LAWSON: Tough one Australia, but better required at Lord’s

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Trent Bridge in England, where the First Test of the 2013 Ashes series will be played (Image: AP)

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As I charged up the laptop to compose this column I was torn between two key views of the first Test at Trent Bridge.

The first is that that Australia had been ripped off by some dreadful umpiring, plus a DRS system that came down in favour of England on nearly every occasion.

The other was that the 14-run margin was not a true reflection of Australia’s batting deficiencies.

Both factors are true of course, but the opportunity to have a whinge was front and centre.

I felt for captain Michael Clarke and his valiant team, who deserved a better suck of the pineapple than what they got. But sport is rarely about justice, it’s about who gets across the line first. There will be no asterisk next to the ‘W’ in the England column.

This was an amazing, compelling Test match. The quality of the play was not high but the tension raised blood pressures all over the planet to dangerous levels, and in the end I’ll take drama and tension over quality and possible boredom every time.

The Australians would be sipping their rehydration fluids with twisted faces and heavy hearts after such a close-run result, but they have just a few days to pick themselves up and find a way to be much better at Lord’s on Thursday.

The colonial underdogs battled and struggled and scrapped and, at times, had England panicking.

The home side’s confidence and self belief will have suffered from this contest, which may not be good thing for Australia as England steel themselves for four more Tests of dogged resistance.

Australia’s batting was topsy turvey and not convincing, yet the game still went down to the wire. Ed Cowan must be moved aside for Usman Khawaja. Phil Hughes should be installed at first drop with Khawaja at five, unless the boy genius Ashton Agar finds himself in the top six

Let’s face it, when the strength of your batting is the 10th wicket partnership, a review of the order is required.

Chris Rogers looked good. He is a great leaver of the ball and he handled the superb Anderson the best. He is an old-fashioned Test opener.

Watson looked his usual self in the second dig, including the LBW arriving on cue around the half century mark.

The captain won’t fail twice in a match again, and Smith and Hughes both made scores.

The tail-end contributions were touted as important before the Test match and this proved to be the case, and will again. There is much improvement left in the Australians, mostly from the batsmen.

In the bowling, despite Siddle and Pattinson’s stirling efforts, Mitchell Starc lacked consistency in both control and tactics.

What is this going around the wicket with the newish ball for goodness sake? When the ball is reversing I can see the reason behind the thinking, but the bowling coach had better get on top of the new ball angles soon, because Ryan Harris and Jackson Bird would both be handy replacements.

The players of both teams provided the thrilling contest, but the main factor in this match was the sluggish pitch that contained only slightly more moisture than the Kalahari Desert.

The Australian players reckoned the pitch was ready to start on the previous Sunday. Apparently all the groundsmen for the series have been told to produce such beasts to suit the reverse swing supposedly mastered by Anderson and the spin of Swann (who lacked penetration in conditions that should have suited him).

Anderson is the master of new and old ball swerve, but the Australians used it quite well too.

Perhaps coach Darren Lehmann and selectors will consider two spinners at Lord’s given Agar was admirable in his control but, like Swann, lacked penetration. Remember he is selected as a bowler first and foremost despite his batting heroics – and how good that was!

Generally the rub of the green has a knack of evening out, and if that is to happen at Lord’s, along with a galvanised Australian batting performance, I can look forward to more sleep deprivation with a decidedly happier ending.

Geoff Lawson OAM is a former Australian cricketer and the former coach of the Pakistan cricket team. Nicknamed "Henry" after the Australian poet, Lawson was a fast bowler for New South Wales and Australia.
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