Poll Star's Wonderings

Friday, January 05, 2007

Time to say goodbye

I'm nearly done with the cricket; I expect that's the cue for sighs of relief all round. Partly because of this-



And partly because I might actually talk about something else.

Despite England's final defeat resulting in only the second Ashes whitewash in history, Jamie and I spent 3 very enjoyable days watching the carnage at the SCG.



The SCG is a scenic ground, a place of much cricket history. Goughie took the only 20th century English Ashes hat trick here. 4 years ago Steve Waugh scored an improbable century that extended his test career till his retirement here 2 years later, which I've seen widely reported as being emotional. Shane Warne made his debut here. In his final test, Greg Chapple made a century, became the first Australian to score 7,000 runs, passing Bradman in the process, and took the catch to break the world record. In the bodyline series, Douglas Jardine walked out to bat and swished the flies away; legendary barracker Yabba yelled 'Oi, Jardine, leave our flies alone' (I'm not sure if this inspired Pink Floyd's Another Brick in the wall). Bradman scored 452* and they named a stand after him.



Today, the SCG probably saw the end of 4 remarkable test careers: it is hard to be definitive as all will play on for some time outside the test arena, but all indications are that the SCG 07 was their finale. So what did these players achieve?

Justin Langer

105 Tests, 7696 runs at 45.27, 23 centuries, 30 fifties, highest score 250.
Only Greenidge and Haynes made more runs as an opening partnership than Justin and his 'big mate' Matthew 'Haydos' Hayden, who has published 2 cookbooks over here. He's probably been hit by cricket balls more often than any other player in history. In South Africa last year he played his 100th test and was knocked out first ball when the ball crashed into his helmet: the doctor said another blow could kill him. Ricky Ponting, his captain, said he was not allowed to bat, but when it looked like the team might lose, Langer had disppeared. Ponting found him in his batting gear, getting ready to go out. Not unreasonably Ponting said he couldn't bat, as he might die. Langer replied 'Aw, mate, what's the odds of getting hit again'. In the end Langer didn't go out to bat-Australia won by two wickets. You can bet no one could have stopped him had the 9th wicket fallen.

Oddly, he didn't hit the winning runs in today's 10 wicket win: it looked like he told Hayden to do it. He never hit the winning runs in a test match (neither did Warne). For him, the team, Australia and the baggy green always came first. Class. The English paid their respect: the team formed a guard of honour as he walked out to bat; the barmy army cheered him to the rafters when he responded to their ‘give us a wave’ chant. In the middle of an over, when he was facing. A similar wave while fielding at the WACA had resulted in chants of ‘Langer’s in the army’.


Glenn McGrath

124 Tests (out of 189 first class matches), 563 wickets at 21.64, 641 runs at 7.36, 1 fifty, high score 61.
It’s no secret that I don’t like him: I’ve read things about his sledges this week and they’re pathetic for a 12 year who’s just discovered swearing. But by hell could he bowl and when they put his best bowling performances up on the big screen, about half were against England. I was sure he would see Warne through to his maiden test century yesterday-he might have done had Warne had more faith in him. His first wicket today was the 1,000 test wicket taken by McGrath and Warne in the 104 tests they played together: that’s why Australia have been nigh on impossible to best. In finishing the England innings, he took a wicket with his last ball in test cricket. As did Dennis Lillee at this venue 23 years ago.

Shane Warne


145 Tests, 708 wickets at 25.41, 3154 runs at 17.32, 12 fifties, high score 99.
Surely the greatest bowler in the history of the game. Chuck in his batting and fielding, and he’s probably the only player to stand comparison to Bradman. I saw his 700th wicket, his last match and his last ball (hit for 4 by Harmison). I was genuinely privileged. His career lacked only 3 things in my opinion:

He never captained Australia-so he was rather dodgy off the pitch, this was a massive mistake by cricket Australia. He’d have won the Ashes for them last year, and it’s only a remarkable generation of players that has meant his captaincy has not been missed.

He is not on the honours board at Lord’s as he never took 5 wickets in an innings there. That’s McGrath’s fault-by the time Warne came on at Lord’s there weren’t many wickets left to take.

He never made a test century. I saw him try him damndest yesterday and at Old Trafford in 2005. A harsh man would say this is Warne’s fault; I say it is cricket’s fault. Cricket left Bradman with a career average of 99.94; it left Warne without a test century. They may be the best, but neither could quite master the game to his complete satisfaction.

Records tend to broken and at the moment Warne holds a lot. Murali will take more wickets, but no one will ever score more runs without a test century or eat so much pizza.

Only Bradman's last ball in test cricket can begin to compare with the fame of that first ball to poor Mike Gatting at Old Trafford. Warne battered England from the first ball 14 years ago to the last. In some crazy way, we loved him for it-though the wiggle at Trent Bridge in 97 pushed it a bit. He was Australia's, but ultimately transcended nationality and belonged to all cricket lovers. He lost once to England and was the best player on either side in defeat. For me, he is summed up by two things: the Oval crowd in 05 singing 'we only wish you were English' and the George Cross held up today, which said 'Shane Warne, Cricket Legend'.

Sajid Mahmood
Comfortably the worst player in a series that featured Geraint Jones. No brains, no heart, limited ability, no room for another chance. Other England players disappointed (Andrew Strauss), but have proved themselves before; other players weren't consistently selected (Jimmy Anderson) but performed at times; other bowlers were smashed around the park (Monty Panesar), but got stuck in and tried something else; other players sometimes fielded like they had lost faith in the team (KP), but contributed at their key discipline; other players looked lost and out of ideas (Freddie), but at least kept fighting; no other player was too lazy to move to execute a run out; no other player publicly criticised the captain; no other player displayed every negative facet of England's miserable tour. Not worthy to step on the same field as the 3 above. An England fan said to me this morning, 'After yesterday, Duncan Fletcher should get Mahmood in his office and tell him he's a prick'; after the game an aussie put it more concisely-‘don't think much of that Mahmood’. Shouldn't be allowed within a mile of international cricket ever again-even if he has ticket.

For me the three Australians demonstrated something sports fans should never lose sight of: good play by the opposition is still good play and deserves applause; but it's OK to mutter 'damn him', while you clap.

Despite all the Australian success, I am happy to report that the future of English cricket is secure. As I strolled through Hyde Park, three English fans were playing cricket (the Barmy Army seem to prefer a football). They were using the statue of Captain Cook for stumps. Ashes fever lives.

In amongst the Test Match, I also enjoyed a very pleasant night with Jamie, Kate and Kate's brother and sister-in-law. We had a bbq. Gas powered. The business. It all felt very Australian-especially as some bug bit me.

Otherwise, I have booked my Melbourne trip. I've been a bit lazy really, getting a trip without being exactly sure what it covers-I'm working on the basis that I can fill in the gaps at a later date-either from Melbourne or when I return to Sydney-as I must to fly onto New Zealand. I must say I'm looking forward to getting out of the cities for a few days.

I also found this picture of Pete:




Tomorrow looks like being a breakfast with everyone else at a TV chef's place, trip to Bondi and then the opera. Howzat for variety?

1 Comments:

  • 5-0 and we deserved nothing less. Our capitulation in the last two tests has been truly pathetic. I've experienced a lot of pain over the last 20 years as an England supporter but this has pretty much taken the biscuit.

    Having said that, I think it's worth pausing a moment to give the Australian side their dues. What a magnificent revenge. It could not have been more comprehensive. Of course they will be weakened by the retirements - no side in history could sustain the loss of McGrath or Warne, nevermind both of them - but I have a nasty feeling that they will still be in with a great chance of beating us in 2009 unless we pull our fingers out. Look at Clark's average for heaven's sake! more wickets than either of the two greats.

    As a fan of cricket - and not just an England fan - I salute them. McGrath has been a fantastic bowler - although I don't think he's quite up there with the Malcolm Marshalls, Richard Hadlees, Curtley Ambroses and Dennis Lillees of this world. There's no doubt that Warne is one of the greats though.

    Mind you, McGrath finally got a pre-season prediction right. Perhaps it is time to retire.

    ST

    By Blogger SwissToni, at 12:34 PM  

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