Problem with Renshaw’s strike rate? You don’t know Test cricket

Ryan O'Connell Columnist

By Ryan O'Connell, Ryan O'Connell is a Roar Expert

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    The Australian Test team finally won a game after a demoralising losing streak, defeating South Africa at the Adelaide Oval in the third and final Test of the series.

    The team had a tricky fourth innings target of 127 to contend with, but chased down the runs easily, with the innings anchored by a 20-year-old opener on debut, who scored 34 runs off 137 balls, and was not out at the end.

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    Mystifyingly to me, some people found issue with the facts contained within that last paragraph. Specifically, debutant Matt Renshaw, and his supposed slow scoring rate.

    The Channel Nine commentary team, and a number of people I engage with on Twitter, suggested that Renshaw’s strike rate was too slow and that he needed to play some more attacking shots. Let’s just say that I respectfully disagree.

    Actually, I’m not sure how respectful I can be on this topic, because I honestly believe you have a pretty low cricket IQ if you take issue with Renshaw’s scoring rate.

    matt-renshaw-australia-cricket-2016

    For starters, the kid is 20 years of age, playing in his first Test, against a quality bowling attack. If that alone isn’t cause for ‘survival’ being a large marker for success, I don’t know what is. Stuff scoring quickly, just not getting out is impressive.

    Throw in the additional facts that Australia was chasing a small total – which always heightens the nerves for some reason – and had a day and a half to bat, and suddenly ‘strike rate’ becomes extremely irrelevant.

    It’s probably worth mentioning that Australia also has a recent history of embarrassing batting collapses, and had lost their last five Tests. Yet, Renshaw’s patient accumulation of runs was somehow an issue? I find that completely and utterly ridiculous.

    Rash shots, a lack of application, over-aggressive intent, cavalier strokeplay, bad match-awareness, not putting a high enough price on one’s wicket, and poor temperament, have all been issues with the Australian batting line-up in recent times.

    It’s almost like Australia had forgotten how to play Test cricket. Judging by some of the comments on Renshaw’s batting, it seems many have forgotten how to watch and understand it too.

    Occupying the crease has not been something the Australia team has been very good at of late, and that’s a problem because it’s the key to winning Test matches.

    The selectors realised this was an issue, and did something about it. Instead of picking another dashing opener, they picked a young Queenslander with a reputation for having a level head, and possessing an old-fashioned style of batting.

    While Renshaw may not play risky cricket, it was still a gamble. The opener is young, had only played 12 First Class games, and was as far removed from being a ‘household name’ as you could imagine. Even many hardcore cricket fans were asking ‘who?’ after he was named in the Australian squad for the Third Test.

    However, the selectors deserve a pat on the back, because Renshaw’s style of play is exactly what Australia needs to arrest the recent spate of humiliating low scores: a rock at the top of the order.

    To be honest, the jury is still out whether Renshaw is the right man for the job, but the one thing that shouldn’t change is the job description. No more T20 batsmen. Australia needs Test batsmen, and based on the extremely small sample size of one game, Renshaw fits the bill.

    Long term, he probably will need to play a few more shots, but given he has three First Class hundreds – one a massive score of 170 – I’m confident he has more shots in his kitbag, and will pull them out once he feels more comfortable at this level.

    Part of getting more comfortable will be experience, and Renshaw received plenty of that on Sunday. It may sound obvious, but it’s hard to gain game experience if you’re back in the sheds after getting out.

    Every second that Renshaw spent out in the middle was valuable learning time. Runs were merely a bonus, especially with David Warner and Steve Smith scoring so freely. That duo’s ability to score quickly eased the pressure on Renshaw, and enabled him to just soak up the experience, without having to worry about the scoreboard too much.

    Yes, he played and missed a lot. Yes, he certainly didn’t show off a large number of attacking shots. It mattered very little. The important thing is that he faced 137 balls, and batted for 167 valuable minutes, both of which will hold him in good stead the next time he strides to the crease.

    A win was the number one objective for Australia in this game, but a very close second was the debutants and young players learning what it takes to play Test cricket, and realising just how much of a step-up it is from First Class cricket.

    I’d go so far as to say Sunday was the perfect innings for Renshaw. It wasn’t easy, so he won’t be fooled into thinking Test cricket is a breeze. He scored 34 runs against one of the best attacks in world cricket. He spent a lot of time in the middle. He didn’t get out. His team won. That’s a job very well done.

    Strike rate? Give me a freaking break.

    Yet if it did bother you, fear not. The Big Bash starts soon.

    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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    The Crowd Says (138)

    • Roar Guru

      November 29th 2016 @ 7:01am
      Tim Holt said | November 29th 2016 @ 7:01am | ! Report

      Spot on!

      Last time I looked , test cricket was over 5 days and the tortoise rather than hare approach prevails. Too many focus on ‘strikerate’ over occupation of crease, or the merit of ugly runs.

      In the case of the Aussies, their greatest loss opf recent times was Simon Katich

      The other key point his innings highlights is his game awareness and playing with this in mind. It certainly stands out in an Aussie team with few who have any concept of this and adapting to the needs of the game. The stand out was Steven Smith in SL charging down the pitch to sacrifice his wicket when a more discreet approach was warranted. He is one example in a line up with most following suit

      • November 29th 2016 @ 9:32am
        I hate pies said | November 29th 2016 @ 9:32am | ! Report

        I think our greatest loss of recent times was Mike Hussey. His retirement spawned the middle order woes we now have.

        • Roar Guru

          November 29th 2016 @ 9:48am
          Tim Holt said | November 29th 2016 @ 9:48am | ! Report

          i think the middle order woes have been facilitated by issues at the top. Warner, when he gets it right sets the middle order up but when he doesnt he leaves them exposed

          Few will agree but I would love to see Renshaw/Khawaja open and Warner moved to 5/6.

          As for Hussey, great player but I think he was on the slide and got out at the right time. As for Katich, he was still at his peak and offered the team such solidity with his batting as well as being a very able part time spinner. Loved his in your face style as well, real leadership

          • November 29th 2016 @ 10:34am
            Pedro the Maroon said | November 29th 2016 @ 10:34am | ! Report

            In his magnificent tome, Michael Clarke says he has the Kat still catch up for coffee and a laugh over Clarke’s removal of the Kat from the test team.

            • November 30th 2016 @ 9:08am
              Sideline said | November 30th 2016 @ 9:08am | ! Report

              And the Kat says it’s not true, haha.

              • Columnist

                November 30th 2016 @ 9:17am
                Ryan O'Connell said | November 30th 2016 @ 9:17am | ! Report

                I know! That’s hilarious!

          • November 29th 2016 @ 12:25pm
            Rob said | November 29th 2016 @ 12:25pm | ! Report

            Totally agree. I have been saying Warner would be an ideal 6 but we could lose out if he ran out of partners. I think 3 would be the best position. Khawaja and Renshaw looked very relaxed together and they are building a formidable record as a pair at state level. I have been impressed by Bancroft in Townsville this week. But similarly unimpressed by Burns. Burns likes playing shots and despite scoring runs could have easily been dismissed 4 times getting to 50. That’s why selectors need to be there watching.

            • Columnist

              November 29th 2016 @ 12:36pm
              Ryan O'Connell said | November 29th 2016 @ 12:36pm | ! Report

              The counter-pount to Warner moving down the order is that he’s probably best against a hard ball coming onto the bat. He also sets a pretty intimidating tone!

              I’ve argued for him to move to 5 or 6 before, but I think it’s’ probably the right thing to open with him.

              • Roar Guru

                November 29th 2016 @ 3:08pm
                Tim Holt said | November 29th 2016 @ 3:08pm | ! Report

                Here are some interesting stats on Warner as an opener:

                https://scontent-syd2-1.xx.fbcdn.net/t31.0-8/s960x960/15156973_10154682144685987_1006348911960993198_o.jpg

                The last 2 years of stats for openers who have lost the toss and been sent in.

                Balls faced per innings
                Latham 69
                Karunaratne 104
                A Cook 75
                Guptill 63
                Hales 95
                Warner 48
                Elgar 121
                Pujara 146
                Braithwaite 132
                Burns 63
                Ali 106
                S Cook 76
                De Kock 79

                Essentially, Warner occupies the crease for far, far less time than any other opening batsman in seaming conditions, by a massive margin.

                It’s pretty easy to see why we collapse… lends itself greatly to the strategy of dumping him down the order and letting actual openers open.

              • November 30th 2016 @ 12:35am
                Felix said | November 30th 2016 @ 12:35am | ! Report

                This made my day! I hate the argument ‘that’s just how he bats’ – it shows scant regard for team, match awareness or country. I will never disagree that when he gets going it’s intimidating and sets up an innings, but it’s not happening often enough to justify exposing a fragile middle order prematurely.

              • Roar Guru

                November 29th 2016 @ 4:30pm
                The Bush said | November 29th 2016 @ 4:30pm | ! Report

                Geez that Braithwaite looks alright hey?

              • November 29th 2016 @ 5:59pm
                Rob said | November 29th 2016 @ 5:59pm | ! Report

                If Elgar doesn’t claim that no catch then Renshaw may still be batting. Oh well that’s South African sportmanship? LOL.

              • November 30th 2016 @ 6:57am
                Dave Baker said | November 30th 2016 @ 6:57am | ! Report

                @Tim Holt..> Such an interesting stat.. Thanks for posting.

                I wouldnt have thought of it that way… Look at lost toss opening performances

          • December 10th 2016 @ 10:26am
            Timmuh said | December 10th 2016 @ 10:26am | ! Report

            I think Warner needs the hard ball early on. His biggest problems come not so much against the moving ball (the difference there seems pretty standard for most batsmen) but when there is no pace early in his innings. Low, slow pitches and he is almost a certainty for fast, low score. Coming in at six and facing the old ball straight away I suspect would see him fall away badly.
            We also need a six that can bat well with the tail. That can take brains. Warner and Maxwell both seem majorly lacking on that front.

      • November 29th 2016 @ 10:44am
        David said | November 29th 2016 @ 10:44am | ! Report

        I agree the question should be did his innings have a bearing on the team innings not what was your strike rate

      • November 29th 2016 @ 12:20pm
        Albo said | November 29th 2016 @ 12:20pm | ! Report

        Tim, I agree 100% with your declaration that Test cricket is over 5 days and that strike rate has too much focus. The whole frustration for the doyens of the long form game these days is that most teams and particularly Australian players are still totally controlled by the short form game. We can rarely bat out more than a day and only rely on the opposition being equally as limited to give us some sort of chance of a win. Our games and our wickets are all manipulated to satisfy the one day & 20/20 formats that fill the games coffers, so whenever we encounter anything a bit different like a seaming or spinning wicket, we are in all sorts of trouble. So it is great that an attitude of taking your time as an opener in a Test is a welcome change to our recent Test strategies ( which seem to be limited to — lets hope Warner gets his eye in !). However, that does not preclude the fact that young Renshaw despite having the right attitude, is still a long way off being the answer to a Test opener solution. In my opinion he has a lot of development still needed . He batted like a kid who has only played 12 Shield games ! It was not the fact of his slow strike rate , but more the fact that he played and missed far to often in that second innings in perfect conditions, even despite limiting his shots to a push off the pads. I think it was very much more good luck than ability that saw him stay at the crease for so long. Next Test he might not be so lucky. To me he needs more time to develop and should be sent back to Shield cricket for another season, or he will quite possibly go the way of other young players with Test careers blown up too soon.

        • Roar Guru

          November 29th 2016 @ 5:33pm
          Tim Holt said | November 29th 2016 @ 5:33pm | ! Report

          Albo, while I agree with your take on everything, particularly Renshaw, I think it is a perfect opportunity to have him develop in test cricket. Quite literally thrown in the deep end the same way that S Waugh was back in the dim dark struggles of the 80’s

          He might find the going tough and might need to go back to the Shield to refine as the likes of Hayden did, but at present, I would keep him in the openers spot for the whole Pakistan series and reassess after this

      • November 30th 2016 @ 1:28am
        Peeeko said | November 30th 2016 @ 1:28am | ! Report

        Australia has won a tonne of games by employing a high strike rate and pressuring the opposition
        All of a sudden we lose a few and we need to be Geoffrey Boycott

        • Columnist

          November 30th 2016 @ 6:21am
          Ryan O'Connell said | November 30th 2016 @ 6:21am | ! Report

          First of all, you have to have the talent to score quickly. It’s not just a tactical devious you make.

          Secondly, Warner and Smith scored at nearly a run a ball. It’s not like the rest of the lineup we’re suddenly Boycott clones.

          Thirdly, chasing a high stroke rate has reulted in collapses, which have resulted in losses. Addressing that seems like a good gong, no?

        • December 10th 2016 @ 10:31am
          Timmuh said | December 10th 2016 @ 10:31am | ! Report

          Al out attack works when you have a significant skill advantage. This team does not have that advantage most of the time. The teams that won with high strike rates also had players capable of grinding things out when necessary, then when they got on top they plundered.
          Being positive with the bat doesn’t necessarily mean going on the attack. It can be as simple as a sure defence and taking the singles on offer.

    • November 29th 2016 @ 7:12am
      Lancey5times said | November 29th 2016 @ 7:12am | ! Report

      There are a lot of sub 20 year cricket watchers commenting on this site. All they know is Matty Hayden getting us off to a flyer and intimidating fast bowlers, a guy like Mark Taylor who had established himself at test level by this time and was scoring more freely, Langer who had done the yards and could up the ante or Slater who would often hit the first ball he faced to the fence. These guys were also part of the most consistently dominant cricket team ever to play. Chuck in Warner these days and T20 and what do you expect. Anyone who watched cricket before the 93 Ashes tour knows the value in what Renshaw brings.

      Further to this the selectors don’t help. Balls faced doesn’t help you stay in this team regardless of the situation. Just ask Pete Nevill

      • Roar Guru

        November 29th 2016 @ 7:22am
        Tim Holt said | November 29th 2016 @ 7:22am | ! Report

        My hero will and always will be Ken Barrington 🙂

        The other aside is taking the shine off the new ball to shield and facilitate the middle order and how Renshaw/Khawaja would make a very good opening pair with warner slipping to 5/6

        • November 29th 2016 @ 7:24am
          Lancey5times said | November 29th 2016 @ 7:24am | ! Report

          Clearly you go back a little further than the 93 Ashes with your cricketing knowledge…..

          • Roar Guru

            November 29th 2016 @ 7:31am
            Tim Holt said | November 29th 2016 @ 7:31am | ! Report

            still remember when WWW used to mean Worrell, Weekes and Walcott, rather than the ‘World Wide Web’ and can remember Typhoon Tyson hysteria in the late 1950’s on the radio

            Only saw my first match while schooled in South Africa in the mid 60’s, one containing a young Pollock, Colin Bland and Eddie Barlow 🙂

            to be frank, the present day pundits/fans have little clue about test cricket and its demands.

            • November 29th 2016 @ 8:16am
              Christo the Daddyo said | November 29th 2016 @ 8:16am | ! Report

              It would seem Matt Renshaw gets it…;)

        • Roar Guru

          November 29th 2016 @ 8:52am
          Atawhai Drive said | November 29th 2016 @ 8:52am | ! Report

          Watching Ken Barrington bat, as I did at Christchurch in 1963, gave you a glimpse of eternity. On one famous occasion in 1965 the English selectors lost patience and dropped him after he had taken 437 minutes to score 137 against New Zealand at Edgbaston. During that innings, Barrington was stalled on 85 for 62 minutes. Marvellous.

          The English selectors also dropped Geoff Boycott after his 246 not out against India at Leeds in 1967. The stubborn Yorkshireman was at the crease for nine hours and 33 minutes, facing 555 balls.

          Ungrateful wretches, those selectors. You suspect they might not have dropped Barrington or Boycott had their marathons occurred in Ashes Tests.

          At Brisbane in 1958, Trevor Bailey had set a new benchmark for slow batting. In England’s first innings, he was at the crease for 121 minutes and faced 116 balls in a lively 27. But “Barnacle”, as Bailey was known, was just getting his eye in. Batting at No 3 in the second innings, he occupied the crease for seven hours and 38 minutes, faced 427 balls and hit just four boundaries in scoring 68 runs.

          They really knew how to “bat time” in those days.

          • Roar Guru

            November 29th 2016 @ 9:02am
            Tim Holt said | November 29th 2016 @ 9:02am | ! Report

            Yes, Barrington not scoring for 22 overs of defiance in India was mythical

            The best and most admirable aspect of Ken was his willingness to adapt from a youth renowned as a ‘dasher’ to the quintessential stonewaller. Great player, one that never gets the respect he truly deserves.

            Even in this Age where incompleteness in batting stands out as seen in batsmen being plumbs away from home Barrington’s away average was incredible.

            Sincere gentleman as well, who all in the England and in fact world scene was in complete awe of

            The other one that deserves mention, particularly with his recent passing ( RIP ) is Trevor Goddard. He was a great all rounder and as a batsman renowned for his ability to adapt to the needs of the game. Very correct in the times he opened and so tactically astute

          • November 29th 2016 @ 4:15pm
            Jeffrey Dun said | November 29th 2016 @ 4:15pm | ! Report

            I’m all in favour of batsmen putting a high price on their wicket, but Bailey and others at that time went too far.

            Cricket became so dreary that lovers of test match cricket became seriously concerned about its future.

    • November 29th 2016 @ 7:13am
      cruyff turn said | November 29th 2016 @ 7:13am | ! Report

      Completely agree, Ryan! I thought the lad did a great job given the curcumstances.

      It was gobsmacking to hear Brendon Julian on foxsports yesterday argue that Shaun Marsh should be returned to the side once his finger has healed, and that Renshaw should make way for him. Marsh has probably two years of international cricket left in him, if that. Renshaw could potentially be there for the next 15 years! Seriously, you don’t throw the kid out after he’s just come in and done well.

      • Columnist

        November 29th 2016 @ 9:07am
        Ryan O'Connell said | November 29th 2016 @ 9:07am | ! Report

        I saw that last night. I couldn’t believe it.

        The WA brotherhood is clearly a very loyal one!

        • Roar Guru

          November 29th 2016 @ 9:12am
          Will Sinclair said | November 29th 2016 @ 9:12am | ! Report

          Yeah it’s a joke.

          The one-eyed parochialism of the other States is just another reason why we should only pick New South Welshmen.

          • November 29th 2016 @ 9:15am
            Ryan O'Connell said | November 29th 2016 @ 9:15am | ! Report

            Get ready for the Maddison sledges in . 1 . 2 . 3 . 4 . . .

          • November 29th 2016 @ 9:19am
            Lancey5times said | November 29th 2016 @ 9:19am | ! Report

            It really is the best way forward. History has shown us that the test side will always be somewhat competitive when chock full of New South Welshman and this also provides the other states with something small to cheer about when their lack of representation allows them to win the occasional Shield. A bit like winning a jug of beer at a meat tray raffle. “well done you!!”

            • November 29th 2016 @ 11:50am
              Chris said | November 29th 2016 @ 11:50am | ! Report

              You guys got picked on at school, right?

              • Columnist

                November 29th 2016 @ 12:39pm
                Ryan O'Connell said | November 29th 2016 @ 12:39pm | ! Report

                Picked on? Or picked in the first grade?

        • November 29th 2016 @ 11:13am
          jameswm said | November 29th 2016 @ 11:13am | ! Report

          At least Maddinson can go and Marsh into the middle order.

          • November 30th 2016 @ 9:25am
            Sideline said | November 30th 2016 @ 9:25am | ! Report

            That seems the clear answer, but geez, that would be hard on Maddison. One test innings for a duck. I hope to hell he gets another change, ’cause that would ruin your life.

    • November 29th 2016 @ 7:18am
      Christov said | November 29th 2016 @ 7:18am | ! Report

      Funny how having openers who could take the shine off the ball for the middle order resulted in an australia win. Also there was anothers days play. I think the commentstors were thinking ratings and perhaps people think openers should all throw their wicket away and use, “thats just how they play” as an excuse.

    • Roar Guru

      November 29th 2016 @ 7:25am
      Diggercane said | November 29th 2016 @ 7:25am | ! Report

      Australia win the last test, young fella anchors the innings and Oz win comfortably enough, cant believe strike rate is a thing?

      Madness.

      • Roar Guru

        November 29th 2016 @ 9:15am
        JamesH said | November 29th 2016 @ 9:15am | ! Report

        Agreed, the only thing I think he deserves any criticism for is not finding a way to get off strike, but it’s only a small issue in the context of that particular innings.

        I was really impressed with the way he didn’t get flustered by the playing and missing. Most batsmen would have tried an expansive shot to break the shackles but he didn’t look particularly worried.

        • November 30th 2016 @ 11:46pm
          John Erichsen said | November 30th 2016 @ 11:46pm | ! Report

          Warner was tied down for three balls, mishit a pull shot and in full panic called for a single to the best fielder in the SA side, and people are complaining about Renshaw???

    • November 29th 2016 @ 7:35am
      Luke Ringland said | November 29th 2016 @ 7:35am | ! Report

      Crazy the way things are. Complaining when we lose cheap wickets, complaining again when someone digs in and shows grit!

      In all forms of cricket, except perhaps for 20/20, batting is about partnerships! If someone is occupying the crease and their partner is scoring freely, this is exactly how cricket should be played.

      Obviously you can take it too far. You don’t want to bowler completely dictating terms, as when batsman struggled against Warne and McGrath. The key is turning over the strike with singles, and if he made 34 from 137 than he surely must have been doing this.

      Go Renshaw!

      • Roar Rookie

        November 29th 2016 @ 8:27am
        Drew said | November 29th 2016 @ 8:27am | ! Report

        Renshaw hardly rotated the strike and this could be an issue down the track. He also had more misses than an 80 year old texan billionaire. Chasing a total where one guy is bogged down heaps pressure on his partner.

        Fortunately, Renshaw knuckled down and got the job done.
        On debut. It is a great effort.
        He should get the Pakistan series to work on complimenting his fine temperament with some placement to get off strike. Otherwise an Indian tour will be very difficult for him.

        • November 29th 2016 @ 9:06am
          Jeffrey Dun said | November 29th 2016 @ 9:06am | ! Report

          “He also had more misses than an 80 year old texan billionaire.”

          I think you are underestimating Renshaw’s approach to the seaming ball Drew.

          He was playing the line of off stump and if the ball moved away (which it frequently did) he didn’t follow it. It appeared like a play and miss, but the important point is that he didn’t follow the ball and nick off.

          I was surprised that Abbot in particular didn’t adjust his line and attack off stump. From a bowlers point of view, if you beat the bat a few times you may regard yourself unlucky, but if you beat the bat a multitude of times, perhaps you should consider changing your approach.

          • Columnist

            November 29th 2016 @ 9:12am
            Ryan O'Connell said | November 29th 2016 @ 9:12am | ! Report

            Beat me to it, Jeffrey. He certainly played the line, and didn’t chase the ball. Obviously you’d prefer not to ‘play and miss’, but if you do, playing the line is the right thing to do.

            I’d also add that he didn’t lose his head when he did play and miss.

            A first-class cricketer once told me that the difference between a grade cricket batsman and first-class batsman is the the ability of the first-class batsman to forget a ‘play and miss’ the second it happens and concentrate on the next ball. It’s what separates good from great – the ability to compartmentalise. And Renshaw clearly wasn’t flustered by playing and missing. That’s a good sign.

            • November 29th 2016 @ 11:15am
              jameswm said | November 29th 2016 @ 11:15am | ! Report

              Yeah that ball was moving over and over.

            • November 29th 2016 @ 11:15am
              Jeffrey Dun said | November 29th 2016 @ 11:15am | ! Report

              “I’d also add that he didn’t lose his head when he did play and miss.”

              Quite so Ryan. He has a great temperament for one so young and inexperienced. It augurs well.

              He was born in England and apparently his father has had a great deal to do with his coaching. Which follows, because he has the approach of an old-fashioned pommy opener. If he turns out like a Geoff Boycott (rather than a Chris Tavare) i’ll be happy.

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