Confused Australian’s and Brilliant Razzaq

1 11 2010

Two excellent results for both English and general cricketing enthusiasts yesterday. Firstly Sri Lanka disposed of a confused Australia team in a clinical and entirely satisfactory fashion – that is if you aren’t an Aussie yourself – and then Pakistan came back from the dead to beat South Africa in the opening ODI of their series in the UAE.

Firstly the match down under. The opening game of any Summer is always an opportunity to get off on the right foot – to set your stall out for the long days of cricket ahead. Judging by yesterdays game the stall Australia set out was a confused and generally not very well stocked affair – an added bonus for an Englishman coming as it does with an Ashes series looming. Of course it would be wrong to read too much into this game, it was only a 20/20 after all, yet there is some evidence of confused thinking in the Australian camp which possibly suggests that they are not exactly where they want to be.

Before we follow this line of thought any further let us just give due credit to the Sri Lankans who performed clinically and on occasions brilliantly in this, the sole 20/20. Fernando and Malinga were excellent with their changes of pace and general accuracy; Randiv, the off spinner, showed that there might be life after Murali and the fielding was good throughout. The sole blemish being perhaps that they failed to take advantage of any run out opportunities by hitting the stumps directly. As you would expect Dilshan and Sangakarra then ensured there would be no risk of an Aussie comeback.

And so back to the Australians and their strange decisions. By far the most peculiar of these was Clarke’s choice to push himself up the order to open the batting. 20/20 cricket is really a very simple thing. During the first 6 overs you want openers who can clear the infield and take advantage of the fielding restrictions, then you need batsman to follow who can continue this good work but who are perhaps adept at hitting gaps and ensuring that the scoreboard keeps moving (but importantly who can still hit boundaries if the second power play is called) and then the blasters at the end. Clarke does not fulfill any of these roles and should immediately be dropped from the 20/20 side giving Cameron White the reigns. In 50 over cricket there is still room for the batsman who can score 80 from 100 balls or so which makes him a valuable player in that format yet not in this shortened version of the game.

This confused thinking is encouraging from an English point of view as it shows a lack of clarity in the selectors minds. In the past with an all conquering side and numerous excellent replacements ready to be picked at any time being an Australian selector was easy. Now with the lesser talents on show and numerous who are good but not obviously better than anyone else, it is a difficult job suddenly and one that, in this particular case certainly, they are getting wrong. Other indications are the decisions to stick with players like Hussey and North when in our opinion it is clear that there are other options out there.

With the Ashes coming up we can only applaud this state of affairs, hoping that it continues at least to the end of the Summer…. It was also encouraging to see that Australia have picked their own version of Tim Bresnan – too late of course to get him in to the test side, but Hastings appears to be almost a carbon copy. Ineffective but hard working bowling and bits and pieces with the bat.

In the other game, Pakistan, or more accurately Abdul Razzaq, pulled off one of the most thrilling wins we have ever seen. Pakistan are a much beleaguered cricketing nation at the moment and from a neutrals perspective it was good to see them win. With the bowling attack they possess there is no reason why they should not be dining regularly at the top table – sadly however the batting regularly lets them down.

Abdul Razzaq yesterday rescued them from yet another collapse scoring a sensational 109* from 72 balls. Why the South Africans kept bowling it in his areas (i.e. full and straight) we don’t know but either way it was amazing stuff. We have rarely, if ever, seen a batsman turning down singles with a run rate needed of over two a ball and only a dozen deliveries remaining – yet it happened yesterday and was a testament to Razzaq’s ability to hit boundaries when needed.

Breathtaking, brilliant, unexpected and above all much needed for a Pakistan team who have ensured that this series is now alive. On a day in which Mohamed Amir and Salman Butt’s appeals were rejected, it was a something positive that should give much needed encouragement to the rest of the team.

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