The week in Australian cricket: Ben's a slam Dunk for star player

A wet start in South Africa, hope for Aussie women and why Hurricanes had the best player – and the last laugh

Hobart Hurricanes opener Ben Dunk has been in sensational form in the Big Bash.
Hobart Hurricanes opener Ben Dunk has been in sensational form in the Big Bash. Photograph: Scott Barbour/Getty Images Photograph: Scott Barbour/Getty Images
Hobart Hurricanes opener Ben Dunk has been in sensational form in the Big Bash. Photograph: Scott Barbour/Getty Images Photograph: Scott Barbour/Getty Images

Last modified on Mon 5 Jun 2017 12.53 EDT

Precipitation in Potchefstroom

Just as Australia’s Test squad looked to tune up for the upcoming Tests in South Africa, weather has put paid to the side’s four-day warm-up game in Potchefstroom, due to start today but washed away by torrential rain.

The Australians have now decamped to Johannesburg and trained in the indoor nets at Centurion and also outside.

Meanwhile, Proteas captain Graeme Smith is having none of Australia’s buoyant mood, telling local press: "When you've played against Australia enough, you learn to sift through a lot of the bull - dot, dot, dot.''

Smith continued: "One of our great abilities has been to be humble and focus on ourselves and get ourselves ready. Internal strength is important, and we don't really feel the need to get caught up in that sort of stuff.”

Women’s Ashes wind up

With the Ashes already retained by the touring English women this week, Australia knocked the tourists off in the final T20I fixture in Sydney and has remained gallant in defeat.

Fielding brilliantly throughout the England innings, Australia benefitted from a superb spell of 4-15 from opening bowler Rene Farrell to restrict the tourists to 101 before Elyse Villani (36no), Meg Lanning (23) and Alyssa Healy (22) guides Australia home with nine balls to spare.

It left the Ashes points tally at 10-8 in England’s favour, giving the home side some confidence heading towards the World T20 and their opponents some issues to ponder.

“We’re really positive about the outcome and really looking forward to the T20 World Cup now,” said Australian star Alex Blackwell to Fox Sports. “We had a lot to prove in the last two T20s playing on our home turf.”

Blackwell also had praise for the poise and maturity of Australia’s 21-year-old national captain Meg Lanning, who filled in for the injured Jodie Fields. “Meg stepped up beautifully, she’s a fantastic player. I think she’ll be a great captain. Hopefully we’ve got Jodie back on board soon with that broken finger but it’s great experience for Meg.”

For what it’s worth, Lanning is now the number one ranked T20 batsman in the world after her performances this summer and ends Englishwoman Sarah Taylor’s reign in the top spot, which started in October 2012.

T-Paine hits a bum note

A miscued jibe suggesting that the Melboune Stars were rorting the Big Bash salary cap has landed Hobart Hurricanes ‘keeper Tim Paine in hot water, drawing a sharp rebuke and the threat of legal action from Stars president Eddie McGuire.

Speaking to Melbourne sports radio network SEN, Paine said: “There’s obviously a never-ending salary cap there that the Stars seem to run by and the rest of us live by another set of rules.”

McGuire was livid and had his own suggestion for Paine. “Mate, just stand behind there with your overgrown gloves and try to catch a couple.”

The prominent Melbourne sports identity labeled Paine a “clown” and added: “I’m happy to go to court and put our bona fides in front of a judge and have them tested in a court of law.”

McGuire’s sign-off was even more colourful. “We’ll get out there tomorrow night and hopefully flog these blokes and when we’re going off the ground we’ll all be pointing at them,” he said. Well that didn’t work out so well now, did it?

The best of the rest

Dean Jones seems to think that Australia’s recently-appointed T20 spin coach Shane Warne would be the ideal man to take the English coaching job vacated by Andy Flower. Warne said he’d think about it and then presumably had a call from his management or respective employers, backing off a little.

Tom Moody is happy to do his own bidding for the job, as is deposed Australian coach Micky Arthur, but Ashley Giles remains the frontrunner.

It’s doubtful that many people were paying attention, but Shaun Tait rates the IPL above the Big Bash as well as, it would seem, his baggy green cap. He told Cricinfo, “playing with Indians and other players from different countries has been the best experience of my career.”

Long the bane of visiting AFL sides, the surface of Sydney’s ANZ stadium came under international scrutiny after England and Australia’s T20 clash this week. Its slow and sandy outfield has raised the ire of fans and players alike, with the latter making their concerns official through the Australian Cricketers Association.

The latest sports rich list has Shane Watson as Australian cricket’s own Six Million Dollar Man, and possibly hoping for a rapid development in the kind of cyborg technology that could keep him there a few years longer yet.

Finally and on a more esoteric level, Ashley Mallett provided a nice reminder of some of cricket’s artists in the most literal sense. Clarrie Grimmett and Arthur Mailey both might have done well in an IPL auction, actually.

Around the Grounds

The first Big Bash semi-final certainly didn’t go to plan for the Stars or their vocal president, with the local team convincingly knocked out of both the local competition and the lucrative Champions League tournament in a complete boilover.

The previously undefeated Stars would have been quietly confident heading into the clash, but the Hurricanes belied their unimpressive tournament record (3 wins from 8 games) and sent the star-studded favourites packing. The result doesn’t exactly feel like a ringing endorsement of the current finals system, but upsets have charms of their own too.

Hobart set the win up early, reducing the Stars to 4-45 within 9 overs thanks to spinners Cameron Boyce (3-11) and Shoaib Malik (1-5), with the team hierarchy vindicated in their risky decision to leave out the luckless and much-maligned Xavier Doherty.

Though Brad Hodge (51) and David Hussey (24) helped Melbourne to a semi-respectable 141 it was never going to be enough with Ben Dunk (30), George Bailey (32*) and the controversial Paine (65) having the last laugh for Hobart.

The Hurricanes will now hit the road again to face off against the winner of tonight’s other semi-final between the Sixers and Scorchers.

In the Women’s T20 competition today, Blacktown International Sportspark will host both semi-finals. Table-leaders New South Wales take on ACT at 10am, followed by the other semi between Victoria and Queensland. The ACT squad have gone as far as to seek inspiration from Australian sports legend Rob de Castella as well as the less conventional preparation of spreading Voltaren on their pre-game breakfast.

Pleasingly for fans willing to attend both games, the women’s final will be played as a curtain-raiser to the Big Bash Final and will be nationally broadcast on ONE HD. Two weeks later the Victorians will face New South Wales in the 50-over final, with the Breakers looking to secure an incredible ninth straight title.

Player of the Week

One of the greatest appeals of the Big Bash League is its ability to shine a light on previously unheralded talents and allow Australia’s next-best cricketer’s their moment in the limelight.

No-one this season has seized that opportunity quite as well as Hobart Hurricanes opening batsman Ben Dunk, who has blazed 348 runs at an average of 49.71 to claim Player of the Tournament honours.

Speaking to the press yesterday he was every bit the media greenhorn, going pleasingly off script when asked if the Paine-McGuire imbroglio would add to the rivalry between the two sides.

“I don’t think the Big Bash is quite old enough yet to have those real old rivalries or instilled rivalries just yet,” said Dunk. BBL Marketing Tsar Mike McKenna presumably hit the lever for a trap door soon after.

Tweet of the Week

Brad Hodge goes a bit John Lennon.

Weekend Warriors

If you’d just blazed an unbeaten double-century to lift your side to 351-4 in a 40-over game, you’d be forgiven for feeling a little smug. For Mt Eliza’s C2-grade captain Nick Starkins, that was probably the case until his side somehow contrived to lose the game with two overs to spare.

In what ranks among the great run chases in the history of the Mornington Peninsula Cricket Association, Main Ridge peeled off 355-2 from 38 overs thanks to Paul Helmt (184no) and Michael Elleray (105no), sending Mt Eliza fieldsman on regular ball-hunting missions into the dense scrub surrounding Main Ridge’s ground. Their post-game beers were well-earned by the 6:40pm finish.