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:
Australia have batted 4 times and made these totals:
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
- Watson: 13+46+30+20 (average 27.25)
- Rogers: 16+52+15+6 (average 22.25)
- Cowan: 0+14 (average 7)
- Khawaja:14+54 (average 34)
- Clark: 0+23+28+51 (average 25.5)
- Smith: 53+17+2+1 (average 18.25)
- Hughes: 81*+0+1+1 (average 20.75)
- Haddin: 1+71+7+7 (average 21.5)
- Agar: 98+14+2+16 (average 32.5)
- Starc: 0+1 (average 0.5)
- Siddle: 1+11+2+18 (average 8)
- Pattinson: 2+25*+10*+35 (average 18)
- 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
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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