After dominating India and the West Indies much was expected of the world number 1 ranked Australian one-day team on its tour of Ireland and England. Injured paceman Mitch Johnson and 19 year old Pat Cummins returned while Mike Hussey was a late withdrawal due to the birth of his 4th child, replaced in the squad by Peter Forrest.
The first ODI was a one off game against Test status wannabes Ireland in Stormont, Belfast. In 2010 Ireland pushed Australia all the way in a one off ODI in Dublin and have consistently played well against Test nations while dominating the next tier ever since. Batting first Ireland were struggling at 3/36 off 10.4 overs when rain intervened and the match was cancelled. A fit looking Brett Lee bowled the Irish skipper William Porterfield and their best batsman Ed Joyce both for ducks. Porterfield is an elegant left hander reminiscent of New Zealander Stephen Fleming, and may yet end up playing for England. Joyce has already played for the Poms before returning home to his native Ireland. Paul Stirling looked a class act making 24 off 27 balls before being caught behind off Pat Cummins. He is very much on the England selectors radar. I hope Ireland get some sort of Test match status soon and England can keep their recruiting to South African and Scottish players.
The first match of the 5 match ODI series against England started with the home team making 5/272 at Lords. A reasonable score turned into a very good one with a late innings flurry from (Irishman) Eoin Morgan who swept, reverse swept and slog sweeped his way to an unbeaten 89. As well as playing a few good cricket shots. How much Ireland would still love him in their team. The Aussies fell 15 runs short in reply. Clarke 61, Warner 56 and Bailey 29.
Australia made 7/251 at the Oval in game 2. Watson impressive with 66 off 80 balls, Bailey struggled for a long time but came good to make 65 off 86 balls. England got home easily, Bell and Bopara making half centuries.
Game 3 at Birmingham was washed out, then batting first Australia made 9/200 in game 4 at Chester-Le-Street. David Hussey a standout with 70 off 73 balls and showing he can play the moving Duke ball. A spot on the 2013 Ashes tour may not be out of the question for this consistent performer in English conditions. Steven Finn 4/37 could well be the most improved quick bowler in the world, will be more than a handful in the aforementioned 2013 Ashes series. England 2/201, got them easy, Clint McKay 2/29 off 10 overs the only Aussie to impress.
Game 5 and Australia due to rain had 32 overs to bat and made 7/145. George Bailey made 46 0ff 41 balls and Warner a run a ball 32. The Poms target was reduced to 138 off 29 overs thanks to more rain and Mr Duckworth and Mr Lewis. Half centuries to Cook and Bopara and the loss of only 3 wickets sealed the series 4-0 for England.
8- Clint Mckay Economical throughout and the leading wicket taker. Has been cast in the Nathan Bracken limited overs role but could be handy in Test cricket in England and selected venues in Australia.
7.5- George Bailey A natural limited overs batsman, his late playing of the ball suits English conditions and with an Ashes tour coming up will be on the fringes of the Test team
7- David Hussey Ditto what I said about Bailey. Age counts against him though, but best team MUST be chosen for Ashes
6.5- Michael Clarke Looked ok without starring. Not his best captaincy effort.
6- Shane Watson One really good innings. Broke down again while bowling. At crossroads whether he plays as batsman only or all-rounder.
6- David Warner Contributed well without being fluent or dominating. Still has to work out his ODI style. By far our best fielder.
5.5- Ben Hilfenhaus Ignored for first few games, was economical without being a big wicket-taker.
5- Xavier Doherty bowled reasonably tight but without much penetration. Will be better in Sub Contintential conditions against Pakistan in the UAE and in the T20 world cup in Sri Lanka
4.5- Brett Lee Looked good against Ireland but lacked penetration against England. With calf injury ruling him out until t20 world cup may be hard to come back as a 35 year old
4- Matthew Wade kept very well, batting suspect against the Duke. Could be a long running battle with Tim Paine over the next 6-7 years over the keeping position in all 3 forms.
4- Steve Smith looks handy but not proficient in batting or bowling. Just behind Warner and Ponting as our best fielder. Needs plenty more time in Sheffield Shield and Ryobi Cup
4- Pat Cummins bowled well against Ireland. Injuries are a concern. Might need more work rather than less.
3- James Pattinson looked a shadow of the bowler who ran through India. Only bowled at Clint McKay pace. Will be a star when he gets back to bowling full pace.
2- Peter Forrest Unfortunately can’t play the moving ball. Will now be dropped from ODI team.
1- Mitchell Johnson At his best a brilliant cricketer. That was a few years ago. A long way back now.
So where do the selctors head from here? Watson and Lee are out for Pakistan series. I think Wade is better suited to 7 than opening, surely Rob Quiney deserves a crack at the opening spot after a consistent last 3 seasons. Would like to see Clarke at number 3 and Bailey at 4. Mike Husseys return will help. And keep faith with Xavier Doherty as our ODI spinner. With Nathan Lyon as back up. And how about Andrew McDonald as back up all-rounder to Watson instead of Christian? Not spectacular but a very consistent and efficient player.