Australia v Sri Lanka, 3rd ODI, Brisbane November 6, 2010

Australia run out of focus


No moment highlighted Australia's fall from world beaters to stragglers more than when Shane Watson's right knee stopped a certain run-out on Friday night. Watson's leg wasn't the only thing being blamed and the slapstick incident had its owner smiling, in frustration and humour, after arriving in Brisbane today.

For the past two decades Australia have been so well drilled in the field, but when Upul Tharanga ended up at Kumar Sangakkara's end the locals fell apart. And it was not the fresh faces who lapsed, but three seriously senior men.

When Brad Haddin collected the ball all he needed was a vaguely accurate lob to the bowler's end, but he overshot wildly. Michael Clarke backed up well and then made the mistake of aiming at the stumps instead of sending the ball to Watson, or running up to remove the bails himself. While the throw was on target, Watson was too slow to move and was struck an embarrassing, but not painful, blow on the leg. As the ball rolled away from the stumps, Tharanga finally regained his ground and went on to an unbeaten 86.

"I thought I was involved in a game of brandy with a cricket ball," Watson said. "Next time I need to get out of the way." Clarke hasn't offered Watson a free shot as payback, but the blow hasn't changed Watson's belief that Clarke is the best man to lead the team in Ricky Ponting's absence on Sunday.

Australia have lost seven games in a row in the game's three forms but the missed-run-out episode, played over only a couple of seconds, was a snapshot of how deep the problems have become. In the past the team's batting has stumbled and the bowling has been loose, which are often forgivable offences. Results in the field have always been non-negotiable.

Even before Mike Young, the former baseball coach, joined the squad to refine techniques, the work of the fielders was expected to be perfect. The area was used as the team's performance barometer, but as the side's Test ranking has slipped and its one-day reputation has eroded, the pressure they now place on the opposition is seriously low.

Watson insists Australia aren't far off clicking and, like most of the players in the squad, believes their efforts have been close to the standard required. But if they can't win on Sunday it will be the first time the national outfit has been defeated in eight matches in a row.

"It's not an ideal situation for the games we've lost over the last little while, but it is a new era of Australian cricket," he said. "Let's hope we can come together and make sure it is a successful period. It hasn't been for the last little while, but we know we're not far away from getting it right. So we hope people stick by us."

Watson will open at the Gabba - he still calls it his home ground despite moving to New South Wales last year - and will be particularly wary of the Sri Lanka seamers in the bowler-friendly conditions. The visiting fast men have gained significant movement in the opening two matches to hold Australia to 210 on Friday and 8 for 239 on Wednesday.

"The Sri Lankans have bowled very well, especially Nuwan Kulasekara and Lasith Malinga with the new ball," he said. "It's been hard to get them away. Let's hope they get carried away tomorrow night [in the conditions]." Only recently have Australian teams had to start hoping for opposition mistakes.

Peter English is the Australasia editor of Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • alan on November 11, 2010, 17:13 GMT

    @ rezmata hmmm I dont recally me making excuses for the individual performances... just pointing out that whilst a loss is a loss their is a difference between getting easily beaten by the a rubbish side and only just getting beaten by a good side or a side playing in conditions perfect for them.

    Dont worry now that they have snapped their losing streak I am looking forward to australia bouncing back and beating england and making everyone forget all about the last couple of months.

  • Dummy4 on November 9, 2010, 9:13 GMT

    @alphatruth .SL will play in WC Semi Final or even in the Final.But not IND. WIN,SA & ENG is not subcontinent where IND is out of the WC first round itself (but where SL came to Finals in T20 & ODI in those places).Don't forget IND too have few chuckers Harbajan & Praveen.But not with SL. SL will play good cricket whether it is in Subcontinent or not, but not IND.

  • Andrew on November 9, 2010, 1:51 GMT

    @landl47 -Ponting not playing is proof of the low standing the SL series had in the mind of the selectors. Punter needs time in the middle in 1st Class conditions, as opposed to ODI. @Neal Odonnell - the decision to drop Doherty reminds me of the first time Slater played an ODI. He demolished Sth Africa on the way to about 90 off 85 balls. He was dropped for the next game, and never really performed well in ODIs after that. @rahul888 - dream on buddy. Playing Shield is a far better preparation then playing ODIs, my biggest dissappointment is that the scheduling has IMHO been disrespectful to the SL. I think Oz should of gone back to the future & played a couple of 5-Day Possible v Probable matches @ the Gabba instead of playing SL & India. This would of had the boys primed for the Poms. I am liking the preparation the Pommies have had at the moment.

  • Kumar on November 7, 2010, 3:33 GMT

    @wjkalana, You have high hopes on Srilanka to be in the Final. I doubt even it reach semi at the most. Only advantage Srilanka have is playing in sub continent slow pitches. Other than that with Sangakara's batting and two chuckers in Murali & Lasith, I doubt it cannot a WORLD CUP. Check the reality and come down to earth buddy !!!

  • Reza on November 7, 2010, 2:42 GMT

    @leave_it_to_the_umps would continue.. 8)Ponting "had" to play in the shield matches, so oz has no real batsman to reply on. 9)Selectors were pursuing Hussy & North, we should have played bleh blah blah.. 10)Hauritz didn't have bounce in the wicket. 10)No Ozzy umpire in the match. 11)International press putting too much pressure on players 12)Barmy army member streaking to the pitch. 13)Too many matches for oz to take in calendar. ...nope, still not worried.

  • Matthew on November 7, 2010, 2:02 GMT

    How is that small incident a reflection of fielding standards dropping? Only 6 months ago Australia didn't drop a catch or missed a runout through out the t20 world cup, and through last summer, plenty of great catches were taken and fielding standerds were very high. Australia haven't played the badly, they have been out played by brilliant teams such as SL, good batting by India (SRT) and a very very good bowling attack of Pakistan.

  • John on November 6, 2010, 23:45 GMT

    The decision for Ponting not to play in the third ODI amazes me. If ever a team needed its leader to try to bring them together as a unit, it's Australia now. Instead he lets them get on with it while he's getting 'practice'. This is why Australia is playing so badly- they aren't a team. As for the lamebrains who look at England's first couple of days' cricket in Australia and try to draw some conclusions from it- here are the stats. They've won 5 and tied one of their last 6 test series, won their last 5 ODI series and are T20 world champions. If that's overrated, then how would you rate an Australian side that's lost its last 7 internationals? World beaters? Forget how good the Aussies were a few years ago. That was then and this, unfortunately for Aussie supporters, is now. As for the guy that thinks Harris, Lee, Bollinger and Tait are their 4 main bowlers, have those 4 EVER played together in a single game?

  • sunil on November 6, 2010, 22:53 GMT

    Just want to say this, It is not only Ponting's Captaincy that have lead australia to victories. Ponting had one of the great bowlers, great batsmen and great fielders. He did not carry Australia on his own shoulders, He had excellent help. The whole team needs to step up if they need to avoid the Whitewash. It seems and feels like this will be a whitewash. Sri Lankans are looking good and they will do there best to get 3-0. Sri Lanka is a good team but this is not the case in this series, In this series Australia have there heads down and do not have confidence that they can win. The could have won the First test Match against India and First ODI against SL. Australia will be losing this series definitely 3-0.

  • alan on November 6, 2010, 21:14 GMT

    1) lose test to Pakistan in swing heaven and they have the best swingers in the world. Not many teams would have withstood that onslaught! 2) lose test to India (No 1 side) in India by 1 wicket thanks to amazing game saving innings by the sublime VVS. No shame there. 3) lose again to number1 because of one bad session on day 4 after tea. Disappointed but not devastated. 4) lose only ODI in India (rest rained off) with experimental teams played by both teams as they look to see what new players might be an option for the next WC. 5) lose hit and giggle to Sri Lanka. Anything can happen in t20 6) lose ODI to Sri Lanka thanks to amazing innings from Matthews and a once in a life time innings from Malinga. 7) lose ODI against Sri Lanka in rain interrupted game... played pretty poor which is upsetting but don't forget they are number 2 side

    Bad run but not the end of the world...we would need to get beaten badly regularly by weaker teams before I get worried.

  • Dummy4 on November 6, 2010, 21:12 GMT

    yes the dominance is over. It has been since the last time england toured here and we lost warne, mcgrath and langer. I think ponting is looking to the ashes and that is why he has chosen to play sheffield shield.

    These one day games against sri lanka are useless preparation for the ashes. I would like to see the rest of the test players head back to shield to get their eye in for the most important series in world cricket.

    I think Ponting is smart and realized that he would be getting nothing out of playing the remaining match. He now has 2 shield matches to get himself set on regaining the ashes.

    as regard to shield competition being of inferior quality. I would point you towards the fact that many of our state sides are capable of beating certain other nations test sides. Certainly a full strength NSW side might be more of a competition for India and South Africa then the National side might be at the moment.

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