28 September 2010

Leggie In Red

Not enough Zimbabwe on this blog. Especially considering the fuss I make about them.

Zimbabwe v Ireland ODI 2


"Bowlwell, batwell, fiel'well"
- MoYo, our good mentor, about Graeme Cremer
(c) Getty Images
After winning the first ODI against Ireland with the last ball, smashed by Ed Rainsford for a six, Zimbabwe inflicted the second defeat on the Leprechauns today, with Brendan Taylor being his usual matchwinning self, aided by another fantastic knock from Tatenda Taibu, and -following a facepalm-inducing collapso crapso- some thrilling lower order steel nerves batting by skipper Elton Chigumbura and my most favourite unblond leggie of all time Alexander Graeme Cremer. The Legzim had not only claimed an Irish scalp at the match-best economy rate of 2.60, but also partnered Elton in his very witty, wise, clever and cool Cremer manner, stepped on the throttle in the last overs, messed up George Dockrell's figures with smart and gutsy running and clobbered two fours to win the match for ZIM with seven balls to spare. Can you sense that I want him for Middlesex? I knew that he can bat, the grapevine has murmurerd it for quite a while now, but he basically saved the match for ZIM in a fashion that evoked stupid happy monkey laughter over here. No, I am not hyping him *g* But every now and then I have to point out that the Cremer bandwagon has not stopped racing and as we are looking towards a Zimbabwean Test return it will only pick up further speed.

Wow that was my first blog post about Graeme Cremer. This concern had been burning under my nails for ages, but where to take an occasion from, if ZIM hardly ever play! Now I feel better ^^


Cheers,
Wes

26 September 2010

Not Red Enough This Time

Warriors v Redbacks


There were a few people who thought that the Redbacks had a good chance to win this match. I had been eaten by fears and doubts since finding out that they were pitted against the Warriors in the semis. If you had watched all Warriors matches (I had) then you knew that the Redbacks were going to try and stop a tank from rolling with their mere hands. The only defeat the South Africans suffered was against Chennai, when they had to chase on a slowish spinnish wicket and fell 10 runs short after making it safely past the number of runs required to reach the semis.

This tournament has shown that you can always expect a surprise from the Redbacks. They sensationally won against all four competitors in their group, and maybe, just maybe, against all odds, they would have been able to lay the Warriors in chains. But the Saffas won the toss and chose to bat; as expected Shaun Tait immediately applied the first cut and removed Ashwell Prince, and the beast in the shape of Davy Jacobs roared in pain and anger and charged at the Saussies in the same ferocious manner in which he had also taken his previous enemies onto the horns.

A bloodshed followed, and after four overs the Warriors had stormed to 43. The Redbacks never recovered from this early onslaught, captain Klinger said at the presentation that the target of 176 was 20 runs too big. The pressure got to the bowlers and they bowled terrible lines and lengths, and the nervous fielders couldn't hold on to catches, the keeper missed a stumping, and when the chase begun there was always this nagging feeling of a looming defeat gnawing at the heart.

Harris, Klinger, Manou and Borgas fell victim to the pressure, Callum Ferguson stood firm and made 71, he's enjoyed an outstanding return from his injury and I can hardly believe how quickly he has slotted back into his role as a rock and anchor in the upper middle order, but he was given out lbw in an unlucky decision. The tailenders didn't have the power anymore to wrestle the asking rate down, which had eventually rocketed from 10 to 16.


Callum Ferguson left absolutely no doubt about his soonish return to national duties  (c) Getty Images
Lonwabo Tsotsobe and Rusty Theron bowled exceptionally well, Tsobie's four overs were absolutely crucial, for some reason the Redbacks didn't dare to attack him, although after him there were the infamous stranglers to come. The only one who really bled was Makhaya Ntini, but he just bowled two overs. Boje, Botha and Kreusch bowled at max. 8.50, and thus simply did not leak enough.

In comparison my great hope and mankind's savour Dan frickn Christian got absolutely murdered, he went at 15 an over and got hammered for 23 in the 20th, allowing Nicky Boje to make 22 from just 7 balls. Ouch, that hurt. At the other end of the scale Daniel Harris took 3 for 18 at 4.50, the silent hunter in the background emerged as a real killer in this tournament and only Tsobie could exhibit an even better economy.

~~~

Well well what shall I say. This match was the real litmus test for the Saussies and it mercilessly revealed the weaknesses of the team, the bowling is still too inconsistent for the real grand international honours and SA are really a bit dependent on their top order pair Klinger and Harris, who had laid the foundation for successful chases in earlier matches. I have to address Graham Manou's disappointing performance with the bat, it is something that has made me frown since the first match. IIRC he hadn't had a single fruitful innings and I can't wrap my head around him batting at three. But I also don't have any ideas about where to slot him in instead.

Apart from that I think Michael Klinger has led his troops really well (we shall spread the veil of silence over his idea to bring Aaron O'Brien on for the second over) and has made himself a name in many books now. He expressed his anticipation of a successful domestic season and literally said he hopes to take it by storm. I wish the Redbacks all the best, they should have taken plenty of experience and confidence from their Champions League adventure and I think they will especially approach the upcoming Big Bash with clenched fists and faces!

Let me finish this post with my last words on the match from Facebook:

"...That is the end of this huge campaign for our beloved little team from South Australia. They have beaten all teams in their group and surprised and amazed everyone who watched them. The boys can be proud of their performance, they did not only excel the Bushrangers :P but also beat Bangalore and the Highveld Lions, as well as Sachin's Mumbai Indians.

The Warriors are a fantastic team, powerful and stuffed with great players under the leadership of a very impressive captain, and I wish them all the best for the big final against Chennai, they certainly deserve to lift the trophy in front of their enthusiastic home crowd :) ..." 

I would like to add that despite the 10-runs defeat CSK inflicted on the Warriors in the last match  I deem the Jacobs troop the only team of the tournament that can defeat the Super Kings, as the cards will be shuffled from anew and the toss might again play a big role, and I am full of faith in Rusty & Co. The Super Kings on the other hand only got beaten by the Bushrangers via super over in the memorable Ashwin incident, and first of all Dhoni will not repeat this mistake and secondly they should hardly be able to walk with confidence after having already beaten the Warriors before. 

In brief: it's gonna be a cracker of a final!


Please also have a look at Ian's Baggy Green Blog for a more analytical review of the Redbacks match.


Cheers,
Wes

21 September 2010

Red Rubber

This is a meh post about a meh match ... which had its little highlights.

Guyana v Redbacks



Well I did expect the Redbacks to soften up a bit for this match simply because they had already been through safely. But hadn't expected them to stare at defeat for a while. Klinger, Harris and Manou departed within minutes and it was up to Callum Ferguson (55) and Cameron Borgas (48) to build a lasting and valuable partnership and steer the red rubber boat into safe waters. Their successors Dan frickn Christian (23 off 10, 3x6) and Tom Cooper (13* off 5, 3x4) quickfired the total up to 191, the Redbacks' highscore in the tournament so far.

Dan frickn Christian's latest role: key player  (c) AFP
This is what I like about the Saussies, no matter how many wickets have fallen, the incoming batsman is not scared, the first ball he faces gets attacked right away... Dan Christian *g* This is probably also why we haven't seen any complete implosions from them yet, the pressure gets to teams so easily but both times the RBs have been in this situation so far every new batsman made a fist of his stay at the crease and I was undeniably looking forward to Tom Cooper's appearance.

So in spite of the little top order collapse the batting was never endangered. The bowling looked a lot more worrying. Well everybody knows that whether to Tait or not to Tait makes a difference of two levels in the penetration quality of the bowling attack. Jake Haberfield struck early but debutante Richard Ramdeen (35) and Steven Jacobs (32) were granted long lives. It took the introduction of -you will have guessed it already- Dan frickn Christian to achieve the breakthrough, and later on offspinner Aaron O'Brien, who's had quite a fructuous tournament so far, grabbed the third wicket before it was too late. But skipper Ramnaresh Sarwan, who was clearly enjoying his time out there in this pressure free match, stayed glued at the crease and made 70 from 46, before Daniel Harris removed him eventually to grab his 3-fer.

My personal stand-out bowler is DC though, two wickets at 5.00 (compare Harris 3 at 11.00) underlines the class this man has developed in the past months. Attack leader Gary Putland was weirdly expensive and remained wicketless, and Cullen Bailey only bowled one over before Klinger took him off again. If you look at the the bowling figures it becomes clear why the Guyana boys almost managed to chase down this huge total.

Ah well, the Redbacks won and are playing their next match at Centurion, which was the aim Michael Klinger had proclaimed at the toss. Guyana managed to step on the throttle and leave the tournament with raised head. Dan frickn Christian obviously also defended the golden stumps and Klinger should still be the carrier of the golden bat after this match. Well well, Redbacks, now it's the semis.

I am inconsolable about the exit of the brave Highveld Lions, who just got defeated by Virat Kohli after a mammoth effort to pull the game back. So altogether one could state that it wasn't the best of days for my favoured teams.

Tomorrow we shall learn who advances in Group B... the progression of the Bushrangers depends on the outcome of the match between Rusty Theron's Warriors and Dhoni's Chennai Super Kings. The Warriors need to win this match for both my favoured teams to reach the next stage, which I hope they will be attempting at, even though this means that the two Australian teams will clash in the semis. The Vics can also make it if Chennai win by a large margin [points table]. Please refer to Mahek in the comments for the math.

So, I probably needn't tell you who my heart beats for *g*


Cheers,
Wes

17 September 2010

All Red Things Come In Threes


Royal Challengers Bangalore v Redbacks


I don't get it. I am sitting here laughing helplessly, grabbing my head, and just don't get it. How bloody unbelievable is this team? The match against the Royal Challengers Bangalore had been the one I had deemed unwinnable. The team looks so scary on paper: Kallis, White, Steyn, Kumble, Kohli, Dravid, P Kumar, Uthappa, and of course the mighty LRPL! I didn't even have du Preez on the screen at that point.

I honestly thought if they don't totally slay the Saussies with the bat then they will definitely stone them to death.
Neither happened. No clue where to start from, who to mention first... let the facts speak:

Dan frickn Christian  (c) AFP
The Redbacks, yes, the leaky trundlers in the park, restricted the Challengers to 154. Except for Ross Taylor and du Preez, who whacked it really big, none of the batsmen reached double figures (Cameron White's 25 off 29 counts as single digit score, this is a T20).  

Shaun Tait struck in the first over, Gary Putland in the second; dream start for the Spideys. Tait bowled at under 6 an over, he is like wine, getting better and better. Or scarier and scarier. Ross Taylor, my admittedly favourite Kiwi one day skipper, remained entirely unimpressed: 46 off 33 really hurt me in the head. The eternal Klinger pulled a rabbit out of the hat and brought Tait back on for the 9th over. Hallelujah, praise the lord! Wicked stroke of genius from the new skipper, Taylor gone, innings gone. Nearly. Dillon du Preez at the other end hammered 46 from 25 and made a feast of the spinners.

High time for the next big tadaaaa: Dan frickn Christian, the saviour of mankind, entered the arena in the 17th over and GOT HIM. At this stage madness had already befallen me. But the guys with the stretcher came running in when in the last over Christian's little sausage fingers greedily grabbed the wickets 8, 9 and 10, and he thusly finished with 4-23 at 6.00. How, I am asking you, how could anyone of us ever doubt him?? We do not deserve his sight, we have not earned the pleasure of watching him bowl, field... or even bat. Speaking of fielding, we were granted another utmost fine display of will, determination and application, (Daniel Harris and Callum Ferguson for instance) but that goes without saying already!

What shall I say about the second innings... nothing happened! Michael Klinger carried bat, Daniel Harris nearly did so as well, Graham Manou went for a duck and The Fergum carried his team home. It was absolutely hilarious. Had Klinger and Harris not set off for this one suicidal single,that saw Harris eventually run out, I bet my entire backside that both would have survived the innings unharmed, which must be pretty extraordinary even for a T20. So that runout was a real heartbreak moment and I couldn't help swearing like a lumberjack. No clue why Manou came in with approximately 30 runs to get at about a run a ball, Fergs in the dugout, being the deputy, could have easily promoted himself, and thus have avoided another moment of snapping nerves - mine had been going zingg zingg zingg for 24 hours straight-, but that's irrelevant now, he and Klinger just made a mockery of the big names and took easy singles and twos and cracked the whip where possible.

So at the end the Redbacks defeated the mighty Royal Challengers by 8 wickets and with 9 balls to spare. A big box of kudos has to go to the magical partnership of Klinger and Harris again, after a slightly scratchy start, at which they had to see off the new ball, their sensible and careful batting started to pay off and after a while even the great Kumble couldn't restrict them anymore. Dale Steyn was suffering from his recurring elbow problem and after a venomous first over he couldn't pose a threat anymore and got taken apart.

Now Kaptain Klinger has three wins from as many international matches in his CV, and in all of these matches he scored half tons that served as a base for the victories. Yes we knew that he is good, but he has now lead his team into the semi finals, needless to say that he also retained his golden bat as the leading runscorer of the tournament.  

Dan frickn Christian amazingly nicked the golden stumps from Rusty Theron, what a cheeky little fellow! Ah well as long as they remain in good hands I will not oppose.

No clue if any of this makes sense, I am off to indulge in happiness. And to return from the dead. And to repair my senses. Which is quite an ask. Because I doubt that the nerves shop is still open. The positive side of this insanity is that now we can all relax and cheer for the Bushrangers tomorrow, who have an equally huge task on their hands, but only won one out of their two group matches so far.


Cheers,
Wes

15 September 2010

Redbacks killing me

Mumbai Indians v Redbacks


Scroll down to watch some videos

I don't know where to start. I am zombified. This was one of the most nervewrecking T20s I have ever seen in my whole life. Been wandering restlessly since last night already. Obviously this match would be the most crucial one for the Spider Boys, a huge mountain to climb, and at the toss we heard that Ryan McLaren had been replaced by Dwayne Bravo... Ultra fat batting power! Speaking of toss, Sachin Tendulkar won it and, who'd have thunk it, batted first... misery looming at the horizon!

No monster score for Statchin today.
Early wickets, early wickets was my mantra. Shaun Tait could have got the first one in the first over, but got dropped, but Gary Putland made heaps of amends for his medium rare performance in the first match and struck in the second over. Unfortunately it wasn't Statchin. Not much happening thereafter, but when Dan frickn Christian came on first change Tendulkar tore him to bloody shreds, literally... 14 off the over, DC really took a caning here.

Radical bowling change from the other end as Aaron O'Brien came on to bowl some spin, and he took Statchin on the horns! No mammoth score for the grande dame of the willow! Two overs later he claimed the scalp of JP Duminy, another big hitter gone. But those were only two out of about 300 in the Mumbai lineup. Cullen Bailey spun leg from the other end and it looked like a good plan, until Saurabh Tiwary lost his patience and started to hit out, clubbed both Bailey and O'Brien ruthlessly,  lost his partner but continued with Kieron bloody Pollard!

Saurabh grrrrr!
The 16th over was the worst, Aaron O'Brien's nice figures got messed up badly when he got taken for 25 by the rabid Saurabh. Absolutely insane. Klinger sent Tait back on and he removed Tiwary with his first ball. Dwayne Bravo in, for the Caribbean connection. Boundaries and maximums en masse, off all three; Putland, Tait and Christian. Two wickets in the last over but the score had already rocketed through the ceiling. Had JP Duminy still said in the 15th over that 150 would be par and anything above that a nice bonus, the Redbacks had conceded 180 bloody runs in the end.

At that stage I had zero, and I mean zero, hope that the Saussies would get past 150 at any point. The chase started off quietly... which is euphemistic for wobbly, chokely, snailishly. Both openers captain Michael Klinger and Daniel Harris looked absolutely clueless against Zaheer Khan and Lasith Malinga and missed more balls than they managed to hit. Mumbai's fielding was absolutely disgusting though, and it enabled the openers to somehow put their tents up at the crease and get to 100+ with no loss, especially feasting on the West Indian tandem of Pollard and Bravo.

Slow and steady wins the race!
I have not counted how many catches the Indians dropped, but those were vital, absolutely necessary contributions to the South Australian quest. Statchin led from the front with the first dropped dolly, and his team mates tried to imitate him enthusiastically. Alright I have counted them: four drops and a missed run-out. You can't help thinking of Pakistan here, and from there it is only a cat's leap to the bad m-f word. Which I will of course not pronounce here. But you have to admit that MI would have beaten the shit out of the Redbacks had it not been for the atrocious fielding.

But thanks to the help from the Indians Klinger and Harris marched into the 14th over undisturbed and had built a nice foundation of 112, before they fell in rapid succession. Graham Manou tried to continue but was out after two big hits. Again my heart descended into my pants and I lost any ability to move, speak or breathe. Frozen gawking eyes were staring at the screen. The only hope I still had was nourished by Callum Ferguson, but he got chopped soon after his entrance. But! Dan frickn Christian and Cameron Borgas at the crease! They seamlessly continued the work of their predecessors, don't slow down, don't stop was the motto, and they managed to keep the Redbacks worm on top of the Mumbai one.

New ball needed after Harris answers Pollard's question
Big hitting would be needed continuously as the asking rate was meandering around 12 all the time. Christian hammered Bravo, went out to Zaheer, but Borgas could simply not afford any feelings of intimidation and kept clubbing the Indian quickie, permanently working on getting the asking rate further down. At the opposite end of the crease the trumpets and fanfares had sounded: Enter Tom Cooper! He had struck a fearless final six in the first match and today it was again him to join the party at the death and to throw the sink at everything that couldn't run and hide in time, this time he clubbed a brutal 19 off just 5 balls,  and whacked Harbhajan Singh in the last over so hard that the Redbacks finished with three balls to spare!

Bloody... frickn hell!!!!!! Other teams would have folded after the departure of the first 3 or 4 batsmen... but the Redbacks only started to put the pedal to the metal then! Can't deny that I was quite surprised by this enormous lower order hitting potential, but I am unbelievably glad to have witnessed it. 

Nana Mouskouri learns that money can't buy attitude
Phewwww this match serves as a very good reply to all those who need the seemingly safe bandwagon of the star-studded favourites under their butts and spit bile and venom when it derails. The Redbacks have played fantastic, labour-intense underdog cricket so far and although a lot could have gone wrong during this match you will have to admit that in retrospective they have rightfully earned their status as the dark horses of their group.

I think this effort has to get rewarded with an extra special treat: watch Tom Cooper cuddle some lion cubs.. or lion cubs cuddle Tom Cooper! :D




Aaaaand... Daniel Harris sitting in the interview armchair and speaking about the victory that gets labeled by some as the best match of the tournament so far:





Dead but happy,
Wes

12 September 2010

Red Is Beautiful!

Highveld Lions v Redbacks


Protagonists:
Klinger, Ferguson, Tait, aaaaand.... Dan frickn Christian! Yayyyyy

I feel pretty much flattened by this success, 11 runs is quite a clear margin. The favouritisms uttered before the match saw both teams at about the same level, with a slight tendency towards the Lions, and to be fair, that had been my feeling, too, especially after the Maccas had steamrolled over Mumbai. When the Lions won the toss and put the Redbacks in things looked difficult, although the statistics suggest that the toss at this ground does hardly play a role.

Daniel Harris departed too quickly for my liking, Graham Manou showed his usual positive approach but followed shortly after, but they only made way for the imperial Klinger/Ferguson partnership!  

The Hebrew Hammer has steadily picked up form since his promotion to captain and has accumulated a heap of captain's innings now, and I am wondering if it couldn't be him to strengthen the struggling Australian T20 lineup. He certainly has the guts, the technique and experience to make an impact. Callum Ferguson has leapt back into the game from injury and I think this innings was his most impressive performance since his return. Not that I had actually watched any others...

A couple of silly runouts made life harder than necessary for the Spider Boys but no matter how many wickets were lost, the next batsman came striding in and immediately started to attend to his task. Ferguson struck 47 from 27 balls at 174.04, it kept hailing fours from his blade, and Klinger, after a cautious start, hammered 78 off 48 balls incl. 5 sixes and 6 fours. What a thunderous innings! His and Fergum's efforts, as well as a desperate and fearless maximum struck by Tom Cooper in the last over, took the Redbacks to 178. In the match presentation Klinger said he had thought the total was about par, and the Saussies would have to bowl well to defend it.

And by the mighty Mall's Balls, they bloody did!
The bookie mentioned in the previous post had predicted that Shaun Tait would be a handful, and he immediately struck to remove Lions hero Jonathan Vandiar. Putland got taken up the backside and I thought ouch, maybe the attack isn't quite up to the required standard, but hell broke loose when Dan frickn Christian came on! When you see him stroll out you know something is going to happen, I have no clue how he does it, but he immediately removed Vaughn van Jaarsveld with a nothing-delivery and put the Lions in a bit of a shock. Then Aaron O'Brien came on in the 6th over and lured Richard Cameron into getting stumped, and sooner than expected the Saussies were facing the mighty Neil McKenzie.

Nicest DC pic of all time... and I captured it! *g*
As a Hamps nut you were of course looking forward to seeing DC bowl at Macca, and I would really like to know if they exchanged some friendly greetings before striding to action. However, both Macca and skipper Alviro Petersen, who had opened the batting and was still around playing a very fine innings, tried to exploit Cullen Bailey's cute leggies, so Klinger decided that he had seen enough and brought his superweapon DC back on. DANG Macca succumbs to the sweetness, total chaos between the wickets, both batsmen were out of their grounds but the throw went to the keeper's end, where Manou made no mistake... and Macca was a goner.

However, captain Petersen was still twitching and after another O'Brien over DC took the problem into his magical sausage fingers and whacked the ball into Alviro's pads. At that point I had been in mental monkey mode for 10 minutes already, as it should prove true later on that once more the most unlikely of heroes turned the match around for his team. Bow down before the Mighty Dan. The electrical atmosphere in the field was infectious, heaps of shouting and throwing oneself around, great work in the outfield and good throws kept the Lions run rate low enough to harvest the wickets.

After Petersen was out the innings petered out. Zander de Bruyn surprised himself, his team mates and the fielders by not making his ground - great throw from Bailey- , Werner Coetsee fell victim to Tait, who had returned for his death spell, and the confident Robert Frylinck (what a curious spelling of Frühling) had the guts to try and force the Lions home by catapulting the Taitman into the stands twice: worst idea of his life. OUT he went, and DC was granted the honour to bowl the last over; no problem for the fired up allrounder, he kept it nicely neat and clean.

So the first hurdle has been taken, now the Saussies will need to overcome the IPL teams, I hope they are a tournament side that gets better and better with each match, I also hope to see Peter George at some point, maybe in the place of Gary Putland, but the captain knows best what to do in the current situation and sometimes it really helps to show faith in a player who struggled initially. Chris Duval and Jake Haberfield missed out as well today, so I think Klinger might have wanted a left-armer in the team.

Match note:
Both teams looked absolutely lovely in their bright red kits, but coincidentally it were the Saffas who sported the South Australian state colours red, gold and blue, while the actual Saussies wore red and black.


Sure there will be new video material come rolling in soon, until then I remain respectifully yours,

Wes

Redbacks ready to bite the Lions!

Nibble nibble nom!!

In the audio interview below Callum Ferguson talks about the preparation matches and his expectations from today's first battle. Facing the Highveld Lions will be a stiff task right at the start. The Lions, who had been equally labelled as underdogs, comprehensively beat the Mumbai Indians, a motley, yet favoured, pile of mercenaries, in a rousing cricket fest on Friday, and won't be afraid of the no-names from Adelaide. However, the guy from cricketbetlive.com tips the spider boys as winners of the trophy (not at least because they call Shaun Tait their own), I thought my ears fall off, especially after witnessing the ice cold fashion in which Rusty Theron -select him already!!!-, pardon, the Warriors, dissected Wayamba last night, which cost me a large part of my sanity; I'm still grinning like a monkey on fermented fruit. However, this clash today is sure going to be one of the more interesting encounters of the "small but nice" kind:  Hampshire I v Hampshire II, a tasty treat for every county cricket connoisseur.

Callum Ferguson speaks ahead of the first match

Coach Mark Sorell talks about the warm-ups v Central Stags and Wayamba:



Can't deny that my stomach is turning inside my stomach, I hope so much it's gonna be great,

Cheers,
Wes

11 September 2010

End Of Reason

Middlesex v Worcestershire
Middlesex 392 & 66

Owais Shah scored a ton, refused to raise his bat to the pavilion and rightfully seized the chance to twist the knife twice and thrice in every Middle supporter's chest. Players come and go, nobody is irreplaceable, and yet it won't stop hurting. Cherry on top of the cream: he lbwed Solanki for 2. Give it to us Owais, give it to us. The ingrate folk don't deserve any better. I've followed him at Middle just for this one season and rate him as one of the top three players, while long time Middle supporters have been moaning about his mediocre performance. I am wondering what invaluable asset he must have been in the years before? There is a lot of reasoning going on, but the parallels to another drastic and downright stupid decision earlier this year, the Redbacks-Cosgrove split, are obvious. Farewell Owy, and should you remain in Div. 2 don't hesitate to belt the life out of the Middle bowlers wherever you meet them.

Toby Roland-Jones grabbed a combined 9-134 (that's 14.9 apiece, in case you haven't noticed) and thusly finished the season with an outrageous performance. I hope he's gonna be a spearhead of the Middlesex attack next year, they have secured themselves another whole three years of Toby goodness, won't complain about that, been a shameless TRJ bandwagoner in the past weeks, albeit not the only one, and have enjoyed it a lot to see him get better and better.

The match was winnable, but Middle decided to gift their supporters with one of the most beautiful batting collapses of the entire season and thereby to go down in shame. Ah well. Next year = new year. It is amazing how attached I became to the club after just a few weeks, there lies so much potential in this periodically magical conglomerate of players, alas on way too few occasions they managed to unleash it.

Owais Shah's farewell ton gave Middlesex a taste of what they are going to miss

Match notes:

Walking blade of the match:
Shakib Al Hasan, 7-32. He basically got Middlesex all out for 66 in the 4th innings. He is to blame for the mindboggling implosion, the humiliating end to the Middle season. Stunning career-best figures for our favourite Bangladeshi captain of the hearts, by which he single-handedly managed to keep Worcs in the contention for ascension to Div. 1. Take a bow.

An all too familiar feeling for Toby Roland-Jones:
Blackouts in the field have cost him at least 50 wickets
this season; just imagine what his tally could be!
Quote of the match: 
Dave Townsend when Pedro Collins couldn't hold on to a chance off Toby Roland-Jones which went over his head for four: "Lept like a salmon that had been in a tin for 6 months!" Goat-like laughter shook the comms box, only to erupt into eardeafening roar when exactly the same incident recurred only a minute later and Dexter subsequently replaced Pedro with Scott Newman of all people!

Emo-ment of the match:
Pedro, who has most likely played his last match for Middlesex, received his county cap. That was about bloody time; apart from his comical fielding he has contributed plenty of wickets to the Middlesex figures and has been a reliable partner to Murtle. Judging from the way people talk about him he seems to be a wonderful bloke to have around, and we can only hope that he gets a bit of international cricket under the belt for the Windies, so that he can return as a Kolpak player next year.

Newman of the match:
78

Tireless, reliable, indefatigable: Neil Dexter
Skipper-that-leads-from-the-front of the match:
Neil Dexter. 97 in the first innings, counts as a ton in my book, and another 3 wickets to his impressive total. The man is a cricket machine, an allrounder of remarkable format. Should Middle only toy with the idea of stripping him of the leadership again and exchanging him for someone whose performance will inevitably suffer from the captaincy then they don't deserve him, as simple as that. Neil is going to lead Middle into a new spring, I am convinced.

So that's obviously my last Middlesex match post this year... can't deny that I'm depressed and currently living in complete end-of season-denial, will of course watch out for any news on the contract front (Malan and acquisitions) but until the new season starts it's gonna be international cricket on the blog.


Wondering if separation anxiety is the most common disorder among county cricket followers,
Wes

9 September 2010

Some general drivel prior to the CLT20


I have encountered questions by several people about who to support, especially in the likely case that the Redbacks don't quite make it to the final. Difficult to answer, as English teams are not allowed to take part. Of course you are free to shout "Hampshire! Hampshire!" from the first to the last second, there is no other team that would have deserved participation more than the noble knights in blue, but be forewarned, you might end up as a voice of one calling in the desert and lose your mind over that.

My personal stand-in faves, and admittedly two teams I will support anyway, are the Highveld Lions (errrr.... "Hampshire! Hampshire!") and, tadaaaaa... the Warriors! The latter must advance at any cost as we are all clinging to the edge of our seats in anticipation of an extended Rusty Theron viewing. Tsobie, Bouchperv, Botha, Ntini, Boje and a hopefully in-form Ash are a few more reasons to put them on the watchlist. 

Alternatively, if you like to go with the complete underdogs, I can recommend you the Central Sheeps. Matthew Sinclair and Peter Ingram are the only two players I have ever heard of and IIRC neither of them has recently played any matches for NZ or ever shone with memorable heroics. The Stags could actually be one of the more potent teams, alas, Ross Taylor has been preemptively neutralised via IPL contract and Jacob Oram as well as Graham Napier are out with injury. Thus, if you love supporting the Kiwis, you will love supporting the Stags.

Should neither of the above mentioned teams, nor the West Indian, Sri Lankan or Indian representatives be able to win your heart, then I am afraid the only team left for you are the Victorian Bushrangers. But we shouldn't let it come to this should we!

~~~

And now for something not completely different:
Here's a little gem for all friends of Graham Manou. I must confess what I've always enjoyed most about his captaincy were his slightly dopey interviews, he's such a kind and lovely bloke. When Colonel Klinger took the reigns in hand it meant at the same time that the stream of Manou interviews would inevitably dry up. But here's another life sign from the old skipper, recorded after the first warm-up in South Africa, and it's as Manou as it gets!

You can find more videos, for instance a Cameron Borgas interview and footage of one of the warm-up games, at the Redbacks Youtube channel, watch that space for more Redbacks videos from behind the scenes.




Wish you all a happy and exciting Champions League!

Cheers,
Wes

4 September 2010

Happy Berg-21-Not-Out Day Everybody...

...off 17 balls incl. 3 fours... that's all I can say for now, looking at the scorecard...

Middlesex v Derbyshire (CB40)


Middlesex won because the match was neither on TV nor was I listening to the radio. That is a dilemma for a supporter. To follow or not to follow, that's the question. Will they win all three competitions next year if I quit rooting for them in public? No wait a minute. It's because Toby wasn't playing. But quitting on bowling him isn't an option either. So I guess we'll have to get arranged with that hard bench in the basement of the table. Sorry guys.

I see that Newman was badly in the runs. I see that Owais had a good day. I see that Tom Smith bowled like the total man. The last time that he delivered a performance like this must have been in the FPT20, I remember a particular match with fantastic Smithfigures. I also see that Murts and Finny were fine, very fine. And Owais took his obligatory trundle wicket. Dexter didn't even have to bat, I am sure he would have made a 50.  And Straussy got wagged for 7!!! What a dear and nice match it must have been... *sigh* Just what I would have needed after this week of cricket wreckage.




Instead I decided to book a bed at the Heartbreak Hotel Hampshire...

Keep an eye on Hants And What Not, there should be some sort of report up rather soonishly.

Edit, it is out now! It is about The Big Mac aka Neil McKenzie... yayyy!

You can also follow the Hants blog via Twitter:
Go to @halftracker and click the follow button. Drivel-free area.

That's that for now, have a nice weekend
Cheers,
Wes

Arse

Essex v Middlesex (CB40)

Highlights video below

Finn for Collins, Scollay again for Tom Smith

The last broadcast Middlesex match of the season... my sad good bye to the Pinky Peeps... in the truest sense of the word.

I just wished it to be over, even though Middlesex were bowling last and Finny had a good game. It was simply awful. Just look at the scorecard, had it not been for brave Neil Dexter again Middle would have hardly made it past 130. Considering that they had decided to bat first the first innings went horribly wrong. Everybody moaned about the lack of application, and while Essex needed to win the match, Middlesex just turned up to somehow be physically present for 80 overs. Newman ran himself out refusing to dive if I remember correctly. Dang there he was again, the old Newman (what a nice oxymoron). 

Finn bowled exceptionally well, took two at 3.87, would look even better if he hadn't got booted in the first over. The rest clearly bowled above that figure, Toby got belted a little more than Finn, but I don't care because he is sacrosanct and also had the second best economy, took 1 at 5.12, skipper Dexter was the third one below 6, the rest ah well. But you see this is not coincidental, Dexter oozes allrounder class time and time again, Toby has huge potential and Finn is just the pro in the ring.

Scollay was atrocious. Should have given Josh Davey another go.

I want to forget about this match. Crappiest last TV-ed game possible.

The peripheral aspects of this game are much more interesting, albeit not any less agonising. After dying a thousand utmost painful deaths over the news that Owais Shah will not be afforded by Middlesex anymore in the next season, a fact of which he got informed by a journalist (!), I got hopeful again over Dimitri Mascarenha's interest in Owais' qualities. Owais at Hamps sounds good, doesn't it? But it were Essex who opened their doors and wallets, and offered Owy a new home. So, ironically, he was playing a match against his future employers only shortly after he had signed with them. The grapevine murmured that neither Middlesex nor Owais had wanted this separation, but he had simply become too pricey for them. 

The reasoning behind his abandonment becomes clear if you take into account that Eoin Morgan, against all expectations, has renewed his contract with Middlesex, and he won't have done that for an apple and and egg. I am fairly happy about that, but from the viewpoint of practicability I would have rather invested the money in Owais, as he would definitely have been there for Middlesex most of the season except for the IPL. However, Middle were sure eyeing the big name, and I agree that under these circumstances it is sure more preferable to stick with Morgan than signing KP. 

The contract with Derby's Chris Rogers is in the bag and we will hopefully see some batting-wise improvement. The two big question marks left have the names of Dawid Malan and Pedro Collins on them, the former being rumoured to leave Middlesex on his quest for greater glory, and Pedro losing his Kolpak status and most likely not being important enough to get re-signed as an overseas player.




Wanted to say something else but it has slipped my mind now, so it was probably not important.

And just in case you haven't noticed:
Hampshire tragically lost their CC match v Lanks 2 balls before stumps.

Jimmy Adams has entered the pantheon of cricketing demigods.

Read half-tracker's moving blog about match day 4.

Read more half-tracker in general.


Cheers
Wes

3 September 2010

Aussies On The Autobahn!

The Australian Test squad for the tour of India:

Ricky Ponting (capt), Michael Clarke (vice-capt), Doug Bollinger, Peter George, Nathan Hauritz, Josh Hazlewood, Ben Hilfenhaus, Phillip Hughes, Michael Hussey, Mitchell Johnson, Simon Katich, Marcus North, Tim Paine (wk), Steven Smith and Shane Watson

Quite a surprise in parts, and while I understand and welcome most of the selections I am also wondering about a few of them. Let's start with the positive surprises:

Peter George, aka "Tall, thin and married", who was the talk of the town and got labelled as the next Glenn McGrath not long ago when he sliced through the Sri Lankans (read me here and here), has been included in the squad, and perhaps the selectors have also considered his impressive performance in the recent Top End T20 challenge. And BTW, his first class figures are awesome. Congrats Peter, well-deserved.


(c) Getty Images
Peter George talks about his call-up and his experience on Indian wickets: 


We will also have a chance to see Josh Hazelwood with the drinks in hand, who unforgettably rattled Craig Kieswetter's middle stump in the ODI series against England.

Peter Siddle is still on the comeback trail from injury, albeit playing at the Top End Challenge and the Champions League, and thus didn't receive the call, and as we all know the Indian wickets are not too kind to the fast bowlers; so it is good to include two hopeful rookies as backups, especially if we remember how well this strategy has worked last year in the ODIs. Clint McKay has not earned a call this time, given his recent performance sadly I understand why.

I would have also liked to see Steve O'Keefe or some other tweaker in the list, you never know how long Ritzy's foot lasts, and I am not sure if the two part-timers North and Smith will be enough to compensate a Nathan Hauritz,  but I guess we can't have everything.

Brad Haddin hasn't recovered from his elbow niggle in time and this will bestow another Timmy viewing upon us. Yes yes a thousand times yes! :D

The selection of Phillip Hughes is, as usual, a big question mark to me. He is not in great form and currently trying to find his feet at Hampshire. He was as severely injured as Siddle, who got omitted, and I am not sure if a backup batsman is needed in place of another bowler. And if there is really the need to stuff another willow wielder into the squad I would have much preferred to see Usman Khawaja return to the troop, apart from that Hughesless would never in his whole life write a tour diary as hilarious as Usman did.

The rest of the squad basically selected themselves, especially and obviously Marcus North. I could now emit a ton of blabla about what AUS will have to achieve in India and who in particular has to find form before the Ashes and blablablubb but 
a) it goes without saying really, and 
b) I am sure you can read that elsewhere. 

Bring it on!


Cheers,
Wes

1 September 2010

The heat is on: Redbacks, Bushrangers warming up

•••
Top End T20 Challenge



Kudos to NT Cricket for the coverage.

Scroll down for the Shaun Tait video.


Well well.

With the Champions League T20 looming in just a few days distance the two Australian participants Victorian Bushrangers and South Australian Redbacks as well as their more than worthy sparring partners Queensland Bulls crossed swords in Darwin in order to provide the CL teams with form and fine fettle. Six matches were played altogether as the teams clashed twice each in a sort of double round-robin competition.

The Redbacks stormed into the tournament with foam before their mouths. They had to take a humiliating defeat against the Vics in the Big Bash final and my hopes were so-so, but they convincingly beat the Bushrangers in the opening match as well as in their second encounter. Their rampage got halted by the Queenslanders, but when Redbacks and Bulls locked horns in the re-match the Redbacks strolled to victory with ease. This was the only defeat the Bulls had to suffer, as they won both their matches against the Bushrangers as well.

Which unfortunately but logically means that the Bushrangers couldn't celebrate a single victory in this mini tournament. I'm certainly a die-hard Redbacks supporter but of course I wish both Aussie teams to do as well as possible in South Africa, and the outcome of the warm-up tourny leaves me a little bit worried now.

Not sure which line-up exactly the Vics are sending there, I hope the absolutely essential Andrew McDonald will be available, Peter Siddle is back in the ring and has probably already packed his axe and chopping block into his suitcase, and the rest of the team consists more or less of experienced T20 warhorses; Nannes, Dussey and Klint will have to be in the form of their lives, hopefully they can drive the bad spirits out and start a bushfire!

The Redbacks, despite looking depleted on paper due to a massive lack of Cosgrove, Blizzard, Christian and partially Tait, flexed their muscles and especially their attack mauled the opposition, thereby helping the flourishing and gutsy chieftain Michael Klinger and deputee Callum Ferguson to lead the team home. It was great to see the likes of Haberfield, George and Duval shred through the batsmen, but we have to consider that the enemy in Saffaland will be of a different calibre.

However, small tender moments of bliss, such as the captain Klinger fearlessly leading from the front and the old skipper Graham Manou happily smashing the bowlers across the park, alternated with mental monkey madness for instance the double wicket maiden for Peter George and figures of 3-2-2-4, and you can sense that I am utterly satisfied with the outcome of these warm-ups.

A quick word about the Queenslanders: Jason Floros and Alister McDermott in the wickets! Good to know the kids are still around and kicking.

Here's a recent video of Shaun Tait speaking ahead of the Champions League T20 and retrospectively lauding Kieron Pollard and Mark Cosgrove *sneeef* He points out that the Saussies could be the sleeping giants of the tournament and I think it would be awesome if the Redbacks could surprise everybody in a dark horses sort of role. Shaun also gets an extra cookie for his endless eulogy on Dan Christian and the loyalty to his homies.




On a side note:

Check out the latest Hants blog, in which half-tracker, our much valued Hants brain on legs, generously grants us a closer look at Phil Hughes' impressive maiden appearance for Hampshire.

That's all for now,
gehabt euch wohl,

Cheers,
Wes