Thursday, March 30, 2017
Wednesday, March 29, 2017
With the Test series now complete, and India not only having won but installed themselves as the #1 Test playing nation once again, and Virat Kohli completing what has been an ugly six weeks for him by declaring he now has no love for the Australian cricketers, we can only reflect on what has occurred and what lessons can be gleaned from it to ensure that Australian cricket goes forward in a positive – but not blinkered – fashion.
There is little doubt that if you had said six weeks ago that Australia would tenaciously fight for a 1-2 series loss, most Australian cricket fans would have thought that to be a fair result. Many pundits (myself included I can say without shame) thought that it would be a 0-4 whitewash given some of the selections that were being bandied around before it all began. To have seen Australia still in with a chance of winning the series with three days remaining was the most pleasing aspect of the tour. This however should not paper over the cracks that are still in this team, nor cloud the fact that three sessions of cricket cost the team their chance of a miraculous series victory.
In proof that statistics do not tell the full story, the Australians’ figures are defining. Matthew Renshaw was a salvation for Australia at the top of the order. Apart from his tough final Test match he was the man who batted out against the new ball and into the old ball. He faced double the amount of deliveries that his opening partner did, and his innings in those first three Tests both put Australia in a stronger position and saved them from disaster. Yet, Matthew Wade finished with a higher average, and Warner, whose series was abysmal and was completely out-thought and out-played by the Indians, finished only a few runs behind him. It is not a fair comparison to their respective worth to the team effort. The same can be said of the bowling. Steven O’Keefe finished on top of the bowling average and aggregate for Australia with 19 wickets at 23.26. But take out the 12/70 that he took in that 1st Test, and for the rest of the series he took 7 wickets at an average of 53.14. His economy was sound and he served his purpose as the second spinner, but it highlights the extra caution the Indians took with him after that breakout performance.
Along with Renshaw, pass marks would be awarded to Handscomb and Maxwell. They would both have hoped to have done better, but they look comfortable at the crease which is half the battle. While Handscomb appears to have a big future, it will be interesting to see if Maxwell is retained and given his opportunity to make number six his own. Though he was barely used for his bowling at all, surely he will be expected to work on his off spin to ensure it is a tool that can be called upon in the future, even in short spells.
Warner’s troubled series will haunt him for some time, and given his similar lack of success in Sri Lanka last year, will only give rise to claims he is a flat track bully. With very little sub-continent cricket likely for Australia in the next couple of years he at least has time to address this before their next engagements on those types of surfaces. Likewise Shaun Marsh, who was chosen specifically for this tour because of his form on the sub-continent. In four Tests he averaged less than 20 with the bat, and despite his match-saving innings at Ranchi, his place appears the most vulnerable. Having been overlooked all series, it appears inconceivable that Usman Khawaja will be ignored any longer, and must slot back into the batting line up. It may seem unfair that Marsh will be the only scapegoat from the batting line up, but surely he has played his last Test for Australia.
The bowlers, apart from a couple of sessions where they lost the plot a little, did a fantastic job in the circumstances. Mitchell Starc before going home injured, Josh Hazlewood and the returning Pat Cummins all toiled hard in unhelpful conditions. While they weren’t always on song and sometimes appeared to waste opportunities they kept running in hard and giving their all. Nathan Lyon and Steve O’Keefe are probably flattered by their series returns, as both got one big haul in a Test and then only bits and pieces for the remainder of the games. While they never seemed as dangerous as their opponents, they probably exceeded expectations. The Indians, once they treated their bowling with respect after the 2nd Test, denied them the wicket taking opportunities they gave them in those first encounters, and thus put the pressure on them to force a breakthrough rather than gifting it to them. Ashwin and Jadeja did this much better than the two Australians could, which was the difference in the last two Tests.
Matthew Wade’s figures look better than one suspects he played, finishing with a batting average of 32.66 and taking 9 catches and 4 stumpings. Despite the continued feeling outside of the Australian team and selection panel that Wade is still not the best answer for the team behind the stumps, it would appear he has cemented that position. No one doubts his grit – just his consistency with gloves and bat. In tough conditions for a wicket-keeper, he probably didn’t make any more mistakes than anyone else would have.
For India, they can thank Rahul and Pujara for their consistency in getting the series victory. While the rest of the order floundered in a similar way to the Australians, Rahul’s consistency in getting fifties at the top of the order frustrated the bowlers, while Pujara did as he always seems to do against Australia, scoring runs with a fluency he seems to lack against most other nations. Saha and Jadeja made runs at crucial times in the final two Tests that helped to swing the balance of the match in India’s favour, and while they only really troubled the scorers on two occasions in the series, they were defining.
While Ashwin and Jadeja dominated the bowling, it was the pace bowling of Yadav and Sharma that proved edifying. Both were fast and aggressive, getting in the face of the batsmen and making decisive breakthroughs, or forcing the breakthroughs at the other end because of their bowling. Yadav’s 17 wickets at 23.41 was a triumph, while it is a travesty of justice that Ishant Sharma’s series figures were 3 wickets at 69.66. He was light years better than those figures suggest.
The two captains had polar opposite series in almost every aspect. Virat Kohli had scored a million runs over the Indian season leading up to this series, and was probably due to have a lean run. His 46 runs at 9.20 gave Australia to pressure the rest of the order. That he rose above this in the field with an increase in aggression and arrogance was done to inspire his team, when in reality his team were inspiring enough without it. His injury in the 3rd Test meant he then sat out the 4th Test, where his team won without him. Even though he probably won’t recognise it, it spoke volumes for the Indian team’s ability that they could win without him there, perhaps lowering his self-proclaimed God-like status. His running vendetta to chastise and demonise the Australians throughout would have been seen in a better light if he himself hadn’t been at least as poor in attitude and action. His final proclamation that he was no longer friends with the Australian cricketers at his final press conference only went to prove that he is incapable of copping the same amount of flak that he is willing to dish out. At a time when he was unable to deliver with the bat himself, it came across as sour grapes. Australian cricketers and supporters will not lose any sleep over his convictions.
Steve Smith just continued on his amazing way with the bat in this series. His first century of the series may have been littered with five chances, but his following two were practically chanceless, and he alone dragged Australia along in his wake to keep them in the contest. His 499 runs at 71.28 was one of the finest displays by an Australian batsman on the sub-continent. His batting feats were shadowed not only by his ill-thought checking with the dressing room about the referral of his dismissal in the 2nd Test, but with the constant on-field sledging battles and with questions over some captaincy decisions. The DRS referral episode should have ended with some sort of disciplinary action, whether it was a warning or fine or suspension, in order to assure everyone it was a one-off ‘brain fade’ but that it wouldn’t be tolerated. Kohli’s posturing afterwards and the lack of action made it look a lot worse than it probably was. And while at times there was little the Australians could do to curb the Indian batting, one felt that captains such as Waugh, Taylor or Clarke would have tried more to budge a partnership at times. His final words spoke of being apologetic for any actions he had made that seemed inflammatory or out of spirit with the game, and looked to have a drink with the victors and congratulate them on their win. Listening to both press conferences, you would wonder who won the series and who lost. Smith’s was the speech of a statesman, Kohli’s was the speech of a man who considers himself above others. In India, he probably is.
Some spoke at the conclusion that it was one of the greatest Test series ever played. That seems to get bandied around a lot when a team beats Australia (India 2001, England 2005, South Africa 2012/13). This was a fascinating series and an enjoyable one. But it is only seen as a ‘great’ one by some because of Australia’s defiance in not rolling over and handing India a whitewash, and that India had to fight every inch to gain the series victory. India will soon have to play cricket away from their shores again, and then we will see how good this combination really is. Australia has won plaudits, but unless they realise that the result does not confirm that the team they picked was the best available then they are no guarantee of victorious results in the future.
Tuesday, March 28, 2017
That would be shallow and foolish thinking on their part, but it appears their most likely course of action.
- At 6/221 late on the second day, India should not have had a lead on the first innings. And yet, Jadeja’s slashing all series finally paid off for India, with his 63 getting India to 332 and an invaluable lead. Saha’s support again was dogged, but Australia’s inability in the first session to get those final four wickets cheaply was troubling. Still, it should have showed that the pitch was fine for batting on, right?
- Right. And wrong. Because Yadav and Kumar came charging in from the outset, and using a surface that finally gave them something to use, they gave it to the Australian top order. They were aggressive and accurate, never letting up on the batsmen, who in their own ways caved for a final time on this tour. The Indians knew that if the top order crumbled, there was little resistance left down the bottom, and they did their job superbly.
- Dave Warner failed for the final time, and will be happy if he never sees the sub-continent ever again. Matt Renshaw completed a forgettable Test, with no runs and several dropped chances. Given his efforts previous to this his can be forgiven. Peter Handscomb fell again when set, though it was to a peach of a delivery. Though he has made only one score of note on tour he will have learned a lot and will surely only get better as a result.
- Shaun Marsh played two dogged innings in eight in this series, which tends to be about his strike rate when it comes to Test cricket. Despite his efforts in saving the 3rd Test, there appears little doubt that he will complete his final Test match when today’s proceedings. I have thought that in the past however. But Australia needs Usman Khawaja in that top six, and he has to come back in somewhere. Glenn Maxwell found yet another way to be dismissed, triggered LBW not offering a shot, or at least only a half-hearted one. It was a disappointment, as once again he looked at ease at the crease. It will be interesting to see what the selectors think of his two Test matches, and whether he will be persisted with into an Ashes series in November.
- Steve Smith’s shot to be dismissed was the real killer blow, the one moment that probably cost Australia any chance of winning this series. It is an unfair comment to lay at his feet given his amazing series with the bat, but both of his dismissals in this Test have lifted India and cost Australia. This fact alone emphasises how important he is to the Australian batting, and how average most of the rest of the order has been in his wake.
- India was vociferous in the field, with a level of sledging that usually brings calls for retribution when Australia has been behind it. While the umpires intervened when necessary, it was an ugly look on TV, one that none of the commentators cared to discuss too much. This is not to say Australians were not involved, and have not been involved. One wonders how much further this will go before something NEEDS to be done to curb it. As always, winners will be grinners and losers will have to accept it.
Thursday, March 23, 2017
Songs of My Life #54 - Scatterbrain - Don't Call Me Dude - 1990
Back in 1990, another strange kinda song started creeping onto the airwaves of Australia. It was a strange song, mixed as it is in style and genre. It was also reasonably long, so it was strange for radio to take it on. Of course, the music video attracted some of the attention, and the story subject matter of the lyrics also created amusement amongst the young people.
I enjoy this song, but the reason this song is listed here is because it led me to go out and get Scatterbrain's debut album which this song was on, "Here Comes Trouble", and it is just brilliant. Not only that, I then went and saw the band live when they toured Australia at Waves at Wollongong, and it was one of the best gigs I have seen.
What is probably not a surprise to you laymen out there that don't remember the song but still surprises me to this day is that Scatterbrain didn't go on to bigger things.
Tuesday, March 21, 2017
Songs of My Life #53 - D-A-D - Sleeping My Day Away - 1989
You know when you come at me with a two string bass that things are going to get aaaaalll messed up. And like a few of the one-hit wonders that hit the world in the late 1980's and early 1990's, this song caught on through the magic of music video and then forced its way into the charts regardless.
Their album 'No Fuel Left For the Pilgrims' made a splash at this time basically on the back of this single. For me it was the guitar sound that hooked me in, almost gutteral in its effect, and the looniness that goes on during the video clinched the deal for many people. What I most remember is the song catching on, and when you are 19-20 years old and under the influence at bars and clubs that are playing this, then it can seep its way into your subconscious. I almost went and saw these guys back in the day at St George Leagues Club. I'm probably not disappointed I didn't.
Is it a great song? No. But it's one that I recall fondly because of the time and what I was doing in those days, mucking around with my mates, playing in our band and drinking lots of cool refreshing beer. Youth has a lot to answer for.
Revisiting The Twilight Zone: S4 E18: The Bard
Hurrah! We've had plenty of criss-crossing episodes that have Death or the Devil becoming involved, and always for the worst possible outcome for those that have summoned them. However, using black magic to summon people into the world to help out with their work... well, we haven't had that. Until now.
Still, how far into the unbelievable do we want to swing? Do we really think William Shakespeare is going to write a brilliant sitcom? Do we think it will be accepted and work? Do we think Burt Reynolds is really going to do a Marlon Brando impersonation for the entire episode? It seems like a stretch, but then again it isn't being played straight, it is being played for laughs. And there are a couple. The question as to whether it holds your attention enough is open to the watcher. I didn't mind it, but I guess it was slightly more unbelievable than even a Twilight Zone episode can be - especially in the reactional change of those around the protagonist.
Rating: What light from yonder window breaks? 3/5
What a pleasant feeling it is to be sitting here this morning, soaking up the glory of a battling draw in a Test match, defying the thoughts of most in seeing off the Indian bowling attack for the final day’s play in Ranchi. Those that suggest Test cricket is dying simply have no idea what cricket is about, and the five days of this Test have proved it is alive and well in at least some parts of the cricketing world.
- Renshaw and Smith did exactly what they had to do. Their partnership was perhaps the toughest of the day, with Renshaw especially getting the ball jumping from the surface alarmingly one ball, and then dying lower the next. He was superb against Jadeja, getting forward and smothering or ball and watchful. He was dismissed to a ball that stayed low, but that he didn’t get fully forward to because of the smart bowling from Ishant. When Smith misjudged a ball from Jadeja in the following over to be bowled, the hard graft of over 90 minutes looked as though it may be going to be wasted.
- Back at the conclusion of the diabolical tour to Sri Lanka last year, the selectors pretty much handed to the media two names that were ‘locks’ for the tour of India. In their opinion, Shaun Marsh was their man for the sub-continent after his century in Sri Lanka, and the uncapped Peter Handscomb whom they considered the best young player of spin in the Sheffield Shield was the other certainty to go on tour, and perhaps debut there. The selectors stuck to their guns. Handscomb was already entrenched in the Test team by then, and Marsh had returned from injury and was chosen despite a lack of form in the white ball game. In the five innings completed before this innings, both had looked assured at times. Handscomb had made five starts without going on past 25, while Marsh had made one score and several other lower contributions. Today was the situation that the selectors would have had in mind when they chose these two for this series. Handscomb and Marsh came together with half an hour until lunch and still 89 runs in arrears. That they weren’t parted until they had put together 124 runs and batted for 62 overs together is a testament to their efforts and to the vision of the selectors. This pair drew the Test match for Australia from a position that in the past they have lost. Handscomb broke his 25 barrier to finish on 72 not out, while Marsh, who continues to baffle and divide opinion as to his place in the team, made a dogged 53. He must crave consistency as much as his detractors do, and it is innings like yesterday’s that shows he can play at this level. Both were superb.
- Much like in Australia’s victory in the 1st Test, the luck with umpiring decisions tended to run with them on this final day. LBW decisions referred to the DRS by India on both Handscomb and Marsh were judged to be ‘umpire’s call’ after Ian Gould had turned them both down, meaning both batsmen were reprieved, and India lost both reviews. This caused a similar conversation in the commentary box about ‘if it’s hitting the stumps it should be out’ and ‘you shouldn’t lose a referral if it shows it is hitting’. Those comments are for discussing on another day, but the upshot of it was that the ‘Gunner’ had given the batsman the benefit of the doubt, and the doubt was proven by DRS. On another day both may have been given, and the batsmen would have been out. Perhaps Gould’s focus was that the batsmen were working their guts out, and only deserved to be out if it was shown to be plumb (which he would have given out anyway). Kohli also burned one review himself, when a ball from Ishant to Marsh was shown to be pitching a foot outside leg stump, hitting him outside the line of off stump, and missing off stump by a foot and a half. So maybe that too played on the umpire’s mind. Whatever it was, those calls going Australia’s way helped enormously.
- After the nervous thoughts of most before the Test had started, the surface at Ranchi turned out to be a dud. Certainly batsmen had to focus and concentrate for long periods in order to score on it, and bowlers had to be patient and give nothing away in order to try and snare wickets, but the horror that some expected never came to pass. Only 25 wickets could be pried out in five full days of cricket. You wouldn’t want to see too many Tests like this one, but it was riveting viewing for the most part. It will be interesting to see what is dished up for the 4th Test, where Inida must now win to reclaim the Border Gavaskar Trophy.
Monday, March 20, 2017
Songs of My Life #52 - Vixen - How Much Love - 1990
Everyone has guilty pleasures when it comes to their music tastes. Those songs that, if you told your mate that you listened to that band or loved that particular song, your mate would exclaim something like "what the fuck?!?" While I probably have a few of those bands and/or songs, the one I get the most roasted for is Vixen.
These four ladies came together in 1988, and with the help of Richard Marx (yes, I know) released their debut album. Their second album, "Rev it Up!" came in 1990, and this song comes from that album. And ever since I got these two albums on cassette in Bali in 1991 I have been a fan. Not of everything, but quite a bit.
Yes, it's a classic rock ballad, but come on. Four rock chicks belting out hair metal songs. Roxy Petrucci with her motorbike drum kit and kicking that cowbell throughout. Share Pederson smashing the bass guitar in rhythm, the terrific Jan Kuehnemund who is sadly no longer with us due to cancer, playing lead guitar and those backing vocals, and *sigh* Janet Gardner on awesome lead vocals (and rhythm guitar on the albums).
This song still finds its way on to most of my mixed playlists. And while most will mock me and laugh at me, I really don't care. If you listen closely, you can here me now...
"How much love is it gonna take! To prove I'm not another heartache! Till you begin to let your heart give in - tell me how much loooooove" (cowbell!) \m/ Not much Janet... not much at all...
Revisiting The Twilight Zone: S4 E17: Passage on the Lady Anne
More spooky boats in the middle of the ocean, surrounded by fog, with mysterious people who speak in riddles and never actually letting on as to what is happening. Well, it is intimated of course, and it isn't too hard to follow. Perhaps the ending could have been a little better, but you can't always have everything.
The Ransom couple board the Lady Anne in a fractured state, looking for that last chance. They are met by other passengers, all of whom try to persuade them not to get on the boat. They refuse and the ship sails. So too it appears does their marriage, when they agree that once they arrive in London they will go their separate ways.
While the story itself progresses as expected, it is the characters themselves that keep it enjoyable. The wonderful acting of the support actors around the Ransom couple is fantastic, and they make the show well worth watching. Another Charles Beaumont special.
Rating: Death ship, ghost ship, love boat? 4/5
It's round three of the NRL, and already there has been a slight shift away from the initial period of excitement once the new season starts. We get back into the routine of "really, another bloody Broncos/Storm/Titans/Manly game, is there anything else on?" Can I really be bothered staying up on a Thursday night to watch a match I don't really care about? Rugby League for me is still a Saturday and Sunday afternoon game. I can survive a Friday night match, but that takes away from family time. Sometimes a good thing, sometimes not. Anyway, I digress...
- I only glanced at the Thursday night match between Storm and Broncos, and for those reasons stated above. I don't care about either team, and it's too late on Thursday to watch. I'm sure it was a reasonable game, but all I cared about was finally getting a tip right (Storm winning 14-12 did that).
- Once again the Warriors look as though they are going to disappoint their fans, while the Bulldogs managed to find enough this week to get a victory. The 24-12 win would have pleased their fans without solving any of the issues raised in their first two matches. Their attack was better without being perfectly well run. Their defense though was solid again. The Warriors meanwhile have had three matches in New Zealand for one very scrappy and undeserved victory over last season's wooden spooners. With their roster, they appear in all sorts of trouble.
- The Eels played their third away match in succession, on only a five day layover, and without their playmaker. Compared to most others, it is a very ordinary draw. The inevitable loss to the Titans on the back of that will be put down to the Norman factor, but the draw is somewhat unfair. The Titans have more injury worries, but the loss of Jarryd Hayne from last week appears to have improved their attack nicely. One wonders if his unsettling influence being missing helped their endeavours. The 26-14 victory tends to prove it does.
- If nothing else, at least Newcastle are proving competitive this season. They were perhaps a little unlucky to lose to Souths 24-18 at home, and Souths were fortunate not to have two players sent for the game let alone only one going for ten minutes. The Knights are on a learning curve though, looking to fight their way back to respectability. Souths seem to be just fighting, but are now 2-1 having won two away games in succession.
- I didn't see either of the later games, only smatterings while being out and about and when the cricket went to a break. The Roosters outlasted the Panthers up the mountain, which is no mean feat, but surely the three tries to one gives a better indication of the difference. No matter, the Roosters are 3-0 and the Panthers (title favourites?) are 1-2.
- I know the Cowboys had some injuries and suspensions, but really did anyone expect Manly to go on and win this 30-8 at Townsville? No team will go through this season unscathed by injury, and how you perform without your best 17 available will be the difference between making finals or not. The Cowboys will know they have to do better. The Sea Eagles have at least shown they won't be the soft underbelly they appeared to have last season. It opens up the field substantially with a result like this so early in the season.
- Ooooohhhh Tigers fans. It looks like the whole season is very close to unravelling. After what appeared to be a good opening to their game with the Raiders down in Canberra (despite both teams constant dropping of the ball) the Tigers suddenly forgot how to play, and the Raiders stopped dropping the ball. The 46-6 thrashing will have revived local fans after last week's 'brain fade', but where do the Tigers go from here? Do they have nothing to motivate them if they aren't playing against Robbie Farah? They look shot.
- Seriously, what is going on with the Shire partners? The Sharks couldn't beat Brisbane at home, then pumped the Raiders away. The Dragons surprised against the Panthers, then failed to consolidate against the Eels at home. The derby is always a game played with feeling, but for the most part the Sharks didn't have any. The 16-10 victory for the Dragons feels like it is just a band-aid before the inevitable collapse, but the Sharks at 1-2 need to find something quick or they will be fishing in rougher waters.
When it comes to predictability, especially in regards to a Test match played in India by Australia, Day Four in Ranchi probably upheld everything that you could have expected. India was behind the eight ball, struggling to contain whatever deficit they were likely to face to a minimum, before Australia went about increasing that lead in their second innings. Of course, what transpired was exactly the opposite, and not for the first time in the last 40-odd years of tussles between these two nations, the visitors are now in a precarious position.
- For two sessions, Pujara and Saha held the Australian bowling quartet at bay, kicking away the balls outside their stumps, calmly prodding away those on the stumps, and when they felt comfortable enough they moved the ball for singles or twos. Starting the day 91 runs behind Australia, that deficit was still to be erased at lunch, but once they did post lunch, and the two of them still together, each run started stabbing at the heart of the Australian batsmen. In many ways it was as frustrating to watch as the Dravid/Laxman partnership 16 years ago, and as on that occasion the two batsmen were patient and took no outward risks, and just slowly built their partnership. It wasn’t until it was decided that quick runs were required that they both fell, for innings that neither will forget in the context of their careers.
- Ravindra Jadeja once again delivered in circumstances that were tailor made for him. Firstly, with a lead already established, he came to the crease and could play his natural attacking game with no threat of damaging the team’s position, and in this carefree situation delivered the runs that the team needed. Then almost as if by divine proclamation he found spit and fire in the pitch that had been hidden from the Australians and delivered two wickets in the eight overs they had to face before stumps, including the one they would have wanted most in David Warner. The stars appear aligned again today for him to be the winner of this Test for India in such conditions.
- The Australian bowlers can be proud of their efforts over more than two days in the field. On a track which has fooled everyone and offered almost nothing for the bowlers, the four Aussies stuck to their guns, and gave nothing away. There was practically no easy runs, and while thewicket was mostly docile they occasionally found a way to get through. Steven O’Keefe was magnificent for 77 overs over bowling, finishing with 3/199. Some would say he was negative in his line outside leg stump to Pujara, but given the partnership of 199 with Saha was through taking no risks, the tactics had to be to wear him down or be worn down. SOK stuck to his task well under the conditions. Hazlewood and Cummins were magnificent. It will be interesting to see, in light of recent ‘concerns’ over bowler workload, what will happen with these two for the final Test. Lyon was solid but unlike the other three tended to give those loose balls that allowed the batsmen to rotate strike.
- How will the wicket play on Day Five? Day Four showed it was still placid, and to be honest perhaps the fact that neither Australian spinner was able to get much out of it is a concern, especially after what Jadeja did in four overs at the end of the day. I know I harp on about this, but I spent the day pondering what a wrist spinner may have gotten from this surface. A bit of variable bounce? A bit of turn by spinning with the wrist rather than the fingers? We’ll never know, but you can be sure that the way Day Four progressed will mean that Mitchell Swepson’s Test debut may be a lot closer than we thought a few days ago.
- The massive holes in Dave Warner armoury are being exposed for all to see on this tour. After his dismissal last night, he is averaging 21.83 with a highest score of 38. In Sri Lanka last year he averaged 27.16. It will be more troubloing to himself than it is to us cricket tragics, and he will be more determined to find a way through it. His reputation is not in tatters, but the mental battle has been well and truly won by the Indian spinners. To be honest, if you were England at the moment you would have to contemplate opening with a spinner in the upcoming Ashes series on the back of this. With one Test to come, Warner will have two chances to put this all behind him and find a way to get his mojo back.
- Finally, wasn’t it great to see Virat Kohli so excited about the fall of Warner’s wicket, that he decided to mock himself by holding his shoulder in ‘triumph’. I know it will be all happy times in India and it will be seen as a vindication that they are well on top. Surely the rest of the world currently just see him as a show pony who is trying to compensate for the fact that he too cannot seem to score a run against this bowling attack.
Sunday, March 19, 2017
Songs of My Life #51 - Moving Pictures - What About Me - 1982
Still one of the finest Australian songs ever written. When this came out it was plastered over the radio and Countdown and any other show that would put music videos on. It captured the time, and sat perfectly between the Aussie Pub Rock culture and the New Romantic era that was being shepherded in.
Relying mostly on the piano, synthesiser, sax and heavy drum beat when required, this was so different from what was being done in music at the time. But the starring role in the whole song is Alex Smith's perfect vocals. Not just his range, but the perfect use of emotion at the right time to drive the song harder or bring it back to a melancholic tone. It's a roller coaster that still gives me goose bumps whenever I listen to it today.
This is one of the greats - that was very nearly destroyed when Australian Idol contestant Shannon Noll hijacked it and stripped it of its glory and replaced it with huge vile chunks of vomit. There is only one version of this song, and Moving PIctures are the sole owners of it. Enjoy.
The 3rd day at Ranchi was dominated by three individuals, whose own performances on the day showed the differing skills, temperaments and mental application that abide within the series. While two succeeded where one continues to live inside his own bubble, the tough grinding day of Test cricket has once again failed to give either side an advantage leading into Day Four.
- Cheteshwar Pujara has played the tough mongrel innings that he seems to save for Tests against Australia. He batted through the entire day rarely looking troubled, and ensure the deficit was slowly but surely knocked away. His one moment was an LBW appeal referred to the DRS, where depending on your point of view, it could be said that the ball may have hit the pad slightly before his bat which would have led to his dismissal. The third umpire disagreed and he survived. He saw off the threats of Cummins and Hazelwood, he padded away O'Keefe's line outside his leg stump, and he worked Lyon away through the leg side with ease. It was a terrific example of the mental side of cricket, something that should not be lost on his teammates such as Vijay and Rahane who lost their wickets to rash shots. He remains on 130 not out, and is the Indian who is most control of whether his side face a deficit in the first innings, or possibly gain a lead.
- Pat Cummins has returned to Test cricket, and picked up where he left off 6 years ago. He was managed well by skipper Steve Smith, given shorter spells and used as a strike bowler. You could see the difficulty of the situation, because Cummins was the one who looked like getting the breakthroughs and both he and his captain would have liked him to bowl more, but you could also see the tired walk back to the bowling mark through his fourth over of a spell, and you just knew he couldn't be pushed much further for fear of ANY injury occurring. This aside, he was truly brilliant in conditions that were in no way suitable for him. It was his sheer pace and effort that got him his wickets on the day - the brilliant ball to get Kohli and the effort balls to get Rahane and Ashwin. He now has 4/59 from 25 overs in the innings, and the only concern now is how he pulls up after that workload. It will be a familiar question for him over the next two weeks given his history. The supporting cast for Australia did their job on a thankless surface. Hazlewood was a metronome, while O'Keefe and Lyon both toiled with few troubles for the batsmen. Their time will come on Day Five if they are in a position to bowl India out in their second innings.
- For a man who has taken it on himself to be the man to drag India to this series win, Virat Kohli had yet another unspectacular day. After spending most of the first two days inside the change room, he decided to make his presence felt when Australia lost their second DRS review against Pujara. While applauding vociferously (which must have been a strain on that poor injured shoulder) he deliberately moved out onto the balcony so that the whole world - and specifically the Australian players - could see him. One could see that as being provocative. No, certainly the Indian media ignored that, they were more concerned when Glenn Maxwell dived for a ball in the field in the same way Kohli had done to 'injure' his shoulder, and then 'mocked' Kohli by smiling and grabbing his shoulder. That was where the problem lay, apparently. And when the cropped photo of Steve Smith with 'his' hand on his shoulder when Kohli was dismissed (which was actually Handscomb's hand on his shoulder) Indian's went vitriolic. Until it was proven false, at which point they remained indignant without being apologetic. When it mattered though, Kohli failed again, edging Cummins to Smith at slip for just 6, and the Aussies were ecstatic. Despite not being able pry out the whole order, getting the Indian captain cheaply again would have made the beer at stumps worthwhile.
Saturday, March 18, 2017
Day One at Ranchi was an unfamiliar feel. The pitch played fine. Australia's number six scored runs. India's spinners didn't halt progress. Australia almost felt on top. Day Two ended with a much more familiar feel to the series, and while the result isn't set yet, there is an air of inevitability creeping back into the contest.
- Glenn Maxwell. He got to that century that he craved, and the innings as a whole was terrific, and helped rescue Australia from a grim position to a good position. Today the runs he scored were more of the flashy variety that we are used to from the Big Show. He wasn't as secure at the crease, he was looser in his technique. His century was a flashing cut shot just wide of gully. He was dismissed a couple of overs later to a loose shot, but at least not an audacious one. We celebrate the innings, but await whether it is the start of something big or just a false dawn.
- Steve Smith. Like yesterday, there is little that can be added. He batted through the innings to remain not out, guiding his team to a first innings total of 451 that was a necessity for Australia's chances in this match.
- It was Ravinda Jadeja who again forced his way through the batting order, finding the ball more grip and rip than on the first day. On these types of surfaces he shows why he is so successful, his accuracy depriving any runs being scored, and when the ball misbehaves he tends to strike. On the other hand, it was interesting to note the genuine lack of threat that was evident from Ashwin. Certainly the pitch was a major part of this, as was shown by the same lack of penetration by the Australian spinners. But with no success, the swagger was noticeably absent.
- The return of Pat Cummins to Test cricket could not have gone too much better. He was swift, he was accurate, and he showed all the tricks he has learned in six years. To be honest, it was wonderful to watch. No matter what thoughts I may have had on selection issues leading to his recall, it was great to see that mop of black hair and steely blue eyes ripping the ball down the wicket in a Test match again. He claimed the only Indian wicket to fall, by mixing short balls and full balls and slower balls. Today will be a sterner test (no pun intended) but the opening spells were a terrific start.
- I still believe Nathan Lyon is bowling too fast to be truly effective. Yes, his 8-fa in the 2nd Test would seem to show I don't know what I'm talking about, but that was a different surface. Surely here, where currently the only problem is the lower bounce of the wicket, it would be beneficial to try and beat the batsman in the air, giving the ball a bit of flight and variety in speed.
- For the first time this series, the Indian batsmen must be licking their lips. Day 3 can be their day to show their fans that they are ready to seize the initiative back and put the Australians to the sword. Vijay and Pujara look set last night, and their middle order partners must be looking forward to batting on this surface. Without the threat of massive spin and variable bounce from the Australian spinners, the batsmen can again treat them with the disdain they tend to feel for them. If they cannot do that today, they will have some issues in forcing a victory in the time remaining.
- Virat Kohli again did not appear on the field during Day 2. For some reason however, the injury he sustained to his shoulder on Day One has been deemed as an 'exterior' injury, which means he does not have to serve a time penalty and not bat higher than number seven in the order. This seems somewhat extraordinary, given the fact that he had to go for an MRI and that it is said that he has ligemnt damage. I don't recall any external ligaments on the human body. Once again, if this was anyone else would it be allowed? All it looks like from the outside is that the Indians have decided that their best chance to have their captain get back into scoring runs is to ensure he didn't have to field for a day and a half while Australia scored 450 runs, instead drinking tea in air conditioned comfort.
Friday, March 17, 2017
Today - March 17 - marks exactly 40 years to the day that the Centenary Test concluded at the MCG, with Australia defeating England by 45 runs - the exact margin that they had won by 100 years previously.
It therefore marks exactly 40 years to the day that I had appendix removed, as I was taken to hospital for the procedure that day. Dad was forced to watch the scintillating final session of the match from the TV in the waiting room as I was being prepared for surgery. Sorry Dad.
For those that haven't seen this video, I can only suggest you take the 70 minutes to watch it. It was (from my hazy memories of when I was 7 years old) an amazing match, and with so many amazing performances it is impossible to list them all.
Songs of My Life #50 - Spandau Ballet - I'll Fly For You - 1984.
In the first half of the decade of the 1980's, Spandau Ballet had the music world at their feet, with hit albums and hit songs across the globe. Anyone who grew up during those days could not help but be exposed and influenced by their material.
I could have chosen any number of their songs here (and may do so in the future) - "True", "Gold", "Only When You Leave" - but I have chosen "I'll Fly For You" for two reasons. Firstly, it struck a chord with me on its release, and I recall it being on the radio quite a bit at the time, especially on Kasey Kasem's American Top 40.
Secondly, in an age when the music video was the most important of all artforms in order to sell your product, this is perhaps the most convoluted story ever told in such a video clip. Apart from watching Tony Hadley walk around pining after his woman, and then the rest of the band infiltrating the court case, and then amazingly breaking her out of the police car during mardi gras - can anyone really work out what the hell is going on? Lucky it's a good song, because... well...
Revisiting The Twilight Zone: S4 E16: On Thursday We Leave for Home
This episode has everything that Rod Serling loves to present to you in his own written episodes. He is brilliant at showing the frailty of human endeavour. At how power can corrupt an individual or a group. He takes a scenario and uses these to highlight these human flaws in a science fiction story in his usual brilliant and clever way.
Such is the fate of Brooks Hanlan - sorry - William Benteen, who for thirty years has held together the stranded society on a rock in space, unquestionably in charge in order to survive. When a ship signals it is coming, everyone is happy that they will be able to return to Earth. But as with stories like this where a man in power realises he will lose that position, he begins to rail against it.
Everything about this story is terrifically done. James Whitmore is excellent in the role of the troubled and confused Benteen, whose mad lust for power, as in all of Serling's stories, leads to his eventual downfall. It may be somewhat predictable all the way through, but it is in the acting and the way it is told that makes it worthwhile.
Rating: Another one bites the dust. 4/5
For all the talk before the match as to what the surface was going to offer in this 3rd Test match in Ranchi, it was still going to be obvious that batting first would be an advantage. From the moment the coin fell in Australia's favour, they then had to grind their way to a position of strength. They're half way there.
- What to do about the Flat Track Bully? Once again David Warner has been found out on a surface that isn't an Australian road. Today he was so confused he bunted a little full toss back to the bowler! His mindset is completely shot. He is at his best when he is being positive without being over aggressive. So far this series we haven't seen that at all. The mental game here has been well and truly won by India.
- what happened to Matt Renshaw? His finest asset in his short career to date has been his constant leaving of the ball outside off stump. It is what has made the bowlers bowl to him. He was terrific early, and looked set to make a huge score. Then Yadav returned and began to reverse swing the ball that was about an hour old, and Renshaw lost his mojo and started stabbing at it outside off, eventually culminating in his wicket. Let's hope it is a one off, because he greatest asset so far has been his patience. We don't need the Warner Factor to start rubbing off on him.
- Shaun Marsh again managed to disappoint. His typical series of one big contribution and then several non existent ones appears to be right on track. So too Peter Handscomb who got his fifth straight start only to fall when he should have been set. Both will be disappointed. One wonder, on this surface, what Usman Khawaja would have achieved. It looked to be perfect for his play...
- So here is the conundrum. Glenn Maxwell's selection on tour and then for this Test goes against everything that selection should be. Or at least that's what I've written here for the past week. And yet, today Maxwell showed that he can bat, and that he can bat to the conditions and the fate of the match. Everyone knows he can bat, but it is the constant flurry of unorthodox shots that eventually leads to his downfall that pisses off the Australian public. But today, they were all shelved. He defended well. He pushed for singles, He rotated the strike. When the ball was in his zone he launched it into the outfield - but safely. He played the perfect foil for his skipper at the other end. It wasn't until he was on 74 that he deigned to try a reverse sweep, and very nearly lost his wicket. Then it was put away until stumps. In essence, it was the kind of innings that we sort of knew he was capable of, but were unsure if it would ever happen. It's a day he should be proud of. What comes today though is the next chapter. All that good work is ruined if he doesn't push on in exactly the same way today and makes good on the selectors faith in his ability.
- There's not really much more that can be said of Steve Smith. Whereas he had the series' only century before yesterday, he had effectively been given five lives in that knock. Yesterday it was flawless apart from one french cut. 5000 Test runs, 19 Test centuries, but most importantly once again he has stood up as captain of his country, after all of the vitriol of the past week, and lead the way by getting is team into a position of strength. His serious demeanour when acknowledging his teammates on reaching that century indicates he isn't finished yet.
- Just to note - once again, not one Indian applauded Smith's century. And not one word was mentioned about this lack of acknowledgement. If that's the way it is, fine, but don't go screaming to mommy if the Aussies show the same lack of respect when an Indian reaches that milestone.
- Interesting to note that once there is little help in the wicket, it is the Indian seamers that come to the fore and not their spinners. Yadav was superb again yesterday, with excellent reverse swing, and Ishant solid. The two spinners toiled and bowled the majority of the overs, but without that doctoring effect were less than effective. How the surface plays over the next 3-4 days will be interesting indeed.
- What is with Virat Kohli? Did anyone really think he could have damaged his shoulder in the way he tried to dive and field the ball? The fact that he was off the field for more than half the day, and left Rahane in charge, lessened India's impact. It will be interesting now to see where he is allowed to bat if he doesn't take the field today.
Thursday, March 16, 2017
Revisiting The Twilight Zone: S4 E15: The Incredible World of Horace Ford
Moving back and forth in time is a difficult proposition for a science fiction writer, but this tale touches upon some excellent home truths. Horace Ford is wonderfully played by Pat Hingle, who makes you believe he is a grown man who is transgressing to his childhood as he continues to thinking about the great times he had as a child. In fact, it's all he ever talks about.
When he decides to revisit his old street that he grew up in, he discovers that it is just as he remembers it - too much so in fact, as he meets up with his old childhood protagonists, who are all still 10 years old. What transpires is a lesson that we all possess selective memory when it comes to some things in our past, and that sometimes we can romanticise those memories.
It mightn't be a wonderfully pleasant episode to watch, but it is well written, and excellently acted, and the final outcome pulls all the strings together in the right order.
Rating: Are the good memories just a shadow? 4/5
Wednesday, March 15, 2017
Songs of My Life #49 - Hear 'n Aid - Stars - 1986
Following on from “Do They Know It’s Christmas” with the biggest UK pop artists in 1984, and then “We Are the World” with the biggest US pop artists in 1985, Jimmy Bain and Vivian Campbell from Dio came up with an idea to have a similar type of benefit song, recorded by musicians from the heavy metal genre. When they proposed this to band leader Ronnie James Dio, they wrote the song together, and put together the project that was entitled ‘Hear ’n Aid’ which went forward and recorded the song entitled “Stars”. It was recorded on May 20 and 21, 1985, but unfortunately problems between the artists many varied record companies meant tit could not be released until early 1986, negating the impact it had. Not that it stopped me – I still bought the 12” vinyl single on its release and played it to death.
The song not only gives many of the best metal vocalists of the time the chance to showcase their wares – names like Eric Bloom from Blue Oyster Cult, Don Dokken, Kevin DuBrow from Quiet Riot, Rob Halford, Dave Meniketti from Y&T, Paul Shortino from Rough Cutt, Geoff Tate from Queensryche and Dio himself, it was unique from the other projects in that it gave the guitarists of the metal industry space to show what they were made of, and it is this section that really makes the song what it is. Carlos Cavazo from Quiet Riot, Donald Roeser from Blue Oyster Cult, Brad Gillis from Night Ranger, George Lynch and Yngwie Malmsteen, Eddie Ojeda from Twister Sister, Neal Schon from Journey, Craig Goldy (soon to be in Dio) and Vivian Campbell. Along with this the kings of melodic guitar Dave Murray and Adrian Smith from Iron Maiden provided the rhythm melody throughout. Backing them all is the choir, with even more greats from the era lending their vocal support for the chorus of the song.
It might be a bit cheesy, but as a collection of great metal artists at the time, it was brilliant. I still love it, just to see and hear them all again in their pomp.
Starting off with the title track “Endure and Survive” Blaze sets sail on his conceptual journey on the right note, his vocals soaring above the fast paced chorus and dual melodic guitars plying their trade throughout. “Escape Velocity” continues along this path with pleasing effects. “Blood” too moves along driven by the double kick of the drums, but it is the almost ritual chanting of the lyrics that tends to hold up this song. It feels a bit staged rather than comfortably going along with the flow of the music, it comes across as stop start. As the middle of the song becomes the story telling part played by the characters involved, it just makes it hard to fully enjoy. However, it is the end of the song that proves to be the real mover, and shows where the direction should have been all along.
“Eating Lies” slows the album back to a lesser tempo, giving a different emphasis on the band and showing off Blaze’s vocals in different scenario. I still don’t know if I like this song or not. For the most part it doesn’t grab me, yet I do like Blaze coming through the quagmire into the emotive highs he can show, and once again the excellent guitaring by Chris Appleton is showcased in another solo spot that is worth rating the song on alone. “Destroyer” follows a similar path, in a way that is difficult to describe. There doesn’t seem to be much that is brilliant here, but a snatch of vocals and the majority of the guitar solos are terrific and make it worthwhile listening to. The best song on the album is “Dawn of the Dead Son”, one where all of the band are best utilised, and the music and vocalist come together in their best possible light. Its power metal guitar leanings give it the best sound of any song on the album, and Blaze also gives us the soar of his vocals that seem to be missing for the most part on this album. Great song.
The acoustic solitude of “Remember” is enjoyable enough, twinning together his frequent collaborators for another crack after their efforts on the preceding album. The song does have enough energy in the vocals to not make you completely lose your focus on what has come before it, but really it is only forgivable in the sense that it is a part of the story being told for the concept album itself. “Fight Back” brings the album back to life with its double kick and hard strumming rhythm, allowing Blaze to control the song with his vocals, and leave the open air for the excellent solo to chime in towards the end. “The World Is Turning the Wrong Way” chugs along more than gathering momentum, and while it is more than listenable it just feels like it is missing something. “Together We Can Move the Sun” is Blaze’s attempt at the epic closer, clocking in at over 8 minutes and combining the emphatic and soulful vocals mixed with the intrinsic guitar solo, before moving to the quiet and reflective take for the second half of the song. More’s the pity with the constant repeating of certain lyrics over and over, which just ends up becoming annoying rather than definitive. And of course, there is the spoken word element to close out the track, setting the story up for its conclusion to come in the third album of this concept trilogy.
As I have probably mentioned in the review for the preceding album, I am all for Blaze coming out with this concept idea and pursuing it in his own way and with his own style. As an artist it is great to see him still in the market place and making great music. But the trilogy idea is a difficult one to keep on track, especially if it tends to water down the style of music that you have garnered your fans with. Listening to this album for the past couple of weeks, I have found my enjoyment for it growing over that time. The problem is, when I have switched to another album to compare it with, such as Silicon Messiah or The Man Who Would Not Die there has been no comparison. They just metal up harder and faster, and it’s that style of Blaze’s music that I’ve always loved. It isn’t as prevalent now as it was. That will continue to be a stumbling block for me no matter how much I admire the man and his music.
Rating: It's no The Empire Strikes Back. 3.5/5
Revisiting The Twilight Zone: S4 E14: Of Late I Think of Cliffordville
Ahhhhh. I would watch this episode just for Julie Newmar. She is great as Miss Devlin - yes, you can probably work out who she works for with a name like that - and when she smiles and laughs she just lights up the screen. Awesome.
What makes it even better is that it once again shows the folly of the time traveller. Old bozo William J. Feathersmith has everything in the world and he's just fleeced yet another old rich person. But he's still not happy. So, having been approached by Miss Devlin, who sells the home truths about his position, he is transported back in time, so that he can make even more money with his knowledge of the future.
Of course, if you aren't completely prepared for your travelling through time there are things you will forget - and when making a deal with a person of no morals you will also probably find you have been cheated. Of course by the time Feathersmith works all of this out he's in danger of being stranded with nothing, so he makes a final deal to return to his present time, but a present time based on what he has now changed in the past.
While it not be a perfect scenario, it is pleasant enough to be watched, and with that twist that the Twilight Zone can always manage to provide.
Rating: Be careful not to have all your eggs in one basket. 4/5
Tuesday, March 14, 2017
Songs of My Life #48 - Judas Priest - Freewheel Burning - 1984.
Back in the mid-80's when Rage first started late Friday and Saturday nights on the ABC, there was always a period between 2 and 4am on Sunday morning where they would play half a dozen metal songs. One of their favourite ones to play was this music video. It seemed to be on every weekend for about 6 months. And that was great, because not only is it one of the best ever Judas Priest songs, it is hilariously 'stuck in the 80's' when you watch it now.
The star of the show in this song is the dual and duelling guitars. Glen Tipton and K. K. Downing are on fire throughout this song, and the harmonies are terrific. Add in Halford's vocals and you have yet another pearler from the legends of the genre.
Revisiting The Twilight Zone: S4 E13: The New Exhibit
If you are going to become obsessed with wax figures, it would probably be best not to make them some of the biggest mass murderers in history. Especially not if you are anywhere near the Twilight Zone.
The question that needs to be asked is this; is it believable that a man would become so obsessed with these wax figures that he would ignore what was happening around him? To his credit, Martin Balsam makes this episode work, because he has you believing that his character is this wrapped up. His performance, as always, is fantastic.
What is best about this episode is the ending. It leaves you in a quandry - was it the figures that came to life to kill all of these people in the basement, or was it actually Martin who killed them, and hallucinated that it was his figures? I like how it is left open for you to interpret as you will.
Rating: Just melt the bastards already. 4/5
Monday, March 13, 2017
Even though they usually only pick kids from 5th and 6th Class, Josh (4th Class) played today in the first round of the PSSA Knockout against Shellharbour. He finished 1 not out with the bat and took 0/2 off his three overs. The team was knocked out by Shellharbour - Albion Park 9/53 off 25 overs and Shellharbour 4/54 off 22 overs - but he still has two years to help the school improve.
I was reminded why umpiring is a thankless job, having been drafted in as one of the few in attendance with a suckers personality. But it is a great spot to watch the game unfold.
Revisiting The Twilight Zone: S4 E12: I Dream of Genie
In a twist on the usual 'genie in the lamp' stories, our hero George P. Hanley is as usual a down-on-his-luck kinda guy who comes to possess a mystical lamp. When the genie appears (wonderfully played by the droll Jack Albertson) he is informed that he only gets one wish (people have misused the old three wishes theory) so to use it wisely.
He imagines himself with the three usual trappings of such a predicament of love, money and power. What realises from his imaginings is that in the long run, he isn't cut out for any of those things. So what does he do? Something completely original - to become the genie of the lamp, and be the one who grants those wishes! Terrific. A great end to an imaginative story. Once again it was probably padded out too long, but for a different take on this story it was enjoyable to watch.
Rating: Open Sesame! 4/5
Songs of My Life #47 - Sunnyboys - Alone With You
This got some airplay back in the day in 1981, and I still remember it being one of those songs when I was in 6th Class that I enjoyed.
It wasn't until some years later that I heard the two albums that were the real deal from the band, before they moved on their own paths and the band was only kept alive by various 'session' artists and Jeremy Oxley as the only original member.
What I like about it is its simplicity, and while it is from that Australian pub rock era, post-punk and all, it's not as frantic as some of those bands. It's almost gentle in its musical exposition, but that great rhythm riff underneath the vocals all the way through makes it entertaining and 'head bopping'. What a shame they couldn't keep it together and go on from this, and Jeremy Oxley's well publicised problems with schitzophrenia made this difficult (if you haven't seen it, watch this if you can: http://thesunnyboy.com.au/)
Week 2, and already in trying to do my tips, I couldn't find a certain winner. All eight games seemed to be evenly matched, whether it was a weaker team getting the home ground advantage or just two teams on an even keel. Or, perhaps more likely, I just haven't got a clue when it comes to rugby league after 40+ years of watching and trying.
- It was a game of dropped ball and strange options, but the Roosters vs Bulldogs game was a beauty, entertaining right to the very end. Still couldn't draw a crowd, which one can only assume will be a continuing problem with the Thursday night game, whoever is playing. The Bulldogs like last week had no passing or kicking game. The spine of hooker/halves/fullback is just not up to it. They are in real trouble. Josh Jackson was forced into the centres because of an injury and was a real liability. It didn't help the Bulldogs cause. The Roosters will be pleased with their victory over a team that should be a hell of a lot better than they are performing. They again tried to surrender a huge lead in the second half but again managed to hold on. the 28-24 win makes them 2-0, a much better feeling than the Dogs 0-2.
- I didn't see the Warriors vs Storm game, played in atrocious conditions, though by tipping the Warriors I guess I put too much weight on their back. The 26-10 victory highlighted once again the excellent defense of the Storm team, and leaving opposition teams the job of having to try and find a way to penetrate it if they are to compete with them this season.
- While everyone sprouted praise and amazement at yet another golden point game between the Broncos and the Cowboys, I was more interested in the refereeing decisions that allowed it to come to pass. For awhile it looked as though the Cowboys were copping revenge for last week with a penalty count at 5-1 and the leniency tending towards the Broncos. Then it looked as though it was time to even up that count (even wife Helen said this exact thing - "so do they just try and even up the penalties at the end of the match?"). The blatant forward pass that led to a Broncos try overshadowed two others I saw that were not even mentioned, simply because no try came from them. And if JT had kicked that field goal at the end of regular time with the two man screen set up to block the Broncos chasers, would it have been disallowed? In the end, I enjoyed the game but have trouble barracking for either team. A draw would have sufficed for me.
- It had been almost 12 months since their last win, but after their impressive showing against the Warriors last week... surely this was the week for the Newcastle Knights. Well, it was, and it was a happy team, support crew and supporters who cheered them on at Newcastle to their 34-26 victory. Still, the Titans were cruelled by injury, spending almost half the game with only one man on the interchange bench and an inability to hold onto the ball at crucial times. Still, given the increasing drama around him, will the injury to Jarryd Hayne actually be a blessing?
- After three tries in the first 12 minutes to lead 12-0, could anyone have predicted the collapse of the Sea Eagles? Losing to the Rabbitohs 38-18 after that start was just... awful. Truly terrible. And now two losses at home to start the season, where on earth do they go from here? An 8-3 penalty count against them again, and a 56-44 possession count against them. Souths made a remarkable turnaround from last week's thrashing which was almost as remarkable as how bad manly was.
- For the first half of their match against Cronulla, the Raiders again seemed to be on the wrong side of every penalty and decision. This was evened up quickly in about three minutes before half time, but by then the damage appeared to be done. Cronulla just run roughshod over the Raiders in the second half as the game fell into their hands. Metres run, line breaks and offloads were all decisively in the Sharks favour. Again, after last week, who saw this coming?
- It's good to know what happened to the Tigers and the Panthers last week. Obviously the Panthers just thought they had to turn up to beat the Dragons, and the Tigers really were just motivated to beat Robbie Farah. So, this week the Panthers knew they had to play, and the Tigers had no motivation whatsoever. What a rubbish effort from them. If Brooks and Moses are trying to sell themselves around for next season they are going the wrong way about it. The good news for the Tigers is that at least Bryce Cartwright looks to be out for a while with injury.
- With Russell Packer doing a Martin Bella (look up 1994 Grand Final for reference), meaning the Dragons were on the back foot from the first minute, it seemed an unfair advantage by the end of the game. However, an enthusiastic young Eels team took their chances and ended up dominating in a 34-16 victory that halts the progress made by the Dragons in the first round, Somehow the Eels get a third away game in succession next week as well as a five day turnaround. That seems a tad unfair.
Sunday, March 12, 2017
Songs Of My Life #46
With the slow sinking in the west of the grunge element in the mid-1990's, the return of punk influenced alternative music made a rise. The Offspring had a run of four fairly brilliant albums in this time, flavoured with short sharp songs with short sharp messages.
While I got on board much earlier with the excellent 'Smash' album (like most of my generation) and the brilliant 'Ixnay on the Hombre', this song remains one of my favourites. Lyrically it is hard hitting, and musically it is fast and frantic and energetic, like their very best material is.
Saturday, March 11, 2017
So here we are again. Discussing the reasons - or lack thereof - behind the decisions of the Australian National Selection Panel (NSP). Not since the days of Andrew Hilditch's reign as Chairman of Selectors have we come across so many decisions that appear so baseless on form and so relying on other factors. We have reached a point where despite the overwhelming credentials of the four men who make up the NSP, the question has to be asked as to whether they are adequately performing their job to the standards that are expected of them.
The selection of Pat Cummins to replace Mitch Starc for the final two Tests in India goes against everything that should be a part of the natural selection process in regards to picking Test teams. And yes, I know I say this a lot, and I know I have absolutely nothing to back my claims that I know how the job should be done, and these four are obviously know their job. But this constant and consistent ignoring of any kind of form in first class cricket and the Sheffield Shield, which has been the proving ground for Australian cricket for 125 years, is just infuriating. If I was a first class cricketer at the moment, I would be furious, and I would be reconsidering what I was doing. It just doesn't seem to matter any more how many runs you make or wickets you take in our premier first class competition, because that is just being ignored. Completely. Because apart from Matt Renshaw and Pete Handscomb, every other player who seems to get a call up these days is getting judged on white ball form, and not red ball form. And it is a joke. I honestly don't care how much these four tell me "he's got talent" or "he's got that x factor" or "he can change a game in a session". Because that's all I'm hearing about why guys get selected. Whatever happened to "well, he's scored 2000 runs in the last two seasons at an average of 70. That's good form" or "He's taken 100 Shield wickets in the last three years at an average of 24 and a strike rate of 48. That's an impressive stat". Nope. It's got nothing to do with how many runs or wickets you have anymore, it's all about 'he can change the game in a session'. Of course, the fact that he's done that once or twice in fifty games doesn’t matter, just the fact that he CAN do it.
I sound cranky? You better damn well BELIEVE I'm cranky. Picking players in rep teams because they know your father or they saw you score 50 against their son's team or they bowled your son out happens in country cricket (the South Coast especially). It should NOT be the basis of selecting the national team, and this is getting really scary.
Mark Waugh has been especially cautious when speaking about Pat Cummins this summer. He has always spoken of the programme that has been set out for him, and each step has been carefully designed to ensure he doesn't break down again. All summer, as intimated by Waugh, it has happened as he said. There is no doubt he was being built up to play against England next summer. Now, out of the blue, that carefully prepared programme has been thrown out of the window.
Meanwhile, form bowlers around the country are left scratching their heads. I said this earlier, but it is worth mentioning again. This season, Chadd Sayers has taken 50 wickets at an average of 18.60. He is at the top of the wicket takers list this season in the Sheffield Shield. Last season, he took 32 wickets at an average of 27.78. That is a good form line. Also this season, Chris Tremain has taken 37 wickets at an average of 18.24. He is third on the wicket takers list this season in the Sheffield Shield. This week he also scored his maiden first class century. Last season, he took 36 wickets at an average of 21.05. That is a good form line. I watched Tremain bowl against NSW at the SCG in a Shield game in November on a surface not unlike what is being delivered in India. He was dangerous. Tall and quick. He wouldn't be out of place.
Neither has been chosen. How do they feel this afternoon? Disappointed? Gutted? Cheated? How about all three? Instead, a guy who is a very talented bowler but has played only one first class game in 6 years in suddenly on the plane to India, and given the record of this selection panel very likely to play his second Test match next week.
Like all Australians, I hope Cummins succeeds. If he plays I hope he gives the Indians curry. I'd be happy for the four members of the NSP to sledge me over social media if he does. Even though that will prove the NSP was right in many people's eyes, I still will not believe it justifies the complete ignorance of the form of the Sheffield Shield competition and its participants. Who is to say that Sayers or Tremain would not succeed in India? More importantly, would they play in front of Hazelwood and Bird anyway? Should Cummins?
Today the NSP with its four current members was reaffirmed for the forseeable future. Trevor Hohns becomes Chairman (again) and with Lehmann and Chappell will select the Test and ODI teams. Mark Waugh joins Lehmann as sole selectors for the T20 side. Why?! What reasons can there be that we have one member of the panel who ONLY selects the T20 team, a team that plays half a dozen games a year?! This is madness, completely and utterly.
Sadly, I don't think this is the end of my ranting over selections in the Australian Test team, rightly or wrongly. We have tough times ahead by the feel, and the only people who have the ability to change that, but will accept no responsibility for their actions, is the NSP.
JUST IN: Aussies rocked by Mitchell Starc injury bombshell: https://t.co/PjkWihXGlj #INDvAUS pic.twitter.com/YPKttsuWfd— cricket.com.au (@CricketAus) March 10, 2017
Just so this is out there before the actual decision is made - there are only two possible options for the National Selection Panel (NSP) to make when it comes to who is going to replace Mitchell Starc in India.
No, it is not Pat Cummins and it is not James Pattinson.
This season, Chadd Sayers has taken 50 wickets at an average of 18.60. He is at the top of the wicket takers list this season in the Sheffield Shield. Last season, he took 32 wickets at an average of 27.78. That is a good form line.
This season, Chris Tremain has taken 37 wickets at an average of 18.24. He is third on the wicket takers list this season in the Sheffield Shield. This week he also scored his maiden first class century. Last season, he took 36 wickets at an average of 21.05. That is a good form line.
I watched Tremain bowl against NSW at the SCG in a Shield game in November on a surface not unlike what is being delivered in India. He was dangerous. Tall and quick. He wouldn't be out of place.
I watched Tremain bowl against NSW at the SCG in a Shield game in November on a surface not unlike what is being delivered in India. He was dangerous. Tall and quick. He wouldn't be out of place.
One of these bowlers must be the choice to go to India. Why risk either Cummins or Pattinson for the sake of two Tests. Their aim must surely be to be ready for next season's Ashes contest. Take either Sayers or Tremain, and give them the chance to be around the squad and experience Test cricket.
*now waits patiently for NSP to completely fuck up another selection call*
Songs of My Life #45 - Anthrax - Only.
When it was announced that Joey Belladonna was leaving Anthrax, I admit I was concerned about what the future of the band held. John Bush was brought in on lead vocals, whose work with Armored Saint at that time I hadn't heard. However, how was he going to fit into Joey's shoes, and could the band continue the heights they had with their previous albums.
My word yes they could.
This was the lead single from the album Sound of White Noise, and when this came out I was blown away. John didn't have the high pitched notes that Joey did, but he brought a different kind of heavy to the mix, and the songs as written were just perfect for him.
"Only" has it all. The great rhythmic drumming from Charlie Benante, that sensational bass line from Frankie Bello, the awesome riffing from Dan Spitz and Scott Ian, and the introduction of Bush as vocalist.
Yes this was a change in style from the band, no doubt partly to do with the grunge element that was seeping into metal at that point in history and also to accommodate the difference in style of Bush's vocals, but I still love this album, and I love this song.
Friday, March 10, 2017
The Mitchell Marsh fiasco, and the selection bungle that followed, is as much to be concerned about as any of this other childish back and forth in regards to the DRS controversy still being played out in India. It is much more at the heart of what still cruels Australian cricket in their hope to return to world dominance.
Mitch Marsh was chosen for the tour to India, more on previously identified talent than performance. He wasn’t the only one (yes I’m looking at you Glenn Maxwell), but his selection came further under the microscope this week, when he was sent home from the tour with a damaged shoulder. Yes, this is apparently the same shoulder that was injured during the January ODI series against Pakistan that meant he was under a cloud to tour. Something that was never mentioned again until the recent Test finished. This surely raises the question as to whether he was fully fit at any time to perform the duties asked of him as an all-rounder in the Test team. As it was, he bowled a total of five overs in two matches. What would have happened had he had to shoulder (no pun intended) a larger burden with the ball? Would he have been able to do it? And if he didn’t would the support staff or selectors have taken the blame for that? It seems a rather big risk to make, given that he hasn’t been contributing anything worthwhile with the bat. Can the selectors fully justify the decision to play Marsh at all, let alone if he is carrying an injury? It is yet another example of the mixed messages the panel is sending to players.
And it continued with the decision to send Marcus Stoinis as Marsh’s replacement in the squad.
No one can disparage what Marcus Stoinis did in that one ODI innings in New Zealand. It was a terrific knock, which fell just short of leading Australia to victory. It should be noted however that it was played without pressure on his back, as the unlikelihood of a victory allowed him to free his arms and swing hard. The boundaries were also very VERY short, such that even if he hadn’t been striking the ball so well, they would have managed to clear the boundary. The wicket was also flat and the white balls were no longer swinging. Everything was in his favour – and he took it, admirably – but the conditions are nothing like he will face in first class cricket, and certainly not in a Test series in India.
This is where Australia’s selection policy must one again be brought to bear. The figures as presented by Brydon Coverdale are significant.
2016-17 Shield runs: Henriques 659 at 65.90, Cartwright 520 at 37.14, Wildermuth 501 at 35.78, Stoinis 172 at 15.63— Brydon Coverdale (@brydoncoverdale) March 8, 2017
Australia pick Stoinis.
And again, when Chairman Trevor Hohns came out and said that the selectors went for whom they considered the strongest bowler, Brydon was on board again with a logical response.
Australia have taken 40 wickets in two Tests, Marsh bowled 5 overs in total and there's an 8-day rest between Tests. But yeah nevermind. https://t.co/iTkD1SO1qe— Brydon Coverdale (@brydoncoverdale) March 9, 2017
Which poses the question once again – why are players being chosen in Test squads on form in shorter form cricket or on past form and not current form in first class cricket?
George Bailey was chosen for the 2013/14 Ashes series on the back of scoring a thousand runs on the concrete roads and small boundaries that make up an ODI tour of India. Everyone likes George. He’s the kid who is always smiling and you really want to succeed, but just never quite makes it. And he smiled all the way through that five Test whitewash on home soil. Yet by the end of the series it was shown that his feasting of attacks against deliveries that are gun-barrel straight on flat decks wasn’t able to be transferred to the Test arena, despite his crowd pleasing effort in taking 28 runs off one James Anderson over in Perth – perhaps his most memorable innings. But the experiment of picking a player on one day form came to an inevitable end.
Other players have come and gone in the same fashion for pretty much the same results. Glenn Maxwell has been tried before, and within a week we will likely see him tried again. Xavier Doherty couldn’t convert one day frugalness to Test match success. Ditto Michael Beer. James Faulkner got one Test as a fill in and hasn’t threatened since. Any number of other players could be put forward as examples. Let’s face it – how did Sam Haezlett get chosen on that ODI tour of New Zealand? And how does Usman Khawaja go from averaging 50 in the home series Tests to missing out in India? Stoinis may not play a Test in India, and no one doubts his credentials, but surely form, and the CORRECT form, should be the leading category in selection in the national team.
The selection bungles came thick and fast in the recently completed home series as well. Joe Burns couldn’t regain his place at the top of the order for the first Test against South Africa. He was brought in to replace the injured Shaun Marsh in Hobart, and was wiped out like the rest of the team in that shambles of a Test match, before being shown the door once again. Likewise Joe Mennie and Callum Ferguson. Mennie had form from the previous season on his side, and yet after one Test where he bowled in one innings he was immediately discarded like a piece of rotten cheese. And Ferguson was chosen as much for his maturity and past record as he was for anything else resembling current red ball form. His two innings both ended badly, and again like Mennie he wound up on the garbage heap. Whatever happened to giving a player a chance to find his feet? If every player in history was treated the same way… we’d have lost some greats. It was confusing and abhorrent to watchers and supporters, let alone what the players thought about it. Chadd Sayers kept getting picked in the 12, and then staying as 12th Man. Given his season in first class cricket, surely his form warranted a chance on the field. Hilton Cartwright was chosen out of the blue in both the ODI team and the Test team. He finally got a chance in the final Test as the all-rounder to help burden the load of the bowlers, and got four overs while scoring a respectable 37 with the bat. Not good enough to go to India though, even as a replacement for the man who replaced him in the team. What the hell is going on?!?
Then take the selections after this, for the Adelaide Test against South Africa. The selectors chose Matthew Renshaw, Peter Handscomb and Nic Maddinson to debut. Renshaw was green, but was averaging 45 in first class cricket, and came off a century and a half century in the Shield game against NSW. He has since proven to be worth his weight in gold. Handscomb had scored a double century against NSW as part of his season tally. He too has been a standout. Both of these players were chosen ON form and IN form. Maddinson’s form was shaky, averaging in the low 30’s, while the man who everyone (well, I did) thought would be selected was Kurtis Patterson, who was also IN form and was averaging in the low 40’s. Maddinson was unable to do what his other two debutants did and score runs immediately, though perhaps circumstances could be mentioned. What should be mentioned was that the selectors gave him THREE Tests (not ONE) to find his feet. When he was unable to do so, he was moved aside for Cartwright to get his opportunity. Maddinson has since gone through a publically tough time following his sacking, though he has now returned to first class cricket, hopefully a better cricketer who will get another chance down the line. One wonder though what would have happened had Patterson been given his chance, ON form and IN form. Maybe we would already have our number six established in the Test team, and wouldn’t even be speaking of this.
And let’s not forget the wicket keeper. Peter Nevill was unceremoniously sacked as keeper after Hobart, with his batting cited as the reason for his being dropped. There was no one who challenged him as being the best keeper in the country, yet now he wasn’t good enough to be in the Australian team. Matthew Wade was reinstated. Wade was generally regarded as the ‘least confident’ keeper in the country. Yes, I should have written ‘worst’. But his batting was what got him back into the team.
When he was dropped, Nevill was averaging 22.28 in Test cricket. This season in the Sheffield Shield he has scored 529 runs at 58.77. When Wade was chosen again, he was averaging less than 20 in Shield cricket. Since his return to the Test team he has scored 118 runs at an average of 14.75. he has also averaged at least one missed chance with the gloves per Test. And yet, there appears no pressure on his position. Indeed, it appears he will be offered one of the highest contracts by Cricket Australia for the next season. This is Selection Criteria Gone Mad.
What is the point of all of this? It is to highlight the inconsistencies in the selection of players for the national team, and it continues with Marsh’s injury and Stoinis being selected over other candidates. It will come again if (when) Glenn Maxwell plays in the 3rd Test, when Darren Lehmann was quoted just three months ago as saying “how can you select someone in the Test team who hasn’t scored a century in over two years?” Well, it’s more than two years now, and he still hasn’t scored a century. But he’s on this tour, and probably about to get another Test cap. If he does, then you can probably expect to hear more from me then.
It is a new world for cricket. Players look to be selected more on instinct and potential than they ever have before. Some players seem to get a hundred chances to perform while others are cast aside after barely a fleeting glance. It can’t be a good way to instil confidence in the teams that are affected if players are always looking over their shoulder the second they get selected. I know it’s easy to say being an armchair critic, but ask Mitch Marsh and Peter Nevill how they feel about their respective selection stories and I think you will find where the truth lies.