Australian bowlers spark concern ahead of WC

Published: Monday, February 19, 2007, 23:53 [IST]
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Sydney:Australia's bowlers have been savaged as "toothless and directionless" by their media after another humiliating one-day cricket defeat in the lead-up to next month's World Cup.

Australia's likely World Cup attack could not prevent New Zealand from completing the second-highest run chase in limited-overs history in Auckland Sunday to lose the Chappell-Hadlee Trophy and surrender the number one ranking to South Africa.

The defending World Cup champions failed to defend a ground record 336 for four and were run down by the Kiwis with 337 for five just days after a humiliating first 10-wicket defeat in 646 One-day internationals played across 36 years.

"Australia has lost its unbeatable aura and number one world ranking after its bowlers were pasted to all parts of Auckland's Eden Park," The Australian newspaper said Monday.

"South Africa goes into next month's World Cup in the Caribbean as the leading one-day nation."

Of particular concern is the performance of the Australian bowlers, unable to take a New Zealand wicket in Wellington and then relinquishing a seemingly unbeatable record total in Auckland.

"None of Australia's four headline pacemen -- Glenn McGrath, Nathan Bracken, Shaun Tait or Shane Watson -- threatened the Black Caps' batsmen for extended periods, while the spinners, Brad Hogg and Cameron White, were toothless and directionless on a miniscule ground that forgives neither," The Sydney Morning Herald said.

"Of significant concern to Australia's World Cup planners is that, in the past 12 months, the side has conceded the three highest run chases in One-day international history.

"Yesterday's effort by New Zealand slots between the world record 438 Australia conceded to South Africa in Johannesburg, and the 332 compiled by the Black Caps in Christchurch, both last year."

The SMH said in many ways, Sunday's capitulation, which sealed Australia's first four-game losing streak in almost a decade, was more concerning than the 10-wicket loss in Wellington on Friday.

"On that occasion, Australia's inexperienced batsmen were caught out on a seaming wicket by one of the world's premier pacemen, Shane Bond," it said.

"But in Auckland there was no such excuse, as Australia's high-profile bowling attack was plastered across the Eden Park turf by the home side's batsmen."

It was particularly disappointing for stand-in skipper Mike Hussey, who lost his third straight match as Australian captain, having top scored for his side in all three of Australia's record losses.

"We can't afford to panic," said Hussey, standing in for rested Ricky Ponting and vice-captain Adam Gilchrist. "We can't afford to start making wholesale changes or anything like that. We've got to trust our personnel.

"We've got to trust our own games, trust each other, and keep backing each other. I know if we keep working hard, we'll be fine."

The Herald said the most concerning performances from Australia's fast bowlers came from Tait (0-64) and Bracken (2-66).

"Tait's style of bowling was simply not sustainable in the tiny confines of Eden Park, which, concerningly, are reasonably similar to those Australia will encounter in the Caribbean," it said.

"Fine edges raced to the boundary. Mis-hits flew to the fence. It is for this reason that Tait represents an extreme gamble on the part of national selectors for the World Cup."

The Daily Telegraph said not since 1997 has an Australian team lost four straight one-day matches.

"National coach John Buchanan said he was satisfied with the side's build-up to the World Cup. But alarm bells must surely now be ringing after a near full-strength bowling arsenal was ruthlessly torn apart," the newspaper said.


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