Very Good Mr Gilly

Scott isn’t a big fan, but I have to agree with Peter Roebuck on yesterday’s first session in Kandy. Not bowling Gillespie was puzzling to say the least, especially as Kasprowicz was bowling rubbish and getting slapped everywhere. Hasn’t he ever bowled to a tailender before?

Nevertheless, it was entertaining stuff. Watching Murali bat provides endless amusement for the real cricketers in the commentary box, but to a park cricketer like myself…Well, I see those kinds of shots every week, and it’s not unusual for them to be played by me or, indeed, off my bowling. The old flat bat over mid-off is a personal favourite of mine.

Chaminda Vaas also did an extremely good job. I’m a big Vaas fan in any case, usually for his bowling, but there’s nothing a fast bowler loves more than seeing one of his brothers stick it up the supposed batsmen by making them all look like amateurs.

The real highlight of yesterday was the return to form of Adam Gilchrist. Once again Peter Roebuck called this one right. Gilly has been struggling trying to begin his innings against spin. He seems to need to feel bat coming onto the ball for a while to get his radar set, after which he can club them over the fence with few problems. That’s exactly what happened yesterday. Murali turned a couple about 6 feet which he missed by a long way, but I don’t think any batsman is going to have much luck with that sort of delivery.

The performance of Gilly at #3 yesterday raises some serious questions, at least according to the barstool selectors down at the Nookemburra yesterday. Would Australia be better served by batting him higher all the time? He certainly plays well at the top in the one dayers.

The only way that you could conceivably put Gilchrist that high would be to drop Justin Langer. Playing Gilly at 3 is not an option in my opinion. Ponting plays too well there and there’s no reason to think that moving him down to 4 would help at all. Similarly, I don’t think there’s any way you could argue with Hayden opening the batting.

The only option would be to drop Langer in favour of a middle order batsman and pushing Symonds/Katich into the genuine all-rounder spot at #7. Where the middle order batsman would come from is the other question. Michael Clarke would seem to be the number 1 candidate, although there’s probably a plethora of players in the Pura Cup who could bat 5 or 6. Marcus North comes to mind.

I don’t think Langer’s form warrants being dropped, and I’m not even sure that opening Gilchrist in tests is necessarily a good idea. Just for the sake of argument though, here’s a peek at what the team might look like if Australia came up with the crazy idea of their best 3 batsmen batting 1, 2 and 3.

1. Matthew Hayden
2. Adam Gilchrist
3. Ricky Ponting
4. Damien Martyn
5. Darren Lehmann
6. Michael Clarke
7. Andrew Symonds
8. Shane Warne
9. Jason Gillespie
10. Stuart McGill
11. Michael Kasprowicz

Very similar to the one day team, isn’t it. Of course, in a ODI, you must bat your best 3 bats in 1,2 or 3. Otherwise, they probably won’t get a bat. In a test match there are good reasons to bat someone like Gilly at 7, but if he’s struggling against the spin, as he quite clearly is, he’s a good enough player that it’s worth trying something different. That’s what Australia did yesterday, with spectacular results.

Of course, it may be the case that Gilly’s worries against spin are really only against Muralitharan on dustbowls. Less spectacular spinners may not worry him in the slightest. But it’s something to think about for the next time Australia is preparing to bat on a turner in the subcontinent. Even if it means simply batting Langer at 5 in that situation, it’s probably worth a try.

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