Australia are bunnies in Asia no more

Ronan O'Connell Columnist

99 Have your say

    Australia have continued their renaissance in Asia after registering a comfortable win in the second Test in Bangladesh yesterday to draw the series.

    The visitors’ thumping win gave them a record of two wins, three losses and a draw from their six Tests in Asia this year, which is a fine return given they had lost their previous nine Tests on the subcontinent.

    There was exaggerated criticism of Australia after their narrow loss in the first Test to Bangladesh, a team which has become genuinely competitive in Tests, particularly over the past year. In that time Bangladesh drew 1-1 at home with England (a series they almost won 2-0) and also 1-1 away in Sri Lanka.

    It was Sri Lanka who handed Australia arguably their most humiliating series loss of the past decade when they hammered them 3-0 at home last year despite the Lions fielding a very inexperienced team.

    That defeat seemed to really sting the Australians, who subsequently overhauled their approach in Asia.

    Firstly, Australia sought to promote players they believed were well suited to playing in Asia.

    Secondly, their batsmen made a concerted effort to play the line of the ball in defence, having been beaten on the inside edge with alarming regularity in Sri Lanka.

    That second change has proven crucial – it is a key reason why Australia have batted considerably better in Bangladesh and India than they did in Sri Lanka. Australia’s bowlers had consistently done a good job for them on the road in the past but too often their labour had been undone by the batsmen.

    While Australia’s batting in Asia still needs to improve markedly, it is on a clear upward curve.

    The form curve is even steeper for the Australian who has improved in Asia more than any other this year – spinner Nathan Lyon. After taking nine wickets in the first Test at Dhaka, and then seven wickets in the first innings of this second Test, Lyon ran amok once more yesterday, grabbing 6-60.

    It continued a remarkable run for Lyon, who has taken 41 wickets at an average of 19 in Asia this year, including five five-wicket hauls.

    What makes this sequence of performances even more extraordinary is that Lyon was at serious risk of dropped from the Australian Test team last summer before being saved by an injury to Steve O’Keefe. Lyon had by far the worst home season of his career, averaging 50 with the ball across six Tests against Pakistan and South Africa, while conceding a hefty 3.62 runs per over.

    Lyon then arrived in India in February as the owner of a very poor Test record in Asia, with an average of 43 from 11 Tests. At that stage, the six Tests in India and Bangladesh shaped as the toughest challenge of Lyon’s career. Instead, they may well just be the catalyst for Lyon to make the leap from a solid Test spinner to a star bowler.

    He has been quite clearly the best spinner on either side in this series in Bangladesh, and in India he held his own against the world’s top two Test spinners Ravi Jadeja and Ravi Ashwin.

    Lyon long has been potent on hard, bouncy pitches but now appears to have unlocked the secret to dominating on dry, slow surfaces. He was only one of a number of Australians to produce very encouraging performances over the two series in Asia.

    David Warner scored back-to-back tons in Bangladesh, the first of which almost won the Dhaka Test for Australia and the second of which put them in a commanding position at Chittagong.

    Middle order batsman Peter Handscomb was nimble and assertive at the crease throughout both series, finishing with a reasonable average of 34 from the six Tests despite failing to capitalise on many good starts.

    Australian batsman Peter Handscomb

    (AAP Image/Dan Peled)

    Much-maligned all-rounder Glenn Maxwell did not quite cement his Test spot for the Ashes, but returned a healthy average of 37 from his four Tests in Bangladesh and India.

    Rookie paceman Pat Cummins showed he is one of the best young Test cricketers in the world, bowling with consistent pace, accuracy and intimidation factor en route to taking 14 wickets at 29 in Asia.

    And 23-year-old spinning all-rounder Ashton Agar was a handy contributor in Bangladesh, averaging 23 with the ball and 32 with the bat.

    With an average age of just 26.6 years, this is a very young Australian side which looks to have the ability and mindset to become a consistently competitive team in Asia.

    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 (99)

    • Roar Pro

      September 8th 2017 @ 7:11am
      Ben Sewell said | September 8th 2017 @ 7:11am | ! Report

      Well I was hesitant about keeping Lyon in this side and he bounced back in the best possible way, good for him. Now 7th best bowler in AUS history, statistically speaking. Still rather annoyed they flew SOK in for Swepson however.

      • September 8th 2017 @ 7:17am
        Basil said | September 8th 2017 @ 7:17am | ! Report

        Swepson will get his chance. They went into damage control once they were 1-0 down.

      • September 8th 2017 @ 8:34am
        sportstragic said | September 8th 2017 @ 8:34am | ! Report

        Well done to Lyon! And Australia. I am curious as to why Jon Holland from Victoria is so far down the pecking order of spinners. He seems to have had a good couple of summers but is not is Australia’s top 4 spinners??

        • Roar Rookie

          September 8th 2017 @ 8:39am
          Matthew Pearce said | September 8th 2017 @ 8:39am | ! Report

          Think he’s another casualty from that Sri Lanka tour, which seems pretty unfair given the circumstances.

          • Columnist

            September 8th 2017 @ 8:43am
            Ronan O'Connell said | September 8th 2017 @ 8:43am | ! Report

            Holland has taken 77 wickets at an average of 21 over the past three Shield seasons and dominated in the trial match in Darwin.

            He would justifiably be surprised that four other spinners were picked ahead of him on this tour.

            • Roar Guru

              September 8th 2017 @ 8:49am
              Rellum said | September 8th 2017 @ 8:49am | ! Report

              Holland should be picked. I have no doubt the other facets of his game are holding him back with these selectors, batting, fitness, fielding. Because if it was on bowling then he should get the gig. I mean they are not worried about picking guys that don’t spin it much so it can’t be that. SOK maybe gets in for prolonged success. I would have rather have seen them pick Swepson instead of SOK as he was on tour.

    • September 8th 2017 @ 7:14am
      Basil said | September 8th 2017 @ 7:14am | ! Report

      Great effort against a rising team on there own patch. Lyon has really come on and some of the batsman have really shown application. I’ve really be impressed with Cummins in conditions not helpful to pace bowling,
      Unfortunately there is no 3rd Test in this series. Due to the washout of the one and only tour game and also a reluctance it seems toward tour games in general, it was the 1st Test that served as a tour game for the players to acclimatise. One can only imagine what results would be if adequate preparation before Tests was a consideration.

      • Columnist

        September 8th 2017 @ 7:25am
        Ronan O'Connell said | September 8th 2017 @ 7:25am | ! Report

        It really is a pity there isn’t a 3rd Test, this was such a brilliant series to watch.

        • September 8th 2017 @ 3:36pm
          Geoff from Bruce Stadium said | September 8th 2017 @ 3:36pm | ! Report

          Fantastic series to watch. I’ve really enjoyed the last two series against India and Bangladesh. Gripping stuff. Having pitches that offer turn for the spinners ensures results in matches in contrast to some of the roads served up in Australia recently. These conditons sorts out the batsmen who can find a way to play spin from those who can’t and provides opportunities for our spinners to flourish in conditions that assist them. I really hope tours of the sub continent are firmly in the sights of those organising our future test schedule.

          Hats off to Dave Warner for being able to curb his natural instincts in the second test to give Australia enough runs to bowl at. A very mature and patient innings. Adjectives you wouldn’t think could be applied to the batting of Warner. The progress of Lyon has been nothing short pf phenomenal from a bowler who used to bowl around the wicket to the right handers in Australia in the hope of taking a catch at short leg to someone who attacks the stumps in search of an LBW or bowled. The penny has finally dropped for Lyon and I’ll be really interested to see if he can replicate that form in Australian conditions.

          • September 8th 2017 @ 6:41pm
            Shane Warner said | September 8th 2017 @ 6:41pm | ! Report

            Yes, that Dave Warner innings was more Cook or Younis Khan than I’ve ever seen. Maybe he finally learned something from watching Rogers bat 🙂

    • Roar Guru

      September 8th 2017 @ 7:24am
      Rellum said | September 8th 2017 @ 7:24am | ! Report

      Just think what we could have done with proper warm up games. We.might have won both games easily and we wouldn’t be looking on this series so fondly.

      I will never be a big Waner fan and I have called him a flat track bully, quite correctly, but he finally has shown some real intent to change and build his game to meet the conditions. I didn’t see him play so I wont comment on his technical changes or anything but I give him big props for his big improvement.

      • Columnist

        September 8th 2017 @ 7:28am
        Ronan O'Connell said | September 8th 2017 @ 7:28am | ! Report

        “Just think what we could have done with proper warm up games.”

        …. and if Australia had had Starc, who is just about their most important player in Asia thanks to his new and old ball threat and very valuable batting against spin.

        Starc, Cummins, Lyon and O’Keefe/Agar is a fantastic attack in Asian conditions.

        • September 8th 2017 @ 7:51am
          qwetzen said | September 8th 2017 @ 7:51am | ! Report

          Still pimping O’Keefe then. He bowled poorly in this entire Test. Why Smith gave him so much bowling in the critical I3 and Agar virtually none (22 overs to 5) is more proof that Smith is a bad captain to spinners. Anyways, I know how much you love your stats so here’s the Lyon v O’Keefe comparison for the last 4 Tests they’ve played together. All in Asia obviously.

          Lyon: 27 @ 20.7
          O’Keefe: 9 @ 55.6

          Only one of those is “fantastic”.

          • September 8th 2017 @ 7:57am
            George said | September 8th 2017 @ 7:57am | ! Report

            SOK had zero preparation. Conveniently ignoring that while bringing up selective stats.

            • September 8th 2017 @ 8:30am
              Don Freo said | September 8th 2017 @ 8:30am | ! Report

              Even more reason to bowl Agar, not SOK.

              What was SOK doing if he wasn’t preparing? Drinking? It’s almost cricket season.

            • September 8th 2017 @ 8:35am
              qwetzen said | September 8th 2017 @ 8:35am | ! Report

              If SUK had “zero preparation” then;

              a) Why was he picked?
              b) Why did Smith give him so much bowling?

              And I don’t agree that ‘last nn’ Tests is “selective”. It’s what is known as ‘recent form’.

              • September 8th 2017 @ 8:51am
                BurgyGreen said | September 8th 2017 @ 8:51am | ! Report

                Definitely Lyon has outbowled him, but I don’t see any reason to leave out his 12 wickets at Pune if you’re not being selective.

              • Roar Rookie

                September 8th 2017 @ 9:04am
                Matthew Pearce said | September 8th 2017 @ 9:04am | ! Report

                It is selective when your stats start just after SOK’s 12-fa, especially given that it was the only other test he’s played in nearly a year.

              • September 8th 2017 @ 9:08am
                Matth said | September 8th 2017 @ 9:08am | ! Report

                Yes but if the sample of recent form went back just one more test SOK took 12 for that match, so it is pretty selective. Having said that I’m and Agar man myself. SOK does not look threatening unless the pitch gives him huge assistance.

              • September 8th 2017 @ 9:30am
                jameswm said | September 8th 2017 @ 9:30am | ! Report

                1st innings I think Smith backed that SOK would recapture his form from India. I can understand that.

                I think the 2nd innings was poor captaincy though. Agar had earned the right to bowl ahead of SOK.

                And I don’t see how that 2nd innings choice makes Smith a poor captain to spinners.

              • September 8th 2017 @ 10:03am
                Crispy said | September 8th 2017 @ 10:03am | ! Report

                I disagree, SOK was bowled so much in the second innings because 1. He gave away very few runs and 2. He gets through his overs so quickly that it means Lyon is back bowling before the Bangladeshi batsmen are ready and that builds enormous psychological pressure. It was clear that Lyon was the main threat and SOK helped to maximise that.

              • September 8th 2017 @ 9:39am
                George said | September 8th 2017 @ 9:39am | ! Report

                But conveniently, for your argument, you didn’t go back two Tests more to include SOK’s 12-wicket match.

                I agree SOK’s selection was weird, seeing as he hadn’t been playing/training.

              • September 9th 2017 @ 8:04am
                Basil said | September 9th 2017 @ 8:04am | ! Report

                You obviously know tactics and conditions better than the Aussie brain trust qwertzen.
                Some people will never be satisfied with a win…

    • Roar Rookie

      September 8th 2017 @ 7:30am
      Lancey5times said | September 8th 2017 @ 7:30am | ! Report

      Nathan Lyon is the best spinner in the world and every Australian batsman should walk to crease confident in the knowledge that they are backed by the best attack in the game. Cummins and Starc are just downright frightening and when Hazelwood is the guy you look forward to facing then you are in a bit of strife.

      I was really impressed with Agar. He was underbowled yesterday which I guess in the wash up doesn’t really matter but given what he brings to the team I would have him ahead of O’Keefe in the future plans.

      He is only very young but there is a bit of Kallis about Cartwright. Genuine top order player with what seems like a giant straight bat. The bowling is simply a bonus. I think he could bat as high as 3 in years to come

      • September 8th 2017 @ 8:37am
        sportstragic said | September 8th 2017 @ 8:37am | ! Report

        Best spinner in the world????

        • Columnist

          September 8th 2017 @ 8:46am
          Ronan O'Connell said | September 8th 2017 @ 8:46am | ! Report

          One thing that Lyon does have over the likes of Ashwin, Jadeja, Herath, Yasir and Shakib is that he’s the only one who averages less than 30 away from home in Tests.

        • Roar Rookie

          September 8th 2017 @ 8:49am
          Lancey5times said | September 8th 2017 @ 8:49am | ! Report

          Who is better?
          And when you answer I’d like you to consider one key question. Who is more likely to take wickets in any conditions that get thrown up in world cricket?

          • September 8th 2017 @ 9:32am
            jameswm said | September 8th 2017 @ 9:32am | ! Report

            I agree. Overall, Ashwin isn’t. Nor Jadeja, who would get mercilessly hammered in Australia and othe parts.

            Not sure on Herath.

          • September 8th 2017 @ 12:40pm
            Brian said | September 8th 2017 @ 12:40pm | ! Report

            Jadeja, Ashwin, Herath and maybe Shakhib. There’s 4

            • Roar Rookie

              September 8th 2017 @ 12:48pm
              Lancey5times said | September 8th 2017 @ 12:48pm | ! Report

              Got any numbers to back that up?

              • September 8th 2017 @ 1:39pm
                Brian said | September 8th 2017 @ 1:39pm | ! Report

                Herath averages 28. Lyon 31. Now lyon bowls with aussie fielders and often after aussie batsman have made 500. If lyon played for sri lanka he woukd average 40

              • Roar Rookie

                September 8th 2017 @ 1:56pm
                Lancey5times said | September 8th 2017 @ 1:56pm | ! Report

                How many wickets and at what rate has your mate Herath taken outside of the subcontinent?

            • September 8th 2017 @ 12:51pm
              jameswm said | September 8th 2017 @ 12:51pm | ! Report

              4 what?

              I don’t agree Ashwin or Jadeja is a better spinner than Lyon, for starters.

            • September 8th 2017 @ 1:48pm
              Ouch said | September 8th 2017 @ 1:48pm | ! Report

              Have any of those 4 matched the GOATS record this year? Nope
              They are average, at best away from home.They do well on the subcontinent but not in SA, NZ, Aust, WI and England.
              Ashwin has been dropped from the Indian side in every O/S test series he has played. Didn’t even make their squad for NZ.

              • September 8th 2017 @ 4:01pm
                Brian said | September 8th 2017 @ 4:01pm | ! Report

                Pretty sure Ashwin played here last time. Lyon has had a good run in Asia after a very lean summer here. Previously it was the oppossite. We can all pluck figures if you r going to call him world’s best he has to perform this summer.

                I would also add that stats are not fair because the Australian batsman and fielders are better especially in the case of Herath and Shakib.

                I believe this is also the case whereby the averages for Ambrose and McGrath are better then Wasim Akram yet pundits often rate Akram, its because his fielders were worse.

                I don’t know why there aren’t stats around dropped catches or wrong LBW but that’s for another day.

              • Columnist

                September 8th 2017 @ 5:29pm
                Ronan O'Connell said | September 8th 2017 @ 5:29pm | ! Report

                In Asia and the Windies (which has dry Asian-style pitches mostly), I still rate Ashwin, Jadeja and Herath ahead of Lyon, no doubt.

                But in Aus/Eng/SA/NZ there is no competition, Lyon is streets ahead of the others.

                These are their Test bowling averages in Aus/Eng/SA/NZ:

                Ashwin ……. avg. 57
                Yasir ……….. avg. 56
                Jadeja …….. avg. 46
                Herath …….. avg. 43
                Lyon ……….. avg. 33

        • September 8th 2017 @ 9:56am
          Ouch said | September 8th 2017 @ 9:56am | ! Report

          I think he is at present. Unlike the others, Lyon bowls well away from home.

          • September 8th 2017 @ 2:14pm
            armchair expert said | September 8th 2017 @ 2:14pm | ! Report

            Great series by Lyon, there’s no doubt he benefited from all the left handed batsmen in the Bangladesh team. Don’t forget he got slaughtered “away from home” in 2nd division County cricket a couple of months ago. Herath would be my choice as best spinner in the world, for memory he may even have a better test bowling average in Australia than Lyon.

      • September 8th 2017 @ 8:55am
        John George said | September 8th 2017 @ 8:55am | ! Report

        Well said Lancey

        Now tell me your XI for Brisbane….here is mine

        Warner Bros.
        Renny
        Uzzy (I expect him to do well or fail badly, no middle ground)
        Smithy
        Honeycomb Handscomb
        Cartwright
        Carey
        Starc
        Cummins
        Hazey
        Lyon

        • Roar Rookie

          September 8th 2017 @ 9:06am
          Matthew Pearce said | September 8th 2017 @ 9:06am | ! Report

          Not even surprised you left out Maxwell, who, by the way, outperformed Cartwright in the last test.

        • Roar Guru

          September 8th 2017 @ 9:45am
          Edward L'Orange said | September 8th 2017 @ 9:45am | ! Report

          Swap Cartwright for Maxwell, he deserves at least one test.

          And as much as I’d like to see Carey, I’m not sure they’ll go that way.

          For ‘keepers, a lot rests on the 3 shield rounds prior to the Ashes. If one of Nevill or Wade stands out, they will get the spot. If they both fail and Carey does very well, he may be in. Whiteman is a way behind, at the moment.

          • September 8th 2017 @ 9:55am
            Ross said | September 8th 2017 @ 9:55am | ! Report

            Khawaja is a master of Aussie conditions so big season coming there , but one more chance and handscombe should be keeper , what a handy batsman to have as your keeper

            • Roar Rookie

              September 8th 2017 @ 10:02am
              Matthew Pearce said | September 8th 2017 @ 10:02am | ! Report

              Handscomb makes Wade look like Healy with the gloves. If you make him keeper, as his keeping improves his batting will drop off, and then we’ll end up with another jack-of-all-trades, and ruining a promising middle-order batsman to boot. How about we just pick keepers for their keeping instead of their batting?

            • September 8th 2017 @ 1:12pm
              Perry Bridge said | September 8th 2017 @ 1:12pm | ! Report

              Didn’t we just see the value of a keeper who is in good form (with the gloves) – Wade had a massive impact on this match – his 3 stumpings were as different one from the other and each one was executed from the top shelf. Technically Wade is much more ticking the boxes with the gloves (which is hard to do……writing…..with gloves on).

              Wade does need to return to Australia – and gain some batting confidence back on Australian decks.

              It helps being the incumbent.

              Handscomb – were he to keep then he’d have to drop down the order to 6 or 7.

              The 6th test dished up a top 5 with Handscomb at 4 and Maxwell at 5. Assume that won’t stay that way – but, it’s funny what happens on tour. Like when Henriques failed dismally as a top 6 batter.

        • Roar Rookie

          September 8th 2017 @ 10:42am
          Lancey5times said | September 8th 2017 @ 10:42am | ! Report

          I don’t know any of these guys well enough to use nicknames so I will go with what mum and dad decided

          Warner, Renshaw, Khawaja, Smith, Cartwright, Handscomb, Maxwell, Starc, Cummins, Lyon, Hazelwood

          Due to a lack of better options, the predictably of Australian pitches and the balance it provides I would give Handscomb the gloves. It may only be for this summer until a standout gets another Shield season under their belt.

          • September 8th 2017 @ 12:43pm
            Brian said | September 8th 2017 @ 12:43pm | ! Report

            Warner, Renshaw, Khawaja, Smith, Handscomb, Maxwell, Wade, Starc, Cummins, Hazlewood, Lyon.
            The XI that tempts me is
            Warner, Renshaw, Khawaja, Smith, Handscomb, Wade, Agar, Starc, Cummins, Pattinson, Hazlewood,

            • Roar Rookie

              September 8th 2017 @ 12:47pm
              Lancey5times said | September 8th 2017 @ 12:47pm | ! Report

              So your tempted to promote a keeper that can’t score runs and add a bowler you don’t need for the conditions?

            • September 8th 2017 @ 1:52pm
              jameswm said | September 8th 2017 @ 1:52pm | ! Report

              Brian, the problems with that team are:

              – a keeper who can’t buy a run is promoted to 6

              – you’ve dropped our best spinner

              • Roar Rookie

                September 8th 2017 @ 1:58pm
                Lancey5times said | September 8th 2017 @ 1:58pm | ! Report

                Wow.
                I didn’t even notice that he dropped the guy that just dismissed one and a half teams in his last test match

              • September 8th 2017 @ 4:06pm
                Brian said | September 8th 2017 @ 4:06pm | ! Report

                I don’t believe Wade is that far behind as a batsman to Maxwell or Cartwright. Given that I would rather play with a proper keeper. If someone else comes along great but otherwise no point going back to Nevill who is as inept with the bat as Wade.

                I am only floating that team for Perth or night games where a spinner would be of limited use, and again the runs Agar can score are not that far behind Maxwell or Cartwright.

    • September 8th 2017 @ 8:31am
      Don Freo said | September 8th 2017 @ 8:31am | ! Report

      Why so sad, George?

    • September 8th 2017 @ 8:33am
      rock86 said | September 8th 2017 @ 8:33am | ! Report

      Yet, there’ll still be calls for Lyon’s head in the Ashes if he only grabs a few wickets averaging around the 30 mark in the first 3 tests on our roads, Australian sports fans are a fickle bunch.

      • Roar Rookie

        September 8th 2017 @ 9:00am
        Matthew Pearce said | September 8th 2017 @ 9:00am | ! Report

        Or, even worse, if he fails to take every wicket on day 5, because it’s “his job” to win the game on the last day.

        If he did, though, I suspect there’d just be calls for new quicks because they didn’t take any wickets.

        • Roar Rookie

          September 8th 2017 @ 11:37am
          josh said | September 8th 2017 @ 11:37am | ! Report

          Only spinners can take day 5 wickets.

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