Reflection on Modern Australian Test Cricket, Part 3: The New World Order
The final chapter on the look of Australia’s dominance.
Two test series against South Africa would be drawn, and would signal the end of an era as Allan Border retired from international cricket.
He had been the key figure in ensuring Australia was ready to rule the cricketing world. He would retire with but the one regret—failure to defeat the West Indies in a test series.
Australia at this stage had a settled and powerful lineup, and travelled to Pakistan. Pakistan would win the series 1-0, but controversy would come with the tour, with Shane Warne, Tim May, and Mark Waugh accusing Salim Malik of bribing them to underperform.
Both Warne and Malik would be named men of the series.
This was the beginning of the greatest era in Australian cricketing history. With the exception of India, Australia would lose only one test series for the next decade.
Another Ashes series would be won with almost preposterous ease, especially considering the batting lineup of the English, anchored by Graham Thorpe. The series would be won 3-1 by Australia.
Mark Taylor then took his men to West Indies, the stronghold of world cricket. The West Indians had not lost a series in 15 years, and despite retirements, still wielded the last great fast bowling pair in Courtney Walsh and Curtly Ambrose.
The first three tests saw the series poised at 1-1 before an epic fourth test. A brilliant double century by Steve Waugh would effectively bat the West Indies out of the match, and Australia would wallop the home team by an innings and 53 runs.
This would see Australia take the Frank Worrell trophy and unofficially take the mantle as the unquestioned number one team in the world.
They have not lost to the West Indians in a series since.
Pakistan and Sri Lanka would be defeated in Australia by the new kings of the world, and in the latter series the youngest Tasmanian by the name of Ricky Ponting.
Australia would travel to India for a one off test, and would lose—unable to contest with the spin of Anil Kumble, who would take nine wickets for the match. In the same year, Australia would lose to Sri Lanka in the 1996 World Cup final.
This would be a minor setback in the Australians reign. Following this, they would win their next five series—including retaining the Ashes in England in 1997 for the fifth consecutive time. In six tests the twin attack of Warne and McGrath would account for 60 wickets.
In March of 1998 Australia would again lose in India. Again Kumble would be their tormentor, taking 23 wickets in the three-test series.
Another Ashes triumph would follow, in which Taylor would retire, and iceman Steve Waugh would assume control of the Australian team.
Waugh’s reign would not commence brilliantly, drawing with the West Indies 2-2, and then losing to Sri Lanka on the sub-continent.
However, he would lead his men to World Cup glory in 1999, starting an astonishing run of three consecutive World Cup titles.
Concluding this would see Adam Gilchrist, the most destructive batting keeper in history—displace Ian Healy in the side. This would give Australia arguably the most powerful team lineup the world had ever seen.
This would be proved especially true as Australia embarked on undefeated series wins against Zimbabwe and New Zealand away—and Pakistan, India and the West Indies at home.
This would see an incredible world record sequence of 16 consecutive test match victories.
The 16th test win would come at the beginning of the test series in India with Australia easily beating the home team by 10 wickets. But in Kolkata at Eden Gardens, VVS Laxman and Rahul Dravid would combine to put on 376 runs for the fifth wicket.
The final match would be won in Chennai by India, and Harbhajan Singh would take 32 wickets for the series at an improbable average of 17.
Australia would take out their frustration on England, again defeating the English at home 4-1.
A drawn series in New Zealand would follow, before again Waugh and his men continued to be unbeatable, winning seven consecutive series, and losing only three test matches along the way.
This would include yet another Ashes triumph, with Australia recording their eighth consecutive series victory over the English.
India would then come to Australia, and the two old foes would draw the series 1-1, with again Laxman and Dravid hitting huge centuries in the second test to take the match and series away from Australia.
Steve Waugh would retire at the conclusion of this series. His one blemish would be failure to defeat India in the sub-continent.
Ricky Ponting would assume the captaincy. He would immediately stamp his authority on his side and the world, winning six consecutive series. In this time his team would lose but one test match against India.
But he would guide Australia to their first series win against their nemesis since 1969. This series victory ensured that the Baggy Green was dominant in all forms of the game, against all comers.
In 2005, England would stage one of the great sporting upsets, defeating a heavily favoured Australian team to take the Ashes, 2-1.
Despite this, Australia would continue to rule the cricket world, with Ponting’s men following this with victory over a World XI and a 3-0 sweep over the West Indies.
A draw against South Africa in the first match of their series would be followed by Ponting taking his team to another 16 consecutive test victories, matching the record set by Steve Waugh. Ironically this sequence would be broken by India.
This would include a 5-0 drubbing of England to retain the Ashes.
From 1980 to before the series loss to India in October of 2008—Australia would win 150 test matches. Since the year 2000 they have lost just 15 test matches.
It is doubtful we shall ever see such a run duplicated.
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