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Friday, November 26, 2010

Hussey leads Aussie fightback

1st Ashes Test: Day 2 report

Test cricket is indeed a funny game and day 2 proved just that. Fortunes fluctuated from one side to another and finally the Aussies nudged ahead, but only just, to end the day in a relative position of safety.

Katich and Watson led a confident beginning before a typical Anderson outswinger claimed Watto, who nicked a regulation catch to the Strauss at first slip.

Ponting who has always had the tendency of looking vulnerable against the moving ball early on, lived upto his reputation by scratching around with no real feet movement. If you would closely observe his footage, on many occasions the feet were stuck to the crease as if he was on quick sand while fishing at deliveries from Anderson and Finn. In the end his stay was short-lived as a cheeky little leg glance cost him his wicket as he tickled one into Prior's glove to give Anderson his 2nd wicket.

Katich who looked tight in defense failed to captialize on a good start and fell soon after Punter's dismissal, trying to close the bat face early and lobbing it back to Finn. Suddenly 78/0 became 100/3 as England fancied their chances against a pressurized Aussie middle order.

Clarke's dodgy back was already a concern to the Aussies but he did well to hang in there in his quest to tuck in and play a long haul, but a rush of blood cost him dear. Attempting a premeditated pull may work in India or for that matter anywhere in the subcontinent, but not on the bouncy Aussie wickets, a fact which he should have known having played a number of Tests at the 'Gabba'.

North came into the Test on the back of a fighting century in Bangalore against India, a ton which may have given him a berth to play in this Test, but his joy was short-lived as he edged one to Colly. Swann lured him forward with superb flight and guile to dismiss him and Australia were in danger of conceding a first innings lead.

Despite the setbacks at one end, Hussey braved all the short pitched stuff, and dug in to play a determined innings, almost as if to point fingers at all those who questioned his ability. It was a fact that his place was under the scanner after a string of poor performances. With Usman Khwaja hot on his heels, it was important for Mr Cricket to deliver when it mattered the most and he silenced his critics in the best possible way, by going on and making one of the more important knocks of his career, an unbeaten 81, in the company of Haddin, whose position was closely contested by Paine who came up with some gritty performances in the recently concluded India tour. They have stiched together an unbeaten 77 run stand as Australia inch closer to England's first innings total.

The umpiring in the game has been top notch so far. Yes, a couple of decisions were overturned thanks to the UDRS, but it is this system that has brought in more transparency and legitimacy about the game. If implemented in all matches going forward, watching batsmen walking away in disgust, or bowlers grunting in disbelief at the umpire would be a thing of the past.

End result: Australia edge ahead, but just by a slim margin, and a couple of early wickets tomorrow will make things even stevens once again.


From the desk of Shashank Kishore.  He also blogs at Shanky's Zone! 

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Siddle snaps six to put Oz on top

1st Ashes Test, Day 1: Review

The start to the much awaited Ashes couldn't have been more dramatic. The under pressure Aussies who came into the series on the back of consecutive defeats perhaps exceeded their own expectation with a brilliant display of fast bowling on a true wicket at the 'Gabba'. England would have looked to brush aside their nightmares of 2002 at the same venue, where Simon Jones suffered a horrifying ankle injury, and the shocker of 2006 where Harmison delivered a ball that landed into the hands of 2nd slip. But, perhaps the pressure of 30,000 Aussies fanatics got the better of Strauss as he fell in the 1st over, trying to play an expansive cut.

Trott, who has virtually cemented his place at No. 3 with some solid performances, found the sailing smooth, as he blunted the new ball in the company of Cook, who looked determined to make it count, after being criticized in recent times for his lack of form. It needed an inspired bowling change by Ponting, and a peach from Watson to remove Trott.

Pietersen, who walked out to a lot of jeer from the Aussie fans helped England ease their way in with a mixture of caution and aggression. Some of his fierce pulls and drives brought back memories of a younger KP making his debut in 2005. Just when he was looking set to make it count, a rash stroke outside off brought about his downfall, as he was brilliantly snapped by Ponting at 3rd slip to give Siddle his first wicket as England slipped to 117/3. That would turn out to be the first of a double strike as 'The Wall' of English cricket - Collingwood departed soon after to put the visitors in a spot of bother.

Cook, who was let off by Doherty at point early in his innings, however was unfazed by the situation as he carried on in a subdued way, picking up the ones and twos, before unleashing a few gems off Doherty, indicating his return to form, but couldn't make it count as he was out caught in the slips to Siddle to give him his 3rd wicket. Siddle was particularly impressive all day, as he hit the deck hard and extracted the pace and bounce off the pitch to trouble the batsmen on a consistent basis.

What followed was pure brilliance as Siddle ripped in a toe crushing yorker that took out Prior's middle stump to silence the 1000s of Barmy Army fans as well as a million back home in England, as the visitors were staring down the barrel. Broad walked in to a hostile reception from the Aussie crowd who were anticipating a hat-trick, and Siddle didn't let them down as he speared in a perfect yorker that struck Broad right on the toe. Amidst a lot of drama, it was referred upstairs to the third umpire, who adjudged in favor of Siddle, as he became the 9th Australian to take a hat-trick in Tests.

From then on it was a downward slide of England as the tail couldn't hang in with Bell who stroked a sublime 76 before he fell looking to up the ante, to give Doherty is maiden Test wicket. Anderson played a few cheeky little strokes before being snapped up by the debutant to send England packing for 260.

Australia started solidly in pursuit of a moderate England total. Anderson got the ball to jag around but Katich braced the extra bounce and pace of the wicket with some tight defense. He took a few blows on the body and was unscathed at stumps in the company of Watson. Swann didn't get off to the best of starts as his first 2 deliveries on Australian soil in Tests were picked away for boundaries as Australia ended the day on a high.
England will need a monumental effort from their seamers if they are to claw their way back into this Test match.


From the desk of Shashank Kishore.  He also blogs at Shanky's Zone! 

Monday, November 15, 2010

No Paine, Just Painful

The Australian Ashes squad was made official today. Interestingly, 17 men have been included, which made some wag on twitter exclaim, not unfairly:

The squad contains three spinners (Hauritz, Doherty, Smith), but only one wicketkeeper (Haddin). And yes, of course, the inescapable North is there. Also there are Usman Khawaja and Callum Ferguson in what I consider to be another one of those 'pseudo-selections' of which the Australian selectors have displayed such a penchant recently; I very much doubt that either will play a single game — unless, perhaps, we see a total Australian collapse at the Gabba. I think they have been included for two reasons (neither of them very good ones): to throw a bone to public opinion (for the natives are growing very restless with their hapless cricket XI and their clueless selectors) and to keep North and Mussey on their toes. If, however, a miracle were to occur and either of them do get to actually play, I would very much prefer Khawaja. Apparently, some people disagree (language warning: here). I would just like to point out the following: in First-class cricket, Khawaja averages 55.22; Ferguson 36.35. (For what it's worth, North averages 43.18). And therewith, I rest my case.

For well over a year now, I have said that I will be pleasantly surprised if Australia were to regain the Ashes. Considering the official squad, I stand by that opinion. Painfully.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Whistling Past the Graveyard (of Cricket)?

At this stage, I'm not entirely sure whether anyone can follow all the ins and outs of the Zulqarnain Incident: he disappears from Dubai; he's gone AWOL; there's a strange message on his Facebook wall indicating that he is being threatened as he hit the winning runs in an ODI he was told by some mysterious person or persons to lose; he's fleeing for his life; his wife and two young daughters have received special police protection in Lahore; he's been sighted in Karachi; no, he's at Heathrow; he's in custody; no, he's free to go; he's asked for asylum in the UK; he's retired from cricket; no, he's retired from international cricket; he's been denied asylum; he hasn't asked for asylum; he hasn't retired, not from cricket anyway; he wants to play cricket, just not for Pakistan; yes, he does; well, if his safety is guaranteed; his contract with PCB has been revoked or at least suspended; Pakistan's Minister for Sports criticises ... Haider? for dishonouring the nation ... wait, really? Yes, really. Und so weiter ...

Did I miss something? I probably did. I'm feeling mildly exhausted.

At the moment, the world seems divided on what to think: one group seems to think that he is nothing but an attention whore; another that he is a hero for refusing to give in to shady backroom bookies despite physical danger; and possibly a third group who doesn't quite know what to think.

Rather neatly summing up the 'attention whore' view of things is an online post called Why did Zulqarnain Haider not go to his to his Pakistani team-mates first? at The Guardian's TheSportBlog, cricinfo associate editor Dileep Premachandran writes that it is strange that with senior players such as Mohammed Yusuf, Yunus Khan and Shoaib Akhtar in the team, Haider chose to run away instead of talking over his concerns with them. Oh, and incidentally, Haider is friends with 15 journalists on Facebook — many of whom Premachandran knows himself — and also, there are people who questions whether he might have an agenda.

I have four problems with this way of looking at things.

1. Even if we accept the premiss that it would be reasonable for Haider to vent to his seniors in the Pakistan XI, how many of us would — if we are to be absolutely honest ... with ourselves at least — react calmly and rationally if faced with a death threat? A death threat involving not only ourselves but our families as well? I know it's nice to imagine oneself with the heart of a lion and nerves of steel, but in a real situation, is it necessarily true? I have no idea how I myself would react — I sincerely hope that I never need to find out — but I honestly don't think rampant overreaction is out of the question. (Whether one wants to define Haider's actions as such is, of course, always open to interpretation. But let's say we do. After all, if we see them merely as a sane response to a menacing situation, the argument is a non-starter from the very beginning and we probably wouldn't write Premachandran's post.)

2. But should we accept that very premiss? I mean the one that Haider could and should have consulted with his seniors in the team before doing anything rash? Well, I don't know. First of all, Butt and Amir were senior players too, so just because somebody is senior within the Pakistani team doesn't necessarily mean that you can trust them. It is true that, as Premachandran writes, Mohammed Yusuf and Shoaib Akhtar have ever been implicated in any corruption scandals. But Yousuf was the Pakistani Captain who couldn't, for some reason, fuse his team together as a cohesive whole nor stop them — or at least individual players within the group — to throw away matches ... or at any rate, catches. Akhtar has been suspended for illicit steroid use ... together with Mohammed Amir, who is implicated in the current spot-fixing scandal. I love Akhtar, really I do; I consider him one of glamour's gifts to cricket; but I don't rightly know whether I would necessarily think of him as a person to turn to for levelheaded, sage advise regarding these mattes. Would you? Maybe I'm totally wrong here. Shoaib Akhtar is still alive after all. And unbribed, apparently. And Yunus Khan ... I have a lot of time for Yunus Khan, but it was actually hinted that he was on the take after he dropped that catch at the ICC Champions Trophy semi-finals and he was actually suspended by the PCB after that tourney with the motivation that he had disgraced Pakistani cricket or some such. I'm hoping Yunus wasn't bribed then (it was revealed afterwards that he had been playing with a hairline fracture in one of his fingers) or afterwards or, for that matter, before. But given those rumours, perhaps it isn't entirely strange if a person doesn't jump at the opportunity to discuss bribes and threats with him?! Frankly, given the state and the reputation of the Pakistani XI and their management at the moment, would one really jump at the opportunity to discuss these matter with any one of them ... especially when fearing for one's life?!

3. OK, so Haider has 15 friends on Facebook who are journalists? I don't even know what this is supposed to imply. And why does it make Haider a 'most intriguing character'? Is it supposed to lend credence to the claim that he is a 'shameless self-publicist'? If so, how? Did Haider contact these journalists via Facebook, beg them to Friend him and start feeding them stories? If yes, I think that Premachandran should say so explicitly and provide some on-record quotations to that effect. How many friends does Haider have on Facebook exactly? Just the 15? On twitter, where he appears under the nom de plume @cricketplayer1, he has 1,452 followers; you know, some of them might be journalists too ... [cue: Twilight Zone music]

4. Cui bono? I mean, what earthly good would it do Zulqarnain Haider to act in this manner? Other than 15 minutes of fame (which surely he could have achieved by becoming a very good wicketkeeper and/or batsman), it's quite hard to figure. And what would it take for him to put it all together? Writes one Pakistani blogger: 'I choose not to believe that Haider’s actions were borne out of disingenuous motives because, frankly, that would be giving him too much credit. It is highly unlikely that Haider concocted an elaborate plan to use the current match-fixing crisis afflicting Pakistan cricket as a vehicle to facilitate his migration to the economically fairer shores of Great Britain. The success of such a dastardly plan would require Haider to be assured of his place in the team and it is a fact that he only made it into the playing 11 for the UAE tour due to Kamran Akmal’s surgery. It would also require Haider to be perfectly positioned to carry Pakistan to victory in a crunch game. Such malicious confidence and aforethought seems more befitting of a criminal mastermind of Lex Luthor proportions[.]' I must say I agree.

Personally, I'm not quite sure what to think about this Zulqarnain Incident. To clarify: I certainly don't see him as the villain. I'm just not exactly sure what exactly is going on. And I do have some questions. And most of those questions involve the PCB and, even more importantly, the ICC. Chiefly: where are they in all of this and what are they doing?

Well, the PCB is apparently launching an investigation into event, but that investigation seems more aimed at Haider than anything else. (Apparently, the Pakistani parliament will launch its own investigation and expects the PCB to submits its findings.)

The ICC, on the other hand, seems to be busy both sitting on the fence and playing both sides at the same time: 'Clearly, this is in the first instance a team matter for Pakistan cricket but the ICC is willing to provide assistance to PCB and the player", ICC chief executive Haroon Lorghat said.' And how do players view the ICC and their 'assistance'? According to Tim May, who heads the international players association, the ICC's anti-corruption unit isn't exactly held in the highest of regards in matters involving trust and corruption: '[P]layers have gone to the anti-corruption unit and somewhere details of their talks with the anti-corruption has reached the media. Whether those leaks have come from the ICC or whatever, it still gives the players the question over whether they can trust the ICC's anti-corruption unit. We've said to the ICC we need to get the reporting processes here streamlined far better than what they are at the moment.' Naturally, anonymity is out of the question for Haider at this point, nevertheless, it might be of importance, both for Haider's personal security as well as further and successful investigation, that the information he could provide to the ICC would remain confidential.

Here, however, I must ask whether it actually matters what information is provided to the ICC anti-corruption unit. As I've mentioned here previously, Australian sports journalist Robert Craddock seems to be of the opinion that its members are chiefly interested in swanning around the world in fine style and playing golf; he points to the fact that up until the News of the World broke the spot-fixing scandal, the ICC anti-corruption unit had only managed to find two cases of corruption: one involving a Kenyan Captain and another involving a young West Indian bowler so silly, said Craddock, that it was touch and go whether he knew what he was doing.

On the Australian television channel ABC's programme Offsiders (Sunday 24/10), the panel reacted to the same channel's Four Corner series look at cricket and corruption, In a Fix (broadcast 25 October 2010). Four Corners interviewed cricket officials, journalists, players, etc, including Mr Haroon Lorgat of the ICC who was asked, among other things, why Cricket Australia had not been informed that the ICC was investigating Mazhar Majeed at the time of the now infamous Pakistan tour of Australia: well, said Mr Lorgat, we had not proved those charges, it was 'on-going investigation'.

(At least part of the programme In a Fix can be found here.)

Offsiders (my transcript):
The Host, Barrie Cassidy: What do you make of that, Gideon?
Gideon Haigh: Well, the ICC hasn't done badly in this case. They've actually taken charge of the investigation, which they didn't do ten years ago — the first wave of match-fixing. They suspended the cricketers concerned immediately. They pulled the imbecile PCB Chairman into line when it looked like he was ... was going to run amuck. [The] Scotland Yard investigation has been a problem for them insofar as it slowed everything down. But I understand it, there is a protocol in place that information that the police obtain will be forwarded to the ICC. I think that the ICC knows that its credibility is on the line here, and it ... and it really has to make these charges stick ... if they are true. There's a good deal to be said in favour of this actually to be done properly.
Gerald Whateley: I don't disagree with any of that. But on the timeline we are talking about here, the ICC investigated the Sydney Test ... and cleared it. They are the ... they are the most silly-looking organization in the world as a result of that. And this will stick, some of ... they knew the risks that were associated with that. They investigated. And they said everything was hunky-dory until the News of the World actually did it properly.
I'm with Gerald Whateley here. The ICC is looking silly. It's still looking silly: 'ICC impressed with Pakistan's corruption response'. Seriously?! Frankly, the most benign interpretation of much of ICC's (in-) action to date is incompetence. One would assume that if its present anti-corruption cannot do its job properly (and with it's track record, can one really claim it can?), it ought to be replaced with an anti-corruption unit that can. Or the whole charade should just stop. This really isn't the time to look the other way and pretend that everything is just fine. Contrariwise. Cricket really needs to deal with these issues of corruption that keep popping up like some irregular clockwork. The allegations of Zulqarnain Haider is a good place to start. Tragically, it would appear that in all these matters, the ICC prefers to whistle past the graveyard. I just hope it isn't the graveyard of cricket.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

5 ... Things I Prefer NOT to Hear in a Cricket Context

5 ... things I prefer NOT to hear in a cricket context (no particular order):

  1. Pakistani bookmaker.
  2. Sachin Tendulkar retires.
  3. Michael Hussey bowling a few.
  4. Marcus North.
  5. England wins The Ashes.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Wimpy End to Surprisingly Interesting Test

The India v New Zealand Test proved a surprisingly interesting match.

While Sehwag was at the crease blitzing the Kiwi bowlers, it looked for all the world to be another of those Indian 500+ 1st innings in which an insurmountable score is produced before which the opposing team is left to fall and crumble. The New Zealand fieldsmen eagerly helped this perception by missing, fumbling and dropping balls that on the odd occasion came their way. I lost count of how many boundaries were scored. At times it felt that the Indian batsmen scored no other way. I suppose Indian fans feel differently about it, but I found it ... unexciting. Sehwag might have produced his customary fireworks — and there were some fine shots there — but it was boring fireworks: for a while there, I felt as if I was watching a loop of the same over, over and over again.

On Day 2, however, the Kiwis came out a different XI: the previously sheepishly meek attack had grown teeth over night and almost wolfishly bowled the Indians out just before tea and the 500 runs mark. It wasn't, perhaps, much, but it was something. Then it all looked like it was going pear-shaped again: two Kiwi wickets fell all too quickly and that was the end of Day 2 ... and, I thought, proverbial that.

But overnight, the Kiwi batsmen must have got a shot of whatever they had given their bowlers the day before: for on Day 3, we saw not one but two centuries and some sensible, fighting-for-a-chance batting, notably even from Brendon McCullum. And even if they did not, in the end, score quite as many runs as the Indians had, they were well within striking distance. And the Kiwis carried this attitude with them to the 2nd innings: Sehwag was run out for 1 thanks to some keen fielding by Guptill (sub); Martin, of all people, got 5 wickets in rapid succession. There was, all of a sudden, the smell of a result in the air and it was New Zealand who seemed to be sniffing a victory.

And then they ran into the Master of the 2nd Innings Fightback, VVS Laxman, and that tailender barnacle, Harbhajan Singh. And boy! did it ever go pear-shaped. How pear-shaped did it go? New Zealand was reduced to such desperation that Bredon McCullum, the former Test 'keeper, bowled 6 overs. That desperate. In the midst of this desperation, VVS Laxman put on 91 runs and Harbhajan scored his maiden Test ton. Congratulations, Harbahajan!

But here I felt it got disappointing: India didn't declare. Carrying a slender lead of 28 runs into the 2nd innings, India went on to put on an additional 266 runs in some 80 overs on that Day 5, ultimately leaving New Zealand 10 overs to achieve 295 runs for an outright win. Now, I know it's a Test and that in order to win, a team really should not only score more runs, it should also take 20 wickets. And yes, I know that my very own Captain Punter seems almost pathologically incapable of declaring at the proper moment — especially if there's a batsman out at the crease looking like he might achieve some personal milestone — but I rail against that all the time so ... I don't know whether New Zealand really deserved to win more than India did, but they deserved a sporting chance to do so. And I'm sorry, but I felt it was a tad wimpy to deny them that chance.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Zulqarnain Haider M.I.A.

The curious case of Pakistan cricket just got curiouser: their wicketkeeper, Zulqarnain Haider, has gone missing in Dubai, leaving only a curious message on his Facebook page:

Also, a message from Zulqarnain’s mobile received on cellphone of a friend and our sources correspondent Sohail Imran, said he is leaving the cricket as someone is giving him murder threats.
The SMS received on Sohail Imran’s mobile phone said, ‘Match haar jao’ (Lose match.)
PakTribune also reports that Pakistan's team management holds Haider's passport, which is contradicted by this article at cricinfo, in which is reported that Haider asked for his passport yesterday offering the explanation that he needed for something quite mundane.
The article by Geoffrey Boycott discussed here earlier, he wrote:
People have been quick to judge the Pakistani cricketers, but what is happening might have nothing to do with money.
If these allegations of fixing are proved, it could be related to extortion, threats, and the well-being of their own family members. It would not surprise me if illegal bookmakers have told players that if they do not perform X and Y, their families will be kidnapped or harmed.
I must say that this latest development lends more credence to Boycott's curious and chilling tale. I know we all hope that Zulqarnian Haider and his family (which according to cricinfo has been supplied with security from the Lahore police) are safe and all right.

I note that also missing in action is, of course, the ICC.

UPDATE: There are now reports that Haider is in Karachi:

UPDATE 2: Now you see him, now you don't: apparently reports of Haider sightings in Karachi were wrong: he is now reported to have turned up at Heathrow, England:

Sunday, November 7, 2010

India v New Zealand Test: Ch-ch-ch-changes

After the turmoil and heartache of the first Australia v Sri Lanka match, I was sort of looking forward to the India v New Zealand Test to provide ... I don't know, business-as-usual, emotional detachment and calm of the familiar maybe?!? A batting-friendly Indian wicket; Sehwag brutalizing bowlers; Tendulkar doing that thing that he does; the Kiwi bowling failing to make an impact; their batsmen meekly surrendering; no dramarama.

And certainly on Day 1 it looked like all my wishes would come true: on a pancake-flat, slow pitch, Sehwag set about brutalizing a timorous-looking Kiwi bowling attack; fearless, he ended up a snifter short of a ton at lunch ... and carried on after it. Business as usual? The Black Caps without a chance as usual? Yep, that's what I thought despite Gambhir getting himself out for next to nothing to a rather innocuous-looking, ever so slightly nipping-back ball from Ryder; but, you know, Dravid came in and played a steady-if-slow-scoring second fiddle to the intrepid Virender. Together they piled up 228 runs before stumps on Day 1. I was considering writing a post called The Savaging of Sheep. Baaaa.

And then ... it sort of changed. What changed? Who knows? At first it didn't seem like much. Sehwag, looking completely zonked, finally got himself bowled by Vettori (173). Dravid got himself bowled some 9 overs later by Martin. (What happened to Dravid? I thought he was The Wall — the man who just didn't get himself bowled, never, never, ever?!) Tendulkar came in, to immense cheering, scored but didn't last: c&b Patel (someone on twitter called it 'Tendulkar's Diwali gift to the Patel family'). India went from 2-317 to 459 all out, much grace à Harbhajan, who's becoming quite the frustrating scourge of opposing teams' bowlers, scoring a rapid-fire 69.

And there we were. At tea on Day 2. 459 runs. The Black Caps about to bat. Things had changed a bit, but there were still all those 459 on the board. There was still the usually wonky Kiwi batting line-up, which so often seems to crumble all for one and one for all. And they didn't start well. In fact, they started quite atrociously: opener McIntosh went for a duck; third man Watling for 6. Yep, I though, The Savaging of Sheep is a good title ...

... and then, McCullum and Taylor, but Ryder and Williamson in particular uncharacteristically for New Zealand batsmen buckled down, didn't throw caution to wind, but batted sensibly, intelligently, tailored to the situation and together put on 355 runs. The first three in particular usually throw their bats at just about anything, come hell or high water or easy catches; here, they settled for strike rates at most just over 50 (McCullum, of course) or lower. At the end of their first innings, New Zealand was only 28 runs behind. Frankly, it was an amazing fight-back! A fight-back that meant that now, all of a sudden, the pressure was on India. After its amazing start, this was amazing! Certainly, The Savaging of Sheep wasn't looking like such a good title anymore.

And even more amazement was to come: in it's second innings, India managed to lose 6 wickets for 36 runs! Have you ever ...?!

The tables have totally turned: it is now New Zealand that is playing for an outright win; India that is playing for a draw and to avoid an outright loss.

If the Black Caps pull it off, I'm contemplating writing a post called The Savaging BY Sheep ... how things change in Tests, eh ... I mean, baaaaaaaaaa?!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Australians Choke on M&Ms

In their ODI match against Sri Lanka yesterday, Australia choked on M&Ms. Specifically, on Mathews, Malinga, and Murali. According to Richie Bennaud they say that however dark things may look, Sri Lanka is not beaten as long as Angelo Mathews is at the crease. And if yesterday's ODI match is anything to go by, what they say is true. Together with Malinga he set a new 9th wicket record at the MCG, when Sri Lanka went from 8-107 to score 243 for a spectacular and historic win.

The Australians, previously so buoyant, looked gloomier and gloomier. Their Captain-for-a-Night, Michael Clarke, went from chuckling a little at some of the ... unorthodox shots to quiet, jaw-clenched desperations. His face got whiter and whiter as his field settings and choice of bowlers got stranger and stranger. Will the MCG prove the graveyard of Clarke's Captaincy aspirations? According to this article, presumably written before last night's loss, in The Age, Marcus North — Marcus North! — is now considered a contender for the Captain-elect title. That funny noise you're hearing is my eyes rolling so much they're swishing. Marcus North?! Seriously now, people. Of course, some Australians on twitter had some ... interesting if not entirely original ideas regarding our Captaincy:

Not looking happy.
And why would he?!

Looking happy.
And why wouldn't he?!