Hopeless Heat Hammered

A mention of Afghanistan v Ireland to highlight the emergence at international level of Rahmanullah Gurbaz, and account of Strikers v Heat, some links and some photographs.

Although the main focus of this post is today’s game in the Big Bash League, a passing mention of Afghanistan’s victory over Ireland in Abu Dhabi is in order. Rahmanullah Gurbaz, a 19 year old keeper/batter made his ODI debut for them, and produced the goods in some style, scoring 127 off 127 balls in their innings. Off spinner Andy McBrine took five cheap wickets for Ireland, but a late flourish from Rashid Khan, 55 off 30 balls, got Afghanistan up to 287 from their 50 overs. Although Curtis Campher and Lorcan Tucker both batted well for Ireland, Tucker’s dismissal for 83 finally ended their hopes, and in the end Afghanistan won by 16 runs. Rashid Khan in his main role had a respectable 2-56 from his 10 overs. Gurbaz added two stumpings to his century and gave away only two byes in the entire 50 overs of Ireland’s innings. A keeper who can score big runs is a huge asset to any side (as opposed to a batter who has been given the gloves but is not actually a proper keeper).

STRIKERS DOUSE THE HEAT

This match involved two teams who both needed a win to keep their qualification hopes alive. Strikers won the toss and decided to bat first. By the end of their Power Play overs they had reached 43-0, bringing up the 50 in the fifth over. Marnus Labuschagne, fresh from test duty, bowled the sixth over, and the first five balls went for 15, before the sixth got him a wicket, Weatherald for 36 off 18 balls. Strikers reached the halfway point on 104-1, with Alex Carey and Travis Head going well. This was the time to boldly claim the Power Surge at the first opportunity as a possible launching pad to a total in excess of 200, but Strikers declined to do so, and their innings entered a quiet period, the next four overs advancing the score by 27 before they finally, belatedly, claimed their Power Surge. They did not make the greatest use of those two overs, only adding 17 to their score, to be 148-2 after 16, but a huge finish saw them almost reach 200, and Carey complete a fine century. In the end they had 197-5, and it seemed that they had left a few runs out there by mistiming the taking of the Power Surge.

Heat began the chase decently, but Chris Lynn fell for 17 in the third over to make it 23-1, and then Heat unthinkingly favoured seniority, sending the two Joes, Denly and Burns, and Labuschagne, all solid test type players in at 3,4 and 5. At the half way stage Heat were 68-3, needing 130 off 10 overs to win. They had little choice but to take the Power Surge hoping it would revitalize their innings. Unfortunately, wickets fell to the first two balls thereof, putting Siddle on a hat trick, and pretty much killing Heat’s hopes. Heat then proceeded to do the one thing I find unforgivable, quit on the job. They settled down to attempt to survive their 20 overs, with no attention paid to the victory target. They failed even to achieve this miserable, losers target, being all out for 115 after 17.5 overs, beaten by a monster 82 runs.

Strikers moved into fourth, level with Stars and Scorchers on 24 points, but behind on net run rate, and having played a game more than those two. Heat dropped into seventh, on 21 points, and having played a game more than the sides immediately above them, Hurricanes and Thunder. On today’s showing the Heat have zero chance of turning things around to achieve a qualifying place, and quite frankly it will be better for the tournament if they do not qualify. Strikers were far from perfect, messing up the timing of the Power Surge in their innings, surrendering two wickets to poor balls from Labuschagne, and in consequence of their reluctance to go early with the surge, having a quiet third quarter to their innings, but they thrashed Heat out of sight, winning every phase of the game, some of them by huge margins.

Strikers progress was as follows: 43-0 off four (Power Play), 61-1 off overs 5-10 inclusive, 37-1 off overs 11-15 inclusive, 56-3 off overs 16-20, while their Power Surge overs yielded a not terribly impressive 17-0. Heat’s progress was as follows: 33-1 off four (Power Play), 35-2 off overs 5-10, 31-4 off overs 11-15 and 16-3 in the final quarter of their innings, which of course they failed to bat through. This included 12-2 off their Power Surge overs. The comparative stats for each phase of the innings were thus: 1st four, Strikers win by 10 runs and one wicket, 5-10 Strikers win by 26 runs and one wicket, 11-15 Strikers win by six runs and three wickets, final quarter Strikers win by 40 runs, same no of wickets lost, Power Surge Strikers win by five runs and two wickets. However, even more damning than these figures is the fact that after the two wickets went down at the start of their Power Surge Heat quite blatantly gave up on the game, which may be understandable, but is absolutely never acceptable.

LINKS AND PHOTOGRAPHS

Before getting to my usual sign off I have a petition and two autism related pieces to share with you. The petition, by way of change.org, is calling for a pedestrian crossing to put in on the south side of Battersea Bridge. There is a screenshot below, and I urge you to sign and share by clicking here.

My second link is to one of Pete Wharmby’s epic twitter threads about autism, the first three points of which you can read below:

Finally, Cambria Jenkins his produced a post on the question of ‘Autistic Person’ vs ‘Person with Autism’. Like the vast majority of autistic people I describe myself as an autistic person, and I take a very dim view of neurotypicals seeking to tell me why I am wrong to do so. Read Cambria’s post here.

Now it is time for my usual sign off…

BBL10 Logjam

Looking at the Big Bash League in the light of today’s game and providing some thoughts about the Power Surge.

The group stage of this tenth edition of the Big Bash League is entering its closing stages, with Sixers clear at the top, Renegades adrift at the bottom (certain not to qualify for the knockouts – 10 points adrift of the last qualifying spot with only eight left to play for) and six teams battling for four spots. From Scorchers in second down to Strikers in seventh the teams are separated by just four points,although third placed Stars have played a game more than the others in this sextet.

The Thunder, who had looked comfortable were dragged into the maelstrom when the Hurricanes beat them in a rain affected game, successfully chasing a DLS adjusted target. Yesterday Scorchers absolutely thrashed Heat to claim second spot in the group. This sets the stage for…

THE MELBOURNE DERBY

Stars had a chance of going second as they took on rock bottom Renegades today. The Stars batted first, and bizarrely the first over of the match was a maiden. Andre Fletcher failed to get going properly, taking eight balls to get off the mark, and getting out after hitting two fours, which gave him 11 off 14 balls. Nick Larkin came in at three, and he too struggled for a large part of his innings. The Power Play overs ended with Stars 27-1. In the ninth over Stoinis, who had been doing most of the scoring, fell for 37 to make it 58-2, Coulter-Nile, a fast bowler who has had some success with his big hitting batting was promoted with a view to increasing the Bash Boost target. Unfortunately the gamble back fired as he was out first ball to make it 58-3. That brought Maxwell in, and at the end of the tenth it was 63-3, a modest halfway score. Maxwell fell early in the second half of the innings, and by the end of the 15th, with a Power Surge to come, Stars had put up the 100, Larkin still there, but as yet having done little to impress.

Finally, with the score 111-4 after 16, Stars took the Power Surge. They fared reasonably well, scoring 21 runs and losing two wickets in those two overs, which left them on 132-6 after 18. They then did produce a big finish, 26 off the last two overs to total 158-6 from their 20. Larkin after taking 28 balls to reach 20 finished 61 not out off 47, 41 off his last 19 balls, but his dilatoriness in those first 28 would come back to haunt his team.

Renegades began dreadully in reply, limping to 17-2 in their Power Play overs. They improved in overs 5-10 but were still 10 runs adrift at the half way point, 53-3 as opposed to 63-3. They too were slow in claiming their Power Surge, waiting to the end of the 15th, at which point they were 96-4. They made decent use of the two over Surge, but still required 41 off three overs to win. Over number 18 was a big one for them, reducing the ask to 25 off 12 balls, and then the 19th settled it, 19 runs in total coming from it, leaving Renegades six to get in the final over. A boundary for Webster, taking him to 22 off nine balls, finished things, but the real key was Harvey, 47 not out off 22 balls, an innings that deservedly earned him the Player of the Match award. It was perhaps fitting that an attack minded left hander named Harvey should play the key role in settling a match between two Melbourne based sides.

POWER SURGE THOUGHTS

Of the three innovations in this years Big Bash League the Power Surge is the one that intrigues me the most. The ‘x-factor sub’ belongs in the circular file, the Bash Boost point is proving to be a huge success, and I also like the concept of the Power Surge, but feel that its application has been lacking, with sides too inclined to leave it late and therefore ending up not really benefitting from it (nb Brian Charles Lara who knows a bit about batting is on my side on this one).

The infographic I created for this post, which you will have seen at the head of it, and which reappears to end this section, outlines my thoughts on this issue, and I will add to it just this: sides going into the second half of their innings should be inclined to go early rather than late with the Power Surge and should delay it only if there are strong reasons, such as a wicket falling in the tenth over, for doing so. I can see no merit at all in using it any later than overs 15 and 16, as you should be getting big runs off the closing overs anyway even without the extra fielding restrictions.

PHOTOGRAPHS

I have two galleries to share with you today, the first featuring my newest acquisitions, and the second my regular fare:

England in Command in Galle

A look at day 1 of Sri Lanka v England in Galle, and a glimpse at the state of play in BBL10. Also some photographs.

Early this morning UK time the test series between Sri Lanka and England got underway. This post looks back at the first day.

ENGLAND DOMINATE DAY 1

Unsurprisingly given the current situation, with a global pandemic happening, neither side had had anything approaching proper preparation for a test match. Sri Lanka had had no cricket at all since taking a hammering in South Africa. England managed one day of an intra-squad fixture, which with both “sides” containing more than 11 players and arrangements being made that each would bat for at least 50 overs in the first innings had precious little resemblance to a real match – it was more in the nature of an extended net with umpires in position. This lack of preparation was shown in some less than stellar cricket.

Sri Lanka batted first, and mustered 135 all out, a poor score, especially given that almost all of their wickets were lost through bad batting rather than good bowling. There were a couple of freakish dismissals – Bess got one when a shot hit Jonathan Bairstow and Buttler caught the rebound, while Leach got a finger tip to a drive, deflecting it into the bowlers end stumps with Embuldeniya way out of his crease. Bess was also the beneficiary when a really succulent long hop was bashed straight into the hands of backward point. Stuart Broad was in the wickets early on, Jack Leach bowled nicely, and, by hook or by crook, Bess emerged from the fray with 5-30.

After that shocking display with the bat Sri Lanka needed things to happen for them with the ball. To that end they gave the new ball to left arm orthodox spinner Embuldeniya, a clever decision given that Sibley and Crawley would both prefer to begin against seam. It paid early dividends, as both openers perished with only 17 on the board. At that point skipper Root joined Bairstow, a choice at no3 which did not meet universal approval. They played beautifully, although Root was given out LBW fairly early on – he reviewed it, and the technology showed that the ball was going over the top of the stumps. By the close Root had reached 66 not out, Bairstow was on 47 not out, and England at 127-2 were in total control of the match.

Root has recently had problems turning starts into major innings, and he needs to dig in again early on tomorrow and make sure this effort does not go to waste. As for England as whole this is the most dominant opening day they have had since Trent Bridge 2015 when they rolled Australia for 60 and were comfortably into a first innings lead by the end of the day.

Those of us following proceedings by way of Test Match Special were treated during the lunch break to an interview with Justin Langer, coach of Australia. His attitude to the controversy over Steve Smith allegedly scuffing up a batter’s guard at the SCG showed a failure of understanding, and also a huge degree of petulance – it was basically an on-air tantrum. Smith’s actions may well have been as innocent as Langer insists, but what both Smith and Langer need to understand and are apparently unable or unwilling to is that a proven cheat will not be given the benefit of the doubt when such incidents occur.

RECENT BBL ACTION

The tenth running of the Big Bash League is still in full swing. Yesterday the two Sydney franchises locked horns in a top of the table clash. Thunder, batting first, began brilliantly, scoring 47-1 from their four overs of Power Play, but then had a disastrous second period of their innings, being 86-4 after 10 overs. They then slowed up in overs 11-15, declining to take the Power Surge in a bid to revitalize their innings, and found themselves 112-5 after 15. They left the Power Surge right to the end, finally taking it at the last moment they could, for the 19th and 20th overs. They did score 24 off this two overs, but they would probably have done that at the tail end of a T20 innings even without it being a Power Surge, so they effectively did not benefit from those two overs. They ended on 166-6 from 20, at a high scoring ground (the average innings score for a T20 at Manuka is 175). Ir rained during the interval, and a delayed start to the second innings led to a DLS recalculation. Sixers resumed needing 129 from 14 overs to win, and 67 off seven to claim the Bash Boost point, while they would have three overs of Power Play and one of Power Surge. They got off to a flier, secured the Bash Boost point with an over to spare, and maintained the momentum, winning in the end by five wickets, with eight balls to spare. That put them six points clear at the top of the group, and left Thunder just about catchable by the chasing pack.

Today, while I was focussed on the test match the Heat took on bottom of the table Renegades. Renegades mustered 149, which rarely wins a T20 these days. Heat made life a little more difficult for themselves than it should have been by surrendering three quick wickets as they entered the closing stages of the chase, but they won by five wickets in the 19th over. This moves Heat, who also took the Bash Boost point, into the fifth and last qualifying slot on 20 points. Renegades remain on nine points, 11 points short of the qualifying zone with only four games to play, and it is now only a matter of when, rather than if, their early exit from the tournament is officially sealed.

PHOTOGRAPHS

My usual sign off…

Good Riddance 2020

A farewell to 2020 (don’t let the door hit your bum on the way out), an account of the last cricket match of 2020 and a new year’s message to my readers.

The end of 2020 is now less than ten hours distant (in UK, some of you are already into 2021, and have been able to celebrate New Year’s Eve – well done NZ), and it will be a great relief to see it out, though 2021 offers little sign of immediate improvement for us Brits (although those north of Hadrian’s Wall might do themselves a favour by going for a UDI). A stark indication of quite how badly Johnson and his cronies are letting the country down: yesterday 981 people in Britain died due to Covid-19, while across the Irish sea just nine suffered the same fate.

As a cricket fan, 2020 has been a fine year since the resumption of cricket in the summer (my congratulations to the West Indies, both men’s and women’s teams for making the journey and ensuring the home summer saw some international cricket – as soon as a visit from this island becomes an asset rather than a liability those tours should be reciprocated. I am going to devote most of the rest of this post to covering the last top level cricket match of 2020.

ADELAIDE STRIKERS V PERTH SCORCHERS

This BBL match featured one team doing less well than expected or hoped (Strikers) and a team doing appallingly (Scorchers). Strikers batted first, and every time they seemed be getting going a wicket fell. Finch batted well but could find no serious support. Then, down to him and Rashid Khan (best known for being the no1 rated T20 bowler on the planet but also a more than useful lower order batter whose approach is ideally suited to short form cricket), he was overly timid about claiming the Power Surge, and Rashid fell with it still unclaimed. At the end of their innings the Strikers had 146-9, a total that should not pose the chasing side much of a problem, but Scorchers as mentioned earlier were winless.

Scorchers started the chase well, with Jason Roy doing most of the scoring. However when both openers, Roy for 49 and Livingstone for an unconvincing 8, fell in the same over one had to wonder if the Scorchers were about to suffer another case of the collywobbles. Although a third wicket fell just before halfway, a boundary of the final ball of the tenth over secured Scorchers the Bash Boost point. Some would say that they also delayed claiming the Power Surge longer than they ought, but at least they managed to take it with two set batters at the crease, and by the time it ended the chase had been reduced to 14 off four overs, which would take a lot of messing up.

The 17th over of the innings was Peter Siddle’s third and he made a good fist of it, meaning that the target was still 10 going into the 18th. Successive fours off the third and fourth balls of that over completed the job, giving Scorchers a win by seven wickets and all four points. It was a satisfying end for me on two counts: 1) I had predicted at the start of the 17th that Siddle would not get to bowl his 4th because the game would end before he could and 2) much more importantly it meant that the Strikers were properly punished for mucking up over the Power Surge.

The more I follow of this year’s Big Bash the more I think that it must be better to go for the Power Surge too early rather than too late, which is why I cannot wholly endorse Scorchers waiting until the end of the 15th to go for it, but unquestionably they approached it miles better than the Strikers.

If the Scorchers could contrive to use this hugely impressive victory as a springboard back into the tournament it would represent a comeback to send Lazarus green with envy on their part.

PHOTOGRAPHS

Just before my usual sign off, which on this occasion includes a video, I have a few final words of 2020 for my readers: thank you all, and here’s to a better 2021