James Anderson – 500 Test Wickets

Welcome To The 500 Test Wicket Club – James Anderson
On day two of the third test against the West Indies at Lords, James Anderson became the first Englishman to take 500 test wickets, and only the third fast bowler in test history to join the ‘500 Club.’ He reached the milestone in 129 tests after making his debut 14 years ago. He has consistently bamboozled opposition batsmen in all conditions all around the world. His ability to swing the ball both ways at 135kph still makes him a difficult proposition at the vintage age of 35.
Anderson’s longevity in the test arena is a rare feat, the only other fast bowlers to achieve the milestone of taking 500 test wickets are Glenn McGrath and Courtney Walsh. Anderson is a skilful bowler who relies on aggression and an immaculate line to draw opposition batsmen into his trap. In the right mood and bowling in the right conditions, Anderson can simply be unplayable.
At 35 years of age you would wonder how long Anderson has left in the test whites. Surely he could soon eclipse Courtney Walsh’s test wicket tally of 519, and possibly overtake Glenn McGrath’s 563 test wickets. His 23 test five wicket bags pay homage to his ability to rip through an opposition batting line up.
Anderson and Stuart Broad make a great opening bowling pair for England, and if both can stay fit for the upcoming Ashes series against Australia, we could see more records tumble. There have been many excellent fast bowlers in test history who have failed to reach 400 test wickets, let alone 500. Fast bowlers are susceptible to back, leg and shoulder injuries. It’s a credit to Anderson for keeping himself fit for such a long period of time. He fully deserves every success.

 

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2017 – 18 Ashes

2017 – 18 Ashes
Who isn’t looking forward to the upcoming Ashes series? No More Mitchell Johnston intimidating the Poms, no more Ryan Harris and the lack of a decent allrounder in the Australian squad. Mitchell Marsh has simply run out of second chances as a test allrounder, failing to deliver the goods consistently in both disciplines, batting and bowling. Glen Maxwell, the man with too many shots to bat in the top six, and spin bowling that fails to either frustrate or pin down opposition batsman is not Australia’s test allrounder saviour. Now even Ashton Agar has been touted as a possible test allrounder – possible?
But wow, haven’t Australia got some fireworks for Steve Smith to call upon at the bowling crease?
It’s so great to see Pat Cummins back playing test cricket for Australia, after years on the sidelines nursing back related injuries. Opening bowlers Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood bowl well as a unit and complement each other. Starc the left arm fast swing bowler and Hazlewood who relies on a nagging line and length are bound to shake up the English batsmen. Then Pat Cummins, and possibly James Pattinson to bowl first and second change.
The longstanding opening bowlers for England, James Anderson and Stuart Broad are at least as formidable as their Australian counterparts. Anderson who can bend the ball both ways at 135kph and Stuart Broad who has the ability to make every Australian dislike him, is a proven performer.
Alastair Cook has locked in one opening spot, but England are having trouble finding him a reliable opening partner. Cook aged 32 with 30 test hundreds averaging over 46 in test cricket will be crucial to England’s success. Joe Root is a world – class batsman, and stepping out of the shadows of his former test captain Cook, will give him an opportunity to show his cricketing brain against quality opposition.
It is always a daunting task for any English test squad to go to Australia on an Ashes tour and come up trumps. Typically, the Australian pitches are harder and faster than England pitches, and the Kookaburra ball behaves differently than the English Duke ball.
One has to wonder how the recent breakdown in pay negotiations will have affected the Australian squad. Cricket Australia was always going to settle negotiations before the Ashes series, but could have handled the situation more efficiently. It would be like any employee not knowing how much or when they were going to get paid.
Australia warm up for the Ashes against Bangladesh, who linger near the bottom of the ICC test team rankings, while England pair off against the once great West Indies side. When England and Australia meet for the first Ashes test on 23 November 2017 at the Gabba in Brisbane, careers and legends are made and lost.
England have two of the best test allrounders in the world, in Ben Stokes and Moeen Ali. Stokes has been hailed as the new Andrew Flintoff and can whack the ball into the stands and deliver great spells of fast bowling. Mooen Ali is a steady performer with the bat, and a much improved spinner. Australia have include the uncapped leg spinner Mitchell Swepson in their test squad. This selection seems like a desperate attempt to find another world – class leg spinner like Shane Warne.
If David Warner and Steve Smith both fail with the bat, Aussie will be in trouble. Same for England if both Cook and Root fail with the bat. One has the sense that this series will be won by the team whose bowlers perform the best. It promises to be a close series, with England the slight favourites because of the quality of their allrounders.

 

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Heavy Weight Boxing

BOXING

I have a new found respect for Wladimir Klitschko. Anthony Joshua beat the aging former heavy weight champion, yet the fight could have gone either way. This is the big league, tall strong men bashing the shit out of each other – not a sport for sissies. Both boxers took on collateral damage in this fight, fell to the floor and got back up.

Men especially consider themselves to be tough, yet not many can back up their staunch words with actions. The heavy weight boxing division is unique, in that one single punch can end a fight. One would have to ask why at 41 years of age, Wladimir Klitschko wants to fight on. I know he is still hurting from his loss to the unpredictable Tyson Fury, but Wladimir has nothing left to prove, and after two consecutive losses, he should retire. He has had an excellent career – 69 professional fights, losing only five times.

Wladimir has never been the show pony big – mouthed idiot that many boxers try to be. For some reason Wladimir won’t retire. I would love to see him fight Tyson Fury again. Fury never seems short on confidence, and has supposedly accepted the challenge from Anthony Joshua, dubbed the ‘British super-fight.’ Who wins? They would both win financially, but Fury’s career has been dormant of late, and Joshua has been active.

Joshua looks like he is carrying too much unnecessary muscle. The three main components for a champion heavy weight are; power, speed and evasiveness. Tyson Fury is an interesting boxer, he rarely gets hit, and demonstrates patience, conserving his energy.

I love Tyson Fury, he’s a character. He is a damn good boxer, and I love the way he taunts his opponents in prefight press conferences. I am excited about the current stable of heavy weights fighting. Let’s hope the fireworks continue.

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Martin Crowe

Martin Crowe – Gifted

Martin Crowe was a fluent and attractive batsmen. From a cricketing family, where his older brother Jeff would also play and captain New Zealand. Martin Crowe became the best New Zealand batsman of his generation. His record of seventeen test centuries for New Zealand still stands more than twenty years after he retired from test cricket. Although, Ross Taylor (15 test centuries) and Kane Williamson (14 test centuries) are closing in.

His highest test score of 299 against Sri Lanka stood as New Zealand’s highest test score, until Brendon McCullum made 302 against India at the Basin Reserve in Wellington in 2014. Such was Crowe’s batting prowess, that at the height of his ability, he could have commanded a starting spot in any international cricket team. He was New Zealand’s great saviour, much like Sir Richard Hadllee was as a fast bowler.

For a period of time, the New Zealand Cricket team revolved around their two world-class players, Sir Richard Hadlee and Martin Crowe, ably supported by many whole-hearted team mates through that era. The great Pakistani fast bowler Wasim Akram, described Martin Crowe as the best player against reverse swing that he had ever bowled to.

Out of his seventeen test centuries, all but one were scored against quality opponents. He scored five test hundreds against England, two of which were scored at the home of cricket, Lords. He scored three test hundreds against both the West Indies and Australia, two test hundreds against Pakistan, one against India, two against Sri Lanka and one against Zimbabwe.

Oh how he must have loved batting at the Basin Reserve in Wellington, where he scored five of his seventeen test centuries. Early on in his career, he was also a useful medium pace change bowler. Due to stress on his back, he discontinued bowling relatively early in his international career.

Martin Crowe was the sensation of the 1992 Cricket World Cup, ending up as the tournament’s leading run scorer, and also being named as player of the tournament. He also helped develop a shorter form game called Cricket Max. Cricket Max was trialled in the New Zealand first – class scene, and a few international games were also played between 1997 – 2002. Everybody knows what happened next! T20 Cricket quickly arrived, transforming short form cricket, enthralling crowds the world over in less time than One Day International Cricket.

Crowe also became an excellent cricket writer, regularly writing a column in ESPN’s Cricinfo. Although you don’t have to be a test cricketer to become a great cricket writer, if you were a test cricketer, it certainly gives your writing more creditability. I read as many cricket articles written by Crowe as I could find, because he always explained the game of cricket better than any other writer.

Crowe’s death at the age of 53, bought the curtains down on a brilliant career, as a player, mentor, writer, innovative thinker and a great man. He has certainly left behind a legacy, in both records achieved and what he gave back to the game post retirement.

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MARTIN GUPTIL

LAST CHANCE GUPTIL

New Zealand has never really had a swash buckling test opening batsman, or at least not as effective as Australia’s Michael Slater. The primary role of an opening test batsman is to see off the red ball, to tire the bowlers by not nicking out, and to bat for time. The New Zealand domestic scene is hardly chocker with potential opening test batsmen, but it’s almost time to draw the curtains on Guptil’s underperforming test career.

The Indian fast bowlers rely more on movement than pace to claim their wickets, using reverse swing and seam movement to dismiss batsmen on wickets that usually favour the spinners and slow bowlers. Guptil is susceptible to full, straight deliveries early on in his innings, often getting out LBW and caught behind. It is this prodding approach that is letting Guptil down. If he is going to play an attacking shot, he should go hard, and throw the kitchen sink at it.

Guptil needs to make better decisions on which balls to leave, when to play defensive shots, and when to attack. He can play most of the shots in the cricket book, but often in test cricket his dismissals are weak. This could also be attributed to the fact that there really aren’t any great young fast bowlers plying their trade on the New Zealand domestic scene, and when he comes up against world – class bowlers like Mitchell Starc and Dale Steyn, he struggles.

Depending on their accuracy and the temperature, opening fast bowlers rarely bowl more than eight over spells in test cricket. If Guptil could defend, and eek out singles, and put the odd bad ball away while seeing off the first fifteen overs of the innings, then he could build from that base. It must be hard for international cricketers to keep changing formats, from test cricket, to one day internationals (ODI’s) and the hugely lucrative T20’s.

In the last twelve months Guptil has been a sensation in the shorter forms of cricket, but has been unable to produce the required results in test cricket. One has a feeling that this upcoming test series against India is his last chance as an opening batsmen for New Zealand. Effectively, he has nothing to lose, so he should see off the new ball, and play his shots when the bowlers stray. Guptil driving straight down the ground, pulling square off one leg and driving through the covers, is great to watch.

 

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New Zealand Pathetic Against South Africa

Zimbabwe made New Zealand look good, albeit temporarily. Big guns South Africa on home turf, were a totally different proposition. Martin Guptill proved again that he is a short – form specialist, struggling against the red ball. Ross Taylor is an interesting case too. He averages in the high forties in test cricket, which should suggest that he is one teir down from being a world – class batsman. However Taylor couldn’t handle the pace and swing of Dale Steyn, even running himself out to get off strike.

Ross Taylor’s average is so high, because he scores a truck load of runs against lesser nations, and has had many big not out scores. Perhaps if New Zealand had a truely world class fast bowler in the mould of Steyn, Mitchell Starc or Stuart Broad, their batting would benefit too. There was high hopes that Trent Boult would be a great bowler, but he lacks consistancy, and his pace has fallen away of late.

 

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Ricky Ponting

BOOK REVIEW

PONTING – At the close of play

 

Before I launch into this book review, I just want to state that Ricky Ponting is my favourite cricketer of all-time. He wasn’t the greatest batsman (at least statistically), he wasn’t the greatest test captain (according to the press), he wasn’t the best fielder (but not far behind the best), but for me Ricky Ponting was the all-round cricketing package. Even though he sent down a few wobbly less than medium pacers over the duration of his career, he was not considered to be a genuine all-round cricketer.

 

PONTING – At the close of play

The first time I had ever heard of Ricky Ponting was during the quadrangular World Series Cup One Day International (ODI) tournament in the summer of 1994/1995. I am certain that many Australian cricket fans would have heard of Ponting prior to this tournament, considering that he made his first-class debut for Tasmania at the tender age of just 17.

I can still remember it as if it was just yesterday. A 19 year old Ponting wearing the Australia A uniform, walking confidently out to the centre of The Adelaide Oval, swinging his bat and chewing gum like most of the pros of that era did. There was something about him, he wasn’t cocky, he just an air of confidence and a staunch demeanour. The inclusion of a second Australian team in the World Series Cup was a contentious decision. It turned out that the ‘old hands’ in the top Australian team were looking over their shoulders at the new breed of talented young Australian cricketers. The fact that Australia A made the finals of that tournament against the Australian team, just shows how much talent there was in Australian cricket at that time.

After reading Ponting’s autobiography, I feel as if I now know the man as well as the cricketer. He was the junior protégé that everybody in the know of Australian cricket circles knew about. He was the kid from Tasmania who would travel the world and lock eyes with the deadliest bowlers of his era. Small in stature, Ponting took a backward step to no one. Like most of the great cricketers to represent Australia, Ponting came back an even better player after being dropped from the national team.

Over the duration of his career, Ponting played 168 tests and 375 ODI’s, scoring 41 test centuries and 30 ODI centuries. Finishing his career with the very respectable averages of 51.85 (test average) and 42.03 (ODI average). This book takes you behind the scenes of the feats he achieved throughout his career, at times taking you into his mind, but always fighting to be the best cricketer he could be.

Every chapter in this book was great reading. There were some very humorous moments, like the time he and Paul Reiffel nearly came to blows while on an aeroplane. Ponting was to never take a backward step during his career, and became friends with some of the most influential Australian cricketers of all-time, players like; Shane Warne, Glenn Mcgrath, Darren Lehman, Matthew Hayden and Justin Langer.

For decades the captain of the Australian Cricket Team has been acknowledged as the second most powerful job in the whole of Australia – the most important job being Prime Minister.  Ponting described in detail his reign as Australian captain, the high points, like winning ODI World Cups, and the lows – defending his players against controversy. What resonated throughout his biography was his pride in representing Australia at cricket.

I loved the stories in this book about the team celebrating their triumphs by singing the team song ‘Underneath the Southern Cross’ all around the world, and what an honour it was to be the official song-master. Throughout this book, Ponting intertwined all aspects of his life as a professional cricketer, from the pressures of being famous, the endless support from his family and his close friends and his relationships with the press and the Australian Cricket Board. Every young aspiring cricketer should read this book, and take at least three things to heart; to believe in your ability as a cricketer, always train the house down and value your time in the Australian Cricket team.

It was a very easy read, and I found this book hard to put down at times. What was a constant though, was Ponting’s work ethic, and his quest to continually improve. From humble beginnings, Ponting built a career to world-class standards, to become one of the world’s best batsmen of his era. What also has to be taken into consideration is the amount of talent in Australia at that time, and how Ponting enjoyed a long and celebrated career.

I loved his candid reviews of his relationships with the press, and how the press can make life difficult for sportsmen. Always straight up, and honest, Ponting outlasted many of his contemporaries.

I wish I had read this book at ten years old, that’s how much of a great book it is. About continually pushing yourself, and setting goals, to being humble and appreciative.

 

BOOK RATING   9/10

 

 

 

 

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