Friday, June 29, 2012

Discards Deserting the Blues Ship

It's been a busy 24 hours in New South Wales Cricket, with three of its recent Australian cast-offs deciding to test the waters in different states in the 2012/13 domestic season.

Phil Hughes, the much maligned former opening batsman, has decided to throw his lot in with South Australia for the next three seasons.
On the face of it, it isn't a bad decision. He has a good record at the Adelaide Oval, which possesses a flat batting track and narrow square boundaries that will accommodate his penchant for playing square of the wicket. He will play all forms of the game, and will no doubt be groomed for a role as a senior player along the way. He will join other former New South Welshmen like Daniel Christian, Tom Cooper and Aaron O'Brien. No doubt he will feel some of the pressure will be relieved by leaving his home state, given the number of players pushing for top order positions in the New South Wales squad, that even despite the retirements of Simon Katich and Phil Jaques. The Redbacks have been looking for an opening batsman for a couple of years with minimal success. All in all it looks to be a good decision for both sides.

Another of those top order batsmen and former Test player, Usman Khawaja, has apparently agreed to terms to move north to play with Queensland. On the surface this appears more unusual than the Hughes decision. Khawaja has enormous support still, despite failing to nail down his Test position, and his move can only come down to one motivating factor. Queensland no doubt was looking for another top order batsman, as much in the same way as South Australia they have searched without success for a long term solution there. Again, Khawaja is assured of playing all forms of the game in his adopted state, and follows the path of Peter Forrest from last season, a decision that has led to forcing his way into the Australian ODI team.

Nathan Hauritz is a native Queenslander who travelled to New South Wales to revitalise his career, a move that saw him return to Australian colours for a couple of years. Selectors indecision and injury helped to cost him his place in the team, and since his return he has had plenty of competition to get game time for New South Wales, even despite his improved batting. Last season he played for the Brisbane Heat in the KFC Big Bash, and with Queensland still not able to confirm a regular spinner (though to me Cameron Boyce is one of the best prospects around) he obviously feels a return to Queensland will give him the game time he needs. No doubt he will be the number one spinner in the 50 over format, but will he be able to play in front of Boyce in the four day variety?

All of this has been brought to the forefront by the fact that Australian contracts have been cut from 25 to just 17 this season. That means players like Hughes, Khawaja, Steve Smith and Brett Lee, just to name a few, suddenly are back on State contracts as their main income, which means that New South Wales have something like 16 current or former national players in their squad. That means the dollars have to be squeezed out to everyone. These three players have obviously decided that not only will their career get a boost by changing states, that their back pockets will as well.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Black Caviar Tames the Poms... Just...

Luke Nolan Almost Mis-Judges History

Luke Nolan almost made the gravest mistake of his career this morning as he rode Black Caviar towards yet another victory, this time at Royal Ascot in England in front of the Queen and 80,000 Poms who had come out to watch her.

Despite drawing barrier 15 of 15 and a very damp track, the champion jumped out of the barrier and by halfway down the straight had taken the lead, and looked the winner. With just under a hundred metres to go, Nolan visibly allowed Black Caviar to pull up, believing her to be home. However, the other horses hadn't given up, and at the last minute you could see Nolan give her a sudden sharp pull to get her going again. In the end, the victory was narrow (see photo to attest to this), but a victory it was, and realistically it was easier than it appears.

Nolan was visibly chastened at the press conference afterwards, but claimed full responsibility. Peter Moody was visibly... well... pissed off would be the way to put it, but he didn't actually put that into words.

No doubt that will be the girl's only race in Britain. As Luke Nolan said, it is a shame that it will probably be remembered more for his error in judgement than for the magnificent acheievment of Black Caviar winning her 22nd consecutive race from as many starts.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Rain Ends Hopes of Irish Demolition

Rain washed out tonight's ODI against Ireland after just 10.4 overs, which would have been a disappointment and a relief for the Irish team given the state of the match at the abandonment.

Brett Lee could have had 3/0 off the first three balls of the match, had an almost-plumb LBW decision been awarded in his favour from the second ball of the match. he was fast, straight, and with enough movement in the air to make him close to unplayable. It was one of those days when he was on song, and when he is, he is great to watch.

Better news was the return of Pat Cummins for his first match for Australia since his match winning effort in the second Test against South Africa in September. He bowled up hill and into the wind, and bowled at speeds over 150kph. Scary. he took a wicket to a superb catch from skipper Michael Clarke at slip that just raced to hand. An impressive return.

Australia's five match ODI series against England starts on Friday. That is where the real test will begin on this tour.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Cricket Australia Contracted List

Witht the release today of the new Memorandum of Understanding between Cricket Australia (CA) and the Australian Cricketers Association (ACA), and the new contracted list for season 2012-13, there has been a great deal of discussion on those who have been deemed worthy of inclusion.

The toughest part of the process was the fact that the list has been pared back from the 25 contracts that has been the case for a number of years to just 17 - basically an Ashes squad number from the days when the one squad toured England for four or five months.

The list as named was as follows:
Michael Clarke
Pat Cummins
Xavier Doherty
Brad Haddin
Ryan Harris
Ben Hilfenhaus
David Hussey
Michael Hussey
Mitchell Johnson
Nathan Lyon
James Pattinson
Ricky Ponting
Peter Siddle
Mitchell Starc
Matthew Wade
Shane Watson
David Warner

Of the 17 players named, nine are bowlers, two are wicket-keepers and six are batsmen.
What can we take from this?

  1. There are plenty of bowlers in the list, and given that all are fit you would expect that there will be rotation and resting of all of them to ensure their workload is managed properly.
  2. The selectors obviously are not sure who the Test keeper should be. To be honest, it seems superfluous to have two keepers on the list. One would suggest that apart from indecision the selectors have on who should be the keeper, the reason both are contracted is the lack of batsmen in Australia pushing themselves to the front of the queue.
  3. The selectors have no idea where our next batsmen are coming from. They have named only six specialist batsmen in their list - Clarke, Ponting, Michael and David Hussey, Watson and Warner. Neither Ed Cowan nor Peter Forrest were considered to be certainties to be in any of the Australian teams in twelve months time, and thus have missed out. So too players such as George Bailey, Phil Hughes or Usman Khawaja. In effect, the selectors are saying "We need someone to step up and answer the call". To every batsman in the country, it is a clear message - make runs and you will get a chance.
Only time will tell if this new system works. It has at least created a debate in the sports community about cricket during the off-season, keeping it to the forefront of discussion.

Monday, June 4, 2012

The Eels Win a Game!!!

Unbelieveable!! Just when you thought they could possibly go the entire season and only have the victory over Manly to show for it, a (and let's be honest) stunning second half reversal saw Parramatta overturn a 20-6 deficit to win 29-20 against the season surprise packets, Cronulla.

As they have done all season, the Eels showed that they are capable of playing some fantastic attacking football, but starved of possession in the first half it looked as though it was going to be yet another disappointing evening. However, they again laid on some great plays in the second half, and were able to maintain their intent to come away with the win.

Amazingly, they are still only four games out of the top eight, and only five games away from third place. If they can get their act together over the coming weeks, they could still be a chance to play finals football.

Hayne Magic Inspires Eels Comeback

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Magpies Climb Back to the Top, Despite Ablett Heroics

Collingwood played according to the script this afternoon, laying it on to the hapless second year Gold Coast Suns, taking them down by 97 points in their match at the M.C.G. despite still missing a host of first team regulars, the Magpies played havoc with their opponents.
The match was probably closer than expected up untilthe first ten minutes of the second quarter, with the Suns within three kicks due to some sloppy play by the Collingwood defensive half. However, they clicked soon after, and piled on the points to soon lead by 50, and they never looked back.

Despite the pummeling, Gary Ablett was superb. His 53 possessions equalled the record set by Greg Williams back in 1989. He was brilliant, but Dale Thomas played on him for most of the match, and had 32 possessions of his own. Fantastic to watch.
It is amazing to watch Ablett, trying so hard in a team that is being beaten all over the paddock each week. While I will always hope Collingwood win at all times, I do hope that the Suns can get themselves together and become competitive in the next couple of years. Though he is being well piad, and has sacrificed success in the interim to be a part of the AFL expansion push, it must be a difficult thing for him to turn up every week and suffer through these tough moments.

Pies Run Rampant in Suns Blowout

Medowie - Day 3 - Lincoln's Birthday

Sunday brought forth plenty of rain for Lincoln's 3rd birthday. This failed to dampened the kids' spirits, as they all helped to unwrap the multitude of presents he received.

Josh, Zander and Phil all help Lincoln with his presents

Before the party started, there was more fun and games on the Wii, especially for the kids - big and small - with Just Dance. The big kids, Helen, Leaf and Phil were very prevalent, as was Maddi, who just loves to dance. Josh showed mild interest, while Jessie refused to participate.

"Dancers! Start your engines!"
I was even able to drag out Guitar Hero for a bit of extended metal, which was good, given that the only other time I had played it was in the same lounge room.

Leaf's sister Mel and her husband Dave and family came over to help celebrate Lincoln's birthday, with party food and cake on offer, before we packed up and headed for home just after 1.00pm. The trip home was even more prestigious, as we did it in a record time of three hours and fifteen minutes. Great driving was the star of the day.  :)
All in all we had a great weekend with the Wade's. It is a shame that it is so far away, and that we are all so busy and can't do it more often.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Medowie - Day 2

Awoke to the sounds of crazy kids enjoying playing with their cousins and their toys. It was to good to hear and see them having a good time together.

After breakfast and the kids playing some Wii Sports, we headed down to Williamtown air base to see Fighter World, with their excellent display of restored fighter aircraft and other memorabilia.

Maddi at Williamtown. Check out the amazing mushrooms at her feet!!

Thumbs up Josh! Another plane shot down!

We moved on to Nelson's Bay for lunch, where the weather at least treated us kindly enough not to open up above us, as the forecast had predicted. We had lunch down at the marina, before heading off to walk to the summit of Tomaree Head at Shoal Bay. The kids actually did amazingly well, as it isn't an easy walk, certainly not for the old codger with the dodgy left knee. The view at the top was spectacular, and almost worth the grief. Almost.  :)

Helen and Josh head for the summit
Leaf and Helen survey their domain
The view looking south-east from Tomaree Head
Jess and Maddi, looking north-west from Tomaree Head

All of this exhausted our kids, who basically crashed at 7.00pm. Mind you, their parents weren't far behind, hitting the hay just before 9.00pm themselves.

Friday, June 1, 2012

A Trip to Medowie

We headed off this afternoon for a weekend in Medowie, just north of Newcastle, in essence to celebrate Lincoln's third birthday.
I left work early, and picked up the girls from school and Josh from pre-school. All of them thought it was very exciting being picked up by their father early from school, just a mere few hours after I had dropped them there as well.

We had a pretty good trip, avoiding most of the Sydney traffic chaos. Leaving at 2.45pm, we stopped for dinner at the McDnald's on the Newcastle expressway just up from Terrigal at 5.15pm. We were back in the car at 6.00pm and pulled up at Medowie on 7.00pm, meaning just three and a half hours in the car. Faster than going to Bega.

Nahn immediately had a beer in hand, and after we had sorted out the kids for the evening, he and Leaf and Helen and I sat down, consumed a number of drinks and caught up on the news in each other's life. Great evening. Into bed at 11.30pm after a day that had started at 5.00am, and asleep about two minutes afterwards.