At their peak, Australia could pull off the most improbable of chases. But to expect the current Aussie side to score 254 in 29.1 overs was more than a miracle by Indian standards. Thus, it was not surprising to see the Aussies falter against Sri Lanka at Cardiff and bow out of the tournament, which they have won the last two times. They just haven’t looked the champion side they have been over the last two decades. A bit of bad luck and some unwanted off field happenings did not help their cause either.
Above all, batting was the biggest bane of Australia as they made an effort to defend their Champions Trophy crown. They were chasing 270 against England, but faltered to finish at 221. Even in the abandoned tie against New Zealand, they managed to put up only 243 on the board. Under the circumstances, they had little chance of putting it across Sri Lanka especially after the Lankans put up and challenging total and the Aussies had to get them in double quick time to stand to qualify for the final four. Once they lost quick wickets at the top, the chase was finished.
The absence of the injured Michael Clarke in the batting order hurt them big time. His presence makes a big difference to the side, and it clearly showed in their batting performance, or the lack of it. With Clarke ruled out, Australia need some of their seniors in the batting line-up to stand up and deliver. Instead, opener David Warner got involved in a bar brawl following Australia’s loss to England. Warner had made only nine in the match in question, and although he apologised for his misdemeanour, the sticklers for discipline that the Aussies are, Warner was not part of the next two matches.
Shane Watson, the other experienced opener, was another big disappointment in the event. He managed unacceptable scores of 24, 5 and 5 in a series where a lot more was expected of him. Warner’s axing also affected Australia’s settled opening combination. They tried out Matthew Wade against New Zealand and Phillip Hughes against Sri Lanka neither of which worked out in the team’s favour. Stand in skipper George Bailey got fighting half-centuries in the first two games, but his run out against the Lankans, where he literally dozed off, was an indication that even he had given up hope.
Australia did have a few bright moments with the bat. Adam Voges played a secure knock against the Kiwis and looked good against Lanka as well. Batting at different position, Glenn Maxwell flourished briefly. Lower down the order, James Faulkner even got a half-century in one of the games, but the batting effort never came together as a team. The bowlers did a better job, but they were also guilty of allowing the opponents to get away after putting them under pressure. They needed to restrict the Lankans. But, the failure to do so brought down the curtains for them.
--By A Cricket Analyst