28 November 2012

Mitchell Johnson - the WACA specialist

*2013/14 Ashes fixtures added!
The likelihood of changes being made to the bowling unit ahead of the WACA Test is good.
The possibility of Mitchell Johnson making a return to bowl for the Baggy Greens is very good as well.
The general opinion surrounding this move? Seems to be hit and miss so let's look at the mix.

Ahead of the third Test the National Selection Panel made some changes to the side which will inevitably see a different squad walk out onto the field as the Baggy Greens and the Proteas battle it out for the final Test, having seen the Adelaide Oval Test turn into survival on a battleground for the Proteas.

John Hastings has been given a call to the side to potentially debut.
This season Hasto (who was in our 2011 World Cup Squad) has taken 22 Sheffield Shield wickets at 19.09, along with 200 runs in 6 innings as 33.33.
His bowling has seen two 5fers and he is nicely situated fifth spot on the bowling ranks for the season thus far.

A big benefit with Hasto is having that bloke who can bowl bursts of overs that can build pressure with ease and even cause more experienced batsmen to suffer lapses in concentration. Andrew McDonald fulfilled this role very well in 2008/09 and Shane Watson has done an exceptional job with the duty as well.

The other factor not to be forgotten is Hasto can provide useful lower order runs.
This should be important with James Pattinson out of the picture.

The other call to duty was Josh Hazlewood, a young gun I have kept an eye on as he has pushed on considerably since first being detected on the radar for most supporters as a member of the Australian u/19 World Cup Squad a few years back.

I won't question his skills but do find the selection call one based purely on potential rather than performance, which is not entirely justifiable when you see Jackson Bird (27 wickets at 20.55), Luke Butterworth (25 wickets at 17.72) and Ben Cutting (18 wickets at 21.33) putting in excellent performances. All three have done so with consistency at State level too.

Hazlewood has season stats of 9 wickets in 7 innings at 46.33.

Not figures I would warrant as credible for receiving a Baggy Green cap but the youngster is a talented bowler (hence his call to the side) and it's great to see players like him coming through the bowling ranks for the future.
If selected his performance in the moment would be the factor that gets the fans talking, not his prior performances or accolades.

Peter Siddle and Ben Hilfenhaus could do with the cover.
James Pattinson is out for the season after injury and Siddle and Hilfy will likely still feel the agony both physically and mentally after their efforts to win in Adelaide - one bowler down.

The impact fast bowling has on the body is intense but having been kept at bay by some outstanding discipline from the Proteas middle order, it makes it harder to recover both on the body and determination within the mind.

However, Pedro Siddle is a bloke whose ambition I have commented on more than once here and he will see it as unfinished business. Based on this I can see him taking the ball at the WACA. I hope he does and no doubt it will be a ferocious effort.

Hilfy should not be ruled out as last summer against India he pulled out 8 wickets at an average of 12.12 for the match, which was a huge contrast after a shocker at the venue in the 2010/11 Ashes.

The injury risk with Hilfy is far greater than that of Siddle so I would be expecting a replacement be brought in for Hilfy ahead of Siddle, but his input last season should not be forgotten, despite the Proteas being a stronger side than that of present India.

Shane Watson has been making good progress in the nets and is moving in the right direction to return to the side.

His bowling is the going to be the key ingredient as that slight magic he tends to bring was missing in the first two Tests of this series. It greatly aids Michael Clarke having a bowler of Watto's variation and adaptability up his sleeve - not to forget experience.

Clarke has also been open in preferring Watto for selection only on the basis that he can both bat and bowl. The last media report, from the skipper himself, strongly suggested Watto is ready to return as the leading all-rounder for the side. Very good news but we also need plenty of runs from him and starts being converted into something he knows all to well about.

Mitchell Starc is a bowler I am excited to see play against a top side at the venue.

He has been in sensational form within the limited overs versions and has done so at both State and International level giving good indication that he is in a good place.

Test cricket is a different animal and Starc's input cannot be underestimated and the importance as a tall, left arm seamer ought to be something he should be aware of.

Due to injury has had limited appearance this summer which should raise caution for selection in a format he has only represented Australia in four times, but the two games played for New South Wales brought him 7 wickets at 22.00.

This brings me to the man who has become a WACA specialist.

He has had a dreadful fall from great heights after being named ICC Cricket of the Year in 2008/09.
However, Mitchell Johnson has used the back seat as an opportunity to focus on what is ahead and just work his way through the system with the Western Warriors and is now cruising again in control.

This season Mitchy has taken 17 wickets at 29.00.

Of the five matches played in three of these Sheffield games have been at the WACA.
Of the games at the WACA he has taken 13 wickets which would once again suggest good reason for the selectors seeing confidence in his recall to the side for an opportunity.

Mitchy's WACA stats for Australia in Test cricket stand as follows:

4 matches, 160.1 overs sent down, 30 wickets (15.78% of his career wickets) at 18.31, two five wickets hauls and a 10 wicket haul for the match.

Those statistics and memories associated shout out performances creditted as totally awesome!
The last time Mitchy bowled at the Proteas was mesmerising and if you didn't witness it all I can say is what a pity!

He was brutal and I was glad to be sitting in my living room and not standing with the bat in hand.
He was at the top of his game, unplayable, fast and deadly accurate!

Mitchy walked away from that game with 11 wickets and a best innings effort at 8/61.

The game will be remembered as a record run chase loss to the Proteas but that effort from Mitch is still strong within my memories.
Furthering that was the lonely victory in the 2010/11 Ashes series where Mitch struck back at critics to take 9 wickets for the Test with best innings figures of 6/38.

History seldom repeats itself but in the instance of Mitchy at the WACA this was certainly the case come the Ashes but we need the input again. It would also do his reputation the world of good having found himself somewhat of an outcast to the cricketing world.

There is always a gamble taken with Mitchy in a side as you never know what you will get on the day. With further use of Mitch is limited overs cricket it seemed to allow for a limitation between his best and worse, whereas the harsh nature of Test cricket does not allow for this.

Fortune and luck play a big part though in the game, as we have seen plenty evidence this series.

If Mitchell goes out onto that ground with total confidence and a new captain to utilise his abilities (Michael Clarke has never captained Mitchell Johnson in a Test) it could definitely see fortune go both our way, and his way.

A few of the Proteas players won't have forgotten that spell at the WACA and another that followed shortly after at Kingsmead, Durban. Notably Jacques Kallis and Graeme Smith.

Hopefully a few more battlescars and mental wounds can be inflicted when the red ball is taken.

Australian Squad for the WACA clash:Michael Clarke (capt), David Warner, Ed Cowan, Shane Watson, Ricky Ponting, Michael Hussey, Matthew Wade, Mitchell Johnson, John Hastings, Peter Siddle, Ben Hilfenhaus, Mitchell Starc, Nathan Lyon, Josh Hazlewood.
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18 November 2012

The Fox Sports Big Bash Fantasy League: Time for season 3

It is already that time of year where all of us cricket geeks get together and play the Fox Sports T20 Fantasy League. This is the third season we will be bashing it out and seeing as the 2nd Test is only starting again on Thursday I figured I'd get a head start on things and get our league teed up.

Fox Sports has put together a nice F.A.Q section for any of you taking part for the first time but for all you blokes from last year, get your game face on and get your team together.

So, head on over to Fox Sports' Big Bash Fantasy League (http://bigbashfantasy.foxsports.com.au/).
Register yourself (if you took part last year your log in info will still be valid) and get your team setup!

To join our League, The Baggy Green Tragics, go the "Leagues" tab (next to "Transfers").
Once you have set your team enter the code below:


For good measure I have thrown Damien Fleming and Brendon Julian as celebrity guests.
Hope to see you for the fun.
18 days to go........

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11 November 2012

Updates at the Baggy Green Blog Facebook page

I am not longer writing daily match analysis reports as I have done the last 5 years.
From now on I will only be writing feature or analysis articles at the Baggy Green blog and complete match articles.

For the usual chirps, daily summaries and State cricket updates, please "like" and follow the Baggy Green Blog on Facebook or follow me on Twitter @Ianbaggygreen

In short though, we see the major difference it can make when catches get taken and discipline is maintained!

The caught and bowled spilled by Pedro Siddle against Hashim Amla and the no-ball dismissal of Jacques Kallis may have resulted in the difference between 300/350 all out versus 450!

We have paid the price but there's still two days to go in this Test match.

Bowlers discipline was better and although it was hard grafting in early sessions, they bowled better as a unit and pitched it fuller, creating more pressure and opportunities.

Batting wise we're in a position I am not worried about but certainly frustrated in the manner with which Warner and Quiney's wickets fell. Punter was outdone by a good delivery from Morne Morkel.
We have Clarkey (34*) and Ed (49*) at the crease and they did very well to survive till stumps.

I am confident these two guys can steer us in the right direction with true Test stamina and we still have Michael Hussey and Matt Wade in the hut.

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08 November 2012

The battle is hours away

© Getty Images
The first Test is not long away now, single digit hours now with the countdown for a Test series which will determine which team walks away as the number one ranked team as it was in 2008 but much has changed since then.

However, this is not the primary focus as history will remind us that each and every session between these two teams is a battle in itself which is as mentally draining for the players as it is for the supporters - especially when waking up at 1 or 2 am in the morning!

The fact remains that the objective since Michael Clarke took over the captaincy, with a more established side and support staff, was that the team wanted to regain the spot as the number 1 ranked Test side having fallen from such great heights. The fact the boys are so close to this is admirable and a series win will snatch the title away from the Proteas, a very well established side with comfortable balance. Maintaining that rank is another ball game.

The weather doesn't look great for the Test but it looks likely that we'll see four fast bowlers take to the field with the batsmen geared up and ready to go. I am content with this mix and I do think it will be a good move. We may say that it is always good to have a spinner in the side but we shouldn't kid ourselves. The role is nowhere near as vital as it once was and at the Gabba I wouldn't be losing sleep over it. The decision is a good one.

I also know Dr. Sherylle Calder has been with the side to assist with her experience and skills as a eye-hand specialist and world renowned Sports Scientist. I had the honor of meeting and interviewing her for educational purposes with her earlier this year and was able to recommend.

It's good that since the Argus Review new and bold steps have been taken to try and strengthen the transition period.
With Justin Langer looking like a the possible new coach for Western Australia there is no doubt in my mind that he will be giving it 100% in his final summer with the side and I hope all the different attitudes, ideas and experience will mold strongly.

There is some exciting news tomorrow.

Rob "Bobby" Quiney will be making his debut as Baggy Green #429.

It is an occasion that always gives me goosebumps when a player joins the great legacy of Australian cricket and is given a chance to create their own chapter in such a great book of legendary players and sides.

Rob has no record like that of many players who broke into the Australian team at his age during the teams peak, nor does he have the perceived experience as many players had then debuting at his age. The fact is the State landscape has changed for batting.

As it was with our bowling four years ago when taking on the Proteas, this time around we see it with our batting stocks. Fortunately though Bobby had an immaculate run last season and his call up is as a result of recognition for his input during that season which was one of consistency. He performances against The Proteas for Australia A justified his position having had an average start to the season, as it's been with the majority of the batsmen.

Only one batsman since the 2008 Allan Border Medal awards who won the State Cricketer of the Year award has represented Australia in Test cricket, and that is Usman Khawaja. It is a good call that the selectors have acknowledged this award the Bobby achieved last season.

With Shane Watson out of the side this is maybe the opening that was needed for a fresh guy to come in and try claim the number three role in an environment which will be as hostile as it can be. A true test.

My concern for many batsmen is that they don't have the temperament to maintain their game at the elite level and the averages and general team totals in the Sheffield Shield reflect this.
The unquestionable element is that the conditions have begun to favour bowlers along with "result tailored" wickets.

If anything it provides a more challenging environment for batsmen where they need to develop and enhance the true skill required to succeed in Test cricket. The conditions are not ideal but it has the chance to make our emerging batsmen tougher and batsmen like Alex Doolan, Joe Burns, Usman Khawaja, Phil Hughes and Callum Ferguson have shown glimpses of this season but still require consistency.

Bobby has the chance to take on a role that is still covered by the shadow of Ricky Ponting who is now finding himself as a middle order batsman in his final years of playing alongside Michael Hussey.

David Warner and Ed Cowan have come out backing themselves to play their "natural games" and "attack" but bottom line is they also need to find compatibility in their partnership which will benefit Bobby should he find himself in a positive position come the end of this series.

With a total of 724 runs at 42.58 in 2010/11 and 938 runs at 49.36 last season he should have no reason to doubt himself and as supporters we should not be doubting him either. He deserves his call up and averaging close to 50 is what we need from State batsmen. I don't think he can afford to have doubt as a player about to debut against South Africa. Not exactly a mini challenge!

In 90 First-Class innings he has only scored 7 centuries and 16 half centuries but his recent form and self discovery as a cricketer is what counts and I will be rooting for him loudly and proudly.

I am wishing Baggy Green #429 the very best with his opportunity.

Overall a lot is at stake this series which includes pride!
The series loss in 2008/09 hurt and we will not want to see the boys drop their guard and let the Proteas into the fort too easily. The lack of match preparations as a side would be my number one concern but if all aspects of our game come together and the synergy ignites then I have little doubt in our side. If anything I don't there is too much separating the sides on their day.

Bottom line is our batsmen need to step up and this will be tough against a bowling unit that gets open eyes upon their performances. Yet our bowling unit is capable of serious destruction as well and with runs on the board it will give them more to work with (too often getting us out jail) but they still have stiff competition against The Proteas, far more than that of India last summer.

With hours to go all I can say is bring it on and may the battle be bloody intense!

My prediction? What do you expect me to say? Victory to the Baggy Greens. Come on boys!

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