Friday 29 June 2012

Preview West Indies v New Zealand in Lauderhill

I feels odd to be talking about a match in USA. Despite the fact that USA is actually a much bigger cricket audience than people realise, it still is not known for cricket. But for the second time in the last 2 years, New Zealand are heading to Lauderhill to play a couple of T20 matches. This time the opponent is the West Indies.

The last series was played in particularly benign conditions. There was nothing in the pitch for either the bowlers or the batsmen, and as a result the scoring was at or under 6 an over for every innings in the series.

There has been a lot of work at the Central Broward Regional Park Stadium, and it looks amazing on Google maps, but preparing cricket pitches is a dark art, and not one that is particularly easy. If they manage to get a good pitch in only the 3rd and 4th real match there it will be quite an accomplishment.

The headlines of this tour will all be about the likes of Narine, Gayle, Pollard, Guptil, Taylor and Southee. However given that it is quite likely to be low and slow, the match is likely to be decided by the skiddy spin bowlers and crafty medium pacers. The players who I'm going to be expecting to play a big role are Marlon Samuels, Nathan McCullum, Jacob Oram and Darren Sammy.

Making the ball arrive at a different time to what the batsman expects is the key to this sort of pitch, and these 4 bowlers are all very good at that. All have a good recent record with the ball too.

Bowling over the last 2 years in T20I:

MN Samuels768.665.37
NL McCullum101313.696.59
DJG Sammy8626.007.03
JDP Oram2226.007.42

The other bowler that I look forward to watching is Roneel Hira. Probably my favourite player who is currently playing, Hira is a heady bowler, dynamite fielder and effective batsman. He had a great HRV Cup in the New Zealand domestic season, and he will need to really step up in this series as Daniel Vettori has made himself available for T20's again, and he needs to show that he offers enough for the selectors to be prepared to run two left arm orthodox bowlers.

The other one that I am interested to see is Samuel Badree. I watched him bowl for Trinidad and Tobago, and he looked like he was quite tricky. On a slow pitch he could be a difficult prospect also.

So those are a couple of things for those of you watching this match to look out for. Hopefully it will be a pitch that provides plenty for both bat and ball. If it does this could be a fantastic series, but either way both teams are an interesting mix of crafty cricketers and outstanding athletes that could make this an absorbing match even on a bad pitch.

Friday 22 June 2012

Mini-session Analysis 1st teat SL Pak Galle 12

Here is the final mini-session analysis for the first test between Sri Lanka and Pakistan at Galle International Stadium, Galle, Sri Lanka.

A mini-session is (normally) half a session, either between the start of the session and the drinks break or the drinks break and the end of the session. Occasionally a long session will have 3 mini-sessions where it will be broken up with 2 drinks breaks.

1-1aSri Lanka 45/0 off 13Sri Lanka
1-1bSri Lanka 49/1 off 14Sri Lanka
1-2aSri Lanka 44/0 off 16Sri Lanka
1-2bSri Lanka 50/1 off 15Sri Lanka
1-3aSri Lanka 65/0 off 11Sri Lanka
1-3bSri Lanka 47/0 off 21Sri Lanka
2-1aSri Lanka 35/1 off 13Pakistan
2-1bSri Lanka 31/2 off 15Pakistan
2-2aSri Lanka 45/0 off 15Sri Lanka
2-2bSri Lanka 61/5 off 20.2Pakistan
2-3aPakistan 27/2 off 11Sri Lanka
2-3bPakistan 21/3 off 13Sri Lanka
3-1aPakistan 25/1 off 17Sri Lanka
3-1bPakistan 27/4 off 13.3Sri Lanka
3-2aSri Lanka 56/0 off 12Sri Lanka
3-2bSri Lanka 37/3 off 14Pakistan
3-3aSri Lanka 40/2 off 13Pakistan
3-3bSri Lanka 4/0 off 2Sri Lanka
Pakistan 36/3 off 15
4-1aPakistan 34/1 off 16Sri Lanka
4-1bPakistan 34/0 off 16Pakistan
4-2aPakistan 50/0 off 17Pakistan
4-2bPakistan 51/1 off 15Pakistan
4-3aPakistan 34/1 off 14Sri Lanka
4-3bPakistan 61/4 off 21Sri Lanka

Final update

Tea, Day 1: Sri Lanka lead the count 4-0.

When you win the toss and bat, 188/2 at tea is normally about what the captain is hoping for. More than 90 runs per session and only lost 2 wickets. And, while the pitch has been fairly placid, there have been a few moments of doubt for the batsmen, but good technique and concentration (along with some charitable umpiring) allowed them to get through a couple of dangerous spells from each of Umar Gul and Junais Khan without either taking a scalp. Very much advantage Sri Lanka at the moment, but we don't know too much until Pakistan have a bat on it.

Final drinks, Day 1: Sri Lanka lead the mini-session count 5-0.

And Sri Lanka continue marching on. Again there was a few tight decisions, but Sri Lanka will now be looking for big score in the first innings and then hoping the pitch breaks up. Pakistan need to play some good cricket to swing this back in their favour.

Stumps, Day 1: Sri Lanka lead the mini-session count 6-0.

Pakistan had probably their best spell of bowling in the last few overs, keeping Sri Lanka under 2.5 an over. However part of that was the two old campaigners playing for stumps. A couple of quick wickets tomorrow and everything could change, but Sri Lanka have enough on the board now that it would have to be 4 or 5 quick wickets to tilt the game back to even.

Final drinks, Day 2: Sri Lanka lead the mini-session count 8-3.

Pakistan have worked their way back into the game, but it is still very much advantage Sri Lanka. In previous tests when Sri Lanka have managed to get into a position like this they have been good enough to grind out a win. They managed it against India at Galle a couple of years ago, South Africa in Durban last year and earlier this year against England, also at Galle.

The story of the day, however was Kumar Sangakkara joining Andy Flower as batsmen who have been left stranded on 199* in a test match. Sri Lankan fans will hope that it won't be a similar result to Flowers, where despite him scoring 142 and 199* his team were beaten by 9 wickets.

The most important play of the day, so far might be Kulasekara taking two quick wickets before drinks. Exposing the Pakistani middle order to the new ball may well make things very interesting.

Stumps, Day 2: Sri Lanka lead the mini-session count 9-3.

It is difficult to conceive a realistic scenario where Pakistan was further behind in the game at this point. They still trail by 424 with only 5 wickets remaining in their first innings. It will take either a lot of rain or something remarkable to save Pakistan here.

Innings break, after final drinks, Day 3: Sri Lanka lead the mini-session count 12-5.

Another day of odd cricket. Strange umpiring decisions, strange captaincy, poor batting, and even a couple overs of Younis Khan bowling.

This was going to be a drinks update, but Jayawardene waited for 2 overs after drinks before declaring. They added 4 vital runs in those two overs.

They could have added 72 for all the difference that it is going to make.

Sri Lanka might have not followed on because they wanted to give the bowlers a rest. Or perhaps because they wanted to use the heavy roller. Or even because they were scared of Pakistan scoring 500 and making them chase 120 on the last day. Whatever the reason it was certainly a surprise to see it. And with almost 3 days left when they bowled out Pakistan, it probably was not a mistake as much as it was just plain odd.

Pakistan now stand at the door of history. If they can overcome the Sri Lankan bowlers, and the DRS-free umpiring they could post a world record winning score. There are some other records that they could conceivably break as well. They could be the first team to have an opening partnership of more than 250 in the 4th innings. They could also be the first test team to have 3 batsmen come out without shoes on. All of these are equally unlikely. If Pakistan do win this, it would be the greatest chase in the history of cricket, and probably the biggest comeback since Lazarus.

More likely will be a painful day of indecisive batting ending about tea time tomorrow with a convincing Sri Lankan win.

Stumps, Day 3: Sri Lanka lead the mini-session count 13-5.

Sri Lanka are dominating this match. Kulasekara had always seemed to me to be bowler more suited to limited overs cricket, but he has started off this series very well, picking up key wickets in each innings. It will be interesting to see if the Pakistani batsmen figure out how to deal with him, because when they are taking wickets with both pace and spin, Sri Lanka are deadly.

Middle drinks, Day 4: Sri Lanka lead the mini-session count 14-7.

Pakistan start climbing the mountain.

If they are going to win or save this test they require at least one enormous partnership. These two are looking comfortable, and they have plenty of time to get themselves established before the new ball is available. Their partnership is already at 119, only 7 short of the largest in the match.

Although, unlike in recent test all round the world, the new ball has not been very deadly this test. There have so far been only 3 out of the 29 wickets taken with the first 10 overs of each ball, (about 10.3%) despite the new ball being available for 50 of the 304 overs (16.4). This means that the new ball has been only 63% as effective as the old ball for getting wickets. That is another odd thing in this game. Despite this, as the pitch starts to wear the extra bounce that the spinners will be able to get from the new (or even newish) ball will be vital. The pitch is starting to misbehave a little, with one ball in particular from Herath really biting and turning. If that starts happening more often, but still unpredictably, it could cause some real trouble for the Pakistani batsmen.

This test is now in one of the most interesting phases. One team hanging on grimly, and the other trying to dislodge them. I really enjoy watching good spinners against quality batsmen on a turning pitch.

End of match: Sri Lanka win the match, and the mini-session count 16-8.

And that was about right. Sri Lanka played about twice as well as Pakistan. Sri Lanka scored their runs at just over 40 per wicket, while Pakistan scored at 20 per wicket. That probably says enough there. There were two highlights for Pakistan: the good bowling of Saeed Ajmal and the fight shown by the middle order. Younis was like we remember him, Asad Shafiq was beautiful to watch, it took a real piece of skill to remove him with the rebound catch. His footwork was phenomenal and the way he used the crease was art.

But it all ended they way that it was expected to. With Sri Lanka winning comfortably.

It will be interesting to see what sort of difference Misbah makes in the next test.

Saturday 16 June 2012

The curious case of the SLPL

A few years ago I ran a small business as a side project buying and selling computer parts. I had a few people who used to get me to source things for them, and one main supplier, who was one of the cheapest in the country and who gave me a (small) discount.

I was sitting at my parents house looking through my suppliers catalog when one of my father's friends arrived. He is a very successful businessman, who supplies clothing for most of the large clothing retainers in New Zealand. He was looking over my shoulder, and we started talking about what I was doing.

I told him about what a good deal I was getting. A lot of my parts were Korean and when I tried to import them myself I was surprised to find that I was getting them cheaper off my supplier in New Zealand than I could buy them for in Korea. At this point he asked me a curious question: "have you checked if your supplier is making money?"

I didn't really care if my supplier was making money. Provided they were prepared to sell me my product at a particular rate, I was going to buy it. If they were making a loss, that was their problem, not mine. He told me that he always made sure his suppliers were making money. As most of his suppliers were in China, he actually flew over there to talk to his suppliers and make sure the deals he was doing was profitable for both of them. This seemed a very strange idea to me.

A few months later I ordered a DVD drive and they had a free delivery special, so I got it delivered and waited for it to arrive. But 3 days later it hadn't turned up. They were normally very good, so I then tried phoning them to find out what was happening, but there was no answer. I went to their office, but the lights were off, and the doors were locked.

I went online to see if anyone else knew anything, and what I found was not good news. They had put in the policy of the free deliveries, and then the owners had taken everybody's money and headed for the airport. Fortunately they police had put out an advisory for them about 2 minutes before they cleared customs, and they were arrested, but they had already "lost" most of the money. I was never going to see my $38 again, but fortunately it was only $38; two weeks earlier I had spent close to $2000 with them.

Perhaps if I had taken my father's friend's advice I might not have lost that $38. If I had ensured that I was dealing with a company that was making money they would have continued to give me exemplary service.

The BCCI are finding themselves in a similar situation to what I was in at the moment. One of their biggest ways of making money is from meaningful tours to and from their nearest competitive and politically expedient neighbour Sri Lanka.

And yet India are not thinking ahead in their dealings with the Sri Lanka Cricket.

Now to be fair, it's not always a good idea to think too far ahead with SLC, because it's likely to only be a year or so before there is some turmoil and another commissioner is appointed by someone with a political axe to bear. This is how things work in Sri Lanka. However in the case of the SLPL it is definitely in India's best interest to make sure it runs well.

The BCCI need to look at Sri Lanka as a supplier, rather than as a competitor. They supply a team that can create revenue for India. They supply some of the most interesting players in world cricket for the IPL. They supply fans who will happily buy t-shirts and caps from IPL franchises. Now they are looking at running a competition that is at a different time to any Indian commitments, and will keep the cricket fans talking about cricket.

Only the BCCI is talking about not releasing any Indian players for the SLPL.

It is understandable that they don't want to release all of their top players for the competition, as they have to manage workloads and ensure that their most talented players don't burn out. However during the time that the SLPL is scheduled to run, the likes of Ashok Dinda, Rahul Sharma and Shikar Dhawan are all likely to be playing very little cricket. And having them playing in the SLPL could have 3 possible benefits.

Firstly it will mean that they are playing, instead of not playing. Very few players become much better just by playing in the nets. There needs to be a combination of practice and meaningful matches. The SLPL will provide this, as well as experience touring and playing in different conditions. Secondly it will allow the selectors to observe some of these players in non-Indian conditions, playing different opposition. The final, and most important benefit is that there is no chance of it setting off a "trade war" between cricket boards.

If India are to persist in blocking their players from playing in Sri Lanka, there is the potential that Sri Lanka might block their players from playing in India. While Sri Lanka are not in a strong enough financial position to be able to really stop them, the English Cricket Board are, and a move by Sri Lanka could set off a domino effect which could potentially greatly diminish the value of the IPL for the BCCI. It could also risk upsetting the powerful Asia/Africa voting block in the ICC, which allows India to effectively veto decisions that it doesn't like.

The BCCI is not there to run world cricket. They exist to make sure Indian cricket is strong. Most of their decisions that people in the rest of the world have got upset about are ones that benefit India, and so therefore are decisions that the BCCI was right to make. However in this case the best interest of Indian cricket is to look after Sri Lanka. It will be interesting to see if they have sufficient vision to realise that, or if they are intent on just milking their supplier, until they collapse.

Monday 11 June 2012

The morning session on day 4

The day started ominously for the West Indies with Ravi Rampaul getting out caught by Prior off Finn on the third ball, but the first over was no indication at all of what was to come. The next two hours contained a perfect example of the best of test cricket.

Tino Best came out to the wicket, walking with a swagger that really did not fit with a number 11 with a highest score of 27. But he took no time to declare his intent. He swung wildly at the first few deliveries, connecting with a couple, and made it to 20 off 14 balls. At the other end the under fire Denesh Ramdin was slowly pushing the ball round the field and accumulating runs in a sensible fashion.

The English bowlers were bowling too short to Best, and he was enjoying it. All of a sudden his swagger was at a new level. He was mixing up glorious back foot drives and streaky edges, but no matter how aesthetically pleasing the shot was, they all managed to miss the fielders and find their way to the boundary. The English bowlers were still smiling, and laughing about it, thinking that it was just a tail-ender having a brief larrop. But it was much more than that.

After 44 balls Best became the first number 11 to score a fifty against England in over 100 years. He is only the thirteenth player to score a test fifty from number 11. At about this time the decided to start to bat sensibly. He only scored 1 boundary in the next 10 overs, leaving the bulk of the scoring up to Ramdin. The partnership reached 100 after 19.3 overs.

The next over Ramdin bought up his hundred and pulled out a note from his pocket and held it up for the cameras to see. It read "Yea Viv Talk Now," meaning something like "what are you saying now Viv" in reference to an article that Sir Vivian Richards had written about Ramdin before the match saying that "For some reason, he has deteriorated in such a big way. Just the way he is walking back, he looks like a totally lost guy." Ramdin answered him with the bat, but his response with the note paper was for some a step too far. Ian Botham went as far as to suggest that Ramdin would be advised to hide when he gets back into the pavilion.

It wasn't long before the irrepressible Best got back into the action. He hit a four to go past Zaheer Khan's score of 75, the previous highest score by a number 11 in test history. Best then set his sights on a hundred before lunch. He made it into the 90's with 5 overs in hand and it was potentially going to a huge embarrassment for England, conceding a century to a number 11. Unfortunately, however the fairytale came to an end at 95 when Best tried to hit a slower ball out of the park to bring it up in style. West Indies went from 280/8 overnight to an imposing 426 all out. With the shortened game, the follow on target is 150, so England will need 288 to avoid the follow on.

At this point there are only two realistic options remaining: a West Indian win or a (somewhat more likely) draw. It will be interesting to see how the inexperienced West Indian bowling line up will respond to platform that their colleagues have established.

Sunday 10 June 2012

Mini-session Analysis 3rd Test Eng WI Edgbaston 12

Here is the final mini-session analysis for the third test between England and the West Indies at Edgbaston, Birmingham, England.

A mini-session is (normally) half a session, either between the start of the session and the drinks break or the drinks break and the end of the session. Occasionally a long session will have 3 mini-sessions where it will be broken up with 2 drinks breaks.

3-1aWest Indies 31/0 off 14draw
3-1bWest Indies 54/1 off 15West Indies
3-2aWest Indies 25/2 off 18England
3-2bWest Indies 54/2 off 18England
3-3aWest Indies 51/1 off 17West Indies
3-3bWest Indies 65/2 off 16West Indies
4-1aWest Indies 75/1 off 15West Indies
4-1bWest Indies 71/1 off 16.3West Indies
4-2aEngland 49/2 off 14West Indies
4-2bEngland 62/1 off 16England
4-3aEngland 45/0 off 7.1England
4-3bEngland 65/2 off 20.5West Indies

End of match: West Indies win the mini-session count 7-4.

A test match that would be almost completely unmemorable was livened up by one 31 over partnership. Other than that it was a test that was completely ruined by rain.

Stumps Day 3: Finally we have had some cricket. And fortunately enough runs have been scored and enough wickets have fallen that we still have a couple of options for an outcome. At 280/8 West Indies could possibly get to 320, and then if Narine is able to get some turn, bowl England out for 170 and enforce the follow on. Alternatively, England could quickly take the last two wickets tomorrow morning, and then score at 4 an over and end the day on 380, putting them 110 ahead, and making West Indies bat to save the test.

Samuels was again the star of the day, with his attacking 76 taking his series average to an impressive 96.5.

While there wasn't prodigious swing on offer today, there was bounce. And variable bounce too. Hopefully it becomes a bit of a minefield, rather than settling down and we get a result. Unfortunately the groundsman has probably done too good a job for that to happen.

It will be interesting to see how the West Indian bowlers go, being that there is such a contrast between the line ups of the two teams. England's seam bowlers are tall, and bowl about 135km/h and are reasonably accurate. West Indies however have 3 bowlers who are all very different. Sammy is tall, and bowls mid 120's. Best is short, but can bowl 150km/h. Rampaul is reasonably tall, but has a lower arm action, so doesn't generate the bounce that the English bowlers do. He tends to bowl about 130km/h. The contrasts between these three are quite significant, and this could be to West Indies advantage, as a significant number of the great seam bowling partnerships historically have been different styles of bowlers. (some examples are Hadlee & Chatfield, Thompson & Lillie, Waqar & Wasim, Lee & McGrath, Pollock & Donald, Marshall & Holding) However I'm not confident that Best & Rampaul will fit into this list in the future.

Tomorrow will be a vital day if we are going to get a result in this test. We need lots of runs and lots of wickets. If it happens it could set up an intriguing final day, but it is more likely that match will fizzle out. Regardless, the highlight is likely to be getting to watch Sunil Narine bowling in white clothing. That in itself is likely to be worth the price of admission.