Australian cricket August 15, 2013

First drop or first dropped?

Usman Khawaja was not the reason for Australia's defeat in Chester-le-Street, but he hasn't solved the team's No. 3 problem either
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It has been 48 innings since an Australian has scored a Test century at No. 3. Never before has the team had a drought that long at first drop. Not when Harry Moses, Harry Trott and George Giffen were struggling on uncovered pitches in the 1880s. Not when Ian Redpath, Paul Sheahan and Bob Cowper were failing to convert starts in the late 1960s. Never. Every other team - Zimbabwe and Bangladesh included - have had Test hundreds from their No. 3 since Australia's last.

To watch Usman Khawaja over the past two Tests has been to witness a continuation of the first drop malaise. At times he has appeared elegant and classy in his strokes. But, there has also been a frailness, a sense that the bowlers had his measure. In Australia's botched chase in Chester-le-Street, he played a typical Khawaja Test innings: plenty of style but little substance. His limp prod and lbw to Graeme Swann was the beginning of Australia's end.

No. 3 need not be the team's best batsman, but he must be up for a battle. From Ian Chappell to David Boon, from Justin Langer to Ricky Ponting, Australia's modern-day first drops have been fighters, men who have placed a high price on their wicket, regardless of natural ability. There are times when a No. 3 can bat more freely and build on a strong platform, but just as often his main job is to ensure that one for not many doesn't become two for very few.

Big innings matter at first drop, but small ones are equally significant. Since Shaun Marsh scored 141 on debut in Sri Lanka in 2011, not only have Australia not had a century at No. 3, they have also had 11 ducks there from 48 innings. No other position in the top, middle or tail comes close to that many zeros in the same period - the next highest is six ducks from the No.8 batsmen. Since Ponting moved down the order, Australia's No. 3s have collectively averaged 25.62.

And "collectively" is the word. Marsh was injured while batting in the 2011 Cape Town Test, Ponting stood in for him in the second innings, then Khawaja was tried and discarded, Marsh returned in woeful form, Shane Watson visited No. 3 on his stopping-at-all-stations trip down the order, Rob Quiney failed and was forgotten, Watson came back, Phillip Hughes had a turn, Michael Clarke tried it once in India, Ed Cowan's tenure was brief, and now Khawaja is back.

Cricket mythology will tell you that a team's best batsman comes in at No. 3, but Len Hutton and Jack Hobbs were openers. So was Sunil Gavaskar. Allan Border floated from four to six. Sachin Tendulkar has avoided the job so fastidiously that he has played 327 Test innings and not a single one at first drop. Clarke is this team's talisman but as Stuart Broad has shown, the swinging new ball is not his friend. There is no need for Clarke to move higher than No.4.

But then, who gets the job? The production line is not the result of having too many options, but too few good ones. Australia have used No. 3 as a place to try fresh faces (Marsh, Khawaja, Quiney) or more familiar ones in search of a spot (Watson, Hughes, Cowan). It is little wonder, for that is largely how the state teams treat the first drop position. The lack of big scores at domestic level has been well documented, but the dearth of runs at No. 3 is especially alarming.

Consider the following, a list of all the batsmen used at No.3 in the Sheffield Shield last summer, nightwatchmen aside: Khawaja, Hughes, Quiney, Ponting, Marsh, Watson, Alex Doolan, Michael Klinger, Michael Hussey, David Hussey, Marcus North, Aaron Finch, Joe Burns, Peter Forrest, Cameron White, Nic Maddinson, Tom Cooper, Peter Nevill, Tim Cruickshank, Sam Whiteman, Luke Towers, Dom Michael, John Rogers, Michael Hill, Alex Carey, Steve Cazzulino, Sam Miller, Peter Handscomb, Daniel Hughes, Marcus Stonis and even the bowler Kane Richardson.

That's 31 men who batted at No. 3 last season; a mix of veterans, rookies and journeymen. And for all of that, only four centuries were made from first drop in the summer's 31 Shield matches. Not surprisingly, Khawaja (138 v Tasmania) and Hughes (120 v Victoria) made one each, while the other centurions were Doolan (149 v South Australia) and Hill (144 v Queensland).

Doolan might have sent a postcard from Victoria Falls on this year's Australia A tour, but otherwise has had nothing to write home about, and it is difficult to argue against Khawaja and Hughes as being the best Test options. Perhaps Khawaja will be given another chance at The Oval and grasp it, but the signs have not been promising. He may one day stamp himself as a Test batsman, but right now Khawaja at No. 3 looks wrong.

There is a strong argument that Hughes should get the job. Khawaja's strokeplay appears more sophisticated, but Hughes has the fight. He showed that during the first innings at Trent Bridge, when from No. 6 he scored a patient and mature 81 not out as Ashton Agar stole the limelight at the other end. But three low scores followed and Hughes was cut.

It is true that Hughes has issues against quality offspin, but Khawaja hasn't looked comfortable against Swann either. What Hughes has is the ability to score big - 21 first-class hundreds to Khawaja's 11 - and the proven capacity to make runs at Test level. He also has a reasonable record as a Test No.3 - 372 runs at 37.20 - but always seems the batsman most vulnerable to the axe, or to being shuffled around the order.

Since the start of this year's Indian tour, Hughes' Test batting positions look like this: 343343346644. Including tour matches, he has batted in every spot from opening to No. 6 on this trip. Hughes conceded on Wednesday that "at times it can be [difficult] if you keep changing your position in the order, but it's about getting your head around it, and if you do get consistent runs, you'll hold a spot. It can be tricky but it's a professional sport and it's up to the captain and the selectors to give you a position".

It is time to give Hughes the No.3 position and leave him there. He enjoys the new ball, converts and fights. Yes, sometimes he looks ugly doing it. But he is much less pretty batting further down against spin. And when it all comes down to it, he has been Australia's most effective No.3 since Ponting. He has contributed to the record century drought but he has come closer than anyone to breaking it. His last two innings at No.3 were 69 and 45 in trying conditions in India.

If given the opportunity, it is of course up to Hughes to take it. But for now, perhaps the selectors should think about Hughes as first drop, not the first dropped.

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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • jmcilhinney on August 15, 2013, 10:15 GMT

    Neither Khawaja nor Hughes have really looked the part during the current series but then who has? Many a good player has had a slow start to their career so there is yet time for him to blossom. Maybe he will, maybe he won't. England fans (of which I'm one) may scoff but we just need to look at the travails of Root and Bairstow this series to see that young and promising batsmen struggling at the top level is not confined to Australia. I just think most teams are too keen to get young players into the side too early. Sure, the step up is going to be tough for many regardless but I feel like about 24 should be the earliest that a batsman gets selected, which gives him time to really get his game sorted in FC cricket. If he's up to it, that still gives him a good 10 years or more of test cricket.

  • Roshan_P on August 21, 2013, 14:16 GMT

    @Beertjie, I don't think Warner is No. 3 material. I'm not sure his temperament and technique suits it. @Mandini, Hughes has scored 3 Test centuries from 26 Tests at an average of around 35. It's not much but it's a damn sight better than Smith, Khawaja, Watson (even accounting today's hundred) and Haddin. His stats would have been much better had he not been dropped soon after making his debut (after he scored 2 centuries and averaged 50) because of a few bad scores. That really demoralised him, but he has a fighting spirit and a tough temperament. If he gets an extended run of about 20 Tests in the top order I'm sure he will find his initial form.

  • Roshan_P on August 21, 2013, 14:08 GMT

    @Jono Makim - I suppose that's true. Khawaja should just probably be left to mature in Sheffield Shield for a while. When I saw his Test debut I thought, this guy could be Ponting's successor. He was classy, but quite poised and mature. Maybe if he wasn't dropped at the drop of a hat he would have developed in to a better player. Either Hughes or Rogers has got to be at 3 and the other should open, and I think Watto, based on his current innings, would be good in the lower order, maybe 5. There must be some better batsmen than Smith. He's had long enough and hasn't really proved himself. His form at first-class level hasn't been good either. Why not put Doolan or Maddinson at 6 until they develop the confidence to go higher up in the order.

  • Beertjie on August 21, 2013, 10:27 GMT

    Brydon, instead of new names for #3 the answer seems to me to be Warner. He's an attacking batsman who will dominate if he gets in and who's not too flash playing spinners. Hughes/Khawaja could open together with Rogers with Clarke at #4. Smith will do OK at the Gabba and Adelaide, but should not play at Perth and the G where the pace bowlers will work him over. By that time someone like Burns may have put up his hand and he could be trialled. That just leaves #5. Whoever puts up his hand in Shield could play - I hope this Watson/all-rounder mania is stopped. Siddle, Pattinson, Bird and Lyon seem altogether sufficient with Smiith adding occasional variety: So for the Gabba and Adelaide: Rogers, Hughes (or Khawaja if form justifies), Warner, Clarke, Ferguson (?!), Smith, Haddin, Pattinson, Siddle, Lyon, Bird.

  • MinusZero on August 19, 2013, 2:43 GMT

    Good call StewEdrich, where is Nic Maddinson? bobbsy - seriously...Maxwell...the last thing the Australian test team needs are more ODI players, thats the whole problem. The selectors are convinced that good ODI form mean a good test player (example Watson, good ODI, crap tests). Apart from Clarke, not many make the change well. With Watson and Warner all too happy to throw their wickets away, the last thing they need is Maxwell. Cowan, despite his lower scores has the temperament and patience for test cricket and number 3.

  • Mandini on August 18, 2013, 4:09 GMT

    Who are these people that keep pushing for Hughes. He has without any shadow of doubt proved that he is not a test standard batsman. Of his 49 test innings 27 have been scores of 20 or less, 17 of these were less than 10. His last 15 test innings average under 26 and includes 9 scores of 10 or less. There are tailenders with better records. It is time for Cricket Australia to get out from behind their desks and go searching for some good young cricketers, surely there are some out there.

  • on August 17, 2013, 6:06 GMT

    Better plan - locked room - Rogers, Warnya, Agar, Cownan. Kwaja and Hughes go in First Four out are the batting line up maybe chuck Smith in as well, Clarke 5, Watson LRO (left right out - he'd do a hammy walking in), Haddin, Wade and Paine (remember him?) same scenario, Starc, Siddle, Harris, Bird, Lyon given to the Wallabies to face the blacks, they need forwards that can carry teams on their backs and bring back Dizzy and Warney (both over they're so no airfares), I think Pidge is as well, Mitch as a bat/bowler, Beefy, cuz he got drunk in Queensland and...anyway he qualifies as an Aussie, sorta - problem solved

  • on August 17, 2013, 5:03 GMT

    Rogers 1, Warnya 2, Agar 3, Smith 4, Clarke 5, Watson LRO (left right out), Haddin 6, Starc 7, Siddle 8, Harris 9, Bird 10, Lyon 11 - problem solved

  • StewEdrich on August 17, 2013, 3:07 GMT

    I can't believe Nic Maddinson is not even being mentioned in this article. He was the best performed batsman by far in the recent series against South Africa A. This is not the misleading one day matches but the 4 day stuff where real cricketers are born. He also seems to bat well in any position in the order, which seems de rigueur with the new way of Aussie cricket. If Shaun Marsh is the answer then the wrong questions are being asked.

  • on August 16, 2013, 14:16 GMT

    @Roshan_P, Khawaja is not good enough against spin to bat down low. Smith is far better suited to this role I reckon as he looks more comfortable against quick bowling with every game and is very good against the spinners.

  • jmcilhinney on August 15, 2013, 10:15 GMT

    Neither Khawaja nor Hughes have really looked the part during the current series but then who has? Many a good player has had a slow start to their career so there is yet time for him to blossom. Maybe he will, maybe he won't. England fans (of which I'm one) may scoff but we just need to look at the travails of Root and Bairstow this series to see that young and promising batsmen struggling at the top level is not confined to Australia. I just think most teams are too keen to get young players into the side too early. Sure, the step up is going to be tough for many regardless but I feel like about 24 should be the earliest that a batsman gets selected, which gives him time to really get his game sorted in FC cricket. If he's up to it, that still gives him a good 10 years or more of test cricket.

  • Roshan_P on August 21, 2013, 14:16 GMT

    @Beertjie, I don't think Warner is No. 3 material. I'm not sure his temperament and technique suits it. @Mandini, Hughes has scored 3 Test centuries from 26 Tests at an average of around 35. It's not much but it's a damn sight better than Smith, Khawaja, Watson (even accounting today's hundred) and Haddin. His stats would have been much better had he not been dropped soon after making his debut (after he scored 2 centuries and averaged 50) because of a few bad scores. That really demoralised him, but he has a fighting spirit and a tough temperament. If he gets an extended run of about 20 Tests in the top order I'm sure he will find his initial form.

  • Roshan_P on August 21, 2013, 14:08 GMT

    @Jono Makim - I suppose that's true. Khawaja should just probably be left to mature in Sheffield Shield for a while. When I saw his Test debut I thought, this guy could be Ponting's successor. He was classy, but quite poised and mature. Maybe if he wasn't dropped at the drop of a hat he would have developed in to a better player. Either Hughes or Rogers has got to be at 3 and the other should open, and I think Watto, based on his current innings, would be good in the lower order, maybe 5. There must be some better batsmen than Smith. He's had long enough and hasn't really proved himself. His form at first-class level hasn't been good either. Why not put Doolan or Maddinson at 6 until they develop the confidence to go higher up in the order.

  • Beertjie on August 21, 2013, 10:27 GMT

    Brydon, instead of new names for #3 the answer seems to me to be Warner. He's an attacking batsman who will dominate if he gets in and who's not too flash playing spinners. Hughes/Khawaja could open together with Rogers with Clarke at #4. Smith will do OK at the Gabba and Adelaide, but should not play at Perth and the G where the pace bowlers will work him over. By that time someone like Burns may have put up his hand and he could be trialled. That just leaves #5. Whoever puts up his hand in Shield could play - I hope this Watson/all-rounder mania is stopped. Siddle, Pattinson, Bird and Lyon seem altogether sufficient with Smiith adding occasional variety: So for the Gabba and Adelaide: Rogers, Hughes (or Khawaja if form justifies), Warner, Clarke, Ferguson (?!), Smith, Haddin, Pattinson, Siddle, Lyon, Bird.

  • MinusZero on August 19, 2013, 2:43 GMT

    Good call StewEdrich, where is Nic Maddinson? bobbsy - seriously...Maxwell...the last thing the Australian test team needs are more ODI players, thats the whole problem. The selectors are convinced that good ODI form mean a good test player (example Watson, good ODI, crap tests). Apart from Clarke, not many make the change well. With Watson and Warner all too happy to throw their wickets away, the last thing they need is Maxwell. Cowan, despite his lower scores has the temperament and patience for test cricket and number 3.

  • Mandini on August 18, 2013, 4:09 GMT

    Who are these people that keep pushing for Hughes. He has without any shadow of doubt proved that he is not a test standard batsman. Of his 49 test innings 27 have been scores of 20 or less, 17 of these were less than 10. His last 15 test innings average under 26 and includes 9 scores of 10 or less. There are tailenders with better records. It is time for Cricket Australia to get out from behind their desks and go searching for some good young cricketers, surely there are some out there.

  • on August 17, 2013, 6:06 GMT

    Better plan - locked room - Rogers, Warnya, Agar, Cownan. Kwaja and Hughes go in First Four out are the batting line up maybe chuck Smith in as well, Clarke 5, Watson LRO (left right out - he'd do a hammy walking in), Haddin, Wade and Paine (remember him?) same scenario, Starc, Siddle, Harris, Bird, Lyon given to the Wallabies to face the blacks, they need forwards that can carry teams on their backs and bring back Dizzy and Warney (both over they're so no airfares), I think Pidge is as well, Mitch as a bat/bowler, Beefy, cuz he got drunk in Queensland and...anyway he qualifies as an Aussie, sorta - problem solved

  • on August 17, 2013, 5:03 GMT

    Rogers 1, Warnya 2, Agar 3, Smith 4, Clarke 5, Watson LRO (left right out), Haddin 6, Starc 7, Siddle 8, Harris 9, Bird 10, Lyon 11 - problem solved

  • StewEdrich on August 17, 2013, 3:07 GMT

    I can't believe Nic Maddinson is not even being mentioned in this article. He was the best performed batsman by far in the recent series against South Africa A. This is not the misleading one day matches but the 4 day stuff where real cricketers are born. He also seems to bat well in any position in the order, which seems de rigueur with the new way of Aussie cricket. If Shaun Marsh is the answer then the wrong questions are being asked.

  • on August 16, 2013, 14:16 GMT

    @Roshan_P, Khawaja is not good enough against spin to bat down low. Smith is far better suited to this role I reckon as he looks more comfortable against quick bowling with every game and is very good against the spinners.

  • Chaffers on August 16, 2013, 12:09 GMT

    Sounds like shuffling the deckchairs on the Titanic to me...

  • Roshan_P on August 16, 2013, 10:20 GMT

    Another option is to have Khawaja at No. 5 instead of Smith, since he is a more talented batsman, where it will probably be less demanding for him and he can play more freely. There is less pressure on a No. 5 than a No. 3. I think Hughes, and if he fails, Cowan, should be at three. If Rogers retires soon then one of them could open, or a young batsman like Maddinson could have a go. The pace bowlers can be interchangeable as there are so many good ones, but I would stick with Lyon as the spinner. My Aussie XI - 1. Warner; 2. Rogers (Hughes when he retires); 3. Hughes / Cowan; 4. Clarke; 5. Khawaja / some other batsman who has done well at first-class level; 6. Watson; 7. Haddin / Wade; 8. Johnson / Pattinson; 9. Siddle; 10. Harris; 11. Lyon.

  • bobbsy on August 16, 2013, 10:08 GMT

    Why is Shaun Marsh not in??Even Glen Maxwell who had almost murdered the Indian and the South African A sides-seems to be in good form and he can bowl a bit too.

  • Roshan_P on August 16, 2013, 9:52 GMT

    @Amogh Mathure - That's not true, literally every batting position in the Indian line-up, especially 3, 4 and 5, have been occupied by legends of the game for the past decade or more. That consistency was there throughout the line-up. Let's not forget India had Dravid, Ganguly, Sehwag, Laxman and others who were regularly in the team. Dravid occupied probably the most important position at No. 3. So don't glorify Sachin as the be all and end all of Indian batting.

  • Baxter_P on August 16, 2013, 9:43 GMT

    Ah, poor old Rob Quiney... destined to finish his career with a test average of 3.00. And he fell just one run short of 10 test runs. I think the guy who was discarded too hurriedly was Ed Cowan. Sure, he had a terrible test at Trent Bridge, but he battled and showed character in India and that I think entitled him to a few chances, particularly as he had to adapt to a new role (and adapting from opening to batting 3 is a bit of an adjustment). He's not the next Ponting, we can deduce that, but he has the characteristics to be a solid No. 3 for Australia - more so in my opinion than Khawaja or Hughes. A batting lineup that is susceptible to spectacular collapses, wickets falling in clusters and contains guys like Warner and Watson needs battlers who can stem the tide and/or complement those dashers (you have Rogers, but if you lost him cheaply, I'd prefer to have Cowan come in than Khawaja).

  • Roshan_P on August 16, 2013, 9:42 GMT

    @DylanBrah I would take Khawaja out and put Hughes in No. 3, but I would also take out Steve Smith and replace him with a good specialist batsman (not someone who is a decent batsman who can bowl a bit). I would keep Watson as he is a class player and when he plays well he can take the game away, in both batting and bowling, and he can be the team's allrounder at No. 6.

  • _Australian_ on August 16, 2013, 9:41 GMT

    I do think that Hughes deserves a longer go than has been given. He should have never been dropped so quickly to begin with and I thought was harshly delt with. Flintoff had most batsman's measure at one time or another so for a very young Hughes to be on the receiving end was almost expected. As for Khawaja, he is like many who look like that final leap to international cricket is beyond them and I for one am not a fan. Hughes to bat at 3 for me.

  • on August 16, 2013, 9:22 GMT

    I'm sorry, but for those suggesting Cowan at no. 3 that is never going to work, he is just not capable of pushing on with the job, something just as important as grinding it out. Whatever momentum our opening pair gives us will promptly be negated by Ed's one speed batting. He is an opener or nothing.

  • shouvicic on August 16, 2013, 7:18 GMT

    The bad patch still continues for Australia. Never realized the importance of spot no 3, as the best batsmen of the team drops in at no. 3. The good players have to retire at some point of time but we always find a replacement of it may be not of the same level but at least to certain extent. But for Australians, the scarce never seem to end after trying 31 batsmen for this spot. Looking at the current availability and based on their respective performance Hughes should be a better option by far.

  • SpadeaSpade on August 16, 2013, 7:14 GMT

    Mervo ol mate , Hughes has got the runs in first class cricket. He was dropped prematurely after admittedly struggling against flint off Which I might add he was not pat Malone in that series. The bloke has scored most his shield centuries as an opener as well as his 2 test tons. So give the bloke a go and get behind him as I'm sure he will go on to score many more test centuries.

  • shayad on August 16, 2013, 7:09 GMT

    For Last test 1.DA Warner 2.CJL Rogers 3.UT Khawaja 4.MJ Clarke 5.SR Watson 6.SPD Smith 7.BJ Haddin 8.AC Agar 9.MA Starc 10.PM Siddle 11.NM Lyon

  • jmcilhinney on August 16, 2013, 7:04 GMT

    @TheBigBoodha on (August 16, 2013, 6:11 GMT), because most of England's batsmen have a proven track record and are simply out of form whereas many of Australia's batsmen have no such record to speak of. Cook, Trott, KP and Prior have all under-performed this series but the likelihood of that continuing for too long is quite small as three of them average close to 50 and the fourth over 40. The only real question marks for England are Root as an opener (he's already performed well in the middle order) and Bairstow and there has been plenty of speculation about both of them. For Australia, Clarke has under-performed but is class and Rogers look quite capable of consistent contributions but everyone else looks iffy at best. Maybe they'll come good in time but that doesn't help right now. Hopefully the Australian management are playing the victim like you are because that means that they won't fix any issues and will continue to get beaten.

  • on August 16, 2013, 6:50 GMT

    Since Bryon mentions that the no.3 mustn't be the best batsman but "he must be up for a battle", there is a good case for Ed Cowan here. Cowan is intrinstically a battler, a fiddler who has a tendency to get going only after he has had some struggle. Hughes is a good choice but look at the last tour against India. Against a quality spin attack, testing conditions and seemingly strife like situations (which is life for no.3), it was Cowan (After Clarke) who showed a semblance of a fight. Also, he can be a useful addition in the leadership core which looks so impoverished at the moment. Hughes is a good choice but Cowan brings a lot of other things to the table. He(Cowan) needs to be given a longer run at no.3

  • ravi_hari on August 16, 2013, 6:39 GMT

    If not Hughes then who should be the question. Among the batters in the Ashes side, I dont think anyone will fit into the No.3 role better than Hughes. Khwaja is horrible and Cowan has not inspired confidence, One solution could be to have Huges as opener, the role he started his test career with and have Rogers come in at No.3. That could be a short term strategy. If Hughes and Warner settle down as openers, then one can find a replacement for Rogers when he calls it a day. Otherwise I think Hughes should get that position. Its true that Hughes struggles against spin. But apart from India, England and Pakistan, other countries do not have good spinners. Sri Lankan spinners have been ineffective overseas of late. So Hughes should be assured of No. 3 for atleast 4 to 5 tests and let him settle in. If he gets out cheaply even against seam or medium pace, then he does not deserve a place. However, I feel Hughes is a good talent who should be nurtured for better results in the long run.

  • balajik1968 on August 16, 2013, 6:29 GMT

    The No. 3 slot is pretty tough, the player needs to have the temperament of an opener, he could be in as early as the second ball. What that slot needs is someone with the temperament and technique of an opener. Maybe Cowan can fit the slot for some time.

    It is time Australia stops trying to fit in someone in a slot just because they want him in the team. I am referring to Watson. In contrast England have been pretty clear headed. They have picked players who fit a particular role. Trott was picked for No. 3 and he was persisted with, and he is doing well there(maybe not this series). They did not pick Root and make him open. They picked him because he was an opener. This is the sort of clear thinking the Aussies need.

  • TheBigBoodha on August 16, 2013, 6:11 GMT

    Why are there so many stories about Australia's batting when England's has been just as bad this series? If AUS had won the three games they have come very close to winning, everyone would be blasting England's batsmen. And I do believe tAus posted 7/530 in the second last test. England is yet to pass 400 this series, and Eng have had by far the better of batting conditions after winning three tosses and batting first on dry tracks designed for Swann late in the game. Notably when Eng lost the toss and couldn't bat first only rain and bad light prevented a thrashing. Lyon was turning it sideways in the 4th innings - then the rain. One has to wonder what would have happened if Australia had won the toss three times.

  • DylanBrah on August 16, 2013, 5:46 GMT

    IN: Hughes OUT: Watson -- Hughes is young and has more FC/Test centuries. Easy decision! Not convinced with Khawaja though - he hasn't scored significant runs at FC level in years. Let him play the 5th Test and if he fails I'd like to see Maddinson play in the home Ashes series, if his form continues. He is someone who can score BIG, unlike Khawaja/Cowan/Doolan etc. 5th Test XI: 1. Rogers 2. Warner 3. Hughes 4. Clarke 5. Khawaja 6. Smith 7. Haddin 8. Starc 9. Siddle 10. Bird 11. Lyon - Rest Harris for the home series.

  • Mervo on August 16, 2013, 5:27 GMT

    Completely wrong. He has had 2 and a half years of tolerance and he has NO TECHNIQUE against pace or spin. We cant wait 10 years for his mediocre talent to be expressed. Players get into Test team because they have the runs, not to learn how to play. He is NOT the answer. He cant change his poor technique. Go for a more experienced player like Adam Voges. Kawaja has more future potential as he has the technique for Test cricket and also the capacity to adapt.

  • Gurudumu on August 16, 2013, 5:13 GMT

    Those harping that Hughes should get a run at 3 see something I don't! After the SA series, all bowlers from different countries have worked him out and got him OUT. He's a sitting duck for balls going across him (bowled Martin caught Guptill -- how many times consecutively?). Honestly, any batsman worth the salt would not have fallen to the same shot so many times - enough said about Hughes - He's not and will never be a Test batsman. As for Khawaja, I have said here before, give him one last chance in the 5th Test - if he fails, then drop him and give guys like S Marsh, Maddinson and Doolan a run.

  • on August 16, 2013, 5:06 GMT

    Everyone forgets that Kawaja was the top scorer before Australia in his first test and was then dropped. Now he has top scored again, but there is talk of dropping him. This no doubt creates tension for him and affects his performance. Let the know all commentators who are invariably wrongkepp out of it. The selectors must tell Khawaja that he is in the team, his place is secure and watch the results.

  • wellrounded87 on August 16, 2013, 4:47 GMT

    @Oscar Vieira Khawaja hasn't been given a decent crack. I agree hughes should be back in the side but not at the expense of Khawaja. Smith should be the one to go. Khawaja has the temperment and technique for test cricket he just seems to lack confidence he needs time at the crease to get more comfortable. Smith has not earned his spot nor done anything to keep it. Khawaja at least has been scoring the runs at first class to earn his spot.

    After just a handful of test matches you can't take their average at any kind of value. After 20-30 tests you can guage them by their average.

  • ColinFunkyMiller on August 16, 2013, 4:04 GMT

    Bringing back Hughes isn't the answer to Australia's batting woes. Khawaja needs more time and faith. A big score, and in turn, confidence, is just around the corner. He has the technique, he has the temperament, he's just lacking big game experience. Look at Ian Bell, he was worse than Khawaja when he started off in his test career, now he is one of the best batsman in the world. Australia needs to have patience with players like Usman, sure, he's not paying dividends right now, but he's a long term investment. Hughes may still have a place in the future of the Australian team, but he's had many more chances than Khawaja to prove his worth. To drop Khawaja after a few bad games (with some unlucky dismissals as well mind you) would be the antithesis of good future planning from CA. Khawaja is a player of great worth, and the key to his success is time and support.

  • DragonCricketer on August 16, 2013, 3:43 GMT

    Dunrossil: Yes I like Klinger. Good idea. Open with Klinger and Rogers. I tire of everyone saying Khawaja looks classy. But he never gets any runs !! Whats he doing there ? Don't they like Hughes? He had 3 low scores but he was very unlucky with 2 of those. Hey: Gautam N. Shenoy says "Hughes can't play swing, seam movement or spin." He hasn't done too bad for someone who cant bat. One of the worlds top inform batsmen last year. In all three types of the game. So there !! Phillip Hughes for Prime Minister

  • on August 16, 2013, 3:41 GMT

    Couldn't agree more with the article. If Khawaja's still in the side, it's purely because the selectors are worried about not giving guys a real go. But it's silly, Phil Hughes is the best younger batsman going round by a country mile, in fact, at first class level, there's hardly anyone getting more runs at a higher clip not named Ricky Ponting.

  • himanshu.team on August 16, 2013, 3:15 GMT

    I wonder why Brendon wants to be so sympathetic to Hughes, but discard Khawaja. He has mentioned last two inning of Huges in India. Those innings were after the damage was already done. Prior to it, let along centuries fifties or even tens: He was struggling to make even a single run against spinners. The zeros mentioned in the article were mostly given by Huges if I am not wrong. I feel Hughes has had his chances and has not been able to cement his place in the side. Right now, it is Khawaja's turn. He should get atlest 5 test matches as a no.3 and if he fails bring someone back in. Hughes can still come in the side as no batsman has impressed besides Rogers. But for no.3 Khawaja should get a prolonged run.

  • munna_indian on August 16, 2013, 3:00 GMT

    An side under transformation needs to be given ample opportunities in the long run. the problem with the aussies is that, after the retirements of the last of the great, ponting, this newly formed unit has directly run into a red hot new look indian team in india and now another big series in the ashes. had this team, with or without khawaja or hughes or any new comer, been playing on a consistent basis against slightly weaker teams in their own backyard for some time, then they would surely develop into world beaters. clarke need not panic with the way things have taken shape for this fighting unit will be world beaters when they have more exposures in their kitty.

  • popcorn on August 16, 2013, 2:35 GMT

    I do not agree .Hughes is not consistent in Test matches. His 21 centuries came in girst class games; against tame oppositon.He has only 2 in Test Cricket.He has got three recalls - he has failed in every one of them.Bowlers and Captains and slip fielders from England,India, New Zealand have all found him out.A sitting duck. Why are we in such a hurry to banish Khawaja? Check out after how many Tests, did the greats at Number 3 get their first hundred in Test Cricket.Give Khawaja the Oval Test and this summer - 5 Tests to score centuries.By that time, give Alex Doolan or Rob Quiney a Test at number 4.If only Shane Watson can get over his huge front foot malaise, he would be a good Top Three Engine Room batsman.

  • Scuderi on August 16, 2013, 2:32 GMT

    People are so critical. A player like Hughes has a lot of talent, but the only way he will learn to bat against world class spin is to face world class spin. Everyone seems to think Hughes' 20 FC tons are a fluke. I say watch him, he can bat, but he is 24 years old and needs some time in the test team. Remember Damien Martyn, Justin Langer, Matthew Hayden & Steve Waugh all failed early in their careers. Hughes should have been brought into the team 2-3 years ago as a number 5 or 6 to learn the trade. The selectors are failing him.

  • on August 16, 2013, 2:29 GMT

    Wow some pretty stupid posts in here, Steve Waugh who I believe is a very level headed person said. "Phillip Hughes has scored 21 first class centuries by the age of 24, the kid can obviously bat he just need to be given time" Test centuries in australian batting lineup Rogers 1, Warner 3, Khawaja 0, Clarke 24, Smith 0, Watson 2, Haddin 3. Hughes has 3. Numbers are on the board for Hughes whereas Khawajas top score in tests is 65, let me put that into perspective, Mitchell Starc averages 31.2 in Tests with a high score of 99, Khawaja averages 25.13. Not only is his average poor he doesn't score big runs.

  • on August 16, 2013, 2:25 GMT

    Surprisingly there no mention of Rahul Dravid (for that matter even VVS), when its a topic of First drop...arguably the best 1 down batsmen in the world to shield the likes of Sachin & Saurav.....

  • on August 16, 2013, 2:12 GMT

    Long term: Warner at 3, Jordan Silk to open with Rogers. For now, at the Oval, give Hughes a chance at 3, and drop Khawaja.

  • funkybluesman on August 16, 2013, 1:21 GMT

    The big issue is not any of these individual players but simply the fact that too much of the team is players trying to find their way. As has been pointed out, so many of the top batsmen in world cricket had early struggles and had to work through them and work out how to fight through the tough periods at international level.

    It's a lot easier to let them do that when it's one or two young players (like England who have 2 young players in the top 7 and are able to carry them for a bit while they give them a chance to make runs).

    Hughes made 100 in each innings against South Africa, boasting the best pace attack in world cricket, in just his 2nd test. There was a shield match in Hobart a few years back where NSW were bowled out for well under 200 in each innings on a seaming green top where Hughes carried his bat for a century and a 90 something in each innings.

    To say he can't play the moving ball is to be ignorant. He needs consistent games in a consistent spot.

  • Yoker111 on August 16, 2013, 1:07 GMT

    I believe the only batsmen who has the skill and talent to bat at 3 for ausi at the moment is Bailey. Unfortunately he is not given a test run of which i think he truely deserves it for he is a class cricketer and his temperament will suit the game and the slot to bat at 3.

  • on August 16, 2013, 1:06 GMT

    People always say khawaja is better than Hughes... Yet there is no proof, khawaja actually looks worse than Hughes against Swann, he has made half the number of centuries Hughes has and averages 5-10 runs less in all forms of the game... I think the Ricky Pontind-esk pull shot and silk he possess makes people nostalgic... And when did Hughes suddenly become a bad player of seam and swing? the only pace ball he's gotten out to recently was because he got too excited and missed it...

  • MinusZero on August 16, 2013, 1:05 GMT

    I am a Hughes fan, but what about Nic Maddinson, he played well for Aus A. Watson must retire from tests. The team is carrying him.

  • Cricket_theBestGame on August 16, 2013, 0:52 GMT

    whats wrong with warner coming in at No3 with cowan and rogers opening? surly given the responsibilty of No3 to warner he'll take it. he has shown aggression with caution in his 71 runs. this will give him confidence and yes i think he'll be the future captain of aus !!

    khawja is a middle order batsman. he needs time to settle in the middle. hughes, well he had plenty of chances hasn't he. he may well return but for now leave him in sheffied cricket for couple of years. he is only 23 or 24yrs so has time on his side to come back.

  • Nik84 on August 16, 2013, 0:51 GMT

    standard of aussie cricket has gone down big time i would say and they have only themselves to blame. first pre-mature retirements of some really good players starting from waugh bros , bevan , martyn to ricky and hussey. coz they got good replacements so they thought it will work forever, for test cricket there is no age bar so katich, hodge, d. hussey, bailey should be in the squad ok fine no t-20 or may be 50-50 for those but bringing in new players for no reason is just stupidity and lack of knowledge plus this T-20 has killed the technique of players. no one believes in leaving the ball. see trott, bell or even check old videos of hayden, langer, tendulkar, dravid, laxman , waughs and all. i think there wont be any joy for any team beating australia now as they have really killed their standards plus their lust for t-20 big bash makes things even more difficult to recover. there will be a WI now. when india tour WI these days they win so shows no threat same goes for AUS

  • Hoff90 on August 16, 2013, 0:32 GMT

    Hughes' time will come when rogers retires, then he can have a real opportunity opening the batting, away from spin. Although Khawaja hasnt done much at 3, he should be given a proper opportunity there at least for a few more games!

  • dsig3 on August 15, 2013, 23:51 GMT

    They both look very suspect at times. Khawaja is nice to watch but appears to nonchalant at times. Hughes looks horrible but has a god given ability to flay any ball on the offside. Unfortunately thats the best we have and they both have to play. At which spot does not really matter at the moment because they will be out in the middle sooner or later.

  • Pookie_06 on August 15, 2013, 23:51 GMT

    It can be very difficult to switch batting positions, especially mentally. A lot of batsmen (even park cricketers) like to imagine game situations where they're likely to come in to bat and who they're likely to face etc. If you don't know where you're going to be batting at any given time, it can be very difficult to get into the right frame of mind to actually go out and perform. Phil Hughes has made big, big runs at both domestic and international level and while he may not have shown that he's fully developed his overall game he's certainly shown he enough raw talent (keeping in mind, he's never really been secured a place in the side for any length of time - which can't help his mental development). Lets not forget he is still only 24 years old. For perspective, when Ricky Ponting got dropped in 1999 due to poor form, he was 25. This was before he went on to be our test and one day captain, not to mention most prolific run scorer in Australian test and ODI history.

  • on August 15, 2013, 23:46 GMT

    Why do not play Cameron White? or for that matter George Bailey?

  • wellrounded87 on August 15, 2013, 23:34 GMT

    @Jagger so who do you think should be our openers? Warner is quality and is constantly evolving his game.

    You need to have more patience and realise that not everyone comes off the blocks flying like Ricky Ponting. Matt Hayden was averaging in the 20's for the first 6 years of his career before he found the consistency to completely destroy attacks. Warner is doing better than Hayden did at the same point in his career and has shown he has the ability to take the game away from oppoisition. He's also not useless against spin he just is better with the ball coming onto the bat. Once he's in he can play spin just fine but when he's getting started he's susceptable to spin

  • on August 15, 2013, 23:29 GMT

    Hughes is best protected at no. 6 but then again if Khawaja is allowed to bat at no. 6 he will match Ricky Ponting's average at no. 6 too all he needs is an extended run. Australia's opening pair has not protected the middle order and thus the series of low scores. In England the ball swings, Hughes's average as no. 3 in bowler friendly pitches would be poorer than Khawaja.

    It didn't help that he got the worst umpiring decision from Srilankan umpire but other than that there is enough to suggest that if he is allowed to bat at 5 or 6 he will flourish. We tend to forget that both Watson or Steve Smith is technically less sound than Khawaja and thus even at 5 & 6, they are being exposed but if they were 3 and 4, they would have scored lot less than being at 5 & 6. If you want to protect a player's career keep them at 5 & 6 and promote your best batsmen to 3 & 4. Clarke will also struggle at 3.

  • heathrf1974 on August 15, 2013, 22:50 GMT

    I completely agree. Khawaja at the moment is out of his depth and should go back to first class cricket to work on his game. Hughes should play in the fifth test. Steve Smith maybe under a bit of pressure as well.

  • raulraj on August 15, 2013, 22:29 GMT

    Australia were a great team but not only because of : Pointing, shane . Mcgrath and Hayden.........They always had handy contibutions from Players like: Symonds, D Martin, Katich, Gillespe,Andy Bichel, Darren Lehman, Brad Hogg....Whenever one of greats had off day..these gud enough players performed....the problem with australia is they dont even have next symonds or Lehman in making....forget replacing Great 6....Every member of this team needs atleast 10 matches to be judged...let them be gud enough uf they are not gud enough or if u dont find gud enough....stop changing the batting order too much..if it is not gud enoug...if a captain does this so much..may be he is not gud enough....A Cricket Fan!!

  • Ozcricketwriter on August 15, 2013, 22:01 GMT

    No way does Hughes deserve a spot in the squad, or any other squad, ever again. His technique is all wrong and leads to him being out cheaply every time. Wait until he fixes his technique, then talk. Until then, do not even mention his name.

  • on August 15, 2013, 21:53 GMT

    if khawaja doesnt use his feet against spin he wont make big scores.. watching him against swann its always a matter of time.. he looks good against pace but out of his depth against swann

  • Tornado1 on August 15, 2013, 21:46 GMT

    I cant understand why the selectors don't consider some one like Adam Voges or George Bailey? I'm sure they are much much better than atleast Steve Smith, hughes, Shaun Marsh or Khuwaja. Anybody knows what qualifies Voges as "only" an ODI player? if his attacking intent then guys like Pietersen or Viv Richards should n't have played test cricket at all.

  • ScottStevo on August 15, 2013, 21:38 GMT

    @Selassie-I, can you please explain the jaffer that Clarke was dismissed by in the 1st innings of the last test? Looked more to me like a full, wide, nothing delivery met with a swish lacking any foot movement or judgement whatsoever that could've either easily been left on line, or pummeled on length with any movement of the feet towards the pitch of the ball...thanks for the analysis though, mate, and you're expert opinion on positions within a line up based on macho-ism! Why isn't Pieterson at 3 then for Eng when he's your best bat???? @Sunil, since when did Hughes have 2 full series @ #3?

  • LePom on August 15, 2013, 21:31 GMT

    "@RKB21 on (August 15, 2013, 15:54 GMT) @Amogh Mathure, I agree with you completely. It's just sad that some writers will go to any length with their choice of words in portraying Sachin Tendulkar in bad light even if it is factually incorrect."

    I think you are being overly sensitive and perceiving insult where none was intended, just as there was no insult directed at Len Hutton for being an opener not a No. 3.

    If you were to actually read what was said it was all about the myth that the best batsman bats at No.3, and Tendulkar was used as an example of the best batsman in a team that did not bat at No3, in spite of having batted in more than one other position.

    There was no implication that this was a bad thing. He certainly did not lack success batting in other positions in his team.

  • pat_one_back on August 15, 2013, 21:23 GMT

    Hughes has been over coached since being found a little short on shot selection and this then culminated in his debacle of a NZ tour. He scored many a run against many a good bowler prior to being rebuilt on the back of a couple of poor previous ashes showings. If he can get some confidence back in his natural game, his improved on side game will serve him well up the order. I'd personally like to see Hughes back opening and Warner at 3 or Rogers even but Khawaja definitely looks middle order and out of place against the new ball. Unlike any other potential, Hughes has proven his worth in FC cricket with big 100's and likely has more test tons than Watson despite far fewer tests.

  • on August 15, 2013, 21:21 GMT

    those scores of 69 and 45 were on a very difficult wicket against Indian spinners who were bowling well and were high on confidence after dominating Aussie batsmen in last 3 test matches. Hughes had terrible series till that time. Hughes is a fighter and has played quality knocks against good bowlers and has dominated in those innings. I will stick my neck out and say He is one of the future greats, persist with him Australian selectors. Khawaja is better to watch but he is not a fighter.

  • on August 15, 2013, 20:38 GMT

    Bryan seems to have a soft corner for Hughes. If Aussies have to become Topdog then they need a consummate batsman at No.3 who is atleast a 80% replacement for Ricky Ponting. This calls for searching for the right replacement who has the technique and temperament to perform. Experience will come once the incumbent gets some Test matches under the belt. Hughes can at best be a no. 4 on pitches which have pace and bounce. Both Hughes and Kwaja are transition players and will not last a decade like Ricky Ponting or Mike Hussey. It is a waste of time trying to make both do what they cannot.

  • on August 15, 2013, 20:22 GMT

    Michael Clarke should bat No 3 . he is captain and he feel deep down in his heart he have responsibilities. He should give another go at No 3 i just have feeling he is gonna be one the the best No 3 for Australia

  • Herbet on August 15, 2013, 20:03 GMT

    Surely Chris Rogers' (relative) success in this series proves that, in the short term at least, Australia are best off going with somebody who is experienced and knows their game. A test match is no place to learn your game, even more so whilst batting at 3 in a losing side, and Khawaja and Smith are still way way too raw. Hughes, for all his faults, has talent, as his domestic record shows. Why he gets shunted all over the place and dropped whilst Steve Smith gets games is well beyond me. My Australia team would be Warner, Rogers, Hughes, Clarke, D. Hussey, Watson, Haddin, Pattinson, Siddle, Lyon, Harris. Then drip feed in the younger players when they are in form and the side has turned itself around a bit.

  • hycIass on August 15, 2013, 19:07 GMT

    Well said Flemingmitch, ussie is our best number 3, but funny how we jump on him when he has only had half the chances of his predecessors, watch out for him to fire in the oval test, he is getting better every time he bats, had he not got a howler in Manchester we would not even be having this conversation

  • jackthelad on August 15, 2013, 18:53 GMT

    Chappelli, Boon, Langer, Ponting; every one a world-class player at number three. Compare:- Khawaja, Hughes. End of story, I think.

  • 2MikeGattings on August 15, 2013, 18:39 GMT

    England won't mind at all if Hughes comes back, considering he averages 19.75 in the Ashes after 7 tests. Mind you, England won't mind if Khawaja stays at number 3 either. The pair of them are like the Australian Hick and Ramprakash.

  • on August 15, 2013, 18:30 GMT

    Well, Hughes is an investment gone bust for the Australians. Can't play spin, can't play the short stuff, can't play the moving ball. Even when he scored those knocks of 69 and 45, he never looked in control. The only time he looked in control in the last 6 tests he played was during that knock of 81. We can understand batsmen being a bit inconsistent, but in the case of Hughes, its been a bit too much and for too long. Try Khawaja a bit more, or bring someone like Marsh back in. Hughes isn't really the answer though Clarke favors him and Coverdale supports everything that Clarke does.

  • jlw74 on August 15, 2013, 18:06 GMT

    Hughes should never have been removed from the number 3 spot full stop. He may have some technical glitches to put it mildly but his hand eye has seen him peel off 21 FC centuries by the age of 24 you do not do that if your no good and have a weakness to all bowling as one commenter wrote. Shunted all around the batting order and dropped on a whim its no wonder he doesn't know if he is coming or going. Khawaja seems the more natural number 4 and Hughes the more natural number 3 at the moment. I can see the logic behind playing blokes that are older and have experience but not to many can boast Hughes's figures. His form on this tour didn't warrant his axing he just seems to be the whipping boy of Australian cricket. I like him and hope that he shuts the knockers up quite soon and goes on to have the career that we Aussie fans thought was coming after his exploits v Sth Africa back in 09.

  • on August 15, 2013, 18:05 GMT

    The way things are with Australia right now, I can't think of anyone who's good enough to bat at 3. It looks like Khawaja and Hughes are the best candidates, but they haven't done well. It is sad to see how Australian cricket has declined in the last 3 years or so. Ponting was a legend and the number 3s they have now are very ordinary. I honestly don't see this crop taking Australia up. They need a new set of talented and consistent cricketers to improve. The bowling attack looks good but the batting is just horrible to say the least. Will we see another West Indies?

  • Flemo_Gilly on August 15, 2013, 17:44 GMT

    Khawaja is the best player for 3, he just deserves a real shot and we will have our next number 3 ,if you want to see his fighting qualities i suggest you watch his innings against Tasmania where he outscored Tasmania on his own earlier this season

  • on August 15, 2013, 17:32 GMT

    in all this talk it should not be forgotten that captain clarke also needs to score consistently...he has just got one hundred in four tests...which means he has not contributed a lot in seven other innings...you can't keep saying he's the best batsman and he got a ripper and all that...he has to score

  • on August 15, 2013, 17:24 GMT

    I think Australia should give hughes a chance to open with roger,warner 1 down,khwaja 2 down,clarke 3 down ,Watson 4 down and how it is down the order.haddin should be left out to make room for hughes and warner should keep wickets because he has done it in domestic cricket.

  • Amith_S on August 15, 2013, 17:09 GMT

    @jagger as an immigrant whose kids are coming through the system in Australia your comments on the quota system are hurtful, Khawaja has earned his position at 3 through sheer weight of runs and is the man for the role. He top scored in Lords and you would have seen the decision he got last game, those sort of comments may have applied to SA but here we pick the best players to win the game and Khawaja deserves to be there.

  • Paul_Rampley on August 15, 2013, 17:05 GMT

    Khawaja is our best young option at number 3, best young player in Aus of swing and will do well if we give him a real shot at this role, which i think will happen.

  • Sunil_Batra on August 15, 2013, 17:02 GMT

    Unlike Hughes who had 2 full series there or Marsh who also had a real go at this role Khawaja has had 3 tests in this role where he top scored in Lords, got a howler last game and so he deserves at least a full series before we make judgements. He is tailored made for this role and has done this successfully for his shield side whereas Hughes has never batted at this position for his state. Give the kid a a real chance and i think pup and boof will.

  • Rahulbose on August 15, 2013, 16:48 GMT

    CA should organize more T20 matches, that is the only way to produce test quality No3 batsmen.

  • din7 on August 15, 2013, 16:45 GMT

    well again evry1 speakin against khwaja forgettin he has played only 9 tests compared to hughes 26 avg 32..i dont say to drop hughes he shld continue in place of smith. i dont think smith will ever be a test batsmen its tough but thats what it is...also the problem with hughes is whenever he fails he scores in single digit as 2,3,4 etc this really doesnt help..he has to score atleast 20 to 40 runs which will help in partnership..though khawaja failed he score atleast those 21 runs which helped in partnetship..and above all he has the best technique among all except clarke, its just mental with him..he just need a ton to start belivein in his abilities alsothere arent any better ones in domestic either so aus shld not drop them..just continue with current squad except smith i know hes goin to get dropped sooner or later.he just isnt test material...

  • jimwhatever on August 15, 2013, 16:20 GMT

    this might seem an immature comment but aus should consider including nic maddinson

  • on August 15, 2013, 16:02 GMT

    Hughes can't play swing, seam movement or spin. No wonder he has been shuffled across so many positions. How can you hide a batsman who has a weakness against virtually all types of bowling? Batting at no.3 on the India tour is much easier especially in the first innings. That Hughes got 69 and 45 there when there was no assistance for bowlers is nothing to write home about. Get over Hughes! The very fact that someone who has a weakness against bowling in general came through the Shield system is s shame in itself.

  • RKB21 on August 15, 2013, 15:54 GMT

    @Amogh Mathure, I agree with you completely. It's just sad that some writers will go to any length with their choice of words in portraying Sachin Tendulkar in bad light even if it is factually incorrect. This article is about batting problems the current Australian squad is going through and should not have been a refrendum on Sachin or any other current non-Australian player.

  • Dunrossil on August 15, 2013, 15:53 GMT

    What about Michael Klinger? After a slow start in England he is now averaging 64 in all forms of the game this season with 1788 runs and six centuries. A natural opener, he has sold his wicket dearly and has played at 3 for his state. What's more, he has made those around him better: Dent, Gidman and Marshall are having career years. He has maturity and Rogers has shown that age shouldn't be a problem.

  • Jagger on August 15, 2013, 15:41 GMT

    We already have a number 3. His name is Chris Rogers. Bobby Simpson made a 100 at 40 so history shows us age is no reason why Rogers can't play Test cricket for another 5 years.

    Warner is not a Test opener. Neither is Watson, Hughes, Clarke, Khawaja, Cowan, Klinger, Wade, Haddin, or anyone else they've tried there recently.

    Since when did a prerequisite for the job of opener become "Useless at playing spinners"?

    What we need is two fighting openers and Rogers at 3, because although we have had up to 5 openers in our team at any one time, none of them were any bloody good.

  • on August 15, 2013, 15:33 GMT

    Like for no. 4 in Indian team, for more than decade, Australian no. 3 spot was never up for grabs when it came for selecting the side. The phenomenon which might have forced best of the rest to concentrate on other spots down the order (in domestic competition) to get into national team. Similar thing happened here in India for no. 4 spot. Raina, Yuvraj, Rohit, all had to think of any other spot but no.4 in tests right from their childhood. Fortunately, the second batch of India is talented enough to fill the spot as and when Sachin retires as can be seen from their performances. In case of Australia under Clarke - who himself seems to be unsure of his plans of team building, may be due to failure of players to meet his set standards - have been tried below par players. Watson, Marsh, Khwaja are not mentally tough enough whereas Hughes is not technically capable enough. A tough but important call in the process of team building where they need a "Boon" to boon their prospects.

  • Jagger on August 15, 2013, 15:23 GMT

    Khawaja should never, ever have replaced Hughes at first drop. There seems to be an Aussie version of South Africa's quota system creeping into the Australian hierarchy recently. The loud voice of the minority perhaps?

    A politician's thirst for votes must be kept out of sport. I can't live without cricket but I can certainly do with a few less politicians, Mr. Sutherland.

  • Chris_P on August 15, 2013, 15:11 GMT

    @Mad_Hamish. You like stats then? OK, From the last Australian season to current (that is the most recent seasons) Watson averages a little over 25 & Hughes 29, both terrible but I would suggest Watson's is a far poorer performer. Watson the bowler in the same period? Averages 67.25! Hughes to his credit averaged over 50 in first class cricket last season in Australia, something I am afraid Watson will never do again. Hughes is not yet 25 yo & has been shunted from pillar to post & never given an extended run, unlike Watson. Sorry, can't agree with you on Watson.

  • on August 15, 2013, 15:08 GMT

    Just a reminder..... Sachin Tendulkar never avoided 1 drop position but there was never a vacancy during most of his career. When he came into the side there was Sanjay Manjarekar, who was technically best equipped in that side which also has Azharuddin. By the time Sanjay faded away, Sachin was well settled at 4 and Rahul Dravid grabbed the 1 down spot in his 1st test only. Since then he had it in his grasp except for some period when it was in Laxman's hold. Now Pujara has made it his home. So, it is wrong in saying that Sachin avoided batting 1-down. Fortunately, India is blessed with technically best and mentally tough no.3s during last 20-25 years.

  • on August 15, 2013, 15:03 GMT

    Never agreed so much, Hughes is an exciting cricketer who is proven to get runs, he has always been messed around. Khawaja just looks dodgey at the 3 at the moment, give him more first class cricket time before he plays 3 for Australia

  • CricketMaan on August 15, 2013, 14:30 GMT

    I have read a lot about Mark Cosgrove, im told he had weight problems and so not fit to play, but didnt Boon and Boof have the same? If a batsman is good at scoring let him play, he is not there to show is body rather score off good balls!!

  • Selassie-I on August 15, 2013, 14:28 GMT

    IMHO, Clarke should man up and bat at number 3, he's the hardest player to dismiss in the Aussie team so that's where he should bat. It's taken a Jaffa to get rid of him in every innings, he's just unlucky that Jimmy, broad or Swann have always managed to produce on at the right time early in his innings. There is simply no onther option, with an aggressive opener Aus need to have a player who will be hard to dismiss at 3, just like india did having Dravid come in after Sehwag.

    Usman Khawaja just doesn't look like a test batsman at the moment, let alone one at 3.

    And yes Warner fails a lot, but he puts the team in a good position when he does well and gets the opposition on the back foot straight away. It's the risk you take having an aggressive opener like him, dishan or sehwag.

  • Mad_Hamish on August 15, 2013, 14:26 GMT

    Since his debut series Hughes has 1 100 & 6 50s in 43 innings and has 1120 runs @ 27. Not seeing any great evidence that he's going to be making huge scores in tests, Watson who has been bagged massively has 9 50s and a higher average over the same number of innings.

  • AtulManocha on August 15, 2013, 14:21 GMT

    From the present squad, i think Australia should rather given Steven Smith a chance to come up the order at number 3. You need someone who can push the things a bit. Aus have been bogged down so many times after having lost the wickets. Smith has shown his ability to face the swing and spin. He can score quickly when needed. He can occupy the crease. Also he is in his early 20s. Why you want to try someone in in his 30s to establish at number 3 and then struggle 2 yrs down the line. I think Smith has a good cricketing brain, he has shown some fighting spirit which is lacking in the Australian team.

  • on August 15, 2013, 14:17 GMT

    I rather agree with Steve Waugh. Aus must stick with khawaja. He is as stylish as Mark Waugh, just need a bit of confidence which will only come with time. Dropping players after one or two bad performances is the worst thing you can to these players.

  • on August 15, 2013, 14:16 GMT

    Hughes has never been persevered with in one position. He needs time to settle in and grow in a position without the fear of getting the chop. Personally, I believe its time for the selectors to also look at the allrounder spot. Moises Henriques has done an admirable job for Australia A both with bat and ball and has no fitness issues. He should be brought in and developed as a #6. I also think Australia has persevered with Watson for long enough now. Over the years and in between breaking down, he has been moly coddled and although he has promised much, he's delivered little more than cameos with bat and ball, yet he is still there being 'managed'. Here's a small piece of advice to the Australian selectors "His fitness issues aren't going to get any better as he gets older!"... start looking!

  • Roshan_P on August 15, 2013, 14:13 GMT

    Test matches is not the time or place to experiment!!! Experimenting with different players and testing out their skills should be done in first-class level. I reckon Australia should get together and work out who their most talented batsmen, bowlers and fielders are, get a proper team together and stick with that. Mitchell Johnson is surely more talented than Jackson Bird, so why isn't he in the squad? Even if a player doesn't do well for a while, you can't drop them at the drop of a hat!

  • on August 15, 2013, 14:02 GMT

    Could not agree more. Give Hughes more of a run. Whatever you think of him, you have to agree he is the best we have for this job.

  • on August 15, 2013, 13:51 GMT

    Phillip Hughes career was seriously derailed on the last Ashes tour, before which he dominated South Africa in South Africa & scored a mountain of runs in county cricket. He was in great from for the 2009 Ashes but was dropped after four innings & told his technique had let him down. Who in their right mind would tell a nineteen year old (whose first class average was 60 at the time) that their technique wasn't up to scratch after four innings & where he'd copped deliveries most batsman wouldn't get a bat on. Ever since 2009 Hughes hasn't been the same confidence-wise & has tinkered with his technique over & over. I feel sorry for Hughes as he seems a humble lad who obviously enjoys his cricket immensely. We can thank Ponting for ruining his confidence in 2009 & now Clarke for shuffling Hughes up & down the order & then seeing fit to drop him. Remember, it's a team game Michael Clarke.

  • HawK89 on August 15, 2013, 13:46 GMT

    Shaun Marsh has batted at 3 before. Hes an opening batsmen and has looked solid in the ODI's prior to injury. Cowan has lost it and played like someone he isn't. Someone needs to calm Cowan down and put him up for contention at 3. Hughes is a scoring batsmen and plays some of the best cover drives, he needs to bat at 5 or 6 all the time. I don't know how he plays as an opening batsmen for NSW, but looking at Australia's poor results with the new ball, I kinda see how.

  • YorkshirePudding on August 15, 2013, 13:44 GMT

    @Blakey, I suppose using the current australian batting line up, (Clarke Excluded) a big score is 81, so far this year hes played 7 tests and averages 27.6.

    Trott, even though hes in a bit of a slump at the moent averages 32.7.

    The last time Hughes had a big score was in 2011, where he scored 126, in comparision the last big score of Trott was 121, this year.

  • Jeremy303 on August 15, 2013, 13:40 GMT

    It seems that every team has a plan against Hughes and they mostly seem to work instantaneously. He looks frail against all opposition, not just against England. Yes he has fight, but I doubt that is enough at this stage. Khawaja looks so down on confidence right now that it seems he needs a carrot dangled from the brim of his baggy green to get him going.

    In my mind, there is clearly one batsman worth a go in the position: MARK COSGROVE. He won't turn twos into threes and might not be the pin up boy of the team, but he's got the experience and the talent to play any role in the top 6. First drop would be perfect for him.

  • CoverDrive88 on August 15, 2013, 13:29 GMT

    There are a lot of votes for Cowan. Let me put the other view. He gets full marks for trying and (apparently) team ethic. The problem is that trying alone doesn't get runs. His technique is very ordinary. I purposely went to the Shield final two years ago to see him, as he'd just been selected. I missed the first few overs and when I arrived, saw one reasonable looking left-hander and one who looked like he was dragged out of Hobart 2nd grade because everyone else was injured. I assumed the former was Cowan but subsequently found I was wrong. The guy's best shot is an edge through 4th slip. His average is just over 30 and he was dropped 3-4 times making not many in India, so the average flatters him. He's 31. Dropping Katich for him was just incompetence or politics. Better to stick with the young guys now.

  • HughL on August 15, 2013, 13:18 GMT

    Always thought of No 3 as being a specialist position. Chopping and changing or trying to convert someone to do it is risky, to say the least. No 3 protects the real strokemakers with a tight enough technique to be an opener. Raul Dravid was perfect.

    From Australia's own history look at the Chappells. Fine player that Ian was, he'd always be in before Greg to see off the shine and protect the team's undoubted No 1 batsman. No doubt the current Aussie selectors would come up with the wheeze of sending Doug Walters up to three

  • on August 15, 2013, 13:12 GMT

    Bring back Phil Hughes? I'm sure Graeme Swann would agree.

    Do Australia seriously still think Hughes is the answer? He can't play the spinning ball.

  • on August 15, 2013, 12:57 GMT

    It is my belief that, given the terrible run that Australia has had in filling this spot, the best candidate is Ed Cowan. Cowan can't make big scores but he is virtually guaranteed to make a gritty 35 off 100 balls and take the shine off the cherry. He was apparently ill during the Second Test and his dropping was unwarranted amid a whole plethora of other poor performances. The other selection that needs to be made is to reinstate Hughes. Stop bouncing him up and down the order, stop dropping him, and allow him to mature at #6 in the same spot that a few Aussie #3-#4's learned their trade until they were ready to move up the order.

  • whatawicket on August 15, 2013, 12:51 GMT

    certain posters on here over the last year were using Hughes cc2 form as a shoehorn back into the Australian side. other than when hes played in this ashes i have not seen much him, but he still seems to me he plays the same as in the last uk ashes and the 10/11 ashes in oz you just cannot expect with that technique to play at the highest level and score constantly. the guy is a T20 50 overs games were to a certain degree you can get away with it most of the time

  • SyedAreYouDumb on August 15, 2013, 12:50 GMT

    I thought all the Australians struggled against spin? But I do remember Hughes scoring an aggressive half century against India. He was unlucky to not get the hundred but if you tell the players they will get dropped if they don't score big then they will play well, that's what happened to Hughes in that match.

  • wix99 on August 15, 2013, 12:48 GMT

    Boon, Langer and Ponting all had the opportunity to cut their teeth at No. 5 or 6 before being thrust into the the No. 3 position. However, in more recent times debutants and neophytes have had to try and survive in this difficult role. This is where the Australian selectors have been getting it wrong. New batsmen need to be protected and given an opportunity to prove themselves before they are pushed into more difficult roles.

  • DoubleKickDrum on August 15, 2013, 12:46 GMT

    I think Cowan was unlucky to get dropped so quickly. Khawaja's test best of 65 does not suprise me. Nice shots he may be capable of but he always looks one delivery away from walking back to the pavillion. Age and experience may help him. to compare, Ian Bell always had the shots but only in the last four or five years has he really grown in stature and now his test average just keeps going up.

    Top six for me would be Cowan, Rogers, Warner, Clarke, Bailey, Watson.

    Of course, as an Englishman, I am quite happy for CA to persist with Khawaja.

  • CricketChat on August 15, 2013, 12:45 GMT

    Given the form and confidence level that they are in right now, it doesn't make any difference whether Khawaja or Hughes play at one drop. They both looked inadequate against the Eng attack, pace or spin. This is where Aus should try a new concept for the last test. Why not try Agar? While his bowling is not up to scratch at test level, his batting seemed refreshing compared to pushing and prodding from the top order. His strokes were crisp and deliberate. May be he can turn into someone like Ravi Shastri of Ind in early 80s where he started as a promising spin bowler who later turned into a decent opener/top order batsman.

  • pthomo on August 15, 2013, 12:44 GMT

    I can't argue with that article. Well researched and a solid argument put forward. Fair enough to give Hughes a solid run at 3. First Gabba test line up if Watto bowling Rogers, Warner,Hughes,Bailey,Clark (preferred position for him), Watto, Haddin,Siddle,Harris,Lyon,Bird i would really like to find a spot for Faulkner but believe he is still slightly behind Watto. In the wings Starc, Patto, Cowan (next choice at 3 and very unlucky), Cosgrove,Hartley, Voges. I am a big fan of Smith but believe he like Khawaja could do with a really strong season of shield and county cricket under their belts.

  • jmcilhinney on August 15, 2013, 12:41 GMT

    @o-bomb on (August 15, 2013, 10:20 GMT), one issue I have with Hughes' performance in that last Test in India is that he seemed to have decided that he simply couldn't defend so he went for pretty much all out attack. It came off that time and sure, he looked better than the preceding games but no batsman is going to be truly successful if they can't play the tough innings when required. Mind you, Hughes looked much like many of the England batsman did against Pakistan in UAE and none of them managed to find any answer at all, so he's one up there.

  • shane-oh on August 15, 2013, 12:31 GMT

    @mysecretme - are you having a laugh? Clarke is one of the best batsmen in the world, and is in the prime of his career right now.

  • PPL11 on August 15, 2013, 12:30 GMT

    To be honest Ricky's Shoes are too big to fill, same with Gilly, Warney

  • Blakey on August 15, 2013, 12:26 GMT

    If people think Huges technique is poor, compare it to Trott's; fairly similar, in terms of ugly. the difference between Hughes and other options for Australia is his heart. He is a fighter and a batsman who knows how to make big scores! Our biggest issue is batsmen not being able to bat for a long time rather than a good time! Our bowlers have come to terms with working as agroup and to a plan, the batsmen need to do the same. Unfortunately a couple are too self-centred, yes Shane, Both of you!

  • on August 15, 2013, 12:25 GMT

    I agree with Darren Lehmann that for this test, batsmen are fighting for their careers. Most of these failures have had an extended run at test level and keep getting found out. At the start of the next Australian summer, Lehmann should declare that there are 3-4 batting positions open and only form batsmen will be picked - regardless of age. I agree that we need to build a group to stick with, but we need to look further afield. Shaun Marsh has proved he has a too fragile temperment for extended success at this level. George Bailey has been mentioned but why not Mark Cosgrove with a proven first class record. It looks like that Nic Maddison is starting to put some quality innings together - another possiibilty. If Joe Burns from Qld can kick on early in the season, he is another worth a try. Unfortunately with Hughes, once he goes back to fix one problem with his technqiue another problem gets exposed by international bowlers. He is still young, but he needs an extended time away.

  • partha19 on August 15, 2013, 12:24 GMT

    its high time Australia bring Nic Maddinson & try him in no3.. This lad has great potential & ability to score runs by being aggressive. A very typical Australian Batsman & will be the right choice to for this position.

  • on August 15, 2013, 12:23 GMT

    Watson, while still superb with the ball in his hand, is shot in terms of planting his left leg across. The last place for dashers with technical or mental weaknesses (Khawaja and Hughes) is three. If Maddinson is as good as I am led to believe, why isn't he in the squad? After Lord's it seemed worth bringing him in to open with Warner and moving Rogers to three as a stop-gap measure.

    Clarke's magnificent innings at Old Trafford and Ryan Harris' heroics with the ball throughout the series have papered over gaping cracks. Rogers, as well as he has played, is not a long-term solution in any case and Steve Smith doesn't exactly calm the nerves at five! Australia's fast-bowling cupboard may be overflowing but the batting one, while not exactly bare, is desperately in need of new stock.

  • OneEyedAussie on August 15, 2013, 12:21 GMT

    There are some hard decisions ahead for the selectors. With the success of Rogers, Australia could go for the "play for now" approach and draft in seniors like Voges, Bailey and D.Hussey. These guys almost certainly will outperform Khawaja, Hughes and Smith over the short term (i.e. 2-3 years) before they get too old and can't pick up the ball anymore. Or we can take the hit now and continue to roll the dice on Khawaja, Smith, Hughes and co in the hope that at least 1 of them will develop into a great player (ala Ponting). For the second option that means either Hughes or Khawaja at 3 and the unsteadiness associated with either of them.

  • on August 15, 2013, 12:18 GMT

    To put forward the argument that Khawaja has 'a frailness, a sense that the bowlers had his measure' as a reason for him to not bat at No3 is reasonable enough.

    However, to use this as an argument that Hughes should hav that spot in the order is not reasonable at all, as I can think of no Aussie top 6 batsman who is frailer and more worked out by the bowlers than him. Even moreso as his major frailty is more exposed against a newer ball.

  • on August 15, 2013, 12:05 GMT

    It could be argued that Australia's captain, selectors and coaches have lacked more confidence in selecting their number 3, than the first-drop himself. Whilst it is true that all the players trialled at 3 in the Test team have have failed to convince, it is also true that there has been no viable alternative in the Shield comp bagging down the door. Once upon a time the new kid in the Test team might be groomed in the relative safety of the middle order, before graduating to 3. Now Australia tosses the next unsuspecting victim in at 3, loses patience, then cuts him adrift. Hardly confidence boosting stuff, for player and supporter alike. The sooner Australia realise the only viable option is to stand by their man, the sooner results will come. As to whom that should be, well that's for the guys who earn the big bucks to decide.

  • mysecretme on August 15, 2013, 12:04 GMT

    Anybody see a pattern in aussie teams lately? Any batsman more talented than Clarke will be dropped off the team or will retire for unspecified reasons. Symonds, Katich, both Husseys... The team seems to be filled with Robin's. Problem is Clarke himself is Robin- not Batman. Give talented players a fair go. You can't get the next Ponting/Dravid/Lara if you keep dropping him.

  • on August 15, 2013, 11:57 GMT

    Agree that Cowan has been treated poorly. He is obviously not high on Lehmann's list of favourites. Only Clarke did better in India, where Cowan was the only other batter to work on his technique and come to some sort of terms with conditions and did occupy the crease. At Trent Bridge he and his family were stricken with a vomiting bug (his daughter was hospitalised) and unsurprisingly he failed to impress --not the only one--and was dropped.

    The first stage in Australia winning tests is not losing them. Cowan's obduracy would add to the grit and crease occupancy of Clarke and Rogers at The Oval. He might not win them the game but he might stop them losing it.

  • ToneMalone on August 15, 2013, 11:47 GMT

    I think this case for Hughes overlooks the importance of a truly solid technique. It means the batsman is more likely to survive "unplayable" deliveries & those 50/50 moments that are so often put down to luck.

    A good eye and determination isn't enough. It is no surprise Chris Rogers had a bit of "luck" compiling his 160-odd runs in the last Test, while Watson & Haddin were "unlucky" to be given out in close lbw calls.

    Hughes has the fight but still doesn't have the technique, which means those "50/50" moments are more likely to go against him. The only alternative in the current squad, with both fight and a sound defence, is Ed Cowan. He struggled with a stomach bug in his first go at no.3 in the first Test and was promptly dropped. I don't mind Khawaja having more of a chance to consolidate his spot, but if he is dropped, I think Cowan should get the nod ahead of Hughes.

  • on August 15, 2013, 11:41 GMT

    This is quite pitiful .....

    Warner fails in 11 innings then scores a decent one and he is now a test opener ..... he has averaged a little over 25 in his past six test matches

    Hughes struggles against NZ and India .... protected against SA ..... has one good innings against England and he should be recalled.

    Manwhile, both Team Management has played mental games with Cowan and Khawaja. All I have seen over the past 24-mths is mismanagement and poor team selection.

    We will struggle for the next two series, then play some easy beats and declare ourselves champions of the world again.

  • 2.14istherunrate on August 15, 2013, 11:38 GMT

    it is fairly obvious that Hughes should be number 3 over Kawajah- the spelling on that one must be the trickiest in cricket,ever-. Hughes is an opener of sorts, which is what you need in the absence of better- while K. looks like a 5 or 6. But why not Cowan or is he in disgrace?

  • on August 15, 2013, 11:26 GMT

    Why does nobody remembers George Bailey , Aussie T20 Captain ..I think he is the best bet for Australia as no.3

  • Dangertroy on August 15, 2013, 11:20 GMT

    Chris Rogers should be batting at number three. I know he is an opener, but number three should be a wall, and he's the closest thing we have to a wall. Before the Ashes started, I would have picked my team as Warner, Cowan, Rogers, Hughes, Clarke, Watson. Now we've lost the series, thats stil the team i would choose to start the first test in Brisbane. I applauded Khawaja's second innings at Lords, and I know he was unlucky to be given out at Old trafford, but I just can't see him becoming a long term solution at number three.

  • on August 15, 2013, 11:10 GMT

    There are two players that come to my mind immediately to fit in to the number 3 slot. One is Shaun Marsh who in my opinion is the best person to fit in to the shoes of Great Ricky Ponting. The only think he is lacking is the confidence and the Team Management should provide him enough confidence and I am sure that he will perform much better.

    Another person that come in to my mind is George Bailey. When bats in T20 or ODI, we could notice that he should be an ideal Test Player since he starts slowly and build his innings. He doesn't play any rash shots and play the ball to its merit every time. He should be given an opportunity in Test Arena to show his skills and in my opinion, he will excel well.

  • on August 15, 2013, 11:06 GMT

    Technique is the biggest myth in cricket... Give me the odd Katich and Chandermal over the text book Watson and Shaun Marsh any day... Hughes is the best young batsman in Australia and his treatment has been deplorable... Good article

  • Deuce03 on August 15, 2013, 11:04 GMT

    In England, openers seem to be like buses, albeit a bit more frequent in arriving all at once. It's a "problem" we've had for years, so often an opener has been shunted down to 3, and although few have set the world alight they've usually done OK. Australian batsmanship may be in the doldrums, but the spot in the batting lineup for which there's serious competition is opening. Warner and Rogers surely must remain the opening partnership for the time being, and Watson has never been a top-order batsman anyway. So why not try one of the spare "openers" - Hughes is as good a bet as anyone - at three? Khawaja clearly isn't working there, and the selectors seem to have given up on Cowan.

  • PutMarshyOn on August 15, 2013, 11:02 GMT

    @wibblewibble: "Swann wants his bunny back". Has he not enough to play with now?

  • Barnesy4444 on August 15, 2013, 10:52 GMT

    Of course Hughes should have stayed at 3. He has been an opener since he was a junior and needs to bat in the top order. Recently at 3 Hughes has made an 87, 84 and a 69, just leave him there please.

    He WILL win tests for Australia. He KNOWS how to fight and make centuries.

    Ideally Hughes should have had another season to dominate Sheffield Shield before returning against S.L. last year, but Australia doesn't have that luxury. Rogers, Warner, Hughes and Clarke looks like the best top 4 we've had in several years.

  • Chris_Howard on August 15, 2013, 10:52 GMT

    Rogers, Warner, Hughes, Khawaja, Clarke, Smith, Haddin, Siddle, Starc, Bird, Lyon

    Harris and Watson should both be rested, as both are injury risks and Watto is already starting to breaking down. We need Harris ully fit for the first Test down under.

  • on August 15, 2013, 10:45 GMT

    Cowan was ill during the first Test, his only appearance at 3, and then immediately dropped. As a result, has failed fewer times at first drop this summer than Hughes. Cowan is a slightly younger and less distinguished version of Rogers, having built his career (such as it is) on building an innings. He did significantly better in India than Hughes, whose last two innings there are now being advanced as evidence for bringing him back in place of Khawaja. No logic there, at all.

  • disco_bob on August 15, 2013, 10:43 GMT

    This a most level headed and sensible bit of writing. Hughes has proved he not only has the ability but he has the ability to work on his technical issues. He needs to be groomed for 3 and left there. He needs to know that he has some tenure at least for a dozen matches, especially as there is no one queuing up for the spot. With Huges locked in at 3 I think it would make it much easier to tinker with the rest of the side. Clarke may as well stay at no 5 if he prefers that because he'll be retired in a few years and someone's going to have to make 2nd drop their own anyway.

    Let's face it, we are going to take some years to rebuild.

  • on August 15, 2013, 10:40 GMT

    A very good analysis but there is one name missing - Ed Cowan. Is he so badly out of form and has he served Australia so poorly that one Ashes Test, then oblivion is his just desert? He is one man who answers the main criteria set by Mr Coverdale, he is miserly about surrendering his wicket. Certainly, the price he demands for it is nowhere near that of a Ponting or a Chappell, but it's far higher than that asked by any of the exponents mentioned in the article.

  • CoverDrive88 on August 15, 2013, 10:35 GMT

    This is an important issue without doubt. Personally I prefer Khawaja because his technique is much better. On the issue of poor treatment, I agree that what has happened to Hughes is ridiculous, but Khawaja has also been handled badly since the score in Sth Africa in difficult conditions. HOWEVER, the the real problem is that our most experienced batsman hides at 5. Ponting debuted at 5, with Boon at 3. Boon debuted at 6, Clarke at 6. If you keep throwing the inexperienced players in at 3, they're likely to keep getting chewed up. I think that the lack of attention paid to the Shield by CA and the consequent deterioration in the standard has made the step to Tests even bigger and aggravated the #3 problem even more. My solution is to bite the bullet and dump Watson. He has never performed at a decent level consistently, is always injured, and is 32. Then both these guys can play along with Smith, and we give them a chance - Rogers, Warner, Clarke, Hughes, Khawaja, Smith.

  • JoieDeVivre on August 15, 2013, 10:33 GMT

    Trouble is lack of patience from the Australian Selectors, Shuan Marsh is the best bet when it comes to No 3 spot, understand he was in woeful form against India when there were millions of runs on offer against a poor attack but he is still the best bet. Now that the team is losing the cat and mouse game has commenced again, changes are made just because they have to make changes and again because the team is losing. Very hard to believe that the batting order is still not identified, understand the batsmen are major reason why Australia is losing so badly but unless you give the them a fair and back them even if they have a lean trot is the only way, I mean Shuan Marsh is a class act for God's sake, he is not going to improve by playing against A sides (no disrespect meant) but the reality is the current bunch of selectors and the ones who were in the hot seat before are the primary reasons why there is so much instability and I'm afraid the damage is done at least in this series

  • on August 15, 2013, 10:29 GMT

    A really interesting article. Phillip Hughes is often the "first dropped". Australia used 8 specialist batsmen in the first 4 Tests, and Phillip Hughes had the 3rd highest average of the 8 - only Rogers and Clarke ahead of him. Have a look at the first class averages for the tour - Phillip Hughes has the highest average of the batsmen @ 62 (Clarke next on 54), and he has batted as an opener, 3, 4, 5 and 6 in his 10 innings. He should now become the first to be re-instated.

  • Vindaliew on August 15, 2013, 10:28 GMT

    Hughes certainly looks more suited to the No 3 position than Khawaja, who probably needs to eat humble pie and start at No 6 where he can transform those elegant, beautiful strokes into innings of substance. With Cowan and Warner being earmarked for the opener slots, and Chris Rogers, for now, securing his position there to make it 3 openers fighting for two slots, it is unlikely that Hughes will ever get another shot at opening unless all the others do really badly. Unlike Khawaja, Hughes is proven at Test level against the best pace bowling attack (even if he may never reach those heights again), and it makes sense to place him in the firing line when the new ball is flying around and coming off the bat at great pace.

  • on August 15, 2013, 10:28 GMT

    I agree, either that or play him as an opener with Rogers at 3. I would play a top 4 of Warner, Hughes, Rogers and Clarke. Khawaja just seems to be lacking conviction, he was brought into the team almost by default, rather than any weight of runs which for mine is never a good move. If you want to be in the team you need to get there by making runs, Khawaja didn't, Rogers did, anyone see the difference?

  • wibblewibble on August 15, 2013, 10:21 GMT

    I was watching some of the ashes highlights from 2009 last night, back then 3, 4, 5 was Ponting, Hussey, Clarke. Now it seems that (like England in the 90s) one poor game and you're out - this is a bad bad strategy. You need to identify the players you believe have the skill and determination to make themselves in to the best players in the world, and then give them 3-4 years to do so. It won't happen immediately, and it may not even happen at al, but it definitely won't happen if you keep dropping them and switching between 3-4 options.

    When Cook started for England, he had determination and a solid defence, but he still had many indifferent series before it clicked properly (you could argue he's having one right now). This will be the 3rd of 4th time that Hughes has been dropped and recalled, if the selectors keep losing faith in him, how is he supposed to be confident?

    PS: As an England supporter, please bring back Phil Hughes, again and again and again. Swann wants his bunny back

  • o-bomb on August 15, 2013, 10:20 GMT

    Good, persuasive article. At the start of this series I wouldn't have had Hughes at 3, (I'd have gone with either Khawaja or Cowan), but the fact that Hughes did score runs in the last test in India says he has the ability to learn. Whilst he does have decent stats at 3, I'd still say he needs to make technical improvements before he can be cemented there. He does certainly have the fight you mention though. As for the others; Cowan looks to have the right technique, but hasn't converted his starts and Khawaja looks totally bereft of confidence. Whichever of them (or someone else) is tried, they need to be given a good run, not just in the side, but at 3. That's a frightening stat you've given about number 3 batsmen in the Shield last season!

  • AdamLBW on August 15, 2013, 10:15 GMT

    Diligent work, Brydon. This should be sent to Pat Howard's desk with "urgent" stamped on it. I am sick of seeing change for the sake of it but there is a real sense of fallibility with having Khawaja at 3. Comparisons with Ponting are useless given that Ponting is one of the all-time greats but Australia need look no further than across the balcony at Jonathan Trott. In spite of a relatively poor series, England dare not comprehend dropping Trott because they know he has stickability and sheer bloody-mindedness to tough it out. Hughes may be technically wrong but he can dig in. Khawaja is an elegant stroke player but at times looks nervous. If we are to assume that Clarke and Rogers are definites, then the selectors must decide who is worth the investment to make the journey with them. I believe that Hughes, Warner and Smith are the type of cricketers to drag us out of this mess. Looking further ahead, the likes of Faulkner, Agar and Maddinson will have a part to play.

  • RichardG on August 15, 2013, 10:12 GMT

    As a Pom, I thought that Hughes was dispensed of too quickly. I can't help but worry that he gets slightly harshly judged as he's not the batsman all of Australia thought he was going to be after the 2009 tour of South Africa. He's not going to be a great, but he seems to have the ability and temperament to be a 'good'. Maddison or Maxwell might be contenders - who knows? - but given the age of Rogers and the frailty of Clarke, Australia need to have half an eye on the future. The uncomfortable truth may well be that that is best represented by Hughes. That would be my ill-informed outsider's opinion.

  • on August 15, 2013, 10:09 GMT

    This makes no sense. Hughes is the natural replacement for Rogers once he leave after the second Ashes series. A Hughes/Warner opening combo is THE opening combo of the future, and Khawaja is the natural fit for number 3. Despite his problems, it must be remembered that he has had 3 tests on the trot for the first time in his career, and that too after 2 years on the bench. To ask him to come in and score big against the best spinner in the world on doctored pitches was always going to be too much. That being said, he does need to show mental fortitude, he's not lacking in skill at all but he needs to show some concentration (like he did, in fact, at Lords). Dropping him now would be shooting themselves in the foot for the future. If Hughes has to come in (I do in fact think he should), he needs to replace Watson. If he MUST be at 3, then move Khawaja to 5 and Smith to 6. There's no sense in dropping Khawaja, how is that fair dinkum?

  • on August 15, 2013, 10:09 GMT

    This makes no sense. Hughes is the natural replacement for Rogers once he leave after the second Ashes series. A Hughes/Warner opening combo is THE opening combo of the future, and Khawaja is the natural fit for number 3. Despite his problems, it must be remembered that he has had 3 tests on the trot for the first time in his career, and that too after 2 years on the bench. To ask him to come in and score big against the best spinner in the world on doctored pitches was always going to be too much. That being said, he does need to show mental fortitude, he's not lacking in skill at all but he needs to show some concentration (like he did, in fact, at Lords). Dropping him now would be shooting themselves in the foot for the future. If Hughes has to come in (I do in fact think he should), he needs to replace Watson. If he MUST be at 3, then move Khawaja to 5 and Smith to 6. There's no sense in dropping Khawaja, how is that fair dinkum?

  • RichardG on August 15, 2013, 10:12 GMT

    As a Pom, I thought that Hughes was dispensed of too quickly. I can't help but worry that he gets slightly harshly judged as he's not the batsman all of Australia thought he was going to be after the 2009 tour of South Africa. He's not going to be a great, but he seems to have the ability and temperament to be a 'good'. Maddison or Maxwell might be contenders - who knows? - but given the age of Rogers and the frailty of Clarke, Australia need to have half an eye on the future. The uncomfortable truth may well be that that is best represented by Hughes. That would be my ill-informed outsider's opinion.

  • AdamLBW on August 15, 2013, 10:15 GMT

    Diligent work, Brydon. This should be sent to Pat Howard's desk with "urgent" stamped on it. I am sick of seeing change for the sake of it but there is a real sense of fallibility with having Khawaja at 3. Comparisons with Ponting are useless given that Ponting is one of the all-time greats but Australia need look no further than across the balcony at Jonathan Trott. In spite of a relatively poor series, England dare not comprehend dropping Trott because they know he has stickability and sheer bloody-mindedness to tough it out. Hughes may be technically wrong but he can dig in. Khawaja is an elegant stroke player but at times looks nervous. If we are to assume that Clarke and Rogers are definites, then the selectors must decide who is worth the investment to make the journey with them. I believe that Hughes, Warner and Smith are the type of cricketers to drag us out of this mess. Looking further ahead, the likes of Faulkner, Agar and Maddinson will have a part to play.

  • o-bomb on August 15, 2013, 10:20 GMT

    Good, persuasive article. At the start of this series I wouldn't have had Hughes at 3, (I'd have gone with either Khawaja or Cowan), but the fact that Hughes did score runs in the last test in India says he has the ability to learn. Whilst he does have decent stats at 3, I'd still say he needs to make technical improvements before he can be cemented there. He does certainly have the fight you mention though. As for the others; Cowan looks to have the right technique, but hasn't converted his starts and Khawaja looks totally bereft of confidence. Whichever of them (or someone else) is tried, they need to be given a good run, not just in the side, but at 3. That's a frightening stat you've given about number 3 batsmen in the Shield last season!

  • wibblewibble on August 15, 2013, 10:21 GMT

    I was watching some of the ashes highlights from 2009 last night, back then 3, 4, 5 was Ponting, Hussey, Clarke. Now it seems that (like England in the 90s) one poor game and you're out - this is a bad bad strategy. You need to identify the players you believe have the skill and determination to make themselves in to the best players in the world, and then give them 3-4 years to do so. It won't happen immediately, and it may not even happen at al, but it definitely won't happen if you keep dropping them and switching between 3-4 options.

    When Cook started for England, he had determination and a solid defence, but he still had many indifferent series before it clicked properly (you could argue he's having one right now). This will be the 3rd of 4th time that Hughes has been dropped and recalled, if the selectors keep losing faith in him, how is he supposed to be confident?

    PS: As an England supporter, please bring back Phil Hughes, again and again and again. Swann wants his bunny back

  • on August 15, 2013, 10:28 GMT

    I agree, either that or play him as an opener with Rogers at 3. I would play a top 4 of Warner, Hughes, Rogers and Clarke. Khawaja just seems to be lacking conviction, he was brought into the team almost by default, rather than any weight of runs which for mine is never a good move. If you want to be in the team you need to get there by making runs, Khawaja didn't, Rogers did, anyone see the difference?

  • Vindaliew on August 15, 2013, 10:28 GMT

    Hughes certainly looks more suited to the No 3 position than Khawaja, who probably needs to eat humble pie and start at No 6 where he can transform those elegant, beautiful strokes into innings of substance. With Cowan and Warner being earmarked for the opener slots, and Chris Rogers, for now, securing his position there to make it 3 openers fighting for two slots, it is unlikely that Hughes will ever get another shot at opening unless all the others do really badly. Unlike Khawaja, Hughes is proven at Test level against the best pace bowling attack (even if he may never reach those heights again), and it makes sense to place him in the firing line when the new ball is flying around and coming off the bat at great pace.

  • on August 15, 2013, 10:29 GMT

    A really interesting article. Phillip Hughes is often the "first dropped". Australia used 8 specialist batsmen in the first 4 Tests, and Phillip Hughes had the 3rd highest average of the 8 - only Rogers and Clarke ahead of him. Have a look at the first class averages for the tour - Phillip Hughes has the highest average of the batsmen @ 62 (Clarke next on 54), and he has batted as an opener, 3, 4, 5 and 6 in his 10 innings. He should now become the first to be re-instated.

  • JoieDeVivre on August 15, 2013, 10:33 GMT

    Trouble is lack of patience from the Australian Selectors, Shuan Marsh is the best bet when it comes to No 3 spot, understand he was in woeful form against India when there were millions of runs on offer against a poor attack but he is still the best bet. Now that the team is losing the cat and mouse game has commenced again, changes are made just because they have to make changes and again because the team is losing. Very hard to believe that the batting order is still not identified, understand the batsmen are major reason why Australia is losing so badly but unless you give the them a fair and back them even if they have a lean trot is the only way, I mean Shuan Marsh is a class act for God's sake, he is not going to improve by playing against A sides (no disrespect meant) but the reality is the current bunch of selectors and the ones who were in the hot seat before are the primary reasons why there is so much instability and I'm afraid the damage is done at least in this series

  • CoverDrive88 on August 15, 2013, 10:35 GMT

    This is an important issue without doubt. Personally I prefer Khawaja because his technique is much better. On the issue of poor treatment, I agree that what has happened to Hughes is ridiculous, but Khawaja has also been handled badly since the score in Sth Africa in difficult conditions. HOWEVER, the the real problem is that our most experienced batsman hides at 5. Ponting debuted at 5, with Boon at 3. Boon debuted at 6, Clarke at 6. If you keep throwing the inexperienced players in at 3, they're likely to keep getting chewed up. I think that the lack of attention paid to the Shield by CA and the consequent deterioration in the standard has made the step to Tests even bigger and aggravated the #3 problem even more. My solution is to bite the bullet and dump Watson. He has never performed at a decent level consistently, is always injured, and is 32. Then both these guys can play along with Smith, and we give them a chance - Rogers, Warner, Clarke, Hughes, Khawaja, Smith.