If we have learned anything from Australia‘s two World Cup warm-up losses, it’s that net bowlers around the sub-continent will be lining up to spin one through the seemingly brittle Aussie batsman.
While the business end of the tournament is over a month away, Australia’s batting collapses against South Africa and India this week is a worrying sign for the tournament ahead.
Even more concerning is the way Australia’s batsman have crumbled in the face of the turning ball on a dusty track in Bangalore.
While captain Ricky Ponting and his deputy Michael Clarke found form against South Africa on Tuesday night, the pair both fell to the subtle left-arm spin of Robin Peterson and sparked a dramatic collapse.
Peterson, who has a one-day international average over 50, and uncapped leggie Imran Tahir claimed four wickets between them as Australia fell from a comfortable 2-128 to be all out for 217.
The loss to South Africa came just days after India’s spinners had ripped through the Aussies, claiming the last nine wickets of the match for just 58 runs as the locals claimed an unlikely victory.
World Cup winner in 1999, Damien Fleming admitted Australia’s inability to cope with the turning ball was concerning.
“I am a little bit worried about our (Australia’s) middle order against spin,” he said.
“If the Aussies are going to win, their middle order is going to start against spin and they’re going to have to score quickly against spin.”
Mark Waugh agreed, saying the loss of the injured Mike Hussey left a massive hole in Australia’s batting line-up.
“The worry was the middle order against spin bowling was a bit shaky so we have to fix that up,” Waugh said.
“We play well under pressure and we have some experienced players there, but the subcontinent is going to be different, we are going to have to play a different brand of cricket.
“Mike Hussey is such a big loss, he’s our best player in the middle order.”
While the Aussies won’t face India or South Africa again until the knockout stage of the competition, they will face their fair share of quality spin bowlers in the group stage.
Sri Lanka pair Muttiah Muralidaran and Ajantha Mendis plus New Zealand captain Daniel Vettori are amongst the best spinners in the world, while Pakistan trio Abdur Rehman, Mohammad Hafeez and Shahid Afridi will also pose problems on the sub-continental pitches they know so well.
It’s the dusty tracks that has made Ponting aware that the test facing his batsmen is a tricky one.
“There’s no doubt the spinners are going to play a part in this tournament,” Ponting said after the loss to India.
“We were disappointing. We should have played better than we did in those conditions.
“We know that as the tournament goes on we could get pitches that are going to turn like that in the second innings so we have to find ways to win matches in tough conditions like that.”
Based on the evidence in the warm-up matches, it doesn’t look like Ponting has the weapons at his disposal to exploit the turning conditions in a similar fashion.
Jason Krejza, who was Australia’s third-choice Cup spinner behind Nathan Hauritz and Xavier Doherty, has had a tough start to the tour.
The off-spinner has the aggregate figures of 1-102 from 20 overs in the two trial matches, while part-timer David Hussey took 2-25 against India on Monday night.
Krejza’s performance in the warm-up games has done nothing to pour cold water on the criticism from former India skipper Sourav Ganguly.
Ganguly, who was dismissed twice by Krejza in spinner’s Test debut three years ago, said Australia’s attack would struggle in the dry conditions.
“Lack of a quality spin bowler is sure to hurt them at some stage,” Ganguly said.
“Jason Krejza is a decent bowler but against quality players of spin bowling, he may struggle.
“Their attack lacks balance.”
by Buford Balony