Australia trounce Sri Lanka

So much for my hopes of a good contest- Australia thrashed Sri Lanka by an innings and 40 runs. (scorecard) What went wrong?

Well, while there’s been a lot written about the Australian performance, I think the finger needs to be pointed at the Sri Lankans. They made every mistake in the book, and invented a few more.

Errors in team selection. Check.

Wrong call at the toss. Check.

Dropped catches. Check.

Players underperforming when they were needed. Check.

I must confess to some surprise though when Marvin Atapattu came out with an extraordinary attack on the Sri Lankan selectors, characterising them as ‘muppets’ in an interview after the third day’s play. That sort of mistake was one that was out of the book. It’s going to be interesting to see if he’s permitted to continue with the tour. One batsman has to make way for the return of Sangakkara, after all.

But questions have to be asked of the Sri Lankan bowling line up too. It was generally thought by Australian pundits in the prelude to this series that this was the best Sri Lankan attack that we’d ever seen in this country, but they conceded 551 for 4 at a rate of knots. Had Ponting not been in a hurry to get at the Sri Lankan batsmen, 700 might not have been out of the question. What might have happened if only Malinga had got a game? As it was, none of the Sri Lankan bowlers made much of an impression- of the four wickets to fall, only Ponting was actually beaten by the bowler- Jaques, Hayden and Hussey got out through poor shot selection.

And Muralithiran? Well 2 for 170 was a pretty fair reflection of how he bowled. He did bowl a good spell after tea on the first day but apart from that stint, he was pretty unthreatening, and he copped some hammer from Ponting and Clarke. It is worth pointing out that for all his success, he doesn’t have much of a record against Australia, and also worth noting that finger spinners rarely do well here. You have to go back to the days of Phil Edmonds and John Emburey to find finger spinners that have had success in Australia. Bearing that in mind, perhaps expectations should be lowered a bit.

The Sri Lankan batting was somewhat disappointing too. Only somewhat though, because they were under constant pressure, first from the scoreboard, and second by the Australian attack. It was easy for the Australian batsman as they were fed a steady diet of pies, but Sri Lanka’s batsmen had to take risks to score runs, and except during the Vandort/Jayawardene partnership in the second innings, no batsman looked secure. Of the Australian bowlers, Lee gave his best performance in a long time, Macgill was probing, Stuart Clark continued his McGrath impersonation, and Johnson showed enough to suggest he has what it takes at Test level.

Can Sri Lanka regroup in time to make things a bit more even for the Second Test? They have the players to do so, but it must be hard. The Hobart wicket isn’t the sort of wicket that bowlers who are low on confidence are likely to take wickets on.  Australia’s bowlers on the other hand, will fancy their chances. But I still think that the margin in this Test isn’t a true reflection in the gap between the teams. Here’s hoping for a closer match starting on Friday.

Notes from the pavilion

Better cricketers buy Lara Bingles

Struggling with form? Can’t find the middle of your bat? Depressed in the slips and unable to concentrate? Worry no more! Get yourself a life-sized Lara Bingle doll!

Michael Clarke from Australia did just that – and is reaping the rewards handsomely. “Seeing somebody like Lara certainly makes me happy. I have something to look forward to when I get home,” Clarke said of his new Lara doll. “I enjoy spending every spare second I get with her.”

But Clarke has a warning for you aspiring cricketers: don’t rush out to buy a Bingle without carefully considering where she will sit in your home. “I’ve got renovations going on in my house at the moment,” Clarke said. “Maybe she will move in when they are finished.”

Don’t confide her to your homestead though. Take her to a nice restaurant. But remember: her right hand is superglued to her left arm, so position her appropriately.

If you can bear the nauseous tripe, every Australian newspaper has it all in sickly lovey-dovey detail for you.

Bill Lawry: it’s backyard cricket war

Any excuse to put up a video involving Bill Lawry, the most impersonated man at Cricinfo Towers. Ford, who sponsor all Cricket Australia vehicular needs, are declaring “Backyard Cricket War” on the country. I’m not quite sure what that means, but there are two videos to show featuring Michael Clarke, Andrew Symonds, Mike Hussey…and Matthew Hayden in an apron.

Look out for Bill’s cameo at the end of the second.

One-zip

As ever, visit the site if you can’t see the videos above.[via]

Notes from the pavilion for October 20th

Links of note from the past 24 hours:

Clarke imitating Bradman’s one-stump trick

Not so much a trick as his actual training method when he was a youngster. According to the Sydney Morning Herald, Clarke is featured in the latest TV commercial in Australia doing it. If anyone has a video, or link, do share.

FIRST it was The Don. Now it is Pup’s turn. Michael Clarke has emulated Donald Bradman’s golf-ball-and-stump practice technique in Cricket Australia’s new television advertising campaign promoting the 2007-08 season.

In the first television ad of the “Hungry for it” campaign, Clarke replicates the famous footage of The Don sharpening his skills by throwing a golf ball at the base of a water tank and batting it back and forth with a stump – just as he did as a child in Bowral. Cricket Australia said the campaign focused on the new breed of stars who were steering Australian cricket into the future.

Clarke, who still uses the technique to fine-tune his batting, said he was honoured to be featured in the advertisement.

More injury woes for the Australians

Ye gods, the news keeps getting worse.

While New Zealand will field their first choices during the three games, Australia have left their captain and vice-captain at home and Andrew Symonds is recovering from a serious arm injury.

Adding to the visitors’ lack of power is a Brett Lee ankle injury and a hip problem to Michael Clarke, who is second-in-charge after Ricky Ponting decided to have treatment on his back and Adam Gilchrist rested. The changes mean Australia have picked a raw squad, including Adam Voges, Cameron White, Brad Haddin and the on-standby Phil Jaques, and the competition that has been wedged into a crammed itinerary has become an inconvenience, even though they were upended in the CB Series finals.

If Clarke is ruled out, Matthew Hayden will be the only one of Australia’s top four who is batting in his usual position while Brad Hodge, the No. 5, is keeping Symonds’ spot warm. The third-year series that the organisers pipe-dreamed would develop into an All Blacks-Wallabies rivalry is achieving the credibility of a pre-season warm-up.

Well, rivalries take some time to develop. And this particular chapter of the Chappell-Hadlee trophy is suffering because it is caught in a wedge right before the World Cup. There wasn’t time to hold it earlier in the summer though. I like the concept of the annual series though, and given ten years it will be a highlight of the summer.

The injury to Lee gives Mitchell Johnson a chance to strut his stuff as a key strike bowler. When fit, Lee, Bracken and McGrath are just about certain starters, and there is a lot of competition for the fourth bowling slot. Johnson has a chance to take it.

Meanwhile New Zealand have the chance to win back the trophy against an unbalanced Australia which is collectively as out of form and low on confidence as any Australian side has been in limited overs cricket, at least in the last decade or so. I’m looking forward to watching three very keenly contested matches.

Kiwis rue their lost opportunities

I had to await today’s highlights of yesterday’s Australia vs New Zealand fixture due to the fact that I did a ‘spur of the moment’ trek into the Australian interior. Drought-breaking rains have flooded the mid-north of South Australia, and that looked more exciting to me then another hum-drum one-dayer between Australia and New Zealand. In any event, I could listen to it on the radio.

An unusual green strip in the SCG pitch gave fast bowlers the edge, and Australia’s pace attack made short work of the New Zealand top order, before Craig McMillan launched a brave revival, after he demonstrated that he’s no more likely to walk then Michael Hussey. Umpires Simon Taufell and Asad Rauf will hope this game is forgotten as quickly as possible because they both had bad games. New Zealand ended up with 218.

And they reduced Australia to 3 for 17 before Michael Clarke stabilised things. He was edgy early and gave a easy chance, only to be dropped. Michael Hussey should have been run out early as well, but survived to see Australia home.

But this was a game New Zealand should have won. They gave Australia vital chances, and this is something they cannot afford to do. There are some talented players in the New Zealand team, and they are skillfully led, but the gap between the New Zealand team and domestic first class cricket is very large. You might think this is unavoidable, but according to one young lady who knows more about domestic New Zealand cricket then I do, the main problem in New Zealand is attitude.

Obviously I am not against having a good time but this sort of larrikin behaviour is standard for a touring cricket team during the domestic NZ competition. They don’t take the whole thing seriously. The players think because they have scored a hundred in some piss arse domestic competition that they are now good enough to play international cricket.

This lack of professionalism filters through to the Black Caps as there literally is no pressure on players in the current squad to perform as there is no one to replace them. Players such as Astle, McMillan and Marshall have been cruising in Black Cap mode for years now. A guy like Matthew Sinclair should be a world class batsman, he’s not. And where the hell is Lou Vincent?

The situation is the reverse in Australia. Guys sit in State competitions for years and score thousands of runs and are still not good enough to break into the Australian side who game after game produces consistent form. Australian players have their share of off field incidents, Shane Warne and Andrew Symonds being the main offenders. The difference between Australian cricketers and New Zealand cricketers is that they seem to perform better on the field than they do off it.

(Read Kate’s entire essay for an eye-opening look at New Zealand cricket)

There really is no reason why New Zealand can not punch weight with Australia. Cricket’s not just about talent, it is about attitude. India has a population of over a billion, and by all measures they should be the country with a kick-arse cricket team, not Australia. But India isn’t serious about playing WINNING cricket.

New Zealand is semi-serious. They only need to look at how their rugby side dominates, and bring the same attitude to their cricket.

So, semi-serious England play semi-serious New Zealand in Adelaide tomorrow. I’m semi-seriously considering wandering along to have a look. I haven’t made up my mind yet though. If Bond plays, I will probably go.

Seriously!

Lara Bingle bowled over

Remember Lara Bingle? Of course you do. Well, it turns out Michael Clarke, the b@$$t@rd, has somehow managed to bowl the maiden over (insert more puerile, tabloidesque cricketing euphemisms here)

Lara Bingle and her Mini Cooper-S

The controversial model joined the Ashes celebrations with the Australian cricket team aboard James Packer’s Mangusta cruiser on Friday night, but the fun didn’t end there for the duo.

Clarke and his Cronulla maiden enjoyed a private party of their own at the Quay West Apartments in The Rocks over the weekend.

Bingle only emerged from the inner-city Sydney hotel – clad in the same jacket she was wearing on Friday – to attempt an early getaway in her black Mini yesterday.

While Clarke may have been basking in Bingle’s company, parking inspectors weren’t as enamoured with her presence.

The 19-year-old was distressed to find she had been slapped with a $77 parking fine.

In October, cricket insiders said the pair had “been on a few dates”, but a relationship was denied by Bingle’s camp.

Sydney’s Daily Telegraph has the full story, if you can be arsed to read more.

But wait, there’s more!

I’m tired of reading post-mortems about the Ashes. The result is decided, but there are two Tests to go. As an Australian, I’m absolutely delighted that Australia have won the series. But the future of both teams is not set in stone yet.

It seems to me that both sides, but especially England, have a lot riding on the outcome of the final two Test matches. It is by no means a given that Australia will go on for the 5-0 outcome that is being loosely bandied about, but if that happens, 2007 will be a year of woe for England. The inquisition will be a sight to behold.

On the other hand, a fighting England performance, with England coming home 3-2, will give a tremendous filip to English morale. There will be positives for the English team to hang their hats on.

For Australia, a 5-0 win will be the peak for several of the team’s veterans to call it a day. While Australia will seek to manage the retirement of their key players, looking ahead to 2009, the batting looks strong, with Michael Clarke, Hussey and Ponting being a core middle order to build around.

So it is not over yet kids. The Fourth Test starts in a week, and Warne is one wicket away from 700 wickets.