cricket in Townsville

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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India have disgraced themselves: Who is to blame?

Bowled out inside 30overs for less than 100. What a day for India’s batsmen. Concede over 100 runs in 11 overs against England’s tail. What a day for India’s bowlers. Smashed by an innings and 244 runs. What a day for Indian cricket.

Routed inside three days for the second time in a week. India are in pieces, their players under fire, the coach – Duncan Fletcher – has been sidelined by BCCI and the Captain, MS Dhoni thrashes about in a London hotel bed wondering what the hell comes next?

It’s an ODI Series and Ravi Shastri has been hastily appointed by the BCCI to run the team during the series. The move effectively demotes Fletcher and adds confusion to India’s set up. Will it help?

Well India haven’t won an ODI on their last two international tours. Shocked? Don’t be. The players have little to no chance of working hard on faulty techniques or improving their games. India’s Board of Control for Cricket in India have established a relentless schedule of matches decimating all reasonable opportunity for rest, recuperation and meaningful practice. Oh what a shame you say? They’re millionaires, right? Yes, but all cricketers must work long and hard to exorcise bad habits and polish technique. The Test series defeat reveals a lack of strategic training and toil at first class level.

Virat Kohli, Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane represent the future of India’s batting, but their lack of mental fortitude in tough circumstances and adaptability were wildly exposed by England throughout this series. Shikhar Dhawan, another batsmen who might have had a future with India, was replaced after 3 Tests by 32 year old opener Gautam Gambhir, a regressive selection that backfired. Gambhir looked haunted and worked to avoid the strike during his four innings in the series and, on his last day of torment, was pathetically run-out a few minutes before lunch when clouds threatened.

India visit Australia for 4 Tests in the southern summer and their batsmen must be absolutely shaking with terror at the prospect of facing the Aussie pace battery.

Can India take wickets?

India also lack genuine wicket-takers. Cast your thoughts back over the years. Can you rattle off a selection of top notch Indian bowlers who’ve consistently taken wickets home and away?

They seem to have cobbled together bowling attacks, just enough to get by and sure, guys like Zaheer Khan were quality and Ishant Sharma is kind of okay I suppose (he wouldn’t get a game for Australia, England or South Africa with a bowling average of nearly 37). India lack spearheads. Ravichandran Ashwin has potential as a spinner and Bhuvneshwar Kumar was their best player in this series and maybe India should build their pace attack around him, but he won’t be the spearhead they crave. He doesn’t have raw pace and Dhoni’s overuse of Kumar flattened him.

MS Dhoni may lose the captaincy

Dhoni himself mostly batted with defiance throughout, but his captaincy and wicket-keeping were second rate. He is a fighter, a man of character who, despite possessing a pedigree most suited to short-form, has proven that resilience of character and resolute commitment often gets you over the line in Test Match cricket. Better cricketers than Dhoni have failed to make any dent in the Test arena because they lacked those attributes. But, after this embarrassing 3-1 defeat to England, where his side have squandered a 1-0 lead, can he retain the captaincy of the world’s most popular cricket team? The hashtag #dhoniout has been trending on Twitter for over 12 hours now so perhaps India’s fans have already indicated a clear choice.

England were good

English readers are saying “what about OUR performance?” Yes, yes I know, you won 3 Tests and bounced back from near oblivion with great aplomb. Alistair Cook has revealed that he nearly quit the captaincy in June after England suffered home defeat to Sri Lanka. His wife convinced him otherwise. After 2 Tests against India, a draw and a painful defeat at Lords and a whole lot of snicking to slip with no runs, Cook must’ve been thinking “gee thanks wife, now I’ll be sacked in disgrace”.

But Cook, the senior players and coach Peter Moores have orchestrated a thrilling fight back. Anderson was tremendous, Broad was great and Moeen Ali showed that he can get wickets (but remains questionable as a top 6 Test batsman). Gary Ballance looks all class and new keeper Jos Butler can play. Don’t get too excited just yet. India were ordinary opposition and Australia’s visit up north next year will be tougher.

Mahela Jayawardene

Sri Lanka’s batting legend is currently playing his last Test Match. He scored 54 in his final innings against Pakistan. The 37 year old has played 148 Test Matches, scored 34 hundreds and will finish with a batting average of 51+. A world class cricketer and great servant of for Sri Lanka. Many will mourn his loss, but Sri Lanka are producing exciting cricket talent and their Test future is bright.

Phil Hughes 243* in Townsville

The 2nd match between Australia A and South Africa A in Townsville finished in a draw after a washout on day 2. Seventy five mm of water fell during Friday disappointing myself and a few others who had organised a day off work. Townsville’s long term August rainfall average is 15mm. A bookie would have offered you 100-1 if you’d said that 75mm of rain will fall on a Friday in Townsville in August, the day you plan to take off-work to watch a rare 1st class cricket match. Blue skies shone the next day and Phil Hughes scored a memorable 243 not out, earning an ODI call up for the Zimbabwe tour and staking a claim (again) on a Test recall. That might inspire groans from Aussies or laughs from Englishman, but Hughes is only 25. With further development he could still make it at Test level.

The 2 match series in Townsville was a success. It was reported over the weekend that Townsville City Council and Cricket Australia are negotiating the application to have Tony Ireland Stadium certified for Test Matches. Cricket Australia are impressed with the facility and suggest only minor upgrades – such as improved lighting for television broadcasts – would be needed to attain accreditation from the ICC. It would become the eleventh Australian venue to receive ICC approval. This would be a huge asset for cricket, Townsville and Northern Australia. Make it happen people.

IMG_4910

Phillip Hughes flicks off the hip to score the first run of his 243 not out against South Africa A in Townsville: August 2014

 

Test Match Thrillers and an A Team Killer: India and Pakistan miss the rain and a future Protea nails 200 in Townsville

Rain nearly saved Pakistan and it should have saved India, but it denied both sides a reprieve and ensured thrilling finales to two Test Matches over the weekend. England’s destruction of India at Old Trafford was stunning and the quality of cricket on display at the Galle Fort in Sri Lanka was just as fine. The standard was high in (Cape) Townsville too, where South Africa A hammered Australia A in a solid game of cricket at the Riverway Arts and Cultural Precinct.

South Africa might have found a replacement for Jaques Kallis. Actually, cancel that. Kallis is irreplaceable. But, they may have uncovered a future Protea. Rilee Rossouw nailed a superb 231, which killed Australia A’s hopes on a wicket that saw them bowled out twice in four days. Rossouw averages 45 from 72 First Class matches and must be on the edge of Test selection. Temba Bavuma asserted himself with a grafting 162 and Australia A – consisting of 5 internationally capped and 3 Test Match capped players in Phil Hughes, Moises Henriques and Mathew Wade – simply couldn’t match South Africa A. The visitors attracted plenty of vocal support too with many local club cricketers attending, enjoying a few beers and creating a bit of good natured atmosphere from the hill.

But, could the crowds be better? If the small crowds during match 1 are anything to go by, then it would seem that Cricket Australia, Townsville City Council and perhaps the local cricket administrators could do more on the promotions front. On Friday afternoon that little stadium should be heaving with blue and white collar workers and it wouldn’t take much imagination or creativity to spark interest and greater involvement from local businesses and large employers. On a positive note, Cricket Australia announced today the sport has one million participants in Australia, a great result that should be the basis for further expansion.

The two A teams go at it again in Townsville this week beginning on Thursday 14 August. Peter Forrest and Clint McKay have been added to the Australian side and Phil Hughes has taken the captaincy off Moises Henriques who is out injured.

The scene in Townsville resembles Newlands in Cape Town as Gurinder Sandhu steams in and attempts to get a much needed wicket for Australia A against Sth Africa A.

On the Test scene India’s weak surrender to England on the third day in Manchester has created an alarming dilemma for MS Dhoni: where to find players who want to fight? India only needed to survive one afternoon. It absolutely pissed down with rain all of the next day. I mean, blokes were chipping catches to short fielders and trudging off as if preferring to escape to the hotel games room. Unbelievable. England’s bowlers were good, but not quite this is an unplayable Mitchell Johnson who’s going to kill you good.

Two weeks ago India led the series 1-0, perhaps mostly because England were poor and lacked tactical direction. Since then India have been reclassified as an invertebrate species and England have reacquainted with the spinal column and retaliated with more discipline and application. Leading 2-1 England can’t lose the series now, at worst they’ll draw it if India bounce back, but England should win 3-1 with a resounding victory at The Oval Test, which begins Friday. Will England miss Stuart Broad if he fails to play after breaking his nose? Probably not. Moeen Ali will simply take another 5 for and finish the job Jimmy Anderson is likely to start.

Stuart Broad’s broken nose

Perhaps the most startling result occurred in Sri Lanka. Wow. Is Test Cricket alive or what? Pakistan made 451 in the 1st innings with Younis Khan amassing 177. Bang that’s it. It’s going to be a draw. The Galle wicket will be a road. Sure enough Sri Lanka pump out 533 and you’re thinking, yep, draw. But, here comes Sri Lanka’s spin king Rangana Herath and there goes Pakistan for 180 on the final day. A lead of only 98. 126 balls remain in the Test Match, are they going to go for it? You betcha. They peel off the runs with 5 overs to spare. Seconds after the celebrations begin the rain falls on the Dutch fort and rolls across the ground. Pakistani players were last seen kicking the ground, while locals danced and sang in the rain. One of the great Test victories.

No I haven’t forgotten to mention Kumar Sangakarra… he smashed 221 in Sri Lanka’s 1st innings, his 37th Test Match tonne. He averages 58 from 125 Tests. In fairness Sri Lanka don’t play as many top line Test Matches as Australia, England or South Africa, but he would waltz into any of those nations’ teams and score just as many. A timeless legend.

At the Harare Sports Club Zimbabwe made a competitive 256 against South Africa who are 4/201 in reply. It is great to see Zimbabwe back in Test Match action and so far they are holding their own against a rebuilding, but still very good South African team.