Test Match Cricket has arrived!
Can’t you just feel the inertia pulling you toward the couch for two months of sizzling sausages, stupidity and senseless commentary banter? We are spoiled for choice as cricket lovers this Summer.
To begin, we can expect one of the closest tussles between the Aussies and our neighbours across the ditch in at least as long as two decades. Following that we have an epic month of cricket against the emerging behemoths India, in what will certainly be the last series of Test match cricket between Ricky Ponting, Sachin Tendulkar and most likely Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman. Squeezed in between the Test series we are launching the Big Bash League. Whether you like it or not it’s hard to ignore the lineup of overseas stars such as Chris Gayle and Shahid Afridi, along with the comebacks of our very own Shane Warne and Matthew Hayden.
The Gabba Test against New Zealand may not have you salivating like the upcoming Boxing Day match against India, but it is the perfect condiment to whet your appetite and lubricate your innards for the excess cricket saturation to follow.
Let’s be honest, both teams have been less than convincing in recent years. Australia, having slumped to fourth in the Test Rankings are in no position to take any series lightly. New Zealand on the other hand have languished to a lowly eighth, and not having won a Test in Australia for 26 years will be desperate to add some respectability to a Test ranking which fails to be justified by a talented list.
It looks certain Australia will play at least three debutants. Shane Watson’s injury will surely open the door for aggressive opener David Warner whilst James Pattison is expected to share the new ball with Peter Siddle. Michell Starc and Ben Cutting will likely contend for the last bowling position but my preference would be to go with Cutting as home ground experience may assist. In fact, I have never been a great fan of Mitchell Starc, he could well be a doppelganger for Mitchell Johnson if he were to get inked up to the eyeballs.
New Zealand have a similar problem with inexperience. It is the second Test for fast bowler Doug Bracewell and batsmen Reece Young but as the touring team and underdog coming to terms with the pressure of such a huge match will likely hit the home team harder.
My key players for the game include:
David Warner: As noted in a previous article and my own opinion, Warner has the capability to be a top line Test batsmen. Some qualities, whether 20-20, Test or One Day are transferable across formats and David Warner has arguably the best hand eye coordination in the country. Sure, his mindset was not manufactured for Test cricket, but over the last 2 years I have witnessed him tightening up some of the major technical flaws which have kept him out of contention and without a better option it is a good gamble by the selectors.
Peter Siddle: I have rarely given Piddles a break, but he is getting a ‘one Test only’ reprieve (for lack of better options). The most experienced member of Australia’s hastily procured line up it is essential for Piddles to administer extreme aggression and pain on the New Zealand batsmen. While the ball is new it is imperative he bowls full to extract some life out of what should be a rather giving Brisbane pitch.
Jesse Ryder: He is an enigmatic match winner who can change the course of a game when set. I am just not convinced a fast bouncy surface suits his game, his majority scores seemed to have been derived from slow and low sub continental wickets. If the tour game is anything to go by, he is in touch and likes to score fast. If New Zealand is any chance of winning this Test match Ryder needs to make a contribution.
I feel that Australia are way under the odds at 2.0 and New Zealand are a fair shout at 7.0 on Betfair. The major issue is to be the weather, which is expected to affect at least 2 of the 5 days scheduled. On this news the Draw has tightened considerably in from 3.2 to 2.7 over the last twenty four hours.
At this stage I would suggest a Draw is the most likely result, but for those tempted by a bit of value I would be taking a nibble at New Zealand for a bit of fun.
For high batting, I am going to say the Punter Ponting based purely on his love for scoring at the Gabba. Good luck Ricky.
Peace in Cricket and Godspeed. Love Summer.