Pakistan v Australia, 2nd MCC Spirit of Cricket Test, Headingley, 4th day

Australia introspective after mixed tour

Brydon Coverdale at Headingley

July 24, 2010

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Ricky Ponting feels the pain after another series win in England goes begging, Pakistan v Australia, 2nd Test, Headingley, 4th day, July 24 2010
Ricky Ponting's men have had a tough, and only partially successful, tour of England © Getty Images
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It was only a week ago that Ricky Ponting said he and his men had one eye on the Ashes series later this year. Every match since they gave up the urn at The Oval last August has been geared towards regaining the prize. Instead of looking that far forward, they will now need to cast their gaze inwards after a loss that represents a worrying blip in their preparations.

For the first time in 15 years, Pakistan beat Australia in a Test match. It was the first defeat for Ponting's side since the last Ashes tour, and it came against an inexperienced team with a new captain. Yes, it went down to the wire and yes, had Australia held a couple of catches the result could easily have been different, but that would not have been an accurate reflection on the balance of power in the match.

There is no escaping the fact that Australia were outplayed at Headingley, where the middle order's frailty and the unreliability of the pace attack emerged as concerns for Ponting. Not that he said as much after the game - he has been at pains for many months to point out that the side's rebuilding period is over - and he was quick to hose down any talk of serious trouble ahead of the Ashes.

"Late November is a long way away yet," Ponting said. "We're not even focusing on the Ashes just yet. A loss quite often just highlights some of the things you're not doing well. That's all this week will do for us. We know we've got to continue to work hard and not take anything for granted.

"I don't think it will do too much to dent our confidence. You want to win every game that you play, there's no doubt about that. We haven't been at our best in this game, there's no doubt about that. It's not just the batting, I think the bowling has been a little bit off at different times through this Test match."

Although Doug Bollinger, Mitchell Johnson and Ben Hilfenhaus fired up on the fourth morning to give Australia a sniff of what would have been a remarkable victory, the fast men generally bowled to a scattergun line during the series. There are also question-marks over Marcus North, whose tally from four innings was 36 including two ducks, while Ponting, Michael Hussey, Michael Clarke and Shane Watson all produced sub-par batting contributions over the series.

In the end, Australia's first innings at Headingley was the difference. As the old cliché goes, it's not over until the fat lady sings, but there were two such fat ladies on the opening day: 88. Recovering from that batting slump was too great a task, and Ponting's decision at the toss to bat in overcast conditions against a Pakistan attack full of talented swing bowlers was a major factor.

"There's no doubt it's had a big impact," Ponting said of his call. "That's my responsibility, to get those sort of things right. Looking back now, I was a bit surprised how much it seamed on that first day. Everyone who looked at the wicket that morning, it was dry and had surface cracks in it already. It certainly wasn't something that had heaps of grass on it and you expected to seam all over the place, but it did that."

The loss has left Australia to look back on a pretty unsuccessful winter tour. The Tests were shared 1-1, Pakistan took the Twenty20s 2-0, and England triumphed 3-2 in the one-day internationals. Ponting may well wish he'd stayed at home in Sydney and worked on his golf handicap, for all the good the trip has done his team.

They must now treat the two-Test tour of India in October as an Ashes warm-up, and a final chance to decide on their preferred outfit before facing Andrew Strauss and his boys at the Gabba. Performances on the dusty Indian pitches might not be a great indicator of form on Australia's quicker surfaces, but poor touch in India will raise the pressure for the Ashes.

"If you were trying to set down and map your perfect preparation for an Ashes series or a home series, it probably wouldn't be playing two Test matches in India," Ponting said. "But you don't live in an ideal world. That's the way international cricket is these days. We'll go over there and do whatever we can, play the best cricket we possibly can."

For the time being, they have two months to think about how they are positioned. After seven consecutive victories against West Indies, Pakistan and New Zealand from December to July they felt they were well-placed. Those wins now seem a little less significant.

Brydon Coverdale is a staff writer at Cricinfo

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Posted by   on (July 26, 2010, 12:53 GMT)

Enough said,

I don't know what is going on,this is aus 1st loss after ashes and people started bashing ponting,as for aus is concerned ,we should loose to know the taste of success hope ,aus get it in Ind and in the next ashes and in the wc2011.Ponting prove it for the one last time.

Posted by StarveTheLizard on (July 26, 2010, 10:16 GMT)

Hey Andy. The Australian team may not be that good. They will, however, be good enough to wallop England later this year on Australian own turf. The English team knows it and you know it. I'd love to see YOUR face then.

Oh - and your not particularly funny either.

Posted by 68704 on (July 26, 2010, 7:04 GMT)

I think these series were really unnecessary. Explain the logic of playing a series of 5 one dayers with England and then to play two tweny twentys against Pakistan to be followed by a neutral series in swing friendly conditions for a Pak team that is tailor made , at least in the bowling for these conditions. I think Australia needs to make changes and fast if it is to win back the ashes. They may do well in India because the Indian bowling is so weak without Zaheer, but the batting is still strong. I think North should go and Watson should bat lower down. If Callum Ferguson is good, he should play, he looked good when I last saw him. I think Australia will play better at home in front of a supportive home crowd and some nervous Englishmen who might get intimidated by the baying crowds and the biased media. The world does not have a really good team and you will find four teams jostling to be near the top. Australia is not yet a has-been but needs one more batsman . ramanujam sridha

Posted by LesGrossman on (July 26, 2010, 4:08 GMT)

simple fact is australia keep picking the wrong team. the bowling lacks variety, a tall bowler whom can get bounce off a good length like mcgrath did is missing. perhaps peter george or josh hazelwood could fill that role. got a good swing bowler in hilfenhaus, then you pick johnson or bollinger as your left armer. i'd like to see Smith bat at 6 and hauritz back into the side gives you good spin options. might be too early for smith to bat 6, but his innings of 77 under pressure was quality, give him time. North is a steady shield cricketer, not a test player, his record suggests that. hussey needs a run of scores to keep his spot. Plenty of blokes churning out big runs in shield cricket khwaja, klinger, d hussey, cowan, hughes, rogers, marsh, forrest, voges, white, bailey etc that are better than North and can take over from Hussey. another question paine vs haddin? paine looks quality, but doesn't make 100's compared to haddin. like the one about ponting batting 5 as well, good call

Posted by sharprider on (July 26, 2010, 3:31 GMT)

The article dwells mainly with the 'internal issues' of the Aussies. There is, however, a glaring omission on their part as to the quality of the opposition. It has more often than not emerged post-facto that the Australians deliberately overlook the emerging threats from teams like Pakistan and England to the extent of taking away the credit from them for their 'giant-killing' efforts. I think it is high time that they start accepting the truth about the quality of cricket being played at all levels viz. the ODOs, the T20s and the Test matches.

Posted by sharprider on (July 26, 2010, 3:31 GMT)

The article dwells mainly with the 'internal issues' of the Aussies. There is, however, a glaring omission on their part as to the quality of the opposition. It has more often than not emerged post-facto that the Australians deliberately overlook the emerging threats from teams like Pakistan and England to the extent of taking away the credit from them for their 'giant-killing' efforts. I think it is high time that they start accepting the truth about the quality of cricket being played at all levels viz. the ODOs, the T20s and the Test matches.

Posted by Manikchand_Gutka_eating_desi on (July 26, 2010, 0:29 GMT)

Hey Nit2222 I know India may get thrashed to Lanka so what? But pony is when they lose they coma back playing hard. So Aussies can't take revenge against india for what Pam did to them. Secondly this seems like punter's last ashes because he does not have more left in terms of ideas. Also u said India's line is worst!! I guess that's why every teams that come to India after winning throughout the world calls it Final Frontier. And this veteran full of experience line up is worst then what u call the line up that was all out for 88? County team? But agree with u on 1 thing, let's wait & watch. We'll see how Aussie goes home really thinking where they stand against mighty pins.

Posted by   on (July 25, 2010, 21:02 GMT)

Australia will win the series against India. The reason being India's worst bowling attack. India's fast bowling is no better than Zimbabwe, Bangladesh or the West Indies.

Posted by wanderer1 on (July 25, 2010, 19:07 GMT)

@Marshall Ross: Not only did I think that was out, so did all the commentators including one Shane Warne who was adamant that whenever a batsmen shoulders arms and the ball is close to hitting the stumps, it should always be out. The benefit of the doubt when not playing a shot is always given to the bowler.

Posted by bobagorof on (July 25, 2010, 13:52 GMT)

I certainly wish Ponting had stayed at home to work on his golf handicap. He has barely warranted his place in the side as a batsman over the last couple of years, and his captaincy has been poor to middling. In revitalising the batting order, the No. 3 slot is the first place I look. No. 6 is also very inconsistent and probably worth re-evaluating. The simple fact is that 5 of Australia's top 6 batsmen appear to have lost form all at once, and the question must be raised - what is the coach doing to get them back into form?

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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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