Opinion: Australia's psychological edge over cricketing world crumbles

Fielder throws cricket ball in

For years international cricket was bossed and bullied by Australian teams that seemed not to know how to lose, but that dominance has slowly fallen apart and may never return in full strength.

Exactly when the slide began is a subject of much debate and conjecture, but 2018 can be clearly marked as the year Australia lost its grip on cricket.

The year started like any other in recent cricket history, with Australia completing an Ashes victory over an England team bent on imploding on tour. The first great warning sign for Aussie cricket lovers came when Eoin Morgan led England's ODI side to an emphatic series victory over the hosts. Star men Steve Smith and David Warner suffered a lack of runs, while the tourists showed off their flashy new brand of cricket - and set the tone for both team's years in the format.

Smith's Australian Test team arrived in South Africa ready for a battle against Faf du Plessis' Proteas, but got way more than they bargained for. Since readmission, South Africa had been seemingly at a permanent psychological disadvantage against Australia - and that was born out by the Proteas' lack of a home series win against the Baggy Green since the 1970s.

There was every suggestion that 2018 could be different. The last three Test series in Australia had been won by the Proteas, breaking the hold South Africa's fiercest cricketing rival had once held - and the hosts had just beaten a very good India side.

Australia started that series strong and, in many ways, with a renewed focus on becoming more like the imposing team of old. Warner got into an altercation with Quinton de Kock at Kingsmead, a ball was dropped on AB de Villiers after a run-out and tempers flared on both sides.

South Africa brought the fire in the second Test at St George's Park - perhaps too much, though, as Kagiso Rabada appeared to have landed himself a two-match suspension that would rule the quick out for the remainder of the series after he brushed against Smith while celebrating the Aussie skipper's wicket. Rabada had recently run afoul of match officials for giving Warner a send-off and a two-match suspension was imposed but overturned on appeal.

Australia's leadership adopted a 'holier than thou' attitude in the wake of the decision that would come back to bite them.

With the series level heading into the Newlands Test and the game itself having veered towards the hosts, a desperate Australian dressing room contrived a crazy plot to apply sandpaper to the ball - and the result was one of perhaps the greatest self-inflicted crises in cricket history. The nation of Australia woke to the news that Cameron Bancroft, Smith and Warner had wet the collective bed - and some toys were thrown out the cot. Heavy-handed bans were handed down to the trio, but the damage was done. The embarrassment of one of the most poorly executed plots to cheat at cricket ever still hangs over Australian cricket.

Australia lost the Newlands Test and sent all three players home. Fielding a makeshift team at the Wanderers, they were walloped and the Proteas had their win - and so much more.

Their form in all three formats took a substantial dip, though they did share a Test series in the United Arab Emirates against Pakistan. Australia lost an ODI series in England, two out of three T20Is in a tri-series in Zimbabwe and a home ODI series to South Africa before the arrival of India.

India came to Australia looking for their first ever Test series win and the end of their own hoodoo. Australia showed a lot of fight, but India really were the better side in almost every respect of the game. India's first act of 2019 was clinching an historic series win, as the Sydney Test was rained off, shattering another psychological barrier that had reinforced Australia's dominance of world cricket.

Australia's slide has paved the way for a new, slightly more flawed elite to emerge - and usher in an era of greater competitiveness in all formats of the game. It is an exciting time for cricket fans, unless you are Australian.

Written by Jonhenry Wilson for Hollywoodbets

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