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Sight Screen

Thursday, July 07, 2005

The Urn -- July 7

Had a mail from a friend asking why I was calling my round up of stories culled from the British and Australian media an 'Ashes round up' -- the Ashes, he says somewhat sniffily, hasn't begun yet.
Um... see, way I look at it, all of this is merely warm-up for the Ashes anyways. And besides, was easy enough to come up with 'The Urn' as a header for Ashes content -- what the hell was I supposed to call a similar compilation on Natwest, huh? Anyways, here goes:
1. Richard Hobson swells the ranks of those underwhelmed by the Natwest Challenge. In his curtain raiser to today's first of three games he says:
A TIED final of the NatWest Series on Saturday would have made an ideal conclusion to the one-day international season. England and Australia are ready for the Ashes series to begin, but instead must contest a spurious limited-overs competition known as the NatWest Challenge. The challenge, presumably, being to justify it.
The concept of leaving an audience wanting more seems to be lost on the ECB and the argument that these three matches allow extra spectators to see England and Australia in the flesh would carry greater credence if the second and third games were not being staged at Lord’s and the Oval, both venues for Test matches.

And here's the same reporter's take on the game.
2. Derek Pringle has been on the receiving end, both as player and correspondent, of the Aussie needle often enough; this season, he hasn't let slip any opportunity to return tit for the Aussie tat. Commentators seemed in agreement that the wicket was doing way too much in the morning session, and not quite enough in the second half of the game -- Pringle, though, isn't having any of that in his match report:
Afterwards, Australia's captain Ricky Ponting said it was the most challenging pitch he had ever played a one-day international on. Lucky he was not about in the 1980s when Headingley really vexed batsmen, and while the pitch certainly helped bowlers more in the morning, an advantage England's did not exactly grasp, a whingeing captain adds to the impression that this Aussie side are rattled.

3. While on Ponting, Andrew McGlashan on Cricinfo is less than impressed with the Aus captain's batting form:
But it was not until Collingwood's introduction as the fifth bowler that England took control. His first scalp was Ponting, who resembled a man batting with a toothpick after Harmison and Andrew Flintoff gave him a real working-over. He eventually top-edged to Pietersen at deep square-leg (107 for 3).

4. The Aus papers haven't come up with their match reports yet (neither has the Guardian, nor the Independent -- will check those out later in my night). But in the Age, Chloe Sattlau talks to Steve Harmison, and finds that the bowler may have peaked a bit too early. Don't go by early season success, Harmison adds:
"You've got seven world-class batsmen there, I don't think they fear anybody," Harmison said. "The game plans might change, but they don't fear me.
"I'm getting them out early, but we went to the West Indies and I got Brian Lara out three times early and everybody was saying, 'You've got him, he's your rabbit'. Next game he went and got 400. I never once thought I had him, I never once thought he walked to the wicket and feared me. If you put the ball in a good area, you get wickets."

Also in The Age, Sattlau again peeks into the Aus dressing room, and finds the inmates readying to welcome Shane Warne into their ranks.
5. Lawrence Booth, who was doing ball by ball for the game today, on the Guardian site, sees totemic possibilities in Michael Vaughan's 33 off 36 at Lord's in the Natwest final the other day.
England's collapse to 33 for 5 on Saturday briefly took us back into the dark days of the 1990s. Look beyond the recklessness of the batting, though, and one thing becomes clear: this was the approach of a team that did not simply want to beat Australia; they wanted to wallop them. Yes, it was gung-ho. But would recent England sides even have dared to try it? If the application was lacking, then the intention was manifestly not.

6. And finally, Christopher Martin-Jenkins is less than impressed at the ICC's decision to give official status to a series of games between an Asian XI and an African XI.
THE ICC’s executive board has given official status to a new series of matches between “Asia” and “Africa”, the first sign that those representing the axis of nations from these two continents, led by India’s commercially acute president, Jagmohan Dalmiya, will plough their own furrow in world cricket in future, riding roughshod over convention if it suits them.

Whether such games -- World XI versus Australia, or Asia versus Africa, or ICC versus The Rest, whatever -- deserve official status is worth a debate (Should performances in such games go into the player's individual records, for instance? If yes, should that be retrospectively applied to say the Packer World Series?). But Martin-Jenkins' real worry, reading between the lines, is a quantum shift in cricketing power, from the England-Australia axis.
A new body calling itself the Afro/Asian Cricket Council has recently been formed. Already there is an Asian Cricket Council staging matches outside the ICC’s formal programme of international fixtures.
The original definition of an international match was one between two countries, but the ICC’s executive committee, which took the decision to ratify the Afro/Asian matches last week, was powerless to resist official status because of the 6-4 majority held by India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, South Africa and Zimbabwe.

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