Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The ultimate question, and search for answers

The answer to Life, Universe and beating Australia?

Last year, in the same Chappell Hadlee series, NZ had won almost both matches that involved chasing in excess of 300. They fell short by a heart rending 2 runs while chasing 322 in Wellington in the 2nd ODI. They made amends in the 3rd chasing a then record of 331 in Christchurch with an over to spare. I remember watching those chases and then excitedly explaining the details to everyone who asked. Or didn't. I thought I saw something special in those 2 back to back matches.

I was wrong. This time they went a notch higher. Higher targets, achieved with few balls to spare. In the first one you almost felt pity for Australia not to get the wicket of Ross Taylor early on, the way alsmot every run until his fifty came from the edge of his bat. He played very well after that and supported by McMillan, Fulton and McCullum NZ won with over an a half to spare. The six off McGrath that McCullum hit will remain in memory for a long time. Coming up to a bouncer and pulling with all his might, ball hittting the middle and disappearing way beyond.

The last ODI was even better. For the last few overs while Australia were batting, fours were a rarity. The way Hayden was nonchalantly hitting sixes, with a fractured toe, was unbelievable. Especially the one with one hand that went miles high in the stands. Putting the exams I had the next day on lower priority, I knew I just had to watch the NZ response. And you all know what happened. McMillan's innings and again the last part of McCullum's knock again with a winning six, though under much more pressure this time, was a joy to watch.

Which brings me to McCullum. Here are his contributions in the four matches I mentioned:

2006, ODI 2 : 48 of 33 balls, run out.
2006, ODI 3: 50 of 25 balls, not out.
2007, ODI 2: 22 of 15 balls, not out.
2007, ODI 3: 86 of 91 balls, not out.

Had he not been run out, and that was pretty unnecessary, NZ would have won that match too. Amazing consistency under pressure. No wonder he wears the jersey number 42.

Also these four matches point out to the size of grounds in NZ. It was certainly a huge factor in these amazing run chases.

The last time Australia lost 3-0 in the erstwhile Texaco trophy in '97, I remember what the mood was. Mark Taylor, the captain for the tour and the first two ODI'd had to drop himself in the third, something unprecedented. Steve Waugh captained in that match, Australia lost (by 6 wickets in all 3 matches!). But that phased Taylor out of the team and put Waugh in charge. We all know what happened then.

So are Australia on a shaky ground before the world cup? Results certainly point that way, although I think this well help off shake whatever complacency there would have been. They might just emerge a better outfit in the WC. Can't wait for that.

I watched the match and then slept to wake up in time for the Bayern vs. Real Champions league match. Real won 3-2 and it was 3.15 am by the time they did that. I had an exam at 9.30 am and hence this was another record for the least time spent on preparation of an exam. I slept in an hour, thank God it was only a humanities course.

As an afterthought, they have art appreciation, movie appreciation etc. courses as electives. Time to have a sport appreciation probably?


Gee said...

Hey, Kiwis seem to have a strange knack for beating the crap out of anybody immediately before the WC...remember the way they bashed India in 2003? We didn't do too bad in that World Cup, I'd say:P
And don't just casually go about drawing 42 connections with people (seeing that you site a huge number, 4 that is, of matches to substantiate your argument) :-|
Plus, the fitness also doesn't look too good with Oz...although they are capable of overcoming almost anything, won't you agree?

Nikhil said...

Those pitches were not fit for playing cricket, I remember a lot of hue and cry over that. Sehwag got some 2 centuries in that series..wish that come back.

And 4 is not that a number if you consider we are talking near world records here, that too not against UAE or Namibia. Anyway, the last 42 connection for a while for me. Am really helpless when I come across that no. :D

Stuart Clark for Lee is not too bad I would say. With Ponting back I guess Zak and a whole lot of other bowlers would start having nightmares. But then it's never about their batting :)

Gee said...

I do distinctly remember those in NZ as really bad pitches, but see, the whole pitch-was-bad-blame-game is too cliched:P
And there do exist brilliant world records that haven't been against UAE/Namibia (or why even leave Netherlands out of this list? :P) Case in point - highest total in a WC final:-|
Also, some people seem irreplaceable - not for their game, but for the fact they make the matched so much worth seeing, and Brett Lee is one of them - the drama, the aggression, the looks, the sheer beauty in the agility of his actions - I could go on, see:D

Nikhil said...

That is not a fair comparison, there have been only 8 WC finals and it takes some talent to get there too :)

And talking of Lee, I have this habit of making topical World XI's when I have nothing much to do, and here's the 'good looking XI' that I came up with. Any additions/subtractions?

Rule being that it must be a proper team, with people playing in almost they same positions as they do normally.

Graeme Smith
Stephen Fleming (cap)
Rahul Dravid
Yuvraj Singh
MS Dhoni (wk)
Shahid Afridi
Brett Lee
Daniel Vettori
Shane Bond
Zaheer Khan
Liam Plunkett/James Anderson

Contentious selections: Vettori, but couldn't think of any spinners. And substitute anyone for Plunkett/Anderson. Think Ponting, Kallis might get in?

Others who want to chip in, please do. Make a WC 15 if you wish :D

Gee said...

Ah well, this is not as precarious a situation for me as I thought at first - see, as long as Lee, Shane Bond and Graeme Smith make the list, I don't care who else does or doesn't:P
Although, if people who used to play till a short while ago counted, I wouldn't do without Mark Boucher, Jason Gillespie and Shane Warne:)(and also Pollock)
Kallis - yes, Ponting - not even debatable, seeing that the other contender is Stephen Fleming :D Don't doubt Vettori - the glasses provide a tantalizingly intellectual add-on.
Now I have given away way too much info :P
PS: I am not into Dravid that much, even as a person (not just looks) but I am sure the Indian female demographic will kill me for saying that. Ditto Yuvraj. Among the Indian players, it has to be Anil Kumble all the way.
Now that is way too much information. Snip snip.

Nikhil said...


Some strange choices :P
Though don't know about you, but if recently (?) retired players are counted, almost every such team would have Mark Waugh in it.

I'll have to make an ugly XI sometime soon :)

Gee said...

And Steve! He is a supremely better person - hence more, erm, wanton:P

ranjan said...

and what has 42 got to do wid pressure?

Nikhil said...

nothing at all :)

put the title of the post and this together, then maybe this silly analogy will follow

Anupam said...

Sanath Jayasuriya in place of Greame Smith,Sachin Tendulkar for Stephen Fleming,Jacob Oram in place of Shahid Afridiand Chaminda Vaas for Plunkett/Anderson.(Conditions in Windies will suit players from subcontinent).