Posted by: nestaquin | February 28, 2009

Super Saturday

north-johnson-record-partnershipFriday was indeed felicitous. It was a day that began with the Black Caps pipping India at the death, followed by cricket of the highest quality at the Wanderers that will be forever etched within heart and mind, and as the sun set over the Caribbean, a wonderful maiden ton in a massive English total at Bridgetown.

Bopara’s classy century should, if reason conquers sentiment, resolve England’s perennially disturbed batting order for good. Here was the evidence the meek selectors needed to force Flintoff to drop one, and more sensibly, two slots down the order.

With Flintoff batting unhindered by responsibility at eight, England would have a formidable lower-order that could be the match of any team in world cricket today.

It is still to be seen if this is the path that England travail but it is an opportunity to strengthen their credentials and if ignored or postponed, England’s current streak, eleven matches in all forms without victory and a single win in their last nine Test matches, may look credible in comparison.

Mitchell Johnson has shown consistently of late the value of a lower-order batsman that can patiently defend and rotate the strike when in partnership with a specialist, and confidently attack when paired with his less adept bowling allies.

He is in fine fettle with his last three innings (43*, 64, 96*) giving his team the ascendancy and his excellent batting last evening first frustrated then frightened the South Africans and his knock, from a psychological aspect, contributed to South Africa’s poor start to their innings and Australia’s upbeat beginning.

Tonight on opposite sides of the Atlantic, tourists Australia and England will strive to dismiss the opposition and in doing so, construct a platform for much needed and very important victories. Australia’s task looks the more difficult as the South Africans have proven time and time again these last three years that they are a formidable and stubborn opposition.

England, on the other hand, didn’t bowl well in yesterday’s brief afternoon session but with a draw the only result the Windies could conceivably hope for – massive Jamaican collapses notwithstanding – the visitors will have more than enough opportunities to put themselves in a strong position to square the series.

Image: Getty

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Responses

  1. Excellent overview from an excellent site (recently stumbled upon) courtesy of MOTM links.

    Aus with their tails up (and waving furiously l imagine) at lunch with SA 8 for 158. Great to see them fighting. Playing with freedom of being the hunter and without the pressure and expectation of the burly old guard. SA fought back in Aus repeatedly and very impressively. They will have to really earn this one too.

  2. Thanks for dropping by J.

    A great session for Australia but still plenty of work to do. The big question is, if they can knock over the last two cheaply do they ask the hosts to follow-on?

    I’d say yes with the overcast conditions but it is a risk because South Africa, as you rightly address, will bat better in the second dig. Either way Australia should be chuffed with their efforts since being 36/3 early on the first morning.

  3. l think with only 3 bowlers (not counting Ronald) they will bat. And bat. Ponting will set them about 900 if he can! Katich may have to grab him by the throat to force a declaration.

  4. Perhaps I’m still spooked by Perth J, but I’ve just had a longer think about it, and I reckon if Australia are more than 270 ahead then they have to enforce the follow-on.

    Time is the key and this is a golden opportunity to control the rest of the series and therefore the decision is worth the risk.

    Who would have imagined that this discussion was even feasible yesterday morning!

  5. Fair enough and l am so 50/50 you would probably sway me. Very interesting for Punter though. If he is perceived to get this wrong the haters will be out in force. But let’s not turn joy into fear! Whatever is done is less important than their continued confidence, focus and execution.

  6. We might have been premature N. Like most Aus fans l can’t decide what it hurts to see more – Steyn with a ball or bat in his hand. Terrific lone hand from DV here.

  7. Although SAF are still 250 behind I think the follow-on is no longer an option. The sun is shining, hold on there is a referral for a McDonald LBW on de Villiers, PLUM in my opinion, waiting, waiting, waiting NOT OUT. Curious indeed.

    Siddle is going to cop plenty from Steyn when he bats after coming around the wicket and bouncing him continually. That battle should be great entertainment for the rest of the series.

    New ball in two overs and hopefully Johnson and Hilfy will then clean up the tail.

  8. Nailbiting*.. please, please, Phil.. just do it.. * behind the couch. Steyn is so damn good at this stuff.

    And, a most affable man at the interviews.. I saw him first at the IPL, his mad glittering eyes, but when spoken with he simply oozes charm. ..

    please Phil.. stick to it, pal..

  9. It’s a tough examination for the young lad. It won’t get much more difficult than this spell from Steyn for the rest of his career.

    270 ahead 10 wickets in hand. Not bad for a team of rookies and crocks!

  10. oh, agreed, nesta.. Steyn is the original man with the list.. Siddle is definitely on it. Then again, Steyn is on Johnsons list.. so ..

  11. If Siddle gets a bat in this Test Steyn’s eyes won’t be glittering, they’ll be red raw with rage and revenge. Siddle must have a deathwish and he’ll get what he deserves!

  12. not bad , Nesta.. I would hope the dreaming fantasies of English cricket fans ( and Indian cricket fans, by extenstion ) never ends, though.. so monumentally delightful. A daily fiesta.

    Harris is no bunny, Nesta.. I love watching him bowl..

    • I enjoyed watching Harris bowl to Mitch. That was very exciting and he’ll do well to came back from that thrashing.

  13. nesta.. Siddle has mad eyes as well!!.. its an even contest there..

    • Sids is from the Mervyn Hughes school of Victorian quicks. Completely crazy, doesn’t believe in self-preservation but never, ever gives up. He’s only 24 and like Merv probably hates Poms with a passion. We’ll be seeing quite a lot of him in the years to come.

      • I watched the Siddle / Steyn match-up while spinning on a bike in the gym I have joined. It was superb cricket, with Siddle probably coming out slightly ahead, but Steyn was wondefully combative and will, with AB, have inspired the batsmen for the next dig. Round the wicket bouncers at last! Well done to Siddle, although he wasn’t quite Mako or Mikey!

        If Hilfenhaus can consistently bowl that length from that close to the stumps with the seam bolt upright, he may be as dangerous as Alderman in England.

  14. Steyn so very good! The kid doing well though. Three excellent additions to the side in the debutants.

    • This is a very impressive start considering the quality of the bowling. Smith looks very worried.

  15. Steyn and Morkel are bowling a vicious and very fast spell at the moment. The Saffas are coming hard and Australia will need all their skill and luck to survive this next hour intact.

    40/1 (12)

    • I’m afraid I’m watching Everton – Cahill has scored!

  16. Morkel is a huge talent but he still bowls too many loose deliveries. Steyn is a gun. Great for Hughes to bat with the skipper.

    • Hughes looks far more settled with Ponting at the crease. They’ve turned the lights on again. Great cricket from the youngster. Morkel bounced him twice then sledged him and Hughes just did some gardening then smacked the next couple for boundaries. I’m loving it and I hope the light improves so it doesn’t end early.

      Too late. There off. Fair enough it looks very dark and the Saffas are bowling very quick.
      51/1 (16)

      • Weather could be a real issue in this test. Bugger! Geez Hughes absolutely smacks anything slightly wide. Great working over by Steyn and Morkel.

  17. Morne and Dale, true assassins. Phil gave it back, though. Morne doesnt have the true crazed stare that Albie has, but it’s not bad. Albie’s hooded laser is right up there with Merv’s stuff.

    oh, the weather, the weather.

    • 297 ahead with nine wickets left is a very good position on a seaming wicket to start the fourth day.

      Australia have won every session since lunch on Day One and they’ll finish it if the weather holds.

  18. What will be the target in Pontings mind? 400 or 450, anything more than that might give South Africa an opportunity to draw the match.

    • I think he’ll bat to lunch and assess it from there Wasim. Considering the fiery nature of the bowling that last hour Australia still attacked at almost every opportunity and I’d expect a declaration about an hour after lunch tomorrow. they’ll be at least 480 to 500 ahead by then.

      Tomorrow must be Super Dooper Sunday for we have Pakistan v Sri Lanka as well as the two Tests in progress. I do hope that Test produces a quality similar to the one in Africa.

  19. I see a lot of Bopara for Essex and he’s a talent for sure. But in reality I’d see him more a like-for-like replacement for Collingwood. Flintoff dropping to 8 sounds a great idea, but that would depend on him being part of a four man attack (with help from Collingwood/Bopara). I can’t see the selectors risking that, his body just isn’t up to it.

    Long term England need Prior to turn into a genuine no 6, which is possible I suppose and/or Rashid to mature into a genuine test all-rounder (I think that will happen, but not just yet).

    I didn’t get to see as much of the SAvAus game as I’d of liked. What I did see of young Hughes was at the start of his innings and to be honest wasn’t very impressive. I’ll try and see a bit of the action first thing tomorrow.

    • Hughes is very unorthodox Len but he has been churning out the runs on the domestic scene, including some severe tests at that level. Takes some getting used to but his sheer effectiveness ends up winning you over. And he won;t get it much tougher than SA away. Steyn is the premier quick in world cricket by some distance.

  20. I take your point about his record in domestic cricket, I didn’t think he got into the Aussie side at 20 because of his boyish looks.

    I only saw the start of his innings when he looked like a rabbit caught in the headlights against Steyn and Morkel. I’ll take another look when the game re-starts today.

    One thing I’d be interested in is if he’s had a period of poor form yet in his short career. I’ve always been of the opinion that you’ve not learnt your game until you’ve gone through a dip in form.

  21. Len, he’s only played one full season of First Class cricket and all up only 18 matches. No time yet to have a slump but like everyone he’ll have a time where he fails and another certainty is that he’ll be opening for the rest of this tour regardless of how he does or doesn’t get his runs.


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