The Indian ocean will be churned by conflicting and contrasting currents today. To the right, in Perth, Australia will be in a desperate battle to reclaim some credibility. England will want to keep their foot on the collective Aussie throat. To the left, South Africa and India will be fighting for the heavyweight championship of cricket in Centurion.
Make no mistake. Australia was thrashed in Adelaide.
The batting lacked conviction. The bowling lacked focus and the fielding was fragile. The captaincy was muddled and the overall application had the strength of a wet sponge. To turn this abject performance around would require the heroics of Headingley in 1981 and Eden Gardens Kolkata in 2001.
Australia has figured in some of the greatest Test matches ever played. We have just passed the 50th anniversary of the Brisbane tied test. England are still feasting on Botham’s’ and Willis’s heroics 30 years on. India’s famous win in Adelaide 2003 saw Australia lose from an unloseable position.
Today, in Perth, they have to win from what seems an unwinnable position.
Do they have the stomach for the fight? Do they have the keenness of eye that can effect a run-out or take a blinding catch. In Adelaide Johnson dropped Strauss and Doherty missed a run-out of Pietersen. This was costly.
In 2003 in Adelaide, Dravid was dropped on 9 by Gilchrist and then reprieved by Ponting when he was 20.
In times of crisis, it is best to evaluate your strengths.
Australia will know the conditions better. Ecept for Hughes,who has played only 7,the other four,Watson,Ponting,Clarke and Hussey have a combined total of 296 Tests.
England’s top four have 224. Ponting and Hussey both average over 50 and Clarke averages 48. Pitersen at 49.34 is nominally a 50’s average player and Trott is averaging 60. Australia on paper just edge England in the batting figures.
England have only won once in 11 attempts at the WACA. Australia on the other hand have only lost on 9 occasions of the 39 played there. Ponting is the highest run scorer in Tests at the WACA and Johnson had his best match figures( 11 for 159) at this ground.
These two hold the key to Australia’s fortunes.
Every innings Ponting plays from here on in will be scrutinised as never before. At 37( will be on the 19th of December) his age does not give him the luxury of failure. If Ponting is to survive, he must firstly do so as a batsman. He has to bat like he has never batted before.
He obviously cannot do it alone. Watson, Hughes, Clarke and Hussey all have to come to the party.
Clarke’s 80 in Adelaide stamped him as a batsman of exceptional class. But there is a fragility about him that sees him dismissed when set. If Clarke is to take the next two or three steps to greatness then he must start in Perth. Hussey is an old school fighter but like Ponting his advancing years demand he continues to excel.
This Test match will be won on the back of strong performances from the thirty somethings. Smith and Hughes are the future and anything of substance from them will be a welcome bonus.
Australia’s use of the new ball will be critical.
And the slips catching will have to be as good or better than England’s. Clarke and Watson have both dropped catches behind the wicket. Hussey has grassed a difficult one. Australia cannot afford to fall down in this fundamental aspect of cricket.
Finally we come to the enigma that is Mitchell Johnson. This man is a seriously good cricketer. But he has been woeful the last eighteen months. He has more tests than any of the other Aussie bowlers. And more test wickets.
He has to be the leader of the attack here. Not the first change bowler. I hope Ponting impresses this on him.
Dennis Lillee anointed Johnson as the next great thing and as president of the WACA he will have a word of encouragement for him. If that does not inspire our Mitch then nothing will.
If Australia go with four quicks, then they should consider bowling first.
So far in this series the team batting first has struggled. And if Perth is quicker than Brisbane and Adelaide then it makes sense to put the opposition in. England may well win the toss and bat first.
One way or the other, Perth will herald a new dawn in Australian cricket. Win and the decline will be halted. This, the selectors have decreed, is our best side. In that case win, lose or draw, this same 12 should be kept for Sydney and Melbourne.