There’s a pub argument that suggests that it isn’t that other sides are particularly bad, it’s that Australia has become so good. Half of this is true.

Yesterday’s second instalment in the competition to see who will be beaten 2-0 by Australia in the one-day series final was a dismal day at the cricket.

Despite the one-sidedness of the Test series it was only the second truly dire day this summer, after last Tuesday’s England-New Zealand fixture, which except for the closeness of the finish was arguably worse.

When you watch Australia play cricket, you’re not only watching many of the finest talents in the game, you’re watching a highly-trained, highly-athletic team.

You have Andrew Symonds in the field, a handful of players capable of flaying leather from the ball, and bowlers unafraid to bang the ball in short. It’s (usually) exciting to watch.

Yesterday was a reminder of two things: how bad one-day cricket used to be, and how poorly some of the second rung sides are playing just now.

The consolidation hour – the period roughly from overs 20-40 when players nudged the ball around, picking up 4-5 an over and trying not to lose wickets – is what almost killed one-day cricket and has crowds baying for Twenty20.

In Adelaide yesterday and in Hobart we saw two sides unable to last 15 overs without imploding, with the rest of the innings a desperate salvage job. Neither team has match-winners, with both games so far decided by whichever batting line-up is most brittle.

This one-day series isn’t the first Australia has spent merrily planking all comers. In fact, since the ignominious 2001/02 series when they missed the final altogether, the Aussies have lost a total of five summer one-dayers in five seasons.

Apparently, watching weaker teams get absolutely smashed isn’t much of a problem so long as the matches are being played in Australia. Crowds are still decent. TV ratings are not setting the hearts of Channel Nine executives on fire, but people are watching. The problem will be when the World Cup rolls around in March in the Caribbean.

The second and third best one-day sides according to the ICC’s rankings are currently duking it out in a Test series in South Africa. The Kiwis come in next, ahead of Sri Lanka and India. The sub-continental sides are inconsistent, but on a good day competitive.

Unless two or three of these sides step up, for anyone not actually Australian (at least 95% of the expected TV audience) the World Cup is shaping to be about as exciting as a Damien Martyn exclusive.

Peter Fray

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