Australian batsmen including skipper Michael Clarke (left) struggled against the moving ball in the second Test at Port Elizabeth © Getty Images
South Africa’s huge win in the second Test has put Australia on the back-foot. The tourists, who started off on an impressive note with a big win in the first Test were pummelled by the hosts in the second. While the cricket fraternity savoured yet another riveting contest between the two rivals, both teams were found short on few counts in the first two games. For Australia, it could be critical, as they are in a position to claim a series win in the Rainbow Nation. Devarchit Varma has more…
Several times during the Ashes 2013-14, the Australian team slipped to precarious positions such as one at the Adelaide Oval in the first innings; when they were struggling at 174 for four and went onto post a huge total of 529. The lower-middle order staged a rescue mission quite a few times in that series and it was one of the major factors of Australia’s series win. All seems to be fine till a side is winning, and the loopholes and shortcomings come forth only when there are losses. Australia’s case in the recent times is an interesting one — despite the Ashes win and the win in the first Test in South Africa, there were few areas to be addressed which still persist.
Australia’s problem with swing and seam movement is an issue that has persisted for long — the reason why some of their batsmen struggled in England and the same ones scored runs in the Ashes Down Under. Australia have certainly taken huge leaps in order to find a settled batting line-up and the one that is performing, but their struggles against a moving ball is still there, which was visible in the manner they capitulated against the South Africans at Port Elizabeth. The third Test will be at Newlands, Cape Town, where Dale Steyn and Vernon Philander have an excellent record.
Apart from this, the form of few batsmen seems to be a major issue. Michael Clarke was honest enough to admit that if Shane Watson has to be inducted in the playing eleven for the final Test, and based on form, it should be him that Watson would be replacing. Clarke seems to be struggling for runs as his dry run with the bat has continued for 11 innings. But it is not possible for a captain to sit out of an important game as this (third Test against South Africa), and Australia can only hope that their captain finds form in the game.
Chris Rogers has found himself in trouble quite a few times in the past couple of months. The left-handed veteran batsman has had occasions wherein he went up to the extent of admitting a possible axe. But centuries against England and one in the second Test against South Africa has helped him keep his place in the side. Still, the top-order contribution hasn’t been as much as Australia would have liked it to be.
Watson’s availability has certainly put Australia in a dilemma. One among Shaun Marsh and Alex Doolan could be the possible casualty for the third Test as Watson’s ability to move the ball will add more to Australia’s firepower. Coach Darren Lehmann has clearly stated that Australia will be looking forward more to Watson the bowler and not the batsman. But in case of Marsh and Doolan, it certainly will be a sad decision. Both contributed heavily in the win in the first Test, and the impending axe from the playing eleven would hamper their progress. Australia may however, opt to give Doolan a full series and drop Marsh, but the latter has experience in his bag which may come in handy.
(Devarchit Varma is a reporter with CricketCountry. He can be followed on Twitter @Devarchit)