Adam Gilchrist in action: less of a match and more of an exhibition
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Match (verb): to provide with a worthy competitor. If Zimbabwe's first three matches are any indicator, the VB Series organisers have wilfully ignored the dictionary by extending an invitation to Heath Streak's beleaguered outfit. You'd have to be extremely charitable to describe what transpired at the Bellerive Oval as a one-day international match, especially when Australia's batmen batted as though they were playing at a Blackpool exhibition. That they could do so was a damning indictment of a bowling attack that would struggle to hold its own in grade cricket.
Those that champion the one-day game in Australia have every right to be worried about the lack of competition. Barring a blip in 2001-02, when Shane Bond's pace hustled Steve Waugh to his one-day exit, Australia have usually done as they pleased in these tri-nation contests. The gold-and-green machine is so well-oiled and frightening in its efficiency under Ricky Ponting's captaincy that the most apt comparison would be to Heinz Guderian's Panzers that rolled over the Ardennes in 1940. Today, it was Zimbabwe's turn to be trampled under the tracks.
They haven't been alone in that. With the exception of India, on a good day, and Sri Lanka - on slow, subcontinent wickets - you really can't see any team giving Australia a game, leave alone beating them. Worse still, they play the game with an arrogance that can utterly demoralise fragile opponents. Matthew Hayden's approach in the morning was a perfect illustration of that, especially the manner in which he kept walking down the pitch to thump Douglas Hondo's bowling. He and Adam Gilchrist couldn't be bothered with niceties like timing, relying on brute force to propel the ball through or over the infield.
Gilchrist's 172 will have elevated status in the record books, but it was another sad example of how the paucity of good bowlers has made a mockery of one-day cricket. The Australia-India Tests were so engrossing that no-one could get enough - many lamented the absence of a fifth Test - but four matches into the VB Series, and many have already had enough.
Gilchrist made his runs from just 126 balls, but only 70 runs (13 fours and three sixes) came in boundaries, a hint as to how he struggled to strike the ball with his usual fluency early on. It earned him a standing ovation, but even to begin to compare it with the great one-day knocks would be sacrilege.
The greatest of them all - Vivian Richards's 189 at Old Trafford in 1984 - came against an English attack that included Bob Willis, Ian Botham and Neil Foster. Willis was close to the end of the road, and Botham was no longer as effervescent as the 1981 vintage, but it was still a line-up good enough to reduce West Indies to 166 for 9 before Richards - supported by a wide-eyed Michael Holding - lit up a grey sky with some glorious strokes. This Zimbabwe line-up, the indefatigable Heath Streak apart, wouldn't have got past Gordon Greenidge and Desmond Haynes if they toiled for a month.
Since he plays for such a mediocre side, Streak's name rarely crops up when you discuss the most prominent performers of the past decade. It shouldn't be that way. Not only has he picked up 197 Test wickets, and 216 in ODIs, he has been his team's most doughty batsman since Andy Flower took the black-armband route out of international cricket. You'll read plenty about the courage shown by Flower and Henry Olonga, but for many, Streak is the real hero of Zimbabwe cricket, forever in the trenches for a team whose very existence is a struggle.
The top(ple) order failed abysmally again, as the batsmen played with a lack of footwork that would have been perfect had the sport been French cricket. Geoff Marsh had spoken of his side being better balanced than either India or Australia when they arrived in Perth two weeks ago, but thus far his players have appeared intent on making him look foolish.
For Australia, and for spectators who come out to watch a contest, this was a tedious and pointless exercise. If one-day cricket is to survive, rule changes are needed, and two divisions - with promotion and relegation to lend matches some meaning - can't come quickly enough. You don't catch third-rate minor-league pitchers tossing a fast ball to Barry Bonds, do you?
Dileep Premachandran is assistant editor of Wisden Cricinfo in India.