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Sign of things to come?
28 Jul 2006
By: Richard Edmunds


The Top End Series held in Darwin and Cairns throughout July produced some exciting and evenly matched contests between the A-teams of Australia, India, New Zealand and Pakistan. It was the first time such a series had been held, and it showed some promising signs of what could come in the future if the idea is developed further.

The series included each side playing five 50-over matches and two 4-day games, apart from India who had the slightly shorter schedule of three 50-over and two 4-day matches. The evenness of the competition is shown by the results, with India and New Zealand each winning three matches and Pakistan two. It could be easy for Australian supporters to worry just looking at the results as the young side fielded by the hosts managed just one win. However, they were in a dominant position against India A in one of the first-class matches before rain brought an end to the match, and they were also arguably on top of the other drawn match agaisnt Pakistan. In addition, the side managed a tie in one of the limited overs events.

The series showcased a lot of the players of the future, particularly Shane Watson who showed his immense talent with both bat and ball. Of his Australian team-mates, Phil Jaques also had an excellent series, highlighted by his innings of 240 against India, and Mitchell Johnson showed that his baptism of fire at the top level hadn't set back his development as he had a consistent and impressive series with the ball. Brad Haddin had an excellent series with the bat and gave the suggestion that the wicketkeeping gloves will be in safe hands when Adam Gilchrist retires. Shaun Tait, considered by some to be the future star and leader of the Australian attack, had a disappointing series and on their performances it would have to be suggested that Johnson has moved ahead of the South Australian.

New Zealand A's best performer was Jesse Ryder, who started the series with a big reputation and ended it with an even bigger one. He was easily the best player for the Kiwis in what was a pretty solid series from all involved, while those who most consider to be his company in the New Zealand middle order in years to come Ross Taylor and Peter Fulton also showed their promise. A number of the New Zealanders' wickets came from a slightly surprising source in Wellingtonian Mark Gillespie. Gillespie, who has caught the eye in the past with his above-average pace, was consistently dangerous throughout the series and returns home as New Zealand A's leading wicket-taker. The series was a chance for Craig McMillan to push for a recall, and it would have to be said that he had a fairly quiet series.

Gautam Gambhir, recently dropped from the first eleven, gave the Indian selectors a reminder of what he has to offer in leading the batting averages for India A in the limited-overs matches. The opener was in excellent touch throughout the series, and his partner at the top of the order Robin Uthappa also scored consistently showing good signs for the Indians when the current top and middle order retire. Young spinner Piyush Chawla, who was so impressive in the Under-19 World Cup that he made his test debut not long afterwards, had a solid series and looks to be developing well. The series was a chance for Parthiv Patel to remind the selectors of what he has to offer, but a quiet series and the rapid rise of MS Dhoni have ensured that he is unlikely to feature prominently in the selectors' minds in the near future.

Mohammad Hafeez has for quite some time had a big reputation, and although disappointing form led to him being dropped by Pakistan it is clear that he is still a very classy and talented player. He led by example in a team that was short on experience in this level of cricket, and the statistics he leaves Australia with are a testament to the quality of cricket he played.

It was a very interesting and exciting series with a number of outstanding performances by future stars of the game. It was a bit of a gamble scheduling such a series in Australia in July but it paid off, and it is exciting to consider the potential of the series if it expands to include A-teams from each of the ten Test-playing nations. The Top End Series looks to have a promising future.

Matches Played
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