Cricket is naturally the main event this week, but first it's worth mentioning that:
-The Villains drew with Bolton 1-1 in the Premier League, the new manager starts next week.
-The Workington Reds were lucky to beat Worcester City 2-1.
-Lleyton Hewitt is injured after his doubles vistory on the weekend leaving Peter Luczak and Carsten Ball to play the reverse singles against Belgium in the Davis Cup rubbers. If one of the two of them can win, Australia is back in the world group after being knocked out way back in 2007.
A full annual report on the seasons of all the Leaflocker favoured teams will be along in a few weeks once the cricket is over.
Now on to the main event:
The Southern Redbacks have gone 3-0 in their first three games of the ICC Champions League, and are facing up against the unimpressive Guyana on Tuesday night, so can be expected the sweep the board. Unfortunately, I have been instilled with the old spectators superstition that my team won't win unless I watch, so I've got a few more late nights to go until the end of the tournament. Rest assured that we're right behind you all the way, boys.
The Redbacks have got themselves into this position mainly on the back of some incredible opening partnerships from Daniel Harris and Michael Klinger, who've had successive 100+ run partnerships, an almost unheard-of event in Twenty20 (there's only been a total of 16 opening 100+ run partnerships in Internationals, but I don't have data for domestic level), and excellent fielding and catching by the whole team. Our bowling has been solid, but we've bowled too many wides for an international competition, maybe our boths are suffering from nerves a little, nevertheless we've managed to bowl out the opposition in two of our three games, so we must be doing something right. Let's have a quick run through the team, because I'm sure you're as interested in all this as I am.
Michael Klinger had never played a Twenty20 game for South Australia at the beginning of this tournament, but his strong performances in the other forms of the game led to him being appointed captain for this campaign, and he hasn't disappointed the SA selectors. His bowling changes have been inspired and often led directly to wickets, the attacking fields he's set have almost brought a tear to my eye, and most of all he's led the team with the bat. In three innings he's scored three half-centuries, he batted right through the recent innings against Bangalore, and he remains the tournament's highest run scorer by playing careful dependable cricket but not being afraid to hit the bad ball. This is a guy who couldn't get a regular spot in the Victorian team three years ago, and now he's leading SA in what has been an excellent tournament so far.
Daniel Harris was slow and unimpressive in the first game, but has redeemed himself with two fast half-centuries in the last two games, showing why he was SA's top run-scorer in the domestic season. Though getting very lucky with dropped catches, he's made the bowlers pay, and comes up as number 8 high-scorer for the competition. He also functions as SA's option bowler, but has been pretty unimpressive, with 0/31 from his four overs. He's also taken four catches in the three games, and looks like a pretty solid all rounder who has really matured well in the last couple of years.
Graham Manou is the team wicket-keeper, and is generally a handy batsman, doing pretty well but not outstanding with the bat during the domestic season. He's recently lost the captaincy of the team but seems to be taking it well, and apart from the occasional lapse his glovework has been up to scratch. It's no easy job keeping to the erratic SA attack, that's for sure.
Callum Ferguson forged a strong partnership with Klinger in the first game to get the Redbacks home, and has amassed a respectable 74 from 47 balls for the tournament. It's this fast scoring that made him a regular fixture in the national side before his injury last season, and he'll have to keep it up against quality bowling sides if we're going to do well in the finals.
Cameron Borgas scored a quick 14 not out of of just in the final overs of the last match against Bangalore's international-class bowling attack, but we've barely seen him bat in this competition. In fact, from this point down the match practice becomes negligible since the top-order has hogged so much of the match time.
Dan Christian is the top wicket-taker in the competition thanks mostly to his 4/23 against Bangalore. He's been the most solid of the bowlers in the SA line-up, without the raw pace of Tait but with excellent line and length. Batting at number six, he's been called on to score quick runs and has done so well, but it'll be interesting to see how he fares in a longer innings.
Tom Cooper struggled when batting at number 3 in the domestic season, but his experience batting for the Netherlands shows that he has it in him to make some big scores. He's only faced 7 balls all competition, but sent three of them for sixes (including the first ball of each of his innings) and one for a four, giving him the highest strike rate of the competition. An exciting batsman who could change a match if he gets to bat for a while.
Aaron O'Brien has taken advantage of captain Klinger's faith in his bowlers and delivered the goods. He's taken four wickets including that of Sachin Tendulkar, but he's gone for a lot of runs along the way. That said, he's taken on some of the difficult overs, bowling early on during field restrictions and later on when the batsmen are going after everything, so his figures of 4/109 runs from 12 overs probably don't show how well he's bowled.
Gary Putland has varied all over the place. Potentially a very dangerous bowler, his tendency to bowl too full and too wide have caused him to have some very bad overs. Good captaincy has taken him off when he's needed it and to Putland's credit he's always come back and bowled well later in the innings. His 3/94 from twelve is nothing to be sneezed at, either.
Cullen Bailey would seem to be the weak link in a five man bowling side without an effective 6th option. Leg spin is always a high risk for any team, and a leg spinner has to be absolutely on the ball to avoid being carted all around the park. Unfortunately for Bailey, once cosidered one of Australia's best spinners, his bowling so far this tournament has been inconsistent and the South African pitches haven't been forgiving, so he's been punished for it.
Shaun Tait hasn't been at his fastest this tournament, but even now he's more than a little bit scary. His 6/86 shows what a force he is in this form of the game, and his fielding has been impressive too. With the way he's bowling, he could legitimately expect a recall to the Australian team soon, and probably an IPL contract as well, especially if he manages to stay injury free, always a concern with bowlers of his pace.
So that's the team. After Guyana, the Redbacks will most likely be playing the second-place in group A of the tournament, which will be the Warriors from South Africa, Super Kings from India or even fellow Australian's Victorian Bushrangers (if they can beat Wayamba by a lot and Chennai beat the Warriors by just as much). Stay tuned to this station (or better yet to your television set), for more cricket news as the tournament unfolds.