Following some frank but constructive discussions between our legal team and some scary people from London, there will be no comments about the whereabouts and actions of Noel Edmonds this week.
Finally, after just a month of buildup, this week saw the conclusion of the Commonwealth Bank series as Australia and Sri Lanka went head to head yet again. India were of course already home by now, the players presumably relaxing on lilos, floating around pools filled with hard-earned IPL money.
Incredibly, the home side didn’t even have time after the final game to return home for a single night, instead heading back to their hotel to prepare for a flight to the West Indies at 6am the following morning. There wasn’t even time for quick gin or three. If ever there was an obvious example of too much cricket it’s the sight of the shattered Australian players shambling around the airport, sans injured captain, less than twelve hours after the completion of their fifteenth ODI game of the summer.
It reminds us of a former Radio One DJ trying to find a bed for the night.
Throughout the summer Channel Nine have taken great pleasure in talking about David Warner as if he were some sort of superpowered Bradman/Ealham reincarnation. While this was mainly driven by Nine’s obsessive addiction to hyperbole (‘one of the great delayed telecasts’) it was also based on a rather successful Test summer, in which Warner had joined in with thrashing an utterly disinterested Indian attack, making scores of 37, 5, 8, 8 and 28 away from Perth. This was then followed up by one of the great ODI series as he made a single score above 50 in Australia’s eight matches.
With the gap between the hype and the actual performances being as wide as a Harmison loosener, there was talk of Warner losing his place. Shane Watson was back in the side, as was Michael Clarke. Luckily for Warner, Australia made one of the great decisions, dropping Peter Forrest (two fifties and a hundred in his opening four games) instead.
As decisions go it certainly wasn’t up there with Friday Night With Jonathan Ross beating Deal Or No Deal to the BAFTA for Best Entertainment Performance in 2006.
With the world watching, on delayed telecast in some cases, Warner chose the ideal moment to produce an actual decent ODI innings. He made 163, batting through the entire innings before before being bowled from the final ball. Matt Wade made 64 and Michael Clarke a sprightly 37 as Australia racked up 321/6 from their 50 overs. Lasith Malinga had an absolute shocker, going for more than nine an over. Had he actually bowled all ten (he was mercifully only asked to bowl eight) then Mick Lewis’s legendary figures of 0-113 might well have been under threat.
In reply, Sri Lanka had a horror start, losing wickets regularly and finding themselves 144/6 at the 30 over mark. It seemed like the game was done and dusted. However, the tourists had proved themselves to be like a non-giving-up school guy several times throughout the summer and emphasised it again here.
Nuwan Kulasekera clearly decided that Sri Lanka had to hit their way out of trouble. And hit he did, smashing 73 from 43 balls as the tourists gallantly bashed their way towards their target. Upul Tharanga made 60 and Dhammika Prasad 31* as Australia lost their collective heads and ball met boundary with frightening regularity. At 301/8 Sri Lanka were perhaps even favourites before Shane Watson’s genius tactic of not bowling utter filth eventually proved the difference. The tourists had made it to 306 all out, a remarkable effort that rather overshadowed the fact that Australia actually won the game.
Throughout the summer Australia chopped and changed their side with surprising regularity. While some of this was down to injuries – Pattinson, Lee and Clarke being just three to suffer at various points – there were also a number of poor performances (which were largely masked by India’s rubbishness). Ben Hilfenhaus was a case in point here: having started the summer having not played an ODI since 2009 he suddenly found himself a key part of the attack, at least until the first final. Hilfenhaus’s figures of 0-43 from 4 overs in that first game were so disgusting that he found himself back on drinks duty second time around, replaced by Clint McKay, bowler of one of the worst overs we’ve ever seen at any level of the game earlier in the tournament.
Australia again won the toss, again chose to bat and David Warner again drove the Channel Nine commentary box into wild ecstasy, making a second hundred, albeit at a fairly sedate pace, from 137 balls.
Michael Clarke also made a century, finishing on 117* from 91 balls, but it was clear that Australia had become horribly bogged down in the middle of the innings. Had Sri Lanka not dropped an incredible five catches, a score of 271/6 might have been even lower.
In reply Sri Lanka went mental. Dilshan and Jayawardene set off like Jesse Ryder in search of the pub, with the first powerplay going for 74 runs. When Jayawardene was finally out for 80, there were 179 runs on the board and the game was almost in the bag. Dilshan made 106, Sangakarra 51* and Sri Lanka romped home by eight wickets with nearly six overs to spare. It was, as they say, a beating.
Indeed we haven’t seen anyone stick it to The Man with such force since Noel Edmonds publicly refused to buy a TV licence in 2008.
And so it came down to one final game, as two weary sides, a few thousand intrepid spectators and some hyper-excited commentators returned to the Adelaide Oval. Sri Lanka won the toss and chose to bowl, presumably because they fancied chasing down anything that Australia could set them. For a while it looked like it might be something fairly substantial, as Wade and Warner put on 75 for the first wicket. However, Warner edged behind on 48 and suddenly the floodgates opened. Wickets fell regularly and only some lower-order biffing from Brett Lee (32) dragged Australia (missing injured captain Michael Clarke) to 231.
At the halfway stage only a fool would bet against Sri Lanka. The celebratory gin was already flowing in 51allout Towers. Indeed it flowed a bit too much – we got some on one of the old computers out the back, but luckily it didn’t affect anything important.
And yet there was still another sting in the tail of the series. Brett Lee worked up some genuine pace and hostility and Sri Lanka, for perhaps the first time in the series, froze in the headlights. Batsman after batsman came and went cheaply. When Lahiru Thirimanne fell for 30 Sri Lanka were 113/5. But surely their tenacity would still see them through?
Nuwan Kulasekara played some typically bold shots, finding a couple of boundaries to get Sri Lanka moving again, before playing one shot too many to give Brett Lee his third wicket. Maharoof was the next man in and he and Upul Tharanga took Sri Lanka to 204 before the latter nicked the excellent Shane Watson through to Wade for 71. Herath quickly came and went before Malinga tried to win the game in sixes, with the end result being the loss of his stumps. Sri Lanka were all out for just 215 and Australia had won by 16 runs.
There has been much discussion in Australia over the last few days,
almost none of it around Noel Edmonds’ opposition to wind energy. Several times the question has been asked, ‘was this the best tri-series ever?’. Our answer: dunno. Watching an entire triseries has previously been far beyond us, even when England were involved. It’s only due to the continuing need to write whimsical Noel Edmonds-based weekly reviews that we’ve managed to sit through so many games. Yes there were a number of close finishes and a few special innings but, like a cheap gin, it’ll all be forgotten in a week or two.
Luckily for us, there are only five ODIs and two T20s for Australia to get through in the West Indies, starting in a week. A whole week in which we can relax by doing other stuff,
such as prank-calling Noel Edmonds, writing threatening letters to Endemol and tipping off TV Licensing about some potential offenders we know.