Australian cricket has entered bizarro world

TheRev Roar Rookie

By , TheRev is a Roar Rookie

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    The Australian cricket team defeated Bangladesh at Chittagong last week to tie the two-Test series after losing the first match in Dhaka.

    The loss brought perhaps unwarranted heavy criticism to a team that had come off a winter in which they spent most of their time fighting with their employers and a single warm-up game in Darwin (I’ve checked, its not in Bangladesh) where the most dominant bowler, Jon Holland, was not even selected for the Test series.

    Given Australia’s inability to win in Asia in recent history, the win in the second Test was particularly startling and uncharacteristic. While craft beer does not a hipster make, could we be on the verge of a new era for the Australian team? Let’s look at some of the factors.

    Spotty faces
    The Australian team that won in Chittagong was largely very young, particularly when compared to Australian sides of the past. Matt Renshaw, Ashton Agar, Pat Cummins, Hilton Cartwright and Peter Handscomb are all so young they had to show their ID to get into the ground.

    Even the senior players of the team aren’t that old. Captain Steve Smith is only 28, this year’s leading wicket-taker (Nathan Lyon) and Matt Wade are 29, and David Warner is 30.

    If you compare this to the Dad’s Army squad that Australia was fielding when its great era came to an end, this suggests that Australia may be on the verge of a new era that could go on for some time.

    A full stable
    Usman Khawaja was dropped for the Second Test with the selectors opting for a ‘horses for courses’ policy, with Usman being dropped seemingly because he is far better at holding umbrellas than cricket bats in Asia.

    Australia also went into the game with three spinners, five if you count Glenn Maxwell and Smith, and only one seam bowler. This is a dramatic change from the meat and three veg approach of years gone by that saw Stuart MacGill only play 44 Tests despite taking over 200 wickets in a ten-year period.

    That Australia is able to change its team dramatically and win shows a type of dynamism that millennials so attractive and older generations so wary.

    Ashton Agar vs Bangladesh

    Australia’s Ashton Agar (AP Photo/A.M. Ahad)

    The only horse that wasn’t present in Bangladesh was a workhorse, a fast bowler who would perform hari-kari by sending down a million or so overs in ridiculous heat and humidity.

    This role was so often a regular part of an Australian touring side to Asia in the past, but the only seam bowler at Chittagong was Pat Cummins, who was previously notable for breaking down after bowling one complete over in the mild sun.

    Does this new approach mean a death to the likes of fan favourites such as Ben Hilfenhaus, Mick Kasprowicz and Peter Siddle? Judging by the bowling performance of Hilton Cartwright, the answer is a resounding ‘no’.

    Ka-wait

    Dave Warner hit back-to-back centuries in the Test series, changing his customary ‘see ball, hit ball’ approach to something a lot more patient, scoring his 123 runs in the first over of the Second Test off 234 balls.

    Warner now has 20 Test centuries and 5,700 Test Runs and could go on to become one of Australia’s great openers, as well as being one of the country’s great appreciators of OLED TV.

    In an off spin
    Since the retirement of Shane Warne, the Australian team tried a new spinner almost as often as they changed their underwear, which probably says more about their hygiene than anything.

    Nathan Lyon was given a go when the selectors finally ran out of ideas and picked the groundsman from the Adelaide Oval. Lyon has repaid that faith in heavy rollers, taking 269 Test wickets and bowling smartly in Bangladesh to be the leading wicket taker for both sides.

    Lyon’s success is a real credit to him and his perseverance, particularly as he did not come from within ‘the system’ and has been widely criticised in the past for not being Shane Warne. While he does barely Tweet at all, he did bowl Australia to victory and can take wickets cheaply in Asia, something Australia hasn’t had since the pre-Warne days.

    nathan-lyon-cricket-australia-2017

    Nathan Lyon (AP Photo/Aijaz Rahi)

    Keeping time
    If there is any concern in the Australian squad, it would have to focus on the wicket keeping position. Australia only took one ‘keeper to Bangladesh, but Matt Wade’s performance in the first Test was so poor that the selectors considered dropping him for Handscomb.

    While Australia now has the option of swapping spinners like Agar for seamers like Mitch Starc, Josh Hazlewood and James Pattinson, as well as the option of bringing in batsmen better suited for Australian decks, but the ‘keeping position is still very uncertain.

    Wade replaced Peter Nevill, who replaced Wade, as he could score more runs – but he hasn’t. Nevill was good enough to get smashed in the face by a flying cricket bat, ruling him out of games last summer and keeping Wade in the side.

    The Kookaburra sticker has since been removed from Nevill’s nasal cavity and he should be right to play again, meaning a better ‘keeper is available.

    Aside from Nevill, South Australian wicket-keeper Alex Carey took a zillion dismissals in last season’s Sheffield Shield and has improved with the bat, giving the selectors an even younger option – reducing the post-match bar budget but certainly increasing the baby-sitting one

    The Ashes is almost here, and we want to know who YOU think should line up for Australia against England in the first Test.
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