It has only taken seven days of this series for many Australian fans to return to the view that Australia is well behind England and will not win back the Ashes in England. The efforts of our tenth wicket partnerships in Trent Bridge masked some of the frailties in the Australian batting lineup that ought to have be obvious to all.
Simply put: Australia’s batting was not up to standard in the the first innings and, frankly, has not been for some time. Forget the batsman who come in at number 8 through 11: it is not their job to score runs for us and in recent times they have been doing that job. This issues did not just arise in Trent Bridge but has been a fairly constant refrain through Australia’s test cricket for a number of tests now.
Last night’s efforts from Australia’s top 7 were nothing short of woeful. Did anyone really get a good delivery that lead to their wicket? Shane Watson was dismissed because another bowler exploited his most obvious technical flaw. Chris Rogers missed a full toss. Usman Khawaja had a brain snap and hit one to mid off. Phil Hughes slashed at one a foot outside off stump. Steve Smith meekly gloved a ball to short length. There was no mystery in the English bowling: they simply bowled the ball at Australia’s batsman and even when it was not in the right areas the Australian batsmen contrived a way to get themselves out.
Much has been made on social media of the use of the DRS system by Shane Watson. Australian fans need to stop whinging about their players and start looking at the real frailties in Australian cricket. Whether the use of DRS was right or wrong arguing about it masks the fact that the batting order Australia has in England and has stuck with since the retirements of Ponting and Hussey is not up to the task at test match level.
I am all for seeking to bring young players through and for trying to develop talent from within the team. That said, a massive question hovers over some of the selection decisions that were made during the Mickey Arthur era that have flowed through into this team now. I am not talking about revisiting the past here: we must stop waxing lyrical for a return of Simon Katich for example. Conversely though here are some names of players who have performed in Shield cricket that have not received an ounce of the chances that others have: D Hussey, A Voges, A Doolan, P Forrest and J Burns. I am not saying that they would have performed any differently at Lords over night but the fact that they have not received a semblance of a chance in the test team is something that must be questioned.
Australia was 9/114 in the first innings of the first test match at Trent Bridge and was dismissed for 128 at Lords on a wicket described by all as a run machine. That is simply not good enough. It is time to forget the vitriol aimed at one player about his use of DRS and focus on just how poorly our top 7 is playing. There is not much Australia can do given that they have squad to select from in England and those players must be relied upon to at least try to get the job done. Equally, perhpas the Darren Lehmann era will proceed when he has the reigns in full back in Australia with the end of the careers of some of the players who have not performed in recent times and the elevation of those who have earned their chance in Shield cricket.
Only time will tell: until then, if nothing else, last night was a jolt to the expectations that Australian fans probably needed after those expectations were elevated by the events of Trent Bridge.