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Early observations of the First Test

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Roar Guru
14th December, 2019
9

It’s Saturday morning at the time of writing and already there have been a number of talking points from the opening two days of the First Test in Perth.

The intensity gap between this Test and the Pakistan series is already clear
From ball one this Test has had a completely different feel than the series against Pakistan.

Take nothing away from the Pakistanis, they had some good moments, but Kane Williamson and his team have been able to build pressure through better fields and bowlers executing well thought out plans, forcing Australia to battle hard for runs.

Should sides be allowed to replace injured bowlers?
Michael Vaughan spoke at length in favour of allowing teams to replace bowlers who are clearly injured in the course of the game.

Australia gained a huge advantage when Lockie Ferguson could only bowl 11 overs, forcing the rest of the Kiwi attack to take on a significant additional workload.

This has now been offset by the injury to Josh Hazlewood, which effectively leaves both sides playing 10-man cricket.

Yet this hardly seems right, given they are allowed 11 players and batsmen can be replaced if concussed.

Marnus Labuschagne’s “imperious” shots
All good batsmen at Test level have certain shots that they play almost to perfection when they’re at the top of their game.

Ricky Ponting had the hook and pull shots and Michael Hussey had the cover drive.

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Marnus Labuschagne has three; the whip off his legs, often from on or even outside the stumps, the straight drive, but the best of the lot is the late cut, which he played off both slow and fast bowlers. The latter takes a lot of skill and confidence, given the slips are waiting for a miscue.

Travis Head needs to learn to focus
Travis Head probably has as much talent as anyone in the current Test side, but he seems to only be able to concentrate for a couple of hours. After that, he plays what can only be termed “get out shots”.

Once again he got to 40, then started to flick down the legside at deliveries deliberately bowled at his hip and chest area. He eventually got out to a clear trap, when Williamson set a stacked offside field and Tim Southee served up a wide ball begging to be hit and Head duly obliged – straight to a fieldsman.

As soon as he played the shot, Head knew he’d screwed up, but in reality, he’d been susceptible over the 30 minutes leading up to it, simply through a lack of focus.

Neil Wagner is a great competitor
During one of his spells, a commentator made the remark that every side would love to have a Neil Wagner in their team, not only for his bowling but for his competitive spirit.

Here’s a guy who will give it everything, each time he’s given the ball. His willingness to bowl long spells in Perth’s heat and be at the batsman each and every delivery, speaks volumes for his skill, his fitness but above all, his desire to be in the game, helping his teammates.

Jeet Raval is a problem at the top of the Black Caps batting order
It’s hard to fathom what Jeet Raval was thinking when he played a very ordinary shot to be bowled after facing only seven deliveries.

The opener tried to hit a ball through midwicket that instead hit middle stump. His footwork and balance were both poor, suggesting he’s either out of form or lacking confidence.

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His strong suit is not so much scoring runs but occupying the crease and wearing bowlers down. Perhaps he needs to go back to basics and aim to play defensively and let his partner make the scoreboard tick over.

Please don’t bring in an all-rounder
The loss of Josh Hazlewood in his second over and the relative success of Colin de Grandhomme with the ball, would no doubt have caused Justin Langer and the other Australian selectors to think about including an all-rounder in the squad for the next two Tests.

However, there’s not an all-rounder in Australia good enough to be considered for the current Test XI.

If anything Langer should be working with those guys in the team who can bowl (such as Labuschagne, Steve Smith, Head and Matthew Wade) and trying to improve their skills, so they can each get through a dozen tidy overs which would take the pressure off their main strike bowlers and might even snag a wicket or two at the same time.