Feb 282014
Leave it on the field says Ponting

Former skipper says leave the issues on the field

Former Australia captain Ricky Ponting says players should raise questions with on-field umpires, rather than ask them publicly, in relation to David Warner’s comments on South Africa and AB de Villiers’ work on the ball in the second Test.

Warner was fined around $A3,000 – and copped an undisclosed penalty from the Australian team – for telling Sky Sports his team would approach the umpires to ask them to keep a close eye on the way the South Africans were handling the ball, which is regarded as a key to getting the ball to swing ‘reverse’ once it has lost its initial shine.

In particular, Warner singled out Proteas wicketkeeper AB de Villiers who he claimed was using his gloves to further rough up the non-shiny side of the ball although he stopped short of making any specific allegations.

Ponting told SEN 1116 on Friday morning ‘obviously they were unfounded the comments (Warner) made’.

“A lot of that stuff I don’t like to hear it happening off the field, if you see something happening on the field you try and deal with it there and then and not carry it over into the media,” said Ponting, before adding: “It’s a pretty serious allegation if you come out and say something like that against someone that maybe hasn’t done it … if AB hasn’t done it or the South Africans haven’t done it in that game you can guarantee Warner will be in for a tough time this week.

“They’re the sort of things – basically telling someone else that the opposition is cheating – it’s not appropriate.”

In-form golfer Ponting attributed the increase swing the South African bowlers achieved in their second Test triumph to how they adapted from their thrashing in the first Test.

“One thing I did see at the end of that Test match is the ball reverse swing more than it had during the whole course of the game.

“I think the South Africans probably learnt something from (the first) Test. They took all the pace and bounce out of the wicket in the second Test match.

“They left a fair bit in it for the first game and we saw how unsettled there were then with some Mitchell Johnson thunderbolts, so I reckon they’ll do the same for this last Test, and therefore I believe whoever wins the toss will probably win the game.”

The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Cricket Australia

First Posted 28 February, 2014 4:06PM AEST

Feb 132014
AB: Kid in, Clarke out for WC

 James Muirhead celebrates a wicket during the Twenty20 series against England last month.

James Muirhead celebrates a wicket during the Twenty20 series against England last month. Source: Michael Dodge / Getty Images

FORMER Australia captain Allan Border has tipped leg-spinner James Muirhead to be a surprise selection for next year’s cricket World Cup, and suggests Michael Clarke should consider giving the tournament a miss.

With a year until the 2015 edition of cricket’s biggest tournament gets underway in Australia and New Zealand, Border has selected the 11 players he believes can lead the Aussies to World Cup glory.

While Clarke makes his team, Border says limited-overs cricket could be an unnecessary burden for the current skipper.

Michael Clarke might be ‘better off focusing on test cricket’ in 12 months time,...

Michael Clarke might be ‘better off focusing on test cricket’ in 12 months time, says Allan Border. Source: Getty Images

The man who led the nation to World Cup success in 1987 believes 20-year-old Muirhead could be a genuine matchwinner come the start of the tournament next February.

“I’d like to see Australia play him in some more one-day cricket going forward, just to see how he goes,” Border said.

Border even went so far as to compare the impact Muirhead can have on a 50-over game to that which the great Shane Warne did during his heyday.

“He’s got that wicket taking ability, which is like gold during those middle overs in one-day cricket,” Border said.

“Rather than going through the motions when the batsmen just knock the ball around, they’ll have to work hard for their runs if there’s an attacking bowling option during those middle overs.

“As a captain it’s fantastic — that’s where Warne was so good. I think Muirhead could bring that to the table and that’s why I’ve got him as a bit of a smokey in my XI.”

James Muirhead bowling in a T20 match against England.

James Muirhead bowling in a T20 match against England. Source: News Limited

Perhaps even more surprising than the selection of Muirhead was Border’s assertion that Clarke could be better off just focusing on Test cricket.

The Test and one-day skipper was named in Border’s side but he did suggest that Clarke isn’t the ‘must-have’ selection he once was in the one-day arena.

“He’s a quality player, and he’s got a great one-day record — I’m not questioning that — but would we get more out of someone like Steve Smith in a one-day sense?

“Another 12 months on, another 12 months of pressures for Clarkey, he might be better off just focusing on Test cricket.”

Should Michael Clarke look at missing out on the World Cup to concentrate on Test cricket?

Clarke has a world-class batting average of 44.66 from more than 200 one-day internationals, but he did average just 25.50 in the recent 4-1 series victory over England, which came fresh off the back of an Ashes whitewash.

The 32-year-old missed Australia’s one-day series in India last October, in which George Bailey belted an incredible 478 runs while deputising for Clarke.

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Despite his doubts, Border still named Clarke in his team, and the captain of the last Australian side to host a World Cup believes it’s the tremendous depth of one-day talent that will hold the Aussies in good stead next year.

“It’s the guys we’re leaving out that makes you raise your eyebrows, rather than the guys we’re putting in,” Border said.

“I haven’t even got Mitchell Starc, James Pattinson’s not in there, Matt Wade isn’t there, Clint McKay has been doing a great job for us but he hasn’t made the cut for my side.”

Allan Border’s 2015 World Cup Australian XI

1. David Warner

2. Shane Watson

3. Aaron Finch

4. Michael Clarke

5. George Bailey

6. Cameron White

7. Glenn Maxwell

8. Brad Haddin

9. James Faulkner

10. Mitchell Johnson

11. James Muirhead

Feb 132014
How to react to a Johnsonning

It’s not just England then. South Africa have been forcefully Johnsonned and are probably already considering reverting to a more conservative team for the second Test. Five bowlers is great when you’re top of the world and full of confidence, but let’s just see what happens now that they’re rattled.

But bring in a batsman and it’s over. The problem for South Africa wasn’t the sixth wicket partnership, it was that they were 43-4. Even Australia aren’t happy with that kind of batting score – and they’ve been winning from that position.

Vehement letter-C denier, AB de Villiers, has been the only man to show resistance thus far. He may have averaged almost 80 in 2013, but for how much longer is he going to keep wicket? We can’t see it lasting. Not sure why. We just can’t.

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Jan 102014
Royal Challengers Bangalore retain Virat Kohli, Chris Gayle and AB de Villiers for IPL 7 2014
Posted by on January 10, 2014 in News |

Royal Challengers Bangalore retain Virat Kohli, Chris Gayle and AB de Villiers for IPL 7 2014.The Royay Competitors Bangalore have maintained three stalwarts of their 2013 group — Virat Kohli, Frank Gayle and AB de Villiers — for the 2014 version of the Native Indian Leading Group. New Zealand rewrite Daniel Vettori has been known as as go trainer, 3 Woodhill the reaching and fielding trainer while former Southern Africa speedster Allan Brian will be the go-karting trainer. (IPL 2014: Gamer storage situation and the analyze mathematics)

According to an formal press launch by the Elegant Competitors Bangalore, Native indian vice-captain Kohli was pleased by RCB’s choice to maintain him for the next year and said, “I am satisfied and honored to be maintained by RCB and it’s excellent to be returning to Bangalore, basically my 2nd house now…Am eager for operating carefully with the new Head Coach Dan Vettori. Bowling balls Coach Allan Donald’s encounter will add a lot of value. Together with my other maintained partners Frank and AB and the relax of the group, I desire to meet up with the trust that RCB and the lovers of Bangalore have reposed in me.”

Royal Challengers Bangalore IPL 7 2014
“Home Again!! I am satisfied to be maintained by RCB and eager for the really like and passion… Bangalore, here I come again and let’s rock!!!!,” said the big-hitting Frank Gayle, who had taken the globe by surprise with his 66-ball affect of 175 in the 2013 version of IPL.

South Africa’s ODI skipper AB de Villiers too was satisfied with his crew’s choice and said, ” Honoured to be maintained by RCB and incredibly satisfied to be remaining in Bangalore. RCB and Bangalore has a unique position in my center and I look ahead to leading to the Team’s achievements, come IPL.”

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Jan 092014
RCB retain 'big 3', name Vettori coach

BANGALORE: Ahead of the players’ retention deadline for the forthcoming Indian Premier League, Royal Challengers Bangalore on Thursday announced that Virat Kohli, Chris Gayle and AB de Villiers will stay with the franchise, and named New Zealand spinne…

Dec 312013
De Villiers to have hand surgery
AB de Villiers guides the ball through the off side, South Africa v India, 1st Test, Johannesburg, 5th day, December 22, 2013

AB de Villiers should be fit in time to take on the visiting Australia in February © Getty Images

Related Links

Players/Officials: AB de Villiers
Series/Tournaments: Australia tour of South Africa

AB de Villiers, the South Africa Test wicketkeeper, will be out of action for up to a month as he recovers from hand surgery, but is expected to be fit in time for the series against Australia in February. He will likely play no part in the domestic 20-overs competition, which starts with a triple-header on January 5.

“AB fractured his left hand during the IPL in 2011 after which he had a plate inserted to assist with recovery. The plate has started to cause discomfort in his hand and will be surgically removed in the first week of January,” Mohammad Moosajee, the South African team manager, said. “The recovery period is usually three-four weeks and he should be ready in time for the series against Australia in February.”

South Africa do not have any international cricket scheduled for January because of the curtailed India series. As a result most of the national players will be available for the 20-overs tournament which runs until February 9. This season the tournament was due to have a much higher profile with several international signings including Chris Gayle and Saeed Ajmal.

After the competition, international fixtures resume. Australia tour the country for three Tests and three T20s, starting on February 12. That will be followed by the World Twenty20 before the winter break. Should de Villiers not be fit in time for the Australia series, South Africa will likely use reserve wicketkeeper Thami Tsolekile in his place.

Dec 302013
Test Team of the Year 2013 - Year in Review

In a year that featured some of the most high-profile Test series in recent memory, several players made their mark on the public conscience. Some staked claim to greatness while others announced themselves with style. Here is a team of the best of the best- the International Test XI of 2013.

2013 will be remembered as a landmark year in Test history. For the first time in over nine decades, Australia and England played back-to-back Ashes- nine Ashes Tests in one calendar year. The two lowest ranked Test side earned rare Test wins, while the two highest ranked ones gave one of the hardest fought series in recent times. The year was one of the best for bowlers in recent memory. It is evident by the fact that while only two batsmen crossed the 1000-run mark, as many as eight bowlers took 40 wickets or more. In this competitive and tumultuous year, where legends bade farewell and new faces came to the fore, here is my pick for the Test Team of the Year, in batting order.

Graeme Smith (SA) Left Hand Batsman (Captain)

Mtchs- 9, Runs- 651, Ave.- 50.07, 100/50- 1/3, High- 234, Ctchs- 17

The South African captain had a solid 2013, with useful knocks against India, New Zealand, and Pakistan (the only three teams that South Africa faced this year). Needless to say, his most impressive innings was the dominating 234 against Pakistan at Dubai. A powerful, technically correct opener who can dominate opposition attacks, Smith is the perfect man to face the new ball. Given that he leads the no. 1 Test side in the world, he is also the captain of this side, as well as the first-choice slip fielder.

Chris Rogers (Aus) Left Hand Batsman

Mtchs- 9, Runs- 700, Ave.- 41.17, 100/50- 2/5, High- 116, Ctchs- 8

Chris Rogers will never set the world ablaze; Chris Rogers will never dominate bowling attacks; Chris Rogers is no crowd-puller. What he is, though, is effective and consistent, which is more than what can be said of most batsmen today. Rogers accumulated runs all year without making much noise. Averaging 40 in both the Ashes series this year, Rogers lent some much-needed calmness to a hot-headed Australian batting-order. He can be expected to do the same here as the perfect foil to Smith at the top of the order.

Cheteshwar Pujara (Ind) Right Hand Batsman

Mtchs- 8, Runs- 829, Ave.- 75.36, 100/50- 3/3, High- 204, Ctchs- 1

He might not exactly be the ‘New Wall’ as some have overzealously dubbed him, but Pujara has easily filled the giant-sized shoes of Rahul Dravid for India in Test cricket. Already building a reputation as a big-innings player, Pujara was the author of two big innings this year- a stroke-laden 204 in Hyderabad, and a more sedate match-saving 153 in Johannesburg. With the ability to both anchor the innings and increase the scoring-rate, as well as an experience of facing the new ball on occasions; Pujara is the team’s ideal no. 3

Ross Taylor (NZ) Right Hand Batsman

Mtchs- 10, Runs- 866, Ave.- 72.16, 100/50- 3/4, High- 217*, Ctchs- 20

Taylor’s 2013 can be divided neatly into two parts- the first where he made useful starts but failed to convert them into big innings, and the second where he was Bradman reincarnated. Taylor comes into this team on the back of an unimaginable form (495 runs in 5 innings) in the Kiwi summer. But even before that, he impressed with attacking half centuries in England and Bangladesh. A destructive player of both pace and spin, Taylor can easily change the course of a game in a single day, if not a session.

Michael Clarke (Aus) Right Hand Batsman (Vice-Captain)

Mtchs- 13, Runs- 1093, Ave.- 47.52, 100/50- 4/3, High- 187, Catches- 15

The Australian captain might not have been as consistent this year as he was in 2012, but he delivered some fine performances all year. He scored runs in all conditions, against all sorts of attacks; a 130 against Indian spinners on a Chennai turner, a dominating 187 against an in-form England attack at Old Trafford, and back-to-back match winning Ashes hundreds in the Australian summer. A genuine match-winner, Clarke brings something more than his batting prowess to this team- experience and leadership, apart from that famous partnership-breaking golden arm.

AB de Villiers (SA) Right Hand Batsman

Mtchs- 9, Runs- 933, Ave.- 77.75, 100/50- 4/5, High- 164

Rock solid technique, unmatched flair, icy cool temperament, and an insatiable appetite for runs have catapulted AB to the top of the ICC Test ranking for batsmen. Easily the best batsman in the world this year, de Villiers showed amazing consistency all year. While his Johannesburg ton against Pakistan was a typical counter-attacking innings, the one against India at the same venue was a gritty match-saving effort, showcasing his versatility. Although he keeps wickets for South Africa (quite efficiently), I have picked him in the side as a specialist batsman, a move that will allow the team to use his amazing fielding ability as well.

Brad Haddin (Aus) Left Hand Batsman, Wicketkeeper

Mtchs- 10, Runs- 647, Ave.- 38.05, 100/50- 1/6, High- 118, Ctchs- 51, St.- 1

A year ago, many considered Brad Haddin’s international career to be over. But here he is, as the wicketkeeper of the 2013’s Test Team of the Year. In the English leg of the Ashes, Haddin was one of the few Australians who managed decent performances as he equalled Rod Marsh’s long-standing world record for most dismissals in a series. In the return leg, he showcased his dormant batting skills, averaging 65 and executing some of the best innings of the year.

Mitchell Johnson (Aus) Left Hand Batsman, Left Arm Fast

Mtchs- 6, Runs- 166, Ave.- 23.71, 100/50- 0/1, High- 64, Wkts- 34, Ave.- 17.52, 5W- 3, Best- 7/40, Ctchs- 4

In 1998, Dennis Lillee saw a young Mitchell Johnson and called him a ‘once-in-a-generation bowler’. Today, finally it seems that Johnson is fulfilling that promise. After a largely forgettable first half of 2013 where he went wicketless in Delhi and wasn’t considered for the English leg of the Ashes, Johnson exploded on to the scene. He brutalized, tormented, and battered the English batsmen into submission. Add to this his effective lower-order batting and Johnson becomes invaluable for any Test side around the world.

Trent Boult (NZ) Right Hand Batsman, Left Arm Fast Medium

Mtchs- 12, Runs- 144, Ave.- 20.57, 100/50- 0/1, High- 52*, Wkts- 46, Ave.- 25.08, 5W- 3, Best- 6/40, Ctchs- 3

This spot on the team sheet gave me more trouble than any other and I know that I’m going for a rather unconventional choice here. Others would have gone for Philander’s control or Broad’s bounce, but I opted for Boult. The 24-year old has performed admirably all year without getting the kind of support that the other two names get from their bowling partners. Boult’s bowling has been a vital cog in New Zealand’s resurgence in Test cricket this year. Good enough to take the new ball and also play the supporting role while the senior partners take the wickets, Boult will round off this attack very well.

Dale Steyn (SA) Right Hand Batsman, Right Arm Fast

Mtchs- 9, Runs- 121, Ave.- 17.28, 100/50- 0/0, High- 44, Wkts- 51, Ave.- 17.66, 5W- 4, Best- 6/8, Ctchs- 1

Steyn’s name alone is enough to strike terror in the hearts of oppositions. The world’s best fast bowler had yet another memorable year where he demolished all the three oppositions he bowled to in different parts of the year. He began with a match haul of 8/65 against New Zealand, proceeded to obliterate Pakistan with 11/60 in the next game, managed 8 wickets in the dustbowls of UAE, and ended the year with his a 9/147 against India. Clearly the leader of this attack, his partnership with Johnson would be a treat for cricket fans.

Saeed Ajmal (Pak) Right Hand Batsman, Right Arm Offbreak

Mtchs- 7, Runs- 149, Ave.- 12.41, 100/50- 0/0, High- 49, Wkts- 37, Ave.- 24.72, 5W- 3, Best- 7/95, Ctchs- 3

Ajmal’s performances in 2013 came in tough conditions; mostly against the best side in the world (5 of his 7 Tests in 2013 were against South Africa). His 10-wicket haul in Cape Town in February was the first by a Pakistan spinner in South Africa and the best figures by a spinner in the country in 12 years. Ajmal’s natural variations and experience have made him successful world over. He rounds off a complete attack for this team- two tearaway fast bowlers, a left arm swing bowler and a world-class spinner.

12th Man- Shane Shillingford (WI) Right Hand Batsman, Right Arm Offbreak

Mtchs- 6, Runs- 43, Ave.- 04.77, 100/50- 0/0, High- 15, Wkts- 36, Ave.- 22.27, 5W- 5, Best- 6/49, Ctchs- 3

The ban on his action notwithstanding, Shane Shillingford created ripples this year. Just like Ajmal, he decimated Zimbabwe, taking 19 wickets in 2 Tests there. He returned an impressive figure of 26/4 in Dunedin on conditions hardly favourable for spinners. Even on the flat tracks of India, he managed 11 wickets in two innings. Had it not been for Ajmal’s exploits this year, he would have been my first-choice spinner. He remains on stand-by though, waiting to jump in on turning tracks.

In my opinion, this is a perfectly balanced Test side. It has two openers who are consistent and put a price on their wickets. They have contrasting styles but both are effective Test match players. The middle order is built of four run-scoring machines in Pujara, Clarke, Taylor, and de Villiers, all of whom more than capable of building long innings and scoring quickly if the situation demands. In Haddin, we have arguably the best wicketkeeper on the world today, and one who has recently scored an Ashes hundred.

As for the bowling, I need you to picture something- Steyn and Johnson sharing the new ball; scary, right? They will be followed by Trent Boult, one of the most promising young fast bowlers around, and by the wizard Ajmal, whose guile and cunning have made him one of the most successful spinners in recent years. On turning tracks, we can replace Boult with Shillingford and wait for our spin twins to wreak havoc on unsuspecting batsmen. All in all, I would bet my life savings on this team!

Image:  The Australian

Dec 222013
Saving this Test 'little bit harder' than Adelaide - du Plessis

‘Faf a player for the big occasion’

When Faf du Plessis batted seven hours and 46 minutes to save South Africa in the Adelaide Test, he was a man on debut who “thought it was possible” to bat for more than four sessions but actually “didn’t believe I could”. When he walked in with nine overs to go on the fourth evening against India at the Wanderers and a day of batting ahead of him, he “knew I could do it”.

Experience can make all the difference.

Du Plessis has played eight Test matches between Adelaide and Johannesburg, has scored another hundred in that time, battled through a barren period that has included a trip to the UAE and has been elevated to South Africa’s Twenty20 captaincy. With that has come understanding of what needs to be done when and how, and he applied that today.

He knew that even though this would require less time at the crease than in Adelaide from him, it would be tougher because of conditions. “This wicket was a little bit harder,” he admitted. “In Adelaide, it was quite flat and there was not a lot of seam movement but I knew this was going to be a real challenge. There was consistent bounce outside off stump.”

As he did then, he broke the task of eating the elephant into bites. This morning, he just wanted to bat time. When he was joined by AB de Villiers, his long-time school friend, they divided the time into mini-sessions. “The first challenge was to get to the new ball,” he said. “Myself and AB wanted to get through that, so I was really pleased with the way we did that.”

The pair batted for 13.2 overs before lunch and six after, before the second new ball arrived. In that time, their partnership was worth fifty and their only concern was to stay together. Run-scoring remained difficult, especially with India’s seamers getting movement, and it was only after tea, when their stand had grown greater than 150, that they began to think a place in history was presenting itself.

“I started to think about the win when myself and AB started getting some momentum and were scoring four runs an over quite regularly,” du Plessis said. “Our plan was to bat until the last 10 overs. From there, we’d try and get anything.”

Faf du Plessis played a patient innings, South Africa v India, 1st Test, Johannesburg, 5th day, December 22, 2013

Faf du Plessis: “I was really happy with the way I played, constructed my innings and left the ball” © Getty Images

Those thoughts were scuppered when de Villiers played on in the third over of the last hour. “Then I just wanted to bat the innings through,” du Plessis said. Nine balls later, JP Duminy was also out and du Plessis knew it all rested on him. “When JP got out, I knew I had to stay in because if I got out, we would be in trouble.”

But at the other end, Vernon Philander ensured there was still a match to be won. “Vernon came in and made it closer. I just wanted to stay there. Until the last five overs, I just wanted to be there. I was very defensive, very tight.”

But then, an error came. “Then I wanted to join the party,” he said. “In hindsight, I should have hit that ball over his head for four.” That ball is the one du Plesiss hit straight at Ajinkya Rahane and ran off. He was well short of his ground when the throw came in and knew the game was up.

As he crossed the boundary to leave and Dale Steyn entered the ring, du Plessis was “too exhausted” to say anything. “When you get out, your concentration levels just go out,” he said. “I just went back to the changeroom and lay on my back and starred at the TV.”

Not only had du Plessis spent more than a day batting, he had done a lot of it with the help of painkiller to numb his aching hand. “In between my thumb and index finger, the handle keeps jarring,” he said. Du Plessis was hit at the end of 82nd over but said that was not the source of his pain. “There was a lot of bounce so every time the ball hit the splice, the handle jarred into my hand. After 300 or whatever balls, it hurt.”

With pain on one side, du Plessis at least had satisfaction on the other. His century was the first time he has crossed fifty in nine innings and ended a lean patch that has also seen him dropped from the one-day squad. His match-saving efforts put his career back on track.

“I’m very satisfied that we pulled it through. This morning a lot of people wrote us off,” he said. “I was really happy with the way I played, constructed my innings and left the ball.”

He was also pleased with how he put a lid on his feelings as the innings went on. “I was very good until I got a 100. A lot of emotion comes through your body then.” Du Plessis celebration after reaching the landmark was emphatic as he fist pumped multiple times and soaked in the warm applause, an indication of how much it meant to him.

“Over the last eight months, we played a lot of cricket in the subcontinent and a lot against Pakistan. They’ve got a really good attack. I was disappointed to be left out of the one-day squad but I can use this as a stepping stone to get back,” he said. “It was also nice to go up the order. Jacques is not going to bowl 25 overs in every game where he needs a rest [before batting]. I enjoy going up the order. Hopefully I can get more opportunities.”

Du Plessis batted at No. 4, in Kallis place because team management felt the allrounder needed an extra night’s rest after bowling more than his usual quota of overs. In a position of such responsibility, du Plessis did his job and more by putting South Africa in a position from which they could win.

Although Graeme Smith said the decision to go for draw needed to be “appreciated” du Plessis expressed some sadness that South Africa did not win. “The position we got to, we’d have liked to win the game and be part of the best Test match ever,” he said. “You always want to be the guy at the end that is the hero, but I couldn’t do that today.”

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