October 3, 2009

Australian intimidation blows England away

England felt the full force of Australia's aggression as Ponting and Watson turned executioners on the field

It felt like old times at Centurion today: as the evening grew longer and the ball continued to travel past the ropes, there was awe in the air again. England have known only misery against Australia in one-day cricket in the past few weeks, but even they are unlikely to have felt the force as strongly as they did today. The bowling was aggressive and accurate on a benign pitch, and the batting was pure intimidation.

Ten overs into the run-chase, all that remained in the match was the prospect of a grand exhibition of batting from a man who knows how to bestride the big stage. The pitch was a batting beauty and England didn't have the resources to challenge Australia after they had been let down by their batsmen, but the way Ricky Ponting began, and Shane Watson finished, it was difficult to gauge by how many runs England had fallen short.

England will have felt like they were up against two executioners. Watson, all brawn and bustle, clubbed them. Ponting, all pomp and mastery, sliced them with the dexterity of a master chef.

By the 10th over, Ponting had hit seven exquisite boundaries, each played with precision and majesty. His first five scoring strokes were fours, and four of them came off James Anderson, who alone carried England's slender hopes. Tim Bresnan, England's batting hero of the day, who would not have made the team had Stuart Broad and Ryan Sidebottom been available, was hurried into service in the ninth over. Ponting duly dispatched him for two fours either side of the wicket, and England's options were quickly reduced to the part-timers.

The years seem to sit light on Ponting, and a break after a spirit-sapping Ashes seems to have sparked something in him. Since his return, he has made 520 runs at 74.28 from eight matches. During the course of this innings, he became the first Australian, and only the third batsman after Sachin Tendulkar and Sanath Jayasuriya, to make 12,000 ODI runs. Throughout this tournament he has batted in the manner of his prime.

Watson ended up with more runs, but it was Ponting who snuffed out hope for England after Graham Onions had removed Tim Paine early. In fact, the contrast between the two batsmen couldn't have been more stark. In Watson's every shot, the effort was palpable. Early in his innings, he swished and missed; he then heaved and walloped, and towards the end of his innings, he simply opened his shoulders and cross-batted them into the stands.

Ponting merely stroked them, off the front foot, off the back foot, through the covers, backward of point, past midwicket, over mid-off; each stroke conceived after the ball had been delivered, and executed flawlessly. For both the batsmen, England set the bouncer trap with two men behind square. Watson, who had been dismissed pulling Ashish Nehra earlier in the tournament, missed a few, and then took to clubbing over midwicket. But Ponting employed his trademark pull, getting over the ball, rolling his wrists, placing them between fielders. From England's point of view, it was worth trying something rather than letting the innings drift away. But Ponting was too good for them.

Later Ponting said Australia had played the game exactly the way they had wanted to. "Right from the start of the England series we were focusing on being well prepared for the Champions Trophy and being in a position where we could play our best cricket when we needed to, and we did that today," Ponting said. "The Australian cricket team prides itself on standing up at big moments, and I think we have done that today."

Australia's performance with the bat put in perspective both the effort of their bowlers and that of the England batsmen. Andrew Strauss insisted later that as a team they had decided to bat aggressively, but after one spectacular success against South Africa when all the stars aligned for them, the method has now failed twice in succession.

Deep within, there will be recognition of their deficiencies. Intent can only take them so far. At best, Strauss, who hit only the ninth ODI six of his career in this game, can be a solid starter. Owais Shah's game is too one-dimensional to succeed consistently. Eoin Morgan has promise but is yet to be tested fully. With all his limitations, Paul Collingwood is their most reliable ODI batsman in the current team, and that says something. They need Kevin Pietersen to provide substance and ballast. No team can be built around one man.

England must not retreat to their timid ways following consecutive reversals. But if they do not develop their ODI batting skills, it is difficult to see them achieving consistent success in this form.

Given what transpired later, it would have perhaps been inconsequential, but it was hard to fathom why a team must wait till the last five overs to consume the batting Powerplay. Or does it say something about England's thinking despite their new-found commitment to positive batting? Were they worried that instead of seeing it as an opportunity to hit through or over the field, their set batsmen would be unsettled by the sight of men in the ring?

In the end they managed to make use only half the Powerplay, and only 13 runs came off it. In the first over of their batting Powerplay, Australia scored 23. The difference between the teams was that big.

Sambit Bal is the editor of Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Gaurav on October 5, 2009, 16:08 GMT

    The india tour is a big one coz the conditions here are challenging for the aussies specially considering india a quality team with quality playerrs yes they have been no 1 4 lst 10 yrs and look no 1 jst now but remeber they lost 2 back to back 5 match seris to SAf also they strugged a bit against the kiwis at home which is fair considering they were rebuilding. now that they have settled somewhat they have to show the result . also ponting would dearly love to avenge their test seris defeat to india last year which sort of started all the trouble for them ! they beat india they will have beaten to subcontinent giants india and pak and then will become the undisputed no 1 . winning agnst india will ensure their world domination 4 another 5 yrs ! otherrwise it will again be musical chairs between india australia n sa !!

  • Mark on October 4, 2009, 19:31 GMT

    I know now why Australia are consistently so successful over so many decades in this wonderful game called Cricket. They are a Cricket culture that prides itself on Discipline and professionalism. They make the most of the talent as cricketers compared to other nations, the professionalism of their well trained troops always more often than not win the day on the cricket battle field. I've watched Australia for a very long time and it is always the case. They may lose but they are never down for long. Other cricket nations can learn a lot from them. That is why they are favourites to win this tournament despite probably more talented teams in the tournament.

  • Lou on October 4, 2009, 18:46 GMT

    At the least, they should consider resting Mitch. He has been in all forms of the game all of this English summer. He is obviously becoming more and more handy for them with the bat in this form of the game, and will be a miss at no 8, but send him home for a rest as he will be doing it all again this Australian summer without a break.

    Hussey as well, drop Clarke in for him, even if we seriously lose out in the run-rate, it has to be done as he will be in all forms over summer as well.

  • Richard on October 4, 2009, 14:43 GMT

    In reply to chokkashokka's comment 'The real test for the Kangaroos is the upcoming 7 game series in India'... what rubbish... I would counter with 'The real test for India is the ICC Champions Trophy in South Africa'. The equation is the same for ALL teams... on NEUTRAL ground (only SA can claim home ground advantage), win 2 out 3 group games with the best XI you have available (injuries, sminjuries... we had no Bracken, Clarke or Haddin... finalist, England... no KP or Freddie... semi-finalist, NZ... I'm surprised they could even get an XI together... finalist), and hey presto... you get into the semis. No rocket science here. We get the chance to defend the silverware we won last time... are India our opponents? They're not? NZ is? Well... need I say more? One who lives in a greenhouse should not throw stones. As for the 7 game series... I heartily agree that we should blood some youngsters... give them a go and see how they fare...hopefully we might find some players of the future.

  • sheldon on October 4, 2009, 8:46 GMT

    The series in india will determine who is number one in the icc rankings 'but' its not pinnacle and australia i suggest will rest many players for johnson, hauritz, siddle, hilfenhaus and hussey have been on tour for more than 4 months and need a rest. India however should be number one considering how many good players they have but sadly for the indian fans their not, the indian team also have terrible mangement to me it seems if they dont win its the end of the world and that is why there is hardly any new batsmen getting into the team. simply indian fans toughen up, and dont be so biased to your team australia still deserve to be number one while the indian cricket team still deserves the title 'Choker' as well as south africa.

  • Arsalan on October 4, 2009, 8:17 GMT

    Australia still is the best team in ODI. If you look at their current side, there are few names missing. They dont have Nathan Bracken, who is a key member of side and really balance the bowling attack. They dont have Clarke, best player of spin aside from Ponting, he can hold the middle order against the best of spin attacks like what Pakistan and Sri Lanka have. Sure he is slow but Aussie would not have collapse against Pakistan if he was there. Thats his job. And with Haddin, Watson and Ponting coming before him, I dont think he's rather slower scoring rate should be that much problem, not to forget he can be handy with bowl at times and is one of the best fielders in world.

    About India, why are they even being considered for best ODI team? South Africa and Pakistan are clearly better team than India. South Africa is easily the second best team in ODI in my opinion.

  • Ana on October 4, 2009, 5:37 GMT

    Yesterday, Australia showed their colours as true masters of the game. The ICC Champions Trophy final will be interesting, with Australia hoping to show their prowess, and New Zealand wanting to get a leg up into the top slots of the world ODI rankings. Another aspect to watch out for is the differing views of the teams, as Australia is known for being sore losers and winners, whereas NZ recently won the ICC Team Spirit award for having a good attitude.

  • chris on October 4, 2009, 3:22 GMT

    Whats interesting is, Australia is winning even with all there champions retired and current players out through injury, so in-fact this weak Australia side is still as good as SA and Sri lanka and better than India and Enland. There is only 3 specialists batsman in this team at the moment and they are still winning. When this team goes to full strength they will be a force almost like they used to be. If this team does manage somehow to win in India, will the indian fans be willing to take it on the chin and admit Australia are the better team, or go through footage to try and find an incorrect LBW and make up more excuses. Anyway, i think 5-7 games against Sri Lanka at home would be better indication who is best in the world. India really are not there.

  • Shruti on October 4, 2009, 2:17 GMT

    Consistency is the benchmark of world champions.WI showed that from late 1970s to mid 1980s .Aus have been consistent for a decade now.SA and Ind are contenders for world champs tag only, till they achieve the consistency of Aus.Upcoming7 match ODI series of Aus in India should be closely contested one but in no way an indication of winner there being the World Champs.Some comments here like no importance to one off win tournaments,Aus not yet ready to be no.1 ODI side etc are laughable .ICC events are not one off events but require consistency which neither Indians ,SA,PAK or SLK have shown .Aus have been consistent in winning these so called one off tournaments and are hence the world champs.Rankings or no rankings,Aus records speak for them .Disgruntled fans of Ind can say whatever they like.

  • Nathan on October 4, 2009, 1:53 GMT

    What is going on here with this feedback. There seems to be a very pointed suggestion that India are better then Australia if they win the 7 day ODI series coming up. I think that after a long summer, an Ashes tour of 4 months, the Champions' Trophy and other engagements that Australia could and should send a half strength side for this series. Much prefer that and have Ponting, Clarke, Johnson and co ready for the next Test series. Australia will use the upcoming series v India purely as an experience and for blooding new players. The bottom line is that India have not won anything in the 1 Dayers and hence should not even consider themselves close to the Aussies. Test cricket maybe - one dayers - not even close.

  • No featured comments at the moment.