Australia: Time to pass the baton

2008-12-30 00:00

Australia’s period of cricketing domination is over.

It ended in the most conclusive circumstances on a windswept Tuesday afternoon at the MCG, a citadel of strength seized by a calm and gracious South African side. Hashim Amla, a devout Muslim, scored the winning runs with a flick of his oriental wrists. It was a moment that told of the cricketing decline of one nation and liberation of another.

It was not so much the fact of the defeats that confirmed Australia’s slide as their manner. In Perth and again in Melbourne the hosts secured powerful positions only to let them slip away as an indomitable opponent rallied and romped to victory. Although the official rankings will grant them a few weeks grace, the unavoidable fact is that Australia have been beaten by a better side. A month ago, Ricky Ponting’s team suffered the same fate in India.

In its stint as the game’s flawed exemplar, Australia have played attractive cricket, scoring quickly, encouraging leg-spin, fielding balanced attacks, scorning stalemates and not sledging quite as much as might be imagined. Taken as a whole, the teams led by Mark Taylor, Steve Waugh and Ricky Ponting have enhanced the game, especially in the five-day format.

But nothing lasts forever and now it is someone else’s turn. The game will go on. Australia must lick their wounds and fight back.

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