Shumpty’s Punt: Horse Racing 31/08/13

Have had a busy week so have not really had time to look at the sport on this weekend yet.

That said I did read the Best Bets on the plane down to Melbourne and here my tips for Saturday’s meeting at Doomben.

Race 1 Number 10 Shazzle Pazzle (each way) ($7.50/$2.60)
Race 3 Number 1 Mishani Warrior (win) ($3.20)
Race 5 Number 5 Flying Home (win) ($2.50)
Race 6 Number 2 Bribie (each way) ($7.00/$2.50)
Race 8 Number 12 Inner Vicking (each way) ($9.00/$3.00)

Bet of the day is inrace 3 with Mishani Warrior;

Good luck and good punting!

Ashes 13/14 Countdown: Day 85 – How can you prepare for an Ashes series in India?

There are now 85 days until the first test of the 2013-14 Ashes Series in Australia starts at the ‘Gabba. Off the back of a 3-0 drubbing in England Australia will be looking win back the urn on home soil for the first time since the epic 2006-07 series. Obviously then the preparation for this series will be vital.

For those wondering, here is the schedule of games the Australia team has committed to in the next 85 days:

Date Match Type Opponent
29/08/13 T20 England
31/08/13 T20 England
03/09/13 ODI Scotland
06/09/13 ODI England
08/09/13 ODI England
11/09/13 ODI England
14/09/13 ODI England
16/09/13 ODI England
10/10/13 T20 India
13/10/13 ODI India
16/10/13 ODI India
19/10/13 ODI India
23/10/13 ODI India
26/10/13 ODI India
30/10/13 ODI India
02/11/13 ODI India

If the ODI / T20 squad stays the same for the tour of India as it is now in England the following players from the 5th Ashes test at the Oval (or on the fringe of selection for that team) will be involved in that tour:

· Clarke

· Faulkner

· Hughes

· Smith

· Starc

· Wade

· Warner

· Watson

Assuming those players are all selected for the tour of the India, I have been left to ponder what first class cricket they might get to play before the first test match. Herein lies a problem: the first class schedule for the 2013/14 season has not been published yet. Of course we know when the BBL circus will occur but less than a month away from the historical start of a Sheffield Shield season and a schedule of games is not to be found.

The one game that has been locked in is an Australia A fixture against England starting in Hobart on 6 November. That being the case, the only guide for what might be happening in first class cricket in Australia is that which happened last year. Broadly speaking, there were four Sheffield Shield fixtures played before the first test last year by each team on the following rough dates (these dates are skewed by NSW having to start their season early to play in a T20 competition):

· 1st week in October

· 4th week in October

· 1st week in November

· 2nd week in November

Given those rough timings and assuming Cricket Australia sticks with that methodology when setting the fixtures, anyone taking part in the short form tour to India is only likely to get one first class game of cricket before the first test match at best. That is, of course, predicated on players being released by Cricket Australia to play said cricket which has not happened much in the past.

Does this not all smack of a team that is going to be behind the 8 ball preparation wise for the 1st test? This is a tour in our own backyard and yet we do not seem enamoured to set things up so that our team is well prepared and ready to play long form cricket? Surely the best way to prepare for long form cricket is to play long form cricket but if things go they were they are projected the obvious prospect is that at least four of our starters at the ‘Gabba will NOT have played a long form game before that test starts.

If preparation for the Ashes series and striving to rest the Urn back from England is Cricket Australia’s principal goal for this summer of cricket there is an easy two phased answer to all of this:

1. Send an Australian “A” team to India and keep anyone projected to be in the first test team at home in Australia; and

2. Schedule the Sheffield Shield games so that:

a. There are four of them before first test starts; and

b. There is a gap between the first test and the last Shield game of no more than seven days; and

c. Actually make the players projected to be in the test team play in all of those Shield games before the first test match.

That strategy works only though in a world where the governing body seeks to prepare test cricketers by playing long form cricket. Here is how I expect Australia’s preparation to actually occur:

1. Australia will send a full squad to India for the seven one day fixtures.

2. Cricket Australia will only schedule 2 Sheffield Shield games before the first test because they have to fit in the abridged 50 over competition before Christmas so that the BBL can run for 2 months.

3. Players will not be released to play for the States because Cricket Australia holds “preparation” camps for squad members not in India on the dates of the Sheffield Shield games BUT will be released to play in the Ryobi Cup.

In that scenario none of the combatants striding onto the Gabba on 21 November will have played long form cricket before that test starts. You scoff: but it has happened before!

One can only hope that sanity will prevail but one worries that this Australian team is going to go into this series bizarrely under prepared. If that is the case then Cricket Australia will have no one to blame but itself.

The Ashes Tour: England’s ODI Squad

England has named its squad for the One Day International fixtures for the Natwest series starting on 6 September. It is:

Eoin Morgan (capt), Ravi Bopara, Jos Buttler, Michael Carberry, Steven Finn, Chris Jordan, Jamie Overton, Kevin Pietersen, Boyd Rankin, Joe Root, Ben Stokes, James Tredwell, Jonathan Trott, Luke Wright

A number of players have been rested from the team that played in the test series including: Cook, Anderson, Bell and Swann.

Peter Siddle: massive heart but is heart enough?

I have been critical on this blog about the continued selection of Peter Siddle in the Australian cricket team. The end to Siddle’s Ashes series has done nothing move me away from that view.

There can be no doubt of two things when it comes to Peter Siddle:

1. He has been a valiant servant of the game in Australia during a period of down performance by the team; and

2. If some of Australia’s younger players showed as much heart as he does every time he steps on the field in a baggy green cap, then Australian cricket would be a much better place.

Despite those factors, it strikes me in the aftermath of a 3-0 flogging by England now is the time to consider whether Siddle continues to lead the Australian bowling attack into the next series which is only 86 days away.

For that purpose I have examined the last 10 test matches Siddle has played in and come to the unmistakeable conclusion that on form there must be a massive question mark over his selection. Consider these numbers for Siddle and Australia this year (given that all of the test matches have been played in 2013):

· Australia has won 1 test match, lost 7 and drawn 2. Australia has not won any of its last 9 test matches.

· Siddle is Australia’s highest wicket taker during that span with 29 wickets at an average of 32.06. This is entirely understandable though flattering statistic given that Siddle is the only bowler from Australia who has played all 10 test matches in 2013.

· The more compelling statistic is that Siddle has only averaged 1.6 wickets per innings during that 10 match span (there having been 18 innings for the bowlers in that period).

· In the last 3 test match innings bowled by Siddle he failed to take a wicket and his captain only bowled him 3 overs of the 40 bowled by Australia as it strived for victory in the final test match of the series.

· During this same period, Siddle is striking every 11 and a half overs.

Are these the numbers of the leader of a bowling attack? Many will consider that I am judging Peter Siddle harshly here given that Australia has hardly been in the best form but it begs the question as to what the other “leaders” of bowling attacks in other test teams have done during the same span. Here are some numbers for the bowlers that I consider to be the leaders of their respective bowling attacks:

· James Anderson (England): 10 test matches, 41 wickets, average 28.12.

· Dale Steyn (South Africa): 5 test matches, 33 wickets, average 12.36.

· Ravichandran Ashwin (India): 4 test matches, 29 wickets, average 20.10.

· Trent Boult (New Zealand): 7 test matches, 23 wickets, average 29.13.

The top three bowlers from list play for teams that have been undefeated in 2013. Trent Boult plays for New Zealand which has put up a record of 7:0:4:3 during the same period. He averages though 2.1 wickets per innings.

Looking at those numbers: is Peter Siddle really the leader of the bowling attack that Australia needs lift it out of the current doldrums that Australian cricket is in? This is particularly so with the re-emergence from injury of Ryan Harris. For the record his numbers in England were: 4 test matches, 24 wickets at an average of 19.58. Those are numbers that put him in the Anderson, Steyn and Ashwin category.

There can be no denying Siddle’s heart and there can be no denying that he is a fantastic team man. I have commented in the past that on unhelpful wickets Siddle is a little predicable and lacking penetration. Australia needs now to look to the future and build a bowling attack around Ryan Harris rather than Siddle which will lead to the question of whether Siddle’s heart is enough to keep him in the running for a bowling attack he is not leading given that lack of penetration.

The first test at the Gabba is 86 days away. It could also be said that the start of Australia’s rebuilding of its test team, its ranking (which has now slipped to 5th in the world) and its reputation also begins in 86 days and that rebuilding phase cannot occur in my view whilst Australia includes Siddle in the line-up. Now is time for a change because relying on heart is patently not enough.

The Ashes Wash Up: Winners and Losers

The first instalment of Ashes 2013/14 is now over and the obvious winner was England given that they won the series 3-0. That said, as with any series of sports contests there are winners and losers, either actual or metaphorical, from both sides. Here are my winners and losers from Ashes series part 1:


Ian Bell: The numbers make for excellent reading don’t they: 562 runs at an average of 62.44 and three hundreds. The numbers alone would be impressive but it also must be remembered that often Bell strode to the wicket with his team in trouble and, more often than not, got them out of said trouble. I never thought I would say this about Ian Bell but I don’t think there is a better cover / square driver in the game today save for Hashim Amla at his best. A great series from a batter who has gone from being good to be the precipice of being great.

Ryan Harris: The Australian selectors didn’t think he was up to the rigours of a full test series and thus held him back him from the first test. He played the last 4 tests and was the man of the series for Australia by, it must be said, a fairly long way. Again the numbers make for excellent reading: 24 wickets at an average of 19.58 in a losing team is nothing short of spectacular. More to the point though, every time he had the ball in his hand it looked like things would happen for Australia. One can only hope that Harris will be fit for all 5 tests of the Australian summer because this would have been a very different series for Australia without him.

Stuart Broad: Public enemy number one in cricket in Australia and I reckon he would be pretty happy about that to be honest. He is the blue print for what a bowling all-rounder should look like. An imposing bowler on his day and valuable with the bat. His failure to walk in the first test was lamentable but it should not the main memory of Broad from this series: do not forget his bowling at Chester-le-Street which was some of the best fast bowling I have seen for some time. 22 wickets at 27 and 180 runs at 25 are great returns for a bowling all-rounder.

Steve Smith: I confess that until his century in the last test I still had a bit of a question mark in my mind about Steve Smith and his place batting at number 5 in the Australian batting order. I believed that he had done enough to warrant retaining his place in the batting order but was concerned that batting at number 5 may have been just a little too high for him. His 138 not out at the Oval killed off any lingering thoughts in my brain of that. Probably the only player “on the fringe” to take his opportunity for Australia in this series and he will now go into the Australian summer solid in the knowledge that he will have a clear run at the selection table for some time to come.


Ed Cowan: Selected at number 3 in the first test was out to two ordinary shots in both innings and then jettisoned. He does not appear to be in Darren Lehmann’s plans for Australia moving forward so it would appear that that one test match this series was his one chance to impress the new boss. With Chris Rogers getting the job done with the opportunity he received it look likes Cowan will not be travelling the Sheffield Shield circuit this summer.

Jonathan Trott: At the start of this series was clearly England’s key man with the willow with a record to boot. Australia seemingly have worked out his technical deficiencies and have, successfully, strangled his scoring opportunities so as to render his role in the series minimal. Given his difficulty with the short ball on these, it must be conceded, slow wickets, one can expect that Australia will run a similar game plan on the hard and fast wickets at home. He will have much work to do to regain the aura of the past for this coming home series.

Simon Kerrigan: Brought into the team for the Oval test match as an obvious replacements for the now out of favour Monty Panesar and seemingly on trial for the Australian summer to say that he choked under the spot light would be an understatement. Only given 8 overs by his captain on a spinners wicket is indicative of how well he went in his chance to shine. If not selected for the summer tour, he risks becoming the punch line that Tahir and McGain have already become.

ICC: From umpiring to DRS to bad light issues it has not been the best of tours for the ICC and particularly the elite umpires panel. It is apposite to say that umpires suffer from bad form as much as players do and the umpires in this series have been woefully out of the form at best which, for a series that is one of the jewels in the test cricket crown, has caused a massive black eye for the rulers of the game. This series has also thrown up an obvious problem that the game has: educating the fans on what the rules actually say. The vitriol pointed at the 3rd umpire / DRS official, wrongly as it turns out, is alone indicative of that.

All in all it was an exciting series that was book ended but question behaviour off the field by some of the combatants. It was no 2005 series or even a 1989 series in its excitement or importance for the fans. There are only 86 days to go from today before the first test starts at the Gabba which is a series that promises just as much excitement and, if anything, a more hard-fought series than we have seen this time out.