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Geoff Lemon’s Ashes Diary: Rogers let down as Australian advantage squandered

Geoff Lemon Columnist

By Geoff Lemon, Geoff Lemon is a Roar Expert


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    Chris Rogers and Dave Warner dug in on the first morning of the final Test. (AFP PHOTO/ANDREW YATES).

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    For the third time in four Tests, Australia has wasted a strong chance at victory. The likes of Chris Rogers and Ryan Harris have been let down.

    When a disciplined team effort from Australia’s bowling attack choked England out for 238 early on Day 2, the opportunity was right there to take a commanding position in the match.

    By the same time the next day it had been surrendered. Despite an impressive debut century for Rogers and a fluent 68 from Shane Watson, the collective failure of their colleagues mustered a lead of just 32.

    Today, Ian Bell did as Ian Bell does, and batted the match away from his opponents. Australians lamented that the last-day rain at Old Trafford cost them victory; more likely it just cost Bell a streak of five hundreds in five Ashes Tests.

    All this came down to Australia’s failure to support their two highest scorers. Rogers and Watson aside, only Ryan Harris even got out of the teens. The rest of the top four made nine runs between them, the rest of the top seven made 39.

    Probability dictates that almost every innings will contain some batting failures. As a batsman, you are always more likely to score low than high. Even Bradman only reached a century one time out of three.

    With every ball a chance to get you out, the probability of avoiding that dismissal diminishes with the length of the innings.

    This is something sides factor in to their performances. Someone will do well, a couple will fail, and it’s up to the rest to decide whether the team as a whole does one or the other.

    Most good totals are built around one principal score. It’s unusual for an innings to feature multiple hundreds. But the high scorers need support. Even modest innings of 20 or 30 can be used to build important partnerships of 50 or 60.

    Where there are a couple of decent performances but the rest do very little, you end up with mediocrity. Two exciting scores and a string of ducks is no more use than every batsman limply scoring 20.

    But the way this Test has gone follows a distinct pattern from Australia this series. Too often, one or two batsmen have provided scores while the rest have taken leave of absence.

    In the second innings at Lord’s, Michael Clarke and Usman Khawaja battled along to half centuries under a lot of pressure. Their five top order colleagues contributed 35.

    First up at Trent Bridge, while Ashton Agar got the limelight, Steve Smith and Phil Hughes did plenty to rescue Australia, scoring 53 and 81*. The rest of the top seven scored 30.

    And in the run chase that same match, after Watson and Rogers started well with 46 and 52, the next four batsmen managed 54, leaving it to Brad Haddin to chase a miracle with 71*.

    The first innings at Old Trafford only proved the rule.

    Clarke’s 187 was a special effort, but Australia’s 527 wasn’t built on that alone. Clarke was supported by Smith, Rogers, Haddin and Mitchell Starc, who contributed 89, 84, 65* and 66* respectively.

    Not so amazingly, when that support is present, a good individual score can provide the basis for a massive team innings.

    Rogers, on the other hand, has been sadly let down, his fighting century now looking unlikely to lead to a win.

    The bowlers have been let down too. Ryan Harris has bashed his brittle body through three Tests and bowling some deliveries that made us flinch from the boundary line.

    As I wrote on Twitter during play, “Harris is all heart. If you said ‘Mate, I really need you to eat a fridge,’ there would be one less Kelvinator in the world.”

    Peter Siddle has a similar mentality and has bowled some outstanding spells this summer, while Nathan Lyon got into his groove for the first time in England’s first innings here.

    Jackson Bird has provided tidy support, while Watson has survived a heavier workload than I can remember at any time in his career, as well as apparently becoming the stingiest bowler in the world.

    Those players desperately need a lift from the batting. But in this match, with England 200 in front and Australia’s form this series, it’s hard to see a fourth-innings chase going well.

    Not that I want to slip into the same old sportswriter clichés about players lacking drive or hunger or desire or heart or any of the other meaningless abstract scapegoats so arbitrarily thrown about.

    Australia’s batting is simply fragile – the ability is there to do well on occasion, but it is in no way reliable.

    England’s, it must be said, has not looked much better. Bell has scored three hundreds in four matches to date, and without his constant rescue jobs from three wickets down, England would be the ones with a series deficit.

    The main difference is, Bell has been able to find that little bit of extra support – some unspectacular scores from unspectacular teammates who’ve helped him build partnerships and take the team on.

    Until Australia can mirror that approach, more chances to dominate Test matches are likely to be surrendered.

    Geoff Lemon
    Geoff Lemon

    Geoff Lemon is a writer, editor and broadcaster covering sport for The Roar, The Guardian and ABC, as well as writing on politics, literature and history for a range of outlets.

    He tweets from @GeoffLemonSport.

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    The Crowd Says (54)

    • August 12th 2013 @ 10:51am
      Rudi said | August 12th 2013 @ 10:51am | ! Report

      I think a lot of it comes down to inexperience – England are simply more capable of applying the boot to our throats because as a unit they’ve been doing it for so long and know how to click through the gears. You can almost sense the panic when Australia get in to a good position and England start to wrest back the initative. Unfortunately there’s not much that can be done about it except giving it time. The frustrating thing is that Bell and Swann (and one dismal batting collapse) aside we haven’t really been a significantly worse team than England, but now we look likely to go 3-0 down.

    • August 12th 2013 @ 10:56am
      Tall Timber said | August 12th 2013 @ 10:56am | ! Report

      So that’s 3-0 then.

      If this back to back Ashes was meant to revive test cricket the then its in bigger trouble than I first thought.

      Any Aussie kids who are passionate about cricket, there aren’t many of them these days, will probably can’t wait for the Big Bash after seeing another rubbish. one sided, Ashes loss.

      • August 12th 2013 @ 2:16pm
        Disco said | August 12th 2013 @ 2:16pm | ! Report

        Sounds like your issue boils down to Australia not winning enough for your liking.

        • August 12th 2013 @ 6:13pm
          anfalicious said | August 12th 2013 @ 6:13pm | ! Report

          Yep, I think it’s been a thrilling series so far. Only one test where the result wasn’t in doubt right til the end.

      • August 12th 2013 @ 7:23pm
        ChrisB said | August 12th 2013 @ 7:23pm | ! Report

        Upon what do you base your claim of few kids being passionate about cricket?
        Recently had my two sons at Penrith junior rep trials, and saw a whole heap of passionate, decently talented kids enjoying the game, as I do most weeks when they play.
        Numbers are also holding firm across our area.

    • August 12th 2013 @ 11:00am
      Sydney Kiwi said | August 12th 2013 @ 11:00am | ! Report

      Considering how far down Australia are meant to bat you would think it would even out with better scores. This is of course a fallacy. It is with good Partnerships that decent scores are created other wise you just get two new batsman at the crease who scratch around and get out cheaply.
      Will be interesting what happens in the last test with Watson most likely out with injury.

      • Columnist

        August 12th 2013 @ 9:14pm
        Geoff Lemon said | August 12th 2013 @ 9:14pm | ! Report

        They’re not batting deep in this match, SK. Lyon and Bird constitute a genuine tail – no Starc, Agar, Pattinson.

    • August 12th 2013 @ 11:21am
      Red Kev said | August 12th 2013 @ 11:21am | ! Report

      I just want to correct one point Geoff, “…while Watson has survived a heavier workload than I can remember at any time in his career…” he’s broken down again as we all knew he would, just one more reason he shouldn’t be in the test side. It took Watson 5 tests to find any sort of form with the bat but by then his body had given up the ghost again.

      • Columnist

        August 12th 2013 @ 9:15pm
        Geoff Lemon said | August 12th 2013 @ 9:15pm | ! Report

        Well, I thought he had, up to the point of writing this. I was surprised he made it this far into the series.

    • August 12th 2013 @ 11:24am
      Pope Paul VII said | August 12th 2013 @ 11:24am | ! Report

      Cheer up Geoff, it’s not over yet.

      Even though the series stats have not been great all the Aussie bats have contributed at one point or other. Plus this is likely to be a lowish chase 250 – 260 – right up their alley.

      England bats have found it almost as trying. Bell has been magnificent, the bugger.

    • August 12th 2013 @ 11:30am
      AlanKC said | August 12th 2013 @ 11:30am | ! Report

      Heartbreaking if it all comes to nought.