ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 / Features

Australia v Canada, Group A, World Cup 2011, Bangalore

Australia need to lift against better teams

Australia have beaten Canada and Kenya comfortably, but both teams exposed weaknesses that better sides may be able to take advantage of if the World Champions don't improve

Brydon Coverdale at the Chinnaswamy Stadium

March 16, 2011

Comments: 23 | Text size: A | A

Ricky Ponting collides with Steven Smith while taking a catch to dismiss Harvir Baidwan, Australia v Canada, Group A, World Cup, Bangalore, March 16, 2011
Ricky Ponting was miffed after Steven Smith collided with him in going for a catch © Getty Images
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A seven-wicket win, an Australian World Cup-record opening partnership, a 34th consecutive World Cup match without a loss. That all sounds pretty good if you're an Australian fan. But if Australia play like they did against Canada when the knockout stage begins next week, they won't be lifting the World Cup.

And Ricky Ponting knows it. When he collided with Steven Smith as they both positioned themselves under a skied ball in the 42nd over of Canada's innings, he held the catch but dropped his bundle. Ponting hurled the ball into the turf and walked away from the group, crouching at mid-off while his team-mates were standing beside the pitch, celebrating the wicket.

The captain had called for the catch and felt that Smith hadn't listened, and his team-mates hadn't called at Smith to stop. It wasn't a good look for Ponting to turn his back on his young colleague, but he had cause to be frustrated. His men were making errors and for the second time in four days an Associate nation was making them look average. On Sunday against Kenya, they could blame rust, after a fortnight off. On Wednesday, they were just sloppy.

And against Pakistan on Saturday, and potentially the likes of India or South Africa next week, that won't cut it. Impressive as Hiral Patel was, he is no Virender Sehwag, and Henry Osinde is no Dale Steyn. Yet these men, just like Collins Obuya and Nehemiah Odhiambo at the weekend, found weaknesses in Ponting's outfit, including the fact that later in the evening the captain was out hooking yet again, this time to Osinde.

Fortunately for Shane Watson and Brad Haddin, luck was on their side. Watson should have been caught in Harvir Baidwan's first over when he skied a chance to mid-on, and Haddin nearly played on to Osinde and then survived a perfect lbw shout that Canada should have reviewed. The openers were loose and lazy early, but they were wonderful later, and that is the one great positive Australia can take.

In the field, they lacked polish. In the lead-up to the tournament, the former swing bowler Damien Fleming said Australia could be bowling teams out for 50 or chasing 500. And when the Canadian top order slapped and sliced their way to the fastest team half-century of the World Cup, getting there in 4.4 overs, it seemed that Fleming's throwaway line wasn't so far from the truth.

That's the risk of playing Shaun Tait, Brett Lee and Mitchell Johnson. As Canada showed, their speed can be used against them. Lee ended up with four wickets, but in his new-ball spell varied between being too full with no swing, and too short and inaccurate. Against Patel and John Davison it was costly enough, but a class opener like Sehwag or Chris Gayle could have massacred that bowling.

The Australians chose not to give John Hastings a game against Canada, but Watson demonstrated why variety in the seam attack is valuable. As soon as Watson came on the runs dried up. He was accurate, consistent and took the pace off the ball - which cost Patel his wicket when he went for an upper cut that landed in third man's hands.

But Watson himself had moments he'd rather forget, like when he spilled a catch at slip off Karl Whatham's edge. There were other mistakes with the ball and in the field: Michael Hussey grassed a hard chance above his head in the first over and then gave away overthrows with an unnecessary throw at the stumps, while Johnson, as he often does, bowled a couple of balls that barely made it on to Hawk-Eye's pitch map.

It all added up to a mixed-bag of a performance, though the way the Canadian lower order struggled and Australia's openers gradually found their touch, it turned Australia's way. Ponting knows that against Pakistan, on Saturday, they need to prove they can beat a quality side.

"Against better teams and deeper batting orders, we have to make sure we don't let teams get off to that sort of start," Ponting said. "If you look at someone like Sehwag, he plays a pretty similar way to what [Patel] played today, and if we happen to let him get off to a start like that in a big game, it's going to be a whole lot harder to peg them back. We've got some work to do, but I don't think we're that far away. We'll get a better indication when we take on a good team in a couple of days' time."

At least when Australia's players walked off after they bowled Canada out, Ponting gave Smith a pat on the back. All's well that ends well, but if they don't lift, their World Cup will be ending well before they want it to finish.

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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© ESPN EMEA Ltd.

Comments: 23 
Posted by Meety on (March 18, 2011, 7:27 GMT)

@Something_Witty - agree re: Okakaboka - except, I would seriously consider D Hussey & Smith as our 2 spinners & drop Krezja. The batting & fielding is then BEEFED up, & really Krezja just isn't doing it for me enough! If he had taken 10 wickets in 5 games, (given matches against minnows), I'd say ok lets keep him. D Hussey probably could bowl 5 to 7 overs of nude spin (nothing on it), but get away for only going at between 5 & 7 rpo. Smith I think would be able to bowl the same but maybe take a wicket & go for 5 to 6 rpo. What will Krezja do? I think he will bowl 10 overs go for 6 rpo & MAYBE take a wicket. So I REALLY do beleive we COULD drop Krezja for D Hussey.With Pup & White as a bit of cover, I really think we have the quality P/T spinners to bowl 10 to 20 overs & go for less then 6rpo! As for playing Minnows, I'm all for it in the WC, but Oz could go & be unbeaten at the Group stage & be out of the WC in the 1st final with just 1 loss. I think the structure is wrong!

Posted by boooonnie on (March 18, 2011, 5:02 GMT)

The title of this article "Australia needs to lift against better teams" pretty much sums up Aust World Cup campaign - boring and predictable. The truth is that there nothing new to say about the Aust campaign because NOTHING is happening! Not in Group A anyway. Even this game against Pakistan is a dead rubber. In some ways a close defeat to Pakistan would be better then another canter.The fear most Aust fans have (and the hope of 90% of the cricketing world) is that Aust may lose it's one and only competitive game in this world cup and be kicked out. A luxery that is afforded to every other country in this competition thus far.

Posted by Okakaboka on (March 18, 2011, 0:15 GMT)

@Something_Witty...It may appear that way...but no....It is about what the current squad has got to work with. There were a number of selection blunders that will probably kill us in the end. I would have had O'Keefe in the squad along with Christian. Hastings was selected simply as the alternative to the unfit Mackay. Unfortunately, it is a bit like comparing a BMW with a Kia. Hastings still would be, in my opinion, a better long term option than Tait. If Tait fails to get a couple of early breakthroughs then he is a liability. If you consider probabilty....as a maths concept...and the way Tait is now spraying the ball while not bowling frighteningly fast any more, then the probability of these breakthroughs is remote. I'll stand by the idea of using Hussey as the spinner...you never know...he may hit a bump in those dodgy pitches and the ball might deviate. So far Krejza's bowling has been substandard and he really just looks like a grade bowler to me. Hastings is really from NSW.

Posted by Something_Witty on (March 17, 2011, 14:35 GMT)

@okakaboka, while I agree with you about a fair few things, it does seem a bit odd that ALL your suggested replacement players just -happen- to be Victorian. I think Mckay is a decent bowler on a pitch with a bit of seam movement, but when he gets it wrong on a flat pitch he's far more expensive than someone like Tait. As for David Hussey being our main spinner.... that's just ridiculous. What Hussey bowls can barely even be called spin because it's that flat.

Posted by andrew-schulz on (March 17, 2011, 10:21 GMT)

I suppose you've got to write something about these matches, but far too much is being made of matches against the minnows. The fact that Australia remain the only undefeated team is more important.

Posted by dsig3 on (March 17, 2011, 8:58 GMT)

Thanks for your fantastic advice "Brydon" but we can only beat who they put in front of us mate. I know we havnt been playing too well but its hard when all we do is thrash minnows. We were shocking in the field last night but still thrashed them. Hard to be pumped for that.

Posted by _Australian_ on (March 17, 2011, 6:58 GMT)

Once again Brydon Coverdale stating the obvious!!! You could say exactly the same thing for every team playing in this WC and to win it obviously you have to play better. Hardly a cracking piece Brydon. How did you get this gig??

Posted by vswami on (March 17, 2011, 6:06 GMT)

Yes, Canada batted well, but the real hero/villain was the Bangalore pitch. Every bowling attack has received a whipping on this pitch. After the England game, people blamed Indian bowling for being poor .. English bowling being blamed after the Irish mauling and now the Aussie bowling. None of the bowling attacks are as bad as journos are making them out to be. In the last eleven games, teams batting first have scored 300+ .. its just a high scoring ground and pitch.

Posted by indianzen on (March 17, 2011, 5:35 GMT)

Good one.. its only the luck that Aussies are carrying it along through.. they will sure be hammered by SA in the quarters...

Posted by Punxsutawny_Phil on (March 17, 2011, 4:52 GMT)

I can't think of a favourite for the cup but I can think of a number of favourites to beat Australia.

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Brydon CoverdaleClose
Brydon Coverdale Assistant Editor Possibly the only person to win a headline-writing award for a title with the word "heifers" in it, Brydon decided agricultural journalism wasn't for him when he took up his position with ESPNcricinfo in Melbourne. His cricketing career peaked with an unbeaten 85 in the seconds for a small team in rural Victoria on a day when they could not scrounge up 11 players and Brydon, tragically, ran out of partners to help him reach his century. He is also a compulsive TV game-show contestant and has appeared on half a dozen shows in Australia.

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