| Stuart MacGill shakes hands with Muttiah Muralidharan after dismissing him for a duck at the SCG on Monday. (Reuters)
Sydney: With three days remaining, Glenn McGrath had been looking at three sessions to bowl out the World XI. Actually, Australia didn’t even require three hours (on the fourth day, Monday) to slap a 210-run humiliation on Graeme Smith’s men.
With the first-ever officially sanctioned Super Test, at the SCG, going the way of the three ODIs in Melbourne, there’s every chance that the No.1 ranked team versus a World XI series won’t be slotted again.
The International Cricket Council (ICC) brass had red faces. One assumes even the sponsors, Johnnie Walker, must have been embarrassed by the World XI’s consistently atrocious display.
“It hurts... Be it in the ODIs or the Super Test, our batsmen just didn’t get runs... It’s not that 355 was impossible to achieve... Two hundreds is all that we needed,” moaned World XI coach John Wright in a chat with The Telegraph.
For an XI which boasted 126 Test hundreds, the highest score remained Virender Sehwag’s 76 in innings No.1. So much for getting the biggest names together in the same dressing room.
“I suppose it’s easier to identify with a team and not a concept... An attractive package was put in place, but the quality of cricket (from the World XI) didn’t match that... What I found hardest was to get that extra bit which, clearly, comes out more for the country,” Wright said.
While Wright did indicate his unhappiness over some of the shots, he insisted “preparing well” hadn’t been an issue. Questions, though, are being raised over Shoaib Akhtar’s mystery illness.
Smith, who ought not to have been the captain, talked about working towards “everything from nothing” and accepted pushing for that 20 per cent of passion ' which could have made some difference ' wasn’t easy.
Chief executive Malcolm Speed defended the ICC’s brief to the selectors whereby the captain had to be picked from the “best XIII,” but it would surely have been a different ball game had Michael Vaughan been leading the World XI.
If not anything else, Ricky Ponting would have been under pressure.
As it turned out, the Super Series largely served one purpose (besides adding to the ICC coffers, that is): It quickly resurrected Australia from the Ashes and made the Ponting-bashers shut up.
“The Super Test win can’t compensate for the loss of the Ashes, but I’m happy with the quality of our cricket. Now, it’s important to carry this form forward to the rest of the summer,” he remarked.
Asked whether the speed at which Australia won surprised him, given that he’d labelled the World XI as “favourites,” Ponting replied: “What surprised me is the early finish on the fourth day... But, yesterday, the bowlers had brought the World XI right back into the Test... We lost nine wickets for under 50 runs and it was a collapse.”
The World XI’s only chance of getting to 355 on a turner was for Rahul Dravid to drop anchor and Brian Lara to attack. Dravid left first, to a classical leg-spinner’s dismissal, and Lara didn’t survive much longer.
Both fell to Shane Warne, who continues to redefine the art of leg-spin bowling, and once Inzamam-ul Haq became the victim of poor judgement from Rudi Koertzen, it was all about how soon the Super Test would end.
Towards the end, Stuart MacGill ' who has a lethal googly ' was on a hattrick and finished with five for 43 (overall nine for 82). He didn’t get the MoM award, but the Super Test certainly revived his career. The question is: Just how often will Australia field two leggies'
Matthew Hayden’s 111 and 77 made him the MoM, while the versatile Adam Gilchrist was adjudged the Man of the Series.