It is not ridiculous to suggest that is has been a tumultuous period for the Australian cricket community.
Even before the tragic passing of Phillip Hughes, there was the fallout over the Pakistan tour and the ongoing debate over whether Michael Clarke’s hamstrings were actually attached to his body. Australia came into the current test series with India with an unending list of questions about the current and future make-up of the test team.
But across what was an astonishing test and an astounding fifth day, several lessons were revealed for us.
Lesson the first: the King is dead.
After an inspirational return to test cricket, Clarke tore his right hamstring in the field on day five. This was after recently tearing his left hamstring and damaging his back on day one. After the game Clarke announced that he was unlikely to take any part in this series, and may never play again. Australia will likely look to Haddin for the rest of this series, but a decision will need to be made about the long term leadership of the team. Suggestions have included Haddin, Ryan Harris, George Bailey, David Warner and Steve Smith.
Steve Smith seems the most logical answer in the long term – Harris is always a risk to finish his career suddenly, Bailey is not in the first XI in any form of the game at the moment, and Warner is, well, a bit of a loveable prick. Smith has performed admirably captaining Australia A (sorry, New South Wales) and whichever Big Bash team it is that he plays for. He is likely to be around the national team for many years to come.
There may be concerns that Smith needs more international experience and Australia may opt for Haddin to captain through to the end of the Ashes in 2015 with Smith as his deputy before Smith takes over from next summer.
For reasons beyond my comprehension, Lyon’s place as Australia’s premier spinner had been in doubt for some time. ‘Questions’ were being asked about Lyon’s ability to bowl Australia to victory (arguments that basically consist of “Warnie used to do it”).
What Lyon did across the entire test was inspirational to balding finger spinners everywhere. Lyon used a mixture of bounce, flight and old-fashioned hard work to single-handedly drag Australia to victory yesterday afternoon. He did it contending with the exceptional batting of Kholi and umpiring so rigid Edmund Burke was worried it was too conservative. But Lyon persevered, finishing with seven wickets on the final day and twelve for the match – or equal to the number of wickets the entire Indian bowling outfit took.
It seems for at least the rest of this summer, or until we all get concerned that he’s still not Warnie, we can all bask in the glory that is the existence of a world class spinner as part of our bowling attack.
Lesson the third: Australia’s bowling attack is settled, but it doesn’t include Siddle
It’s impossible to not love Peter Siddle. He has been the perfect foil for Mitchell Johnson and Ryan Harris and a gutsy performer over several years. But there has been pressure from Josh Hazlewood for his spot, and in the Pakistan series, and the first test here, he made next to no impression on the top order bats of the opposition. He has looked steady, but with Marsh and Watson providing depth in the ‘holding up an end’ stakes, it seems inevitable that Hazlewood will take his place in Brisbane.
Lesson the fourth: India’s bowling attack means they can’t win the series
The closeness of yesterday’s result hides the fact that outside of a brief moment at the end of day one and of course day five, India were substantially outplayed across this test match. Across the match Australia was 12 for 807. And if it wasn’t for some generous gifting of wickets on the first and fourth afternoon, it might’ve been even worse. India’s bowlers were all profligate, and lacked either a consistent line or length, or in Sharma’s case, looked completely unthreatening. India’s bowlers may perform better on more lively decks such as Brisbane and Melbourne but they lack the ability to build any consistent pressure on Australia’s batsmen.
Indeed, India needed rain, two declarations, twin centuries of utter brilliance from Kholi, a deliberately slow over rate and some incredibly helpful umpiring to get as close as they did to victory.
It may be that the fifth lesson that we will take away from this game was that this is as good as this summer can get.