By Peter Roebuck
|The truimphant Australian team
Shrugging off the stresses and strains of a never-ending tour, the Australian batsmen showed commendable professionalism as they set about the task of building a substantial total against Pakistan.
Ricky Ponting's team is fuelled not so much by anger or passion as by the simple desire to win, an approach less likely to run dry. Accordingly it has held its form in this version of the game through several continents and all sorts of conditions. Nor has it ever regarded 50-over cricket as a sideshow to the Test series. Along the way trophies have been won, strong opponents subdued and its position at the top of the rankings reinforced. In every respect, Australia's consistency has been impressive.
If some fraying at the edges could be detected in the batting in this third match of the latest campaign it would hardly be surprising. Certainly Shane Watson and Ponting essayed the sort of ambitious strokes that tell of frazzled minds. The disturbances caused by long overseas trips and floodlit matches are not to be lightly brushed side. As far as these nocturnal capers are concerned, half the night has passed by the time press conferences have been completed, bags packed, nerves calmed and hotel room located. All the more reason to praise the achievements of a side that has been on the road more or less continously for 16 months.
If Watson and Ponting were scrappy, though, their fresher comrades played innings of substance. None of them looked out of place in an increasingly settled order. Michael Clarke's abilities have long since been recognised and he was at his most feline as he darted down the pitch or flicked the ball into gaps. Not the least delight of his batting is his running between wickets. He looks almost as pleased pinching a single as a boy does pinching a plum.
Although Clarke is on top of his game, his decision not to offer his services to IPL is sound and selfless. In any case he is not as well suited to the 20-over game because he depends more on alacrity than power. Brutal boundaries are not his go. Not that he is alone among his comrades in putting country before cash. Ponting, Peter Siddle, Mitchell Johnson and Michael Hussey held back. Doubtless they have noted the toll taken on participants. Doubtless they have the Ashes in mind. It is a promising sign. Moreover no heed will be taken of players complaining about workloads who play cricket overseas in their spare time.
Both supposed one-day specialists fared well. Like most West Australians, Shaun Marsh is happier against fast bowling than the tantalising and tempting stuff. Spinners are not much favoured across the Nullarbor, where the pitches are as hard as grandma's bread. His weak point is an undue reliance on sweeps and cuts and a reluctance to use his legs against slower bowlers. Unable to stroke the ball around or to drive over the top, he can get bogged down. In short, he is not yet a complete batsman. Nevertheless, his ambition cannot be mistaken and his attitude is sound so he has moved ahead of the youthful pack.
Cameron White contributed handily without quite lighting the fuse. Evidently his voyage of self-discovery is over. He looks the part because he feels the part in this company.
Doubtless it helps that he is seldom called upon to bowl. White's final task is to prove that he can cut it as a Test batsman. Hitherto he has seemed slightly leaden footed and has been exposed by the moving ball. He needs to move up the Victorian order and score a few hundreds. Apart from anything else he catches flies at slip.
Hussey confirmed his ability to capitalise in the closing overs of an innings. Scoring 49 in 27 balls told the tale.
His temperament and technique are at odds because he is by nature defiant yet he is a better attacking than defensive player. Australia might, though, consider placing him lower in the Test order. Like Clarke, he concentrated on guiding the ball into empty spaces and towards the end punished a tiring attack.
Pakistan has less reason to be weary than its opponent but it has been a long and unrewarding tour.