Semi Finals and Conspiracy Theories

13 10 2011

You may think that considering results  in the last round of matches that our interest in this World Cup has waned, yet, and perhaps a little bizarrely, our interest has simply grown.

With injuries meaning New Zealand putting any world class 10 on the field is nigh on impossible (it remains to be seen where Cruden fits on the quality scale) and other injury concerns as well; a French team who may turn up and blow a side away or alternatively fold like a particularly soggy card house; a quite brilliant Welsh team playing better than anyone (even themselves) could possibly have expected; and an Australian team who seem to have found the fighting spirit their cricketing counterparts have lost, this is the most open World Cup we can remember ever witnessing.

There may be some supporters (particularly South African) who might claim this is bad for rugby as one of the best sides in the world has not made it through – yet to us we think it is fantastic. To think that Wales have a genuine and reasonable opportunity to win the World Cup is surprising to say the least but something that is wonderful for the game.

Pre World Cup there was a great deal of chat from down south about the supposed widening gap in standards between the two hemispheres – well, doesn’t look more than a crack to us…

But anyway, a quick thought on the remaining teams:

Wales

What a performance that was against the Irish. Despite conceding vast amounts of possession their defensive play was incredible and gradually, as they grew into the game, their attacking play showed off some sharp and scintillating edges too. Ireland, like South Africa, paid the price for sloppy finishing although even if this had not been the case Wales would probably still have one.

Never have Wales had a more realistic chance of reaching a final and possibly even more. They need to play at their best to beat a resurgent French team but we see no reason why this shouldn’t happen. Warburton, Roberts and North remain key and with the news that James Hook will play at 10 at least their attack shouldn’t suffer.

Our new favourite team and one of the teams of the tournament.

France

France, as ever, are an enigma. Who will turn up on Saturday? A team who have played their ‘one big game’ of the tournament as the New Zealand commentators kept mentioning last week – or a side with new found resolve and inner steel.

No more needs to be said. A team capable of winning the World Cup might play or might not. Who really knows?

Australia

The surprise package of the semi’s in that they were clearly second best to South Africa last weekend in every area save finishing off their opportunities and at the breakdown. Many platitudes should be heaped on David Pocock’s shoulders as almost alone (the ref did unwittingly help too) he ensured the Bok’s were on the next plane home.

If they are to progress against the All Black’s however Quade Cooper needs to step up. He has, in our opinion, been so poor throughout this tournament that on many occasions he is verging on being a liability. A Cooper playing well is a force to reckoned with – a Cooper playing badly is a force to be exploited.

New Zealand

Kiwi’s the world over must be as nervous as they have ever been before a game of rugby. Their team appears to be crumbling before their eyes, their two giants of the game McCaw and Carter are either struggling or out – back ups are injured and (horror of horrors) Stephen Donald has been called up into the fold… Anyone who remembers the game in Hong Kong last year will know what we mean.

Truth be told however they are still the team to beat and will remain favourites going into this weekends game. The problem is that Australia cannot be discounted and recently have a respectable record against the men in black. We can’t wait…

Finalists?

Australia vs Wales…

There we said it. We’re backing the Blacks to choke and Wales to comfortably see of France. From thereon in – anything could happen!*

The Great Conspiracy to Defraud The Springboks of the World Cup

Bryce Lawrence is clearly a mole for ABSA (Anyone But South Africa). How else can we explain the fact that the Boks won’t win this and every other World Cup to come. We mean, surely, winning world cups is a god given Bok right? Isn’t it? Maybe?

Or perhaps not. Yes we agree Mr. Lawrence didn’t have his greatest game. Yes Pocock and others could have been blown up more than once and on another day may have been.

Yet, despite this, the Bok’s butchered chance after chance and quite simply as a result didn’t deserve to win. Stop complaining, accept it happens and please stop persecuting old Bryce via social media.

Oh, and it was clearly forward.

* After only correctly naming 50% of the semi finalists last weekend we are happy to accept a similar success rate here…

 

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Quarter Final Thoughts: Part 2 (and a word on the press)

6 10 2011

Following on from our piece the other day, here is the second half of the draw and our opinions on them:

Australia vs South Africa

Along with Wales vs Ireland, this game is the pick of the weekends match ups. Two heavyweights of world rugby have unexpectedly found their route to the final tougher than might have been imagined at the start. Ever since Ireland constricted Australia’s supply of ball to win their pool game there has been the prospect of one of these sides going home early.

Again, at the start of the tournament Australia would have walked into this game as reasonably strong favourites, however, a resurgent South Africa have once again proved that they are a force in World Cup situations and now it is nigh on impossible to pick the winner out of this.

To us it hangs on two factors. Can Australia achieve parity up front at the set piece and will Pocock or Brussow prevail at the battle of the breakdown? In our opinion the answers are yes and Pocock leading us to the conclusion that Australia will edge the game. However, if this is not the case and the fragile Cooper is being delivered slow ball on the back foot then South Africa and Morne Steyn will take their toll. We realise that this last caveat is essentially a cop out but picking a winner here is honestly that difficult.

Given enough ball the Australians, possessors of one of the finest back lines around going forward, should have too much even for the dogmatic South Africans.

Being entirely selfish about this as England supporters, we would rather play Australia in the final than either the Kiwis or the Boks and as such we will be supporting them. We also believe that Australia would have more chance beating the All Blacks than anyone else and, Dan Carter or no Dan Carter, we as a representative of the north  would dread any Six Nations side playing the hosts in the final.

So, not an analysis really – more of a wish…

New Zealand vs Argentina

Obviously the easiest of all the weekend’s games to pick with the Argentine’s dream of a second semi final likely to come to a grinding halt. We do feel that this will not quite be the cake walk (just struck us what a strange expression that is – what, after all, is a cake walk?) that most are proscribing. The standard thinking in this game states that the All Blacks will win by 30 points plus and generally run riot. We remember the grittiness of the Argies and think that almost by tenacity alone they might cling on and make it closer than one might think.

Our prediction is unless the Kiwis get off to a flyer and run a couple of early tries in, this game might be reasonably close up until the 60 minute mark when the AB’s will pull away to eventually win by 15 points.

The fact of the matter is that, despite the valid claims that rugby is a team game and one man can’t make that much difference, Dan Carter’s absence is a huge blow to the men in black. It is hardly an original statement that considering how well lauded he is, yet he simply doesn’t make mistakes. Slade and Weepu, whilst they played reasonably well, both made several mistakes last weekend – even if it was as simple as a pass not going to hand. Against the best teams like Australia or South Africa these could end up as costly mistakes – whether the Argentines have the same ability is still to be seen yet we feel it would be a mistake to write them off too early in the piece.

With the added pressure of a 24 year drought the physical style of the Argentina could do more damage than perhaps many think…

Having said all that – New Zealand by 15 or more.

And Now For The (English) Press…

This world cup, as with any, has never been far away from scandal – the English team causing perhaps the majority of it with a deferential nod to Samoa and France too. Whilst we don’t condone much of it, we do feel that the majority of the moralising and sensationalist articles that have been written in the English media just represent the worst of what modern sportsman have to go through.

In the past some rugby players going out for a few beers would scarcely have raised an eyebrow – let alone weeks of national debate – and this from our supposed serious and quality broadsheets. The Daily Telegraph in particular has descended to levels that normally only the Daily Mail occupies.

There used to be an idea that journalists had a responsibility to the truth yet, these days, in an age where newspaper sales are dwindling leading to an increase in both sensationalist headlines and reporting whilst the vast spaces available online for the banal, patronising and moralising ‘comment piece’ journalists increase –  here at the Compulsive Hooker at any rate, we get progressively more sick off reading them.

There – its off our chest – and back to the rugby…

Any thoughts?





Team By Team World Cup Previews

19 02 2011

So the Cricket World Cup, a tournament that doesn’t finish until the improbable date of April 2nd, gets under way today with a match between the favourites India and the nation applauded by many for giving the tournament back it’s soul, Bangladesh, with what was apparently a passionate and moving opening ceremony. In the best traditions of English cricket supporters and ODI cricket, we have been pretty ambivalent up until this point (regular readers may have guessed due to the lack of comment on this website) about it. Now, however – and as it always does eventually, the world cup bug has grabbed us and we are looking forward to two months of regular, meaningful limited overs cricket.

Therefore here are some short previews and predictions of how the various teams will go:

Australia

Have a better chance than many think. It really comes down to whether their all out pace attack can do the same job as it did in the West Indies four years ago. Tait and Lee are older and more broken than they were back then but still remain excellent bowlers. The batting is a concern and they will need Shane Watson in particular to be the star man in much the same way as Hayden was in the previous tournament. However our pick as a star man is David Hussey who will surely seize his chance and perform in his brother’s absence. Quarter Finalists.

Bangladesh

Over the past year or so there have been definite signs of improvement in this Bangledeshi team although it is hard to argue they have left their frailties behind entirely. Have the ability to spring an upset and could easily end the West Indian’s dreams of success before they even start. As always Tamim Iqbal and Shakib Al Hasan will be key men with the captain being our pick as the star man. Have every right to believe they can progress and we have them down as quarter finalists.

Canada

This is likely to be a painful tournament for the men from North America. From a cricketing minnow’s point of view they are probably the weakest team but will be hopeful that they can at least beat the Kenyans. Showed in the warm up game against England that they can compete and have a player of good ability in Rizwan Cheema – our star man for the Canadians. Unfortunately we don’t think they will win a game and will go out prior to the knock out stages.

England

Have the potential to be winners although form and injury worries give the feeling that perhaps this might be a tournament too far for them. Morgan’s absence is a massive blow but at least they have the returning (and on form) Stuart Broad to lead the way with the ball. Much will depend on the captain, Andrew Strauss, and a rejuvenated Paul Collingwood, although our pick as star man after a move to the top of the order is Kevin Pietersen. We have argued before that this might not be a bad plan and if he has a good tournament you simply don’t know how far England could go… Semi Finalists*

India

Hardly an unoriginal choice as winners of this tournament, yet this this where the smart money lies. Devastating batting, bowling suited to their home conditions, one feels that if they play to their potential they are likely to be too much for the others. However they are not so far and away the favourites that it is a given and their bowlers in particular need to fire. Tendulkar is our (obvious) pick as star man in what would likely be his last tournament. Winners.

Ireland

Will be desperate to  to show that the decision to exclude associate teams from the next world cup is very short sighted by creating an upset or two. Buoyed by the returning Ed Joyce (the CH’s star man), they will believe they can beat Bangladesh, West Indies and the Netherlands with possibly even England also in their sights. It is unlikely that they would qualify for the latter stages yet like all Irish sporting teams they are combative and should not be discounted. We think they have one upset in them although this will probably not be enough so it is simply the group stages for them.

Kenya

Once seen as the next associate side most likely to be given test status, they have regressed in recent years. They do however possess some talented players with exposure to success at World Cups and will believe at any rate that they could beat both Canada and Zimbabwe. Having transformed himself from the leg spinning hero that took Kenya to the semi finals back in 2003 but who then developed the yips, Colins Obuya has turned himself into a good middle order batsmen and is our star man. Group stages is as far as they will go however.

Netherlands

The eternal ‘almost team’ but still one who opponents take lightly at their cost – just ask England. Have one or two talented players with the stand out being Essex’s excellent Ryan Ten Doeschate who has the potential to be quite brilliant. Like Ireland, will be eyeing up wins against Bangladesh and the West Indies as potential upsets – something that would be quite exceptional – but in all likelihood it is the men from the Emerald Isle who will be their most likely win.  Group stages.

New Zealand

We don’t know what has happened to the Kiwi’s over the past year. They appear to have imploded and, whilst you would be unwise to write them off, it is lucky for them that they are not in Bangladesh’s group. Even Zimbabwe on current form will be a test. Much as always depends on Taylor, Vettori and McCullum (our star man) although it is time for the support acts, Southee, Guptill and Ryder to step up to the plate. Unfortunately we do not see them going past the group stages as we believe Zimbabwe may cause an upset.

Pakistan

Anything could happen quite honestly and it probably will! Led by Afridi and with a bowling attack that can run through anyone on their day (even despite the bans to Amir and Asif) it is the batting that will be crucial to Pakistan. In recent times it has been this aspect of their game that has let them down badly. Star man for us will be the veteran Abdul Razzaq, whose batting is crucial in the late order and can snatch games from the jaws of defeat. Quarter finalists.

South Africa

The team who if only for themselves may well have won two world cups, will believe that with the demise of Australia, this may be their year. Studded with talent in both departments including the interesting choice of Imran Tahir as their attacking spinner, they will be a handful for anyone. Despite the claims of Amla we have plumped for Steyn to shine. Again in this most open of world cups it is far from a given that they will progress past the quarters even as their previous habits of folding under pressure show, yet we believe they will be losing finalists.

Sri Lanka

Possible winners, the Sri Lankans are bound to benefit from home support, familiar pitches and a wealth of talent and it would be a fool who would write them off. We have picked the upcoming Angelo Matthews to be our star man, a player of immense ability, although the old stagers of Sangakarra, Murali, Jayawardene  – not to mention Dilshan et al – will push our choice all the way. We believe they will be Semi Finalists.

West Indies

Of all the teams in the world cup we will be hoping that the West Indies do well. As we all know cricket is struggling in that part of the world and a successful world cup would do wonders for the teams confidence. Anything from semi finals onwards would represent real achievement – something that would mean Chris Gayle has had an excellent world cup. Darren Bravo is our pick as star man although in all honesty Quarter finals is likely to be as much as they can achieve.

Zimbabwe

The men from Southern Africa have been on an upward spiral of late and should not be taken lightly by anyone. We have already called a possible upset against New Zealand and providing they can win the other games they are expected to, this should be enough to put them in the quarter finals. Something that would represent a major achievement. As star man we are going to go for Brendan Taylor although players like Chigurumba or Taibu will push him all the way. 
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Some Predictions For 2011

9 01 2011

Predicting anything, let alone a wide ranging selection of sports events months before they happen, is often a fool hardy business. However, as usual, we are going to have a stab at prophesying what might happen in the international cricket and rugby worlds. After all, and at the very least, when we are casting around for something to write in December 2011 it will be a readymade article reveling in how prescient or, more likely, how far wrong we were…

Let’s start with cricket…

ICC Cricket World Cup (50 Overs): England

We haven’t looked at the draw so we aren’t sure exactly what the various permutations can be, yet the final we would like to see is an India vs England match up. There are probably four or five sides who could win this competition but, with the Ashes win under their belt, we believe that finally England might have the quality and consistency to go all the way. Otherwise India (as mentioned), Sri Lanka and South Africa will be the hot favourites.

Test Cricket

2011 is a year of prime opportunity for England to begin their assault on the world number one slot. Home series against Sri Lanka and India to be followed by a proposed tour of India and then Pakistan, possibly in the UAE, offer an opportunity to show that the recently concluded 3-1 Ashes win is no fluke. In the early season conditions against Sri Lanka we believe that England should comfortably prevail to be followed by a close but victorious series win over India. Honours will be reversed though should the trip to India be confirmed.

Elsewhere, Australia travel to South Africa and Sri Lanka; both of whom should have too much for the down in the dumps Aussies. The rest of the test nations will be fighting for position in the lower rungs of the table with New Zealand possibly relishing the prospect of getting one over Australia later in the year.

Zimbabwe too will make their return to test cricket on the back of some improved ODI showings in 2010. However they will be comfortably outclassed leading to lots of stats quoted with the caution they are ‘without games featuring Zimbabwe’.

By the end of the year we would expect England to have usurped South Africa’s second spot in the rankings with India holding on by a slender margin at the top.

We would be entirely unsurprised should match fixing, spot fixing or any other sort of illegal fixing rear its ugly head once more.

************************

Moving on now to rugby…

Six Nations Rugby: England

There is little doubt following the Autumn campaigns of the northern hemisphere sides that England are going to be considered favourites. Italy are no hopers, Scotland lack fire power, Wales and Ireland lack consistency whereas France are mired in infighting and seeming self doubt. England showed signs that their game is progressing and whilst not in the same class yet as the Southern Hemisphere giants week in week out, they should have enough to top the table with one loss along the way.

Tri Nations: New Zealand

Only one conceivable winner here as Australia’s young and South Africa’s ageing side fail to get to grips with the juggernaut that is All Black rugby. Tantalising glimpses of All Black fallibility will begin to emerge as the tournament wears on however culminating in a defeat or two in the last couple of matches. The already enormous expectations will then become almost unbearable as the New Zealand public turn ugly and hyper critical leading to….

Rugby World Cup: Australia

…Australia winning the world cup in extra time. Australia are a side who can rarely be discounted in any sport and in rugby they have more than enough talent to match the All Black’s given a little bit of luck or perhaps faltering opposition. The ensuing backlash by the New Zealand public causes Richie McCaw, Dan Carter and Mils Muliaina to move to Europe on big money deals and Sonny Bill Williams to move to rugby league.

England grind their way to the semi finals before being out classed but all other northern hemisphere sides disappoint with France in particular blowing up in spectacular fashion in the semi finals.





2010: International Rugby Review

5 01 2011

This is obviously a far from comprehensive review (being as it is based on our own personal ideas) so please feel free to let us know your own thoughts about the year just past.

First of all some Highlights…

New Zealand’s Tri Nations Performances

New Zealand have been brilliant all year but none more so than in the opening two fixtures of the Tri Nations.  Playing probably the most exciting high precision rugby we have ever had the pleasure to witness, the All Blacks destroyed  South Africa twice on consecutive weekends before going on to be unbeaten in this years competition. After a middling year in 2009 they showed once more they are the team to beat and with the World Cup coming in October of this year it would take a fairly imaginative piece of reasoning to suggest that they will not break their one remaining hoodoo.

Led by the evergreen and ever excellent Richie McCaw, marshaled by the incomparable and newly crowned leading point scorer in world rugby, Dan Carter, and sporting other such once in a generation talents as Mils Muliaina they are a side to be treasured as one perhaps verging on rugby perfection.

Despite this, Kiwi’s are a bunch who are particularly hard to please when it comes to rugby – the curse of being a side who win 75% or more of their games is that people do expect error free performances played in style – and won’t be happy with anything less than being world cup champions later in 2011. Yet, we do feel, admirable as it is to strive for more and coming as we do from a less richly talented rugby nation, that they should simply appreciate the AB’s a little more for what they are…

Scotland’s Win Against South Africa

At the other end of the rugby playing spectrum of quality, precision, pace and guile are Scotland. It is true they have improved beyond recognition under the intelligent coaching of Andy Robinson and have a pretty good set of loose forwards, yet even their most ardent supporters would admit they are a side of limited means. Brushed aside in the most dismissive of fashions by a New Zealand team who barely got out of second gear, they came up against the Springboks the following week.

In a performance filled with all those traditional Scottish attributes that the rugby media in the Northern Hemisphere love to wax lyrical about, Scotland defended brilliantly while taking all their available scoring opportunities. Dan Parks, in years gone by a derided and flakey figure, led the way and like the year before, Scotland had a famous victory to savour.

England Dominate Australia at Twickenham

From an English point of view there were one or two major highlights over the course of the year including the away win over the Aussies back in June. Yet the one that stood out for most fans would have been the 35-18 home win at Twickenham where England simply played Australia off the park in a style most would normally equate with southern hemisphere sides. Dominant in all aspects of the game and capped off by a remarkable long range try from Chris Ashton, this was one of the finest days to be an England fan, certainly over the last 8 years if not ever.

English Pride

Being an English fan has been hard for the last few years. Ever since the euphoria of that glorious night in Sydney back in 2003 died away and the cold reality hit of a changed regime and lesser players, it has been one disappointment after another. Coupled with an apparent desire to play the most unattractive rugby possible, frustrating selection decisions (Steve Borthwick anyone?!) and repeated obfuscation by the men in charge of England rugby, it has not been a happy period.

With Martin Johnson appearing to have finally found his feet in the coaching world and England now at least having a discernable sense of direction as well as a couple of good wins over southern hemisphere opposition under their belts, we have felt our pride returning. With many people offering England up as favourites for the Six Nations and a possible semi final place in New Zealand, we hope that our nascent confidence is not dashed immediately after this upwelling of national fervour.

And Now For Some Low Lights…

Southern Hemisphere Dominance

Despite one or two positive results in the Autumn along with a few close calls, it is fair to say that there is still a sizeable gap in quality. All the Celtic nations flattered to deceive with a distinctly average South Africa and young Australia side getting away with three out of four wins whilst France were frankly appalling. It is unlikely that on current evidence it will be a northern side lifting the Webb Ellis trophy in October and, quite frankly, it is business as usual.

France’s Failures

France entered the Summer internationals and the Autumn Internationals as Six Nations champions and the most likely team to upset the southern hemispheres hegemony. A dreadful tour of South Africa followed by a distinctly poor home series in the Autumn means that once again they find themselves in a very French form of disarray. Probably the most talented northern side on paper, Lievremont is now being left with an enormous amount to do if they are going to challenge down under come October.

Most Entertaining Player

Dan Carter. Probably the best ten ever, worlds record point scorer and a player whom we could watch all day long. Only other player we considered for this honour was his New Zealand team mate, Sonny Bill Williams whose off loading game was a joy to behold on the Blacks’ northern tour.

Heroes of the Year

Mils Muliaina. As key to the All Blacks as his captain and fly half, he goes on and on whilst never letting his standards drop.
Ben Youngs. Young, exciting and brilliant, this has been a breakthrough year for the Leicester scrum half. Long may it continue.

Villain of the Year

Pieter De Villiers. Singlehandedly does more to bring the South African rugby team’s name into the mud than anyone in the history of the game. A poor coach and a ridiculous man.

Any thoughts?





Legends, Comebacks and ‘Resting’ Players

22 12 2010

There has been a fair bit of cricket and cricketing news over the past couple of days that we haven’t had time to comment on, so, in very disjointed but hopefully lucid style, we are going to round up our thoughts on these matters.

  • Where else to start but with Sachin? Much has already been written and will undoubtedly continue to be  written about this great little man but his achievement against South Africa was of such a magnitude that we feel the need to add to the cacophony of voices.

    We remember back in 1996 on the Indian tour of England one of the Indian commentators saying that Sachin would one day be the first man to get to 100 international hundreds. At the time this was such a ridiculous number (and quite frankly still is!) that we ascribed this comment to over enthusiasm. With 50 test hundreds and 46 ODI centuries this forgotten commentator has been proved right as it is surely inevitable now.

    With age forcing the decline of other leading players in the game such as Ponting and Dravid, it is not only Sachin’s amount of runs but also his longevity and fitness which should be praised as the little Indian appears to simply get better with age. We believe there is no reason why he can’t go on for another two or three years, in which time it is conceivable that he might end up with close to 120 international hundreds. Certainly we imagine there would be fairly short odds on him reaching 60 test hundreds.

  • From one all time great to another. Jacques Kallis scored 201 not out in South Africa’s one sided game against the Indians over the weekend. Remarkably it was his 38th test match century, yet only his  first double which is an oddity in itself.

    In our eyes he is undoubtedly South Africa’s finest cricketer ever and, perhaps extraordinarily, deserves genuine comparison to the great Sir Garry Sobers. Sobers is consistently called the finest all round cricketer ever to have played the game yet Kallis has achieved figures directly comparable to the great man, undoubtedly without the flair but certainly at a similar level of effectiveness. Well played Sir!

  • New Zealand’s Dan Vettori  has been removed from his all singing and dancing role in New Zealand cricket and been allowed to concentrate on his own game and captaining the side.

    In the turmoil and angst that is New Zealand cricket, Vettori has been a consistently world class operator and effective with ball and bat. If the Black Caps are to remain competitive on the world stage they need him to be firing and so this reduced work load can only be a good thing.

  • A brief Ashes thought now as we are pleased to see that Andy Flower has committed to keeping four bowlers for the Boxing Day test match. There is talk of ‘resting’ Finn and playing either Bresnan or Shahzad in a similar way to which Greg Chappell apparently said Mitchell Johnson was ‘rested for the Adelaide test’. Pure rubbish as anyone can see – if you are removed from the side you are dropped – there is no two ways about it.

    For all his woes at Perth Finn still picked up some crucial wickets and is the leading wicket taker in the series on either side. Leave him in, give him some confidence and he will grow in stature as a test match bowler. We personally don’t mind him leaking a few runs if he is taking wickets.

    If a change is required though, please let it be Shahzad who comes in rather than Bresnan…

  • We feel a little dirty for mentioning this competition – being as it is not one of our favourite developments in world cricket – but the IPL announced their rosters from which sides could pick. The top reserve price is $400,000 and is the level in which such luminaries as KP, Yuvraj Singh, Adam Gilchrist, Dan Vettori and Chris Gayle sit.

    Included in any IPL list for the first time and sitting pretty in this top bracket at the age of 41 and after four years of no cricket was Brian Lara. When his possible signing for Surrey was mooted earlier this year we wrote then that we thought it was a bad idea and we haven’t changed our mind now.

    The problem when legends make come backs is that they rarely enhance their previous reputations. We remember Lara as the mercurial flashing blade that won numerous test matches for the West Indies single handedly. We don’t want to remember him scratching around for 20 off 20 balls in an over hyped domestic competition.

Thoughts on the above?





South Africa vs India: A Few Thoughts

15 12 2010

By way of proof to show that we haven’t got so involved in the Ashes that we have forgotten about the top of the table clash between South Africa and India, also starting tomorrow, here are a few words on that fascinating subject!

Over the past 15 years or so the record between these two sides in South Africa has resulted in three series wins for the Proteas and only a solitary test victory for India in that period – a record that even the most ardent Indian fan would be forced to admit was fairly one sided.

This time though, with India’s new found confidence as the number one rated nation, they not only feel they have reasonable chance but there are also some well respected judges putting them as slight favourites. As we mentioned a day or two ago, in our opinion this is overstating things a small bit as, with the home advantage taken into consideration, we would have the Proteas slightly ahead.

Regardless of this, the contest we are really looking forward to is the super heavy weight battle between the best opening batsman in the world, Virender Sehwag, versus probably the premier opening attack in cricket. Dale Steyn in particular is a truly world class bowler and probably one of the finest ever produced by South Africa. Comparisons with Allan Donald are certainly warranted.

At the other end you have the tall man of the attack, Morne Morkel, relying on pace and bounce to get his wickets. After a slow start and despite the odd performance in which he struggles with his accuracy, he is a dangerous customer. One of Sehwag’s favourite shots is the upper cut over backward point and, with a proliferation of short rising balls expected, don’t be surprised if Sehwag hits a number of sixes in this arc as well as also being dismissed there on occasions. Either way this is a battle to savour and one in which we are sure that both sides will land their own blows over the course of the series.

Despite concerns over the past couple of years as to the relative strength of India’s bowling attack, there are definite signs that a good fast bowling unit is emerging. In the past South Africa had the advantage so clearly in this department it meant that India, despite their stella batting line up, were at a disadvantage. This closing of the bowling stakes means that playing on hard and bouncy pitches could even back fire on the South Africans.

An interesting point with regard to India’s famous middle order and indeed Sehwag himself is that their records in South Africa are one of the few blemishes on their respective records. In Sehwag and Dravid’s case it is a true blemish with averages of 26 and 33 respectively although in Tendulkar and Laxman’s case it is purely relative. Averages of 41 could hardly be considered a failure yet for both of these superstars it is fair to say they are below the mark you would expect.

All things considered we think the Proteas may just nick this series although they are sure to find it the easy wins they did before.

With the Ashes third test starting tomorrow alongside this absolutely top class contest in South Africa, it is safe to say the Compulsive Hooker is feeling the love for test cricket! Bring it on we say and lets show those mockers of test cricket that the game is in robust health!








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