Australia v Pakistan, Super Eights, World Twenty20, Colombo October 2, 2012

Spin exposes Australia middle order again

There had been questions asked about Australia's middle order and their problems against spin came to the fore in a nervous display against Pakistan

When Australia played Sri Lanka at the Premadasa during the 2011 World Cup, the visitors arrived with a very well aired reputation for being poor players of spin. The pitch that was prepared was so dry that Ricky Ponting called it "basically just rolled mud". Sri Lanka played three specialist spinners, but before Australia had a chance to bat the match was rained out. Nineteen months later, at the same venue, Pakistan banked on their phalanx of slow-bowlers and Australia faltered.

This time the pitch was no rolled mud. In fact Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins generated pace and were rewarded with good carry. Xavier Doherty and Brad Hogg managed some turn, but they were hardly unplayable. Still, Pakistan backed their spinners to the extent that if Shoaib Malik had not disappeared for 14 in the 15th over, the Premadasa might have witnessed the first full Twenty20 innings comprised entirely of spin.

Shane Watson and David Warner were forced to exert their own pace on the ball, and though Watson has had success against spin in the past, neither much enjoyed it. Oppositions had wondered what lay beyond the colossal top three, and Pakistan had figured a way to unhinge the vault. Both opener's dismissals hinted at frustration induced by a slower-than-usual scoring rates. At four runs an over Australia were hardly crawling, but the start was a sight more pedestrian than they had been used to in the tournament.

Australia rarely looked troubled by the turn or the bounce, but trouble found them when batsmen attempted the big strokes. Mike Hussey survived long enough to breach 20 - alone among his team-mates - but that is perhaps because he barely played a shot in anger until late in the match. Having arrived at the crease in the fourth over he did not hit his first boundary until the 15th. George Bailey perished trying to loft one over the infield, Cameron White was caught at long-on and Glenn Maxwell swung hard, but couldn't even clear backward point.

In between the dismissals, there was a steady trickle of runs. For a while Australia seemed to be awaiting the arrival of pace to make their charge, but when the fast bowling never came they were cornered into attacking spin, and no one but Hussey seemed equipped to do that.

"I don't think it's any great secret that we've had some deficiencies at times against spin and that probably showed tonight," Bailey said. "The fact that Pakistan played to that was tactically very astute from them. They had 18 overs of spin - I don't know if that's happened before in a Twenty20 game. I certainly think we've worked on it and we've got some very good players of spin as well. We managed to beat Pakistan in Dubai recently, so we can overcome it. But it was probably our shortcoming tonight."

Aside from their woes against spin, Australia must also address a middle order that seemed short on confidence in their first proper outing in the tournament. Between Nos 4, 5, 6 and 7, Australia's middle order made just 44, and each batsman was tentative at the outset, heaping extra pressure on themselves to catch up with boundaries as the required rate rose. Australia may not have lost more than three wickets in the four matches before this game, but they cannot rely on Watson to win a title by himself despite his monstrous form. As Pakistan coach Dav Whatmore had said before the match, even Watson can have a poor game.

"We hadn't had a hit in the middle, but it's not like we haven't hit a cricket ball for three weeks," Bailey said of the middle order. "I think everyone was prepared. Guys were getting starts, so I don't think guys looked out of place in the middle. The whole thing about Twenty20 and momentum meant that by the end of the six overs we were a long way behind where we needed to be as well, with the wicket slowing up a little bit.

"We probably also got caught going for that target and looking for the 112. As a group that's probably something that could have been communicated better between the batsmen."

Andrew Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's correspondent in Sri Lanka

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Andrew on October 4, 2012, 0:05 GMT

    My prediction is that Hoggy will get the man of the match against the WIndies, he'll get something like 4/20 off 4 overs. Cummins will take a few & Starc & watto their customary 1 or 2 wickets too! Oz by either 30 runs or 6 wickets! == == == At this stage, I would have Sri Lanka as the overall best side to this point. The loss in the 7 over joke-game is even more meaningless than a 20 over loss. I would have Pakistan & Oz neck & neck (Oz a shade ahead) & WIndies the complete underdogs from here on in. If the WIndies knock us off, I'll go for them to win the Cup, but from here on in I am happy for ANY of the remaining four to win.

  • Patrick on October 3, 2012, 21:29 GMT

    Steady on @Wicky, your team played Aust in to form and got belted in UAE, you want to talk dead rubber, how about the fact Aust took the pitch with a target of 117 with whatever happened from there being irrelevant in the tournament! 118-150 was for a scorebook no-one will ever read again. Pakistan team are at odds to fail badly in at least one of the next two, no disrespect to them, history says this inconsistency is the most consistent attribute of the side not just me.

  • Rajaram on October 3, 2012, 20:45 GMT

    Australia has ONE Major WEAK LINK - Glenn Maxwell - can't bat,can't bowl,can't field. He should be dropped. The experienced David Hussey should take his pace. the other wek LINK, though not so major - is Pat Cimmins.He should be dropped.BenHilfenhaus or Clint Mckay should tke his place for the Semi Fials and Finals.

  • Scott on October 3, 2012, 14:52 GMT

    @WickyRoy.paklover - Pakistan were certainly not "clear" winners in UAE. Aus lost the first game miserably by 70 odd runs, the second game was a tie and was only won in a super over and the third game Pakistan lost miserably by 80 odd runs. Hardly clear winners when it was one all and a tie...

    Pakistan probably are a better T20 team than Australia in these conditions, but don't play that the last match was lost as it was a dead rubber.

    Let's also not forget which T20 team it was that knocked you out of the last world cup ;-)

    @rogerunionjack - At least Australia had two players to worry about, England had Luke Wright as their "W" - LOL!!!! Hardly worthy of worry....Nobody is "quavering" about the return of a non English player to the England side. It will take him a while before he gets back into it. Nonetheless, a left arm offy will see the back of him!

  • Wicky on October 3, 2012, 13:21 GMT

    @Marcio,whethr U want to admit or not,Aussies R clueles against pak spin,pak were clear winners in t20s at dubai,WATSON HAV NEVR SHOWN AGAINST PAK OVR HIS ENTIRE CARER N BTW WHO CARES ABOUT DEAD RUBER(3RD T20) AT DUBAI NOW?LEARN TO RESPECT UR OPONENTS IF THEY R BETR THAN UR TEAM.

  • Dummy4 on October 3, 2012, 13:06 GMT

    After being sliced open like the brittlest of tin cans by Ajmal & Raza, you can bet your bottom dollar that the WIndies will include Badree - & deploy Gayle & Samuels as back-up spinners, too - against Oz in the semi-final. Seeing as Australia can counter them with Hogg, Doherty, Warner, White & Maxwell and/or David Hussey, it promises to be a fascinating contest - which leads me to a couple of questions for the Aussies here: 1. Does Cam White still bowl his leggies? As I recall, they were more than serviceable not so long ago; & 2. Why on earth has David Hussey been omitted so regularly? Given that Bailey's hardly likely to drop himself, why has Maxwell been preferred to Hussey? Their T20 bowling economy rates are pretty much identical (in fact, Hussey has a slight edge), but unless Hussey's declined sharply in the year or so since I last saw him, he remains a batsman of rare destructive power. I've only seen Maxwell bat a couple of times, but by contrast he looked decidedly average.

  • Dummy4 on October 3, 2012, 12:37 GMT

    @Cpt. Meanster: are you *seriously* buying into Dhoni's pitiful excuse re the rain factor in the Oz v India match? How long was that shower: 25 seconds? 90? Two minutes? Even if we're being ultra-charitable & we go along with the ludicrous notion that a micro-shower can alter pitch conditions to the extent that Dhoni claimed, we're still left with the question: if rain was forecast (which it was), then why didn't Dhoni & India cover their bases by leaving out one or two of their three specialist spinners for an extra seamer or two? Had they done so, they'd still have had Yuvraj, Raina & Sharma as perfectly serviceable back-up spinners. No matter how much Indian fans continue to bleat ineffectually about the rain, the fact remains that the result was down to two factors: 1. Watson & Warner blitzed you mercilessly. Do you honestly believe Balaji or Dinda would've ripped through the Aussie line-up? 2. Dhoni's selection for the game was lamentably muddle-headed, just as it was against SA.

  • Majid on October 3, 2012, 12:28 GMT

    Pakistan has shown that Aussies are beatable.Can't handle spin .I pray to almighty that pakistan should crush them again in finals.Its just one man army!!!!!!!!!!

  • Patrick on October 3, 2012, 11:51 GMT

    LOL, what happened to the No 1 team in all 3 forms, no OBE's no Parade :( laughing even harder at the Aussie detractors claiming Aust are weak on points derived a sole basis that Watson is the most successful player in this tournament.

  • adithya on October 3, 2012, 11:40 GMT


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