Tim Nielsen hasn't quite got the hang of when to resign and when not to resign, has he?
You'd have thought that being hammered at home by England and losing three Tests by an innings would be an ideal opportunity to hand in your notice. Not Tim.
Or even being knocked out of the World Cup at the quarter-final stage having been winners in the three previous tournaments. No, not Tim.
Failing that, you'd have thought that the publication of the Argus report and the fact that he was going to have to reapply for his job would be the final straw for Tim nice but ever so dim. Nope, don't be silly.
So, you'd have thought that following up the one day series win in Sri Lanka by beating the home side in the Test series would have left Nielsen feeling vindicated for his refusal to fall on his sword.
No, not Tim. He decided to resign.
Like every Englishman (and Sourav Ganguly?) we really hop that Greg Chappell gets the job.
We've been racking our brains at the Reverse Sweep to understand why Australia have replaced one inexperienced and sub-standard left arm spinner in Xavier Doherty with another in Michael Beer who has even less first-class experience.
We think that we may know the answer. And it is a remarkably simple explanation.
As the Australian selectors convened and Chairman Andrew Hiditch called the meeting to order, he explained that they had a number of tricky choices to make and suggested that they start with the specialist spinner position.
"I think we would all agree that Punter's gamble on his Tasmanian mate hasn't worked. Unfortunately, Xavier doesn't have the X-Factor" Hidlitch may have said.
"The choice seems to be either going back to Little Nathan, or maybe picking another left-arm spinner like Steve O'Keefe or even this guy that Warney has mentioned called Michael Beer. What do you think?"
At this point, the waiter came to the table and asked what everyone wanted to drink.
"Beer" answered David Boon, still thinking wistfully of his recently sacked mate Merv Hughes.
"I'll go for beer too" agreed Jamie Cox.
"Why not, I'll have beer as well" said Greg Chappell.
"Ok, Beer it is" said Hilditch. "That was remarkably easy. Now that's move on to Marcus North's position..."
Balance tips to Australia as Hussey exits the Last Chance Saloon
We've written recently that Michael Hussey looked shot as a test batsman. Now that we've wiped the egg off our face - and in our defence he only averaged 34 in his previous 28 tests - we have to commend him on a courageous innings. Make no mistake when Hussey came to the crease he was playing for his career and when an edge dropped just short of slip to the first ball he faced, the butterflies in his stomach must have been fluttering harder. But he made most of his good fortune and bravely attacked rather than going into his shell - hitting Swann for three boundaries and a six early in his innings and being especially quick onto the pull when the bowlers dropped short. Hussey's positivity balanced well with an uncharacteristically patient innings from Brad Haddin as Australia recovered from a precarious 143/5 to close just 40 runs behind England's 260.
A good two days for the Australian selectors
Australia's selectors took a lot of flak when first naming a 17 man squad for this test and then for a number of contentious selections in the final XI. But Peter Siddle and Xavier Doherty repaid the faith of Chappell, Hilditch and co yesterday and Hussey did the same today. If Marcus North had done the same then the selectors would have had a full house, but three out of four isn't bad.
Australia's strategy against Graeme Swann is clear - they intend to attack him and hit him out of the attack. At first, the tactics were a success as the spinner's first four overs cost 34 runs. But Swann is nothing if not tough and even if it wasn't one of his better days he fought back well to have North caught at slip and concede just 25 runs from his next 16 overs.
Swann's refusal to buckle was mirrored by that of his team mates. Previous England teams would have given up the ghost after being bowled out for 260 and then seeing Australia reach 78/0. But Strauss and Flower have created a culture of resilience and with all the seamers bowling well to restrict Australia to a run rate of less than three runs an over, England fought their way back into the match. Australia have the slight edge, but with a new ball available immediately tomorrow morning and his bowlers refreshed from a night's sleep, Strauss will be confident that they can bounce back again.
Anderson and Watson go toe to toe
The battle in the first session of the day between Anderson and Watson was Test Cricket at its best with some real needle and genuine mutual animosity going on between the pair - indeed it seems clear that Watson is not popular amongst the England players: hmm we wonder why? At first the Australian held the upper hand and was batting well. He looked particularly smug when England's spurious referral to the third umpire for a leg before that was bouncing over was refused. But maybe it unsettled Watson as he edged the very next ball to Strauss at slip to give Anderson the last laugh this time.
Finn's spectacular dive
Steve Finn's inability to stay on his feet has caused much amusement during his short test career. But he used it to good effect to take a sharp full length diving caught and bowled to dismiss Simon Katich. For once, it was Finn that was laughing as he got to his feet. It was a dive of which Cristiano Ronaldo himself would have been proud.
Player of the day
It has to be Hussey for his career saving innings, even if England were guilty of dropping it short to him too often.
Zero of the day
A close call between Ricky Ponting for getting caught down the leg side just after lunch and Michael Clarke for his strange innings of 9 from 50 balls. We go for Clarke.
What happens next?
Tomorrow is boiling up to be the crucial one in the match. If Australia can see-off the new ball then they should be able to carve out a potentially decisive 100-150 run lead. However, if England make early in-roads we are likely to be down to a one innings match.
Daniel Gray of World Cricket Watch invites Greg Chappell to shake things up now that he is on the selection panel for Cricket Australia
Congratulations on the new role. I was pleased to hear of your promotion to such a key position in the Cricket Australia hierarchy, and I am relieved to know we finally have someone involved in the selection panel with the experience and the bravado to make the big calls.
I am sure Sourav will not disagree with me here.
As a long time supporter of the Australian cricket team, I am writing to humbly offer you some advice on a key revamp of the current landscape that I feel the media has been ignoring. It is glaringly obviously that there is something rotten in the state of … well, whichever state the National Selection Panel (NSP) are convening in this week.
While I was planning on writing an article pointing out all the shortcoming of the selectors in the past 5 years and how they have essentially failed in their rebuilding task as a group, instead I have decided to write something constructive, with a plan for the future to ensure Australia remains at the top of the cricketing world for years to come.
To put it bluntly, the makeup of the NSP is flawed. It is one-dimensional and therefore limited in its ability to not just pick the right side for this match, but one that shows the panel has both eyes on the future as well.
With the wealth of unique perspectives in the sporting world, is it not a little narrow-minded to have a selection team made up entirely of former players? I think it’s time Cricket Australia moved away from this old and failing model to something fitting the present and future of the great game.
Without further preamble, here are my recommendations for revamping the NSP.
For years, the AFL has been awarding the Brownlow medal to its best and fairest player of the regular season. Who is behind the voting for this prestigious award?
It is the umpires of each match. Not a group of former players. Those closest to the action are considered the best judges of performance, and rightly so.
With this in mind, I feel the NSP would greatly benefit from the inclusion of a former or current international umpire. Being out in the middle with players for hours and days at a time surely puts umpires in a great position to judge temperament, consistency and the like.
This could also be linked to state level by the appointment of an umpire who reports on shield performances directly to the umpire appointed to the NSP.
The next change I would make is the inclusion of a cricket writer on the panel. While journalists are not currently involved in the selection process in any sports I am aware of, they are frequently included in selecting the best on ground in numerous sports and are therefore used to critiquing performances and closely scrutinising players.
They would arguably watch as much cricket as anyone aside from players, coaches and umpires.
Thirdly, I would suggest the inclusion of a sports psychologist on the panel. This may be too much for the purists to handle, but hear me out.
Sports psychologists travel with the team and have constant contact will all members of the squad. They know players’ mental strengths and weaknesses, and therefore can assess their current state of mind and offer a unique perspective most likely not included in the current selection process.
As all state teams would employ a sports psychologist, they could report to the NSP member on potential state players being considered for elevation to the national level.
No former cricketers, you ask? Well, not necessarily.
A number of international umpires are former cricketers, as are a high percentage of cricket writers. While you remain in your current role, Mr. Chappell, we have a former Test captain on the panel, which is a huge strength and provides a wealth of experience to the process.
One last point, as I know you’re a busy man. The recent appointment of Troy Cooley to the Centre of Excellence appears to have left the national side without a bowling coach.
With the recent performances in India in mind, particularly of one Nathan Hauritz, could I suggest you keep this appointment in the family and appoint your brother Trevor? If the figures of our bowlers are any indication of what they were serving up on the sub-continent, I think rolling the ball along the pitch lawn bowls style may result in more success in the immediate future.
Whereas selecting the batsman to fill the number three role in an all-time Australian Ashes XI (see story here) was an extremely facile task, picking who is going to follow Bradman at four and five is a nigh on impossible exercise.
The longlist includes a plethora of great Australian batsmen in Allan Border, Steve Waugh, Greg Chappell, Neil Harvey, Clem Hill, Mark Waugh, Stan McCabe, Ricky Ponting and Charlie Macartney. Indeed, one could argue that you could put the above names in a hat and select any two of these to join the already selected Trumper, Morris and Bradman, and you would have an immensely strong batting line-up.
But for the purposes of this exercise we do need to pick two. So we will start by discarding Hill and Mark Waugh immediately - not because they weren't good players, but unlike the others they probably fell into the 'very good' rather than 'great' category. As Jimmy Ormond once famously retorted, Mark Waugh wasn't even the best cricketer in his own family.
So that leaves us with seven. Harvey's record against England (2416 runs at 38.34) was markedly worse than his overall test record (he averaged over 48) and as it is an Ashes XI we are selecting then fine player as he was that means he misses out.
Six left, which means four must miss out. But which four? Macartney (1640 Ashes runs at 43.15) was reputedly a devastating batsman who regularly demoralised English bowlers and achieved the notable feat of scoring a test hundred before lunch at Headingley in 1921. McCabe (1931 at 48.27) played two of the greatest Ashes innings ever at Sydney (187 not out) in the opening test of the Bodyline series and then 232 not out at Trent Bridge in 1938. The latter prompted Bradman to remark "If I could play an innings like that, I'd be a proud man". That's a pretty good reference.
Moving on to more recent times, Chappell (2154 at 43.95 with eight hundreds) and Ponting (2363 at 48.22 and also with eight hundreds) are formidable batsmen and like Macartney and McCabe have excellent records against England. All would be in contention for an all-time Australian XI, but when it comes to the Ashes it is the two remaining batsmen that stand out from the pack.
After Bradman, Border (3222 at 55.22) and Waugh (3173 at 58.75) are Australia's highest run scorers against England. Both offer similar gritty and determined styles, which admittedly is a reason for perhaps only picking one of them. But first Border is left handed so complements Waugh, and secondly a battle with the English is what brought the best out of both of them.
After being the losing captain in 1985 and 1986/87, you can bet your bottom dollar that Border would rather die than lose to the Poms again. And Waugh is built from similar granite, has ten Ashes hundreds - behind only Bradman and Hobbs - and was a thorn in England's side for such a long period that it is impossible to leave him out. Who can forget him coming back from injury at The Oval in 2001 and on one leg making yet another hundred? So after a lot of pondering it is Border and Waugh that get the vote.
Last year we wrote a post for World Cricket Watch, where we named our top 20 batsmen of all time. As we explained yesterday, now seems a good time to revisit this. Firstly, so we can extend the list this time to 30. But secondly, because we are prepared to admit that we erred somewhat last time in placing Sachin Tendulkar behind Ricky Ponting in the all-time batting pantheon. Given that the Ashes were on at the time, we must have done it out of fear that Ponting would inspire his side to retain the little urn.
Today, we count down numbers 20 to 11, before concluding tomorrow with the top 10. If you missed yesterday's post check out numbers 30-21.
20. Kumar Ranjitsinhji(England) – 15 tests, 2 100s, 6 50s, average 44.95, HS 170 - An Indian prince and giant of Victorian and Edwardian cricket, Ranji was credited with bringing several new strokes into the game including the late cut and was an early exponent of back foot defence. Widely considered to be one of the greatest batsmen of all time prior to World War I, Neville Cardus described the stylish and unorthodox Ranji as "the midsummer night's dream of cricket".
19. Allan Border(Australia) - 156 tests, 27 100s, 63 50s, average 50.56, HS 205 - Gritty, durable and determined. A.B was all of these, but he was also reputedly Australia's best player of spin for over 50 years. World Series Cricket allowed him an early opportunity in the test side and he didn't relinquish his chance and played a remarkable 153 consecutive test matches. As we were growing up, we certainly remember Border piling on the runs against England and also of course the way he captained the side to comprehensive series wins in 1989 and 1993. Unfortunately, 1985 became a distant memory after that.
18. Greg Chappell(Australia)– 87 tests, 24 100s, 31 50s, average 53.86, HS 247* - The best Australian batsman of the seventies and early eighties, Chappell allied steadfast concentration with attractive stroke making. Despite his excellent Test record, perhaps his best batting was during the World Series Cricket schism where he made 621 runs at 69 in five ‘Super Tests’ versus the mighty West Indies in the Caribbean in 1979.
17.Javed Miandad(Pakistan)– 124 tests, 23 100s, 43 50s, average 52.57, HS 280* - The greatest Pakistani batsman ever, Miandad was a precocious teenage prodigy scoring a century on debut and in the same series breaking George Headley’s record as the youngest player to score a Test match double century. His non-textbook style, pugnacity and ability to rile bowlers made him a thorn in the side of most opponents during a long and glittering career.
16.Graeme Pollock(South Africa) – 23 tests, 7 100s, 11 50s, average 60.97, HS 274 - Of those that have played at least 20 Test match innings, Pollock holds the second highest average after Bradman, who described the South African as the best left hander along with Sobers that he had ever seen. Widely recognised as his country’s best ever player, Pollock’s Test career was cut short abruptly at the age of 26 due to the sporting boycott of South Africa.
15. Ricky Ponting(Australia) - 144* tests, 39 100s, 51 50s, average 55.22, HS 257- After Tendulkar, the outstanding batsman playing the game today, Ponting is widely acknowledged as the best Australian batsman since Bradman – high praise indeed. One of Ponting’s main strengths is his versatility in that he can score quickly, counter-attack or tough it out when the situation demands. Other strengths include his consistency and his habit of playing match winning innings. Last year we placed him at sixth, above Tendulkar, but we have now revised this view. Ponting is great, but not that great.
14.Sunil Gavaskar(India) – 125 tests, 34 100s, 45 50s, average 51.12, HS 236* - Gavaskar was one of the best openers of all-time and the pre-eminent Indian batsman before Tendulkar – the man who broke his record of most Test match centuries. A brilliant batsman against fast bowling, Gavaskar scored a superlative 13 centuries at an average of 65.45 against the formidable West Indies side of the seventies and eighties.
13.Everton Weekes(West Indies) – 48 tests, 15 100s, 19 50s, average 58.61, HS 207 - The highest ranked of the immortal ‘three Ws’, Walcott believed that Weekes was the best all-round batsman of the three. An attacking batsman with a vast array of strokes, Weekes made an electric start to Test cricket, reaching 1,000 runs in only his 12thinnings, one fewer than Bradman. During this run he also scored five centuries in five consecutive innings against England and India – still a Test record.
12.Leonard Hutton(England) – 79 tests, 19 100s, 33 50s, average 56.67, HS 364 - Despite World War II robbing him of six years of cricket from the age of 23, Hutton is still considered amongst the giants of English batters. Before the War and at the age of 22, he scored the then highest Test match score of 364 against Australia. Afterwards, he continued to amass runs for Yorkshire and England and became the first professional player to captain his country.
11. Herbert Sutcliffe(England) - 54 tests, 16 100s, 23 50s, average 60.73, HS 194 - Sutcliffe’s name always seems to be inexplicably left on the margins when discussions as to who is the best ever English batsman. Perhaps this is because he opened the batting with Hobbs and played in the same era as Hammond. Whatever the reasons, Sutcliffe deserves recognition in his own right - the fourth highest Test match batting average of all-time for players with at least 20 innings, a fantastic record against Australia and prodigious run scoring for country and Yorkshire alike.
I was having a debate come argument with one of my best pals over the weekend as to who is the greatest of the three modern day batting greats of Ponting, Tendulkar and Lara. I reckon it is the Australian captain who wins the day (just) because in my view he has played the greater number of match winning or game saving innings during his career.
Whoever is the best modern day batsman (and there will never be common consensus on this one!), all three princes must rank amongst the twenty best batsmen to ever play the game. This leads rather aptly to my own list of the greatest batsmen ever.
Being in my mid-thirties, I obviously do not have the benefit of seeing the great players of yesteryear live at the crease. Thus, I have relied on my extensive collection of Wisden and other cricket books, plus newsreel footage and general knowledge of the game in order to arrive at my final list.
The twenty names are based primarily on Test cricket, which is undoubtedly the real barometer of a batsman’s ability and greatness. In any case, international limited overs cricket was not played before 1971 so we will never know how Bradman, Hammond and other such great luminaries would have fared in this form of the game. Naturally, comparing players from different generations is difficult as the game has changed irrevocably over the course of its history with covered pitches, faster scoring rates and changes to the laws of the game. As such, Ponting will never play on a ‘sticky dog’, but can be adjudged leg before to a ball pitching outside off-stump, which would not have been the case before 1935.
It has been an agonising process to come down to the final twenty names and several great names have not made the cut. Hopefully, it will provoke some discussion and debate amongst Cricket fans worldwide.
An Indian prince and giant of Victorian and Edwardian cricket, Ranji was credited with bringing several new strokes into the game including the late cut and was an early exponent of back foot defence. Widely considered to be one of the greatest batsmen of all time prior to World War I, Neville Cardus described the stylish and unorthodox Ranji as "the midsummer night's dream of cricket".
19. Clyde Walcott (West Indies) – 44 Tests, 15 100s, 14 50s, Average 56.68, HS 220
One of two of the ‘three Ws’ on this list, Walcott played an instrumental role in the first West Indian victory on English soil at Lord’s in 1950 scoring 168 not out. Along with Weekes, he was arguably the best batsman in the World during the mid-1950s reaching his peak with an incredible five hundreds and 827 runs during Australia’s first Test series in the Caribbean.
The best Australian batsman of the seventies and early eighties, Chappell allied steadfast concentration with attractive stroke making. Despite his excellent Test record, perhaps his best batting was during the World Series Cricket schism where he made 621 runs at 69 in five ‘Super Tests’ versus the mighty West Indies in the Caribbean in 1979.
Gavaskar was one of the best openers of all-time and the pre-eminent Indian batsman before Tendulkar – the man who broke his record of most Test match centuries. A brilliant batsman against fast bowling, Gavaskar scored a superlative 13 centuries at an average of 65.45 against the formidable West Indies side of the seventies and eighties.
The greatest Pakistani batsman ever, Miandad was a precocious teenage prodigy scoring a century on debut and in the same series breaking George Headley’s record as the youngest player to score a Test match double century. His non-textbook style, pugnacity and ability to rile bowlers made him a thorn in the side of most opponents during a long and glittering career.
Until Bradman, Grace was regarded as the greatest cricket player ever and was certainly one of the most competitive. Over the course of a 44 year career, he transcended the sport and in the words of John Arlott “created modern cricket”. Amongst other nicknames, Grace was known as “the Champion” and one of his contemporaries and fellow all-time great batsmen Ranjitsinhji said of him in the Jubilee Book of Cricket “I hold him to be not only the finest player born or unborn, but the maker of modern batting”.
14. Graeme Pollock (South Africa) – 23 Tests, 7 100s, 11 50s, Average 60.97, HS 274
Of those that have played at least 20 Test match innings, Pollock holds the second highest average after Bradman, who described the South African as the best left hander along with Sobers that he had ever seen. Widely recognised as his country’s best ever player, Pollock’s Test career was cut short abruptly at the age of 26 due to the sporting boycott of South Africa.
13. Everton Weekes (West Indies) – 48 Tests, 15 100s, 19 50s, Average 58.61, HS 207
The highest ranked of the immortal ‘three Ws’, Walcott believed that Weekes was the best all-round batsman of the three. An attacking batsman with a vast array of strokes, Weekes made an electric start to Test cricket, reaching 1,000 runs in only his 12th innings, one fewer than Bradman. During this run he also scored five centuries in five consecutive innings against England and India – still a Test record.
12. Leonard Hutton (England) – 79 Tests, 19 100s, 33 50s, Average 56.67, HS 364
Despite World War II robbing him of six years of cricket from the age of 23, Hutton is still considered amongst the giants of English batters. Before the War and at the age of 22, he scored the then highest Test match score of 364 against Australia. Afterwards, he continued to amass runs for Yorkshire and England and became the first professional player to captain his country.
The ‘Little Master’ holds a number of prestigious Test batting records including most runs and most centuries; and he hasn’t finished yet. Other than Hobbs, Tendulkar is the only player to score ten centuries or more against Australia. Many would have him higher on this list – certainly Wisden ranked him behind only Bradman as the second greatest batsman of all time in 2002.
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