Australia regain confidence for Pakistan series
The home side, however, enjoyed a windfall of confidence from the 3-0 series win which captain Steven Smith hopes will be banked for the tests against Pakistan starting this week in Brisbane.
Scarcely 20,000 fans turned up to the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Friday to watch the finale against New Zealand, a year after more than 90,000 packed the stadium for the World Cup final between the same teams.
With New Zealand’s batsmen skittled for 147 in 36.1 overs, Australia won by 117 runs, bringing an unloved tournament jammed between two test series to a premature conclusion.
Former players and pundits have long bemoaned the proliferation of one-day tournaments that jam up the international calendar and tend to offer little more than bragging rights to the winning team and revenues to the hosting cricket board.
The International Cricket Council is weighing proposals to inject relevance to the format, including making bilateral series serve as qualifiers for the quadrennial World Cup.
“There’s been a few proposals that have come up and you want as much relevance for every series as possible,” Smith told reporters after the Melbourne win.
Australia enjoy the top ranking in one-day cricket but selectors have often been loath to field their strongest teams.
They sent an under-strength squad to South Africa, resting frontline pacemen Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood, who were duly hammered 5-0.
Local media blamed the whitewash in South Africa in part for the humbling 2-1 test series loss at home to the Proteas.
The South Africa one-day tournament was another that lacked any meaningful context, but Proteas captain Faf du Plessis said his side’s victory gave them an edge ahead of the highly anticipated test series.
Smith will hope for the same spur against Pakistan, who they play in the first day-night test at the Gabba from Thursday.
“Obviously it’s going to be different in Brisbane against the pink ball and against a quality opposition like Pakistan, so we’ll have to be at our best if we want to score some runs at there,” he said.
“It’s been a great series for us and great for our confidence as well.
“Winning is a lot better than losing and it becomes a bit of a habit as well. Hopefully we can keep up this habit for the rest of the summer.”
Since being humiliated in Hobart to lose the South Africa test series with a game to spare, Smith’s side have bounced back with four straight wins, including the dead rubber test in Adelaide with a re-jigged side.
While in-form opener David Warner was man-of-the-series with two centuries against New Zealand, the return to form of pace spearhead Mitchell Starc is ominous for Pakistan.
The left-armer was in full flight at the MCG, capturing three wickets and two with a pair of almost unplayable inswinging yorkers.
“I think he’s got better with every game he’s played (and) I think he’s getting back to his best,” said Smith. -Reuters