Category Archives: kiwis

McCullum’s gamble

5-0-14-1.

That was Kane Williamson’s return after 61 overs. Brendon McCullum would have benn pretty confident that Williamson could have helped rest his seamers for one last new ball dash.
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It had been a good day for Williamson. He had taken the wicket of Ian Bell. He had beaten the bat of Jonny Bairstow. He’d kept up an end, got decent spin, been economical and dismissed the No. 4. He was doing more than a part time spinner would have been expected to do on the first day. One crusty old scribe had even said he’d take 150 career wickets based on his early spell.

On any day a part time spinner is most useful in that period from the 60th to 80th over. On a long day like this, he’s even more important. Anything around three an over would have been handy. Another wicket would have been a bonus. But the 63rd over changed all of McCullum’s plans.

A floated offspinner from Williamson was driven through wide mid-on to the padded boundary triangle. It was the sort of shot that made old men in the members’ seats nod at each other with a glint in their eye.

The third ball was a fraction short, but there was little room outside off. Bairstow nimbly gave himself room and played a beautiful cut shot for two, that turned into three with an overthrow.

When Root had last faced Williamson, he’d scored only a single off a complete over. There had been a decent appeal for an lbw. Williamson might have hoped for a quiet last three balls, maybe, even a chance of a wicket.

That seemed improbable as Root came down the wicket confidently flicked a full toss for another boundary. The next ball Root moved across his stumps and played another sweep. This time there was no appeal, just a boundary as the ball went very fast and fine. With 15 runs in the first five balls of the over, Root could have been forgiven for blocking the last one. He reverse swept it for four.

19 runs in the over. Williamson dragged out of the attack. McCullum’s plans in tatters. They’d outwitted his chancellor, bested his swordsman.

When the over started, it didn’t look like an obvious plan; it just looked like a loose ball being dealt with. But the intent on the last four balls was blatantly clear. These two young batsmen were not content with sitting back and waiting for the new ball. They were using their aggression to tire the Kiwi bowlers out before they got the new ball in their hands. Root was also trying to get his hundred in before Tim Southee and Trent Boult came back on.

It was great, attacking, smart cricket. Both players weren’t content with waiting for something to happen, they were changing the face of the game.

McCullum also knew exactly what was happening, some captains would have locked Williamson in the basement. McCullum refused to allow England to dictate. After only four overs, he brought him back from the other end. The end he had taken him off after an over where he’d taken Bell and beaten Bairstow.

Root and Bairstow continued to attack. This time it didn’t end in a bunch of boundaries, just good milking. Williamson tried darts, legside fields and even stopping in his delivery to see what Root was planning to do. Root late cut, Bairstow reverse swept, and Root walked across his crease and played a delicate paddle pull. Williamson’s two overs back went for 12 runs, and McCullum had to shelve him.

But McCullum didn’t give in altogether. Southee bowled two overs after Williamson’s 63rd. Boult bowled none. Instead McCullum rode his two workhorses, Neil Wagner and Doug Bracewell, into the ground. He was risking it all on the fact that a fresh Southee and Boult was worth more to him with the new ball.

Because of the attacking, it wasn’t until the 79th over that Williamson came back on. Giving Bracewell one over off. This time, Root and Bairstow just played him out. There was no need to attack him now.

Root was rewarded for his smart work with a hundred, but in keeping Boult fresh, McCullum had done very well. The first delivery with the new ball, Boult took a wicket. Then another in his next over. Then another in his next over. He’d broken the alliance of young Tykes, and taken an extra one as well.

Had Prior been caught off Southee, New Zealand would have ended the day with all of England’s batsmen gone. Perhaps even with England all out. Instead they had to bowl to the close, and Bracewell bowled one over (the second last) with the new ball. He suffered from cramp during it. And then during Southee’s last over, Bracewell was brought off the field after barely moving to field a cut from Prior.

McCullum, who looked just as sore, had gambled with Wagner and Bracewell’s fitness, yet won three wickets and given New Zealand some hope of saving this series.

Williamson finished with 9-0-49-1.

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Ross Taylor and the zombie ants

Zombie ants will find a leaf about a foot off the ground, on the north side of a plant, attach themselves to the underside and will be eaten away by a fungus that is posthumously controlling them and eating their non-vital soft tissue. The ants have no say in what happens next, they are dead soldiers for their fungi overlords.

Batsmen generally don’t have this problem. Most batsmen are living creatures with free will. Sure every player has his own external and internal pressures. Perhaps the coach has told them to put a price on their wicket. Maybe they are worried about their place in the team. Bad form could always be an issue.

Then there is a pitch and the conditions. A grey sky or green pitch will play on the mind of any batsman. A grey sky can make the most cocksure batsman shut up shop.

Then there is the sideways movement. A little or a lot, it matters. It was not, as early cricket scientists tried to prove, an optical illusion. The cricket ball can dance in a way that can trip anyone up.

You can never discount bowlers in this equation (if you’ve been watching the IPL, they are the players who deliver the balls to the maximum hitters). Good bowling can stop a scoreboard; it can bring uncertainty to any situation. Backed by decent field strategies, runs become mythical whispers.

At Lord’s all of these things added up to stop every single batsman who walked out. Except one.

While the opposition and his team-mates held still like zombie ants on a leaf. Ross Taylor batted. He batted like his last few months haven’t involved a public demotion, his friend almost being killed, and a poor run of form in Test and IPL cricket. He batted like he, and few players, can. Like the opposition and conditions didn’t apply to him. In one knock in trying conditions he outscored his IPL season at a better strike rate.

Taylor is an interesting batsman. You feel had he not made it to Test level, he could play every ball on the legside and die a happy man. But despite his obvious talent (he has the 8th best average of any Kiwi Test batsman), he has worked very hard to make himself into a destructive force on the international stage. Yet, he’s not. Not consistently. Not like he could be.

Coupling talent with dedication should be a surefire hit. But Taylor struggles away from home. He isn’t as consistent as she should be. He can be ineffectual for long periods.

Then you see him today. Jimmy Anderson was crushing New Zealand, two quick wickets had spooked the team that had fought like champs to keep England’s total low.

Taylor walked in to a situation that looked dire from the outside. Taylor hit almost as many fours as England did on the entire first day. Taylor scored his fifty at better than a run a ball. Taylor batted like this despite the ball moving around enough to make his team-mates and the opposition find the underside of a leaf to stick themselves to.

A Taylor innings on full flow is a sight to see. It’s like KP, but humble. Bowlers are just there to deliver to him. He owns the crease. He hits the ball in a special way that most people can’t do, the way that almost instantly makes the bowler less sure of himself. And he just keeps batting faster and hitting harder until it doesn’t matter where the fielders are. Like he owns the ground and everyone in it. It doesn’t happen often, but when he does it, it’s clear that he’s not just a batsman. He’s something special.

You could see it building at Lord’s. The flash through point. The slog sweep. The fifty when everyone else saw a 30 as Everest.

Then, with greatness and an often-replayed highlights package within his grasp, he got a ball that kept a bit low. Not a shooter, but just a ball that hadn’t reached the heights it should have. Instead of one of those innings that Taylor plays that makes zealots out of heretics, it was just a cameo.

In the full story of Taylor’s career, it felt about right, with everything that has gone with him recently, it felt way short. Taylor is 29, and the next four years should be his best. At the least his average should jump over 45, and he should be demanding that he ends up as one of the greatest New Zealand players of all time.

Today was just a taster, all he really did is show us that he was not a Zombie ant, but he can do much more than that.

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Jessie’s non-comeback

Aaron Klee is Jesse Ryder’s manager. That is not like being Mike Hussey or AB de Villiers’ manager. It comes with special tasks. This week he had to write a detailed e-mail explaining why one of the most talented batsman ever born in New Zealand, who has been picking up domestic attacks and tossing them like chicken wings, won’t be coming back to international cricket.

“What?

Jesse has decided that he’s not ready to return to the Blackcaps yet.”

No, no, no, no, no, hell, no. Come on. He must be ready, there’s not an inch of New Zealand he hasn’t flayed a cricket ball to. Mothra wouldn’t be able to cause this much destruction.

“Why?

Jesse is committed to seeing through the plan that has so far been successful.”

This is a T20 world, so this Test match solution to Jesse’s problems seems historic. Surely after one good performance and no off-field indiscretions in three days he should have been out there in the next few days. Time is money, people.

“When will he return?

No decisions have been made on that. It would not be appropriate to try and put a date on a return to the Blackcaps.”

That seems intentionally vague, it’s like saying when the stream runs dry, or on a Tuesday. We need something firm, well I do, so I can plan the first annual Jesse Ryder day. A day when Jessophiles from around the world can meet and wear bandanas as they recreate their favourite innings.

“Does he want to play for the Blackcaps?

Yes. Jesse has remained committed to NZC all the way through.”

Can’t help but notice that Aaron forgot to capitalise BLACKCAPS the way NZC do. Now this could have been an error on his part, or he might be actually be slipping a message, something to the more perceptive of us. The NZC is broken, perhaps. Or capital letters are a stupid idea.

“Will he be available for the tour to England?

Jesse wants to keep to his original plan and the decision to take 12 months out of international cricket. That decision was made last June, so it is unlikely that he will deviate from his plan.”

What is it with cricketers and their milestones. A well-played seven months is just as helpful in the right conditions as a solid 12 months. The New Zealand team might have the world’s best BJ Watling, but a BJ Watling only gets you so far, they need Jesse, we all do.

“Will he play in the IPL?

Jesse’s name is on the auction list. We don’t know if he will be picked up or not.”

Oh, he’ll be picked. Right now there are airline moguls doing overtime, Bollywood actors shooting breakfast cereal ads and Indian conglomerates selling off subsidiaries just to afford him. They want/need him in the IPL. They’re only human.

“Is he going to play county cricket?

Don’t know. There are opportunities to play T20 but no plans have been made”

As a person who lives in the UK, I would personally prefer for Ryder to come to the county cricket. I am sure the ECB would also want Jesse in county cricket. It is what the English domestic game needs, a big-swinging marquee player.

“Is his decision based on the recent issues with the captaincy?

No.”

I see that Klee did not rule out a Jesse run for the leadership. It is possible that all this leaving the game was just a tactic from Jesse to let the team eat itself and then for him to stroll back as captain. Come on, there isn’t a part of you who doesn’t want to see Jesse as New Zealand captain.

“Why is he announcing this before the meeting on Tuesday?

The meeting was never about selection or availability.”

The way things get confused at NZC, he was probably just trying to make sure he wasn’t going to be sacked by accident.

“Why isn’t he just playing T20 given his form for Wellington in the HRV Cup?

Whilst he was awesome for the Firebirds, there are still things he wants to work on. “

He is awesome.

“What are the personal goals he wants to work on?

These are private and will remain so.”

I bet at least one of his goals is improving his mad DJing skillz.

So it’s not good news. Not yet. But seven months ago when Jesse walked away from international cricket it wasn’t even clear if he’d ever come back, or even find his old magic.

Since then he has won a boxing match, stayed out of trouble and made a hell of a bunch of runs. The most important thing is him working on his personal stuff and making sure that if he ever does come back, he stays back.

Or if he doesn’t ever come back to international cricket, that he’s ok with that too.

We can wait, Jesse.

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An army of Gavin Larsens chokes South Africa: with Iain O’Brien

A depleted kiwi side beat a depleted saffa side as two other limited over series are played out.

But, if you don’t listen you won’t hear what I think of Mitchell McClenaghan’s face.

And you also won’t hear IOB expose the bombshell text he received from Shane Bond.

PLus, we say the word choke, and everyone loves that.

Listen hard.

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Iain O’Brien and I talk about muddy Kiwis

Imagine talking to a former kiwi cricketer about their total of 45.

You don’t have to, I did it for you.

We talk all sorts of nerdy stuff about bowling first, and how old Bruce Martin is.

It’s just two guys talking about NZs happy tour of South Africa.

Ronchi.

Listen here.

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Burning Blazers: The Kiwi Captaincy issue with special guest start Iain O’Brien

Imagine there was an entire podcast where an ex kiwi cricketer and current underwear mogul was forced to discuss the kiwi captaincy clusterfuck with some bum.

Now here it is.

Listen to IOB talk about everything from powerpoint displays to the fact he has no blazer.

This is a man who has actually met Magic Mike Hesson, the man who made Ross Taylor disappear.

Here is the pod, wipe it all over yourself.

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the kiwi women slide

New Zealand have been in the last two World T20 finals, losing both, one to Australia and one to England. They lost to Australia from the last ball, and fought hard after making an under-par score against the English. They were well drilled, well lead and played consistently good cricket. They were good with the ball, in the field or when batting. They were not a team of champions, but a team that played consistently good cricket.

In this tournament they have not.

Having already lost to the West Indies in the qualifying rounds, essentially limping towards the semi-final, they were not expected to dominate the best team in women’s cricket, but at least hold their own.

Instead they were easily outplayed in almost every way.

Their fielding was poor by their standards, a great sliding throw and overhead catch would take much of the focus away from their fumbling and the keeper, Katey Martin, letting balls straight through her legs.

With the ball they tried hard, but lacked any key weapons. Nicola Browne started well early on, and Erin Bermingham landed some good deliveries, but neither ever looked like breaking through.

It was with the bat the kiwis were really bad. Amy Satterthwaite was the only batsmen who stayed in for any length of time, but her 30 off 39 was scratchy and she struggled to get enough singles or boundaries to put England under any pressure. They struggled against the pace of Katherine Brunt and the spin of Danni Wyatt and Holly Colvin. They couldn’t manoeuvre the ball around, seemed to lack power to blast through and at no stage did they look like making a score that would challenge England at all.

They even managed to miss out on a wicket because of a back-foot no ball. It couldn’t have gone much further wrong for them.

Perhaps the only part of the game they looked on par with England was in captaincy. Suzie Bates is one of the best leaders in world cricket and tactically she is arguably as good as any playing captain around. She refused to give up, and instead of allowing easy singles, which is the modern captain’s way, she regularly kept up to six players inside the circle to choke England and make them play the big shots.

Bates’ tactics kept England batting for longer than they wanted and pushed the game into the 18th over with ring fields and attacking moves. At one stage she even used Browne to bowl short to England, hoping for a mistimed pull shot from Taylor, that they got, but it didn’t go to hand. It was desperate, and didn’t get the result New Zealand needed, which was a miracle after their disastrous batting display, started by Bates with a horrendous run out for a duck.

It was a pitch that even with 20 or 30 runs more, perhaps, Bates’ tricks might have been enough. Although it is hard to see where they could have found 20 or 30 more runs as they didn’t ever handle the conditions all that well.

New Zealand have been a very strong team for a long time. Failing to get to the final should be the motivation that they need to get the most out of this young squad. They are young, talented, play as a team and are magnificently led.

They owe it to themselves to do better than simply be the team England ease past on their way to the final.

It was with the bat the kiwis were really bad. Amy Satterthwaite was the only batsmen who stayed in for any length of time, but her 30 off 39 was scratchy and she struggled to get enough singles or boundaries to put England under any pressure. They struggled against the pace of Katherine Brunt and the spin of Dani Wyatt and Holly Colvin. They couldn’t manoeuvre the ball around, seemed to lack power to blast through and at no stage did they look like making a score that would challenge England at all.

They even managed to miss out on a wicket because of a back-foot no ball. It couldn’t have gone much further wrong for them.

Perhaps the only part of the game they looked on par with England was in captaincy. Suzie Bates is one of the best leaders in world cricket and tactically she is arguably as good as any playing captain around. She refused to give up, and instead of allowing easy singles, which is the modern captain’s way, she regularly kept up to six players inside the circle to choke England and make them play the big shots.

Bates’ tactics kept England batting for longer than they wanted and pushed the game into the 18th over with ring fields and attacking moves. At one stage she even used Browne to bowl short to England, hoping for a mistimed pull shot from Taylor, that they got, but it didn’t go to hand. It was desperate, and didn’t get the result New Zealand needed, which was a miracle after their disastrous batting display, started by Bates with a horrendous run out for a duck.

It was a pitch that even with 20 or 30 runs more, perhaps, Bates’ tricks might have been enough. Although it is hard to see where they could have found 20 or 30 more runs as they didn’t ever handle the conditions all that well.

New Zealand have been a very strong team for a long time. Failing to get to the final should be the motivation that they need to get the most out of this young squad. They are young, talented, play as a team and are magnificently led.

They owe it to themselves to do better than simply be the team England ease past on their way to the final.

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suzie bates is a captain

Some of you think women’s cricket is shit.

You have no idea who Suzie Bates is, or who she plays for.

But if you watched women’s cricket you’d know that Suzie Bates is a motherfucken superstar captain.

Today her side limped along to 90 odd.

They struggled to get the ball off the square, and Bates ran herself out for a duck.

They had no right to keep England in the field for more than 10 overs.

And they certainly don’t have a barnstorming burn your house down attack.

But they have Suzie Bates.

And Suzie Bates can captain.

Suzie Bates can captain so much that on a slowish Sri Lankan pitch she brought up mid on and mid off whilst getting her opening bowler Nicola Browne to try and bounce out the world’s best T20 batsman Sarah Taylor.

It almost worked.

How often would a women’s captain defending 90odd in a T20 decide to bounce out the oppositions best batsman?

I’m guessing never, because I’m sure it’s never.

That is Susie Bates.  That is why you should know who Suzie Bates is.

When you’re sitting in front of your TV or illegal stream screaming at your team’s captain for sitting back and letting team milk singles as they wander head first into an inevitable victory, I want you to know that Suzie Bates wouldn’t do that.

She would try shit, bring people up, do some weird shit and create something. She is by far my favourite captain in world cricket.

Susie Bates is only 25, you need to start following the kiwi women’s team before she becomes an old battle scarred captain who puts people out on the rope if someone hints at playing a shot.

Results: England go through with ease.  Holly Colvin was the first international player I ever interviewed.

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who runs the west indies?

I thought the West Indies had the ideal team to win this tournament.

They had a swing bowler in form, a quick bowler who could sling yorkers, more all rounders that you could fit in a small car, a mystery spinner, a skiddy spinner, the Pollard, the Gayle, and even the Johnson Charles.

If they were a gun, they’d be a bazooka, with a machine gun and flame thrower attached.

But the team I saw in my head, which was a combination of the new West Indies and the IPL West Indies, has gelled much the same way the bazooka flame machine gun would.

Chris Gayle coming back has thrown out the alignment completely.

Gayle is a natural leader, it’s because he feels he’s cooler and better than other other people, and his shoulders. They’re leadership shoulders.

As a leader he’s much like a male lion, as a captain he’s much like a banana sandwich.

For all the talk of how rubbish Darren Sammy is as a player, he’s done pretty well as a player and seems to be growing a young team with talent.

Sammy is not a big macho man, he’s a nice guy, I like him, I’d have a beer with him or let him buy me a meal, but he’s not an aggressive leader.

The chat before the last over of the regulation overs was bowled showed that. In the end Samuels bowled it because Sammy and Andre didn’t want to.

It looked like a man who did not want to lead from the front.

When Marlon Samuels bowled the super over instead of Sunil Narine, it looked like Chris Gayle had used this big shoulders to move Sammy aside during the meeting.

Maybe I’m wrong, and Sammy just got sucked up in the masculine Jamaican aroma when Gayle and Samuels were next to each other.

Either way, Sammy (or whoever) made the sort of decision you make at three AM when almost everyone has left the club except that person of questionable gender with the mole that looks like Richard Dreyfuss on their forehead.

Forget about the fact that anyone who understood the basic principles of cricket would have picked Sunil Narine.

Think about what had just happened. In an over of top pressure, batting with a bloke who hadn’t faced a ball, Ross Taylor had scored 13 runs off Samuels while getting a great sighter of exactly how he was going to bowl in the next over.

The field placings were terrible, Marlon Samuels will need to ice his arm like a pitcher after it, and the super super super subs was a nice touch.

They deserved to lose on every level.

That they didn’t was because in their batting super over these Jamaican big swinging dicks were immense, and Tim Southee swallowed his own teeth.

Sammy’s problem is that these two now have even more power, even more bravado, even more respect from their team mates.

In the next game expect Marlon Samuels to open the bowling in tandem with Chris Gayle, bat wherever they want, field wherever they want and Darren Sammy will be trudging from long on to long on.

Result: Ross Taylor finally came back to the World T20, Sunil Narine delivers magic aura balls.

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the superness never ends at kandy

There is no super speed with a super over.  Add to that the bail that seemed to have jumped off on its own volition, and the whole process seemed to take longer than the game itself.

While the Windies left the ground mid warm up, I thought of the only super over I could remember. It was oddly a warm up match between Ireland and the Dutch before the 2009 World T20. Ireland scored 6 for one wicket, with three byes and one leg bye.  Then the Dutch scored two off the first ball, and had back to back run outs from the third and fourth balls to lose by four runs.  It was brilliantly farcical.  But it was like the out takes that show during the credits.

Those memories didn’t last long enough, as now the ICC end of match paraphernalia had to be taken from the field.  I wondered about the need for a super over.  This was only a round robin match; there was real reason why it couldn’t just be a tie.  Ties are cool too.  Neither team really deserved to win, the kiwis couldn’t field at all and Sri Lanka took their foot off the gas before they even got to the home straight.  Some times a tie is fates way of saying, “hey, neither of you deserve to win this”.  But this is T20; we must have a result at the end of our 3 (or 4) hours of cricket.  This must end cleanly after many minutes of fumbling.

At the moment the scoreboard is being restocked with the correct names, or Chris Gayle has been recruited for New Zealand.  I’m not really sure I like a super over, it seems like a lot of fun, but .  And like a film with too many endings, it had the perfect story line of the slow motion shoot out where you’re not sure who has died, only for the film to end a few minutes later with an ending of far less tension.   A tie is generally going to be more exciting than a super over because it took all match to fester, and isn’t massively contrived.

The three man batting and one man bowling attacks have been chosen.  The game could have finished in a cloud of smoke with a controversial run out.  We could have had experts musing and debating the end of this game like cricket’s Zapruder film. Everyone could have taken sides.  Maybe the bail was taken out by a grassy knee.  The whole event seems to deny the law of physics.   Sometimes a mysterious end full of questions is the right way to end.

 

 

 

 

 

 

WHAT DID TIM SOUTHEE THINK THE LINES ON THE PITCH MEANT, WHY WAS MCCULLUM CLAPPING, HOW MANY BATSMEN CAN BAT IN A SUPER OVER, WHERE WERE THE BOUNDARIES, WHICH END DO THEY PICK, WHY IS PERERA OUT THERE, HOW THE HELL DID SRI LANKA END UP WITH 13 RUNS, DOES TAYLOR NOT THINK HE CAN HIT MALINGA, IS THERE ANOTHER SUPER OVER AFTER THIS SUPER OVER, WHY CAN’T ANYONE PICK UP THE BALL CLEANLY, WAS THAT A WIDE OR DID MCCULLUM EDGE IT, WILL KUMAR’S DROP LOSE IT FOR SRI LANKA, AND WHAT’S WRONG WITH A TIE.

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