While I might have a few days before summer dress code is officially over, and I need to start wearing a suit to work again, the Australian International summer of cricket is over. We had one more match than was expected, with Sri Lanka winning the first match of the One Day final series, but last Tuesday, the summer ended as it began, with Australia sweeping all aside.
This summers’ conquests included the Rest of the World, the West Indies, Sri Lanka and South Africa. Not that this summer was any different from recent summers. Since the summer of 1999-2000, Australia has lost just two out of 44 Tests at home. But what did it all mean this summer? This summer saw the axe fall with a frequency that took me back to the French Revolution. Has Australia solved it’s middle order frailty? Are there some bowlers to replace Warne and McGrath? Despite the successes this summer, I don’t think we are any the wiser.
With a tough Test series looming in South Africa, Australia may have to face life after McGrath now. With his good wife suffering another relapse, it would not surprise me if McGrath decides to retire now. His time must be near anyway and it would be very understandable if he were to choose to leave now, even if it meant finishing on rather ordinary form. After all, some things in life are more important than cricket.
If McGrath is unavailable for this Test series, I feel the selectors must fall back on the faithful. In looking forward to the future, there is no need to turn your back all of the senior players. New players need to be blooded as a minority. Aside from balance, if we look at the Pura Milk cup bowling performances, who do we see at the top:
M W Ave Best 5WI SR ER
MS Kasprowicz 7 273.1 51 896 39 22.97 8-44 2 – 42.0 3.28 QLD
AJ Bichel 8 310.5 70 992 39 25.43 7-56 2 – 47.8 3.19 QLD
AR Griffith 8 328.3 71 1080 38 28.42 5-79 2 – 51.8 3.28 TAS
BR Dorey 6 250.3 54 735 32 22.96 7-86 1 – 46.9 2.93 WA
JN Gillespie 7 270 81 625 31 20.16 7-35 2 – 52.2 2.31 SOA
Goodness me. Kasper, Bichel and Gillespie would all be in consideration. I would tend towards Gillespie simply because he is only 30. The other balancing consideration is that Bichel and Kasper played half of their matches on the sporting Gabba pitch.
We are in more trouble with spinners. MacGill, the automatic 2IC for Warne, has not had a good season:
SCG MacGill 6 183.5 16 793 13 61.00 4-111 – – 84.8 4.31 NSW
On the positive side, Gilchrist seems to be back. Ponting has been as sensational as ever. Brett Lee has improved out of sight. But the highlight for me is Hussey. What a cricketer that guy is. To remind you, he has played six Tests and has three centuries and averages 80.00. After 32 one day matches and 902 runs, his average is 100.22. And he is no conservative Michael Bevan – Hussey is striking at 99.77 runs per 100 balls. His footwork is perfect and his timing exceptional. Some of his innings were astounding – his 88 not out in Christchurch was the highlight for me – 88 from 56 with 7 fours and 5 sixes. As Hussey went berserk in the final few overs, it truly seemed like he just could not get out. And he’s a brilliant athlete and fielder.
And it has been a summer for catches! I recall the old classic catches format – the ten best catches of the summer. The lucky viewer who put them in order won a trip for two, flying Plummet Airlines. I think I still have on a VHF tape a segment from Nine’s Wide World of Sports, where they featured a decade of classic catches. It’s on the same tape as my favourite Young Ones episode, a Dire Straits concert and various Video Hits including Bon Jovi – so I guess that puts it about mid-eighties.
Then as the collective concentration span of society decreased, a competition that ran for the whole of summer just didn’t make the marketers happy. So we had mini classic catches all through summer. The best three catches from each Test or a few one day matches. That tended to lower the standard – most Tests don’t see three noteworthy catches.
What I noticed about this summer is that most times, all three catches were excellent. We saw some screamers: Bravo’s caught and bowled, Hussey’s running lunge, Gillie’s grab down the leg side but the best was saved for last. The final final saw three pearlers in the Sri Lankan innings. Aside from two brilliant efforts from Andrew Symonds, Ricky Ponting’s catch is probably the best I have ever seen. It was truly remarkable. Better than Dyson.
The summer might be over in Australia but remember, as long as the willow is taming the leather somewhere, it is always summer.