<
>

A super one-sided series

The Super Series began with a whimper and ended as quietly. Australia could brag about being on top of the world again but there were few people left to listen. Sydney and Melbourne have preferred work to cricket in October and the size of the crowds was one of the main problems of a dream idea that has been shattered in reality.

An advertisement on the scoreboard at lunch offered 25% off Super Series merchandise that would soon be warehoused along with memorabilia from the one-off World Championship of Cricket and the Bicentennial Test. The game was over by tea and after the reaction to the four matches, which have all been won convincingly by Australia, the clothes might have struggled to be given away. The entire concept could follow as expectation has outweighed events.

Australia have treated the World XI the same as any touring team since they last lost a home series 13 seasons ago. The island is a fortress and not even the best of the globe's armies could make a dent on the coastline. Gradually the World's attack has improved but the batting has been the sort displayed in up-country exhibitions, although no scratch matches were organised to cover their lack of crease time. Today was the first occasion in five innings they lasted 50 overs.

When the global squads were named everybody wanted a part but now the experience is one to omit from their memories, if not the international records. The exercise has shown that unless you have the pockets of Chelsea's Roman Abramovich, throwing money at a team can only make it show up. Test players received US$25,000 for appearing in Sydney and US$8,000 per one-day match in Melbourne; moulding and motivating is usually priceless. "It is easier to identify as a team rather than a concept," John Wright, the World XI coach, said after the match.

Rain delayed the World XI's task of chasing 355 with eight wickets in hand but the first of more slips was soon occurring. Shane Warne bowled with zip and spark to take care of Rahul Dravid and Brian Lara, who at least flayed a couple of boundaries to remember, before Inzamam-ul-Haq suffered an lbw decision that made him wish he had stood firm with his decision to reject a late invitation for the series. He was not the only one.

Stuart MacGill, who accepted five wickets, was in the opposite camp and the squad was buzzing. Australia are united and smiling again after an England sidetrip that has given an experienced squad more life as well as the bonus of the winner-takes-all prizemoney. Australian players in both squads earned more than US$130,000 and wasted more champagne than usual as they poured it over eachother during the team photograph.

Ricky Ponting insisted the feeling was similar to any Test win and MacGill was easily the most cheerful as he swept through the lower-order to out-point Warne, although the senior partner made the more telling blows. Together they proved too demanding for the World and it is time for them to receive regular postings away from Sydney.

Slow bowling was one of the few things to match the hype but it was unable to carry the series. The upshot was a mismatch that threatened the future of more global conquests, and the overall feeling was one of a tournament as unfulfilled as the seats in the Members and Ladies stands.