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

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.


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

  • Cricket 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.

  • Sumit 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.

  • Ash 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...

  • Dummy4 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...!

  • James 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

  • Dummy4 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.

  • Chris 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.

  • Luke 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!

  • David 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.

  • John 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.