Looking for a win for the improving Australians

It may not be the Ashes, it’s September in the footy season and cricket certainly doesn’t seem to be at the forefront of many sports fans’ minds. But the Third Test against Sri Lanka starting in Colombo on Friday is very important for the rehabilitation of Australian cricket after the problems of recent times.

Michael Clarke and his boys have been playing excellent cricket and deserve something to hang their hats on. They’ve batted, bowled and fielded with purpose, and a loss in this Test, and drawn series, wouldn’t reflect the progress that has been made. It could also destroy confidence going into the more demanding tour of South Africa in November.

Usman Khawaja has been left out of the side for the return of Ricky Ponting, and no doubt Clarke and Tim Neilson agonised over their decision. From this distance it was a no-brainer : Phil Hughes. The New South Welshman has had five consecutive Tests  –   three in the Ashes plus these two  –  for a top score of 36. End of discussion.

But it wouldn’t have been that simple for Clarke and Neilson. They must have felt that Hughes needed more of a ‘run at it’, that he’s batting OK and needs more time to forge his partnership with Shane Watson. His supporters would point to his hasty dropping in the 2009 Ashes after just two Tests, a decision, by the way, which led to Watson becoming arguably the world’s best opener over the last two years.

Whatever was decided Shaun Marsh had to stay in. He probably should have played the first Test but Khawaja’s 100 in the tour match muddied the waters and denied him. He has been earmarked for some time but has kept getting mystery injuries and never plays a full season for WA. But his time has come, and it should be at the top of the order sooner rather than later.

Ryan Harris will be a huge loss. He’s been head and shoulders above any other bowler in the series with his pace, movement and relentless pressure. Although Peter Siddle was extremely unlucky not to be in the team in the first place, he’ll find it difficult coming into the side with so little cricket under his belt and under the level of expectation that Harris has created.

Watson needs a score to silence the incessant nonsense that is being spoken about a possible move to the middle order for him. Good openers are gold, middle order stars are a dime a dozen : leave him where he is. As canny as he is with ball in hand, if he’s bowling 20 overs other blokes aren’t doing their jobs.

Despite some improved batting in Kandy from Kumar Sangakkara, the Sri Lankans are still a disorganised bunch. Their captain is at the hub of their problems, and, despite his undoubted relief at the absence of Harris, if the Aussies maintain their discipline and pressure against him it is difficult to see him playing his way out of the hole that he’s in.

The Sri Lankan spin attack was very unremarkable in Kandy. Randiv has made no impact on the series and Prasanna, for all his promise in the one-day series, is no great threat as a Test bowler. Herath will be a welcome addition because of his left-handedness, but the Sri Lankans have desperately needed Mendis fit and ready to go. His continued absence sums up the chaotic state of their cricket.

A series victory is nothing short of what the Australians deserve. Mike Hussey has lengthened his career in brilliant fashion, some newcomers have done nothing wrong and the skipper seems to be revelling in his job. A major setback in the final match of the tour would be a heartbreaking blow for all concerned.

 

Comments

  1. Peter Flynn says:

    G’day Brendan,

    I think Ponting should now bat at 6.

    We have a heap of lefties.

    Dilshan is an awful captain. Clarke has the makings of a good one. He’ll need batting form, bowlers and luck.

  2. John Butler says:

    Brendan, I reckon Watson personifies a lot of the confusion in Australian cricket in the last few years.

    Benefited initially from the perceived need for an all-rounder. But kept getting injured.

    Once he was fit, suddenly was picked as a stop gap opener. Happened to make it work.

    But now that limits his use as an all-rounder.

    A lot of chasing your own tail about all of that. Though not Watson’s fault.

    And I personally don’t think you can be rated one of the best openers in the world when you’ve got 2 test centuries to your name. And a habit of letting balls go that flush off stump.

  3. I have a lot of questions about our quick bowlers. Harris seems great but his body is clearly past it. Copeland seems solid if yet unproven. In recent weeks I have used the good ECT and hall of mirrors to good effect on SStosur, and JKennedy is due a bag this weekend. But crikey MJohnson would drain all the electricity out of the Muchea power station and still not leave an alpha wave on his EEG or ECG. And I have little doubt that PSiddle is a champion bloke who gives his all, but I have yet to see him deviate a ball off the square either in the air or off the pitch. He is an honest stock bowler but that seems Copeland’s role. So where do we find our genuine strike bowlers??? Seems unanswered to me beyond hope and sentiment. Sorry Gippslanders.

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