Mattress, Martin and Murali
Well that was pretty bloody disappointing. When we got a flukey wicket early with Tharanga run out at the non-striker's end after a deflection, the omens looked good. With Mills resting and Vettori incapacitated, we would take anything less than 280 and back ourselves to get close with the bat. But it was a horror show - another one. We've mastered this against Sri Lanka, having lost six of our last seven against them and only managing to crack 220 once in that sequence.
What was the third umpire thinking with that Nathan McCullum caught and bowled? A really shoddy piece of umpiring. The chap involved, Amiesh Saheba, is no stranger to controversy or getting things wrong - he was the umpire who criticised Sreesanth (remember "Slapgate"?) then denied it, despite a reporter capturing the interview and the verbal slapping on tape. I think I'd rather have the commentators make the call: at least we get to hear them talk us through their decisions.
I was thinking that having partners and kids arrive on the players' doorsteps just before the momentum-killer that was the Sri Lanka match might not be a good thing, but then you read a piece like this where Paul Collingwood's kids say: "'We hope you lose tomorrow, daddy. Then you can come home." I think the benefits of having family nearby outweigh the badness.
"I knew I hit it, but as always I wait for the umpire to give me out. That's the way I've always played the game." For the record, and it pains me, I'm with Ricky Ponting on this one. Trusting the fielder's word was a nice idea before referrals and million-dollar paydays but it feels a little antiquated this week. A batsman's entitled to the benefit of any doubt and if he has reason to question his outness, he's entitled to stand his ground. The incompetence here was the umpire's and nothing to do with the batsman. Of course, it makes Sachin Tendulkar a complete legend for walking instantly when he feathered a jaffa from Rampaul on Sunday night - don't get me wrong, I thought that was fantastic, but it's not compulsory. With video technology as an option for both teams, the sort of moronic mistakes that denied McCullum the wicket should never happen.
I admit I cringed a little when I was 10 feet up a ladder painting the house on Saturday morning and none other than Martin Crowe was on the wireless, talking cricket in between raving on about totally awesome coffee machines. He dredged up the hoary old "Murali is a chucker" argument, and pinned the loss on this. Admittedly, Crowe has been blistering against Murali for a long time, so his criticism is certainly credible and not knee-jerk. However, the grapes would have appeared a little less sour if he had unleashed the day before the spanking rather than the day after. As he said at Lord's back in 2006: "I don't care about 15 degrees here or 10 degrees there. If to the naked eye a bowler is chucking, he should be chucked out."
On the night, Murali bowled damn well for an old bloke with a sore hamstring, but let's remember that Guptill got out to Kulasekera, B McCullum was sunk by all-rounder and budding superstar Angelo Mathews, and Nathan McCullum was bamboozled by part-timer Dilshan. None are even part of the Lankan "triple M threat" club.
The Mattress McCullum "caught & bowled that wasn't" was not the best caught and bowled ever. And it was definitely not the coolest - that was always going the way of the West Indies. In fact, it wasn't even the best caught and bowled by a New Zealander.
I was glad to see that Sir Richard landed the red apples to India gig, not Billy Bowden, though there is a sort of "selling ice cubes to Eskimos" undertone to this article. Dennis Lillee, Heath Davis and Joey Yovich might have also been contenders for the frontman role, having all bowled apples in first-class cricket at one time or another. Sir Richard would never have engaged in such frivolities, I am sure.
It is not all doom and gloom though - we must dare to dream about Friday night, given our insanely good record against South Africa at World Cups. More on that later in the week...
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