A Dark Day for Cricket

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Do I even need to mention the subject?

I can understand Rilee Rossouw’s frustrations. He can’t get in the team because black players (And by black we mean at least two black Africans and four non-whites) such as Temba Bavuma and Jean-Paul Duminy, get selected ahead of him even if (When!) they fail, fail and fail again. This is not to say that Bavuma will not be stronger for his struggles and go on to have an outstanding career or that Duminy hasn’t had his moments. Oh and Rossouw claims this had nothing to do with his relocating but that he “need(s) to buy groceries”!

http://www.cricketcountry.com/news/kyle-abbott-rilee-rossouw-retire-from-international-cricket-sign-kolpak-deal-with-hampshire-564091

For Kyle Abbott the scenario seems somewhat stranger as he is currently in the South African Test XI (Or was) though admittedly full fitness to one or two others might have relegated him to 12th man duties. In recent times Simon Harmer, Stiaan van Zyl and Hardus Viljoen have also joined English counties on Kolpak deals.

Of course we can strip it right back and say that South African national sport teams should be full of black players but by that rational then all black and Asian players need be removed from England teams and Australian national teams would definitely be struggling for players.

Regarding the signatures of Abbott and Rossouw, exactly what message does this send to young cricketers in the county of Hampshire?

For youngsters that aspire to play for their home county, they are now likely to think that their county doesn’t want them and that they’d rather sign experienced South African pros. There will be young English Hampshire players sat in the pavilion or at home when their South African infused team take to the field in 2017.

With the new English domestic season approaching at pace, we are surely headed for another Leicestershire v Northamptonshire episode where most of the players aren’t even eligible to represent England, and on that note…

… I recently wrote an article about the possibility of Darren Bravo playing for England…

https://sillypointcricketsite.wordpress.com/2016/12/02/bravo-for-england/

… in truth, the qualification period is now seven years, so this should allay any fears of Abbott and co. gatecrashing the England team anytime soon at least. I previously addressed my understanding of the way that people move around the world these days and how it is not always as straight forward as some people would like to label a person with a nationality but I sincerely hope that the capped South African players arriving in our game this year never don the Three Lions shirt. Luke Ronchi and Ryan Campbell provide recent examples of players that have switched international allegiance post being internationally capped. Imagine if Wayne Rooney retired from international football then moved to the MLS but in five years time became eligible to represent the USA, did so and played against England at the World Cup! If anybody feels that this is xenophobic on my part then so be it. These situations differ dramatically from those of Pietersen, Prior or Trott, or of Robson, Shah and even Joyce but I’ll repeat my comment from my Bravo article that once you’ve made your international bed you must lie in it.

Are you listening Johan Botha?

Anatomy of Trying to Save a Test Career: Re-Revisited

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Name: Stephen Craig Cook: Mins: 368 Balls: 240 Runs: 104

Stephen Cook scored a hundred on Test debut and now he’s scored one in what many would have suggested could well have been his last Test innings. In-between Cook hasn’t completely disgraced himself (One fifty against NZ) but neither has he set the world alight. His two centuries suggest that he is a player, a man that can dig deepest come the big occasion. His 104 in Adelaide may not have been the most aesthetic and some may argue that he put pressure on his teammates by scoring so slowly but that simply isn’t true. The third Test finished with more than a day to spare, if the likes of Jean-Paul Duminy and Temba Bavuma got out playing rash shots because they felt that their team were getting bogged down then that is their fault, not Cook’s. For now at least Test cricket still lasts five days and whilst many spectators wouldn’t pay to watch Cook but would rather see De Villiers and the like batting in a more aggressive (Attractive?) manner if all players were the same that wouldn’t be very interesting.

There is still a place in Test cricket for players like Stephen Cook.

Anatomy of Trying to Save a Test Career

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South Africa’s Stephen Cook had to wait a long time to play international cricket. Despite scoring run upon run at domestic level year after year the selectors had ignored him. Finally at the age of 33 the right-handed opening batsman made his debut against England earlier this annum. Representing South Africa A he had carried his bat for an unbeaten 53 in a warm-up match against the tourists before eventually getting the call-up to the full side following failures by the likes of Stiaan van Zyl.

He made 115 on his first Test outing and added 25 in the second innings. At home to New Zealand Cook recorded scores of 20, 56 and 4. He has struggled to get going down under registering contributions of 0,12 and 23 in the first two Tests. All this added up to Cook needing to deliver in the third and final Test, a pink ball day/night affair against Australia in Adelaide. Though South Africa have already won the series there is still much to lose… or gain for Cook. Remember that star batsman AB de Villiers is absent through injury and will almost certainly be immediately reinstated to the side. The other aspect that Cook is up against (Other than Australia’s bowlers!) is South Africa’s selection quota. Current regulations state that they must have six ‘black’ players in the XI. Stand-in captain Faf du Plessis certainly isn’t getting dropped and Cook’s fellow opener Dean Elgar probably has enough in the bank too. Basically Cook needed to go big in the third Test.

Did he?

I’ll admit that when I got up early doors to watch the Test I had hoped to watch a fellow Yorkshireman, Middleborough born debutant Matthew Renshaw opening the batting for Australia but it was the tourists that won the toss and chose to bat. Having got off the mark with a streaky boundary Cook was soon the very definition of plumb LBW to Mitchell Starc. He shook his head as Dean Elgar hinted at a review and marched towards the pavilion. But hold on!

Is it a no ball?

The big screen replays suggest that it might be. Cook is stopped from crossing the boundary rope. Had he done so he would not have been allowed to return. He looks up at the screen but he’s not sure, he looks rather bewildered and the episode goes on for what seems like an eternity. Part of you thinks that he doesn’t particularly want to go back. Almost with a sigh of resignation he returns to face Starc again. You sense that this is Cook’s moment. That dismissal could have been his Test career dead and buried but for an epic second innings century. He would have been stuck in the field for a day or two mulling over all that he’s worked towards slipping away from him when he’s barely had a sip. Now he has the chance to go on and make a score, plunder thousands of Test runs from this moment forth and look back on that no-ball as the moment that changed his entire life.

Before long Dean Elgar is out. Hashim Amla and Jean-Paul Duminy both follow soon after, all freakishly for five runs. This seems to be shaping up as a Stephen Cook type innings, it is everything that he is designed for, him to just stay there as wickets tumble at the other end. The commentators, nearly all past Australian players are tearing his technique to shreds but hold on, he’s the one that’s still there and runs are starting to flow. Cook is having a torrid time against Starc. He is averaging 46 against right-arm bowlers in Test cricket but just ten against left-armers, i.e. Starc & co. Josh Hazlewood is bowling really well too but Jackson Bird’s opening spell is a pressure reliever and when Nathan Lyon, wicketless for about a fortnight comes on, skipper du Plessis and Cook step to off and work singles on the leg-side. At lunch Cook has made it to 40 and soon after he and du Plessis register a fifty partnership but Cook just can’t get going again and following some not so subtle field changes he’s expecting a short one. He doesn’t get it and edges Starc to Steven Smith at second slip. Cook punches his bat in frustration.

In all probability he needed at least another ten runs to save his Test career, fine margins. One senses that at 33 once he’s gone he’s gone. Barring an Australian batting debacle he’ll have one more innings in this match but will need to get toward triple figures to ensure that it isn’t his last in Test cricket.

Hopefully he can cook Bird, starve Lyon, send Starc around the park and …err… get Hazlewood… err… stuck in the mud!

Australia 0-1 South Africa

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South Africa have gained a 1-0 lead in their Test series in Australia with a 177-run victory at Perth. Australia had actually been 158-0 in their first innings response to South Africa’s 242 but suffered an Englandesque collapse losing all ten wickets for just 86 runs and so finishing 244 all out, a lead of just two. Dean Elgar (127) and Jean-Paul Duminy’s (141) partnership of exactly 250 helped South Africa soar to 540-8 declared against the Birdless Ozzies (See previous post: The Bird and the Lyon). Despite 97 from Usman Khawaja and 60 not out from wicketkeeper Peter Nevill, Kagiso Rabada’s 5-92 saw the hosts bundled out for 361.

Australia’s selectors will now surely ponder possible changes to the side for the second Test and might do no worse than to ‘Go West’ as the Pet Shop Boys would say. Western Australia’s Ashton Agar (Remember him?) was unlucky to finish on the losing side as his team were beaten by New South Wales in Sydney in the latest round of First Class fixtures down under. Agar recorded career best bowling analysis of 6-110 in the first innings and match figures of 10-141. He also registered scores of 15 and 35 batting at number five. The Australian selectors might be tempted to bring the twenty-three-year-old back into the fold though national selector Mark Waugh already seems to have confirmed that it won’t be at the expense of Mitchell Marsh.

The second Test of the three match series commences on November 12th at Hobart down in Tasmania, down in Tasmania!