Glenn Mitchell’s article the other day discussing the best individual innings by Australian batsmen got me thinking of all the unsung heroes who have made tidy, sometimes critical contributions to the batting when they really had no place in doing so.
I’m talking about bowlers, of course.
The Roar has discussed quality batsmanship from Aussie bowlers in the past. The focus of Pat’s article, however, was on the broader subject of Australia’s tradition of good batting from tail-enders.
What I present to you is less retrospective; six quality knocks from Aussie bowlers since Australia lost its number one ranking in August 2009.
(Much like Glenn’s piece, numbers six through four will be presented today, with my top three following tomorrow.)
6. Nathan Hauritz’s 75 at the MCG versus Pakistan, December 2009
If you were to go back and have a look at the scorecard for the first innings of the Boxing Day Test between Australia and Pakistan in 2009, you would find it makes for pretty good reading. Five wickets declared for a score of over 450, with every batsman making 50 except for the unbeaten Michael Clarke.
I say ‘every batsman’, but there was a bowler in there too. Yes, Nathan Hauritz once made 75 as a night-watchman at a capable strike rate of over 49.
I bring this innings up not because it was a particularly excellent knock, nor because the game was in an awkward position for Australia. The pitch was flat and the bowling mediocre. Australia was in a great position when Hauritz arrived at the crease.
With all due respect to Nathan, it wasn’t a particularly important innings. Except for two things.
Firstly, in making those 75 runs, Hauritz catapulted his batting average from 19.7 to 24.7. You may recognise this batting average as being higher than Mitchell Johnson’s was when he was selected as an ‘all-rounder’.
Hauritz proved it was no fluke by maintaining a good average for the rest of his career too, finishing with an average of 25. Mitchell Johnson currently averages under 23.
The other thing that was interesting about Hauritz’s innings was what wasn’t achieved; namely a century. Hauritz fell for 75 and in doing so became the 20th Aussie half-centurion to not go on and get a century while playing in Australia during that particular summer.
Good thing we kicked that particular habit!
5. Ryan Harris’ 68* and
4. Nathan Lyon’s 40 at Kensington Oval versus the West Indies, April 2012
Last year, the Aussies were given the assignment of playing three Tests in the Caribbean in April. It wasn’t the most glamorous of tours – in fact it mostly consisted of Shivnarine Chanderpaul desperately trying to find someone who could hold a bat and build a decent partnership with him to win a match.
Only one Australians scored a century on tour, Matthew Wade, and in six innings of bowling only Michael Clarke and Nathan Lyon managed Michelle Pfeiffers (five-fer’s, geddit?)
It did have one interesting feature, though: the only two Aussies to average over 40 with the bat on the tour were bowlers. They were, in fact, our headline acts here.
Let’s talk about Ryan Harris. Remember that guy? About 180cm tall, plays for Queensland, took 47 Test wickets at 23.64 with two five-wicket hauls? That’s the bunny.
The interesting thing about Ryan Harris is that in spite of boasting an excellent Test record, he only ever received one man of the match award. And it was probably awarded for his batting.
On the third morning of the first Test, Ryan Harris found himself at the crease facing a red-hot Kemar Roach (indisputably the bowler of the series), with Australia teetering on the verge of a 200 run deficit, and with only one of the recognised batsmen (Wade) remaining at wicket.
Harris stuck around and managed to get his eye in, but before long Wade was making his way back to the pavilion, bringing Ben Hilfenhaus to the crease with Australia still 164 runs behind the Windies.
You might recognise this position as being tactically described among Test cricket strategists as ‘undesirable’.
This exigency did not appear to faze Harris, however. In fact, throughout his three-and-a-half hour stay at the crease he demonstrated great concentration to compile 44 runs with Ben Hilfenhaus and then another 77 with Nathan Lyon, who also seemed to rise to the occasion.
It admittedly helped a great deal that the Windies began to bowl without discipline at a much shorter length to the tailenders, but the batsmen could only play against the standard of bowling they were confronted with, and did so with aplomb.
By the time Michael Clarke’s declaration came with Australia still 40 runs in arrears, the pitch had begun to deteriorate, and the Aussies went on to record a famous victory.