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Cricket 38: Ashes Openers Crash and Burns

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Posted (edited)

Some great moments above. The memories of Lara in particular make me smile. A pure talent and one of our great test match treasures.

Another couple honourable mentions:

- Justin Langer and Gilchrist pulling off an amazing run chase in Hobart (2000/01)

- Graeme Smith coming out to bat with a broken hand against Mitch Johnson 

Edited by Paxter

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I should really also add a couple of the greatest performances I've ever seen, if not always enjoyed, against England. I'd also really like to include something by David Gower, my hero as a boy, but maybe next time.

1. Viv Richards v England in 1976. 291 runs. I remember him celebrating his double century with a rum punch delivered to the middle on a silver tray by the 12th man in a blazer, Cricket was better back then! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ohVumqPnCTc

2. Gordon Greenidge (and Desmond Haynes) against England in 1984. I was at this match. England declared and set the Windies 340 on the final day. Which they then proceeded to score in two sessions for the loss of one wicket. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5XO-96NSsA

 

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10 hours ago, Paxter said:

Some great moments above. The memories of Lara in particular make me smile. A pure talent and one of our great test match treasures.

I forgot to mention in that match that Lara was dropped by Healy with only 7 runs to go too! Parallels with the Lyon non-reviewable LBW at Headingley.

I managed to see Lara bat once at the SCG, it was an ODI that was an Aussie win by Duckworth-Lewis when the rain came in. Lara made a century in the chase, he was running out of partners with only 2 wickets in hand and the run-rate was crawling up to 9 an over (which 20 years ago was an impossible rate, although nowadays 66 of 42 sounds like a doddle), so the game got fairly called an Aussie win. But with Lara at the crease on116* and hitting boundaries at will, you could never count them out.

The triumvirate of Tendulkar, Ponting and Lara get mentioned as the greatest batsmen of their time. Tendulkar had a very conventional batting technique, Ponting's was quite exaggerated at times (though with a brilliant pull shot), but I think Lara was the one who had that touch of genius, with the high backlift, stylish follow-throughs and tonking spinners over the top. Probably my favourite batsman to watch.

And he still had it at 50 years old, hitting boundaries in the recent charity match.

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Posted (edited)
On 4/13/2020 at 11:10 PM, Jeor said:

And he still had it at 50 years old, hitting boundaries in the recent charity match.

That inside-out cover drive off Villani was something else. I'd rather watch him bat at 50 years of age than Steve Smith at any time :P. 

The Sachin v Ponting v Lara debate is a tricky one. For me it's Lara as a test batsman, but there is so much bias in there because of his entertainment value and my ability to recall specific innings. Sachin was the best all-format player though - I don't think Ricky or Lara were as dominant as him in coloured clothing. 

ETA: One other favourite test moment I forgot: McGrath's catch to dismiss Vaughan in Adelaide (I think?). Insanely unlikely to the point of being almost bizarre. 

Edited by Paxter

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Posted (edited)
9 hours ago, Paxter said:

The Sachin v Ponting v Lara debate is a tricky one. For me it's Lara as a test batsman, but there is so much bias in there because of his entertainment value and my ability to recall specific innings. Sachin was the best all-format player though - I don't think Ricky or Lara were as dominant as him in coloured clothing.

Yes, I think Sachin was the most complete batsman of the three. His technique was watertight, he could play attacking innings or bunker down for the long haul, and across the Test and ODI formats he was phenomenally consistent.

However, Lara had more style and flair, and he tended to play more memorable innings. He also tended to be a bit more inconsistent, with purple patches where he scored boatloads of runs followed by periods of indifferent form, but that probably adds to the romantic nature of his batting.

Ponting was somewhere in between the two. He did have a very odd technique, and had some weaknesses against spinners, but there was a period of time when he was captain that it seemed he scored a century every other innings and deep into his career at about 100 matches his Test average was 60.

Oddly enough given his bravery and aggressiveness, Ponting's most memorable innings for me was a rearguard action, his 156 in the fourth innings at Old Trafford that helped Australia salvage a draw by 1 wicket. He got out for the 9th wicket but McGrath and Lee held on, and at that point in the 2005 Ashes you felt Australia had escaped and would be back on top (but for Trent Bridge a little bit later...)

Edited by Jeor

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I like that Tendulkar, Lara and Ponting were all very different batsmen, style-wise.  Is it a controversial opinion to say that Ponting was better than Bradman?  Ponting played in all countries and conditions, and faced formidable bowling attacks.

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2 hours ago, Mosi Mynn said:

I like that Tendulkar, Lara and Ponting were all very different batsmen, style-wise.  Is it a controversial opinion to say that Ponting was better than Bradman?  Ponting played in all countries and conditions, and faced formidable bowling attacks.

I don't think it's possible to compare them, given the differences in era, but for me, Bradman will always get the benefit of the doubt. While you do point out some advantages for Ponting, there are a whole lot for Bradman too:

  1. Ponting played all countries and conditions but this could also be viewed as a weakness. For Bradman, 37 of his 52 Tests were played against England, consistently the best opponent in world cricket at the time. He only had one series each against India, West Indies and South Africa. In comparison, Ponting was playing against a more diffusely talented cricketing world with several weak sides.
  2. Bradman lost 8 years of his prime due to World War II (I didn't realise it was quite so long in between drinks so to speak). Before and after that long break he averaged around 100. So you would think in the 8 lost years he would have performed the same. He likely would have had 100 Tests to his name, with about 60 centuries and about 13-14000 runs (same as Ponting) in 60-70 fewer Tests. If he'd had the chance to play more, his statistics would be even more awe-inspiring.
  3. Even accounting for the different type of cricket going around (Bradman had to deal with uncovered pitches, for instance) Bradman was still clearly head and shoulders above all of the peers of his day. It's not like back in his day everyone was averaging 70-80 and he got 99.94. Everyone was still averaging the same (or even less) than what they do today, and he was up there at 99.94. His "z-score" was off the charts whereas with Ponting, we're able to point to several other contemporaries like Lara and Tendulkar who stand up in comparison.

 

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1 hour ago, Jeor said:

 

  1. Even accounting for the different type of cricket going around (Bradman had to deal with uncovered pitches, for instance) Bradman was still clearly head and shoulders above all of the peers of his day. It's not like back in his day everyone was averaging 70-80 and he got 99.94. Everyone was still averaging the same (or even less) than what they do today, and he was up there at 99.94. His "z-score" was off the charts whereas with Ponting, we're able to point to several other contemporaries like Lara and Tendulkar who stand up in comparison.

 

I'm less than convinced by this point. When Bradman played cricket was an amateur sport. I put it to you that it would be easier for a freakishly talented individual in a comparatively small pool of players, who has a lot of time to devote to the game, to stand head and shoulders above the pack.

These days most professional sportspeople are groomed from childhood and devote their entire lives to a game, the training techniques are well established, and there's a monumentally larger talent pool to draw upon. It follows that the differences between the best of the best are going to tend to be smaller.

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4 hours ago, Impmk2 said:

I'm less than convinced by this point. When Bradman played cricket was an amateur sport. I put it to you that it would be easier for a freakishly talented individual in a comparatively small pool of players, who has a lot of time to devote to the game, to stand head and shoulders above the pack.

These days most professional sportspeople are groomed from childhood and devote their entire lives to a game, the training techniques are well established, and there's a monumentally larger talent pool to draw upon. It follows that the differences between the best of the best are going to tend to be smaller.

Fair point, though there is no reason to suggest that Bradman wouldn't have derived similar benefit from professionalism, training and medical/nutritional advances as well.

I agree that with the modern game we are unlikely to see a freakish outlier like Bradman again. It was probably a product of the conditions of his era compared to the professional game. However, the magnitude of his statistical outlier makes me think he would still have held his own at the top of the tree in the modern game, if not quite as pronounced.

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Haha it was hard enough comparing Brian, Sachin and Ricky. Did we have to bring Bradman in? It's almost like the Godwin's Law of online cricket discussions :P.

Shall we move to the inevitable Warne v Murali argument? 

 

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4 hours ago, Paxter said:

Haha it was hard enough comparing Brian, Sachin and Ricky. Did we have to bring Bradman in? It's almost like the Godwin's Law of online cricket discussions :P.

Shall we move to the inevitable Warne v Murali argument? 

 

I think my choice of username should tell you my answer to that one.

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Posted (edited)

Split 1-1 so far!

One interesting factoid about these two greats: both sucked against their most formidable foes. Murali averaged 36 with a strike rate every 70 balls against Australia, compared to a career average and SR of 22 and 55, respectively. Warne's average against India was a stonking 47.18, striking every 90 balls (!)

*Pax daydreams about VVS*

One other (often-cited stat): Murali took 176 wickets against Zim and Bangladesh. Warne took 17 against the same opposition. That does muddy the statistical waters...

ETA: OK one last thing. Is it bad that I actually like Warne the commentator? 

Edited by Paxter

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1 hour ago, Paxter said:

ETA: OK one last thing. Is it bad that I actually like Warne the commentator? 

I don’t. He has interesting things to say, but he quickly turns the usual gentle teasing in the commentary box into contemptuous bullying and doesn’t know when to stop. 
 

I have a similar problem with Gower and Richards, both heroes of mine and elegant players, but truly boring and annoying commentators.

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1 hour ago, Paxter said:

One other (often-cited stat): Murali took 176 wickets against Zim and Bangladesh. Warne took 17 against the same opposition. That does muddy the statistical waters...

On the other hand, Warne played a lot against the 90s era England team which must have helped his average a bit.

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2 hours ago, Paxter said:

ETA: OK one last thing. Is it bad that I actually like Warne the commentator? 

I think I pretty much agree with Hereward. When's he's breaking down how to bowl at certain batsmen he's very interesting but when he goes away from that, which is too often, he's not great.

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Posted (edited)

Fair enough re: Warne. I kinda like his fire and that he doesn’t pull punches (e.g. he laid into Australia’s fast bowlers two summers ago). But he’s a dick for sure.

I miss Greigy tbh on the commentary front.

Edited by Paxter

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Really hard to compare Murali and Warne. Even considering the differing opposition they played, you also have to consider that Warne was part of a much better bowling attack than Murali, although Murali got to play on a lot more helpful and spin-friendly wickets.

Statistically of course Murali has a better average (22.72 to 25.41) but he has a big home/away split. Murali's home average (19.56) much better than away average (27.79) whereas Warne was pretty even (home 26.39, away 25.50). The away averages are probably the way to measure it seeing as the composition of their "away" grounds would be fairly similar.

I would be tempted to say Warne because of his big-game mentality, but I don't know enough about Murali's career to know if he was similar. Obviously I followed more of Warne's career so can remember more of his highlights - in particular that 2005 Ashes series where he not only took a ridiculous 40 wickets at 19.92 in a 5-Test series, but he also made some pretty consistent contributions with the bat from the No. 8 position (28, 42, 90, 34, 45).

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Posted (edited)

Murali got an absolutely ridiculous number of 10-fors. More than double Warne (who is second on the list behind Murali). 

It is so hard to compare them though. Murali ripped it hard both ways. Warne had a big spinning leg-break but relied more on flight, dip and the straighter one. Warne had McGrath and co. to compete with but also to help tie the opposition down. Murali was Sri Lanka’s entire attack. And then of course there’s the eternal debate about actions.

In hindsight we were very lucky to be able to watch them plus Kumble in the same era. Guys like Swann and Lyon are...good, combative cricketers and skillful in their own way. But not masters.

Edited by Paxter

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6 hours ago, Paxter said:

In hindsight we were very lucky to be able to watch them plus Kumble in the same era. Guys like Swann and Lyon are...good, combative cricketers and skillful in their own way. But not masters.

Yes, there definitely was a golden age of spinners in the 1990s and 2000s. Warne, Murali and Kumble were the superstars, but there was a strong supporting cast throughout that period too - Saqlain Mushtaq, Stuart MacGill, Harbhajan Singh.

Guys like Dan Vettori were seen as pretty pedestrian but these days Vettori would compare favourably to most of the current crop of spinners.

Lyon and Ashwin are probably the two standouts of this generation but they won't be making a lasting mark on the historical record.

 

 

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