Test Match

The ICC Super Series, 2005-06

Richard Hobson


At Sydney, October 14, 15, 16, 17, 2005. Australia won by 210 runs. Toss: Australia.

After the painfully one-sided limited-overs series, the concept desperately required a better performance from the World XI to restore any semblance of credibility. Instead, the disparate collection described by the ICC's chief executive Malcolm Speed as "a team of champions" contrived to live down to their performances in Melbourne the previous week. Whether through lack of match practice, motivation, or - most likely - a combination of both, they struggled to match Australia in any department bar, perhaps, the new-ball attack. Australia, in vivid contrast, were clearly determined to throw down an immediate marker after the Ashes defeat.

The recall of Watson as an all-rounder represented a significant shift in policy by Australia's selectors. There were those who thought the change was overdue, and could have saved them in England. That will remain a matter of speculation. On a tangible level, Watson's inclusion allowed MacGill to join Warne and, on a pitch offering typically generous turn, MacGill stated a compelling case. He claimed nine of the 15 wickets the pair shared, although Warne, continuing a prolific year, was the crucial partnership-breaker in both innings. And there was more evidence of a renaissance for Hayden, who followed what was hailed as a career-saving century at The Oval a month earlier with another hundred this time.

Hayden had made a conscious decision to tone down the aggression that served him so well in the early part of the millennium, and went into lunch with just 28 after Ponting won his fourth toss out of four in the Super Series overall. He survived a very confident appeal for lbw when not offering a shot to Harmison shortly afterwards, but Darrell Hair, the third umpire, decided that the ball was going just over the stumps. To the naked eye it appeared to be a clear-cut dismissal, and Hayden himself thought he was "absolutely dead". He did not make another mistake until he cut to backward point at 111, surprised when Muralitharan found some extra bounce.

Overall, the case for greater use of technology remained at best unproven. The ICC had decided to use this series as an experiment in which anything and everything could be referred, but the on-field umpires Koertzen and Taufel were all too aware of the delays that would result if they troubled Hair too often. As it turned out, the crowds appeared to enjoy the drama - yet some of the results were peculiar. Clarke became the first man to fall to a bat/pad catch on referral in a Test match, even though the television replays were inconclusive. Then, in the World XI second innings, Inzamamul- Haq - a reluctant participant after being drafted in to replace the injured Sachin Tendulkar - was given out leg-before by Koertzen without consultation when replays showed that the ball from Lee would have missed leg stump by a couple of inches.

At least the experiment did not affect the outcome. Six days had been allocated, so desperate were the ICC to give television a positive result but, without interruptions for showers and bad light, Australia could have won in little more than three. And only when Clarke and Katich fell in the space of three overs in the first innings could the World XI claim to be in front. Gilchrist soon changed that, with a vintage counterattack. His soul-searching after the Ashes had taken him in the opposite direction to Hayden, and he re-emerged unshackled from inhibition. Especially harsh on Vettori, he struck four sixes, and was unbeaten with 94 from 109 balls when bad light brought a premature end to the first day.

There was to be no addition the following morning. Rain freshened the pitch, conditions were overcast, the new ball swung... and Flintoff capitalised. Gilchrist must have felt a sense of déjà vu when he was pinned legbefore by his Ashes nemesis. Australia stretched their overnight total by only 14 in all, but the World XI were soon in trouble themselves at 43 for three, with McGrath overtaking Courtney Walsh's record of 519 Test wickets by a fast bowler when he removed Lara, who was on his way to a less-welcome record of his own: this was to be his 55th Test defeat, eclipsing Alec Stewart's old mark. It can only happen to a very good player in a failing team, and Lara had got himself involved in another one here. However, Sehwag and Kallis, chalk and cheese in approach, threatened to pull the innings around after lunch. It took a reflex catch by Katich at short leg to remove Sehwag, whose 76 spanned 82 balls, and a vicious legbreak from Warne to account for the solid Kallis.

What followed amounted to capitulation. The lower order proved unable to deal with Warne's lip-licking presence, and sought to compensate by taking risks against MacGill. Flintoff clearly sensed that time was short, and managed to strike four sixes before the tap on his own shoulder. The spinners claimed the last seven wickets in 17 overs, and the total of 190 stood well below the expectations of John Wright, the powerless World XI coach, whose call for a major improvement after the one-day games was going largely unheeded.

Australia extended their lead of 155 beyond 300 with only one wicket gone. Hayden and Ponting were chipping away unthreatened, but a wonderfully disguised slower ball from Harmison finally breached Hayden's defences, and triggered a collapse of nine wickets for 47 runs either side of lunch. Flintoff generated reverse swing at consistently close to 90mph in an eight-over spell after the break, and Muralitharan finally gained a stranglehold at the other end.

That still left the World XI 355 to win, far more than anyone had achieved in any previous Sydney Test. And in barely tolerable light they lost both openers in the eight overs possible before the close, and once Warne beat Dravid with drift and Lara with bounce on the fourth morning, it became a matter of when Australia would finish the job. The kill, when it came, was clinical, as MacGill claimed the last three wickets in five balls to finish with five in the innings. Pitifully, the World XI, with five of the top six batsmen in the ICC rankings, survived only 97.1 overs in the match. Hayden stayed in longer for Australia on his own.

Man of the Match: M. L. Hayden.

Attendance: 81,224.

Man of the Series: A. C. Gilchrist.

© John Wisden & Co.