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Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Aussies - Down and Under?

The ease with which the Kiwis chased down huge totals to beat Australia must be worrying for Ricky Ponting and Co. But where are the wickets and tight spells going to come from?

Look at the highest successful totals by teams batting second in ODIs and we see that the first four have come against Australia - two last year and two in the series just finished against New Zealand.
  • 438-9 (49.5 overs) South Africa v Australia (Johannesburg (2005/06)
  • 350-9 (49.3 overs) New Zealand v Australia (Hamilton 2006/07)
  • 340-5 (48.4 overs) New Zealand v Australia (Auckland 2006/07)
  • 332-8 (49 overs) New Zealand v Australia (Christchurch 2005/06)

The Australian bowling line-ups in those matches included most of the regulars – and their figures don't make good reading. In the first match, Brett Lee had 1-68 off eight overs, Nathan Bracken 5-67 off ten, Andrew Symonds 2-75 off nine, Michael Clarke 1-49 off seven, Stuart Clark 0-54 off six and Mick Lewis 0-113 off ten (Clark and Lewis are not in the final 15 for the World Cup, because of the injury scares, but Clark might make the squad).

In the final match of the tri-series, the bowling attack didn’t include Glenn McGrath and Lee, but five others who are in the final 15 did play. And how did they fare? Bracken 1-44 off ten, Shaun Tait 2-60 off ten, Mitchell Johnson 3-81 off ten, Shane Watson 2-88 off ten, Brad Hogg 0-40 off seven overs.

In the previous match, despite the presence of McGrath, the bowling figures still don't make good reading. Bracken went for 2-66 in ten, McGrath 0-53 off ten, Tait 0-64 off nine, Watson 3-58 off ten, and Hogg 0-58 off seven overs.

In the Christchurch match last year, the performance was again not so great - Bracken 1-41 off nine, Johnson 0-64 off nine, Clark 4-55 off ten, Symonds 1-52 off eight, Lewis 1-77 off nine overs.

If you ignore McGrath for a second, Lee is doubtful for the World Cup with his recent injury scare. Watson, Bracken, Tait, Johnson and Hogg have all been ruthlessly exposed during these recent run chases. The only bowler who can make a difference in the West Indies is McGrath, but just ten overs of a maximum of 50 is not enough. The support bowlers have to stand up and be counted. I don’t think that the Australian team is ready for the World Cup yet.

The team is definitely missing Symonds, who could not only bat aggressively but also go through his off-spin very quickly and efficiently. The slow bowler is going to be a key component on Caribbean wickets and Australia are really weak there. That an under-strength English team defeated the Aussies in the Triangular series definitely says something about the current state of the Australian team.

There are also comments relating to the series in New Zealand reflecting the fact that missing Ricky Ponting and Adam Gilchrist is detrimental to the Aussie cause. Time is definitely catching up with the Australian team and all the other sides will now think that they have a chance to beat them. For me, the loss of Damien Martyn is the key as they lack anyone solid in the middle-order to bolster the batting in crisis.
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