Friday, December 14, 2012

Hobart 2012: Day One

I'm not 100% sure what to make of Day One in Hobart, but then it's early days in a series against (largely) unknown opposition.

At least they are to me, since the only cricket I get to watch on TV comes via Free to Air and is, therefore, what Channel Nine feels inclined to dish up.

So, no coverage of tours to the subcontinent, the West Indies or virtually anywhere other than England, and definitely no coverage of a Test series that involves anyone other than Australia. Sure, there are a few familiar names in the touring squad, but we haven't been as assiduous as we might be in following the international results.

With South Africa, England, Australia and Pakistan above them in the Test rankings you're looking at Two or Three plays Six, a scenario that means anything less than a series win will affect the home side's current ranking at a time when England seem to be making a pretty fair fist of dealing with the same sort of Indian side we saw out here last summer, but playing at home rather than being subjected to the rigours of touring (tongue in cheek there) and unfamiliar pitches that offer significantly more bounce than they're used to.

With everything being projected towards The Ashes in mid-2013 and again over the New Year, even something like a subtle shift between Two and Three in the rankings will be something that'll get exploited.

But that's bye the bye. What counts at the moment is getting a handle on how this side is shaping up, and this is where the I'm not 100% sure what to make of it factor comes in.

You can, however put a big tick beside Michael Clarke's decision to bat after winning the toss.

It probably comes as no surprise to learn you don't get first class cricket at Bellerive early in the season, and it was the ninth match of the Shield season before Tasmania got a home game. That was against the Redbacks, who were bundled out for 112 in the first dig, rolled the home side for 138, replied with 237 and rolled the Tigers again for 196 with the quicks doing most of the damage.

The  home side didn't do that well against Queensland either, losing by an innings and 123 after being dismissed for 95 in twenty-five overs.Khawaja's 138 on that track in a game where the second highest score was 49 and twelve out of thirty-three scores failed to reach double figures was one of the reasons I liked him for the spot left vacant by Punter's retirement.

And when the Warriors got there in late November they were rolled for 67 in the first dig.

On that basis you'd quite possibly be inclined to send the opposition in.

Sri Lanka, on the other hand, don't have the greatest pace attack in the world, and if you can't handle them in arguable bowl first conditions you're going to struggle against the likes of Anderson and Broad in similar circumstances.

On that basis 4/299 off the full ninety looks like a workmanlike performance, and you'd definitely rate the catch that claimed Watson as one of the better ones you've seen, but that's the sort of chance that tends to go to hand and stick in the heat of a battle that counts. Well bowled, sharp catch, tough luck.
And there seemed to be a bit of reverse going on with the one that claimed Hughes for 86, which is fair enough when the over count's climbing towards sixty, but is, nonetheless, worrying in an Ashes scenario.

But then we come to the openers.

I didn't see anything of Cowan's 136 at the Gabba, but 10 and 29 in Adelaide, and a duck in the first dig in Perth don't exactly fill you with confidence, but, then again  that was against Steyn, Philander, Morkel and Kleinveldt, and he did chip in with 53 in the second innings.

The shot that got him out this time, however, was ugly. Maybe not ugly enough to have you putting a cross against the name yet, but ugly enough to mean he'll need solid scores in the second innings and in Sydney and Melbourne.

With Hughes in the side, maybe there's room for Khawaja yet…

And the Warner run out was, well, one of those things, but it wasn't one of the things you expect from a pair of batsman who must have spent a fair amount of time at the crease together.

As far as the bowling went, I thought it was fairly obviously Number Six in the pecking order and, in a way reminded me of one of my Bowen schoolboy sides playing Townsville. Given the size of the population hereabouts we were never over-endowed with prodigious talent, and usually had to make do with whoever was in the age group at the time, so the best you could do was to hope to keep things as tight as possible for as long as possible, which is what I thought Sri Lanka did rather well yesterday (apart from the ten no balls, which were close to unforgivable, particularly when you saw the extent to which some of them were overstepping).

Sure, Cowan was a gift and Warner was a bonus at a time when the scoreboard was ticking over at just under four per over, and it was still comfortably under four when Watson and Hughes went.

And they got through the full ninety in the day without going too far into overtime with only seventeen coming from the left arm spinner. On that economy rate, by the way, one notes that while Welegedara claimed the three wickets credited to the bowler he also went for almost five an over off twenty, so the rest of an attack that isn't the strongest one going around sent down seventy for exactly 200. Pretty tidy work, that.

Of course, with Clarke on 70, Hussey 37 with Wade to come and Siddle, Starc, Hilfenhaus and Lyon to follow the wheels could well fall off.
And that applies to both sides.

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