Monday, 3 December 2012

The Men of La Mancha

AB de Villiers reverses to his hundred
Australia will begin the fourth day of this final Test against South Africa, dreaming the impossible dream. It's a hang over dream after South Africa dealt them the worst nightmare imaginable.

There were no positives in the Australian bowling performance on the third day, although in truth, the series was lost on the previous afternoon when Graeme Smith and Hashim Amla played one day cricket  for two hours and not only kept their hands firmly wrapped around the ICC Mace but put it away in a safe place where the Australians couldn't find it. Yesterday was just an exercise in the Year Six boys batting for morning tea and lunch time whilst the Year Twos bowled and fetched.

Australia found no heroes with the ball. There only hero wasn't asked to play. Instead, they eventually found an oddity, all the wickets being taken by left armers but well and truly too late. Success came came not only after the horse had bolted but after it had gone to live in another country, won the Melbourne and made a fortune at stud. The last seven wickets came after South Africa led by 500. Mitchell Johnson was the best of the bowlers, being the only one who conceded less than five an over but as the score got higher, his arm got lower and the best he could do was rough up the tail. The rest were swatted as Hashim Amla and AB de Villiers made big hundreds and the rest - except Dean Elgar - enjoyed themselves. Australia hadn't seen the best of de Villiers until yesterday and his reverse sweep to raise his hundred was symptomatic of the gulf in confidence and execution between the two sides. Mitchell Starc ended with six but at a cost that was not only too great but also too easy. Its hard to imagine a bowler who deserved a sixfa less.

There is no way for Australia to the No 1 spot from here. This is Test number 2064 - more than 3000 team totals - and only England at Kingsmead just before the Second World War have exceeded 600 in the fourth innings of a match and to win they'd have to better the best by more than 200. It can't be done. The more relevant statistic is the 193 overs Australia would have to survive to escape with a draw. That's been done lots of times, even discounting a large number of entries where overs were finished after four balls. South Africa should be made to work for their wickets but even though Australia scored 400 on the first day in Adelaide and Clarke, Hussey and the openers have batted well, now they have to do it for two days in a row.

If you believe in fairy tales, Ricky Ponting will score a triple century and hit the winning runs from the last ball as Dale Steyn bowls the last over.

Nup.

The game has proven again that's she's bigger than her players. There's no "i" team but there is one in "Ricky".

The larger issues which need to be addressed by Pat Howard come Wednesday  need to include:

  • the desire to hand Ponting this last cap when even he believed he wasn't good enough, 
  • the overt sentimentality that was created which has clearly affected the team. There has been no "lack of focus", its just the focus has been in the wrong direction,
  • programming that allowed ten days between the first two Tests and three between the last two and will allow a further eleven days until Australia faces Sri Lanka in Hobart,
  • the feather bed batting tracks prepared for this tour,
  • the concept of rotating bowlers for Test matches,
  • the injury and continual breakdown of our fast bowlers. If our management of them is state of the art, why are we injuring them faster than at any time in cricket history?
We'll all put on our brave faces now and look for positives from a series we should have won and from the lost opportunities which have come from forgetting basic tenants.