Monthly Archives: January 2016

Swap Lynn for Voges (Eventually)

They’re calling it ‘Lynn-sanity’.

As of 8 January, Chris Lynn has scored more runs (321 at an average of 64.20) than any other player thus far in the Big Bash League, and whacked more sixes (20) than any other batsman. He has faced more balls (189) than any other batsman in the BBL (thanks largely to repeated failures by disappointing West Indian import Lendl Simmons, who opens the batting for the Heat).

But the selectors should not pigeonhole Lynn as merely a T20 slogger.

Unlike many others who have starred in the short form of the game (e.g. Aaron Finch, Glenn Maxwell), Lynn actually possesses an attractive batting technique and a proven track record in longer form red-ball cricket (i.e. a first class average of 45.88). Lynn should be earmarked for higher honours, not only in the ODI team – from which he was recently excluded – but also the Test team.

With Usman Khawaja now back in the Test team, 36-year old Adam Voges has a lock on the No. 5 spot until he chooses to retire. The selectors should be seeking to identify his replacement. Their repeated attempts to shoe-horn Shaun Marsh into the Test team are misguided and a waste of time. Not only has Marsh demonstrated his mediocrity as a Test player, he’s too old. By the time Voges retires, Marsh will be 35 or 36. Will the selectors still be lauding his alleged ‘talent’ and ‘potential’ then? What would be the point?

No. They must go for youth.

Cameron Bancroft is promising, but he’s an opening batsman. His best chance is to hope that Joe Burns fails and needs to be replaced. At 24, Nic Maddinson has been touted as a future star since his first-class debut five years ago but has never managed to string together the scores he needs.

First-class careerAgeMatInnsNORunsHSAve10050
Lynn, Chris2535598234025045.88511
Marsh, Shaun3211520324701018239.161732
Maddinson, N2451896318218138.33715
Bancroft, C2329532186421136.5456

Lynn’s biggest problem has been injury rather than form. Lynn missed the entire 2012-13 Sheffield Shield season after copping a nasty blow to the groin from a Doug Bollinger thunderbolt. He returned to average 58.70 in seven matches in the 2013-14 Shield season AND make 104 and 61 not out against the touring England team before missing the first half of the 2014-15 season following shoulder surgery. He still managed to average 62.71 in  five Shield matches, including 250 against Victoria in February 2015. Lynn then dislocated his shoulder in September 2015 and missed the entire 2015 Matador Cup and the first half of the 2015-16 Shield season.

Lynn needs to stay on the park long enough to rack up some red-ball runs. If only he can stay fit and maintain the sort of form he has displayed in the past, it will be difficult to overlook him when Voges finally calls it quits.

Ready…Steady…Cheer Up!

Hurray! With the anti-climactic conclusion of the 3rd Test against the West Indies in Sydney, the worst summer of Test cricket in years has finally come to an end. Surely the outlook for Aussie Test cricket fans can only improve.

It’s been a rough summer. Only one of the six Test matches played in Australia since November – the day /night Test against New Zealand in Adelaide – was worth watching. The Black Caps are a good team, but the pitches at the Gabba and WACA in the 1st and 2nd Tests were unrecognizable in their flatness, which offered little to the bowlers. The 2nd Test in Perth, in particular, was probably the worst Test match I’ve ever seen.

The result of the West Indies series was painful and entirely predictable. I have some sympathy for Cricket Australia, because when the summer schedule was determined years ago, they had little idea of how far West Indies cricket would plummet. It is consensus now that the West Indies should never be invited back for a summer series.

There is a lot of chat about the allegedly dim outlook for Test cricket. Some of this reflects the huge success of the Big Bash League. My kids and I are enthusiastic converts to the BBL – they like the entertainment factor whereas I am impressed by how much the skills of the players have improved in the T20 format – but there is of course no reason why Test cricket and T20 cannot co-exist.

But for this to happen we need two things: a) a better standard of opposition and b) better Test wickets.

Well, one down, one to go.

As far as the quality of the opposition is concerned, the Australian Test team is now poised to face a succession of teams who will challenge it far more than the West Indies could, at least until the 2-Test tour of Australia by Bangladesh in August 2017:

Australia: Test schedule*OpponentNo. of TestsWhere
Feb-Mar 2016NZ3Away
July-Aug 2016Sri Lanka3Away
Oct-Nov 2016S Africa3Home
Dec 2016 -Jan 2017Pak3Home
Feb-Mar 2017India4Away
Aug-Sep 2017Bangladesh2Home
Feb-Mar 2018S Africa4Away
Jun-July 2018Zimbabwe2Away
Dec 2018-Jan 2019India4Home
Jan-Feb 2019Sri Lanka2Home
Mar-Apr 2019Pak3Away
* Source: ICC Future Tours Program

In February, Australia will play three Tests in New Zealand, where the conditions will present plenty of challenges and where a series victory is anything but a foregone conclusion. After a brief trip to South Africa in March (where it appears the itinerary will consist only of a few shorter format games but no Tests) and the T20 World Cup in India, Australia will have two months off before the West Indies hosts an ODI tri-series with Australia and South Africa.

Australia’s next major series will be its tour of Sri Lanka in July (three Tests, 5 ODIs and 2 T20s) before South Africa and Pakistan visit over the 2016-17 summer for three Tests each. Sri Lanka will be no pushover in their own backyard. South Africa is always a tough team to beat, even though they might arguably have slipped a bit lately. Even Pakistan should not be taken lightly when they visit Australia – the conditions will obviously suit the hosts, who will be favourites, but Pakistan have been playing some good cricket lately.

With this box ticked, we’re left with the other major problem afflicting Test cricket in Australia: the dull state of our Test pitches, especially since the 2014-15 series against India (see our previous post ‘Flat Pitch Emergency’). Cricket Australia boss James Sutherland has acknowledged the problem but how long will it take to address, and why is it so bloody difficult to prepare a decent wicket anyway? More about that in future posts.