Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Eng vs NZ T20 clash

There has been a lot of comment from the English fans about the timing of this two match T20 series and the impact it had on 'that' weather affected match a few days earlier. Like it or not, the giggle and hit was always going to be played at the Oval, and was always destined to draw the crowds. And so it did.

Game one, England won the toss and sent New Zealand in to bat.
The lucky, capacity English crowd had a beautiful summer's evening and made the most of the pleasant conditions after a day at work. So spare a thought for those of us on the other side of the planet, getting up at 5am on a cold, dark winters morning; to watch T20 cricket under a blanket on the sofa.

There are three key highlights from this match for me, and this was the first- Hamish Rutherford's innings. New Zealand lost Franklin early to Rankin, and it ruffled a few polar fleece blankets in the predawn light on sofas round New Zealand. However, Rutherford has had a little bit of batting practise in recent weeks, and was good to go. He batted as well as he ever has, striking the ball cleanly and getting a good number out of the middle of the bat. And so he was rewarded with 65 runs off 35 balls, and a bit more confidence to tuck into his back pocket for the next match.
Hamish Rutherford on his way to 62 runs
Courtesy Getty Images

The second big highlight for me was Brendon McCulllum's captaincy. He continued his aggressive and beguiling tactics, rotating bowlers and fielders and keeping the batsmen guessing. This was clearly illustrated when Butler came on to bowl and he put Taylor in at slip. The commentators couldn't fathom it with comments from Bumble like 'why on earth would you put a slip in there?' Two balls later, his question was answered as Taylor reached high over his head to take a magnificent one handed catch to dismiss England's captain. Taylor later claimed on Twitter that the catch was an absolute fluke.

Ross Taylor's catch
Courtesy Getty Images

My third highlight was the final over. McCullum again with his clever captaincy put the new guy Anderson on to bowl. At the time I questioned whether he would have the confidence and composure to finish the match for NZ.   And once again, McCullum was proven right. Anderson took each ball on it's own and focussed on it with steely determination. He was relaxed; smiling even. And he came through with the goods.
  New Zealand won by 5 runs.

Thursday, 13 June 2013

NZ v Aus- Trans Tasman clash

New Zealand and Australia have a history of stepping it up a level when they play against each other and Kyle Mills predicted a 'ding dong' battle at Edgbaston.

Australia won the toss and elected to bat. We were treated to scenes of the Australian dressing room- covered in posters of great Aussie cricketers, and the New Zealand dressing room, understated and bare.

And so it started as Mills foretold.

 Mills opened the bowling and had a good first over before handing the ball to McClenaghan, who struck a short time later getting Watson to edge one to Ronchi for 5.
Two overs later McClenaghan struck again, assisted by a catlike Guptill in the field, effecting a brilliant underarm direct hit to run Hughes out without scoring.

Of course the news overshadowing the match was all about Warner and what he did to get stood down from the match. Unfortunately all the discussion on social media was about that and the tv commentators had to keep referring back to it as well.

Australia's third wicket fell as Wade was caught LBW off Nathan McCullum for 29 off 57 balls. McCullum also claimed the fourth by clean bowling Bailey for 55 as he looked to work one away to leg.
It was a change from the previous match against SL as New Zealand bowled 30 overs of spin. This turned into a high workload for Vettori who was as penurious as we remember him, conceding only 23 runs off his 10 overs.

It wasn't long before McClenaghan was back in the wickets, remarked on by the commentary team as 'he has a habit of taking wickets'  He skittled Marsh with a high edge catch to Ronchi, and had a dangerous looking Voges caught by his captain at mid wicket.

At 200/6 Australia had two new batsmen at the crease, until McClenaghan was involved in another dismissal, catching Faulkner off Kane Williamson for 6 off 12 balls.
 Then came the battle that many were waiting for. Mitchell Johnson versus Mitchell McClenaghan.
Johnson had his way with a couple of quick boundaries before Mitchell of the more popular hair do got his wicket with a deceptively slower ball at 102km that was edged straight to McCullum.
There was a late flourish from Australia as Maxwell got them to 243/8, contributing 29* himself.

From the New Zealand innings, the national expectation of Guptill was sizeable. After back to back centuries earlier, the same dish had been ordered from the caterers. It wasn't to be, however, as Guptill was the first wicket; hitting McKay to point to be caught by Maxwell. His contribution was 8 off 13 balls. Ronchi edged one to Watson at 4th slip a short time later, again off McKay after adding 14 runs off 17 balls.

This left Williamson and Taylor at the crease as dark clouds threatened overhead. New Zealand got to 51/2 before the umpires called for the covers and the hovercraft was brought out to the middle. Because only 15 overs had been completed and the grounds could not be sufficiently dried in time to continue the match, the decision was taken to abandon play.

Both teams take one point from the match- leaving New Zealand with 3 points and Australia one.
New Zealand's bowlers had another good session, in particular McClenaghan and Vettori, but there is plenty of opportunity there too. McKay bowled well for Australia, but the top order batsmen struggled with footwork and looked at sea.

There will be homework to complete for both sides before they meet their next opponents, in order to ensure they continue their Champions Trophy quest.

Monday, 10 June 2013

A walk in the Valleys

NZ v Sri Lanka in Cardiff was never going to be a walk in the valleys for either team. Sri Lanka went into the match with the upper hand. From the last 14 ODIs where the two teams have met, NZ have only beaten them once.

Kyle Mills opened the match with a ripping ball that had Perera edging one to McCullum who performed a magnificent diving catch.

A few overs later McClenaghan got the prized wicket of Dilshan.  Then it was time for a change of pace as the prodigal son returned with some Left Arm spin to hurrahs from all the stalwarts who had been waiting  for 2 years for Dan Vettori to turn his arm over for NZ again.  And he didn't disappoint, with a repeat of his last performance two years ago taking Jayawardene LBW again.

Mills was back on the attack taking Chandimal a few balls later for a duck, leaving SL reeling on 34-4
This was a sign of how the BlackCaps were approaching the match and had Kiwis up and down the land on the edge of their late night sofa.  The bowling attack have already had a good workout against England in both home and away series, and have proven to be just the kind of  determined and aggressive attack that can win matches.

McClenaghan struck again spinning Mathews leg stump in the air, KSW got Thirimanne and Mitch claimed his 3rd with Thisara Perera .  Sangakkara was the only one who was looking seriously dangerous until Nate McCullum had him caught on 68.  The final two wickets fell quickly and the first innings was over well before the lunch break. McClenaghan was the pick of the bowlers with an unrelenting 4-43, and gained team honours leaving the field first to applause from his team mates. He has also equalled Wayne Parnell’s record of 22 wickets in his first 8 ODI outings.

The usual formula however, is that the bowlers do a great job, and then the batsmen struggle to back it up with the numbers.

A lot of Kiwis watching would have been expecting that formula to play out last night. Especially once Ronchi departed early on in the innings. Realistically, NZ should have cruised to victory. They had bowled Sri Lanka out for 138 in the 38th over.  The lowest  score to date in 8 ODIs played at Cardiff.

Surely with only 139 to win NZ should have romped home, right? Oh no. The second innings was as captivating as the first. It was probably more dramatic and with more theatrics too. The appealing was fervent and voiciferous, and happened with increasing regularity. Both teams had used up their referrals early on. By the match conclusion, Dilshan and Jayawardene had been reprimanded for excessive appealing. The pair pleaded guilty to a Level 1 breach, and were fined 50% of their match fee.

The Sri Lankans threw everything they had at New Zealand but the bowlers just didn’t have enough runs to bowl to. They came very close indeed, but a great display of backyard cricket from the brothers McCullum put on 35 for the 7th wicket partnership. But the sheer obstinate determination of the tail end sealed the deal for NZ, and they eventually won with Dilshan's final ball being a wide.

The BlackCaps survived a Lasith Malinga onslaught to win the match . He was a ferocious competitor and was hurling thunderbolts. That, in itself was a small victory for New Zealand. Some of the batsmen learned more about how to handle those thunderbolts. Others, apparently, did not.

Looking ahead:
  • NZ had some good and some difficult time at the crease. Malinga is as tough a bowler as they will face in this tournament and they got some good practice in there. There was plenty of practice against deceptive spin with Herath as well.
  • Dan Vettori is back. He was limping like an old man, but his captain says he is ‘no spring chicken’, and he thought Vettori was moving pretty well for himself.
  • The New Zealand bowling unit goes from strength to strength. They have plenty of fire power and have already proven themselves against two of the world’s toughest teams.
  • The fielding is still looking very sharp. NZ pride themselves on their fielding and do a great job restricting and containing sides.
  • Australia is next up for New Zealand. Whenever these two countries face off in any sport, there is extra pride on the line, and anything can happen.

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Dear BlackCaps

Hi, it's me again.
 I have to write this because I can't fit all the things I want to say on the little support postcards on the BlackCaps web site. 140 characters on Twitter isn't going to do it either.
You know, it's well into the rugby season and we are gearing up for the All Blacks to take on France at Eden Park this weekend. At the same time, there are hoardes of us spending nights on the sofa (now known as 'Sleeping with the BlackCaps'), making sure we are there to support you guys on your campaign in the UK.

You should know by now how desperately proud we all are of you and everything you have achieved so far.  I cannot tell you how big a thrill I get when I stand on the kids football sidelines on a Saturday morning, and crow about all the BlackCaps results with the football dads. These guys never used to stay up late to watch the BlackCaps, they definitely do now!
I couldn't wait to pop into the local dairy to catch up with the guy there who loves Guptill's batting as much as me. He and I had a great old debrief the other day, and it felt like I had bought the winning Lotto ticket off him. If I had, I'd be on the first plane to London to wave my flag in person.

I've enjoyed choosing the music of the day to kick off each match and share on Twitter too. We've had Chris Knox and "Love not  given lightly', 'Don't Dream it's Over' from Crowded House and  'Better Man' from Pearl Jam.  Tonight's theme tune will be 'Rise Up' by Six60. I'll be playing it loudly from the sofa in the wee small hours. I hope you guys have it in your heads as you run onto the grass at TrentBridge too.

It's been tough going having to listen to the English commentary on the tv coverage at times. It's not like having Doully & Rigor with Macca & Smithy. We get the occasional bit of Smithy, and that's about it. If I hear one more time about how Cook is going to bring on the mighty Swann to devastate the New Zealand batsmen, I will scream! His dismissal, and the subsequent grin from Williamson was one of the high points of the second ODI for me.

We all want to see more of the same. Steely determination with the bat and belligerent boundaries. Ninjas in the field, annoying the opposition. And it goes without saying, the bowling unit beguiling and bossing the batsmen.

 Keep your heads high, chests proud, and know that there's a whole lot of love and support from back home willing you on.

.......Show them you know how to Rise Up! Baby it's a revolution.......!

Love from Ruth. (again)