Champions Trophy 2013 June 4, 2013

Australia play out worst nightmare


Australia took one look at their worst nightmare and discovered that it felt as real as ever.

Michael Clarke could count himself fortunate. He spent much of the match lying face down to the floor as he received treatment on the back injury that threatens to plague the rest of his career. But even from that position, he could not fail to be aware of a familiar story - that of Australian embarrassment whenever they set sight upon India.

Back in March, when Australia lost within three days of the fourth Test in Delhi, they consigned themselves to their worst Test series defeat since Graham Yallop's side, debilitated by desertions to World Series Cricket, went down 5-1 in 1978-79. Their 4-0 whitewash was the worst result by any nation on Indian soil in 70 Test series.

Still, they must have told themselves in Cardiff, this is different. This is the Champions Trophy, this is only a friendly, this is the tournament where we are aiming to go three-peat (an American basketball term - trademarked to retired coach Pat Riley - for a third consecutive victory, so certain to enter the worldwide lexicon you might as well get used to it), this is the tournament where we aim to make a statement ahead of the Ashes, this is the format in which we have won our last five matches. All good, heartwarming stuff.

Then they took one look at India and lost by 243 runs. To do that after having them 28 for 4 was quite something, but they let them escape to 308 and collapsed to 65 all out in reply. It was as if they were so in awe of MS Dhoni that they bowled to all his favourite shots in turn.

Cardiff has been an unhappy ground for Australia. They were beaten by Bangladesh here in 2005 and four years later they failed to finish off England in the first Ashes Test thanks to some last-wicket heroics from Monty Panesar and James Anderson, who clung on for 40 minutes to roars from the crowd.

Not surprisingly, the stand-in captain, George Bailey, preferred to imagine that Clarke would be fit enough to lead out Australia in their opening Champions Trophy tie against England at Edgbaston on Saturday. But Clarke is heading for London on Wednesday to see a specialist, and not the hottest show in town, the Pompeii Exhibition at the British Museum, which would have been more appropriate on account of its own obsession with the Ashes.

"It is just precautionary with him," Bailey said. "His back is always going to be the issue with Pup. He has just had some stiffness there in the past couple of days and with such an important tournament we didn't see fit to risk him in these games, especially with a reasonably big summer coming up as well. It is almost a case of managing him on a day-by-day basis.

"Losing him would be a huge blow. He is our best batsman and captain and we look forward to having him in the side."
George Bailey on Michael Clarke

"Losing him would be a huge blow. There is no doubt he is our best batsman and captain and we look forward to having him in the side. As to whether I am ready to captain, I believe so, yeah. I have the belief that Pup is ready to go Saturday but I've enjoyed my time captaining these practice games, we have some good leaders around me."

Umesh Yadav is a skilful practitioner and he gives India hope of fielding a competitive seam attack in English conditions in an era of two new balls. But all he did was have a decent workout and he finished with 5 for 18 in five overs. Bailey was bowled by a good one, but Matthew Wade and Phil Hughes were bowled off the inside edge, pulling, and David Warner slashed at one and registered his second duck in a row. Mitchell March was unfortunate, adjudged caught off the pad.

When Shane Watson became the third batsman to chop on, this time against Ishant Sharma, it all began to look brainless. This was the same pitch on which Australia had made 259 for 6 to beat West Indies and it had not changed complexion all that much, but Watson had made 135 of those and others need to step up.

"I don't think it was doing a great deal," Bailey said. "There was a little bit of swing but nothing unplayable. It was a wicket we played on the other day and I don't think there were any gremlins in it. It was a good wicket, and a warning, I guess, about what two new balls are going to be capable of.

"I think you are going to have good techniques and be more patient than we are used to at the start of the innings in one-day cricket. There was some ordinary shot selection and they bowled quite nicely."

Australia at least deserved recognition for only playing 11, which showed some respect for the game that other nations have abandoned out of convenience, but they must have imagined that India were playing twice that number.

"These warm-up games are down to your attitude individually and a team," Bailey said. "We have tried to take them seriously. Given we have some guys who haven't played much one-day cricket, it's important to start to deal with the pressure of knowing your role, and knowing that you might be in at three for ten, knowing you have to bowl four or five overs because somebody is not going to bowl your 10, but it's not an ideal result knowing that's the side you might come up against in the semi-finals."

In terms of practicing for bad scenarios, Australia could not have prepared better.

David Hopps is the UK editor of ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Richard on June 5, 2013, 19:38 GMT

    @ Taij Chand - 65 all out is a reflection of how well Karthik and Dhoni batted. Agree the win was not an issue, whereas some decent batting practice in the conditions certainly was. Dennis Lillee would find a spot on the pitch and dominate. Starc and Johnson have proven time and time again they are unable to do it. They either lack the ability to home in on an advantage or they don't see it at all. Australia shouldn't be playing two left arm quicks in the F50 team and we are desperately in need of a Michael Bevan type of batsman. You are right, Australia has many passengers and dubious "potential". No excuses, but our Indian friends should try to consider that cricket isn't the number 1 sport in Australia like it is in India, and with one-sixtieth the population in comparison the future of cricket can only be Indian domination; which, incidentally, is not ideal for the future of the game and fuels the appeal of other sports. We are witnessing the effects of that now with soccer

  • Aditya on June 5, 2013, 18:53 GMT

    @Posted by black_bird on (June 5, 2013, 7:44 GMT) are you out of your senses? Steyn over-rated? and forget being better even comparing umesh with steyn is a crime,literally.When we think of who's the best batsman in the world currently and so many names crop up.Same goes about fielders,wicket-keepers,captains and every category.But the only category that has an "Undisputed" king is the category of the bowlers.When someone's asked the question "who is the best bowler in world cricket currently?" I'm pretty sure 99 out of 100 will answer "Dale Steyn", the hundredth one being you probably.

  • Bala on June 5, 2013, 14:41 GMT

    Is Bailey kidding? Given the 65 all out result, if I were him, I would worry about the league matches and not worry about facing India in the semis. Is the assumption of an assured spot in the semis the "Australian way" of thinking? Bailey, please get your feet on the ground and think about how to make it to the semis.

  • Dummy4 on June 5, 2013, 14:03 GMT

    All the predictations from the pundits is failing very badly !!! All the big talks from Australia's supporters are just hopeful thinkers. This is a country with their international cricket teams in deep trouble. It just may be the weakest team right now on England's soil, and will take more than hopeful thinkers and pundits to get them going. Not good news for a country who just a couple of years ago had talents bursting at its' seams. But it failed miserable to court and guide them into champions. This is the results of mismanagement, arrogance, and highly paid amatures.

  • Paras on June 5, 2013, 13:37 GMT

    1700 INR for a warm-up game? The ECB is killing the game themselves with such exorbitant rates for warm-up matches!

  • Dummy4 on June 5, 2013, 12:50 GMT

    So Captain Bailey says they took these warm-up games seriously. Really, then why didn't he play the final warm-up with our 1st choice side in their settled batting order? Why would you move Watto away from opening where he hit the match-winning ton last game?

  • Himanshu on June 5, 2013, 12:14 GMT

    You can't read too much into this performance by the Aussies. Yes they did poorly, but it was just a warm-up match. Everyone knows they are capable of much more and if they perform well in the matches that matter, everyone will have forgotten this match by next week.

  • anagh on June 5, 2013, 11:57 GMT

    As an Indian fan, it is impossible to ignore that our top order collapsed and that too on pitch with little lateral movement. With two new balls and actual pitches likely to be more lively, I am afraid there is almost an inevitability about these top order failures. But on the brighter side, Look at Australia!

  • Dummy4 on June 5, 2013, 11:20 GMT

    Mr. Hopps has misread the score.. India were never 28 for 4 ..Australia were.

  • j on June 5, 2013, 10:50 GMT

    This Indian attack went for 333 only the other day, and in that match 2 opposition batsmen RETIRED. 65 all out: It's to be expected of a team consisting of the weakest and least skillful top 6 in world cricket, a spinner who doesn't turn the ball, a keeper who can't catch and a captain who can't lead. And all we hear from some quarters is how brilliant they apparently are, there in lies the stark contrast between reality and fantasy. These are just not the same standards that the top teams in the world live by.