Sport Cricket How the wheels fell off a golden summer of cricket

How the wheels fell off a golden summer of cricket

Brad Hogg was one of the main offenders in the field.
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It seems after a long summer of glory, a Twenty20 tournament in Bangladesh was simply too much for Australia’s road-weary cricketers to find motivation for.

Whether players had their minds on the long break, which looms after the World T20, or one eye on the big pay packet that will arrive with next month’s Indian Premier League, their focus certainly didn’t appear to be on securing the last remaining trophy that’s eluded Australia.

From their opening match against Pakistan to their shambolic defeat to India, which put an exclamation point on their dismal tournament, Australia have been well below their best in every facet for the past fortnight.

Captain George Bailey has admitted as much throughout the tournament.

Australia’s fielding, normally the truest barometer when gauging their mindset, was as sloppy as it has been in recent memory.

It cost them victory in the opening clash with Pakistan, with Brad Hogg’s outfield drop early in Umar Akmal’s innings allowing the devastating batsman to craft a match-winning knock.

Hogg wasn’t alone in dropping catches, or fumbling ground balls, but his had the most significant impact on the result.

Against the West Indies, it was the death bowling of James Faulkner, Doug Bollinger and, in particular, Mitchell Starc which saw Australia let victory slip through their fingers.

And of course the most embarrassing loss of the three, to India, was characterised by a series of rash shots that suggested the players already had one foot on the plane home.

In the wake of the West Indies defeat, Bailey said Australia had been unsatisfactory across all three disciplines – batting, bowling and fielding.

He said the team directive after that loss was to focus on three areas to improve their batting with a view to preventing the collapses which had haunted their opening two defeats.

“Our shot selection, our match awareness, our game sense, all that stuff that we’d spoken about in the last game that we weren’t particularly happy with,” he said.

“We asked for improvement (in those areas), but we certainly didn’t have that.”

Bailey was guilty of one of the most wasteful strokes, a lazy slog to midwicket, as he threw his wicket away.

But he wasn’t alone – the experienced group of David Warner, Glenn Maxwell, Brad Hodge and Shane Watson would all be shaking their heads if forced to watch replays of their dismissals against India.

Perhaps the explanation is as simple as accepting that after playing non-stop since the Champions Trophy prior to the Ashes in England last June, Australia’s players had run out of gas and are in desperate need of a rest.

They have a break on the horizon, with no cricket to be played until a three-game one-day series against Zimbabwe in June, but not before their final group match against the similarly winless Bangladesh on Tuesday.

On form, neither team truly deserves favouritism.