Positives and negatives from the summer of Test cricket

Ryan O'Connell Columnist

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    Australian team members. (AP Photo/Rob Griffith)

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    Another summer of Test cricket is behind us, yet before we look ahead to a tough Indian tour and the much-anticipated Ashes series, it’s time to look back at Australia’s home series’ against South Africa and Sri Lanka.

    I’ve identified three positives and three negatives that caught my eye during the summer, although plenty more could fit into both categories.

    Fear not, for the infamous buzzwords ‘rotation policy’ will be missing from the list. I think we can all agree those two little words have been given far too much airtime.

    Mind you, I would question the wisdom of selecting four quicks for a dead rubber on a traditionally spin-friendly wicket. If there are concerns about the workload of Australia’s fast bowlers, what better time was there to rest one or two of them than in Sydney?

    On that note, let’s start with the negatives.

    Nathan Lyon

    ‘Negative’ is probably a tad harsh, as I’ve actually been a staunch defender of Lyon, but there can be no debating that he had an average summer.

    Leaving numbers aside – and his weren’t attractive – it was his lack of variety, the low level of threat he appeared to be to batsmen and his inability to take wickets on days four and five that will stand out for many observers.

    I don’t think he should be even close to be being dropped just yet, primarily because I think he has some credits in the bank from his strong(ish) start to Test cricket, but also because I think he has potential.

    It’s also worth noting that his keeper didn’t do him many favours, costing him a number of dismissals, but we’ll come to that in a second.

    Additionally, let’s be honest, the spin cupboard is quite bare; there is no one behind him demanding selection.

    However, there is no question that Lyon needs to improve. He must have a strong series in India and put his average Australian summer in the rearview mirror.

    Matthew Wade’s glovework

    I’m no wicket-keeper, and I only performed the task once when I was playing. I actually hated it, and know very little of the intricacies of the position, so I can’t comment with any great authority of Wade’s technical performances behind the stumps.

    But even to this wicket-keeping novice, it’s evident that Wade has some work to do.

    He made a lot of errors during the summer, particularly when standing up to the stumps. In recent times with Australian keepers – from Healy, to Gilchrist, to Haddin – it’s hard to recall the same amount of mistakes happening over the course of a summer from the man with the gloves.

    Wade’s run scoring took some attention off of his bloopers, but like Lyon, he’ll need to improve, because you can be sure such errors will only be more costly in India and England.

    The running between the wickets

    Terrible. Unprofessional. Lacking fundamentals. Lazy.

    These are probably not the words you want to hear when discussing an international team’s running between the wickets.

    Australia needs to work on this aspect of their game, because it’s just irresponsible and unforgiveable to lose your wicket to a run out in a Test match. If there is even one such dismissal in a Test, then it’s two too many.

    Running in a straight line, loud and clear calling, holding the bat in the correct hand, running the first run hard, turning your body to the side of the ground where the ball is; these are fundamentals of cricket.

    The Australian’s were regularly guilty of not executing the above. Some led to run outs, others nearly did, while many went unnoticed and unpunished, but remain examples of poor cricket.

    Stuart Law has apparently passed on the batting coach role. Whoever takes the position would be wise to remember that running between the wickets is an essential part of batting, and an area the Aussies need to improve in.

    Moving onto the positives. . .

    Jackson Bird

    Some pundits claimed before his debut that Bird may lack the penetration required of a Test fast bowler. Those silly people should have known better (*ahem*).

    When it comes to fast bowling, movement is far more important than sheer pace. Bird is certainly capable of getting that movement; both through the air and off the pitch.

    He also has great control and bowls consistently in good areas that ask the batsmen questions.

    As far as speed goes, he bowls at a pace that is consistently above 135kph, hardly pedestrian.

    While he doesn’t necessarily hurry batsmen, there is more than one way to skin a cat. A fact Bird proved with his 11 scalps in two Tests.

    We shouldn’t get too carried away, after all, it was only Sri Lanka. However, the qualities displayed by Bird make me think he should do very well in English conditions, though India may be tough going for him at times. But India will be difficult for all Australia’s quicks.

    Michael Clarke

    It would be easy to simply nominate Clarke’s batting as a positive, as that alone was probably the highlight of the Test summer. Australia’s best batsman continued on with his rich vein of form, and always looked set for a big score.

    For me it was Clarke’s captaincy that really stood out across the two series.

    Intuitive, attacking, positive and pro-active. That’s the type of captaincy Australia is used to, and it’s most certainly what Clarke brings to the leadership table.

    Without knocking Ricky Ponting’s captaincy, which I think was unfairly judged – he was good, but not great – Clarke has taken the leadership of the Australian Test team to a different level.

    Great field placements, positive body language, clever use of his bowlers, impressive in front of the media, no impact on his own batting, and lastly, in what stood out the most for me, some outstanding declarations.

    All these qualities ensure that the Test captaincy is not an area of concern for Cricket Australia.

    The Roar’s cricket coverage

    I originally had “Dave Warner’s surprising consistency” in this section, but after he got a golden duck in Sydney, I thought a re-write was in order, so as to avoid getting savaged by Roarers. Which, in turn, actually highlighted another positive of the summer: The Roar’s cricket coverage.

    I felt that some of the articles posted, comments made, and discussions had on The Roar during the summer of Test cricket were nothing short of sensational.

    Some insightful pieces were written, and they generated some passionate, intelligent and articulate responses.

    Hats off to everyone involved, because I truly feel that reading people’s opinions – even if I vehemently disagreed with them – added to my enjoyment of the Test cricket played this summer.

    Ryan O
    Ryan O'Connell

    Ryan is an ex-representative basketballer who shot too much, and a (very) medium pace bowler. He's been with The Roar as an expert since February 2011, has written for the Seven Network, and been a regular on ABC radio. Ryan tweets from @RyanOak.

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