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Australia v England, 5th Test, Sydney, 1st day

Trying to turn six into No. 1

Australia's top order has been bailed out time and again by Brad Haddin - but they will need to do better if they are going to top the rankings

Jarrod Kimber at the SCG

January 3, 2014

Comments: 70 | Text size: A | A
'Felt good every time I walked into bat' - Steven Smith

David Warner didn't move his feet. Not for the first time. Chris Rogers was unlucky. At the wrong age to do that. Michael Clarke fended at the moving ball. Easier to do at No. 4 than No. 5. Shane Watson planted the target on the front pad. England found it for the first time this series. George Bailey was dangling outside off. People already murmuring about him there.

Brad Haddin flies in. Situation sorted. Again. Again. Again. Again.

---

Beneath the Big Bash big talk, away from the CA Twitter account's split personality and far from ads for summer's biggest dress up party, Cricket Australia still take cricket seriously. It may not always seem that way as the 'Ashes pashes' are on the big screen but Cricket Australia has been pretty consistent on one thing, it wants the team to be No. 1. It actually want to be No. 1, No. 1 and No. 1. In all formats, the best team on earth. A cynic may suggest that it'll make for better marketing copy, but it's still a worthy, if hard to attain, ambition.

Clarke used his newspaper column to reiterate that this team wanted to be No. 1 straight after Perth. That's when captains speak, after the game, when the result dictates the conversation. Had Clarke been asked to speak when Australia's fifth first-innings wicket fell, No. 1 would have been a sizable distance from his mind. The Australia top order have consistently been awful in the first innings. Only in Adelaide were they anything near passable. In every other innings they've been poor.

Then Haddin comes in. Technically Haddin has batted at No. 7. But in real terms he's batted one, two, three, four, five, six and seven. Add a cape and a moustache and Mitchell Johnson may not win Man of the Series.

Haddin as the permanent saviour was enough to win the Ashes. And it may be enough to win 5-0. But to be No. 1, you are probably going to need a top order. And Australia's next series is against a bowling attack of Morne Morkel, Vernon Philander and Dale Steyn.

Beating England, while that team is in emotional freefall, at home is just a step in the right direction, not anything more. Australia were naked in a gutter a few months back, and they haven't won three consecutive Test series in a row since the infamous summer of kidding themselves against West Indies, Pakistan and New Zealand. This summer there are far more good signs than back in 2009-10. That's all they are. This isn't some finished product that has honed its game around the world and is ready to tussle at the top, it's an old team with a good bowling attack that's in great form.

Form is, as many cricketers have told us, temporary.

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"Australia have the best bowling attack in the world." It's something you may have heard more than once. Lazy commentators say it, showing that they don't follow the cricket outside of Australia. Coaches have said it, despite the fact it is their job to know how good other countries are. It's not the best bowling attack in the world (unless South Africa has been voted off the planet). But it's really good.

Peter Siddle has improved virtually every part of his bowling. He is a leader and a worker, who never gives up. Nathan Lyon was the boy no one wanted. Considering the menagerie of misfits used as spinners before (and during) his time, surely only a mad scientist selector would change him now. If Johnson keeps bowling the way he is, he may actually explode, as will most batsmen who face him. He could also lose form and confidence and end up sitting on the bench for an IPL franchise. It's all possible. Ryan Harris may not be long for this game. Then again, who really thought he'd play nine straight Test matches against England.

 
 
If Australia do win 5-0, in the history of cricket it will probably be the worst batting line-up to have ever swept such a long series
 

Harris is the only one for who age is a concern. Australia also have James Pattinson (Test average of 26), Pat Cummins (pace like fire, body like paper) and Nathan Coulter-Nile (pace - tick, swing - tick) hanging around.

So it may not be the best on earth, but it's a pretty damn scary attack to bump into on a dark night. With Johnson in this form, it's nuclear.

---

India and South Africa are the No.1 and No. 2-ranked sides in the world. Even if India had won in South Africa, their first overseas series since they were in Australia two years ago, they were too many points behind to go top.

India look good right now, but may be a bowler short away from home. R Ashwin is averaging more than five wickets a Test and was just dropped against South Africa. Pakistan were ranked fourth before this series. In recent times they drew with South Africa, and before that they drew with Zimbabwe. Essentially they play in the same manner Saeed Ajmal does press conferences.

England are so bad right now, the hashtag #pomnishambles has been invented.

So, that only leaves South Africa. They are the best team on earth. They have beaten or drawn all their series since losing, to the then-No. 1 side, Australia in '09. In their last seven series, they have won six and drawn once. After Gary Kirsten took over, they became the team that they flirted with being at most times since readmission.

To beat them, you have to shove Graeme Smith aside. Confuse Hashim Amla. Hope AB de Villiers is tired. Then survive the bowling attack. And do it all quickly in a shortened series.

---


Chris Rogers pulled into his stumps, Australia v England, 5th Test, Sydney, 1st day, January 3, 2014
Australia's top order crumbled again © Getty Images
Enlarge

If Australia do win 5-0, in the history of cricket it will probably be the worst batting line-up to have ever swept such a long series.

Coming into Melbourne, Chris Rogers was a 36-year-old with a Test average of 31.88 - pretty much the same average that Ed Cowan had when he lost his place. Then England dropped Rogers at the MCG and he made his second hundred and cemented his place for South Africa. He's obviously not rubbish, but at his age, he doesn't need balls bouncing back through his legs on to the stumps. Chances are, no matter how good his career goes, at his age, he'll be a batting coach or commentator by the next time Australia are No. 1 in Tests.

David Warner's form has been amazing, in the second innings when Australia have been smashing the ball everywhere against a Mitch Johnson-ed England. His first innings have shown promise, but he's never gone through. He still has no overseas Test hundreds and in the one second innings when the pressure was on, he failed. After being dropped. His footwork is always going to get negative feedback but he's never going to fix it. In South Africa it will be tested every day.

Shane Watson is batting at No. 3 for Australia, with a Test average of 36.56, and you can see why Darren Lehmann may not have backed him completely as a batsman. It still makes more sense for Watson to bat at No. 5 or No. 6, but then Australia would have no one to bat at three. In the first innings of this series, he has been woeful, but he made a happy slap hundred in Perth, and guided Australia home at Melbourne. Still important, still frustrating, and still a massive lbw candidate.

Michael Clarke has a bad back, and a sensational home record. If he can recreate that away from home, and his back stays good, he'll be a good player to ride to No. 1.

Steven Smith is one of three Trent Woodhill (a see ball, hit ball batting coach) disciples who have made hundreds this series. He made another in England, and gave another way. In India, as his team-mates cried into their cornflakes, he came in and showed guts and feet. Here was another hundred that proved how tough he is. But he's still only averaging 37.41 in Test cricket. It's because Smith either makes runs, or fails. There is no in between. His bowling, and fielding are both useful but, at No. 5, he needs to make it as a batsman. He is probably a six, and maybe so is Watson, and it looks like Bailey might be as well.

George Bailey may not even make it to South Africa. Or Clarke could retire and he becomes captain. One is more likely than the other.

---

There was no shock as Australia lost early wickets. It was green, Australia had been put in, and throughout this Ashes (and the entire mega Ashes) Australia have struggled to score in the first innings. There was no shock that Haddin saved them either. It may have been moving around, and in his bad times he would have nicked off playing a shocking shot, but that wouldn't have felt natural in this series. It all happened exactly as it has for five Tests.

Australia failed, England failed harder. Haddin prevailed.

Australia are old, have a frail batting line up and are relying on a 36-year-old wicketkeeper more than any team should. They shouldn't get to No. 1, but then they shouldn't have won this series without a fully functioning top six. Even with a fully functioning Brad Haddin behind it.

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

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Posted by mysecretme on (January 9, 2014, 0:16 GMT)

India can not be called a team yet- only Kohli, Pujara and Rahane proved that they have the potential to be good players overseas. Vijay proved he can play the Akash Chopra role. Every one else in the team disappointed. Worst of all was Dhoni. - Aussies are generally really good at home(last 40 years)- barring one major blip when England won last. Even then, they had a major pain during the last SA visit. If I remember correctly, they could not get Faf out, just like the Indians found out now. I am not sure why they think it will be different now. Except for Kallis, its the same team that won the last test.

SA are a great fielding(important) and bowling team. I am not sure if Aussies with their current batting frailties will even make one score above 300 against them. Every Aussie batsman needed a dropped chance or two this series before coming off.

Posted by Thegimp on (January 6, 2014, 0:55 GMT)

@Greatest_Game....someone needs a hug

Posted by   on (January 5, 2014, 13:40 GMT)

I guess that if this article is correct then it really does mean that England are lower then low to have beeen beaten so comprehensively by an old, injured, unskilled bunch as Australia ..........

The comments to the effect that we have the best bowling attack and want to be No. 1 are the kind of comments that any half decent captain / coach are going to make - what would have been more of a concern was if they came out and said something to the effect of "we have done well this time, but you know what, we are old and inconsistent, and wouldn't dare dream to aspire to being No. 1...... Really, we have no chance in South Africa".....

It called keeping the confidence up....... Articles like this one are not unexpected - it hurts to lose and sometimes the easiest way to deal with that is to rain on the parade of others.

Posted by   on (January 5, 2014, 11:04 GMT)

@rickyvoncanterbury I think it's misleading. Australia aren't as good as they look, England aren't as bad as players though there is something desperately wrong in their collective heads. Well done to Australia, but realistically - their batting struggled in the first innings every test (best was 230/5) and was dug out by Haddin the real Man of the Series I think, and then scored easier runs when they were miles in front. Johnson is mercurial and always has been, Harris and Siddle are good honest reliable bowlers in the best sense of the words, and Lyon is, well, okay but nothing more. I think teams sometimes have everything go for them and they look invincible (England hosting India a year or two back springs to mind) when they aren't. Australia could find suddenly that not everything runs for them and the RSA batsmen aren't going to hand them wickets on a plate, and Haddin's rescues may stop working

The good news for Australia is RSA themselves are in a transitional period I think

Posted by rickyvoncanterbury on (January 5, 2014, 7:27 GMT)

@ Greatest_Game on (January 4, 2014, 21:10 GMT) yeah mate, winning is good but I am not convinced, England have been below par in all departments, but as an Aussie supporter I am hoping it is a massive improvement by Australia especially batting wise as the top 6 all scored centuries other than beating up on the weak kid. On the pitches I am not expecting or wanting roads, Australia and South Africa have held on to the number one position now and in the past because the pitches offer something for everyone even spin (at times), I do not make comments about the bully BCCI boys and their standover tactics it gets me in trouble, but I will say the home side has the right to give itself the advantage of playing wherever they like, curators and boards morally should prepare fair pitches that offer a bit for all, but suit the home team, a little bit greener, dryer or whatever, that's the home ground advantage.

Posted by Shaggy076 on (January 5, 2014, 5:01 GMT)

Greatest Game: You really have become a grump of late, your team is the best in the world enjoy it. I never said Australia's bowling attack was better than South Africa's and the comment regarding Johnson current form is this series that is current isn't it. HHis bowling in this series is better than Steyn's most recent bowling. I have stated in several posts that Steyn is the deserved world number 1 bowler. Also, watching Johnson throughout his career this Johnson is class, his head is in the right place and now backed it up for 5 games straight. He has never reallybeen inconsistent, he was good between 07 to early 2010 then rubbish from 2010 to his injury in 2012. I'm confident he will be at his best in South Africa and will be interesting to see how he goes.As for Harris he has nowplated 9 tests on the trot.

Posted by Greatest_Game on (January 5, 2014, 2:22 GMT)

@ lara-better-than-bradman. "Indian team exposed SA bowling's weakness."

SA's ODI team exposed India's batting and bowling weakness. Their club level rubbish bowling was smacked out the park. India were all out for 217 and 146, and could not manage to bat out 50 overs. What bowling weakness did THAT expose??What a joke for the so-called top team. Only rain saved them from a completely humiliating whitewash!

India made one good test score when SA were a bowler down, & playing with 10 men. The so-called mighty Indian batting still could not win that match, & India's pathetic bowling were 8 runs shy of conceding the largest 4th innings defeat in history - against a 10 man team. India were destroyed in the second test when SA strolled home by 10 wickets after rolling India over for a pitiful 223 after SA scored 500. India did not win a single game. A bunch of club level amateurs got the hell hammered out of them, and exposed nothing but their own incompetence.

P.S. Bradman was better!

Posted by __PK on (January 4, 2014, 23:28 GMT)

"Haddin as the permanent saviour..." It's something you may have heard more than once. Lazy commentators say it, showing that they don't follow the cricket that's going on right in front of them. Haddin has always had a partner in his saviour work, and apart from the Gabba, it was always a top 6 batsman. Suddenly the top 6 isn't looking so bad. But it's much easier to focus on Haddin.

Posted by Greatest_Game on (January 4, 2014, 21:10 GMT)

@ rickyvoncanterbury, who wrote "and the same as the saffers we did not change any of the pitches to nullify Swann or Anderson, the way it should be, Good luck and hope for an exciting series."

Good luck to you too, & thanks for the good wishes. An exciting series is always the hope. Pity the Aussies were so sorely disappointed by the Poms self-destructing. It is fun to watch your team win, but wholesale slaughter gets a bit tiresome by match 5!

RE the pitches, I don't think that SA will suddenly produce any flat tracks/roads like the 2 that suddenly appeared during the India tour. Something tells me that CA will not abruptly cancel half the tour, push CSA into financial crisis, and then 'politely request' different tracks after their ODI team has been slaughtered. What are your thoughts on this?

Posted by Greatest_Game on (January 4, 2014, 19:06 GMT)

@Shaggy076 wrote "Australia has had the same bowling attack for the last 5 games is it that hard to work out what Aus' best attack is?" Yes, it is. Harris is fragile, Johnson unreliable. 2011 in SA Johnson averaged 85, but 2008 he averaged 25. Aus Ashes 2013 he averages 14.0: Aus Ashes 2010 - 36.93. Mr. Reliable is in Aus' BEST attack? Five games & this is the best attack in the world? Joke.

"We saw recently in Aus & SA there is not much between the bowling line ups that was Australia without Johnson..." WRONG!! Johnson bowled in Perth, in the ONLY match Aus were murdered! 6 @ 27.33.

"(Johnson's) current form is superior to Steyn…" 5 matches vs a pathetic Eng team & he's 'superior'? Steyn - brilliant for 4 years. Johnson - 5 great matches, plenty REALLY bad matches. Steyn, ave 22.90, Econ 3.26, SR 42.0. Johnson, ave 28.52, econ 3.29, SR 51.9. Superior? Really? Form is temporary, and Mitchell Johnson is the living proof! Next month he'll be bog awful again, or brilliant.

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