Cricket: RIP Gary Gilmour

One of Australia’s most dynamic all-rounders and a player immortalised in the World Series Cricket jingle C’mon Aussie C’mon with the words “And Gilmour’s wielding willow like an axe”, Gary Gilmour has passed away aged 62.

Forever remembered for his performance in the 1975 World Cup final against England, where he took 6-14 and then guided Australia to victory with a gritty 28 not out, the bowling part of which was named by Wisden as the best bowling performance in the history of ODI cricket in 2002, Gilmour was a left arm swing bowler who played 15 tests for Australia.

He had a liver transplant in 2005 and has long battled ill health.

Vale Gary: one of the larrikans of the great game.

Cricket: Ashes 2015 Match Schedule announced

The ECB and Cricket Australia have announced the schedule for the 2015 Ashes tour to England and Wales. The matches that matter are as follows:

June 25-28: Four-day match v Kent in Canterbury.
July 1-4: Four-day match v Essex in Chelmsford.
July 8-12: 1st Test v England at Sophia Gardens, Cardiff.
July 16-20: 2nd Test v England at Lord’s, London.
July 23-25: Three-day match v Derbyshire in Derby.
July 29-August 2: 3rd Test v England at Edgbaston, Birmingham.
August 6-10: 4th Test v England at Trent Bridge, Nottingham.
August 14-16: Three-day match v Northants in Northampton.
August 20-24: 5th Test v England at The Oval, London.

Australia will be seeking to retain the Ashes urn convincing won in Australia 5-0 only some 4 months ago.

The battle begins now!!!!

Cricket: Australia in 2013/14 … a requim

Cricket is finished for another year, well at least in the sense that the Australian cricket season is over (I am abundantly aware that we seem to play cricket all year round these days) and, since Australia bombed out of the WT20 I have had a few moments of reflection thinking about the season that was.

It has been a wonderful season for Australia’s cricketers. If I had have said that to you in July and August 2013 I would be declaring that Australia’s season was wonderful you would have asked me what I had been smoking. Then, deep in the heart of an Ashes tour that was replete with much pain, things looked as dim as the English summer weather.

Since then, Australia’s turnaround has been nothing short of spectacular. Here are my 5 moments that mattered for Australia in 2013/14:

1. Darren Lehmann becomes coach

It would be too cute to simply suggest that Lehmann becoming coach was the panacea for the change in the performance of Australia. However it would also be remiss not to say that from the moment that Darren Lehmann has come on board for Australia as coach the performance of Australia at the top level has been lifted to a new level. From the outside looking in Lehmann has instilled some old school values and enforced the basics, and that approach has seemed to instilled some pride back into the team. From that the results have flowed!

2. Ryan Harris stays fit

Much has been written about the work of Mitchell Johnson during the season just gone and I will write more of him shortly. To focus just on Mitchell Johnson belies just how important getting multiple test matches in row from Ryan Harris was for Australia. Harris takes big wickets, bowls his heart out and has played through a terrible injury. That last part has been nothing short of inspirational and his fellow players have responded. You only need to look at him returning to the crease at the end of the last day of the last test of the summer and taking two big wickets to see how important he was.

3. The Smith and Haddin show: papering over the cracks of a fragile top order

Australia’s top order, particularly in the first innings, in the test matches in Australia this summer was patchy to say the best. Of late, before the Ashes series, when Australia was 3 out often it was all out. Against England in the summer that did not happen for two reasons. Steve Smith and Brad Haddin are those reasons. One, making a comeback, and the other, in the winter of his career, stood up when Australia needed it most and the runs flowed. Without them, I don’t think Australia wins in Australia nor in South Africa: it is that simple.

4. Pace and aggression: welcome back!

I mentioned Mitchell Johnson earlier and what a season he had. Indeed, what a season it was for aggressive cricket and fast bowling. Australia won against England and South Africa off the back of its fast bowling cartel and targeting opposition players with aggression. Michael Clarke telling James Anderson to prepare for a broken arm was just the tip of the iceberg of Australia’s aggressive approach to the opposition and it put them off. Indeed it put them off so much that by the end of both series it was pretty obvious that Australia had the psychological edge over both oppositions.

5. Warner: from a king hit to the king

This has been a summer of redemption and renaissance for David Warner. He started it by punching Joe Root and being suspended and ended it by being the man of the series against South Africa. I might not like the way he plays the game and the verbal that surrounds him but I would be lying if I did not say that his performance, in South Africa mainly, was a moment that mattered for Australia. If he did not play the way he did Australia might have struggled in South Africa.

So there they are: my moments that mattered in Australian cricket in 2013/14. There is no reference to ODI or T20 cricket in this post and the fact is that as time goes on I enjoy those forms less and less. Equally, to me, the cricket that matters is test cricket and these are the moments that mattered in it this year.

Bring on season 2014/15!

Cricket: Cricket Australia’s 2014-15 Contract List

Yesterday, Chairman of Selectors from Cricket Australia, John Inverarity announced the central contract list for 2014-15. The list is:

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

Dropping of the contract list from last year are: Ed Cowan, Patrick Cummins, Xavier Doherty, Ben Hilfenhaus, Clint McKay and Matthew Wade.

There were also a number of players who received contract upgrades in 2013-14 during that season who did not receive new contract as well: Alex Doolan, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Usman Khawaja and Adam Voges.

Obviously the player most surprisingly left of the list is Alex Doolan. Otherwise I do not believe that there is anything really to complain about in the make up of the list. Each of the players have contributed significantly to the success of the Australian team over the last 12 months, WT20 debacle notwithstanding, and have earned their contracts in my view.

Bring on Season 2014-15!!!

Sheffield Shield 2013/14: Player of the Year

The final round of the Sheffield Shield season is now done and dusted and the finalists for this season have been decided with New South Wales and Western Australia to play in the final. That game will commence next Friday in Canberra.

That factor having been decided, it is time to look back on the season that was and consider some of the great performances during the season. I have gone over all of the scorecards of the season and all of the highlights of games that I could find and I keep coming up with one name for my player of the year: James Hopes.

Now there are two things that need to be said at the outset:

  • Hopes will never receive an award of this type from the powers that be at Cricket Australia.  He is too old and he comes from Queensland and both of those factors weigh against him in the minds of James Sutherland and Pat Howard.
  • Many will say that I am biased because I am a Queenslander and a James Hopes fan. Read what follows and I will defy you to make that allegation.

This is the season that was for Hopes:

  • He captained the Queensland team with passion and showed again that he is one of the best strategic minds in the game by lifting his team to the penultimate game before the final of the Sheffield Shield with an injury ravaged squad (the names Pomersbach, Cutting and Gannon were all missing from that penultimate fixture).
  • With the ball he often took the new ball for Queensland and did so after injuries had decimated his team’s bowling stocks.  38 wickets at an average of 24.48 was his return, which was better than any fast bowler in the competition.
  • Batting at number 6 in an, at times, batting in order in flux, he was a stabilising influence scoring 389 runs at an average of 32 with four fifties. 
  • He did all of this after being diagnosed with a stress fracture before round 1 of the Sheffield Shield season. 

Now I ask you: was there a better all-round or more courageous effort by any player in the Sheffield Shield this summer? I think any fair-minded supporter would go a long way to try to find one. 

Well played this season Hopesy!

Postscript: He is one of the many players in this competition who should have been honoured with a baggy green cap but, for whatever reason, the time was not right (or the selectors went with a southern option).  That, in my view, it a travesty.

Cricket: Sheffield Shield points table right now …

At lunch on day 3 of the final round of games in the Sheffield Shield the points table (for those teams still in the running) looks like this:

New South Wales               28 points

Western Australia              26 points

South Australia                   26 points

Queensland                        24 points

South Australia will not add to its points tally.  There are a number of possible outcomes that could still arise:

  • If New South Wales win outright: they will go to 34 points and Western Australia will remain on 26 points.
  • If Western Australia win outright: they will go to 32 points and New South Wales will remain on 28 points.
  • If New South Wales and Western Australia end up drawing there will be no change to the points from this game.
  • If Queensland win outright: they will go to 30 points.
  • If Queensland lose outright or draw againt Victoria: they will stay on 24 points.

That being the case, the finals could end up looking this way:

  • If Queensland do not win outright: the final will be between New South Wales and Western Australia with the only issue in dispute in Canberra being the venue.
  • If New South Wales and Queensland win outright, the final will be in New South Wales (likely Canberra) between New South Wales and Queensland.
  • If Western Australia and Queensland win outright, the final will be Western Australia between Western Australia and Queensland.

The regular session is reaching an exciting crescendo with all eyes on Canberra and Melbourne for the next moves made by the teams.