Batsmen flipping dreadful

AT THIS rate the entire Australian batting line-up could be ''flipping burgers'' or working in a coalmine for a living. A Channel Nine executive delivered that salvo for George Bailey a day before Friday's third one-day international, responding to the Twenty20 captain's own shot at the network for questioning team selection.

Australia's bowling attack salvaged some pride, but not enough to cover a woeful batting performance, as Sri Lanka emerged with a four-wicket win to take a 2-1 lead in the five-match series.

Michael Clarke and his team aren't exactly submitting their CVs to fast-food outlets or considering the merits of a fly-in, fly-out lifestyle yet but after a woeful batting performance against Sri Lanka their job security should not be exceedingly high.

Selectors have shuffled players in and out of the Australian team for the first three matches of this series but at least they could not be blamed squarely for the turn of events at the Gabba on Friday. The only plus was that the capitulation for 74 - Australia's third-lowest 50-over score - created some interest in a limited-overs campaign that has been decidedly stale. Not that broadcaster Nine, having to resort to alternate programming, would have been overly pleased. For Bailey, that was a small victory at least.

This was meant to be Australia's ''A'' team. The so-called ''B'' team, with Clarke, David Warner and Matthew Wade rested, had been cleaned up for 170 in Adelaide last Sunday, allowing Sri Lanka back into the five-match series. The more recognisable side fared even worse, melting as if the match was played in stinking hot Sydney, not considerably more mild Brisbane.

The top, middle and lower-order, mesmerised by the swinging ball and hypnotised into some poor shots, all fell with single digits beside their names, with only Mitchell Starc (22 not out) and Xavier Doherty (15) saving a semblance of face.

At 9-40 Australia was headed for its worst score in history, by some distance, a fate only averted by that pair's 34-run partnership for the final wicket.

When Sri Lanka turned up in Australia in December its was declared by Rodney Hogg, with no shortage of accompanying nods, as the worst bowling attack yet to tour here. This was payback from Nuwan Kulasekera. The tourists did not cause too much havoc in a Test series they dropped 3-0 but the 30-year-old from a town on the highway between Colombo and Kandy was made to appear unplayable at the Gabba.

His 5-22 was, on figures, the second finest bowling performance at the Gabba, behind only Englishman Chris Woakes' 6-45 two years ago.

Lasith Malinga, retired from Tests, also provided a reminder of his value with 3-14 from seven overs.

It was a disastrous start to a first day in charge as head coach for Steve Rixon, the team's fielding mentor who was running the show in the absence of Mickey Arthur, who is taking a hard-earned rest.

It was anything but the return New South Wales all-rounder Moises Henriques had hoped for. It had been more than three years since he had played an ODI for Australia and after being in doubt until the morning of the game with a swollen finger, hit during practice, he was pronounced fit to take the field at the toss. He lasted only two balls before being Kulasekera's fifth victim.

At that point Australia looked doubtful to even make it to the scheduled drinks break and released standby Ben Cutting, who had taken off to the airport to fly to Perth for the Big Bash League final and tweeted that he could not believe the scores he was hearing while in the taxi. Cutting would have cherished another international opportunity but can be relieved also that he was not part of the debacle 30 minutes across town.

He would have continued to watch closely the scores until he was in the air, with three wickets from Mitchell Johnson giving Australia just a pinch of hope.

Sri Lanka was 4-48 at the innings break. After the resumption that became 5-63 and 6-71, but the Sri Lankans were able to secure the victory.

The story Batsmen flipping dreadful first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

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