Somerset v Australians, Taunton, 4th day June 29, 2013

A good outing for Australia's batsmen


Australians 321 for 5 decl and 263 for 4 (Khawaja 73, Haddin 52*, Hughes 50) beat Somerset 320 and 260 by six wickets

Usman Khawaja, Phillip Hughes and Ed Cowan were all useful if not quite compelling on a day of sunshine and blue skies at Taunton as they duelled for places in the Australian batting order for the first Ashes Test. Each played fluently until the moment of his dismissal, but none turned their start into the sort of tally captain Michael Clarke and coach Darren Lehmann so desired from their charges.

Still, a win is a win and as the first such result in a first-class match by an Australian team overseas since the third Test in Dominica in April 2012, it should not be sniffed at. Brad Haddin, the vice-captain, completed formalities with a second six in an innings that underlined how the tourists' goal of an outright result has never been in question.

Haddin's was in fact the most arresting batting of all the Australians. He walked out with a potentially tense 56 runs still to get and proceeded to clobber 52 of them himself. Following on from fluent runs for Australia A, Haddin looks more than capable of playing in the top six if required.

The Australians made one concession for preparatory needs by keeping Shane Watson from batting in the second innings, even though four wickets fell. He is completely certain of his place, but others less so. Khawaja and Hughes gained most from the final day's batting, on a surface that had finally begun to wear. Though he did not impress in the first innings, Khawaja was composed and unhurried while compiling 73 runs, including 10 boundaries. Hughes played his shots with increasing levels of self-assurance, benefiting from the gains of day two.

However Cowan trudged grimly from the wicket after falling short of a major score, despite looking untroubled until the moment of his dismissal, which for the second time in the match went the way of the tall seamer Gemaal Hussain. It remains to be seen whether he will get another chance to push for his retention in the Test team against Worcestershire next week.

Sun blazed over the County Ground as Cowan and Khawaja resumed play in the morning. Runs were soon being collected with efficiency and no great fuss, any edges snuck through the gap between slips and gully running along the ground. Cowan drove attractively through cover and also punched through point off the back foot, while Khawaja rotated the strike more effectively than he has done so at times in the past.

So comfortable did both batsmen look that the fall of a wicket was unexpected. Cowan, on 46, flailed at Hussain in search of the boundary to reach his half-century and managed only to edge behind. The dismissal continued a worrying pattern: not since the first Test of last summer against South Africa in Brisbane has Cowan made a first-class century, despite consistently making starts. Australia may be able to afford this kind of recurring issue with one of their openers, but having guaranteed a berth to the hundred-shy Watson they may be hesitant about including another.

Hughes walked out at No. 3 as the tourists sought to bolster his confidence further, and it was evident in a rollicking start to his innings including one big six heaved over midwicket from the bowling of George Dockrell. This was the sort of shot Hughes looked afraid to play in India, and he balanced his aggression with plenty of singles while at the other end Khawaja raised his fifty.

Lunch came and went, and just when Khawaja appeared to be cantering towards a century, the rough Dockrell had been floating his left-arm spin towards caused him to play for too much spin and snick a catch to slip. Hughes and Clarke prospered for a time, before the former slogged at Dockrell and was bowled. Clarke had played his second pleasing cameo of the match but authored a similarly inattentive stroke three runs later, dancing down the wicket and playing around a ball that did not turn.

But Haddin was in a joyful hurry, and he allowed the tour bus a chance to be revved up for Worcester well ahead of the scheduled close. It gathered valuable momentum at Taunton, even if Cowan, Hughes and Khawaja might have preferred more runs to take with them.

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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Ray on July 1, 2013, 10:30 GMT

    I don't see how these recent matches have changed things greatly?

    Australia have a very good seam attack (no matter who gets the nod), a very poor spinner (ditto), average WK/batsman, poor all-rounder(s), 1 excellent batsman, couple of decent batsman (Watson & Rogers) and a host of others likely to have 1 decent innings in 10.

    England have a good (not great) attack, but will struggle if either Anderson or Swann gets injured, an excellent WK/ batsman and a pretty good batting line-up (although the selectors seem to be trying hard to mess things up by moving Root up the order and replacing Compton with the less effective Bairstow).

    If Australia's batsman can give their bowlers something to bowl at, it will be close. Otherwise, injuries permitting, England should win by a couple of Tests.

  • Prasanth on July 1, 2013, 4:48 GMT

    Very happy with Khawaja. Finally coming out of his shell. Of all the players in the team, I think he was most hard done by Mickey Arthur and never got the chance to play many consecutive matches. Lehmann knows khawaja so irrespective of what he may say, this will definitely favour Khawaja's selection. its not just that - Lehmann knows how to bring the best of him and probably other players too...while Mickey seemed to bring out the worst in some!

  • Dummy4 on July 1, 2013, 3:13 GMT

    @H_Z_O...Yes wise to be wary as an English Fan. Of course, the England side have the batting credentials but that alone never wins matches. Their warm-up innings against Essex showed a lot of rustiness and perhaps even complacency. Their series against NZ would of been the perfect leadup were it to be played just before the Ashes however it has been followed by a major one-day tournament where the bowlers have focused on containment rather than wickets and the batters have tried to up the run rate rather than bat time. Australia's red ball prep to date on the other hand has been faultless with almost all members of the squad finding some kind of form in the A games and against Somerset. Also; watch out if Starc finds some consistent new ball form starting against W/shire. With both Starc and Pattinson firing with the new ball England could really struggle despite their superior batting av'ges. Oz have the hunger of an up and coming side and that alone makes them very dangerous.

  • Anupam on June 30, 2013, 16:10 GMT

    @AKS286 As you mentioned who will be the third seamer from Aus ? Most of the people here are thinkig same. Siddle, Pattinson are confirmed then Harris is the man if he fit and plays whole Ashes. But I'm also agree to you FELLA that Bird is ahead of Starc, Faulkner but below to Harris.

  • H on June 30, 2013, 15:48 GMT

    @Lyndon McPaul having been inserted in excellent batting conditions, no less. And that's why, as an England fan, I'm wary of making the sort of ridiculous claims that FFL, Cyril and co have been making. I wouldn't read too much into either warm-up, but as poor as this Australia side might be (comparatively speaking; it's still a very young side and the bar has been set pretty high by what's gone before) it's not like we haven't been beaten by worse. Recent Aussie sides seem to have lost that gritty tenacity that turned even their least talented sides into formidable opponents. And it sounds like Lehmann's first step as coach has been to try and get that back.

    If it weren't for England's greater experience and the fact it's in our conditions, I'm not even sure we'd be considered favourites. Australia's batting might need to rely on Clarke more than we do on Cook or Trott, but their attack relies less heavily on Pattinson than ours does on Anderson, and wickets win you Test matches.

  • Anupam on June 30, 2013, 15:46 GMT

    SMITH is the future captain or say just after Ashes loss Clarke will be axed and Smith will become captain. Smith shows valuable contributions in middle order and also his innings are not mediocre but comes in crucial time. @YES.Valkyries I'm totally agree with you fella. Shaun Marsh is the another Hodge or Rogers. After Langer & Katich Clarke hurt the opening standard of Australia. I really remember those days when Maher, Love, Blewett, Elliot, Hodge, Campbell scoring huge runs but not even considered but when I look current Cowan, Hughes, khawaja, Wade, Warner then i don't understand why these guys are in the squad? Now about Pace battery Siddle, Pattinson, Third ? IMO Bird is ahead of Starc. Harris will not perform under Clarke's captaincy. Maddinson really proved himself that he is better than Hughes & khawaja. I really miss Marsh in the recent tour matches.

  • Dummy4 on June 30, 2013, 14:36 GMT

    @Cyrilknight...I guess then that it is ironic that the superior technique of the English top order batsmen have reaped much more modest returns in their warm up game against Essex than the Australians against Somerset. Imagine what may happen against quality, high pace seam and swing of Pattinson, Starc and Harris.

  • Chris on June 30, 2013, 14:34 GMT

    Well, I did say "not a very flattering performance for a full strength Test side"... but the Pommie batsmen are doing even worse against Essex! It gives us hope if we're batting better against county sides than they are. :D

  • Cyril on June 30, 2013, 11:05 GMT

    The new found confidence in batsmen of such poor technique is wonderful for the English. Khawaja, Hughes, someone even mentioned Smith! The inclusion of so many openers shows how worried the Aussies are about loose technique against the moving ball. To even think of selecting Cowan and now Rogers is most heartening.

    England may have been ticking along against New Zealand, but the bowlers will be up for humiliating the Australian batsmen. Australia will be beaten by an innings in a least one match and bowled out for under 100 too.