We won 4-0, but where does our batting line up stand?

Tom Atkinson Roar Rookie

By Tom Atkinson, Tom Atkinson is a Roar Rookie

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    As the offensively scalding January sun sets on another Ashes series in the great southern land, the Australian sporting public received the best Christmas gift of all – a crushing four-nil defeat over England.

    It was at times beautiful, at times duller than a nursing home piss up, but always lopsided. The series copped some curry in media circles for being a dud and they’ve got a point.

    As much of a true-blue convict as I claim to be, it would be nice to head into the two showpiece Test matches (Melbourne, Sydney) with a bit of jewellery or an urn up for grabs. The toothless Poms provided as much discomfort as a lay-z-boy recliner for the baggy greens.

    With that in mind however, I don’t think Australia should be identified as heavy contributors to the boredom.

    Captain Snooze, Joe Root, rarely throws a jab let alone attempts a knockout. But before we get lost trampling what’s left of the brittle English morale, we should take the time to look back over the series and run the slide rule over the authoritative Australian performance.

    At a glance Cameron Bancroft’s position in the side must be under serious question. Not being an Australian selector however, my theory has been the tried and true method of picking your best 11, no matter the destination.

    Bancroft is worryingly getting out to laser straight seeds hurtled down from a lobster red, medium rare English bowling attack looking for a few days respite in the air-conditioning. I hope Bancroft gets another chance.

    In our recent future we have thrown a handful of promising youngsters straight into the Test match with not a lot of wiggle room. Give the bloke a chance I say. Speaking of chances, my view pre-Ashes of the Marsh bros directly contradicts my view towards ‘Iron melon’ Bancroft.

    Looking back to October amid all the selection pondering and pontificating, who would have thought our genuine best Test 11 would include, not one, but two Marsh brothers?

    Dual centurion Marsh brothers at that! I’m among the many with egg on their face over the Marsh’s selection. They turned it around to play starring roles in the 4-0 feature film.

    Shaun Marsh

    (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

    The punters have tried to give young Bancroft every chance, coincidentally affording the Westerner more leeway than fellow members of the Perth Mafia, the brothers Marsh. Bancroft’s technique looked tight, solid, owning all the ease and movements you’d expect from a batsman cutting his teeth on the volatile western pitches, moreover one growing up watching the likes of Damien Martyn.

    However Bancroft’s inability to see off the new ball and convert 30s to scores will surely see him struggle in South Africa. Against a frightening and experienced pace attack, the house-of-cards Australian batting line up can ill-afford any stragglers. Something’s gotta give, and that looks like it might be Bancroft.

    Cameron Bancroft (left) and Steve Smith (right) of Australia are seen reacting as they answer questions from the media about England wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow at a post match press conference on Day 5 of the First Ashes Test match between Australia and England at the Gabba in Brisbane, Monday, November 27, 2017.

    (AAP Image/Darren England)

    Bancroft’s opening comrade, David Warner, often struggled with the ball going across his body, especially on the rare occasion Anderson had the ball swinging. Warner cemented his standing as a home track bully, averaging 59 at home in Australia and 38 overseas.

    While I’m trying to soak up this win and not focus just yet on the tour to the rainbow nation, part of me again becomes restless at the prospect of the outlaw Australian opener facing an attack that so successfully dismantled him a year ago.

    Under fire in the top order was Usman Khawaja. A normally elegant left handed stroke maker, well he finally showed a side of his craft that all the cricketing pundits were hoping to see – tough runs from an out of sorts batsman.

    Khawaja had scored a pair of 50s in the series and failed to go on with it however after compiling an impressive 171 in the first innings in Sydney, the relief was visible on the laid back lefty.

    Kawaja’s Test match spot was cemented on the back of tough runs, a gritty, well crafted ton that went a long way towards setting up Australia’s victory. He will need to display the same level of concentration in order to see off those Saffa quicks.

    One quote sums up Steve Smith’s summer. “I love batting”. An bat he did. Hours upon hours. In Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth Steve Smith bailed out a fragile batting line up with truly remarkable, fighting captains knocks. Smith is as strangely elegant as he is ungamely and awkward.

    Steve Smith

    (Photo by Philip Brown/Getty Images)

    Traditional cricket pundits would be choking on their tea and cucumber sandwiches seeing Smith at the crease. In fact I think Geoff Boycott nearly has a coronary with every Smith stroke. No high elbow, bat cocked high in anticipation and not found in any textbook nor taught by any willow wielding scholar.

    Smith feels for the ball outside off-stump, so good is his eye. An historical series for captain Smith averaging 137.4. I draw the line at comparing him to Bradman, but it’s no disservice to mention him in the same breath.

    Shaun and Mitch. Mitch and Shaun. Brothers in arms. Perhaps the most polarising siblings in sport among public opinion. Even the most steadfast and zealous of haters must be easing up on Shaun.

    His technique is compact and watchful, obviously built on years of opening the batting or at first drop, however Shaun was and has always been a great stroke maker.

    It would be fools gold to rush Shaun up the order, let him bat five and punish weary bowlers.

    The vehement and enthusiastic observer could be drawn in throws of delight after witnessing Mitch’s rampant lower order hitting and hasty strike rate, however when evaluating Mitch Marsh’s Freddie Flintoff credentials, it would be remiss not to think critically about how bad England were as a bowling unit.

    Mitch Marsh

    (Photo by Philip Brown/Getty Images)

    The batsman’s paradise in the land down under gave Mitch every advantage to succeed, but bowling and clay aside one still has to score the runs. And score he did. But as I pointed out in an earlier article on The Roar, let’s talk about Mitch after South Africa.

    However bizarre Tim Paine’s initial selection was in the Australia Test team, it’s proved a stroke of genius. He has been technically flawless behind the stumps. Paine has chipped in with the bat although outside of the first two Tests he hasn’t really been required to do so.

    But I’ve maintained that it’s all we should want in our keeper at this stage. There’s no Adam Gilchrist waiting to step up, so just pick a good keeper who can chip in with the bat and hang around with those almost all-rounder quality bowlers we so wonderfully possess.

    For all the favourable words written afore, the Australian batting line up feels like a dodgy Indonesian scaffold waiting to crumble in a typhoon wind. The catalyst? A South African pace attack that would make a deceptacon duck for cover.

    Or perhaps a monsoon affected Chittagong goat track that could turn at right angles. Or perhaps the most dreaded of all, a Steve Smith batting failure.

    The mind wonders how differently the Ashes series went if Steve Smith didn’t bail the Australian team out with a masterclass in batting during the Brisbane and Adelaide Test matches, or if firebrand pommy street brawler Ben Stokes had of played a role. But sleeping dogs will forever lie.

    The passing thought is that perhaps the current meta in world cricket is that cricketing nations should just win at home and hope for the best overseas. Or is that line of thinking incongruent with the alpha mindset of Australian Cricket? We will know by stumps in Durban.

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    The Crowd Says (7)

    • Roar Guru

      January 11th 2018 @ 8:11am
      Chris Kettlewell said | January 11th 2018 @ 8:11am | ! Report

      The exception to that last paragraph is well and truly Australia v South Africa, where each country is more likely to win away than at home. Since re-admission, Australia has never lost a test series to South Africa in South Africa, but South Africa have won a number of them in Australia. It’s the one matchup where home advantage seriously doesn’t seem to exist. Whatever conditions South Africa throws out to help their bowlers, the Australian bowlers are just as able to utilize them. Just look at the recently completed SA v India test. Sure SA bowled India out for 135 to win the test, but that was right after being bowled out for 130 themselves. The conditions that threaten visiting batting lineups are just as much a threat to the South African batting lineup.

      Often it can come down to timing. You get periods where the conditions just start swinging a mile and it might happen for a few hours and then go away. If your team can best utilize that period then you win the match. Take the infamous all out for 47 for Australia. That was actually on the back of South Africa’s first innings where they lost their last 9 wickets for 47 runs themselves. Towards the end of the Aussie innings the conditions started changing, the last wicket partnership managed a few runs and then the South Africans cruised in their second innings. But right in the middle of the match was a period where 19 wickets were lost for less than 100 runs across both teams.

      I don’t know of another place in the world that sees incredible bowling conditions just appear for a limited period of time before dissipating again like can happen in SA.

      • January 11th 2018 @ 10:31am
        jameswm said | January 11th 2018 @ 10:31am | ! Report

        Just had a look at that test Chris. You’re right, SA were all out 96 in their first innings, including losing their last 9 for 47. 19 for 94, amazing stuff.

        We were 9 for 21 in that innings until Siddle and Lyon got a few. Wow.

      • January 11th 2018 @ 6:25pm
        Tom Atkinson said | January 11th 2018 @ 6:25pm | ! Report

        Hey Chris, very succinct analysis. I can’t really counter a point other than to say I wish i’d written your opinion as my closing paragraph!

    • January 11th 2018 @ 11:08am
      paul said | January 11th 2018 @ 11:08am | ! Report

      Before this series started, the Australian lineup looked brittle because it seemed to want to bat 50 overs only. In other words, there was probably only one guy in the side, Smith, who could bat for any length of time. The highlight, from a batting perspective is every guy who came in and batted according to circumstance. If there’s a need to grind it out, they did so, or if there was a need to attack, that happened as well. Even guys supposedly out of form didn’t chuck it away, which is vastly different from recent series. Yes, in hindsight, the English attack looked poor, but that was because the Australian batsman “played proper Test cricket”, as Boycott said many times – by the way, he was in raptures about how Smith went about his work.

      Yes the Australian batting lineup has been fragile but collectively they’ve done something about it. For sure, they’ll be tested in SA, but so will the SA bats against our guys. SA struggled against the Indians with the bat in both innings in Newlands and our quicks are at least as good as those guys. Thy clearly miss Kallis and have issues at opener

      This next series will show whether our guys have the ability to bat for long periods away from home, but might also be low scoring on both sides. Should be a beauty!

      • January 11th 2018 @ 3:06pm
        Linphoma said | January 11th 2018 @ 3:06pm | ! Report

        Can’t wait. I do want to have more of a rant against the domestic scheduling though.
        The Aussies don’t move for a month. During this month South Africa will be honing their skills in deadly live action against India.
        What are the Aussie Test squad doing to prepare? Hit and giggle International stuff or hit and giggle franchise stuff. That’s poor fare on which to build a Test team on.
        There are concerns about the workloads of the Fab Four from the Ashes. Maybe the month’s hiatus from 20-overs in a day for Hazlewood, Cummins and Starc – throw Nathan Lyon in too, will be a tonic but nothing substitutes for real match conditions than real matches.

        • January 11th 2018 @ 6:26pm
          Tom Atkinson said | January 11th 2018 @ 6:26pm | ! Report

          I guess the scheduling is a condition of the modern cricket money-making machine!

    • January 12th 2018 @ 4:26pm
      NiceGarrryyy said | January 12th 2018 @ 4:26pm | ! Report

      the South Africa tour is going to be a very interesting series!

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