Thursday, April 12, 2007

Australia's 5th bowler riddle

They say that 'catches win matches', but on the whole it is bowlers who make the difference. If, as a captain, you have bowlers who are able to either keep a cap on the flow of runs, or is able to take wickets, or ideally, both, then you are better placed then the captain who does not. And this is especially true in World Cup cricket. You need to have at least two solid match-winners and plentiful backup.

In 1999, Australia had McGrath and Warne, with Reifell, Moody and Fleming providing sound support. In 2003, Australia had McGrath and Lee, with support from Bichel, Gillespie and Hogg. In 2007, Australia has McGrath and Tait, with Bracken and Hogg in support. One name less, you'll notice.

It worries me that Australia is playing with just four frontline bowlers. Since Watson's injury, Ponting has put his faith in Clarke and Symonds to do the job, but in this sort of competition, they will be exposed and given some hammer. That is what happened to them in the England game. It is something that just puts that little bit of extra pressure on the four frontline bowlers.

They've coped well enough so far, to be honest. The basic stats (McGrath 15 wickets @ 14, Hogg 12 @ 18, Bracken 10 @ 16 and Tait 11 @ 22) comprise a 'beautiful set of numbers'. But that has been against some modest opposition. Australia have only played against three of the senior eight nations, and two of them (England and West Indies) were never regarded as serious rivals to win the World Cup. The one side that is a serious rival, South Africa, scored almost 300.

Australia play Ireland tonight, in a game that I hope provides us with an easy win, but not too easy. I would like to see our bowlers have a serious dip at wiping the Irish out as quickly as possible in response to a score north of 350. After that, things get much harder, with the Sri Lankans and New Zealanders being the last games before a sudden-death semi finals.

My concern is that after not performing to the optimum with four bowlers in the last super-8 games, either Stuart Clark or Mitchell Johnson is brought into the side 'cold' for a sudden death semi-final. That is possible. Clarke and Symonds went for 67 in their ten overs in the England game, and McGrath went for 62 off 9.5. That is fine, because the other bowlers were able to keep things tight. Against Sri Lanka and New Zealand, the other frontline bowlers might also go for plenty as well, and this might force Ponting's hand to bring in the 5th seamer. And while I am sure that whoever that is will jump at the opportunity, you don't want someone having their first run of the tournament in the semi-final stages.

After all, with the batting power at Australia's disposal, with all of the first three batsmen in pretty good form, there's not going to be a lot of work to do for the #7 batsman. Hodge does make a good designated fielder, but I would just prefer to have a geniune seaming option.

(Crossposted from Sportsman's Journal)

1 comment:

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