The Investec Ashes 2013

Australia's problems by the hundred

Australian batting has been plagued by a century drought, and Darren Lehmann wants his batsmen to score at least a hundred in each Test

Daniel Brettig in Nottingham

July 6, 2013

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Ed Cowan was clearly unhappy with his lbw decision, Worcestershire v Australians, Tour match, New Road, 3rd day, July 4, 2013
In search of centuries: Darren Lehmann has set the bar for minimum of one century from his batsmen per Test © Getty Images
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Players/Officials: Michael Clarke | Ed Cowan | Chris Rogers
Teams: Australia | England

It will be the earnest hope of every Australian batsman that some of the most significant moments of the visit to Worcester took place not on the field at New Road but in the dressing room. There, for about an hour after play on day two, the tourists engaged in a frank and occasionally spicy batting meeting. Views were shared between players, the captain, Michael Clarke, and the coach, Darren Lehmann. The question of how best to go about batting at Trent Bridge, and the topic of handling swing bowling, were both robustly confronted.

Success or failure in the Ashes series will depend largely upon the ability of a much-doubted and debated Australian batting order to stand up to English pressure, and not fall prey to the moving or spinning ball. As befits his knack for catching the essence of the thing, Lehmann translates the matter to a simple maxim: many more hundreds have to be made.

Among numerous set ambitions Lehmann brought to the coaching job, his desire to drive his players to more centuries was prominent. He wants an absolute minimum of one per Test. Given that Australia managed only one for the entire series in India, to Clarke in the first match at Chennai, it is abundantly clear how much work needs to be done.

"We want a hundred every game, possibly two if not three, that would be great," Lehmann said. "Hundreds will count and that's a big thing for us. I don't think we've made enough hundreds as a batting unit for a long period of time now, there's probably only been a couple in the last few Test series and Michael's made most of them, so we need to make more hundreds as a unit definitely, for us to get to where we want to go to.

"Test cricket we know is going to be a lot harder than the tour games we've played, we're not shying away from that fact, we know we have to bat better. I think we batted really well with good intent and aggressive and all the things we talk about, but there are going to be times in this Test series where it's not going to be as easy I'm sure. We're going to have to find ways to make runs and that's what we've been working on, for Nos. 1 to 11."

Coming from two seasons of state coaching with Queensland, Lehmann was very aware that the supply of three-figure scores had dried up across the country. For most of last summer only the 30somethings - Ricky Ponting, Brad Haddin and Chris Rogers - had notched more than one apiece in the Sheffield Shield.

They were belatedly joined by Joe Burns and Jordan Silk in the closing weeks of the season, the latter's two centuries enough to vault him onto the Australia A tour having only debuted for Tasmania's Shield team in February. Lehmann pointed out that Rogers' elevation to be part of the Ashes squad arose largely through his ability to churn out telling scores. In the case of Phillip Hughes, 21 first-class hundreds demonstrate that he has the hunger to get them even if his technique does not always convince.

Australia's Test centurions since June 2012

  • Michael Clarke - four
  • Michael Hussey - three
  • David Warner - one
  • Ed Cowan - one
  • Matthew Wade - one

"I think it's [a problem] right down the line to be perfectly honest," Lehmann said. "In state cricket we haven't seen enough hundreds, guys coming through have got to make more hundreds. You've seen Chris Rogers obviously make a lot of hundreds, last year in the county system and now he gets his chance in the Test match. It's a big thing for us as a team to make hundreds, it'll make our bowlers' job a lot easier, and we'll make bigger scores."

One of the touring team's most troubling cases is that of Ed Cowan, possessed of an accumulator's method that suggests he should reach three figures regularly. It was with a scoring sequence of 134*, 145, 10, 65, 145* and 109 in the lead-up to the 2011 Boxing Day Test against India that Cowan won his international berth, but since being given his baggy green cap he has made only one century in Tests - against South Africa in Brisbane last year.

Lehmann acknowledged that Cowan had left his place open to conjecture by repeatedly failing to go on to big scores, the latest a typically middling double of 58 and 34 against Worcestershire. "He got some runs, you'd love him to make some hundreds and put his position beyond any doubt at all," Lehmann said. "But we've just got to sit down and work out whether he's in that top six or not."

The meeting at New Road was emblematic of the focus Lehmann and Clarke have committed to the issue of making significant runs, their urgency increased by the knowledge that when the Australians walk out for the national anthems before the first Test at Trent Bridge, they will be facing a team steeped in the art of century-making. Alastair Cook (25), Jonathan Trott (9), Ian Bell (17), Kevin Pietersen (22) and Matt Prior (7) are all better versed at compiling tallies that are not merely handy but monumental.

So when Lehmann speaks of England's batsmen it is not only of their weaknesses but also of traits his side can - nay, must - learn from. "We know them pretty well because they've had a similar side over a period of time now, which is an advantage I think," he said. "For us it's case of making sure we've ticked all those boxes and actually making sure that we're ready to go. So we are talking about cricket, about each player, doing everything behind the scenes to make sure we implement that in the game."

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

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Posted by landl47 on (July 9, 2013, 5:02 GMT)

One interesting thing is that although England's batting line-up is vastly more experienced than Australia's, the Australian batting line-up is older than England's. The England line-up of Cook, Root, Trott, Pietersen, Bell, Bairstow and Prior have 398 tests between them and a total age of exactly 200 years, average 28. Australia's line-up, which I anticipate will be Watson, Rogers, Cowan, Hughes, Clarke, Smith and Haddin, have 226 test between them and 213 years, average age 30. Aus has two 35-year olds in Rogers and Haddin, while England's senior batsman is Pietersen, who just turned 33. Even England's youngsters, Root and Bairstow, at 22 and 23 respectively, are younger than Australia's Hughes and Smith, both 24. Bringing in Warner only slightly raises the number of tests and Khawaja would actually lower the number.

Older but less experienced wouldn't seem to be a good combination. The bowling line-ups are more conventional- England's is older but a lot more experienced.

Posted by Nicely_Time.Man on (July 8, 2013, 17:56 GMT)

@Yes Valkyries I'm agree to you Cowan or Warner should bat on no.3 position. No need of khawaja he got too many chances his SR is also very poor. Cowan can resist. @Mary786 you are the person who told khawaja instead of Hughes and we need batsman like Cowan & Khawaja. Now what happen here? We know that Khwaja is from your homeland but here he is representing Australia not your nation Pak. your always mediocre comments from your side is acceptable but not appreciable. Other batsmen are eagerly waiting for opportunity to perform and impact. and what is the relation between Arthur gone and khawaja's performance?

Posted by AKS286 on (July 8, 2013, 16:29 GMT)

S.Marsh is the next Hodge or may be Rogers. players like below standards khawaja, Cowan, Hughes, Waste, lyon,Starc & Warner are getting chance and chance but players like Hussey. Hodge, Marsh, Smith, Haddin, Johnson, Hauritz, Krezja, Beer, Klinger, Cosgrove, Bailey, Forrest, Ferguson, Paine,Boyce,etc are out completely. VC is the farewell gift of Haddin (Ashes is the last test series for him). Now everyone knows that special fans feeling towards khawaja & Fawad in every comment OMG.

Posted by AKS286 on (July 8, 2013, 15:24 GMT)

Centuries interesting, but it depends upon at which inning it has been score. You can't expect centuries from top 4. A single century by an opener and rest century partnership will build the mammoth score. Opening partnership is more important because the main strike bowler Jimmy is more dangerous with new ball and he showed in CT that he can bowl reverse swing with new ball so, opening stands & couple of half century partnership can do it.

Posted by Yes.Valkyries on (July 8, 2013, 14:53 GMT)

Shaggy076 Mate for Mary786 Australian team is all about Khawaja, His comments starts from Khawaja and end with Khawaja. Leave him If Lyon & Agar fails then Fawad will be added in his bucket. Cowan is ahead of Khawaja, Cowan can also steady middle order if he bats in middle order. i think smith proved himself that he deserve a place. After a good performance in India Moises deserve a place as an allrounder. If Watto & Rogers open then Cowan at no.3/4 is a good choice.

Posted by Mayan820 on (July 8, 2013, 12:47 GMT)

The English are going to win the home series as well as the series in Australia . . . by what margin is a much more tricky question. You would think that the Ausies will draw one test back, maybe two, in each series. The English have not gotten where they are for lack of knowing the game of cricket, backwards, and are are more than a handful to contain in their own conditions, just ask the Proteas. The latter escaped with a series win the last time these two sides met, but it was very far from a pushover. As a Protea supporter I am rather going to enjoy this battle. Hope these two sides thoroughly tire one another out so that the Proteas and India can just come and mop up what is left of them.

Posted by Shaggy076 on (July 8, 2013, 7:29 GMT)

Mary786- I have nothing against Khawaja but sorry to break it to you 190 runs at 30 isn't great form if he was in line for first test he would have played the last warm up game. what advantage does australia have by leaving him out of that game and playing him in the first test? Answer is none. just breaking the news to you now rather than building up your hopes

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Daniel Brettig Assistant editor Daniel Brettig had been a journalist for eight years when he joined ESPNcricinfo, but his fascination with cricket dates back to the early 1990s, when his dad helped him sneak into the family lounge room to watch the end of day-night World Series matches well past bedtime. Unapologetically passionate about indie music and the South Australian Redbacks, Daniel's chief cricketing achievement was to dismiss Wisden Almanack editor Lawrence Booth in the 2010 Ashes press match in Perth - a rare Australian victory that summer.
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