Two remarkable innings have emerged from the weekend’s local cricket action in Victoria.
In the first, Geelong City captain Jack Driver was the hero, hitting four sixes when his team needed 21 runs off four balls to beat Bell Park in the GCA2 Firsts, reports the Geelong Advertiser.
The Sharks were 8-170 chasing 193 entering the final over, and it got even worse when Driver’s teammate Adam Marsland was bowled first ball.
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“I just said (to the next batter), ‘try and hit it so I can get down (the strikers) end’,” Driver told the Addy.
“There was probably two (runs in it) when he hit his and we just settled for one. I always thought if we needed 20 off the last over we could manage it and luckily the ball was where I wanted to hit it and I got a few out of the middle.”
Driver got on strike and hit sixes off the first two balls he faced, leaving nine off two to win.
He missed the next ball, but it was called wide by the substitute umpire – his teammate Tom Treble, who replaced the original umpire who had to be hospitalised after knocking himself out when trying to get in position for a run out.
Driver then hit two more sixes off Daniel Maclean to complete the remarkable win – but the vanquished opponents were good sports about it and drank with the victors afterwards.
“A few of (the Bell Park) guys just said it was good hitting and there was nothing they could do so it was just one of those games where it panned out for us and not for them,” Driver said.
“I’ll take a few drinks on the night but it’s only a game in November so hopefully it’s a building block for us to continue on for the rest of the season.”
Meanwhile Cheltenham Park’s Zac Rattray belted 208 off 65 balls, including 23 sixes with six of them in one over, in a demolition of Melbourne Dazzlers, reports the Moorabbin Kingston Leader.
20-year-old apprentice electrician Rattray notched up his first ever century off 35 balls and made it a double ton off the next 27 in the D-grade South East Cricket Association clash.
Cheltenham Park went on to score 6-424 off 38 overs while the Dazzlers could only reach 133.
“I thought to myself, ‘Is this the day, hopefully today’s the day?’ It was. It was my day. Just a day out really. Sort of, see ball, hit ball, and it all paid off,’’ Rattray told the Leader.
“It felt pretty good. Just happiness, because I’d never made a ton. Before yesterday my highest score was 88.’’
It was the second big win of the season for Cheltenham Park, who bowled out their first week opponents for 40 and then chased down the total in three overs – with Rattray scoring 41 not out.
In their last Shield match before the eagerly anticipated series against India, Starc and Lyon snared three wickets each as Tasmania crumbled on the final day to be dismissed for 202.
After an underwhelming start to the season, Lyon’s haul included the key scalp of incumbent Test batsman Matthew Wade, who made a defiant 59.
Starc finished off the match by trapping captain Tim Paine in front with a late inswinger, which may have been doing too much to hit leg stump.
Though wicketless on the final day, Sean Abbott set up the come-from-behind win with four victims in the first innings before batting the Tasmanians out of the game with his maiden first-class century.
South Australia veteran Callum Ferguson came tantalisingly close to bowing out with a century, dismissed for 97 as the Redbacks lost by 62 runs against Queensland as they attempted to give their departing stalwart a fairytale finish.
Queensland leg-spinner Mitchell Swepson could not break through until deep into the day, but his late strikes were decisive in the Bulls’ push for victory.
Elsewhere, Victoria’s match against Western Australia finished in a tame draw.
Test spinner Nathan Lyon has revealed he “just took my eye off the ball” as he re-lived the missed run-out which cost Australia victory in the epic Ashes Test at Headingley 12 months ago.
In the final, excruciating, moments of one of the best Test matches in Ashes history, Lyon fumbled a throw from fast bowler Pat Cummins to run-out English tailender Jack Leach, with the home team one-run short of victory and nine wickets down.
The very next ball Lyon was denied an LBW decision against England matchwinner Ben Stokes by umpire Joel Wilson, which on replay was shown to be out.
But the Aussies had earlier burned their final DRS review for an appeal against Leach which Cummins, who was the bowler, conceded was “basically no chance” of being out.
Stokes, who finished unbeaten on 139, having guided England from a perilous position at 9-286, then smacked Cummins to the boundary in the next over to take his team to 9/326, and victory which will be celebrated through the ages..
Reflecting on the infamous day, almost exactly one year ago, Lyon said he had no excuse for the fumble, and that it was the hardest he had ever taken any loss.
“Yeah, it actually hit a sprinkler head in the middle of the wicket and it just kicked off. Nah, the throw was there … it was there for me to take and I just took my eye off the ball when you look back at it,” Lyon told the Unplayable podcast.
“The thing is we all make mistakes, the big difference is 25 million people or more were watching my mistake over and over and over. It wasn’t pleasing..”
Lyon said he was adamant he had Stokes “dead” LBW next ball.
“I‘ve never appealed so much to end up on my back and end up on the middle of the wicket. I could not believe it. It just looked completely dead,” he said.
“I’ve got him a couple of times before (in similar fashion) and I just remember in my head saying, ’That’s dead, that’s dead’ and Joel (Wilson) just stood there like a statue. Whether he panicked or whatnot, I haven’t seen Joel since. He didn’t get a Christmas card last year.”
Australia went on win the fourth Test at Manchester and retain the Ashes, but Lyon said that loss at Leeds was hard to take.
“I left the changeroom. I went and sat in the fire exit. I just needed to get away and had a towel over my head for the next half an hour,” he said.
“It was pretty hard personally after that game. That was probably the hardest that I‘ve been hit in a losing cricket game. Personally, it was pretty tough.”
But a post-game message from former Test skipper Steve Waugh, who was also a mentor for the touring party, helped Lyon put things in perspective.
“I had a message on my phone from Steve Waugh saying, ‘You don’t know how lucky you are. You’re going to make tens of thousands of dollars going around doing guest speaking all around England after dropping that run-out’,” Lyon said.
“I think we played in one of the best Test matches to ever be played, so that’s one positive out of it and the other one, you’ve got to take your hat off and say ’Well played, Ben Stokes’.”
From Don Bradman’s final innings duck to Kim Hughes’ teary resignation, Australian cricket has always specialised in dramatic departures.
But if Cricket Australia (CA) CEO Kevin Roberts fails to survive this week with his job intact, his demise will have been hastened by that most mundane of corporate sins: the offending email.
On June 3, a message hit the inbox of Australian Cricketers’ Association (ACA) chief executive Alistair Nicholson. What the players’ boss expected was a detailed report — for which Roberts had already received two extensions — forecasting CA’s current and future financial position, and backing Roberts’ claim the game faced imminent peril thanks to COVID-19.
What Nicholson received was a 900-word brush-off with no workings to justify CA’s forecast of a 48 per cent revenue downturn for the 2020-21 season.
Nicholson’s email to players soon after, and the growing distrust of Roberts and CA, can be summarised in one line: “The ACA expresses a lack of confidence in these reforecasts.”
In any event, India remains a likely arrival next summer for fixtures which will be money-spinners regardless of crowd numbers — and it looks increasingly likely fans will be in their rightful place anyway.
In the meantime, the cratering of fixtures and TV schedules suffered by the football codes has still barely touched cricket.
As it stands now, CA’s board is forced to reconsider Roberts’ slash and burn approach to human relations two months ago, and the considerable damage done to relationships with the states — CA’s owners.
Broadcast partners will doubtless ask for discounts — and, in its own insignificant way, that wishful gesture might be said by Roberts to justify decisions already taken — but until fixtures are actually lost, the point is moot.
The antecedents to Roberts’ current crisis can be traced back three years.
Before he rose to the CEO role in October 2018, Roberts was tasked by his predecessor, James Sutherland, with handling the player pay dispute.
To put it mildly, that effort spiralled out of control and created a deep division between the players and CA.
The trust issue it created for Roberts has, in the intervening time, spread from the players to the states and even fans who wonder why a summer sport has just spent its autumn and winter recess in a state of red-faced panic. Fans follow players, not administrators.
But when players are lining up to voice their discontent, as they have in recent times, a perception problem like Roberts’ becomes hard to shake off.
Misfortune is perhaps not the word, but it’s been Roberts’ tragic fate to save his most lacklustre displays of leadership for a period in which there has been no actual sport to distract anyone. Without games to analyse, media attention turned to identifying winners and losers in executive ranks.
Peter V’Landys was recast as a Churchillian pillar of strength. Todd Greenberg and Raelene Castle were wheeled away in the tumbrel. Gillon McLachlan endured by falling somewhere in between; pragmatic, slow talking, steady as she goes.
Roberts, on the other hand, has provided an object lesson in misreading the room.
Whereas Sutherland toddled along politely for almost 18 years, enduring the odd crisis of his own with canny delegation and a hangdog expression, Roberts’ approach to diplomacy and public relations has made him something closer to cricket’s David Brent — showy, cavalier, sometimes unintentionally comic; at one stage he claimed that stood-down staff were “very comfortable with how we’re working through this”.
In years to come, these months will be picked over for symbolic artefacts of Roberts’ time at the helm of Australian cricket.
The near-sightedness of trimming the women’s professional schedule within a blink of the Southern Stars’ landmark World T20 win was one.
Another, less eye-catching, was Roberts’ decree that the Sheffield Shield’s traditional 10-round season and final would be replaced by an eight-game sprint with no decider.
The Shield’s role in Australia’s cricketing fortunes has always been better respected by players than administrators, it’s true. Referring to the Shield in 1992, Richie Benaud put it best: “As loss makers go, it is in the very highest bracket.”
Frankly, Roberts should have known better from a few crises ago: One of the key reaffirmations of the Argus Report of 2012, apparently forgotten already, was the primacy of the Shield and its crucial role in manufacturing resilient, consistent Test cricketers. The latter remain the bedrock of Australia’s cricketing fortunes, and the star attractions of the coming summer’s most lucrative show.
Compromising the Shield was the cost-cutting act of an organisation mistaking its assets for liabilities. It spoke of muddled leadership and confused priorities. From the start, the players were leery, and their faltering confidence in Roberts soon spread throughout the game.
At the beginning of this inglorious episode in Australian cricket, another of Roberts’ predecessors, Malcolm Speed, said respect was a more valuable commodity for a CEO to possess than popularity.
On both fronts, Kevin Roberts has spent the best part of two years playing and missing.