Tuesday, November 3, 2015

The Almanack's Melbourne Cup Tips

It's that time of year to find some horses to put a line through because I put the kiss of death on them. So here we go.

Melbourne Cup Tips 2015.
  1. 10. Trip to Paris. Terrific run to finish second behind Mongolian Khan in the Caulfield Cup put to bed any doubts he could run the distance and had any hangover from the flight over. Won at Ascot over 4000 metres in June, and 3rd and 5th in two races over 3300 metres in August. Bred to run this distance and looks the goods. Tommy Berry on board is a winning double.
  2. 11. Who Shot Thebarman. Third in last year's Melbourne Cup, and second in the Sydney Cup in April showed has a good temperament for the distance, and good runs since in the Turnbull and the Caulfield has him set up nicely for a shot at the Cup. Blake Shinn and Chris Waller help the pedigree of the horse no end.
  3. 3. Fame Game. The Japanese champ is favourite for the race, but beginning to drift with the weather and the quality of the field. Won over 3400 in February and was second over 3200 in may. Hadn't run for five months before eye catching 6th in the Caulfield where he looked to have plenty in reserve. The long spell at least indicates that the horse will be fresh.
Next best - Preferment. Another Chris Waller trained horse with Hugh Bowman on board, must be respected. Also keep an eye out for Max Dynamite with Frankie Dettori on board, has also great form over long distances in Europe.

Best long shot - everyone's favourite Melbourne Cup horse Red Cadeaux has come over for the race four times, and finished second on three of those occasions. You could not begrudge the ten year old a victory, but it would appear unlikely with the horses in today's race.

All tips for the day:
Race 1. Missrock
Race 2. Precious Gem
Race 3. Four Carat
Race 4. Pyrrolic
Race 5. Prompt Return
Race 6. Valley Sweetheart
Race 7. Trip To Paris
Race 8. Sadler's Lake
Race 9. Kuro
Race 10. Wawail.

There you go - you can safely put a line through those horses now I've said all that. Happy punting!

Friday, October 30, 2015

Ash vs Evil Dead First 4 Minutes

214 Reasons To Pick Me For Victoria

Not sure how the Kiwis would be feeling heading into day two of their tour match against a Cricket Australia XI, but no doubt they're hoping to see less sun in the field than they did yesterday. With strike bowler Tim Southee out ill after just three overs, the support staff toiled hard on a road with no success. Aaron Finch had been overlooked for the Victorian Shield team in a somewhat controversial decision, while Ryan carters, despite his pedigree, was unable to force his way into a Test strength New South Wales team. Both took their non-selection out on the New Zealand bowlers, finishing the day unbeaten at 0/376. Finch is 214 and Carters 156.
What do both teams take out of this? New Zealand's support bowlers to Southee and Boult have bowled on roads in Canberra and Western Sydney now for almost no result. If nothing else, they will be match fit for Brisbane. While Finch and Carters will be ecstatic with their efforts, both will know they did well to get in, and then well to not throw their wickets away on the best strip they will see this season. While Carters has already shown he has the potential to follow in his Blues teammates - Haddin and Nevill - steps and go on to national selection as a wicketkeeper-batsman, Finch's breakthrough double century may well be the catalyst that gets his first class career on track.

In Finch's absence, Victoria have consolidated in their match against Queensland, with his nominal replacement Tom Dean unbeaten on 81 in his first class debut. Peter Handscomb, another rising potential national representative is on 46 not out. They have taken Victoria to 2/147 in reply to Queensland's 444, and an exciting day three is in prospect as both sides look to gain first innings points. Dean's innings was assured from the start, fully justifying his selection in the team, and both he and Handscomb will be looking to push on for a big score. Apart from Ben Cutting, who picked up both wickets, the bowling attack looked lacklustre, and no doubt Cutting and Cameron Boyce will be looked upon for a heavy workload on day three.

Michael Klinger pushed on to record another double century in his career, while Ashton Agar brought up a first class century as Western Australia finally declared at 8/432 in their match against Tasmania. Klinger finished on 202 not out, and if he is not chosen in the Test squad this weekend after that performance then he can assume his name has finally been crossed off the possibles list forever. He could not have been any more impressive. At the other end Agar was aggressive and solid, underlining his growing all rounder status as a possible return to the national line-up beckons. To do so he will need to take consistent wickets, an opportunity he may not get in this match, as Tasmania has already collapsed to 5/102 at stumps. Bailey and Paine are all that stands between a possible follow on. Mitch Johnson and Jason Behrendorff were the destroyers, taken two wickets apiece to rip through the top order. Much interest lay in the debut first class innings of wunderkind Jake Doran, but he found the going tough before being dismissed LBW for 5. WA are in the drivers seat, and Tasmania will need to play well to get themselves out of this match.

In Adelaide, the Australian team - here titled New South Wales - have put South Australia in a tough spot at the end of day two. Starting the day at 3/3, the Croweaters fell to 5/9 before Travis Head (37) and Adam Zampa (33*) were able to at least gain some respectability for the side by getting the score to 120, a deficit of 142. Mitch Starc was devastating, finishing with 5/28, with the other wickets being shared around. He was brilliant again, and you can only hope he takes this form into the Tests coming up. Then, just to show it can be done, New South wales finished on 1/217 at stumps. dave warne made another start before falling for 30, while Ed Cowan again did his best Michael Klinger impersonation in attempting a Test recall finishing on 82 not out. the star again was skipper Steve Smith, who accelerated through the final session to be 103 not out at stumps. Leading by 359 runs with 9 wickets in hand and two days to play, there appears no hope for SA to find a way back.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Missed Opportunities and Smith Takes Control

It's only day one of the new Sheffield Shield season, and already cricket has taken its grip again. The day/night fixtures featuring the pink ball provided three games with stark differences, where many Test aspirants missed their chance to shine, and others bolted down their places with stunning displays.

At the M.C.G, where Queensland had first opportunity at the crease against Victoria, Joe Burns and Usman Khawaja were looking to press their Test claims by making big scores. Their failure to do so, managing only 25 and 21 respectively, only mired what will be an interesting selection process in the coming day for that 1st Test squad. Instead, it was yet another New South Welshman who has changed states in order to get a shot at a first class career in Scott Henry who starred, scoring 141 on his Queensland debut, and along with young gun Marcus Labuschagne put the banana benders in a solid position at 4/298 at the end of the first day. There was no joy for Peter Siddle who went wicketless again with 0/31 from 16 overs, making his prospects for playing in Brisbane appear slender.


At Hobart, where the locals sent Western Australia in to bat, a similar scenario hit the Test batting aspirants. Cameron Bancroft was dismissed for 10, Shaun Marsh for 15 and Mitch Marsh for 1 in a performance that must have frustrated the selector on duty. A patient 71 from Adam Voges will at least have sewn up the number 5 spot in the Test team for the time being. Instead, it was another masterclass from Michael Klinger that stole the show, once again reminding everyone that he is still putting his hand up for selection at the next level. At stumps he was 129 not out, and if the selectors are truly looking at form and age is not a question, then it is hard to believe that Klinger can do much more to get his chance. However, with all the talk having centred around Burns, Khawaja, Bancroft and Marsh, it would still appear unlikely he will be seriously considered.


The Adelaide Oval clash between South Australia and New South Wales has more than shown the way of pink ball matches. Smith and Warner flourished in the sunlight before the sliding off spin of Travis Head broke through the middle order as the shadows crept across the ground. Scoring then became much harder in the twilight, before Smith made an interesting declaration to give his Test attack six overs at his opponents. Under the lights facing a pink ball, the South Australian batsmen looked like rabbits caught in headlights. Starc and Hazelwood were irrepressible, and the Croweaters fell to 3/1 before finishing at stumps at 3/3. And while one would suspect this game will only go three days, you begin to imagine that a pink ball Test match may also only go that length as well.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Revisiting The X Files: S05 E04

S05E04: Detour

Surely we are hitting tough times when we are basically lifting a plot from a movie, but there we are. It's Fox and Dana versus Predator in this episode, where the FBI agents stumble across a scene with three missing men and no explanation as to where they've gone. They soon discover an invisible, or camouflaged, duo, who not only seem to be able to slip away undetected but keep kidnapping more people. We move away from the Predator theme by suggesting they are 'Mothmen', who may well be adapted men from 450 years ago.
Apart from all of this... well... nonsense... there is actually an excellent scene with Mulder and Scully in the forest, just in conversation as Scully tries to light a fire. It's the ebst part of this episode.  3.5/5

One Day Demolition, and Tests for All.

I was at North Sydney Oval on Sunday, when New South Wales somewhat predictably demolished South Australia to win the Matador BBQ's Cup for the domestic one day trophy winners. It appeared as though it was going to be an early day when Travis Head and Tim Ludeman went early, but a fighting and serene partnership from Callum Ferguson and Tom Cooper brought the Redbacks back into the match. Their 152 run stand ended with Ferguson dismissed for 61, while Cooper's century off 119 deliveries was almost faultless. It will be interesting to follow both batsmen's fortunes this summer, as they should still have plenty to offer the national team if they can string some scores together. Unfortunately for South Australia, when Ferguson fell at 3/166 the innings fell over, and the total of 221 never looked enough. Nic Maddinson played a fairly typical innings for himself, breezy, some lusty blows and then throwing his wicket away when seemingly in charge. Ed Cowan and Steve Smith played calmly and without too much risk. Cowan again made a significant score, 88 not out off 78 balls, enough to again show he is perhaps batting better now that he did when in the Test team for two years. Sadly, despite his efforts, it would appear unlikely that he is going to receive a recall anytime soon. Smith again took his time at the start of the innings, being only 7 off his first 26 deliveries, before pulling the trigger and taking the game apart, finishing on 84 not out off 72 deliveries, and the game was won with 20 overs to spare.

On a side note, Josh was asked to go out for the national anthem with the players before the start of play. He received a token medal from Tim Ludeman and go tot shake his hand, all on national television. He had a great day seeing all of these quality players up close.

What is to be made of the West Indies, in particular their batting. Having been easily disposed of by an innings in their 1st Test in Sri Lanka last week, this week their bowlers stood up and pulled them back into contention. They bowled Sri Lanka out twice, for 200 and 206, with all of the bowlers doing a fine job. Yet despite this, they could manage only 163 in their first innings. There were better signs in the second dig. Despite losing the entire fourth day to rain, the Windies had reached 1/80 when they were chasing 244 for victory on the final day. Just when the hopes must have been rising, they lost 8/58. The final losing margin of 72 runs belies the effort of the bowlers to drag their team into the match.
Where to now for this maligned team? They lost both Tests to Australia in the Caribbean, and they have lost both Tests in Sri Lanka. In Australia at Christmas, a bowling attack of Taylor, Roach, Holder and Bishoo or Warrican should be able to do a reasonable job in the conditions. But what of the batsmen? How will they cope with Johnson, Starc, Hazelwood, Siddle and Lyon? On current form it looks like a massacre, and days of lost cricket from Tests finishing early.

Pakistan and England are in the middle of a very competitive series, one in which a 1-1 score line after two Tests would probably be a fair result. England ran out of time to finish off Pakistan in the 1st Test due to fading light. In the 2nd Test, they fought bravely in an effort to bat out the final day, only to fall six overs short of doing so.
No, I do not feel any sympathy for England.
What does this leave in store for the final Test? Moeen Ali is not working as either an opening batsman or a spin bowler. Jos Buttler is struggling with bat and gloves. And Cook's captaincy does appear... bizarre. the only time England have looked like getting wickets is with their seam attack. And yet it is the spinners who are still bowling the majority of the overs between them. I know it is hot, but you need to get wickets to win matches. This means Anderson, Broad, Wood and Stokes must bowl more overs consistently.
Solution? Here you go. Alex Hales comes in as opener for Moeen, and Sambit Bal comes in for Buttler, with Bairstow taking the gloves. Each session is 30 overs, so from one end you bowl Anderson, Broad and Wood for five overs each, at the other you bowl Stokes, Rashid and Sambit for five overs each. And repeat. Simple? Yes. It certainly is from here.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Revisiting The X Files: S05 E03

S05E03: Unusual Suspects

The necessity of another episode without the main protagonists (who were away filming 'The X Files Movie') brought an episode on The Lone Gunmen, and a tale of their origins and how they ended up being tied in with Mulder. In many ways you either love or hate these guys and their place in the X Files universe. That won't change with this episode, nor will the fact that another would-be whistle-blower in Susanne Modeski ends up being dragged away at the end of the episode. Or that Fox gets drugged up and believes aliens are going to take him away. What annoyed me the most about this episode was how the three of them went from being so "innocent" to suddenly such believers within 24 hours. And that they then had to try and convince Fox of the "conspiracy". Well, you have to start somewhere I guess...  3.5/5

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Crystal Ball-ing the 1st Test

The first Test of the summer commences in two weeks time, and while most of the remaining pieces in the team will again have their names read out when it comes time to announce the squad, the places left by the retirements over the winter are still anything but nailed down.
The cancellation of the Bangladesh tour meant that the opportunities for many fringe players may have gone, perhaps forever. With the career of Michael Clarke and Chris Rogers over, and the injury to Dave Warner's thumb ruling him out, at least three batsmen would have had the chance to play two Tests and perhaps secure their positions for the immediate future. That didn't happen, and so all of those plans have been thrown out the window.

So what does it mean for the first Tests of the Australian summer? Many players pick themselves. New skipper Steve Smith is still probably the only person in the top six who is absolutely assured of his spot. Vice captain Warner is also, but only if he has recovered from the broken thumb he sustained in England. Despite the fact that Adam Voges was named as interim vice captain for the Bangladesh trip, and appears to be favoured by the selectors to add some experience to what will be a fresh faced top six, it is no foregone conclusion that he will be at the 'Gabba. Peter Nevill will retain the keepers spot, while Mitch Johnson, Mitch Starc and Nathan Lyon will be the nucleus of the bowling attack. After that, well... it's take your pick.

My own opinion is that this summer is the right time to get new, young faces into the team, and not just stick with the players who have been around on the fringes for the past few years. Tests against New Zealand and then the West Indies provide the best basis for our young players to come in and show what they are capable of. The Black Caps may beat us no matter who we put on the park, while surely the Windies will be only the very slightest of threats. Better for our young players to get a taste now, before the return of South Africa, India and England over the next 2-3 summers.
For this reason, I would steer clear of going back to players such as Adam Voges, Shaun Marsh and the like. Both had their chance to nail in their spots over the winter, and neither was able to do so with any real authority. Without under-estimating the ability in the bowling attacks of both New Zealand and West Indies, the opportunity should be given to the next generation.
The three names that would be at the top of the list would be Cameron Bancroft, Usman Khawaja and Joe Burns. Bancroft appears to have been earmarked for the opening position left vacant by Chris Rogers, though there will be some pressure to see Shaun Marsh given (another) extended shot at the spot. Bancroft appears to tick most of the boxes. He is young, he has good recent form, a solid defense and can play off the front and back foot. Being a right hander would also be a benefit in an opening combination with Warner. The desire to find another long term combination at the top of the order should see him get the opportunity this summer. Khawaja has had time to mature since his last stint in the national side. Only injury probably stopped him from breaking back into the team 12 months ago, and his form in all forms has been top notch. He was somewhat unfortunate not to be given a shot in the ODI side in England, and the feeling remains that his fielding is costing him in those selection talks. With Steve Smith open to remaining at number four in the batting line-up, Khawaja would be the perfect fit to come in at number three - though again, the Shaun Marsh supporters will be pushing for him to be given the spot. Burns was almost wrongfully left out of the winter tours, after he had shown enough in his two Tests against India that he was comfortable at that level. His selfless batting in Sydney to set up a run chase for India should not have been rewarded with being left out of the West Indies tour. Thankfully, he has not let it affect his play. Though he spends most of his time at the to of the order for Queensland, his strokeplay appears well suited to number five, and would be where I would play him in the interim.
Of course, the selectors will not go down this road. There is little doubt both Shaun Marsh and Adam Voges will be chosen for the 1st Test, with Voges at number five and Marsh likely to be at first drop, leaving only Bancroft of these three to find his way into the team. I really believe this will be a lost opportunity. We need to rebuild this team's batting line up, and giving the younger players their chance for an entire summer is surely preferable to sticking with older players who have scored almost at will in domestic cricket, but have not transferred that to the Test arena.

Mitch Marsh will no doubt be retained at number six, and this summer will be of the utmost importance to him. To be at number six he has to score runs. He has to average at least 40 to be secure in that place in the batting line-up (yes, yes, Shane Watson didn't... I know... does anyone believe any cricketer will ever get the same beneficial selection bias again like Watto did?!). So as well as bowling his overs and getting nagging wickets, it is with the bat he must succeed, or he will have heat on his tail. Glenn Maxwell would do anything for a chance of the all rounders spot at number six, and given another six months, someone like Victoria's Marcus Stoinis may well be banging the door down for a chance.

With Johnson, Starc and Lyon certainties in the team, the final spot will most likely come from Josh Hazelwood and Peter Siddle, and both are likely to be in the XII for Brisbane. Hazelwood's figures in England were outstanding, even if at times he didn't appear on song, while Siddle's effort in the final Test was impossible to critique. You can toss a coin as to whom will play, but given the likely decision to stick with experience over youth in the top order, I think the same will occur in the bowling as well.

My team for Brisbane would be:
Dave Warner, Cameron Bancroft, Usman Khawaja, Steve Smith (c), Joe Burns, Mitch Marsh, Peter Nevill, Mitchell Johnson, Mitch Starc, Nathan Lyon, Josh Hazelwood, Peter Siddle (12th).

The selectors team for Brisbane is likely to be:
Dave Warner, Cameron Bancroft, Shaun Marsh, Steve Smith (c), Adam Voges, Mitch Marsh, Peter Nevill, Mitchell Johnson, Peter Siddle, Mitch Starc, Nathan Lyon, Josh Hazelwood (12th).

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

CEO of the NRL? I'm Applying!

Bill Peters as the next CEO of the NRL? Can I do a better job than Dave Smith? Homer Simpson could do a better job than Dave Smith.

Within three years, I promise the following:

  1. Get rid of Phil Gould from all public profile in the game. He is either negative, unhelpful or whining about every decision in the game, or he's pissing in the pockets of people endlessly. It's not that we disagree all the time, but we don't need to hear it from him every single time, carrying on about it without anything actually being done about it. If he wants to help, he can go on a sub-committee i will set up far far away from the media and the commentary box, and we'll do our best to help him.
  2. Lower entry prices to all games. If TV is paying a fortune for the rights (though that's not in stone yet), then lets get some fans back in the grounds watching the game there to help out. $12.50 adults, $5 kids, $40 maximum for families. Let's see full stadiums instead of embarrassing crowds at less than 50% capacity.
  3. Play at times that are family friendly AND
  4. Start the games on time! Friday nights at 8pm might be great for working class men and women and teenagers, but young kids miss out on the action of what is usually the number one game of the week. Start the game at 7pm, it's over before 9pm, and everyone is happy. Sunday arvo at 4pm isn't much better - adults have to go to work the next day, kids to school. 3pm start, and over by 5pm. Let's show the game when everyone can enjoy them without being put out.
  5. State of Origin starts at 7pm. Fuck you Channel Nine, we aren't starting these games at 8.23pm anymore.
  6. Three games at each venue. In the good old days our ticket let us watch Third Grade/Under 23's, then Reserve Grade, then First Grade. Let's get back to providing value for money for those that want to see it. Under 20's, then NSW or Qld Cup, then NRL fixture.
  7. No Video Replay, use Captains Challenge. No, we aren't having the KFC Reminder every three minutes anymore, and no we aren't spending millions on the stupid bloody Bunker. Each team has two Captains Challenges, the ref on the field watches the footage himself on the sideline, and that's it.
  8. Draft system like AFL. This has to happen. The AFL is in the news now because it's Trade Period, and then comes the Draft Period. It allows some evenness to come to the playing ranks, and gives the lower sides a chance to improve. Those who are against this idea are ignorant or the benefits or support teams like Eastern Suburbs.
  9. Redesign the salary cap to benefit long-term players, raising junior through ranks etc. Has to happen as well. If you have a player who has been at your Club his whole career, you should be about to have a discount on your cap. If all you do is rotate players every couple of years, you should be penalised.
  10. The Dragons will be told to shove their deal with other grounds and return to having half of their home games played at Wollongong and the other half at Kogarah. The Wests Tigers will also be forced to play half their games at Campbelltown and the other half at Leichhardt Oval. The multi-grounds policy is ridiculous.
Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhh. I feel soooo much better for venting.

Friday, October 16, 2015

"In the Streets on Halloween, There's Something Going On!"

I headed for Sydney this afternoon to see Helloween in concert at the Metro Theatre. After many people had initially shown their interest in attending, it ended up being only me and Bono - again - who made the night. No real surprise I guess in this day and age... but anyway...

Bono met me at Cheers on George Street - $6 pints! That was a win! - where we stayed until 9.00pm, before heading up to the Metro. We didn't see the first support, but watched Lord do their stuff as the second support.

Helloween came on after 10.00pm, and were brilliant. Just brilliant. Everythig sounded great, but songs such as "Waiting for the Thunder" and "Russian Roule" were two of the best, that came across as some of the best, so much better than the studio versions. The band even carried on when Sascha's guitar and microphone died, meaning that both "Where the Rain Grows" and "Lost in America" were played without him, leaving Andi Deris to comment "For the first time ever, a song written for two guitars, played with one!".

I had to run for the train or risk waiting for four hours for the next one, but managed to do so after a quick leak in the park next to Central.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Victoria Trip: Day 2

This morning Jess had a bedfull of Amalgam oil and an ear better but not 100%. We'll take it.

Initially we had no plates or cutlery, so I inducted Josh into Bush Weetbix from a mug, and buttered toast with a spoon, the only piece of cutlery in the unit. Helen decided this wasn't going to happen and she brought some more in from reception. I'm sure there was a reason I was disappointed that I couldn't continue to show off my improvisations to the kids. 

While Jess did some piano and had a lengthy shower the rest of us played Skip-Bo to while away the time. 

From here we headed into Echuca proper, and boarded the "Emmylou" for our one hour paddle steamer ride on the Murray River. The kids were suitably impressed, while Helen and I marvelled at the differences of both the port area and the river in the the years since our last visit. 

We headed for Bendigo and drove through the town, seeing not only how much the city had grown but how the oldest buildings were still in such good condition, before stopping for lunch at the Beechworth Bakery for lunch. Good pies. 

After a slight detour by missing an exit, we listened to the rest of Roald Dahl's Matilda while travelling to Ballarat, the next on our list of overnight destinations. We headed straight for the Museum of Australian Democracy, on the site of the Eureka Stockade back in 1854. The people involved have done a tremendous job, not only in showing as much of the story of that rebellion, but also highlighting other disputes in ours and World democracy. They also have on display a full size replica of the Eureka flag, as well as the 61% remaining of the original flag - amazing stuff. 

From here we checked into our accomodation for the night, and had dinner at the local Hog's Breath.

While playing games of Skip-Bo and Uno we also had the pleasure of seeing Australia wipe out England in the 5th and final ODI in England, which along with Richmond and South Sydney being eliminated in their semi finals heralded and good day.