Monday, August 13, 2012

Rankings expose Clarke’s task

News this week that Australia have fallen off the top of the ICC one-day international rankings for the first time in three years proves just how difficult a challenge Michael Clarke has to reverse his squad’s fortunes.

Clarke, who has played over 200 ODIs for Australia, has seen his team slide to fourth in the rankings after two poor series touring the West Indies and England. It proves just how competitive the rankings are, and how quickly a dominant force can lose their top spot.

In March, Australia could only force a 2-2 series draw with West Indies and had to pull out all the stops in their last match to avoid a series loss. They had Ben Hilfenhaus to thank for finally taking Darren Sammy late on after the West Indian threatened a late surge with a decent 84 as ninth man.

But touring to the UK has proven a disastrous spell for Clarke, with a humbling 4-0 series defeat at the hands of old rivals England exposing clear weaknesses in the side. They were always outsiders in the Australia cricket betting, given England’s recent resurgence, but the manner of the defeat was the main worry.

Openers Shane Watson and David Warner did their best at times, but were also guilty of letting early wickets upset the lower orders.

Disarray in the squad was exposed with a weak innings collapse in the final match: Peter Forrest run out, Matthew Wade stumped and even Clarke taken away in the space of just 10 balls.

Clarke should also examine his own form when solving the problems of Australia’s recent demise. A respectable 61 at Lord’s in the first ODI failed to rear its head again, with a forgettable 10 at the Oval and that single run on the last day.

Punters down under who bet on cricket are worried, with ODIs against West Indies and Sri Lanka to come. Australia must improve their fortunes soon if they are to challenge England and South Africa for top spot again.

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