Australia collapse

House of Cards: it’s not over in Perth

Australia lost 7/130 on day 2 of the Perth Test. Only 2 players got more than 50 in their 1st innings. They were bowled out for 60 and collapsed on demand in England 3 months ago. If New Zealand get a lead on day four, what are the chances of another collapse and a dramatic finish at the WACA?

Cricket administrators and telecasters will certainly hope something like this manifests. And it’s not impossible. Australia has collapsed often.

They have, perhaps with the exception of Chris Rogers, lacked players who are able to defy conditions and reverse the fortunes of momentum. When the game turns, Australia has inevitably collapsed.

In contrast they are red hot when momentum is on their side, when one or two players seize the day with a thunderous spell of fast bowling or a quick-fire ton.

David Warner did that in Perth on day one by blazing 247. Khawaja went with him for most of the day crafting a fine 121.

Australia started day 2 at an almost impregnable 2/416. Many chalked up a massive win for Australia.

But New Zealand fought back hard. They bowled exceptional lines on day 2 and restricted Australia to only 70 runs for the loss of two wickets in the morning session. An hour later Australia had lost another 5 wickets for 61 making 7/130 in three hours.

They were chasing quick runs for a declaration many said. They were collapsing I contend. There was no need to rush things and the strike rates of Australia’s batsmen prove that they did not (Mitch Marsh 34 from 64 balls, Voges 41 from 83, Smith 27 from 68).

At 9 down Steve Smith had enough and called the declaration at 559.

Thanks to world class batting from Kane Williamson (166) and Ross Taylor (235*) New Zealand had amassed 6/510 by stumps on day three.

“It’s a road” went the familiar cry. Yes. This is not a quintessential Perth pitch but this is a fascinating Test Match. Nobody should think that the batting clinic put on by Warner, Khawaja, Williamson and Taylor was simply the product of a conducive wicket. Those innings were world class.

Taylor’s defiance of the second new ball spell yesterday should go down in the ages. Mitchell Starc bowled between 150 and 161.8kmph in 40 minutes of wrath and fury that snapped Brendon McCullum’s bat.

At present, New Zealand is only 15 runs from leading the Test Match.

Of course, the short-priced favourite is a draw but with 175 overs to go, who would seriously suggest that this Test Match is already over?

Only those who haven’t seen Australia bat very often in the past 5 years.

Australia’s collapsible batting leaves Pakistan in command

Recent Test Series victories against England and South Africa has papered over one of Australia’s flaws: batting. Today – as Pakistan dominate Australia in the UAE – I present to you why nobody should be surprised at Australia’s collapsible batting.

As the memory fades, the narrative of the Australian summer is increasingly about the fallout of Mitchell Johnson’s incredible assault on England.

England’s coach, several players and administrators are now casualties of that series and more is surfacing in Kevin Pietersen’s controversial book. Australia went on to defeat South Africa 2-1 away with another brilliant and disturbingly (for batsmen) hostile performance by Mitchell Johnson.

But Australia’s batting has been – in part – carried by its bowling and – at times – top-class fielding. Sure, there were some great hundreds scored by Australia in that home series against England (mostly when turning the screws as opposed to backs against the wall when hundreds really matter) and away against South Africa.

None were better than Michael Clarke’s 161 against South Africa at Newlands. The series locked at 1-1, Clarke withstood antagonism from the field and a seriously fired up Morne Morkel who, hurtling in at 150kmph, struck Clarke on the arm, the shoulder and helmet, drawing blood and preventing the Australian captain from scoring a run for nearly six overs. It would have taken the wicket of many world class batsmen and killed most readers. But are those moments rarer than collapses?

I think so. Who remembers Durham 2013? Australia were cruising at 0/109 in their chase of 299 and were bundled out by Stuart Broad for 224, losing their last seven wickets for 58.

Fast forward to the Ashes in Australia. How many times did Brad Haddin rescue the top order?

Batting at 7, he was the second-highest run scorer in the series, with 493 at an average of 61, with five 50s and one ton.

Haddin came in to bat at:

  • 5/100 in Brisbane (scoring 94)
  • 5/247 in Adelaide (scoring 118 taking Australia to a match winning first innings score of 570)
  • 5/143 in Perth (scoring 55)
  • 5/112 in Melbourne (scoring 65)
  • 5/97 and 5/200 in Sydney (scoring 75 and 18).

Australia improved marginally in South Africa, but in the Port Elizabeth defeat they were skittled for 246 and after being 0/126 in their second dig, were rolled for 216.

Overnight Australia went from 0/128 to 303 all out. Haddin could not save them. Warner’s 133 is 44% of the team’s runs. Hats off to Pakistan. They’ve overcome the loss of Saeed Ajmal and proved that they’re a tough opponent. The next two days will be a massive challenge for Australia’s batsmen as they seek to resist a likely Pakistan victory late today and tomorrow.

Wrung out yesterday, burned by Broad today – Aussie Ashes scattered

Armageddon?

After sleeping only 3 hours this morning after 3am, I’m substantially wrecked today, and so is Australian cricket. Some of you might think I’m being overly negative in response to the loss at Durham overnight, but we’ve a right to be armageddonist.

Remember how we felt in 2010-11 after England skittled us for 98 on Boxing Day at the MCG and replied with 0/150+ at stumps? Remember the 3-1 defeat, albeit three absolute thrashings, in that series over two years ago?

What about 4-0 down in India earlier this year?

How about being 3-0 down in England?

There shouldn’t be any bush beating here, Australia is at its lowest point for decades and it’s arguably a lower tide than the 1980s.

After an improved showing at Old Trafford last week I was amazed at how quickly the feeling of “we’re back” lurked behind media reactions. The phrase, while not quite spoken aloud, also seemed on the tip of tongues in conversations I’d had with fellow Australians. Sure, we’ve been in the odd decent position and our bowlers have often created that, but in a two-horse race run across five days there will almost always be a point where you can draw that bow.

The fact is, our batting collective is not Test standard, we lack resolve and fortitude and the evidence of this is plain and readily available. You won’t need Assange, Manning or Snowden to show it to you.

Don’t lose sight of the big issue

Without going on like a two-bob watch I must say that the odd positive on-field display should not distract us from the cancerous issues stymieing Australian cricket. The systematic destruction of our cricketing stocks is unintentionally orchestrated by dark, incompetent administrative forces and is first evident in the emaciation of talent available to Australia. Our stocks are thin. The numbers returned in the Sheffield Shield have been screaming it for years.

“Oh relax, we’ve had our time in the sun, it’s someone else’s turn”

This is the kind of statement made by those who concede defeat and disappointment with ease, and who lack the creativity and progressive attitude to launch remedial action. It’s the kind of statement that first permits, and then breeds mediocrity and it is spreading throughout Australian cricket – and many other sports – with devastating effect.

I’ve previously listed some of the issues I have with Australian cricket as early as 2011 and published more recent analysis of Australia’s Batting Demise, so I’ll now turn my attention to last night’s on-field events.

Day Four, Fourth Ashes Test – Durham

Congratulations England, you deserve the victory and the glory.

The poor application of some of Australia’s talented players can be blamed in part-only for last night’s collapse. Mostly it comes down to inferior ability and a higher quality of cricket played by England.

The morning began well for Australia, with the bowlers again doing their bit.

I was amazed at Aleem Dar’s decision to not give Tim Bresnan out when he didn’t bother to play a shot to Jackson Bird, who struck him on the pad, dead in front of the stumps. Height the only partial issue of pedantic concern. A review followed, but according to hawkeye, with half the ball smashing the stumps, Dar’s decision couldn’t be overturned. The bloke didn’t play a shot. May as well have tossed the bat away and was racked right in front. In my book that is out, all day, every day and it is only in this DRS/hawkeye world where this mantra has been eroded.

I ask then, how long will it be before the pitching outside leg criteria for LBW is questioned?

If the ball pitches outside leg you can’t be given out LBW. This rule hails from a pre-hawkeye world where umpires had to be sceptical of the angle, assuming the ball would need to do far too much to hit the stumps. Hawkeye’s exponents will argue that if it can be shown the ball will rattle the castle, then perhaps the old interpretation should be referred for review…

Ryan Harris is a superstar and his 7 wickets in England’s second innings included some absolute rippers to top order batsmen. At 33, Harris must be gutted at the realisation he may never win an Ashes Series. He will certainly never win one in England.

Crashing from 2/167 to all out for 224 in the final session last night was a bitter blow, but as I’ve written here it should remind us of the bigger issues in Australian cricket. Stuart Broad’s evening spell was a catalogue of high class bowling, deft captaincy and good fielding. How this Australian camp can regroup and perform well at The Oval in a week is beyond me. That dressing room must be an horrific place today…

Just think, we’ve got 6 more Tests against England and then we’re away for 3 against the world’s best Test side and bowling attack, South Africa. Look out.

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