Sometimes in life, a bit of common sense can go a long way rather than getting too bogged down by regulation. Rules are there for a reason but as the saying goes, sometimes you have to bend them. That should have been the case during the second ODI between South Africa and India at SuperSport Park on Sunday.
Needing just two runs to win and chasing a modest 119 for victory, the Men in Blue were in cruise control to put it mildly at 117-1 in the 19th over when the umpires took the players off the field for a 40-minute lunch break. It was an astonishing sight but the officials had stuck to the letter of the law having already allowed an extended period of four extra overs (equivalent to 15 minutes) when India were 93-1 in order for them to get the winning runs required.
As it was, they should have just played on that bit longer. With Virat Kohli and Shikhar Dhawan at the crease, the match would have been done almost instantly if another ball was bowled but umpires Aleem Dar and Adrian Holdstock stuck to the lawbook. You could say the two men in the middle were just doing their job but the point is greater than that.
There weren’t many people left in the ground to see India sew up a nine-wicket win as most had gone home – plus millions more on TV probably switched off. Indeed, West Indies great Michael Holding labelled the umpires’ call as a “ridiculous decision” and the fast bowling legend has long called for changes at the top of the ICC, given he knows well how a nation can quickly decline in cricketing stature.
On the surface, the game may seem in rude health with the riches of Twenty20 leagues but Test cricket, in particular, is on its knees apart from the big series. Falling crowds, placid batting-friendly pitch conditions the world-over, the size of bats, unbalanced use of technology, meaningless and overplayed series as well as the dominance of the big three in terms of financial clout: India, England and Australia – the list goes on. These are the real key issues to tackle and what we saw in Centurion leaves a sour taste in the mouth.
Changes to the game are being made – the incoming 2019–21 ICC Test Championship and promotion of the likes of Afghanistan and Ireland to Test status being two examples. But the share of the pie is still not evenly distributed with many boards aside from the affluent ones mentioned struggling.
The curtain has come down on a stunning Big Bash League with a comfortable and well-deserved victory for the Adelaide Strikers over the Hobart Hurricanes at a sold out Adelaide Oval. Here are our five take aways from the BBL final:
Jake’s the man
Man of the match Jake Weatherald said he “wasn’t feeling great walking out” to open the batting. “Few nerves,” he continued, “but it came off well and plenty of support from Heady (Travis Head).” You can say that again. The 24-year-old smashed the Big Bash record books with the first century in a BBL Final, 115 off just 70 balls, to blast the Adelaide Strikers to their first-ever title. Weatherald lit up Adelaide Oval with an extraordinary innings, falling a mere seven runs shy of the highest-ever BBL score, to help the home side to an imposing total of 2-202 – setting up a record chase for the Hobart Hurricanes. Weatherald’s knock included nine fours and an imposing eight sixes, with six of those maximums and 48 runs coming from his favourite pull shot. Darwin-born Weatherald had been in decent form leading up to the final without really taking the BBL by storm with top scores of 65, 56 and 57 (in the semi against the Renegades) but on the biggest stage of all he delivered and how.
Where’s Matthew Wade?
After a stunning innings in the semi-final when he smoked the Perth Scorchers for 71-runs of 45 balls, you would have expected Matthew Wade to play a big part in the Hurricanes mammoth run-chase, which made his demotion down the order all the more surprising. The man who took Wade’s place behind the stumps in the national team, Tim Paine, opened up with D’arcy Short with captain George Bailey at No3 followed by Ben McDermott and then all-rounder Dan Christian. Wade finally made his appearance at No6, when the game was virtually gone, and would have rather stayed in the sheds as he was run-out without facing a ball, scampering through for a single to get himself on strike but Strikers keeper Alex Carey threw the stumps down and ended his brief stay. The cameras caught Wade smashing his bat into the bench after he’d trudged back to the sideline, clearly furious following his disappointing exit. “I thought it was a tough call on Matthew Wade,” Mark Waugh said in commentary. We have to agree.
D’arcy falls Short
After an extraordinary BBL where he walloped over 500 runs leading up to the final at a staggering strike rate of 147.8, much was expected of the stylish left hander as Hobart began their run chase. And he looked perfectly placed enjoying an 81-run partnership with Bailey – but then he got bogged down. Peter Siddle’s nagging line and length and a tidy spell from the innocuous Liam O’Connor had him slowing down just when he should have been speeding up. With the target ballooning out to 82 runs from 30 balls it looked like the Canes chances were blowing the wind. But then on came all-rounder Colin Ingram – a four and two sixes later and it looked like the chase could be on again. But with Siddle tying up Dan Christian in the next over Short went for a swoosh off the last ball, nicking through to a delighted Alex Carey. It was a disappointing end for Short whose 68 off 44 balls would have been respectable in any other game – but not what was needed to rescue this one.
Siddle sidles in
BBL07 has become noteworthy for a number of old stagers showing they still have it. None more than former Test bowler Peter Siddle. Although on the wrong side of his 33rd birthday Siddle has been among the best bowlers in the tournament with an economy rate of 5.94 and only twice going for more than 30 of his allotted four overs. But in the final he stepped up a gear with an inspired spell taking three for 17, with one maiden (gold in a decider) and an economy rate of just 4.25. He also took some big wickets. First up he had George Bailey caught down the ground, just when the Hurricanes were starting to get on top. Then in the maiden over that turned the game, the 15th, Siddle kept Short and the dangerous Ben McDermott scoreless before having McDermott adjudged LBW with his fifth ball. In a very poor decision the ball probably wasn’t hitting a second set of stumps but it in no way lessens Siddle’s superb achievement.
(Not) Missing Rashid
Much of the talk before the match was how the Strikers would cover for the loss of bowler of the tournament, Afghan leg -spinner Rashid Khan, who is now on international duty in Sharjah. Into the line-up came little known leggie Liam O’Connor. His last bowl was in Perth premier cricket on December 9. But his right-arm wrist spin – skidding and attacking the stumps – was perfectly suited to the surface. The Hurricanes’ preference for pace on the ball is well known and with Travis Head taking the new-ball the Strikers set out their stall very quickly. Before the final, Hobart had scored at 9.51 runs per over against pace, compared to 7.01 against spin. O’Connor and Head bowled three of the first four overs post the powerplay (the seventh, eighth and tenth) turning the screws as the Hurricanes scored just 25 runs, including one boundary. In the semi-final, against the Scorchers’ all-pace attack, the Hurricanes scored 38 in the same period, hitting a boundary an over, with Matthew Wade inflicting most of the damage.
They’ll be celebrating long and loud in Hindley Steet as the Adelaide Strikers claimed their maiden BBL title.
And it was nothing more than they deserved after a superb performance in a high scoring final at Adelaide Oval, coming out on top by 25 runs.
“Unbelievable – that’s amazing. Far out. It’s pretty special,” beamed an emotional Travis Head immediately after the match.
“There were questions over the squad, we got in a lot different guys – they were exceptional, unbelievable. They all backed each other.”
Head had special praise for his under-rated bowling attack, minus any big names but never failing to produce.
“They (the bowlers) all had different skills,” continued Head. “It was easy to use them throughout – each one brought a different unique style which has worked a treat.”
“I couldn’t fault the bowlers. The bowlers were unbelievable – the batters probably started (the season) a bit slowly, gave us opportunities to win games and that’s all you can ask for.
“And then (Jake Weatherald), we ask for matchwinners, that’s one of the unbelievable knocks.”
Weatherald came into Sunday’s contest in scintillating form, having hit three half-centuries in his previous four knocks, but he later admitted he wasn’t feeling it as he walked out to bat.
“To be honest, I felt completely off today walking out there,” he said.
“I felt out of sorts compared to my last couple of innings.”
But it didn’t take him long to find his range. He hit his fourth ball for four – and then really let fly sending a record-breaking eight sixes over the boundary rope.
In just the ninth over, he’d already equalled the most number of sixes hit by an individual in a BBL final – matching the five set by Melbourne Stars’ Kevin Pietersen and Perth Scorchers’ Michael Klinger – passing it soon after.
Of course it could’ve been all over early, with Weatherald just clearing Simon Milenko on the boundary on the last ball of the sixth over.
“You just get that luck. A couple just cleared the boundary line, that’s cricket,” Weatherald said, paying tribute to his captain.
“(Travis Head) kept reminding me it’s all about the win. He said ‘just keep batting for as long as you can’. He helped me a lot out there.”