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Wednesday, 10 February 2010

England rely on Swann for a face in the Test rankings... but not a batsman in sight

ENGLAND remain without a single batsman in the world's Top Twenty according to the latest Reliance Mobile ICC Rankings.

India’s Gautam Gambhir stays on top despite scoring just 13 runs in the innings defeat to South Africa at Nagpur last week - Jacques Kallis and Hashim Amla, who put on a record third wicket partnership in that match, are both closing fast.

Amla scored a Test best 253 not out to break into the top 10 and is now just behind the great Sachin Tendulkar.

The bowling rankings are more encouraging for England fans with spinner Graeme Swann staying fifth with seamers Stuart Broad, Jimmy Anderson and Ryan Sidebottom also in the top twenty.

But paceman Dale Steyn, who took 10 wickets at Nagpur (including a Test best 7-51 in the first innings) remains out in front and is now officially the best bowler in Test history on strike rate.

Swann also features in the all-rounders ranks after his Test best 85 at Centurion against South Africa last December, but he remains a long way adrift of the masterful Kallis and New Zealand captain Daniel Vettori.


Rank (+/-) Player Team Points Ave HS Rating

1 ( - ) Gautam Gambhir Ind 840 55.46 886 v SL at Kanpur 2009

2 (+1) M Jayawardena SL 836 53.96 883 v Ind at Ahmedabad 2009

3 (+1) K Sangakkara SL 835 55.10 938 v Eng at Kandy 2007

4 (+4) Jacques Kallis SA 825 55.16 935 v NZ at Centurion 2007

5 (-3) Graeme Smith SA 823 50.55 843 v Eng at Johannesburg 2010

6 ( - ) Virender Sehwag Ind 811 52.62 854 v SA at Kolkata 2004

7 (-2) Michael Clarke Aus 805 50.19 855 v Eng at Headingley 2009

8 (-1) Ricky Ponting Aus 783 55.67 942 v Eng at Adelaide 2006

9 ( - ) Sachin Tendulkar Ind 778 55.35 898 v Zim at Nagpur 2002

10 (+13) Hashim Amla SA 775 ! 44.47 775 v Ind at Nagpur 2010

11 (-1) S.Chanderpaul WI 765 48.70 901 v NZ at Napier 2008

12 (-1) Ross Taylor NZ 763 42.15 775 v Pak at Wellington 2009

13 (-1) Mohd Yousuf Pak 761 53.07 933 v WI at Karachi 2006

14 (-1) Younus Khan Pak 754 50.09 880 v SL at Lahore 2009

15 (-1) AB de Villiers SA 735 43.67 745 v Eng at Centurion 2009

16 (-1) Rahul Dravid Ind 720 53.75 892 v Pak at Kolkata 2005

17 (-1) Mike Hussey Aus 709 53.04 921 v WI at Kingston 2008

18 (-1) T Samaraweera SL 707 51.14 747 v Ind at Kanpur 2009

19 (-1) Simon Katich Aus 706 44.91 720 v Eng at Cardiff 2009

20 (-1) VVS Laxman Ind 696 45.70 753 v Aus at Sydney 2004


Rank (+/-) Player Team Points Ave HS Rating

1 ( - ) Dale Steyn SA 891 23.04 897 v Ind at Ahmedabad 2008

2 ( - ) Mitchell Johnson Aus 780 28.45 825 v Eng at Cardiff 2009

3 ( - ) Mohammad Asif Pak 757* 23.20 792 v Aus at Sydney 2010

4 ( - ) M Muralidaran SL 752 22.71 920 v Ban at Kandy 2007

5 ( - ) Graeme Swann Eng 732* 30.69 756 v SA at Durban 2009

6 ( - ) Zaheer Khan Ind 722 ! 33.02 722 v SA at Nagpur 2010

7 ( - ) Morne Morkel SA 680* 32.26 691 v Eng at Johannesburg 2010

8 (+1) Stuart Broad Eng 673* 35.38 697 v SA at Durban 2009

9 (+3) Paul Harris SA 671* 33.41 705 v Eng at Centurion 2009

10 (+1) Stuart Clark Aus 668* 23.86 863 v WI at Bridgetown 2008

11 (-1) Makhaya Ntini SA 665 28.82 863 v Ind at Durban 2006

12 (-4) Harbhajan Singh Ind 653 31.30 765 v NZ at Wellington 2002

13 ( - ) James Anderson Eng 639 34.80 710 v Aus at Edgbaston 2009

14 ( - ) Shakib Al Hasan Ban 626* 29.39 633 v Ind at Chittagong 2010

15 (+1) Daniel Vettori NZ 613 33.61 681 v Aus at Auckland 2000

16 (+1) Danish Kaneria Pak 599 34.27 723 v Eng at Multan 2005

17 (+1) Jerome Taylor WI 598* 35.64 717 v Eng at Kingston 2009

18 (+1) Peter Siddle Aus 597* 31.53 617 v Eng at The Oval 2009

19 (+1) Chris Martin NZ 592 33.61 643 v Eng at Lord's 2004

20 (+1) Ryan Sidebottom Eng 590* 28.24 769 v SA at Lord's 2008


Rank (+/-) Player Team Points HS Rating

1 ( - ) Jacques Kallis SA 469 616 v Pak at Durban 2002

2 ( - ) Daniel Vettori NZ 412! 412 v Pak at Napier 2009

3 ( - ) Graeme Swann Eng 306*/* 307 v SA at Durban 2009

4 ( - ) Mitchell Johnson Aus 302 384 v Eng at Cardiff 2009

5 ( - ) Shakib Al Hasan Ban 295*/* 303 v Ind at Chittagong 2010

*Indicates a provisional rating

! Indicates a career-best rating

For information on the ICC Player Rankings go to:

Labels: , , , , ,

Saturday, 16 January 2010

Mother Nature helps out, but England's reign is nearly at an end in this series

AND so Mother Nature steps in where umpire Daryl Harper won't, with another merciful downpour for England, halting South Africa's rush to victory in the final Test at the Wanderers.
Twelve minutes earlier than yesterday, at 2.01pm local time, noon in England, the rain came down, the lightning flashed (right), this huge 30,000 crowd scurried for cover.
But unlike yesterday, the worst of it moved slowly around the ground. Instead of a flooded outfield and desperate workers with squeegees, we have a far less dramatic show of drying going on in front of us.
The covers are off and soon they will be back, these South Africans, eager to push on and get England back at the crease.
At the moment, South Africa are 382-6, 202 ahead of England's modest first innings total of 180.
Just when South African captain Graeme Smith will declare, we aren't sure. But he did say to us last night: "We'll be looking to push the lead to around 200. That's a good score if the pitch is doing things and the weather continues."
He's right. This game is over if the rain stays away. England have been easily cowed in this final showdown. Earlier in this absorbing series, they showed that iron resistance, the stiff-upper-lip we Brits love to see.
But Johannesburg has been different. England went into this Test 1-0 up in the series, but only after hanging on by a wicket to draw in Centurion and Cape Town. In between, we had the best of the conditions in Durban and won by an innings and 98 runs.
But in truth, as Smith and his men have pointed out so many times, most of the sessions have been won by South Africa in this series. They deserve to draw 1-1 and retain the Basil D'Oliviera trophy they won in England last time they visited our shores.
And they will. England made a couple of early breakthroughs this morning but they failed to capitalise, allowing Mark Boucher and AB De Villiers to shove England off the rails again.
But they needed a fair bit of luck to put on 120 in 30 overs for the sixth wicket at a rate of just over four an over.
Twice Harper, the television umpire who failed to hear Graeme Smith's snick yesterday (he was on 15 at the time, he went on to get 105, have a look at earlier posts), allowed De Villiers to bat on after being given out by New Zealander Tony Smith.
Harper also turned down Graeme Swann's plea for the wicket of Mark Boucher, LBW. Harper was right each time. But he seems to be England's bogeyman right now, with every decision going South Africa's way.
England made a good start this morning. First Hashim Amla, looking set for his second century of the series on 75, was out on the tenth ball of the day, caught behind by Matt Prior off a superb ball from Stuart Broad.
Six balls later, Jacques Kallis was gone, brilliantly taken by Jimmy Anderson on the dive off Ryan Sidebottom. Getting Kallis for 7 was a big bonus for England and at 217-4 the tails were up.
After a brief lull, Andrew Strauss turned to Swann, as he has all series, for the breakthrough. And with his first ball - it's becoming a habit - he had JP "Crash Test" Duminy caught by Collingwood and it was 235-5.
Swann then had De Villiers given out twice - on 11 and 24 - by umpire Hill. But De Villiers called for a review both times. The close catch on 11 may or may not have brushed the bat, the lbw on 24 was not out.
But given that shocker yesterday - Harper failed to hear the Smith snick which echoed around the cricket-speaking world - you might expect a bit of help from the man!
De Villiers also survived having the ball come to rest against his stumps without removing a bail (much to Paul Collingwood's chagrin) and a further clear glove behind, made it through to lunch with 43 off 99 balls, the always-dangerous Mark Boucher went to his fifty just before lunch after surviving Swann's LBW review.
At 324-5 at the break, South Africa were 144 ahead. De Villiers' luck finally ran out on 58, caught by Collingwood, and Broad had his third wicket of the innings. But Boucher carried on and passed his best-ever Test score at the "Bull Ring" - 78 - with debutant Ryan McLaren in support.
But just as the huge gathering here were really getting going, the rain came down. But now the covers are off and the final session can begin. It won't be long, I suspect, before Graeme Smith gets England out there to face their fury under heavy skies.
Meanwhile Harper - backed by the ICC this morning - has turned to Facebook to justify his position.
After yesterday's knob-twiddling sensation he posted these quotes on his site: "The truth about Smith's decision may come out eventually. The host broadcaster didn't provide the appropriate sound to match the picture. The commentator, Matthew Hoggard, told the viewers that there was no sound - so Smith would be given not out.
"Sadly when the technology fails... and that means that some engineer has failed to do his job... they must find a scapegoat, and the umpire is an easy target because we can't fight back... usually.
"Five minutes later, they found a sound and blamed me! Other networks found the sound immediately, but we didn't get their sound feed."
Good defence Daryl, but how about coming to speak to us in the press box. Just a gentle chat. If you can comment on Facebook, surely you can talk to the journalists?
England, without any reviews left, have asked the ICC to reinstate the one wasted during the Smith controversy yesterday.

Labels: andrew strauss controversy, , decisive final test, , huge crowd, , lightning, , rain, , umpire

Friday, 15 January 2010

Smith was out for 15. But now he's got 84 and South Africa have got this one in the bag

SOUTH AFRICAN captain Graeme Smith enjoyed an incredible let off as the second day of the final Test at the Wanderers got underway amid growing controversy this morning.

Luckless England were all out for a paltry 180 yesterday as their attempt to engineer the draw that would clinch this absorbing series fell flat. They were able to take only one wicket as South Africa moved from their overnight 29-0 to 160-1 at lunch today with Smith looking imperious on 84 off 155 balls and the reliable Hashim Amla also unbeaten on 53 off 80.

Together they have put on 125 in 30 overs – a record second-wicket partnership at this historic ground against England – at a cracking rate of just over four an over. Only rain can save England now, and the clouds are rolling in after a bright morning.

A win for South Africa– which would see this absorbing series drawn 1-1 and the hosts retain the Basil D’Oliviera trophy – looks more likely by the over.

And with every run Smith makes, England’s sense of frustration will grow given the events of this morning, where the review system once more failed to ensure Test cricket isfree of grinding injustice.

The South African leader, not the most lovable of cricketers, should have been long gone. After patiently guiding his side through a sticky evening session involving a rain break and floodlights last night, he had a wild slash at birthday boy Ryan Sidebottom after just four overs this morning – when he had scored just 15.

Sidebottom, 32 today, certainly thought Smith had got a touch to wicketkeeper Matt Prior with his uncharacteristic attempted cut off the final ball of his second over – and the entire England side went up with Stuart Broad particularly vociferous in his appeal, marching around his his arms up.

While on-field umpire Tony Hill remained curiously unmoved, England captain Andrew Strauss immediately called for a review. And after the initial problems with the new-fangled system, he only does that when he’s sure something’s wrong.

The music played, the replays rolled... and England’s celebrating fielders could hardly believe it when television umpire Daryl Harper said he heard nothing on the stump mike and backed New Zealander Hill’s not-out verdict.

Ashes-winner Matthew Hoggard, emerging from the SABC commentary box, told me: “There was a definite noise. I don’t understand why it wasn’t given. Once we’d turned the sound up, it was quite clear.

“Perhaps the television umpire had a problem with the feed from the pitch mike. But without hotspot, it’s so difficult.”

Hotspot technology shows an infra-red image of where the ball hits the bat. Though it is functioning for reviews in Australia’s current series against Pakistan, it is not available here, making catches behind difficult to give.

But since then I’ve even had fans coming up saying they heard the nick – and texts from South African fans in London, watching Sky, laughing at their captain’s luck. In fact, I’ve just been interviewed by SABC television, giving the Evening Standard’s verdict on their conscience-free captain.

Australian television umpire Harper, already under fire for not giving a no ball when Alastair Cook was out LBW yesterday, will come under further scrutiny from the England camp – though Paul Collingwood said last night England were more acceptant of that decision after further review of the tapes.

But he confirmed England coach Andy Flower had made a brief visit to match referee Rohsan Mahanama after that decision.

Another visit may be required after Smith’s let off. The Standard’s Jon Agnew, seething in the Test Match Special box, twittered: “Interesting how Smith deals with this afterwards. Will it be a 'special' innings in light of having stood on 15? There will be replay after replay.”

England’s disappointment was eased an over later when they grabbed their only wicket of the morning (see picture above). Ashwell Prince prodded forward at Broad – who looked really fired-up this morning after being told where to go by Jacques Kallis when he got out yesterday – and the thick edge flew to Graeme Swann at slip. No doubt about that one.

The first slip catch of the Test so far left South Africa, 29-0 after those 12 sticky overs last night, 36-1 in the 17th over. But that was as good as it got for England.

The batsman formerly known as Prince (as they like to call him here) did brilliantly to survive two hostile spells amid the rain break and badlight last night, but all that hard work -19 runs off 48 balls - was in vain and he attempted to fend off a good, rising delivery.

Amla marched out to join his captain and together they survived a difficult early morning session. With the sun baking the life out of yesterday’s jumpy strip – and limiting the swing for England’s seamers - South Africa’s 50 came up six overs into the morning session.

Broad and Sidebottom were getting movement and finding a good length... but without the constant menace provided by the pace of Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel in their devastating opening 12-over spell yesterday, when four England wickets fell for less than 40 runs.

As Steyn said last night: “When you have conditions like this, where the ball is doing things off a track like this, you have to fill you boots. It doesn’t happen that often in Test cricket – but it often happens at the Wanderers.”

Steyn, who took 5-51 yesterday, also expressed his surprise at the decision to axe Graham Onions – the legendary No11 bat and useful seamer – for Sidebottom. He said: “Sir Graham Onions, that’s what they’re calling him isn’t it? He might have been dangerous on this pitch. I don’t understand why they changed a winning side.”

Sidebottom was unable to justify the selectors’ decision with a wicket – he has bowled 13 overs, 0-32 so far- and before lunch England had resorted to the spin of Graeme Swann and the medium pace of Collingwood as smug Smith and ambling Amla helped South Africa take a stranglehold on the final Test.

Labels: birthday, , , hashim amla, hotspot technology, injustice, review system, ryan sidebottom,

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

England battle against the inevitable as Broad puts his foot in it

ENGLAND refused to accept the inevitable in Cape Town today, getting rid of two major South African obstacles on the fourth morning of the crucial third Test.

But Andrew Strauss's weary men are still staring defeat in the face as the hosts, despite the loss of Graeme Smith (183) and Jacques Kallis (46) moved on to 397-4 at lunch, a crushing lead of 415.

Though it may be impossible to rule out anything after Australia's unbelievable victory over Pakistan in Sydney this morning, England need something pretty spectacular to escape a series-levelling defeat here.

The highest winning fourth innings score at this ground on the slopes of Table Mountain is 334-6, made when Australia beat South Africa in 2002... though the West Indies managed 354-5 when they held on for a draw at Newlands in 2004.

Still, considering their hopeless position, England's seamers - pilloried on the front page of the local Cape Times for causing a "BALL TAMPERING FURORE" this morning - plugged away.

The morning session saw just 85 runs off 24 overs as South Africa failed to produce the expected pre-declaration acceleration.

England's first success came with the departure of captain Graeme Smith for a magnificent 183. And his final denouement came courtesy of what was later revealed to be a Graham Onions no ball.

Smith chose the perfect time to produce his best of the series so far, hitting 25 fours in a six-and-a-half hour match-turning knock which lasted from 11.14am yesterday to 11.13am today before he skied one to the reliable Paul Collingwood at fine leg. Of course, if he'd risked a review, the Onions over-step would have been spotted, and he would probably have batted all day.

But such slices of good fortune were rare for England, who had to wait a further ten overs before removing the obdurate first innings centurion Kallis for 46. This time it was Anderson who claimed the scalp, caught behind by Matt Prior to make it 376-4, a lead of nearly 400.

AB De Villiers and Ashwell Prince stuck together until lunch without the expected fireworks. Clearly the South Africans think they will only need four sessions to get rid of England and level the series at 1-1 before the final Test at the Wanderers in Johannesburg next Sunday.

You can't blame the batsman formerly known as Prince for his reticence. He had been scuppered for golden ducks in his last two innings against England and scrambled to lunch with a tip-toed five off 11 balls while De Villiers did the job with more aplomb, scoring 32 off 45.

The only England seamer without a wicket so far is Stuart Broad. Ironic really. It was his foot (see above) which caused the so-called furore this morning.

He chose to stop a drive with his studded boot just after lunch yesterday, saying afterwards he was too tired to bend over and retrieve it in temperatures approaching 40 degrees.
The South Africans saw it differently. They replayed footage of the incident on television again and again, added a bit of Jimmy Anderson ball-picking and came up with screaming allegations of ball tampering, which they referred to match referee Roshan Mahanama.

South African coach Mickey Arthur said after the last Test - which England won by an innings and 98 runs - he couldn't work out how Broad had produced the reverse swing which saw his side capitulate. He clearly thinks he knows now, and as I speak, the South African Broadcasting Association are apparently searching for footage from Kingsmead to prove further tampering.

But as England boss Andy Flower said when told of the allegations: "This amazing amount of reverse swing gained from Broadie standing on the ball clearly hasn't worked."

The ICC are set to release a statement saying they will not take any action over South Africa's concerns and Geoff Boycott's exclusive assessment in the loo downstairs? "Ball tampering? There's nothing going on at all. The umpires looked at the ball and found nothing. It's just a media thing."

Labels: ball tampering, , , , icc statement, jimmy anderson, neal collins at Newlands,

Ball tampering my foot... or is this just a massive leg pull?

THIS is it, the picture which has got the whole of South Africa in a lather. Stuart Broad's foot coming into contact with the ball on day three of the third Test in Cape Town.
The front page splash in the Cape Times decided to ignore the record temperatures, the packed crowds and South Africa's incredible 312-2 yesterday, choosing instead to run the banner: BALL TAMPERING FURORE.
Broad, not the most popular figure here, and Jimmy Anderson, the second-best wicket taker in the series behind Graeme Swann, both stand accused.
Broad for an innocent stop with his foot just before lunch yesterday, Anderson for picking at the quarter-seam. Images of both have been repeated again and again by the South African Broadcasting Association on television here and around the world.
While their captain Graeme Smith has just been out for a potentially match-winning, series-levelling 183 and the dominant hosts extend their lead to 366 with seven wickets in hand on another steamy morning here at Newlands, South Africa have now said they won't be making an official complaint to the ICC.
Instead, we await a statement after they "made clear their concerns" to match referee Roshan Mahanama.
Poor old England. They just can't win. First Kevin Pietersen gets wrongly accused of throwing beer at South African fans. Now they are hit with allegations of ball tampering on a day when South Africa seemed to cope rather well with anything Broad or Anderson threw at them. Between them they bowled 26 overs and took 0-103 yesterday. Neil Manthorpe, the British-born SABC frontman, raises the question: How did Broad get such great reverse swing in the last Test at Kingsmead and apparently they are going through the footage, checking for further fiddling. South Africa coach Mickey Arthur also asked the question after the spell which turned the second Test from a well-balanced contest into an innings and 98 run victory for England.
But the best comment on this subject comes from England coach, Andy Flower. The Cape Town-born Zimbabwean said simply: "This amazing amount of reverse swing gained from Stuart standing on the ball obviously hasn't worked today!"
Both captain Andrew Strauss and Flower are seething over this latest attack on England's integrity and Flower added: "The umpires or match referee haven't said anything to us. A lot of tall fast bowlers stop the ball with their boots so I don't see anything sinister in it at all."

Broad insists he stopped the ball with his boot because he couldn't be bothered to stoop for the ball in the near 40 degree heat which left the 7,000-strong Barmy Army bright red yesterday. They don't like him here, perhaps because his father Chris is a match referee or because he got a bit stroppy after his dismissal on review in Centurion.

Flower added: "I thought our bowlers were very skilful in the way they swung the ball at Durban. They did it a bit in the First Test at Centurion as well. Both sides know how to get the ball to reverse swing.

"It is a very well-documented skill. By shining the ball on your trousers you get a smooth side and that helps reverse swing."

Labels: ball tampering, , england in cape town, , james anderson, jimmy anderson, record temperatures, , third Test

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

England. We just don't do ball tampering very well, Broadly speaking. And prepare for the decider at the Wanderers

SO NOW we know. England are very, very bad at ball-tampering. And South Africa are a very, very fussy bunch.

Tonight’s discussion after day three of the vital third Test at a blistering Newlands did not centre on the incredible heat, the record second wicket partnership between centurion Graeme Smith and the unlucky Hashim Amla. Nor even the way South Africa took a vice-like grip on the match.

No, it all came down Stuart Broad using his studded boot to stop a cricket ball. They showed it again and again on video, then the Seffeffrikens released a statement saying: "There have been several queries from the media about various video footage shown today, and certain allegations being made about the ball.

"We have raised our concerns with the match referee about it and we've left it to him to decide if any further action or investigation is necessary."

Great. They have a thing about Broad here. Too cocky. Too argumentative. Almost like a South African when he perceives a sporting injustice.

But hold on a moment. South Africa scored a mammoth 312 for the loss of just two wickets today... they’re 330 ahead with Smith unbeaten on 162 with the man mountain Jacques Kallis not out at the other end. Just how much ball tampering can a bloke get up to and still bowl all day in 40-degree heat without success? And is stopping a ball with your foot really worth bothering the match referee with?

England team director Andy Flower was left to defend the daft allegations: “I don't think it is a big issue. It was a long, hot day and he put his foot out and stopped the ball. All he did was stop the ball."

Quite rightly, Flower was blooming concerned with England’s fate. The Cape Town born Zimbabwean Test batsman admitted: "The South Africans played superbly today. It was very hot. A tough day for the boys. The wicket flattened out a little bit and there wasn't much movement for the seamers.

"We worked hard and Graeme Swann (who took the wickets of Ashwell Prince and Amla to take his series tally to 17) bowled well but without much luck."

"Tomorrow we have got to attack with the new ball. We have seen wickets fall early on all the days so far. We have definitely got to attack early.

"The first two days produced very difficult batting conditions, today was easier. We don't know what sort of conditions are going to arrive tomorrow. If it plays as easy as it has today, we have got a chance."

But not much of a chance. This one is going South Africa’s way with more record-breaking temperatures threatening in the morning, though a draw by an obdurate England is by no means out of the question.

Still, if we get to the Wanderers on January 14 with the series at 1-1, we’d have taken that before this series started against a side who needed to win 2-0 to go back above India as the world’s best Test side.

Labels: ball tampering, , hashim amla, ,

Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Second Test, final day: Two down, two to go. All over by lunch. Surely?

ENGLAND now need two more wickets on the final day of the second Test at Kingsmead. The county team-mates Stuart Broad and Graeme Swann have once more tied the home side up in Notts on the final day of the second Test, taken a wicket each.
Both now have four, South Africa are 118-8 still needing 112 to make England bat again.
South Africa needed another 155 when they finished on 76/6 last night - the umpires revised the score after play.
There was a bogus overthrow. The South African journalists in the box are calling, jokingly, for a replay. One precious run has been taken from Ian Bell's 141. One of unwanted single has been taken from Makhaya Ntini's bowling analysis of 29-4-115-0.
It won't make a difference. Graeme Swann has just got Morne Morkel plumb LBW, 86-7. Then, on review, Broad got Mark Boucher, clearly caught off the glove by Prior for 29 to make it 108-8.
This will be over by lunchtime and then it can rain as much as it likes and the umpires can wave their light meters about all they like.
Begone all those who said last night: "We can't lose from here." Of course we can't! It was always a win. Sure, Dale Steyn and JP Duminy turned the Boxing Day Test against Australian in Melbourne last year from a surefire defeat into an epic victory.
But not here, not now. England are made of sterner stuff.
Boucher and Morkel walked out to resume the partnership they began when their nation was teetering on the brink at 50-6 with the captain Graeme Smith shuffling back to the pavilion last night.
They added 36. As Graeme Swann began the second over of the morning, it was overcast but bright. England had a short leg, a gully, slip and a silly point. One squeezed through the gap. Agony. But then escstasy, Morkel goes, bang in front. Swann always takes a wicket in his first over on this tour. As Ian Bell said last night: "He can always make things happen, he's proved it again and again." In fact, Swann has struck four times in his first over and we're only two Tests in.
Boucher was next, gloving to Prior off the superb Broad (pictured above, asking unpicked Adil Rashid for a drink this morning) who is consistently beating the bat.
Paul Collingwood, who dislocated his left index finger in the warm-up yesterday, is apparently going to be fit for the New Year Test but Luke Wright is on for him. I've just seen him watching, powerless to intervene, from the dressing room.
Don't worry Colly. England are heading to Cape Town 1-0 up in the series. Fact.

Labels: , dramatic win, , , , , , neal collins in durban, second Test, sensational collapse, , worst day

Tuesday, 29 December 2009

England fire as South Africa are tied up in Notts... with a little help from Hoggy

MATTHEW HOGGARD did the trick for England today. With a little help from the Barmy Army. Yes Hoggy, the Ashes-winning former Yorkshire paceman, played his part today as Andrew Strauss's mighty men took a stranglehold on the second Test in muggy Durban.
Did I say muggy? England have mugged the mugs on day four, rattling up a mammoth 575-9 declared to take a 231 lead over the hosts, then reducing the South Africans to 76-6. Yes, that's SIX. They still need another 156 to make England bat again. Incredible scenes, amazing stuff.
Half-a-dozen wickets for 23 runs in 12 overs with county team-mates Stuart Broad (3-18) and Graeme Swann (3-22) tying 'em up in Notts
Hoggy, in his pink South African Broadcasting Corporation top, chose the perfect moment to join the Barmy Army, massed in the south corner of the East Stand. South Africa were 27-0 after nine overs and apparently cruising.
While Hoggy stood beneath Vic "Jimmy Saville" Flower's waving Union Jack (see picture above, you can just make him out, I'm no photographer!) the volume rose and rose. First "Jerusalem", then "There's Only One Matthew Hoggard". Then, as England turned to Graeme Swann, they began a chorus of "Never Trust A Spinner", with Hoggy, the subject of a thousand flashing cameras and Test Match Special, in full voice.
And lo, it came to pass on Swann's second ball of the day Ashwell Prince failed to deal with the turn, getting an inside edge on to his pad which was brilliantly picked up by Ian Bell, back in his favourite position at short leg. Bell, who scored a magnificent 141 to give England the impetus today, went potty. Some catch. Some bloke.
Suddenly South Africa, who had been cruising, were vulnerable. Hoggy had worked the magic.
And it only got better. Hashim Amla, the local hero who refuses to profit from his side's brewery sponsors because of his Muslim roots, went just before tea, bowled by the magnificent Swann for 6. Two failures on his home ground. Unthinkable for Amla, whose century turned the drawn first Test South Africa's way in Centurion.
With Jacques Kallis joining captain Graeme Smith, South Africa were firmly up against the wall. But these were their two go-to guys, the old warhorses. Stubborn, reliable. And then came the ball of the day. Stuart Broad, in from the Umgeni end, got the ball to nip back a veritable mile off the seam and Kallis's off-stump flew out of the ground. The poor bloke didn't even get to play a shot. Did it happen because the tide was in? Locals say it helps. And it was high tide at 1.40pm.
What a moment though, what a turning of the tide. The Barmy Army lapped it up. South Africa were 40-3 and sinking fast.
AB De Villiers was next, he got out twice. First he survived on review after touching Swann to Prior - the replay showed deviation though apparently not conclusively - but an over later he was gone for good after a second review, LBW to Broad.
That left South Africa 44-4. Broad had his tail up. Kaboom! The once prolific JP Duminy came, saw and was conquered in a single ball, clean bowled for a golden duck. Another one to go without playing a shot. These South Africans are quacking up!
Then, the big one. Captain Smith goes down with his ship. Swann got one through, rapped the pads plumb in front and though he waited for a desperate review, he knew... and was gone for 22 off 56 balls.
With South Africa 50-6 and the floodlights on, the stereo-typical last gasp resistance came from Mark Boucher, impressive throughout this series, and Morne Morkel, South Africa's best bowler in both Tests so far.
At 76-6 with 16 overs still to come, the umpires, those lords of darkness, decided it was too dark to continue at 22 minutes past four in the afternoon. Shocking!
But with a day to play and "partly cloudy, little chance of rain" the forecast for Durban tomorrow, surely this can only end one way - and England will go to Cape Town for the New Year Test 1-0 up in the series.

Labels: collapse, , , , , hashim amla, , incredible, , matthew hoggard, neal collins in durban,

Day four: Tea: England soaring, Swanny spinning, Hoggy singing,

MATTHEW HOGGARD did the trick for England today. With a little help from the Barmy Army.
Yes Hoggy, the Ashes-winning Yorkshire paceman, played his part today as England took a stranglehold on the second Test in muggy Durban.
Did is say muggy? England have mugged the mugs on day four, rattling up a mammoth 575-9 declared to take a 231 lead over the hosts, then taking early wickets to leave the South Africans teetering on 45-5. Incredible scenes, amazing stuff.
Five wickets for 17 runs in nine overs of county team-mates Stuart Broad and Graeme Swann tying 'em up in Notts
Hoggy, in his pink South African Broadcasting Corporation top, chose the perfect moment to join the Barmy Army, massed in the south corner of the East Stand. South Africa were 27-0 after nine overs and apparently cruising.
While Hoggy stood beneath Vic "Jimmy Saville" Flower's waving Union Jack (see picture above) the volume rose and rose. First "Jerusalem", then "There's Only One Matthew Hoggard". Then, as England turned to Graeme Swann, they began a chorus of "Never Trust A Spinner", with Hoggy, the subject of a thousand flashing cameras, in full voice.
And lo, it came to pass on Swann's second ball of the day. Ashwell Prince failed to deal with the turn, getting an inside edge on to his pad which was brilliantly picked up by Ian Bell, back in his favourite position at short leg. Bell, who scored a magnificent 141 to give England the impetus today, went potty. Some catch. Some bloke.
Suddenly South Africa, who had been cruising, were vulnerable. Hoggy had worked the magic.
And it only got better. Hashim Amla, the local hero who refuses to profit from his side's brewery sponsors because of his Muslim roots, went just before tea, bowled by the magnificent Swann for 6. Two failures on his home ground. Unthinkable for Amla, whose century turned the drawn first Test South Africa's way in Centurion.
With Jacques Kallis joining captain Graeme Smith, South Africa were firmly up against the wall. But these were there two go-to guys, the old warhorses. Stubborn, reliable. And then came the ball of the day. Stuart Broad, in from the Umgeni end, got the ball to nip back a veritable mile off the seam and Kallis's off-stump flew out of the ground. The poor bloke didn't even get to play a shot.
What a moment. The Barmy Army lapped it up. South Africa were 40-3 and the calm resolution was disappearing fast.
AB De Villiers was next, he got out twice. First he survived on review after touching Swann to Prior - the replay showed deviation but apparently not conclusively - but an over later he was gone for good after a second review, LBW to Broad.
That left South Africa 44-4. Broad had his tail up. Kaboom! The once prolific JP Duminy came, saw and was conquered in a single ball, clean bowled for a golden duck. Another one to go without playing a shot. These South Africans are quacking up!

Labels: barmy army, , , , matthew hoggard, neal collins in durban, second Test,

South Africa can't live with England, Living with the Lions is more comfortable!

ENGLAND have declared for 575-9 just after lunch on day four of the second Test in Durban and the South Africans trail by nearly 231 with Ian Bell just out for a magnificent 141.
The hosts will have to bat a day-and-a-half to save this Test, the tide's coming in, the clouds are low and anything could happen - apart from England losing. Brilliant, despite Paul Collingwood dislocating a finger during the warm-up this morning. The good news? It's not fractured. The bad news, his back's still bad too.
But this game is all about Alastair Cook and Bell - both desperate for a bit of form - joining the centurions on the honours board here at Kingsmead. Since the Apartheid isolation from1970-1992, the board shows Nasser Hussain, Marcus Trescothick and Andrew Strauss from 1999 and 2004.
To that, add the gritty Cook and ding-dong Bell. In the margins, remember the fifty-plus contributions of Strauss, Collingwood and Prior, who went for 60 this morning. The wicket-keeper batsman is back.
After missing out on a win by one wicket in the first clash at Centurion, Graeme Smith's men could yet find themselves 1-0 down when we get to Cape Town for the New Year Test at Newlands next week. We can but hope. The cloud is back and the light could shorten the day, even if they put the floodlights on, given the way the dark lords of umpiring have behaved so far at Kingsmead.
But before we get into all that, let me introduce my party of tourists from Living With The Lions. Hardy souls, able to sit through hour after hour of tedium and appreciate the subtleties over five days. And good company over an evening meal here in Durban too.
From the left, Colin from York, who still plays for his local club with his son, Fred the umpire and wife Sylvia who makes the big decisions, Mike and Mary, who know everything about Somerset, Claire, who always wants a burger even in the finest restaurants, and husband Mark, who constantly advises me to wear long trousers. What's wrong with my knees?
Then we've got big Brett Lingley, our superb tour leader from Living With The Lions who grew up around here, followed by the Burnley foursome, Andy, wife Allison and the boys, who all insist on supporting the Premier League nonentities. At the front? That's me. Pratt. Oh, Mary and Roger had gone for lunch. Sorry!

Labels: , , century, , , , , living with the lions, new year test, second Test,

Saturday, 26 December 2009

Boxing Day Test: Lunch, day one: Two wickets then too hot as England face the Durban hothouse

WELCOME to a world where thousands of people lug jugs of lager around in the blazing sun at 8am Greenwich Meantime on Boxing Day.
To a city where you sweat in the shade, melt in the sun. To a ground where England are being baked into submission after a promising start to the second Test at Kingsmead.
Durban when the sun comes out in summer is a tropical paradise. If you have constant access to air-conditioning or a swimming pool.
For pale British cricketers, it can be hell. For the first 12 overs, as I predicted, James Anderson, Graham Onions and Stuart Broad were able to bowl their hearts out on a track which had a bit of life in it.
Then, on the hottest day of the summer so far - just as it had been in Centurion - the withering heat and 90 percent humidity began to tell.
Anderson got Ashwell Prince (2) to nick to Graeme Swann at second slip in the third over. In the tenth, Broad came on after Onions' impressive opening spell, and immediately trapped the Centurion centurion and local hero Hashim Amla (2) bang in front LBW.
At 1-3 and 2-10, South Africa were in all sorts of trouble after Graeme Smith had won the toss and elected to bat. But they were assisted by touring coach Andy Flower as England refused to change their side and kept the lamentable Ian Bell as non-scoring batsman No6 instead of drafting in another seamer in Ryan Sidebottom or the all-rounder Luke Wright.
And for the rest of the morning spell, they paid for that. By lunch we had Jonathan Trott, at best an occasional Test bowler, coming on from the Hilton Hotel end with his wobbly dobblers. Ridiculous.
This was a day for four seamers, with a bit of swing in the air early on and hellish conditions to come this afternoon. Smith (29) and the old warhorse Jacques Kallis (28) have added 67 for the third wicket.
England only managed 25 overs rather than the expected 30 this morning, and they face two torrid sessions before the blazing sun goes down over the Berea ridge overlooking the city.
Down in the bowels of the main stand, the honours boards, Lord's-style, show the centurions and five-wicket bowlers going back to 1923, when, like Wembley, Kingsmead first staged an international.
Then this curious gap between 1970 and 1992. Those are the 22 years local cricketers gave up to Apartheid. Barry Richards, Mike Procter and dozens of other talented South Africans were forced to miss the best Test years of their careers because of their nation's disgraceful political system. Just before isolation, they whipped Australia 4-0 with Richards, Procter and both Pollocks tearing the convicts apart.
Things have changed, they've even dug up the old pictures of local Indian and black cricket to adorn the walls, where once it was all white on the night.
Outside though, few of the local Zulus can be bothered with the men in white who spend five days in the sun eking out a draw. They prefer the brand new Moses Madibe Stadium a mile away, purpose-built for the World Cup next year.
Kingsmead remains a typically old-school South African crowd, though the cricket-mad Asians, a massive presence in Durban, once restricted to a small section of the east stand, can now mingle as they wish.
A packed crowd of nearly 20,000, around 5,000 of them British, have been downing jugs of lager since 8am British time. Castle Corner, the notorious Kingsmead nook, are waiting to laugh at us. It has been packed since 9.30am this morning with big, red-backed men and scantily clad women (see above) and the odd surfer dude.
This is what Boxing Day cricket should be all about. Us larking about in the sun while England freezes over.
If only we'd picked Sidebottom. If only Andrew Strauss had won the toss. Meanwhile, we shall make the best of it. Where's that sunscreen...?

Labels: boxing day test, castle corner, , , graham onions, jimmy anderson, , , neal collins cricket,

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Beware the Christmas sack, Broady. Flower's words of wisdom before Boxing Day Test

STUART BROAD faces the Christmas sack if he doesn’t accept umpires’ decisions when the Boxing Day Test starts on Saturday.

The 6ft 7in England all-rounder, left, has been told by coach Andy Flower: “If an umpire gives you, just go,” after his outburst in the drawn first Test in Centurion.

Broad was given out under the controversial Decision Review System last Friday but felt the South Africans had taken too long to appeal when he was given not out for an lbw but was given the electronic finger by HawkEye.

Amid suggestions the South African coach Mickey Arthur had advised his side to go to the DRS from his television in the dressing room, Broad first remonstrated with on-field umpires Aleem Dar and Steve Davis before storming off to the television room to have a strong word with match referee Roshan Mahanama.

At the time Broad – whose dad Chris is a match referee - claimed he had stayed calm but former England captain Michael Vaughan he felt the Nottinghamshire man was lucky to escape without punishment.

It was a poor First Test all-round for Broad, who took 1-74 and and 2-58 with the ball while managing 17 and 0 with the bat, both dismissals coming after reviews as the opening clash ended in a tense draw, with England hanging on with a wicket to spare.

Flower, no fan of the new review system, said: “I have spoken with Broady about the incident. But he’s not over-stepping the mark. I certainly don't think Stuart will be suspended soon.

"He's a competitive bloke and he's desperate to contribute to winning games for England.

"I'm not a fan of the review system because I don't like the questioning of the umpires. I prefer the old style where the umpire makes a decision and you get on with it.

"I spoke with the match referee, Roshan Mahanama with Broady. I was there. Everyone is getting used to the decision review system. The extended delay (estimated at 34 seconds) in calling for that review contributed to him questioning what was happening. But I agree that, if an umpire gives you out, you should go. Broady and I have spoken about that.”

Former England captain Vaughan, clearly intent on making his name for himself as an analyst since retirement, said: "There is something a little bit annoying about Broad, he always seems to be complaining to the umpire. He needs to be careful. He could end up being banned for a couple of games."

England look like sticking with the controversial policy of using six batsman, leaving Broad, Jimmy Anderson, Graham Onions and Graeme Swann to struggle in the oppressive humidity of Durban. Suggestions that seamer Ryan Sidebottom should replace out-of-form batsman Ian Bell were dismissed by Flower.

He said: “I think Belly will be fine. He had a tough Test. So did opener Alastair Cook. But I think they will do things for us in this series.”

South African are continuing to monitor the progress of Dale Steyn, the world’s No1 Test bowler, after he withdrew from the first Test at the last minute. If Steyn recovers from his hamstring injury he is likely to replace Makhaya Ntini, who won his 100th cap at Centurion but failed to impress.

Labels: andy flower, boxing day test, , controversy, , , , , row,

Saturday, 19 December 2009

Swann's underpants get South Africa in a twist

ENGLAND’S unexpected resurgence at the end of day three became a real fightback at the start of day four today at the first Test in Centurion, where the sun always Add Imageshines.
Out of the game at lunch-time yesterday, the visitors fought back in the heat with a record 106-run partnership between Graeme Swann and Jimmy Anderson plus the wicket of Ashwell Prince last night, leaving the hosts with a lead of 71.
By lunch-time, they had South Africa 80-4, a lead of just 142 with six wickets in hand. If England are left to chase around 250 on the final day, anything could happen.
This morning they needed just two overs to make their first strike when nightwatchman Paul Harris was caught with his knickers in a twist. Well, not literally.
Jimmy Anderson’s delivery was shaping just wide of his leg stump when the ball caught in his trousers and was dragged back onto the wicket. Bowled for 11, South Africa 20-2.
What was it Swannie (above) said last night: “We’ll get the non-batsman out in the morning and go from there!” And that was with his arch-rival Harris standing at the back of the room, waiting to talk to the media!
South Africa lost their second of the morning, third of the innings, when Graeme Onions produced a corker which might have bent back a bit and captain Graeme Smith was gone for 12, a rare double failure for the man who ducked out so early in the first innings. South Africa 34-3.
But it was the wicket of Kallis which England really wanted and it came in unexpected fashion. The veteran South African all-rounder, who scored a magnificent 120 in the first innings, lost patience with the grinding defence and sweltering heat.
He had scored just four off 32 balls when he rocked back in an attempt to smack Stuart Broad high over the fence. He didn’t quite get hold of it and there was Alastair Cook to pouch a well-judged catch on the mid-wicket boundary and silence the roar of a growing crowd at Centurion. That left South Africa 4-64 and it was game on.
These vital early wickets may have something to do with the garb worn by yesterday’s batting hero Swann, who scored a Test-best 85 to keep England in the game.
He issued this Twitter before play: “I am wearing my lucky pants again today, despite them being a trifle crusty. Let's hope for wickets this morning."
Swann, who took 5-110 in the first innings, was unlucky not to join the wicket-takers when he had a good LBW appeal against Hashim Amla turned down on review. It was out, apparently, but no out enough. Outside the zone of certainty is the term they seem to be using.
Stuart Broad has defended his behaviour after being given LBW on review despite a not out decision from umpire Aleem Dar, a decision which may just have inspired Swann. Broad was unhappy about the 34-second delay between the ball hitting his pads and the South Africans asking for a review.
He said: "I did not see any signal from the South Africa management. I was merely saying to the umpires that the amount of time the whole process took was wrong and would provide an opportunity for the system to be manipulated. There was no suggestion that I was querying the decision. Replays showed that I was absolutely dead in front - it was just the time it took to get there."
On his meeting with match referee Roshan Mahanama in the television room, which looked a bit lively from where I was sitting, Broad said: "It was completely calm and civilised and the referee was very understanding. He said the whole process was trial and error and that hopefully any teething problems would be sorted out.
"There was no suggestion from the referee that I am facing any disciplinary action and I don't see any reason why there should be. I wasn't rude and I haven't done anything wrong."

Labels: england versus south africa, , , ,

Friday, 18 December 2009

Broad fury as he falls to the electronic finger

STUART BROAD’S brave resistance was ended by Hawkeye at Centurion today as the controversial Umpire Decision Referral System left England reeling once more.

Umpire Aleem Dar gave the Nottinghamshire paceman not out when he was rapped on the pads by the innocuous slow bowling of JP Duminy with England teetering on 242-7.

The South Africans had a chat and 34 seconds later, they decided to appeal – and despite the ball appearing to pitch outside the line of off-stump, Broad was given the electronic finger. Furious, he appealed to the umpires but high in the stands, it was television official Amiesh Saheba who needed a talking to.

And Broad did exactly that – we’ve just seen him walking out of the television replay room here. His dad Chris, of course, is a well-known match referee and former Test opener. Broad jnr apparently feels the South Africans had been given a signal from the dressing-room, which is against the rules.

By then, England’s hopes of reaching parity with South Africa were all but over. At 281-8 with Graeme Swann (a startlingly confident 29) and Jimmy Anderson (a nearly as good 18) battling on, they are still 141runs behind thanks to a very average spinner and aided by the suicidal efforts of Ian Bell and Matt Prior.

There were snorts of derision when Bell left a straight one from Paul Harris, assuming he might actually turn the ball. It just went straight on and bowled him. Harris has 4-90. And he’s more Phil Tufnell than Muttiah Muralitharan, this fellow.

The once-docile first Test pitch, which allowed the home side to plod along to 418, has given way to a day-three demon which claimed captain Andrew Strauss just seven overs into the morning session, having added just two runs to his impressive overnight 44.

It was drinks all round as Makhaya Ntini, on his 100th appearance, got one to zip through low beneath Strauss’s desperate defence to rattle the furniture. Sponsors Castle lager are offering a free beer to everyone in the ground when Ntini takes a wicket. The Barmy Army were first in the queue, despite their chronic disappointment.

Suddenly the ease with which Strauss and Trott added 63 in 17 overs last night was forgotten. Ntini ran to sun-soaked fans, arms raised. His 389th wicket puts him one closer to Shaun Pollock’s South African record of 421 Test victims. Not a bad morning for South Africa’s first black cricketer, who had earlier received a congratulatory letter from Nelson Mandela, the former President who brought peace to this nation and added colour to their sports teams in 1993.

Following Johannesburg-born Strauss’s departure, Pietermaritzburg-born Pietersen came out to join Cape Town-born Trott. The only non-South African on the field? Harris, born in Salisbury, Rhodesia, now known as Harare, Zimbabwe.

Pietersen got a remarkably gentle welcome from the Centurion fans. The lack of boos was probably down to the free-flowing booze being handed out to the gathering of about 5,000.

Trott and Pietersen did their best to handle the conditions, surviving the odd shooter but looking distinctly uncomfortable until the arrival of the very ordinary spinner Harris.

Then Trott made the mistake of thinking Harris could turn the ball. He charged down the pitch, took a huge heave allowing for spin... and the ball simply kept dead straight and caught the top of his leg stump.

Just as Pietersen was getting into his stride. Morkel got one to nip, got an inside edge... and Pietersen was bowled for 40.

Worse was to follow. Ian Bell, who should have made way for all-rounder Luke Wright or seamer Ryan Sidebottom here, chose to shoulder arms to. Once more he must have assumed Harris actually turns the ball. It didn’t deviate, it just went straight on into the stumps. Incredible.

Harris must have thought Christmas had come early when, after facing 34 balls and scoring four runs, Matt Prior finally decided to have a go and popped one into the hands of Friedel de Wet.

And Harris’s tally went to four when, an over later, he actually turned one and Jacques Kallis took the catch at first slip to dismiss Paul Collingwood (above) for a fine 50 off 87 balls as England slumped to 221-7.

The review system put paid to Stuart Broad’s resistance. Despite the ball pitching outside off-stump, he went for 17 and JP Duminy, another average spinner, had his first wicket. It’s painful to watch. But Swann and Anderson were soon showing the so-called batsmen how to go about it, plundering late runs and closing the gap as day three drifted to a sweaty close.

Labels: argument, , , , Paul Collingwood umpire,