Australia v South Africa, 3rd Test, Perth, 3rd day

The post-Ponting puzzle

To fill the hole of Ricky Ponting, who retires after this Test, the structure of Australia's batting order may be reconsidered

Brydon Coverdale at the WACA

December 2, 2012

Comments: 70 | Text size: A | A

David Warner and Ed Cowan added 214 for the first wicket, Australia v India, 3rd Test, Perth, 2nd day, January 14, 2012
Ed Cowan and David Warner haven't given Australia a secure start frequently © Getty Images

The next two days might not deliver a victory for Australia, but they should provide some clarity on the team's batting setup. Whatever happens in this match, Australia's batting order will change for their next Test against Sri Lanka in Hobart. It might be as simple as a straight swap with a middle-order batsman replacing the retiring Ricky Ponting at No. 4. Alternatively, the whole structure of the batting order might be altered in the post-Ponting era.

If the selectors decide Phillip Hughes is the man most deserving of a call-up, does he have to open? Would they install him at No. 3 and move Shane Watson down? Will this be the time that Michael Clarke decides to challenge himself at first drop? The events over the next two days, on a good WACA pitch with plenty of runs in it, will not provide these answers alone, but they will be contributing factors when John Inverarity and his selection panel discuss their options afterwards.

The opening partnership is one of the most interesting puzzles. Over the past two Tests, both Ed Cowan and David Warner have scored impressive hundreds. But rarely have they clicked together. When they walked out onto the WACA to begin this enormous chase of 632, it was their 17th Test opening partnership. Only once - in Perth last summer - have they posted a century stand. Justin Langer and Matthew Hayden, the gold standard by which all new Australian opening combinations will be judged, managed six century stands in their first 17 innings.

Cowan and Warner began solidly on this occasion. They went to stumps at 0 for 40 and have the opportunity to make their case for permanent residency at the top of the order on Monday. At their best, they are an odd couple whose differences - Warner is aggressive while Cowan is watchful - can be complementary, but at their worst they contribute too often to Australia's shaky starts. Since they have been opening, Australia have been three down for less than a hundred more often than not.

Part of that also comes down to the No. 3 position. The challenges of the post-Ponting era can be glimpsed by the way the Australians have struggled to find a first-drop since Ponting moved to No. 4. In that time, the only century an Australian No. 3 has scored is by Shaun Marsh, on debut in Sri Lanka - the innings that encouraged the Australians to shunt Ponting down in the first place. Marsh faltered, Usman Khawaja didn't grasp his opportunities, Rob Quiney failed and Watson has teased without delivering.

In his seven innings at first drop, Watson has made 39, 52, 56, 0, 41, 5 and 10. At his best he can destroy a new-ball attack, but he is vulnerable to lbws and to the lack of rest that his top-order position allows him after he has bowled. He has a chance in this innings to score the kind of century that Australia need from their No. 3. Otherwise, he might find himself slipping further down the order to accommodate Ponting's replacement.

Of course, there is the possibility of Clarke, the highest-ranked Test batsman in the world, moving himself up to first drop. But does it make sense to alter the part of Australia's batting line-up that is working best, the middle order, to patch a hole at the top? Would he have the same impact against the new ball as he has coming in at three down? Even if those three wickets have fallen cheaply, the shine has generally been taken off by the time he has come in.

If the line-up fizzles again on Monday, Clarke might find himself forced to consider the possibility more seriously for the upcoming Sri Lanka series. Michael Hussey, in form for the time being, appears unlikely to move from No. 6. And Ponting is departing regardless of what happens in Perth.

Much will depend on who the selectors choose to replace him - Hughes, Khawaja, Quiney, Alex Doolan or a bolter - and where that person is used to batting. But Australia's batting over the next two days will also be a factor. Australia's chances of victory are as slim as Bruce Reid, but the batsmen still have plenty to play for.

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by   on (December 4, 2012, 7:14 GMT)

I'd like to see Khawaja at 3. I think he's come a long way since last playing, and he could be a definite position filler for long periods of time given his age.

Posted by HatsforBats on (December 3, 2012, 23:55 GMT)

@ Robert Falconer, you call for the end of Clarke's NSW Mates Club and then you suggest Bird & Henriques?! They're both from NSW mate. So is Hastings. In Brisbane & Adelaide there were 3 NSWelshmen in the side. For the life of me I don't understand why people have an issue with the most populace state in the country producing the most test players.

Posted by Moppa on (December 3, 2012, 15:23 GMT)

I'm with CricHorizon, popcorn and others - it's not that much of a puzzle. Khawaja shades Hughes and goes to 3, with Watson to 4. However, from the comments here it seems we have many choices. So many in fact, I'm going to work my way up from the bottom because I can't keep track. Double asterisks mark those occasionally or rarely playing for their state at the moment. Asterisks mark those who don't bat in the top four for their state. S.Marsh**, Haddin*, promote Clarke, Ben Rohrer, Bailey, D.Hussey, Burns, Nevill, Kurtis Patterson**, Jaques** (pity he's retired), Rogers, Ferguson, Tom Beaton**, Maxwell*, M.Marsh*, Lynn**, S.Smith, Cosgrove, promote M.Hussey, Voges, C.White, William Bosito**, Doolan. Seriously guys, my dartboard could do a better job.

Posted by Dangertroy on (December 3, 2012, 11:14 GMT)

Khawaja at 3, Watson at 4. I'd like Clarke at 3, but he didn't do too well at 4, and doesn't seem to want to move up. Don't mess with the openers, they are doing ok, although I like the idea of Watson and Cowan, Watson worked well with katich, and Cowan is of a similar mold. If khawaja is judged as needing more time in shield, then bring in bailey, or David Hussey as a stopgap. David Hussey deserves a few tests for his form over the past decade, he's just been unlucky for there not being any real spot for him.

Posted by   on (December 3, 2012, 10:33 GMT)

Stop the old guard & Clarkies NSW Mates club, pick Alex Doolan & Jackson Bird for crying out loud - what doe's he have to do to get picked been easily the most consistent bowler in shield getting heaps of wickets & conceding few runs. John Hastings is a workhorse but not up to test grade, how can they pick him over Jackson Bird or Moises Henriques.

Posted by peterstich on (December 3, 2012, 10:29 GMT)

Maybe U-19 captain and MoS in U-19 WC... William Bosisto ?

Posted by   on (December 3, 2012, 10:27 GMT)

i think that is the best time for David Hussey to get a go i also think that brad haddin need to be put back into the side and for wade to sent packing

Posted by Mary_786 on (December 3, 2012, 10:26 GMT)

Given we are talking about the number 4 spot or 3, then Khawaja is the best choice for that position and best young batsman in the country. For me the biggest improvement in Khawaja's game has been his fielding and running between the wickets. In the Ryobi games I have seen intend and urgency in his game which was missing last year. Hopefully he continues to improve and work on these aspects which the selectors gave him as we need this young man in the team as he will add stability to our top order. It was good to see all the commentators put Khawaja in their team.

Posted by satish619chandar on (December 3, 2012, 10:20 GMT)

My 11 for Australia would be, Watson/Warner, Hughes, Cowan, Clarke, M Hussey, Bailey, Haddin, Siddle, Starc, Pattinson, Lyon. Without any confidence or potential, they wouldn't have made bailey the captain of shorter format. If he is that confident guy, why not insert him into test arena? He looked to be a guy made for longer formats. Hughes is a guy who will score more 100s than Cowan and let him play ahead of Cowan. Cowan can add stability at 3. They can even try Bailey at 4 if Clarke still sticks to his no.5 slot.

Posted by Barnesy4444 on (December 3, 2012, 10:19 GMT)

Young batsmen have always earnt their test stripes batting at 6. Even Ponting and Bradman began there. In the short term move Clarke to 4, Hussey 5 and a young player at 6. For the long term Hughes needs to be up the top with Clarke staying at 4 the rest of his career.

Posted by   on (December 3, 2012, 9:42 GMT)

David Hussey or Camron White should possibly re place Punter.

Posted by ozwriter on (December 3, 2012, 9:41 GMT)

its not that much of a puzzle. khawaja in for a full series at home. lets give the guy an opportunity at home before writing him off. hughes had an opportunity that lasted over a year and included 2 home series. where his place was secure. hughes being written off can't be compared to khawaja who has had 6 one-off "fill in" tests barring 2 with nz.

Posted by Meety on (December 3, 2012, 9:30 GMT)

@AKS286 on (December 03 2012, 09:06 AM GMT) - I am surprised you didn't mention Beer to replace Lyon too!

Posted by AB99 on (December 3, 2012, 9:17 GMT)

You do not drop Warner just as you do not drop Sehwag or Gayle. My batting order: 1. Warner .... 4. Clarke, 5. Hussey, 6. Watson, 7. Wade Decide a good 2 and 3 from Cowans / Jacques / Hughes / S Marsh / Khwaja - all left handers ... any right handers there?

Posted by AKS286 on (December 3, 2012, 9:06 GMT)

adam Voges is the best replacement of punter or klinger.and warner is not good enough to play test cricket. klinger plus cowan and voges in the place of punter.IMO haddin must replace wade (if clarke don't mind).

Posted by   on (December 3, 2012, 9:05 GMT)

...Steve Smith? Bats #4 for NSW, averages over 40 in FC cricket and has played a few good knocks this season already. Young too.

Posted by   on (December 3, 2012, 7:47 GMT)

Cowan, Warner, Clarke, Hussey, Khawaja, Watson, Wade should be the order and not Cowan, Warner, Watson, Khawaja, Clarke, Hussey, Wade

Posted by   on (December 3, 2012, 6:37 GMT)

No one has escaped from the sad ending of captains of Test cricket except the immortal Bradman. Right from the days of Sobers,Lloyd,Richards,Gavaskar,Gooch, Lara,and lastly Ponting , the swan song was always a sad note.

Posted by wix99 on (December 3, 2012, 6:32 GMT)

Clarke needs to move up the order. I suspect he will go to No. 4 rather than No. 3 though. This means the batsman coming in to replace Ponting will bat at No. 5. This is a good idea because most of the batsman who have come into the side recently have batted in the top three and batting in those positions either makes or breaks a player. Most of Australia's top batsman started their careers at No. 5 or 6 and later moved up the order. Ponting is of course the best example of this.

Posted by AKS286 on (December 3, 2012, 6:21 GMT)

adam voges is the replacement of punter.clarke is known for axing players to whom he don't like. katich, haddin, ponting, hauritz all are axed by clarke. beer is better than lyon in every format of game.

Posted by KCKCKC on (December 3, 2012, 6:17 GMT)

For me the answer to both problems - opening and #3 are Mike Hussey, atleast in the short term. He has opened for his state, has easily the best technique and just the right amount of experience and composure at those positions. He can easily adjust to the pace of the other batsman as well so you don't have an odd couple opening. I personally think he's a serious shot for number 3 and has been for a while

Posted by   on (December 3, 2012, 5:50 GMT)

Hughes or Khawaja for me, both are in form and have played some test cricket already

Posted by Sunil_Batra on (December 3, 2012, 5:35 GMT)

Khawaja is a champion batsman and a great ambassador and representative for Sub continent players around Australia. He has one of the best techniques of all the younger players going around as he hasn't played alot of 20 20 cricket. I didn't watch his innings yesterday but the Bulls were send into bat so I am assuming there was a bit in the deck and he handled that well with a match winning 85. Given our top order issues someone who can play on tough decks will be valued and there are few better then him. Not many players have scored runs in Tasmania and he is one of the few players who was able to get a century in a shield game here.

Posted by landl47 on (December 3, 2012, 5:33 GMT)

Bright as Australia's young pace attack prospects are, the same cannot be said for the batting. All the guys talked of here have either had chances and failed (Hughes, Khawaja) or are career journeymen with first-class averages under 40 (Quiney, Doolan, Marsh). Add in Cowan (career journeyman), Warner (inconsistent), Watson (should be batting #6) and Hussey (37 years old) and there's a real problem. Clarke, through his own personal brilliance, has kept the side together, with help from Hussey and occasional contributions from Warner and Cowan. However, how long can Clarke sustain the form he's in now?

Maybe one or two others can step up. Otherwise, with Ponting gone and Hussey only a matter of time, it's going to be a struggle; but this is Australia, the most successful side in the history of cricket, and they'll never be easy to beat.

Posted by   on (December 3, 2012, 5:23 GMT)

The way I see it, there are two options that the selectors will take in an effort to prevent wholesale changes. Either shift up Clarke and Hussey to 4/5 and have the new addition bat at 6.... Or, bring in someone as a straight swap at 3/4.

We have to accept that Watson is not a test match first drop. His technique isn't suitable against good new ball bowling attacks (SA/England). He is a #5 at best, but preferably a #6. Bat him lower, giving him more rest after bowling which should also mean fewer injuries. ODI's / T20's are a different story.

Personally, I'd love to see this top 6 do well: Cowan, Warner, Khawaja, Clarke, Hussey, Watson

For me, Warner is the major wild card. I love the guy but he has to be consistent. People forget that test matches are about partnerships, with the opening stand being the most important partnership of all. With the Ashes around the corner, we need a solid opening pair ready to go.

Posted by   on (December 3, 2012, 5:20 GMT)

get cosgrove or fergusson in.

Posted by eyballfallenout on (December 3, 2012, 5:12 GMT)

top 4 a big problem for us, but i would put clarke at 3 watto at 4 hussy at 5 and kawaja at 6, to be honest, i dont know what to do with the openers, but its not good enough at the moment.

Posted by zenboomerang on (December 3, 2012, 4:22 GMT)

@Brydon Coverdale... For all that you wrote you didn't really say anything... With no more FC cricket until after the BBL we have to rely on who's done what so far this season... Hughes, Doolan, Henriques have had outstanding seasons so far - could add Haddin to that list of players averaging over 50 this season... Ussie is probably the only other who has done well on tough tracks up the order... A lot of last years better batters seem to have dropped off a bit this season - though some of the pitches have been tough to get runs on... Last year I thought Bailey had good prospects, but he hasn't backed that up this year... Forrest? - Forrest who? - hope I don't hear his name again too soon...

Posted by steve_mcking1 on (December 3, 2012, 4:21 GMT)

I think Glenn Maxwell and Steve Smith have done enough to command the number 3 and 4 spots respectively.

Posted by BG4cricket on (December 3, 2012, 4:18 GMT)

Vikiboy07 - surely you jest ??? MARSH !!!! The guy has not been able to buy a run in 12 months so there is no way it can or will happen. There is really only a choice between Hughes and Khawaja and Hughes' overall record and form this year really means he is the logical and best choice. Having said this I can only see him at 3 which would push Watto to 4 and will this be the best balance for the line up. Equally Khawaja could bat 3 or 6 but again the order will need a tweak. Very few players at Hughes' age have got or had the record Hughes has so I would hope they back him in

Posted by kriketeer on (December 3, 2012, 4:15 GMT)

The greatest Player against short pitch bowling. No one outplays the pull and hook of ponting.. be it any batsman of his era... the laras...the gilchrists...the sachins... or any legand... he is the best... to find a replacement for ponting will take some toll......

Posted by EdwardTLogan on (December 3, 2012, 3:56 GMT)

After this Test match it is clear Warner is not up tp Test match standard. The NSP needs to send him back to Shield cricket and tell him he won't play another Test until he learns how to build an innings. Of course, this won't happen and the selectors will probably take the easy option of slotting Quiney back into the team. Having just seen Watson's dismissal, he has issues too - he did not need to play at that delivery and was clearly ruffled by the previous deliveries in Morkel's over, maybe a result of being out of the game for a while. My top 7 for Hobart is Cowan, Watson (if fit), Khawaja, Doolan, Clarke, Hussey and Wade. My bowling attack would be Siddle, Starc, Hilfenhaus, Johnson and Lyon with either Lyon or Johnson to be 12th man. Watson only bowled 9 overs out of 111 and if he can't bowl his fair share in Hobart he shouldn't play. In that case I'd slot Bailey in the middle order and move Khawaja up to open with Cowan.

Posted by RightArmEverything on (December 3, 2012, 3:37 GMT)

@Vikiboy07, Cowan scored an impressive century two test ago and Marsh only recently was reselected in the WA team.

Posted by   on (December 3, 2012, 3:21 GMT)

I think Phil Hughes should come back in for Ponting, play him at 3. put watson to 4 or 5. Khawaja hasnt been as good as hughes this year but hasnt been too bad. Not sold on Cowan but once again what else is out there. no one is banging down the door for selection anyway. Joe Burns has talent but i agree let him get consistentcy at shield level. guys like Maxwell, M Marsh, Lynn have alot of talent but we need to see them produce at Domestic level first. i think Hughes and Khawaja are the 2 best batsman in domestic cricket.

Posted by trumpoz on (December 3, 2012, 2:44 GMT)

We have to go back to the mid-late 80s with out expectations for this team with the bat. Geoff Marsh was hardly a great player, but he got the shine off the ball and protected the guys further down the list. Cowan can do that. Warner is a foil for that and can win a game in a session. Khawaja has the technique to open and should bat at 3 (much like what Boon did). Number 4 is the problem - as a stopgap have M Hussey, then Clarke followed by Watson.

Posted by crh8971 on (December 3, 2012, 2:41 GMT)

@Vikiboy07 - the only way Shaun Marsh gets picked is if the selectors are going to watch grade cricket because he struggles to get a game for WA at the moment. He had plenty of chances and just wasn't good enough. The problem is far from just finding a replacement for Ponting. The openers aren't delivering partnerships, Watson hasn't performed as a test batsmen for two years and Hussey will need to be replaced at some stage soon. Khawaja was probably the unluckiest of those tried over the past two years as he looked the part and made some scores but just didn't kick on. He has been in good form of late and should be given Ponting's spot in the team. I think he could bat any one of the top four spots. Doolan from Tassy has made big strides forward this year and can't be too far away.

Posted by   on (December 3, 2012, 2:41 GMT)

The opening haven't starred, but they've performed well enough. Australia's problems have come from the fall of the first wicket leading quickly to a second and third, as the various options they've had at three haven't worked, and Ponting at four, despite the brief revival against India, has contributed little. The answer to spots 3 & 4 on the batting list aren't to change the opening pair, but either to put the best, most accomplished player in the side, Clarke, to 3, or to pick a specialist #3 who is in good form and looks to have become a much stronger player - Usman Khawaja. Watson drops down the order, to 4, 5 or 6 - it doesn't really matter.

Posted by Mervo on (December 3, 2012, 2:20 GMT)

It is amazing that Khawja hardly rates a mention. He is surely a long term possibility with his sound technique, unlike Hughes who is an eye player only.

Posted by popcorn on (December 3, 2012, 1:40 GMT)

There is no puzzle AT ALL. Usman Khawaja is the RIGHT MAN as Ponting's replacement.We saw how composed he was when he batted on his debut against England at the SCG when Ponting was not available. But he has been tinkered around in several positions, and we have labelled him unfairly as not suitable.He is a CONSISTENT Opening Bat,or at Number 3.Michael Clarke, like Steve Waugh, scored BEST at Number 5. We need to give Ed Cowan and David Warner some more time as the Openers, before we tinker with that too.And Shane Watson, in his Role as A BATTING All Rounder,needs rest after Batting or Bowling.So my Batting line-up would be: Cowan,Warner,Khawaja,Watson,Clarke,Mike Hussey, Wade, Siddle, Johnson, Lyon,Starc for the Sri Lanka series.

Posted by Sinhaya on (December 3, 2012, 1:05 GMT)

Batting is Australia's weak link among all departments. I suggest Khawaja be included as he has had too little chances. Hughes got way too many chances. Hussey will definitely excel against Sri Lanka as he did last year when Australia came to SL.

Posted by Kolpak1989 on (December 3, 2012, 1:00 GMT)

I agree with what Ian Chappell has said in the past about the Australian top 4. The selectors have missed a bit of a trick by not opening with Watson and Warner. The right hand/left hand combination and the strokeplaying ability both of those players could really take apart a bowling attack early on and lay a solid foundation for an innings. I don't like the prospect of dropping Cowan, but on form I think it is hard to justify him as an opener at the moment and I'm not sure how he would go batting at 3 or 4. As a best XI I'd play:

1. Warner 2. Watson 3. Hughes 4. Khawaja 5. Clarke 6. Hussey 7. Wade 8. Pattinson 9. Siddle 10. Starc 11. Lyon

Posted by MinusZero on (December 3, 2012, 0:59 GMT)

I am a Hughes fan but I think Usman should come in. Usman at 3, Watson down the order to 6

Posted by   on (December 3, 2012, 0:53 GMT)

Of all the batsmen mentioned for the No.3 spot my pick would be without a doubt Usman Kuwaja.He has the best technique for Test Criket of all the names being mentioned.Forget the name or the colour of his skin he should bethe first choice.Wonder an Amla or a Tendulkar would have ever made into the Australian team had they been Australian citizens. I doubt it.Its about time we Aussies grow up as decent human beings and look beyond the names or colour

Posted by Someguy on (December 3, 2012, 0:45 GMT)

It will be interesting to see who they go with. Do they give Quiney another chance, given that he was favoured ahead of the others for the Aus v SA series, and can lighten the load on the fast bowlers with a few overs of tidy medium pacers, or do his 3 failures put him down the queue a bit?

Hughes has piled on more runs than Khawaja this season and has more of a habit of making 100's, but will the selectors be convinced he has sorted out his technical flaws?

Does Doolans relative inexperience and being a bit older count against him? Only 37 matches compared to 60 and 86 for Khawaja and Hughes, who are both a couple of years younger and have better averages over a longer period.

Callum Ferguson hasn't been mentioned, but is right up there in runs this season, between Hughes and Khawaja. I haven't seen him play this season, but before his injury he was going really well in the ODI team and looking like the next logical replacement in the test team.

Posted by RJHB on (December 3, 2012, 0:42 GMT)

I just don't get the constant calls for Hughes reinclusion in the team. He has a seriously flawed technique that has been found out repeatedly at test level, even by lowly NZ last summer, and has not shown any significant signs of having been altered at all. When a bowler like Chris Martin counts you as their bunny, its time for a rethink about about the technique! The fact he can score at Shield level doesn't mean a jot, plenty of batsmen have dominated the Shield only to struggle at the elite level in the past.

Posted by Meety on (December 3, 2012, 0:35 GMT)

@Brydon Coverdale - Top article, the only thing I would like to know is why you think Hussey is anymore unlikely to move position than Pup? There is a strong chance that Watto could be moved to #6. IMO - I think this is an opportunity to really tinker with the entire structure of the Oz batting. I think Watto will need to deliver v Sri Lanka as I really am starting to think he'll never reach the levels required out of his batting for a top 6 position.

Posted by   on (December 3, 2012, 0:32 GMT)

Vikiboy07, are you referring to Rod or Geoff Marsh? Because if you are talking about Sean, do I put it...he's averaging 10 in 6 innings in the SS this year. He shouldnt be in the WA team let alone team Oz. Last summer vs India he averaged something that a fat pie-eating fan on the hill would, something like 3.

Kawaja and Hughes deserve another go.

Posted by   on (December 3, 2012, 0:17 GMT)

Huge fan of Callum Ferguson.. What's he done wrong this year? 2nd overall in the Sheffield shield run tally.. Proven performer at International Level for Australia has made a big hundred thisyear against an attack that included Cutting, McDermott, Hauritz etc: and hasn't made a duck for over two seasons in Sheffield Shield cricket.. Yes he is inconsistent at times but his consistency this year has improved dramatically.. Also bats at 4 for the Redbacks, could be a straight swap..

Posted by   on (December 3, 2012, 0:16 GMT)

It must be Hughes. Unlike Khawaja he has scored at the test level already. I believe Khawaja will make it but Hughes has more runs this season and more runs in test cricket in his first stint.

His time out of the test arena and winter playing County cricket should have helped ease out his technical flaws.

Another year or so out of the team for Khawaja to work on ticking over hte scoreboard is needed. In tests Khawaja averages more about 6 more balls faced per innings than Hughes but 5 less runs per innings... needs to increase his strike rate up to about 50 (currently 39!!) to reduce the pressure on himself and capitalise on his occupation of hte crease.

In any case I think Australia is in a reasonable position with Hughes and Khawaja having had a taste of test match cricket and then time out to learn the game. It worked for Ponting, Langer, Hayden, S Waugh, Martyn, Clarke and many others.

Posted by uwe71 on (December 3, 2012, 0:15 GMT)

i think the bowling depth is good but the selectors do have a dillema with the make up going forward of the batting line up.After this test match and i cant see aussies pulling of a miracle here it will be a good opportunity to expirement against srilanka by bringing khawaga in for ponting,then bat him at 3 clark at 4 watson 5 to give him a chance to settle after bowling and he is suspect to new ball lbws,they should stick with cowan and warner at the top and see if they can get some consistency together.

Posted by Mary_786 on (December 2, 2012, 23:44 GMT)

Warner, Cowan and Watson should stay in their positions, you can't reshuffle them just to bring in a new batsman. For me the position in question is 4 and for that Khawaja is the best man for the job. I see Hughes as our long term opener but we can't reshuffle the entire batting order just to bring him in. Khawaja got a match winning 85 against NSW in a match winning innings and continues to show that he is the best man for the job. What's most impressive is his attitude, selectors assked him to improve his fielding and running between the wickets and anyone who has watched him in the Ryobi cup would have seen those improvements, that's what the selectors want and that's what the fans want to. I would also consider Doolanif he was to get a big one in the Chairman's X1.

Posted by hycIass on (December 2, 2012, 23:39 GMT)

I wasn't convinced with Khawaja earlier on the season but he continues to prove me wrong, he is scoring runs and that's all can be asked of him. NSW won the toss yesterday and put the Bulls into bat as it rained in the morning and there was a bit of juice in the pitch. As usual Khawaja gets his runs in tough conditions to show that he is exactly the batsman we need in our top order given our familiar top order collapses. Further more his running between the wickets and fielding look sharp. Hopefully he gets a big one in the chairman's X1 to cement his spot in the Australian team at number 4, he is the best man for the job.

Posted by MenFromMarts on (December 2, 2012, 23:23 GMT)

Swap Hussey with Watson until after the Ashes where Huss may retire. Khawaja then at 4. Warner, Cowan, Hussey, Khawaja, Clarke, Watson, Wade. A bolter was metioned for 3 and i would put Chris Rogers there. My real hope is that Callum Ferguson and Tom Beaton step up soon and get some big tons.

Posted by Moppa on (December 2, 2012, 23:19 GMT)

Khawaja in at 3 and Watson to 4. As the author says, don't mess around with the only bit that's not working, Clarke and Hussey. Cowan and Warner have been inconsistent but done enough to continue. Hughes close but given his past failures, I think to protect his confidence he has to come in in his preferred role (opening) and be given an extended run - so now is not the time. Long-term, I wonder whether Warner and Hughes together is really going to be a balanced opening combination - too aggressive, surely!

Posted by AA77 on (December 2, 2012, 23:07 GMT)

Watson should bat 1, 2, 3, 4 & 5 .... and bowl first and second change ... with Mitch the slinger opening form both ends ... Aus would be deadly (..coming from a Saffer)

Posted by   on (December 2, 2012, 22:57 GMT)

It has to be the experience of Bailey. Hughes has always been able to smash County and First Class attacks. Kulasekera bowls a delivery angling towards slip Mahela takes the catch I can see it already. Chris Martin was 12th man during the whole Lanka NZ seriesd would have given him plenty of time to fill in the Lankans about his very own bunny Phillip Hughes.

Posted by Chris_Howard on (December 2, 2012, 22:36 GMT)

Clarke should go to number 3. The new ball argument should be moot. The form he's in the ball could be a marble and he'd still see it. And with Sri Lanka coming up, who don't have an attack anywhere near RSA's (not that anyone does), it'd be a chance to settle in. Put Hussey at 4, Watto at 5, and the newbie at 6. Even if the newbie is used to batting higher up the order, it's good for them to come in lower down where there's hopefully a bit less pressure, but they also get the opportunity to learn to manage the tail, which is invaluable experience.

Posted by handyandy on (December 2, 2012, 22:01 GMT)

Time for some big changes at the top. The top 4 just aren't consistent enough.

I would move Watson to 5 or 6. He is an all rounder ... not a first drop batsmen and certainly not an opener. I would move Clark up to 4. Hughes would come in for Cowen and Khawaja would get a shot at number 3.

Posted by   on (December 2, 2012, 21:53 GMT)

VIkiboy07, have you watched any cricket in the last 12 months? Marsh hasn't even been getting runs for WA, let alone his consistent failures through the NZ and India tests last summer. Cowan is a proper opening batsman - the sort of guy that will still get through the new ball more often than not, even if he only gets 25-30. And he's virtually the same age as Marsh. Would you like him to shave?

The problem is we've been treated to one of the best opening combos the world has ever seen in Hayden and Langer. Now the public just thinks all opening batsmen should be going out and dominating the new ball attack, which is why Warner doesn't get any public pressure. I love watching him bat and it looks great when it works (once every 5 innings or so) and but the rest of the time it just puts pressure on the middle order. His dismissal on the second day was disgraceful. At least Cowan got a good ball in the first dig.

Posted by NonStriker on (December 2, 2012, 21:52 GMT)

I wonder if anyone in the Australia set up is regretting the offhand treatment of Phil Jaques right about now.

Posted by Wefinishthis on (December 2, 2012, 21:45 GMT)

How about none of them? They all had their chances and failed to take them, but even worse, they've all done nothing since, except perhaps Hughes. What about Joe Burns, Peter Nevill as a batsman-only or even take a punt on Kurtis Patterson? In the meantime, at the very least, David Hussey could buy some time as well. My team for the SL and Ashes series: Warner, Rogers, D.Hussey, M.Hussey, Clarke, Watson, Wade (bowlers a mix of Pattinson, Harris, Cummins, Faulkner, McDermott, Bird, Lyon and O'keefe.)

Posted by   on (December 2, 2012, 21:36 GMT)

Batsmen tend to have different playing styles that lend themselves to different places in the order. That's why Watson shouldn't bat lower than 3, and preferably open. His strength is is driving against pace bowlers, not cross bat shots or playing spinners. That's why he is ideally an opener or at most first drop. He needs to bat when fast bowlers are bowling full trying to get movement of the deck with the new ball. Putting him against the old ball when pace bowlers start varying the length and spinners come on does not play to his strengths. If there is no place for him in the top 3 there is no place for him in the team, that's the hard decision the selectors need to make. Putting Watson at 5,6 or 7 will mean his batting returns will be well below his own potential.

Posted by Ozcricketwriter on (December 2, 2012, 21:23 GMT)

George Bailey should be the man that they go to. It is crazy to think of Phillip Hughes, who still has terrible technique. Traditionally, Australia blood future test talent in the ODI formats. Bailey has shone and has showed the right temperament for success at test level. Bailey should be the first one to consider. If they don't go with Bailey, they could always go with David Hussey. None of the names you suggest are in the ball park of sensible selection. If that is how the selectors are thinking, then that is why we are doing so badly.

Posted by chilly87 on (December 2, 2012, 21:13 GMT)

I think a name that has not been thrown around who I think should be more closely looked at is Ben Rohrer. The guy averages 41 in First Class cricket better than Doolan and Quiney, evebn better than Ed Cowan. He has been scoring consistent runs throughout both Ryobi Cup and Sheffield Shield. I don't think his credentials can be ignored and I think he might add some stability to the Australian order which I think it is lacking. The only thing against him is that he is 31. So if he doesn't get picked this time around, he may not see a baggy green which would be a major disappointment.

Posted by matty_aus_82 on (December 2, 2012, 20:10 GMT)

Hughes is perfect for number 5 in my opinion. Comes in when the shine is off the ball and not nipping around as much. Is naturally agressive and will play shots. Id be having him at number 5 and move Clarke upto number 4.

Posted by Chris_P on (December 2, 2012, 19:37 GMT)

@Vikiboy07. I would love to know how you think Marsh deserves another chance when he can't score runs for Western Australia? In fact, he is struggling to score runs in Perth grade cricket! Hughes is starting to get the consistency that first caught our attention & he seems to have secured a tighter technique mixed with the freedom of his earlier years in Sheffield Shield. But Hughes is an opener first & foremost, not a # 3 or a #4. Presently, there isn't a batsman, (perhaps Khawaja comes close) screaming to get selected for #4. There is potential, but nothing like Steve Waugh type of potential when he was first selected for his potential alone. If batsman wants a position in the top 6, they need to speak with runs on the board, nothing less will suffice.

Posted by   on (December 2, 2012, 18:52 GMT)

michael clarke with the kind of form and temperament he is showing should definitely promote himself up the order at either 3 or 4.

Posted by madscientist001 on (December 2, 2012, 18:45 GMT)

Bring back Haddin and move everybody up one to fill Pointing's place. Warner,Cowan,Watson,Clarke,Hussey,Wade,Haddin and the bowlers.

Posted by Vikiboy07 on (December 2, 2012, 17:37 GMT)

In my opinion Cowan like Katich does not fit into d scheme of thngs. His scratchy Style of play nd onscreen(looks 35 when he is just 30)age wl make him a scapegoat d next series Australia lose..Hughes nd Marsh definitely deserve another chance..If u put Warner at d top then Watson will have to come down nd if Watson opens then there is no place for David Goliath oops Warner:p..My top 7 would be Hughes,Warner,Marsh,Clarke,Watson,Hussey,Wade

Posted by flobas on (December 2, 2012, 13:56 GMT)

good article byron. that's the problem Australia selectors must address now. The middle order looks fine, bowling has quality and depth, so the only thing remaining is to find the right top 3-4 combo. Personally i still doubt the opening pair. Watto is far from a quality no 3 and none of the other options looks like a must-go player. Based on form and potential Hughes should get the chance possibly at no3. Less shine on the ball might prove just what he need to get the big scores. Watto at 4 should be better, as he ll have more time to rest from the bowling duties. If not Hughes then it has to be Khawaja. He scores consistently this summer and has the technique to survive. Quiney is not the solution i reckon and Doolan has a lot to prove still. No other prospect looks interesting right now (Marsh out of touch and youngsters like Burns should first establish themselves at state level.) Maybe Bailey at 4 could provide a more stable mid-term solution

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Brydon CoverdaleClose
Brydon Coverdale Assistant Editor Possibly the only person to win a headline-writing award for a title with the word "heifers" in it, Brydon decided agricultural journalism wasn't for him when he took up his position with ESPNcricinfo in Melbourne. His cricketing career peaked with an unbeaten 85 in the seconds for a small team in rural Victoria on a day when they could not scrounge up 11 players and Brydon, tragically, ran out of partners to help him reach his century. He is also a compulsive TV game-show contestant and has appeared on half a dozen shows in Australia.
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