The Ashes 2013 May 15, 2013

Clarke's Ashes warning for batsmen


As he delivered a series of reassurances that a degenerative back condition would not hobble his forthcoming Ashes campaign, Australia's captain Michael Clarke issued a stern reminder that the tourists' promising pace battery would be rendered useless without sufficient runs to defend.

The announcement of an Australian Ashes squad stocked to the hilt with pace bowlers of quality, plus the scheduling of the first two Tests at the seam and swing friendly surfaces of Trent Bridge and Lord's, has contributed a sense of quiet optimism to many Antipodean observers of the game.

Clarke, though, was frank in reminding his batsmen that they would have to find ways of constructing decent tallies if that bowling strength is to become meaningful. It was a lesson demonstrated during the ODI series between the two countries in England last year, when Australia's bowlers looked tame by comparison with their English counterparts - despite helpful conditions - when given few runs to defend.

"We've got a good attack, there's no doubt about it. The squad of quicks we have is a really good combination. They gel well together, they're all a little bit different," Clarke said. "But there's the other side. As batters we've got to put runs on the board, it's no good giving our attack 150 runs to bowl at. So as batters we have a huge responsibility and a big job to make sure we're getting 350, getting 400 and putting those runs on the board, and I'm very confident if we can select the best attack we can have some success over there."

Clarke also disputed the possibility of England winning the series on dry, turning pitches prepared in the wake of Australia's 4-0 rout by India in February and March, instead noting that the overhead conditions had always been a more critical factor in how batsmen and bowlers fared than the surfaces themselves.

"I think conditions more in the air play a bigger part in England than what you see on the surface. If the sun's out generally the wickets in England are very good for batting. If it's overcast, it doesn't matter how dry the wicket is, you get a lot of swing and some seam in the UK. I don't think you can plan too much over there. I think England will use their strengths in their conditions. We'll be able to adapt, we've got Nathan Lyon, hopefully I can bowl a few part-timers as well. We'll find a way."

As part of his extended rehabilitation from the back and hamstring injuries that ruled him unfit for a Test match for the first time since his debut in 2004, Clarke recently completed a two-week training camp in the southern highlands of New South Wales with his trainer Duncan Kerr. Clarke said the recipe for his return to full fitness had not been any dramatic change in his regimen, but rather a tightening of its monitoring by the national team physio Alex Kountouris and others.

"I've used the experts around me," Clarke said. "Alex Kountouris, the Australian physio, has been fantastic and he's been monitoring my program. In regards to my back it's the daily maintenance I do … I've had another two-week boot camp with Duncan Kerr, we went away to my property there and trained really hard.

"So my preparation in regards to last year has been very similar, but it's been monitored extra closely by the support staff to make sure I'm getting the strength I need, and to make sure I'm well prepared to play the whole 12 months.

"I'm confident it'll be no different to what it has been through my career. I've managed to play 90-odd Test matches and only miss one through my career. That's a big part of why preparation is so important for me, I need to make sure I'm fit, need to make sure I'm not carrying too much weight, I need to make sure I'm putting in the work to be fit in eight or 12 months' time."

Clarke has also been a regular visitor to the Centre of Excellence in Brisbane, where those Ashes squad members not waylaid by the IPL or already in England have trained on well-grassed pitches and used the Dukes ball that will be a key player in the series to come.

"It's more just getting used to facing a different ball to a Kookaburra," Clarke said. "With your bowling action hanging on to the ball, catching and fielding as well, just because the ball is a little bit different to what we're used to in Australia.

"We're disappointed with our most recent results in India, we know that's unacceptable as an Australian cricket team, and we've been working hard to try to turn that around. All I can ask for from the boys is to continue to prepare as well as we can, and give it a red hot crack. We know we're playing against a very good team in their own back yard. Test cricket in my eyes will always be the pinnacle, and playing against England in England is as big as it gets."

Clarke was speaking in Sydney, where Cricket Australia announced the upgrade of their longtime sponsor Commonwealth Bank to become the major partner of the Test team and home Test series, following their previous commercial support of ODIs and continued backing of the Southern Stars women's team and grassroots cricket over 26 years.

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

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  • Scott on May 21, 2013, 11:49 GMT

    @WeFinishThis, The point I'm making is that it is the batting that's let us down. Loads of those scores didn't even get close to 250, or 200 for that matter. It's hard to argue that our batting isn't costing us tests when we score 280 in the first innings and the bowlers do their job and rumble the number 1 side for 90 odd and we manage to lose that test as the batting collapses for less than 50. If we'd even put on a paltry score of 150 we'd have won that test...I'm not bothering to argue that over the entirety of test cricket what an average score is as it doesn't really matter. The reality is if we continually score less that 250 in an innings we will struggle to win matches...against anyone. @FFL, Clarke shouldn't have moved anywhere in the order. He bats at 5, that's where he bats. A keeper keeps, a bowler bowls and Clarke is a middle order bat. We've already got 5 openers in the team, so it's nice to have at least one middle order bat in the squad! Should Dhoni face the first bal

  • Chris on May 21, 2013, 0:02 GMT

    Meety - Of course it doesn't take in to account wickets because that's the whole point - that your bowlers SHOULD be good enough to defend 600 runs/match. What it doesn't account for is if recent trends are that the scores are usually higher in recent decades (I haven't checked this). ScottStevo - Maxwell got the wickets required per runs conceded which is all that really matters. I'm not saying he's our best spinner, but rather our best spinner on that tour. Who cares about economy rates in test cricket if you're getting the wickets per runs? This is test cricket, not T20. A good point you make, but look at it this way. In the past 3 years, South Africa passed 600 match runs 14 times and lost once, however most (9) were drawn! They should win according to you. Yet 13 times they didn't pass 600 and they won all but 2 of those. 11 wins from 13 batting 'failures'? Regardless of whether they were bowled out or not, how do you explain that? Because 600/match is usually enough to win.

  • j on May 20, 2013, 6:09 GMT

    Clarke was humiliated in India, and amongst the many Aussie scandals of that tour, the most damaging was Clarke never heeding calls to move out of the bubble of the middle order and take responsibility for the notoriously weak Aussie top order. His technique was proven to be just not up to it. Australia need a real leader, someone who faces the first ball of every innings and takes responsibility for the top order batting. Australia came up against such a captain in their 2012 whitewash and the last Ashes, where a certain player scored a massive 766 runs against them.

  • Scott on May 19, 2013, 23:27 GMT

    @Meety, but it was a poor argument :) @Dave Lowe, comparing the two against India is irrelevant as they were bowling on completely difference surfaces - especially later in the 2 series after Englands spinners started wrecking India and the wickets weren't half the raked-down dust bowls Oz played on. Why not compare 09 - because it doesn't look good for your argument?! What we can compare is a career and after 40 test matches, Siddles stats are superior to that of Anderson. Its no surprise as when Anderson came to Oz in 07 he was complete garbage and we treated him with the disdain he deserved. He's become a much better bowler than that now - good for him as he was useless then - but you cannot say that Siddle won't improve either as he gets older, thus, you can't say that Anderson is a bowler to be proud of and Siddle not. In fact, hes exactly the type we revere in Oz, a hard working battler giving his all for his nation...and a quiet achiever, as his stats would suggest...

  • Dummy4 on May 19, 2013, 13:18 GMT

    @Meety. In what way is 229 wickets at an average of 30 a 'mediocre' career? Ok lets look at the two against India. Anderson 12 wickets at 30, Siddle 9 wickets at 33. and as for comparing the two head to head in ashes you pick 2009. Lets look at 2010-11 in Australia. Anderson 24 @ 26, Siddle 14 @ 34. No one has said you can't be proud of Siddle in Australia but LF was trying to compare him to Anderson as a bowler and you cant. BTW, as someone who has watched cricket for a lot of years and saw Lillee, Thompson, Mcgrath, Hughes, Alderman, Warne etc.. if Peter Siddle is a bowler Aussie fans are proud of then Australian cricket is in an even worse state than I thought!

  • Andrew on May 19, 2013, 10:49 GMT

    @Gandery on (May 19, 2013, 9:03 GMT) - apart from being an unabashed Copeland fan, I argued a month or so ago when there was talk that S Marsh was going to get selected for the Ashes, that Copeland had a better claim to batting in the top 6 of a Test match for Oz than him! His county stint sort of confirms that! Doing well in Div 2 must make him on standby!

  • Shaun on May 19, 2013, 9:03 GMT

    Trent Copeland batting average of 50 this year and he is taking a bundle of wickets in the county comp. If he is not in the selectors minds than they are crazy. The fact is Copeland is the most consistent performer. Runs, Wickets, Slips Catches and keeps the batsman under pressure keeping the scoring rate low. 164 wickets @ 25 and nearing 1000 runs @ over 20 (batting average doubled in one season with big hundred and a few 50s) tells me he has to be in the Ashes.

  • Andrew on May 19, 2013, 1:24 GMT

    @Dave Lowe - that "important" stat is useless. Siddle doesn't play ODIs. Anderson has a fairly mediocre ODI career, he would NOT of played more than a handful of ODIs had he been Ozzy - not up to it. Tests are a different matter & THAT is what LF was talking about. People say "but Anderson is a better bowler than when he debuted" - compare Siddle & Anderson in India recently & recently v Sth Africa & then tell me why Oz fans can't be proud of Sids? Might also want to check out 2009 Ashes stats head to head. Siddle has had ONE poor summer & is ranked higher (whatever that is worth) than Anderson.

  • Dummy4 on May 18, 2013, 16:38 GMT

    @Lliam Flynn. You missed out the most important stat. James Anderson 530 Test & ODI wickets, Graeme Swann 313, Peter Siddle 166. That's why.

  • Andrew on May 17, 2013, 3:32 GMT

    @Wefinishthis on (May 16, 2013, 6:17 GMT) "...2051746 runs have been scored from 7571 innings (2087 matches) as of today..." I know your 271 as par is wrong, so I checked your maths & 271 is the product of total runs divided by innings HOWEVER - you have not factored in wickets. I know for a fact that the average runs per wicket over the course of the history of Test cricket is around 33 to 37 (& climbing) - can't be bothered calculating this. IMO - a score of 250 means that you have something to defend, but you would need to be bowl brilliantly TWICE & bat well once to secure a win. I would suggest that around 350 is the score that gives bowlers scope to work with AND starts to create scoreboard pressure.

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