The glaring technical flaw that’s making Matt Renshaw a bunny

Ronan O'Connell Columnist

By , Ronan O'Connell is a Roar Expert

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    Matt Renshaw’s deep form trough is due to the exposure of a major flaw in his technique – he struggles badly against right-arm pace from around the wicket.

    This is a massive concern for the 21-year-old, and for the Australian team, given England’s opening bowlers James Anderson and Stuart Broad are highly skilled from around the wicket.

    What’s more, in Test cricket, Anderson averages 20 against left-handers and Broad averages 25, with a major factor in this success being the mastery they display when bowling around the wicket.

    Renshaw’s early success in Test cricket was built on his ability to leave the ball efficiently, particularly against right-arm quicks bowling over the wicket and slanting deliveries across him.

    This is the preferred angle for most right-arm paceman against left-handers and one which the Queenslander reads extremely well, continually shouldering arms to deliveries passing outside his off stump, whether by a slim or wide margin.

    In doing so, he frustrates opening bowlers, who do not want to waste the new ball by having the batsmen leave most deliveries. Often these bowlers lose patience, straighten their line to target the stumps and, in doing so, start straying occasionally on to Renshaw’s pads.

    This is exactly what the rookie Test opener wants, as the flick through square leg is his comfort shot until he is well settled. So right-arm paceman stopped using this angle against Renshaw, realising that his judgment of line was far less accurate when they came around the wicket.

    Matt Renshaw celebrates century SCG

    AAP Image/David Moir

    Against this line, Renshaw’s discipline in leaving the ball evaporates and he frequently gets drawn into sparring at deliveries well outside off stump, which he easily could ignore. He also tends to close off his front leg, which means that when bowlers do give him a delivery on the stumps, he is forced to reach around that front pad.

    The Indian quicks were the first to fully exploit this weakness, during Australia’s four Tests on the subcontinent earlier this year. Early in that series, the Indians targeted Renshaw with spin, assuming that he would labour against their slow bowlers on dry pitches, like most Aussie batsmen.

    When Renshaw prospered against their tweakers, making 68, 31 and 60 in his first three innings, India changed tack and went after him with their right-arm quicks, who bowled mostly from around the wicket. It worked a treat, with Renshaw being dismissed by pace in each of his next five innings, while making just 73 runs at 15.

    The first of those dismissals saw Renshaw play a half-hearted prod at a delivery from Ishant Sharma that would have missed his off stump by at least 30 centimetres. The delivery angled in, straightened off the pitch, kissed Renshaw’s outside edge, and landed in the gloves of Wriddhiman Saha.

    Things got even uglier in Renshaw’s next dig, the first innings of the third Test in Ranchi. From around the wicket, Umesh Yadav bowled a rank, wide ball, which landed on a good length about 60 centimetres outside off stump. Renshaw – with his front foot planted on the line of middle stump – leaned out and hacked at the delivery, sending an edge to first slip to complete an embarrassing dismissal.

    In the second innings, Ishant again from around the wicket got the old ball to tail back in, Renshaw missing it by a generous margin to be caught plumb in front.

    By this point, it was clear that Renshaw had a major issue against this angle, and Australian domestic bowlers took notice, targeting him from around the wicket so far this Sheffield Shield season.

    Even on familiar home pitches, Renshaw has been unable to find a solution to this technical problem, failing five straight times in the Shield. Across his past 14 first-class innings, Renshaw has averaged just 15. In his favour, he has at least managed to do an okay job of shielding his Queensland teammates from the new ball by batting for an average of 55 deliveries across his five knocks.

    But that task will be more difficult against Broad and Anderson, who have the experience, accuracy and guile to torment Renshaw with new or old ball.

    The young Australian faces an enormous challenge to prosper in the Ashes.

    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