0Cricket Australia logoWhere do Australia go from here?

So, the second Test is over, and Eng­land have won com­pre­hens­ively, and with it, almost cer­tainly retained the Ashes.  A lot of dis­cus­sion is already focussed on what Aus­tralia can do to get some pride back in this series, and how they can rebuild for the return series this winter in Aus­tralia.  The focus is on Aus­trali­a’s bat­ting line up, so let’s look at some num­bers from the last 2 tests

Eng­land have bat­ted 4 times and made the fol­low­ing totals:

  • 215
  • 375
  • 361
  • 349–7

Aus­tralia have bat­ted 4 times and made these totals:

  • 280
  • 296
  • 128
  • 220

So, what does this tell us?  Well — Eng­land have pos­ted 3 scores of effect­ively 350+ with 1 poor innings in the first test.  Aus­tralia have failed to pass 300 in all 4 innings, and have pos­ted 2 very poor scores.  So, there is clearly a prob­lem with Aus­trali­an bat­ting.  Let’s have a look at some numbers

  1. Wat­son: 13+46+30+20 (aver­age 27.25)
  2. Rogers: 16+52+15+6 (aver­age 22.25)
  3. Cow­an: 0+14 (aver­age 7)
  4. Khawaja:14+54 (aver­age 34)
  5. Clark: 0+23+28+51 (aver­age 25.5)
  6. Smith: 53+17+2+1 (aver­age 18.25)
  7. Hughes: 81*+0+1+1 (aver­age 20.75)
  8. Had­din: 1+71+7+7 (aver­age 21.5)
  9. Agar: 98+14+2+16 (aver­age 32.5)
  10. Starc: 0+1 (aver­age 0.5)
  11. Siddle: 1+11+2+18 (aver­age 8)
  12. Pattin­son: 2+25*+10*+35 (aver­age 18)
  13. Harris:10+16* (aver­age 13)

So, with the excep­tion of Starc (who was dropped for the second test) the Aus­sie bowl­ers are mak­ing a pretty decent con­tri­bu­tion with the bat aver­aging 71 between them in total per innings (even without Agar’s 98 they are still con­trib­ut­ing nearly 50 runs per innings between them — a reas­on­able return.  Brad Had­din has also made an accept­able con­tri­bu­tion  and has been fairly sol­id behind the wick­ets (except for throw­ing his cap­tain at first slip a dummy)

So let’s look at the bats­men.  Cow­an has rightly been dropped.  Phil Hughes has­n’t been con­vin­cing des­pite his aver­age.  Both open­ers have made starts in every innings but have failed to go on.  Clarke has been under-par but is improv­ing with each innings.  The weak­est link in terms of per­form­ance and from watch­ing him play has been Steve Smith, but he has con­trib­uted with the ball — get­ting more wick­ets than Ashton Agar.  Khawaja has looked fairly good, top scor­ing in the second innings of the second test and second only to Clarke in total runs in the second test.  The biggest prob­lem for Aus­tralia is that they don’t have enough qual­ity in depth — they des­per­ately need to find anoth­er bats­man.  Assum­ing they can­’t do that, what else can they do?  Well — there is no point car­ry­ing someone who isn’t mak­ing runs, so why not bring in anoth­er bowl­er and try to reduce England’s scores!  It is likely that the wick­ets in the rest of this series (and in the series to fol­low in Aus­tralia) will offer plenty to spin­ners.  Aus­tralia should bring in Fawad Ahmed as soon as pos­sible.  This will also take some pres­sure off the young Agar who might get a few more runs with the bat if they’re lucky.  It would also mean they could dis­pense with Steve Smith who has done very little with the bat.  Play­ing with 5 bowl­ers may even focus the minds of some of Aus­trali­a’s batsmen.

How­ever, that isn’t going to do enough — it might well get a few more wick­ets, but Aus­trali­a’s bats­men just haven’t been doing enough.  Wat­son, Clarke and Khawaja are safe picks at the moment.  So it comes down to Rogers and Hughes.  I’ve been more impressed with the way Rogers has played, but I don’t think either has been good enough to jus­ti­fy their place.  Dav­id Warner is a nat­ur­al replace­ment for Rogers, even though he has­n’t done too well for Aus­tralia A.

So who is there to replace Hughes?  I would argue that they should be brave and bring back a classy bats­man with con­sid­er­able exper­i­ence against Eng­land… Simon Katich.  Katich has made plenty of runs in the county cham­pi­on­ship this sea­son and has put him­self for­ward to play in this series.

I hon­estly think these changes to the bat­ting line-up make Aus­tralia look much more likely to win a game than any com­bin­a­tion of the cur­rent squad, although of course Eng­land are still the bet­ter side.  The only issue now is gambling on 5 bowl­ers when you’ve been strug­gling to make the runs with only 4 bowl­ers.  So, even though it seems harsh, I’d con­sider drop­ping Agar and bring­ing in an all round­er… Moises Hen­riques did well in Shef­field Shield crick­et and has at least a little test exper­i­ence.  He is also right-handed, which would nul­li­fy some of the threat from Graeme Swann and bring more bal­ance to the Aus­sie bat­ting line-up.  He is also a use­ful bowler.

Here’s the line-up I would go with

  1. Wat­son
  2. Warner
  3. Khawaja
  4. Katich
  5. Clarke
  6. Hen­riques
  7. Had­din
  8. Pattin­son
  9. Siddle
  10. Har­ris
  11. Ahmed

If Ahmed does­n’t get wick­ets then Agar can come right back in.  In terms of bat­ting there are oth­er options too — and Aus­tralia should be think­ing bey­ond this cur­rent series —   One right-handed pos­sib­il­ity is George Bailey who was vice cap­tain for Aus­trali­a’s cham­pi­ons trophy side and made 55, 55 and 4 (aver­age 38)

Lastly, there are some very obvi­ous flaws in the way Aus­tralia have played.  Firstly they abso­lutely must learn how to use DRS prop­erly — they have been very waste­ful with it in this series.  Some of their bats­men also have very spe­cif­ic weak­nesses which they can and should work hard on.  Wat­son in par­tic­u­lar has a ter­rible habit of play­ing across the line and get­ting out LBW — a play­er of his abil­ity and exper­i­ence has no excuses for not work­ing on and improv­ing such flaws.

Here’s hop­ing Aus­tralia turn things around enough to make the next match at least com­pet­it­ive — after all it’s much more sat­is­fy­ing beat­ing them when its close!

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