From deserts the…


Australia’s fantastic victory overnight had many of the ingredients of Edgbaston 2005, but thankfully a better result for the visitors. The Aussie cause seemed to be lost for most of the abbreviated day’s play, yet in the end a bit of old-fashioned spirit got us through.

It’s a bit weird to have the stomach churning with tension at 2am, but that’s the sort of game it was for those who soldiered on through the early hours of Tuesday. As with all tight run chases, the closer you get to the target the more difficult it becomes. Thank goodness we had a nerveless 18 year old to see us through.

The counter-attack by Brad Haddin and Mitchell Johnson after tea was superb, and led to all the South African insecurities we’ve seen in the past. Graeme Smith used four different bowlers in the first four overs after the break, and suddenly the momentum of the game had changed.

This was a very important win for Australian cricket with the international season about to begin. After the disaster of 47 all out at Cape Town, many cricket fans had had enough, this one included. It wasn’t so much the defeats we’d been suffering, but the manner of them and the attitude that has gone with them.

Yet Michael Clarke said that he and his boys were putting the previous week behind them, and so it proved. In this roller-coaster of a match and series  –  just like the Ashes of 2005 –  both sides experienced the wildly fluctuating fortunes that are often the lot of teams that are below their best. It made for fascinating viewing, and any assessment of the state of rehabilitation in our game became all the more difficult.

Clarke should be delighted with the last few months. A Test series win in Sri Lanka, a drawn Test series in South Africa, and two one-day series victories is some achievement. There might be some unsettled issues, but it’s a hell of an improvement from last summer and the/disorganised effort in the World Cup that followed.

There was some wonderful cricket played over the last two weeks in South Africa  –  what a shame there weren’t more people there to see it. For the Proteas Dale Steyn and Hashim Amla confirmed their lofty status in the game. Jacques Kallis revealed a new approach as well a new hairstyle. Morne Morkel continued to display Steve Harmison-like traits of inconsistency mixed in with unplayable deliveries, and Vernon Phillander looks to be a good discovery.

The picture for Australia looks a little more blurred, though maybe we are being too critical. Phil Hughes will always frustrate us, but 2000 Test runs @ 40 at the age of 22 is no mean feat. Usman Khawaja has finally had his breakthrough innings, and Clarke has played his first captain’s knock.

Then there is Pat Cummins. This kid is almost too good to be true, both in ability and attitude, and his emergence has so many similarities to the arrival of Dennis Lillee all those years ago. In both cases our cricket was ailing, and, like D.K.Lillee, the youngster looks to have all the qualities that the public will embrace.

More change is hovering, and there is no doubt that some disillusionment is still apparent in the cricket fraternity, but Ponting, Haddin and Johnson may just have bought themselves some time. Besides, the incredible spate of injuries means that replacement options are limited.

Clarke and his men deserve support when the season kicks off in Brisbane shortly. When cricket reaches the heights it has over recent days we should enjoy it for what it is, not get too bogged down in the negatives.



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