Two Reasons India will spin webs around Aussie batsmen

Next week the first Test between kicks off in Pune. The contest will be dramatic. The war of words strident and the crowds big and loud. Can Australia compete?

India’s form is irresistible. Undefeated in 18 Tests. Most were at home and recent series provide clues. They beat Bangladesh 1-0 in a solitary Test and England 4-0 across five Tests.

The England series was compelling for Australian fans.

England posted 400 and 500+ totals on three occasions. In the first Test they had India on the back foot, but India held on for a narrow draw.

India then found rhythm and England were thrashed. Despite having five of the series’ top ten run scorers England were routed by superior batting.

Virat Kohli scored 655 runs at an average of 109. India passed 400 five times, their biggest total was declared at 7/759.

Meanwhile, Australia’s batting has been a widely publicized problem. Series losses to Sri Lanka and South Africa were papered over by resurgence against Pakistan. 

New faces adorned the top order. Handscomb and Renshaw provide hope.

But India away is next level. Difficult conditions, big crowds, lots of noise, falling wickets, men around the bat, blunt words and pressure to hold on.

Can Australia avoid past mistakes?

The common phrase ‘play your natural game’ is a pitfall.

It is bandied about too often. It’s a license to throw your wicket away in difficult circumstances. Chase a wide one in the hope you’ll get a few, before they get you.

Steve Smith has forecast change. Aggression is not the only tactic. Counter-attack has often failed. Australia’s batsmen need to be prepared to go to war in the dusty trenches. For hours, even days.

For Australia, the question isn’t how do we take 20 wickets?

But rather, how do we score 600 every time we bat.

Warner’s quick 100s need to be converted into bigger, longer scores. The top order must bat long and wear down bowlers down, who won’t be intimidated by one-off rapid scoring.

Ashwin and Jadeja need to be stopped.

They spun webs around England. Ashwin bowled 300 overs and took 28 wickets at 30. Jadeja bowled 290 overs and took 26 wickets at 25.

It was all about spin.

The leading fast-medium bowler on the England tour was India’s Shami. He took just 10 wickets. Each of England’s pace bowlers took fewer than eight across the series.

The point here is spin. It’s all about spin. And batting big. Really big.

Starc and Hazlewood will play a role. But Lyon, O’Keefe, Agar and Swepson will be important. But nothing is more important than runs and Australia will be tempted to cram as many batsmen into its XI as possible.

Enjoy the ride, this series will be awesome. Cricket Froth will be there for fourth Test in Dharamshala. So stay tuned for up-close analysis.

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Himachal Pradesh Cricket Stadium in Dharamshala. Situated at the foot of the Himalayas in northern India. Hosts the fourth Test between Australia and India in March 2017.

Three reasons to support Pakistan in Sydney

Imagine never playing a home game. Touring the globe playing cricket would be a thrill for most of us but what about seven years on the road?

Pakistan has not played at home since 2009 and Australia hasn’t played there since 1998.

They look exhausted. Australia has already won the series and there seems little to play for? Aussie fans are predicting an easy win.

Three reasons to shout for Pakistan

  • Sun sets on two greats. Misbah and Younus. 42 and 39 years old. Probably their last tour to Australia and our last chance to see a memorable innings. Who remembers quality players like Javed Miandad and big Inzamam? Younus is just as good. He averages 52 from 114 Tests and has scored 33 tons. He is world class.
  • Where’s your empathy? Pakistan is plagued by conflict and bloodshed. The survival of elite cricket there is a great story. A little success might bring joy to some of the millions of peaceful families trying to survive the chaos brought by a few.
  • Flying your family from one country to another, rarely visiting home and never playing there. Earning less than one-sixth of what many Australian players earn. Look that might sound better than shoveling dirt on a hot day, but in context, that’s a tough gig. They’ve been on the road constantly since June 2016.

Get behind Pakistan.

Anyway, the Aussies need a good fight before their tour to India in March and five days cricket in Sydney is better than three, right?

Sheffield Shield heads to Northern Australia

In the midst of a national cricket crisis, the Sheffield Shield has never been so important. The city of Townsville will be treated to a FREE special event this week when Queensland host Western Australia at Tony Ireland Stadium. The timing couldn’t be any better.

As the Australian cricket team crumbled to its tenth straight loss in Hobart, the public’s attention turned swiftly to the nation’s First Class competition.

Responding to Australia’s poor form coach Darren Lehmann said “there’ll definitely be change”. He wasn’t mucking about. Cricket Australia made six changes to the squad and four new players could debut in Adelaide on Thursday.

The ‘crisis’ at Test level had elevated State cricket to critical priority. This is ironic. Despite verbal commitments of support, First Class cricket has continuously been demoted by cricket’s national administrator. The Sheffield Shield is difficult to follow, no longer on the television or the radio and was pushed to the fringes of the summer and replaced by the franchise T20 Big Bash League in 2011.

Are we seeing the sour fruits of this demotion flow through to the Test arena?

Although the squad for the third Test against South Africa has been chosen, the game in Townsville is pivotal.

Australia has three Tests against Pakistan this summer and a tour to India in March 2017. Every player in the Sheffield Shield has a chance to make it to the top, so the competition at Riverway will be fierce. It’s also the second last match in the Shield before the competition is suspended for the Big Bash.

Locals have an extra incentive to support the event.

A big crowd will show Cricket Australia how much the city loves cricket and guide future decisions around hosting rights. The Northern half of the continent is starved of professional sport and for competitions to be truly national, the North needs more exposure to big events.

There is a chance that Townsville could host a winter Test Match against Bangladesh, who recently beat England for the first time. So this is Townsville’s chance.

The city has a rich and extensive cricket history. The local competition is four grades deep and the top tier is a good regional standard, having produced players such as Mitchell Johnson. It stretches at least as far back as the Sheffield Shield’s 124 year history and cricket royalty has visited before. Queensland defeated a West Indian side at the city’s Endeavour Park in 1987. Haynes, Richardson, Gomes, Richards, Dujon, Marshal and Garner played. The city also hosted the under-19 50 over World Cup in 2012 and recent A-list tour matches including India, South Africa and Australia.

Local clubs Norths, Saints, Brothers, Northern Beaches, Suburban Parks, Wests and Wanderers are encouraged to help boost the attendance at the Shield match this week.

Everybody in the North Queensland region who enjoys a day out with fabulous free entertainment should seize the opportunity to see quality live cricket.

Strong support will enhance Townsville’s chances of seeing Test cricket in the future.

What you need to know about the event:

  • FREE ENTRY
  • Four day match Queensland v Western Australia at Tony Ireland Stadium
  • Play starts at 10 am Saturday 26 November, finishes 1700
  • Play also scheduled on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday 1000-1700

There’s a world class grandstand, plenty of shade and grassy hills perfect for a family picnic, a bar for refreshments and a free public pool next door to enjoy during the lunch and tea breaks. Howzat!

Join the event on Facebook @ https://www.facebook.com/events/1255627194508853/

Follow Cricket Froth on Facebook for more local and international cricket talk and stop by footyalmanac.com.au for some of the best and most diverse sports journalism in the country.

A perfect 10: England dive into India

UK based Cricket Froth correspondent John Boon previews the massive upcoming Five Test Series between England and India.

A perfect ten: Haseeb Hameed will need to be when he becomes Alistair Cook’s 10th opening partner since the retirement of Andrew Strauss. At an average of about five tests per partner, the smart money would be on the 19-year-old Hameed making a swift return to county cricket.

The England in India series starts in Rajkot today, six hours from Hameed’s parents’ hometown. Along with Ben Duckett, however, Hameed is being counted upon to provide some extra ballast to a brittle batting line up. These two young batsmen have had stellar county seasons and at least one of them will need to hit the ground running.

But England’s selection lacks planning. If Hameed is ready now, and with Gary Ballance depleted of form and confidence (scores 1,9,9 and 5 in Bangladesh), surely Hameed would have benefited from a couple of knocks under his belt in the recent drawn series with Bangladesh?

He instead faces a tough debut in India and both he and Duckettt, who debuted in Bangladesh with scores of 14, 15, 7 & 56, will be up against it facing the world’s no. 1 ranked bowler Ashwin and his left-arm sidekick Jadeja.

A bit like Australia with Smith and Warner, England have relied too heavily on two world-class batsmen, Cook and Root, and a bevy of all-rounders in the lower order. Cook has previous form in this neck of the woods, and if he can match his output from England’s last visit to India in 2012 (562 runs at an average of 80) that will go a long way towards a positive series result.

The trouble is? No-one has come close to replacing Graeme Swann and the events in Bangladesh provided more questions than answers.

Moeen Ali is a classy all-rounder, but can he take 20 wickets? The ace in the pack is the mercurial Jimmy Anderson. Anderson’s mastery of the swinging ball makes him a threat in all conditions. If he comes back for the second Test in top nick, England’s batsmen put the necessary runs on the board and Ali and co. improve their accuracy, we may have an upset on the cards. There appear to be too many ifs though and India will start as favourites.

Hooray for Harare!

The past few months have been great for Test Cricket.

  • We’ve seen a resurgent Pakistan, at their best since the 1990s
  • Bangladesh recorded an historic Test match victory against England
  • Sri Lanka beat Australia in a series for the first time
  • Even the West Indies have displayed positive signs in their recent series against Pakistan.

Best of all though?

Test cricket has returned to Zimbabwe. The current Test against Sri Lanka in Harare is Zimbabwe’s fourth in recent months and the hosts have not been embarrassed. The greatest format of the game must keep the momentum up in 2017.

John Boon

UK based Cricket Froth correspondent

 

 

Next gen destroy Aussies

 

No AB de Villiers, virtually no Dale Steyn and only 1 run from Hashim Amla… yet South Africa have thrashed a full-strength Australia.

This raises two clear points:

  • Australia is a mediocre cricket side
  • South Africa have a strong squad with fabulous new talent

To be fair Australia displayed some fight on the fifth day. Khawaja’s 97, Peter Nevill’s four hour 60 not out and the tail’s resistance showed some much needed spine. South Africa deserve the accolades though.

Man of the Match Kagiso Rabada. Wow. The 21 year old from Johannesburg averages under 25 with the ball from his first 9 Tests and looks a real gem.

Rabada first attracted interest in Australia in 2014 when he played for South Africa A at Townsville’s  Tony Ireland Riverway Stadium, a possible venue for a home Test against Bangladesh in 2017.

Rabada became a cult hero with local fans from Norths Cricket Club in Townsville who enjoyed the youngster’s raw pace and fire.

Two years later Rabada slaughtered Australia’s Test top order at Perth. Quick, accurate, swung it both ways and demonstrated he has a great attitude. He took the time to shake Usman Khawaja’s hand when he was dismissed for 97, a sign of maturity and good character, and accepted the man of the match award with great humility.

After Steyn’s withdrawal Rabada shouldered a big workload with seam partner Vernon Philander who  – as an overweight medium pacer – continues to defy the odds and take lots of wickets. But it’s the young guys that will excite South Africans.

Rabada spearheaded a group of 5 under 30 who made definitive contributions in Perth; Maharaj, de Kock, Elgar and Bavuma. The future looks bright for Protea cricket.

Australia’s youth appears less convincing. Channel 9’s lunchtime cricket show ran a feature on Pat Cummins. The story focused on the injury-riddled pace bowler’s recovery from injury… again.

We all hope this young man sorts his body out. But the Cummins story has been running a long time.

He has played 8 First Class matches and 1 Test Match since 2011. Maybe its time to move on and focus on nurturing players from the youth teams?  Or feature stories from the Sheffield Shield?

In other cricketing news; India host England for 5 Test matches beginning on Wednesday in Rajkot.

It will be a fascinating series. England beat India 2-1 last time they toured but England’s recent 1-1 draw with Bangladesh and a reinvigorated India under Virat Kohli indicates that a thrilling series is about to begin.

Australia’s next Test against South Africa begins in Hobart on Saturday.

Rotten batting, again

 

Rotten batting. Fabulous fightback.

Sums up day two at the WACA. Australia squandered an almost impregnable position at Perth. They had the game by the short and curlies at stumps on day 1 after they had bowled South Africa out for a cheap 242 and sailed to 0/105.

By stumps on day 2 South Africa led by 102 runs and were in the box seat to beat the Australians, who had lost 10/86 either side of lunch on a fabulous batting strip.

The acronym WTF comes to mind, but nobody should be surprised. Absolutely nobody.

Cricket Froth predicted this type of scenario would unfold throughout the summer. The prediction wasn’t based on some specialist inside knowledge. Australia’s batting is really quite poor.

They have been susceptible to devastating batting collapses for several years.

Cricket Froth described this trend in October 2014. I detailed how Brad Haddin – at number 7 – saved Australia in virtually every major game-changing innings of the home 2013-14 Ashes Series win against England.

The Aussies won 5-0. The mainstream media tarted up the Aussie performance, which at times was amazing. Mitchell Johnson’s fast bowling was as good as anything ever seen in the game, including the great West Indians.

But the issue of the collapsible batting was lost in the archives. The collapses have continued since then, most notably away from home.

This home summer is going to be really tough because it looks as though the mediocrity is going to be difficult to contain.

The worst thing for the neutral was the best thing for Australia today; Dale Steyn’s injury. A potential blow for the series. This might offer a glimmer for the Aussies as they look ahead to their inevitable run chase, which is still a long way off yet.

 

 

Under Siege

Hard-wicket home ground bullies. Is that a fair label for Australia?

  • Three wins from the last 20 Test Matches played in England
  • One win from the last 17 Test Matches played in Asia

The public’s memory is shaped by strong performances either side of Christmas. Mid-year series losses on the sub-continent are obscured by the winter football codes.

The fifteen years without an Ashes win in England is papered over by the two 5-0 thrashings of England in Australia (the notable exception being Australia’s 3-1 loss at home 2010-11).

This summer promises something different. Australia is on the back foot.

It faces strident opposition with three Test Matches against South Africa beginning on Thursday in Perth and ending with a pink ball  day-night fixture in Adelaide.

Then its three Tests against Pakistan around Christmas.

Australia will find it tough to prevent a summer of losses. Both touring sides look more stable and Pakistan have form and a formidable line up.

The Proteas will miss the injured AB de Villiers but the batting looks solid. Their attack is capable of shredding the collapsible Australians and the Saffers have beaten Australia at home twice in the last decade.

Meanwhile Australia doesn’t know who its best eleven is.

Shaun Marsh is back again, this time to open. Marsh scored a ton in Sri Lanka when he replaced Joe Burns, so his place is vindicated but we’ll see Burns again before 2017.

Crowd favourite Peter Siddle also returns and Adam Voges is the middle order glue.

Peter Nevill needs runs. Usman Khawaja was dropped for a lack of them in Sri Lanka but is back again. If Warner and Smith fail, who will go big?

Mitchell Marsh is a concern.

We all have big hopes he can become our Ben Stokes, a thriving all-rounder capable of winning matches with centuries (Stokes has 3 from 27 Tests, Mitchell has none from 18) and bowling tight spells when the strikers need rest.

Marsh averages 36 with the ball, which is OK. But Marsh’s batting worries most. He averages 24, a paltry return for a number 6.

You need 20 wickets to win a Test and if Mitchell Starc fails to blast away touring batsmen, Australia’s bowling suddenly looks mild.

Hazlewood is accurate, shapely even but was virtually impotent in Sri Lanka. Nathan Lyon failed to make a dent on spin-friendly decks there either. If Lyon has a lean summer, is his time up?

Success at home is common but Australia’s record away is poor. For some this is tolerable, as long as the legendary Aussie summer is punctuated by tumbling opposition wickets and big runs.

But this summer will offer intrigue and high drama because the Aussies will be under siege.

The hard-wicket home ground bully tag may become irrelevant should the tourists dispatch the locals over the fence.

How would the public respond?