24 March 2012
I am someone who avoids criticism of my team and the game of cricket. However, I use the words, "and they all fell down", carefully as that was how it felt for me watching Australia's batsmen crumble against the Windies. It seemed to be a batting display where the tone was set by David Warner's dismissal, which resulted in our batsmen simply gifting away their wickets and collectively falling down to give the Windies victory.
A massive congrats to Brett Lee for the fight he showed with the bat and for what was a seriously entertaining innings. Binga smashed - and I mean smashed - 59 runs from 48 deliveries (x5 fours, x5 sixes), his highest score in ODI cricket. I started to ponder article headlines at the thought of him giving us an unexpected victory. It wasn't to be though.
A note to Kemar Roach would be: Avoid bowling beamers at Brett Lee!
The payback over read as follows; 4 4 4 6 0 6. Binga nearly got us home.
As for Kieron Pollard. Absolutely monstrous batting! 102 runs with 5 fours and 8 sixes, coming off just 70 deliveries.
Result: Australia lost by 42 runs (Series stands at 2-1 with 1 game to go)
West Indies: 7/294 - Shane Watson 2-55, Xavier Doherty 2-64, Brett Lee 2-72
Australia: 252 all out - Brett Lee 59, David Hussey 57.
This article may seem one of a slightly critical tone, but I do it with the best intention of pure observation not intended as bad mouthing my team. As always, I will ensure I point out the positives as that's essential moving forward in this game.
The decision to bowl first baffled me. I felt that we missed a trick in the 1st and 3rd ODIs when we won the toss and had the opportunity to bowl first on a sluggish track, but Shane Watson opted to bat first. The age old attitude is bat first, but the advantage of chasing on a slower track that has an unlikeliness to dramatically change seems to outweigh the aspects of the bat first in those particular conditions. The West Indies proved this in all three initial encounters.
Watto decided to bowl first on a track that he described as, "a beautiful wicket," but I can tell you now that the likes of Michael Clarke or Ricky Ponting wouldn't have even hesitated. It would have been a bat first decision. Watto is his own man with his own tactics and as much as you may feel the track had a lot to offer the fast bowlers, this is ODI cricket and logic shows - and the total the Windies posted - that is was a track to comfortably bat first on. I felt that was the first trick missed.
Our bowling wasn't all that bad to be honest. It was simply the raw power of Pollard that stole the momentum and the game right from us. Darren Sammy also played an invaluable cameo role as he blitzed 31 runs from just 13 deliveries. The innings also made our bowling effort end on a dull note with 23 runs coming off the final over, thus securing a dominant total of 294 runs.
The bowlers had done a fine job until Pollard decided to play his best ODI innings yet and only Ben Hilfenhaus, brought in to replace Nathan Lyon, was able to end his 10 overs with an economy rate below 5 runs an over. His spell was wicket-less but reads as relatively tidy with 1 maiden over and an economy rate of 4.30. Xavier Doherty went at 5.50 and the rest were above, unable to contain the Windies towards to final hurdle. Bat first seemed a safe bet.
The batting was very disappointing, and I say that with all due respect.
David Warner, who I tipped to have a big game, got out attacking. Shane Watson got out attacking, Peter Forrest got out attacking, George Bailey got out attacking, Matt Wade threw it away in an attempt to attack and Michael Hussey was removed with a bit of bad luck. All in all, I didn't sense a sufficient amount of value placed on their wickets and I strongly feel the Windies weren't forced to work for their wickets. Our batsmen instead gifted them the victory and this is proven by the fact most of our guys made starts.
We all know these things are bound to happen. I have watched enough cricket to know this, but it still seems to me that these collapses remain consistent. I feel we're missing that stability that Michael Clarke can bring to any situation and I even start to think of Callum Ferguson, who has that Hussey-like ability to rotate the strike and find the runs on any track, against any attack. I think it's the struggle we've seen that just makes it frustrating knowing our team is so much better than this.
I can understand the attitude of "attack" is needed when taking on a total close to 300 runs, but the absolute lack of value was concerning. Watto (28), Forrest (24), Bailey (21), Hussey (26) and Matt Wade (15) all made starts and doubling that output would have seen victory achieved. They could all handle the Windies bowlers.
Here's the dismissals as relayed by ESPN Cricinfo.com:
1.1 caught at mid-on! Warner stays in his crease and tries to loft off his pads, he ends up spooning it in the air to Narine. The length wasn't full enough for that shot and he was through his shot too early. An ideal start for West Indies 3/1
8.1 Watson's holed out to mid-on! He saw the ball was short and went to pull, he hit it from outside off and played the shot too early, slicing it high towards Roach who took the catch inside the circle. 56/2
10.1 Forrest's been caught at third man but the fielder, Johnson Charles seems to have hurt himself. Forrest tried to hook a short of a length ball but ended up top-edging it towards third man, Charles came running in from the boundary and dived forward, taking the catch inches from the ground. Splendid effort. But he hit his shoulder hard as he caught the ball and is in some discomfort. He doesn't celebrate his catch too much and the physio is tending to him 62/3
20.1 edged and caught! The ball was ordinary, apart from the extra bounce that caused the edge. Russell pitched short and wide, but Baiey top-edged the cut because it bounced a bit more, Baugh took an easy catch to end what was a promising partnership for Australia 111/4.
(An example of gifting away a valuable wicket).
33.6 gone! Wade slogs high into the St Lucia sky and is caught at long-off! It was a pitched up delivery, outside off but Wade could only get underneath it. After his contribution with the bat, Pollard has secured a key breakthrough with his loping medium pace. This will be known as Pollard's ODI in years to come 179/6
Mike Hussey and George Bailey had once again found stability in the middle and began to launch a rescue mission until both of them were taken out by an ailing Andre Russell in one over. The game was turned around and you had to feel for the two of them as they've worked hard this series.
The most disappointing dismissal was one that reminded me of Brad Haddin's dismissal against South African at Newland's in the November 2012 Test series, where after our top order had been ripped apart with barely any runs on the board, instead of settling down, Hads charged down the track to attack, edged the ball and got out caught. I felt a similar sense of frustration emerge from Matt Wade during this game as he threw away his innings just as he had started to come right.
It felt like Matt had cement under his shoes as his lack of footwork seemed to make his job harder. It's odd because I have seen him take on spin comfortably at State level, but this series he's seemed to go into his shell against the menace of Sunil Narine. He was bogged down and struggled to find any rhythm for his innings, while his Victorian team mate, David Hussey, quickly brought back some hope for the run chase.
Slowly Matt began to find the middle of the bat and the partnership had significance. The run chase was coming right on track, but then drama struck as Matt decided to launch a big slog which simply ended his innings. What could have been an innings of hard grafting alongside a man who has the experience in these circumstances, I feel Matt missed a golden opportunity to further stamp his claim to class.
He is still fresh into his limited overs career and I believe he is still the man of choice to follow Haddin.
David Hussey has been so impressive, in my opinion, over the last few matches he's played for Australia. With the attitude of 'every game could be his last', I have been proud of the consistency he has brought to his game and the focus to value his wicket. He got out this match in an attempt to go for victory through his big-hitting abilities, but unfortunately I felt his frustration at Wade's dismissal had ended his rescue mission's focus. Well done Dussey!
Brett Lee was able to show us the mean side of him, something that I really miss. I am all for Mr Nice Guy, but damn, remember how brutal he was when he showed no mercy for his opponents? Last night you saw it return. The streak of angst every fast bowler has inside of them, only it was with the bat in hand. Last time I saw Binga bat like this was in 2006. Entertainment before lights out.
All in all, well done to the West Indies for ensuring they cannot lose the series. As for our guys, they can still draw the series, they can still walk away with a result of 2-2. How they rise up from this defeat will be answered very soon. I give credit where it is due (as much as I hate that statement) and the Windies have been impressive to claw their way back into the games, as Sri Lanka did against us during the Commonwealth Bank series.
The final ODI will be played tomorrow at Gros Islet.
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