Sport

Abject Aussies continue their slump

By Antoinette Muller 9 June 2013

The defending Champions Trophy title-holders got their campaign off to a horrible start as they lost to England by 48 runs on Saturday in Birmingham. Australian skipper George Bailey said the result quite possibly “flattered” them and that it should have been a much bigger defeat. England looked a changed team with their bowlers in near-perfect touch. ANTOINETTE MULLER reports from Edgbaston.

It’s going to be a long summer of watching England and Australia play each other in all formats of the game, and talk of the mental advantage and momentum is probably premature, but if Australia’s performance on Saturday is anything to go by, it’s going to be a season of humiliation for the visitors.

Despite flickers of promise, the lights went out on any Australian promise  as soon as Michael Clarke was ruled out of the contest, and the defending champions looked less than a shadow of their once Goliath selves.  They now have to go back to the drawing board to try to assess just how they’re going to make it look like they’re not incapable of functioning without their former greats.

Instead of being given homework assignments, perhaps it would be more fitting to give every Australian player a shirt with “can’t bat, can’t field, can’t bowl” printed on it, if for no other reason than to serve as a constant reminder of just how poor they were.

England, meanwhile, will take far more positives out of the match, and while they did stutter and stumble more than they should have, they looked much more contained than in their recently-concluded series against New Zealand.

They continued to be self-assured in their timid approach and it was Jonathan Trott and Ian Bell’s meekness for their 111 off 22 overs on a reasonably batsmen-friendly wicket which set them up, taking them to 168-2 when Trott met his end.

Joe Root and Eoin Morgan couldn’t contribute much, but Bell continued on his merry way while the rest of the side had apparently started to bat like lambs to the slaughter. Ravi Bopara added an unbeaten 46 off  37 as England crawled to 269-6 in their 50 overs.

Save for stand-in skipper George’s Bailey’s effort of 55 off 69 and James Faulkner hitting an unbeaten 54 off 67 at the end, the rest of the Australian batsmen looked lost at sea, much like their continent.

Bailey had nothing but praise for the vastly improved English unit, particularly their ability to get the ball to reverse early on.

“It was good skill that,” Bailey mused with a wry smile.

“What I sort of felt like it went from swinging conventionally to swinging reverse within an over or two.  No doubt they’ve worked on it a little bit.  We saw they bowled some cross seams and maybe bowling a little bit of spin early plays a part in that as well. Once they started reversing they could hit a good length throughout the entire innings.”

Bailey is no stranger to captaining; he’s skippered Australia in four ODIs and 16 T20s. He’s no veteran, but he should be used to fledging questions from the press by now, yet he was stumped when asked about whether the batsmen lacked confidence.

“Well, that’s a hard one to answer because I can’t speak for everyone personally, but it certainly looked like we were stuck a little bit in between,” he said after a lengthy pause.

“Do we challenge them and try to take something and maybe make something happen, or do we just wait for them to bowl bad balls? And England I don’t think bowled many bad balls today. I’m trying to think of a drive that we missed, or they started reversing the balls.  So you tend to think we’ll get a couple on the ball or we’ll get a cut if they go the other way, but there wasn’t much.  I think they were very, very disciplined, and it made it hard for us,” Bailey added.

Not getting any sort of significant partnerships going cost Australia massively and a large part of that was down to England’s bowling. It was disciplined and precise and even Tim Bresnan looked a different shade of sublime. Shane Watson and David Warner were shackled from their natural game, unable to dispatch anything with freedom and ferocity.

If there was a positive for the Australians, it was probably Faulkner’s contribution. His showing with the bat was backed up by picking up two wickets, and although he’s played just nine international matches in total, Faulkner is looking like a solid prospect for the Australians, but they won’t be getting carried away. They’ll still be swearing over Clarke’s fitness, whose progress has been described as slow, and they face a tough encounter against a feisty New Zealand side on Wednesday.

England, meanwhile, can take heart from how mightily improved they looked. Even if their batting still needs some tweaking, if their bowlers can replicate the kind of near-perfect execution from Saturday, it should be smooth sailing into the semi-finals.

Result summary:

England 269/6 (50 ov)

Australia 221/9 (50.0 ov)

England won by 48 runs DM

Photo: Australia’s Mitchell Johnson just survives a run out attempt by England’s Jos Buttler (R) during the ICC Champions Trophy group A match at Edgbaston cricket ground in Birmingham June 8, 2013. REUTERS/Philip Brown

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