Some of us (and based on our numbers from Google Analytics, it wasn’t many of us) have spent the past few weeks gorging ourselves on the KFC Big Bash. And yet, barely had we recovered from that marathon effort of chicken-eating, cricket-watching and Steve-Smith-baiting, when we realised it was time for dessert, in the form of two international T20 games between the resurgent Aussies and the whatever-the-opposite-of-resurgent-is Indians.
For various reasons, T20 cricket in Australia is a couple of years behind the rest of the world. In the format’s early days it was treated as little more than an excuse to get drunk in the sun (in a country that really doesn’t need any more excuses). No-one was all that bothered about the result, it was just a chance to muck about and try and hit the ball out of the Etihad Stadium. Of course, only one person ever managed it, as recorded in this harrowing documentary piece, following Ricky Ponting as he completes his community service by helping a bunch of young offenders pick up litter from the stadium:
Nowadays, T20 is big business down under, hence more than 120,000 people attending these two games. Presumably the opportunity to see David Warner before he transcends the human form and rises up to rule over mankind as some sort of ethereal deity was too good to turn down. Or maybe there’s just nothing to do in Sydney and Melbourne in the evening.
To the delight of the Channel 9 commentators, who took international onanism to new heights, David Warner teed off in spectacular fashion, hitting his first boundary with a switch-hit slog thing that flew over long-off, presumably carried on the wings of angels. He didn’t add too many more though, caught at deep extra cover for 25, sparking a holy war between the believers and non-believers in the crowd. Whilst nobody was killed, Prime Minister Julia Gillard did lose a shoe.
Back on the pitch, it was Matthew Wade who starred for what was essentially a Big Bash select XI. Wade’s 72 from 43 balls was a fine innings that might prove to be a significant nail in the coffin of Brad Haddin’s international career. Assisted by David Hussey (42) it led Australia to a more than competitive total of 171/4.
In reply, India were their usual shambles. One of the downsides of T20 cricket is that the result can be decided in just a few overs of the second innings, and that proved the case here. India lost four wickets in the first seven overs of their reply and never looked remotely capable of turning it around, finishing on 140/6. MS Dhoni made 48* from 43 balls but it was something of a lone hand. Pick of the bowlers was David Hussey (2/4 from 2 overs), although Brad Hogg, returning to international cricket for the first time since the famous ‘Invincibles’ tour of 1948, was neat and tidy, finishing with 1/21 from his four overs.
And so to Friday night in the MCG, where more than 62,000 people saw India finally win an away match, after several hundred attempts dating back to Tudor times in early 16th-century England. Australia batted first again, but this time simply fell apart after David Warner went cheaply. Four run-outs in the innings said it all: India were much sharper than they have been all summer, while the Aussie batsmen were falling over themselves to get out, presumably so that they could go and learn at the Great Man’s feet in the dressing room.
Aaron Finch and Matthew Wade were the only batsmen to get in, but both were run out in the thirties. David Hussey made a scratchy 24 from 29 balls and succeeded in running out both Finch and the captain George Bailey. India used seven different bowlers, mixing things up to good effect, with Ravindra Jadeja perhaps the pick (1/16 from three overs).
Australia’s total of 131 was very gettable, and so it proved, India chasing it down easily. Gautam Gambhir played the anchor role (56* from 60 balls) and the rest worked around him. Brad Hogg showed he’d been paying attention to the Test series, picking up Sehwag with a full toss, but it was otherwise a stroll for the tourists.
And there we are. Much as T20 is seen as the financial saviour of cricket, we actually quite like these short series. Only having two games mean they both count and everybody has to come out of the blocks firing. Compared to any number of tedious seven-match ODI series, it’s a breath of fresh air.