Overnight UK time Australia and India were fighting out a test match in Sydney, while this edition of the BBL continues to impress. I am going to start with…
TEST CRICKET IS THE BEST CRICKET – A FIVE DAY DEMO
Australia took a first innings lead of 94 over India – 338 vs 244. Ravi Jadeja suffered an injury which ended his participation in the series, although he said that if necessary he would bat in India’s second innings. Jadeja is almost criminally underrated by the cricketing world at large, being on recent figures the best all rounder in test cricket (although New Zealand youngster Kyle Jamieson is bidding fair to change that if he continues as he has started). This was therefore a massive loss – he had already contributed four first innings wickets, some useful unbeaten runs and a superb run out to this match.
Australia made decent runs for the second time of the match, although they were once again heavily dependent on Smith and Labuschagne to do so. They declared at 312-6, setting India 407 in four sessions to win, or else bat out for a draw. By the close of day four India were 98-2, with Pujara and Rahane together.
Rahane was out almost before the final day had begun, which brought Rishabh Pant to the crease. I regard Pant as a proven liability with the keeper’s gloves, but have never questioned his batting talents, and he played a magnificent innings, which briefly ignited hopes of an incredible victory for the visitors. Once he was dismissed for 97 victory was pretty much off the menu, but Pujara was still there, playing very well. Vihari strained a hamstring taking a run, but battled on gamely. Pujara’s dismissal seemed to have once again swung things decisively Australia’s way, bringing R Ashwin to the crease, since Jadeja was being held back due to his injury. Ashwin to a blow to the ribs, but like Vihari, he refused to allow the pain of his injury to deter him. Some hostile bowling, led as usual by Cummins, and alas some vicious sledging, failed to dislodge either of the pair. Eventually, the close of play arrived, with India 334-5, 73 short of victory, and possibly by then favourites had the match been extended to give a definite result.
This was a match which commanded attention throughout five absorbing days of play, and while the heist did not eventuate, the way Ashwin and Vihari, both incommoded by injuries, battled it out at the death and saw their side to a draw will live long in the memory. The final match takes place at the Gabba, a ground where Australia have not lost since 1988. If India win or draw they retain the Border-Gavaskar trophy, while only a win will do for Australia. In 2010-11 England staged a great escape at the Gabba in the series opener, after trailing by over 200 on first innings, and then obliterated the Aussies in the second match at Adelaide, and just maybe saving this game in such a fashion as they did will be the fillip India need to produce something very special to finish this series.
There have been three BBL games since my last blog post. In the first Scorchers sprang a surprise by beating Thunder who had been topping the group. Scorchers batted first, and after 14 overs were 101-4, at which point they claimed the Power Surge. They made brilliant use of those two overs with fielding restrictions in place, accruing no fewer than 40 runs from them. This was followed by a strong finish and a final score of 185-6. Thunder were behind over the Power Play, ahead in runs at the 10 over mark, giving them the Bash Boost point, but also a wicket behind on the comparison. They had a good start to the second half of their innings, reaching 119-4 after 14, at which point they claimed their own Power Surge. This was where they lost their way, and with it, the match. The two overs of Power Surge yielded them just 18 runs and saw the fall of two wickets – suddenly they were four runs and two wickets worse off than the Scorchers had been at the same stage. Overs 17 and 18 were good for them, and with two overs to go they were 161-7 and still just about in the hunt. The 19th over settled the issue, just two runs coming from it and a wicket falling. 23 off the final over was never going to happen, and in the event Thunder were all out for 168, beaten by 17 runs.
Yesterday morning UK time the Heat were in action against the Sixers. Heat were put in after the Sixers won the bat flip, and after four overs were 29-2. After 10 overs this had become 59-3. After 13 overs, when they claimed the Power Surge for overs 13 and 14 they were 77-3. By the end of the 15th, the second Power Surge over they were 109-4, 32-1 from the Surge. The last five overs of the Heat innings were disastrous, yielding 39-6 for a final score of 148 all out. Sixers were behind most of the way through the chase, though they got the Bash Boost point, being 60-4 after their first 10 overs. They were 104-4 after 15, and in the hunt, but not comfortably placed. In the 18th they looked in real trouble, seven down, and still noticeably adrift, but the veteran Dan Christian was batting very well at one end, and he pulled the game out of the fire for the Sixers, just getting them home off the penultimate possible ball. Heat were unfortunate to come away from this match with nothing, while the Sixers moved to the top of the group.
This morning’s game featured the Stars against the Strikers. The Stars were second bottom and in need of a win, while the Strikers were more comfortably placed but were about to lose the services of Rashid Khan, departing from the tournament to play for his country, Afghanistan, and could do with a cushion between them and those just outside the qualifying zone.
The Stars chose to bat first, and were in trouble for almost the entirety of their innings. They were 17-1 after four overs of what was supposed to be POWER PLAY, picked things up somewhat to be 67-3 after ten, then delayed the Power Surge far too long (my own opinion that the Surge is best taken somewhere between over 11, the earliest point at which it becomes available and over 15 depending on circumstances being strengthened by having heard during today’s commentary that Brian Charles Lara, who certainly knows a bit about batting, is also a fan of using the Surge early rather than leaving it late), eventually taking it at 105-5 after 16 overs. They managed 16 runs and lost two further wickets in those two overs. 121-7 after 18. A flourish at the end got them to 149-7, a total that looked decidedly modest. Strikers missed out on the Bash Boost point, Carey holing out in attempting to get it off the final ball of the 10th. After 14 overs Strikers were 96-3 and they claimed the Power Surge at that point, a sensible move. The Power Surge overs saw Strikers score 20 and lose one wicket. A quiet 17th over seemed to have brought Stars back into things, but the 18th over settled the issue, 18 coming from it, and even with a wicket falling along the way, 12 runs off 12 balls was never likely to test Strikers. In the event the 20th over was not needed, as the winning runs came off the final ball of the 19th, when a difficult catch went down and the batters got through for the two they needed. Save for overs 5-10 inclusive the Strikers had won every phase of the game. Where they were decisively clear was in the Power Play and Power Surge overs – Stars managing a combined 33-3 from those overs of their innings, while Strikers scored 47-2 from the equivalent overs of their innings, 14 runs and one wicket better. As this tournament develops it is becoming clear that the Power Surge needs to be claimed fairly early, firstly so it can act as a springboard to a big finish, and secondly to ensure that you actually have proper batters to cash in on it. Stars should probably have used in overs 11-12 of their innings, when Stoinis, well set, could have used it as a major launching pad. As it was, their last pair of recognized batters were together when they finally took it, with Adam Zampa next man in.
All of this means that Stars, Heat and Scorchers are now all on 16 points, separated only by net run rate, although Scorchers, leading the trio and in the final qualifying place, also have a game in hand. Strikers have temporarily gone third, displacing Hurricanes, who in action tomorrow, and have a four point cushion, equivalent to a win plus a Bash Boost point, on the teams just outside the qualifying zone. The two Sydney based teams, Sixers and Thunder, top the group and are pretty much sure to qualify, Strikers and Hurricanes are also well placed to do so, while Scorchers, Heat and Stars are battling for the remaining place, with Renegades effectively gone.
A PETITION AND PHOTOGRAPHS
Just before my usual sign off, a petition, calling on the government to give key workers a pay rise. Please click here to sign and share the petition, a screenshot of which is below: