A high-scoring shootout looms when Australia begin their three-match T20 series in South Africa on Friday.
When it comes to international cricket, a lot of people ignore the fact that you’re not going to win every game you play, no matter how good you are.
People forget that there is going to be a day where you don’t turn up and put on a dismal performance.
But most importantly, people forget that there is another side to cricket – losing.
And this concept cannot be stressed any further when it comes to Australia’s performance against Zimbabwe.
Let’s be honest here. Only one team turned up to the Harare Sports Club on Sunday to put on a performance, to play with heart and soul and with the desire to win. That team was Zimbabwe.
Australia were just simply outplayed in all aspects of the game by a team who were better on the day, and by a team who wanted it more than Australia did.
However, in saying that, Australia should definitely not be written off immediately.
Australia’s selectors so far this tour have been heavily criticised for the all-out pace attack they’ve fielded during the last two matches against South Africa and Zimbabwe.
The criticism has been further exemplified after Steve Smith was left out of the side, instead of one of the many pace-bowling all-rounders Australia have in the team, in order for captain Michael Clarke to return while Mitchell Johnson was also rested.
To be far to those critics, both decisions were probably the wrong ones.
It should’ve been James Faulkner to make way for Clarke and Johnson should not have been rested. Johnson has shown that even on the driest of pitches (Adelaide Oval – 7/40 versus England), his shear raw pace is precious. Unlike the other left-armed Mitchell in the side, he has been able to find that consistent control that had been lacking for so long in his earlier days.
Steve Smith has shown in recent times that he does have a so-called golden arm and that his part-time leg breaks have been able to draw crucial breakthroughs at times when Australia have needed it most. And after seeing Michael Clarke producing a couple of gems in his one-over spell, Australia’s selectors may rue the fact that a spinner turning it away from the right hander could’ve and probably would’ve made a huge difference.
In saying that, Australia must not dwell on this performance. They need to quickly regroup and focus on their next match versus South Africa, which will act as a mini decider as Australia must win that match in order to qualify for the final.
Additionally, people need to consider two things when it comes to the team that has come to Harare.
Firstly, Australia are without Shane Watson, David Warner, Shaun Marsh, Clint McKay, James Pattinson and Ryan Harris, while Michael Clarke is not 100 per cent fit. They are not at full strength.
Secondly, despite Australia having batsmen who are capable against spin, none of them (other than Michael Clarke) have proven themselves capable on raging turners. The reason is that Australian batsmen have never been developed or trained to play on raging turners due to the fast-paced and bouncy nature of pitches back at home.
Pitches for the World Cup next year will be almost mirror opposites of the pitch that was produced at the Harare Sports Club, which will certainly suit fast-bowlers more than spin-bowlers.
In addition to the second point, Australia are never going to field a complete bowling attack of spin bowlers. Their strengths have always been fast and pace bowling, and it was no surprise that Australia had three frontline bowlers as well as Ben Cutting on Sunday.
Captain Michael Clarke lamented Australia’s performance as “terrible” and quite frankly it was. You can even throw in some other words such as embarrassing, humiliating, shocking and maybe even diabolical. But that’s as far as it should go.
This loss does not justify writing off Australia as World Cup favourites. It does not prove that they are a bad side, they are still a number one team contender and should definitely still be considered World Cup favourites.
Australia need to show on Tuesday against South Africa that Sunday’s performance was indeed a one-off, a fluke and that they are the team to beat come February next year.