It’s all the rage at the moment to hate One Day International cricket. To not just dismiss it, but to actually loathe it as an anachronistic, irrelevant blight on the cricketing landscape. Furthermore, it’s sometimes argued that its continuing existence is a direct threat to the health of Test cricket since the game’s administrators can’t resist the temptation of the filthy lucre typically associated with the format, which then inevitably leads to truncated Test series. We like to consider ourselves on top of the latest fads here at 51allout (we’ve got not one but two Nintendo 3DS’s between us), but this is one opinion we are decidedly cautious about supporting. To be sure, if the ECB offered to drop the upcoming ODI series in favour of two more matches between the world’s top two Test teams, we would bite their hands off. But since they won’t we’re inclined to be philosophical and open minded about the issue. An approach assisted, no doubt, by our copious (some would say dangerous) levels of gin consumption. Besides, any opportunity to appreciate the peerless Steve Smith in action can only be a good thing in our books.
According to the ICC Rankings the current Australian outfit is the world’s best ODI team. You couldn’t tell it by looking at them. With the dumping of Ricky Ponting during the past Australian domestic season, and Michael Hussey’s withdrawal from the tour, it’s a dramatically different team from the one that last toured this part of the world. While the gradual withdrawal of the senior players from the squad has been expected for some time, it’s almost as if change has come too quickly for this Australian side, with the likes of Peter Forrest and George Bailey still finding their feet on the international stage. Still, if the team weren’t prepared to blood new players on tours like these they might as well have just stayed at home and penned tour diaries of the summer past for the lucrative Christmas sales period.
At the top of the order David Warner and Shane Watson are as formidable a pair of opening batsmen to be found in limited overs cricket at the moment (no, really). Beyond them, however, issues begin to appear. David Hussey has emerged as the key wicket in the Australian middle order of late, he averages 42 from 16 innings this calender year, and much will be expected from him, particularly if the openers fail. Otherwise, especially since Michael Clarke tends to get a nose bleed every time his strike rate rises above 100, the emphasis in the middle order is very much on turning over the strike and desperately hoping someone lower down will come in and finish the innings off. With Daniel Christian not making the trip and the possibility of Steve Smith getting a run instead, perhaps that’s not too bad an option after all.
With the ball in hand the Australian focus is primarily on taking quick wickets, rather than stemming the run-rate. Brett Lee, Mitchell Starc and Ben Hilfenhaus will all be expected to consistently take wickets in order to keep their side in the game. The only bowler whose main aim will be to restrict the run-rate is bona fide Ashes legend Xavier Doherty, who was possibly the happiest man in the world on hearing of KP’s limited over retirement. Patrick Cummins’ selection came as a surprise, with the 19 year old presumably there for the experience of touring the UK. We hope he pays better attention than Starc did when showed how to fill out a visa form. The other fringe bowlers are James Pattinson, who will be attempting to usurp Peter Siddle’s record for the most sledges handed out on tour, and Mitchell Johnson and Clint McKay, both of whom Australian supporters will be desperately hoping are not needed at all. Actually that’s a bit unfair on Mitch, who was still ranked the 12th best ODI bowler in the world the last time we bothered to check.
It will be an interesting tour also for the interim Australian bowling coach, Ali de Winter. Since de Winter, who was previously the assistant coach at Tasmania, is largely credited with turning around Hilfenhaus’ career after his horror Ashes series in 2010/11, the consensus seems to be that he must be a miracle worker of some kind. If he can manage to get Mitchell Johnson to land the ball somewhere in the vicinity of the batsman (the one at the striker’s end that is) the majority of the time, they may well be right.
Following a quick bash against Leicestershire that the Australians won, the tour properly opens on Saturday in Dublin against Ireland in a game that has upset written all over it. Australia’s last hit out was against the West Indies in March, where they were only saved from the ignominy of a series loss by Kemar Roach running himself out in an effort that put Allan Donald’s heroics in the 1999 World Cup semi-final to shame. With Ireland not having played together since February, rustiness will be a concern for both sides, but the Irish definitely have the most to play for, and will be hoping for another ICC Full Member scalp to add to their growing collection.
As for the main fare of the tour, it’s hard to look past England who have been performing above (admittedly low) expectations of late and will also have the benefit of local conditions in their favour. It will be very much a learning experience for this Australian outfit and, especially since the press back home have gone out of their way to ignore the series altogether so far, a fair degree of experimentation from the tourists can be expected.
This is the tour when the bubble will burst on Australia’s ICC ranking. They have looked a poor side in the format for some time, desperately trying to rebuild whilst coming to terms with the changes in the modern ODI format. Theoretically having a new ball at each end should favour the Aussie pacemen, but not if they continue their habit of serving up waist high full tosses. Our prediction is a close Ireland win in Dublin (weather permitting of course), a 4-1 massacre to England, and another nation to fall helplessly in love with one Steve Smith.