Ball One – One of the pleasures of researching this column is stumbling across snippets in the backwaters of cricket that only the all-seeing eye of the web can reveal. Wondering whether Theunis de Bruyn was any relation of solid pro Zander, I came across a Bradmanesque run of scores. The young Saffer’s innings over the last month for Northerns Under-19s read – 101, 32, 7, 48, 109, 169, 93, 81 and 139. A man on the move.
Ball Two – After India’s much vaunted top order failed in the Tests in England and South Africa’s 96 all out being trumped by Australia’s infamous 47 on the mad day at Newlands, New Zealand’s top order collapsed twice to Australia’s callow attack at the Gabba. Pound for pound, there’s just as much talent in the Kiwis’ top six as there is in the Australians’ (betting without Phil Hughes), but it was old hands Ponting, Clarke and Haddin who were the difference between the teams (fellow veteran Vettori also scored when team-mates failed). I remain convinced of two things: this New Zealand batting unit will fire soon and fire frequently enough to win Tests, ODIs and T20Is; and that there’s never been a time when experience has counted more in Test match batting. We may have seen a changing of the guard in Australian pace bowling (Mitchell Johnson and Dougie Bollinger are surely finished and it looks a long way back for Ben Hilfenhaus) but Ponting and Hussey may be needed for a season or two yet.
Ball Three – Cricket, like life in all its messy glory, doesn’t develop the way one might predict nor the way one might hope – hell, not even the way it was planned! When Bangladesh were awarded Test status and began to play a full part in the ODI schedule a generation of players ago, the expectation was that the undoubted talent the Tigers’ disposal would blossom, as they were exposed to international players and gained the all important experience to which I refer above. But it’s not happening is it? Hammered twice by a good (but obviously not as good as it might be) Pakistan side, the Deshies have lost another series and, more importantly, demonstrated that far from progressing, they are regressing. What to do to support cricket in a huge nation with a passionate support? I don’t know, but carrying on as we are waiting for a Ranatunga to emerge to lead a Jayasuriya, a de Silva, a Vaas and a Murali, isn’t working, so it’s time for a different approach. A season or two of five day matches against England / SA / Aus / Ind development squads might serve them well.
Ball Four – It’s always nice to see connections between the recreational game and the professional (or, in this case, semi-professional) game. A couple of brothers might share all ten wickets once or twice in a club season, but it doesn’t happen often higher up the pyramid. So well played Namibia’s Scholtz brothers – I hope your parents were in Pietermaritzburg to see it.
Ball Five – This column has been tracking Steve Finn’s New Zealand summer in which his fortunes have been, well, let’s say mixed. In Otago’s latest match at Wellington’s windy Basin Reserve, the England man will not have enjoyed his team’s 286 run defeat nor his being outbowled in Wellington’s first innings by his fellow opening bowler Neil Wagner by a mere seven wickets to none. Finn did come back to take three second innings wickets and delivered 47 overs in the match. The young man has heart and resilience and this tougher than expected spell in the backwater of New Zealand domestic cricket will have taught him a lot. I’m still backing him to take 100 more Test wickets than Steve Harmison.
Ball Six – Cricinfo lists the following tournaments in which representative cricket was played last week. Test matches | One-Day Internationals | Twenty20 Internationals | CSA Provincial Three-Day Challenge | National Cricket League | New Zealand tour of Australia | Plunket Shield | Quaid-e-Azam Trophy Division One | Quaid-e-Azam Trophy Division Two | Ranji Trophy Elite | Ranji Trophy Plate League | Sheffield Shield | Bangladesh A in West Indies unofficial ODI Series | Ford Trophy | Franchise 1-Day Cup | Premier Limited Over Tournament Tier B | Ryobi One-Day Cup | CSA Provincial T20 Challenge | Stanbic Bank 20 Series | CSA Under-19 Competition | Action Cricket Cup | Action Cricket Twenty20 | Asian Cricket Council Twenty20 Cup. In the time-poor 21st century world mired in economic crisis and with a serious playing base in only a dozen or so nations, cricket is struggling to retain its place in the world you know? Well – maybe not.