If Mohammad Hafeez’s consistent, spectacular efforts deserved a special mention, so do those of Mr Cricket. However, on this successful tour of Sri Lanka by the Australians, Hussey was certainly not alone in deserving credit.
This was a very important tour for Australia. Some might say that Sri Lanka is hardly a formidable foe, especially without Murali. While there is truth in that, any win on the sub-continent is notable and Sri Lanka has not lost a Test series at home since they were beaten by Australia almost eight years ago (that was the last Australian Test tour of Sri Lanka – isn’t that lamentable?). When you take into consideration that Australian stocks were in free fall, they had not won a Test series in 18 months and that the team was under new management, this was a crucial series.
For his part, Hussey, who lived up to his nickname was man-of-the-match in all three Tests (is that a first – a motm sweep in a three Test series?). He made 95 & 15, 142 (and took 2/2 for the match) and scored 118 & 93 in the final test. Most, if not all of his contributions were very significant.
For the Aussie’s, the next biggest news, and indeed the man grabbing the headlines, was the new captain. Michael Clarke’s first series as captain was a big success. Not only did he lead well, he finished the series with the definitive captains innings, and the series was won. Australia had a lot to lose on the morning of the final day of the series and he hammered an authoritative century.
In an interesting quirk, as Australia bowled 174 overs in Sri Lanka’s first innings, one would normally expect Michael Clarke to bowl a few overs. He didn’t. While Clarke bowled some overs in the first two Tests, the captain never gave him the nod on this occasion. Perhaps the track was just too flat. On the other hand, in an interesting change in dynamic, Ponting was asked to bowl a couple of overs, as he also was in the first test. Prior to these exertions, Ponting’s recent bowling workload was two overs in 2008 and prior to that, two overs in 2006.
Other players to have good series, or at least their moments, included Marsh, Harris, Lyon, Hughes, Siddle and Watson (with the ball). While the batting is taking shape, the bowling is still a concern. Australia can’t keep its best bowlers on the park and the others are a dead set worry. And I’m none too sure which category Johnson is in. It is a fact that he had the worst Australian bowling average by far and was the most expensive of the quicks by a long way.
And finally, with head coach Nielson finally falling on his sword today, I would think it is time for the ex-captain to start spending some more time with the wife, family and new baby. I thought it would have made more sense to make a clear break and retain Khawaja for the third Test. But that’s just me.
While Australia could hardly be called world beaters, this series stemmed the tide. It went along way to installing a credible captain Clarke as well as giving some much needed confidence and experience to the players that will form the core of the rebuild.