Friday 30 January 2009

Is Warner really the top drawcard at ODIs?

The tabloid media certainly tried to convince fans last week that if new kid on the block David Warner was not opening the batting for Australia then One Day Internationals were not worth watching this summer. Mind you this push came after his sizzling debut in the first Twenty20 match against South Africa when he smashed 89 runs off 43 balls and subsequent loss in the first ODI with Warner not in the side, but as sensationalistic reporting tends to do – the real point is missed as to what the star attraction at 50 over games is these days. So if Warner’s blazing style isn’t the big draw at the cricket for remaining weeks of summer, what is? The answer is bowlers who can win matches for their side. The idea of bashing the life out of the ball from ball one has been around for a while with the likes of Adam Gilchrist and Sanath Jayasuria at the forefront over the past decade but with the global explosion of Twenty20 cricket the One Day game is fast becoming the domain where true strike bowlers shine. South Africa’s Dale Steyn was brilliant in the Test Series taking 18 wickets, practically winning the Second Test with his bowling returning match figures of 10/154 in the series clinching game at the MCG. Unfortunately for Australia his form has also continued with the shiny white ball (taking 12 wickets in 6 matches) making him the story of this Australian summer. No it is not Mitchell Johnson, no matter how much Australian selectors and fans would like to think he’s turned the corner and become the leader of the Australian attack; he’s certainly not there yet. The fact he was given time off following the Test Series suggests he’s got a long way to go before he can shoulder the load of the nation’s strike bowler. Batsmen who can smash the ball are a dime a dozen at the moment, but bowlers who can turn a match within their ten over spell are the true drawcard on the ODI schedule now. Australia won’t be featuring perennial speedster Brett Lee in the One Dayers this summer because of injury but with one game left against South Africa and five more to come against the returning New Zealanders, the cupboard is still stocked with quicks capable of exciting the crowds. With Steyn departing back to South African following the Perth clash on Friday, one of the Australian pace trio of Shaun Tait, Mitchell Johnson and Ben Hilfenhaus have the tough ask of replacing Steyn as the value for money attraction in the series against New Zealand. The obvious choice for super-speed entertainment is Shaun Tait but he has trouble getting through four overs in Twenty20 cricket so he can’t be relied upon to play every ODI. There is no doubt that when he opens the bowling and clocks in above 150km/h every ball the crowd is completely engrossed in the action, as usually the batsmen are just trying to avoid injury during that opening spell. Tait is the biggest threat in the Australian bowling arsenal to tear a batting lineup apart but he’s look ineffective in his later spells which is a major concern for the make up of the side. Johnson has turned the corner in his development over this summer but his inability to backup for the two Twenty20s and opening games of the One Day Series against South Africa tempered the impact he might’ve had on the second half of this season. Still he is proving to be a wicket taker and even though his role in the ODI side may be as first change – he can still lift the excitement levels around the ground with his pace and bounce. Hilfenhaus is a swing bowler with pace and although he may not have Steyn’s explosiveness he is the right mix of bowler to give Australia a weapon against the Kiwis who might win a game on his own. Despite losing the Test and One Day Series against the visiting South Africans (who have played the better cricket by a fair margin), Australia will get a chance to make up for these losses with another series in South Africa starting late February. But even if one of the aforementioned Tait, Johnson or Hilfenhaus breaks out against New Zealand, Australia’s continuing struggles with the bat in the middle order suggests that our attack better improve – otherwise we’ll continue to be second best to the South African team led by the dynamic Dale Steyn. CYCLING In case you didn’t know… Tour de France legend Lance Armstrong made the first significant steps in his comeback to the sport this month in the Tour Down Under in South Australia. Armstrong never made a serious run at winning the tour finishing 29th in the field of 122 but if you also didn’t know who won the event... it was an Australian by the name of Allan Davis. I guess the question is not so much – who is Allan Davis? – but can we start thinking that we’ve got another genuine challenger for the Tour de France come July alongside Cadel Evans? Let’s hope so. TENNIS Watching the Australian Open Tennis late last week and I caught the end of the second round game between American #9 seed James Blake and a no name Frenchman... well he does have a name (Sebastien De Chaunac) but he is ranked 253 in the world and has just five career wins on tour, so if you don't know him, you are not alone. De Chaunac battled crowd distractions in the third set and with Blake serving for the match and up 40-0 in the final game, the Frenchman realised he was playing with a broken string in his racquet. Knowing the match was lost but not one to let an opportunity to entertain the crowd pass by, De Chaunac held up his racquet to the patrons pleading with them to understand he needed a new one to continue. So he went to his bag replaced the racquet, walked back on court and proceeded to not even swing at the ace Blake served to close out the game. Game, Set & Match: Mr. Blake 6-3, 6-2, 6-3. Tennis late on a summer’s night – this is why you watch… oh and if Ana Ivanovic is playing.

Tuesday 27 January 2009

New to Facebook?

Joining Facebook Won't Make You Cool... Just joined Facebook? Daunted by the fact that some of your friends are Facebook veterans and are laughing at your innocent questions about the concept of the 'Poke' or at your best attempt at a status update ('Joe Bloggs is updating my status')? Don't fear the reality of peer judgement... early on it is almost unavoidable. And because you're going to cop it early and often if you can't get up to speed quickly, here is a blog just for you with 5 Quick Tips to get you on your feet and give you a fighting chance at achieving cool in the world of Facebook. The good news is that you can limit the social damage by following the advice of seasoned Facebook campaigners because since you've now entered a world of cool that up until about 18 months ago was the domain of nerds and borderline Agarophobics - you've got a direct line to all things that make the transition to Facebook cool a breeze. Why has Facebook only been cool for 18 months? (Other than the fact I joined Facebook in May 2007) Well ‘officially’ since MySpace decided to focus in on the illiterate demographic of the younger teenager at the peek of its popularity in mid 2007 - the whole 18+ market went looking for the best alternative where they could avoid dealing in txt (seriously how hard is it to add the E in text?!) speak on an hourly basis and actually connect with people from their past and their present in a far more socially constructive way. Enter Facebook and its solid base of users and within a very short period of time it has been a case of hello world domination Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook CEO. But enough of the slanted history lesson, you've seen this blog headline and thought one of two things after the first two paragraphs: 1. I am not cool and want to be cool so I joined Facebook, so how can I get cooler quicker? Or. 2. I am already cool, cos I'm already on Facebook, but is there ways I can be even cooler? So here are 5 Quick Tips to get cooler and stay cool in the Chilly Bin/Esky that is Facebook. 5. Raid Friend's Friend's Lists and add like there's no tomorrow. Firstly you've got one chance to make a statement that you are serious about Facebook - so after getting your best friends on board as your first recruits on your Friend's List - browse through their established Friend's Lists and add anyone and everyone you either know well, kind of well or may have sat on the same bus as in Year 2 just once on the way to the Swimming Carnival. If your profile page is littered with mass friend additions in the first week - then you're telling everyone you're either really cool or really desperate to look cool. Odds are you'll accomplish the former but if you go adding faked profiles of famous celebrities as friends - you'll slip quickly into the latter category. 4. Make sure your first profile picture is the best picture taken of you in your life. Go With: Wedding pictures, nights out all dressed up, Baywatch moments re-created, artistic shots incorporating the rays of the sun or amazing scenic backdrops and my old favourite – with cute kids in frame (preferably ones that you know). Avoid: Licence/Passport Pictures, Work KeyCard Pictures, decade old photos of yourself that look nothing like you and the grand-daddy of them all - any former MySpace 'self in mirror' pics. Especially on the last one, please I beg you. Adding photo albums is also advisable if you want to show your friends what’s going on but just make sure you make some effort to make the captions entertaining… that encourages more opportunities for you to excel in Quick Tip #3 below. Just be sure to pick a profile picture that you're happy with because odds are a lot of people will check out your page once you've signed up. 3. Don’t worry too much about the forms with information about yourself – it’s all about your comments that give people an indication about what you’re like these days. Facebook has the obligatory ‘About Me’ section (most likely for their marketing teams to send out en masse to all the big spam campaignists out there) but whether or not you fill this part out early on doesn’t really matter. What people will actually read on their News Feed is any comments you make on photos/walls/threads of mutual friends so if you are yourself in those entries – that gives people a sign you’re actually a real person and not some well crafted fictional illustration of a person you’d like people to think of you as. Which reminds me, time to re-do my About Me section… 2. Avoid all ‘Role Playing’ Application Games on Facebook or at least turn off the public report that says you’ve been playing too much of it at 11pm at night. I realise that this particular Quick Tip might offend some big time application users who read this blog but I’m just being honest with my appraisal of Facebook here. I’ll admit it straight off the bat I play Scrabble against a friend or two (well those who actually take their turn in the allotted time! Not mentioning any names… Sarah…) but having ‘So-and-so is playing SCRABBLE© Worldwide every time I log in just is not a good look in this social universe. So into options I go, switch off all Scrabble related notifications and bingo – all good. Now let me also say that if you enjoy the games that tech heads have created into the wee small hours of their uni degree in computer related fields – that’s FINE! But the big tip here is try not to advertise to the entire online world that this is what you’ve been spending your precious spare time on. Get into options and switch the notifications off – like RIGHT NOW. And the Number One Quick Tip to Facebook Cool is…. Drum roll please…. 1. Make your Facebook status update entertaining and/or intriguing. Even the most casual Facebook user will take a quick look at the Status Updates tab or at the very least their News Feed which will heavily feature Friend’s updates when they log in – so if you want to establish some icy fresh elements in your Facebook profile then get plugged into your status and make it your most basic line of communication to your friends. Now there are some pitfalls of the status update – the big one is stating the incredibly obvious too often and thus making it appear that you have no creative bones in your body or thinking that only updating your status every three months makes people think you’re just too busy to say g’day via the modern day answering machine and thus are somewhat too classy for a simple message. Either one annoys, and you’d be better off not even starting to update your status in the first place. Now I’ll admit I probably update too often but given I work from a home office, Facebook is invariably open on the laptop. So if something happens that I find interesting or I need to get the mind into gear for work, I’ll open the Facebook window, click on my status and hope that a flash of creativity in this little box will jumpstart my writing for the next hour or so. It sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t on the writing side of things but I’ve found that I can generally pump out a decent status update that hopefully makes someone laugh or at least think when they log in. But that’s my approach – it has its flaws but it works for me. What your approach will be depends on what you want to share and how deep you want to go into how you are feeling about yourself or something else. Keeping your friends updated is the whole point of Facebook as best I can tell – well other than providing Zuckerberg with a cash cow to sell personal information to companies for a massive profit – so if you embrace the whole concept of why social networking is a positive thing for staying in contact with people, you’ll enjoy the Facebook experience far more. However let me quote a recent Sprite advertising campaign I saw on a billboard in Turramurra in relation to getting cold in the Facebook Esky of Cool… Joining Facebook Won’t Make You Cool… … What you wanted a witty line to go with it? Make your own up and put it in your status.

Friday 9 January 2009

NSC Sports Blog: 08/01/2009 - Graeme Smith's courage, Kevin Pietersen GONE! & more!

NSC Video Sports Blog for January 8, 2009. Looking at Graeme Smith's courage batting with a busted hand and bad elbow to try and save the Third Test against Australia, Kevin Pietersen resigning because his demands to the ECB weren't going to be met and the shame that One Day cricket is dominated by the dollars rather than the actual contest.