Posted by: nestaquin | January 8, 2009

Heading Home

sydneyIt took almost 99 years for South Africa to defeat Australia at home and it was, from a spectator’s perspective, well worth the wait.

Three Tests in three weeks each decided on the fifth day where both sides had opportunities to win, outstanding individual performances with bat and ball, great weather, generous crowds, impressive debuts, the definitive end of an era, selfless acts of bravery, tactically creative captaincy, record chases; all hard fought in the aggressive manner that Southern Hemisphere cricketers and spectators enjoy most. The only complaint is that it was too brief, however, with only a few weeks for the rematch in Africa that perceived negative is hardly worth considering.

It was a memorable series indeed with one man standing head and shoulders above all combatants, South African captain, Graeme Smith. Tough and loyal, uncompromising and clever, he has the unyielding respect of his team-mates and opposition and most impressively he is content to countenance criticism from his charges and coach. Something few leaders handle well.

The way the home team performed was pleasing especially when considering the injuries, selections, conditions and opposition. Witnessing Mitchell Johnson successfully assume the responsibility of leading the attack in Clark and Lee’s absence was especially heartening and more so with the knowledge that he is still improving.

Siddle, although still green, showed enough to instill confidence in his selection and with Stu Clark expected to be fit for the return series in South Africa, Australia will field a pace attack that will be more versatile and competitive than what was on show during the Australian leg of the contest.

It is reasonably feasible that we have seen the last of iconic players like Hayden, Lee and Symonds and hopefully that is indeed the case. Australian cricket needs to look to the future and not the past now that India and South Africa have surpassed them; however, it is doubtful players of the calibre of Andrew McDonald and Doug Bollinger are the answer.

Regardless of the result in this correspondent’s opinion the Sydney Test was an opportunity lost to blood potential world class players like Shaun Marsh, Ben Hilfenhaus, Marcus North and Luke Pomersbach and while the Sydney debutants contributed there are obvious questions as to whether they have the talent or tools to have long or illustrious careers at international level.

As I write this on the journey home from a sunny sojourn around the continent following the cricket, the passenger seated beside me has just informed (after interrupting my work and asking twenty questions about my motives) that Kevin Pietersen has been sacked/resigned from the English captaincy.

I have purposely read no media this last three weeks (too much bullshit and innuendo) so I know nothing of the circumstances but it is a curious development and one that is hardly surprising given Pietersen’s proven lack of loyalty and enormous ego.

Presumably, Andrew Strauss will now lead the team and in an Ashes year that does not bode well for Australia. Strauss is tactically astute, bats well when in charge and due to his personable nature and longevity in the team has the utmost respect of the players.

The jet is landing so I must end this rambling note. Happy New Year to all and thankyou for the several dozen emails I received over the holiday period. Upon returning home I am taking the kids camping for a week in the South West Wilderness and once my paternal duties are complete I’ll respond to each and every message received and continue my sporadic musing for 99.94.

In the meantime I’m handing the keys to The Tooting Trumpet (something I should have done before traipsing around the continent), who I expect has more than a word or two on the power struggle at the ECB and beyond.

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Responses

  1. Enjoy your trip, the South West sounds superb and it’s one trip I’m mega keen to do. Taking a 4WD down there?

    btw it’s Andrew McDonald ;)

  2. Thanks Mo,

    I was writing the paragraph about McDonald when the dick on the plane decided to interrupt my thoughts.

    No cars or roads in the wilderness. It’s helicopter in and a six day trek out. Hopefully the weather will hold and the snakes stay out of our way.

    Just read a few of the latest posts at Beer and Sport and I see you’ve been on fire, Mo!

    Catch up when the silly season ends. Cheers mate.

  3. I’m surprised you see Hilfenhaus as being much more likely to succeed than Bollinger. Tassie bias? They seem about equal prospects to me. Bollinger the better recent stats, Hilfenhaus able to swing the ball.

  4. This test series against South Africa was up there at the top along with the ’05 Ashes in my books. Every match could’ve gone either way and boasted stunning fightbacks. Right until the end of this last Test it looked like SA might get out of it with a draw and hold the series 2-0 with Ntini’s gutsy innings. To then see Smith come out and bat for the last few overs was simply heroic. As an Aussie I was obviously going for my side but have deep respect for Smith as a captain and leader. He would have been in agonising pain but still chose to fight until the very end. SA deserve the series and I congratulate them for their first series win in Aus.

  5. Nesta – Good to have you back. I’m honoured to be entrusted with the keys to 99.94 and I hope to post here on the extraordinary events in midwinter England very soon.

    The Aus vs SA series was shown live here in the UK and made for viewing that kept me awake until 1.00am, then 2.00am then 3.0am… well, you get the picture. It was Test cricket at its best, if not the best cricket in terms of the standard, with some curiously inconsistent performances on both sides.

    I’ve little to add to your summary, but I’ll chip in a couple of points. Firstly, Smith’s iron will appears to be extending its way through his team of non-chokers: somebody, even Steyn, batted well when they needed to. Secondly, I see the potential of Siddle and the flowering of Johnson, but the Aus bowling sorely missed the experience of a Bracken or Noffke (if fit). Going in against the second ranked team in the world with so inexperienced an attack seemed suicidal.

  6. I feel the absence of Stuart cannot be understated. We’re a different bowling attack with him in the team.

    When dropping Krejza the reasoning was that we needed a better defensive spinner. I thought McDonald was a good option for keeping it tight, and again Stu Clark gives nothing away.

    With these two in the team we could drop Hauritz for a more attacking spinner, I hear Bryce McGain is back too…

  7. An exciting and tiring trip to the World Heritage Area was cut short due to our guide breaking his leg. I’ll be visiting him in hospital tomorrow morning to get a refund!

    On cricketing matters; David it may be home town bias (although I am a New South Welshman living in Tasmania) or that I’ve seen him play live a few dozen times.

    I guess my opinion is based on the fact that whenever I’ve seen TAS play NSW Hilfy outbowls Bollinger.

    Perhaps Tassie have Doug’s number or perhaps NSW don’t enjoy the ball swinging away at 140 kph.

    One thing that resonates about Hilfenhaus is that he regularly gets top order wickets and often the same batsman in both innings.

    He is still not back to his best form after the stress fractures that curtailed him last season but with a few more months cricket under his belt we’ll see him back to his best.

    It should be noted that although Ben is in the pyjama squads he has not been Tassie’s best bowler this year. Brendan Drew (Lindisfarne via Lismore) has and he looks a perfect replacement for Stu Clark as he is in the same mould as he and McGrath.

    Toots – It proved suicidal yet Australia were not that far away from winning the series. I would have liked to have seen even a more inexperienced attack – Johnson, Siddle, Hilfenhaus. All different, all quick, all young and keen. If Stu Clark continues to breakdown I suspect that is the pace attack England will face at Lord’s and I don’t think any of the England bats have played against them in whites.

    Isn’t it curious that Australia lose their first series at home for 16 years and the first to South Africa in 98 and most people Down Under are excited? We are a strange mob!

  8. You were there Nesta, and I don’t deny that Aus had chances, but to have taken just 25 wickets in the two live Tests looks quite a long way from winning the series to me. Re the bowlers, your inexperienced attack looks better than the one put on the field – but wasn’t the suicidal bit relying on bowlers as old as McGain, MacGill, Lee and Clark to cover the legends who retired?

    Sorry to hear about the hols cancellation – don’t break his other leg!

  9. Toots, Australians are annoying eternal optimists, Tasmanians doubly so, you should know that by now! The sun on your back creates that blissful state of mind.

    Of course South Africa were mostly the better team but even though Australia had no wrist spinner, a hapless Hussey and carried Lee, Hayden and Symonds throughout, they were still very competitive in a fiercely fought contest.

    It may surprise but most are proud of their efforts and nearly to a man we are salivating at the prospect of Ponting leading the next generation through to the 2011 World Cup.

    The attitude Ponting displayed after Perth was reminiscent of Alan Border and that is especially encouraging. (I’ll elaborate on that in tomorrow’s article).

    The best result of the summer has been the reaction of the selectors after the loss. Every first class cricketer in the country has a shot at the BaggyGreen if they perform and already the State competition has become barbarous with the intensity rising sevenfold.

    No longer is the team a closed shop and a resurrection is imminent. Perhaps even as soon as next month in South Africa. Also, I’m very confident of a strong showing at the T20 World Cup and beyond.

    I tell you Toots, solar radiation is a wonderful natural stimulant. Does wonders for the spirit especially here down south where the ozone layer is virtually non-existent!

  10. Nesta – remind me, what is the heat of the sun? It last appeared here in August 2007!


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