Michael Clarke. Australian cricket's Mr Glass may have played his last game of cricket.

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With the Ashes less than three weeks away, plenty has been said and written about Australia’s top-six frailties and precious little of it has been positive.

A fit Michael Clarke is the only genuine certainty in the eyes of observers, both at home and abroad, meaning the issue for the captain and his co-selectors is not necessarily one of just identifying the best specialist batsmen available, but rather of how to concoct the most useful batting line-up from one down to eleven.

Australia has been unable to rely on its top order for some time now, and it ambitious to expect a drastic turnaround in the fortunes of Ed Cowan, David Warner, Phil Hughes, Shane Watson and co. now facing England’s formidable attack in their own backyard.

While Brad Haddin will, Chris Rogers should and Usman Khawaja might replace some of their out-of-form countrymen, can anything but mediocrity be hoped for no matter which combination those in charge come up with?

Perhaps the hidden key is to focus on what the country is producing at the moment – namely, world-class bowlers who just happen to be above average with the bat in hand as well.

It has become more than an occasional quirk to see bowlers finish Test series with higher batting averages than a number of the men for whom runs is their primary job description.

In the recent 4-0 humiliation in India, left-arm paceman Mitchell Starc ended the tour with the team’s third-highest average at 36. Save for one measly extra single in Mohali, he would have compiled only the second individual century for the tourists in eight innings.

Peter Siddle made two half-centuries – one more than Cowan, Hughes, Matthew Wade and Steve Smith, and two more than the struggling Watson.

James Pattinson enjoyed a superior average to Australia’s then vice-captain, while the Victorian tearaway provided only one run less per innings than Hughes. This was no fluke for Pattinson, who also completed the whitewash of Sri Lanka in the Australian summer with the second-highest average behind Clarke.

The point is certainly not to suggest Australia’s bowlers are more accomplished with the willow than their batting counterparts. Averages by nature even out over time and Starc, Siddle and Pattinson are no match for Hughes, Cowan and Watson.

However, what this trio and players such as James Faulkner, Ashton Agar and even Ryan Harris offer Australia is the potential to bat a long, yet effective, tail.

Faulkner appears as likely to muscle a fifty down the order as Cowan does to plod to one at the top. And his accurate left-arm seamers and cutters could prove every bit as handy against this opponent as New Zealand’s Trent Boult and Neil Wagner did recently.

Picking Agar ahead of Nathan Lyon would be a big call, but the teenager is bowling well and appears to possess composure.

Australia might be closer to taking a gamble on his variety than some people think, and his three well-made half-centuries in 14 first-class innings will not have harmed his chances one iota.

A lot of significance is often placed on the quality of a team’s number seven. His potential output is thought to represent the ‘depth’ or otherwise of the batting order.

But what value do you place on a competent seven, eight, nine, ten and eleven in comparison to a confidence-lacking extra specialist at number six, the wicket-keeper at number seven and a traditional rabble of bunnies to follow?

Doubtless late-order partnerships are set to play an important role in the Ashes. England’s best bowlers are no mugs with the bat.

Australia might do well to accept its batting flaws are somewhat irreversible and go for all-out attack in the bowling department along with an appropriate amount of trust in the sting of the tail.

A side consisting of Hughes, Watson, Khawaja, Clarke, Rogers, Haddin, Faulkner or Starc, Agar, Pattinson, Siddle and Harris offers unprecedented bowling depth and variety – including five fast bowlers – along with one of the most talented lower-order batting groups ever assembled.

Indeed Starc, Pattinson, Siddle and Harris have all walked to the crease for their country after six dismissals.

Is it risky? Yes. Is it unconventional? Yes.

Is it a bold attacking strategy that supports Australia’s recent strengths, accepts the weaknesses and puts England’s batsmen on notice? Absolutely.

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The Crowd Says (54)

  • June 23rd 2013 @ 9:47am
    Matthew Skellett said | June 23rd 2013 @ 9:47am | ! Report

    Prescious little to be positive about., the whole shebang from Mr Sutherland , Mr Arthur ,Mr Inverarity and Mr Clarke and the main contracted players are all bumbling along in glorious denial -they all seem to be under the impression that doing the same things over and over again will produce a different result from the one the public and the media are seeing -the british press call the Ashes Squad an “undisciplined rabble ” and most onlookers in this country are trying to search for a reason to refute that etiphet but are yet unsuccessful -time for the whole shebang to walk around in the wilderness for 50 years until we have a person of sense talking from the podium -Elysse where are you ?

  • June 23rd 2013 @ 9:48am
    Roberto said | June 23rd 2013 @ 9:48am | ! Report

    NO!

    • Roar Rookie

      June 23rd 2013 @ 10:09am
      Kalon Huett said | June 23rd 2013 @ 10:09am | ! Report

      Not much of a counter-argument there Roberto. Care to at least back it up with some dazzling facts about how good our batsmen actually are and reasons why many of them are consistently outscored by our tail-enders?

      I’ll tell you what – if Faulkner plays at least three Tests I’m prepared to say he will score more runs at a higher average than Hughes. He’ll also take wickets, keep things tight and offer variety.

      • June 23rd 2013 @ 11:29am
        Roberto said | June 23rd 2013 @ 11:29am | ! Report

        Kalon, you are falling for the CA selectors approach…….a bit of this, a bit of that, it will all work out in the end…..worked well in India? For a hundred plus years it’s been, 6 specialist batsman, 4 bowlers specialist and a W/C, I don’t care anymore who they are, just find the best available and pick them!

        • June 23rd 2013 @ 11:43am
          James said | June 23rd 2013 @ 11:43am | ! Report

          i feel that no is a suitable and long enough argument especially when kalon is offering a bet that a full time bowler will score more runs than the teams opener.

        • June 23rd 2013 @ 11:43am
          John Edgar said | June 23rd 2013 @ 11:43am | ! Report

          We must go with 6 specialist batsman, Watson, Cowan, Warner, KHawaja, Clarke, Watson must be the batting lineup for the first test as our batting is our weakness.

          • June 23rd 2013 @ 11:51am
            Timmuh said | June 23rd 2013 @ 11:51am | ! Report

            @John Edgar, Watson’s form has been so bad he should not be picked once, much less twice.
            Cowan, Warner, Hughes, Clarke, Khawaja, Rogers is about as good as I can see with the squad at hand. Warner and Hughes extremely lucky the possible replacements are faring even worse. It is possible Wade might have to play as a batsman at some point.

  • Roar Guru

    June 23rd 2013 @ 10:13am
    JGK said | June 23rd 2013 @ 10:13am | ! Report

    If the current Australia A game is any indication then no.

    • Roar Rookie

      June 23rd 2013 @ 10:26am
      Kalon Huett said | June 23rd 2013 @ 10:26am | ! Report

      You mean the one where Agar just outscored our top three of Hughes, Khawaja and Smith (all Ashes possibilities) combined?

      Seems to illustrate my point perfectly.

      • Roar Guru

        June 23rd 2013 @ 10:30am
        JGK said | June 23rd 2013 @ 10:30am | ! Report

        I assume that your point also relies on the bowlers taking wickets.

        • Roar Rookie

          June 23rd 2013 @ 10:56am
          Kalon Huett said | June 23rd 2013 @ 10:56am | ! Report

          That certainly is the plan, yes. The entire approach is a bit radical, but can anyone really say they have faith in our “batsmen” scoring the required amount of runs? I think Faulkner is as likely to average over 30 as half of our top order, I honestly do. The stats from recent series back this up – Watson, just as one example, averaged 16 in India.

          Unfortunately the days of having six world-class batsmen are long gone, and many of our batsmen are no more likely to score crucial runs than our bowling all-rounders are. It’s sad, but it’s the way it is. So in my opinion we might as well at least an extremely potent bowling line-up that is ready for absolutely any pitch conditions, match situations, injuries etc that may come up. We can’t rely on Watson’s bowling – if he is able to get through overs it will be a bonus. So essentially I’m arguing for 3 right-arm quicks, a left-arm quick, and a spinner who can turn it away from England’s right-handers. It also just so happens that among such a group we do have very decent batting options – Faulkner, Starc, Agar and Pattinson being the pick. Even Siddle has proved a more than handy batsman of late and I would feel pretty good about him coming in at number 10 or 11.

  • June 23rd 2013 @ 10:16am
    Matthew Skellett said | June 23rd 2013 @ 10:16am | ! Report

    The photo of Mr Clarke should read “Michael Clarke trudges back to oblivion”

  • June 23rd 2013 @ 10:42am
    Tim said | June 23rd 2013 @ 10:42am | ! Report

    no

    • Roar Rookie

      June 23rd 2013 @ 10:58am
      Kalon Huett said | June 23rd 2013 @ 10:58am | ! Report

      Maybe.

      • June 23rd 2013 @ 11:18am
        Tim said | June 23rd 2013 @ 11:18am | ! Report

        more chance of my waking in a big bed with stephie rice on one arm and natalie imbruglia on the other arm

        • Roar Rookie

          June 23rd 2013 @ 12:10pm
          Kalon Huett said | June 23rd 2013 @ 12:10pm | ! Report

          Really? So it’s that unlikely we would pick Haddin at six given the following factors:

          1. Wade has batted at 6 in our two most recent series.
          2. Henriques has batted at 5 for Australia!
          3. Maxwell has been considered a batsman at all
          4. Faulkner is every bit the batsman Maxwell is
          5. We don’t have a standout number six batsman. In fact we don’t have a genuine middle order batsman in the entire squad apart from the captain. Everyone else is an opener.
          6. Watson might not be able to bowl at certain times in the series, bringing us back down to only four bowlers unless you promote someone like Faulkner or Starc as a bowling all-rounder. I think Watson needs to be treated as a batsman.
          7. Our strength is our fast bowling and the selectors will be very tempted to play more than 3 of them to try and blast England out.

          Based on all that, you really think you’re as likely to wake up in a big bed with stephie rice on one arm and natalie imbruglia on the other arm? Good luck.

          • June 23rd 2013 @ 1:00pm
            Tim said | June 23rd 2013 @ 1:00pm | ! Report

            I was more using that as a response to your headline Kalon, rather than your plan. If Australia starts getting beaten, anything is possible, you might have starc at three,…… siddle at 4,…. Clarke opening for in this Ashes he will be in in the first over a fair few times………..and that was more flippancy if you could not identify it

          • June 23rd 2013 @ 1:12pm
            Gr8rWeStr said | June 23rd 2013 @ 1:12pm | ! Report

            When did Henriques bat 5 in a Test for Australia?

            • June 23rd 2013 @ 1:34pm
              Matt F said | June 23rd 2013 @ 1:34pm | ! Report

              Never. He’s only ever batted at 7 or 8.

            • Roar Rookie

              June 23rd 2013 @ 2:14pm
              Kalon Huett said | June 23rd 2013 @ 2:14pm | ! Report

              Sorry you’re right, I got a bit carried away. But he has batted in the top 7, which essentially means he’s playing as a batting all-rounder for his country and his first class batting record is nothing to write home about.

              The fact he slotted in behind Wade in the order pretty much shows where he’s at as a batsman. Does anyone think Henriques or Maxwell are all that more accomplished batsmen than Faulkner? Maybe slightly, but there wouldn’t be much in it. And Faulkner is twice the bowler either of them are.

              My suggestion is that Faulkner at 7 is not THAT different to what we have done in recent times already. It’s certainly not as far-fetched as some people seem to think it is.

            • Roar Rookie

              June 23rd 2013 @ 2:21pm
              Kalon Huett said | June 23rd 2013 @ 2:21pm | ! Report

              Henriques has a first class batting average of 31.67 and a bowling average of 27.16.
              Faulkner has a first class batting average of 29.11 and a bowling average of 22.34.

              Henriques has batted at 7 for Australia and proved toothless with the ball.

              So just how crazy is it to suggest Faulkner might be picked at 7 in England? As far as I can see, not that crazy at all.

              I don’t think the selectors are looking at Faulkner as a possible third seamer ahead of any of the big 5. They’re thinking about him as a number 7 in the event Watson a) doesn’t get picked, or b) can’t bowl.

              I’m surprised more people don’t see this as a viable option and one that we may very well be watching in two and a half weeks.

            • June 23rd 2013 @ 4:53pm
              Gr8rWeStr said | June 23rd 2013 @ 4:53pm | ! Report

              Kalon,
              Your argument seems to fall apart with theses stats, Faulkner’s batting average is worse than Henriques but your suggesting Faulkner comes in at 7 to improve the batting. Henriques’ batting average has improved over the last couple of season whereas Faulkner’s has, if anything, gone backwards.

              Faulkner replacing Watson, batting at 7, could well be in CA’s thoughts for the Ashes, but it doesn’t mean its a good idea. CA’s recent selection policies don’t inspire too many with confidence.

              See my post below for an extended discussion on top 7 selection for the Ashes.

            • Roar Rookie

              June 23rd 2013 @ 5:41pm
              Kalon Huett said | June 23rd 2013 @ 5:41pm | ! Report

              I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree. In the end it comes down to the type of balance you’re looking for. I think our specialist batting situation is so desperate that we’re almost better off just batting deep rather than thinking we can actually rely on 6 specialists to do the work they’ve proven they can’t do.

              The sacrifice I’m willing to make for one of our completely out-of-form walking wickets to not be in the team is to have a less-credentialed batsman like Faulkner coming in down the order and giving us 5 specialist bowlers. No doubt it’s an attacking approach, and many would say foolish.

              I’m aware it could fail spectacularly, but I’ve lost all confidence in our batting stocks to the point I’d be happy to replace one of them with an all-rounder.

              We’ve had issues bowling teams out in the second innings and I don’t think four bowlers (when two of them are Siddle and Lyon) are going to be enough to blast out this opposition. I honestly believe we need 5 bowlers to get the job done because different styles suit different situations. It’s very handy having that 5th bowler, especially one like Faulkner who offers something quite different to the rest of the attack. I can see Faulkner being dangerous on 4th and 5th-day pitches with all his variety – more so than Lyon that’s for sure.

              Just to be clear, if Watson was 100% fit to bowl as much as we needed him and Mike Hussey was still around at number six, I’d scrap this and go with a more conventional line-up.

              I wish we had 6 international-class batsmen (one of who could bowl tidily when required) so this debate didn’t even need to be had.

        • Roar Guru

          June 23rd 2013 @ 12:50pm
          Andy_Roo said | June 23rd 2013 @ 12:50pm | ! Report

          Steph Rice and at Imbruglia? That’s your fantasy threesome TIM? Really? What about Mrs Clarke?

          • June 23rd 2013 @ 12:58pm
            Tim said | June 23rd 2013 @ 12:58pm | ! Report

            never seen her Andy, but i am happy with the choices- put ella hooper on the subs bench 😉

            • Roar Guru

              June 23rd 2013 @ 1:38pm
              Andy_Roo said | June 23rd 2013 @ 1:38pm | ! Report

              She’s well worth a look Tim.
              Kyly Boldy

          • June 23rd 2013 @ 1:49pm
            Tim said | June 23rd 2013 @ 1:49pm | ! Report

            Im sure she would be on both our call back list Andy 😉

          • Roar Guru

            June 23rd 2013 @ 2:45pm
            JGK said | June 23rd 2013 @ 2:45pm | ! Report

            If it’s Stephanie Rice, just make sure your health insurance is paid up.

          • Roar Guru

            June 23rd 2013 @ 2:55pm
            Andy_Roo said | June 23rd 2013 @ 2:55pm | ! Report

            Kyly Clarke and Ellyse Perry, now we’re talking.

  • June 23rd 2013 @ 11:24am
    davos44 said | June 23rd 2013 @ 11:24am | ! Report

    I like the look of Agar as a bowler and also as a batsman …wouldn’t take much more for me to pick him over Lyon

    • Roar Rookie

      June 23rd 2013 @ 11:48am
      Kalon Huett said | June 23rd 2013 @ 11:48am | ! Report

      Lyon is there based on incumbency alone, surely. It’s quite obvious he’s not the most gifted spin option for Australia, but some people need the door kicked down before they’re willing to accept a changing of the guard and make a tough call. Gilchrist waited too long behind Healy, and Agar may end up waiting too long behind Lyon.

      The issue with Lyon is that he will only ever ‘do a job’ as they like to say, but he will never win the match for you. He will never consistently look like picking up multiple top-order wickets. He’s serviceable, but that is hardly going to win us The Ashes.

      • Columnist

        June 23rd 2013 @ 12:21pm
        Ronan O'Connell said | June 23rd 2013 @ 12:21pm | ! Report

        Slow down Kalon…Lyon is just 25 years old. That is very young for a spinner. The two best tweakers in Test cricket are Ajmal and Swann. Ajmal was 8 years older than Lyon was when he made his Test debut and Swann was 6 years older than Lyon when he first played for England. Give him some time!

        • Roar Rookie

          June 23rd 2013 @ 2:05pm
          Kalon Huett said | June 23rd 2013 @ 2:05pm | ! Report

          Do you think Lyon has the tools that Ajmal and Swann have? It’s not always just a matter of time; it also depends on the action and the capabilities of that action. Is Nathan Hauritz the complete package now that he wasn’t six years ago? I’d say he’s pretty much the same old Nathan Hauritz. And it wouldn’t surprise me if Nathan Lyon remains the same Nathan Lyon, perhaps slightly more consistent and wiser.

          Here’s the big question: do you think Nathan Lyon will be Australia’s number one spinner in 3 years?

          I’m prepared to confidently say no. I don’t even think he’s a better bowler than Jon Holland – he’s just had more international exposure which means he’s obviously more experienced right now. I believe Holland would take more wickets at Test level.

          • Columnist

            June 23rd 2013 @ 2:27pm
            Ronan O'Connell said | June 23rd 2013 @ 2:27pm | ! Report

            You could similarly ask who will be Australia’s best batsman in 3 years? Who will be Australia’s best paceman in 3 years? Who will be Australia’s keeper in 3 years? Who will be Australia’s captain in 3 years? No one knows. I think, on ability and experience, Lyon is Australia’s best spin option for right now. Not to mention the side desperately needs all the cohesion and stability it can muster given the impending overhaul of its top order and the dumping of its keeper. Adding to that mix a 19yo debutant spinner would not help. Agar is a terrific prospect who bowls with great loop and genuinely rips the ball, both of which are things Lyon has neglected to do at times. But throwing a teenager tweaker into the cauldron of an Ashes in England when he is yet to prove he is incontestably better than the incumbent would be madness. Agar needs to be given time to develop. Best case scenario is that he gets at least 30 to 40 FC games under his belt before his Test debut. Hopefully he and Lyon will be in fierce competition for the next decade.

            • Roar Rookie

              June 23rd 2013 @ 3:45pm
              Kalon Huett said | June 23rd 2013 @ 3:45pm | ! Report

              I guess we’ll just have to wait and see. I think there’s a strong chance Agar will be in the Test team by the time England comes to Australia. Deep down, away from the public backing, I’m not convinced Clarke has a lot of faith in Lyon. I think he’d ideally love to have a spinner who could loop the ball and turn it back, and genuinely threaten international batsmen.

              As an Australian fan I hope Lyon proves me wrong. But I predict a pretty tough time of it for him in England against these right-handers.

      • June 23rd 2013 @ 10:04pm
        Pete B said | June 23rd 2013 @ 10:04pm | ! Report

        Continually picking and then discarding new spinners hasn’t worked for Australia over the past few years. Test cricket is any number of levels above state cricket and the English would quickly figure out Agar’s faults and exploit them mercilessly. There would go another spin bowler on the scrap heap.

    • June 23rd 2013 @ 7:43pm
      twodogs said | June 23rd 2013 @ 7:43pm | ! Report

      Yeah Davos, I’d go the next step now and pick him over Lyon. He’s got the numbers. Lyon has some fairly good numbers also but, you that feeling you get when you see something special? For example, I got that from warnie on debut against India (’91/92?) although success wasnt abundant, something seemed to be cooking. I’ve found these ‘gut feels’ relatively accurate over the years and, I don’t get em from Lyon. Agar seems more than ready and has the goods. This same feel I got from Warner but alas, his train has derailed. Now this guy could be anything. If he can right the wreck in time, think and play straight, he’ll hurt em.

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