After two days’ play at Lords, Australia need an absolute miracle to avoid their sixth straight Test defeat. The reason for this is pure, unadulterated, pathetic batting.
Why beat around the bush? Australia, in its current incarnate, are horrendous with the bat. If you haven’t already seen the score then don’t bother. We got nowhere near batting 120 overs, which I stated in an earlier post is about the requirement for a good 1st innings. Instead, Australia managed just over fifty overs at the crease, scoring a pitiful 128.
Closing England’s innings
The day started well enough with Harris bagging a couple of early wickets. England’s tail wagged sufficiently though, and pushed their first innings total over the 350 score I feared would put England on top. But, with a good batting track, a big occasion and plenty of time ahead, there was some hope that Australia’s batsmen could finally apply themselves and, at least, level England’s score.
The Australian batting calamity
I didn’t see any of the first session as we were out to dinner with a group of friends. Happy Birthday John. Some of us, including John, did plenty of phone checking to keep abreast of events 15,000 kilometres away in London.
I arrived home to catch most of the second session and was unfortunately a witness to Australia’s batting calamity. Shane Watson’s review was clearly an error of judgement in the use of DRS, again. Watson is a massive LBW candidate, regularly plays across his line and he should know that if he feels he didn’t hit it, then he is almost always out. And he was, again on a start for 30, last ball before lunch. There’s talk that his partner Rogers encouraged the review so maybe that absolves Watson of the “selfish review” critique on this occasion?
A short time into the second session the house of cards came crashing down. Chris Rogers copped a bizarre full toss from England’s spinner, G Swann, who appealed with the umpire obliging. Rogers, obviously feeling the nip of pressure and the narrative of Australia’s poor use of the DRS, decided not to review and walked. It was clearly not-out and DRS would have reinstated him.
The next man in, Philip Hughes – apparently totally oblivious that we were 2 for not many in a Test Match – went aggressively chasing a delivery outside off and got a feather snick to Prior at keeper. He was given out, but reviewed. DRS revealed a tiny hot spot and the inadmissible “snickometer” later confirmed a noise. Another poor use of DRS and Australia are 3/50-odd and have squandered our two reviews.
New number three Usman Khawaja looked like the man he replaced, Ed Cowan, looked in the First Test – totally spooked. He clearly didn’t want a bar of facing Graeme Swann and you could see that Swann’s probing was suffocating Khawaja, who eventually holed out with a weak, skied shot to mid-off Pietersen, who was able to read the newspaper before taking a comfortable catch.
Australia are now four down for, how do you say it, stuff all. England are sitting on the chest of our top order, slapping its face like a school yard bully.
When Steve Smith and Michael Clarke succumbed and then Ashton Agar ran himself out, the march of Australian batsmen back to the pavilion would rival the Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca. This pilgrimage, however, is no once-in-a-lifetime experience – it’s occurring with the regularity of Sunday church.
I’ll spare you the rest of the painful details. You get the point. Anyone out there thinking that maybe the pitch is bad, or our luck is out of order, or that the poor use of DRS are the major contributing factors, kindly remove your head area from that grainy sediment stuff.
Speaking of the batting in the post-day’s-play press conference, Australia’s coach Darren Lehmann stated, “it was more one-day batting than Test much batting. We know we have to improve our batting over periods of time and bat a lot more than 55 overs. We believe the plans are right. Our shot selection was poor today. Simple as that. I think eight out of the 10 were self-inflicted to be perfectly honest.”
Where to from here? A friend asked what our options are in terms of other players, my response is as follows:
The reserve batsman on tour is now in the team and played a shocking shot to give away his wicket cheaply. The man he replaced is haunted at the prospect of batting. It will be detrimental to elevate reserve wicket-keeper Mathew Wade into the top six; we had the chance to prepare Brad Haddin to bat at six (with Wade at 7 as keeper) but ignored this option so Haddin must now stay at 7. We can’t go Skype-ing players back home and pleading them to come join the party, because they’re on the couch eating corn chips like the rest of us, watching on in horror. So this is it, we’ve got one of the largest touring parties over there, 18, since the days it took 2 months to get there on the ship. Pick 8 bowlers.
England’s second innings
Australia’s big game bowler, Peter Siddle, did it again late on Day Two. Removing each of England’s big three – Cook, Trott and Pietersen. Tim Bresnan joined Joe Root as nightwatchman and England limped through to stumps at 3/31, leading Australia by 264 runs.
For a significant period during Australia’s innings England employed the use of a substitute fielder. The commentators revealed that this man, a former county cricket stalwart, was in fact Chris Taylor, retired cricketer and current fielding coach of England. This is ridiculous. How can the rules permit a coach to take the field of play and participate in the match?
Protocol stipulates that a young and talented member of the host ground’s cricket club will get the opportunity to participate as a substitute fielder. Some sides have exploited this and utilised an older player, more accomplished at the art of good fielding. The most infamous of these incidents was Gary Pratt who ran-out Ricky Ponting in the 2005 Ashes series. This is controversial enough, but to use a coach? I think that’s taking it way too far. Time for an ICC ruling on this one.