Cricket is finished for another year, well at least in the sense that the Australian cricket season is over (I am abundantly aware that we seem to play cricket all year round these days) and, since Australia bombed out of the WT20 I have had a few moments of reflection thinking about the season that was.
It has been a wonderful season for Australia’s cricketers. If I had have said that to you in July and August 2013 I would be declaring that Australia’s season was wonderful you would have asked me what I had been smoking. Then, deep in the heart of an Ashes tour that was replete with much pain, things looked as dim as the English summer weather.
Since then, Australia’s turnaround has been nothing short of spectacular. Here are my 5 moments that mattered for Australia in 2013/14:
1. Darren Lehmann becomes coach
It would be too cute to simply suggest that Lehmann becoming coach was the panacea for the change in the performance of Australia. However it would also be remiss not to say that from the moment that Darren Lehmann has come on board for Australia as coach the performance of Australia at the top level has been lifted to a new level. From the outside looking in Lehmann has instilled some old school values and enforced the basics, and that approach has seemed to instilled some pride back into the team. From that the results have flowed!
2. Ryan Harris stays fit
Much has been written about the work of Mitchell Johnson during the season just gone and I will write more of him shortly. To focus just on Mitchell Johnson belies just how important getting multiple test matches in row from Ryan Harris was for Australia. Harris takes big wickets, bowls his heart out and has played through a terrible injury. That last part has been nothing short of inspirational and his fellow players have responded. You only need to look at him returning to the crease at the end of the last day of the last test of the summer and taking two big wickets to see how important he was.
3. The Smith and Haddin show: papering over the cracks of a fragile top order
Australia’s top order, particularly in the first innings, in the test matches in Australia this summer was patchy to say the best. Of late, before the Ashes series, when Australia was 3 out often it was all out. Against England in the summer that did not happen for two reasons. Steve Smith and Brad Haddin are those reasons. One, making a comeback, and the other, in the winter of his career, stood up when Australia needed it most and the runs flowed. Without them, I don’t think Australia wins in Australia nor in South Africa: it is that simple.
4. Pace and aggression: welcome back!
I mentioned Mitchell Johnson earlier and what a season he had. Indeed, what a season it was for aggressive cricket and fast bowling. Australia won against England and South Africa off the back of its fast bowling cartel and targeting opposition players with aggression. Michael Clarke telling James Anderson to prepare for a broken arm was just the tip of the iceberg of Australia’s aggressive approach to the opposition and it put them off. Indeed it put them off so much that by the end of both series it was pretty obvious that Australia had the psychological edge over both oppositions.
5. Warner: from a king hit to the king
This has been a summer of redemption and renaissance for David Warner. He started it by punching Joe Root and being suspended and ended it by being the man of the series against South Africa. I might not like the way he plays the game and the verbal that surrounds him but I would be lying if I did not say that his performance, in South Africa mainly, was a moment that mattered for Australia. If he did not play the way he did Australia might have struggled in South Africa.
So there they are: my moments that mattered in Australian cricket in 2013/14. There is no reference to ODI or T20 cricket in this post and the fact is that as time goes on I enjoy those forms less and less. Equally, to me, the cricket that matters is test cricket and these are the moments that mattered in it this year.
Bring on season 2014/15!