South Africa went into the Sydney Test cock-a-hoop after winning their first-ever series in Australia. A tremendous feat when one considers how many former South African cricketers have tried to beat Australia in Australia. This was a great effort especially when one considers that South Africa became the first team in 16 years to beat the Aussies on home soil.
South Africa have gained confidence and Smith has emerged a much improved captain of a team that contains some young but seriously talented players. Australia, on the other hand, now face the prospect of going forward with a team no longer feared by many of the other Test nations. They are back to the field and will now have to implement a rebuilding process despite some senior players being reluctant to do so.
Once again Sydney provided cricket lovers with a great Test, at a time when the status of Test cricket in some quarters is being questioned. South Africa were not able to inflict Australia's first home whitewash in 122 years, thanks to a brilliant 138 by Michael Clarke. Clarke along with Mitchell Johnson, who is fast becoming an allrounder, and Nathan Hauritz, saw to it that the Australians totalled a solid 445 in their first innings. South Africa replied with 327 thanks to a 115-run partnership between Mark Boucher (89) and Morne Morkel (40), a deficit of 118.
Ricky Ponting then surprised us all with his declaration and South Africa went into the last day requiring a further 314 to complete the highest successful run-chase achieved at the SCG. It turned out to be a great fight, and Australia eventually dismissed South Africa for 272 with only 10 balls remaining, to win an entertaining third and final Test and avoid the dreaded series whitewash. By the way, a very brave Graeme Smith returned to bat with a broken finger and a very sore elbow but fell to Mitchell Johnson to hand the hosts victory. Peter Siddle was the Man of the Match with Smith named Man of the Series. While Australia's victory meant that they retain their position at the top of the International Cricket Council's official Test rankings, but it shouldn't be long now before that situation changes.
The big news in Australia revolved around how their selectors would react to their series defeat and in particular what they had in mind for Mathew Hayden. We know now that Hayden has been dropped for both the Twenty20 series and the ODIs, we now know that this is a clear message to him from the selectors that his days are numbered. I am not prepared to predict the outcome of the Twenty20 series because the nature of this new format is such that anything can happen.
The ODIs are a different matter and I think the sides are very even, though the inclusion of Nathan Bracken, who for some reason was left out, does strengthen the Aussie attack. The absence of Graeme Smith could be the difference, but this South Africa team should not be underestimated. They are far more resilient than they appear, and for this reason Australia may just be in for yet another wake-up call.
The bad blood between the England captain Kevin Pietersen and his coach Peter Moores caught England's cricket authorities by surprise. These sort of differences often occur in teams and are usually resolved internally. This one was different because the England authorities had to decide between keeping Pietersen as captain or Moores as coach, after the star batsman called for an end to the duo's "unhealthy" relationship. Pietersen's 'him or me' outburst created little prospect of the pair working together on the upcoming tour of the West Indies, where England will look to gather momentum ahead of their bid to reclaim the Ashes later this year. According to Pietersen, he was told that Moores would be sacked before he left on holiday to Africa. It was all a very messy business and the England Cricket Board had four options - tell Pietersen and Moores to make up and get on with it, sack Pietersen, sack Moores or sack both. Moores was sacked and Pietersen, it seems, was manoeuvred into resigning. Andrew Strauss has been named as captain for the tour of the West Indies and the search for a new coach would begin "immediately".
I have always maintained that when a captain is replaced, the coach's position should also be reviewed. These days, captains and coaches have to work together and to impose a coach on a new captain is just plain silly. Pietersen has never got on with Moores and should have been allowed to have a say in the man who should be his 2IC. This relationship was never going to work and let's face it, once Pietersen was made the captain it was only a question of time before Moores was going to be ditched. Regrettably, England might now never know what Pietersen was capable of as a captain, even though he added another twist to English cricket's chaotic week when he insisted he'd be back as captain despite his controversial resignation. Hopefully this extremely talented cricketer's form doesn't suffer as a result of this saga, which is something that England does not need. It's also pertinent to note that every Tom, Dick and Harry is putting his hand up for the coaching job, hopefully the ECB will learn from this mistake and ask the new captain who he wants to work with.
|After much negotiation of provisional itineraries, Sri Lanka now find themselves playing more cricket than ever as well as the IPL, all this at a time when players are complaining of playing too much cricket. It won't be long now before something gives way and the ICC is forced to arrange the international fixtures for everyone|
Inclement weather brought about an early end to the first ODI between New Zealand and the West Indies in Queenstown. In the second match, Denesh Ramdin and Ramnaresh Sarwan kept their cool in a tense finish to hand West Indies a 1-0 series lead after a rain-hit game in Christchurch. In game three Ross Taylor's aggressive half-century led New Zealand to a comfortable seven-wicket victory in Wellington, leaving the five-match series level at 1-1. In game four the game was once again abandoned because of rain after a sparkling debut from Martin Guptill. West Indies were 64-0 in the 11th over, in reply to New Zealand's 275-4, when the match was called off because of a second rain delay in Auckland. Guptill, 22, batted through the New Zealand innings to end 122 not out, the second highest debutant score in an ODI. The series remains 1-1 and will be decided by Tuesday's match at Napier.
What's eating Tony Greig
As the Pakistan media accused the Board of Control for Cricket in India of attempting to sabotage Sri Lanka's planned tour to Pakistan, Sri Lanka's sports minister Gamini Lokuge confirmed yesterday that Sri Lanka Cricket is having discussions with BCCI to arrange a series against India. Now we hear that Sri Lanka will split their tour to Pakistan over two legs in January and February, playing in total, three ODIs and two Tests. A gap between the tours paves the way for Sri Lanka to host a potential one-day series against India. After much negotiation and tweaking of provisional itineraries, Sri Lanka now find themselves playing more cricket than ever as well as the IPL, all this at a time when players are complaining of playing too much cricket. It won't be long now before something gives way and the ICC is forced to arrange the international fixtures for everyone.
My favourite cricketer
Matthew Hayden is a powerful and very aggressive left-hand opening batsman, known for his ability to score quickly at all levels of the game. Hayden currently holds the record for the highest scores made by an Australian batsman in both Tests (380) and ODIs (181 not out). He formed one of the most prolific opening partnerships in world Test cricket for Australia with Justin Langer and in ODI cricket with Adam Gilchrist. Sadly, Hayden has just been dropped from the Aussie team for the ODIs against South Africa, but I am sure we haven't seen the last of him.
He scored over 1,000 Test runs in 01, 02, 03, 04 & 05, the first man to achieve the feat five times. He held the world record for the highest Test score, 380, having batted only five sessions. As of July 2008, Hayden then had the third highest conversion-rate in history, with a Test century every 3.13 Tests played, behind only Don Bradman at 1.79 and Clyde Walcott at 2.93. Despite these achievements, Hayden has received criticism from some quarters for being a "flat-track bully". I consider Mathew Hayden a top-class modern batsman who players the attacking game so well because of the very fact that modern players are required to be attacking. How is it possible to attack if to earn a living batsmen have to excel in Tests, ODIs and Twenty20 fixtures. Mathew Hayden will go down in history as one of Australia's great attacking batsmen.
Question of the week
It's from T Regis Kumar from Singapore. He says: "I was listening to our commentary on day four of the test match between Australia and South Africa at the SCG. You were talking about the rollers that are used in between innings or at the start of the day with Warne and Mark Taylor. My question is: Please explain what it means to use heavy rollers or light rollers in between innings as decided by the batting captain. Do heavy rollers make a good batting deck? What is the difference between using a heavy roller or light roller on a cricket pitch?"
Regis, prior to the start of every innings and at the start of each day's play, the batting captain has the option as to whether he would like the pitch rolled and if so what kind of roller, heavy or light. Historically, it has been assumed that the heavy roller will bring moisture to the surface, if moisture exists near the surface or it will contribute to breaking the pitch up if it is a little dry. For this reason if a team has made a good total batting first the captain of the opposition will usually opt for the light roller for fear of breaking the pitch up. In Australia where the pitches contain a high percentage of clay the pitches tend to crack and the Aussie grounds men recommend that captains should always use the heavy roller to flatten the pitch out. Cracks cause extra lateral movement and also inconsistent bounce. Graeme Smith used the light roller before South Africa went in to bat in their first innings of the Sydney Test despite advice from the groundsman that this decision would not help his batsmen. It didn't and in the process Smith himself broke a finger. You may have noticed that Smith did not make the same mistake in the second innings. Put simply, the heavy roller settles the pitch down for a while, whereas the light roller has little or no effect.
Well, we've got a bit of good news for those of you who have been taking part in my show each week. The last show of each month, we have decided to involve some of you who send in questions, and, believe me, we get a lot of them. What we are going to do is that we are going to answer a few of those questions, a few more of them, and we are also going to involve a couple of you to have a discussion. So there is an opportunity for those of you who are interested in cricket, and who have been listening and loyal to the show that I do. Perhaps you would like to put yourself up and we may just end up having a chat together.
Please don't forget to email your queries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Don't forget to mention your name and the place where you're from. I will pick the best question and answer it in show next week. Thanks for your company this is Tony Greig for Cricinfo Talk signing off.