Monthly Archives: December 2010

Water your garden

Right then, good work England. 

I have already said all I need to about this match over the past couple of days.

Although, I must give a special shout out to Siddle and Haddin for making England wait slightly longer than they expected to, for showing some grit and some fight and for making the hour and a half quite entertaining.

I was not at all impressed with the English team’s en mass sprinkler dance after the match.  There was an element of Shane Warne doing that weird “we won the Ashes – ner-ne-ner-ner” gyrating boogie with a stump on the balcony at Trent Bridge in 1997 about the sprinkler dance.  At the time, Warne was quite rightly, condemned by media from England and Australia alike.  I doubt that will happen to this English team.  We are too annoyed at our team, and they are too busy gloating. 

The sprinkler dance is a silly team bonding type thing that Swann has been making a YouTube video diary about (and admittedly the original video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bnvevEUzWvs) was amusing, but that was more down to the music, to the old fella and Finn confusing the sprinkler with the “giddy up”).  Here, it was an unnecessary arrogance, that rubbed salt into the open wound that is Australian cricket. 

Don’t those prima donnas know that Victoria is in the middle of a drought?  Such mindless sprinkler usage is a breach of the water restrictions – they should all be fined.

Although I could just be bitter about seeing Australia go down by an innings-plus two out of the last three tests. 

Sydney

It seems pretty clear that the selectors won’t change the team for Sydney – well much.  Hughes will retain his place – to be honest after Watson tried to ruin his career, I am tempted to give him another shot, but I won’t.  The selectors will probably stick with Siddle, Hilfy and Johnson and bring in Beer.  They may swap Haddin and Smith in the batting order and will only include Khawaja if Ponting is unfit.  Clarke will be the captain if Ponting doesn’t play.

That is what I think the selectors will do – because they are mindless, and boring.

This is what I would do:

If Ponting is fit:

  • Shane Watson
  • Phil Hughes *
  • Ricky Ponting (c)
  • Usman Khawaja
  • Michael Hussey
  • Shaun Marsh
  • Brad Haddin
  • Nathan Hauritz
  • Peter Siddle
  • Luke Butterworth
  • Chris Swan
  • Smith (12th)

* I am only selecting Hughes because I feel bad for him that Watson ran him out – I know this is ridiculous and almost as stupid as the behaviour of selectors, but hey, if they can do it …

If Ponting is not fit, I would either move everyone up one slot and put Smith in at 7, or pick someone else to replace him directly, I don’t know – maybe Cosgrove, because it is nice to think a tubby lad can still play the ultimate form of the game. 

I would also give the captaincy to Haddin or Hussey as a one-off.

To quickly explain the quicks/medium-fasts – Johnson is just killing me with his turn up one week, don’t for the next three months thing that he is doing at the moment, so he is gone.  Hilfy, who I quite like, is just not looking like taking top order wickets.  Butterworth and Swan have been doing well in Shield cricket, and one is a Tasmanian to keep Boonie and Punter happy.

The batting speaks for itself.  Personally, I would probably drop Punter down to number 4 or 5, but he just won’t do that, so he gets to stay at 3 in my make-believe team.

What do you think?

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The final curtain

This match, and series, has helped me develop a deep respect for English cricket fans.  They have had to watch, with despair no doubt, an insipid team with little heart and even less talent for a very long time.  Now, after 20-odd years they can play, and play well.  Well, they can against rubbish opposition.  Having watched some of the South Africa v India series, I doubt that this side will seriously challenge those sides, particularly with the fields Strauss sets, but they are good enough for our lot.  Much too good. 

Now I understand how it must have felt in ’89, ‘91/2, ’93, etc.  Basically never looking like winning, clearly having a team filled with individuals that should be struggling to consistently play in a first class team, let alone be untouchable in the test side.  Having to console yourself with the odd win, when a bloke suddenly turns up for a change.  Mitchell in Perth was very much like Devon Malcolm at the Oval … but I digress.

This match has made me angry, dispirited, and just plain upset and there wasn’t much I felt like writing about until about an hour into the Australian innings – and once again one guy managed to inspire me (surprisingly not Siddle, who has bowled with distinction and really shown what it means to him to be playing for his country on the MCG). 

If I didn’t know that people I liked and respected, people that really don’t like bad language, then I would be very tempted to drop a very nasty word, in fact many very nasty words, about Shane Watson.

What had started as a very positive, almost exciting, approach to an ultimately doomed position all came tumbling down due to another outrageously bad call by Watson.  Running Katich out for a diamond in Adelaide was bad, very bad.  Running out a kid, who has really been struggling, was fighting for his spot in the side, who actually started to find a bit of form for the first time this season was unforgivable.

I was chatting to a mate at the ground and he was livid, and got in touch with me just to vent his anger at Watson, suggesting that he may be doing that sort of thing on purpose! 

Then to top it all off, he does what he ALWAYS does, and went out timidly soon after a break soon after reaching his fifty.  Fifteen 50s and 2 hundreds is simply not good enough.

One thing that absolutely astounded me last night was when Clarke came out to bat, and the description offered of him was “out of form, but not a man playing for his place.”  All I could think of was why the devil not?

Especially now that it appears he will be given the honour of skippering Australia in Sydney.  Outrageous.  Clarke is short term – I have said over and over that he should have been dropped already this series, and instead, it looks like he is being rewarded by being promoted to captain.  Australia has always picked the best side, and then the best person in the side to captain the team – at least in my living memory.  What are we saying now if Clarke, a guy who shouldn’t even be playing, the captaincy?  Hildich and that mob really need to explain themselves, then get sacked!

I will name my thoughts on who should be named for the Sydney test side tomorrow to see what people think, but just for the record – how is Steve Smith, a guy who has scored 162 Shield runs this year at 32.40 with only one score over 50 in the top 6 batsmen in the country?  Even Marcus North has a better Shield record than that this year, and he has been pox.

So probably another hour, unless Johnson and Haddin can excite for a bit, then maybe we’ll get two, and the Ashes will be officially confirmed as staying with England for another 2.5 years. 

They have deserved to win and to win comfortably.

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Temper temper …

Ricky lost the plot and Ian Botham doesn’t like strong aggressive Australian captains – take your pick, Chappelli or Punter. 

That’s pretty much it for day 2 at the MCG.

A lot has been made of the Pieterson non-dismissal and Ponting’s response to it.  While the response was over the top, and rightly he was fined for dissent (or an overly long conversation with the umpire on the field), this matter raises another issue.  One which FIFA has arguably gotten right over the years.  The ACB in an attempt to show transparency and keep the fans at the ground “in the loop”, have decided to show on the big screens what viewers at home, and the third umpire see when deciding on a referral.  It was this that caused such consternation with the Australian team, and the captain in particular.  In the comfort of my own home, it was pretty clear that Pieterson was not out, but on the ground, all that they would have seen was the “hot spot” at the base of his bat.   Assuming this was caused by the ball, the Australian team was shocked that he was (rightly) given not out.  I am not excusing the behaviour at all, but perhaps this is as good an example as any as to why such replays should not be shown live at the ground.

Despite being unimpressed with the skippers behaviour, I must admit the hysteria surrounding the incident is somewhat ridiculous.  I have found the incredulous reaction by most sections of the media to be over the top, which is probably why I am not as disappointed as I could or perhaps should be with Punter.  There was no real aggression and nothing that was completely out of order – other than whinging for too long and speaking to both umpires.  Once it was over, nothing more was made of it by the skipper or the team for the rest of the day.  Ian Botham and David Gower’s “holier than thou” approach was a little hard to swallow – particularly from those blokes.  The press response was predictable and over the top.

In reality, Ponting was showing the strain of the game.  The strain of his failure to produce runs, of the likelihood that this match, and with it the Ashes, is gone and probably his disenchantment with the team he is charged with leading. 

The English side are better overall in most aspects than this Australian side.  It is how it is.  It is sad that Ricky will be remembered for being the only Australian captain to lead 3 Ashes losing Australian teams (although with a bit of luck in Sydney, it might only be 2 loses and a drawn series).   No one will worry about it in the years to come, but he was 2 runs (or a referral system) away from winning in 2005, and a wicket away from retaining the Ashes in 2009.  History can be harsh sometimes.

The selectors, and the players charged with the responsibility of representing Australia must also take some of the responsibility.  Steve Waugh and Mark Taylor wouldn’t have been able to do any more with this side, and it is about time that people started to recognise that.

However, despite this one ugly incident, the response by the Australian team to the bizarre (although again correct) situation where Aleem Dar first gave Prior out, then decided to check upstairs for a no-ball, which reversed the decision, was first rate – but no one apart from Mike Atherton recognised that.

It does raise the question as to whether every wicket taking ball will or should be checked for the legitimacy of the front stride.  Umpire Dar was spot on when something triggered him to check Johnson’s front foot – but what happens next time when he (or another) doesn’t?  Something to ponder perhaps.

The Australians didn’t have much luck throughout the second day, but they didn’t really deserve it.  Siddle was used too sparingly, and Clarke looking like he was trying to cause injuries  to the beer swilling folk in the Ponsford stand.  Hilfy didn’t really look like taking a wicket, and Harris was below his best.  At least the fielding was better than it has been!

And yes, Trott batted well – albeit annoyingly.  I don’t really like watching him bat, he is a grafter who does not look pretty, but his Ashes record is one to be proud of, and at the end of the day, it’s how many, not how you got them.

Can Australia bat for the best part of 3 days to retain the chance to win back the Ashes?  In the unforgettable words from the Castle – “[3 days?]  Tell them they’re dreaming!”

Ricky lost the plot and Ian Botham doesn’t like strong aggressive Australian captains – take your pick, Chappelli or Punter. 

That’s pretty much it for day 2 at the MCG.

A lot has been made of the Pieterson non-dismissal and Ponting’s response to it.  While the response was over the top, and rightly he was fined for dissent (or an overly long conversation with the umpire on the field), this matter raises another issue.  One which FIFA has arguably gotten right over the years.  The ACB in an attempt to show transparency and keep the fans at the ground “in the loop”, have decided to show on the big screens what viewers at home, and the third umpire see when deciding on a referral.  It was this that caused such consternation with the Australian team, and the captain in particular.  In the comfort of my own home, it was pretty clear that Pieterson was not out, but on the ground, all that they would have seen was the “hot spot” at the base of his bat.   Assuming this was caused by the ball, the Australian team was shocked that he was (rightly) given not out.  I am not excusing the behaviour at all, but perhaps this is as good an example as any as to why such replays should not be shown live at the ground.

Despite being unimpressed with the skippers behaviour, I must admit the hysteria surrounding the incident is somewhat ridiculous.  I have found the incredulous reaction by most sections of the media to be over the top, which is probably why I am not as disappointed as I could or perhaps should be with Punter.  There was no real aggression and nothing that was completely out of order – other than whinging for too long and speaking to both umpires.  Once it was over, nothing more was made of it by the skipper or the team for the rest of the day.  Ian Botham and David Gower’s “holier than thou” approach was a little hard to swallow – particularly from those blokes.  The press response was predictable and over the top.

In reality, Ponting was showing the strain of the game.  The strain of his failure to produce runs, of the likelihood that this match, and with it the Ashes, is gone and probably his disenchantment with the team he is charged with leading. 

The English side are better overall in most aspects than this Australian side.  It is how it is.  It is sad that Ricky will be remembered for being the only Australian captain to lead 3 Ashes losing Australian teams (although with a bit of luck in Sydney, it might only be 2 loses and a drawn series).   No one will worry about it in the years to come, but he was 2 runs (or a referral system) away from winning in 2005, and a wicket away from retaining the Ashes in 2009.  History can be harsh sometimes.

The selectors, and the players charged with the responsibility of representing Australia must also take some of the responsibility.  Steve Waugh and Mark Taylor wouldn’t have been able to do any more with this side, and it is about time that people started to recognise that.

However, despite this one ugly incident, the response by the Australian team to the bizarre (although again correct) situation where Aleem Dar first gave Prior out, then decided to check upstairs for a no-ball, which reversed the decision, was first rate – but no one apart from Mike Atherton recognised that.

It does raise the question as to whether every wicket taking ball will or should be checked for the legitimacy of the front stride.  Umpire Dar was spot on when something triggered him to check Johnson’s front foot – but what happens next time when he (or another) doesn’t?  Something to ponder perhaps.

The Australians didn’t have much luck throughout the second day, but they didn’t really deserve it.  Siddle was used too sparingly, and Clarke looking like he was trying to cause injuries  to the beer swilling folk in the Ponsford stand.  Hilfy didn’t really look like taking a wicket, and Harris was below his best.  At least the fielding was better than it has been!

And yes, Trott batted well – albeit annoyingly.  I don’t really like watching him bat, he is a grafter who does not look pretty, but his Ashes record is one to be proud of, and at the end of the day, it’s how many, not how you got them.

Can Australia bat for the best part of 3 days to retain the chance to win back the Ashes?  In the unforgettable words from the Castle – “[3 days?]  Tell them they’re dreaming!”

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The Oval?

I’m glad that Australia had all the momentum today, otherwise it could have gotten messy!

I thought of quite a few witty comments to make while watching the match last night, but I was drinking whisky, so I can’t remember them now, and they probably weren’t that funny anyway.

There was anticipation, excitement, plenty of talk – most of it redundant, and then there was the play.  Today was as disappointing for Australian fan as it was exhilarating for the English.

It would be very easy to concentrate on the obvious deficiencies in the Australian team (a lot caused by selection), but that would take away from the wonderful performance of this English team.

Anderson bowled extremely well, no signs of any problem with his side, although Australia didn’t require him to bowl enough to really test it. After three innings, it is hard to fathom whey Tremlett wasn’t in the side from the beginning.  Apart from seemingly trying to get Ponting out down leg-side for a couple of overs, he was hostile, quick and aggressive.  He is also a giant.  That helps.

If anyone believes in omens and luck going one way or another, then the first three overs would have dispelled that. 

Hughes looked fiery and Watson had been dropped twice. 

Then the usual first innings business resumed.

Watson was lucky to get to 5, and Hughes played a very loose shot after working hard for an hour.  Ponting again got a good ball which moved just enough. 

Ponting looked determined, and seemingly begun to take control with two cracking pulls to the fence off his series nemesis Anderson.  As with much of Ponting’s batting this series, those shots provided false hope.  Throughout his innings, his balance was off, he was falling to the off-side when the ball was going down leg, he was lunging rather than stepping down the wicket and mostly (if I am honest) he looked a shadow of his former self. 

Admittedly I am being somewhat biased, but seeing the great one (Tendulkar) streak away from the Tasmanian is biting a little.  I had always thought that, although Tendulkar slightly edged him, Ponting was up there with him.  Tendulkar is making me feel a little foolish right now.

The ease with which Kallis is making runs is also starting to grate on me.  I don’t like Kallis, never have.  Before Watson, he was the bloke I most despised in world cricket.  Begrudgingly, I am coming to the conclusion, that he is also one of the all-time greats of world cricket.  This hasn’t been a good day for me!

I don’t think Ponting is finished, I think he does still have some good runs at international level left in him.  In fact, on the whole, I’ve thought that a big score was literally just around the corner this series.  He can still bat, he showed that recently in India, which is statistically his worst performed area of the world.  My fear, is that he may not get the chance to pull himself out of this slump.  It will be surprising if he survives this summer as skipper (although I do not agree with that decision, as I can’t see anyone good enough to replace him), and it is not the Australian way to keep playing for long (or usually at all) once the captaincy has been taken away.

Whether you are an English, Australian, or just a cricket fan in general, I think you will have to agree, it is a sad sight seeing him struggle so much at the moment.

Although England bowled very well and suitably for the conditions, the Australians gifted a lot of wickets – Hughes, Clarke, Smith, Haddin especially.  Some of the bowlers did as well, but they aren’t there to bat.  Arguably Hussey played an ill-timed and somewhat loose shot to go out, but his performances this series do give him a bit of leyway in that regard – as it is the first time that he has failed to make at least 50 this series, I think we should give him a break.  Especially when you consider that he has been at the crease very very early – before the 15th over three times this series out of six innings (and twice before 10 had been bowled)!  This is likely to continue with the way the men ahead of him are batting.

I went to bed when Johnson bowled it to fine-leg, so I can’t really talk much about the English openers, other than it looks like a long day in the field today if Australia can’t get back some of that Perth magic.

I feel like I am repeating myself on this, but the selections for this entire series, and especially this match are ludicrous. Unless Hauritz has been stealing the other players wallets, it is simply unfathomable that he is not in this side.  Smith, at his current stage, cannot bat at number 6 – simple as that.  Hughes is not worthy of his place and Clarke should have been dropped.  Siddle, and to an extent Hilfy, are lucky to be playing.  Blokes like Hauritz, D Hussey, McDonald, White, and various others carving up the Shield must be wondering what is going on, and more importantly – what the have to do.  It almost, only almost, makes you feel a little sorry for Hodge!

But when all is said and done, well played England – a thoroughly professional display.

It will be interesting to see whether Katich gets a run in Sydney now that he has indicated that he thinks he is fit.  I would have thought if Australia somehow pull a “centenary test” out of the bag he may, but if the Ashes are lost it may be a chance to play a few new kids.

I would love to see Australia show a little fight today, pull their fingers out and get stuck into the English line up and show some metal with the bat late in the day.  I would like to see that – not only because I am an Aussie, but because I would like to see a contest, a scrap, a good hard match.  The see-saw of this series is giving me indigestion!

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The day before Boxing Day …

The presents have been opened, the hearty dinner is in the over, the first glass of Christmas cheer has been drunk (just a tipple you see), and everyone is waiting. 

Huss is waiting for some short stuff from Swan, Watson wants to drive.  Punter wants to get off the mark, and Clarke is hoping that he can remember how to bat.  Hughes is cowering under that table, while Siddle is trying to lock Beer in his room.  Haddin is working on moving to his left, Hilfy is eating apples, Johnson is stretching and Hauritz is waiting at Sydney airport, just in case.

Strauss is chewing his gum, and practicing looking hard done by.  Cook is writing columns about how happy he is while Peiterson is working on his strut.  Anderson is working on his pout and getting a massage, Finn’s playing video games and Bell is looking in the mirror.  Collingwood is eating a post dinner snack of raw concrete, and Trott is doing his hair.

90,000+ Melbournians are sleeping off a large festive celebration in preparation of a big day out.

Everyone is on tender hooks.  Who will bat first?  Who will score runs?  Who’s taking the new ball?  Will the weather hold up?  Can Australia do it again, will England come back?

Waiting, waiting … hurry the hell up! 

Me, I am happy, watching a film, waiting for the Queen’s speech (I’ve never seen one before), a big roast dinner on the way, playing in the snow, Doctor Who coming up, playing with my new toys but mostly watching the clock. 

Tick-tock, tick-tock … only 9 hours to go … tick-tock, tick-tock.

Merry Christmas to all … C’mon Aussie, C’mon

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Boxing Day – better than Christmas

If I am honest, it doesn’t take much at this time of year to get me thinking about home, reminiscing a little, and potentially feeling a little home sick. 

Today, I read a brilliant article titled “Behind the Boxing Day buzz” by Will Brodie which got me there real quick.

http://www.theage.com.au/sport/cricket/behind-the-boxing-day-buzz-20101222-194zt.html

I don’t remember reading much of Will’s work prior to this article, but if this is typical of his work, then I am now a fan.  I thought he caught the excitement, the buzz, the anticipation and the general vibe of Melbournites and the Boxing Day Test absolutely perfectly.

I am young enough to not be able to remember there ever not being a Boxing Day Test match, but old enough to have been to most.  In the last 20-odd years I have been to every test at the ‘G, pretty much every day in fact.  However, for the third year in a row I won’t be there – and that makes me sad. 

I have sat through 5 hours of rain to catch that 40 minutes against South Africa, I saw Mark Taylor dominate Wasim and Waqar, I saw Border score his first ton in years against the West Indies, I saw Warnie take his hat-trick and Flemming just miss one, I saw Waugh guide the tail, I’ve seen Merv wind up the crowd.  I could go on and on.

I remember feeling extremely self-conscious as a kid screaming out to Merv for a wave, and then the proudness and joy when he did!  I’ve chatted to Warnie outside.  I’ve been in the rooms and had a bowl at the indoor nets.

I’ve watched from the old Southern Stand, from the Olympic stand, from the Northern stand, from the members and even once from a corporate box.

I’ve been with my family, with mates, with colleagues, while networking, on dates and by myself.

I’ve been sober, I’ve been inebriated, I’ve been somewhere in between, I’ve eaten, I’ve not.

But above all – I’ve loved every second of it all.

There is something that is truly magical about the Boxing Day Test at the MCG.  It manages to combine the very best of a glorious sport, a celebratory time of year and the best sporting stadium in the world.

I have seen tests live at every ground in Australia (except Darwin) and quite a few in the UK, and I have loved each and every one.  But none has quite touched me in the same way as when you walk into the MCG on Boxing Day.

That feeling when you walk into the stadium with 90,000 others – although if I am honest, I used to walk through Yarra Park past the MCG to work most days for a while, and I kind of got that feeling about the ‘G every time – is great.  It’s one of excitement, of anticipation, of just plain happiness.  The chat with random strangers, the roar as they come out – it is just awesome.

A comment to the article by The Richmond Camel probably sums up what I am trying to say best: “[Cricket] punctuates your summer … it renews friendships … it affirms that all in life is well.

Yes Richmond Camel – it sure does.

Enjoy Boxing Day – I’ll be there in spirit, and watching all night long.

However

If Ponting misses this match it will be because of injuries sustained from knocking Watson’s block off – quite appropriately as it turns out.  It was disgusting when Watson led the media charge last year to replace Hughes as the test opener.  His none-too-subtle attempt to put himself up as Ponting’s imminent replacement right now is even worse.  I refuse to write about him in detail two pieces in a row, so that is all I will say about it for now.

I have applied to the Home Office for English naturalisation papers just in case.

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Watson is a genius

Well, well, now it gets interesting.  England find themselves defending themselves against a hostile press – whether it be over the WAGs, over their double batting failure, over Finn leaking runs, over Bell’s position in the line up, over Anderson’s trip home – and subsequent “tired” performance and ensuing side strain, Strauss’s captaincy.  You name it, and you will find that it is probably being thrown at the English cricket team by someone somewhere.

The MCG curator is getting blasted over favourable ground preparations for the home side.  Two things strike me about this – first that Cook confirmed a long-held Australian belief that the English requested that the Oval pitch be doctored in 2009, and that it was (this doesn’t change the fact that Australia went into that match with the wrong line up, a mistake that they seem to be repeating in Melbourne).  Secondly, the pitch is five days away from being played on.  Perhaps it might be wise to wait, at least until a little closer to the match, before casting aspersions on the MCG ground staff?  It would also be wise to just play the dam conditions as they are when you play them.  Does anyone go to India and complain that the pitch is too dusty and takes too much spin?

So, with an English team that may be worried about the wicket (although Flower doesn’t seem to be that fazed), their top bowler looking unlikely, Finn looking tired, the possibility of three Ashes debutants (the two new bowlers and Morgan for Collingwood), basically a team with a few difficulties and potentially facing some low morale coming into Christmas … what happens? 

Shane Watson happens.

http://www.theage.com.au/sport/cricket/watson-denounces-anderson-for-not-helping-out-his-teammate-20101221-194ey.html

Watson decides to be Watson, opens his mouth, and confirms he is a fool and gives the English team a kick up the backside and some inspiration to stick on the MCG dressing rooms.

Anyone who saw the final two balls of the third day knows what happened.  They know that Anderson stuffed up in his role as night-watchman.  Anyone who watched the first day knows that Anderson tried to be the tough guy and failed, and that Mitchell Johnson took exception (who can really say if this is what fired him up though, that is something that no one will ever know for sure).

But that wasn’t enough for Watson.  When Australia need to win the last two tests (or one and a draw), he decides to gloat, to rub salt into an open wound, to mock.  I hope Ponting belts him.  Kattich would have.

Watson carries himself like a man who considers himself to be a gift to the world, a man without peers, a FIGJAM if you will, and he can’t leave well enough alone.

Chris Gayle was right about Watson last year – “I didn’t expect anything better … that’s typically Shane Watson.”  I can’t say it better than the great laid-back one.

Enjoy the win, focus on the next match, and try to score a dam hundred you tool (OK I tried).

This is why I will never like or respect Shane Watson.

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