Australia v India at Sydney, 1st T20I

(This is part five of the 199s – parts one, two, three, and four are here, here, here, and here.)

In the last week of March, 1999, all eyes were on the Balkans, as US led NATO forces had just started a bombing campaign in order to quell the Kosovo War and the tragic and enormous loss of civilian life happening through Serbia, Albania, and Yugoslavia.

The Kosovo War had been raging for a year, this after the Yugoslav War earlier in the decade.

It is a sad and complicated chapter in Europe’s history, and I do not claim to be an expert on the conflict, but reading the casualty reports is a shocking endeavor: 800,000 displaced citizens, 12,000 civilian deaths (including 10,000 deaths at the ends of the Yugoslav military), and two mass graves in Belgrade that contained almost 1,500 bodies.

1,500 people – killed, and dumped into an unmarked mass grave.

In Europe.

In 1999.

Shocking.

Your geography lesson:

Meanwhile, at the same time, five thousand miles away, at the Kensington Oval in Bridgetown, Barbados: Steve Waugh scored 199 runs in a cricket match for Australia against the West Indies.

For five days, as the war raged in Yugoslavia, two countries played out a cricket match – and what a cricket match it was.

Australia won the toss and had a bat, scoring 490 all out – thanks to Waugh’s 199 and 104 from Ricky Ponting (13 years later he is still scoring important centuries for Australia…he deserves the legacy of a cricketing hero.)

The West Indies responded with 329, and then scuttled Australia for 146 in the visitor’s second innings thanks to a five-for from Jamaican Courtney Walsh – who according to Cricinfo: “bowled faster for longer than any man in history.” 132 Tests, 30,019 deliveries, 519 wickets…

But this is not his story.

In the fourth and final innings, the West Indies scored 311 runs and won the match by one wicket…

West Indies last innings featured a 54 run ninth wicket stand from the incomparable Brian Lara and the incomparable Curtly Ambrose.

Lara finished the innings 153 not out – and the Wisden Almanak described his knock thusly:

“Irrefutably, his undefeated 153 was the hand of a genius. Exhibiting the new awareness and maturity he discovered in Jamaica, he brilliantly orchestrated the conclusion to an unforgettable match. He guided his men to victory as though leading the infirm through a maze.”

But this is not Lara’s story either.

The four match series ended in a draw. Australia won the first test at Port of Spain by 312 runs; the West Indies won the next two, at Kingston by one wicket and Bridgetown by ten; and Australia won the final match by 176 runs at St. John’s.

A thriller of a match, a thriller of a series.

All while 100,000 Serbians fled their homes from the Kosovo Liberation Army, and NATO bombers scorched Albanian hillsides.

Steve Waugh, he of the 199 knock, is one of the most beloved cricketers to ever don the baggy greens for Australia.

He played in 168 Tests for his country, scoring 10,927 runs.

His 199 in Bridgetown was the second highest Test score of his career – had scored 200 four years earlier in Kingston, also against the West Indies.

He captained Australia in both Tests and in ODIs – and led them to a World Cup victory in 1999.

Considering his captain’s temperant, I am sure he was upset at getting out because it let his team down, and not because he was on the verge of a personal milestone.

And just like in the previous 199, Waugh’s wicket was taken LBW by a little known and little used bowler: Nehemiah Perry.

He only played in four tests for the West Indies, and took 10 wickets for them in all.  In 2004 he was forced to retire due to back problems, and is now on the West Indies national selection panel.

But, again, I bet ending Waugh’s innings stands out more for the bowler, than for the batter.

An interesting theme in these posts, for sure.

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On the pitch? Nothing.

The first T20I between Australia and India is today at the SCG.

Like I said: nothing.

East Zone v West Zone at Valsad, Duleep Trophy (#3)

(Part four of 199s is below. Parts one, two, and three are here, here, and here.)

The fourth score of 199 in Test cricket happened on August the 9th, 1997.

The batter? Sanath Jayasuriya, for Sri Lanka.

It happened in the third innings of the second of two tests in Sri Lanka versus India. Both matches ended in draws.

In the first Test, Jayasuriya scored a massive triple ton, 340 to be exact, giving him 571 runs for the series: a record for a two match Test series, besting W. Hammond’s record of 563 runs set way back in the 1930s.

In the match, Tendulkar hit a ton in his first innings (of course) for India, as did Ganguly, as did Mohammed Azharuddin – who of course is also a member of the 199 Club.

Jarasuriya is best known for lighting up the stage during his One Day International career, but he was equally prolific as a Test batsman, playing in 110 Tests and hitting 6.973 runs – including 14 100s, two double hundreds, and the triple hundred discussed above.

Also, of course, he is a politician, and was brought out of retirement in a rather farcical manner to play in the one-dayers last summer in England.

In ODIs, he really is king: 445 matches and 13,430 runs (only Sachin has more), including 28 hundreds and the fifth highest ODI score ever: 189 v India at Sharjah in 2000.

He also scored the fastest 50 in ODI history: off of only seventeen deliveries.

Seventeen!

SEVENTEEN!

His 199 took place at the Sinhalese Sports Club Ground, in Colombo.

The ground in 2001, Sri Lanka v England:

And your geography lesson:

The ground has hosted Tests since 1984, and according to its Wiki Page, it is known as the Lord’s of Sri Lanka – the spiritual home of Sri Lankan cricket.

As of late, however, the preeminent ground in Colombo has been the Premadasa Stadium. In fact, the SCC did not host a single match during the 2011 World Cup, while the Premadasa Stadium hosted five group matches, a quarter-final, and a semi-final.

Unlike other members of the dubious 199 Club, Jarasuriya had a long and propserous career.

His 199 was a a blip, all but forgotten I am sure, especially since he knocked a double Test century just a little over a year later, versus England at the Oval.

One last note: Jarasuriya’s wicket was taken by the fast bowler, Abey Kuruvilla – probably the tallest player to bowl for India at six feet, six inches.

He only played in 10 tests, and only took 25 wickets. He did play First Class cricket in India for ten years, taking 290 wickets, but his international career never really took off.

So I bet Jarasuriya’s wicket, though maybe long forgotten by the batsman, is remember fondly by the bowler.

Back on the pitch:

Not a great deal happening. I summed up the #testcricketweek that was in my post last night.

The cricket world is busy less with cricket and more with figuring out what exactly went wrong for India in Australia, and England in the UAE; something best left to the experts.

Until next time (which is what the NPCs in Skyrim say when conversations end, so I am going to stop ending my posts with it.)

East Zone v West Zone at Valsad, Duleep Trophy #2

I wasn’t planning on writing a post tonight, but I thought I should, considering all that has happened since I last posted: Australia completed their 4-0 whitewash of India, Pakistan shocked the world and England, winning the series 2-0 with one Test left to play, and Zimbabwe was positively crushed by New Zealand in Napier.

What does this tell us? That every Test nation is positively shit in foreign conditions.

(I stole that from someone on Twitter, but I cannot for the life of me remember who it was – sorry, forgotten Tweeter.)

But is that really true?

There have been 32 Test series since the start of the 2010 Summer in England, and the hosts have won 12 of those series. 11 were draws. Nine were won by the visiting nation.

Almost an even three-way split.

Now, of course, the above was an unscientific analysis – it does not account for India playing in Sri Lanka in familiar circumstances, for instance, but I think as a 30,000 foot overview of World Cricket, it speaks volumes: winning away from home is not impossible, and England and India should not be let off the hook for their capitulations, and on the same note Pakistan and Australia’s teams deserve ALL of the plaudits they are getting from the press.

And it also tells me that cricket is in dire need of a Test Playoff.  Imagine if we were to get treated with Pakistan v Australia this summer at Lord’s?

But, no, we get three weeks of International T20s instead.

Yawn.

But do really need the Test Playoff?

I mentioned over on Twitter that cricket has made me rethink all that I know about sport. Specifically, I meant test cricket, and how there is no championship, no season: just series after series after series.

It is a statement on infinity, on endlessness.  Test cricket does not last five days, it lasts forever, and ever and ever. That’s its lesson, that’s what it is teaching us.

That is an utterly foreign concept for me, and I think that is why I crave the Test Playoff – my mind is trying to find a pattern in the wallpaper; and maybe that is something I should avoid trying to do.

Reprogram myself to look at sport from a different angle.

Like England playing Pakistani spin in the desert.

A few housekeeping notes:

– the 199 series returns tomorrow.

– Look late next week for a Limited Overs style preview of the Bangladesh Premiere League.

– No test matches, aside from the dead rubber in the UAE, until March the 7th (New Zealand v South Africa.) After that: it all starts up again with England in Sri Lanka and Australia in the West Indies.

Which is fine, I need a break.  Last week was wild.  I ate and drank nothing but Test cricket for five straight days.  My days started with Zimbabwe and New  Zealand and ended 12 hours later with Pakistan and England; Australia and India were sandwiched inbetween.  I slept maybe five hours a night.  That kind of schedule is not compatible with a healthly lifestyle, so I think I am going to enjoy these next few weeks.

Until next time.

East Zone v West Zone at Valsad, Duleep Trophy

(Note: this is the third post in a series entitled “The 199s.” Part one is here, part two is here.)

200s in Test cricket are not unheard of. In fact one could say they are even a little bit common. There have been 313 of them in the 2,000 plus Tests since 1877.

But that does not mean that they are easy; getting to 200 requires hours of concentration, it requires mental fortitude, luck, and batting skills of the highest order.

And while it is really an arbitrary number, getting to 200 I am sure is a bit of a relief for a player, as it releases the pressure; and just the same, I am sure falling at 199 is far more painful than falling at 176 or 184, especially when the player might never get to such great heights again…

In July, 2010, Armando Galarraga had a chance to pitch a perfect game, a true rarity in sport, a wonderful accomplishment; only the umpire, one Jim Joyce, blew the call on the final out and wrecked it for the young man.

The most heartbreaking part of it all was that everyone knew that Galarraga, an average pitcher at best, would never in a million years get another chance to complete a perfect game.

Which brings us to today’s entry in the 199 club…

Now Matthew Elliot was not the victim of a bad umpiring decision when he got out for 199 at Headingley during the Ashes series on 24 July, 1997, but it was the only time throughout his career that he would come anywhere near a double century.

In fact, in his 36 Test innings, he only scored two regular centuries, and only scored a total of 1,172 runs.

That 199 in 1997 accounted for nearly 17% of Elliot’s career Test runs.

Matthew’s knock came in Australia’s first (and only) innings after his countrymen had bowled out England for 172 (this was the 1990s, remember.)  He batted for nearly seven and a half hours, seeing 351 balls…and he was dropped three times by England fielders (this was the 1990s, remember.) (Armando Galarraga could have used a bit of Elliot’s luck, surely.)  …26 fours, 3 sixes, and a strike rate of 56.69…

The match was the third in the Ashes Series. England had won the first Test at The Oval, but Australia went on to win at Nottingham, at Leeds, and at Old Trafford to retain the Ashes.  The dead rubber at Lord’s was a draw.

As mentioned, the ground that hosted Elliot’s 199 was Headingley, in Leeds, a last minute ground change which Australia unsuccessfully protested.

It seats 17,000 and has hosted Tests since 1899 – most recently Australia v Pakistan in July of 2010 (Pakistan won by three wickets.)

It is a beautiful and famous old ground, and is home to Yorkshire, by far County Cricket’s most successful domestic side.

Your geography lesson:

(I was hoping that I would discover something cool when looking into the 199s, like that they all happened in the Subcontinent. But Elliot’s knock came in Northern England, which is just about as far from the Subcontinent as you can possibly get without going to the moon.)

Despite Elliot’s lack of long term success at the International level (he as only played in one ODI for his country, and no T20s) he did have a long and somewhat successful career in Australian domestic cricket – though it was also riddled with injuries.

He retired from professional cricket in 2008, but surfaced again a year later to play in the Indian Cricket League for the Chandigarh Lions.

Elliot’s career was marred by bad luck and a bit of tragedy (he blew out his knee in only his second test match, for instance), this despite his immense talent at the crease.

He scored two centuries during his first Ashes series, was named one of Wisden’s Cricketers of the Year in 1999, but his form dipped and he was dropped from the national side that same year.

I can’t help but think that maybe things would have been different for him if he had gotten just one more run on that July day in northern England…

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On the pitch: GAH! Too much to even go into…Napier, Abu Dhabi, Adelaide – I suggest Cricinfo.

I will say this about the Australia-India test at Adelaide: it is just about the most melancholy sporting event I have ever experienced. @mannerofspeakin tweeted that “an entire generation of Indian cricket fans are watching their heroes fade into the sunset.”

It is very sad to watch our heroes age, grow old, fade away. And we are watching that with VVS, Sachin, Dravid.

After 816 Test innings and 37,422 runs, their Test careers are over.

It is so terribly sad – and I mean that from the bottom of my heart.

God speed, fellas. You deserved better.

Until next time.

Free State v Boland at Bloemfontein, CSA Provincial Three-Day Challenge

On December 17th, 1986, in Huntingdon, England, a 35 year old woman received the first triple organ transplant: new heart, new liver, new lungs.

On the same day, on the other side of the world, in Kanpur, India, Mohammed Azharuddin got to 199 in a cricket match against Sri Lanka before being called out LBW.

The former is probably a more fascinating topic for exploration, but today I will concentrate on the latter, as Limited Overs continues its series on the 199s in Test Cricket.  (Part 1 here.)

Azharuddin’s knock came in India’s first innings, on the 2nd day of the match;  he batted for 555 minutes, and the match eventually ended in a draw.

It was the first match of a three match series, a series that India eventually won 2-0, winning the next two matches by an innings and 106 runs and an innings and 67 runs. (Note that Sri Lanka had only been playing tests for four years at the time.)

Also putting up big scores for India in that match were Sunil Gavaskar (176) and Kapil Dev (163.)

Azharuddin had long partnerships with both men during his knock: 163 with Gavaskar and 272 with Kapil Dev. (There was also a 19 run partnership with none other than Ravi Shastri.)

The match took place at Green Park in the densely populated and smog ridden city of Kanpur, India.

The ground:

The geography lesson:

The ground seats 45,000, was established in 1945, and has hosted 22 tests: the first in 1952 versus England (England won by 8 wickets) and the most recent was in 2009 versus Sri Lanka (India won by an innings and 144 runs.)

Up until recently, it was known to produce rather dour draws, but the pitch has been relaid and is a bit of a batsmen’s paradise, and no longer does the lifeless pitch produce lifeless draws: Of the 14 tests held there between 1960 and 1986, only two produced a winner; while of the five tests held there between 1996 and 2009, four produced a winner.

Mohammed Azharuddin himself, was quite the batsmen. Cricinfo described him as: “a Michelangelo in the midst of housepainters.”

The 199 was his highest test score, and he also played in 99 tests. A frustrating end to his knock at Kanpur, and a frustrating end to his test career (I won’t go into too much detail, but it seems as though there was a wee bit of match fixing going on near the end there.)

Over those 99 tests, he scored 6,215 runs, including 22 tons, with an average of 45.03. He also took 105 catches.

He was captain of India for most of the 1990s, winning 14 test matches (a record at the time) and 103 ODIs (still a record.)

In 1991 he was named Wisden’s Cricketer of the year, and after his forced retirement he entered politics and is currently representing Uttar Pradesh for the Indian National Congress party.

The highlight of his test career came in his debut series against England in 1984-1985, where he had hundreds in three consecutive test matches: 110 in the first innings at Kolkata, 105 in the second innings at Chennai, and 122 in the first innings at…Kanpur.

Tomorrow, another segment of The 199 Club.

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Back on the pitch:

Yesterday I watched so much Test cricket…it was a cricketing paradise. I watched New Zealand v Zimbabwe, Australia v India, AND Pakistan v England.

That last match was unexpected, as Willow only has the rights, supposedly, to show the match in Canada, but when I flipped over to Willow.tv at 11:45 CST last night, there was the match preview, live and in color. And at promptly midnight out walked Misbah and Co., and I was able to watch Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad bowl out Pakistan’s tail before wising up and heading to bed.

Meanwhile, in Adelaide, India continue to capitulate, despite a lovely ton for Kohli, who looks to be the real deal; while in Napier it was New Zealand’s day, ending at 331/5.

All three tests were a joy to watch, but I really need to start getting more sleep.

Until next time.

Mashonaland Eagles v Mid West Rhinos at Harare, Castle Logan Cup

There have been 2,032 Test matches since Australia first hosted England at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in 1877.

Those 2,032 matches have been played at 106 different grounds.

My original plan was to write about each and every one of them – one post each, make it a twice-a-week feature, but this morning I had second thoughts.

I have written about a lot of these grounds already. In fact, the first half dozen or so have been beaten to death not only on this blog, but in blogs and articles and books the world over for the last 125 years. The MCG, the SCG, Old Trafford, Lord’s…etc. What else could I possibly say about those grounds?

It would be 106 filler posts, all in the same format: Test history, domestic teams, weather, pitch…etc. Not exactly page turning material. I am much better off saving those posts for topical grounds, i.e. grounds that are featuring a current match. Like when I wrote about Napier Park last week.

But in order for this blog to survive, I am going to need to get creative with the topics, as I just do not have the analytical chops to write thoughtful 1,000 word posts on cricket’s guts five days a week.

So I am going to start doing week long features (sometimes a full week, sometimes a little longer) along with my daily updates and rants and opinions on the current happenings in world cricket.

This week’s topic: 199

Last night, we all saw Ponting and Clarke each put up double centuries for Australia in Adelaide, and while some see centuries and double centuries as arbitrary and meaningless benchmarks, they are benchmarks nonetheless, and a big part of cricket tradition.

Getting to 200 in a cricket match is a feat worth celebrating, but so is getting to 199 in a cricket match, but unfortunately those 199s do not provide the player with a standing ovation, an opporunitity to raise their bat to the crowd, a moment in the spotlight. Instead, we just all feel a little bad for them – one single short of history of a milestone…

Over the next week, we will explore each of Test cricket’s 199s.

There have been eight of them. The first one did not happen until 1984, which really is shocking when you think about.

Specifically, it was October the 24th, 1984, and the knock was from Mudassar Nazar of Pakistan against India at the Iqbal stadium in Faisalabad, Pakistan.

The 199 happened in Pakistan’s first innings in the second test of the tour.  The match ended in a draw – as did the series, which ended with two draws, one no result, and two matches cancelled before a ball was bowled.

During the series, India’s Prime Minister, Mrs. Indira Ghandi, was assassinated by Sikh extremists, casting a real pall on the tour, and cancelling the final two matches.

Mudassar Nazar’s knock happened alongside two successful partnerships, 141 runs for the 1st wicket with Mohsin Kahn and 250 runs for the 2nd with Qasim Umar – who incidentally did end up with a double century.

Nazar batted for 555 minutes, Umar for 685 – 20 hours between the two of them. Not exactly Big Bash League stuff.

Over his long career, Mudassar played in 76 test matches for Pakistan, scoring 4,114 runs, including 10 centuries and, thankfully, one double century (14 Jan, 193, versus India at Hyderabad.) (Thankfully because it would be quite sad if 199 had been as close as he ever came to 200.)

After retiring, he coached the Kenyan national side, briefly, and is now working for the ICC inDubai.

Interestingly enough, Mudassar’s father, Nazar Mohammed, was also an opening test batsman forPakistan– and faced the first ball ever bowled against Pakistan in a test match at Delhi in 1952.

The match featuring Mudassar’s 199 was played at the Iqbal Stadium in Faisalabad, Pakistan. It has hosted 25 tests, the first against India in 1978 (drawn) and the most recent in 2006 versus India (also drawn.)

The Ground:

Your Geography Lesson:

One final note, the five day match featured a rest day after day three – I guess these were quite common up until recently. I had no idea.

Tomorrow: another segment of 199.

Back on the pitch: England are having a much better day in Abu Dhabi, restricting Pakistan to 256 for seven on a bowler’s pitch thanks to three wickets each from Broad and Swann – and one from Monty Panesar!

Meanwhile, in Adelaide, piss poor India continue to not care. Australia batted for like nine days, declared, and immediately took two ofIndia’s wickets.

And tonight: New Zealand v Zimbabwe– hopefully I will be able to put down Skyrim long enough to watch a little of it.

Until next time.

Australia v India at Adelaide, 4th Test

Big news in test cricket today, of course, as Ireland announced its plans to achieve full Test status no later than 2020 (a delightfully ironic year to choose as a goal, for sure.)  The plans include growing the popularity overall as well as the establishment of a first class domestic league.

And I must admit that I am excited, I think Ireland will make a wonderful addition to the Test cricket family.  I even voiced a bit of excitement over on Twitter – unfortunately, as you can see, the party was properly spoilt by @grangergabblog.

Of course, she was not completely serious, as even if Test cricket was finally and properly dying, I do think it is going to hang around in one form or another for at least another eight years, but her point about India is a valid one: will Test cricket die if India, or any other Test playing nation for that matter, loses interest in Tests, and if so should we ALL be worried about India’s current Test form?

The answer to the first question is a resounding yes – save for one qualifier: if Bangladesh or Zimbabwe started focusing on their one day game, and the fans become disinterested in Tests, then while I think cricket as a sport would suffer overall, but I think Test cricket would be just fine.

The answer to the second question is no, of course not. India has been playing Test cricket for 80 years, and the long format has a wonderful tradition in that country.  Sure their form has been awful, but one 12 month blip is not going to erase eight decades worth of achievement; and sure there is the IPL, and sure their most recent success has come in the 50-over format, but just reading the Indian blogs shows me that Indian fans are still fanatical for Test cricket, and while the players might look disinterested, the passion from the terraces will surely continue to keep Test cricket alive and well in India for generations to come.

But to insure the above: make the Test Cricket Playoff a reality and let Mumbai host it in 2017.

In fact, doing that strengthens the format all over, and would serve to keep all countries interested and competitive – and competitive Test squads from all 10 nations is imperative to the growth of the game.

And that is why I am really excited about the prospect of seeing Ireland play Test series around the globe throughout the next decade.  Good for Ireland, good for Tests, good for Cricket.  Surely.

And it’s a big few days for Test cricket: Australia is putting the hammer down on India at the dead rubber in Adelaide (just a real shame how this series is ending – it started with so much promise.)

Meanwhile, in Abu Dhabi, the second test between Pakistan and England is due to start in about four and a half hours: a must win for England? Not necessarily – but at the very least they are going to need a draw to avoid a serious media inquest.

Finally, the first and only Test between New Zealand and Zimbabwe starts tomorrow afternoon, Minneapolis time.  I will probably choose to watch that over day three of India bending over for Michael Clarke and Ricky Ponting.

And, yes, that ugly metaphor is accurate: they have scored 1,038 runs between the two of them in this series. And while their remorseless accumulations have been impressive, surely, even the most diehard of India supporters would tell you that a lot of those runs were given away rather cheaply – easy runs, for the most part, in other words.

As we speak, Clark is at 206no and Ponting 193no – and India just seems to have no interest whatsoever in getting them out…

Isn’t it, like, a million degrees in Adelaide this morning? Don’t they want to get off the field?

And thus this series will wilt to a close. So very disappointing…Dhoni and Co. should reimburse the travel expenses of the traveling fans. It’s been that bad.

And that’s it for tonight. Look tomorrow for the start of a new feature here at Limited Overs!

Until next time.