The ICC Super
Series concept has been a hit with TV viewers here and abroad, but after the 3-0
shellacking in the ODI series in Melbourne, the concept badly needs a
competitive game in Super Test, which began in Sydney this morning.

As ICC chief executive Malcolm Speed warned this week that for the
concept to be repeated there needed to a dominant team in both forms of
the game (like Australia) to make the logistics feasible, but also a
World team up to the challenge. So if the World team fails to
give the Aussies a decent run for the generous prize money on offer,
this could well be the death of the concept.

When the ICC appointed South Africa’s Graeme Smith as
captain for this one-off Test, he couldn’t have realised just how much
of a poisoned chalice the Test threatens to become if his team of
champions don’t offer some decent competition.

Justin Langer reckons its time the World XI gave the
excuses a rest, after Melbourne, and actually set about proving whether they’re a
better team than Australia. But given this
game is being played on a Sydney pitch some three months in advance of its usual Test
schedule, some
of the world’s best players – like Brian Lara and Jacques Kallis – have been caught out of
season, while the Aussies have barely paused since the Ashes.
In scheduling the first six-day Test since New Zealand played
England in 1977-78, the Test played on a spin-friendly SCG wicket
offers cricket fans the mouth-watering prospect of a spinners’ clinic.
What could be better than watching a quartet of the world’s best, including
the historic convergence of the two greatest wicket takers in Test
cricket, bowling against the two best teams in the world.

Ricky Ponting won his fourth straight toss of the series and
batted, with Brad Hodge named Australia’s 12th man and Shaun Pollock to
carry the drinks for the World XI. And any negative thoughts for
Smith’s team were immediately erased when Steve Harmison cleaned up
Langer for a duck with only the third ball of the match. But Australia
has since progressed to 2/82 at lunch after an even first session.

Peter Fray

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