It was a run of the mill day – hot, humid and a day that no one would go for the sweep stakes without a personal reason. Nevertheless there was some anticipation about the start of the first day’s play in the first Test between Sri Lanka and Australia – an event that does not [...]

The Sunday Times Sri Lanka

Why can’t the Aussies play cricket anymore?


It was a run of the mill day – hot, humid and a day that no one would go for the sweep stakes without a personal reason. Nevertheless there was some anticipation about the start of the first day’s play in the first Test between Sri Lanka and Australia – an event that does not occur every time a plane lands at the BIA.

Yet, as far as the Lankans were concerned — come what may – they were mindful of taking on the number one Test playing nation. At the same time the Australians also arrived in the island a few days earlier than schedule with the hope of getting accustomed to the spin friendly wickets here. Besides, during the warm-up, the Australians were under the tutelage of none other than Sri Lanka’s spin great Muttiah Muralitharan who knows a thing or two about spinning an opposition out.
Of course, I forgot during the warm-up there was also a mini-series between the Lankan cricket authorities and the Lankan champion spinner of yesteryear Muralitharan, but, it was only verbal – nobody bowled any doosras.

Long before the start of the day’s proceedings, Lankan skipper Angelo Mathews called the toss right and elected to bat. Australian skipper Steven Smith said even he would have done the same had he called the toss right.
Then by 1.20 pm the Lankans as usual had messed up in style and were all out for 117 in just 34.2 overs. Yet, deep inside we did not feel any difference because – the Lankans were facing up to the wiles of the mighty Aussies.

Then came the window of hope. A rookie by the name of Lakshan Sandakan who bowls left arm Chinaman, supported Rangana Herath’s grit and bowled the Australians out for only 203 – giving the visitors a lead of only 86 runs.
The Lankans then sprang the Jack-in-the-box, as young Kusal Mendis defied gravity, making an epic 176 to supply sufficient fodder for Herath to sink the Australian resolve literally down under.

Are they looking for divine intervention

The Lankans beat Australia by 106 runs and did not halt their drive till they completed a white wash — the first of that kind on Sri Lankan soil. Coming home, the Australians were looking to make amends to the Lankan humiliation and stage a resuscitation against the South African outfit that was going to take the field sans their magic maker AB de Villiers and speed merchant Morne Morkel through injury.

Playing Australia in their own backyard any visitor is bound to ask questions about how things are going to be. Generally the Perth wicket generates the movement and pace that the Australians prefer and the game was on its way. Meanwhile, Mitchell Starc, recovered from his ghastly leg injury which he suffered soon after their series against Sri Lanka, was back in the side.

South African opener Stephen Cook and the evergreen Hashim Amla had the worst of it. By the time, the first ball of the third over arrived the Proteas were 2 for 5 and only two half centuries off the bats of Temba Bavuma and Quinton de Kock saved the grace for the southern brothers and they made a total of 242 all out in 64 overs.

The things were going their way – I mean the Australia – when they went into close at 105 for no loss at the end of the first day. The Australian power pint Warner was belligerent once again in the second day morning and soon the Australian total moved to 158 for no loss. With Warner at his personal score at 97, fast bowler Dale Steyn beat the bat and induced a snick only to be held chest high by Hashim Amla at first slip. Ironically Steyn’s Test series ended there with a dislocated shoulder.
Then came the domino effect. Within the next 86 runs, the entire Australian batting was ready to bowl at the South African batsmen. Australia was all out for 244 runs.

The Proteas who are famous to be cricket’s chokers, held their grit. Dean Elgar and J.P. Duminy scored big centuries and they finished with a total of 540 in their second inning.

In spite of playing without the experience of Steyn, the South African seam attack prevailed. First up it was Vernon Philander who bagged four wickets with his swing bowling and in the second inning it was the raw pace of twenty-one- year-old Kagiso Rabada who saw to the Australian downfall.

The stark similarity of the two matches was that both matches came with heroic second innings performances by both Sri Lankan and South African batsmen. As expected, the South Africans also won the second match with Australians once again crumbling to the pace swing combination of Kyle Abbot, Rabada and Vernon Philander.

This was second straight Test series loss for proud Australia. This is good fodder for thought. Generally the Australian system is the top most or one of the very best where training methods and strategy are concerned. But, things have gone awry.

Initially the Australians knew that they were vulnerable against slow, low turners in India and Sri Lanka. They were looking for that long lost series victory against an Asian counterpart. They arrived in the island earlier than schedule. They got accustomed to the Lankan hot, humid conditions and got the batters to face Muralitharan while the spinners tried to soak up the magic as much as they could. But, the end result was a white wash in favour of the Lankans.

One fact was proved – the Australians are vulnerable against spin bowling. Now playing at home, the Australians have faltered twice against a South African pace attack that is on show without the skills of either Steyn or Morkel – their top most pacices. They have failed against the swing of Philander and fallen victim to the raw pace of Rabada and Abbot.
An Australian side which was heading the ICC rankings a few moons ago cannot face either spin bowling or an effective seam attack – very hard to understand.

I asked former Lankan captain Michael Tissera what he thought of this situation. He was as bewildered as I was. He says may be the overuse of T-20 cricket has taken its toll. As that segment of the game is more accented in batting, they prepare very docile wickets that are full of runs. At the same time there is less foot movement while at the crease and most of the players tend to play their stroke away from the body when it comes to T-20 batting. In Australia the T-20 tournament Big Bash is always big news and they are paying their dues for the folly.

Advertising Rates

Please contact the advertising office on 011 - 2479521 for the advertising rates.