Australia in England 2012

Australia search for their Ian Bell

Daniel Brettig at Grace Road

June 18, 2012

Comments: 87 | Text size: A | A

For all the huffing and puffing likely to be heard over the next month about Australia's six-deep battery of fast bowlers, the most significant strides the tourists wish to make on their ODI tour of the United Kingdom will be in a modestly-stocked batting department. The captain Michael Clarke and the coach Mickey Arthur acknowledged as much at their arrival pleasantries in Leicester, having brought a team minus Ricky Ponting (dropped) and Michael Hussey (newborn child).

Instead of Ponting and Hussey, the relatively modest talents of Peter Forrest, George Bailey and Steve Smith are jostling to make the kind of impression that could see them return to England for the Ashes in 2013. Others, like the wicketkeeper Matthew Wade and the opening batsman David Warner, will encounter their first serious examinations by an England side that pushed Australia to new standards of preparation and planning via their retention of the urn in 2010-11.

As comfortable as the tourists are with their bowling stocks, there is equally a sense of uncertainty about the overall standard of Australian batting, which falls away dramatically among younger and mid-career players after Clarke and his vice-captain Shane Watson. Certainly there is no-one the quality of Ian Bell to come in, as he did for the prematurely retired Kevin Pietersen, should Ponting or Hussey fade between now and the Ashes. So it was understandable to hear Arthur and Clarke call for more from the younger batsmen, amongst a bevy of questions directed towards the promise of young bowlers including James Pattinson and Pat Cummins, in the absence of senior figures.

"It changes the dynamics quite a bit and that is why we are looking for other players to stand up quite a bit and take over that responsibility," Arthur said. "Michael and Ricky are not going to be around for ever so this gives the guys out here to stake their claims and an opportunity to make their mark and show us they belong. I am looking forward to seeing who stands up and takes this opportunity."

Forrest, Bailey and Smith have all shown something in their brief international forays so far, though none have the array of shots or the assured styles that have allowed Ponting and Hussey to endure. Forrest's character is highly regarded by the Australia selectors, and Bailey is widely admired for his leadership of Tasmania. Smith, meanwhile, has hinted at more consistent run-scoring since his not-quite-convincing Ashes appearances in 2010-11. He will also have greater clarity about his role on this tour than in previous matches, in which he at times appeared to be in the team as much for his fielding as his opportunistic batting or fledgling legspin.

"Fortunately for us Ricky's still playing Test cricket and is a big part of our Test team. Fingers crossed I'm hoping next time we'll be here for the Ashes he'll be with us," Clarke said. "He's been such a great player for a long period of time, any team would miss Ricky Ponting, and we're no different.

"But as Mickey said, it's a real good opportunity for some new young guys to grab hold of their chance with both hands. I think they did that throughout the one-day summer, once Ricky was dropped from the team we managed to go on and win that tri-series for Australia, the boys went to West Indies and did a pretty good job in tough conditions, and again it's going to be new for a lot of players to play in English conditions."


Michael Clarke speaks to reporters at Grace Road, Leicestershire, June 18, 2012
Michael Clarke wants Australia's young batsmen to show they can replace Ricky Ponting and Michael Hussey © Getty Images
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The bowlers have a chance to turn English heads also of course, with Pattinson and Cummins in particular keen to learn as much as they can about bowling in these conditions. Mitchell Johnson has returned to Australia's squad after nine months recovering from a major foot injury, while Brett Lee continues to provide an experienced bulwark to the limited-overs attack.

Neither Johnson nor Lee have terribly strong Ashes records on English shores, and the man perhaps best placed to offer wisdom to Pattinson and Cummins is Ben Hilfenhaus, after his 22 Ashes wickets across a succession of reliable spells in 2009. Clarke said awareness of the conditions was a critical element for his young fast men to grasp on this tour, and the Australia A matches that follow it.

"The wickets can be quite slow over here, so it doesn't matter how fast you bowl, if you're not accurate, you're not going to have success, especially in these conditions," Clarke said. "We've got some good talented quicks, it's just now about getting some cricket under their belt, getting a look at these conditions and make sure our preparation is spot on.

"They [England] have got a very good attack and played four fast bowlers the other day, so I'd imagine if wickets are pretty conducive to that that they'll probably do the same, as we might as well. We'll have a look at how conditions are like. We've got six very good fast bowlers in our squad, who are all itching to get an opportunity."

Following three days of training at Grace Road, the Australians will play Leicestershire in a Thursday warm-up match before flying to Belfast for an ODI against Ireland on Saturday. The first match against England is at Lord's on June 29.

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

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Posted by camcove on (June 21, 2012, 15:52 GMT)

Hyclass - My comments about the SA bowling were basically the the same as the comments they made about themselves, particularly after Hughes was dropped in England. Sportsmanship is not an issue, positive or negative. I am a huge fan of Steyn, Morkel and Kallis (and now of Philander, for that matter). I simply thought (and they later acknowledged) they got carried away when bowling to Hughes. I haven't seen the YouTube stuff but did watch the innings live on TV. You may well be right about Hughes subsequently being mucked up by the coaches. To suggest that it was deliberate in order to promote Watson needlessly impugns the character of Nielsen and others and is clearly fanciful. On Starc, he is a work in progress. He is only 21 and still bowls too much rubbish in 1st class cricket. His height/trajectory alone makes him a prospect. I agree that Coulter-Nile looks the goods already.

Posted by hyclass on (June 21, 2012, 13:51 GMT)

@Meety.I've paid close attention to all the Australians in England. Starc is succeeding in that format because batsmen are not able to sit back and wait for the loose ball.Being forced to attack a left hander always offers opportunities.Vaas is still taking wickets there.Starc has one difficult delivery-the one that swings in to the right hander from the hand. I'd put his pace in the low 140s.His record in 1st class cricket,the one that interests me,says he is mediocre.I rate Coulter-Nile well ahead of him.I'm yet to see anything special in Cummins who I believe got a very lucky break in SA.I think Warner had his average pumped up massively in Zimbabwe.Finch and Ferguson also got big hundreds there to underscore my point.I think Warner has big holes in his game against bounce outside off,spin early on and the ball coming back in.His average is already back to the low 40's,despite being gifted the first 50 in Perth v India with inexplicable captaincy from someone who knows better.

Posted by hyclass on (June 21, 2012, 13:35 GMT)

@camcove...The SA did NOT bowl all over the shop in 09. Its poor sportsmanship to suggest it.Steyn was the worlds best quick & the attack was experienced & playing at home.Watch the Youtube videos 'Hughes v SA 115 & Hughes v SA 160. Their bowling is excellent & extremely hostile. The attack of Morkel,Steyn,Kallis,Ntini & Harris had over1100 Test wickets between them.Its poor to suggest that they bowled poorly to Hughes & to no-one else.He scores on both sides of the wicket,drives on the up & plays all the shots.Only rarely were there half volleys or short wide deliveries & then,it appeared a deliberate ploy. BEFORE Hughes faced a single ball of the Lions game,the one in which Harmison did well,Nielsen had dismantled his entire game.He wanted Watson in.Hughes was left with no back foot trigger movement,no hand speed,a different grip,a changed bat swing & with no game plan.Hughes had 1690 runs in 10 games at 96 on 3 continents with 8x100s to that point.Then he couldn't bat?Plausible?

Posted by Meety on (June 21, 2012, 9:01 GMT)

@AKS286 - IMO, it is too much for Wade to have to keep wickets & then open in TEST cricket. Not overly excited by Klinger, others are, I'd rather go back to Watto opening than go with Klinger. @hyclass - clarification re: Smith, I wasn't pushing his barrow for test selection, atm, he is just a short form option for Oz. Needs a strong Shield summer to get back into contention, although I do believe he is one player that should tour with the test team, particularly if we had a good spin bowling coach to mentor him. Either that or keep booking him in at the C of E. Just want to stir you re: Starc, have you noted his performances in the Old Dart lately? He did get belted for 70 off 10 in ONE match, but he is ripping thru the wickets in the short forms. I think he is a lot better than "mediocre", (particularly with the White Ball.)

Posted by camcove on (June 21, 2012, 8:17 GMT)

Hyclass - I watched those innings of Hughes in SA (albeit on television), and I agree it was a revelation. You may very well be right about the influence of all and sundry trying to "fix" his technique. I would add that in the Ashes tests in England when he was dropped, Flintoff probably bowled as well as any fast bowler could. Having said all of that, I also watched the preliminary game the Aussies played (in Sussex, from memory). Harmison took him apart, with brutal into the body stuff. Flintoff simply followed the same formula in the tests that Hughes played. Steyn and Morkel, moreover, had bowled nothing like that in SA. Morkel in particular has the raw ingredients to bowl that way, but both he and Steyn were all over the shop. As I said before, I hope the kid gets it right, because he could be a real force in tests if he does. I agree with the comments about Watto at 3. In my view, he should be opening (and not bowling much) or batting at 4 or lower.

Posted by AKS286 on (June 21, 2012, 7:26 GMT)

@meety another talent goes in vain. klinger is the another best test opening option. or why not wade? voges comes to middle order with hussey.

Posted by Meety on (June 21, 2012, 4:25 GMT)

@zenboomerang LOL! "... as my comment on Bell suggested in an Eng article before the 1st ODI where I supported his place to many Eng & Oz supporters jokes..." What a LAUGH! Yet on (June 14 2012, 07:11 AM GMT) under the article FLOWER LOOKS TO WORLD CUP WITH BELL you say "...I can understand the selectors looking at Bell (but not agreeing)..." hmmm, I suppose you will FEEL that you have been misquoted again. It is there in black & white, just look up Bell's profile & the article is there. So you have had a turnaround inside of 7 days - hey? FAIL! Don't worry matey, it is US who are laughing!!!!! (Just to make sure it gets in - LOL!)

Posted by Meety on (June 21, 2012, 1:46 GMT)

@AKS286 - thanks for the another chuckle on this article "...relative of Lyon..." well said (wrong, obviously) but well said! Regarding Jaques, he damaged his back (4 yrs ago?) & also had personal issues, when returning to cricket, his batting was way below his best, he did a stint in England where he averaged about 30, which is about half what he used to average over there. He has hardly looked like his old self in the Shield since, has retired, & funnily enuff, seems to be doing very well in County cricket again!

Posted by Meety on (June 21, 2012, 1:44 GMT)

@Zenboomerang - EPIC FAIL (again!). on (June 18 2012, 23:45 PM GMT) I said "...I know the article is probably more about taking their chances rather than ODI brilliance..." I also said "...that HEADING is somewhat on the annoying side..." Funny how you use my arguements "...bringing in someone that can perform..." which is almost EXACTLY what I said, but try to have a crack at the same time, must be a miserable upbringing. BTW - half of England's fans have conceeded that Bell is pretty average in ODIs. Nice to see you infalibility complex hasn't changed! LOL! @hyclass - no arguements there, I'd like to see Maxwell closer to National selection. re: Smith - I just had a gut feeling he might be turning things around, Benaud not long ago said (late 2010 early 2011), his wish was for Smith to be involved heavily on the National front.

Posted by MattyP1979 on (June 20, 2012, 21:52 GMT)

Ian Bell is a very fine player and getting better, he is probably Eng 5th best batsman and so naturally would walk into the Aus side. Broad would get in on his batting alone lol. Looking forward to this series a little more than paint drying. It will be nice to see some of the worlds most over hyped bowlers (Patterson/Cummins) in action now that THE most over-rated (Narine) bowler has been dispatched by the mighty lions lol. Steve Smith/Kawaaajjjajaj/Hughes/MJ and co back in hehe you got to love cricket.

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Daniel Brettig Assistant editor Daniel Brettig had been a journalist for eight years when he joined ESPNcricinfo, but his fascination with cricket dates back to the early 1990s, when his dad helped him sneak into the family lounge room to watch the end of day-night World Series matches well past bedtime. Unapologetically passionate about indie music and the South Australian Redbacks, Daniel's chief cricketing achievement was to dismiss Wisden Almanack editor Lawrence Booth in the 2010 Ashes press match in Perth - a rare Australian victory that summer.
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