Ball One – Cricket has been the least of Zimbabwe’s concerns over the last decade or so as the country came close to disintegration. The signs are that Zimbabwe has some stability these days and that its cricket administration is also on a sound footing, with many players returning to their country’s colours. As I wrote during the last World Cup, I’m pleased to see pragmatic engagement with Zim. The sporting boycott of Apartheid South Africa played a full part in bringing down that hideous regime, but that does not mean that such a strategy should be used as a default for countries in turmoil.
Ball Two – Does anyone else smile when a review is called and the first picture is the side-on shot with all eyes on the bowler’s front foot. “It’s not a no ball” say the commentators, despite my eye seeing a crooked, sometimes very crooked, arm which straightens in the next clip as Hawkeye tracks the flight of the ball. Many bowlers do it, slow and quick, and I know about the 15 degrees of flex and I also know that bowlers need help to balance the power of heavy bats and flat pitches. I’d much rather see that balance through allowing ball “tampering” explicitly and taking a very firm line on 15 degrees of flex. It’s not the 70s any more and it’s not slow bowling that needs promoting these days, it’s fast bowling.
Ball Three – I speculated at Spin Cricket that in the future, every ODI player will be a davidhussey. The Zim bowling has been impressive following the davidhussey template of barely turning, accurate darts that hustle the batsmen from one delivery to the next and one over to the next. With the batsmen having to make the pace on the ball and looking to preserve wickets early, the scoreboard can become a problem for the batting side. At the time of writing, it remains to be seen whether the strategy works as well in the second half of the Australian innings. Soon some sides will dispense altogether with pace in ODI and T20I cricket.
Ball Four – I’ve always liked Tatenda Taibu as a cricketer. He played a key role in dismissing both openers by calling for reviews and getting both right. Watson will feel aggrieved (I suspect that he feels aggrieved even when bowled middle stump) but it’s always dangerous to thrust the front pad at non-turning leg-breaks. Watson has plenty of experience of sub-continental pitches, so he knows that the older ball won’t often bounce over the stumps. A lesson re-learned perhaps.
Ball Five – Since Zimbabwe restructured its domestic cricket, it has paid significant sums to overseas players and coaches, controversially so in the case of Brian Lara. If the team’s display in the field against the world champions is anything to go by, it’s money well spent. Zim look in a different league to Kenya, Canada and even Bangladesh, executing smart plans with confidence and real skill.
Ball Six – Ricky Ponting looks too old to be playing ODI cricket. He may prove me wrong, but, great athlete that he is, he has a lot of miles on the clock and few players can resist Old Father Time. If he does lead his team to a fourth successive World Cup, it will be the pinnacle of a glittering career and one of cricket’s greatest personal achievements.
The Tooting Trumpet, whom you can often find at Testmatchsofa.com and on Twitter at @garynaylor999.