The Roar
The Roar


Don't blame the run rate for Australia's poor first innings

Michael Clarke. Australian cricket's Mr Glass may have played his last game of cricket.
Roar Pro
23rd February, 2014
1181 Reads

A lot of experts have criticised Australia for batting too quickly in the second Test against South Africa, suggesting it was the reason they got bowled out for 246.

Australia batted at 4.31 runs per over. South Africa by contrast made 423 in 150 overs.

I think this is a lazy analysis. In fact, the aggressive run rate was the only thing about Australia’s innings that should be applauded.

Let’s look at the dismissals.

Chris Rogers, Alex Doolan and Shaun Marsh all fell to swinging deliveries on Day 2.

None of them were looking to play attacking strokes. Marsh, and to a lesser extent Doolan, made the mistake of blocking balls not on the stumps, thereby providing catching practice to the slips.

They would be much better served by either leaving those balls or trying to hit them to the boundary.

Steve Smith was caught behind defending. Brad Haddin copped a Dale Steyn brute of an in-swinger.


Only Michael Clarke and David Warner played offensive strokes when they were dismissed.

Warner, who made 70 from 78 playing in his usual manner, edged a full blooded drive. The ball was a wide half volley and deserved to be belted. It was the right shot to play but the execution was lacking.

Clarke “chickened” out of a full blooded drive, perhaps misjudging the length from Vernon Philander, and popped a soft catch to cover.

The point is only two of the top seven went out trying to score runs.

The aggression was not the reason Australia stumbled. In fact, Warner and Smith’s attacking play, coupled with Mitchell Johnson and Ryan Harris making 27 off 23 and 26 off 26 respectively helped Australia avoid the follow-on.

The real reasons Australia were bundled out are as follows:

They had been fielding for a day and a half, they were facing a good attack who had runs on the board and the batting line-up is not overly strong.


I would also argue that the use of Nathan Lyon as a night watchman, an uncharacteristically defensive move, cost Australia too.

While it worked in protecting Smith from having to bat before stumps on Day 2, it meant Warner had to bat with a bowler on Day 3, which was not ideal.

Warner and Lyon could not build pressure as a partnership by rotating the strike because Lyon is not able to do that.

Warner went out too early on Day 3 to test the theory but I maintain the night watchman signals to the opposition a lack of confidence and stalls the batting side’s momentum.

It was only once Lyon went out that Australia rebounded, with Haddin and Smith able to work together.

By that stage they were six wickets down though, with the possibility the side would be bowled out before either could make an impact.

Thankfully, the aggression shown the tale meant Australia avoided the follow-n and has given them a chance of a draw with rain forecast for Day Five.


Maybe by the end of the Test, the same experts currently criticising Australia for being too attacking, will be saying South Africa batted too defensively on Day One.