December 5, 2010

North's form has gone south

As has Clarke's. But there's still hope for Australia, thanks to Haddin, Hussey and Watson. If only their bowling attack had a leader

The Australian selectors reacted aggressively to the mauling the bowlers received at the Gabba. They might face a similar overhaul of the batting after a dismal display at the revamped Adelaide Oval.

Marcus North is fast entering Mitchell Johnson territory with another unconvincing display in the middle order. North has taken on the role Michael Hussey previously played, batting as though his survival depends on a good score. Just imagine where Australia would be if the selectors had acted rashly prior to the series and omitted Hussey.

While North's woes have been well documented and ongoing, Michael Clarke has snuck up on the rails like a fast-finishing thoroughbred. Normally a good player of spin bowling, his failures in India were a surprise, but two wild and woolly shots in the Ashes series have set tongues wagging. Clarke needs to rectify this situation or he'll quickly be reclassified as future captain of New South Wales.

The other factor highlighting Australia's poor batting performance was the placid nature of the pitch. The stands at the Adelaide Oval may be new but it's the same old pitch, still very good for batting.

If it hadn't been for the two gallant Gabba heroes, Hussey and Brad Haddin, Australia's reputation would be in tatters. Their two innings-saving partnerships in this series have been built on a critical awareness of what is required and the ability to both defend and attack when the need has arisen.

With his new-found approach to batting, Hussey is playing as well as at any time in his career. He looks more solid as his defence has moved from survival to defiant mode, and his attacking play now contains an element of belligerence. There has never been any hint of survival about Haddin's batting. He enters the arena like a punter with a wad of notes in his pocket and begins to play as though he has devised an infallible system. He has proved beyond doubt that he's capable of handling the No. 6 spot in the Test side, and this could be a godsend as the selectors struggle to find the right combination.

The other shining light was Shane Watson. His technique stood out like a beacon when Jimmy Anderson was swinging the ball dangerously, and surely he has dispelled any further doubts over the wisdom of retaining him as an opener. It doesn't make sense to weaken a strength in order to strengthen a weakness.

Adding to Australia's woes, England have plotted and planned well. To make matters worse, they're showing Australia up in the field. Good slip-catching and bustling infield work has reaped its rewards, and the Australians, with a few exceptions, are struggling to break the shackles.

The problem is the Australian attack doesn't have an outstanding leader; opponents must look at the bowling line-up and see a series of efficient No. 3s but not a No. 1

There is though, some light at the end of the tunnel for Australia. The England pace attack doesn't look anywhere near as formidable when Anderson is resting, and if they can resist the late-swinging Lancastrian, life will be easier.

However, there are also distinct signs that Graeme Swann is coming to grips with Australian conditions. His role is to churn out overs both economically and in a probing manner and he played it to perfection, especially when bowling to North. Unless North can reverse this situation, he's doomed.

The ineptitude of the batting left Australia's chances of staying in the contest in Adelaide resting heavily on the reinforcements the selectors introduced following the Gabba mauling. The problem is the Australian attack doesn't have an outstanding leader; opponents must look at the bowling line-up and see a series of efficient No. 3s but not a No. 1.

As England built on the momentum they'd taken from their resurgence in Brisbane, it appeared as though the Australian selectors were in for another session of burning the midnight oil. Their trick will be to make any further changes not look like panic.

It's a far cry from the days when the team selected itself and when a mistake didn't become a glaring error because two champion bowlers in Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath covered cracks quicker than putty. Their job now is to not only select with the Ashes in mind but also for the future; not an easy task when losing to England is considered a hanging offence in Australia.

Former Australia captain Ian Chappell is now a cricket commentator and columnist

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Vernie on December 5, 2010, 23:33 GMT

    Is Stuart Clark retired? David Hussey and Cameron White can serve the same purpose as North and Clarke, my error they may score more runs. Siddle is a one day bowler, he would have a good bowl one day for a test series! Johnson needs to spend some of his contract money and hire Wasim Akram as a personal trainer. Johnson is one of the most frustrating cricketers to watch, perform a lobotomy and program him to do the simple things like bowl fast and forget about swing. Also what di the selectors have against Brad Hodge? I am sure Mcgrath, Warne, Gillespie and Lee can outbowl this lot without having trained for a long time. It now seems like a good time for Zimbabwe to reenter test cricket as long as they schedule their first series against Australia. To take a page out of Boycott, these Aussie bowlers can't dismiss a team if 11 clones of my grandma made up the team

  • Bob on December 5, 2010, 23:18 GMT

    being saying it for a while but as a test team the Aussies would have to be the oldest team on average by many years, we never blood a youngster and when we do...Hughes was the last one, we banish him back to state cricket, pretty sure A.Cook had plenty of flaws in his batting yet look where he is now because they recognised talent and nurtured it. Quite simply we need to take some medicine and employ a youth strategy for a few years don't care who they are but they need to be performing in state cricket and be under 25....30 at most...Hughes, Warner, Watson, Khwaja, Ferguson, Haddin, Smith, O'Keefe, Siddle, Copeland, George and hope to god that Mitch Marsh and some young guns come along in the next year or two....

  • Ahnaf on December 5, 2010, 22:32 GMT

    I partially agree with ravichakra...Ian chappell said before the start of the Ashes to drop Alastair Cook And just see what he has done now...He said picking dravid against newzealand was a wrong decision...Then again,he scored 2 centuries...he also said hussey will struggle...and he's the highest aussie scorer so far...anyway...i really think dropping north is a MUST...bring in cameron white...and not sure about doherty too...he experienced 2 rough days and his confidence is very low....Australia needs a fast bowler like tait or lee...what they don't play test cricket any more...what a shame..

  • Alex on December 5, 2010, 22:26 GMT

    Bring in Andrew Symmonds and Brad hodge. Drop michale clarke and north

  • mayank on December 5, 2010, 21:03 GMT

    Well it is now proved that North is a waste but i dont know why everybody is talking about fegureson and Usman as his replacement .May be because of thier younger age . Instead Cameron White is the man who should be in team in palce of North , by the way he is also just 27 . White is one of our leading run scorrer in onedayers , we all know how capable he is in T20 and we have seen how he hammered the English bowlers in the 4 day tour game and scored a ton where all other Australians Batsman failed including Fegureson and Usman .White had led victoria from a very young age of 20 and he is definately a future captain of australia .We need an aggressive batsman at no. 6 and White's attacking skill could be a great help to reclaim Ashes . Its high time now and selectors should replace Western Australia's captain with Victoria's skipper in Austrilan National team .

  • gerard on December 5, 2010, 20:29 GMT

    Australia are a spent force and have been a spent force for a long time now. Things are only going to get worse with both Ponting and Hussey the wrong side of thrity.It is quite possible Australia could end up like the West Indies. as there is no one coming through the ranks in other words the Aussie cupboard is bare

  • Ned on December 5, 2010, 19:47 GMT

    symo will not return to the test or one dayers sad to say still think,that despite his faults he would have shored up the middle order but i cant blame him for leaving.his interview on this site explains it all.

  • Billy on December 5, 2010, 19:37 GMT

    My solution is to drop North and bring in either Callum Ferguson or Usman Khawadj.

  • wayne on December 5, 2010, 19:32 GMT

    Okay, for the last time, Brad Hodge is RETIRED - he had a run a few years ago but unfortunately this coincided with a strong period for Australia. As for Andrew Symonds, he has said he DOES NOT WANT TO PLAY for Australia, and when he did play test cricket he had major discipline and confidence issues.

  • Dummy4 on December 5, 2010, 18:06 GMT

    In typical Aussie annoying style, both Clarke and North will no doubt have a resurgence of form in their second innings, leaving Aussie fans to wonder why the hell they didn't do that initially. I've got a feeling Clarke and North will score at least 50 each and then commentators and fans alike will announce "they're back". I hope they both get out for a duck because for too long they've ridden on the back of former Aussie greatness. Now that Australia isn't the team they used to be they are crumbling under the pressure! Go England!!!

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