As England blew away Australia by six wickets in the fourth ODI between the two sides at Chester-le-Street despite the visitors notching up the highest total ever at the ground, the emotions on Justin Langer’s usually stoic face were clear to see.
Tim Paine’s men had slumped to their 14th defeat in 16 ODI matches as the hosts took a 4-0 lead in the five-match series.
Just days before, the Aussies had been put to the grind at Trent Bridge where they suffered their worst defeat ever in 50-over cricket history as England scored a world-record 481-6. To make matters worse, the visitors sank to their lowest-ever ODI ranking (sixth) since 1984.
Such has been Australia’s woes with white-ball cricket that is easy to forget that they lifted their fifth ICC World Cup trophy three years ago.
Things seemed to be rolling smoothly for some time after their World Cup win as series victories against India and England followed. It is only at the start of last year that the wheels began to fall off Australia’s ODI unit.
The 5-0 thrashing they received at the hands of the South Africans was a precursor of things to come despite subsequent series wins over New Zealand and Pakistan. Now, after their latest defeat at the hands of England at Chester-le-Street, Australia’s win-rate in the format post their World Cup win is a lowly 47 per cent.
For the record, only two teams among the full members have a worse record than them during this period. That only Sri Lanka (31 per cent) and the West Indies (26 per cent) have a worse win-rate than the Aussies tells you all you need to know.
Afghanistan and Bangladesh have performed better than the five-time world champions, which raises questions about Australia’s limited-overs setup.
The alarming decline in Australia’s game is further highlighted by shift in the balance of power with arch-rivals England. In the last 13 ODIs against their Ashes rivals, the Australians have managed to win just two matches. In the preceding 12 ODIs before those set of fixtures, Australia had won 11 times.
This role reversal shows the direction the two teams have taken ahead of the 2019 ICC World Cup. While Eoin Morgan’s England are on their way up and early contenders to capture their maiden world title in front of home fans, Australia are spiraling out of control.
While it is true that Australia turned up in England without their main pace trio of Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood, they weren’t pulling up any trees in the preceding ODI series at their own backyard following their Ashes win. That 4-1 defeat at home came at a time when Steve Smith and David Warner were still the poster boys of Australian cricket.
With less than a year to go for the 2019 World Cup, it is safe to say than new coach Justin Langer has quite a task at hand in trying to reinvigorate the ODI setup. That Smith and Warner will walk straight into the side post the completion of their bans is now a given.
What Langer needs to do now is build a team for the global showpiece where every player is aware of his role in the squad. In all, 42 different players have been selected by Australia in ODIs since the last World Cup. Only Sri Lanka have chopped and changed more often than that and they have been equally abysmal, if not more.
Appointing a permanent captain for the ODI team is the first task for Langer and the Australian selectors. With his current batting woes, Tim Paine does not inspire too much confidence as skipper and unless the Australia think tank are completely assured of Paine growing into his role, they would be better served to look elsewhere.
When Langer took over the coaching role post the ball-tampering scandal in South Africa, he spoke about wanting to change Australia’s dressing room culture as he sought to write a new chapter for the world champions. What he needs to do more urgently is repair Australia’s ODI unit, for the World Cup clock is ticking fast.
“Judicial Commissioner, Michael Beloff, has dismissed Dinesh Chandimal’s appeal after the Sri Lanka captain was found guilty of changing the condition of the ball during the second day’s play in the second Test against the Windies in St Lucia on Saturday,” the ICC said in a statement.
That means Sri Lanka will need a new captain for the match. According to the Sri Lankan board, veteran spinner Rangana Hertah has split the webbing on his right hand and is doubtful for the match. He was supposed to lead the side if Chandimal was unavailable.
Unless Herath miraculously recovers before toss in the day-night Barbados Test on Saturday, pacer Suranga Lakmal will captain the team.
The unheralded Lakmal will be ninth player to lead Sri Lanka across formats since 2013. Angelo Mathews, Rangana Herath, Dinesh Chandimal, Upul Tharanga, Lahiru Thirimanne, Chamara Kapugedera, Lasith Malinga, Thisara Perera have captained the Lions at various stages in the three formats.
In fact last year, Sri Lanka had seven different captains in all three formats.
India ‘A’ began their campaign in the 50-over tri-series in England on a losing note after going down by seven wickets to the Engliand Lions on Friday.
Coached by Rahul Dravid, the Indians started their tour of England with two warm-up victories over an ECB XI and Leicestershire.
However, their batting, which had flourished in the two warm-up games, let them down at Derby on Friday in the opening game of the tri-series which also involves the West Indies ‘A’ team.
India ‘A’ skipper Shreyas Iyer won the toss and elected to bat first against the England Lions but his side could only muster 232 in 46.3 overs.
India’s opening pair of Prithvi Shaw and Mayank Agarwal had put up a 221-run stand against Leicestershire but were unable to repeat that performance on Friday. Shaw was the first to fall for just seven before Agarwal departed for 23.
Thereafter, the middle-order of Shubman Gill, Iyer and Rishabh Pant tried to give the innings some momentum but failed to get going despite getting starts.
Pant top-scored for the Indians with a 55-ball 64 which included two sixes and seven boundaries.
Pacer Tom Helm and spinner Liam Dawson accounted for seven Indian wickets with the latter finishing with figures of 4-30 from his 10 overs.
In reply, despite Shardul Thakur removing opener Tom Kohler-Cadmore fairly early, England Lions romped to a comfortable win on the back of a splendid unbeaten ton (128) from Nick Gubbins.
The hosts reached the target with ease inside 42 overs to start their campaign with an impressive win. Thakur was the most successful bowler for the visitors with 2-30 from his seven overs.
The India ‘A’ side will now take on the West Indies in their next match of the tri-series which takes place on Monday at Leicester.