Australia can always look to the counties? An Englishman in Australia writes that the often maligned County system could be their Ashes saviour and calls for Watson, Hughes, and Khawaja to be dropped.
The Australian second innings at Lord’s should be career-defining one for some of the top six.
The game is gone and it looks like Australia will need to win the last three Test matches to regain the Ashes, an unlikely scenario.
The top six are struggling, the bowlers lack penetration and the spinners are better batsman than bowlers.
It’s not good and things could possibly get worse rather than better unless some radical action is taken. It’s time to call in the County Busters.
A glance through the current County squads provides the Australian selectors with ample alternative options to enable them to make the hard decisions and replace Watson, Hughes and Khawaja.
The other three get to stay, Clarke (of course), Rogers (because he deserves more than two matches) and Smith (horrible to look at but he has improved)
Unless Shane Watson scores a century at Lord’s he should be dropped for the next Test match, even he does he should be dropped in the longer term.
Put aside the negative of broken/fractured relationship with Clarke, his equivalence of penis envy when it comes to the DRS (he’s yet to realise he’s hasn’t got one) or the positive of his useful medium pace, the simple fact he is in the team as a batsman and ‘he ain’t up to the job’.
An analysis of his stats since the beginning of 2011 (up to this match 30 innings for 799 runs at the average of nearing 26) is simply not good enough and the selectors need to have a quiet chat and put him out of his misery.
Let him be a one-day and T20 specialist and everyone can move on.
But who to replace him with?
Many will say bring Hughes back to open and will offer the view that his technique has improved and ‘he will come good’ in the long term.
Not so and the Aussies would be better off cutting their losses now.
He has a lot of the Watsons about him, so much so that his stats make very similar reading (last 30 Test innings for an average of nearly 29).
Ok a useful 80-odd in the first Test, but he always run hot and cold and in the long term is not the answer.
Neither is Khawaja, and anyone who kept an eye on his sojourn over to Blighty when he played for Derbyshire will know he’s not a good option for English conditions (even given the current heatwave).
His form in England was indifferent, in his 13 innings there were only two of note and his first innings display made nonsense of Clarke’s statement he was ready for the number three spot.
No doubt he is talented but he’s like a young racehorse that he needs to mature more and in his case score more runs at the first class level before coming back to the fold.
And what about Cowan?
Probably harshly dropped but hasn’t done enough and not sure he has the confidence of either coach or captain, and then of course Warner- at best he could make the last two Tests but he is so out form (on all fronts) it might just be best to rule a line through the tour for him.
Droppings done, now for the County saviours. The current list of Aussies playing County cricket makes interesting reading and their merits are briefly considered:
Tried and tested but form patchy, off spin would help on the spinning front but not enough runs to come under serious consideration.
Experienced campaigner, in form and would bring a calm hand to proceedings.
Only over in England for the T20’s but the Aussies already have Faulkner who is yet to play. Unlikely.
Played for Hampshire early in the season but is probably back in Australia. If not is a favourite of the selectors and might be good in a crisis
He’s the man if Clarke can swallow his pride. In form, experienced and proven. Make the phone call.
Talented but too early.
Should have played Test cricket before now and should also get a call.
Only in England for the T20s but there would be worse options.
Tried in India and not ready. Leave him be.
Experience and has much in common with Chris Rogers. Probably not a serious option but he has been in form.
The forgotten one. Not in great form but he’s a Hussey and has the experience to do a job over three Tests.
So there you have it and if the selectors really want to get through this series, ‘a horses for courses’ and pragmatic approach may be the way to go.
Out of the above Katich, Voges, Klinger, Hussey and Bailey could all fit the bill, with a top six potentially looking like:
1. Chris Rogers
2. Michael Klinger
3. Simon Katich
4. Adam Voges
5. Michael Clarke
6. Steven Smith
Alternatively move Haddin up to six and slot James Faulkner into the number seven spot, giving the captain another bowling option.
Either way (and even for the most loyal of Australian followers) it is hard to argue that these options do not have robustness about them compared to the current fragile look.
A quick word on the bowlers: Pattison looks out of sorts and will need a rest. Lacking penetration, possibly struggling with the Duke ball and holds no demons for the English batsman.
I think the same could be said of Starc so recommend leaving him on the bench. Australia will be hoping Harris can back up at Old Trafford and that Siddle will continue to hold things together.
Either way with Pattison rested/dropped it is time to give Jackson Bird a go, he impressed in his first couple of Tests and looks like he has control.
Of course the selectors are unlikely to succumb to the pressure and stick by the players they selected in the first place but another dismal batting performance overnight and the County busters just might get a look in.
But what do I care, stick with Watto, Hughesy and Usie!