Last time out we commented on how utterly disinterested both the public and the host broadcaster were with the Commonwealth Bank series. Clearly the prospect of yet more meaningless ODI cricket isn’t a particularly appealing one, with Channel Nine prepared to take the hit on sales of David Warner Powerhouse lithographs by shunting some games to a digital only channel.
Just to do some basic maths, fifteen games of a hundred overs gives us 1,500 overs of potential ‘action’. The entire KFC Big Bash T20 competition consisted of 41 games of 40 overs, or a fairly similar 1,640 overs. And yet we criticised the latter tournament for going on far too long. (Amongst other things – we also criticised it for having loads of old blokes, not very good foreign players and for allowing Steve Smith to captain one of the absurdly named teams. You can reminisce about our Big Bash adventure here.)
A fair comparison? Probably not. But it’s hard to argue with the view that the sheer quantity of cricket is completely detrimental to the overall product. Crowds haven’t been great and the imminent arrival of the rugby season isn’t going to help. Which is a shame, because the small crowds have witnessed some very good games this week.
We’ve been quite critical of MS Dhoni at various points over the past few months but he produced one of the great composed innings to see India home in this one. Chasing 270 to win, India were indebted to Gautam Gambhir for doing the legwork, his 92 from 111 balls breaking the back of the chase, and to Clint McKay for an absolutely shocking final over. With India needing 12 from the last four deliveries McKay managed to get hit for a massive six, followed up by a high full toss no-ball (three more runs) and a rubbish slower ball bouncer (three more again). Job done for MS Dhoni, who finished on 44*, with only one boundary.
Earlier in the day, Australia racked up 269/8, an innings built around 66 from debutant Peter Forrest and 72 from David Hussey. David Warner made a powerhouse 18 before being involved in what’s a fairly common occurrence for Australia – a run out with both batsmen ending up at the same end – while Ricky Ponting’s poor series continued, making just 6.
The next game, also at the Adelaide Oval, produced an even tighter finish with MS Dhoni again India’s hero. Batting first Sri Lanka spluttered to 236/9 from their 50 overs, with Dinesh Chandimal (81) the only batsman to truly get going. Vinay Kumar was the pick of the bowlers with 3/46 although R Ashwin was again tidy (2/30 from his ten overs).
In reply India mercifully got the hundred hundreds nonsense out of the way early on, Tendulkar departing for just 15. Kohli and Rohit Sharma quickly followed and India started to look a bit edgy. Luckily for them Gambhir again held everything together, making 91 before being run out by Dhoni in slightly suspicious fashion.
Entering the final over, India needed nine runs for the win, with only two wickets in hand. Sri Lanka managed one run-out to dismiss Vinay Kumar but botched another chance to dismiss Dhoni, who then scrambled three from the final ball to seal the tie. We thought there might be a super over to determine the result, but Channel Nine weren’t prepared to delay A Current Affair so the points had to be shared.
The final game of the week was marred by the weather, but certainly wasn’t marred by a hilariously inept performance from Australia. Having won the toss and chosen to bat the hosts collapsed like a series of badly stacked gin bottles. There was the obligatory run-out (with Matt Wade the beneficiary) and plenty of poor shots, such as David Warner’s powerhouse lobbing of the ball to mid on. The rain brought some respite before David Hussey cobbled together a quickfire 58 to at least give his bowlers something to work with.
Chasing 152 from 41 overs, Sri Lanka simply strolled to victory. Mahela Jayawardene made 61* and the whole thing was done and dusted with 17 overs to spare. To add to the humiliation, Sri Lanka even got a bonus point, presumably for not delaying that night’s episode of A Current Affair.
It certainly wasn’t a glowing reminder of the captaincy skills of Ricky Ponting. With Michael Clarke injured, Cricket Australia spent the week working themselves up into a tizzy about who should captain the side. With David Warner (the nominated vice-captain) too busy concentrating on making a horrible mess of ODI cricket, they eventually settled on Ponting, although not before a fair bit of debate around recalling Brad Haddin from his forty days and forty nights in the wilderness.
At the halfway point of the group stage, things have finally started to get a bit interesting. With all three sides within three points of one another there should actually be some games that matter over the next few days. Whether anyone will actually bother to watch them is another matter altogether. Either way, we’ll be back next week with our views.
If you‘ve been affected by any of the issues raised in this article, (such as being addicted to buying expensive cricket memorabilia from Channel Nine or being replaced as an international wicketkeeper because you can’t catch) we’d like to hear from you – contact details are on the right hand side of the page.