We are three days into the first Ashes test for 2015 and already the pundits, both in the paper and on social media, are writing Australia off. Frankly, I still think Australia can still win but it will take a change in mindset to do it.
To date in this test match two things have been obvious:
- Australia’s game plan has not changed away from the all out attack strategy that works in Australian conditions.
- That game plan is not working.
Now Australia is faced with a dual task: score 412 runs to win the test match OR bat for two days. Lets speak freely here: attacking at all costs will mean this game is over by tea day four and England will win. The English strike bowlers are bowling length and swinging the ball: Australian batting mistakes that flow from being too attacking will fall right into their hands.
So, how does Australia win?
To me it is obvious: Australia has to take a page out of the Chris Rogers play book and keep it simple! Watch Rogers bat: he reduces risk by shortening his back lift, pushing balls into gaps and leaving almost everything outside off stump. In the first innings, this approach led to a scoring rate for Rogers of 70 runs per 100 balls. If Australia scores at that rate it wins.
Even if you remove the score rate from the equation, reducing the risk of wickets by taking a less expansive approach leads to England being in the field for longer which reduces the effectiveness of the likes of Broad and Anderson as the day goes on. It also, obviously, reduces the likelihood of wickets from mistakes.
412 runs over two days, or 180 overs, is a fairly simple equation. It means Australia has to score at 2.3 runs per over. There is no need to knock the runs over in one day or as fast as possible. That would mean a strategy shift for Australia. I am not sure on current evidence shifting the strategy in this way is in the Lehmann / Clarke play book but only time will tell!