Sri Lanka in Australia 2012-13 January 1, 2013

Australia's bowlers show batsmen how to step up

23

Should Australia's batsmen require some advice about stepping into the shoes of Michael Hussey and Ricky Ponting, they could do far worse than look across to the other side of the dressing room.

While Phillip Hughes has been up at night thinking about the idea of replacing the seemingly irreplaceable, the Test team's fast bowlers have learned how to step up when asked. If the rotation or management of fast bowlers has been the source of some consternation among some former players, portions of the public and shriller segments of the media, it has also added to the collective poise of the battery at Australia's disposal.

Instead of wondering aloud how they could possibly improve on the sort of high-quality bowling produced by the likes of James Pattinson, Ryan Harris, Ben Hilfenhaus and Peter Siddle at times over the past 18 months, Mitchell Starc, Mitchell Johnson, and most recently Jackson Bird have stepped up to their tasks with increasing confidence. All the time they have been reassured to keep doing what put them in the team in the first place - the sort of simple advice the batsmen will need to hold close as they set about the task of covering for Hussey's loss after the SCG Test.

"We've gone through a lot of players and had a lot of success with it," Siddle said on New Year's Day. "I think we've shown in the past 18 months that when blokes go out whether it's injury or resting, the blokes that come in can perform and do well whether it's their first Test or 49th. Like Mitch [Johnson] last week, it doesn't matter if they come in, they're ready to go. And it's a strength.

"There are a lot of games of cricket and we've got a busy Test match period coming up, which is going to put a lot of pressure on all the bowlers. But I think by having that backing by the blokes on the side, the reserves, we can keep being competitive and very competitive, as we've shown."

At 24, Hughes has the experience of 19 Tests to call on, but remains an aspirant to the level of consistency shown by Hussey and captain Michael Clarke this summer. He admitted to thinking of how often the aforementioned duo had saved the blushes of other members of the top six across the Tests against South Africa and Sri Lanka, and has resolved to build his mastery of No. 3.

"I was actually thinking the other night the partnerships they've been getting through the summer, they've been unbelievable," Hughes said. "But in saying that, it's now all about us stepping up just a little bit more. I've been in and out of the team for a few years now and I suppose I've got a few caps behind me now so I'm a little bit experienced.

"I really want to make this three position my own. As I came in the team and got selected I really want to stamp my authority and I suppose be consistent over a number of years. I'd really love to hold that spot going forward and I suppose everyone has to step up now. [Ponting's] been unbelievably consistent now for years, so it's about us all being really consistent and going to the next level."

Next to Clarke and the seasoned reservist Johnson, Siddle's 36 Tests will make him Australia's third-most experienced Test player when Hussey's career concludes. While Siddle admitted to feeling a little "weird" about his advance in seniority, he also reasoned that he had spent enough time in and out of the team to learn what worked for him, allowing him to impart knowledge and advice to others.

"Looking back now, when I came in at 23, you do go about things differently," Siddle said. "You think it's pretty cruisey and you're happy with we're you're at, but it does hit you a few times when you get dropped or you're told some home truths about how you're really going or really looking. It has only been the last few years I've started to concentrate a lot more and work a lot harder.

"Last year I benefited from all that work I put in and actually concentrating a bit harder on what I had to do to be a professional cricketer and play at the highest level. Sometimes those little hiccups along the way sometimes do help if you take it the right way and go about changing those things.

"I just want to see the young boys do as well as they can when they first come in and keep doing as well as they can. I want them to learn from my mistakes of being a bit lazy when I first came in and taking it easy. You want them to go as hard as they can and keep doing that - if I can keep doing that, whether that's at training or out on the field, hopefully they can follow."

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Someguy on January 2, 2013, 5:08 GMT

    In fairness, I think batsmen have it a lot harder than bowlers as far as getting comfortable in the team. If a batsman makes 1 mistake, that's it. They're out and it's over. If a bowler makes a mistake he just goes back to his mark and tries again. A bowler can take a couple of overs to get a bit of rhythm. A batsman can be back in the sheds in that time, even without making a mistake.

  • Meety on January 3, 2013, 3:02 GMT

    @Chris_P -curious as to why you don't rate Cutting?

  • QingdaoXI on January 2, 2013, 16:34 GMT

    Ryan Harris, Ben Hilfenhaus, Peter Siddle, Mitch Johnson, Mitch Starch, James Pattinson, Pat Cummins, Jackson Bird, Hazelwood, Cutting, C-Nile, this is the Fast bowling XI of Australia.

  • on January 2, 2013, 12:12 GMT

    @landl47, I agree with the comments regarding the bowling stocks being in pairs, seems we've got a number of options available to suit each course. I probably wouldn't have starc and johnson in the same team, same with bird and hilfenhaus, although siddle and pattinson can be great together. I actually think Johnson and Starc should be rotated from game to game, it'll help keep starc from injury until he matures a bit more, and it will keep Johnson keen. Hard to drop either of them if they turn in a match winning performance though...

  • Chris_P on January 2, 2013, 7:12 GMT

    @landl47. Understand what you are saying but I ask you to look at his figures this season. Finally, after showing so much promise he is delivering on that talent. I have been watching him for nearly 8 years & have cringed by his failure to deliver on his undoubted talents. He isn't quite ready yet, he needs to keep going, a season in county and he'll be the real deal. An excellent fielder to boot. His batting, believe me is all class, much, much better, technically than his bowling. Agree with McDonald, his bowling, while steady, would hardly be enough to rip through teams. Henriques has done that where the conditions helped (overcast, English like conditions at the Gabba believe it or not). To save you time, his fc record for this season is 320 runs @ 64 with 13 wickets @20.15 ave. Not too shabby I would suggest.

  • landl47 on January 2, 2013, 5:13 GMT

    @Chris_P: I haven't seen a lot of Henriques, just a couple of T20s, but is he really a good enough batsman to be a #6? A first-class average of under 30 with just one century (and his List A figures are worse) doesn't sound like a test class batsman. The problem with most of Australia's allrounders- Butterworth, Faulkner, Cutting, Henriques, Mitch Marsh- is that they are bowling allrounders, whereas Australia's need is for a batting allrounder. To me, the best allrounder in Aus cricket at the moment (assuming Watson is a batsman only from now on) is Andrew MacDonald, with a FC average of almost 40 and a bowling average of 28. I'm still not convinced he's good enough at either discipline to be a test player, but if an allrounder is picked I think it should be him. I'd still go with the best 6 batsmen and the best 4 bowlers as a policy and only pick an allrounder who qualifies in one of those categories.

  • Humdingers on January 2, 2013, 4:20 GMT

    Forget about India - they are at an all time low and a Victorian 2nd XI would beat them at the moment. Focus on the ashes. The batting looks very fragile. Can't see the Aussie batsmen having an easy time (like they did for SL and IND). Expect more of the intercity of SA in Perth. How the batsmen fair against the English bowlers will determine who takes the urn.

  • Chris_P on January 2, 2013, 3:43 GMT

    @landl47 I agree Cummins won't be a factor until our next home season. I have a lot of time for Hilfy & thought he would go well in England, but the one day length he has dropped into won't go away & that worries me. Understand Harris is 33, but he will always only be used as a backup if one of the spearheads is out. I am with you on Cutting, but the selectors have shown their hand with him as well. But in Siddle, Pattinson, Starc, Bird, with Hazelwood int he wings, it does look rosy. And if Henriques keeps his form up, he should be ready to slot into the #6 allrounder role perfectly. A full season in county would round out his experience.

  • Moppa on January 2, 2013, 2:32 GMT

    @Chris_P and @landl47 both make good points about the pace line-up for England. I'm with Chris_P in that I think Hilf's recent form has almost ruled him out for the Ashes - Bird has clearly leapt ahead. Although I wish things were different, I agree with @landl47 that Cummins won't make it to England, but I think Harris is a good chance - surely there's a place for him in a six or seven man pace battery? My six: Pattinson, Siddle, Harris, Starc, Johnson, Bird.

  • landl47 on January 2, 2013, 0:48 GMT

    @Chris_P: I think, if he can get past his physical problems and is managed properly, Cummins is a great prospect. I just don't think there's any chance of him being ready for the Ashes series in England. I'm not so sure you're right about Hilf. He was the best Aus bowler in the 2009 series and he is well-suited to English conditions. I'd have him in my squad. I don't think Cutting is test material unless the selectors are determined to pick someone as an allrounder even if he doesn't do either well enough to be considered as a specialist. Hazlewood is very much on the radar and in a year or two I think he'll be right up there. He needs more experience and again, fitness.

    @Jono Makim and Beertje: Though Ryan Harris is an excellent bowler when he is fit, he just can't stay fit. At 33 , he's at the end of his career. I can't see taking him to England.

  • Someguy on January 2, 2013, 5:08 GMT

    In fairness, I think batsmen have it a lot harder than bowlers as far as getting comfortable in the team. If a batsman makes 1 mistake, that's it. They're out and it's over. If a bowler makes a mistake he just goes back to his mark and tries again. A bowler can take a couple of overs to get a bit of rhythm. A batsman can be back in the sheds in that time, even without making a mistake.

  • Meety on January 3, 2013, 3:02 GMT

    @Chris_P -curious as to why you don't rate Cutting?

  • QingdaoXI on January 2, 2013, 16:34 GMT

    Ryan Harris, Ben Hilfenhaus, Peter Siddle, Mitch Johnson, Mitch Starch, James Pattinson, Pat Cummins, Jackson Bird, Hazelwood, Cutting, C-Nile, this is the Fast bowling XI of Australia.

  • on January 2, 2013, 12:12 GMT

    @landl47, I agree with the comments regarding the bowling stocks being in pairs, seems we've got a number of options available to suit each course. I probably wouldn't have starc and johnson in the same team, same with bird and hilfenhaus, although siddle and pattinson can be great together. I actually think Johnson and Starc should be rotated from game to game, it'll help keep starc from injury until he matures a bit more, and it will keep Johnson keen. Hard to drop either of them if they turn in a match winning performance though...

  • Chris_P on January 2, 2013, 7:12 GMT

    @landl47. Understand what you are saying but I ask you to look at his figures this season. Finally, after showing so much promise he is delivering on that talent. I have been watching him for nearly 8 years & have cringed by his failure to deliver on his undoubted talents. He isn't quite ready yet, he needs to keep going, a season in county and he'll be the real deal. An excellent fielder to boot. His batting, believe me is all class, much, much better, technically than his bowling. Agree with McDonald, his bowling, while steady, would hardly be enough to rip through teams. Henriques has done that where the conditions helped (overcast, English like conditions at the Gabba believe it or not). To save you time, his fc record for this season is 320 runs @ 64 with 13 wickets @20.15 ave. Not too shabby I would suggest.

  • landl47 on January 2, 2013, 5:13 GMT

    @Chris_P: I haven't seen a lot of Henriques, just a couple of T20s, but is he really a good enough batsman to be a #6? A first-class average of under 30 with just one century (and his List A figures are worse) doesn't sound like a test class batsman. The problem with most of Australia's allrounders- Butterworth, Faulkner, Cutting, Henriques, Mitch Marsh- is that they are bowling allrounders, whereas Australia's need is for a batting allrounder. To me, the best allrounder in Aus cricket at the moment (assuming Watson is a batsman only from now on) is Andrew MacDonald, with a FC average of almost 40 and a bowling average of 28. I'm still not convinced he's good enough at either discipline to be a test player, but if an allrounder is picked I think it should be him. I'd still go with the best 6 batsmen and the best 4 bowlers as a policy and only pick an allrounder who qualifies in one of those categories.

  • Humdingers on January 2, 2013, 4:20 GMT

    Forget about India - they are at an all time low and a Victorian 2nd XI would beat them at the moment. Focus on the ashes. The batting looks very fragile. Can't see the Aussie batsmen having an easy time (like they did for SL and IND). Expect more of the intercity of SA in Perth. How the batsmen fair against the English bowlers will determine who takes the urn.

  • Chris_P on January 2, 2013, 3:43 GMT

    @landl47 I agree Cummins won't be a factor until our next home season. I have a lot of time for Hilfy & thought he would go well in England, but the one day length he has dropped into won't go away & that worries me. Understand Harris is 33, but he will always only be used as a backup if one of the spearheads is out. I am with you on Cutting, but the selectors have shown their hand with him as well. But in Siddle, Pattinson, Starc, Bird, with Hazelwood int he wings, it does look rosy. And if Henriques keeps his form up, he should be ready to slot into the #6 allrounder role perfectly. A full season in county would round out his experience.

  • Moppa on January 2, 2013, 2:32 GMT

    @Chris_P and @landl47 both make good points about the pace line-up for England. I'm with Chris_P in that I think Hilf's recent form has almost ruled him out for the Ashes - Bird has clearly leapt ahead. Although I wish things were different, I agree with @landl47 that Cummins won't make it to England, but I think Harris is a good chance - surely there's a place for him in a six or seven man pace battery? My six: Pattinson, Siddle, Harris, Starc, Johnson, Bird.

  • landl47 on January 2, 2013, 0:48 GMT

    @Chris_P: I think, if he can get past his physical problems and is managed properly, Cummins is a great prospect. I just don't think there's any chance of him being ready for the Ashes series in England. I'm not so sure you're right about Hilf. He was the best Aus bowler in the 2009 series and he is well-suited to English conditions. I'd have him in my squad. I don't think Cutting is test material unless the selectors are determined to pick someone as an allrounder even if he doesn't do either well enough to be considered as a specialist. Hazlewood is very much on the radar and in a year or two I think he'll be right up there. He needs more experience and again, fitness.

    @Jono Makim and Beertje: Though Ryan Harris is an excellent bowler when he is fit, he just can't stay fit. At 33 , he's at the end of his career. I can't see taking him to England.

  • David_Bofinger on January 2, 2013, 0:36 GMT

    "[Ponting's] been unbelievably consistent now for years" ... he has? Consistently what?

  • Shaggy076 on January 1, 2013, 21:50 GMT

    This time next year there will be a lot of talk of how good Hughes is. He is a talent that has dominated at shield level and now ready to start producing at test level.

  • Chris_P on January 1, 2013, 20:32 GMT

    @ landl47 I think you are on the right track, although Cummins is somewhere in the mix, but unlikely until next season down here. I believe Harris is in there as well, given he is a high quality speedster, albeit unlikely to have a lot of tests in succession. The selectors showed their hand with Hazelwood for future use & also think that Cutting is in their minds. Hilfenhaus, I believe, may have played his last test. He was not incisive, lost his length & swing from last season & has a swag of younger, quicker fast bowlers to go past. Unless he produces some dazzling spells for Tassie, very unlikely he'll get a start ahead of the aforementioned IMHO. Pretty good wrap up thought.

  • on January 1, 2013, 16:12 GMT

    @Landl47, agreed on the line-up of quicks there. I'd love to see Ryan Harris come back into contention at some point too if he's fit and firing, got all the skills.

  • Beertjie on January 1, 2013, 16:11 GMT

    The bowler who has slipped below the radar is Harris. He should be on standby for India and if he proves his form in the second half of the SS, someone needs to make way for him in England.

  • landl47 on January 1, 2013, 15:57 GMT

    The fast bowling rotation is more or less set for the next two series. There are 6 bowlers (Siddle, Hilf, Johnson, Pattinson, Starc, Bird- if anyone is thinking of Cummins, forget it. He's only played 4 first-class games in his career, the last the November 2011 test. He won't be fit for the rest of the Aus Summer and to take him on an Ashes tour with so little preparation would be madness). They fall more or less into pairs- Sids/Patt, Hilf/Bird and the two Mitches- so they can be easily rotated according to conditions, form and fitness. Aus should take all 6 to England.

    The lack of a spinner to back-up Lyon is more worrying for the India tour than for the Ashes. As the England tour showed, a second spinner is vital for Indian conditions, but for the Ashes Clarke and Warner could chip in with a few overs if needed.

    The bowling looks pretty good right now, with some top prospects to come in down the road. They'll be a force in English conditions.

  • mukesh_LOVE.cricket on January 1, 2013, 15:45 GMT

    @ sinhya -- u r being sarcastic , right ?learning to step up from sri lankan batsmen .. ha ha.. gud one..

  • SamRoy on January 1, 2013, 13:57 GMT

    1 good news for Australia, Tim Paine is back. That guy, even though is a worser batsman than either Haddin or Wade has far more grey matter than both combined. He is not an impulsive player like the other two. Moreover, his glovework is far superior to Haddin and Wade. Him and Ponting were having a lot of fun together today. T20 is not a judge of a player's form but my point is, Paine can always be Wade's back up in England. I prefer Paine to the other two because of his superior thinking ability and superior glove-work.

  • Htc-Baseball on January 1, 2013, 13:11 GMT

    Don't worry we will show your batsmen how to step up, your young batsmen need to learn a lot from our legends MJ, Sanga, Dilshan and Samaraweera,

  • pat_one_back on January 1, 2013, 12:38 GMT

    Very candid of Sids to share that he was complacent and had to learn from it, the baggy greens have been thrown around of late and that's sound advice, you get selected for your country with faith in what you can potentially achieve, not what your simply already accomplishing.

  • on January 1, 2013, 12:20 GMT

    I actually like Hughes at 3. Gets him away from the new ball a bit. He is also the kind of guy that is really hungry for big centuries and scores very fluently once he gets in, these are very important traits for a number three, I feel. I hope he's getting his game to where it needs to be to start scoring those big hundreds and winning matches.

  • lillie_express on January 1, 2013, 11:15 GMT

    Good luck Hughes...not only was Ponting one of the greatest talents this country has produced, but he also had one of the toughest mindsets, a lethal combination. Ponting just seemed to go out and do it, and if he didn't, and got dropped, he would simply come back and do it again...there is a lot of talk with the current group: "I want to make this spot mine", "I want to be consistent", "I'm looking for a better conversion rate" etc etc. Another problem is I would pay to go watch Ponting tear it up, which he could because he had so much natural talent...but the young guys (but not so young at 24 and 26) don't inspire me to part with my hard earned cash...it's not much fun watching something made and created in the nets. Ponting was made when he was born. Nothing the young guys can do, just a fact of sport that occasionally we get spoilt.

  • on January 1, 2013, 11:01 GMT

    Sorry but Hughes is terrible at 3 and will always be terrible at 3

  • on January 1, 2013, 11:01 GMT

    Sorry but Hughes is terrible at 3 and will always be terrible at 3

  • lillie_express on January 1, 2013, 11:15 GMT

    Good luck Hughes...not only was Ponting one of the greatest talents this country has produced, but he also had one of the toughest mindsets, a lethal combination. Ponting just seemed to go out and do it, and if he didn't, and got dropped, he would simply come back and do it again...there is a lot of talk with the current group: "I want to make this spot mine", "I want to be consistent", "I'm looking for a better conversion rate" etc etc. Another problem is I would pay to go watch Ponting tear it up, which he could because he had so much natural talent...but the young guys (but not so young at 24 and 26) don't inspire me to part with my hard earned cash...it's not much fun watching something made and created in the nets. Ponting was made when he was born. Nothing the young guys can do, just a fact of sport that occasionally we get spoilt.

  • on January 1, 2013, 12:20 GMT

    I actually like Hughes at 3. Gets him away from the new ball a bit. He is also the kind of guy that is really hungry for big centuries and scores very fluently once he gets in, these are very important traits for a number three, I feel. I hope he's getting his game to where it needs to be to start scoring those big hundreds and winning matches.

  • pat_one_back on January 1, 2013, 12:38 GMT

    Very candid of Sids to share that he was complacent and had to learn from it, the baggy greens have been thrown around of late and that's sound advice, you get selected for your country with faith in what you can potentially achieve, not what your simply already accomplishing.

  • Htc-Baseball on January 1, 2013, 13:11 GMT

    Don't worry we will show your batsmen how to step up, your young batsmen need to learn a lot from our legends MJ, Sanga, Dilshan and Samaraweera,

  • SamRoy on January 1, 2013, 13:57 GMT

    1 good news for Australia, Tim Paine is back. That guy, even though is a worser batsman than either Haddin or Wade has far more grey matter than both combined. He is not an impulsive player like the other two. Moreover, his glovework is far superior to Haddin and Wade. Him and Ponting were having a lot of fun together today. T20 is not a judge of a player's form but my point is, Paine can always be Wade's back up in England. I prefer Paine to the other two because of his superior thinking ability and superior glove-work.

  • mukesh_LOVE.cricket on January 1, 2013, 15:45 GMT

    @ sinhya -- u r being sarcastic , right ?learning to step up from sri lankan batsmen .. ha ha.. gud one..

  • landl47 on January 1, 2013, 15:57 GMT

    The fast bowling rotation is more or less set for the next two series. There are 6 bowlers (Siddle, Hilf, Johnson, Pattinson, Starc, Bird- if anyone is thinking of Cummins, forget it. He's only played 4 first-class games in his career, the last the November 2011 test. He won't be fit for the rest of the Aus Summer and to take him on an Ashes tour with so little preparation would be madness). They fall more or less into pairs- Sids/Patt, Hilf/Bird and the two Mitches- so they can be easily rotated according to conditions, form and fitness. Aus should take all 6 to England.

    The lack of a spinner to back-up Lyon is more worrying for the India tour than for the Ashes. As the England tour showed, a second spinner is vital for Indian conditions, but for the Ashes Clarke and Warner could chip in with a few overs if needed.

    The bowling looks pretty good right now, with some top prospects to come in down the road. They'll be a force in English conditions.

  • Beertjie on January 1, 2013, 16:11 GMT

    The bowler who has slipped below the radar is Harris. He should be on standby for India and if he proves his form in the second half of the SS, someone needs to make way for him in England.

  • on January 1, 2013, 16:12 GMT

    @Landl47, agreed on the line-up of quicks there. I'd love to see Ryan Harris come back into contention at some point too if he's fit and firing, got all the skills.