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If Alex Carey had a school report card for his Ashes batting

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Roar Guru
27th January, 2022
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As a school teacher, I would write the following summation on the batting section of Alex Carey’s report card at the completion of his first semester in Test cricket, which was the recent Ashes series.

‘THE STUDENT HAS SATISFIED THE MINIMUM REQUIREMENTS OF THE COURSE IN ORDER TO PROGRESS TO THE NEXT LEVEL’.

The next level of course being a double semester of series on the subcontinent.

It is not about the sheer volume of runs any more than an essay would be graded by sheer number of words. Scoring rate is important for Carey, just like grammar and spelling are important in a secondary or tertiary essay, but what really matters is the content. What is ‘content’ for Carey as a batsman?

Professor Imran Khan wrote the examination question several decades ago when he said in his biography that a cricket player should be judged primarily on how they perform under pressure against the strongest opposition.

Then Doctor David Boon, a few short years later in his own autobiography, rewrote the same examination question in slightly more detail: What matters is what a player does on the day, in relation to what’s needed on the day, taking into account the relevant, specific circumstances of the day.

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Let’s look at Alex Carey’s full batting report card, section by section, but firstly, we need to separate the dead wood i.e., the innings, if any, that had no bearing on the match result whatsoever, and therefore, were of zero consequence, one way or the other. There were three for Carey, which were Australia’s second innings of the first, second and fourth tests.

The three innings to be completely disregarded with no applicable grade, good or bad, to be awarded are as follows:

• The 4th innings in Brisbane. With only 20 needed, Australia could have reversed its batting order and it would have been extremely unlikely that Carey would have batted. On an individual level, runs made when administering such straight forward last rites are totally ignored in any halfway stable performance analysis.

• The 3rd innings in Adelaide. Going in at 6 for +410, Australia were only 8 runs shy of setting a world record run chase. Nothing Carey, or any other batsman for that matter, did, from that point, was ever going to matter to the eventual result of the match.

• The 3rd innings in Sydney. The declaration was long overdue, and even if Carey had hit a six off both balls he faced, this would not have increased Australia’s chances of winning one little bit, not even by a miniscule fraction of a solitary percent. In fact, making such a pointless visit to the crease actually harmed Australia’s chances of winning, as the time spent walking out there, as well as the time it took to bowl those two deliveries, cost Australia at least 6, and perhaps even 12 extra deliveries to have at their disposal to bowl England out a second time.

Contrary to semi-popular, miss-guided belief here on The Roar, Carey was not on a hiding to nothing in any of those innings, but rather in completely insignificant to meaningless territory. There were neither positives nor negatives to glean from any of those three visits to the crease.

Now to the individual sections of this batting report card:

First Test
In the second innings of the match, Carey entered at 5 for +48, which is obviously a much stronger position to be in than 5 for +48 in the third innings of the match. This was his debut innings, and a duck could have seen the tail exposed, and wiped out, to restrict Australia’s lead to no more than about 65 – that would leave Australia with a much more slender advantage, and England would have been back in the match.

Ideally, Australia needed, as a minimum, for Carey to stay with Head, the other not out batsman, to get the lead to three figures. This was almost managed, with Carey dismissed when the lead had reached 89. Carey made only 12, at a strike rate of only 37.5. However, the 41 runs added in partnership with Head meant the lead was all but doubled from when he had gone in.

Grade awarded: C

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To be awarded a B, Carey would have had to score a little quicker and hang around a little long until the lead was at least comfortably past 100. To be awarded an A, Carey would needed to have hung around and been the one to shepherd the tail and push the lead well beyond 150, in the event of Head being the one dismissed around the 100-lead mark.

Second Test
In the very first innings of the match, Carey went in at 5 for 294. While this does not represent the extreme pressure of going in at 5 down for less than 200, it is important to note the situation as it had stood. Australia had batted very slowly until Travis Head had entered at 3 down for nearly 250. Head made only 20-odd, but he scored quickly and this got Steve Smith going, brought him out of his shell. Then Green failed, and at this point it was important for Australia to keep the momentum going that Head had established. Carey made 51 at the much-improved strike rate of 47.7, and was 7th wicket to fall with the total at 390. This left the tail well placed to push the total comfortably beyond 400, and Carey also scored 53% of the runs scored while he was at the crease.

Grade awarded: B

To be awarded an A, Carey would probably have needed to enter with 100 less to the team total, and then score double the runs that he did.

Alex Carey speaks

(Photo by Mark Brake/Getty Images)

Third Test
In the second innings of the match, Carey went in at 6 for -5, remembering that such a second innings (of the match) score line in no way represents the dire situation that the same score reflects in the third innings of a match. What it (this team score batting second) does mean is that the match is on course for an even Stevens position at the half way point i.e., the completion of both teams’ first innings.

Carey made 19, and 39 runs were added to the total while he was at the crease, with left the lead sitting on 34 when he was 8th out. He at least did enough to ensure England did not get their noses in front.

Grade awarded: C-

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To be awarded a full C, he would have needed to make at least another 10 runs, and get the lead past 50 before dismissal. To get a B, he would have needed to score around 40 and ensure a lead of 70-75 for his team prior to dismissal, while an A would have required him to make up to 60 runs himself in order to get the lead past 100 while he remained at the crease.

Fourth Test
In the very first innings of the match, Carey went in at 5 for 242 and scored only 13 at the snail’s pace strike rate of 33.3. His dismissal, 6th out, still short of 300, meant that the tail had to wag big time in order to get the total past 400.

Grade awarded: D

In order to obtain a C, Carey would have needed to score at least 30, and score them quicker than what he did. To score a B, he would have needed to make 50 and get the team total safely past 350. In order to score an A, Carey would have needed to make a minimum of 80-85 and be there when the team total reached 400, in the event of Usman Khawaja falling well short of his own eventual century.

Fifth Test
1st innings (of the match)
In the very first innings of the match, Carey went in at 5 for 204. This was the type of progressive scorecard that saw Ian Healy so often produce a rear-guard half century to at least get the team total on the market at 300 or more. This aforementioned progressive scorecard had also been arrived at via recovery from 3 for 12, and then 4 for 83.

The above represented a genuine opportunity in work clothes for Carey, but he did not make the most of it. He scored only 24 at a strike rate of only 40, but 76 runs were added while he was there, primarily by Green and Lyon, and he was, at least, only 9th out with the total only 20 shy of that par 300 mark.

Grade awarded: C

To obtain a B, Carey would have had to score a little faster and make at least another 15-20 runs, while to score an A, he would have needed to score 60 or more. A score in the 45-55 range would probably have been a B+.

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3rd innings of the match
Carey went in at 6 for +178, and their hard won first innings advantage was in danger of slipping through their fingers. A final lead only in the 200-230 range would have represented an even game in terms of the 4th innings run chase.

Carey made 49 out of 91 runs scored while he was at the crease (54%), and when he was once again 9th out, the lead was safely into the ‘difficult to chase’ region of 267 given the pitch conditions. Carey’s strike rate was a very good 55.7 and this was extremely important because with wickets falling regularly before he went in, nobody in the line up above or below him who made double figures managed a par strike rate of 50 or higher.

In the situation Carey found himself in, only a fast-scoring batsman could put the match out of the reach of the opposition – just try and survive, and block, and graft, and slowly accumulate, then sooner rather than later one will have your name on it. This being the case, you will simply get knocked over, the whole team innings will fold, and then the opposition are back in the match.

This innings of Carey’s was as valuable as an even 100 from 5 for 120 batting first or in reply to a first up opposition total in the 250-300 region. The other thing that was excellent about it was the capacity he showed to bat with the tail and extract as much from them as possible after the top and middle order had miss-fired and collapsed in a heap.

Grade awarded: A+

Final overall grade awarded: C+

Carey’s final batting grade was arrived at in the following way:

To go from A+ down through A, A-, B+, B, and B- requires five steps. To go from B down to C+ through B- requires two steps, so that is a total of seven steps downwards.

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To go from C up to C plus requires one step times two occasions, from C- to C+ requires two steps through C, and then from D to C+ requires three steps which is also a total of seven steps upwards making the afore awarded C+ the median grade on this occasion.

The rubric for the overall grades available reads as follows:

A The player in question has performed consistently and outstandingly and could have been utilised as a recognised specialist batsman in his own right.

B The player in question has performed conspicuously above minimum satisfactory requirements or expectations with the bat.

C The player in question has performed, on the whole, to a satisfactory standard across the series and has met minimum expectations with the bat taking both the series in its entirety, as well as individual instances, into consideration.

A summary table of Carey’s innings and grades awarded can be seen below. If there is any roarer who has been both a teacher and a wicket-keeper, it would be awesome to see a similar style report card for Carey’s keeping during his debut semester of test cricket.

Match First Innings Strike Rate Match Situation Grade Awarded Second Innings Strike Rate Match Situation Grade Awarded
1st Test 12 37.5 5 for +48 in 2nd innings of match C (20 to win in 4th innings, 10 wickets left) Ungraded
2nd Test 51 47.7 5 for 294 in 1st innings of match B 6 for +410 in 3rd innings of match Ungraded
3rd Test 19 44.2 6 for -5 in 2nd innings of match C- DNB Ungraded
4th Test 13 33.3 5 for 242 in 1st innings of match D Declaration in 3rd innings long overdue Ungraded
5th Test 24 40 5 for 204 in 1st innings of match C 49 55.7 6 for +178 in 3rd innings of match A+
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