Aus­tralia re­gain con­fi­dence for Pak­istan se­ries

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

Lack­ing con­text, sus­pense and crowd en­thu­si­asm, the Chap­pell-Hadlee se­ries be­tween Aus­tralia and New Zealand may not have gen­er­ated the re­turns pro­jected by its com­merce-minded or­gan­is­ers.

The home side, how­ever, en­joyed a wind­fall of con­fi­dence from the 3-0 se­ries win which cap­tain Steven Smith hopes will be banked for the tests against Pak­istan start­ing this week in Bris­bane.

Scarcely 20,000 fans turned up to the Mel­bourne Cricket Ground on Fri­day to watch the fi­nale against New Zealand, a year af­ter more than 90,000 packed the sta­dium for the World Cup fi­nal be­tween the same teams.

With New Zealand’s bats­men skit­tled for 147 in 36.1 overs, Aus­tralia won by 117 runs, bring­ing an unloved tour­na­ment jammed be­tween two test se­ries to a pre­ma­ture con­clu­sion. For­mer play­ers and pun­dits have long be­moaned the pro­lif­er­a­tion of one-day tour­na­ments that jam up the international cal­en­dar and tend to of­fer lit­tle more than brag­ging rights to the win­ning team and rev­enues to the host­ing cricket board.

The International Cricket Coun­cil is weigh­ing pro­pos­als to in­ject rel­e­vance to the for­mat, in­clud­ing mak­ing bi­lat­eral se­ries serve as qual­i­fiers for the qua­dren­nial World Cup. “There’s been a few pro­pos­als that have come up and you want as much rel­e­vance for ev­ery se­ries as pos­si­ble,” Smith told re­porters af­ter the Mel­bourne win.

Aus­tralia en­joy the top rank­ing in one-day cricket but se­lec­tors have of­ten been loath to field their strong­est teams. They sent an un­der­strength squad to South Africa, rest­ing frontline pace­men Mitchell Starc and Josh Ha­zle­wood, who were duly ham­mered 5-0. Lo­cal me­dia blamed the white­wash in South Africa in part for the hum­bling 2-1 test se­ries loss at home to the Proteas. The South Africa one-day tour­na­ment was an­other that lacked any mean­ing­ful con­text, but Proteas cap­tain Faf du Plessis said his side’s vic­tory gave them an edge ahead of the highly an­tic­i­pated test se­ries. Smith will hope for the same spur against Pak­istan, who they play in the first day-night test at the Gabba from Thurs­day. “Ob­vi­ously it’s go­ing to be dif­fer­ent in Bris­bane against the pink ball and against a qual­ity op­po­si­tion like Pak­istan, so we’ll have to be at our best if we want to score some runs at there,” he said. “It’s been a great se­ries for us and great for our con­fi­dence as well. “Win­ning is a lot bet­ter than los­ing and it be­comes a bit of a habit as well. Hope­fully we can keep up this habit for the rest of the sum­mer.”

Since be­ing hu­mil­i­ated in Ho­bart to lose the South Africa test se­ries with a game to spare, Smith’s side have bounced back with four straight wins, in­clud­ing the dead rub­ber test in Ade­laide with a re-jigged side.

While in-form opener David Warner was man-of-the-se­ries with two cen­turies against New Zealand, the re­turn to form of pace spear­head Mitchell Starc is omi­nous for Pak­istan. The lef­t­armer was in full flight at the MCG, cap­tur­ing three wick­ets and two with a pair of al­most un­playable in­swing­ing york­ers. “I think he’s got bet­ter with ev­ery game he’s played (and) I think he’s get­ting back to his best,” said Smith. “When he’s (bowl­ing york­ers) we know he’s go­ing pretty well, so hope­fully we can see a big se­ries against Pak­istan.” —Reuters

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