Saturday, January 24, 2015

Smith ton helps Australia edge past England

Carlton Mid Tri-series, Australia                                                                                       Date: 23/01/2015
Game 4
Australia Vs England at Bellerive Oval, Hobart

It is not often in one day cricket that you come across a match where you cannot tell one innings from the other. So similar was the progress made by both England and Australia at Hobart today that the match was decided by a passage of 9 overs where one team decidedly lost the momentum.

Score at the end of over
Runs scored in overs
34 for 0
39 for 0
1 to 5
34 for 0
39 for 0
69 for 0
67 for 0
6 to 10
35 for 0
28 for 0
98 for 0
90 for 1
11 to 15
29 for 0
23 for 1
119 for 1
120 for 3
16 to 20
21 for 1
30 for 2
150 for 2
149 for 3
21 to 25
31 for 1
29 for 0
175 for 2
171 for 4
26 to 30
25 for 0
22 for 1
205 for 2
201 for 4
31 to 35
30 for 0
30 for 0
244 for 2
230 for 5
36 to 40
39 for 0
29 for 1
276 for 5
272 for 5
41 to 45
32 for 3
42 for 0
303 for 8
304 for 7*
46 to 50
27 for 3
32 for 2*
Statistics Source: 

England had placed themselves in a dominant position and could have shut Australia out of the game. At 244 for 2 after 40 overs, a score close to 330 was there for the taking. Ian Bell was in sublime form and had reached 134 off 119 balls. England lost the plot from here though and the disciplined Australian attack kept them to just 59 runs off the last 10 overs. England lost 6 wickets in the process and ended up with a sub-par 303.

Australia won the toss and their debutante captain Steven Smith chose to bowl hoping the moisture in the surface would assist his new ball bowlers. Ian Bell and Moeen Ali, though, started briskly. Ian Bell was flashy in the beginning but soon settled in a smooth rhythm. The pair added 113 for the opening wicket rendering Smith’s reading of the pitch incorrect. James Taylor, who replaced Ali, did not last long and fell for 5. Bell and Joe Root then added 121 runs off 19 overs for the third wicket. Sandhu broke the stand in the 42nd over removing Bell and took out Eoin Morgan in the same over to put brakes to England’s scoring. England could not regain momentum and over the next 8 overs managed only 49 runs losing 4 more wickets.

Australia’s new opening pair of Finch and Shaun Marsh added 76 in just 70 balls before Finch fell to a horrendous slog sweep to Moeen Ali. Marsh, on his comeback, was motoring along nicely towards a big score when he cut uppishly and was caught at point by Bell off Finn for 45. Cameron White’s 4 year wait ended in disaster when he could not do anything but offer his front pad to a spearing yorker from Finn and was adjudged LBW. He lasted only 2 deliveries. Steven Smith took charge from here and added 69, 55 & 81 with Maxwell, Faulkner & Haddin respectively to take his team to victory. He remained unbeaten on 102.  

Australia went into this game with three changes. David Warner, Shane Watson and captain, George Bailey were missing and were replaced by Shaun Marsh, Moises Henriques & Cameron White. England went with the same side that beat India 3 days ago.

It was a day of records for both the centurions of the match. Steven Smith, leading Australia for the first time in ODIs, became the first batsman to score centuries in his first innings as captain in both tests and one-dayers. Ian Bell, on route to his 141, became the leading run-scorer for England in one day internationals. He now sits at 5136 runs from 153 games having overtaken former captain Paul Collingwood’s tally of 5092. Curiously, the leading run scorer for England is placed a distant 65th in the pecking order of the 50-overs run plunderers.

Australia have marched into the final of this tri-series. Their defeat of England gives another opportunity to India to qualify for the final. However, they will have to show significant improvement in all aspects of the game if they truly want to see themselves at Perth on Feb 1st. The next game of the Carlton Mid Tri-Series will be played between India and Australia on Jan 26th at the Sydney Cricket Ground.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Professional England humiliate India

Carlton Mid Tri-series, Australia                                                                                      Date: 20/01/2015
Game 3
India Vs England at Brisbane Cricket ground

It was painful to see a young Indian side on its knees against England today at the Gabba.

After competing well with a far superior Australian side (than England) two days ago, much was expected of India today. They were facing a struggling England side desperate to find some inspiration to lift them before the WC. England had brought in James Anderson (leaving Chris Jordan out) and his first spell of six overs set the tone in England’s favour. He conceded just 15 in this spell taking out Shikhar Dhawan (c Buttler, 1 run off 5 balls) with a lovely away swinger. Dhawan’s second consecutive failure against the moving ball should convince the Indian think tank about leaving him out on the grounds of inadequate technique, if not on form, for the WC.

India were without Rohit Sharma today as he sat out with a hamstring strain. Rahane opened the batting and looked particularly troubled by Anderson.  It was Steven Finn, however, who made most out of the pressure created by Anderson & Woakes. He came in second change and was the beneficiary of Rahane’s brain-fade who wasted another hard-earned start. Rahane’s attempt to clear midwicket failed miserably and he lobbed a simple catch to mid-on.

Ambati Rayudu at No 3 (again, not Virat Kohli) looked completely out of touch and limped to 23 off 53 deliveries before becoming Finn’s third victim. In between, India had lost Virat Kohli (to extra bounce of Steven Finn) and Suresh Raina (to the off spin of Moeen Ali). At 67 for 5 after 19 overs, the contest was reduced to mere academic interest. MS Dhoni and Stuart Binny fought gamely and added 70 runs. At 137 for 5 after 35 overs with Dhoni and Binny looking decently in control India were entertaining thoughts of putting up a decent total. Those thoughts were laid to rest by Finn who removed Dhoni and Axar Patel (for his second duck in as many games) in consecutive deliveries. James Anderson returned for a second spell in the batting powerplay and quickly mopped up the tail. India were shot down for 153, their lowest all-out total against England.

4 out of Finn’s 5 victims succumbed to extra bounce adding another dimension to MS Dhoni’s worries. Indian bowling did not fare any better than their batting counterparts. England hunted down the target in just 27.3 overs with Ian Bell and James Taylor having some useful batting practice in the middle. Moeen Ali, the sole casualty for England, perished to his own attacking instincts. Stuart Binny was the beneficiary this time.

If MS Dhoni and Co are trying to rationalise the expectations of their cricket-crazy countrymen before the WC, they sure are doing a great job of it. This Indian team is looking quite out-of-sorts at the moment and one can only hope that the experimentation going on in this series is planned and well understood by everyone involved.

India have opted to bat first after winning the toss in both the games. Putting the weak & inexperienced bowling attack to test and gauging what kind of total it can defend in the WC, must be the idea behind this move. If that is so, it looks like quite a shrewd thought. Experiments with the line-up (especially testing players like Rayudu, Binny & Axar) are necessary as loss-of-form or injury may result in call-up for any of the three and when it happens they should not find themselves too overwhelmed with the conditions.

If one has to rely on past, the struggles before the WC augur well as India had similarly struggled before the 2003 and 2011 WC before putting up a stellar show in both the editions. Whatever way you choose to look, the build up to the WC is getting more interesting with every passing game.   

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Efficient Australia trump Rohit’s masterful hundred

Carlton Mid Tri-series, Australia                                                                                       Date: 18/01/2015
Game 2
Australia Vs India at Melbourne Cricket ground

With the Carlton Mid tri-series moving to Melbourne on Sunday, India and Australia, as expected, tried out new combinations with the WC in mind. Australia handed one-day debut to Gurindar Sandhu. India included all the three contenders for the opening slots, Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan and Ajinkya Rahane, in the XI. They won the toss, chose to bat first and sent Sharma & Dhawan to open.

Dhawan did not last for long though. To the outsider it looks as if Shikhar Dhawan is quite adamant on not correcting his mistakes. He played only 3 deliveries before getting out on the fourth. Each of those 4 deliveries he played with more of misplaced aggression than common sense. His dismissal brought Ajinkya Rahane (not Virat Kohli) to the crease. Rahane’s nervous starts are fast becoming a trademark now.  After a few tentative shots, he succumbed to the debutant Gurinder Sandhu in the 8th over.

It is not known how exactly Sandhu’s parents wished him luck before his debut against the country of his ancestors. But if there was any NRI sentimentalism or dialoguebaazi at home, it was not evident in the way Sandhu started his spell. He bowled well within himself. Without trying anything fancy he bowled to his field and conceded just 1 run in his first over. His second brought him success when he persuaded Rahane to drive uppishly. His extra bounce resulted in an edge safely pouched by Haddin. Virat Kohli got a raucous welcome from the MCG crowd. But he too fell to an ill-advised, completely out of character short-armed pull shot that did not go far and ended in George Bailey’s lap at mid-on off Faulkner’s bowling. At 59/3 after 13 overs India found themselves in a similar position as England were a couple of days ago in Sydney. They were staring at a middling total and to avoid it they not only needed stability in the middle overs but run scoring at a decent pace as well.

Suresh Raina and Rohit Sharma stitched a 126 run stand in 22.1 overs to guide India to a position from where they could set a target closer to 300 for Australia. Raina successfully overcame the disappointment of his pair at SCG. Smart running between the wickets, intelligent nudges around the ground and the occasional well placed attacking shot made life easier for him at the crease. It also allowed Rohit Sharma to follow his own path without any pressure of putting bread and butter on the table. Throughout the innings Rohit looked assured and never in a mood to throw his wicket away. What was heartening to see was his poise. This very aspect of his game makes him a treat to watch. So far he has been guilty of inconsistency in his international career. But whenever he has gotten his tunes right, the songs he has penned have been extremely melodious. Today was that kind of a day. He played an extremely measured innings with attacking shots interspersed all along. He ran well and along with Raina never let the run rate stifle at any point.

At the end of the 34th over India were at 180 for 3. With both batsmen well set India went for powerplay and that’s when the disciplined Australian bowling started to take the game away from India. Raina fell in the first over of powerplay in a bid to slog Mitchell Starc. The last 15 overs were more about a display of bowling variations from the Australian bowlers. A non-stop stream of slower deliveries from Sandhu and Faulkner and a tremendous display of swing bowling at a lively pace by Mitchell Starc restricted India to just 267. India lost 8 wickets, 6 of them to Starc who ended with his best analysis in ODIs. Rohit Sharma fell in the 49th over trying to score some quick runs. His 138 runs came off just 139 deliveries and were decorated with 9 boundaries and 4 sixes.

The Australian reply started steadily. Warner was in a belligerent mood as usual while Finch was more cautious in his bid to build a substantial score. Indian bowlers, apart from Bhuvaneshwar Kumar, were wayward which did not help in building pressure on the Australian openers. Umesh Yadav went for 12 runs in his first and Shami for 9. Australia’s 50 was raised in the 9th over and they looked well set for this chase. That’s when Dhoni brought Umesh back and Warner holed out to his very first delivery trying to clear the infield. Raina got under the ball that kissed the sky and caught it safely. It brought Watson to the crease for whom this was another opportunity to get a big score. The target was not very daunting, the start had been good and bowling and pitch not particularly threatening. He started well and raced to 41 off just 38 deliveries before his attempt to slog Aksar Patel out of attack resulted in his off stump being pegged back.

That was the 23rd over and from then till the 40th over the Australian innings went on like a Rolls Royce. Without making any noise, hardly ever making its presence felt. Steven Smith and Aaron finch added 101 runs without much fuss. At 216/2 with the required run rate below 5, the game was Australia’s to lose. However, they lost Smith and Finch (for 96 resolute runs off 127 balls)  in the space of five deliveries and with George Bailey falling for a leg side nick to Ashwin, the game looked suddenly alive again.

Umesh, whose first seven overs had cost 46 runs, started bowling accurate bouncers and pin-pointed yorkers. In an inspired burst of 18 deliveries he conceded just 9 runs, picked up a wicket and unsettled Glenn Maxwell. Once again though India could not maintain pressure from both ends. Maxwell flexed his muscles against Ashwin, clobbering him down the ground twice to eliminate any anxiety building in the Australian dressing room.

The game however was not over yet. Bhuvaneswar Kumar, finishing Mohammed Shami’s over (Shami having hobbled off the ground clutching his hamstring in the 47th over), lured Maxwell to play a bit too early to a slower delivery and accepted the return catch. Australia needed 20 off the last 18 and the MCG crowd was only getting louder. Once again, like their previous game against England, Australia had managed to bring life to a dead game.

Brad Haddin and James Faulkner were more than competent to take Australia over the line. Dhoni handed the ball to Aksar Patel to bowl the 48th over and he conceded just 5, which left Australia to get 15 off the last 12. Another lengthy round of discussions followed between Dhoni and Bhuvaneshwar Kumar. Bhuvaneshwar Kumar’s return of 29 in his 9 overs stood out for the discipline he maintained through all his spells. Meanwhile, James Faulkner found himself in unfamiliar territory getting stuck on naught after playing out 6 deliveries. Eventually though he managed to get going with a powerful hoick off Kumar over deep square leg which brought the equation to 10 runs off 10 deliveries. Brad Haddin added another boundary which effectively sealed the game for Australia.

Though Australia have chased successfully in both games of this tri-series, the way they stuttered at the end of both these chases would give some food for thought to Lehmann and team. Shane Watson is still stuck with his penchant for sweet-nothings, George Bailey is horribly out of form and even Aaron Finch was not entirely at his aggressive best today. Only Warner and Smith have looked assured in their stays. Maxwell didn’t get much opportunity so sending him up the order might be a good idea as Australia’s place in the final looks more or less guaranteed.

India too, have plenty to work on before their game against England on Tuesday. Shikhar Dhawan is increasingly looking clueless about the approach required to score on Australian pitches. Bowling still lacks discipline and India would do well to add an attacking spinner to their fold. Dhoni’s favoured mantra of choking runs and creating pressure might not work on these hard, unresponsive Australian pitches and big grounds. In a scenario where his batsmen fail to put a substantial score to defend, the end for India might come a bit too quickly.

Nervous England concede bonus point to Australia

Carlton Mid Tri-series, Australia                                                                               Date: 16/01/2015   
Game 1
Australia Vs England at Sydney Cricket ground

English hopes, strengthened by Ian Bell’s superb “daddy” hundred in the team’s second practice match, were once again proved to be standing on shaky grounds. It took Mitchell Stark just one delivery to pin Ian Bell to the crease, hit him flush in front of the stumps with a lovely delivery that swung in and eluded Bell’s prod. Similar fate awaited England’s new number 3, James Taylor. The only difference being the slight shade of doubt about the ball’s path culminating at the leg stump. Nevertheless it put the fact that England’s tortures in the shorter format of the game have not ended, beyond any reason for doubt. 2 wickets in the first three balls without a run put on the board was enough to dash hopes of any early momentum. Yet as he preached a couple of days ago, England’s other opening batsman, Moeen Ali launched an offensive from the other end. A couple of wristy pickups on the leg side made his intentions clear and brought some much needed energy to England’s charge. Meanwhile after labouring through 14 deliveries, Joe Root chose to chase a slightly wider delivery from Pat Cummins that ended in Shane Watson’s lap in the first slip. England 12/3 in the fourth over.

Enter Captain Morgan with an unproductive 2014 surely playing at the back of his mind. He started cautiously scoring his first run off the tenth delivery he faced. By that time Moeen Ali had scored 22 off 19 and was looking ominous in his intent and timing of his strokes. However, in the ninth over, he ended up depositing the ball safely in the palms of Glenn Maxwell who was stationed at deep extra cover and had somehow managed to cloak himself invisible. The fact that Maxwell didn’t have to move more than a couple of steps to take that catch showed poor awareness of field placing and state of the match from Moeen. From 33/4 consolidation was always going to be England’s first priority. With Bopara for company Eoin Morgan steadied the innings with a couple of well-timed boundaries and safely took his team to first drinks without further damage.

After resumption England lost Bopara in the first over itself to Xavier Doherty. From then to the second drinks break England didn’t lose another wicket and Morgan, with Jos Buttler for company this time, took the score to 135/5 at the end of the 34th over. As it happens so many times in cricket, England lost Buttler immediately after the drinks. He had put on 67 with Morgan and gave some meat to the emaciated English total. Yet merely survival would not have served the purpose for Morgan and England. Morgan was on 58 off 92 deliveries when he lost Buttler in the 35th over. In the next 44 deliveries he faced he scored 63 runs before perishing in the 48th over trying to clear Maxwell at deep midwicket off Mitchell Starc’s bowling. That was England’s 9th wicket down and Steven Finn’s dismissal on the very next ball aptly summed up the state of English innings on the SCG today. England finished at 234 with the help of Morgan’s 121 off 136 deliveries. Other contributions of any significance were from Jos Buttler (28 off 60) and Moeen Ali (22 off 21). Extras contributed 20 to the eventual scoreline. Mitchell Starc took 4 for 42 off his 8.5 overs and James Faulkner took 3 for 47 off his quota of 10. Cummins, Maxwell and Doherty contributed one wicket each.

Australia started their reply with an eye on the bonus point. The aggressive pair of Finch and Warner was starting to open up when Finch fell to Woakes trying to punch the ball on the offside and ended up chopping it on the stumps. He couldn’t make much use of the reprieve given to him by Steven Finn off his own bowling in the previous over. Shane Watson started positively but once again was guilty of throwing away a promising start which has become a hallmark of his 10 years as an international cricketer. Smith Joined Warner who completed his fifty off 48 deliveries. By the time Australia reached 100 in the 20th over the English attack of Broad, Woakes, Finn, Jordan and Moeen Ali had not posed any problems to the Australian batsmen. The question remained whether England could prevent Australia from earning the bonus point or not. David Warner duly completed another pugnacious hundred, his 4th in international cricket since December. Smith fell to Ali and Goerge Bailey was extremely tentative throughout his 25 ball stay which gave England hope of taking atleast a bonus point from the game. Warner and Haddin went on offensive and though both of them and Maxwell fell in the pursuit of the bonus point, Faulkner took them home in the 40th over. Warner scored his 127 runs off just 115 balls. Though Woakes ended up with 4 wickets, none of the English bowlers bowled any particularly threatening spell, something England management would like to work upon if they wish to mount a serious challenge to the WC next month.