A 0-3 scoreline clearly indicates Australia have been beaten fair and square. Yet the Australian batting — primary cause for the results — isn’t as bad as it’s perceived to be. Abhijit Banare presents a broad overview of Australia’s performance with the bat and positives to count on.
When Australia were performing relatively well early on Day One of the fifth Ashes Test, Michael Holding on commentary expressed what Darren Lehmann would have echoed to his batsmen before the match. Consider it as a six-match Test series with five more to come in December. And if you perform well in this one there’s lot to be positive about.
Australia are playing the final encounter at The Oval with a 0-3 scoreline and come what the result be in this encounter, they are sure to receive some flak from their local press. Batting in particular has hurt Australia the most but more significantly a divisive effort in the same department has made the real difference between the two teams.
As mentioned in this article, good sides always have one of the members leading from the front and others rallying around. And more significantly in moments of crisis, the performance of that one player carries them through. On five occasions in eight innings this series, England were three down with less than 70 on board, yet they managed to find one batsmen who managed to take them home.
A brittle Aussie line-up, except for Michael Clarke, none of the others walked out with confidence without worrying for their place in the next test or in some cases which number they will come out to bat at. Such confused approach to an innings against a formidable opponent was not going to help much. And on most occasions a ‘fighting’ or a ‘gutsy’ knock was all which they could muster up and on more than one instance it ended up in a losing cause.
Phil Hughes’ laborious 81 in first innings of the series followed by Brad Haddin’s lone fight of 71 in the second, ended up in disappointment. Clarke finally managed to find the elusive form with a 187 in the third Test at Manchester. Chris Roger’s ton at Chester-le-Street was refreshing while Shane Watson‘s 176 at the Oval is one of the best hundreds hit by the Australian all-rounder in his career. The performances with the bat have appeared scattered and sadly from different sources. None of the batsman has been in ‘good form’ — call it the lack of consistency. Nevertheless it would extremely unfair to question the abilities of the batsmen as many made it out to be after the spineless performance at Lord’s.
What Australia have found in this series is batsmen who managed to fight against the odds. These players are the ones Australia will be keen to give a longer run. And in that list Rogers is right up there. Two half-centuries and a gutsy ton made the signal clear that Rogers was the stable opener the team needed. The second best find for the team is Steven Smith. A player whose presence in a Test squad was widely questioned, Smith has really fought well to present a performance to remember for. While the bowling has been effective, the team has already found two more reliable batsmen along with skipper Clarke while Watson and David Warner are still certainties. Coming from a 0-4 whitewash in India, the present Australian team is still better with the bat.
Right from the build-up to the Ashes, even the graphic illustrator of SkySports knew that the competition would not be as hard fought as the banners and promotional videos were made out to be. From a not-much-to-expect perspective, Australia haven’t done as bad as they are perceived to be.
At least to end on a high, the Aussies batted first on a flat Oval deck which is making Adelaide strip appear more challenging (both tracks are known for being flat tracks). And rightly so they have seized the opportunity with classy innings from a struggling Watson and a fluent knock from Smith. As they move ahead from here, the lighter bag of positives will still matter when they introspect and prepare for the reverse Ashes. If not that far, an effective show in the One-Day International (ODI) might still be enough to end the tour with a lot more confidence.
(Abhijit Banareis a reporter at CricketCountry. He is an avid quizzer and loves to analyse and dig out interesting facts which allows him to learn something new every day. Apart from cricket he also likes to keep a sharp eye on Indian politics, and can be followed onTwitterandblog)