05 May 2014

Number 1 in Tests again

This is quite likely to be my final article and it comes at a fairly good time.

As of last week The Baggy Greens regained the number one Test rank spot. Due to an ICC regulation in their rankings (as odd as they may seem) we pipped South Africa to reclaim number one. A magical feeling!

It's been a patience game, let alone a period of just one year where we endured some heavy lows.
In a nutshell these included; losing 4-0 to India (in India mind you), a disastrous team culture as a result of on and off-field dramas, assignment of a new coach after sacking another prior to an Ashes series, making drastic team changes after the homework ordeal and team culture being tainted, and then losing away to England with a 3-0 scoreline- not indicating just how close it was.

Finally, we regrouped against all odds and thumped England 5-0 at home, saw some of our veteran players find elite form, our new coach gained respect from both players and supporters alike, and then we took down South Africa in South Africa with some terrific cricket. I'm still mighty proud.

We were number one ranked in Tests when I started this site in 2007/08. We dropped to number five, dark days. I kept blogging, kept writing, and continued to back the team against all odds, even attending a training session with my mate Dan Stapo, to chat with the boys and show support after their shock loss against South Africa at Newlands in 2011.

Now, I write this from Australia having been through the highs (personally the Ashes and Australia Day ODI wins in Adelaide) and lows our team has endured and we're back to number one in Test ranks, with the top rank in ODIs too - although improvement is a necessity in this form with the ICC World Cup at home next year. Oh yeah, did I mention we also have the Ashes in our possession!

Furthermore, women's cricket has seen massive growth and interest from both the supporters (who will always matter most - often forgotten) and the media. Our Southern Stars have also just recently won the Women's ICC World T20 title for the third time in a row. Epic.

So, all in all I know all too well the battle continues to maintain our stronghold on the rank. The battle continues too as Test cricket itself will continue to be tested not just on the field but in changing global times too. I am content though and mighty proud of what our team has achieved upon reflection. It's special to know I was there against all odds, shoulder to shoulder with many other Australian cricket fanatics, loyal ones both here and around the globe.

I'll still be at the games, still suffering sleep deprivation to watch the away games, but for the time being with all the boys have achieved, I feel my writing has served its purpose at The Baggy Green Supporters Blog.

Long live cricket, and keep supporting Australian cricket!

This footage never gets old - except the censorship part.

 

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06 March 2014

3rd Test, South Africa versus Australia, day 5

Result: Australia won by 245 runs, clinch the series 2-1.

Australian 1st innings:
7/494 from 127.4 overs
Michael Clarke 161*, David Warner 135, Steven Smith 84, Shane Watson 40
JP Duminy 4-73

South African 1st innings:
287 all out from 82.5 overs
Faf du Plessis 67, Alviro Petersen 53
Mitchell Johnson 4-42, Ryan Harris 3-63, James Pattinson 2-77


Australian 2nd innings:
5/303 dec.
David Warner 145, Steven Smith 36*
Kyle Abbott 3-61


South African 2nd innings:
265 all out chasing 511 runs for victory after 134.3 overs
Vernon Philander 53*
Ryan Harris 4-32, Mitchell Johnson 3-92, James Pattinson 2-62


Ryan Harris, you bloody beauty! Australia, you f***in' beauty! Number 2 on the Test ranks. The overall mission has cleared another objective. We're above India now. Always good to be ahead of them. 

Beating South Africa is always a mighty satisfying feeling, but after being smashed at St Georges, it was quite a remarkable effort our boys delivered to take them down and win 2-1, after crushing England 5-0.

There will be some tired bodies after a very draining day both physically and psychologically at Newland's.

One man in particular is Ryan Harris, and despite David Warner's elite performance with the bat (seriously, those stats of his are ridiculously brilliant for the series) and having climbed 5th on the ICC Test Batting Ranks; Ryano delivered a spell of bowling which will resonate in the hearts of many a cricket tragic for years to come.

Ryano is now second on the ICC Test Bowling Ranks, behind South African legend Dale Steyn.

Here's my piece on Facebook I wrote about Ryano. I feel no need to write much more as this series and Test speaks for itself. I am very, very proud of my team.

This bloke will be remembered by me (and I hope most of you too) as an Australian fast bowling legend. I freaking love the dude! 

Ryan James Harris (Baggy Green #413), what a sporting inspiration he's been. 

Down and out, made comebacks, won us massive matches, and even with psychological battles and physical toils that would make most men break down, he instead broke through the pain to ensure he gave histeam and the supporters an elite performance. 

Cricket is tough and Ryan Harris is a true Test cricketer, a fast bowler who really had so much more to offer the game, but injury does this too many a player. His stats came in for the 3rd Test at 7/95, which has boosted his to 2nd on the ICC Test Bowling Ranks. Respect!

Whether he plays again for us or not is mostly dependent on how his knee operation and rehab goes, so I am wishing him all the best outcomes possible. Salutations champ. 

To get 100 Test wickets, win your team a Test match and series against the number 1 ranked team, while leaving behind an epic performance to remember, job done in my eyes.


Hope he returns. Congrats boys.

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04 March 2014

3rd Test, South Africa versus Australia, day 4

Australian 1st innings: 7/494 from 127.4 overs
Michael Clarke 161*, David Warner 135, Steven Smith 84, Shane Watson 40
JP Duminy 4-73

South African 1st innings:
287 all out from 82.5 overs
Faf du Plessis 67, Alviro Petersen 53
Mitchell Johnson 4-42, Ryan Harris 3-63, James Pattinson 2-77


Australian 2nd innings:
5/303 dec.David Warner 145, Steven Smith 36*
Kyle Abbott 3-61


South African 2nd innings:
4/71 chasing 511 runs for victory after 41.0 overs
Hashim Amla 40
Mitchell Johnson 2-31, Ryan Harris 1-10


Graeme Smith has announced his retirement. His stats alone are a fine testament to his skill as a batsman and he's been the skipper of his team for a very long time, a world record in fact. Respect. He's helped his team to the number 1 spot in the Test rankings and with that I think it's only fair to wish him all the best in his future ventures playing cricket in the UK and that he leaves behind a decent legacy.

My personal take on Smith is that he was given a great deal of responsibility very young and there was a certain arrogance, sorry, a definite arrogance which seemed to come through in his attitude as a result of this. Overcompensating? Quite likely, as pointed out by Shane Warne years ago. Smith had a tough time against us in this regard.

In the media spotlight he always came across as being rather robotic and quite bland in his personality, which from observing seems to be where, despite his brilliant batting records, he never seemed to get the credibility and immense respect from the South African supporters. The number of times it seemed the media were out to get him is simply numerous, especially with the lack of silverware the team managed to grab when taking on the worlds best. The pressure mounted and the choke tag grew.
I found Smith to be a bit of an excuse maker too often, struggling to just admit poor performances or being outplayed. Again, this probably goes back to the burden of leadership at a young age post the Hansie Cronje saga. I wasn't ever a great admirer, but it can't have been easy for the bloke and he did give it his best shot. 

This has been one mammoth performance from our boys. After being smashed in our second dig at St. Georges Park on the back of Dale Steyn's reverse-swing frenzy, many expected our boys to bow down and not fight, or just have the Proteas momentum wash over us, given Newland's is a great hunting ground for them. Instead we go into the final day of this epic clash between these two fine sides leading by 440 runs with 6 wickets standing in our way of victory.

AB de Villiers is still there and remains the key wicket, assuming our boys can't knock over his partners. It will take a massive effort for them to not lose this. The South African mentality will be to play for the draw and not likely the win, so expect a strong defensive fort to break down.

Sure, Adelaide 2012 will be spoken of but we had a bowling attack down one man and low on energy on a very, very hot Adelaide day. It was still a fantastic defiance from Faf du Plessis (and de Villiers played a role in that), but the circumstances are completely different this time around in terms of the pitch, weather conditions, and that we have a much better bowling attack with far greater versatility on offer. South Africa have their work cut out for them.

Two key wickets stand out, and that is the two mentioned above, AB and Faf.

However, the challenge awaits our boys tomorrow. From the 1st Ashes Test at the Gabba, a 5-0 win, and now a chance to beat South Africa 2-1, this is the opportunity, this is the day, this is the moment that is ours to take. Our players can then rest up with some incredible cricket behind them, but it's one day to go against a defiant team.

Michael Clarke would have been under immense pressure with the declaration decision. Some may feel he dragged it on, but he wouldn't have done this had he not believed in his bowlers and this would have been a team decision. This is about winning the series after all and a burden not placed upon one mans shoulders.

Was it left too late? Time will tell but with 4 wickets claimed in 41.0 overs, I'd hardly say it was too late. The bowlers backed his decision, gave it their very best and got out there with self-belief instilled in them from the leader. The decision has been made, time to fight for those last 6 wickets.

Personally, we probably could have had a lead of 400 and gunned it, but given South Africa's ability in recent times to take on those targets with a track that could have held up well for their top order (who've now been dismantled) it was a decision Clarke would have considered, hence pushing for over 500 runs.

David Warner was the man of the day though, despite yet another scintillating bowling performance from Ryan Harris and Mitchell Johnson with the new ball. Onto that in a moment.

David Warner had the best platform. He could play aggressively, play with a definite goal in mind, and as a result he scored 145 runs. This series he has scores of 12, 115, 70, 66, 135, and 145.

That's 543 runs at 90.50 from 6 innings, with 3 centuries and 2 half-centuries. Matthew Hayden's shadow.

That's a phenomenal effort. Just look at those stats, but better yet, I hope you've actually watched his batting. He's been brutal. Yes, he's had luck, but that's not his problem, it's South Africa's problem their fielding standards were lowered and they've paid a hefty fine. Over and above that, David Warner came under fire before this Test match for his public statements which I backed him on, mostly because I can't stand robotic cricketers. He has followed up with 2 centuries. Doesn't get bolder.

His effort alone was enough to steer us into a strong position, but contributions from Steven Smith and Alex Doolan ensured we made it a dominant position.

The Proteas were hit hard without Dale Steyn, similar to our issues in 2011 and 2012 with numerous bowling issues, but it has perhaps been good for them going forward to see the effectiveness of their bowlers without the Phalaborwa Express in the team.

With Graeme Smith now retired as well, and Jacques Kallis only played limited overs international cricketer (and Mark Boucher gone too) they have some serious gaps to fill, and their bowling looks like the area to be effected when Dale Steyn is not around. I shared my view on Morne Morkel on day 2, but whether or not Steyn was there or not, David Warner was explosive and was in a demolition mood that few bowlers could have stopped.

It's now all about our bowlers. The batsmen have completed their tour, their fielding hands now become their focus, our bowlers have the task set. Our batsmen have given them more than enough to work with and limited their pressure with consistent 1st and 2nd innings performances, something which has been inconsistent, as a contradiction of sorts.

Ryan Harris is set to go under the knife after this series for a knee-operation. Reality is, I am treating this Test as if it may be the last time I witness him playing for the Baggy Greens. Knee-ops carry intense rehabilitation and who knows when he may return to cricket, and how the replacement bowlers will stack up. He's one of my favourite bowlers to watch and to see him so wired and strong this Test to give his best, I am just embracing it. He's a champ and keeps on going, despite the physical pain he must be suffering.

Before this Test he admitted to feeling low on confidence, but like David Warner he has delivered on the field to back his public opinion. To celebrate, he reached 100 Test wickets. He deserves it and so much more.

Well done Ryano, proud of you!

Mighty Mitch, well, I almost feel I need to be copying and pasting at the moment. Here it is in short.

This series (forget the Ashes) 21 wickets at 15.28 with 2 5-fers and a 10 wicket haul in a Test.

He has broken Graeme Smith's hand twice and really troubled the soon to be retired South African skipper. He ended his final Test innings with a fast and furious short pitched delivery, snatched by Alex Doolan at short leg.

He then bowled Dean Elgar with what is the ball of the series for me, competing with Ryan Harris' delivery to remove Hashim Amla on day 3. Similar deliveries, fast and a thrill to watch and hear the stump mics pick up the timber falling over.

James Pattinson ended the day for us on the perfect note, as he trapped Hashim Amla LBW. It was the big fish to go to stumps and to have 4 wickets down was great. To see our young gun pick up a vital wicket was even better and despite Amla's review he was foxed by the inward movement of the track from Jamo.

One day to go, 6 wickets to get. Come on the Baggy Greens, so close!  

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02 March 2014

3rd Test, South Africa versus Australia, day 2

Australian 1st innings: 7/494 from 127.4 overs
Michael Clarke 161*, David Warner 135, Steven Smith 84, Shane Watson 40

Yesterday evening Michael Clarke would have wanted to have had a bowl at the Proteas. Instead the rain came down with us just short of 500 runs and play was called off for the day. The result is that while we find ourselves in a fantastic position to win this Test, three days remain and with no great idea as to how the pitch will play from here it may be a tough ask to get 20 South African wickets, bearing in mind we may need to have a second bat, depending on their output. With some high quality bowling we may not need to.

The Proteas still have to bat so I will spare the analysis on how we can roll them. With the covers on, there may be a spongy dynamic to the wicket which, while flat, has had great carry to the keeper and variable bounce. With Dale Steyn out injured, Morne Morkel was able to showcase this area of life in the track. Unfortunately, for the Proteas, he doesn't strike me as an intelligent enough bowler to really unleash his true credentials when the track really suits him, as seen with his hostile performances but poor returns to show for it. For a player who has been at it a while now, it just feels Morkel has never lived up to his ultimate abilities as a tall, fast bowler. I am okay if we keep him at bay for much longer.

Mitchell Johnson and James Pattinson will be eager to see how they go after assessing Morkel in particular, while Ryan Harris knows that knee operations isn't far away so he can go all out for this Test, and give us a special performance seeing that there is realistic risk that his playing future could be in doubt post-operations. Wish him all the best for the challenge that should come tomorrow. What a champ, Ryano!

Michael Clarke's innings was his defining one to back the "get ready for a broken f***in' arm" comment he made to James Anderson during the Ashes.

This innings showed us he is also a mentally tough player, who can take the physical blows to the body, the psychological battle to combat fear and pressure, while also believing in ones technique to still find your shots, watch the ball, and play hard to get the runs. Clarkey has 161 of these, topping his 2011 effort by 10 runs. It has been a gritty, true Test innings.

Starting the day in the 90s he was kept under pressure on 99 with some tight bowling from Kyle Abbott, but he found a way to make his way through the 21 deliveries he had to measure up against. From there, it was a fluent innings with lovely stroke play and some intensity stepped up to a level of urgency with the rain lurking about.

He was well supported by Steven Smith who continued to run between the wickets, smack the rubbish to the boundary, and just play another brilliant innings as he shapes himself as an Australian middle order batsman. He has come of age over the last 5 months and has been a joy to watch. He deserved a century but some low bounce found the bottom edge of his bat as he tried to cut Dean Elgar. It was a soft way to end a hard fought innings, a real anti-climax. Playing the number one team in the world, the dubbed best bowling attack in the world, Smithy has returned great batting figures to show the world he is a Test cricketer.

Shane Watson (who took a 5-fer at the ground in 2011) made his return and was under LBW pressure from the word "go", but he managed to get through a shaky start and then let his natural game flow in the number 6 position. He scored 40 runs with three sixes and, like Smith, deserved a milestone of sorts for a very positive innings showing intent and no doubt following team orders to get on with it and find a way to get the boundaries with the rain creeping over Table Mountain.

We lost a number of wickets passing the 400 run mark but we find ourselves 6 runs short of 500 runs, which would have been the ideal landmark to reach. However, I sense an overnight declaration. Time was lost with the rain, we have a strong grip on this match and need time to get into the batsmen. Our bowlers have had two days to stay fresh and relaxed and no doubt the game plans can be well strategised and executed with the game map well presented based on our innings.

Newland's always has an opportunity on offer for a really big team score. That is why I don't want to think too far ahead, but we've certainly done the job having won the toss and posted a big total on the scoreboard. Whether or not Clarke advances it, time will soon tell us but my gut feeling is he will look to bowl as soon as possible. I wonder how the moisture will work the Newland's track?

All in all, it's now about focusing on how to get those wickets while I personally find it exciting to see how/if this track will change character. I really don't have much more to add other than lets see how day 3 of the final Test between these two fine teams plays out.

Verdict: Having not had a bowl at the Proteas it was a lost opportunity to further drive a stake into their match claim, but with nearly 500 runs on the board and our team leader unbeaten on a monumental performance of 161 runs and the bowlers fresh and ready to go, it was our day. Up the Baggy Greens!

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01 March 2014

3rd Test, South Africa versus Australia, day 1

Australia won the toss and decided to bat.

Australian 1st innings: 3/331 from 88.0 overs
David Warner 135, Michael Clarke 92*, Steven Smith 50*

This series has come down to the final Test at 1-1, and it's now on with us in a strong position. The 1st Test saw us dominate the Proteas on the back of Mitchell Johnson's brutal bowling efforts and their lack of preparation to combat us. However, they hit back on a flat batting track at Port Elizabeth. Despite fighting efforts from David Warner and Chris Rogers (107), Dale Steyn produced a beautiful, but deadly, spell of reverse swing bowling to roll us as we saw Durham last year.

South Africa had the momentum, but our never give in, always play for the win attitude was essential taking to the field and winning the toss was the first small victory. The final clash is at Newland's, a lovely ground.

I was at the 47 all out match in 2011 and I am pleased to write that if that were to occur this game it would seem it is likely to happen to South Africa rather than us, but we'll have to see how our bowlers go.

I felt the selection decisions to bring back in Shane Watson over Shaun Marsh, and young gun James Pattinson over Peter Siddle two smart moves. I wrote my view on Shaun Marsh during the last article and if Shane Watson is ready to bowl, use him! As for Siddle, his role when not taking wickets is to build the pressure from his end and he just hasn't been able to do it too effectively this series. As a result, with high dependency on Mitch, and Ryan Harris taking a while to find his stride, it was best to bring in a guy with a touch of extra pace and fresh on energy. Tough to leave out Peter Siddle, but the decision was bold, much to the disappointment of his Newland's fans who always chant, "Siddle is a wanker".

On the back of his century, Chris Rogers took on Dale Steyn and scored 8 runs of his first over. It was a strong statement made and David Warner followed in pursuit.

Rogers has such a tight game plan that it is inevitable that he will find good runs for us in any series, but the second innings continues to be his ideal platform.

David Warner's century was splendid and just a statement of authority out in the middle. He was fined a portion of his match fee due to a statement accusing AB de Villiers of roughing up the ball with his gloves. It's not the first time Davey has made a statement in the media against the teams wishes and slightly over the top, but it seems to be a game risk he is willing to take. It inspires him and fires him up and, as Mark Nicholas put it, it's almost the same tactic a boxer uses before a big fight. It seems to keep working for him.

Did I support David Warner's view before this game? Well, yes, seeing he scored a century, I also like the renegade, and now has a Test run this series with the following stats: 12, 115, 70, 66, 135.

He also has 874 runs for the 2013/14 season at 66.54, leading the charts.

Here's what I put on Facebook regarding his media ordeal: "Davey Warner has come out with the public comments again and has now ruffled the feathers of the easily aggravated (sensitive) South African supporters and support staff. Not sure how/if it has since been taken out of context? 

Granted, I never like the dynamic of accusing players of dodgy tactics (especially ball tampering) but I like the way Davey plays the media and creates a bit of buzz. I often like the renegade in a sportsman.

So whatever, I honestly don't care what he says, or what he says in the future - just get runs to back yourself, which he's been doing. If anything I don't mind if he says some seriously inappropriate things either. I am seriously over robotic sportsmen and corporate folk too scared of upsetting the financial Gods. 

Bring on the 3rd Test. Davey, be ready for some abuse at Newland's brother."


His century itself was loaded with confidence, self-belief and strong stroke play. He has had plenty of luck this series, but this innings was very strong come both his straight and cross bat shots, with his timing being a joy to watch. Even just a basic punch gets backed with almighty power to rocket to the boundary. His balance helped massively too. One also can't forget his running between the wickets during the 65 run opening stand with Rogers. Powerful running, with explosive take offs from the crease eager for more.

Rogers was dismissed for 25, but a very well played 25 which deserved more. His shots through the off side were well composed and compact. I liked the comparison to Justin Langer. Being a former WA player it is even more valid a point raised by Nicholas and Kepler Wessels in commentary. Keen to get some comparative footage.

Come Davey's century, a victory against the South African's and their media, it was quite standalone with Alex Doolan only contributing 20 at number 3 - who did play some very expressive shots though, favouring the pull shot which led to his downfall. A pity as he's always so patient.

Michael Clarke was in his own battle during Davey's moment of monumental success. Even beyond a century, he continued to play at the same pace and I particularly liked his six into the South Eastern stand off the bowling of JP Duminy. He took a liking to Kyle Abbott square on the offside, regularly outplaying Graeme Smith's tactical plans.

Michael Clarke had to face a brutal spell from Morne Morkel, who took over duty from Dale Steyn. Immediately Smith had his men around Clarke and they were ready for the short ball pay off. It went on for a long time, a life time for Clarkey. Mentally it was brutal given he is a bit low on confidence, trying to find his class again and he took a number of hits to the body. He was going for the evasive action tactic and not willing to play the ball, which made him look very uncomfortable. One into the forearm, another to the side of the neck, painful and lethal. It's scary to face that kind of bowling and he looked uncharacteristically out of his depth. Come a return of confidence he will be fine, but it was hard going.

However, despite the new look Morne Morkel's efforts, Clarkey faced up to it and now finds himself 8 runs short of a century, eying another at Newland's Cricket Ground. Well done Michael, that wasn't easy going for him given his lack of confidence against the bowling but he survived. It was hostile backed by the crowd. No doubt this will be a focus come his practice.

Should he get his 27th Test century, it won't be one of his best based on executing his batting skills (a diverse range at that) but rather one based on a fighting spirit to bring himself out of a pit and bring the runs for his team as they fight for a massive win.

Ladies and gentlemen, stay tuned for Mitchell Johnson and James Pattinson.

The wicket has been dismissed by a number of South African supporters as flat and lifeless. Judging by their very own Morne Morkel, I disagree that while it is flat, it is not lifeless. There was plenty of bounce in this track and Morkel was quick, menacing, but due to a possible lack of tactic upon execution, was not effective - given his lack of bowling on a good length too.

Mitchell Johnson and James Pattinson should take note of this. With Jamo we gain an extra 10km/h in a bowler, and this track could keep these two men well entertained. Ryan Harris seems amped and ready to go, so if he can be accurate it will just help out Mitch and Jamo to double the efforts Morkel displayed. Keep in mind Morkel didn't have Dale Steyn at the other end due to a hammy injury in the 41st over, so it would have affected his output a fair bit.

South Africa also don't have a quality spinner to turn to like we do. Newland's isn't a renowned spinners deck but there is always something to be gained from a good spinner, be it changing the game tempo, directly affecting a players rhythm, or finding enough turn to just keep a batsman concentrating.

Steven Smith has reached fifty, and is having a good series too as he continues to blossom as a batsman series in, series out. He's going well, but he has yet another fantastic opportunity to showcase his turnaround as a cricketer. It seems Smithy is loaded with chances to play significant innings in recent times. Again, I draw a comparison to Steve Waugh. Incredible given how poor Smithy's start was to his career, no thanks to the former Australian selectors.

The plan now will be to reach 400 runs, then 450. It obviously will be the plan. If we can get to this landmark, it will really put the counter-attack into perspective. South Africa still need to have a bat, obviously, but until then I won't get into too many forecasts. Reality is this start is perfect for us to push for a big score (with a few good batsmen to follow) and continually believe we can win this match.

All the best to Michael Clarke tomorrow and well done to Davey Warner. I enjoyed that innings. Up the Baggy Greens.

Verdict: Day 1 comfortably goes to us.

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23 February 2014

2nd Test, South African versus Australia

Facebook posts for each days play for the 2nd Test. The series is level at 1-1, Newland's is set to be a world cricket clash of spectacular heights! Day 5 through to thoughts on day 1.

Well done to Chris Rogers and David Warner for fighting so well to keep us in the contest to go to day 5. Sadly their efforts were null and void after our other batsmen showed zero fight. Our batsmen were terrible on a decent track. Apologies for negativity, it is not my thing, but that was horrible stuff and let down Davey and Bucky big time.

Kudos to the Proteas. They batted with pure class and delivered some special magic, notably Dale Steyn to kill our other batsmen in the final session.

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1st Test, Day 4, South Africa versus Australia, St Georges Park

Result: South Africa won by 231 runs. Series level 1-1

To write I am disappointed right now is an understatement. I am absolutely furious and fuming on the inside! 

This game was loaded with opportunities to showcase our team character and culture Darren Lehman has been working so hard on, and we gifted them all away. However, I will always be a good sport and can write well done to the Proteas after they did something magical to take the match. Series is level, one game to go. 

I am so angry because Chris Rogers (107) and David Warner's (66) efforts were pissed away and their fight totally pointless - null and void. 

They set a stand of 126 runs, perfect to lay down a foundation for the run chase and easily stay in the contest until day 5. However, not one other batsman made double figures. Terrible stuff. 

Not much more I want to add right now, but our 1st innings performance killed us. It ruined any momentum our bowlers could have sucked up with such a high deficit and this was a track to make over 300 runs, good for batting. We didn't achieve it once. 

Sorry for the negativity, I am usually not the one to be so, but after the way our openers played (especially David Warner this Test) it was a let down for two players who showed how Australia fight. Gutted, not what I expect from this team. 

We can take the battle to Newland's for what is set to be a world cricket spectacular clash. Catch it! Still back the boys. 

There was two things I pointed out after our batting collapse on day 2. The first is a positive regarding Chris Rogers, the second regarding Shaun Marsh - the pattern returns. 

"Chris Rogers, sadly, continues to be a bit of a walking wicket, but I have this odd feeling he may pull it together in the 2nd innings. If South Africa use the excuse they take a while to crank up in a series, I will use this for Rogers, given this has been his trend upon a career return."

"Shaun Marsh was gone for a quacker the very next ball playing away from his body, which by his character could very well mean a huge confidence drop now and some worrying trends to follow. I hope not, but history strongly suggests this."
2nd Test, day 3, South Africa versus Australia, St. Georges Park

South Africa lead us by 369 runs, 6 wickets in hand, two days play remaining with possible showers for the final day. 

It's win or lose for me, I am not interested in a draw as it means we can still tie the series with South Africa, as good as a loss in my eyes given how well we played in the 1st Test. Standards mowed down this Test, with the emphasis on winning the toss really standing out now at this ground. 

A draw here does mean we could win 2-0, but I want to see this game through. A grand challenge set for our guys.

I anticipate South Africa would, to make a game of it, go hard at us for the first session, see Hashim Amla get his century (a top effort given he has a dislocated finger) and then they will try knock us over. 

I see these scenarios as a challenge and to really see which players have that fighting spirit. We have thrown away a grand opportunity on this track with our 1st innings top order performances, but our lower order did ensure we avoided the follow-on, although I doubt it would have been enforced with the Proteas one bowler down. 

Steven Smith was the only real positive yesterday and I was livid with his decision. It's a tough one cause the snicko may very well have been the edge, but is it enough? Probably too minimal a piece of evidence, but I was gutted after Stevo had not really been hassled all that much. His stroke play against Dale Steyn was first class, just great batting to witness.

Mitchell Johnson and Ryan Harris both fought hard to keep knocking runs off that lead and that was admirable of our paceman to do a job they shouldn't have needed too. It was always too big a task. 

A few loose shots too from David Warner and Nathan Lyon, even Brad Haddin who was foxed against in-swing from Dale Steyn that had been evident for the previous three balls. Not sure how Hads fell into that trap, especially leaving such a wide gap as if he played without anticipating any swing at all. Most peculiar. 

Peter Siddle has stepped up this innings, as Ryan Harris went at over 5 an over. Sids has 2-53, while Mighty Mitch has 2-48 - removing Graeme Smith again. Awesome! 

Not really much we can do tomorrow but just keep trying to see if we can find a few more wickets, kill their momentum and see if we can deliver with the bat from our top order. 

200 runs from the top four would be a fantastic platform given the depth of our batting, but the lead is now in quite a daunting position as it is. 

Rain can ensure a draw is called come day 5, meaning South Africa could only draw the series if this Test brings no result. As for us, we can still tie the series if they were to win in Cape Town, where they have been us in our last two encounters there (2009, 2011). 

A win would give us a win, but ultimately if this result goes their way it is going to be one hell of a showdown. Still two days to go, still backing the boys to fight and claw their way out of this.


2nd Test, day 2, South Africa vs Australia, St. Georges Park. 

You'd have to feel we've thrown away a good opportunity in terms of our batting on this track, with 4 wickets down and just 112 runs on the board. We trail the Proteas by 311 runs, 6 wickets in hand, 3 days of play remaining. 

There was nothing in it for the bowlers and AB de Villiers and JP Duminy played with admirable focus and concentration to take advantage of the great batting track. AB brought up a century that was well deserved, while Duminy resuscitated his career. 

The Proteas found ways to make the track work for them. 

Wayne Parnell took two wickets in his first over, with Alex Doolan caught behind - rarely the first of the match. The ball was still in good condition and found enough carry. 
Shaun Marsh was gone for a quacker the very next ball playing away from his body, which by his character could very well mean a huge confidence drop now and some worrying trends to follow. I hope not, but history strongly suggests this. 

The very good news for us is that David Warner is still fighting as hard as ever out there (65*) and Nathan Lyon played with as much fight to still be there with 12* runs to his name as he came in as Nightwatchman. 

Chris Rogers, sadly, continues to be a bit of a walking wicket, but I have this odd feeling he may pull it together in the 2nd innings. If South Africa use the excuse they take a while to crank up in a series, I will use this for Rogers, given this has been his trend upon a career return. 

All in all, this track is dull and South Africa made inroads with the new ball just as we did, but found far more in it with some local experience in Parnell. As everyone says now, credit to them. 

It will be a very, very challenging day tomorrow and the boys need our support. They had The Proteas in a tough position, but one partnership knocked us back a few yards. 

It's now about believing in them to make up for that lost ground. Steven Smith and Brad Haddin will fight and once again Brad Haddin is in a situation which brings out the best of his competitive spirit. The difference is our opponent has good runs on the scoreboard. It's good to have our backs against the wall. 

Day 3 will be the biggest challenge we've had since Brisbane. Lets smash it! Come on Baggy Greens!


2nd Test, day 1, South Africa versus Australia, St. Georges Park. 

A good performance from our boys. Very little in this track, low carry to the keeper and little swing on offer too with both the new and worn out ball. 

Michael Clarke had to regularly work his changes and shape his tactics, which in the end were nearly more effective than they could have been. 

All in all our start was fantastic to fox Smith and Amla to LBWs, but was always going to be hard grafting out there if batsmen showed better patience and determination, which Elgar, du Plessis, and de Villiers displayed. 

We have them 5 wickets down now and the day probably edged slightly in our favour with the wicket of Quinton de Kock in the evening before stumps were called early. Still very balanced right now this match. 

A strong first session vital with AB still at the crease and in grand form. Don't see this track offering us too many delights, so we may need that same insane burst of fire and momentum as we saw here in Adelaide during the 2nd Ashes Test. 

All in all I am quite pleased with our performance, with the toss going against us too which was an important one to win. 

Day 2 awaits.



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21 February 2014

2nd Test, South Africa versus Australia

Due to time constraints with work I am unable to post more thorough, detailed match analysis and opinions here at the site for the 2nd Test. I am still backing the boys and trying to spread the never give-in support philosophy. They need it this Test, after a challenging day 2 that went in South Africa's favour.

Quick updates will be posted at the Baggy Green Supporters Blog Facebook page, so interact there.

Third Test will be covered here.

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15 February 2014

South Africa versus Australia, 1st Test, day 4

Australian 1st innings: 397 all out
Shaun Marsh 1
48, Steven Smith 100
D
ale Steyn 4-78

South African 1st innings:
206 all out
AB de Villiers 52*
Mitchell Johnson
7-68, Nathan Lyon 2-38

 
Australian 2nd innings: 4/290 declared
David Warner 115, Alex Doolan 89, Shaun Marsh 44


South African 2nd innings: 200 all out (Target 482)
AB de Villiers 48
Mitchell Johnson 5-59, Ryan Harris 2-35

 
Mitchell Johnson started the Ashes series with 205 wickets from 51 Tests.

After this Test he now has 254 wickets from 57 Tests, 49 wickets added to the collection. This Test match he has taken a career-best 12 wickets, a phenomenal achievement and done so against the number one ranked side. It was all too easy against England? I think the hard answers were smashed into the grills of the pessimists as Mitchell Johnson delivered another scary spell against the Proteas, the most fearsome since the 90s. Remember it, embrace it!

It was no surprise these scintillating performances with the ball earned Mitch the Man of the Match award (the 9th award in his Test career). Of his last 6 Tests he has claimed the award four times.

The spells were frightening, devastating, and more than enough to put Mitchell Johnson into the ranks as one of the most fearsome bowlers in the history of the game. I hope viewers realise what they saw this summer and in this game against South Africa. It rarely comes along and when it does it should be engraved into your memory banks. This game reminded me of his spell at Kingsmead, Durban, 2009. Initially that is. Well done Mitch.

Besides Mitch, the difference was evident. Our batsmen showed that gritty determination on display during the Ashes. The result was three centurions at Centurion (Shaun Marsh 148, Steven Smith 100, David Warner 115), a debutant who held his nerve superbly (Alex Doolan 27, 89), a bowling unit who presented synergy amongst some minor fatigue, and fielding standards carried on from where they were raised to the highest of benchmarks over the Australian summer.

Chris Rogers will be the one man who will feel disappointed with his output. He never looked settled and struggled to showcase the patience and caution he usually displays to see off the new ball. It was uncharacteristic and I hope to see a stronger performance from him.

The day started off though with the Proteas batsmen surely knowing they'd have a rough time out there. Variable bounce, good pace off the track, and a bowling attack ready for the kill.

Morne Morkel was terrific with the ball as the day began, but simply demonstrated to Michael Clarke what the track had to offer for day 4 and lead to a very quick declaration. Shaun Marsh didn't add to his overnight score of 44, but his simple prod at the ball to get caught behind indicated there was little intention to go out to claim more runs to the already monstrous lead. With Morkel's demo done, Clarkey called for the declaration and the proceedings began for The Baggy Greens to take the win, draw first blood of the 3-match Test series.

It didn't take long. Alviro Petersen has been playing away from his body, a trigger movement to his leg stump, and Mitchell Johnson hasn't let him settle. His dismissal was inevitable with this technique, very well analysed by Shaun Pollock in the commentary box versus the way AB de Villiers handled himself.

Alex Doolan had a brilliant debut. Besides his composure of day 3, his catches taken at short leg were freakish to say the least. The most bizarre factor was the way he actually got his hands into a position to take the catches. It didn't just seem to be pure reflex, but someone with freakish reflexes who instinctively went for the catch. Simon Katich was very good in the position, as was the original player I watched under the helmet - David Boon. Alex Doolan has quickly taken a likening to the role and helped Mitch grab two wickets, the big one of Graeme Smith and then JP Duminy.

Mitchell's damage of the day was that of his wicket taking. However, physical intimidation included smashing a bouncer into Hashim Amla's grill, first ball which nearly took his helmet straight off.

Ryan McClaren had ducked and weaved quite well until he ducked into a fast ball back of a length from Mitch. It bashed into the side of his head and drew blood from his ear. The battle is exciting, but it is a bit sickening when something like that happens. Even the bowler who executes the pain doesn't like it, but that is the game and that is the job of the intimidator. Cricket is a tough game and a red ball coming at you around 150km/h is terrifying.

After the break, McClaren was dismissed shortly after and would have been quite pleased to get off the ground and ease the pounding in his head. Hope he recovers okay. 

Vernon Philander took a delivery onto his finger, then his bat broke.

Mitchell's job was done with another 5 wickets in the bag. Ryan Harris and Peter Siddle finished proceedings. Both of them have done a grand job this Test, nothing too flash or overly effective, but that effectiveness has come from tight bowling with little pressure release from their duties. Both looked a little down on energy but I still have high expectations of these two experienced campaigners.

Sids was able to vary the seam and get variable bounce off the track, especially with fuller paced bowling, while Ryano was like a metronome. This output gave him the reward of Hashim Amla's wicket. Craig McDermott's 101 plan.

The victory came in good time, with the boys having one day extra to rest their bodies, clear their minds and prepare for a quick turnaround before the Test down in Port Elizabeth.

Since South Africa's readmission into sports only one Test has been played in PE, St George's Park, which we won. Mark Waugh took the Man of the Match award after a century which ensured we were able to squeeze out a victory by 2 wickets. I remember it very well.

It's a good vibe when games get played at St. George's. Usually there's a band belting out some regular anthems and it should make the atmosphere at the smaller ground a good advertisement in a big clash for both sides. We look to take the series, South Africa look to stay alive.

So, it the next venue has some history in our favour as the boys will fight hard to go 2-0 up and claim another Test series in South Africa. Newland's hasn't been a good hunting ground for us, but we ended South Africa's good run at Centurion and have gained momentum to go 1-0 up.

Tough work ahead still in my opinion and I hope our bowlers rest up well to be ready to do it all again on Thursday.


Verdict:
Proud to write we took each day of this Test. Very happy.


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14 February 2014

South Africa versus Australia, 1st Test, day 3

Australian 1st innings: 397 all out
Shaun Marsh 1
48, Steven Smith 100Dale Steyn 4-78

South African 1st innings:
206 all out
AB de Villiers 52*
Mitchell Johnson
7-68, Nathan Lyon 2-38

Australian 2nd innings: 3/288 from 69.0 overs
David Warner 115, Alex Doolan 89, Shaun Marsh 44*

The match situation now reads that we lead by 479 runs, 7 wickets in hand, two days of play remaining.

If you watched the game last night, you would have noticed South Africa began to disintegrate in the field, with their high standards plummeting. Misfields, overthrows, drop catches (three off David Warner's blade), and body language that showed they will only play for a draw now, despite AB de Villiers stating their team culture is to never give up, although I believe this is a trait belonging almost solely to him. Recent history indicates this too. The match is ours for the taking now, but against a top side it still requires immense hard work not just for these final two days, but another two Tests. Clinical execution required.

Mighty Mitch, yep, he did it again.

Mitchell Johnson's 7 wicket haul will go down as another one of his spells to remember. Since the Ashes, Mitchell's figures have read as follows: 4/61, 5/42, 7/40, 1/73, 2/62, 4/78, 5/63, 3/25, 3/33, 3/40 and now 7/68.

Whether it remains short or medium term for Mitchell, it will go down as one of the greatest spells for a fast bowler in this history of the game - and this patch of his as a golden run. Mitch will be remembered for his frightening spells and his mental strength to come back from a nightmare run. Embrace what you are witnessing. I have watched cricket for over 20 years to know these performances are a rarity. Michael Holding gave Mitch plenty of praise, and when one of the great fast bowlers of the game gives that recognition, you know it means something massive.

Well done Mitchy! Hope our other bowlers can back him up in the second dig. It's needed to get all 10 wickets. Mitch is also going to be on a hat-trick with his first delivery in the innings, after claiming AB de Villiers (for 91 excellent runs) for delivery 59.6, and Morne Morkel for a golden duck in over 61.1.

South Africa got off to a perfect start to remove Chris Rogers in Dale Steyn's first over. Chris didn't look comfortable at all in the 1st innings either, oddly not handling the pace and additional bounce, odd given his WACA background. He played a strange shot to chop one onto his stumps, a rising delivery back of a length from Steyn. 1/1 was our score and you could sense many South African supporters murmuring about the 47 all out day. Not this time.

David Warner scored his 6th Test century, amidst some luck due to low fielding standards, and Alex Doolan held his own mighty well in his second Test innings to score 89 runs. They brought up the record second wicket partnership at Centurion (passing the record set by South Africa against us in 1996/7) totaling 205 runs. Only double-century partnership after Shaun Marsh and Steven Smith's efforts.

Davey's straight bat shots were powerful, his cross bat shots quick and crisp, while his running between the wickets was as fast as ever. High energy helped fatigue the South African fielders, which Doolan assisted from his end.

Davey appeared as relaxed as ever, offering plenty of smiles, acknowledging the luck he had until he settled into a cruise control gear and belted away his opposition. 13 fours and 2 sixes added to his total, with his innings giving more of a psychological dampener on the South African parade, as opposed to the simple score line advancement.

Prior to the innings getting underway, I noted on The Baggy Green Blog Facebook page: "
David Warner due a decent innings here. Come on boys, steady now, no panic." Glad my forecast materialised. It was a gut feeling Davey's confidence would suit the match situation.

Alex Doolan was patient to the point the commentators (a select few) were noting his low strike rate. It didn't matter given the collectivity of the two batsmen as they kept knocking South Africa out the match. It was a Test innings, patience, caution, playing to ones strengths. It was a number three's knock Alex played. The only fault was that he didn't get a century he deserved after his application. Once he was settled he drove the ball, cut it, and corrected his pull shot technique - which brought his downfall for 27 on day 1.

There's an element to Doolan's game reminding me of Damien Martyn. Still trying to put my finger on what it is exactly, but it's there and that is a very, very good sign. Well done Alex, outstanding performance on debut, high pressure, and against the number 1 Test side.

The question we have now is should Shane Watson be fit, does Doolan make way, or Shaun Marsh, who scored 148 in the 1st innings and is currently 44* not out - his previous best against The Proteas?

History indicates selectors have no issue casting aside someone even if in form. It was last done when Brad Hodge filled in for Michael Clarke during the Caribbean tour of 2008, 1st Test. Hodgey scored a half-century and had a very good game. Clarkey made his way over for the 2nd Test, and Hodgey made way. He never played a Test again for Australia.

I can only see validity to select Watto on the basis he can bowl and the importance of us having the additional seamer, but there's intense competition now based on Doolan and Marsh stepping up. It will put some pressure on Watto, which is what he needs. His competitive nature should accept the challenge. I feel strongly that his selection can only be tactical given what we've witnessed from these two batsmen. 

Well, that would seem our biggest worry right now. Two days of play remain and we have a lead closing in on 500 runs. South Africa will fight for a draw, they will make us work bloody hard to win from here, but we've given ourselves the best possible chance to do so. The follow-on was avoided, so that plan was scrapped, even though Clarkey won't ever impose it. Rain would seem the biggest obstacle in our way right now.

I look forward to the challenge and how our boys further lift the intensity and energy out there. Elite fielding standards are a must, as we saw the effect it can have when not at the highest of standards. Day 4 will begin with us declaring and taking to the field, or Clarkey and Marsh just there to bully The Proteas a bit longer to get a lead over 500 runs.

Verdict: We take day 3 too. We're a step closer to 1-0.


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