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Newlands scandal ended reverse swing arms race – Paine

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Australia’s Test captain Tim Paine believes that the Newlands scandal and its aftermath served to end what had been a rapidly escalating arms race among international teams in finding methods for ever more rapid and frequent reverse swing – a race that resulted in heavy penalties for Steven Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft when caught in the act.

In a frank admission ahead of the 2019 Ashes series, Paine suggested that numerous international teams had got caught into a cycle of trying to outdo one another in terms of generating reverse swing by different means of looking after the ball, without sufficient consequences for transgressing.

After Cricket Australia responded to the Newlands scandal and subsequent attempted cover-up by banning Smith and Warner for 12 months each and Bancroft for nine months, the ICC followed up by introducing far heavier penalties than had previously been in place for ball tampering. A suspension of up to six Tests or 12 ODIs is now in place, relative to the eight Test matches that Smith and Warner were forced to miss due to their bans under the CA code of conduct, and Paine said the traumas of South Africa had served to see that this area of the game is “cleaned up”.

“I think teams are always looking at ways to get the ball to reverse swing,” Paine told cricket.com.au. “Whether that’s throwing it into [the dirt], or using their fingers to work on the quarter seam, or in England for years it’s been talked about mints being used [to impart sheen through players’ saliva] – there’s always something.

“The worrying trend was that teams were starting to try more and more methods, and getting more adventurous. So the thing I hope will come out of South Africa is that it will be cleaned up, and it will be a more level playing field rather than teams trying to push the boundaries and develop a mentality of ‘they’re doing this, so we’ll try this’ and ‘they do that, so we’ll try it too’. I think for too long, it was allowed.”

Australia’s ultimate admission that Bancroft had attempted to change the ball’s condition by using sandpaper had followed a period where increasingly extravagant reverse swing had been gained by numerous teams in a short space of time, a constant source of speculation and suspicion among opponents as to how such movement was being achieved. The ICC’s change in penalties at last year’s annual conference reflected widespread acknowledgement that it was not just a problem limited to Australia but a broader pattern of sharp practice.

“I could very easily be in England this summer, but working for Kookaburra, and getting the bats ready for the players”

Tim Paine

Paine, who was thrust into the Australian captaincy by Newlands, has also admitted that he was close to retiring from the game for good until a phone call to Ricky Ponting in 2017 led to a longer deal with Tasmania that meant he was available when the national selectors came calling ahead of that year’s home Ashes series.

“I had only been offered a one-year contract with Tasmania, which I felt didn’t offer me enough security, and so I simply couldn’t turn down the chance to start a new career,” Paine told foxsports.com.au. “I still loved the game, but for the sake of my family I believed I had to make a sensible decision. It just felt like my time in the game had come to a natural end.

“I phoned Ricky Ponting, who had made the same move [from Hobart to Melbourne] several years earlier. ‘Hi mate, could you keep an eye out for me and see if there are any houses in Brighton up for sale?’ I asked him. I was sort of joking because I couldn’t afford to live in Ricky’s neighbourhood in Melbourne, but I thought he could give me some advice about where else was good in the city.

“Ricky was really confused: ‘I don’t understand. What on earth are you talking about?’ he said. I explained my situation, and how I only had a one-year offer from Tasmania, and planned to retire from cricket and take this new job. He listened and just said, ‘Just wait, let me make some calls.’ Within a few days I had an improved two-year deal with Tasmania, and that changed everything so I decided to keep playing. Things could have been very different if I hadn’t made that call to Ricky.”

In imparting significant cultural change on the Australian team, Paine has been given perspective by the fact he rose to the captaincy from a position where he could quite easily have been finished with the game.

“I could very easily be in England this summer, but working for Kookaburra, and getting the bats ready for the players, but instead I am captaining them in the Ashes. It feels amazing to say that, and this is all like a dream for me,” he said. “I have been dreaming, literally dreaming about this moment since I was a kid. Even during the last Ashes series in Australia, I can remember winning it in Perth, and thinking, ‘Imagine going to England in 2019 and trying to win it there too?’ I didn’t know if I would still be playing, and I would be 34, so probably no chance, but here I am.

“Even now when I am just at home doing regular things with the kids I think to myself, ‘Wow I am Australian Test captain’ and I have a laugh to myself and say, ‘Can you believe this?’ Or I can be watching the news or listening to the radio and someone will say ‘Australian captain Tim Paine…’ and I will just break out in a smile. I love it, and still can’t believe it.”



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Same old problems for Brisbane Heat

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Season in a nutshell

A lot of hype, a lot of money spent and ultimately an even more acute case of the same old Brisbane Heat problems. When the Heat unveiled AB de Villiers after last year’s Ashes series, much to the delight of their new coach Darren Lehmann, many installed them as tournament favourites without a second thought. But in this case, some second thoughts would have been useful, as the high profile signing simply added more to the club’s “crash through or crash” approach, as championed by their captain Chris Lynn and Brendon McCullum before him. Undoubtedly it helps bring in the crowds at the Gabba, but a poor record on their home ground has been key to repeated failures to contend for the BBL title. Add this campaign, sluggish at the start and fidgety at the finish, to the list.

What went right?

On the few occasions the Heat did get things right, they were undoubtedly a bewitching combination. Victories over the Sydney Sixers at the SCG and Hobart Hurricanes at Bellerive Oval reaped tallies of more than 200, while de Villiers’ arrival was greeted by a summary thrashing of the Adelaide Strikers in Brisbane. However…

What went wrong?

Not even the bottom-placed Melbourne Renegades could boast as many catastrophic defeats, starting with a limp opening loss to the Thunder on the tournament’s opening night. Elsewhere, the Heat were crushed in Adelaide and Perth, and only two home wins out of seven matches made for a damaging ledger. But the Heat’s imbalanced squad and muddled approach was best exemplified by the fact that they lost twice to the Renegades, at home and away, after de Villiers joined them. For Lehmann it was a humbling return to coaching after the cultural malaise of the Australian team on his watch. Lynn, who ended the tournament all but calling for a show of hands to make bowling changes in the closing defeat at Docklands, looks unlikely to remain captain.

Performance of the season

It is difficult to separate two displays, at the SCG and Bellerive, where Lynn went off with scores of 94 and 88 – 182 runs from 90 balls in all – to pile-drive his team to victories. But these were the exceptions that proved the rule, as he tallied just 205 more runs from his remaining 12 innings at an average of 18.64 and a far more modest strike rate.

Player of the season

Tom Banton‘s impact was plain in his brief early stay, topping the Heat’s averages and strike rates. However, in a difficult season, the continued improvement of Mitchell Swepson was perhaps the most positive element of the campaign, after he had made similar strides for Queensland in the Sheffield Shield. In fact, an economy rate of 7.32 opened up questions about why he only played 10 matches, and in those only bowled 31 of his allocated 40 overs.

Key stat (Gaurav Sundararaman)

One of their biggest pain points was their inability to play spin. The Heat lost 46 wickets to spin (48.4%) and averaged just 20.78, the lowest in the league. That’s 16 more wickets lost to spin than any other BBL side this season.



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Back to the drawing board for Melbourne Renegades

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Season in nutshell

The Renegades’ title defence was a disaster from the start. They lost their coach Andrew McDonald and overseas signings Usman Shinwari and Faheem Ashraf on the eve of the season. Michael Klinger was appointed just a month from the start but the Renegades blueprint from last year couldn’t be repeated. They lost two tight games to start the season against Sydney Thunder and Perth Scorchers and that started a slide of nine straight defeats. They finally won their first game late in the season but only managed to claim three victories overall, two against the Brisbane Heat and one against the Sydney Thunder.

What went right?

Their batting was far better than last season. They scored in excess of 170 in six games and had five players score 12 half-centuries and a century between them. Last season they scored just three individual fifties for the entire tournament. Shaun Marsh and Beau Webster both made more than 400 runs for the tournament and Aaron Finch posted more than 300 despite missing five games due to international duty. Six players averaged 25 or more with four of them striking at better than 140. Last season they had just two players average more than 25 and Cameron Boyce and Sam Harper were the only players to strike at better than 124.

What went wrong?

The bowling was very poor. They could not take wickets and opponents were able to chase down whatever the Renegades set with ease. Boyce and Kane Richardson were the only two bowlers to take more than 10 wickets, with Boyce taking 14, compared to four bowlers last season with Richardson taking 24. Last season, nine of the Renegades 10 bowlers used for the tournament had economy rates under eight runs per over and four conceded less seven. This time only Richardson went at 6.99 and 10 of the 15 bowlers used conceded more than eight, including experienced duo Dan Christian and Mohammad Nabi and overseas signings Richard Gleeson and Harry Gurney who both went at more than 10 runs per over.

Performance of the season

The Renegades best night came against the Brisbane Heat at the Gabba. The Heat were 0 for 84 after 5.5 overs chasing just 165. The Renegades then took 10 for 36 as the Heat suffered a record collapse. Boyce produced a stunning spell taking 4 for 15 from four overs and was on a hat-trick in the seventh over. It all took place while the Renegades two most important players, Finch and Richardson, were away on Australia duty.

Player of the season

Webster was the surprise package of the season batting in the difficult middle-order role. He made 429 runs at 42.50 striking at 131.98, including three half-centuries. He also played a significant part in the win over the Heat top-scoring with 36 off 26 after the Renegades were in trouble. He was particularly savage against pace bowling in the middle and death overs but will need to improve against spin, falling seven times in the tournament and striking at under 100 against the slow bowlers.

Key Stat (Gaurav Sundararaman)

Last year they were the best bowling unit and this year they are the worst. The leading wicket-taker has just 14 wickets and is 15th on the leaderboard. As a bowling unit, they averaged 32.59 conceding 8.55 runs per over – the worst in the league. You don’t win competitions with these numbers.



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Costly batting lapses hurt Perth Scorchers

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Season in nutshell

Better than last year when they had the shock of finishing with the wooden spoon but still some way short of the powerhouse side that dominated for many seasons. The schedule was very tough for them without back-to-back home games until the end of the regular season which led to a lot of long return journeys to the east coast. They managed a mid-season run of three consecutive wins which put things on track for a finals place, but two awful batting performances against the Stars were costly although the rain did them no favours in the final game against the Sydney Thunder

What went right?

The good was very good. The opening partnership between Josh Inglis and Liam Livingstone was dynamic and the most prolific pairing of the season with 554 runs. Inglis was likened to Brendon McCullum (with even the man himself seeing the similarities) while Livingstone showed tremendous power. Fawad Ahmed and Jhye Richardson, who each took 15 wickets along with Chris Jordan, were also impressive while Jordan’s stunning catch to remove Dan Christian provided one of the highlights of the tournament.

What went wrong?

There was too much of a gap between the leading performers and the rest with bat and ball. Mitchell Marsh supported the openers well, but while Cameron Bancroft made nearly 300 runs he sometimes struggled for tempo in the middle order and Ashton Turner had a season to forget with 86 runs in seven innings. The bowling depth was always going to be tested without Jason Behrendorff (long-term back injury) and AJ Tye (elbow) which meant it was a bad time for Matt Kelly (eight wickets, economy 9.38) to struggle to match his 2018-19 performances

Performance of the season

Marsh’s 93 off 41 balls against the Brisbane Heat was as clean a display of ball-striking as you could see – and that does some doing behind Livingstone and Inglis. It was important for Marsh to have a good BBL after missing the first part of the season after breaking his hand and this was a show of the power that will keep him in international contention.

Player of the season

Tough to split Livingstone and Inglis, but coming in as an overseas player brings additional expectation to perform and Livingstone lived up to it. Perhaps, occasionally, he went for one big shot too many and his timing eluded him at a vital moment on a tricky pitch against the Thunder but this was an eye-catching season and could put him back in the England frame.

Key Stat (Gaurav Sundararaman)

From a statistical point of view the Scorchers did not do too badly. Three bowlers took 15 wickets and three batsmen are present in the top 15 run-scorers. The Scorchers lost their finals spot due to their inability to close out matches which they should have won. Against the Strikers they were 0 for 124 in 8.3 overs chasing 198 and against the Stars they lost chasing a paltry 141. They will reflect on these two losses as one of the main reasons they were squeezed out of the finals.



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