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    Default Michael Clarke's big guns come and go for 74 in train wreck

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    CONFUSION off the field gave way to utter chaos on it after what was being touted as Australia's best one-day side was routed by Sri Lanka at the Gabba yesterday.

    Of course, who would know any more what Australia's best ODI XI might be after this train wreck of a performance?

    Had it not been for a defiantly agricultural last-wicket stand of 34 by Mitchell Starc (22no) and Xavier Doherty (15), who came together at 9-40, the record for the lowest ODI score by a recognised cricketing nation of 43, reluctantly shared by Pakistan and Sri Lanka, would now be in Australian hands.

    As it was, Australia's paltry tally of 74 runs was its third-worst in one-day history and its worst at the Gabba by 65 runs.

    Captain Michael Clarke conceded his batsmen defended poorly and yesterday certainly was not the time for such slovenliness, not with man-of-the-match Nuwan Kulasakera turning on a master class of swing bowling to capture 5-22, the second-best figures recorded in a Brisbane one-day international. Even Clarke, who has scarcely given bowlers a glimpse of his stumps over the past year, had his defence shredded by a magnificent Kulasakera inswinger and was bowled for nine.


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    With Lasith Malinga (3-14 off seven overs) providing yet another reminder of how much Sri Lanka missed his extreme pace during the recent Test series, there wasn't a single Australian batsman who ever looked comfortable. Starc might have top-scored with 22 but the number of boundaries he struck, two, was precisely equal to the number of times he was struck flush on the helmet. It was hit-or-be-hit.

    Two full cricket teams, with a 12th man to spare, have now been rotated through the Australian side since the 2013 calendar year began less than three weeks ago, with players coming and going in bewildering fashion. Certainly they came and went yesterday in a manner that suggested the rotation policy itself needs to be given a rest, at least until it has been established who the best 11 players actually are and how they might all be assembled in the one place at the one time, in the pink and in the know.

    "Informed player management" is what the selectors are insisting the rotation policy be called but there is nothing informed about this Australian side at present.

    Uncertain about where they stand with the selectors is translating into hesitancy in their batting and even Clarke, himself a selector, conceded it was difficult for the players to find any rhythm and consistency if they were not consistently picked in the team.

    "Yeah, I can't doubt that," Clarke told the Nine Network immediately after Sri Lanka wrapped up its four-wicket win by 6pm last night, effectively turning the day-nighter into just a dayer.

    "Today is an example of that. If you're playing well and winning consistently, it builds momentum, that's for sure. It's still no excuse for the way we performed."

    Three of the players most out-of-sorts were the three Test stars being rotated back into active duty after sitting out the first two one-days - Dave Warner, Matthew Wade and Clarke himself.

    They were meant to restore the "A" to Australia but collectively they managed only 21 runs, off 58 balls mind you, while Warner and Clarke both grassed chances they would have gobbled up before their enforced break.

    "We've been playing a lot of Test cricket so we have no excuse for the way we played today, the way we batted today," Clarke conceded. "Our shot selection was poor and our execution was poor. So, yes, I understand the public wants us to play as consistently as we can but I guarantee, if we play like that, the public won't want any of us playing.

    "I understand the public want to see our best team on the field as often as possible but more important the public want to see us win and not perform like that.

    "So we have some work to do, some thinking to do and our execution has to improve in two days' time."

    That's when the Australians, now 1-2 down, confront the Sri Lankans at the SCG, needing to win that match to keep the series alive.

 

 

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