India v Australia, 2nd Test, Hyderabad, 3rd day

Time for Australia's batsmen to stand up

David Warner and Phillip Hughes have missed their chance but Ed Cowan and Shane Watson must not waste an opportunity to turn a woeful tour from the top order around

Brydon Coverdale

March 4, 2013

Comments: 37 | Text size: A | A

Phillip Hughes was also bowled by R Ashwin, India v Australia, 2nd Test, Hyderabad, 3rd day, March 4, 2013
Phillip Hughes (in picture) and David Warner were dismissed in similar fashion and have demonstrated for the lower oder what not to do © BCCI
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When R Ashwin bowled David Warner around his legs trying to sweep in the second innings in Hyderabad, he celebrated the wicket as normal. Two overs later he bowled Phillip Hughes with a similar delivery that drew a near identical shot and Ashwin looked happy but surprised. It was as if he was saying to himself, "when will these Australians learn?" Warner and Hughes are now halfway through their series having played four innings each and neither man seems much wiser about handling the conditions.

Australia's second innings began after tea and it was an opportunity for the batsmen. Rescuing the match seemed a stretch, although of course anything was possible, but mostly this was a chance to show some improvement. To prove that their struggles so far in India had not been in vain. By stumps, Warner and Hughes had squandered that opportunity; Ed Cowan and Shane Watson still have the chance to build something worthwhile. They cannot keep leaving it to Michael Clarke at No. 5.

England's series win in India late last year was built on the twin pillars of a quality spin attack and a high-scoring top order. Australia's slow-bowling issues have been well documented. They do not have a Graeme Swann, or a Monty Panesar. They do have an Alastair Cook, although he is batting at No. 5 and from there cannot influence the game as much as Cook did as an opener. As such, the need for big runs from their top four batsmen is even greater.

It has been an abject tour so far for the quartet. At the halfway point of this Test, Australia's top four were averaging 20.50 each in the series. At the same stage England's top four batsmen - excluding one occasion when they used a nightwatchman - were averaging 56.27. Cook had made 339 after the first three innings of the Indian tour; Australia's top four combined have managed only 246. The only fifty-plus score was Warner's scratchy 59 on the first day in Chennai.

When Cowan and Warner walked to the crease with a deficit of 266 in Hyderabad, their task was not easy. But they had been given the perfect template by Cheteshwar Pujara and M Vijay the previous day. In the first session India added only 49 runs as the two men settled themselves and measured the bowling and the conditions. After lunch they were in a position to lift the tempo, scoring another 106. In the final session they dominated and added a further 151.

The lesson was one of patience and respect for the opposition. They did not stagnate and neither did they worry if a few maidens passed or they went 17 overs without a boundary, as they did in the early stages of their partnership. They knew that if they could keep their wickets intact, the rewards would come later. It was an example that seemed to have an impression on Cowan but less so on Warner.

The problem was not that Warner struck 12 runs off the second over of the innings, for Ashwin erred in his length and flight and those balls were there to hit. But later, Warner was betrayed by a subtle lack of patience. The first ball that he faced when Ashwin came over the wicket, he tried to sweep. England's batsmen used the sweep to great effect but Warner tried it from an awkward-length ball, and from too far across his stumps. He was not in position to cover the spin and was bowled around his legs.

He was on 26 from 55 balls at the time, far from being bogged down. He had lofted Ashwin for six only four overs prior. Yet he did not have the patience to assess Ashwin over the wicket before trying to score off him. That Hughes made precisely the same mistake only a few overs later, after facing eight dot balls, was bewildering. But given his struggles against spin on this tour - he has faced 51 balls of it for six runs and four dismissals - it was not entirely surprising.

In the first innings, Hughes had faced 23 dot balls against the spinners before he tried to force a cut off Ashwin and edged behind. He could have taken note of the temperament shown by Cowan in the second innings. Cowan did not get off the mark until his 29th delivery but did so with a pushed single to mid-off, not a risky cross-batted shot. When he did start to cut the spinners he did so only off short balls that posed little risk.

By stumps Cowan had 26 from 100 balls. Notably, Vijay had only managed 29 from his first 100 balls. He settled himself in and reaped the rewards. Cowan must do the same on day four. He looked solid but needs to restart in the same frame of mind. Big runs are there if he has the necessary persistence and judgment. By his side is Watson, who had lofted Ashwin for a six quite safely but otherwise had looked patient.

Vijay and Pujara have set the example. Warner and Hughes have demonstrated what not to do. It is time to show what they have learnt. It is time Clarke had some top-order support.

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

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by zenboomerang on (March 7, 2013, 4:35 GMT)

@Brendan Carter... Agree - Watson since being named VC (2 years) has a batting average @25.2 during this time, also failing to make a century... Watto's bowling except for 2 suspect pitches has also been well below par...

Posted by HatsforBats on (March 5, 2013, 9:22 GMT)

@ Blokey & landl47, they are the most sensible comments I've seen in quite a while. The NSP still has a lot to answer for regarding certain selections.

Posted by   on (March 5, 2013, 8:37 GMT)

I have been saying for 2 years now, it`s the Aussie Batsmen, who have been letting the team down. The bowlers need scoreboard pressure, a target too bowl at, but the Aussie top 4 have been pathetic, putting pressure on 5,6, and 7, batsmen too salvage, something out of nothing. Warner, and Cowan, have been below par, but Watson and Hughes have been pathetic. Watto`, is not up to Test Cricket as a batsman only, and Hughes technique, might have been changed, but he still is an off-stump, wood-chopper. Australia do have better more consistent batsmen than these two, Usman Khawaja, is our best number 3, and at 4, we have plenty of options, Joe Burns, Adam Voges, even Brad Haddin, and at least 3 others. The cupboard is not bare, but the selectors have tunnel vision, keep the openers, Khawaja 3, Clarke 4, and give some young blokes a crack at 5, nursing them into Test Cricket. If you don`t believe me about Watto, check his pathetic test batting statistics, since, 2010.

Posted by Sunil_Batra on (March 5, 2013, 3:55 GMT)

Let's not high five too much about Doherty and Maxwell just yet.The Indians got themselves out on most of those wickets trying to force the pace. A lot of their wickets looked one day-ish eg Maxwells caught and bowled. India were trying to force the tempo and put the match out of reach (further out of reach).I'd love to be proved wrong but I don't see a way out for the Aussies. We have two back in the sheds. Two in the middle who specialise in getting 30′s. Followed by three 'all-rounders'. We need at least one double and one century to save this one…not a string of 40s, 50s, 60s. We can't hide behind the fact that our batsman have not been good enough and that unless we something special today changes will need to be made for the third test with Khawaja a must along with potentially a change in the bowling attack as well.

Posted by landl47 on (March 5, 2013, 3:27 GMT)

Yes, Australia has problems- only Jonesy2 would deny that. However, this series is not representative of cricket the world over. The Aus side is full of players whose game is better suited to more seam-friendly conditions; basically, it's a side with lots of opening batsmen and seamers. The spin side is weak, both in bowling and in batting against it.

When Aus gets on the English wickets they'll look a whole lot better. On their own wickets, better yet. My fellow England fans need to remember that and, as they say in Yorkshire, think on.

Posted by Blokey on (March 5, 2013, 3:20 GMT)

@Mervin John, you obviously didn't watch yesterday's play if you say there is no resistance in the team. Yesterday was probably the best possible day they could have had, given the situation after day two. The bowling and fielding was good. All teams go through very bad days. Have you forgotten England losing the 1st test vs SA by 18 wickets (effectively)? SA getting thrashed for nearly 500 runs IN A DAY against Australia recently? Or India taking only one wicket for 800 RUNS in the middle of their last Australian tour? All these within the last year or so. The truth here is that people whinge about the AUS team, even when they are on a streak of only 3 losses in 20 games. As soon as there is a bad game or two people become hysterical. I have full confidence that the team will turn around, and in pretty short time. A little context is necessary here (amidst some very bad cricket and terrible selections, admittedly - the big issue is how fast they learn).

Posted by jmcilhinney on (March 5, 2013, 2:55 GMT)

The England batsmen seem to be slowly learning the lessons on how to play spin in these conditions. Even so, I wouldn't be putting money on them if they were to play Pakistan in UAE again right now. Having recently lost Ponting and Hussey, Australia have really taken a big step backwards in these conditions. The Australian top order are making the very same mistakes that the England batsmen were, particularly playing back to balls they should be forward to and sweeping when they shouldn't. If Phil Hughes looks as bad as he does now, imagine him up against Ajmal with the added worry of a genuine doosra that is very hard to pick from the hand.

Posted by bobagorof on (March 5, 2013, 1:48 GMT)

@davidpk: No, it's an observation. It's also incorrect.

The fact is, they HAVE made it into an Australian Test side of the last 25 years - both debuted a few years ago. Hughes debuted 4 years ago, Warner 2 years ago. Last I checked, that's in the last 25 years. Whether they should be there is debatable. But the fact is they have both played 15+ Tests, which is more than most Australian cricketers.

An observation is that both are struggling to play spin, and it may have been better to pick batsmen who are more accomplished at playing spin. Or provide special training against spin prior to the series, like Hayden had in 2001.

Posted by   on (March 5, 2013, 1:32 GMT)

Everybody here criticizing the Aussies Batting/Bowling in subcontinent. I am sure most of you guys were doing the same when India loosing badly by repeating the same old mistakes innings after innings.

So that proves all teams are vulnerable once they are out of their comfy zone.

No one team is unbeatable in all conditions.

Posted by hycIass on (March 5, 2013, 1:10 GMT)

As a cricket player & lover for nearly 40 years, it frightens me to see transparently inept & reactive decision making turning our national team into a joke. It used to be an honour to get presented with a baggy green, now they seem to just hand them out to anyone. When they're picking bowlers with higher averages than our batsmen, you know something is amiss.And Cowan must kick on today otherwise this will be his last test as he can't keep gettin out on 30 and 40s ? Unfortunately, playing a couple of "textbook" shots an innings seems to be all he has to do. And i have never seen since Hodge's days a player not given his chances as much as Khawaja, even Hussey endorsed him as the guy to take his spot but somehow we always find a way to keep him out. Also it seems the pendulum has swung in the sports scientists and "team ethic" camps. FFS just pick the best damn 11 players. If someone breaks down, then there'll be plenty of hunger amongst the players on the cusp.

Posted by Sanj747 on (March 5, 2013, 1:01 GMT)

Great article Brydon. Unfortunately Warner and Hughes don't have the technique. Warner after all should know about these conditions having played in the IPL for many years. Hughes should be playing test cricket full stop. Time and time again he has shown that he cannot play consistently against quality opposition at this level. Many left handers have done well in India - Cook, Flower, Hayden and Border. The new generation of left handed batsmen bar Cook are just not the same.

Posted by MinusZero on (March 5, 2013, 0:15 GMT)

Where has Hughes' agression gone? When he plays forcefully, he does better. Time is up now though. He should head to England and play FC cricket till the end of the season. Show he can score runs there, its the only way he will make the ashes

Posted by OneEyedAussie on (March 4, 2013, 23:47 GMT)

The Indians seems to have our top-order sussed out. Restrict Warner and Watson's scoring for a few overs and they'll fall even to a mediocre delivery. Cowan - gets to 30 and gets out. Hughes - well the less said the better. Do any of these guys know how to play a test innings? After getting out to ambitious cross-bat shots in the first innings, and then watching Vijay and Pujara play almost exclusively with a straight bat for six hours, have they learned anything?

Posted by aracer on (March 4, 2013, 23:36 GMT)

Thankfully an Australian batsman who's better than most of this lot will be heading out to India shortly and is definitely going to be playing in England this summer. Good news for Mumbai Indians and Surrey fans ;)

Posted by   on (March 4, 2013, 23:27 GMT)

Clarke does need support, but to be fair, he needs to move up the order. Just to number 4. Will make all the difference! Come one Clarke, do it for your team.

Posted by samincolumbia on (March 4, 2013, 22:23 GMT)

Australia would have been 4 wickets down, had Kohli and Dhoni held on to the easy catches from Cowan and Warner, both off of Kumar. Cowan had not even opened his account when Dhoni spilled a simple chance.

Posted by foursandsixes on (March 4, 2013, 21:22 GMT)

Oz openers struggled against India's pace attack as well. See what happened in the first innings. They were lucky to have a couple of dropped chances. They were tough chances, but should have been taken at the international level. So it is not just spin they are susceptible to, also medium pace bowling. This doesn't say much for them!

Posted by Behind_the_bowlers_arm on (March 4, 2013, 20:46 GMT)

It worries me that these batsmen seem such slow learners. You can understand mistakes in alien conditions initially but not learning is criminal. None bar Clarke seem to have the patience & intelligence to bat in Test cricket.

Posted by Beertjie on (March 4, 2013, 20:17 GMT)

Good article, but irrespective of how they play the spinners, they simply have to get decent scores to justify their continued selection. Four guys, all of whom want to open, is keeping Clarke at 5. This must be changed immediately! Despite wishing to give Cowan opportunities, the selectors ought to have had the sense to dump him for this tour. Now people are suggesting Rogers as a stop gap for England. Did the NSP not know enough about him to consider him for India? I'm not holding my breath that he'll even go to England except to play county!

Posted by JumboLad on (March 4, 2013, 20:10 GMT)

Woooow! Well done Countrymates. This test reminds me of a test match that I watched in Chennai in the late 90's I guess, where the Australians had no clue whatsoever about the Indian Spin attack. Happy to see Vijay and Pujara doing Great jobs at the Top Order. Hope Sehwag gets back to Form and Sachin gets a Ton before the series ends. Good Luck Buddies. BTW, Hats Off to "Brydon Coverdale". Excellent article. Very easy to follow :) Thanks a Bunch.

Posted by wix99 on (March 4, 2013, 20:05 GMT)

Australia should drop Hughes for the next Test. That would allow Clarke to move up to No. 4 and Smith or Khawaja to bat at No. 5.

Posted by Nuxxy on (March 4, 2013, 20:05 GMT)

The difference is England had a) a hard learning curve in the UAE, and b) a coach (Flower) who was an excellent player of spin. Mickey Arthur's last article on CricInfo? "We'll play spin aggressively".

Posted by   on (March 4, 2013, 20:01 GMT)

Don't Australia have a Remedial Center? Isn't it to train bowlers and batsmen? If so, the entire Australia team except Clarke need to go to the center for either batting or bowling lessons. This is the worst Australia team I have ever seen. Irresponsible batting and bowling. No variation in bowling, no technique in batting. They have already given themselves out even before coming to the crease. Most balls bowled by the Ausies are outswingers with no effect and the better ones the batsmen don't even have to play. No inswingers, that's why LBWs have eluded the fast bowlers. There is no venomand resistance in this team. Australia should have asked M. Hussey to stay until after the Ashes and pay him a little more. That was a big mistake to let him go.

Posted by   on (March 4, 2013, 19:47 GMT)

The key will be for a couple of batsmen to cash in after making a start. The Indian pair did this very well - no-one else in their team contributed anything of note. I hope that either Watson or Cowan (or both) make a big score on this atypical Hyderabad pitch.

Posted by   on (March 4, 2013, 19:41 GMT)

Hughes was told early in his career that he had a weak technique. He argued he was scoring lots of runs so he didn't need to get a proper one.

Then in 2009 England found he didn't have the technique to handle swing. Then again in 2010/11 he didn't have the technique to handle short fast bowling. Now he hasn't got the technique to handle spin.

There is a reason why coaching manuals exist. He needs to go away and study them for a couple of years - he still has time, just.

But Lord knows what team Australia are going to play in the Ashes - for sure their selectors don't.

Posted by blink182alex on (March 4, 2013, 19:16 GMT)

Both dismissals were poor, gifts to Ashwin really. Warner will stay as opener whilst Hughes cannot bat at 3 in the next test. I think Hughes has a big future in test cricket, and he has just started to score well in odis batting at 3, but he is clueless in these conditions.

Cowan and Watson will not convert 2moro, Cowan will get 40odd and Watson just doesn't score match winning innings in tests. Only Clarke is capable of scoring 130+ in this line up.

Posted by bumsonseats on (March 4, 2013, 19:14 GMT)

these 2 are basically T20/odis players if you can bowl a couple of maiden overs at them. they would never get into any test side of australia of the last 25 years this is not an observation its a fact.

Posted by   on (March 4, 2013, 18:45 GMT)

Just last week Brydon was criticizing the Aussies for being too defensive and seeing demons in the pitch and so on. The lesson we can take away from this is that cricket writing is fickle :)

Posted by Arrow011 on (March 4, 2013, 18:12 GMT)

I foresee an innings defeat for the Aussies tomorrow. Ashwin & Ravinder will take all the honors. Harbhajan is just making the numbers.

Posted by SasiGladi on (March 4, 2013, 17:02 GMT)

People dont forget warner was enlightened by Shewag he made warner to realize that he can bat as test opener he proved in several occasions....his mode is to attack all the time now you dont expect him to play like Vijay/ puj(49,106,151 - real test class batting).....what to do when he got enlightened the manual to attack test spinners were missed.....

Posted by wibblewibble on (March 4, 2013, 16:51 GMT)

Its the same process the England batsman had to go through, they also were getting out constantly to pre-determined sweep shots. The sweep shot is an excellent shot to play against spin, but it has to be the right length to sweep.

If you have difficulties judging a good length from the spinners, then you must only sweep when you are convinced you cannot be bowled or lbw by that delivery. IE, if it pitches outside leg, have a sweep.

Posted by SyedAreYouDumb on (March 4, 2013, 16:32 GMT)

No chance for Australian batsmen on this turning pitch. Looking how the Aussies play spin on REAL turning wickets. If Bangladesh or Sri Lanka produced these REAL turning pitches, the Aussies would lose too them!

Posted by Erebus26 on (March 4, 2013, 16:21 GMT)

It will be nice to see Cowan get a score. He hasn't got the best technique I've seen in an Aussie opener but he does have guts and has shown the ability to tough it out when required. I don't know about Warner and Hughes. Warner can tear apart attacks on flat surfaces but looks suspect whenever the ball is doing a bit or he is playing on surfaces that provide uneven bounce or a lot of turn. I think he'll always be one of those players that will struggle to rein in his one day and T20 instincts when playing the longer form of the game. Hughes has looked abject against spin during this series and I believe he's a lad that has mental fragility written all over him whenever he comes up against a bowler that challenges his technique.

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