Australia v South Africa, first Test, Brisbane November 8, 2012

Quiney part of buffer zone for middle order


Michael Clarke has defended his decision to thrust the Test debutant Rob Quiney into No.3 against South Africa's powerful pace attack, while Australia's three most experienced batsmen will remain down the order. South Africa's captain Graeme Smith is keen for his fast bowlers to exploit the lack of experience in Australia's top order, with none of Ed Cowan, David Warner and Quiney having previously faced the South Africans in Test cricket.

Clarke said he had considered batting at first drop himself but was reluctant to alter the middle order that had such success against India last summer, when Ricky Ponting, Clarke and Michael Hussey batted at Nos. 4, 5 and 6. Quiney will be Australia's fourth Test No.3 since Ponting moved down the order during last year's tour of Sri Lanka, following Shaun Marsh, Usman Khawaja and Shane Watson.

Combined with the fact that Warner and Cowan, both of whom are still making their way in Test cricket, will open the innings, it leaves Australia potentially vulnerable against Dale Steyn, Vernon Philander and Morne Morkel, the best pace line-up in the world today. Clarke said although he could have promoted himself up the order to first drop, he believed Quiney was better suited to the role, given that he usually opens for Victoria.

"I have actually [thought about batting at No.3], I've spoken to Justin Langer and I had some time talking to Ricky about it over the last few days as well," Clarke said. "We think at the moment Rob is best suited to No.3 for this Test match. Hopefully he performs really well and grabs hold of his opportunity. I've said for a while now it doesn't bother me where I bat. Ricky and Michael Hussey are in the exact same boat. They don't really care where they bat, it's about what's best suited for the team.

"We thought our middle order played really well together last year, all last summer. We're looking to do the same thing. We think Rob's got plenty of experience in first-class cricket opening the batting and batting at No.3. He's probably used to that position a lot more than me for the start of this series. We can assess as Test matches go on, as time goes on. I really hope Rob grabs his opportunity with both hands and owns that No.3 position for Australia."

The lack of a stable first drop is one of the vexing issues facing Clarke and the coach Mickey Arthur, after Marsh and Khawaja both showed encouraging signs in the position only to slip out of form and out of the team. And Watson, who would have batted at No.3 in this match had he been fit, is not necessarily an automatic inclusion in the side except as an allrounder.

In Australia's past 25 Test matches, only one century has been scored at No.3 - Marsh's debut hundred in Sri Lanka - and collectively Australia's batsmen have averaged 28.38 at first drop in that time. Meanwhile, in the same period, Clarke has piled up 1981 runs at 46.06 while coming in down the order at No.5. Smith said he hoped Australia's lack of top-order experience and form would play into South Africa's hands.

"The goal is to have our bowlers expose the top order as much as possible," Smith said. "Everyone wants to have a team three-down as quickly as possible and really give yourself the best opportunity to bowl people out. That inexperience ... is hopefully something that we can exploit. That would be nice, because then we will have Australia under pressure.

"We've done our preparation, we've had a look at them. A few of us know Bob [Quiney] through the IPL and got a look at him the other day, even though the wicket will be very different here. We've done some planning and hopefully our bowlers have proven they've got the skill to execute, hopefully that will happen again in the next five days."

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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Matthew on November 10, 2012, 8:05 GMT

    @hyclass, I agree some people are really pushing for Khawaja. It's certainly not the first time someone has posted consistently with an agenda though. I do think you might be searching for flaws in Khawaja though re your comments that he was dropped on 11, and outscored by no.7 and 8. I'd say that has happened to all batsmen at some point, including the greats. Unless there's evidence that it's happening consistently those comments carry no weight. BTW, I am capable of courtesy, I just choose to use it when I think it's deserved. And I don't think it is when someone claims to be unfailingly correct at all times, referring to posts of 21 months ago etc. Having said that, I totally agree with you re Clarke and Quiney at no.3. If Watson was in the team I think Clarke should bat at 3, but with Quiney it (being a top-order batsmen) I see no problem with him taking the spot. I see no point in Ponting going back there if he is not going to be around much longer.

  • Andrew on November 10, 2012, 6:14 GMT

    @hyclass on (November 09 2012, 12:44 PM GMT) - one innings doesn't mean a totally changed batsmen, BUT Ussie just nailed the ton I've been hoping for. It was in conditions that saw Tassie shot out in 26 overs & I believe it was chanceless. He has outscored the entire Tassie team in one innings on a greentop against Bird,Butterworth & Faulkner who are a handy pace trio at least.

  • Andrew on November 9, 2012, 21:00 GMT

    @ Green_and_Gold on (November 09 2012, 16:54 PM GMT) - it's not a bad idea, although Punter has been scoring his runs for Tassie @ #4.

  • Rakesh on November 9, 2012, 18:25 GMT

    this might be the last series for pointing and hussey.... Saffers bowling is very good.

  • Justin on November 9, 2012, 16:54 GMT

    I was one of the first people to support Pontings move down the order to #4 and think its a better position for him however i now think it may be an option for him to move back to 3 - and my reasons are:

    1) He is pretty much the best player in the side (plus has loads of experience). He has been playing FC cricket and is already on top of the batsman scoring heaps of runs.

    2) Clarke and Hussey then come into #4 and #5 as the next most experienced players.

    3) We can put the new players into position #6 and get them bedded into the side before thrusting them into one of the hardest batting positions. Get the new player scoring runs at #6 then push them up the order once they are established.

    We are starting to turn over too many players at the top of the order. Ponting is a great player and i hope he sticks around for the back to back ashes (i also hope i get tickets for Lords and the Oval) - but i think him at 3 will settle the side somewhat.

  • jason on November 9, 2012, 12:50 GMT

    @ jb633 Khwaja's issue is not a teki thing against offies or whatever its a bottle thing. he is a very correct bat. needs to get roughed up a bit, hes not a fighter...see Ponting, S Waugh, dwarf boy etc. to be a test bat its all well and good to be a great bat but you need it upstairs too! Hughes has the twin issues of no tekkers and little upstairs...he is a fighter but not smart with it.

    its not about handles and grips and the direction of the bowling... a good bat will find a way to deal with it.... lara, waugh(s), kallis...etc (excluding tendulkar who is rubbish)

  • Christopher on November 9, 2012, 12:44 GMT

    Before this series, I suggested it was highly probable that the SA batsmen would dissect the Australian bowling. Given their records and the stability of the side, it seemed more than likely that SA would be too good. I admit to being bemused by criticism of Clarke's choice for Quiney. I can hardly find fault with playing him at 3.It seems obvious that the incumbent openers remain where they are and that Quiney take Watson's more recent place at 3.I have a high regard for Clarke and his captaincy.He has endured with significant character through a difficult off-field period in Australian Cricket that may well be viewed very differently in the future when all evidence becomes public.The facts remain that the selectors have chosen a 12 and Clarke must deploy them as he sees fit.He has responsibility for results so he must have control.@MinusZero..I couldn't agree less. In Clarke's case,there is no evidence for any agenda.In yours, the needless use of an India analogy suggests there is.

  • Christopher on November 9, 2012, 12:29 GMT your intelligence...there a group of three among which @Macca-mat is regularly represented who fanatically push Khawaja based on his heritage,every blog, every article, irrespective of evidence and then attack anyone who dares to suggest otherwise. Khawaja wasn't even selected in the Aus A game.The head selector took the unusual step of publicly singling out his poor attitude and ethic. He's made one very lucky hundred in 21 months. His season average is mid 30's.He was dropped from the Test team after averaging 29 with a S/R of 37.He's not even the best player in his team. He was dropped on 11 in the first Qld match and was outscored by the numbers 7 and 8.He may come good at some point,but has continually exhibited inconsistency and would need a long run of form containing numerous hundreds before anyone could be certain of his value.Commentators in Eng singled out his propensity to walk front on before playing a shot,a perceived flaw I highlighted in 21 months ago.

  • Mariam on November 9, 2012, 8:01 GMT

    @DylanBrah Khawaja should never have been dropped in the first place. He top scored against SA in a record 300 chase, got run out on 40 in the next game due to no fault of his. This year he just got man of the match when he top scored in both innings against a quality NSW attack. Expect him to be back in the baggy green soon as he is one of the top players in the upcoming youngsters.

  • Dylan on November 9, 2012, 2:14 GMT

    Khawaja needs to earn his baggy green back. An average of 36.5 from 4 shield games isn't exactly eye-catching for a guy who has been dropped more than once. He's going to have to sustain a high level for a long period of time to win his baggy green back in my opinion. Also needs to convert his 50's into 100's. That is a huge concern.

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