Cricket: Rearguard action not enough to save average Australia

This Chris Rogers short edge shows Australia's situation in a picture (photo: Getty Images)
This Chris Rogers short edge shows Australia‘s situation in a picture (photo: Getty Images)

From ball one Pakistan played the Dubai conditions exactly right.  Many criticised the defensive mindset of the hosts top order batsmen, but it proved to be the ultimate victory as Australia was crushed by 221 runs.

While Mitchell Johnson’s stumping in the second innings – which left Australia reeling at 9/213 – was said to be lineball, there was very little the tourists could do under the onslaught.

Before anything else, the Aussies main problem was facing spin on a dry pitch that offered plenty for batsmen.  Zulfiqar Babar, Yasir Shah and Mohammad Hafeez did incredible damage, both in the wickets column and the run rate.

Pakistan not only won the toss, they won the key battle in the desert.  No Australian bowler could even get close to Younis Khan or Sarfraz Ahmed in the first innings, and Pakistan took full advantage of building a platform – and a large total – which killed the tourists.

Most disappointing of all was the return of skipper Michael Clarke.  Granted, he was coming back from an injury, but for him to fall so easily to a “junior” spin attack is close to a disgrace.

The top order failed, the tail wagged only slightly, and the resistance was small.  Questioning the talent pool of the XI that fronted up in Dubai would be maddening; however, questioning the preparation and the methodology of the Australians while the test was underway, would be more appropriate.

Steve Smith survived 175 balls in the second innings.  Problem was, wickets kept falling around him.  Alex Doolan looked all at sea, and the normally aggressive Brad Haddin missed out.

Clarke echoed thoughts of those watching, saying “I’m really disappointed with my personal performance in this test match.

“I’m not looking to blame anybody else or criticise anybody else…I’ve been out twice to spin bowling in this Test match.”

Average is an apt word to describe the carnage of the Australians in Dubai.  Pakistan had not won a test for a long time, and they pounced.  Credit must go to Khan and Ahmed, the latter of whom looked like a seasoned professional in carving out his century.  In stark contrast, only David Warner’s swashbuckling 133 in the first innings came anywhere close to Ahmed’s mark.

What makes the “spin mystery” even more intriguing is just how much Babar, Shah and Hafeez were able to ruffle Australia.  Smith played a warriors role, but even he couldn’t survive forever.

It puts Darren Lehmann well into the spotlight after such a successful run last summer.  His comments after the game put the batting issue in a perspective that is both frightening and extremely constructive.

“It’s about having that belief in watching the ball, reading the ball off the wicket and playing an aggressive brand.

“I think we were a little bit timid at stages and we’ve got to be a little bit more aggressive, I would think.”

Lehmann is right in one regard; the Australians must be aggressive.  In the Justin Langer, Matthew Hayden, Adam Gilchrist, Ricky Ponting era, the batsmen were dancing down the wicket with ease and dispatching the spinners.

Since the “death” of an Australian spin bowler taking wickets like Shane Warne, the depth – and subsequently the skills of playing spin – has decreased.  Australia must consider Glenn Maxwell being brought into the side.  His Twenty20 and one-day form before the tests is testament enough that no matter the bowler, he’ll go for the ball.

Natural aggression is Maxwell’s forte, and may be the edge Australia need.  The Australians need to throw away short-pitched bowling, bowl at the stumps, bowl tight; and then use footwork smartly to build a platform.

Picking out one from the 11 that needs to perform, it’s Alex Doolan.  His century against Pakistan A displayed composure, however, it is not enough, and the runs must come in the Test match.  Technique suggests he is competent, but, like the other 10 Australians who picked up a bat in Dubai, he needs practice.


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