Mitchell Johnson may be a very strong contender for Man of the Series award, but Australia’s wins wouldn’t have been as convincing without the rescue acts by Brad Haddin and Steve Smith. Abhijit Banare elaborates on Haddin and Smith’s performances which set the momentum for Australia in their first innings at Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG).
The Ashes 2013-14 can be described under three general points: a) Mitchell Johnson and a sensational pace attack applying relentless pressure b) England batting that couldn’t have been more abysmal c) Brad Haddin and Steven Smith, who rescued Australia for the nth time.
Haddin’s performances in the series will go down in cricketing history as one of the finest by a wicketkeeper along with Johnson who ripped through the English batting. At the end of the series, Johnson is almost certain to be adjudged Man of the Series for demoralising England. But their wins couldn’t have been as thumping and convincing without the performance of Haddin in particular, and Smith.
A good show in first innings is as good as half the battle won. But none of the five batsmen in the XI barring Smith and Haddin looked as convincing as they did in the entire series. The overall statistics will reveal a valuable contribution from all the batsmen at different stages of a Test. But none will be able to match up to the vital innings played by Haddin in every single match and Smith who chipped in as well. It was the fall of fifth Australian wicket which spelled trouble for England time and again. In the three out of the five Tests, the sixth wicket was hard to come by and the momentum shifted away from England.
Let’s recount some of the key moments Haddin was involved in each of the Tests this series:
132 for six batting first, Australia should have been packed up in no time by James Anderson and Stuart Broad. But a 114-run partnership between Johnson and Haddin changed the course of Australia’s innings. As much as Johnson tormented the England batsmen, Haddin blunted the aggression of the English bowlers not just in this match, but in other Tests as well. He scored 94.
This was only one instance when the Australian team put up a comparatively dominating performance in the first innings. Even then, at 257 for five, Australia could have easily lost their way, but Haddin and Michael Clarke stitched a 200-run partnership to take the Aussies to a commanding position. The wicketkeeper scored 118 and Australia went on to post 570.
This was one of the finest knocks by Haddin in the series. England were hungry to avert a series loss and pushed as hard as possible to bowl out Australia on a pitch known to assist the pacers. At 143 for five, had England managed to take another wicket, the story could have been different. Yet again Haddin blunted them. He was accompanied by another player who seems to be adept with playing the saviour role — Steven Smith. The 124-run partnership under challenging conditions is one of the better innings you would see in Test cricket. Haddin scored 55 and Smith went on to score his second Ashes ton taking Australia to 385.
Melbourne: Haddin single-handedly drags Australia ahead
This time around, it was just Haddin who was the saviour for Australia by scoring 65 and taking Australia to a score of 204 — his fourth fifty in the series.
It was a déjà vu of Perth, in fact even worse. Instead of 143 for five, it was 97 for five. Yet again Smith and Haddin did the repair job taking Australia to 225 when Haddin was dismissed for 75.
Out of the 1700 runs scored by Australia in the first innings across these five Tests, Haddin and Smith together have contributed 40.52 per cent of these runs i.e. 689 runs, while the rest of the five batsmen together managed 42.35 per cent i.e. 720 runs. This gives an indication of Haddin’s consistency in the series. Overall, the sixth and seventh wicket partnerships for Australia have averaged 68 in this series and Haddin has been part of most of those partnerships.
Both Haddin and Smith looked positive in their style despite being under pressure. England bowlers would say many instances when they went past Haddin’s bat early in the innings. But that’s what happens when you are in good form and you end up making your own luck. Haddin and Smith’s fearless attitude turned the pressure back on to England in no time. The flow of runs never stopped. Both these players played the pull shot extremely well.
Haddin over a period a time has turned out to be mentally much tougher and never gets bogged down. He has also spoken openly about the illness of his daughter Mia and the impact it had on him. At 36, Haddin looks as fresh as ever. One can only imagine the contribution he could have done to Australian cricket, if he wasn’t in the shadows of Adam Gilchrist.
For Smith, this series would finally mark his beginning of a matured Test player. No more will you hear of Smith, the bits-and-pieces player meant for the shortest version of the game.
While Smith is inching towards the peak of his career, Haddin will look to end his career on a high. After completing a major challenge at home, these two would be hungry to replicate the same when they face the World No 1 team, South Africa in Tests.
(Abhijit Banare is 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 on Twitter and blog)
Also on cricketcountry.com