England v Australia, 1st Investec Test, Trent Bridge July 10, 2013

Batsmen reveal Australia's pain

Australia's problem is their complete and utter lack of the ability to make runs at Test level with any kind of regularity or consistency
22

The world's pain is often etched on Peter Siddle's face. Every groove and undulation tells the story of an extinct animal or a lost city.

That is just when he is bowling, and even being successful.

Today one of those lines would have been for his team's batting performance. It is barely possible to imagine his grimace as Australia dived off a cliff with bats in their hand.

Whether you're in the camp that Australian bowlers are overrated and lucky, variously worse than New Zealand's attack or better than the rampant West Indies of old, it's pretty clear the bowlers aren't Australia's problem. Their problem isn't even their collection of random flawed spinners. It's not even that they have a rugby manager. Or that they can't even throw punches straight.

Their problem is their complete and utter lack of the ability to make runs at Test level with any kind of regularity or consistency.

Remove Michael Clarke - and in general he probably wants to distance himself from this batting line-up - not one player in this side averages more than 36.

Thirty-six.

It's therefore not all that surprising that they have set up their team so that they bat to 11.

A total of 215, so low that it also gave England a bite at them in the gloom, was always going to be tough for a line-up devoid of Test runs. What happened next was predictable and exciting.

Shane Watson thrust his front pad out like it had high-priority marketing on it, because that is how Shane Watson bats. He also tried to dominate like he did in the tour games, the way he was born to play: big, bullish, and buggering. Instead he was late and out. He wanted this opening spot so badly, but all his desperation did was put him in the firing line of Steve Finn.

When Darren Lehmann shook up the Australian batting order, Ed Cowan bit hard onto Lehmann's arm and wouldn't let go. He'd been the least embarrassing of the top order in India, he'd spent months playing county cricket. He was ready, he could do this, and maybe he still can, but today all we saw was one rash attempted cover drive and a quick walk off.

Clarke was beaten by a ball so perfectly deadly it was as if it was made of solid kryptonite.

Chris Rogers came back from 62 Tests off looking fresh and frisky. There is nothing pretty about Rogers. His arm guard seems to have been used in fights with homeless people. His technique is brought together from a collection of techniques he has found in the changerooms of the world. But he plays late, and he's careful. It's effective, and he was unlucky on his lbw. But his wicket meant that Australia had given up all of Peter Siddle's work.

This left Australia only with the eager, technically-flawed, fidgety Smith.

When your team is 22 for 3, this is not the man you want coming to the crease. Smith is many things, but he's not John Wayne or Steve Waugh.

What Smith lacks in technical ability he does make up in three key areas. His eye is phenomenal. He could spot a raccoon a mile off on a foggy night in a dense forest. His confidence is remarkable. For a player that everyone else has written off, Smith just refuses to believe he isn't good enough. And then there is his fight. There is a bit of the mongrel in him.

Early on he played a ball to point that his hips were playing to fine leg and his bat was playing to midwicket. The England slips needed drool buckets. Somehow he survived Anderson. He punished Finn every time he made a mistake. And he decided to greet Graeme Swann by putting him back into his own members stand.

Smith scored over half of Australia's runs at a strike rate of 74 and looked as likely to make a fifty as any batsmen on the day. Yet, there will be Australians who wake up, check the scorecard, see that fact, and assume they're heaving a weird dream which will probably end with ants coming out of their hand.

England only made 45 more than they did that first day at the Gabba, but at the end of that first day at the Gabba, Australia's batting entrails weren't scattered all over the floor like today.

You may not believe in Steve Smith, and he's given you plenty of reasons not to, but Darren Lehmann does. And it appears like everyone believes in Darren Lehmann. Darren Lehmann didn't just pick Steve Smith, he batted him at five: a proper batting position.

It was probably a decision on blind faith, and when only one of your batsmen average over 36, blind faith and the cult of Darren Lehmann is all you have.

Jarrod Kimber is 50% of the Two Chucks, and the mind responsible for cricketwithballs.com

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Barnesy4444 on July 11, 2013, 3:01 GMT

    I watched Smith in India and he looked the goods. Composed for a young player, he has obviously watched Clarke play spin and has copied it. Let's not forget Hughes either, he has a knack for scoring centuries and has made several of them in England.

    Watson was the disappointing wicket, it was a straight, full ball just outside off. Cowan was lucky to be selected to play test cricket in the first place but to get 18 tests, well................. People such as Brad Hodge and Jamie Siddons will be tearing their hair out, it's painful to watch Cowan bat.

  • chitti_cricket on July 11, 2013, 0:17 GMT

    Mate it looks a fare assessment of the Australian batting, as I'm rooting for Australia to do 1989 Australia I never expected the top order would show such bad nerves on a big day. Of all the wickets Australia lost today I would rate Watson and Cowen played worst shots and are very arrogant, in their approach they were thinking Anderson & Co as club cricketers and they have hugely miscalculated. They have shown school boyish temperament in their approach. In this whole rut I felt Steve Smith though lacking in technique showed character, a pure OZ character. In an another post I had Smith in Australian 11 did not know why, just may be blind faith in his fighting character. Hopefully I may prove right and the same applies to Lehmann, who showed same blind faith in him.

  • Cricketfreak18 on July 11, 2013, 9:19 GMT

    ''What Smith lacks in technical ability he does make up in three key areas. His eye is phenomenal. He could spot a raccoon a mile off on a foggy night in a dense forest. His confidence is remarkable. For a player that everyone else has written off, Smith just refuses to believe he isn't good enough. And then there is his fight. There isa bit of the mongrel in him.''

    This part was true to the last of the fullstops.

  • chin-music on July 11, 2013, 9:01 GMT

    Steve Smith seems to always get all the condescension from batting pundits - but from what I saw in India, he seemed to be the one guy in the Aussie line up who more than held his own while at the crease ( albeit without a big score , but then there were'nt too many Aussie big scores !). Unorthodox technique never prevented Shiv Chanderpaul from finishing up a top-class batsman - i suspect Smith will end up doing the same.

  • ozwriter on July 11, 2013, 8:24 GMT

    great article. australia's woes are compounded by one man, cowan. surely he must be 2 standard deviations below the mean, he is terrible. best of luck to him but won't be surprised if gets a pair...and then continues to be picked...

  • on July 11, 2013, 7:43 GMT

    Smith plays for Pune in the IPL. Based on just the 20-20 assesment, I think a lot of ppl underestimate this guy...He is an excellent fielder...does a decent job bowling and hits the ball cleanly...

    I think he is gonna surprise a lot of ppl this time around...!

  • gibboj on July 11, 2013, 6:06 GMT

    cowan played a dumb shot, but he's good enough to play and do well. It's watson who needs to go, you could tell from ball one that his innings wasn't going to last long.

    swap Watson for Khawaja and Cowan opens

  • on July 11, 2013, 5:23 GMT

    Kimber I always look forward to your articles not because of what you write (your articles are great btw) but how you write it.Hope more cricinfo writers would add an element of humor to their articles it makes neutral readers like me enjoy them much more.

    A spot on assessment Aussies will never win any series outside Aus with this batting line up (forget Ashes) unless they drastically improve or meet an abysmally bad team (WI or India that toured them last year) though they will win the odd match.

    Watson is over-rated.Yuvraj had nearly won twice many matches than him for India & he could not never crack it at test level Cowan has a got a heart of a warrior but no skills/temperament. (take your pick) Hughes may play a match winning innings but he is as inconsistent as Rohit Sharma (& you need a special skill set to be that inconsistent) Clarke is a genius & he can single-handedly win a match but not a series Smith has potential but still a work-in-progress

    It is England's to lose.

  • Wefinishthis on July 11, 2013, 4:41 GMT

    There is one other available batsmen who has a higher test average than 36 - David Warner, but the selectors decided to shoot themselves in the foot instead and not pick him. Khawaja (or even Starc) is much more deserving than Cowan at no.3 as well. Cowan is one of the worst batmsen to play for Australia in 3 decades. 31 test match innings and just the 1 hundred and 6 half-centuries at an average barely above 30. His FC average is not great either PLUS he's approaching 32 years of age - so there's not much point 'persisting' with him - unlike Steve Waugh at the same stage. He's had a fair go, he failed - it happens. So drop him and look towards someone younger that we can persist with. Burns and Silk have shown potential. Selectors need to be ruthless like they were when they dropped Hayden, Langer, Ponting etc multiple times until they earned their way back into the side and we all know how they turned out. The problem is that they go on gut feelings and not results or proven ability.

  • CricketPervert on July 11, 2013, 4:06 GMT

    Another well written article. I think Smith is made of the right stuff and i'm putting it out there...will be Australia's next captain!

  • Barnesy4444 on July 11, 2013, 3:01 GMT

    I watched Smith in India and he looked the goods. Composed for a young player, he has obviously watched Clarke play spin and has copied it. Let's not forget Hughes either, he has a knack for scoring centuries and has made several of them in England.

    Watson was the disappointing wicket, it was a straight, full ball just outside off. Cowan was lucky to be selected to play test cricket in the first place but to get 18 tests, well................. People such as Brad Hodge and Jamie Siddons will be tearing their hair out, it's painful to watch Cowan bat.

  • chitti_cricket on July 11, 2013, 0:17 GMT

    Mate it looks a fare assessment of the Australian batting, as I'm rooting for Australia to do 1989 Australia I never expected the top order would show such bad nerves on a big day. Of all the wickets Australia lost today I would rate Watson and Cowen played worst shots and are very arrogant, in their approach they were thinking Anderson & Co as club cricketers and they have hugely miscalculated. They have shown school boyish temperament in their approach. In this whole rut I felt Steve Smith though lacking in technique showed character, a pure OZ character. In an another post I had Smith in Australian 11 did not know why, just may be blind faith in his fighting character. Hopefully I may prove right and the same applies to Lehmann, who showed same blind faith in him.

  • Cricketfreak18 on July 11, 2013, 9:19 GMT

    ''What Smith lacks in technical ability he does make up in three key areas. His eye is phenomenal. He could spot a raccoon a mile off on a foggy night in a dense forest. His confidence is remarkable. For a player that everyone else has written off, Smith just refuses to believe he isn't good enough. And then there is his fight. There isa bit of the mongrel in him.''

    This part was true to the last of the fullstops.

  • chin-music on July 11, 2013, 9:01 GMT

    Steve Smith seems to always get all the condescension from batting pundits - but from what I saw in India, he seemed to be the one guy in the Aussie line up who more than held his own while at the crease ( albeit without a big score , but then there were'nt too many Aussie big scores !). Unorthodox technique never prevented Shiv Chanderpaul from finishing up a top-class batsman - i suspect Smith will end up doing the same.

  • ozwriter on July 11, 2013, 8:24 GMT

    great article. australia's woes are compounded by one man, cowan. surely he must be 2 standard deviations below the mean, he is terrible. best of luck to him but won't be surprised if gets a pair...and then continues to be picked...

  • on July 11, 2013, 7:43 GMT

    Smith plays for Pune in the IPL. Based on just the 20-20 assesment, I think a lot of ppl underestimate this guy...He is an excellent fielder...does a decent job bowling and hits the ball cleanly...

    I think he is gonna surprise a lot of ppl this time around...!

  • gibboj on July 11, 2013, 6:06 GMT

    cowan played a dumb shot, but he's good enough to play and do well. It's watson who needs to go, you could tell from ball one that his innings wasn't going to last long.

    swap Watson for Khawaja and Cowan opens

  • on July 11, 2013, 5:23 GMT

    Kimber I always look forward to your articles not because of what you write (your articles are great btw) but how you write it.Hope more cricinfo writers would add an element of humor to their articles it makes neutral readers like me enjoy them much more.

    A spot on assessment Aussies will never win any series outside Aus with this batting line up (forget Ashes) unless they drastically improve or meet an abysmally bad team (WI or India that toured them last year) though they will win the odd match.

    Watson is over-rated.Yuvraj had nearly won twice many matches than him for India & he could not never crack it at test level Cowan has a got a heart of a warrior but no skills/temperament. (take your pick) Hughes may play a match winning innings but he is as inconsistent as Rohit Sharma (& you need a special skill set to be that inconsistent) Clarke is a genius & he can single-handedly win a match but not a series Smith has potential but still a work-in-progress

    It is England's to lose.

  • Wefinishthis on July 11, 2013, 4:41 GMT

    There is one other available batsmen who has a higher test average than 36 - David Warner, but the selectors decided to shoot themselves in the foot instead and not pick him. Khawaja (or even Starc) is much more deserving than Cowan at no.3 as well. Cowan is one of the worst batmsen to play for Australia in 3 decades. 31 test match innings and just the 1 hundred and 6 half-centuries at an average barely above 30. His FC average is not great either PLUS he's approaching 32 years of age - so there's not much point 'persisting' with him - unlike Steve Waugh at the same stage. He's had a fair go, he failed - it happens. So drop him and look towards someone younger that we can persist with. Burns and Silk have shown potential. Selectors need to be ruthless like they were when they dropped Hayden, Langer, Ponting etc multiple times until they earned their way back into the side and we all know how they turned out. The problem is that they go on gut feelings and not results or proven ability.

  • CricketPervert on July 11, 2013, 4:06 GMT

    Another well written article. I think Smith is made of the right stuff and i'm putting it out there...will be Australia's next captain!

  • dwblurb on July 11, 2013, 3:55 GMT

    I think I must have been watching another game. Steve Smith looked pretty calm and in control to me. He has come a long way since the last Ashes series, stands much stiller at the crease, doesn't wave his bat around as much, and most importantly looks to play much straighter. Moreover he deserved his spot with his performances in India and in the warm-up games. He still has work to do outside off stump, but he is someone who has improved and looks as though he could continue to do so, which is what you want.

  • jmcilhinney on July 11, 2013, 3:39 GMT

    Apparently, when your team is 22/3 and the man slated to come in at #5 is Phil Hughes, Steve Smith is the man you want coming to the crease. I guess there was no Rob Quiney to shield Hughes with so Smith will do.

  • Sunil_Batra on July 11, 2013, 3:38 GMT

    I would ask some serious questions from the selectors. They got the siddle selection right but Cowan selection wrong. I like Ed Cowan. I like his attitude. But he isn't good enough to be a Test cricketer.Khawaja should be the one we focus our energy on not Cowan who is 31 with a FC average below 40. Ussie is still only 26 (a batsman doesn't usually find his peak years till 29-33) so I'd bank on him doing better in the long and short term than Cowan. Common sense hopefully prevails in the second test. Also did anyone else notice that Smith has tightened his technique, he looks a much improved batsman, good signs. Rogers fought well and was unlucky.

  • Beertjie on July 11, 2013, 3:13 GMT

    Yep spot on, as usual, Jarrod. If Watto can't bowl more than 4 overs what the hell is he doing here? Ditto Cowan whose lack of class is too obvious for comment. But although I wouldn't have had Smith there, he just might prove his doubters quite wrong. And Hughes? Could he move up from #6 to partner Rogers? By Old Trafford a more settled and batting line-up just might emerge (along with the tooth fairy): Rogers, Hughes, Warner, Clarke, Smith, Khawaja, Haddin... Finally getting it right or merely shifting the deckchairs on the Titanic?

  • on July 11, 2013, 1:54 GMT

    Well this would well be the script for "The Next Leader" Steve Smith isn't it?

    Came in, looking harmless, no technique, a 50, then 100 while the next best score is extras.

    And whats this, i have ants coming out of my hand

  • BillyCC on July 11, 2013, 1:21 GMT

    Great article and completely agree. When Cowan ticks over to 20 tests, he will officially be Australia's worst ever test batsman with a minimum 20 tests. Sadly, snapping at his heels are Phil Hughes and Shane Watson where a case could be made that they already fit the bill. Our bowlers are ok (not matchwinners yet but still not bad), our batsmen failed us against India and against South Africa at the WACA.

  • Mitty2 on July 11, 2013, 0:20 GMT

    Very disappointing that we couldn't push on the advantage from our very solid bowling display (I still can't believe some said that the NZ attack was superior...), but I guess we are too inexperienced to be able to thoroughly dominate. You saw in India that there were many sessions that we were on top, but when it came to the crucial moment to put them away, we choked and resultantly we got dominated. Hopefully it's not a mindset/mentality, and we can eridicate on the second morning with some critic-defying batting from both the technically proficient batsmen ;) in Hughes and smith. In reality, the game is more in our favour - we're only 140 runs behind and we have a very strong tail - but Hughes and smith need to set a precedent for the other batsmen. If they prosper here (and in reality they have to considering that broad will not be fully fit), they will inspire the other batsmen who are in desperate need of confidence. C'mon boys!!

  • gramedgar on July 10, 2013, 22:16 GMT

    Love the writing Jarrod. Will look out for that arm guard on Saturday when they bat again.

  • Jeppo on July 10, 2013, 22:06 GMT

    Today all of the Australian batsman, with the sole exception of Michael Clarke, who was beaten by one of the best deliveries I've seen in a long time, got out playing rash shots. Normally I would put this down to first day Ashes nerves - many of England's batsman also got out cheaply - but there has to be a fundamental problem with the Australian batting as a whole, but they are consistently under-performing for over a year now.

    Improvements must be made and fast if Australia want to be a force to be reckoned with in the long term. In short, they need another Ricky Ponting, and they need another Michael Hussey. Clarke can't always bat Australia out of trouble.

  • on July 10, 2013, 22:04 GMT

    Steve smith will dominate english attack all day

  • ScottStevo on July 10, 2013, 21:47 GMT

    Completely biased garbage. Australia bowled poorly today and still rumbled England, who clearly aren't and haven't been for some time, anywhere near as good as they'd have you believe, blaming everything on complacency! As for Watson being rattled by Finn - you're kidding yourself. He just panned him twice and the third was a rank half volley that should've got the same treatment and Watson's drive undone by some seam movement. It wasn't a great start for a batting line short of runs, granted. But it was hardly a very good batting performance from England either, mate. (Today was perfect illustration of DRS's failures.) I'm not a huge fan om Smith, but it's tough to be dismissive of him at 5/6 when Bairstow at 6 is rubbish and Bell can't buy run at the moment. For all Smiths lack of technical prowess, he makes up for in self belief. With he and Hughes at the crease and Haddin plus bowlers to come, if we bat half decently, we should take a first innings lead...

  • Sanj747 on July 10, 2013, 21:43 GMT

    Jarrod great article. Both Watson and Cowan continue to disappoint. Cowan is likely yo make for Khwaja. With Watson we will have to send in a replacement if he continues to fail. Immediate thoughts are Nic Maddinson. Lehmann would surely have him in mind given his century on the A tour. See maddinson a future opener with thin the next 12 months if not sooner. Smith is coming leaps and bounds. A future leader. Just hope he continues to play the way he has and did in India.

  • Sanj747 on July 10, 2013, 21:43 GMT

    Jarrod great article. Both Watson and Cowan continue to disappoint. Cowan is likely yo make for Khwaja. With Watson we will have to send in a replacement if he continues to fail. Immediate thoughts are Nic Maddinson. Lehmann would surely have him in mind given his century on the A tour. See maddinson a future opener with thin the next 12 months if not sooner. Smith is coming leaps and bounds. A future leader. Just hope he continues to play the way he has and did in India.

  • ScottStevo on July 10, 2013, 21:47 GMT

    Completely biased garbage. Australia bowled poorly today and still rumbled England, who clearly aren't and haven't been for some time, anywhere near as good as they'd have you believe, blaming everything on complacency! As for Watson being rattled by Finn - you're kidding yourself. He just panned him twice and the third was a rank half volley that should've got the same treatment and Watson's drive undone by some seam movement. It wasn't a great start for a batting line short of runs, granted. But it was hardly a very good batting performance from England either, mate. (Today was perfect illustration of DRS's failures.) I'm not a huge fan om Smith, but it's tough to be dismissive of him at 5/6 when Bairstow at 6 is rubbish and Bell can't buy run at the moment. For all Smiths lack of technical prowess, he makes up for in self belief. With he and Hughes at the crease and Haddin plus bowlers to come, if we bat half decently, we should take a first innings lead...

  • on July 10, 2013, 22:04 GMT

    Steve smith will dominate english attack all day

  • Jeppo on July 10, 2013, 22:06 GMT

    Today all of the Australian batsman, with the sole exception of Michael Clarke, who was beaten by one of the best deliveries I've seen in a long time, got out playing rash shots. Normally I would put this down to first day Ashes nerves - many of England's batsman also got out cheaply - but there has to be a fundamental problem with the Australian batting as a whole, but they are consistently under-performing for over a year now.

    Improvements must be made and fast if Australia want to be a force to be reckoned with in the long term. In short, they need another Ricky Ponting, and they need another Michael Hussey. Clarke can't always bat Australia out of trouble.

  • gramedgar on July 10, 2013, 22:16 GMT

    Love the writing Jarrod. Will look out for that arm guard on Saturday when they bat again.

  • Mitty2 on July 11, 2013, 0:20 GMT

    Very disappointing that we couldn't push on the advantage from our very solid bowling display (I still can't believe some said that the NZ attack was superior...), but I guess we are too inexperienced to be able to thoroughly dominate. You saw in India that there were many sessions that we were on top, but when it came to the crucial moment to put them away, we choked and resultantly we got dominated. Hopefully it's not a mindset/mentality, and we can eridicate on the second morning with some critic-defying batting from both the technically proficient batsmen ;) in Hughes and smith. In reality, the game is more in our favour - we're only 140 runs behind and we have a very strong tail - but Hughes and smith need to set a precedent for the other batsmen. If they prosper here (and in reality they have to considering that broad will not be fully fit), they will inspire the other batsmen who are in desperate need of confidence. C'mon boys!!

  • BillyCC on July 11, 2013, 1:21 GMT

    Great article and completely agree. When Cowan ticks over to 20 tests, he will officially be Australia's worst ever test batsman with a minimum 20 tests. Sadly, snapping at his heels are Phil Hughes and Shane Watson where a case could be made that they already fit the bill. Our bowlers are ok (not matchwinners yet but still not bad), our batsmen failed us against India and against South Africa at the WACA.

  • on July 11, 2013, 1:54 GMT

    Well this would well be the script for "The Next Leader" Steve Smith isn't it?

    Came in, looking harmless, no technique, a 50, then 100 while the next best score is extras.

    And whats this, i have ants coming out of my hand

  • Beertjie on July 11, 2013, 3:13 GMT

    Yep spot on, as usual, Jarrod. If Watto can't bowl more than 4 overs what the hell is he doing here? Ditto Cowan whose lack of class is too obvious for comment. But although I wouldn't have had Smith there, he just might prove his doubters quite wrong. And Hughes? Could he move up from #6 to partner Rogers? By Old Trafford a more settled and batting line-up just might emerge (along with the tooth fairy): Rogers, Hughes, Warner, Clarke, Smith, Khawaja, Haddin... Finally getting it right or merely shifting the deckchairs on the Titanic?

  • Sunil_Batra on July 11, 2013, 3:38 GMT

    I would ask some serious questions from the selectors. They got the siddle selection right but Cowan selection wrong. I like Ed Cowan. I like his attitude. But he isn't good enough to be a Test cricketer.Khawaja should be the one we focus our energy on not Cowan who is 31 with a FC average below 40. Ussie is still only 26 (a batsman doesn't usually find his peak years till 29-33) so I'd bank on him doing better in the long and short term than Cowan. Common sense hopefully prevails in the second test. Also did anyone else notice that Smith has tightened his technique, he looks a much improved batsman, good signs. Rogers fought well and was unlucky.