30 June 2012

1st ODI: Bad fortune or missed opportunities?

Although the result didn't go our way, it was still great to see some cricket again. The boys ended up falling 15 runs short of the target set by England. Having done really well in the warm-up matches, I wouldn't see any reason to be concerned for the rest of the series. We missed a few opportunities and worst of all there was some misfortune with our batting in terms of dismissals. Nature of the game.

1st ODI scorecard via ESPN cricinfo.com
: 5-272
Australia: 9-257, Michael Clarke 61, David Warner 56.

England did a good job with their batting. Their openers set a solid foundation for the middle order, which Eoin Morgan used excellently as a platform to launch a brutal assault against our bowlers. He was directly responsible for their victory as he belted our bowlers during the last five overs of the innings. The result was 54 runs from the last 5 overs, which shifted the momentum right into England's favour.

Brett Lee was our pick of the bowlers. What an awesome effort with the new ball. Tight figures and brilliant variation. It was a real pity he was also a part of the Morgan-attack but he certainly looks set for a good series.

Patrick Cummins showed loads of promise and whenever a youngster gets into the setup it all about learning. Look how James Pattinson's already had some ups and downs in his career. Not necessarily low points but every now and then inexperience comes through but he's a quick learner and is already the real deal. Patty is definitely on the same path.

Xavier Doherty struggled a bit but he had such a good summer that it would be daft to rule him out. Maybe he will be viewed as a Southern Hemisphere specialist but here's his chance to take command. He is a bowler with a very good mind for cricket, so he's rarely going to be unaware of what is to be expected from him. I have no doubt he will look back on this match and then come back stronger for the remainder of the series. We saw how effective Graeme Swann was to build pressure towards the end of his spell with a batch of dot balls.

The bowlers struggled in the heat of the action come the death overs, but we have Ben Hilfenhaus and Mitchell Johnson on the sidelines as well, so I hope we will see these two guys getting a chance. Hilfy was pretty good for the better part of the death bowling duties in the IPL for Chennai.

The batting came down to some misfortune. George Bailey had been working away at the singles to get himself into a good position with 29 runs until he chopped one onto his stumps. To make matters worse David Hussey misread the bounce of a short pitched delivery from Steven Finn and the ball deflected of his helmet on the top of his stumps.

Then the wrap it all up, Matthew Wade - who was just getting ready to go into entertainment mode deluxe - and Michael Clarke (61) had a terrible mix up which resulted in an unnecessary run out. Wade was the guy to walk and Clarkey was left with a big task on his shoulders. After Clarkey had played such a well composed innings and had himself in a brilliant position to start opening up the more attacking aspect of his game, the run out occurred. He also brought up his 7,000th ODI run.

It was frustrating but it was also good to see Matt Wade get out there, get settled and then play with confidence. He's no longer viewing himself as the substitute for Brad Haddin with Tim Paine making a comeback. He's now set on becoming Australia's number one wicketkeeper.

Brett Lee managed to score 29 runs but England were too good for us in the end. I was hoping Binga would  unleash the fury as he did against the West Indies to score his highest ODI total, but there were too few overs to play with.

I was also pleased to see David Warner play a well composed innings. His dismissal was so soft but his lack of footwork was to blame. Warner his 6 fours and 1 six and this is definitely form to gamble on that he's in for a big series. There's a bit more time to watch the ball come onto the bat in English conditions as well, so I really hope he can capitalise.

I still maintain my concerns about Steven Smith. As you saw in the Ashes series he was regularly troubled when he hung his bat outside of off-stump, just prodding at deliveries moving away from him. I hope he comes right this series because he is clearly in the side for his batting and not his bowling, given his lack of duties.

He came right in the IPL with some entertaining innings but he needs to step it up with competent players hanging about the fringes. I never like to single out a player but it just seems as though his role in the side is cloudy. Mitchell Marsh is looking like a young all-rounder due to make an entrance into the squad who could fill the void for Smith, but hopefully Stevo comes right this series. It's only the first game.

England have a lot to play for. Should they find a way to win this series 5-0, then they will take the number one spot from us for the ODI rankings. However, we need to defend the title and with a really good mix of players it's going to be an exciting series for both sides.

It wasn't the desired result and it's never easy to accept defeat against England in any form of the game, but they have brought their A-game and it should make for a hard fought and very entertaining series.
It's 1-0 to England with four games to go. Some of our players have started off on the right foot so here's to positivity for the next fixture.

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23 June 2012

New Cricket Australia contracted players list

A Memorandum of Understanding was reached between Cricket Australia and the Australian Cricketers Association. The good news is that the game will roll on, however what you may notice is how the original twenty-five player contract list has now been reduced to seventeen.

Having a look at the list, the fundamental concept behind it seems to be the selection of the the players who have played the most cricket for Australia over a period of time, as well as players who have shown relative consistency within their own specialist form of the game.

This list is definitely more focused on Test cricketers as opposed to limited overs cricketers.

It was always going to be a logical move and once again this has been a step towards following the recommendations of the Argus Review which has done nothing but get Australian cricket back on track. I see no reason why this should even be up for debate.

The original contract list always baffled me as to why a player like Callum Ferguson would get his contract but would sit on the sidelines playing State cricket. With little opportunity granted due to his poor Big Bash form - Twenty20 cricket mind you - he was never given a chance to fulfill those opportunities with the fresh contract.

Despite the above, the fact remains there's no point in dishing out reasonably lucrative contracts to players who won't be given the chance due to competition for places. There's also new avenues for players to have access to the money in circulation within the game, for example; Twenty20 competitions, county cricket, overseas limited overs stints.

I did mention that the revised list seems to based on, 'the selection of the the players who have played the most cricket for Australia over a period of time as well as players who have shown relative consistency within their own specialist form of the game.'

You may then see the name of Mitchell Johnson. Immediately you will likely think why he is even on that list? He has been out of action since November, has only just made a return and didn't exactly perform well in Test cricket.  That's where we need to look at his limited overs performances. He was our best bowler in ODIs last season and he's about to make a return. Although I don't see his return to Test cricket as a likely one due to the young guys coming through the system and a consistent crop of bowlers leading us to victory, Mitch is suited to limited overs cricket and is a valuable player.

In Mitchell's case, this is where 'players who have shown relative consistency within their own specialist form of the game' comes into effect. You can't deny that Mitch wasn't a stand out performer for us in limited overs cricket for the 2010/11 season. Limited overs cricket narrows the gap between his best and worse, where as the harsh nature of Test cricket doesn't allow him this.

As John Inverarity, Chairman of selectors, stated, "We have very high expectations that he (Johnson) will come back and come back extremely well. His record is very good. The consideration was that he already had a contract for this period. That was a given."

A few observations. I thought Ed Cowan would find his way onto the list but it has been widely reported that the Test series at the end of this year will be the series that determines his future as an Australian opening batsman. He's had two series where he has been able to hold his own but can't seem to get over next hurdle when he has got himself into a good position during his innings.

The other would be George Bailey who did a really good job in the West Indies during his first ODI series. However, I don't think he has played enough and not cemented himself into a certain form of the game, Twenty20 captaincy aside as well. His omission seems legitimate.

One talking point I reckon will be about Brad Haddin.
Brad has had to walk away from the game due to personal circumstances within his life. As a result Matt Wade was given his chance and has made an exciting impression for the future of Australian cricket. Basically we need not panic!

Tim Paine was dubbed to the man to step in for Brad but his unfortunate injury last year paved the way for Matt to debut in all forms of the game. Given his lack of exposure since making a slow comeback from injury, Tim will need the Australia A fixtures in July to get himself back on the radar, regain his confidence after being out of the game for a while and most importantly take on the role as a senior player for Australia A. Further opportunity to groom his leadership ambitions.

Two wicket keepers seems to be a logical choice. Despite Brad having struggled for the 2010/11 season post the Ashes series, he has the experience and may still make a comeback. It may be a contract granted due to the circumstances of only one keeper being a guaranteed candidate for selection at this point in time.

Your thoughts on the new contract list?

I will update the Player Profile page as soon as I can but in the meantime, without further to do, here is the new list of Cricket Australia's contract players:

Michael Clarke (NSW),
Pat Cummins (NSW),
Xavier Doherty (TAS),
Brad Haddin (NSW),
Ryan Harris (QLD),
Ben Hilfenhaus (TAS),
David Hussey (VIC),
Michael Hussey (WA),
Mitchell Johnson (WA),
Nathan Lyon (SA),
James Pattinson (VIC),
Ricky Ponting (TAS) ,
Peter Siddle (VIC),
Mitchell Starc (NSW),
Matthew Wade (VIC),
Shane Watson (NSW),
David Warner (NSW).

Once again New South Wales dominates the list with Victoria not too far behind. Tasmanian cricket is on the rise as well, along with Ali de Winter, Tasmanian assistant coach, being on a test drive as bowling coach for the National side.

NSW: 6
VIC: 4
TAS: 3
WA: 2
SA: 1
QLD: 1

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16 June 2012

A look at what's been going on in Australian cricket

The return of Australian cricket is just around the corner and it's going to be great to see the boys back in action. The catch is that this wait has been slightly messy after what had been a positive period for Australian cricket. It seems as if there is light at the end of tunnel though, so don't fret fanatics!

The talks between Cricket Australia and the ACA (Australian Cricketers Association) seem to have made progress to resolving the issues with regards to the payment structure for the players that Cricket Australia's adamant to implement. The threat of a mid-tour boycott seems to be unlikely now and I will maintain a sense confidence that we won't see our cricket in such a state over financial complications.

The players are awaiting a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for their contracts and relative payment structures. According to Cricket Australia Chairman, Wally Edwards, the major issues have been dealt with and the finer details are being finalised for both parties to have an amicable agreement. This is good news.

"From a Cricket Australia perspective we're confident there will be a successful outcome before the end of June." - Wally Edwards.

The situation is particularly messy for the State players who are not on the fringes of consideration for National duty. This impact has left a few players (allegedly) in a really unfair situation where they have no set indication as to whether they will be getting a contract with their state and players considering a move to another State will be unable to make any immediate plans until a new MoU has been agreed upon.

Basically you'd be left contemplating moving into a full-time job and passing up on cricket or simply just carrying on as is. It would be mighty embarrassing if an agreement wasn't reached and a strike occurred but I am certain both parties will realise how these issues affect all with interest invested in the game.

I do think the relationship between the ACA and CA will be affected by this even if it is the positive outcome we all hope for. This is one implication with Cricket Australia controlling the state system. It has positives but this shows us how one party not being happy can have serious knock of problems for the rest.

All in all, I am confident it will be resolved. Lets just hope it's a positive move forward.

If you need a refresher on the upcoming ODI tour schedule, check out the fixtures page.

The bowling coach situation:

A while back a bomb was dropped when Craig McDermott announced his departure as bowling coach. There was a possibility the great Pakistani bower Waqar Younis could have taken the job but Ali de Winter, Tasmanian assistant coach, is inline to take the job.

He will be the bowling coach for the upcoming tour and this is very exciting as he's done a remarkable job with Tasmanian cricket and a prime example of his work is to simply look at Ben Hilfenhaus.

Hilfy's game has done a full three-sixty and both de Winter and McDermott were key players in this turnaround. You can also look at the improvement of Tasmanian cricket. Take a look at Luke Butterworth and Jackson Bird as examples of the bowling front!

He is with the team for the UK ODI tour and this will be an important stepping stone for him for what's to come. Wishing him all the best.

Talking about State cricket, the Sheffield Shield will most likely start in September this year.

A bit earlier than usual but with due to the schedules of the ICC World T20 and the Champions League.
The implication is that this is not quite summer so Tasmania, for example, will not be able to host any Sheffield games due to the spectacular outdoor weather in that part of Australia around that time. So other venues could be considered for hosting matches.

What this does mean is that the cricket season will be starting off a bit sooner than usual. Can't complain about that!

Simon Katich retires from Australian First-class cricket:

The other news is that Simon Katich has retired from Australian First-class cricket.
The decision is due to family reasons and the obvious fact that he has done all that he can for Australian cricket and has done a mighty fine job as well.

He will continue to play for Hampshire (Shane Warne and Michael Clarke's former county team) but you can still catch Katto in Twenty20 cricket so he's not done yet, but it's all over in Australia for the form of the game he was most accustomed to.

As such a young batsman during a dominant era of Australian cricket, the fact Katto got himself on the radar by debuting for Australia in the 2001 Ashes series as such a young man spoke of his value and it was hard to ignore the possibility of him making a return to the Australian team somewhere down the line, despite being dropped during different stages of his playing career.

He fought back like a dog to get his recall for the West Indies tour and he was easily our most consistent batsman from that very return. He was our anchor at the top of the order and he had a great run with the Baggy Green cap back on his head.

The saddest part of all of this would be that Katto didn't get to win an Ashes series upon his recall and his final treatment from the former selection panel was poor, really poor!

When the last Cricket Australia contract list was released, the simple fact that Simon Katich wasn't on that list was shocking. It's is the nature of International sport but the fact he'd been scoring runs for Australia and was so consistent as well made the matter really bizarre. The reasoning given by Andrew Hilditch (former Chairman of selectors) was due to Katto's age and the importance of getting a settled opening duo in place.

It was a bit of a kick of teeth considering Michael Hussey, Ricky Ponting and Brett Lee were still on the list and not exactly a bunch of spring chickens but I think it was the manner in which the decision was handled that angered Katto.

Having been performing and been one of very few players who stood out during a very difficult period for Australian cricket, it was definitely a shock that he didn't get his contract renewed. Mixed emotions led to him giving a transparent opinion of the selectors and the feelings within the Australian camp.

It was brilliant in my opinion and I admired Katto's courage and confidence to tell it exactly as he felt it all. Sometimes I do believe that in life we shouldn't have to follow the rules when it comes to voicing our opinions and despite certain critics saying he didn't do it the right way, that was how he did it and I don't think any method of tactic would have given him a chance to put the Baggy Green cap back on.

He still has my respect as unfortunate as the end was for his international career.
I wish him all the best with his family and hope his future holds plenty of positives both cricket and non-cricket related. Well done mate.

Upon reflection of the comment Stuart Clark made a year ago, it's what he had to say when Katto didn't get a renewed contract having been one of best batsman during a tough period of cricket:

"He's arguably Australia's best batsman over the past three years, so for him not to be selected can only mean that they've just said 'you're too old and we want to go down a youth path' and any other job in the country that'd probably end up in court somewhere.
"A four-minute conversation is probably not enough for someone that's been part of the organisation for 12 years. How long is right I don't know, but surely Simon deserves something more than that.

Looking at the statistics we see the positives! Katto was a highly accomplished batsman for Australia and I hope he can add a few more centuries to these stats for his time with Hampshire in the county circuit.

Simon Katich statistics overview:

Test debut:
England v Australia at Leeds, Aug 16-20, 2001
ODI debut: Australia v Zimbabwe at Melbourne, Jan 21, 2001

Batting -
56 matches/ 99 innings/ 4,188 runs/ HS 157/ Avg 45.03/ 100s (10)/ 50s (25).
Bowling -
56 matches/ 25 innings/ 21 wickets/ 635 runs/ 30.23 avg/ BBI 6/65/ BBM 6/90

Batting -
45 matches/ 42 innings/ 1,324 runs/ HS 107*/ Avg 35.78/ 100s (1)/ 50s (9)

247 matches/ 422 innings/ 119,667 runs/ HS 306/ Avg 52.86/ 100s (54)/ 50s (104)
247 matches/ 105 wickets/ 6,231 runs/ 35.09 avg/ BBI 7-130

Can't wait for some ODI cricket again. Hope it will be a distraction amongst all the drama. Main thing is hoping that the players will have the complete motivation when taking to the field.

Welcome to The Baggy Green Blog!
Thanks for reading this article written by Ian.
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06 June 2012

Is Waqar Younis a candidate for the Australian bowling coach vacancy?

This latest news is rather exciting and I really hope it ends up being a reality for Australian cricket.

The void left by Craig McDermott resigning as bowling coach is massive.
He did a truly spectacular job during a short time with the Australian team and his impact has left a big footprint for all to see. Our bowling unit has started to build a reputation as one that should not be handled with disrespect and the Test performances from the bowlers has certainly seen a dramatic turnaround after the dismal 2010/11 Ashes series, which was a major reason for a number of changes in the Australian landscape (Argus Review).

The news that we've been provided with is that one of the men interviewed for the position of Australian bowling coach is none other than Waqar Younis - former Pakistan Test/ODI bowler.

Growing up in the 90s watching cricket, every kid knew about the lethal bowling duo from Pakistan known as Wasim and Waqar. As a youngster Waqar was one of my favourites to emulate when playing garden cricket.
Wasim Akram is still regarded as one of the best left arm fast bowlers of the modern era and Waqar - who is without a finger on his left hand - was a spectacle to watch in limited overs cricket and it was hard to not be drawn into the thrill of his lightning pace.

Had I seen him play live, it would have been a real treat to have seen him hurling down deliveries in real time during the days when batsmen weren't as well shielded as they are now. Bowlers were even scarier then!
When he bowled out batsmen, they just seemed to instantly walk off the pitch with utter disbelief, the acceptance that their downfall was as a result of ferocious, tactical bowling.

I think the day I realised Waqar was well past his best and that his playing days were as good as over was during the 2003 ICC Cricket World Cup when he bowled hideous beamer at Andrew "Roy" Symonds. Roy destroyed Pakistan that match in one of his most entertaining innings when it mattered most for his career, but I remember that innings as one where Waqar's career was at the end. The signs were there.

Come the end of his career, as a player he was accomplished and he is not just a great Pakistani cricketer but a legend to the cricket world. He remains one of the most talked about bowlers when we discuss reverse-swing and his general control with swing bowling during his prime is something our fast bowlers would be eager to lap up with the mentorship of Waqar.

His suitability for the Australian team?

Waqar has been based in Sydney, Australia since 2005.
He has the advantage as a "foreign" cricket professional who has been exposed to local and cultural knowledge which should help him mix with the team culture and the fanatics. More so he has spent time with the New South Wales Blues so he will understand the demands, attitude and team spirit with which he will be working with in Australian sport.

He has been fresh out of International cricket for a while now since resigning as the Pakistan coach in 2011 due to personal reasons. The politics within Pakistani cricket is a major distraction upon the love of the game which so many of their supporters have. No doubt when in a position of responsibility such as a coach it can't be easy with all these distractions.

Although I don't intend to come across as disrespectful to any Pakistan cricket supporters who follow my writing, the work environment within the Australian cricket team carries professional pressure as it does with any team but it is mostly factors of pressure to generate performance based results. There is still the never ending conquest to win the vote of confidence with the players and supporters as well, but the external pressures are far less than that of the Pakistan cricket camp.

The shift may be a good one for Waqar having had a bit of a break from that environment. He may have the opportunity to settle into an environment which may allow him to really show his true colours as a bowling coach with a bunch of guys who will want to make an impression based on all the positives they have taken from the brilliant job done by Craig McDermott.

Understandably we'd prefer to see a bowling coach come in the form of a former Australian cricketer, which is the natural way to think in terms of comfort and history.
It's exciting to know that Cricket Australia has gone out of their comfort zone with the appointment of staff in coaching or managerial positions e.g. Mickey Arthur and Pat Howard.

We've seen a gradual turnaround in performances from the Test and ODI teams and both Arthur and Howard have played a vital role. One comes from another cultural background having had real international success, while the other has been involved within and played a different sport. The appointment of Waqar Younis shouldn't be seen as a negative based on this.

All in all if I look at these aspects along with my personal admiration for Waqar as a cricketer, I think it would be a boost to our side from the outset. The major factor would be the performance delivery and I have confidence that the appointment wouldn't be a light decision given the massive task to replace McDermott with an intense cricket schedule coming up. If Waqar gets the job, it will be for the right reasons.

What are your thoughts?

A video treat: An example of what these blokes could do!
Waqar Younis and Wasim Akram in action.

Welcome to The Baggy Green Blog!
Thanks for reading this article written by Ian.
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02 June 2012

The ECB announce the 2013 Ashes fixtures

The ECB has announced the dates for the 2013 Ashes fixtures, as well as the limited overs fixtures to follow thereafter. We still have to endure five match ODI fixtures but the main event is of course the Ashes series where our boys will be battling out in the land of the old enemy to regain the Urn.

There is a limited overs battle just around the corner though for the Green and Gold players as they take a trip over to the United Kingdom to play England and a once off match against Ireland in Belfast.

Below you will find the fixtures for the 2013 Ashes series but don't forget to check out the Fixtures tab right here at the Baggy Green Blog to see where and when the boys will be playing the respective forms of the game.

The limited overs UK tour starts on 21 June 2012.

Here's the Squad in case you missed it or need a refresher:
Michael Clarke (captain), Shane Watson, George Bailey, Pat Cummins, Xavier Doherty, Ben Hilfenhaus, Michael Hussey, David Hussey, Mitchell Johnson, Brett Lee, Clint McKay, James Pattinson, Steve Smith, Matthew Wade (wk), David Warner.

2013 Ashes fixtures:

July 10-14
First Test Trent - Bridge

July 18-22
Second Test - Lord's

August 1-5
Third Test - Old Trafford

August 9-13
Fourth Test - Chester-le-Street

August 21-25
Fifth Test - The Oval

Welcome to The Baggy Green Blog!
Thanks for reading this article written by Ian.
To comment on this article, click on the 'Comments' tag at the end of the article.