Blog by: Roh
Australia’s win over England in the ODI series gave them some tangible fortification after the miserable start to their English tour. Considering that the man responsible for Australia clinching the series was the same who was heavily criticised for his inability to get to his A-game during the Ashes; this win in the ODI series thus takes an even greater significance.
That it was Shane Watson who was instrumental in providing Australia with a much-needed brace in England shouldn’t exactly come as a surprise to anyone. His struggle in the test matches notwithstanding, there was never any doubt about his ability to justify his place within the team. But that his success came in the shorter version of the game when it was more needed in the test series however pinpoints the way Australian cricket is shaping to be in the recent years.
Where in the past, test cricket formed the crux of Australian cricketing realm, the influence of shorter formats – especially T20 – has pushed test cricket into the background. This is probably a fact stated ad nauseam but this ODI series is yet another indelible stamp on this issue. One that Australia would need to remedy with utmost urgency with not enough time left to prepare for the Ashes return leg.
For, as much solace the Australian team can garner from this series’ win, even they cannot deny the fact their middle-order continues to be as problematic and erratic as ever. In terms of the run-count, of the 298 runs that Australia piled up, barring the 19-extras, the chunk of their run-count was courtesy of Watson’s 143 and Clarke’s 75. Their middle-order continued to disappoint with the likes of Matthew Wade, George Bailey, Adam Voges and James Faulkner managing to put up just 22-runs. Or to be more precise, it was Bailey, Voges and Faulkner who chalked up these 22-runs; considering that Matthew Wade departed back to the pavilion without scoring a single run off his bat.
In contrast, the English middle-order has been quietly impressive which has allowed the team to retain a few vestiges of respectability in spite of losing the rain-truncated series. Australia would thus need to focus imperatively on this problematic aspect of their middle-order continuing to pose problems even when the openers do their bit atop the order.
And there again Australia would need to keep in perspective that while they were playing with their full strength squad, the English team had rested several of its key players in order to ensure their fitness for the Australian tourney. That the likes of Stokes and Rankin proved to be pivotal finds for England should then be a worrying factor for Australia whose team strength would again be put under the scanner within a few months’ time.
As it so happens, even while playing with a full strength squad, the availability of Michael Clarke to play the fifth ODI remained in serious doubt till the 11th hour. His recurring back problem would be yet another issue that the Australians would be concerned about as any potential flaring up of Clarke’s back-injury problems would definitely jeopardise the balance of the team and thereby cause more harm to the tentative restabilising steps that it has been showcasing.
Though it is difficult to ascertain the tilt of balance that one cricketer could provide to an 11-member team, there can be no denying that the Australian team needs Michael Clarke to lead them on as much as it needs a better equipped middle-order. These are then the aspects that coach Darren Lehmann would need to sieve and ponder about so as to ensure that his team prevents England from extending its winning reign of the Ashes by completing a full circle Down Under.