2009-10 Australian Summer: What did we learn?
As Australia move seemingly unobstructed towards a resounding victory in their third and final test against Pakistan – and the final test of the summer – it is time to look back over the performance of Australia, Pakistan and the summer’s other participant, the West Indies, and evaluate how it all panned out. With Australia all but certain to clean up Pakistan’s remaining seven wickets tomorrow, the home side will finish their two test series with 5 wins from 6 matches. Going from such numbers, you’d be forgiven for thinking that it was all rather one-sided; however, this summer has not been a throw back to the days of Warne and McGrath. Sometimes the numbers don’t tell the whole story.
Prior to the commencement of the first test against the West Indies in Brisbane, many people (including myself) were pessimistic about the two test series that lay ahead. The fact that six tests were scheduled to be played in under 60 days suggested to me that cricket officials, expecting matches to be over quickly, wanted to rush them through as quickly as possible. They would have felt vindicated after the first as the West Indies were pushed aside in less than three days and after that completely inept performance, it was beginning to look like 60 days was perhaps being too generous.
While it was expected that the Windies would collapse similarly in the second and third test, no such surrender was forth coming. Led by brilliant performances by their skipper Chris Gayle and with Dwayne Bravo, Brendon Nash and Sulieman Benn following his lead, the Windies clawed back respect and started to play like a talented and committed test side. It is too early to declare the slump in West Indies cricket over, but with such performances as those delivered in Adelaide and Perth, there is renewed respect and hope for the future.
Then came Pakistan. To a degree their performances mirrored those of the West Indies: easily accounted for in the first test, bouncing back in the second and then finally succumbing in the third. But while Pakistan has the ability to take it up to any team, they are, and have been for some time, their own worst enemy. The calamity that was Sydney has been followed by selection woes, a dropped catch that cost the paltry sum of 209 runs and run-outs where one batsman seems to be oblivious that running between wickets actually involves another person.
Alas, it will end tomorrow and Pakistan will have the abysmal record of having lost 13 consecutive test matches against the aussies; their last win coming way back in Sydney in December 1995.
For the Australians, it’s back to their winning ways. With only a year to the next Ashes series, necessity demanded that they not dwell in their Ashes misery, instead simply getting on with the task of playing good test cricket. And that they have done. The six tests have shown that the batting is solid with each of the top 5 scoring centuries throughout the summer and the bowling stocks, while not world beating, are more than capable. The biggest selection dilemma thrown up by the two series appears to be that of the number six spot in the batting order, with Marcus North not quite cementing his spot after bursting onto the scene in last year’s Ashes.
So where does this leave us? No doubt in a better position than what we thought we’d be in at the start of the summer. With the West Indies and Pakistan both being entertaining and competitive, if not consistent, the summer has been saved from what at one stage looked liked being an absolute disaster. As a result test cricket has been in the news, by and large, for the right reasons.
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