Dylan Cleaver on sport
Sport analysis and comment from Dylan Cleaver

Dylan Cleaver: Cricket lovers are forced underground


There's something troubling about sitting up in bed in the middle of the night, laptop open, watching grainy (quite possibly illegal) images of ... cricket.

But us cricket lovers have been forced underground in the past couple of weeks, given no choice but to turn to tenuous live streaming from South Africa to get our test-match fix.

There's something not right when you can flick on the TV and get Ole Miss versus Louisiana State University in American football, but you can't watch two of the world's great rivals play in our national summer sport.

The world's gone mad. Put on a cooking contest between Ricky Ponting and Jacques Kallis in the middle of New Wanderers and our networks would have fallen over themselves for the rights.

It's a shame because the cricket has been both enthralling and instructive.

So violent have been the swings and roundabouts that it can be perilous to rush to judgments, but South Africa have played quite poorly by their high standards and have made Australia look ordinary.

No world-class side finds themselves 21-9 and 47 all out, as happened to Australia at Newlands.

Their collapse from 174-0 to 296 all out at New Wanderers might not have been as spectacular, but it was just as telling.

It's not just brittle batting either. They bowled South Africa out for 96 at Newlands then watched on helplessly as the hosts chased the 236 required for the loss of just two wickets.

Michael Clarke, as dumbfounded as any man to have led Australia in a test, reckoned it wouldn't have mattered if South Africa were chasing 600, so badly had his side bowled. Yesterday South Africa moved from a position of real peril at 90-3, a lead of just 60, to 229-3 at stumps.

Australia is now a side with a tender underbelly.

(There is an outside chance that as you read this Australia may have caused a catastrophic South African second innings collapse and are now cruising towards victory. If that's the case it would be testament to our transtasman neighbour's fighting qualities, rather than their pedigree.)

Australia look in as big a mess as they did when Sir Richard Hadlee, among others, tormented them in the mid-80s.

During those dark times, brought on in large part by a rebel tour to South Africa, Allan Border threatened to quit as captain while in New Zealand if his side didn't start to show more fight.

Clarke hasn't even got that ace up his sleeve. For one, you suspect he doesn't command the same dressing room respect as the steely Border and, second, having just inherited a job he coveted for so long, the words would seem awfully hollow. It's tempting to say Australia are there for the taking when New Zealand tour this month. Tempting, but not quite.

New Zealand just held off a fast-finishing Zimbabwe in their recent test and their record in Australia has been so abject recently that only a hopeless romantic would back them.

The harsh truth is this: Australia might be at a low ebb, but at least they've got an ebb.

Norman's wobbly picks

Spare a thought for Greg Norman.

He staked his golfing smarts on local knowledge as he tried to wrest the Presidents Cup off the USA at Royal Melbourne.

How did his captain's picks, Aaron Baddeley and Robert Allenby, repay that faith? By accumulating 1.5 points between them over eight matches.

World No 69 Allenby became only the second captain's pick in the nine-tournament history to fail to pick up a point as he lost all four matches he was involved in (American John Huston, picked by Jack Nicklaus in 1998, was the other).

His nadir came yesterday when he was thrashed 7 and 5 by David Toms in the singles.

Before that he had lost 4 and 3 on Thursday with Retief Goosen in foursomes, 4 and 3 in fourballs with YE Yang on Friday, and 3 and 2 with Geoff Ogilvy in foursomes on Saturday morning.

Local knowledge counted for very little in the end. The internationals scored 15 points, three fewer than the USA, but of the five Australians, only Geoff Ogilvy (3-1-1) finished with a winning record.

A promise from Ricki

It seems about 20,000 Aucklanders were spooked by Ricki "Boss of Everything" Herbert's threat not to bring the All Whites here unless they turned out to watch the Phoenix at Eden Park. Some queued up for more than an hour for the privilege.

So what we're looking for, Ricki, is two guarantees: Please promise you'll bring the All Whites to town; and please promise you'll never bring back the Wellington Phoenix.

- NZ Herald

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