Six questions for Australia’s batsmen in Bangladesh

Ronan O'Connell Columnist

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

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    Major batting collapses in both innings of the first Test saw Australia lose by 20 runs to Bangladesh. They also raised the following questions about each member of Australia’s top six.

    Steve Smith – can he regain his fleet-footed confidence?
    Swift and assured footwork is the key reason Smith has enjoyed such rare success in Asia for a visiting batsman. Even India’s superstar spin duo Ravi Ashwin and Ravi Jadeja often had no answer to Smith’s remarkable ability to skip down the track and get to the pitch of the ball.

    In doing so he gets inside a spinner’s head. A slow bowler loves nothing more than to bowl at a stationary target – a batsman who remains rooted to the crease, allowing the spinner to find their length and settle into a rhythm.

    They loathe a batsman who, via quick feet, turns a perfect length delivery into a half volley to drive through or over the infield.

    After being bowled while coming down the track in the first innings at Dhaka, Smith banished this tactic. In the second innings, he played almost exclusively from the crease. Although he made 37 from 99 balls, he looked far more vulnerable than he did at any time in India, and the Bangladesh bowlers were dictating terms to him.

    Smith might have been too hard on himself after the first innings failure. He is a far better batsman when he’s coming down the track at the spinners. It will be fascinating to see if he returns to his usual self in the second Test.

    Australian captain Steve Smith leaves the field

    (AAP Image/Dave Hunt)

    Peter Handscomb – can he finally cash in on his frequent good starts in Asia?
    Handscomb’s raw numbers suggest he has struggled in his five Tests in Asia, making 246 runs at 27 with only a single half-century from ten innings. If you dig deeper you will find another stat which better sums up how he has fared in Asia – eight of his ten scores have been between 15 and 33.

    On turning tracks against high-quality spinners, making your way to 15 is far from elementary.

    By the time you reach that score, batting should have got significantly easier, not just because your “eye is in”, something which is relevant regardless of conditions. But also because you have become better in sync with the vagaries of the parched surface.

    Tail enders Ashton Agar and Pat Cummins showed this in the first innings at Dhaka when they batted together for 25 overs. In their first 30 minutes at the crease, both batsmen looked shaky, but from then on they made batting quite easy.

    In Asia, Handscomb has routinely not just survived this first 30 minutes but cruised through it with confidence. Then, with the toughest of work completed, he’s found ways to get out.

    With his nimble footwork and powerful, effective sweep shots, Handscomb has the game to make a lot of runs in Asia. He just needs to begin converting his good starts.

    Glenn Maxwell – can he channel his attacking instincts?
    Like Handscomb, Maxwell appears to have the tools to flourish in Asia. Across his six Test innings in India and Bangladesh this year he mostly has looked at ease, even when the batsmen around him have been scratchy.

    At Dhaka he looked in fine touch in the first innings, driving confidently off the front and back foot.

    Then, just as he appeared to be on top of the home attack, he telegraphed his intent to come down the pitch and was stumped. In the second innings, Maxwell got off the mark with a gorgeous sweep which darted to the deep square boundary.

    Then, on 11 from 18 balls, Maxwell tried to manufacture a boundary from a good ball. He went back in his crease to try to cut a Taijul Islam delivery which was wide enough to play this shot, but clearly too full. The ball skimmed past his outside edge and Maxwell threw his head back and loudly admonished himself.

    I took this furious reaction as a positive sign – that Maxwell was acutely aware of the need to rein in his cavalier instincts. The Victorian went to lunch on 14 from 24 balls, with Australia seven wickets down and just 66 runs shy of victory.

    Then, first ball after the break, Maxwell gifted his wicket as he was bowled trying to cut a delivery off the line of the stumps. Many Roarers will now be thinking to themselves, “That’s just how Maxwell plays Ronan, he’ll never be a decent Test cricketer.”

    That may be true. But that well-paced hundred he scored in India showed he does have the capacity to play in a mature manner with great success. It must be said, however, that only twice in his 12-innings Test career has he displayed such composure.

    Matt Renshaw – Will Warner’s success at Dhaka ease the burden on the 21-year-old opener?
    Despite entering the Test series in India as a 20-year-old with just four Tests to his name, Renshaw quickly became heavily relied upon by Australia due to the failure of top order teammates David Warner and Shaun Marsh.

    At 30 years old, with 18 Test tons in the bank, Warner was meant to be the senior and dominant member of Australia’s opening partnership in India. Instead, he struggled badly and a huge weight of responsibility was shifted on to Renshaw after he started the series brilliantly with knocks of 68, 31 and 60.

    Australian batsman Matt Renshaw

    (AAP Image/Dave Hunt)

    Renshaw faded over his final five innings of the series, making 73 runs at 15, and by the end of the tour he had lost the relaxed, smiley persona which had earlier set him apart at the crease.

    It was hard not to think he had been frazzled by the sudden surge in responsibility, going from operating in the slipstream of Smith, Warner and Usman Khawaja during his debut summer to suddenly being a leader of the batting line-up in India.

    Renshaw again had to try to make up for the shortcomings of his vastly more experienced colleagues in the first Test at Dhaka.

    Warner, Smith and Khawaja all failed, leaving Australia 4-33 and Renshaw tasked with a rescue mission. If the veterans around him can lift some of the load off of Renshaw in the second Test, we may see the best of the gifted youngster.

    David Warner – was his ton at Dhaka a one-off or can he become a quality player in Asia?
    David Warner has a poor Test record in Asia. Yet he has never appeared bamboozled by spin on the subcontinent the way several of his colleagues have in recent years.

    Some of his teammates have looked like they would never score a ton in Asia even if they had 100 attempts.

    By comparison, Warner often skips away to a bright start, seems well set to play a valuable knock and then makes a fatal mistake. This is what has infuriated Australian fans.

    These are Warner’s innings in Asia over the past two years – 112, 8, 6, 54, 14, 19, 17, 33, 10, 38, 68, 11, 41, 42. Lots of starts, yet only one innings of great value.

    Usman Khawaja – Is this his final Test in Asia?
    I have written more than enough about Khawaja’s laboured efforts in Asia, so I will keep this brief. Khawaja’s supporters argue that he should play in the second Test in Bangladesh to help him become a better batsman in Asia for future tours.

    But, after this Test, Australia will barely play in Asia again over the next three years. In that period, Australia have just three such Tests – against Pakistan in the UAE in 18 months from now. By the following time Australia play in Asia, against Sri Lanka in 2020, Khawaja will be pushing 34 years old and quite possibly already retired.

    Ronan O
    Ronan O'Connell

    Ronan O'Connell has been a journalist for well over 13 years, including nine at daily newspapers in WA. He now traverses the world as a travel photojournalist, contributing words and photography to more than 30 magazines and newspapers including CNN, BBC, The Toronto Star, The Guardian, The South China Morning Post, The Irish Examiner and The Australian Financial Review. Check out his work and follow him on Twitter @ronanoco

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    The Crowd Says (55)

    • September 4th 2017 @ 7:31am
      David a Pom said | September 4th 2017 @ 7:31am | ! Report

      Only six? Haha, poor Aussies. 2-0 coming up and you all know it.

      • September 4th 2017 @ 8:40am
        jameswm said | September 4th 2017 @ 8:40am | ! Report

        There’s only 6 batsmen.

        We can go through Agar and Cummins if you want.

      • September 4th 2017 @ 8:48am
        Marshall said | September 4th 2017 @ 8:48am | ! Report

        Good luck with the Windies at home mate.

        • Roar Guru

          September 4th 2017 @ 11:18am
          Scott Pryde said | September 4th 2017 @ 11:18am | ! Report

          Well played Marshall.

          • September 4th 2017 @ 3:37pm
            doogs said | September 4th 2017 @ 3:37pm | ! Report

            Yes for sure. Plus England barely beat Bangladesh in the first test there in October 2016. They won by 22 runs. Then Bangladesh flogged them by 108 runs. I am not sure what David is crowing about. Then again I don’t really want to know.

          • September 4th 2017 @ 7:18pm
            ColinP said | September 4th 2017 @ 7:18pm | ! Report

            a wise non-partisan “guru”

    • September 4th 2017 @ 7:56am
      George said | September 4th 2017 @ 7:56am | ! Report

      No, Khawaja should play because he is (should have been since 2011) Australia’s long-term No.3 and his confidence has been dented after repeatedly being dropped after a run of two Tests (or taken on tour merely as a baggage handler). Time for this to stop.

      Lesa selective bias/criteria applied against UK might even help Australia’s batting become a strength that prevents Tests being lost so regularly.

      • September 4th 2017 @ 8:35am
        john ham said | September 4th 2017 @ 8:35am | ! Report

        Agree

        There is literally no one else who could bat at 3 (not smith) for the ashes

        Pick n stick

        Maxwell is the one who needs to be dropped, overrated and does nothing!!

        Wade should be on the chopping block too

        • September 4th 2017 @ 8:46am
          Basil said | September 4th 2017 @ 8:46am | ! Report

          Pick and stick, yet you say they should drop Maxwell?
          Do you read what you type before sending?

        • Roar Rookie

          September 4th 2017 @ 9:17am
          Lancey5times said | September 4th 2017 @ 9:17am | ! Report

          How does Khawaja not playing the next test make any difference to the number 3 spot for the Ashes?

          Are we trying to level this series or not upset players feelings?

          • September 4th 2017 @ 11:42am
            GD66 said | September 4th 2017 @ 11:42am | ! Report

            Agree, I have mentioned elsewhere that Khawaja will never improve in “Asian” conditions if not given the opportunity of some time at the crease. However, after his contributions of 1 and 1, featuring a farcical runout, he can’t complain if he’s not selected.

            • September 4th 2017 @ 12:31pm
              George said | September 4th 2017 @ 12:31pm | ! Report

              The thing is: Khawaja has never been treated like a permanent member of the side. His talent and performances in home Tests suggest he should be. Unlike Renshaw and Handscomb he wasn’t ‘inked in’ as a young player finding his feet and he now he seems ever on the verge to be replaced by less-well credentialed and less-experienced alternatives.

              He’s not the only one to struggle in Asia, yet you haven’t seen Shaun Marsh or Moises Henriques coming in to replace the likes of Warner or Voges mid tour. What other incumbent is made to watch a four-Test series from the sidelines, with no hope of recall even as the team’s fortunes nosedive?

              Warner has had more failures in Asia, WI, ENG and NZ than Khawaja, yet he has been considered undroppable while UK staggers towards the 25-Test mark.

        • September 4th 2017 @ 12:51pm
          Ross said | September 4th 2017 @ 12:51pm | ! Report

          Well said George , khawaja should play as he is our best number 3

      • September 4th 2017 @ 8:41am
        Rob JM said | September 4th 2017 @ 8:41am | ! Report

        I would give khawaja the second test simply because he has as good a chance as getting out as Cartwright, a guy with no sub continental experience.

        • Roar Rookie

          September 4th 2017 @ 9:08am
          Lancey5times said | September 4th 2017 @ 9:08am | ! Report

          So before Cartwright can play a test on the subcontinent he needs to play a few tests on the subcontinent?

          And Khawaja is not as likely to make as many runs as his replacement but rather is as likely to fail? I’m sure he appreciates your vote of confidence

          • September 4th 2017 @ 12:52pm
            Ross said | September 4th 2017 @ 12:52pm | ! Report

            Khawaja will get more runs then Cartwright, Hilton is a good all rounder but khawaja is a world class batsman

            • Roar Rookie

              September 4th 2017 @ 1:16pm
              Lancey5times said | September 4th 2017 @ 1:16pm | ! Report

              Still waiting for my apology

            • September 4th 2017 @ 1:27pm
              Don Freo said | September 4th 2017 @ 1:27pm | ! Report

              Cartwright is not a good all rounder. He is a very good batsman and a moderate bowler.

    • September 4th 2017 @ 8:31am
      john ham said | September 4th 2017 @ 8:31am | ! Report

      Warners tonne in Asia…blah blah blah blah

      How long are we going to bow down and praise his illiterate wonderfulness?

      He did not win us the game so get over it people.

      Warner already the “queen of Summertime” after 1 tonne in a losing match.

      The fact that Renshaw is at risk of losing his spot because of 1 big score from Warner illustrates all that is wrong with this Australian XI at the moment.

      Warner needs to STOP making these pathetic judgement calls on the young players, especially his partner and act like a senior/mature player and the SUPPOSED vice captain role that he is in.

      • September 4th 2017 @ 8:43am
        Rob JM said | September 4th 2017 @ 8:43am | ! Report

        Warners Ton did prevent a total flogging!

      • September 4th 2017 @ 8:43am
        Basil said | September 4th 2017 @ 8:43am | ! Report

        …and if Khawaja had scored that century, would your critique still be blah, blah, blah?

        • September 4th 2017 @ 8:59am
          john ham said | September 4th 2017 @ 8:59am | ! Report

          put a pipe in it Basil

          • September 4th 2017 @ 12:53pm
            Ross said | September 4th 2017 @ 12:53pm | ! Report

            I agree with basil

      • Roar Rookie

        September 4th 2017 @ 9:30am
        Lancey5times said | September 4th 2017 @ 9:30am | ! Report

        Did you read what Ronan wrote about Warner? The first line was literally ‘David Warner has a poor record in Asia’. This is hardly bowing down. Unless simply acknowledging his ton does that.

        Also, there is absolutely no mention at all of Renshaw’s spot being at risk.

        Did you read the article at all?

      • September 4th 2017 @ 3:41pm
        doogs said | September 4th 2017 @ 3:41pm | ! Report

        what an odd rant. Thanks for using Caps Lock to emphasise your “important” words.

    • Roar Pro

      September 4th 2017 @ 8:42am
      Andrew Young said | September 4th 2017 @ 8:42am | ! Report

      Great analysis, Ronan.
      Particularly enjoyed what you wrote about Maxwell- summed it up nicely. I love watching him bat, and am sure that with experience he will be able to flourish at the highest level. After all, he has only played 6 test matches.

      • September 4th 2017 @ 9:00am
        john ham said | September 4th 2017 @ 9:00am | ! Report

        Totally disagree Andrew

        Maxwell is a slugger thru n thru

        Not a classy batsman like Hussey or Border

        • September 4th 2017 @ 9:13am
          jameswm said | September 4th 2017 @ 9:13am | ! Report

          So we have Husseys and Borders ready to repalce Maxrell, do we? Batsmen of that calibre?

          • September 4th 2017 @ 9:37am
            Pedro The Fisherman said | September 4th 2017 @ 9:37am | ! Report

            Ever heard of a guy called Travis Head? Is he from the wrong State?
            He can bowl a bit of spin as well!

            • September 4th 2017 @ 11:24am
              jameswm said | September 4th 2017 @ 11:24am | ! Report

              Yes, he plays ODIs for Australia.

              You are referring to that Travis Head aren’t you – the same Travis Head who averages 34 in FC cricket?

              Border/Hussey level, is he?

              • September 4th 2017 @ 11:30pm
                Don Freo said | September 4th 2017 @ 11:30pm | ! Report

                This is where averages are deceiving. Don’t assume Huss has a plus 50 average before he played for the Test side.

                Head will have a very long Test career. I’d argue that he is already better value than Handscomb as part of the next wave.

        • Roar Pro

          September 4th 2017 @ 11:08am
          Andrew Young said | September 4th 2017 @ 11:08am | ! Report

          John Ham, there is a difference between being “a slugger thru n thru” and having a range of shots capable of taking down any attack in the world. True, he is yet to develop/ demonstrate the temperament to manage these skills, but as I observed, I think that will come with experience at test level.

          • September 4th 2017 @ 12:20pm
            BurgyGreen said | September 4th 2017 @ 12:20pm | ! Report

            I’d say he displayed that temperament with his century in India.

            Give him a fair run, and I think he’ll produce the goods consistently.

        • Roar Pro

          September 4th 2017 @ 11:08am
          Andrew Young said | September 4th 2017 @ 11:08am | ! Report

          John Ham, there is a difference between being “a slugger thru n thru” and having a range of shots capable of taking down any attack in the world. True, he is yet to develop/ demonstrate the temperament to manage these skills, but as I observed, I think that will come with experience at test level.

      • Columnist

        September 4th 2017 @ 6:16pm
        Ronan O'Connell said | September 4th 2017 @ 6:16pm | ! Report

        Cheers Andrew.

        I’m surprised how many people have written off Maxwell as a Test cricketer when he’s never played a single match outside of Asia.

        • September 4th 2017 @ 10:19pm
          Matth said | September 4th 2017 @ 10:19pm | ! Report

          Exactly this

    • September 4th 2017 @ 9:19am
      Justin from Canberra said | September 4th 2017 @ 9:19am | ! Report

      Preparation is vital in Asia and ours was limited, for which the players are partly to blame. Wade’s form as keeper and with the bat seems a distinct liability. I understand that keeping in those conditions is difficult, Bangladesh conceded 22 byes to our 30, but I never expected any better from him and just hope he makes up for them with decent scores. After all I assume that is why he was picked? Hopefully they will be a little wiser and better for the run after Test 1 and a drawn series would be a positive outcome. I read we are the world’s worst performed side in Asia. We are the underdogs and should acknowledge that.

    • September 4th 2017 @ 9:47am
      BurgyGreen said | September 4th 2017 @ 9:47am | ! Report

      As you say, Ronan, Maxwell clearly has what it takes. His failure to convert his starts in the first Test was frustrating. Handscomb, Renshaw and Smith had the same problem though.

      I really hope the selectors give Maxwell a chance at home. He can seal his place himself though if he produces a class knock in this match.

      He can be the solution we’ve been after at 6 – a batsman averaging over 40 at a strike rate of 80+, while bowling some useful partnership-breaking offies. He just needs backing and opportunities.

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