Tag Archives: Michael Clarke

Leaving the Crease – Clarke’s Second to Last Test

Australia cricket captain Michael Clarke touches his face just before reading a statement following the death of fellow cricketer Phillip Hughes during a press conference at St. Vincent's Hospital in Sydney, Thursday, Nov. 27, 2014. Hughes, 25, died in the hospital from a “catastrophic” injury to his head Thursday, two days after being struck by a cricket ball during a domestic first-class match. (AP Photo/Rick Rycroft)

Jobs don’t get much tougher than being a top order international batsman. If this statement causes you to hesitate, perhaps you haven’t seen one up close enough after a couple of hours on the shop floor. Haggard is the best description, nor does success make much of a difference to matters. Sustained concentration under a physical and mental examination in which injury is more than possible is the day to day experience of that tribe.

For the top order batsmen of both sides arriving at Trent Bridge for the fourth Test, even the possibility of death is tragically not a remote consideration. Hughes is a presence.

At Edgbaston, England had lost Anderson to a side-strain. Former international Derek Pringle only half joking tweets imperatively, ‘Definitely get the hosepipes off Trent Bridge now that Jimmy Anderson has been ruled out …”.

Whether the hosepipes stayed on or not, the wicket is again an exaggeration of ‘green’; promising a surface that is challenging. And it is a new laid pitch following last year’s surface getting a ‘poor’ rating from match referee Boon. This one will go up, down and sideways in staccato, each delivery mocking batsman who facing bowlers at speed rely so much on their predictive powers.

Yet again Siddle is ignored on a green seamer and, with a design to shore up the batting, Clarke is demoted in the order and a batsman with all of 15 Tests, and an average of 33, brought in to take his place at 4. Clarke is condemned and the sympathy of his team shifts towards him, as never far from the surface a memory is triggered of the time he spoke for them when they themselves could find no words.  Frustrated by the decisions being taken over their heads, they sense a fate of shared ignominy and move closer to their captain’s side.

Then, with fifteen minutes to the start of play, the toss already decided and Australia sent in to bat, there’s a sharp shower. Officials undecided about its likely strength, duration and impact are slow to summon the covers. When the covers are eventually called on and in time removed, these officials decide play must start with just a 5 minute delay, so, covering their own error.

Effectively, a damp pitch has just been watered. Already ‘febrile’ it is now totally disinhibited. One Australian puts it simply, “The wicket was ridiculous”.

And so at Trent Bridge 2:1 and two to play, became 3:1 and one to play.

The Ashes were lost. Clarke announced his retirement. Among players, respect for him became palpable.

If the cognoscenti disdain to say he was a great player, if ordinary Australians wish still to stigmatise him as unreliable, so be it. His peerless 136 in the fourth innings of the 2009 Lord’s Test remains a litmus test for opinions about Clarke: a wonderful innings of resolve and flair and greatness, scored into the memory like a precious thought, which like a co-joined twin brought forward Flintoff’s monumental last spell; or to dwell on his dismissal, filing it away as ‘another’ weak capitulation close to an interval.

What these critics do, metaphorically, is play spin from the crease. Clarke’s adventurous style, especially when breaking the mental confines of the crease to play spin, was that of the brave player. It was this bravery that sustained him when Hughes died and which supported his players through those unbearable days and nights. It would be this bravery that they, his cricketing brothers, would be determined to reflect, like moonlight reflecting sunlight, when they found themselves once more put in on another doped green’un in the fifth Test at the Oval .

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Routed – A History of the 3rd Test

Retreat from MoscowThere is no other way to describe the beating that Australia took in the 3rd Test at Edgbaston last week. And the causes for this apparent reversal of fortune from the ‘triumph’ at Lord’s were gross errors of management and selection.

Here are some thoughts:

First, the mis-reading of events at Lord’s. The talk of featherbeds has seemed to get the better of everyone. The Lord’s wicket provided bounce and pace. They were ideal conditions for Australian bowlers against England batsmen, many of whose technique has not been tested in such conditions.

The difficulties with consistency of length and direction that Australian bowlers, especially by the two left armers, had at Cardiff were forgotten. The middle order batting weakness was obscured by the two big hundreds from Rogers and Smith. Nevill batting 7 arrived at the wicket with score at 450 and followed this enjoyable batting practice with some comfortable catching courtesy of Lyth et al.  Anderson feigned disinterest.

Australia moved on to Derby but seemed to fail to notice the rain that was making pitch preparation at Edgbaston ‘complex’ with the covers remaining in operation throughout the process. Arriving at the ground, Clarke commented that he had seen nothing like the wicket – the seaming track that England yearned for – yet the Australian High Command chose to leave out the experienced and accurate Siddle, for whom conditions were ideal, drop their Vice Captain, mascot and counter-attacker , Brad Haddin, and, to compound it all, decided to ‘have a bat’ in conditions ideal for Anderson, Broad and Finn. It was as if Australia were totally ignorant of the England v India Test match played on the same ground, the year before. But isn’t that what management and analysers are for?

What then was going on? Or what IS going on? Has Rod Marsh arrived with ‘ideas’ and worse still favourites? Sure there are reasons to question Haddin’s form and Watson’s technique. But what they have in common is membership of the old family business, which is now under new management. If so, England could not have dared hope for these changes and this disruption in the wake of their own dismal performance just a week before.

The Australian batting was woeful. England bowled very well, but the visitors’ middle order, starting this time at No 3, folded and only Rogers coped with the conditions. On the basis that England would bat in similar conditions, 225 might have been a decent score in the circumstances . A bit of grit and, of course, a counter attacking innings from Haddin might have got them there. As it was, the score board froze at 136 just as Napoleon’s advance had frozen at the walls of Moscow.

England arrived at the wicket with an opener whose bat doesn’t come down straight, a number 3 on notice that failure would see the end of his international career and great bowling conditions.

By Starc’s second over, with the ball being sprayed around like a garden hose in the hands of an infant on a very hot day, the bowling coach was dispatched to the fine leg to ‘support’ the bowler. He was followed rapidly by Siddle in his day-glow bib. At the other end Hazlewood found the conditions too helpful and adjusted his line rather than his position at the bowling crease with the inevitable result. (For a tutorial from Mike Hendrick, see this.)

The unpredictable left armers returned to their Cardiff form. On field the captain’s fielding positions and bowling changes became more and more bizarre, resembling those one might make facing a stand of 500 rather than when bowling on a wicket where a score of 150 might have been expected from England. Bell, the condemned man, escaped, the gallows. After a heart-in-mouth start he made a plucky 53 and left the noose that had been round his neck on a hook in the dressing room like a mislaid jock-strap.

England’s first innings ended at a mighty 281, a mammoth and intimidating lead of 145. The game was up. The retreat inevitable.

And finally, what of Johnson and Clarke? The former began Day 2 with two wonderful steeply rising deliveries that disposed of Bairstow and Stokes, and inexplicable decided that that was that as far as this kind of delivery was concerned. Wither Captain Clarke? And in the second innings, defending a lead of just 120 the Captain waited until England were well on their way to victory at 47 for 1, before bringing Johnson into the attack.

One has to ask whether these strange decisions and this poor bowling in wonderful conditions from the quicks would have occurred had the Vice Captain been on the field, organising the seam attack and steadying Clarke’s experimentation.

On the field, rout comes from disorder as much as anything. If morale falls away and capacity evaporates, it is more than anything a failure of command. It is hard not to imagine that players and management are now even more at odds. Lions and donkeys come to mind. But for management to make the necessary changes, it would have to admit their errors of the last week.

That does not seem likely.

HT:JR

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Playing for the Tonkers – Adelaide Test Day One

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Realestate.com.au is marketing a 764 square metre plot (allotment) in a ‘Quiet Cul-De-Sac Surrounded By Quality Homes’ at 12 Whelan Close, Athelstone, South Australia.

When Third Man, following the Squire’s enigmatic instructions, rang for particulars, the realtor quipped, “Here is your blank canvas now let your imagination run fee (sic)!”

At $A 523 / sq. m. perhaps he did mean fee and not free.

“They’re not making land anymore”.  And in so saying he was not exaggerating.

This is the self same soil used for the Adelaide Ovals pitches on which Bradman delighted home crowds nearly a century ago. It is also where they stashed a pile of it, ‘where the mortgage belt meets the mountains’, to be used all these years later to compile their ‘leading edge technology’* drop-in pitches.

His Grace has a fine selection of Australian cricket soils: Portland, Bulli, Merri Creek, Goodna and Wamberal.

“A good Athelstone black is just what we need, TM, though, customs will be a challenge.”

England need to know that ‘drop’ refers to the pitching of the pitches and is not an instruction to fielders playing on them.

Day One of the Second Test of this series saw England drop the Ashes.

“Un-be-leave-a-bul,” as a judge on Strictly Come Dancing might say. Monty! Rooty! Carby!

In fact His Grace, having witnessed the funereal pace of the imported Athelstone, its early propensity to turn and the prospect of Australia making 400+ first up (coming to Clarke later), is now thinking of digging up a Tonka Dump Truck load of soil from 12 Whelan Close and making a makeshift trophy to be awarded to the victors of matches played between the two sides whenever they meet on these kinds of air mail tracks.

“The Tonkas.”

‘Nobody misses catches intentionally.’ If this was said once, it was said three times.

On the other hand:

Michael Clarke’s back foot is a wonder to behold.  Pointing square on back foot shots against spin it provides late and side-on perfection.  Pointing to extra-cover or mid-off on the back foot against pace it gives a right-eyed player time to deal with the rib-tickler.  TM could watch him all-night, which is a great worry.

What else? This match could go three ways and everyone will know a lot more about which of these directions it takes by 7.30 GMT tomorrow. Well, it’s the second day and after tomorrow there will only be three second days remaining in this series and one of those three second days will be a second day at Perth.

Until then, as the Adelaide realtor said, you can “Let your imagination run fee”, which might yet be for the best.

* leading edge technology refers to the tendency for the bat, traveling faster than the ball, to arrive at the point of contact fractionally before the ball resulting in a dolly.

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Darren Lehmann and Stem Cell Technology – Test One Day 3

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It began with Lehmann taking the batsmen onto the outfield at Trent Bridge on the first morning of the first practice day of the first Test in the summer 2013 series.

“If you see a spin bowler SMACK IT”

Lehmann turned and walked away, leaving a trail of silence, an empty syringe and the tell-tale sign of Waugh’s finest stem cells oozing from its needle tip.

“A bit of the old 1990 vintage, Third Man”

“They don’t call it Hunter Valley for nothing, Your Grace.”

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Now, it’s a question from an old team mate, from his days playing in the Lancashire League for Lowerhouse – after play; Old Trafford.

Ryan, tell me how you do it?  The batsmen have let you down. You’ve gone for 300 and more in the day. There’s half an hour to go.  You’ve bowled your three spells. Your body’s broken. Knees feel like they’ve been severed.  The skipper tosses you the ball AGAIN. You run in.  You take out two poms.  Tell me, tell me, please tell me, how do you do it?”

“Mark,” he answers, “it’s my job.”

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Lehmann had taken the ‘quicks’ to the Statham End. “Scare the shit out of ‘em.”

Again he turned, leaving behind a cocktail of Lilley and Thompson.

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Whyalla_town_view

“I fell in love with the Ashes when I was seven years old.”

“I can still remember watching in awe on television in Whyalla when David Hookes smacked five boundaries in a row off Tony Greig in the Centenary Test at the MCG.”

“That was it for me.”

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The rolling countryside of Dorset

“You see, Third Man, cricket is penultimately an expression of culture.  England cricketing culture is sclerotic. Australia … Australia retains the knack of staying a young country.  It’s about the facility to regenerate.”

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“Darren, what was in that syringe?” the Squire had asked, taking the Australian coach aside.

“Water mate.”

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“Penulimately, Your Grace?” TM enquired.

“It may be in the small print, but it’s there in the job description; ultimately it’s about courage.”

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“Didn’t Clarke bat well!”

“Purrhhh.”

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Number 5 – Lucky for Some at the SCG

What’s not to like about Michael Clarke – apart from the tattoos and a tendency to get out just before major intervals?

At the end of day two of the Sydney Test, he is 251 not out (31 x 4s and 1 x 6) and all day his grin was as broad as his bat.

Clarke has grown several inches taller under the weight of the captaincy which may account for the fact that he did not look like giving way to any last-over-of-the-day lapse in concentration and therefore will reappear from that grand old pavilion on day three as fresh as a daisy with enough time in the game to amass a mammoth score without being in anyway selfish.

Clarke is already the highest scoring Australian at the SCG in a Test and has in his sights the 287 notched up by Worcester and England’s R.E. (Tip) Foster  (shown right tucking one away to leg) in the First Test of the 1903 series.

Foster, like Clarke, batted that day at Number 5, came in at 73 for 3 (not dissimilar to Clarke entering the fray at 37 for 3).

Foster ended his first day at the crease on 73; Clarke on 47; but the English had laboured all of for three hours in this the first phase of his innings.

Next morning, with the wicket playing faster, ‘Tip’ moved up a gear to reach his first century.  There followed a collapse at the other.  Foster, with Relf as his partner counter attacked, scoring 94 between lunch and tea. 

At Relf’s departure, Foster was joined by Rhodes in a record for the last wicket of 130 in 66 minutes before being caught by Noble off Saunders 13 short of the triple.

However, when Australia began their second innings 292 runs behind the visitors, Foster’s great innings was eclipsed by one from Victor Trumper  who, batting at Number 5 (quelle surprise!) made a sensational 185.

Although time-bound readers of this blog will not have seen Victor Trumper bat, it is just possible that they will have come close to that experience if they have been fortunate enough to see Michael Clarke bat today.

Light and quick of foot. Check. Wonderful front foot driving. Check. Deft cuts. Check. Savage cuts. Check. Infectious enjoyment. Check. Mastery. Check. The ability to make the sunshine on a cloudy day. Check.

Trumper reached his hundred in 94 minutes.

The written-off Ricky Ponting wrote himself back in with an innings of 134, which on any other day would have deserved a piece to itself, but as Foster discovered nearly 110 years ago, even a very good innings can be totally eclipsed.

One supposes that the only thing that could possibly trump (sorry) a big-triple from Clarke would be Tendulka scoring that hundredth hundred.

If Third Man was MS Dhoni, he’d bat the little master at number 5 to make sure.

N.B. Prior to Clar*e’s innings today, an Australian’s top Test score at the SCG was Doug Walter’s 242 v the West Indies in 1969 ,batting – you guessed it – number 5.

 India 191: Australia 482/4 (116.0 ov) Australia lead by 291 runs with 6 wickets remaining in the 1st innings

* Thanks GT.

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South Africa v Australia Test 1, Day 1: It’s in Black and White; ‘Silence is Golden’

Over in Kotla, the old firm of Tendulka and Laxman were back in harness employing their considerable experience in Test cricket to secure victory  for India in their first five-dayer played at home this year.

In Cape Town Graeme Smith led South Africa out for their first experience in 305 days of what we are assured is the players’ preferred form of the game.

In fact the last time the Proteas played Test cricket films were silent and shot in black and white. This is a reminder to readers that in this series (because India are not involved) players can call on the full DRS facilities which include the silent (and black and white) assassin which is the ‘fess-up machine’, HOTSPOT.

Smith won the toss, felt the ball would move sideways and asked Australia to bat. His pet ridgeback, Dale Steyn, as you’d expect after being caged up for three hundred days, couldn’t get off the leash and out onto the veld soon enough, removing Watty Watson for 3, and Punter Ponting for 8, with his new bowling partner Philander reminding the Australian selectors that you do need some basic technique to play this form of the game and Hughes doesn’t have any.

This brought Clarke to the party atmosphere that is Newlands when SA are on top.  The playful bow-wow lion dog Steyn leapt up to lick his face, not once but twice and barked a lot.

It proved very misguided.  When will cricketers bowlers learn.  Some batsmen like to be gee’d up. With the ball swinging disconcertingly-late at 150 klicks and zipping off the seam, the extraordinary Clarke proceeded to play surely the best innings of his life, as ordinary cricketers like the aforementioned Watson and Ponting, and subsequently Marsh, Hussey and Hadden prodded and pushed.

Clarked reached his hundred off 108 balls and finished the day when bad light and rain spoilt the fun still going strongly with exactly half ofAustralia’s 214 for 8.  Seldom can one batsman, and a captain for that matter, have played with such conviction, such ease, such retribution when all around him was going to the dogs.

Finally the DRS worked wonders.  Umpires Gould and Doctrove had their decisions, dignity and expertise upheld.  And when a ball tore through the defences of Mr Cricket at lightening speed, the batsman waited for the decision and walked off without complaint immediately he saw the finger rise. 

He knew he’d hit it – as all batsmen do – but he also knew the evidence would soon be on the screen in black and white for all to see.

Australia, having been put into bat, are 218 for 8 in 55 overs – the game is moving apace.

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The Role of Imaginary Numbers in Understanding a Game of Cricket

 

Upon retirement the Cumberland fast left arm round-the-wicket swinger, Melvin Bragg, launched a radio discussion series for the BBC exploring the history of ideas.  He called the series In Our Time Machine.    A sub-editor at the Radio Times, short of space but not of time, removed the word Machine from the title so that the series is widely but erroneously known as In Our Time.

Melvin has a Type II Time Machine which, although stylistically an inferior model, does the basics very well, though it must be rather cramped for four.

Melvin travels as he bowled, that is, furiously and with an unreliable internal radar system.  The cluster of short legs that he insisted on having round the bat were often in greater danger than the batsman.

For this reason time travellers give Broadcasting House a wide berth on Thursday mornings and use The Radio Times to forewarn them of dates and locations to avoid when Melvin and his mates are fooling around in the continuum.

This week the programme  covered the subject of imaginary numbers and, while Melvin and his mates were coming and going, only the reckless among other time travellers dared drop in at the C16th Lombardy home of Hieronymus Cardanus   (to use his Sunday name) for morning coffee or any of the mid C16th haunts of Rafael Bombelli for a gossip or Johann Carl Friedrich Gauss’ very late C18th rooms for a morning glass of schnapps. 

Third Man has always left ‘that which is under the bonnet’ of his Mark III to the village blacksmith, but apparently for some (the French cricketer with a limited back lift, Rene Descarte being one) there can be a difficulty in imagining a number which when squared comes to minus 1 or, for others, seeing the back of their head in a mirror (not of course for Rene Magritte -see above).

As any fule kno, Bombelli in L’Algebra (1569) had been the first to perform computations with negative numbers and ‘Minus times minus makes plus’. So, as Form 3B would say,  ‘timesing’ a number by itself to produce -1 is pretty damned difficult and would have given even Roy Webber, Arthur Wrigley and Bill Frindall a few sleepless nights.

Third Man finds “Just jump” a helpful rule of thumb.  Imagine a number with the property that, when squared, equals minus one.  That should do it: viz.  i 2 = −1 where i is the imaginary unit, et voila M. Descarte.

With these imaginary units Third Man finds he can work with real units to pry into the meaning of most experiences and take a shufty at ‘the thing in itself’ .

[Skip the following if you’re tired but the Squire, who is a member of the Royal Society and who likes to think he understands these things, insists that Third Man uses some of his notes on the concept of complex numbers (found here).    

[We can represent a complex number by  a + bi  where a and b are real numbers, and i is the imaginary unit, which has the property i 2 = −1.  The real number a is called the real part of the complex number, and the real number b is the imaginary part.  For example, 3 + 2i is a complex number, with real part 3 and imaginary part 2.  If z = a + bi, the real part a is denoted Re(z) or ℜ(z), and the imaginary part b is denoted Im(z) or ℑ(z). 

[The complex numbers (C) are regarded as an extension of the real numbers (R) by considering every real number as a complex number with an imaginary part of zero. The real number a is identified with the complex number a + 0i. Complex numbers with a real part of zero (Re(z)=0) are called imaginary numbers. Instead of writing 0 + bi, that imaginary number is usually denoted as just bi. If b equals 1, instead of using 0 + 1i or 1i, the number is denoted as i.] 

Complex but rewarding stuff if you have time enough.

Actually it maybe a lot easier just to look at a couple of paintings by  the rather stolid Belgian opening batsman Rene Magritte, who like Boycott is in to hats in a big way as this portrait demonstrates.

Magritte’s juxtaposition of ordinary objects in an unusual context gives new meanings to familiar things.  Very a + bi

In works entitled The Human Condition, (above and below) Rene Magritte tries to make the point that no matter how closely, through realism-art, we come to depicting an item accurately, we never do catch the item itself.  (To substitute ‘ the thing in itself’ here may be going too far but these two examples begin to make the point.

Ceci n'est pas un match de cricket

Third Man’s own surrealistic work (left) and homage to Magritte “Ceci n’est pas un match de cricket” with it’s realistic representation of the 2009 Lord’s Test complete score card appears at first sight a contradiction but is of course actually and indisputably true.

Indeed this is not the cricket match – the cricket match, qua the thing in itself (to borrow from Kant and Schopenhauer), was contained somewhere in a complex combination of the real and the imaginary parts of the continuing Clarke/Hadden partnership and Andrew Flintoff’s fitness on that final day of the match.

Could Clarke and Hadden ensure Australia made 522 to make cricketing history and go one up in the series? Could Flintoff take his first 5fer at Lord’s in his last Test match there … even possibly in his last ever Test appearance?

Prior to the start of play that morning, Flintoff bowled just two deliveries in the nets before limping back to the Pavilion, leaving a trail of questions.

The next installment which follows the match next day can be found here.

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