Category Archives: windies

the doherty over

George Bailey and Xavier Doherty have known each other since they were kids. Tonight Bailey tested that friendship by throwing Doherty into a vat of acid to see if he could swim. Doherty was demolished.

There was no one other than Bailey who thought bowling Doherty in that last over was anything other than a colossal mistake. West Indies had the two people in world cricket most likely to eat Doherty alive with the bat in their hands. They were well set, relaxed, already had a big total, and had cartoon drool coming out of their mouths as Doherty held the ball at the top of his mark.

Doherty’s first two overs had gone for 23, it was probably his worst bowling performance of the tournament already, and now he had six balls at Pollard and Gayle when they only had one thing on their minds, how far they could hit him.

To his credit, Doherty looked reasonably calm as he walked up. There was no reason to be calm. The score was already 180, and Australia had only taken three wickets. He and Bailey placed the field carefully, although it seemed like a waste of time even then.

The first ball was a disaster. It couldn’t have been worse. A finger-spinner bowling a knee-high full toss to Chris Gayle is like throwing a cabbage at Swamp Thing. Gayle just hit it. He’s been hitting full tosses for six since he grew fingernails in the womb. Sometimes you hear the commentators say that low full tosses can be really hard to get away. They don’t mean this kind; this kind is hit for six by players who don’t hit sixes. Gayle smashed it.

Brad Hogg had been the pick of the spinners in this match, he had an over left. David Hussey was quite often used at the death, he had two overs left. It’s doubtful whether any other captain would have thrown the ball to Doherty, or found a situation where he thought it was the right thing to do. Doherty is good at the start, against South Africa he set up the match with the new ball. He slides the new ball well, and gets just enough purchase to make the batsmen worry. At the end he seems like a less-viable candidate as he has little mystery and seems to come onto the bat really well.

The next ball had to be something special, it had to land to begin with. It had to be out of Gayle’s arc and it had to stay on the playing surface. Doherty showed that he was calm and good enough to bowl the finger-spinner’s trusty retort, the fired-in one at the pads. Gayle couldn’t smash it, he couldn’t do much with it at all, he just let it hit his pad and limp a single.

In normal life, and for large parts of the rest of the innings, Gayle being off strike had been Australia’s dream. It seemed much of their tactic was simply to keep him from being on strike. Considering Gayle had batted the entire 19.2 overs, and the score wasn’t 300, it had worked. But now Kieron Pollard was in. Pollard is someone who can look rubbish at the start of any tournament or series, but then he warms up. Considering he often struggles against real pace, and he’d just driven a 150km yorker for four and scooped another one straight over his head, it was quite clear he was the Killer Kieron, not the Pillock Pollard.

Doherty went straight at him on a length, probably thinking he could slip one through him. As he saw Pollard get down on one knee, he must have even thought he’d got under the bat on a pitch where the spinners had kept the odd ball low. Instead Pollard slogged it hard to midwicket, flat and dangerous. Hogg came around, and flung his hand at it, but was probably lucky it didn’t take his hand for six as well.

This was now horrible for Doherty. Much like in Adelaide.

Doherty’s often been thought of as a good limited-overs bowler, but many were shocked when he was brought into the Australian Test squad. The man had a stutter ball, was often calm under pressure and had good control, but nothing about him screamed Test bowler. He was clearly brought in as the left-arm equivalent of Nathan Haurtiz, a stocker bowler who could keep the run-rate down.

In Adelaide, Kevin Pietersen ruined that theory. Pietersen looked like he wanted to take out all his previous bad-form frustration and problems with losing the captaincy out on Doherty. It was brutal punishment, and the one thing Doherty was supposed to do, he couldn’t. Pietersen was simply too good, too aggressive, and Doherty was yanked from attack between the 65th to the 103rd over. Bowling between overs 65 to 80 was one of the main reasons he was in the side in the first place.

Yet again he had a KP tormenting him. And his fourth ball was a low full toss, the one that is supposed to be hard to hit. Pollard hit it hard. He cleared long-off with it. West Indies had now scored 19 runs off the over, and were 199.

Doherty’s over was now beyond horrible, and there were still two balls left. Doherty bowled seam when he was a kid, and he resorted to what seamers do when the batsmen is hitting them everywhere. Full and straight. Perhaps Pollard moved back in the crease, maybe Doherty missed the blockhole by an inch or two, but Pollard just blew it away for another six.

The West Indies had now jumped the magical 200-mark. Even the superhuman Shane Watson would struggle to get Australia there. The last ball from Doherty was much like when he took the wicket of KP in Adelaide, it meant nothing; all the damage was done, and would be replayed for years to come. Pollard slicing the ball to long-off was not a victory for Australia, Doherty or Bailey; it was just a chance to leave the field.

By the time Bailey was next involved in the game, Australia could not win the match. Bailey played perhaps his best innings for Australia. It showed guts, determination, took a swipe at his many detractors and was the only reason Australia made it to triple-figures. There was proper anger in his batting, he really wanted to make a mark. It was also like screaming at a hurricane.

For Doherty there was no fightback, saving grace or moral victory; he was simply the victim. The only screams for Doherty were screams of laughter from the people who’ve never had to bowl the last over of an innings at two of nature’s perfect killers while the cricket world watches.

Result: All the Australians still have their teeth, Johnson Charles is a member of the illuminate.

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aussie women need runs

Nineteen off 21, 11 off 11, 23 off 25, 21 off 25 and 19 off 22. It’s a start for Australia, but not much more.

Meg Lanning, Jess Cameron, Lisa Sthalekar, Alex Blackwell and Jodie Fields all looked good at times, but none kicked on, in strike-rate or total. It was like they all had an invisible wall they would run into as they approached 25. It meant that the total of 115 was just within reach of West Indies, even without Stafanie Taylor or Deandra Dottin adding anything to the total.

It was the Australian bowlers, led by the miserly Sthalekar and the wicket-taking Perry, who made 115 look far more impressive than it was.

The important thing is the Aussies still won, and made the final. The worrying thing is that not a single Australian batsman has made a half-century in this tournament. In fact, the highest score is 42. Forty-two. It’s not what you expect to see of a team which has made it through to the final. It’s what you expect of a team that didn’t even qualify for the semis.

India, who didn’t qualify for the semis, have a 50 in this tournament from Poonam Raut.
Australia is clearly the second-best team in this tournament; West Indies and New Zealand both have good players, India has Mithali Raj and Jhulan Goswami, and Sri Lanka, South Africa and Pakistan are a level below at this stage. But England just look far ahead.

England barely worked up a sweat while beating Australia and New Zealand easily in their last two games. When their batsmen get in, they make big fast scores, generally in match-winning partnerships. For some reason, the Australians are not doing that. It’s not like their batting line-up lacks talent. Lanning is a very good player, Cameron can smack the ball, Sthalekar is pure class, Blackwell holds the middle order together, Healy strikes well and Fields plays like Australian wicketkeepers have for decades. But you don’t win many finals with a run-a-ball 20-odd.

On a pitch with little spin, acting was slow and low, West Indies choked Australia with 10 overs of spin to start the match. It wasn’t a tactic especially to slow Australia, just something the Windies had been using all tournament, but Australia never really handled it well. There were some boundaries, and some singles, but not enough of either, and never a good combination of both.

The West Indies bowlers were all decent, and they worked well together, but Australia should have scored far more. Jodie Fields said they would have been happier with 140. They shouldn’t have lost as many wickets as they did. They should have worked the often-strange field placements of the West Indies. They should have just done better.

Australia have one last chance to get it right, but they won’t be playing the plucky West Indies side, they’ll be playing the most brutal and unforgiving team in world cricket. A team full of match-winners, who all know their roles, and who will expect to win the tournament they have dominated so far. They are talented, well schooled and the most professional team in women’s cricket. To beat them, you need to be at your very best. A succession of super-fast cameos might help you win. An epic innings often will.

Australia may be the reigning champions and these conditions might be different to Galle, but they will need to significantly improve on this performance to make the final a fair fight. Stacking up another pile of 20 odds won’t do it.

Result: Arisa Mohammad: One step into her run up, she leaps into their air with her arms touching the sky, then skins in, and bowls round arm finger spin off what appears to be from the wrong foot a mile back from the crease. Awesome.

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What’s behind Watson: the Australian story

West Indies tours for Aussie fans are often dream-like. They’re late at night, often look like someone had smeared Vaseline on the lens and have a kicking soundtrack. It also means that more people hear about great deeds by Aussie players in the Caribbean, than actually see them.

It also means when something happens in an ODI series as Australia tour the West Indies that no one cares about, few fans notice.

Had they stayed awake, looked through the soft-focused Vaselined screen and kept the sound down as not to wake anyone in the house, they would have seen one man tormenting the Australian batsman:Sunil Narine. In a five-match series he took 11 wickets at an average of 14.45 and a scary economy rate of 3.32. He stopped the top order from scoring and dismissed the middle and lower order with ease. Narine was still a mystery to world cricket, his faux-hawk was barely known, his mystery knuckle ball was unplayable and his offspinner gripped and ripped off the dusty surfaces. It was even before he became a cult hero in the IPL.

In the oppressive heat of Sri Lanka, Australia will again meet West Indies, a side who have many players who can win a T20 match on their own. Chris Gayle can decapitate a bowling unit, and he’s done that to Australia before. Marlon Samuels can score with ease and make decent bowlers doubt themselves. Dwayne Bravo changes the game with the bat, the ball or with his hands. Kieron Pollard can score at a strike rate that previously never existed. Fidel Edwards bowls swinging yorkers. And even backup players like Andre Russell are capable of amazing destruction.

Yet when the West Indies looked like they would lose to New Zealand and fall out of the tournament, it was Sunil Narine who bowled two overs for only five runs in the 17th and 19th of the match. He also took two wickets.

Australia have already shown they can beat West Indies at the Premadasa in this tournament. In that match, Narine bowled two overs for 15 before the rain came down before he got to bowl his last two overs, and the Australians played him quite cautiously. If they find themselves in another big chase, with a soaring run rate required, their battle with Narine could be the difference between playing in the final or not.

The group game against West Indies was not all smooth sailing for Australia. They punished their bowlers and actually should have made more than the 192 they ended with. No Australian bowler went for less than seven-an-over. The West Indies handled the pace of Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins easily, Johnson Charles aside. Dan Christian just didn’t look like a viable option with the ball. Brad Hogg tried hard, and took one of his two wickets in the tournament. And Glenn Maxwell got Gayled for 17 runs in his one over. But it was a great pitch for batting, as the Australian top order showed when they smacked the West Indian bowlers everywhere.

While all of Australia’s matches have been in Colombo, the pitch has changed on Australia. It is no longer the pace-friendly wicket of late September, it’s quickly becoming the spin-happy track of early October. The constant use of this square has brought it back in favour of the spinners and sub-continental batsmen.

Starc and Cummins’ pace was a real factor at times early in the tournament. Cummins beat up the Indians and barely went for a run. Starc was almost as good against the Pakistanis and took three wickets. Sohail Tanvir showed that, even though the pitch is spinning more, the fast bowlers could still be important, although their pace will be less so against West Indies.

But there is no doubt that spin will play a massive part from here on in. The England v New Zealand women’s match was dominated by the English spinners, and for the first men’s semi-final the ball continued to spin considerably. Xavier Doherty came in for Christian a few matches back and has by far been Australia’s best spin option in this tournament. His early wickets against South Africa set up the game, and against Pakistan he took the wicket of their best batsman Nasir Jamshed.

Brad Hogg has struggled far more. It’s not that Hogg has been a catastrophe; he’s just not had the impact he had when he first made his comeback. His economy rate of 7.5 is fairly high – only Cummins is worse for Australia – and Hogg’s batting is now non-existent. At the age of 41 his eyes can no longer allow him to bat like a man with an average of 35. Australia are yet to bat all the way down in this tournament, and they may not, but Hogg is now probably Australia’s No. 11.

With the middle order struggling to get a hit, or look good when they do, it seems Glenn Maxwell is the man who may make way for David Hussey. Maxwell has done little wrong, but he is being barely used as a bowler, and has had little chance to perform with the bat, only batting twice in the tournament for one failure. It would also be a panic move from Australia, as Hussey was in terrible form in the UAE, and most of the Australian middle order have had only one chance to bat under pressure.

Australia could also drop Hogg for David Hussey. Maxwell and Hussey could combine as the fifth bowler whilst strengthening the batting. When Doherty came in for Christian, Australia lost another batting option, this would fix that problem, and while Hussey’s bowling is not of the standard of Hogg’s in the real world, this is T20, where Hussey’s step, step, sling, offspin can work.

On paper the West Indies side looks like a side that should beat Australia, but on the field they seem to be unsure and their decision to bowl Marlon Samuels in the Super Over against New Zealand seemed to stem from the input of too many people apart from Darren Sammy. They are a dangerous opponent, but one that Australia will believe they can beat.

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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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I find goodbyes rather awkward.

Rarely have I been good at them.

Other people often get them right, I either leave abruptly and do it wrong, or I hang around and make everyone feel like I may never leave.

To say a goodbye you need a good closing line, and even if I find one, I’ll step on it or say a 2nd closing line that ruins the first.

Ireland leaves abruptly, although, it’s not their fault.

Their like the people you never really got to know, but bonded quite well with, but when you look for them to say goodbye, someone tells you they left earlier.

Even though they haven’t made a big impact on you, you feel like you missed out on the closure.

This goodbye would have been awkward, because you can’t defend 129 in 19 overs on a good pitch with your best bowler emptying every piece of fluid he has out of his bowels in the team hotel. You just can’t.

But we got no goodbye at all. We couldn’t even jokingly call Johnston a minnow as we shook his hand, or call suggest that Porterfield stop facing the new ball, they’re just gone.

Covered in Sri Lankan rain and Irish vomit they head for the airport.

See, that’s probably what you shouldn’t say in a goodbye.

Result: You got to say look at the O’Briens for a couple of overs. And Chris Gayle danced.

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two chucks at edgbaston day 4

For this tasty windies t shirt, pop over.

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Sunil Narine, day 1 of bowling (First day on the job and a body is found in the dumpster)

Mysteries get solved in an hour on TV. Law and Order, CSI and Midsomer Murders have all confirmed this for us. But for Sunil Narine, one day with 15 overs, no wickets and 69 runs is not the conclusion to the story.

Narine has had a charmed existence for many reasons since he entered top-level cricket. He wasn’t thrust in as a teenager. The pitches he has played on have been exceptionally sympathetic to spinners. He’s played when people are trying to slog him. And no one can pick him. Today was different.

The pitch was good enough for a No. 11 to make a record score. Graeme Swann didn’t take a wicket. And the England players could wait for the bad balls, rather than attacking him. Also, Narine bowled poorly.

That kills me to say it because I really believe he could be a special talent. But if this was the first time you’d seen him, you could be forgiven for thinking Shane Shillingford should have got another game.

Narine bowled far too many bad balls. There weren’t many absolute howlers. But his length was consistently wrong. It was too short. As I nerdishly obsessed over his pitch map, it was clear that at least a third of his deliveries were just too short.

While Graeme Swann was consistently at the four metre mark, Narine was dropping them at the six metre mark. That’s not good enough for a top class spinner. Good batsmen just milk that for singles and the odd boundary. Then to compensate he floated up half volleys.

In their own ways, KP and Bell have had their own problems with spin. I think both would have been happy to face Narine for the first time with half volleys and half trackers coming at them.

Once KP saw that Narine was struggling, he ripped his chest apart and yanked out each individual organ. Back foot drives, front foot sixes, and scoring at will from a bowler who looked like he had no plans at all.

Even off the pitch England were attacking Narine. In the Sky box Nick Knight showed that for the knuckle carrom ball (still weirdly unnamed), Narine had a potential giveaway. Using his thumb on the ball for that delivery, but not for his normal offspinner. A few quick checks on youtube prove that isn’t always the case. But it’s decoding the mystery.

Not that England needed to decode the mystery. Bad lengths helped them, but so did the lack of turn for his knuckle ball. By design it can never be a ball that turns viciously, but it barely whispered at all. Making it more like a non sizzling arm ball that limps on a pitch like this.

Even against the awkward-looking nightwatchman in fading light with a collection of fielders looking for a chance, Narine still struggled to look capable of bamboozling anyone. It was his easiest chance for his first wicket in Test cricket.

This was an ordinary display from Narine. He would have expected to do better, at least of keeping the scoring rate down, if not taking a wicket or two. His day could have been better had Adrian Barath taken a sharp chance at short leg from Ian Bell. It is a place that if Narine does have a successful career in Test Cricket many catches will go to. Today it was just another disappointment.

There were also good signs. Darren Sammy didn’t hide Narine away, and he even kept attacking fields for as long as possible. Narine might have lost the swagger he had in the IPL, but he didn’t fall apart. And his offspinner, when pitched in the right place, is still a staggeringly good delivery that should test batsmen all over the world.

Even with today, I’m not willing to right off Narine on a pitch that the only wicket for spin to either side went to the smooth straight’uns of Marlon Samuels. That doesn’t mean for lovers of quality spinners, Narinites and mystery spinner buffs (of which I’m all three) today wasn’t a bit like the opening scene of one of those crime shows where two people sharing banal conversation bump into a corpse in a dumpster.

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