Champions Trophy: George Bailey needs quick change of fortune as problems mount
Australia 243-8 New Zealand 51-2: Bad weather leaves Australia relying on others if they are to advance to semi-finals
There was only one topic of discussion after the wash-out between Australia and New Zealand, and it did not concern net run rates in getting out of this particular group of death.
Try as both captains did to concentrate on the playing matters in hand and to come and what their chances are of qualifying for the semi-finals, the subject kept returning to a man who was not playing. David Warner, Australia's opening batsman who is badly out of form, was left out of the side after being involved in an altercation with Joe Root of England in a Birmingham bar last Sunday morning.
George Bailey, Australia's captain while Michael Clarke remains injured, declined to talk about it because a hearing is pending. Brendon McCullum preferred not to but knew what was coming.
"We've had some issues in the past," said McCullum of previous Kiwi woes. "It's never great but it depends on how good your team spirit is and how good your structure is around the team, to be able to get your team through it."
The heavy rain which terminally interrupted the game means it is as yet impossible to be sure how Australia's structure is standing up to the woes being inflicted on it with uncommon regularity. The signs, however, were remarkably heartening.
They made 243 for 8 on a pitch that was taking turn and was never easy for batting. Flair in stroke-making was definitely discouraged.
But they did better than they looked like doing at many stages of their innings, which is not indicative of a side which is yet ready to roll over and have their tummy tickled. The loss of two early wickets seemed to portend disarray but Bailey, a genial soul who conceals a steel inner core, helped to rebuild the innings.
He was out badly, bowled round his legs, but Adam Voges assembled a sturdy 71 until he sliced a full toss to cover. It is mean to keep bringing up the past but it is difficult to imagine an Australian batsman in the days of yore making quite such an elementary error. Voges did well. So, too, at the end did Glenn Maxwell, whose all or nothing bludgeoning against slow bowling brought Australia 33 runs in the last three overs, a weighty exchange rate in the currency they had been dealing.
Mitchell McClenaghan was the Kiwis' star turn. He took four wickets and now has 26 in limited-overs matches, more than anybody before in his first nine games.
Before the predicted rain fell, Martin Guptill, who terrorised England a fortnight ago, drove in the air to point. He might just have exchanged one of his two centuries against England for a score in this competition.
Luke Ronchi, the former Australia international, again discovered that playing for the country where he was born will not be a breeze. He appeared to have done the hard part when prodded to point. The points division, one each, works in New Zealand's favour. They already have one win and would have to be drubbed in unlikely fashion by England not to qualify. Australia must not only beat Sri Lanka to progress but probably also depend on Sri Lanka defeating England.
Bailey seemed unperturbed by the prospect. "I said at the start of the tournament that our biggest challenge was closing the gap between our best and our worst games. I don't think it depended on us improving our best."
They have one game left to demonstrate the point. It seems that Clarke might return by next Monday when it is played. His injury made a sudden leap in improvement. Australia need good things to happen quickly.
No result. Australia (1pt) New Zealand (1pt); Australia won toss
S R Watson c Ronchi b McClenaghan 5/0/1/7/4
†M S Wade lbw b N L McCullum 29/0/3/57/80
P J Hughes run out 0/0/0/4/8
*G J Bailey b N L McCullum 55/0/5/91/120
A Voges c B McCullum b McClenaghan 71/0/7/76/81
M R Marsh c Ronchi b McClenaghan 22/0/3/24/20
G J Maxwell not out 29/2/1/22/37
J Faulkner c McClenaghan b Williamson 6/0/0/12/12
M Johnson c B McCullum b McClenaghan 8/0/2/6/5
C J McKay not out 2/0/0/4/11
Extras (b1 lb7 w4 nb4) 16
Total (for 8, 50 overs) 243
Fall 1-5, 2-10, 3-74, 4-151, 5-193, 6-196, 7-210, 8-219.
Did not bat X J Doherty.
Bowling K D Mills 6-1-19-0, M J McClenaghan 10-0-65-4, D L Vettori 10-1-23-0, T G Southee 4-1-26-0, N L McCullum 10-0-46-2, K S Williamson 10-0-56-1.
†L Ronchi c Watson b McKay 14/0/2/17/32
M J Guptill c Maxwell b McKay 8/0/1/13/17
K S Williamson not out 18/0/1/37/44
L R P L Taylor not out 9/0/0/23/29
Extras (lb1 w1) 2
Total (for 2, 15 overs) 51
Fall 1-18, 2-26.
Did not bat *B B McCullum, J E C Franklin, N L McCullum, D L Vettori, T G Southee, K D Mills, M J McClenaghan.
Bowling M G Johnson 4-0-18-0, C J McKay 4-0-10-2, S R Watson 3-1-11-0, J P Faulkner 3-0-7-0, X J Doherty 1-0-4-0.
Umpires H D P K Dharmasena and N J Llong.
The muddy truth of the Christmas Truce game
Alexis Sanchez video: Turns out the Arsenal forward is brilliant at playing the piano too
Premier League: Chelsea vs West Ham match preview
Sir Alex Ferguson on Jose Mourinho: 'He's good looking, speaks five languages, wins everything - it's unfair'
Documentary recalling Crazy Gang's 'thuggery' has Dave Bassett up in arms
- 1 Planes go hybrid-electric in important step to greener flight
- 5 New route to Mars could make manned mission much cheaper and easier
Nigel Farage defends Kerry Smith 'ch***y' comment: 'If you are going for a Chinese, what do you say you’re going for?'
British actor Idris Elba cannot star as James Bond because he is black, says shock jock Rush Limbaugh
Rozanne Duncan: Ukip expels councillor for 'jaw-dropping' comments made in BBC TV interview
Germany anti-Islam protests: 17,000 march on Dresden against 'Islamification of the West'
Ukip member gets into Christmas spirit with Union Flag plea to Santa 'for our country back'
Panic Saturday: 13 million Britons spend £1.2bn – while 13 million others across the country live in poverty unable to afford food