. Hopefully the headlines from that will raise the profile of the plight of the people from his mother’s homeland.  I have waxed about his performances before in the Majors and I don’t think it will be long before he finally snares one.

You also have to acknowledge the performance of Adam Scott. He wins the Aussie PGA,
Masters and shares the team result in the World Cup with Jason Day as well as finishing 3rd overall and is the overnight leader in the Aussie Open. I hope he becomes the 2nd golfer to take home the triple crown as he seems to be a very humble and likeable fellow.

Have a great weekend!

Friday musing – Back to basics with umpiring decisions……

Chris Barwin HillsDue to work commitments getting in the way of a good time, I didn’t see or hear much about the first day of the first Ashes test yesterday so I don’t know if there were any controversial decisions. But that got me to thinking about the Decision Review System (DRS). When it was first introduced I thought it was a good idea, because the umpires were coming under increasing scrutiny due to the technology available to the television broadcasters. Taking into consideration what happened in England in the last Ashes series, I think the system should be scrapped and it should return to just adjudicating on run-outs and stumpings. It would seem the DRS has created more issues than it has solved. The umpires decision is final and it should remain so. If the technology reveals that umpires are making mistakes then get better umpires.

I think this also carries over to the AFL. The goal review system was introduced to avert the howlers like the Tom Hawkins goal in the 2009 grand final. From what I have seen, the camera angles are inadequate and so it is impossible to come to a definitive conclusion and it usually comes back to the goal umpire. I think that system should also be scrapped and we should go back to relying on the goal umpire’s decision.

There is a push for goal line technology in the world game and if the experience in cricket and AFL football is any guide I would avoid it all costs.

One sport where the technology does seem to work is in tennis.

Friday musing – Melbourne Heart, the Ashes, Jarrod Lyle…….

Chris Barwin HillsI was watching the Melbourne Heart on SBS2 last Friday night and looking at the crowd, there was more noise coming from the West Sydney Wanderers crowd than the Heart supporters.  It occurred to me that the Wanderers have established a profile because they are linked to an area of Sydney, whereas the Melbourne Heart supporters are probably made up of soccer fans who do not follow the Melbourne Victory.  The Heart really needs a profile that people can relate to, otherwise I can see them disappearing before too much longer.  This is compounded by their inability to win games.  They really deserved a draw against the Wanderers, but didn’t have the class to capitalise on their opportunities.  It doesn’t help that Harry Kewell can’t get on the park.  Whoever owns the rights to the Heart should consider relocating to Geelong or establishing a base in an area of Melbourne which has a strong soccer culture.

I was also interested to see that George Bailey and Mitchell Johnson have been named for the 1st Test starting next week in Brisbane.  I think naming George Bailey has some risk based on his performances in India where batting records were established with big run chases, so clearly the pitches were batting friendly strips.  His 1st class average is below 40, but then again so is that of Alex Doolan who was the other batsman in contention.  My guess is that the selectors opted for Bailey because he can assume the captaincy should Michael Clarke’s back let him down again.  I think if Cameron White can turn a few of his 50s into 100s then he could come back into contention as well.

Turning to Mitchell Johnson, we all know that at his best he is a redoubtable cricketer and a fine
fast-bowler, but at his worst he is a liability.  He has probably got another chance because of the injuries to the young incumbents and while I remain sceptical, I certainly hope he strikes form and punches a few holes in the England batting order.

Great to see Jarrod Lyle make a good comeback yesterday and let us hope he makes the cut for the Australian Masters.

Have a good weekend all!

Sportzfan Radio #185.1

@SportzfanRadio now available on iTunes!16 January 2011 185.1 – The Professor, Daniel, the Gambler and Sportzfan Stan are back for 2011, bigger and better than ever. There is some discussion to start the show about Sportzfan Radio’s Christmas party and the Gelding now being a greyhound expert as well. They also discuss the first radio broadcast of an ABL game in Victoria from the previous evening by Southern FM.  The Panel then discuss Stan’s call for the sacking of the AFL’s Andrew Demetriou over the decision of choosing Virgin Blue over Qantas as the airline transporting the teams.  Dan Butterly talks US sport including the NFL playoffs and selects New England to beat the New York Jets, Atlanta Falcons over the Green Bay Packers and the Chicago Bears over the Seattle Seahawks.  Dan also talks about some of the coaching changes at NFL teams who haven’t made the playoffs.  He wraps up the College football season and says it will be interesting to see what the NCAA do about the Cam Newton situation and possible rule infractions as it could be that Auburn may not hold the national championship they won.  He is still all for a BCS playoff series whether it be an 8 or 12 team series and would like to see that in place sooner rather than later.  The Gelding talks racing from Flemington and discusses the winners and losers in racing from the weekend’s meetings.  The Panel then look at the Australian cricket team, the chairman of selectors, the CEO and the coach.  Stan calls for an inquiry to be headed by Ric Charlesworth.  Daniel says it’s good that Stan is finally giving someone a job given that he has sacked so many over the last few months.  Stan says Tim Nielsen’s record as a coach on a win/loss basis is terrible and he should be sacked.

Australian cricket needs a revamp and quickly!

I often listen to Stan (@sportzfanstan) on Sportzfan Radio calling for underperforming sports administrators and coaches to be sacked. Recently, he has been critical of the Australian Test team’s performance in the Ashes series against England and I would say with good reason.

If I compare how the successful teams from other codes behave – Collingwood in the AFL and St George in the NRL, there are hallmarks that lead to that success. Discipline, elite training regimes centred around world class training facilities, an astute and experienced coach, forward planning for filling the gaps that regularly occur in the playing ranks over time, investment (money and time) in drafting replacements and succession planning.

These hallmarks are not apparent in the Australian cricket team. I am continually surprised at Australian players making comments in the media regarding team selection, injuries and batting order. At best this shows an amateurish approach by those in charge of Australian cricket. Can you imagine for one moment that Alan Didak would suggest that a fellow Collingwood team mate should be playing in place of another?…or that he should be playing on a half forward flank as opposed to the wing? It just would not happen. Please take note James Sutherland.

Australian cricket was once at the forefront of all cricketing nations in all forms of the game. Well out in front of the pack with the rest struggling to remain a respectable distance behind, let alone catch up. Instead of building and laying solid foundations for the future, leading Australian cricket administrators have taken their eye off the road ahead and it has been left to deteriorate to the shambles that it is today.

There is one thing for certain. In this crowded sporting marketplace, it takes little time to lose relevance with the sporting public….just ask the NBL. Professionalism of a high order needs to be injected into Australian cricket and quickly and this means more than changing captains, players, coaches or selectors. An attitude change is required and quickly to reverse the trend.