Australia v England, 4th Test, Melbourne, 2nd day December 27, 2013

Top order failures a barrier to Australia progress

Despite the 3-0 scoreline and the performance of the bowlers in this series, Australia's top order failures should be taken as a major warning to their future success
33

Chappell: England need to drive hard the advantage

Brisbane, November 21, 2013: Australia are 6 for 132 on the first day of their home Ashes campaign. The top order has failed. Brad Haddin and Mitchell Johnson rescue them, push the total up to 295. Australia win.

Adelaide, December 5, 2013: Australia are 5 for 257 on a good pitch for batting. The top order has failed. Brad Haddin and Michael Clarke rescue them with centuries. Australia declare on 570. Australia win.

Perth, December 13, 2013: Australia are 5 for 143. The top order has failed. Brad Haddin and Steven Smith rescue them. The total reaches 385. Australia win.

Melbourne, December 27, 2013: Australia are 6 for 122. The top order has failed. Brad Haddin...

Sense a theme developing? The problem on the second day at the MCG was that Haddin tried to rescue Australia again but nobody joined him. By stumps they were 9 for 164, Haddin still there on 43. It was Australia's worst day of the series, only because Haddin and a variety of team-mates had saved others that could have been equally bad.

Australia's average first-innings total at the loss of their fifth wicket in this series has been 153. Only their stronger effort in Adelaide, on the best batting surface of the series, has allowed it to be that high. But by no standards is 5 for 153 a satisfactory average. It is reflective of poor top-order performances - decision-making, technique, patience, whatever.

It has been easy to forget because England's own batting has been abominable. Australia have a 3-0 lead and the Ashes. They could feasibly still complete a clean sweep. They will travel to South Africa in just over a month's time with the Urn safely theirs, confident in their form, confident they can return to No. 1, confident their darkest times are behind them and confident their attacking "brand" of cricket is the right one.

But South Africa are not England. Attack South Africa, or counterattack against them, and you may well find yourself in a bigger hole than when you began. Dale Steyn and Vernon Philander are the No. 1 and No. 2-ranked Test bowlers in the world for a reason. They are unrelenting.

On the drop-in pitch at the MCG, the ball didn't come on to the bat, forcing several batsmen into poorly chosen shots. England also bowled much more consistently than they have so far in this series. But Adelaide was a good batting pitch. So was Perth in the first innings. So was Brisbane. Four stunted first-innings performances in a row is not a coincidence, it is a discernible trend.

David Warner's biggest runs have all come in the second innings with hefty leads. George Bailey is yet to play a knock of real importance and averages 15.75 in the first innings. Chris Rogers gets himself in and then gets himself out. Clarke and Smith have at least each made a first-innings hundred.

Shane Watson's only substantial performance at No. 3 in this series came in the second innings in Perth, where Australia had a huge lead and Watson was given licence to slog. At the MCG, he drove loosely outside off and was caught behind for 10. His lbw problem has disappeared but been replaced by mediocre shot selection - he is constantly edging behind the wicket or picking out fielders.

If Australia get out of their MCG mire, as they have managed to do so far in this series, their batting problems will be forgotten again. But they should take another top-order collapse as a cautionary tale.

Cape Town, November 10, 2011: Australia are 5 for 18. They struggle, then wobble, then panic against high-class seam and swing bowling. Brad Haddin is at the crease. Brad Haddin shimmies down the pitch and away to leg, tries to smash Philander over cover and edges behind. Brad Haddin is no longer at the crease. Australia are 6 for 18. Then they are 7 for 21, 8 for 21, 9 for 21. Somehow their last pair gets them to 47.

Australia: Brad Haddin will not always rescue you.

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Harmony111 on December 28, 2013, 2:18 GMT

    I'd say these top order failures notwithstanding, the real problem Aus have & the one that perhaps has not been seen coming is that Warner aside, all other Aus batsmen are 30+. Clarke, good he is, but he is 3 months short of 33, Watson is 32 & isn't exactly reliable, Rogers & Haddin are 36+. Bailiey, the new kid on the block isn't nascent either. He is 31+. Warner is 27 & Smith is 24 & very promising but are not yet the pillar for Aus batting. I think this Warner 2.0 might reach Ponting's level but he is a work in progress still.

    Point is that after the greats left, Aus have been trying to fill in those blanks but just as they've begun to fill some of these blanks, more blanks can be seen coming in.

    Where is the next young Aussie batting sensation? For eg Eng got seeds for deep Roots & Pak have Afridi :-p.

    Aus would ideally want to find 3-4 22-23 year old batsmen who would be ready in the next 2 years when the existing players retire. Else Aus might see double dip recession in 2015.

  • ScottStevo on December 28, 2013, 12:05 GMT

    @Chris_P, How about in 09 when Aus dumped Hughes and Watson performed admirably - plenty of pressure then! It's a baseless statement - he doesn't perform when the pressure is on. The pressure is always on, regardless of the match/series situation. Well, for a bloke who has played Sydney Grade (as have I), you sure have no idea about comparitives. MoHen has only played 1st class, Watson is playing test match cricket. There's a monumental difference, one that I'd expect would be recognised by another with such extensive history in the game. Said it before, you're comparing apples with oranges, mate. BTW, MoHen had one half decent innings in India and generally was, like the rest of the side, awful. Since then MoHen hasn't done anything. He's nowhere near the batsman, nor bowler that Watson is and should be nowhere near any Aus int. side. The only place MoHen would shine is in grade cricket, possibly why you rate him...

  • Beertjie on December 28, 2013, 11:12 GMT

    Agree @Tova on (December 27, 2013, 10:22 GMT) that Watson, Rogers and Bailey should not be in the team, but a phased removal is preferable to a mass exodus. Rogers should stay until after the SA tour. Bailey can immediately be replaced by Lynn. Watson v Faulkner is a choice I'm not sure about. As long as one of the 3 quicks chosen is a risk fitnesswise there's a case for having an all rounder. However, Watto is not really an all-rounder, more a stabilising/de-stabilising influence-cum-batsmen-that-bowls-type which is why people are uneasy with his position in the team. For me, pick 3 reliable (fitnesswise) quicks and 6 specialist batman asap, but that means the end of Rhino's career. Since he's seems to be struggling currently, for the SCG: Hughes, Rogers, Warner, Clarke, Smith, Lynn, Haddin, Johnson, Siddle, Lyon, Bollinger. This way we see give Lynn a go at home and bring in Hughes who needs an extended shot as he will probably replace Rogers shortly. But when Rhino returns...

  • lillee4PM on December 28, 2013, 4:49 GMT

    Great article by Coverdale and pretty much sums up what many of us have been banging on about for ages. For example, we have been waiting NINE YEARS for Watson to magically transform from a limited overs player into a test player.Yes he can bowl well but he is injury prone, mentally weak and technically deficient as a batter. Why does he get all the favours from the selectors and how the hell is he a test #3?

  • jonesy2 on December 28, 2013, 4:25 GMT

    Australia have won 3 matches in the most dominant fashion possible but people are still finding things to rag on. when retirements happen hughes comes in, maddinson and silk come in and Faulkner comes in. solved

  • plymuth12 on December 28, 2013, 3:08 GMT

    ideal top order(playing 11) xi#2 xi#3 -1 philip hughes -1 joe burns -1 jordan silk -2 david warner -2 luke pomersbach -2 glenn maxwell -3 alex doolan -3 usman khawaja -3 ryan carters -4 michael clarke -4 chris lynn -4 callum ferguson -5 steven smith -5 tom cooper -5 ed cowan -6 cameron white -6 nic maddinson -6 shane watson -7 brad haddin -7 mathew wade -7 sam whiteman -8 jp faukner -8 mitchell marsh -8 luke butterworth -9 mitchell johnson -9 jm bird -9 steve okeefe -10 mitchell starc -10 peter siddle -10 cj sayers -11 pattinson -11nathan lyon -11 ben cutting

  • Rowayton on December 27, 2013, 23:22 GMT

    One of the more interesting comments I have seen is that Australia's batting plans for this series revolved around how to play Swann, and without him there they haven't worked out plan B yet. May be wrong, but it's an interesting theory. My other worry is the MCG pitch - I'm not complaining because we look like losing, but a pitch where a score of 226 on the first day at less than two and a half an over seems like a winning score brings yawns to even noted test cricket lovers like me.

  • Chris_P on December 27, 2013, 21:56 GMT

    @ScottStev. I've been a huge fan of Watson's but the brutal facts are that he has never delivered in a presure situation & he occupies a vital position in the batting order. No matter if I like or dislike a person, performances count & his plainly do not stack up. I've never been a fan of MJ's but certainly acknowledge he has delivered the goods this series. You're correct that he hasn't performed down the order, but he hasn't performed up the order either, his bowling, while adequate is not up to the class he had a few years back. In first class, MoHen has outperformed him by a substantial margin these past few years & even outperformed him in India, but who ended up being dropped? I like Bailey as well, but his FC form worries me a lot. BTW, I think, after having played (& still playing) after 30 years I got a a bit of knowledge about the game, especially after 10 years of Sydney Grade.

  • ygkd on December 27, 2013, 21:28 GMT

    Australia may have won back the Ashes but they have not yet solved the problems with their batting order. Apart from Rogers, and Clarke (who still bats too low for the marquee player), the batting line-up consists of number sixes. Plus the admirable Haddin. This is perhaps to be expected. In the past decade and a half we have gone from the 20th century to the T20 century. Consequently, Australia will win some. And lose some. Batting consistency is not achieved in this manner. Australia can't afford Watson, Warner, Bailey and Smith all in the same team. One can make a case for each of them individually, but not together. It's time to realise that number three is the spot for a number three. Not a number six. And opening with a number six, while not actually a new idea - it was commonplace in the 19th century, perhaps works best when not followed by more of the same. Australia has improved because it has picked an older, more experienced team. Now it just needs batting-spot specialists.

  • Sanj747 on December 27, 2013, 21:24 GMT

    @mukesh_LOVE.cricket spot on. Brydon you are spot on in your article. We need to find a better and more long term No 3 and a No 6. Watson had the ideal situation yesterday to stamp his mark but fails again with the bat. Bailey is trying to find his feet but time is not on his side. Rogers is not long term but the best option for the moment. Options are Silk, Doolan and Maddinson. I see Maddinson being in the 11 within the next 12 months. Lehmann has him in his radar after the Aus A tour of Eng earlier this year where Lehmann was coach vefore taking over from Arthur. The saving grace purely on stats to date are that Haddin has been the gel in the batting and our second innings batting has been better.

  • Harmony111 on December 28, 2013, 2:18 GMT

    I'd say these top order failures notwithstanding, the real problem Aus have & the one that perhaps has not been seen coming is that Warner aside, all other Aus batsmen are 30+. Clarke, good he is, but he is 3 months short of 33, Watson is 32 & isn't exactly reliable, Rogers & Haddin are 36+. Bailiey, the new kid on the block isn't nascent either. He is 31+. Warner is 27 & Smith is 24 & very promising but are not yet the pillar for Aus batting. I think this Warner 2.0 might reach Ponting's level but he is a work in progress still.

    Point is that after the greats left, Aus have been trying to fill in those blanks but just as they've begun to fill some of these blanks, more blanks can be seen coming in.

    Where is the next young Aussie batting sensation? For eg Eng got seeds for deep Roots & Pak have Afridi :-p.

    Aus would ideally want to find 3-4 22-23 year old batsmen who would be ready in the next 2 years when the existing players retire. Else Aus might see double dip recession in 2015.

  • ScottStevo on December 28, 2013, 12:05 GMT

    @Chris_P, How about in 09 when Aus dumped Hughes and Watson performed admirably - plenty of pressure then! It's a baseless statement - he doesn't perform when the pressure is on. The pressure is always on, regardless of the match/series situation. Well, for a bloke who has played Sydney Grade (as have I), you sure have no idea about comparitives. MoHen has only played 1st class, Watson is playing test match cricket. There's a monumental difference, one that I'd expect would be recognised by another with such extensive history in the game. Said it before, you're comparing apples with oranges, mate. BTW, MoHen had one half decent innings in India and generally was, like the rest of the side, awful. Since then MoHen hasn't done anything. He's nowhere near the batsman, nor bowler that Watson is and should be nowhere near any Aus int. side. The only place MoHen would shine is in grade cricket, possibly why you rate him...

  • Beertjie on December 28, 2013, 11:12 GMT

    Agree @Tova on (December 27, 2013, 10:22 GMT) that Watson, Rogers and Bailey should not be in the team, but a phased removal is preferable to a mass exodus. Rogers should stay until after the SA tour. Bailey can immediately be replaced by Lynn. Watson v Faulkner is a choice I'm not sure about. As long as one of the 3 quicks chosen is a risk fitnesswise there's a case for having an all rounder. However, Watto is not really an all-rounder, more a stabilising/de-stabilising influence-cum-batsmen-that-bowls-type which is why people are uneasy with his position in the team. For me, pick 3 reliable (fitnesswise) quicks and 6 specialist batman asap, but that means the end of Rhino's career. Since he's seems to be struggling currently, for the SCG: Hughes, Rogers, Warner, Clarke, Smith, Lynn, Haddin, Johnson, Siddle, Lyon, Bollinger. This way we see give Lynn a go at home and bring in Hughes who needs an extended shot as he will probably replace Rogers shortly. But when Rhino returns...

  • lillee4PM on December 28, 2013, 4:49 GMT

    Great article by Coverdale and pretty much sums up what many of us have been banging on about for ages. For example, we have been waiting NINE YEARS for Watson to magically transform from a limited overs player into a test player.Yes he can bowl well but he is injury prone, mentally weak and technically deficient as a batter. Why does he get all the favours from the selectors and how the hell is he a test #3?

  • jonesy2 on December 28, 2013, 4:25 GMT

    Australia have won 3 matches in the most dominant fashion possible but people are still finding things to rag on. when retirements happen hughes comes in, maddinson and silk come in and Faulkner comes in. solved

  • plymuth12 on December 28, 2013, 3:08 GMT

    ideal top order(playing 11) xi#2 xi#3 -1 philip hughes -1 joe burns -1 jordan silk -2 david warner -2 luke pomersbach -2 glenn maxwell -3 alex doolan -3 usman khawaja -3 ryan carters -4 michael clarke -4 chris lynn -4 callum ferguson -5 steven smith -5 tom cooper -5 ed cowan -6 cameron white -6 nic maddinson -6 shane watson -7 brad haddin -7 mathew wade -7 sam whiteman -8 jp faukner -8 mitchell marsh -8 luke butterworth -9 mitchell johnson -9 jm bird -9 steve okeefe -10 mitchell starc -10 peter siddle -10 cj sayers -11 pattinson -11nathan lyon -11 ben cutting

  • Rowayton on December 27, 2013, 23:22 GMT

    One of the more interesting comments I have seen is that Australia's batting plans for this series revolved around how to play Swann, and without him there they haven't worked out plan B yet. May be wrong, but it's an interesting theory. My other worry is the MCG pitch - I'm not complaining because we look like losing, but a pitch where a score of 226 on the first day at less than two and a half an over seems like a winning score brings yawns to even noted test cricket lovers like me.

  • Chris_P on December 27, 2013, 21:56 GMT

    @ScottStev. I've been a huge fan of Watson's but the brutal facts are that he has never delivered in a presure situation & he occupies a vital position in the batting order. No matter if I like or dislike a person, performances count & his plainly do not stack up. I've never been a fan of MJ's but certainly acknowledge he has delivered the goods this series. You're correct that he hasn't performed down the order, but he hasn't performed up the order either, his bowling, while adequate is not up to the class he had a few years back. In first class, MoHen has outperformed him by a substantial margin these past few years & even outperformed him in India, but who ended up being dropped? I like Bailey as well, but his FC form worries me a lot. BTW, I think, after having played (& still playing) after 30 years I got a a bit of knowledge about the game, especially after 10 years of Sydney Grade.

  • ygkd on December 27, 2013, 21:28 GMT

    Australia may have won back the Ashes but they have not yet solved the problems with their batting order. Apart from Rogers, and Clarke (who still bats too low for the marquee player), the batting line-up consists of number sixes. Plus the admirable Haddin. This is perhaps to be expected. In the past decade and a half we have gone from the 20th century to the T20 century. Consequently, Australia will win some. And lose some. Batting consistency is not achieved in this manner. Australia can't afford Watson, Warner, Bailey and Smith all in the same team. One can make a case for each of them individually, but not together. It's time to realise that number three is the spot for a number three. Not a number six. And opening with a number six, while not actually a new idea - it was commonplace in the 19th century, perhaps works best when not followed by more of the same. Australia has improved because it has picked an older, more experienced team. Now it just needs batting-spot specialists.

  • Sanj747 on December 27, 2013, 21:24 GMT

    @mukesh_LOVE.cricket spot on. Brydon you are spot on in your article. We need to find a better and more long term No 3 and a No 6. Watson had the ideal situation yesterday to stamp his mark but fails again with the bat. Bailey is trying to find his feet but time is not on his side. Rogers is not long term but the best option for the moment. Options are Silk, Doolan and Maddinson. I see Maddinson being in the 11 within the next 12 months. Lehmann has him in his radar after the Aus A tour of Eng earlier this year where Lehmann was coach vefore taking over from Arthur. The saving grace purely on stats to date are that Haddin has been the gel in the batting and our second innings batting has been better.

  • pat_one_back on December 27, 2013, 20:51 GMT

    We need a rethink of the top 6 for SA, Watson has an ODI style hundred under no pressure and not much else to his name, drop down or drop out. Agree his bowling is more than useful enough, he sustains the frontline bowling plan to great effect without picking up bags and that's just fine on all tracks. He could go back to opening (for Rogers) but I'd rather see a genuine opener make claim there, despite all that's gone wrong since his amazing debut, FC performances still show Hughes is by far our best talent, a return against SA where he has had great success in the past could be the go. That leaves no 6 open given Bailey's struggles, oddly enough the historical home of the allrounder.

  • ScottStevo on December 27, 2013, 19:04 GMT

    @Chris_P, and since 02 Aug 2013 Watson has averaged 44. As the great H J Simpson once said, you can use statistics to prove anything - 14% of the people know that...IMO, we need Watson, he actually averages 30 with the ball and is underrated - especially by those with limited knowledge of the game. I know you don't like him, fine, but the problem is, he's keeping a balance to our side. The real issue has been where do we bat the guy. He's not done well in the lower order, and in fact has done far better at opener than anywhere else. The time period you quote also coincides with potentially his worst within the team whereas Arthur was definitely messing with Watson. Since his departure he's scored 2 tons at #3 and is averaging over 40 there. But hey, in 2 years his stats are, blah, blah, useless drivel that makes x look bad. Next you'll tell me we should replace him with FAulkner!

  • ScottStevo on December 27, 2013, 18:54 GMT

    Isn't Brad Haddin considered one of our batsmen? And aren't Clarke and Smith in the top 5? "The batting saved by an innings between number 4 and 7!" How ludicrous! I do sense a theme though, one of the Aus batsman are putting up a fight and Haddin has been magnificent...Nonetheless, we've also scored plenty of second innings runs - regardless of the perceived lack of pressure due to first innings leads. I'm a huge fan of one commentary stating, "Had Eng decided to bowl better lengths in Perth" - well, they decided to bowl exactly where they did. You can'y blame the opposition for batting poorly because they were allowed to bat well through poor bowling. Maybe it was the good batting that threw them off their length in the first place - or, that they've just played poor cricket all round!

  • KiwiPom on December 27, 2013, 18:12 GMT

    The Haddin effect happens when the opposition has quick bowlers who aren't quite quick enough and a spinner who can't bamboozle the tail. If Haddin had not regularly stepped up then someone else would. In other words it says more about England's bowlers than about any one Australian player. There aren't many cheap lower order wickets these days.

    The Ashes were won and lost for three reasons. Firstly the Australian quicker bowlers Johnson ***AND HARRIS***, whilst not Lillee & Thomson, are fast enough to be demanding and unrelenting. Secondly, the spinner got turn the English spinner couldn't. Thirdly - and underratedly - Australia knew how to bowl to and set a field for each individual English batsman. Carberry, a good player but not the most talented opener ever to play for England, gave most trouble because he was relatively new.

  • Chris_P on December 27, 2013, 17:37 GMT

    I still think England wasn't as bad as many had made out not did I ever think we were as good as people made out either. We still got a lot of issues to fix, not the least being Watson. Update of Watson's figures since last Ashes down under: 23 Tests, 1,255 runs @ 29.18. Yep, less than 30 & holding a top 6 batting spot, & BTW, taking 25 wickets so hardly classifying him as an all rounder.

  • Essex_Man on December 27, 2013, 16:16 GMT

    It will be very interesting to see how Australia fare in South Africa. Have they really improved significantly since their shambolic displays in England earlier this year? My suspicion is that England's inept performances in the current series have just enabled Australia to paper over their cracks. I can see the Aussie bowlers doing well in South Africa but I don't hold out much hope for their batting line-up against Steyn, Philander and Morkel.

  • mukesh_LOVE.cricket on December 27, 2013, 16:09 GMT

    very true , If you look at the line up Aussies have a world class batsman in clarke ,and promising players in warner and steve smith but they have to find within 2 years-

    - a solid opener (nothing wrong with rogers but with his age he is not a long term solution) may be philip hughes

    - a solid one down (watson at no.3 is a joke) shaun marsh ? the guy has got talent

    - good keeper/batsman as haddin is past 35 years (lyon deserves someone betterthan wade !)

    - bailey doesnt look very good , how about faulkner at his place ?

  • jmcilhinney on December 27, 2013, 15:45 GMT

    It's worth remembering too that Haddin was dropped on 6 (or there abouts) in Adelaide and had two more lives before finally getting out. Had England chosen to bowl a decent length in Perth then things may have been different there too. I'm not trying to say that England could have won if... I'm trying to say that Australia cannot rely on the opposition letting them off the hook as often as England have in this series. Their batting has indeed looked brittle this whole series and they could have been in real trouble if England had played earlier as they have here today. Again, I'm not trying to defend England but rather put a realistic face on Australia's current situation. Only the foolhardy will assume that their performance in this series means that they're ready to go back to #1 and stay there.

  • potter22in on December 27, 2013, 13:53 GMT

    Absolutely bulls eye. But the solution? Khawaja, Hughes, Maxwell!!, Moises Henriques, have not done anything great to serve a recall in to Test team. Cowan still and may never convince /assured a long term place.Lehmann should "find" good ones from the first class ( Shield level) atleast 2 to 3.Has he already spotted and ready to pick anyone? Doolan, Maddinson, Silk?

    The bowling strength is fine, with the availability of injured players back- Starc, Pattinson, Bird. But the batting is a problem. The second question is on the World Cup (ODI) preparations. When does it start? Have Australia got the crux of the team ready. I would like Harris to be part of that WC squad . He will be needed as the WC is going to happen in Australia. If that is so, how will his workload managed.?

  • xtrafalgarx on December 27, 2013, 13:33 GMT

    7 centuries to 1 says that Australia have still batted better than England. Though they havn't played as well as they should, England played even worse. Australia has set England totals of 500+ three times in a row, the first time EVER that has happened, so to say that bowling only won Australia the ashes is laughable.

    However, that's not to say all is well with Australian batting, Rogers, Watson and Bailey are under pressure. Warner is going to develop into a top class opener, that's the way he plays. I don't see the difference between him and a young Matty Hayden and Virender Sehwag, what makes them test batsmen and not Warner? To Warner's credit, more often than not, when he gets a start he goes big, that's as good as you can ask for.

    Smith will develop into a top notch middle order bat for mine, but the other three are the problems we need to fix sooner rather than later.

  • on December 27, 2013, 13:28 GMT

    You could go back almost four years and ,with the exception of a few innings, you would have exactly the same statistics. I have been posting this here for over 2-years.

  • disco_bob on December 27, 2013, 11:55 GMT

    Now doubt about it we are not going to be able to progress until someone like McDermott gets the batting into shape as he did the bowling. Time to move to the next rung, as the moment we are not looking good for SA unless there is a marked change of attitude. Warner and Watson both got out playing bad shots. We seem to be be playing like England who are a team in decline. Time to get Hughes in and Watson down to no. 6 and out of the team if someone better breaks through.

  • on December 27, 2013, 11:35 GMT

    I think knocking Rogers & Warner's a bit rich, Rogers might not be smashing centuries on the regular but he's done well. Warner's been excellent.

    Smith is too promising to bother even thinking about dropping, but we need to immediately rectify the Watson situation. If he's bowling is that valuable then bat him at 6 or 7 for godsake. That also takes care of the Bailey situation.

    If Watson's bowling isn't considered valuable enough anymore then we've got to replace two batsmen. Marcus North might be good to reprise his number 6 role, not sure what frame of mind he's in now but he sure was in incredible form a month ago.

    Does anyone think Dave Warner would make a good first drop batsman except me? Phil Hughes, Ed Cowan, hell even Mark Cosgrove or Ryan Carters would all be good options. Alex Doolan or Chris Lynn at 3. Khawaja has been falling away from the pack for years now.

    Hopefully the selectors make the good choices before the next test.

  • whoster on December 27, 2013, 11:33 GMT

    Quite simply, it's Mitchell Johnson who's won the Ashes for Australia. He's been backed-up superbly by the other bowlers, and that's taken the pressure off their batsmen. Both batting line-ups are fragile, and the team that's batted first in the 9 Tests since July has controlled the game. England managed to paper over the cracks during the English summer, and the Aussies are doing the same in this series. Age and fitness are going to ask questions of Clarke, Harris, Haddin, Rogers, Watson, and perhaps Johnson in the near future. This is an Aussie side that's not going to be around much longer, and they'll soon face the same uncomfortable questions as England.

  • Gowers_Great_Tiger_Moth_Flyby on December 27, 2013, 11:25 GMT

    This is the weakness Australian batting up in history - the test avge of 35 club.

    Let's be honest. Warner is just lucky, all he can do is T20 mode. When pitches aren't straight, true and coming in to the bat he's clueless, as shown today, so Aus will have to play home tests on the usual doctored pitches for him to score more.

    Rogers is at the point of retirement and does not have the technique. Smith is another LOI bludgeoner with little fitness and the much maligned Watson is never a no.3 in a million years.

    Australia have nothing coming through and are marooned with this shower of LOI misfits.

  • on December 27, 2013, 10:37 GMT

    Powerful stuff! Top article!

  • Tova on December 27, 2013, 10:22 GMT

    This article clearly shows what most people who have followed this series and the Aussie team already know, our top 6 isn't particularly good. We have been saved by some good individual performances this series and by our lower order. There are batsman in the top order who shouldn't be there. Watson cannot play another Test. He is the most overrated player in the world. I just don't understand the faith that has been shown in him. He never makes Test runs when they are needed. Only when he needs to save his spot in the side. He hardly takes any wickets anymore and injures himself once a series.... We can't keep carrying this baggage. Bailey is not a Test batsman. He was picked on odi form on the back of an average first class record. It's time to blood some young up and coming bats now the Ashes have been won... That means we drop Watson, Rogers and Bailey

  • humdrum on December 27, 2013, 10:00 GMT

    Very true Brydon,but as long as he goes on doing it,the Aussies will take it gratefully.The cold fact is that the Aussie batting is brittle,as against their bowling which wins them the matches.The real test is around the corner in the second dig as Eng would fancy their chances for the first time in this series,and if Aus are to chase a total of any substance,their batting will be genuinely tested for the first time in this series when they wil;l be under the hammer.As Eng have found out,the road back to no 1 is not a shirtfront by any stroke of imagination,no siree.The Proteas may appear done for at the moment,but they ain't going to give up in a hurry.The Aussies better earn their stripes.

  • austentayshus on December 27, 2013, 9:58 GMT

    Well Written Bryan Top Stuff...

    Warner shown signs of maturity but this test threw wicket away

    Roger bats like a pensioner Cannot have him for a long run (Nic Madison in for him )

    Watson needs to go (Play Faulkner instead of him)

    George bailey is one day specialist (Chris Lynn should get a chance)

    Steve smith will get better sooner ....

  • G--J on December 27, 2013, 9:47 GMT

    The following first innings stats show Aus slightly ahead but only just. Brydon is spot on - Aus batting has been terrible, but masked by the bottom order and Eng's even worse performance. http://stats.espncricinfo.com/ci/engine/stats/index.html?batting_positionmax1=6;batting_positionval1=batting_position; class=1;filter=advanced;host=2;innings_number=1;innings_number=2; opposition=1;opposition=2;orderby=batting_average;spanmax1=31+Dec+2013 ;spanmin1=01+Jan+2013;spanval1=span;team=1;team=2;template=results;type=batting

  • Dangertroy on December 27, 2013, 9:40 GMT

    Don't be so harsh Brydon - Haddin still has Nathan Lyon for company - he has yet to be dismissed in this series. He also top scored in that innings in Cape town. Plus with the way england have failed to wrap up the tail in this series so far... I'll bet the in form Nathan Lyon will be giving them nightmares tonight.

  • on December 27, 2013, 9:31 GMT

    The Aussies should do well to take a leaf out of the young Indians performance in South Africa at present.

  • Front-Foot-Lunge-Needs-A-Hug on December 27, 2013, 9:28 GMT

    Top order failures? 7 tons? How is it a 'rescue' when a batsman makes runs? It's such an illogical viewpoint. We would have lost if batsman hadn't made runs? It's such a pointless thing to say, we've set 500+ To win in three consecutive test matches. Steyn and Philander haven't exactly been blowing away the Indian batsman have they?

  • Front-Foot-Lunge-Needs-A-Hug on December 27, 2013, 9:28 GMT

    Top order failures? 7 tons? How is it a 'rescue' when a batsman makes runs? It's such an illogical viewpoint. We would have lost if batsman hadn't made runs? It's such a pointless thing to say, we've set 500+ To win in three consecutive test matches. Steyn and Philander haven't exactly been blowing away the Indian batsman have they?

  • on December 27, 2013, 9:31 GMT

    The Aussies should do well to take a leaf out of the young Indians performance in South Africa at present.

  • Dangertroy on December 27, 2013, 9:40 GMT

    Don't be so harsh Brydon - Haddin still has Nathan Lyon for company - he has yet to be dismissed in this series. He also top scored in that innings in Cape town. Plus with the way england have failed to wrap up the tail in this series so far... I'll bet the in form Nathan Lyon will be giving them nightmares tonight.

  • G--J on December 27, 2013, 9:47 GMT

    The following first innings stats show Aus slightly ahead but only just. Brydon is spot on - Aus batting has been terrible, but masked by the bottom order and Eng's even worse performance. http://stats.espncricinfo.com/ci/engine/stats/index.html?batting_positionmax1=6;batting_positionval1=batting_position; class=1;filter=advanced;host=2;innings_number=1;innings_number=2; opposition=1;opposition=2;orderby=batting_average;spanmax1=31+Dec+2013 ;spanmin1=01+Jan+2013;spanval1=span;team=1;team=2;template=results;type=batting

  • austentayshus on December 27, 2013, 9:58 GMT

    Well Written Bryan Top Stuff...

    Warner shown signs of maturity but this test threw wicket away

    Roger bats like a pensioner Cannot have him for a long run (Nic Madison in for him )

    Watson needs to go (Play Faulkner instead of him)

    George bailey is one day specialist (Chris Lynn should get a chance)

    Steve smith will get better sooner ....

  • humdrum on December 27, 2013, 10:00 GMT

    Very true Brydon,but as long as he goes on doing it,the Aussies will take it gratefully.The cold fact is that the Aussie batting is brittle,as against their bowling which wins them the matches.The real test is around the corner in the second dig as Eng would fancy their chances for the first time in this series,and if Aus are to chase a total of any substance,their batting will be genuinely tested for the first time in this series when they wil;l be under the hammer.As Eng have found out,the road back to no 1 is not a shirtfront by any stroke of imagination,no siree.The Proteas may appear done for at the moment,but they ain't going to give up in a hurry.The Aussies better earn their stripes.

  • Tova on December 27, 2013, 10:22 GMT

    This article clearly shows what most people who have followed this series and the Aussie team already know, our top 6 isn't particularly good. We have been saved by some good individual performances this series and by our lower order. There are batsman in the top order who shouldn't be there. Watson cannot play another Test. He is the most overrated player in the world. I just don't understand the faith that has been shown in him. He never makes Test runs when they are needed. Only when he needs to save his spot in the side. He hardly takes any wickets anymore and injures himself once a series.... We can't keep carrying this baggage. Bailey is not a Test batsman. He was picked on odi form on the back of an average first class record. It's time to blood some young up and coming bats now the Ashes have been won... That means we drop Watson, Rogers and Bailey

  • on December 27, 2013, 10:37 GMT

    Powerful stuff! Top article!

  • Gowers_Great_Tiger_Moth_Flyby on December 27, 2013, 11:25 GMT

    This is the weakness Australian batting up in history - the test avge of 35 club.

    Let's be honest. Warner is just lucky, all he can do is T20 mode. When pitches aren't straight, true and coming in to the bat he's clueless, as shown today, so Aus will have to play home tests on the usual doctored pitches for him to score more.

    Rogers is at the point of retirement and does not have the technique. Smith is another LOI bludgeoner with little fitness and the much maligned Watson is never a no.3 in a million years.

    Australia have nothing coming through and are marooned with this shower of LOI misfits.

  • whoster on December 27, 2013, 11:33 GMT

    Quite simply, it's Mitchell Johnson who's won the Ashes for Australia. He's been backed-up superbly by the other bowlers, and that's taken the pressure off their batsmen. Both batting line-ups are fragile, and the team that's batted first in the 9 Tests since July has controlled the game. England managed to paper over the cracks during the English summer, and the Aussies are doing the same in this series. Age and fitness are going to ask questions of Clarke, Harris, Haddin, Rogers, Watson, and perhaps Johnson in the near future. This is an Aussie side that's not going to be around much longer, and they'll soon face the same uncomfortable questions as England.