View Full Version : Cricket - Australia stays on top, just

25 Mar 09,, 10:18
Over 6 remarkable tests Australia has clung onto a No.1 status that looked lost. India & Sth Africa may have to wait a while longer to stake their claims to top spot.

Australia returned from India a beaten team. Reputations had come to grief, good players performed badly & everyone looked somewhat ragged. A less than convincing home win over New Zealand presaged doom for the series against Sth Africa, a team on a winning streak.

What is remarkable about that 3 test series is its eveness. Sth Africa deserved to win the series, but it could have gone 3-0 either way. Every test presented each team the opportunity to win. Sth Africa had the talent & the killer instinct, Australia lost its way at vital moments. Sth Africa found a young star in JP Duminy & confirmed the reputations of De Villers & Steyn. For Australia Johnson & Siddle confirmed their arrival on the test scene.

When Sth Africa left Australia I was convinced that the return series would see Australia comprehensively beaten. As it turned out the series was more one-sided in every way. Each test was a one-sided affair. It was hard to believe that I was seein the same two teams contest the first two tests. Australia's batsmen put away their flamboyant strokes in favour of more measured shots (except Hughes, who knows no other way) while Sth Africa's bowlers looked flat & seemed to have no 'plan B'. Australia's bowling was a team effort, but Mitchell Johnson was the star. He added to this with two magnificent batting performances. The result of the final test was strangely right - evening up the result over 6 tests.

For the moment Australia remains on top, and rightly so. There is not much between first and second, but Australia deserves a marginal lead. The performance in Sth Africa should send a warning, as it was achieved largely on the back of newer, younger players. Australia may yet stumble, but at this point renewal has begun. Pundits who a month ago predicted an England win in the Ashes are now wondering if England will win a test. It will be an interesting series.

Australia in South Africa 2009

Ponting lauds new generation

Brydon Coverdale in Cape Town

March 23, 2009

Twenty-nine days of Test cricket across three months and more than 10,000 kilometres has not been enough to split the world's two best teams. After the battles at home and away the final outcome was Australia 3, South Africa 3. The net result is that Australia are still the No. 1-ranked team in the world and South Africa remain second. The numbers might be soon forgotten but the quality of cricket that has been on display will be remembered for years to come.

The final Test of a long, fiercely-contested and highly-entertaining summer ended with ten minutes to spare on the fourth day. It was the first of the six Tests between these two sides this season that failed to reach the fifth day. Every match produced a result and threw up individual performances that showed the five-day format at its very best.

At the WACA in December it was Mitchell Johnson's scarcely believable eight-wicket haul followed by an even more surprising effort from AB de Villiers and the South Africans, who completed the second-highest chase in Test history. In Melbourne it was the arrival of JP Duminy, whose 166 stamped him as a world-class player. At the SCG it was the spine-tingling sight of Graeme Smith walking down the steps with an hour to play, ready to bat with a broken hand to try and save the match.

In Johannesburg it was Marcus North's century on debut, combined with Johnson's breathtaking unbeaten 96. At Kingsmead it was the 20-year-old Phillip Hughes, who refused to back down against one of the meanest pace attacks in the world, and became the youngest man in history to score two centuries in a Test. And in Cape Town it was the return of the forgotten man Ashwell Prince to score 150 as an opener, followed by a Johnson hundred that was a footnote to the match but possibly the start of a new chapter for Australia.

There wasn't a boring match among them. The evenness of the overall contest bodes well for future bouts between these two teams - the series will become more frequent and will no longer be held back-to-back - which are, along with India, unquestionably the current superpowers in Test cricket.

"Right at the moment that's the way it is," Ricky Ponting said. "I'm not sure if that will always remain the same because there are a number of other very good Test sides out there as well. Whenever you mention rankings and things you've always got to throw India into that as well because they are a very formidable team, mainly at home but they are starting to put some better performances on the board away from home as well.

"But as far as we're concerned, we'd like to think that with what we've done in the last few months, bringing on a new generation of Australian players, that we can maintain a really high level of Test match cricket. If we do that and play somewhere the way we've played in the first couple of weeks of this Test match tour and then I think we'll take some knocking out of that No. 1 ranking."

It was a strange scenario at the end of the Newlands match. Australia had lost and it was a hefty defeat by an innings and 20 runs. Yet there were smiles in the dressing room as the match slipped away, in part because there was the entertainment of Johnson's hundred but also because the result of the dead rubber could be quickly erased from the Australians' memory.

As Ponting's men had their photos taken with the series trophy and lapped up the atmosphere in the twilight with Table Mountain in the background, the South Africans also celebrated. It was the second time they had beaten Australia by an innings - the first came in Durban in 1969-70 - and they had rediscovered the form that deserted them after their 2-1 win in Australia.

The re-emergence of Prince and centuries to AB de Villiers and the stand-in captain Jacques Kallis gave the Newlands crowd plenty to cheer, as did the nine-wicket match haul from Paul Harris. Kallis said his men would celebrate the strong performance but would also reflect on a series that was over too quickly.

"[We're] obviously elated with the win," Kallis said. "The guys really pitched up here on day one and we played the type of cricket that we know we can play. But it is frustrating that we didn't turn up like that on the first day of the series. Having said that Australia played some really good cricket and put us under pressure."

The difference in the first two Tests was the incisiveness of the attacks on helpful pitches and South Africa's experienced unit led by Dale Steyn and Makhaya Ntini was outbowled by Australia's young group. It wasn't until the flat surface in Cape Town that Steyn found the sort of spark he had boasted in Australia..

"Sometimes you get on a wicket that helps you as a bowling attack and you try and bowl teams out and you forget what really works, and that's hitting good areas," he said. "We did that exceptionally well in this Test match and that's what was lacking in the first two Test matches. I think the guys have learnt a lot. On a green wicket you've got to bowl exactly the same way as if you're bowling on a flat wicket and that's what gets you the wickets, not searching for those miracle balls that pitch leg and hit the top of off."

The miracle balls might not have come for South Africa in this series but across the six Tests there have been more than enough miraculous feats from both teams. Fans will look back on the past three months as a golden summer for Test cricket.

Brydon Coverdale is a staff writer at Cricinfo

25 Mar 09,, 16:44
Australia and India are going through a rebuild. It will take sometime for a settled team to appear.

Australia won't have the clear edge that strike bowlers Mcgrath and warne gave to them all these years and also the loss of freakish wicket keeper batsman Gilchrist will remain irreplaceable. This will mean that australia remains strong but far from invincible.

India didn't lose as many players in this short period as australia but we still lost our prime wicket taker for 20 years and will have to phase out our experienced middle order.

The third seamer is still not settled. Pathan and munaf have blown hot and cold. A buzz has started around atul sharma,possibly india's first genuine pace prospect. but we have not seen him and will not see him till IPL 2 starts.

SA will be happy with finding duminy and morni morkel remains a great prospect that may change SA's strategic level.

25 Mar 09,, 18:58
Someone will need to explain cricket to me one of these days. I know it's like baseball, but completely different. :tongue:

Knaur Amarsh
25 Mar 09,, 19:12
Someone will need to explain cricket to me one of these days. I know it's like baseball, but completely different. :tongue:

Well for starters, the Canadian cricket team is way better than the American one :))

25 Mar 09,, 19:33
Australia will have a tough time staying number one now.

Lucky to have seen their team under Steve Waugh and Ponting, Warne getting one to take top of off from outside leg stump and McGrath bowling that line, really lucky to have seen them play the way they did.

27 Mar 09,, 06:31
Someone will need to explain cricket to me one of these days. I know it's like baseball, but completely different. :tongue:

This gives a pretty good overview of the great game.......

27 Mar 09,, 06:36
Australia will have a tough time staying number one now.

Lucky to have seen their team under Steve Waugh and Ponting, Warne getting one to take top of off from outside leg stump and McGrath bowling that line, really lucky to have seen them play the way they did.

Yeah, when you lose once in a generation blokes like Warne, McGrath & Gilchrist as well as all the others, your not going to dominate like you once did any more.

BUT as they showed in South Africa even with the likes off Lee, Clarke, [last tour of SA, was Clarke's debut & he skittled the Saffies, 19 wickets at 15 & got Kallis FOUR times] Symonds, Watson & Jaques missing, to win the series & hold on to the World championship was a great effort.

With a full strength side they could still make it fairly tough for any one to take over the number one spot.