Franchise before Country and low scores in the Matador – this week in Australian Cricket

Champions League T20

The tournament that got no TV coverage in Australia, either Free-to-air or on Pay TV, concluded last Saturday with the Chennai Super Kings defeating the Kolkata Knight Riders, featuring forgotten Australian fast bowler Pat Cummins, in the all-IPL final.

The Hobart Hurricanes and Perth Scorchers, last years Big Bash finalists represented Australia and as per the last two years the Scorchers were underwhelming. The Hurricanes, however made the semi finals thanks to some fine batting efforts notably the domestic journeyman and T20 specialist Aiden Blizzard.

The timing of the CLT20 tournament – seven months after the previous Big Bash, but only three months until the next – makes from some interesting player appearances. Players who have moved franchises in the BBL trade window, still represent their ‘old’ BBL team. For instance, Craig Simmons, the big hitting opener who moved from the Perth Scorchers to the Adelaide Strikers after BBL|03 was representing the Scorchers at the CLT20.

The timing of Australia’s only T20 International against Pakistan was also interesting, being the day after  the final of the CLT20. Cricket Australia directed Australian players whose teams progressed to the CLT20 final to play for their franchises and forego the opportunity to represent their country as was the case with Pat Cummins.

Famously Mike Hussey and Doug Bollinger were put through a brutal schedule by Cricket Australia in 2010; forced to play in the Champions League in South Africa with their team the Chennai Super Kings making the final on September 26 and then a Test match in India on October 1  where Bollinger broke down.

It is interesting to see how this dilution of resources for the national team fits in to Australia’s plan to be number one in all three formats. It could be argued that playing in the IPL, and to a lesser extent the CLT20, is the best preparation for T20 players given the paucity of T20 internationals that are played. However most would probably see it as Cricket Australia putting commercial interests, it is a 30% stakeholder in the Champions League, ahead of the best performance of the national team.

Matador Cup

The opening week of the Matador Cup has been characterised by some incredibly low scores and teams not getting close to batting out their overs. The opening day of the tournament saw Victoria bowled out for 111 in 38 overs handing Queensland a 9 wicket win in just 22 overs, whilst NSW’s Josh Hazlewood destroyed South Australia with the third best figures in domestic one day history with 7/36.

Two days later New South Wales defeated Queensland after bowling the Bulls out for 190 and cashing down the target with four wickets in hand. Ryan Carters has shown the ability to guide home a run chase with two undefeated innings at No 7 delivering victories to the Blues.

The exception to this low scoring was the first game televised on GEM for the tournament – the Victoria v South Australia day night game at the Gabba on Monday. South Australia made 299 thanks to some intelligent late hitting by wicketkeeper Tim Ludeman and Victoria chased down the target of 300 with nine balls to spare due to a century to Cameron White, who managed three figures despite severe cramp, a blitz from Dave Hussey (65 off 41)and  some lusty blows from John Hastings in the final overs.

Two days later both teams were back in action.

The Vics were rolled for 155 in 30 overs cahsing Tasmania’s 287. Tasmanian paceman Sam Rainbird did the dmamge with while Jon Wells hit his first one day century scoring 106 batting at No 6 to rescue Tasmania from a precarious 5/75.

South Australia and Western Australia were in a low scoring scrap with the Redbacks bowled out for 147 in 29 overs and the Warriors then crawled to victory with seven wickets down in the 37th over.

South Australia is having a tough tournament with no wins from three games and face an uphil battle to make the top three.They have also been hit with injury with Ludeman and skipper Johan Botha both missing the WA game due to hamstring complaints.

Shaun Tait’s comeback could not be considered an outrageous success so far with figures of 0/68 and 2/39 plus eight wides. He was rested from the game against Victoria and it looks like he will be playing one game on/one game off through the competition.

The earlier competition pace setters are NSW with two victories from two games but delayed starts to the tournament for Tasmania and Western Australia due to their Champions League commitments mean they have only played one game each.

The tournament continues in Brisbane until Sunday when it moves onto Sydney. With all six teams now playing their are televised games on most days.

World Cup Preparation

Ireland’s Australian leg of it’s tour down under completed this week with two games against the ACT comets at Manuka Oval. Two victories including a chase of over 300 with 9 wickets down in the last game showed Ireland had improved form it’s two disappointing performances against Queensland the week before. Ireland had strategically used this tour to become accustomed to the venues they will play at in the World Cup – they play South Africa at Manuka Oval and the UAE at the Gabba. Ireland now depart for more ground familiarisation in New Zealand.

Scotland on the other hand suffered two defeats against the Queensland Academy of Sport after splitting their two matches against a Tasmania 2nd XI the week before. A notable name playing for Queensland was former South Australian paceman and one-Test wonder Peter George – he took 5/28.

I’ll say it again Ireland, Scotland and any other Associate countries should be playing in this season’s Matador Cup. There could be no better preparation for a World Cup in Australia and New Zealand than playing in a four week 50 over tournament in Australia against, hardened Australian state sides. Both Ireland and Scotland have previously played in ECB run 50 over competitions against County teams so this concept is not without precedent.

Australia Watch

Australia cruised to victory in the T20 against Pakistan with Aaron Finches captaincy debut going smoothly and Dave Warner back to his switch hitting best. The Australian team included four debutants – all rounder Sean Abbott, pace bowler Kane Richardson, leg spinner Cameron Boyce and Phil Hughes who batted at number five.

Steve Smith made a century in Australia’s One Day International victory over Pakistan in Dubai on Tuesday evening/Wednesday. It is interesting to note it was his maiden ODI hundred batting at No 3 as a stand in for skipper Michael Clark. Just over 24 hours earlier Cameron White was making a match winning century for Victoria in the Matador Cup, and there are some interesting career parallels between the two batsmen.

Both were initially selected in the Test team as front line leg spinners. Smith’s century brought back memories of White’s maiden ODI century against England at Southampton in 2009, batting at No 3 as a stand in for rested skipper Ricky Ponting. From there it looked to be up and up for White but things haven’t panned out that way, and 5 years on White finds himself outside the national team set up. However he should be a strong contender for the World Cup squad.

Talk of Glenn Maxwell returning to the Test team seem to be strengthened every time he gets wickets, rumours are circulating that he may well be in contention for the Pakistan Tests after injuries to Shane Watson and now Mitch Marsh, who strained a hamstring representing Perth Scorchers in the Champions League, reduced the options for the all rounders position which is now considered essential to the Test XI.

Leg-spinner Cameron Boyce was rewarded for a strong showing in BBL|03 with a T20 international debut  for Australia. Curiously with Mitch Marsh withdrawn from ODI squad, Xavier Doherty was flown over to the UAE  as cover – replacing a pace bowling allrounder with a spinner. If a spinner was wanted why not keep on Boyce who flew to the UAE just for the solitary T20 match?

New South Wales allrounder Sean Abbott made his ODI debut and is correcting the imbalance of right armers in the One Day team with the attack featuring plenty of left armers – Mitch Starc, Mitchell Johnson and James Faulkner.

Big Bash Update

Only  10 weeks to go unitl BBL|04 and the Cricket Australia marketing machine is just about to hit the over drive button.

The first tit-bit of scandal was the story this week that Kevin Peterson may no t get the ‘No Objection Certificate’ from the ECB he requires to play in the BBL, up to 2 years after he has last played for England.

With KP’s biography causing more conflict between him and the ECB, I guess it could happen that the ECB would not grant a No Objection Certificate but it would seem to be a highly inflammatory move. Petersen is scheduled to land in Melbourne in time to prepare fro the Big Bash with a game

Muttiah Muralitharan has called time on his playing career after reducing his playing commitments  in several T20 leagues over the past 12 months. He won’t be returning to play for the Renegades in BBL|04.

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Ross Slater

Blogging about the important things - AFL and cricket

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