Sunday, 4 December 2011

Improved Australia? Or a declining New Zealand?

Australia has comprehensively won the first test match against New Zealand by 9 wickets on the 4th day needing just 19 runs to win in the 2nd innings. Both the teams have a new look with plenty of young and inexperienced players with Australia entirely different from what it was 3-4 years back. Players like Lyon, Starc, Pattinson, Warner were the new faces in the Australia team. New Zealand also boasts a young look. With the talk about the recent Australian decline, Australia has come up with decent performances including a drawn series against South Africa and this test win against New Zealand. But does this test win signifies an Australian improvement or is it just that New Zealand was just not enough?

Past 3 year record- While talking about improvements and declines lets look at both the team's past 3 year test record.  In the last 3 years Australia has played 34 tests out of which it has won 16 and lost 12. They have mainly lost against England and India while having a 50-50 record with South Africa.These 3 are the teams that have improved considerably in this period.Still they have won more matches than they have lost. Then why this fuss about Australia being a team in decline? Maybe thats because comparisons are being made with the Australian record of the 1990's and early 2000's which would obviously show Australia as a "weak" team. New Zealand on the other hand has played 20 tests out which they have won only 3 and lost 9. So it is clear what kind of a state New Zealand is in. India which has been highly rated in this period have played 33 tests winning 15 and losing 7 with a win % of 45 compared to Australia's 47. This suggests that though Australia have declined if compared with the Australia of the last decade but overall they have been average neither too good nor too bad.

Australia vs New Zealand 1st test- If this test match is to go by, Australia played average cricket. They restricted New Zealand to 295 which was a good job done by bowlers but still they were largely found wanting when Vettori took back the attack on them. New Zealand were disappointing, if Vettori was n't there, probably they would have folded for about 150 which they did in the 2nd innings. Australia scored 427 in the first innings aminly due to Ponting, Clarke and Haddin. The new batting faces did not do much. While chasing down 19 runs Australia lost a wicket which was in stark contrast to the professionalism showed by the Australia of previous times. Australian batsmen played rash shots in both the innings. New Zealand was sloppy as usual and were just not upto the mark.Only when they had picked up 7 wickets with Aussies leading by just 50 runs did they look like a challenging them. So maybe New Zealand were just not enough for Aussies. Australia otherwise were not so good. A good team would have made life tough for Australia. Only Australia's bowlers were somewhat good even though they are yet to find a good spinner. Well its pretty early to talk about Lyon but still till the time he does n't anything noticeable we can assume Aus have not found a good spinner.

Final Verdict- I think Australia have not improved much. They are playing average cricket for the past 3 years winning sometimes losing the other times. The uncertainty displayed by them in the past month where in one match they got out for 47 while chasing down 300+ scored in another match, Australia was just so unpredictable. While the black caps are largely a poor team who have players who perform occasionally and independently and never together. Leaving Vettori no player is consistent. So Australia have not improved. They are rebuilding and are still what they were a year back. Also New Zealand have not changed much since last 3 years. They too are what they were a year back. Its just that New Zealand was neither enough for Australia 5 years back nor they are now. Australia's victory is largely Australia's average performing youngsters being better than than the Kiwi youngsters. So lets just not talk about an Australian improvement until they win against England or win in the sub-continent.

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