Proper Cricket and Sleeping Australians

29 06 2010

Bradders writes:

Pakistan Arrive

Proper cricket is finally back on the agenda with the ‘hit and giggle’ 20 over stuff on pause for the moment. Along with the current round of county matches, Pakistan, without any fanfare, have slipped into the country and are currently engaged in their opening tour game against Kent.

Sadly this is a virtual Kent second team with only Joe Denly and Azhar Mahmood of the true regulars in the side. Apart from the fact that this is probably not as high intensity an opening game for Pakistan as it could be, and therefore probably not as good preparation as it might be, I feel that Kent may be missing a bit of a trick. It is clear in the memory that 90’s, and certainly before that, the matches against the touring sides were an opportunity for the best players to showcase themselves to the England selectors and also for the county to get some much needed people in through the turnstiles. It was a regular draw for us as Kent supporters and I used to go to the St. Lawrence Ground with regularity to watch these sides.

These days with central contracts and team England being more of a closed shop it is unlikely that a single performance could have the same impact as it once did. Factor into the equation that with the surfeit of shorter and more viewer friendly 20/20 games around a three day game is likely to get less interest. This has been a gradual shift over the last decade and one that, in our opinion, the game is poorer for.  One of the best days of cricket I have ever witnessed was a Kent versus Australia match around 1997 where Mark Ealham played a quite brilliant innings, scoring a quick 60 odd I think it was as Kent crumbled around him. Later in the day Mark ‘Tubby’ Taylor scored a good not out fifty and, with some wristy Mark Waugh strokes thrown into the mix, it was a day to savour.

Focusing on the game itself;  it is good to see Robbie Joseph come back from long term injury to play a part in this game. As a relatively recent England A tourist and still only 28 there is still time for him. Joseph was a season or two ago rated as one of the quickest bowlers in the country by none other than Justin Langer and as such is a fairly rare breed. Joe Denly will be another looking to make an impression here as he has endured a poor season and has slipped off the England radar, even being left out of the England Lions team to be captained by Alistair Cook. A score here will remind the England selectors of his presence and get his season back on track.

For Pakistan Shahid Afridi’s new found responsibility clearly only extends to the shorter versions of the game having top edged a swipe down to third man for a fourth ball duck. Whatever happens on this tour; it is unlikely to be boring as Afridi is a man who plays with the sort of attitude you might have expected in a Gentleman vs Players game from the 19th Century. Perhaps the opposition was not testing enough for him and he was simply bored, but we are sure that, come the tests we will continue to witness the full flowering of Afridi’s undoubted talent, notice of which he gave in the recent Asia Cup with two fine hundreds.

Alternatively of course he could defy these burgeoning hopes we are carrying for him and implode spectacularly in a flurry of slogs, top edges and stumpings!

Umar Akmal served further notice of his immense talent scoring a fine 153 and Pakistan will probably rely heavily on him and his brother for runs over the coming test series. The younger Akmal has the sort of ability to go on and be the next world class Pakistani batsman in the mould of Inzaman and Miandad, and just to add further pressure, Pakistan have probably never needed a player of this stature more than at the current time.

***********

Let Sleeping Aussies Lie

Whilst it would be undoubtedly premature and highly foolish (the phrase red rag to a bull comes to mind) to be talking about a shift in power in the cricketing world from Australia to England, one can’t help but feel that Australia will do well to avoid a whitewash in this current one day series. If England don’t fall off their game, as they did towards the end of the third match on Sunday, then it will be theirs to lose rather than Australia’s to win.

What I am particularly enjoying at the moment though, is the headlines that are coming out of the various press releases and conferences held by the Aussie team. Doug Bollinger has been quoted as saying that they ‘are aiming for a strong finish’ and that a ‘whitewash would be devastating’. These sort of comments, coming as they do with the standard PR rubbish Martin Johnson’s rugby team have become so good at, i.e. ‘if we all perform then there is no reason we can’t win’ and ‘we just need an extra 10%’ are brilliant when viewed from the winning sides perspective!

Mind you, I am concerned that having written this article it might jinx England and rouse the sleeping beast that is Australian cricket. Perhaps this is the Englishman in me coming through after years of batterings at the hands of the Aussies and I should ignore it and just be confident, yet just in case, I have touched the wooden table and crossed my fingers…

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