A win's a win, especially when it avoids the embarrassment of recording their worst run of results in over a century of trying. For all that it was a dead rubber, Australia will return to Brisbane for the start of the Ashes in a little over two weeks with the comfort blanket of a much-needed victory, having beaten Sri Lanka at the third attempt.
It was a good win too, by eight wickets and in a manner to which the cricketing world has become accustomed over the last couple of decades. Incisive pace bowling by Clint McKay and Mitchell Starc skittled Sri Lanka and then there were some much needed, and breezy, runs for Michael Clarke, the captain for the day with Ricky Ponting back in Hobart preparing to play for Tasmania. "Can our summer start from tonight?" said Clarke after Australia's first win in any form of the game since beating Pakistan at Lord's in July.
It was, admitted McKay, a relief. It was also the best return of the 27-year-old's career and although the seamer would appear unlikely to feature in the first Test, he believes the result can provide an overdue boost for Australian cricket. "It will kick-start our summer along nicely with the Ashes coming up," he claimed. "It's the first step in the right direction to make sure we play some good cricket all summer."
The Australian players now have one or two state games to find their first-class feet and there remain some pressing issues for the selectors to address. From their point of view it was the wrong Mitchell in the wickets yesterday. The 20-year-old Starc is seen as one for the future – it is Mitchell Johnson who the Australians desperately need to find some semblance of form. The man who is earmarked to spearhead Australia's attack at the Gabba on 25 November went wicketless again yesterday to finish the one-day series with a combined return of 1 for 128. This season he has managed a total of three first-class wickets. Doug Bollinger is still injured, while Peter Siddle and Nathan Hauritz were left out yesterday.
Starc was playing only his second game for Australia but the left-armer is earmarked for a future in the Baggy Green and if things go badly for the home side he could yet find himself making his bow in the Ashes. After McKay had made early inroads, Starc tore through the Sri Lankan middle order as the tourists were bowled out in just 32 overs. In reply Clarke made a run-a-ball half century as Australia won with 28 overs to spare. "We will get better from this," summed up Clarke.Reuse content