A homogenous batting line-up with the same strengths and weaknesses

This is the closest representation of Australia’s innings we can find. But why? Why would men whose job it is to bat – and who have been selected because they are supposedly the best at that task – repeatedly try and edge balls that weren’t going on to hit the stumps?

It’s not the first time. It’s far from being the first time. In 2008 we wrote a piece called ‘Moving ball! Moving ball!‘ about Australia’s spectacularly braindead approach in swinging, seaming conditions. Three years later, they were bowled out for 47 by South Africa, with Brad Haddin delivering one of the finest dismissals in Test history. The ball moves; Australia fail. It’s become almost a rule.

It’s the IPL’s fault!

It’s not the IPL’s fault. Despite what some people seem to believe, the Indian Premier League doesn’t actually make batsmen worse. It makes batsmen way better at laying bat on ball in relatively straightforward conditions, but it doesn’t actually dissolve the ability to identify deliveries which are highly likely to get you out if you play at them. What may be more pertinent is that there are only so many days in a year and time spent playing in the IPL is time that isn’t spent combating ‘nibble’ at the County Ground in Derby.

That’s fair enough. It makes sense that this is what Aussie batsmen do nowadays, but there are still consequences to receiving that slightly different education.

Once upon a time, Australia got to pick from the best batsmen in county cricket. Men like Brad Hodge, Stuart Law and Chris Rogers could average 60 in the Championship and they still wouldn’t get selected. With those sorts of batting resources, touring England became a piece of piss.

Was it some sort of golden generation, or was it simply that the top Australian batsmen of that time got a breadth of first-class experience which allowed them to score in English conditions? Straight and true pitches Down Under for half a year and then cruel, capricious seamers in England for the other half gives you a pretty good grounding for Ashes cricket. It doesn’t do a right lot for your ability to combat spinners on the subcontinent of course, but you can’t have everything. That’s the nature of cricket.

The modern Australian batsman isn’t devoid of experience in England. Several of them have played club cricket; most have had some sort of truncated spell with a county. It’s just that they don’t know swinging, seaming conditions quite as well as those who came before them. They lack the same conviction, they’re more liable to panic and they’re more prone to falling back on habits which basically prove suicidal when the ball does a bit. Throw in the fact that when you’re playing at the top level, even the smallest weaknesses can be ruthlessly exploited and bad things happen.

Ten men who are good at hitting the ball

If anything it’s homogeneity that’s an issue. Earlier this week, Chris Rogers described himself as being a batsman who relies on decision-making. He said that most of his team-mates were different and had been selected largely because of their skill. The thing is, sometimes all of the skill in the world isn’t enough.

Sometimes the ball swings and seams and you’d need superhuman reflexes to middle it. In those circumstances, unless it’s going to hit the stumps, you’re better off leaving it. If only one guy out of 11 has that mentality, you find yourself with a lot of eggs in the ‘hopefully everyone’s got superhuman reflexes’ basket. It’s not a wholly reliable basket.

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17 Appeals

  1. Speaking as someone who was there (did I mention that I was there?), from where I was (there) it seemed to me that the problem is driving. If you look at England’s wagon wheel, there are a lot of shots played square and behind square. The Australians tried to drive everything. Driving is very nice, of course, but if there is one shot that is most vulnerable to English Conditions, as conditions everywhere except Australia are now known, it is the drive.

    If it is there to drive, it is there to leave. If it is swinging or nipping about, leaving every ball you have decided can be driven will eliminate almost all the problems. Balls on the stumps that have to be played can be defended with little risk. And if this sounds negative, the attacking shots that remain are the pull, the flick-off-the-pads, the cut, and in particular, the late cut. All of these can be played in swinging conditions with not much more risk than in non-swinging conditions. Certainly they are easier to score with from the middle, as opposed to being in the pavilion having been out driving the ball before.

    All Broad had to do was keep bowling widish almost-half-volleys. The Australians acted like fish – all they saw was the worm, not the massive hook.

    • King Cricket

      August 7, 2015 at 11:19 am

      Many have commented about how few of the deliveries would have hit the stumps.

      So long as the batsmen keep playing the ball, you don’t need to bowl at the stumps.

    • To be fair, it looked like the Aussies were attempting late cuts, only problem was there were all these pesky slips/wide slips/narrow gullies in the way to foil their best-laid plan.

    • I wasn’t there. But Bert is spot on. I haven’t been able to watch it live , but in the tv highlights, even as both Root and Bell play some luscious drives, the majority of their runs (and Cook’s) seem to come from cuts, flicks and pulls. As an aside, well done on being there, Bert. Also, I sensed a KC commenter presence in the Test even during the highlights. Were you there by any chance, Bert?

  2. Was anyone we know actually there yesterday?

    If so, perhaps that person might make it absolutely crystal clear that they were there.

    Vague hints, inferences and obfuscation on this important point help no-one.

    • I’m there. By which I mean, I’m here. By which I mean, I’m at my desk eating a yoghurt.

      About to have a banana, since you didn’t ask.

  3. By the way, answer me this – why can’t we introduce a ‘beep’ system when the bowler oversteps? It could beep in the umpire’s ear, or maybe the third umpire could let him know.

  4. King Cricket's mum

    August 7, 2015 at 6:44 pm

    Interesting quote from Warner in the Badger.

    So – Lord’s: no entertaining pitches, no vocal support, no crowd camaraderie, no test match next year?

    • Eleven wickets lost in a county game today. Make no mistake: it was a “we want the ticket sales/are terrified of Johnson” specially prepared pitch. A regular Lord’s pitch would be fine.

    • The Yorkshire game? 20 wickets fell today.

    • I’m assuming that as KC is King your husband has sadly passed away. Does it worry you that he can be out of milk and butter at the same time?

  5. Monica ate the banana first and then got the famous yoghurt

  6. Ask any Australian who’s been involved in junior and club cricket for a while and they’ll tell you exactly what the problem is: juniors are not being taught basic technique from a young age.

    By the time they get to senior level, it’s too late. It’s not like the IPL or BBL are making good techniques bad. They just make it easier for people with bad techniques to earn a lot of money.

    • King Cricket

      August 10, 2015 at 3:38 pm

      Wouldn’t call their techniques ‘bad’ as such, so much as unfit for (this particular) purpose.

      There’s no perfect way of playing which will allow you to succeed in every format and in all conditions – that’s very much part and parcel of cricket – but the way these current Aussie batsmen play seems particularly ill-suited to Test cricket in seaming English conditions.

    • I’m using ‘bad’ as short hand for ‘not good enough’. Clearly anyone in the Australian team has a better batting technique than I do. But it appears that no-one in the team right now is able to cope with a moving ball – whether that be swing, seam or spin. That’s a massive concern given that most places around the world that aren’t Australia will feature pitches that produce at least one of those things.

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