Free admission was offered for the last day at Adelaide Oval, which was fitting, given the life support of predicted storms failed to materialise, so India were left to fall to their doom of a clean-sweep series loss. Their tail showed the same intent as they had all series, and within an hour, Michael Clarke and the Australian’s were celebrating a 4-0 series whitewash, courtesy of a 298 run victory. So what made the Australian side so good, and what can be improved?
Let’s start with the batsmen. Michael Clarke had a series that test batsmen only dream about – a triple hundred and a double hundred. After coming into the series with question marks about his form – at one stage Peter Siddle had out-scored him five out of the previous seven innings coming into Sydney, he stamped his authority as a batsmen and a leader. His form was assisted by the return to form of Ricky Ponting. Again, many questions were asked of his form, but half-centuries in Melbourne, the drought breaking hundred in Sydney and finally, redemption in Adelaide with 221. Mike Hussey was another under pressure, and after a howler in the first innings in the Boxing Day test, he fought well in the second innings to make 89, to fashion Australia a score, that ultimately won them the game. An unbeaten 150 in Sydney has secured his spot in the short term, but he will be the senior batsmen first dropped when push comes to shove down the track.
David Warner is an excitement machine who exploded with his 180 in Perth. His fielding is worth 20 runs an innings, his catching outstanding. He is a long term test cricketer, and has been mentioned as a future test leader. Consistency will be his key in the coming series. The other plank of the opening partnership, Ed Cowan was rewarded for being a solid first class run-scorer, and batted accordingly. He is well organised, knows his game and role in the side. Two half centuries in a series dominated by the new ball was a good return. Will definitely go to the West Indies for the next tour and probably still partner Warner.
The two problem children in the top 7 were Shaun Marsh and Brad Haddin. Marsh struggled, and looked nothing like the player who made a hundred on debut five months ago. 17 runs in six bats sounds like the Indian tail, not the man holding down the most important spot in the order. Will need to go back to Shield cricket and dominate, or he will be out of the side. Keeper Haddin, has struggled for runs, and did not deliver at all in this series. His keeping was patchy, highlighted by the drop of Ghambir in Sydney. If Tim Paine was fit, Haddin would have been dropped earlier in the year. If Matthew Wade has a strong finish to the Shield season, Haddin could find himself on the outer.
The bowling unit was Australia’s winning edge. Peter Siddle was a deserved man of the match in this test, with his five wicket haul a deserved reward for his efforts. His spell before stumps on day two in Melbourne, where he bowled Dravid (from a no-ball), but then bowled Tendulkar 10 balls before stumps swung the series. His leadership of the bowling group was outstanding. His club opening bowling partner James Pattinson was the find of the summer. Fast, aggressive, and ability to swing the ball is a great package. The sooner he gets fit, the better for the side. His injury opened the door for Ryan Harris, who proved that when fit, is the best fast bowler in the country. His opening spell in Perth was outstanding, and ended up only being scored off from eight balls, during his 15 over effort. Mitchell Starc came in to the side in Perth, and showed the promise the selectors want to see. In one spell on day two, where he snared Ghambir and Tendulkar, was high quality. Will be a long term test player when the chance comes his way.
Possibly the best selection for the summer was Ben Hilfenhaus. Dropped after an abysmal Ashes series, he went back and reinvented himself as a genuine swing bowler and seemed to pick up wickets at will. His ability to frighten the tail, by either bouncing them out or swinging the ball at 145kph, was outstanding. Bowled long spells when the need arose, his 5-75 in Melbourne, was his first test five for, which was followed up with five more in Sydney. Will fight to stay in the side with all bowlers fit, but has made an irresistible case this series to be picked. Twelve months ago, Nathan Lyon was starting his first class career. The Indians took to him with relish in Melbourne and Sydney, which saw him left out of the side for Perth. He bounced back in Adelaide, and was reward with the wickets of Laxman, Sehwag and Tendulkar, as part of a match haul of five wickets. Will be the Australian spinner until someone like Cameron Boyce from Queensland is ready to take the next step.
Finally, the shake-up that came from the Argus report after the Ashes series was the real instigator of the change in this side. A new selection panel and the brave appointment of Mickey Arthur as coach, gave the team a springboard to success. If the changes flow through all levels and all states of Australia and every player and administrator buys into the changes, Australia could possibly be plotting a way back to the top of the pile.