An Un-Australian Day

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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
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5 Comments

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5 responses to “An Un-Australian Day

  1. Tim

    Well summed up – you know when Bill L calls an Australian shot stupid (re haddins dismissal) it must have been a seriously bad one. Your right to say that the innings is representative of where they are as a team at the moment – it will be interesting to see how the return of some players (particularly Clarke and Symonds) effect the team – Those guys should definately help the batting/fielding but if I was them i’d be pretty concerned about the bowling lineup over the next few years – I think Lee’s past it and don’t know of anyone else who will make much of a difference – maybe Clark but despite his stats I still only see him as solid –

  2. Duncan

    Clarke and Symonds will make a huge difference to the side I feel, they’re good for 100 or so runs an innings between them, and they’re replacing guys who are getting 40 or so… Which means that should they be fit for the Chappell-Hadlees this series will be a lot tougher than we’re currently pegging it. You’re right about the bowling, it does lack that dazzling genius element of the McGrath-Warne era, though I feel like both Tait and Johnson will get better with time, assuming the former can control his brain.
    I personally have a lot of time for Clark, was shocked when they left him out of the World Cup squad a couple of years back, but he’s 34, so the amount of top level cricket he’s got left in him (as a bowler) is questionable. The likes of Hopes and Hilfenhaus are just first class players at best, and Bracken… He puts it in the right spot, for sure, but doesn’t terrify me the way McGrath did.

  3. Have Oz batted first in every game? This I think makes things much harder when your batting line up is struggling for consitency and confidence. Chasing is so much easier for a team who is in this sort of situation- they know what they ahve to get, can set targets etc… I think this is another way that the overconfidence and lack of a decent cricket brain from Ponting has let his side down.

    Mindset is so huge in this game. How will Oz feel facing a NZ team full of young inexperienced players compared to SAs grizzled warrior types? I mean this could go against Oz but still. The first game will be crucial. If we can pull off some kind of win we could go on to take the series whereas a loss will dent our fragile confidence so much. Vettori: Can we bat second please?

  4. Duncan

    Yeah they have, and three out of the four times they won the toss, the last time South Africa put them in. I feel like that speaks to the arrogance/pigheadedness of Ponting too, repeating the same formula over and over again, despite the lack of results. I don’t know what the stats are, but I thought New Zealand’s decision to chase wherever (a philosophy trotting round a few years back) possible wasn’t a bad one. Australia obviously aren’t of that mindset, but the number of times they’ve had huge totals overhauled should give them pause.
    I think the fact that their newspapers are saying things like “even this useless lot say they can beat us” plays into our hands somewhat. As long as we’re not respected, we’re a show. But that bullying Australian approach has a history of shaking the fight out of us, so yeah, a first up win, or at least a decent showing, is critical.

  5. tim

    the general consensus seems to be that the battering power play has made batting second a much more attractive proposition, from whats happened in this series it could be true –

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