‘Can you believe it?
Australia’s batting woes have been laid bare by teammates in a chaotic start to their Ashes tour in Southampton, where 17 wickets fell on day one of a “weird” intra-squad contest.
Coach Justin Langer wanted the four-day clash, in which Australia’s 24 Ashes contenders are squaring off in a final audition for spots in the squad that will be named on Friday, to be a dress rehearsal for the first Test that starts next week.
The selection showdown offered bowler-friendly conditions likely to replicate the on offer at Edgbaston on August 1 but Langer will hope there is no repeat of a day in which his charges’ overall score read 17-201.
Fringe pacemen Michael Neser (4-18), Jackson Bird (3-28) and Peter Siddle (3-20) boosted their hopes of claiming the final spot in the touring party, while Pat Cummins claimed the prized scalp of Steve Smith in his three-wicket haul.
But Australia’s batsmen crumbled in a frenzy of accurate bowling, loose strokes, a bit of sideways movement and some uneven bounce to leave England’s pacemen licking their lips.
Marnus Labuschagne, who top-scored with 41, admitted it was a tough day but spruiked the benefits of a match he declared far more intense then county cricket.
“We’re getting the best out of each other by playing this hard cricket. It’s the best preparation for the Ashes,” Labuschange said.
Bird revealed Langer’s simple pre-match advice to Australia’s Ashes aspirants.
“He basically told us not everyone is going to be successful in making the squad, go out there and enjoy it, back ourselves and play the way we’ve played in the past to get to this position,” Bird said.
“It’s a weird situation we haven’t been in before but everyone’s really embraced it.
“It was obviously a poor day out for the batters but I think the bowling group took a lot out of it.
“Our batters are all world class … we expect they’ll bounce back in the next three days.”
For those members of the squad with memories of preceding Ashes tours in 2013 and 2015 it would have dredged up unpleasant memories of similar collapses.
Labuschagne and Mitch Marsh (29) were the only batsmen to produce scores of relative substance on Tuesday.
It was a sobering wake-up call for the squad and Langer, a frustrated onlooker alongside the great Steve Waugh, regarding their vision of recording Australia’s first Test series win in England since 2001.
Tim Paine opted to bowl first and was caught behind down the leg side for two late in the final session as his side reached 7-96 at stumps, underlining just how badly things went awry for the touring batsmen.
The team captained by Travis Head slumped to 4-29 after Neser removed both David Warner (four) and Marcus Harris (six) then were eventually skittled for 105 in 42.5 overs.