The conundrum of who bats at six

David Gavin Roar Rookie

By David Gavin, David Gavin is a Roar Rookie

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31 Have your say

    One of the toughest decisions ahead of the challenging tour of India concerns the pivotal position of number six in the batting order.

    Throughout this summer, and since the retirement of Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath for that matter, Australia have been searching for a solution to who can bat at six and provide meaningful overs as the fifth bowling option.

    Shane Watson was a capable all-rounder, but he did not necessarily fill the prototype of an all-rounder who bats at six. The majority of his Test innings were played as an opening batsman, averaging 40.98 in that position. Watson played more of the role that Jacques Kallis played for South Africa, which was as a batsman who bowled.

    Coming into the first Test in Perth, Mitch Marsh was the preferred option for this spot in the middle order, but was under increasing pressure to improve his batting despite the value he was beginning to show as a bowler. After another less-than-impressive performance with the bat in Perth, Marsh was dropped as selectors opted for a genuine batsman at number six, in South Australian Callum Ferguson.

    Unfortunately, Ferguson was a casualty of the Hobart disaster, where Australia lost to South Africa by an innings and had been torn apart by the Proteas bowling attack. It was then that selectors decided to take a chance on youth, with New South Wales top-order batsman Nic Maddinson making his debut at six in Adelaide, joining fellow debutants Matt Renshaw and Peter Handscomb.

    However, after another two Tests, Maddinson suffered the same fate as his predecessors this summer and was replaced by Western Australian batting all-rounder Hilton Cartwright.

    Cartwright made a good fist of his sole match in the Test arena, with a fighting 37 in the first innings. Yet with the ball he did not provide the relief to Mitch Starc and Josh Hazlewood that was hoped, sending down just four overs in the match.

    Hence the conundrum that is selecting a number six for Australia: are you a proven batsman who adds depth to the middle order, someone who bats but also bowls a bit, or a genuine all-rounder who can contribute as much with the bat as the ball?

    Other scenarios are to pick a keeper who can bat at six and then a bowling all-rounder, which would put the likes of Ashton Agar, James Faulkner and even Mitchell Marsh back in the frame.

    Or they could go with an established batsman at six – a tactic that was so successful under the leadership of Steve Waugh and Mark Taylor. This may mean Cartwright keeps his spot or the selectors opt for someone like Chris Lynn, who could be that dynamic number six to complement the exploits of David Warner at the top of the order.

    Darren Lehmann has already spoken of the potential of Lynn as a batsman beyond the T20 format, and it could be that with a successful one-day international series against Pakistan, Lynn may be given the opportunity to show why he averages 44.39 at first-class level.

    Another batsman in that mould is Glenn Maxwell, whose off-spin makes him more of an all-round option, while he is also an exceptional fieldsman. Predominantly known for his batting extravagance in the shorter forms of the game, Maxwell’s first-class record reveals a batsman with the aptitude to build big scores, with five first-class centuries and an average just under 40.

    Despite his underwhelming start to the Sheffield Shield season, Maxwell’s past performances across all formats suggest he may be well suited to this role, especially in India.

    Alternatively, selectors could take someone like Moises Henriques, who has shown his worth in Indian conditions before, scoring 68 and 81* on debut in Chennai.

    Then there is 23-year-old Travis Head, who – if he can translate his recent form in one-day internationals to Test matches – may be a very handy long-term option at number six, with the added bonus that he bowls part-time off-spin.

    In India, where teams can be out in the field for long periods, such is the grinding nature of the cricket the conditions demand, this decision will be crucial to the fortunes of the Australian team during the four-Test series.

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    The Crowd Says (31)

    • January 12th 2017 @ 8:27am
      qwetzen said | January 12th 2017 @ 8:27am | ! Report

      “Alternatively, selectors could take someone like Moises Henriques, who has shown his worth in Indian conditions before, scoring 68 and 81* on debut in Chennai.”

      And who followed that with scores of; 5, 0, 0, 2, 2, 4 & 4 (Last two in SL). Add to that a bowling average of 82.0 and “his worth” becomes clearer.

      “The Roar: Where it’s always cherry-pickin’ season!”

    • January 12th 2017 @ 10:03am
      Adrian said | January 12th 2017 @ 10:03am | ! Report

      With Shaun Marsh returning from injury, and our top 5 being set in stone, surely it’s just a matter of juggling the batting order and putting whoever we want to at number 6, whether it is Handscomb or even Khawaja, and the “search for a number 6” is already achieved because of this. However, if Shaun Marsh finds that he can only bat to any kind of competency when opening the batting, and the same is true of Renshaw and Warner, then we may be forced to squeeze one out of there, and it certainly won’t be Warner, thus giving us a show off between Renshaw and Marsh, all while the number 6 spot is up for grabs, which to me seems ridiculous. I don’t think we need to look for a number 6, because surely Renshaw and Marsh aren’t stupid enough to demand to open or else. Remember that Michael Hussey was an opener at first class level, for more than 10 years, yet he was normally batting at 5 or 6 for Australia. If he can do it, then so can Renshaw and Marsh. The only search we need to do now is which backup batsman and backup all-rounder we should take in case someone loses form or gets injured, and for that question I say the answers are Lynn and Faulkner, respectively.

      • Roar Rookie

        January 12th 2017 @ 10:12am
        Dogs Boddy said | January 12th 2017 @ 10:12am | ! Report


        Renshaw should be our opening batsman. If Marsh is to come back into the side he comes in the lower order. If he finds that he can only bat at opener then he should pack his bag and go home.

        Renshaw is the surprise pick of the summer and in him we may have an opener we can build around for a decade to come (no pressure). Do they really want to destroy that to bring Marsh back in??

        As for the backup allrounder I would give Faulkner a run. Lynn is great in T20 but has no long form games at the moment behind him.

      • January 12th 2017 @ 11:23am
        jameswm said | January 12th 2017 @ 11:23am | ! Report

        It’s not hard. Warner and Renshaw are both openers. Our top 5 is going really well.

        SMarsh either bats at 6, or is there to cover for Khawaja and Renshaw – if one is drowning and can’t get the ball off the square.

        The more I think about it, we don’t pick Cartwright at 6, and he probably misses the tour (MMarsh instead). His bowling is ordinary, which means you’re basically picking him as a specialist batsman. And SMarsh is likely to do better as a specialist batsman in India.

        Mitch Marsh can’t play and bat at 6. His only chance of playing is batting at 7 with the keeper in the top 6 (which won’t happen in India), or batting at 8 as the 3rd seamer. this means playing one specialist spinner (SOK) and a spinning all rounder at 6 (Maxwell).

        This all says to me our only options at 6 for the first test are SMarsh and Maxwell, and that I don’t think we should take Cartwright at all. We won’t need a 3rd seamer, and if we do it won’t be him. We’re more likely to need a 3rd spinner, and I’d have Maxwell ahead of Turner.

        • Roar Rookie

          January 12th 2017 @ 11:41am
          Lancey5times said | January 12th 2017 @ 11:41am | ! Report

          It pains me but I agree on Cartwright. I’m a massive fan but there are not too many scenarios over in India where he plays.

          3 quicks/1 spinner – 6 needs to bowl spin
          2 quicks/ 2 spinners – 6 needs to bowl better than he does
          6 batsman/4 bowlers – He would be hard to pick ahead of Shaun Marsh

          • January 12th 2017 @ 12:08pm
            jameswm said | January 12th 2017 @ 12:08pm | ! Report

            I mot certainly would not be giving up on him forever (ditto Maddinson), but I agree, it’s hard to see scenarios where he plays. If we want a backup specialist bat, do we hop on the bandwagon and pump for Lynn?

            • January 13th 2017 @ 9:35am
              Adrian said | January 13th 2017 @ 9:35am | ! Report

              I would say yes, but only if Lynn shows his form is not limited to T20s and does well in the ODIs too.

          • January 12th 2017 @ 12:09pm
            Dom said | January 12th 2017 @ 12:09pm | ! Report

            I wouldn’t pick Cartwright (I’d just have S.Marsh at 6, with two spinners doing a lot of work and a few overs from Smith and/or Warner to give the quicks a rest) but I’d still have him in the squad ahead of M.Marsh. No way we leave out Starc or Hazlewood just to squeeze Marsh into the side, and no point dropping a top-6 player for him either.

            • January 12th 2017 @ 1:55pm
              jameswm said | January 12th 2017 @ 1:55pm | ! Report

              Who suggested leaving out Starc or Hazlewood? If Marsh is to squeeze in at no.8, it’d be at the expense of Lyon, with Maxwell or Turner batting at 6.

        • Roar Guru

          January 12th 2017 @ 6:48pm
          Cadfael said | January 12th 2017 @ 6:48pm | ! Report

          I would pick the same top 6 as was against Pakistan in the last test. We don’t have any allrounders! We need to go with 6 batsmen, a keeper and four bowlers. Anything else weakens the team. If extra bowling is needed, Smith, Cartwright and Warner can all push through a few overs.

          • January 13th 2017 @ 9:36am
            Adrian said | January 13th 2017 @ 9:36am | ! Report

            James Faulkner would disagree with you. Faulkner, unlike one Mitchell Marsh and especially unlike Ashton Agar, is actually a genuine all-rounder.

    • Roar Rookie

      January 12th 2017 @ 10:10am
      Dogs Boddy said | January 12th 2017 @ 10:10am | ! Report

      The same for Maxwell.

      A first class bowling and batting average of 40 is handy but hardly compelling.

      Cartwright has the save averages but has 2 hundreds in 24 innings compared to 5 from 75 for Maxwell. He didn’t get much of a bowl in Sydney but I don’t think that is any reason to drop him now. Lets give the kid a chance first.

      • January 12th 2017 @ 10:40am
        Perry Bridge said | January 12th 2017 @ 10:40am | ! Report

        Gotta be careful with the judgements on Maxwell – for someone who gets thrown into white ball cricket so often – it’s amazing his red ball stats are so good.

        White ball cricket will probably prove the killer of Maxwell’s red ball career – much the same as it has for Cam White as a recent and still current example.

      • January 12th 2017 @ 11:25am
        jameswm said | January 12th 2017 @ 11:25am | ! Report

        The differences are these:

        1. Maxwell can be relied on as a 5th bowler in tests, and evidence so far is that Cartwright cannot.
        2. We have some justification to think Maxwell could take India apart a couple of times, but less justification to think Cartwright could.

        Last season Maxwell saved the Vics in the Shield on several occasions. His counter attacking style is more likely to work if we are under the pump in India than a grinding sort (though I’m not suggesting Cartwright is that).

        • January 13th 2017 @ 9:37am
          Adrian said | January 13th 2017 @ 9:37am | ! Report

          Maxwell has a great test bowling record in India. I believe he has the best test bowling record of an Australian spinner of any variety in the past 30 years, better than Warne’s even.

      • January 12th 2017 @ 2:59pm
        BurgyGreen said | January 12th 2017 @ 2:59pm | ! Report

        Averaging 40 with the bat in Shield cricket is actually really good at the moment. There really are very few in the comp at the moment over a decent sample size.

        • Columnist

          January 12th 2017 @ 4:45pm
          Ronan O'Connell said | January 12th 2017 @ 4:45pm | ! Report

          The other thing that needs to be considered regarding Maxwell’s first-class record is that he’s been denied regular red ball cricket for years now because of his international duties in white ball cricket.

          Where other guys have had the chance to string together whole Shield seasons of 10-11 games and really build momentum, Maxwell has been limited to only 4 matches per Shield season over the past 5 summers since he made his ODI debut.

          • January 12th 2017 @ 6:50pm
            Dom said | January 12th 2017 @ 6:50pm | ! Report

            Which unfortunately for him is not a tick in his favour in terms of his Test prospects – ie. surely playing less four-day cricket only hurts his chances of earning a Test call-up. It’s been noted that if anything his batting technique has become even less red-ball friendly in recent years, as he shapes up to hit the ball inside-out for the sake of finding boundaries in limited overs games.

        • January 12th 2017 @ 4:47pm
          Perry Bridge said | January 12th 2017 @ 4:47pm | ! Report


          And a 40+ avg in the shield shouldn’t be compared to tests – as shield pitches are designed to deteriorate over 4 days, test pitches over 5 days. Good players moving up can find some test pitches more benign than what they are used to.

    • January 12th 2017 @ 11:04am
      Craig Swanson said | January 12th 2017 @ 11:04am | ! Report

      Oh for a keeper who could bat at #6. Nevill has the FC record to suggest he could. But he had trouble scoring meaningful runs at 37 when given the chance. Sam Whiteman looks a #7.. I have watched Cartwright a lot over the last 12 months and he looks a fine technical batsman. He is very much a batting all rounder at best at present. For his bowling to be significant in his makeup he needs to bowl a lot more overs than his skippers are currently giving him. Persevere with Hilton Cartwright and he will reward Australian cricket imo.

      • January 12th 2017 @ 11:26am
        jameswm said | January 12th 2017 @ 11:26am | ! Report

        Yeah Handscomb keeping would give us the luxury of greater flexibility in our side. Him batting at 7 would make our batting very deep, too, esp with Starc and SOK behind him.

        But Handscomb won’t be keeping for Australia in the near future.

        • January 12th 2017 @ 4:49pm
          Perry Bridge said | January 12th 2017 @ 4:49pm | ! Report

          No way would you waste Handscomb at #7.

          His reliability so far and stickability has helped establish match defining partnerships for the 4th wicket. This was an area that was if not broken, then, was at least severely cracked previously. Push Handscomb down and what do we get at #5/#6 in his place?

    • January 12th 2017 @ 1:00pm
      John said | January 12th 2017 @ 1:00pm | ! Report

      When will people just accept there isn’t a top quality all rounder out there in Australian Cricket.

      Even when Cartwright was selected all the media and even on the roar kept referring to him as an all rounder. He isn’t an all rounder but a batsman who can bowl a bit.

      The selectors need to stop chopping and changing with the no 6 spot in the team and give someone an extended go.

      If they want a batter who can bowl a bit then maybe Turner or Head at 6 as the spinning conditions will be better suited than a seam bowler. Whoever the selectors pick must actually stick with them for more than a couple of tests as it’s becoming a joke.

    • January 12th 2017 @ 1:03pm
      Barto said | January 12th 2017 @ 1:03pm | ! Report

      We can’t pick Lynn for tests, he hasn’t properly recovered from his injury problems. He needs to at least play some red ball cricket first. His last FC game was nearly a year ago.

      I think Maxwell for India would be a good choice. His bowling is actually decent, and was good against India last time with the ball. However, Lehnman doesn’t seem to want him in the team.

      The logical choice remaining is either Cartwright or Head, if they want an allrounder. Head will offer them more in India with the ball, so would probably fit the bill. He also had a century in his last FC game as well. If they pick two spinners, the need for a third spinner diminishes, so Cartwright probably finds himself last man standing.

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