Australia’s batting woes so far in the Ashes have been a headache for coach Darren Lehmann.
He had put the batsmen on notice after the first Test and even reportedly admonished them after their first innings collapse at Lord’s but besides a 98-run stand between Michael Clarke and Usman Khawaja, nothing seemed to have changed in their second essay, as the visitors crashed to 235 all out, again, thanks to the last three batsmen, the tail end, who battled on bravely.
It even prompted Allan Border to quip: “Watching, I could honestly say the nine, 10 and jack looked more competent than our one, two and three.”
For good measure, he added: “If that was me in the top three I’d be embarrassed.”
None of the criticism, the barbs from the media and looks of anguish and despair from former cricketers and fans have spurred the Australians on. Their lean patch, which has prolonged since their disastrous tour of India, has been compounded by the fact that even Clarke, their best batsman by far, has struggled in England, barring a facile 51 on the fourth day at Lord’s.
Shane Watson has drawn flak for repeatedly falling over on his front foot, Chris Rogers has not looked the part as Test opener, Phil Hughes has been indifferent since a battling half-century at Trent Bridge and Steve Smith’s form has been appalling. David Warner after “punching” his way across England was packed off to Zimbabwe to get some runs under his belt but the stocky southpaw failed to get bat to ball.
Geoffrey Boycott, the former England opener and captain admitted he always knew that Australia’ batting was the weakest link in the chain but said he was aghast at their capitulation innings after innings. Boycott, a solid opener, renowned for his watertight technique questioned the Australians’ mental ability to stand up against the English bowlers.
“I always thought their batting was a problem but I never dreamt it would be this bad. Without runs you are never in the game and at times the Australian technique or mental application is no better than Zimbabwe or Bangladesh. It is a mismatch.
“Even if they win the toss and bat on a very flat pitch they do not have enough ability or mental resolve to stop the England team. They are going to get steamrollered in the same way Australia used to wallop us. Now the boot is on the other foot,” Boycott wrote in his column for The UK Telegraph.
Boycott tore into Watson, Hughes, Smith, Rogers and Khawja for their lack of application and pointed out that at 31, it is too late for Watson to change the way he played. Like Border, Boycott opined that on Sunday, when the the last three Australian wickets held the fort together, they looked far better than the top-order.
While Ashton Agar saved Australia the blushes in Trent Bridge with a fluent 98 on debut, Brad Haddin, the wicketkeeper with James Pattinson had to do the bulk of the work to get the Baggy Greens within 14 runs of the target. At Lord’s it was the same story as Peter Siddle, Pattinson and Ryan Harris, spent precious time in the middle to delay the inevitable.
“The top six in any team have to bat collectively and make the bulk of the team’s runs. You cannot leave it to wicketkeepers and tail-enders to lift you out of the mire every time. In fact on Sunday if you were a neutral watching the Australian batsmen and then some of the tailenders bat, you would think the tail-enders were better players. Peter Siddle, James Pattinson and Ryan Harris looked more comfortable at the crease. That is ridiculous,” Boycott wrote in a scathing criticism of the visitors.
Never before in recent memory has an Australian team been subjected to such jibes and insults. While Cricket Germany, in a tweet, offered to replace England as Australia’s opponents, Boycott felt even the England Lions could run the Aussies close, if given a chance.
“In 1994-95 we went Down Under and were insulted when they made our national team play a one-day series against Australia and Australia A. Well now I think our England Lions could beat this lot, or at least give them a run for their money. In some ways many of us England supporters want to see Australia thrashed 5-0 and then go to Australia this winter and beat them 5-0 in their own country.”
However, Boycott, like many other patrons of cricket around the world stressed a healthier Australian team is in the better interests of the game globally. The Ashes have been turned to a one-sided show and interest and enthusiasm are bound to take a beating if England keep dominating.
“It was not interesting when they were beating us and it is not so good now,” said Boycott. (cricinfo)