Australia’s batting needs a pre-Ashes shake up

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    David Warner is in career-best form. (AAP Image/Tony McDonough)

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    Looking towards next years Ashes series, it is apparent the Australia does not have the quality in the batting line-up to match England’s bowlers.

    On current form, our top six batsmen would struggle to deal with the pace battery that England possesses.

    The likes of Jimmy Anderson, Chris Tremlett, Stuart Broad and Tim Bresnan are looking dangerous, whether through swing or bounce. Also factor in Graeme Swann who, along with Pakistan’s Saeed Ajmal, is one of the best spin bowlers in the world.

    The only way Australia can beat England is for the selectors to not only make tough decisions, but common sense decisions. Cricket Australia could make one immediately, and that is dropping Michael Clarke as a selector. He should be replaced by the likes of Mark Waugh or Shane Warne.

    The openers: David Warner and Ed Cowan
    I genuinely think they deserve more time. In twelve months, they could be different players. Warner and Cowan have only played 16 Tests between them, and have opened the batting together in only seven.

    Warner has scored two centuries and a fifty, while Cowan has only managed two fifties. Compare that with England’s established pair of Alistair Cook and Andrew Strauss, who have accumulated 38 centuries and 55 fifties in 171 Tests between them.

    On those stats, it’s a no contest. However, there are a few things that may favour the Australian pair. Warner in his short Test career has shown that he can adapt. He scored an unbeaten hundred under difficult pitch conditions in Hobart, followed by a blazing century in Perth. Recently, in the third Test against the Windies, he scored a fifty in over 130 balls in conditions favouring spin.

    Warner’s batting partner Cowan topped the Shield run-scorers tally with 948 at an average of 59.25. While he hasn’t set the world on fire at Test level, I do think the conditions in England may favour him. They are not too dissimilar to what he’s used to at Bellerive.

    I also think there are not too many openers putting their hands up consistently in domestic cricket. Rob Quiney and Liam Davies had a good 2011/12 season, but they need to back it up in 2012/13.

    The England openers may not have everything their own way. Cook will hopefully face a sterner test from our fast bowlers. He’ll face improved bowlers like Siddle and Hilfenhaus, but it’s the younger bowlers like Pattinson and Cummins who may provide a tougher test.

    Strauss will be 36 when the Ashes commence, and has struggled of late. Perhaps it’s one area Australia could have an advantage.

    The openers from both sides will determine who will win the Ashes.

    Number three: Shane Watson
    In 34 Tests, he has two centuries and 18 fifties. That is a terrible conversion rate and is not good enough to bat at three. Watson should be batting at five, where he would also provide more of a bowling option.

    Solutions at three include Ricky Ponting, Peter Forrest and Usman Khawaja. A bolter might be Joe Burns from Queensland.

    Meanwhile, England’s Jonathan Trott in 28 Tests has seven centuries and nine fifties to his name. Australia will have their work cut out.

    Number four: Ricky Ponting
    Ponting had an outstanding test series against a woeful Indian attack but has come back to earth in the Carribbean with a modest series thus far.

    What worries me more with Ponting is whether he can still adapt to different conditions? In Australia the ball comes onto the bat, while in the Windies, it’s the opposite. England will be different again with swing being dominant.

    With his reflexes waning, right now he looks like a long shot to play in the Ashes. Ponting will be 38 going on 39.

    Even if he had a great series against South Africa at home, there are no guarantees he would be successful in England. Selectors may have the tough choice to make, by tapping him on the shoulder, and allowing Clarke to move up to number four.

    Kevin Pietersen may have struggled lately, but did score a magnificent 151 in a recent Test outing. He represents a massive danger to the Aussies.

    Number five: Michael Clarke
    Clarke is in the best form of his career, so if anything, he should move up to number four and allow Watson to bat at five.

    England’s counterpart Ian Bell is a steady compact player who has a good Test record of 16 centuries at an average of 46 in 74 Tests. Again, Australia have their work cut out.

    Number six: Mike Hussey
    Hussey continues to be busy at six and still performs adequately. Hussey will be 38 when the Ashes start. Also if he has a quiet home summer against South Africa and Sri Lanka, than I would replace him with Tasmania’s George Bailey. Bailey has had a consistent last couple of years at Shield level, but he’s not Mike Hussey.

    This may spell trouble for Australia. It is crucial to Australia’s chances that Hussey still has some runs left in his old legs. If you have an old player, than he must bat at six, no higher!

    England have been struggling to fill their number six position since Paul Collingwood retired. They have tried Eion Morgan unsuccessfully, but in their last Test, had wicketkeeper Matt Prior at six.

    At this stage the Ashes top six should be Ed Cowan, David Warner, Usman Khawaja, Michael Clarke, Shane Watson, Michael Hussey.

    I still think Khawaja is the man at three. Technically he is the one. Mentally he just has to sort himself out, especially from constantly getting out in the twenties. I have him ahead of Forrest. Bailey will be Hussey’s back up.

    In some ways, it does look like a weak line-up, with the top three being very inexperienced. However, if certain key individuals step up, like Watson and Warner, and if Hussey is still up to it, England will get a run for their money.