Tuesday, 29 December 2009

A ton has too much weight

At the start of the summer, I was all for dropping Watson. Since then, everyone but the selectors seems to have dropped him, but I have to admit that he has been better than I expected, with the bat, even the ball, although not in other respects.

The most recent dropped chance allowed Watson to bring up the Australians' first Test century of the season. Much too much has been made of this. Centuries, or the lack thereof, shouldn't take on this much weight. Australia shouldn't be bothered by scores of two decimal digits except to the extent that the underlying problems are the same ones that lead to scores like 150 all out.

It may not always hurt to play for a personal or even team milestone, but there was nothing good about the situation as Watson was restrained in the 90s. The team needed relatively quick runs, not landmarks, and cricket is a team sport.

Sunday, 20 December 2009

From west to west

Despite the names, Western Australia is nearly as far as you can get from the West Indies. I can't pull up a personal story about cricket at the WACA. The best I can do is that I changed a nappy in the carpark there last winter. Rather than stands, it is the WACA pitch itself that has changed recently. My opinion after the first day was almost the opposite of that offered by the groundsman in Napier - that with the pitch ready to grow lane markers and neither team boasting a great attack, a result was unlikely.

Given that, Ricky's non-reappearance in the first innings was significant, and even apart from that, I thought the declaration showed a bit too much faith in his bowlers. As it turned out, the Rooty Hill RSL boy and co. did pretty well and it was the batsmen who were embarrassed, as the Windies set up an interesting chase. The fourth day was a great example not so much of quality cricket, but of the wonderful nature of cricket as a contest with a rhythm of its own.

The Australians managed to take wickets just often enough to enjoy it, but not enough to finish the game. Now they search for one last wicket as the target creeps closer. Will this be as exciting as Adelaide in 1993?

Monday, 7 December 2009

An umpire's final decision?

In the past, I haven't thought much of Ricky Ponting's captaincy at all. In what I have managed to see of this series, however, I haven't had any problem with his strategies. In contrast, his behaviour after the first referral regarding Chanderpaul was ridiculous. I have in the past agreed with his comments on cameras and low catches, but they just make his response to the not out decision even more ridiculous.

Ponting says that the referral system was meant to get rid of things like that, presumably meaning mistakes that are 'obvious'. That is a stupid idea - it was only meant to get rid of mistakes that were obvious to the tv viewer with certain technology. As well as being largely motivated by television, the system restricts the third umpire to approved technology, rather than giving them everything that might be provided to the spectator at home.

It is quite clear that a mistake could be 'obvious' to those on the field without being obvious to the cameras, or even being wrong. In this case, I think it is more likely that there was an edge than that there wasn't. However, the replays and hotspot views shown did not provide enough to justify a conclusive umpire's decision, and certainly not enough to justify overturning a decision in the current framework. I do question why both hotspot cameras were not used, but I believe there will always be some level of ambiguity, if not error, not matter how good the technology is.

Ponting should have accepted that the cameras did not provide the evidence of what he thought he heard and saw. Instead, as some predicted, the review system has provoked even stronger dissent. The match referee should haul him up on a charge of dissent, or at least stupidity. Of course, off the field, more interest has been shown to the later appeal, when the umpire's not out decision was overturned. I still haven't seen footage of this, but form all accounts it was a strange decision by third umpire Asad Rauf. Most disturbing are the rumours circulating that this prompted the withdrawal and retirement of umpire Benson.

For an umpire to not complete a test for reasons other than relating to health is a very big deal. It is hard to believe the "suggestions" received by the Sunday Times (and of course repeated by Cricinfo, Fairfax media and others as facts reported by the Sunday Times) that Benson's departure from Australia was motivated by these incidents, rather than existing health problems. I don't see why the issues as reported would require a visit to hospital rather than a phone call to his long-standing doctor. Obviously the suggestions came form somewhere, but I can't see how it could be true that he was upset most by the second decision, unless there is much more to the story in the umpires' room.

Before the talk of retirement, I'd have hoped the umpires' coach would take a careful look at Benson's performance in Adelaide. In any case, he is no stranger to criticism of his decisions. However, it seems to me that apart form ill health, I suspect it is not he that should be the centre of the attention at the moment.

Friday, 4 December 2009

Now for Adelaide

I think the first game of serious cricket that I watched live was at the Adelaide Oval. The NSW team happened to be in Adelaide at the same time as my family, and somehow my dad was convinced to take it along. I have memories of sitting in the stand there as a seven year old as the South Australians put up a big score, dreaming of working in the marvelous manual scoreboard. (Looking back, it turns out the main contributor, with 168, was a certain Andrew Hilditch.)

I'd heard the recent announcements of plans for the Adelaide Oval, which is definitely welcome news in various ways for the different winter sports, but I hadn't realised that work had already begun. It certainly is a change to a ground that has changed less since I was young than many others.

That first match wasn't a great one for the bowlers, although Tim May did pick up 7 wickets in the NSW innings. As far as the discussion on Test pitches goes, I think it's important that they have something for bowlers, but one of the great things about cricket is variety of different pitches and conditions. Cricinfo looks at recent Tests at Adelaide and calls it a "result-oriented batting paradise", which is an intriguing phrase. It's true that if we were forced to have identical pitches for each match, I might choose Adelaide as the prototype, but I'm glad to enjoy quite a few departures from its standard.

In any case, it is a fine day in Adelaide and it's great to have a day off for the first day of the Test. It takes more than negative press about a big win by a less-than-dominant side to take away my anticipation! I had a bit of a scare when Cricinfo had the starting time incorrect, but I settled down wondering whether the youngster Barath would continue his form, and whether Bollinger would live up to his claims.

Bollinger, with the help of some great catching, has started with two scalps, including Barath. Three more might well back up the loud bowler's words, although the journalist's question about "keeping his foot on the throat" of the batsmen fits better with the overall narrative of the series than to the nature of his battle with Gayle. Now the focus is on the rest of the batting order, and rightly so, since even Sehwag would be restricted if he received only the support Barath had in Brisbane. The Windies would welcome the return of Sarwan, and hope that Chanderpaul, Bravo and co. are a bit more prepared after another week.

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Follow the leader

In the news in this part of the world, there is talk of a second political spill in a week. The Liberal Party tends to avoid them while in government, but apart from that they seem to come around fairly often. I don't want to get into the politics now, but I loved this paragraph about the Prime Minister's comments on the state government:
Asked if Mr Rees had his full support or whether he also needed to get his act together, Mr Rudd replied "Yes", although it was unclear to which part of the question he was responding.