Many people, Shane Warne among them, would consider the past year a bad one for Australia. While there was a minor improvement in the team’s Test rankings, minor decline for one-dayers and continued mediocrity for Twenty20 – which on balance suggests a period of performance broadly comparable to the preceding period – Australia’s reputation was undoubtedly hurt by failing in the biggest moments of the year. They were thrashed in a winter one-day series against arch rival England, eliminated in the semi-finals of the World Twenty20 and beaten at home in a long-awaited Test series against South Africa – even though in the latter they were in the ascendancy until the last of the three Tests. It was also a bad year in terms of the retirement of much-admired stalwarts Ricky Ponting and Mike Hussey. But amid all that disappointment, there were also reasons – albeit smaller ones – for supporters to look back with satisfaction. Here are 10 of the best:
1. Michael Clarke: 259* – 1st Test v SAf at Brisbane.
Great players, it is said, set the tone for a series by excelling in the first match. Clarke did exactly that in Brisbane, but rain ruined the chance for Australia to be rewarded for their dominance. Rather than be daunted by performing so brilliantly in the previous home summer the captain thrived on it, batting to the same high standard.
2. Matthew Wade: 106 & 4, 1 dismissal – 3rd Test v WI at Dominica.
Wade’s ability to both grind and plunder was reinforced in this innings. His uncertainty against spin meant he scored only 22 runs from his first 83 deliveries, but a fumbled return catch triggered a move into a gear few wicketkeeper-batsmen have. After reaching his half-century from 109 balls, he needed only another 34 to reach his century, the only one scored by an Australian in the three-match series.
3. Peter Siddle: 5-54 off 25.3 & 4-50 off 26.o – 1st Test v SL at Hobart.
Having contentiously been left out of the preceding Test, due to near exhaustion and a sore hamstring after a mighty bowling effort against South Africa, Siddle bowled like someone who would have – had he been fit – made a huge difference in the series decider against the Proteas. He was remarkably economical throughout his many spells against Sri Lanka by giving the batsmen no width and consistently being threatening.
4. Michael Clarke: 230 – 2nd Test v SAf at Adelaide.
That Clarke was on the cusp of passing 500 runs in the series against South Africa without being dismissed was a tribute to his remarkable form. While Adelaide is typically the best batting surface in Australia, that did not diminish the captain’s achievement of bringing up a second successive double century. The only disappointment about it, like in the previous Test at Brisbane, was that even with such a superb innings Australia were unable to win.
5. David Warner: 163 off 157b – 1st ODI final v SL at Brisbane.
The late finish to last summer’s one-day tri-series meant it was understandable if many supporters lost focus and interest, but Warner did his utmost to drag attention back on the series. He arrived at the crease very much an unproven one-day player, with an average of 22.5 after 18 matches. He left with an average of a little less than 30, courtesy of a magnificent maiden century. Warner found the boundary on 15 occasions to get Australia’s best-of-three finals off to a great start.
6. Mitch Johnson: 4-63 off 14.o & 2-16 off 8.o, 92* – 2nd Test v SL at Melbourne.
Given Johnson’s impressive comeback Test performance a few weeks earlier in Perth, and his reputation for sometimes struggling for confidence, it would have been understandable if the enigmatic left-armer was rattled by being dropped immediately afterwards. None of that showed, however, when he was given a second opportunity in the Boxing Day Test. The old hostility was there but so, too, was a greater level of reliability with the ball. His batting was so good – he ran out of partners and was left stranded short of a century – the selectors elevated him to an all-rounder in the next match.
7. Clint McKay: 5-28 off 9.5 – 3rd ODI final v SL at Adelaide.
After Sri Lanka successfully chased a target of 272 at the Adelaide Oval two days before, Australia’s total of 231 looked alarmingly skinny. That it proved not to be was primarily because of McKay, who accounted for Mahela Jayawardene and Dinesh Chandimal and then scythed through the tail.
8. David Warner: 119 & 41 – 2nd Test v SAf at Adelaide.
Dashing century. Even a pitch as batsman-friendly as the Adelaide Oval is not an ideal place to be facing a pace attack reputed to be the best in the world. To counter that, even the world’s best pacemen can shudder at having to bowl to Warner in full flight.
9. Ryan Harris: 68* & 4*, 2-83 off 29.o & 3-31 off 8.4 – 1st Test v WI at Barbados.
The 33-year-old is all but forgotten at international level because of his notoriously unreliable body, yet out of the glare of most Australian supporters he produced one of the year’s most impressive performances. The paceman bowled well in both innings in the series opener against the West Indies, snaring a total of five wickets, but his biggest contribution came with the bat. Arriving with his team 7-250, still trailing by 199, the veteran’s unbeaten half-century was pivotal in ensuring the home team got only a token first-innings lead. His role in Australia’s come-from-behind victory cannot be overstated.
10. Ed Cowan: 136 – 1st Test v SAf at Brisbane.
Cowan began the South Africa series as the most marked man in Australian cricket, not just because of his middling form as an opener but because the player he replaced, Phillip Hughes, was thriving at the domestic level and considered a certainty to return sooner or later. Chasing 450, the pressure on Cowan increased when Australia slumped to 3-40 but he responded with an assured and defiant century, one that ended prematurely due to an unlucky run-out.
The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.