South Africa Under-19s v Pakistan Under-19s at Stellenbosch, Tri-Nation Under-19s Tournament

On the pitch:

Last night, while I slept, on the other side of the earth: Pakistan humbled England, and the two openers in Chennai batted on and on and on.

Re: the former: When I woke up and checked the score on my phone, at first I was a little confused. Pakistan had gotten to 338 in the first innings, okay, and then it appeared as if England were 160 for none in their second innings, but something didn’t look right, and then I saw it: “Pakistan won by 15 runs.”

England were not 160/0, they were 160 all out, bowled out by Gul and Ajmal. Then Hafeez and Umar came back out, batted for just shy of 30 minutes, and won the match.

Amazing turn of events.

I have not had a chance to read any commentary, any punditry, not even any tweets, but I must say this: England are in real trouble; they are going to lose this series.

Not 48 hours ago, I was reading articles from England fans saying that they had a real chance to win not just every series in 2012, but every match, as well.  And now the former dream is over, and the latter dream is in serious doubt.

Some might say that it is far too early to panic, that England is the number one test team on earth.

But, really, outside of the ICC rankings, are they?  Sure, we all know what happened last year: retaining the Ashes IN Australia, beatingSri Lanka 1-0 (thanks to one hapless day in Cardiff from the visitors), and white washing India (in England.) But they lost a series to the West Indies not three years ago, and before that most of the test results were mixed, at best.

Sure, the last two years have been a great run, but Bangladesh aside, they have not won outside of England or Australia since 2007/2008 in New Zealand; and they have not won on the subcontinent since 2000/2001 against Pakistana and Sri Lanka.

If we are going to lambaste India for losing outside of the subcontinent, then we need to paint England with similar strokes for their absolute failure to win in Asia.

And, yes, it is time to panic. They did not lose a squeaker in five days, they had their doors blown off, pure and simple.

Optimists will point to England’s resilient bowling as a silver lining, but I didn’t see resilient bowling, I saw bowling that allowed Pakistan to put up 338 runs on the same pitch that England were bowled out on for 192 and 160.  That’s not resilient bowling, that is troublesome and worrisome bowling.

And even if Monty Panesar comes into the squad and evens out the attack with more spin, then what of England’s batting?  I can only assume that the wicket will be similar in Abu Dhabi, and Pakistan surely will not make any squad changes, and this is an England side that saw the majority of its top order batsmen losing their wickets with single digit run totals.

Cook’s two innings total? Eight.

Pietersen’s? Two.

Bell’s? Four.

That’s 14 total runs from three of England’s best batsmen.

Troublesome.  Worrisome.

For England.

Pakistan on the other hand? They look unstoppable. Unfortunately, they will not be playing a test series against the other scorching hot team in world cricket, Australia, until the fall of 2014.

The second test of #pakveng starts on the 26th and it very well could be the most important test of 2012 for England.

Meanwhile, in Chennai, Rajasthan won the toss, put Tamil Nadu in the field, and Chopra and Saxena batted on and on and on and on. 221/0 – a big score in a match where the tiebreaker is first innings runs.

I had a lot of fun watching that match last night, and hope to be able to watch more tonight.

Also, tonight, look for a LimitedOvers style preview of the only New Zealand v Zimbabwe test.

Until then.

Bloomfield Cricket and Athletic Club v Colts Cricket Club at Colombo, Premier League Tournament

Sooner or later, I knew it would come to this.  I knew that someday there would be a test match that I was highly interested in, was available for legal viewing online, and was on in the middle of the night.

And that day…err…night…has finally come.

The second day of Pakistan versus England starts in one hour and 40 minutes.  It is 20 minutes after 10 o’clock here in the Midwest, I have to be at the office at eight am.  In other words: the match is happening during the exact same eight hour window when I am usually sleeping.

And, yet, here I am, typing away on a blog post, drinking tea, biding my time, fully committed to making it at least to the lunch break.

This is the life of American cricket fan.

Nah, that’s inappropriately arrogant.

England fans suffer through a similar loopy schedule when England visiting Australia, just as one example.  Lunchtime in Melbourne is 2am in London.

Cricket fans everywhere suffer for their sport, sacrificing sleep like no other group of sports fans.

Maybe that’s why Stuart Robertson invented Twenty20? He was sick of not getting eight hours a night.

I had debated maybe going to bed extremely early and then getting up extremely early (like, say, 4am-ish), but I decided instead to take a quick power nap after getting home from work and then fortify myself with caffeine and a James Ellroy novel to pass the time.

I will probably try the early riser option next test – although I have found that it is always easier to stay up late then to get up early.

Honestly, I think if the match had taken a different turn yesterday, I might have decided just to see what the scores were when I got up in the morning; I really don’t need to see Jonathon Trott scratching away for session after session…again…

But the match is wonderfully poised.  England need wickets today – and that need should make for entertaining viewing.

And, really, I am excited to finally suffer for my sport.

Getting up at 6:15am to watch Arsenal play is gong to feel easy after this.

Hopefully, Twitter is alive and kicking with Brits up early for the match, and hopefully Willow TV will still be showing the game – nothing but love for Cricinfo’s ball-by-ball, but I am not going to sacrifice quality sack time unless I have a proper video stream.

All right, one hour and twenty minutes to go, time to make a sandwich.

Until next time.

Australia v India at Perth, 3rd Test

Been a weird day in the world of cricket (just ask the proprietor of Deep Backward Point): I woke up to see the spot fixing story making front page news on Twitter, as well as a vague story on the Australian squad having some sort of booze fueled romp on the Perth wicket (or something.)

Not to mention the fact that the ECB was meeting behind closed doors to decide the future of County Cricket, and that Australia and India were set to play the pivotal third test in their series (well, pivotal for India, anyway).

And, finally, I had a post I had written on the Associates (a favorite topic of mine) posted over on The Sight Screen.  Check it out.

So, really, I had a ton of ideas for today’s blog.  A review of the Morgan report, putting the spot fixing in to a wider sport context, some notes on athletes and booze, or maybe simply link to the article above and call it a night.

I’ve decided to save the first three topics for another day, and go with number four: please do check out the link above, read the story, and let me know your thoughts.

The Associates are a huge part of the cricket playing world, so hopefully the ICC will sooner or later sort out how exactly to handle them.

Before signing off, a few quick notes on India v Australia:

1.  Australia won the toss and elected to field: and promptly took Sehwag’s wicket rather cheaply.

However Gambhir is looking quite comfortable tonight (finally) and Dravid looks his usual calm and collected self.

So despite Sehwag, there is hope that this test might at the very least be competitive for the entire five days.

I am a confirmed neutral, of course, but right now I am firmly in India’s corner.   Give us a match. will ya?

2.  Perth is such an impressive stadium, what a great setting for sport.  It seats almost 25,000 and just like yesterday in Paarl, most of those seats are filled – always great to see.

3.  I found myself looking forward to this match all day. Despite the fact that it very well could be an uneventful five days, despite the fact that I support neither country, despite all of the bad news in the world of cricket, despite the fact that I had just a simply terribly day at the office.

Nothing makes everything else disappear quite like a test match.

And with that: until tomorrow.

Bangladesh A v England Lions at Chittagong, 1st unofficial ODI

Okay, so I guess it is finally time that I say something about that Wright Thompson piece for ESPN on test cricket.

Now I have complained about Mr. Thompson before, this was back in the summer when I heard him interviewed by The Two Chucks during the first England v India test – that match also happens to be the central storyline in the essay above.

For a lot of reasons, I find Mr. Thompson annoying.  First of all, I think he is stealing my schtick: I am the American that loves cricket, I should be the one telling Americans all about the sport: its trials, its tribulations, its heroes.  Not you, Wright, the ignoramus writer.  (Truth be told, however, I am stealing Mark Marqusee’s schtick, so whatever.)

Secondly, I am annoyed by the fish-out-of-water, babe-in-the-woods routine he employs in his approach to the sport.  “Hey, I am a big dumb American tell me about your craaaaazzzy game there, Mr. Foreigner!”

Generally, I feel that he is encroaching on what I want to do, which is write about cricket from a unique, American perspective, and I feel like he has already cornered that market without even really trying, and I find that annoying.

So when I had heard that his article for ESPN on the 2,000th test match had finally been published, I initially decided to ignore it.  And then last night @testingtimesXI tweeted that folks should be reading the story and I grew even more agitated – in fact, I was in a generally annoyed state of mind last night for a good three hours.  Whenever I would think about this blog, I would feel this burn in my gut: THIS FUCKING SOUTHERN NITWIT WRIGHT THOMPSON GUY IS STEALING MY ACT!

And, of course, that is stupid.  Mr. Thompson is an accomplished and gifted writer, for reals.  He has a knack both with the pen and with people. I am more often than not in awe of his words.

And, of course, he works for the Worldwide Leader, so he has power of all that Mickey Mouse money behind him – and really it’s not his fault that the machine sent him to London to watch cricket, and honestly in the interview above he did sound legitimately humbled and excited to be at Lord’s.

And, of course, I was being a little bit xenophobic and insular, in a backwards sort of way.  Who cares what a writer’s nationality is?  I read dozens of articles a week about test cricket from writers around the globe, so why should I thumb my nose at this one just because it was written by a fellow American?  Isn’t that just the kind of stereotyping that I should be campaigning against?

Therefore, this morning, I read his piece over oatmeal and tea.  And here are my thoughts, summarized from my scribbled notes on the back of an envelope:

It’s long. Very long. Topping out at almost 10,000 words.  Though I bet even Mr. Thompson would tell you that there is a bit of filler in there.

And, well, I liked it. It was very well written, I saw myself in a lot of what he said, and by the end of the article he really seemed to “get” test cricket – that it wasn’t really one five day match, that it was hundreds of mini-matches spread out over five days.

I liked his notes about the weather, about how all us cricket fans go nuts about rain and humidity and dryness and cloud cover.

And I liked his main point, which was the status of test cricket in the modern world.  He comments on how the brains of younger people have been reprogrammed and simply cannot connect to this longer form of the game, that it would be like telling them to breathe helium instead of oxygen (my words, not his.)

In that same vein, later on he mentions a fact that I knew intellectually but one that I never really thought about.  I had always assumed that cricket was a hold over from the pastoral days of pre-industrial England, but the first test match was played in 1877 – right smack dab in the middle of the Industrial Revolution.  The author sums it best: “When Marqusee describes the pleasure of attending a Test match, he lingers on the way he’s able to think. In the white spaces. I think about the silence at Lord’s, and I understand. Test cricket is different from the rest of the world because it was designed to be.”

He later mentions that due to its birth date, cricket has always been dying, always been struggling against time, against technology, against progress.  And I found that thought quite comforting, as maybe we really all don’t need to be worrying about the future of test cricket, as it knows perfectly well the uphill battles it faces, as it has been facing them for seven generations.

Finally, he sums it all up by saying that this just might finally be test cricket’s time to shine: as the world will sooner or later need to slow time down, and there are movements around the world already attempting to do so: slow food, knitting, urban farming. Yoga.  Maybe test cricket will be the sport that fits into that movement: as “a sport existing outside the tyranny of money and time.”

Again, I took great comfort in his notions.  And I am glad I took the time to read them.

What didn’t I like?  Well, as I mentioned, there were a lot of unnecessary words (pot, meet kettle.  Kettle, pot.)  And the article seemed at some points to be less about cricket, and more about Wright.  And he seemed to steal directly from his previous long-form article on the game, the one about the 2011 World Cup.

And really, I thought he gave the Lord’s establishment a bit too hard of a time.

But those were all easily forgivable mistakes.

In the end, I liked it, and I recommend it.

My favorite part of the entire article was this paragraph, as it reminded me of me, when I first fell in love with cricket:

“The English fielding strategy, I hear, contains three slips and a gully. A silly point. I’m not sure what that means, but the words are pleasing to hear. Just the sound of them.”

Amen, Mr. Thompson.

Until next time.

Titans v Warriors at Benoni, SuperSport Series

I talk a great deal about test cricket on this blog. A great deal more than I ever expected to, actually.

This is the story of I how I fell in love with test cricket.  Some other time, I will write about my love affair with the sport overall…

When I first started following the game, it was during the 2007 World Cup, and so I was an ODI man through and through.  I thought it was a modern form of an archaic sport, a way out of the cricketing middle ages.  And I thought for sure that it was cricket in its most exciting form, as how could a four or five day match possibly be more exciting than one that is decided in one day – and one which always gives you a winner?

Please forgive me.

Then, shortly after, very shortly after, I discovered Twenty20 cricket, and the American in me sprung to life: this is it, I thought, this is what will bring Americans into the game. It’s three hours, there are penalties for slow over rates, the crowds are big and loud and the atmosphere is thick with tension.

I found myself following a great deal many one day series that first year: there was the t20 World Cup, there was India’s seven ODIs in England, and so on.

But more and more, beginning in 2008, I started to drift toward the longer forms of the game.  In County Cricket, after first only really following the one day tournaments, I was starting to only watch highlights of first-class matches.  And while I still enjoyed big ODIs, and followed along with the knockout stages of the County one-dayers, and while I thought the IPL was great entertainment, I was slowly but surely being consumed by test cricket.

For me, just like for most folks, it seems, test cricket was the true test of team sporting endurance.  And more than any other sport, test matches told a story:  there was drama, and villains, and heroes.  Plot lines that stretch for days, batsmen who bat for days, and twists that come from nowhere.  And like most I enjoy a well spun yarn.

I was blown away by the fact that one delivery, ONE, could turn an entire five day match on its head.

Now, I am not going too much time waxing poetic here, as so many that have come before me have done it far better than I ever could.  But for my American readers, you must know, there is something quite magical about a sporting event that lasts for more than three hours.  You cannot think of it like an NFL game, where three hours can feel interminable, as it is something completely different.  You drift in and out, checking the scores when you can, watching entire two hour sessions when possible, keeping it in the back of your mind all the rest of the time.  It is its own animal, it transcends the traditional “game” and honestly, is the only contest that can fairly be called a “match”.

All of that said, however, up until recently, my love for test cricket was on somewhat equal standing with other major sporting events that I enjoyed.  The Tour de France, the World Series, the Champions League Final, football’s World Cup…etc.

I felt this way even after subscribing to which allowed me to watch the England-India test series.

But then, and goodness I hate to keep harping on this, but then I watched the Boxing Day test at the MCG, and everything changed.  I realized that test cricket stood alone, not always, but on its biggest stages, it was on a pedestal where no other sports could be placed.  Not the bloated Super Bowl, not the niche sport Olympics, not even the World Cup.  Test match cricket existed all on its own, and in my 30 years as a sports fan, I had found my personal mountain top of sporting spectacle.

I have been to Emirates Stadium, been to NFL games, been to an Michigan v Ohio State football game, been to an MLB playoff game…but nothing matches what I felt those first few nights watching Australia-India at cricket’s giant virtual bar on my silly little computer in a quiet room on the other side of the earth.

Nothing involving sport, of course, mind you.

And I cannot wait to spend the rest of my life enjoying match after match.

I linked to @Legsidelizzy‘s blog this morning, and I feel like I have to do it again here.  In this post, she says:

“I continue to search for the elusive thing that is happiness and contentment.  That may never happen but quite frankly, I don’t know where I’d be without cricket. Lost – totally lost.”

Now, I don’t think I would be lost without cricket, but this blog and this sport have brought a great deal of happiness over the last year, and for that I am very thankful.

One last note: I know that waxing poetic about test cricket is like shooting fish in a barrel, and I know that I repeated myself a lot in this post, and I do appreciate you humoring me by reading this.  I promise to not do either too often.

Until next time.

South Western Districts v Boland at Oudtshoorn, CSA Provincial Three-Day Challenge

Currently: Day four, India 260-3, trailing Australia by 208.

Last night, before lunch, I experienced one of my favorite cricket moments ever.  (Admittedly, my experience is limited.)

Michael Clarke was in the 280s. He had taken his helmet off as India had brought spin into the attack. The commentators were silent (still not sure if they were actually quiet or if there was a technical glitch.)  There was the softest of buzzes from the stands.

And there stood Clarke, in his baggy green hat, and his label-free bat, looking exhausted but focused, like a cricketer from another era, another century.

Some cynics will say that Clarke was playing up the part, hamming it up in order to regain the favor of the fans and the press, and well, no matter, he won me over.   It was a wonderful moment, and it brought out the romantic in me.

At this moment, however, VVS Laxman and Sachin Tendulkar look not like cricketers from earlier time, but like themselves from just a few short years ago.

Their partnership today is at 92 runs, and they look to be in good enough form to maybe, just maybe, keep India in this match.

Unfortunately, there looks to be no chance of rain today or tomorrow in Sydney, so if they want to earn a draw, they are going to just keep on batting.

And, really, once they lose their fourth wicket, that really could be it for India.  Next is Kohli, who has had a terrible series, and Dhoni, who as we saw in the first innings cannot carry this team all on his own.

So the partnership of VVS and Sachin is India’s only hope.

Thankfully, for India, they are in good hands.  Tendulkar, of course, has over 15,000 test runs, and Laxman has almost 9,000…

And just like that, just as I was looking into the partnership totals of Laxman and Tendulkar, the Captain Clarke strikes: Tendulkar: OUT for 80 off of 141 deliveries.

It is surely Michael Clark’s test match.

A lovely knock under pressure for the little man, but India needed more.

And that is probably it.  I was hoping to be able to have one more night of cricket viewing tomorrow evening, but I have a feeling will all be lucky if this match makes it to the tea break.

And with that, I am going to sign off an enjoy it while I can.

Until next time.

Madhya Pradesh v Mumbai at Indore, Ranji Trophy Elite

About five minutes ago, Michael Clarke became only the 21st cricketer to hit a test 300.  And he is still going, and I would not be surprised if he reaches 400, as India has seemingly all but given up on this test, on this series.  Clarke has buried them.

Like most Indian supporters and neutrals, I keep waiting for India to spring to life, to take a couple quick wickets, and then maybe bat on for two days and earn a draw and we all go to Perth with a smile.  But it’s just not happening.

But back to Clarke’s 300: there have been 25 triple centuries in test cricket in the 134 years of the format’s existence from 21 different batsmen.  And just like I always do here, I will try to put this into a bit of context:

The first thing that came to mind was the perfect game in baseball.  And, yeah, I know it is apples to oranges, as a baseball game at most lasts three hours, and the pitcher is only out there for half of it, and most perfect games are actually closer to two hours long than three hours. While Chris Gayle, for instance, during his 300 two years ago against Sri Lanka, batted for almost 11 hours, while seeing 437 deliveries.

But, still, the perfect game, like the three hundred, is five parts stamina, three parts mental fortitude, and two parts dumb luck.  And they are rare:  It has only been accomplished 20 times in the history of the Major League Baseball.  And like the 300, it is truly a modern accomplishment, with majority of the perfect games happening in the last two decades.

And considering there have been countless baseball games, while there have only been 2,000+ tests, one could even argue that the perfect game is a rarer accomplishment.

And that, really, is the only comparison I can come up with – in team sports anyway.   The 300, to me, is a solitary feat in modern sport, and has no equal anywhere.  To stand up, at the crease, in the pressure of a test match, for nine, ten, eleven, twelve hours; to defend, to score, to run between the wickets with the highest degree of skill and intelligence, in a sport where the margin of error is positively razor thin…well, it truly blows me away that it is even possible, much less that it has happened 25 times since 1877.

A couple of other accomplishments I kicked around were Pete Rose’s hitting streak, Cal Ripken’s consecutive games streak, or maybe, a professional cyclist winning a tough mountain stage without the help of teammates.  But at this point, we aren’t even talking apples to oranges anymore, we are talking apples to elephants.

The only other event I can think of, other than a perfect game, which even comes close to a triple century in cricket is a really long Grand Slam final in tennis.  Like, maybe, the 2008 Wimbledon Final between Nadal and Federer that lasted almost five hours.  A close comparison, I think, really.

Of course, Clarke’s 300 today at the SCG is even more impressive than most 300s, because he is the squad’s captain, and when he entered the match his squad was reeling at 37-3, but the captain stood up and batted on and on and on…and now they are 650-4.  He did what captains are supposed to do: he put them team on his back and carried them.

Now, truthfully, Dhoni did the same thing for India in their first innings, but unfortunately batting partner after batting partner failed him, while Clarke had the luxury of batting with two fellas that each hit centuries.

Back to the match and Australia are now ahead by 460, and they could probably declare now and still get a day off.  And, really, they should be continue and continue to bat at least a little longer to guarantee a win, because despite India’s poor performance with the bat, they are still India, and they still feature Sehwag, and Dravid, and Tendulkar,  and Laxman.

Clarke would be a fool to underestimate them.

Meanwhile, in Cape Town, Sri Lanka are steadily chasing down South Africa’s 580 on day three.  It has been a fine test match so far at Newlands, always great to see.

That’s it from here.  Until next time.


Tamil Nadu v Maharashtra at Chennai, Ranji Trophy Elite

It is day two of the second test of India’s tour of Australia, and to this novice, it looks as if India is already thinking ahead to the ODIs, or maybe even to the plane ride home.

Dhoni and Co. look perfectly content to let Ponting and Clarke bat on and on and on and on.  151 runs for the partnership at press time, and they are cranking along at 4.28 runs per over, and they look ready to give Australia a decisive lead in the match, and if India allows that to happen, then for all intents and purposes the test series is over before a single ball is bowled in Perth.

It is everyone’s greatest fear come to fruition, as it is so far a repeat of this past summer in England.  Actually, that is untrue, as India actually gave England a real scare in the first two tests.  In Australia however, aside from a few moments on day two, and a few wonderful balls from Kahn, India has barely been in the ballpark.

Here’s to hoping we are all jumping the gun too soon.  But reading around the Internet today, as bloggers near and far attempt to dissect what exactly is wrong with India (remember this team was the number one test nation on earth six months ago) I am afraid to say that I think we are not jumping to conclusions too early.

(Two such articles are here and here, from The Reverse Sweep and a Cricketing View, respectively.)

Now, I am not going to write India’s postmortem quite yet, and in fact part of me believes there is life in their team yet, and Australia has honestly bowled really well, and their tail has batted out of their skins, but it is quite obvious even to me that considering the batting talent India has, there is something terribly wrong with the squad, something that can’t be fixed with a different player batting sixth or with a different off spinner.

So what’s next for India?

Well, unfortunately, as an extended stay at home might be what they really need, this is a long stay in Australia; their last ODI takes place almost two months from now, on February 28th.  Then it is off to Bangladesh for the Asia Cup series, and then home for the IPL.

Then again in July they are back on the road already, with three tests in Sri Lanka.  After that, however, they are home for one year (aside from the Champions Trophy) when they travel to Zimbabwe in 2013.

In other words, they will get their long stay at home to rest and examine their squad as players start to retire eventually, but it is going to be a while yet.

Australia, on the other hand, look like world beaters again.  Ponting, who was dead to the world not four months ago, has pushed the sky back into sky and looks to knock his first test ton since he scored 209 against Pakistan at Hobart – 32 test innings ago.

And their young quicks continue to impress, especially Pattinson, who just keeps taking wickets.  As such it might not all be India’s fault, that as I alluded to above, it might simply be that Australia is playing quite well.

Over in South Africa, another aging batsman is showing that age is just a number, as the 36 year Jacques Kallis is at 159 not out for the hosts, who have batted for 347/3 against Sri Lanka in the first innings of the third and decisive test.

At this point, it looks like it is going to be South Africa’s match to lose, and considering how tame Sri Lanka’s bowling attack has been, you have to ask: is it time to entice Lasith Malinga out of test retirement?

He is only 28 years old, and before he retired right after the 2011 IPL, he took 101 test wickets in 30 matches.

Now, I understand why he retired: Sri Lanka was not paying him and he needed to rest his injury prone body for the IPL and other one-day formats in order to make a living, but the Sri Lanka cricket board needs to look at the situation and figure out a way to bring him back into the test squad – pay him more, let him bowl part time, something.

His country needs him, despite their famous win at Durban. He is one of the most dynamic bowlers in world cricket, and he should be playing tests.  My two cents.

Unfortunately, the above will continue to happen as big money t20 domestic leagues lure players away from test cricket, and that is just simply the age we live in now, but when it comes to a player like Malinga, I feel like it is a real loss not just for Sri Lanka, but for cricket.

(Author’s bias, Malinga was one of the very first cricketers I fell in love with after discovering cricket.)

Now I need to get back to the cricket, and working on other writing.  I am starting to think I might get up before dawn to watch some of South Africa v Sri Lanka, see if Kallis can get only his second double century.  First ball of the day is at 3:30am local time.

That’s a giant maybe.

Until tomorrow.

South Africa v Sri Lanka at Durban, 2nd Test

Just a few notes from last night’s test match:

1. I was able to watch the final 60 or so overs of the day.  I missed the first two wickets, but I saw Ponting’s 50, and Cowan’s 50, and the two wickets that weren’t, and the two wickets that were.

2.  Regarding the above commentary:  The wicket’s of both Cowan and Hussey would surely have been over-turned if a review system was in place.  Yes, I know, it is a flawed technology, but it is better than nothing.  Those two wickets changed the entire day and turned the match in India’s favor, and it is really unfortunate that both decisions were wrong.

Further, I think not having DRS available puts more pressure on the umpires, not less as some would suggest.  And I believe that that added pressure is a big reason behind why both calls were flubbed.

The technology exists, and for the flaws in it to be ironed out, the technology needs to get used on stages such as the Boxing Day test match at the MCG.

At the end of the day, Indian, Australian, or neutral, you have to feel for Eddie Cowan.  He played a marvelous debut innings, and he should still be out there batting.

3.  I mentioned in a post a few days ago that “three magical deliveries out of nowhere will change everything” – or something like that.  And that is exactly what happened last night.  The wickets of Ponting, Clarke, and Hussey were taken with just wonderful attacking balls.  And whether or not the decisions would have been overturned by DRS does not diminish the quality of those deliveries.

Zaheer Kahn really is a special bowler.  The only real match changer out there for India, and they are lucky to have him.

That is not to discount the performance of his fellow fast bowler, Umesh Yadav, who took three for 96, but Kahn is just simply a step ahead of him, skill wise.  For now, anyway.

4.  For the first 25 or so overs last night,’s quality was impeccable.  After tea, unfortunately, the quality started to decrease, but before that it was just lovely.  Hopefully it was a sign of things to come.

5.  During the match last night, there were a few promos for the KFC Big Bash League.  The juxtaposition of that circus to a wonderful test match was impossible not to notice.  BBL is all noise, signifying nothing; while the test match was of the highest quality, and was operating on multiple levels.

As I have said before, I truly believe there is room for both forms, and I understand that money-printing domestic competitions such as the BBL have to exist, for financial reasons, but gah the BBL makes me a little ashamed to be a cricket fan.

6.  Twitter is a real hoot during big matches.  At one point, nine of the ten trending topics in India were related to the Boxing Day test match.

7.   I am going to start writing down ideas for blog posts.  I thought of one yesterday while writing my match preview but now I cannot remember what it was and it is DRIVING ME CRAZY.

8.  I did not watch a single ball of South Africa v Sri Lanka.  Maybe tomorrow.

9.  Only one over was lost yesterday due to rain.


A cynic could even attribute that lost over to Indian’s notoriously low over rates instead of Mother Nature, but I am not a cynic.

10.  70,000 people at the MCG yesterday.  And my rough estimate says that 1/3 of them were India supporters.  So much for home-field advantage.

11.  During the first hour or so of the second session, the Aussies were cranking along at 4.55 runs per over.  That, for me, is the story of the match so far.  India’s bowlers were very poor after lunch and if not for Kahn’s heroics and the two dodgy decisions, the visitors would be in a whole lot of trouble.

12.  Day 2 begins in five hours and 25 minutes.

13.  Until next time.

Australia v India at Melbourne, 1st Test

Writing a proper test match report is a skill that is a little bit beyond my pay grade.  It takes a deft touch that I simply do not have, not yet anyway.  You want me to sum up 30 hours worth of play in 1,000 words – are you insane?  I will leave that for the professionals.

(Speaking of which, are we going to get more songs during this series?  I sure hope so.)

And, I guess, writing a proper match preview is another task that is best handled by an expert.

That said:  here is what I have to say about the upcoming Boxing Day test match.

Most, if not all, of the pundits I have read over the last week have concentrated on the weaknesses and inherent flaws of both Australia and India (primarily their batting and their bowling, respectively.)  Now, I agree to some degree that those flaws are the story of the series that is worth telling right now, and the opposing weaknesses might make for four intruiging games, but I am a glass-is-half-full guy at heart, and prefer instead to on positives.

Positive #1:

The weather.  Several different weather sites have confirmed for me that we are to see perfect cricketing conditions over the next five days.  Dry (!!!), sunny, highs in the 70s, lows in the 50s (Fahrenheit.)  If the two teams can make it through the first match without losing a single over, then the most important people win: the fans.

Positive #2:

We all get to see Sehwag, Dravid, and Tendulkar et al, bat on a perfect pitch, in the sunshine, in a test match.  These are the best batsmen in a generation, if not ever. If that does not get you a wee bit excited, then I don’t know what to tell you.  Of course, Dravid and Sachin do not really have a history of magical performances at the MCG, but Sehwag did throw up a double century in his first and only Test appearance in Melbourne.

And I honestly believe with all of my heart that Sachin will get his 100th 100 during this match.  Bank on it, in fact.  Another positive.

Positive #3:

On a more statistical note, we are pretty likely to get an outcome of the first match, as a Test match at the MCG has not ended in a draw in 14 years.

India have won two test matches in Melbourne, lost seven, and drawn one.  Which, really, is not a terrible record.  Winning two tests in Australia is never anything to sneeze at.  And considering there penchant for losing the first test of an overseas series, I think having the first match at a ground that has been successful for them bodes well for the Indians.

Australia have won 58 of the 103 test they have hosted at the MCG, which is not all that convincing, really.  But they will be home, with a big crowd behind them, and I think they will feed off of that a bit.  And considering their recent implosions, both on Boxing Days of late as well as against New Zealand and South Africa, I think the Aussies might be due for a good performance.

Positive #4:

The match will be live on  I hope, HOPE, to be able to watch at least a bit of the first day’s play, but I am not getting those hopes too high.  It is Christmas after all.

Positive #5:

Eddie Cowan.  And Australia’s young seamers.

Positive #6:

Twitter.  @limitedovers.  Hashtag: #ausvind

Positive #7:

The MCG:

And that’s what I have for you today.  There is a lot more to be excited about, of course, but like I said, it’s Christmas.

Happy Christmas, readers, hopefully I will see you all later tonight.