Monday, November 14, 2011

The Australian Collapse: Has It Been Worse?

It was the early hours of the morning when I was tuned into the forever reliable text commentary for the South Africa vs Australia test match. Fresh off (what I thought then) a career defining 151 from Michael Clarke, I witnessed the (what I thought then) underrated Shane Watson produce a record breaking five wicket haul and a typical South African choke. At 96 all out at nearly 2am in the morning, sleep took quick preference over this supposedly dead test match.
But alas!
In the car on the way to work, and the good folk on talk-back radio were going bananas the next morning. I remember distinctly thinking that 96 all out is a bad effort, but nothing to be flipping upside-down about, what’s all this excited chatter? Then I realized they weren’t even talking about them, the king of chokers were out choked themselves. Repeat after me, 47 all out, Australia. Forty Seven. All Out.
No? Try this one for size, 9 for 21. Nine Australian wickets, 21 runs. Hasn’t quite sunk in yet? Me neither. The most ridiculous result since these two teams produced the 438 run chase.
The first thoughts for everyone were how can a team as good as Australia be quite so abysmal.
  • Was it the pitch? Nope, as Amla and Smith showed us with glee.
  • Was it the pressure? Not with a huge first innings lead.
  • Was it amazing bowling? It was solid at best, but no demolition job.
Excuses nil, it was just bad batting. Exceptionally and inexplicably bad batting. The question I put to you dear reader is, has it ever been this bad? Has a test team of this quality ever been ripped away in such a manner? The Cricket Musings aims to find out (at least for the last decade or so), along with a grading of possible excuses.
Case 1: India Fail. New Zealand Epic Fail
India were the laughing stock of the world after Shane Bond finished them off the in first test of this series. A series famous for is green tops that made Daryll Tuffey and Andre Adams menacing (!), things were no better as India slumped to a pathetic 99 all out after another inept display. But the real laugh arrived when New Zealand themselves were blown away for 94 all out, three innings in one day. Too bad that India couldn’t capitalize and gave New Zealand a poor 160 as the successfully chased down fourth innings target, but it was nonetheless a harsh lesson for a team only slightly worse than the tourists.
Pitch Quality: D
Bowling Quality: B
Stupidity: B

Case 2: Australia Squander 107
Having already crashed India’s party at home by bowling them out for 104 with a 2:0 lead in the series, Australia were left to chase 107 after a manic Indian third innings saw Laxman and Tendulkar manage important 50s and Michael Clarke take bowling figures of 6 for 9. Michael Clarke successes are a bad omen it seems, as Australia were bundled out for 93 on what was a dodgy Mumbai minefield. When was the last time Bhajji ran through a line-up? This was probably it.
Pitch Quality: D
Bowling Quality: B
Stupidity: B

Case 3: West Indies Destroy England
It was a rare and beautiful thing to see the Ambrose and Walsh machine fire on both cylinders, and when it does happen only devastation is left in its wake. England were the unfortunate victims this time, forget the entirely achievable target of 194 because when you get the greatest fast bowling partnership of our generation, almost nothing is achievable. Given the bowling quality, it seems a miracle they even got to 46.
Pitch Quality: B
Bowling Quality: A+
Stupiditynot applicable
Don't even bother turning around son. © PA Photos
Case 4: West Indies Destroy England – Deja Vu
Fast forward fifteen years later and we have a strong English unit and a generally woeful West Indies. The poms were looking to wipe away the first innings lead the West Indies had, a measly 73 runs. Too bad then that they didn’t even get that far, as Jerome Taylor in a career one-off performance, smashed England to bits as they succumbed to 51 all out. Those old skeletons of 1994 were back in their glory. England recovered and this wasn’t the defining turning point for West Indies cricket, but what a great piece of nostalgia it was.
Pitch Quality: B
Bowling Quality: A
Stupiditynot applicable
Case 5: The Adelaide Ashes Choke
Not so long ago England were fodder, and this match was ample proof of it. Having met Australia eye to eye in this important 2nd test, England were faced with one day to play out the draw. They met an inspired Shane Warne instead who helped demolish them for 129 all out in 73 overs of truly aimless batting giving the Australians a target of 168, accepted with glee at more than 5 runs an over. It set the tone for a famous 5-0 whitewash, the most damaging thing being that one of the Glenn McGrath predictions actually came true.
Pitch Quality: A
Bowling Quality: A
Stupidity: A
Case 6: The Fawad Alam Debut From Hell
Poor Fawad Alam. Ignored by the selectors now, he produced a classy 168 on debut and that too in Colombo. With no Murali around Pakistan were cruising along at 285-2 with a nice healthy lead and their sights on a fourth innings target touching the 300 mark. Wrong, chaos ensued.
2-285 (Younis Khan, 78.1 ov)3-294 (Mohammad Yousuf, 81.2 ov),4-303 (Misbah-ul-Haq, 86.5 ov),
5-303 (Fawad Alam, 87.2 ov)6-306 (Kamran Akmal, 88.3 ov)7-312 (Shoaib Malik, 89.2 ov),
8-316 (Abdur Rauf, 90.2 ov),9-319 (Umar Gul, 95.4 ov)10-320 (Saeed Ajmal, 96.4 ov)

It all started with Younis Khan attempting and failing a dumb reverse sweep. Sri Lanka knocked off the eventual target of 171, losing nine wickets for 35 in a true definition of losing the plot.
Pitch Quality: B
Bowling Quality: C
Stupidity: A
How about that sprinting career then? © AFP
Case 7: Pakistan’s 50s… In The Same Match
Arguably the worst performance by a batting team in test match history. Pakistan needn’t have bothered turning up as they registered their lowest score in test history, folding for 59 all out. Not content with that, they lowered their own mark in the same match with a second innings response of 53 all out. The match was over in two days, and in the wise words of Steve Waugh ”You expect to have to fight a bit harder than that to win a Test match”.
Pitch Quality: B
Bowling Quality: A
Stupidity: A+
The bottom line: Australia, you were not alone. Rest a little easier.
Contributed by : Varun Prasad
Varun’s blog : The Cricket Musings

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