Cricket: Australian Squads for Winter Tours (including the Ashes) named

Just two days after Australia won the 2015 World Cup, thw National Selection Panel has named a number of squads for the winter tours. 

The squads are:

Test squad Michael Clarke (capt), Steven Smith (vice-capt), Fawad Ahmed, Brad Haddin, Josh Hazlewood, Ryan Harris (Ashes only), Mitchell Johnson, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Marsh, Shaun Marsh, Peter Nevill, Chris Rogers, Peter Siddle, Mitchell Starc, Adam Voges, David Warner, Shane Watson.

Australia A four-day squad Usman Khawaja (capt), Matthew Wade (vice-capt), Ashton Agar, Cameron Bancroft, Joe Burns, Pat Cummins, Andrew Fekete, Peter Handscomb, Travis Head, Nic Maddinson, Glenn Maxwell, Steve O’Keefe, Gurinder Sandhu, Marcus Stoinis.

Australia A one-day squad Usman Khawaja (capt), Matthew Wade (vice-capt), Sean Abbott, Ashton Agar, Cameron Boyce, Joe Burns, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Pat Cummins, Callum Ferguson, Peter Handscomb, Travis Head, Chris Lynn, Gurinder Sandhu, Adam Zampa.

Cricket Australia has also named its list contracted players for the 2015/16 season as follows:

George Bailey, Michael Clarke, Pat Cummins, James Faulkner, Aaron Finch, Brad Haddin, Ryan Harris, Josh Hazlewood, Mitchell Johnson, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Marsh, Shaun Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, James Pattinson, Chris Rogers, Steven Smith, Mitchell Starc, David Warner, Shane Watson.

Regular readers of this blog will have oft read me “go off” about the selection decisions made by the NSP but after the season that was in 2014/15 it is pretty hard to be anything other than complimentary of their work.

The only question mark I will again raise is the fact that the name Chris Hartley is missing from the squad lists.  I can not believe that he is considered to be the 5th best wicketkeeper in the country.  

Cricket World Cup: 5 Moments that mattered

The Cricket World Cup has ended with Australia demolishing New Zealand in the final at the Melbourne Cricket Ground overnight.  

This has been an amazing tournament replete with quality cricket and fascinating stories.  Australia proved worthy favourites with their astonishingly clinical win in the final.  The World Cup though was about more than one team winning and with that in mind here are my 5 moments that mattered from Cricket World Cup 2015: 

  1. MS Dhoni’s real legacy … giving up: Much is made in commentary and on the internet of the excellence of MS Dhoni’s captaincy and finishing ability in ODI cricket.  Against Australia in the semi-final Dhoni was faced with a situation which suited the legend that surrounds him.  A large run chase, plenty of overs to control the timing of the chase and wickets in hand.  However when things got too hard Dhoni just gave up.  First he started blocking when acceleration was needed and then, inexplicably, he did not try to make his ground when run out by Glenn Maxwell.  He should have been at least trying because odds were he would have made his ground.  Everytime I hear the hyperbole about the greatness of Dhoni that image will be at the forefront of my mind: he just gave up … simple!
  2. Bangladesh into the quarter finals: Before this tournament started most would have thought that they would be able to select the 8 teams to go through to the knockout rounds without much hassle.  There was a feeling of inevitability about it.  Then England came to the tournament in disarray and with a mindset harking back to the days of Gatting and Gooch and played, frankly, horribly.  This set up a qualifying final in Adelaide with Bangladesh facing England for the final slot in Pool A.  Bangladesh’s win in this game was wonderful, not only because it came against an opponent that they were vastly out matched by on paper, but because of what it will do for cricket in their home country.  This is a place of 156M people and to read of their celebrations after this win warmed the heart. 
  3. 300 a barrier no more: I know that there have been scores of 400 or more in ODI cricket before however there has been still, it appears to me, been a mental barrier about the size of total with a 3 in front of it when it comes to chasing in the second innings of these sorts of fixtures.  Across this tournament though we saw some massive totals run down with no better example than Sri Lanka chasing Englands 309 first innings score with 9 wickets in hand and 3 overs remaining.  The game has changed and now 300 runs is not the target it once was.  
  4. The “Associates” must play more cricket: Much has been made of the place (or otherwise) of the “Associate” ICC member nations at the Cricket World Cup.  Even during the Final the Chairman of the ICC was heard speak on their involvement and the ICC’s preference for those nations to have the tools to be more competitive at tournaments like this.  It is simple to say but surely these teams improve by playing more cricket against the “full” member nations? Has the ICC learned nothing from the experience of Sri Lanka’s slow introduction to the game of cricket?  For years Sri Lanka was a laughing stock and an after thought but as they started to play more and more cricket against the more experienced nations they thrived and have won a World Cup. From exhuberance of Hamid Hassan through to John Mooney’s story of redemption these teams provided part of the fabric of this tournament.  Now the cricket community has to give them the tools to win. 
  5. Grant Elliot … the shot heard around the cricket world: The first semi final in this Cricket World Cup was a game for the ages and ended with a mighty blow by Grant Elliot off Dale Steyn.  I can not recall being more emotional about the result of a cricket game not involving Australia than I was at the end of this game.  There was some amazing cricket before this moment but the final blow was a microsm of New Zealand’s growth in stature throughout this tournament.  The co-hosts had prepared perfectly but most pundits were just waiting for them to fall and when it looked like they would a discard from another country who took his chance in New Zealand repaid their faith and got the job done.  Just amazing! 

So now we have 4 more years to wait for the next instalment of the Cricket World Cup.  Much will happen in the game between now and then and I, for one, can not wait to see where the game is taken by those who play it and administer it. 

Cricket World Cup 2015: And now for the big one! 

After 49 games across six weeks the cricket World Cup has come to its end point at the MCG with a final for the ages between the best team in the tournament so far in New Zealand and the tournament favourites in Australia.

These teams faced each other in the pool games in one of the matches of the tournament at Eden Park that saw the Black Caps victorious by the closest of margins.  New Zealand rode a wave of crowd support home to best the South Africans in one of the most exciting cricket games in my recent memory to get into the final.  Australia dominated an Indian team that they have dominated all season and that, frankly, just gave up in the other semi final.   

Here are my 5 keys to victory in the World Cup final:

  1. How will Australia handle the hype? Anointed as the prohibitively short priced favourites at the start of this tournament the bulk of the press in the lead up to this game will be saying that an Australian win is a fait accompli.  How they handle the pressure and the expectations on them will be crucial to the outcome of this game.  Australia will not want another result like the 1996 final. 
  2. How will New Zealand handle the hype? As much as they would like to downplay it, this is the biggest game of cricket in New Zealand’s history.  They have had the support of a nation throughout this tournament and that weight of expectation must rest heavy on them.  Their reaction to comments about the size of the MCG and its impact on their play has been measured and amusing which is a good sign as to how they are handling things so far.
  3. Warner v MacCullum: The starts for both teams will be vital given that this may be the first final in the history of the tournament where 400 is the winning score.  Brendan MacCullum is the Black Caps talisman: he fires and they fire and, frankly, they win.  He has gone very hard at every bowling attack he has faced so far and when it has come off it has been spectacular.  If he is still at the crease at the 25 over mark New Zealand wins.  David Warner plays a similar role for Australia albeit he has been less effective in tournament than one expected.  His 178 against Afghanistan aside he has not fired.  If he does though in this final the third 200 of the tournament is not out of his range.  Again: if he is still in at the 25 over point, Australia wins. 
  4. Vettori v Maxwell: It feels strange to put these two players in the same category but their impact on their respective teams with the ball could be turning point of this final.  Maxwell is Australia’s spinner in this game and projects as its 5th bowler.  He must keep his run rate below 5 rpo to keep pressure on the kiwi batters and to ensure Clarke does not need to revert to other part time bowlers to get the 5th 10 bowled.  Vettori is possibly New Zealand’s greatest player and is the mainstay of the bowling attack.  His 10 overs will be vital because he has the ability to slow the run rate and is also a wicket taker.  If the Australian team gets to him and his overs go for over 60 then New Zealand might be in trouble.
  5. Catches win matches: Both Australia and New Zealand are wonderful fielding units.  Both catch well, save runs with their ground fielding and hit the stumps with unnerving regularity.  The importance of fielding can not be undersold in this game because, afterall, if South Africa had fielded well against the Black Caps in the semi final they would be playing on Sunday.  The team that fields the best in the final will win this game.

A fantastic game of cricket awaits us.  I have to declare that before the tournament started I had a wager on New Zealand to win the game and my head is still telling me that they should be favourites.  My heart though is screaming that this will be Australia’s game! 

Bring on Sunday!