It is the end of an era. After an international career full of resounding successes, Matt Wade has finally been promoted to the number six position his all-round credentials surely deserve. There will be much sadness on show in Sydney, as the twenty odd Australians who make it to the ground wave goodbye not only to their Test summer, but also to the prospect of any runs at all coming from number seven. That sadness will soon become unmitigated delerium as they watch their side absolutely wallop Sri Lanka again and complete the least entertaining whitewash in the history of Test cricket.
Australia (still) have all sorts of problems going into 2013 as a whole, but they could start this game with three players and still back themselves to win. Shane Watson’s New Year’s resolution to “get injured a bit less” actually failed before the year even began, so he misses out and is replaced by Mitchell Starc, meaning Usman Khawaja’s mum will have to wait a little longer to watch him add to his list of pretty 20’s at the highest level. Starc’s inclusion means, in a display of courage, leadership and determination in a dead-rubber, Mike Hussey has decided to grace his final appearance by moving up the order. Michael Clarke, too, will move up, meaning that for the first (and last) time, Mitchell Johnson is down to bat in the top seven.
Not that any of it matters, as the hosts’ bowling will deal with Sri Lanka’s batsmen regardless. Australia picked about a billion seamers in 2012, and they start 2013 by shoehorning them into every nook and cranny in their starting XI for Sydney. Johnson, Starc, Peter Siddle and Jackson Munro Bird have won this week’s tombola and will play at the SCG, meaning there is still no sequel to last year’s smash-hit “John Hastings Takes On Test Cricket”; an epic adventure where some fat bloke off the street takes a wrong turn on his way to the local saloon and ends up opening the bowling for Australia at the WACA.
There is something about injury crises, whereby they only seem to hit teams who were comically inept to begin with. Like a final flourish to a great caricature, transforming it from mildly amusing to downright hilarious. Great sides never end Test matches with “retired hurt” having bagged a hatful in the final innings, nor do they spend downtime between games desperately scanning the local paper for available wicket-keepers. Well, Sri Lanka are not a great side, unless by “great” you, in fact, meant “shit”. In which case they are.
Their dressing room currently resembles the Somme, with bodies scattered everywhere and those who still possess the ability to walk hastily trying to plot an escape route. At the last count, at least three of the side from Melbourne will not play in Sydney, while Shaminda Eranga is now also a doubt thanks to a severe case of “oh bollocks to this”, which affected his new ball partner, Chanaka Welegedera, at the MCG. The one tiny speck of positivity is that everyone else being crippled gives Dinesh Chandimal another chance; a chance he should have been given months ago, yes, but it’s better late than never. He is one of the few of their younger generation we are genuinely excited about, so he’ll almost certainly bag a pair and never be seen again. He may also have to keep wicket, purely because he’s seen a pair of gloves before and there isn’t anybody else.
In his obituary of Tony Greig, Simon Wilde (a real, proper journalist) spoke of a quote where someone asked Greig if England missed him after he left to go and join the Packer fun and games in Australia. He replied “You don’t miss good players if you’re playing against second XI’s”. Far be it from us to be controversial, but said quote applies to Australia as well. They will win this game, and it will teach us absolutely nothing about either team. Sri Lanka weren’t even good in the first game when they actually had some players, now their decimated side will be lambs to the slaughter in the final Test.
We’ll be bringing that unique brand of positivity and excitement to the @51allout Twitter feed during this game. Don’t forget to tune in, folks!