Pakistan v Australia, 1st ODI, Dubai April 22, 2009

Australians shine but in the wrong place

Australia's embarrassing defeat to Pakistan stemmed in part from a lack of experience and coincided with the free-scoring form of Gilchrist and Hayden in the IPL

Australia's selectors could hardly be blamed for casting a yearning eye towards South Africa. It is there that two former mainstays of the Australian top-order, Matthew Hayden and Adam Gilchrist, have tenderised IPL bowling attacks at a time when the national one-day batting line-up has struggled for any semblance of authority or consistency.

Consider this: in each of their past five one-day internationals, Australia have suffered major batting collapses. Prior to their disastrous passage in Dubai on Wednesday, during which Shahid Afridi and Saeed Ajmal claimed a combined 8-27 between the 19th and 31st overs, the Australians had endured batting sequences of 3-15 (Johannesburg), 3-14 and 4-11 (Port Elizabeth), 3-17 (Cape Town) and 5-19 (Centurion). They have lost four of those matches. No surprises there.

In South Africa, Australia's collapses were born largely out of frustration after extended periods of restricted scoring. In Dubai, the implosion was due to a failure to pick Afridi's wrong-un and Ajmal's doosra. The result has been a stunning freefall from the top of the one-day rankings to third. And should Pakistan sweep the five-match UAE series, the Australians will find themselves mired in fourth place, their lowest position since the ranking system was introduced in 2002.

The fortunes of Hayden and Gilchrist, meanwhile, could not contrast more sharply with those of their former teammates. A run of low-scoring convinced Hayden to walk away from the international game three months ago, but now, free from the pressures that weighed so heavily upon his shoulders, the veteran opener has powered his way to second on the IPL's run-scoring list with the Chennai Super Kings. Gilchrist, too, has been in bludgeoning form, thumping five sixes en route to a 45-ball innings of 71 against a Bangalore attack that included Dale Steyn and Anil Kumble - all while the Australians were stumbling to defeat against Pakistan.

Much like their spin bowling department, Australia's selectors are now attempting to rebuild a limited overs top-order in the knowledge that their best and most seasoned candidates are no longer available to them. The recurrence of Shaun Marsh's left hamstring injury will presumably make that task all the more difficult, and should the intermittent form of veterans Michael Hussey and Michael Clarke continue, Andrew Hilditch's panel could be faced with further difficult decisions ahead of the next World Cup.

Much work is required. High on Tim Nielsen's to-do list in the coming months will be a thorough review of his batsmen's strategies to spin bowling. Roelof van der Merwe and Johan Botha were most successful in drying up Australia's scoring rates in the middle overs, while Afridi and Ajmal confounded them with prodigious turn - the former bowling three batsmen through the gate with googlies, the latter skittling Nathan Hauritz shouldering arms.

None of the Australian batsmen - even top-scorers James Hopes, Brad Haddin and Shane Watson - appeared comfortable against the turning ball on a Dubai pitch grown from imported Pakistani soil. Ajmal, like the soil, hails from the Punjab region, and the right-armer could not have appeared more at home as he turned numerous deliveries away from Australia's befuddled top-order. And Afridi was simply devastating.

Cricket scribes have recently learned that writing off an Australian team is fraught with peril, but the troubling signs from an admittedly travel-weary one-day side are impossible to ignore. A massive effort is required to turn this series around and rediscover their batting form of yore. Perhaps a quick glance at the forthcoming Chennai-Deccan match might prove instructive.

Alex Brown is deputy editor of Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Abbas on April 23, 2009, 10:12 GMT

    Thanks all to criticize Australia's performance, will anyone care/dare to appreciate Pakistan?

  • Qamar on April 23, 2009, 9:00 GMT

    Well Pakistani team was brilliant in this match, They played like a champion. Pakistan have match winners and whenever they perform they just single handedly win matches. I think Australian team lacks winning combination, they dont have a brilliant spinner, who can bowl with conviction, there is no difference in David Hussey bowling and their specialist Hauritz bowling. Even symonds & m. clarke bowls like them. I think Australians should find a proper spinner first to stay on top.

    I dont know why Australians are trying so many players in their team. I cant even recall their names. they are misusing players and this will hurt them in long run. I dont know why they are not using regular openers, why david hussey was not playing? Why they are putting so much pressure on symonds, ponting and Hussey??? They are going in wrong direction and I think they have to correct these problems immediately. I really like Australian team and i get disappointed whenever I see these things

  • James on April 23, 2009, 7:53 GMT

    Story Of Australias Innings so far in this years ODI's- 1)Openers make a good stand, Looks Set for Big Final Score 2)Spinners come on dry up runs and causes a collapse 3)Australia end up setting a below par score considering their start

  • saif on April 23, 2009, 6:54 GMT

    Even though the aussies are playing bad, i think that the pakistani spinners bowled different from what they usually do. It would have been difficult for any team to play those two well, but australia did play some reckless shots. I think that saeed ajmal looks a special talent as it seems very difficult to read his doosra and his doosra seems to spin more the other way than any offspinner in around, excluding murali. Afridi bowled with alot of flight and dip, but his main weapon was the googly which also spun alot. I never saw the doosra or or the googly spin as much, thats what did the australians in. I think ajmal should be drafted into the test team as danish kaneria is far too predictable and concedes far too many runs.

  • masood on April 23, 2009, 6:36 GMT

    What would australia do in 2015,when gilly,hayden,warne,mcgrath will be in late 40's.The wrong thing they are doing is not giving the places to the right players.Make shift openers,juggling in middle order,changing position of players to accomodate another player etc.Thats the same reason why Pakistan has never been consistant.getting short time benefits and neglecting long term pleasures.Australia are doing same.Make a side with every body in right positions and no doubt, that team can't win.

  • chris on April 23, 2009, 5:55 GMT

    For a start Australia needs at least one proper opening batsman, I have no idea why Phil Hughes couldn't be in the team as he has gotten fast runs for NSW in one dayers so why couldn't he bat against the Pakistani pie throwers. Australia were pathetic and showed that they have no idea against spin. The Pakistani bowling attack is average at best but Australia made them look world class. I strongly support the Australian team but the selectors are making me sick with some of the resent selections. What was Symonds doing in the team?? He has done nothing for Queensland all year yet he is back in the team. Pup himself has been very average as well and I think he is lucky to hold his place. Where's North?? the guy has been getting runs for WA in all forms of the game yet doesn't get a run?? Pakistan deserved to win.

  • Arvind on April 23, 2009, 5:05 GMT

    Remember not so long ago, the Aussies told tall tales about their so-called rotation policy (which enabled them to have Warne, McGrath and Gilchrist play every game if they were fit) and bench strength, and laughed at the other teams for being old fashioned. Now, we still have people asking Warne, McGrath, Gilchrist, Hayden, to come back. That is some bench strength.

  • Rix on April 23, 2009, 5:03 GMT

    Yesterday, I was watching gilly hitting and eating boundaries like butcher in IPL at the same time Aussies were loosing wickets like leaves in autumn. I strongly wished to view the two most exciting couples from both side in World Twenty. I don't know why Hayden and Gilly retired from T20 cricket and Imran Nazir joined ICL. If boards wish to give the full entertainment to the sport lovers then allow these players to entertain fun loving guys who are desperately wish to view these born hitters scoring 200 plus and in response Khan and Imran would chase it within 15 overs. Waoo sounds fantasy

  • Siddarthan on April 23, 2009, 4:55 GMT

    What if Australia had this line-up instead of the current one.... Mind you that all the players below are still available....

    A Gilchrist M Hayden R Ponting M Clark M Hussey J Hopes B Lee S Warne M Johnson N Bracken G McGrath

  • siva on April 23, 2009, 3:20 GMT

    Only Hayden and Gilly could save Aussies downfall. Bring them back to the team and players like symonds and haddin all should go back to their domestic teams. PUP must learn more skills to lead the team from Steve waugh or Allan Border. aussies Downfall.....

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