Sheffield Shield

55 years ago English tourists crushed Queensland Country

Cool weather, clouds and a splash of rain greeted England for its final Ashes tour match in Townsville, 55 years since the MCC last played in the city in 1962.

The weather presented a strange scenario few predicted.

North Queensland’s normally hot and humid November climate persauded England’s tour planners to play the team’s final Ashes warm up match in Townsville.

Townsville has a long and relatively unknown cricket history, which includes matches involving Bradman, West Indian cricket royalty and past England touring sides. England hoped Townsville’s heat would acclimatise the players: the local conditions often cause club cricketers to endure bursting tropical humidity and beaming sunshine.

Besides the conditions, the clash will offer critical insight into England’s chances of beating Australia, with the first Ashes Test kicking off in Brisbane on 23 November.

England will play at Townsville’s Riverway Stadium against a Cricket Australia XI coached by one of England’s most prolific first class run scorers, Graeme Hick, who never quite converted First Class runs into Test longevity.

Hick, who scored over 40,000 first class runs and 144 centuries, will be joined by the Australian Troy Cooley, who gained notoriety for being the coach of England’s bowling attack during the famous 2005 Ashes Series, which included ‘mintgate’.

England have been before

Part of Townsville’s rich and relatively untold cricket history involved a match between the Marylebone Cricket Club and a Queensland Country XI at the Townsville Sports Reserve in 1962.

Playing as the MCC in its tour matches during the 1962-63 Ashes Series, England’s match in Townsville was one of an astonishing 27 played by England on the tour.

The result was an outright victory for the MCC team, which included Italian born England captain Ted Dexter, off-break specialist Ray Illingworth and the ordained minister and Bishop of Liverpool, David Sheppard.

The Queenslanders managed scores of 165 and 138 against the MCC’s 423. The 62-63 Ashes Series ended in a 1-1 draw. An omen perhaps?

621013 - North Queensland Register - MCC tour of Australia cricket -p39

Townsville hosted England on 7-8 December, 1962: ‘Long Trek Ahead of M.C.C. Team’, North Queensland Register, 13 October 1962, 39.

Future Test venue

Townsville has a fabulous world class cricket venue set among river parkland, with a mountain backdrop.

The city hosted a thrilling Sheffield Shield match in 2016 and in 1987 at the city’s Endeavour Park, Queensland defeated a West Indian side, which included Haynes, Richardson, Gomes, Richards, Dujon, Marshal and Garner.

Townsville also hosted the under-19 50 over World Cup in 2012 and A-list tour matches including India, South Africa and Australia in 2015.

It is hoped that the city can host Test cricket in the future.

Australian preparations

Sheffield Shield matches attract additional media interest at the beginning of the Australian Test season, before being shunted to the periphery by the Big Bash.

This year, it’s no different. Speculation has mounted that Australia could drop Matt Renshaw for either Cameron Bancroft or Shaun Marsh. Bancroft, in particular has been prolific among the runs. A Shield double-century has elevated his stakes. Surely, however, this is mere speculation.

Despite a poor opening to the Shield season with no score over 20 in five starts, Renshaw has done enough in the Test arena to justify selection. Renshaw and Warner could become a great team. Renshaw just needs to rotate the strike more often to avoid being tied down and allow Warner more regular involvement.

It remains unclear who will bat at six for Australia. Glenn Maxwell, George Bailey, Moises Henriques, Jake Lehmann, Marcus Stoinis, Aaron Finch, and even Mitchell Marsh (again), are contenders. Perhaps Bancroft should come in at 6? Mike Hussey’s history as an opener did not prevent him from becoming prolific in Australia’s middle order.

The wicket keeper position also remains unfilled. Although he too has scored few runs in the Shield, Peter Nevill looks set for a return over Matt Wade and Alex Carey.

Would Australian selectors shock the world and select players on the basis of Shield form? If so, there will be new faces.

Let’s wait and see.

For now, those of us in North Queensland will enjoy scrutinising England’s prospects at emerging the least ordinary this summer, of what, it must be said, are two of the most underwhelming Test teams Australia and England have produced in some time.

A quick check of the form guide and the personnel in both squads suggests this could be one of the lowest quality Ashes series seen this century. Nonetheless, it should still be a great contest, not least between who scores more: Root or Smith?

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/

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Pink Ball Cricket: a bright, floodlit future

The first ever day-night Test match featuring the controversial pink ball is weeks away.

Will the pink grapefruit be as good as the red cherry?

Well, pinky doesn’t last eighty overs for a start. DRS can’t track it consistently and batsmen struggle to pick up the seam.

The pink Kookaburra ball performed terribly at a recent tour match between New Zealand and the PM’s XI in Canberra. An abrasive Manuka Oval wicket was blamed when the ball had to be changed twice.

These are serious and unresolved problems weeks out from a Test Match.

Speculation rages that CA might even change the Test back to a daytime event, but that is not possible when you consider what is at stake.

Millions of dollars have been poured into this event and the cricket world is watching. The enemies of Test cricket (yes they exist) would pounce should this fail.

The Sheffield Shield matches provide an opportunity for limited refinement. All three first round matches are day-night pink ball events. A grassy Adelaide Oval wicket has been prepared for the clash between NSW and South Australia to reduce scuffing of the pink ball. That is not sustainable.

A litany of keen observers will be at this match, considered a dress rehearsal for one of cricket’s biggest modern moments.

Why pink?

Red balls are difficult to see at night. That’s why we use white balls in one day cricket. White isn’t suitable for long form cricket because it gets dirty quickly and also becomes hard to see. More importantly, white balls don’t last eighty overs, the minimum life requisite for Test cricket balls. But apparently neither do pink ones so um… yeah.

The debates and trials of alternate coloured balls have been raging for at least ten years. Surely by now there is a compound or a combination of materials that can replicate the behaviour and ageing characteristics of a traditional cricket ball?

This ball was bowled to NSW by SA in a Shield Match in Adelaide... on a grassy wicket.

This ball was bowled to NSW by SA in a Shield Match in Adelaide… on a grassy wicket.

The day-night show must go on

Cricket Froth believes that day-night Test matches are a positive step and the Adelaide Test must proceed as planned. The ball should be ready by now but can be improved or the colour changed if it isn’t yet perfect.

As a marketing event it fosters new interest and for the purists; the tactical effect of the different playing times and conditions will be most interesting. There may be better times to bat or bowl as dusk, night time and dew environs and a switched lunch and tea break take effect.

Test cricket should have a bright, floodlit future.