Carry on, reform or radicalise: where to for Australia’s batting line-up at Trent Bridge?

To win in England for the first time in 14 years, Australia must now win two Tests in a row. Radical action and all selection options must be considered. Including Shane Watson.

Sure, Australia can win one and draw one and retain the Ashes. To some that is the primary goal, but the longer the streak without a series win in England continues the bigger the monkey grows. Fourteen years is long enough.

I think Australia must shed any hint of conservatism and go hard at winning both Tests. Well that’s stating the obvious I suppose, but to achieve that objective radical thinking is required. Michael Jeh over at ESPN Cric Info has kicked off the radical ideas by suggesting Australia should consider picking Steve Magoffin.

The 35-year-old Magoffin is currently kicking about with Sussex and has finished in the top two wicket takers in Division One County Cricket in the last two seasons. Jeh cites the successful example of Chris Rogers; a sage old character who knows the conditions. Magoffin has played 131 First Class matches and averages 23 with the ball. But it won’t happen. If anyone’s going to get a go, it will be Peter Siddle.

Although it could improve, the bowling isn’t really the problem anyway. Mitchell Johnson is right when he says that Australia has not bowled in partnerships. They did at Lords but not in Birmingham, where too many pressure release deliveries were offered. Case in point: Hazlewood traps Adam Lyth LBW in England’s 4th innings chase of 120-odd and then bowls a wide, half-tracker to England’s best batsman who smashes a four the next ball. In fairness though, Australia’s bowlers weren’t given a chance by the Aussie batsmen.

People have been saying that if you win the toss and bat then you win the Test, but that’s nonsense and Birmingham proved that. Perhaps Clarke should have bowled, hindsight-ologists will say. But perhaps he was spooked by Ponting’s decision to do so in 2005. Who knows, but citing ‘conditions’ every time the batsmen fail is a cop out.

The fact is Australia’s batting seems like a one trick pony; they can bully and dominate opposition attacks when the match momentum is in their favour, they look great setting a declaration total. But at 3/50 they’re increasingly less able than past sides to fight their way back to ascendency. Temperament, mentality, psychology, technique, whatever you like. When the crowd is behind England and it gets a bit hard out there, jenga time.

It happened in 2005, 2009, 2013 and it’s happened in four of the six innings Australia has batted in 2015.

Trent Bridge will not be any easier. Like Edgbaston, the crowd will be rowdy and right into Australia and they need to harden up. Johnson’s response to the crowd at Edgbaston was fantastic and his management of the pressure is the template.

Selection musings

The next time Australia tours England will be 2019 and the prospect of 18 years without a series win should be enough to motivate armchair sports frothers to ponder what can be done to win at Trent Bridge. Obviously we can’t play the game, but we can speculate about the team.

The conservative amble

Simple. Stick with the same XI and tell ’em to execute better.

The responsive centrist

Adam Voges hasn’t done enough. Time for a rest sunshine. Shaun Marsh gets the nod here.

The reformist agenda

Voges still goes and Shaun Marsh still comes, but slots in at four and Michael Clarke heads down to hide at 5. The bowling needs to be reignited too, so either Starc or Hazlewood makes way for Siddle.

The radical approach

Go make a cuppa tea, take a deep breath and sit down before reading this.

Rogers, Warner, Smith, S Marsh, Clarke, M Marsh, Nevill, Watson, Johnson, Hazlewood/Starc, Lyon.

Yep that’s right. Either Starc or Hazlewood sits out for Watson and he bats at eight and bowls his heart out after Johnson and Starc/Hazlewood take the new cherry. Mitch Marsh offers further back-up with Lyon. The batting has been a nightmare and Watson was a part of that in Cardiff, but this radical idea may just stiffen Australia’s batting without losing too much from the bowling. Watson’s Test batting average is better than Andy Flintoff’s and his bowling average is almost identical and many consider Flintoff to be one of the greatest all-rounders in modern cricket. Just saying…

England has benefited immensely from the runs of Moeen Ali at 8 and he isn’t scoring them through luck. He’s a genuine batsman who bowls some handy spin. His 77 at Cardiff and 59 at Birmingham were game changers.

Ok, calm down. Have another cuppa, stats aren’t everything and Watson’s Test career is probably over and the centrists or reformists will probably win. However, if Voges keeps his spot perhaps Shaun Marsh comes in for one of the bowlers and Mitch Marsh goes to 8?

England

They were superb at Edgbaston. Steve Finn was brilliant and they’ll take some serious stopping now that Ian Bell is in form alongside Joe Root. They have lost James Anderson though. The impact of his absence cannot be overstated. It has been somewhat glossed over in the aftermath of Finn’s contribution but it does weaken England’s bowling, which strengthens the centrist and reformist agendas in Australia’s selection debate.

A friend of mine in England suggested that Adam Lyth should be dropped for Adil Rashid who will slot in at 8 while Moeen Ali will be promoted to open with Cook. He argues that Ali would compliment Cook’s style and that Rashid provides an extra spin option and is a capable middle-order batsman. Johnson’s short-ball dismissal of Ali at Lords could stymie this option though, but it certainly has merit.

Whoever is picked I’m predicting… in fact I’m not predicting anything. This series is too hard to figure out.

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