Sky’s inspired decision to use Australia Day as an opportunity to revisit some of Australia’s sporting low-points was neatly overshadowed by their once-mightiest team continuing its freefall. This just days after Andrew Symonds called NSW’s decision to play McCullum in their state Twenty20 final “Un-Australian” – what, then would he make of his team’s play yesterday?
Having won the toss on a placid Adelaide pitch, in front of a packed house with the opportunity to put a bit of a shine on a thoroughly depressing summer, Australia played its worst game of cricket in recent memory.
After Warner and Marsh perished swiftly, Hussey and Ponting did the typical Australian thing and batted as if nothing were amiss. And while they were both in, nothing was. Ponting looked particularly venomous, at one stage flaying four consecutive fours off Ntini and then Steyn. For a moment you allowed yourself to believe that perhaps we were going to witness something enormous, the routed remnants of a great army finding it in themselves to forge a final, defiant victory.
But there was something else in Ponting’s batting, a deep, malign frustration, with his teammates and the hand he’d been dealt. His demeanour seemed to angrily ask why he was fated to lead this particular side. When he and Hussey – who is unrecognisable as the imperious Mr Cricket of a few short seasons ago – both departed within a few balls of each other Australia’s swift start and nascent recovery was in the balance. Into the breach strode David Hussey and Brad Haddin, with the latter perishing to a shot of such breathtaking arrogance it seemed to sum up Australia’s entire summer.
His side were four down for 128 in the 24th over, in dire need of a partnership to take them through to at least 200 and 35 overs. Perhaps it was not a role that either was accustomed to playing, but it was the one required. Yet Haddin saw one invitingly pitched up from Botha, his eyes lit up and he holed out to the safe hands of Kallis in the deep.
It was nothing like the match situation to be playing such a stroke. He had faced just nine balls, and they needed guarded, risk-free cricket to build the kind of of late 200s total that might have been defensible on such a wicket. But Haddin lacked the necessary discipline, walked into a well sign-posted trap, and with his dismissal the writing was on the wall.
So dire were Australia’s straits that they took the powerplay in the 43rd over, with those renowned strokeplayers Hopes and Hilfenhaus at the wicket. South Africa cruised to the mainfestly inadequate 222 with more than ten overs and eight wickets in hand. And Australia Day was spoiled by the very team which had made it such a joy for the past twenty years.
One look at the Australian wickets tells you all you need to know about the hole this team is in:[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8pFE_mOfTGg%5D