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Bowlers reign on batting parade


In a game designed for batsmen, it has been Australia's bowlers who have dominated its early matches in the Twenty20 World Cup.

While there was some apprehension over whether this would continue overnight against Pakistan in Australia's first match at the more batsman-friendly Wanderers, after three games in Cape Town, the bowlers have been pleasantly surprised.

Even in last week's embarrassing loss to Zimbabwe, it was poor batting that cost Australia the game.

Although the opponents leading into the Pakistan game have been modest, Australia restricted Zimbabwe to 5-139 before losing on the second-last ball, then England to 135 all out and Bangladesh to 8-123 in big wins.

Nathan Bracken, with 3-16, was man of the match against England and Brett Lee's hat-trick earned him that honour against Bangladesh.

Stuart Clark's amazing consistency as a Test bowler over the past year, which has seen him shoot into the top 10 on the world rankings after exceptional series against South Africa and England, has been his downfall in the shorter versions of the game.

His consistent line and length have made the tall New South Wales seamer too predictable in one-day cricket to become a regular member of the team, allowing batsmen to consistently charge him.

While a member of the World Cup squad he played just one match, against Ireland, as veteran Glenn McGrath and rookie tearaway Shaun Tait dominated the competition.

It is ironic perhaps that Tait only received his chance in the World Cup because of a serious ankle injury to Lee, and Clark is probably only playing here in South Africa because a lingering elbow problem kept Tait out of the squad.

In this competition, Clark has bowled with terrific variation, something he worked on while playing county cricket this winter.

"It was one of the reasons why I went to England, to try and do a few different things and work on a few different things," Clark said.

"It seems to be going all right at the moment, but I can still get better at it. It's a big key in one-day international cricket, being able to vary your pace."

Still coming to terms with the one-day game even though he turns 32 later this month, Clark said Twenty20 was a new challenge.

"I haven't played too much Twenty20 cricket, so I've had to adapt and the wickets have been a bit different to what I was expecting. I'm pretty happy with the way I'm going," he said.

"Twenty20 cricket is more like bowling at the end of a one-day game - slower balls, better yorkers. There's no magical secret to it, you've just got to be good at whatever you do.

"Nathan Bracken and Shaun Tait showed that at the World Cup - it doesn't matter what skill you have, if you do it well, then you're hard to get away."

With McGrath's retirement after an exceptional World Cup, Clark is determined to grab his place in the one-day team.

"I'd like to be in any team for Australia, it doesn't matter what game it is," he said.

So why have Australia's bowlers done so well in the early matches when Twenty20 is a batsman's game?

"It's a game designed for batsmen, but the bowlers can really make a difference," he said.

"If you can have two to three good overs and not go for many, it can really change the outcome of the game when we bat, so it's not all just batters, there is room for the bowlers - just maybe not too much."

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