Next Ashes series starts at The Oval

Cameron Rose Columnist

By Cameron Rose, Cameron Rose is a Roar Expert

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    Australia's latest Test captain shouldn't be afraid to roll his arm over from time to time. (AFP Photo / Ian Kington)

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    Rather than looking at the upcoming Oval Test as the fifth of a series already lost, perhaps we should look at it as the first of a series that can be won.

    Despite the 3-0 scoreline England’s way, Australia has done a lot right in the completed Tests so far. Admittedly, this can be as much a cause for concern as a beacon of hope.

    Chris Rogers has been a stellar performer, the best batsman in a top six whose struggles have been well documented. While skipper Michael Clarke has scored slightly more runs at a greater average, his impact has largely been contained to one innings.

    Rogers has done the tough work from the outset, opening the batting in a bowler’s series. In fact, he’s been the second best batsmen when combining both teams, behind only the peerless Ian Bell. Now that he knows he belongs, the runs will surely continue to flow at home.

    David Warner showed what he was capable of at Chester-le-Street, with his most mature innings since his oft-referred to but never repeated 123 not out against New Zealand in his second Test.

    Test cricket is about surviving the good balls and punishing the bad, and Warner showed that he could defend stoutly and, because of his natural talent, turn decent balls into bad with timing and placement. Shot selection will always be the key to his game, both good and bad.

    Michael Clarke hasn’t had the best series with the bat despite averaging 49, most of his runs coming from his 187 at Old Trafford. A chancey player not particularly suited to the moving ball, he rides his luck and punishes the opposition when it’s going his way.

    He can be expected to contribute more in the Australian summer.

    Steve Smith, Phil Hughes and Usman Khawaja have done what we largely expected of them at this stage of their careers. That is, the odd quality innings indicative of their skill and application punctuated by underwhelming performances.

    As is ever the case for such players in struggling sides, luck has often not been in their favour. But when they have played an innings of substance, we can recognise the tools to work with in the future hope of them becoming fully-fledged Test cricketers.

    This has all been done with sections of the public savaging them on forums such as this, and with the ever-present threat of the axe hovering over them. Hopefully they can apply the lessons learned on such a tough tour in the early Shield games, build their form and confidence, and be all the stronger in Australian conditions.

    Shane Watson is, as he always has been, a work in progress. The problem is that we all expect the finished package, although many have now accepted that he may never fulfill that particular obligation.

    His batting is frustratingly stylish and inadequate, while with the ball he’s been critical in many ways beyond the obvious. If his bowling can remain at the same high standard and he can reach previous heights with the bat, this team will become that much stronger. The signs were there in the fourth Test.

    Brad Haddin, like Matthew Wade before him, has had his moments, both good and bad, with bat and gloves. He hasn’t performed to the standard he’d have set for himself with either, but should be particularly disappointed with his lack of leadership in front of the stumps since performing so grandly at Trent Bridge.

    Six scores of 13 or less in eight stints at the crease has been far from good enough for a seasoned veteran coming off a strong summer, especially in a line-up crying out for runs and stability in dire situations.

    Hopefully Wade has used this tour to sharpen his glovework, putting in hour after hour behind the scenes, and is ready to assume the position as keeper, and in the process strengthening the team as a whole.

    The form of Ryan Harris has been simultaneously stunning and not at all surprising. What was a shock was how many didn’t have him in their first Test line-up, but there has never been any question in my mind since his Test debut that he was in the premier three fast bowlers in the country.

    He should be in the heads of the English batsmen by now, which can be exploited back home as well.

    James Pattinson wasn’t at his best in the two Tests he played, subsequently found to be suffering from stress fractures. He is a superior talent, and the Poms won’t know what hit them if he is at his best in Brisbane. What a bonus it is to have him holding up a brittle batting order too.

    Peter Siddle has been a lion-heart, and we know what we get from him by now. Not quite the all-conqueror that some Victorians believe, he certainly has a role to play, and is a key part of Australia’s bowling strength and depth that offers hope in the next series.

    Mitch Starc and Jackson Bird are also a part of this depth, and will be better for further exposure at the highest level. Like the inexperienced batsmen, it’s now up to them to apply themselves in the early Shield matches and keep pressure on those ranked around or ahead of them.

    Nathan Lyon continues to edge the doubters slowly towards his corner, and has bowled impressively since his return. It’s worth remembering that he is yet to reach his ceiling. Could this summer be the one that he stamps himself as unquestionably the best spinner in the country?

    Ashton Agar, like Starc and Bird, can only be benefited from his exposure to Ashes cricket, and it’s exciting to have a young talent like him in the wings in case Lyon loses form and confidence. When youth is on your side, a quantum leap in performance is never out of the question.

    With these bowling stocks, plus the importance of Watson, burn-out won’t be the factor that it might be for the English likes of Anderson, Broad and Swann.

    The batting is a work in progress and can only improve from a very low base. Clarke’s captaincy is astute, and the culture around the team, as well as planning and preparation, has shown signs of improvement under Lehmann’s command.

    Hope exists. We just need to see some confirmation of it at The Oval. If we do, we can approach the upcoming summer with optimism.

    Cameron Rose
    Cameron Rose

    Cameron Rose is a born and bred Melbournian, raised on a regime of AFL, cricket and horse racing. He likes people who agree with him but loves those that don't, for there's nothing better than a roaring debate. He tweets from @camtherose.

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    The Crowd Says (79)

    • August 21st 2013 @ 3:57am
      Hookin' YT said | August 21st 2013 @ 3:57am | ! Report

      “Steve Smith, Phil Hughes and Usman Khawaja have done what we largely expected of them at this stage of their careers. That is, the odd quality innings indicative of their skill and application punctuated by underwhelming performances.

      As is ever the case for such players in struggling sides, luck has often not been in their favour. But when they have played an innings of substance, we can recognise the tools to work with in the future hope of them becoming fully-fledged Test cricketers.”

      Inverarity and Marsh read The Roar?

      • August 21st 2013 @ 10:29am
        Christo the Daddyo said | August 21st 2013 @ 10:29am | ! Report

        Well, we (the general public) can. The selectors certainly don’t.

    • Roar Guru

      August 21st 2013 @ 4:23am
      JGK said | August 21st 2013 @ 4:23am | ! Report

      With the selection of Faulkner basically as a specialist batsman, let alone Watson at all and shafting Bird, it looks like the selectors are conceding the home series too.

      • August 21st 2013 @ 4:28am
        Chris said | August 21st 2013 @ 4:28am | ! Report

        JGK, you never answered the question about what made you so sure Sam Robson wouldn’t play for Australia! We’ve been waiting on tenterhooks….

        • Roar Guru

          August 21st 2013 @ 6:24am
          JGK said | August 21st 2013 @ 6:24am | ! Report

          He’s pretty publicly declared for England.

          • August 21st 2013 @ 8:48am
            Chris said | August 21st 2013 @ 8:48am | ! Report

            Not sure he has publicly. What was interesting was how you said it was after speaking to him and to someone else that made you think he’d never play for Australia.

            • August 21st 2013 @ 10:35am
              Nick Inatey said | August 21st 2013 @ 10:35am | ! Report

              I’m pretty sure he has publicly declared he wants to play for England actually.

              I think JGK is right.

              Thats the only way CA found out about Robson.

              • Columnist

                August 21st 2013 @ 11:18am
                Cameron Rose said | August 21st 2013 @ 11:18am | ! Report

                I’m sure Cricket Australia would find a way to ruin Robson, even if he chose to play for us. In fact, let’s do that before sending him back to play for England.

      • August 21st 2013 @ 5:19am
        Hookin' YT said | August 21st 2013 @ 5:19am | ! Report

        …and the 3 away tests to South Africa are goners. Sam Robson would have to be barmy to join this circus.

    • August 21st 2013 @ 4:30am
      Chris said | August 21st 2013 @ 4:30am | ! Report

      I think you are pretty unwise to imagine England have no bowling depth beyond Anderson, Broad and Swann. Just because England don’t do what Australia do and change the side every Test, doesn’t mean there’s no one else. You can’t expect to know what is there, you don’t see them, but it’s no different to what I think when I see lists of Australians who we keep being told are outstanding.

      • August 21st 2013 @ 6:26am
        Mervuk said | August 21st 2013 @ 6:26am | ! Report

        I agree Chris, if Overton, Willey, mills, barker, topley, Harris etc…the second back up string…all the way down to plunkett and brooks as a third back up string…we’re Aussies, we’d be herring how they were world beaters. In truth, starc doesn’t look a test match bowler, and bird and Faulkner look nothing more than ok despite excellent first class figures…which must be because Tasmania is a bowlers paradise and the shield has no decent batsmen in it.

        • August 21st 2013 @ 8:39am
          JimmyB said | August 21st 2013 @ 8:39am | ! Report

          I like the fact that Mills can bowl at 95mph and is a leftie, quite a prospect.

          • August 21st 2013 @ 8:51am
            Chris said | August 21st 2013 @ 8:51am | ! Report

            Yes, that warm up match against Essex was the first time I’d seen him. He looked seriously rapid and whilst a bit wayward, a hell of a prospect. Interestingly, I was reading the Grauniad comments after that and someone wondered why he wasn’t on England’s radar, and Mike Selvey swiftly stepped in to say he absolutely was, and had been in and around the England team very often in the way that England do get promising youngsters to train with them.

            • August 21st 2013 @ 8:57am
              JimmyB said | August 21st 2013 @ 8:57am | ! Report

              Let’s hope that he trains on, because he has the attributes to be quite special.

              • August 21st 2013 @ 9:14am
                Chris said | August 21st 2013 @ 9:14am | ! Report

                Indeed so. Many a slip between cup and lip yet…

              • August 21st 2013 @ 1:33pm
                GiantScrub said | August 21st 2013 @ 1:33pm | ! Report

                Not sure about Mills. 95 mph, wayward, left-armer, only swings the ball occasionally… You might just have found the next Ashes punchline.

                On balance Australia’s pace stocks are better, though not miles better. Shame everybody else is garbage.

              • August 21st 2013 @ 2:39pm
                nachos supreme said | August 21st 2013 @ 2:39pm | ! Report

                Like M.Johnson?

              • August 21st 2013 @ 7:39pm
                JimmyB said | August 21st 2013 @ 7:39pm | ! Report

                Mills is very young and very raw, but is very quick, he has a long way to go before he’s thought about for England, but there are not many bowlers in world cricket who can bowl at 95mph.

              • August 21st 2013 @ 7:43pm
                ChrisUK said | August 21st 2013 @ 7:43pm | ! Report

                And even fewer who are left arm and bowl at that pace. He’s just a raw kid, but after the way James Pattinson was built up as a superstar, forgive us if we take pronouncements about the riches of Australian bowling stocks with a pinch of salt.

              • Columnist

                August 21st 2013 @ 9:50pm
                Cameron Rose said | August 21st 2013 @ 9:50pm | ! Report

                The UK guys are right, Woakes and Kerrigan have dominated this opening session. Made Watson look like Bradman!

        • Roar Guru

          August 21st 2013 @ 2:34pm
          Chris Kettlewell said | August 21st 2013 @ 2:34pm | ! Report

          I don’t know what you are looking at, to me, Starc looks every bit the test match bowler. You get some bowlers who come into international cricket and have fairytail starts with sub-20 averages for some time. They are usually guys who are brought in a bit older. Many of the best international fast bowlers have started young and averaged over 30 for the first few years before settling in.

          Starc is tall, at his best can bowl well over 90mph, and can swing both the old and new ball. He has a really good release point and seam to make sure he maximises the chance of getting movement.

          So he has all the ingredients to be a top class test match fast bowler. If they stick with him and he just keeps working hard, then he could turn into a really top class test fast bowler. Remember, he’s still only 23, and considering how many people say they don’t rate him his returns have actually been pretty good.

          • Columnist

            August 21st 2013 @ 7:11pm
            Cameron Rose said | August 21st 2013 @ 7:11pm | ! Report

            They’re all points well made Chris, and I think we all hope that consistency is in his future, although it’s not something left-arm quicks are particularly renowned for. The fact he’s already bowled quite a few damaging spells of the highest quality is a great sign.

          • August 21st 2013 @ 7:41pm
            JimmyB said | August 21st 2013 @ 7:41pm | ! Report

            +1 well said Chris.

    • August 21st 2013 @ 5:15am
      Hookin' YT said | August 21st 2013 @ 5:15am | ! Report

    • Roar Guru

      August 21st 2013 @ 7:03am
      Tim Holt said | August 21st 2013 @ 7:03am | ! Report

      You know the scarey thought about this look ahead for the Aussies is the fact that with a return Ashes, RSA away, and Pakistan away in spinning conditions ( good luck playing Ajmal! ) being their Test schedule.

      Is the fact that they could be waiting a LONG time for their next Test win

      • August 21st 2013 @ 7:45am
        Red Kev said | August 21st 2013 @ 7:45am | ! Report

        I asked in the other thread too, assuming England and South Africa rightly flog us, if we lose to Pakistan aswell do we drop to fifth in the test rankings?

        • Roar Guru

          August 21st 2013 @ 8:00am
          Tim Holt said | August 21st 2013 @ 8:00am | ! Report

          I do not know much about ratings, but you would assume we will be a bottom feeder. And unless some batsmen turn up, we will get flogged by those three

          • August 21st 2013 @ 8:22am
            Red Kev said | August 21st 2013 @ 8:22am | ! Report

            I just saw Jim Maxwell’s preview piece on the ABC website, apparently it is much sooner than that:
            “Sadly a losing habit is becoming ingrained and a loss at The Oval will lower Australia’s ranking to number five in the world.”
            And if we’re not in the world top four ranked test nations we will not be invited to the 2017 ICC World Test Championship – who would have credited that turn of events even two years ago?

            • Roar Guru

              August 21st 2013 @ 8:29am
              Tim Holt said | August 21st 2013 @ 8:29am | ! Report

              • August 21st 2013 @ 8:33am
                Red Kev said | August 21st 2013 @ 8:33am | ! Report

                For all his service Ponting screwed Australian cricket by trying to make it to the next Ashes, he should have been forcibly retired after averaging 16 over 4 tests in the 2010/11 Ashes series.

              • Roar Guru

                August 21st 2013 @ 8:35am
                Tim Holt said | August 21st 2013 @ 8:35am | ! Report

                True, but many others have screwed Aussie Cricket more profoundly

                Just look at the ultimate teflon men in Sutherland and pat Howard

              • August 21st 2013 @ 1:06pm
                Mango Jack said | August 21st 2013 @ 1:06pm | ! Report

                That’s hardly Ponting’s fault, RK. He’s entitled to make himself available and champions like him tend to have a healthy ego and high opinion of their own skills. The selectors and CA management should have known better and managed his retirement earlier.

              • Roar Guru

                August 21st 2013 @ 2:38pm
                Chris Kettlewell said | August 21st 2013 @ 2:38pm | ! Report

                Considering how Ricky retired from test cricket and then went on to dominate the Sheffield Shield, then go to England and play Country Cricket and dominate there as well. It isn’t hard to understand why he kept going feeling that he was playing well and was sure the runs must be just around the corner.

                It also goes to show the gap in standard between first class cricket and test cricket. Given that, it should be as no surprise that these young guys need some serious adjustment period on making that step.

          • Roar Guru

            August 21st 2013 @ 8:55am
            DingoGray said | August 21st 2013 @ 8:55am | ! Report

            I was under the impression back to back loses to England could see us drop back to 5th…..Maybe I’m wrong though

            • August 21st 2013 @ 9:15am
              Chris said | August 21st 2013 @ 9:15am | ! Report

              You can use the ICC’s Test match predictor to work it out:


              Australia are already provisionally fifth, they have to win the Test tomorrow to avoid that.

              • Columnist

                August 21st 2013 @ 11:33am
                Cameron Rose said | August 21st 2013 @ 11:33am | ! Report

                Fifth is a much more realistic appraisal of where this team sits.

                It would have been the embarrassment of our time if they had beaten South Africa and taken top spot last summer.

            • August 21st 2013 @ 12:16pm
              Tim said | August 21st 2013 @ 12:16pm | ! Report

              The ICC rankings are always ‘out there’- I think if you were ranking, this would be my view

              1, RSA, then a bit of a gap

              2, England/Pakistan- depending on where it is played ( the up coming Pakistan/RSA series in the desert will be enthralling )

              3, India ( though , should they be grouped on the rung below with Australia/NZ, for you know they cannot travel )

              4 Australia/NZ- very hard to split, with both being very strong with ball, but very weak with bat. If a Test series was played tomorow between the two, it would be any ones guess

              • August 21st 2013 @ 7:45pm
                ChrisUK said | August 21st 2013 @ 7:45pm | ! Report

                At the close of this series, that’s not far off what the table will show. New Zealand are down near the bottom, because it will take time for their improvement to show up.

      • Roar Guru

        August 21st 2013 @ 2:44pm
        Chris Kettlewell said | August 21st 2013 @ 2:44pm | ! Report

        Australia were unlucky not to be 2-0 up against SA going into the final test in Perth, and their record since SA came back into international cricket has been that Australia have done better against SA in SA than in Australia. SA are yet to win a series there.

        Australia are in some disarray, with all these issues, and even with that the team has been seriously in contention in 3 of the 4 tests against England, and the main downfall has been against spin. That won’t likely be an issue against SA. They will be playing a largely pace attack on pace-friendly pitches which will suit the Aussie bowlers and batsmen a lot more than England is. I wouldn’t write them off for this one so quickly.

      • August 21st 2013 @ 4:51pm
        Disco said | August 21st 2013 @ 4:51pm | ! Report

        Ajmal will roll Clarke’s supporting actors, no bother at all. About time Australia played Pakistan in Asia.

        • Roar Guru

          August 21st 2013 @ 5:06pm
          Tim Holt said | August 21st 2013 @ 5:06pm | ! Report

          Do not under estimate Rehman and Hafees either, they are very talented spinners……oh yes, Pakistan has very talented pace men too…………

    • August 21st 2013 @ 9:18am
      Pope Paul VII said | August 21st 2013 @ 9:18am | ! Report

      I reckon this series has been a success so far. Haven’t been bowled out for under 100 once.

      Did someone mention Ajmal? Oh my God, make Maxwell captain and run for the hills.

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