England v Australia, 1st Investec Test, Trent Bridge, 4th day

Australia lose openers' thread

The partnership between Shane Watson and Chris Rogers rattled England and made Australia's target look eminently achievable - but the men that followed could not keep it up

Daniel Brettig at Trent Bridge

July 13, 2013

Comments: 34 | Text size: A | A

Chris Rogers drives towards mid-off, England v Australia, 1st Investec Test, Trent Bridge, 4th day, July 13, 2013
Chris Rogers set the tone with a half-century but Australia's batsmen struggled as the innings wore on © Getty Images
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For 84 runs and 24 overs, Shane Watson and Chris Rogers left England's bowlers more bereft of ideas about how to confound Australian batsmen than at any time in recent memory. As a promising opening combination read faultlessly from the book on how to handle the new ball, a curious flatness descended on Trent Bridge. In contravention of what the tourists are expected to do - collapse - Watson and Rogers rotated the strike, cuffed regular boundaries and kept the good stuff out. Seldom in recent times has Australia's batting been cause for less concern.

Of course, it did not last. Watson departed first ball after drinks to Stuart Broad, victim of a marginal lbw decision just as Rogers had been in the first innings. What followed was a slow, inexorable decline, as English pressure compounded Australian lapses of the kind that have come to be expected almost as a matter of course ever since Ricky Ponting and Michael Hussey disappeared from Test match view.

While the wicket of Michael Clarke provided a definitive conclusion to the chief sportswriters' walking debate and that of Phillip Hughes ensured questions of technology would only grow in urgency, they were dramatic parts of the wider whole. Shown how to conduct themselves in these circumstances and conditions by their openers, Australia's batsmen failed comprehensively to follow suit, once again leaving an enormous task in the hands of the debutant Ashton Agar.

In the case of Ed Cowan, Australia have a batsman apparently out of step with his natural game, having lost the kind of patience and judgment that took him into the side in the first place. Should they go on to record a stirring victory, it will not conceal the fact that the new coach Darren Lehmann's most pressing task is the same that confronted Mickey Arthur. At least he will have the example of the opening stand to point out.

One of the most startling effects Rogers and Watson had while they batted together was to make the target Australia confronted look eminently achievable. England's tail had appeared satisfied with their lead at the start of the day, after Ian Bell and Stuart Broad had ridden considerable luck but also showed plenty of skill to ensure it would go beyond 300. But within a few overs of the chase English brows had began to furrow, as a pair of Australia batsmen showed authority, good sense and sound technique.

Only the occasional play-and-miss interrupted their flow, and apart from one Watson loft to the straight midwicket boundary from Graeme Swann scarcely a single shot was struck in the air. The slow, deteriorating surface meant it was admittedly easier to face the new ball than the old but at no stage did Rogers and Watson allow England's bowlers to settle, punishing the merest miscalculations in line and length and also scoring from plenty of deliveries that were blameless, using quick feet and subtle hands to do so.

For once, the end of Watson's innings was not a matter for too much introspection about wasted foundations. Stuart Broad swung a good one into him, the pad was struck, and the appeal was upheld. Watson's referral was instinctive, and a Hawk-Eye projection that had the ball clipping leg stump was another marginal call against Australia. In other words, it was the kind of dismissal that, while influential, could be lived with. The next would be quite the opposite.

Cowan has been ill across this match, suffering badly from a virus that has consigned him to bed at times when he has not been needed at the ground. But he has also been afflicted by a kind of compulsion to play as his position demands rather than the way he generally builds an innings. On day one he wafted at a ball that might normally have been left and was out for a golden duck. This time around he tossed away a serviceable start by driving heedlessly at the first ball Joe Root floated into the footmarks outside off stump, moreover in the last over before tea.

In isolation, Cowan's exit was wasteful. In the context of the match it was critical. Bell later acknowledged that England had bowled somewhat loosely prior to tea. After it they tightened up, and thanks to Cowan they had a new batsman in Clarke to concentrate on. Lehmann has spoken often of allowing his players to bat the way they know best. In Cowan's case he must rediscover exactly what that is, and quickly. Even retention for the Lord's Test is far from guaranteed.

Having played so well in Watson's company, Rogers was gradually becalmed. He found it increasingly difficult to find the occasional boundary that kept his score ticking, and at length the supply of singles also began to dry, his innings slowly becoming almost as parched of runs as the dusty pitch lacked for moisture. Eventually, Rogers was undone by a neat James Anderson plan from around the wicket, cramped for room and flicking in the air to a short midwicket. Unlike Cowan, Rogers has been his usual self in this match. But he will rue the constriction of his innings, leading to error and dismissal.

Batting by this time had become a rather more difficult task, complicated by a softening, moving and spinning ball, a more focused England and the tension of the chase itself. But Clarke would be another batsman to find difficulty adapting to his new role. Typically, Clarke's best innings at No. 5 have begun with a distinct note of counterpunching, going after good balls and bad with a busy, energetic approach that takes momentum away from the bowlers. He was strangely conservative here, trying to preserve his wicket but ultimately allowing England to encircle him. His exit will be talked about mainly for the use of Australia's final review but he had hardly set a confident marker, and No. 4 will remain a kind of millstone until he can be more proactive.

Steve Smith and Phillip Hughes duly fell victim to the momentum and pressure inflicted by England, plus the extravagant turn gained by Swann. There was a familiar sense of fear and claustrophobia about Australia's batsmen in England, the kind of feeling first visited in 2005 and repeated again four years later. Agar, Brad Haddin and the rest of the tail have been left with an almighty task. But even if they achieve it, the batsmen have plenty to ponder before Lord's. A video of Rogers' partnership with Watson should be required, repeat viewing.

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

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Posted by H_Z_O on (July 16, 2013, 10:38 GMT)

@Shaggy076 think you're selling Smith a bit short there. He's outperformed Johnny so far in his career full stop, in my book. Looks a really good batsman and was way better in the field than Bairstow too. Was surprised Clarke didn't turn to him at all for even an over of occasional leggies. When Bell was looking comfortable, maybe he'd have loosened up against Smith (like Cowan did to Root) and gotten out? Not saying he's a genuine all-rounder (neither's Root for that matter), but he could be used to break partnerships, surely?

Posted by Shaggy076 on (July 16, 2013, 6:56 GMT)

OhhhhhMattyMatty - Could say the dame about Bairstow. Smith outperformed him in this game.

Posted by ihaq1 on (July 15, 2013, 6:44 GMT)

well the number three position seems up for grabs...clarke wanted to play warner anyway...that australia's best bowler pattinson did not seem to succeed is probably a worry...bird should be a shoe in as a fourth paceman...the australians seem to bat only when everything is lost and obviously darren lehman has not gotten thru teh barrier...that clarke is failing and dabbing outside teh off stump..pattinson should realize that variations are required and just bringing teh ball in from outside off stump is not enough...against broad he should have gone around teh wicket ...yorkers, short balls, reverse swing, varying length and line...if they still play agar he could be batted up the order and try his first inning heroics although the english did not give him any short balls in teh second...to overcome that he should have hit straight down teh ground or over the top of teh bowler...te english have problems too root and bairstow but their bowling is more controlled.a change in umpires !

Posted by   on (July 15, 2013, 2:18 GMT)

DRS needs to be looked at. Maybe the if a team reviews and it is so close that it comes back to "Umpires Call", then the reviewing team should not lose the review. Just Like DRS is supposed to be used to stop the Howlers (Broad's Not Out), maybe teams can lose their reviews only if they review a plumb decision (i.e. hitting plumb in front, huge knick.) Better still, the 3rd umpire should be able to use the available technology to just say to the on filed umpire - Hey that was a shocker - Overturn it now. Let's face it , there is at least 30 seconds between most deliveries these days. IF we are going to use technology, then use it to it's fullest capacity, not 1/2 baked like they do now.

Posted by ScottStevo on (July 14, 2013, 20:03 GMT)

The only change I'd make to the Aus team is Cowan. Hughes to 3, Warner to 6. Actually, I'd bring someone else in for 6 that's not part of the squad and leave Warner out. C Ferguson at 6... Loved this test match. I think we will win this series from here. England surely can't be any luckier than they were to survive this....

Posted by Beertjie on (July 14, 2013, 18:33 GMT)

What sums up my impressions of this match are the marginal lbw decisions that went against Australia. Umpires are human but some were horrendous. Imagine the outcry if England had no reviews left after Dar's failure to give Haddin out! Anyway, the writer is spot on about Cowan's dismissal. So typical of the man's failure to convert starts there can be no doubt that he must go now. I would have written the same about Watson had he not got a score. @Ozcricketwriter on (July 14, 2013, 6:06 GMT), where's your evidence that Khawaja "is in horrendously bad form"? @punter-gilly-haydos-mcgrath-warne, not sure if Bird will reverse it as well as Harris, so the latter for Starc should be immediate. Warner may be OK at #3, but since this is the ideal time to bring Khawaja in and give Smith another game, perhaps at #6. Then if he or Khawaja don't impress and Warner goes well in warm-up games, bring him in. That would be my way to go with the batting, while waiting to see how Bird can be brought in

Posted by H_Z_O on (July 14, 2013, 12:41 GMT)

@Larry Larkin different decisions from the on-field umpires. That's why I think all this "umpire's call" stuff needs to go. Clipping is either out or not, same for both sides. The ICC needs to issue a ruling one way or the other and settle this issue once and for all.

Posted by H_Z_O on (July 14, 2013, 12:27 GMT)

@OhhhhhMattyMatty I'm an England fan, but that's nonsense. Smith's a better batsman in my opinion than Bairstow, our number 6. Not a huge amount in it, but Smith looks a better player right now. And he seems to be maturing and improving.

Hughes needs to move up the order and Clarke needs to bat at 5. He's not a number 4, he's too susceptible outside that off-stump. I guess the problem is Australia have selected way too many openers, even Smith was a late addition to the squad. Not enough middle order players, or even top order guys who can slot in down the order. Warner's batted 6 in First Class cricket but never in Tests, afaik.

The answer could be Warner at 3 and Hughes at 4 with Clarke at 5 and Smith at 6. There's enough talent there to give the bowlers a chance. Haddin's proving right now he's a quality batsman. Could well win this match for Australia from the brink of defeat.

Posted by I-Like-Cricket on (July 14, 2013, 9:59 GMT)

Why are people calling for Rogers to be axed? In the first innings he was quite unlucky to be given out and the second innings he was out to a really intelligent piece of bowling from Anderson. He was leading the run scoring in County Cricket before the Ashes began and already had a double-century to his name there. Though Cowan's gotta go, I was a fan as he first entered the team but gradually he's disappointed me, George Bailey deserves his shot I think and if that fails, bring Warner back. Australia were never expected to win this series so a little experimentation is just what the doctor ordered.

Posted by lillee4PM on (July 14, 2013, 9:58 GMT)

This has been an absorbing test match, to say the least. Even if Australia manage to pull off a miraculous win, they should drop Cowan and Pattinson, and bring in Voges and Bird for Lords.

Posted by dirtydozen on (July 14, 2013, 9:01 GMT)

both haddin and cowan should be dropped and be replaced by khwaja and lyon and let hughes do the wicketkeeping and play agar at no 7 so aussies can have 5 bowlers

Posted by Playfair on (July 14, 2013, 8:55 GMT)

I thought Australia missed a trick in that they should have sent Agar instead of Cowan at number three. I know its asking for alot but the fluency in which Agar batted in the first innings was so refreshing and a pleasure to watch, but more so for the momentum which the first wicket set. Khwaja, Cowan are of the same ilk, Id go for Warner

Posted by cbradbury on (July 14, 2013, 8:42 GMT)

'Well i still cant believe Mitch Johnson isnt not in this team'

You are joking, surely? The reason is simple:

'he bowls to the left...' etc.

Posted by   on (July 14, 2013, 8:25 GMT)

need 2 replay d ast inngs, though um nt sure agar can do it or nearly do smthng lyk d 1st inngs (hey.... strange dat ppl r looking at nmbr 11 batsman than d batsmen)... bst of luck

Posted by runout49 on (July 14, 2013, 8:16 GMT)

reddawn1975 wrote - ." when you have players in Australia like the Marsh Brothers Doolan Burns Bailey Finch i mean C'mon guys these guys are all better players than Steve Smith. " Very true, but none of them come from NSW !

Posted by reddawn1975 on (July 14, 2013, 7:51 GMT)

Well i still cant believe Mitch Johnson isnt not in this team he's had a great 12 months and was in great from they should be on the phone to him now.Like Ed Cowan but he has to go he simply hasn't been able to get it together to play at this level Mr khawaja should be in for the next test.And although Steve Smith did ok when you have players in Australia like the Marsh Brothers Doolan Burns Bailey Finch i mean C'mon guys these guys are all better players than Steve Smith

Posted by Alexk400 on (July 14, 2013, 7:38 GMT)

Cowan , rogers ,smith , hughes has to go for me. They need to bring new young blood with batting skills and energy. Current players are too afraid of failure. May be they lack skill or self belief. Aussies are wasting time with this bits and pieces players god knows why. Kwaja should play 4th. He is not 3rd. He can't handle pressure either.

Posted by   on (July 14, 2013, 7:26 GMT)

So a ball clipping leg stump when a Pom is batting during an LBW review is not out, but a ball clipping leg stump when an Aussie batting during an LBW review is out?

How does that work?

Posted by CoverDrive88 on (July 14, 2013, 6:20 GMT)

Ed Cowan's problem is that even in a team of ordinary batsmen, he is ordinary. His technique is poor and his footwork is often non-existent (not that Warner's is much better). His best scoring stroke seems to be a leaden-footed slash through 4th slip/gully. He's a fighter but that's nowhere near enough to make it in Test cricket.

Posted by Ozcricketwriter on (July 14, 2013, 6:06 GMT)

It looks like Ed Cowan should depart. But who to replace him with? David Warner surely, but he is in South Africa. Usman Khawaja? But he is in horrendously bad form? James Faulkner? He is in great form but is a bowling all-rounder and perhaps we don't need another bowler. I am pretty sure that we are allowed to bring in another player and perhaps it is time that George Bailey was brought in. Either that or we call David Warner back from South Africa. Or go in with Faulkner and play Agar as a top 6 batsman. Whichever way we decide to go, Cowan has to go.

Posted by   on (July 14, 2013, 5:50 GMT)

They should have played with Warner because he would have accelerated more when the ball is new Common Aussies we will win this match. From Indian Buddy

Posted by pomkul on (July 14, 2013, 5:33 GMT)

I can't understood why khawaja not in the teaw. He is in the team in last 2 od years bt he last played a match 18 months ago. A new batsman came and playing ahead of him. This is absulate funny to me.

Posted by jmcilhinney on (July 14, 2013, 4:19 GMT)

@punter-gilly-haydos-mcgrath-warne on (July 13, 2013, 20:50 GMT), I agree that Starc can be inconsistent but calling for his removal after this game doesn't seem to make sense given that his figures are better than Pattinson's: 49-12-135-5 for Starc and 51-10-170-5 for Pattinson. That said, if you believe that Bird can do better and someone has to make way for him, noone would choose to omit Pattinson rather than Starc on their past records.

Posted by Moppa on (July 14, 2013, 3:52 GMT)

This article is really old news. Australia's opening stands have been respectable, but not outstanding, for some time. The problems have arisen at 3 and 4. In part, these problems have arisen because the openers have made respectable scores in the 30-60 range and then gotten out, meaning when 3 and 4 fail Australia has lost 4 wickets in a big clump. This is effectively what happened yesterday. On Cowan, I always felt he was out of place at 3 and would happy with either of these combinations for Lords: Watson, Cowan, Rogers; or Watson, Rogers, Khawaja. My reservations about Khawaja are that, whilst I think he has the ability, he hasn't been knocking the door down and has recently shown a strong knack for not grabbing his chances.

Posted by Ms.Cricket on (July 14, 2013, 2:55 GMT)

Despite his first innings 81, Hughes is not a Test class batsman so also Steve Smith and David Warner. Ed Cowan should at best be reserve opener.

Posted by Barnesy4444 on (July 14, 2013, 2:02 GMT)

Nobody can tell me Cowan is a better number 3 than Hughes. This tour Cowan has made 155 runs at 31, Hughes 380 runs at 76 and is simply a much better batsmen. Khawaja in at 6 until Warner serves his sentence. I like the look of Bird. He builds pressure and is consistent, that's necessary on these dry pitches the English are preparing for this tour.

Posted by   on (July 14, 2013, 1:43 GMT)

@punter-gilly-haydos-mcgrath-warne - I am a big Bird fan, but can't fault the Aussie pace bowlers this game. Particularly Starc - Economy rate 2.75 runs per over this game. That's hardly leaking runs. Cowan has to make way now - there is no getting around it. Khawaja should play as I can't see Warner playing at 3. To be honest, I think they'd be better off picking Katich after his 200 the other day but that won't happen. Neither Khawaja or Warner have really scored too many runs in the last couple of years at FC/Test level. I don't have great confidence they would do well against this English attack which looks pretty good to me.

Posted by landl47 on (July 14, 2013, 1:13 GMT)

I'm afraid this article doesn't analyze the Australian innings very successfully. This pitch has been slow, low, dry and abrasive. As such, the easiest time to score on it has been when the ball is new. As soon as the ball lost its initial shine and hardness, it began to turn and reverse swing, much more difficult conditions to cope with.

Watson played a typical Watson innings, looking good for a while then losing concentration and getting out. Opening might be Watson's best position, but that doesn't mean he is a good opener- he's just less bad there than everywhere else. 2 tons in 42 tests and an average of 35 are not the statistics of an international opening batsman.

Once Watson had gone Cowan survived for a while then succumbed, then Rogers was out-thought. Clarke and Smith looked good then got out and Hughes was done by a beast of a ball. Other than the relatively easy runs available against the new ball, England has dominated. I expect them to win tomorrow.

Posted by RandyOZ on (July 14, 2013, 0:01 GMT)

Cowan simply has to go, there is no other way to put it

Posted by   on (July 13, 2013, 23:39 GMT)

Well, first of all, congratulations shane Watson, it was a great innings. I was initially annoyed that Watson failed again to go on with it, but he did get a really good ball from broad. I'm a big Ed Cowan fan, but if we aren't going to play him as an opener, then he shouldn't be in the team. I don't think he is suited to that role, he is best suited to seeing off the new ball. I feel sorry for ed as he is clearly battling illness, but unless he plays as an opener (which is not likely to happen now), Khawaja should come in at three, and be given an extended run. Despite failing to make the most of his opportunities so far, he is at least suited to that role. And to wrap things up, let Clarke play at five. Something just doesn't work for him at four, the position he played last ashes and had a quiet series. After going back to five he made three doubles and a triple. It's probably psychosomatic, but if Watson can only play decent cricket as an opener, then let Clarke play at five.

Posted by   on (July 13, 2013, 23:11 GMT)

I do not see any reason why Khwaja not in the team.

Posted by page8383 on (July 13, 2013, 23:00 GMT)

Cowan has to go. Full stop. I'm surprised Khawaja was not picked for the first test, as he has a good relationship with Lehmann. However, Lehmann may have been quite cunning in leaving him out and keeping Cowan, giving Cowan enough rope to hang himself now, whilst DL has also avoided dropping an established player in Cowan for a new player in Khawaja and being accused of favouratism (a common theme of the Micky Arthur / Michael Clarke selection regime). Cowan's selection has nonetheless cost Australia dearly this test. Not only his low scores, but the nature and timing of his two dismissals have been completely unacceptable. For Australia to get close to the English with Cowan in the team has been a herculean effort.

Posted by OhhhhhMattyMatty on (July 13, 2013, 21:15 GMT)

Australia's batting is ridiculously bad. Steve Smith is not a number 5 for any team anywhere in the world. He's a 6 in a bad team or a 7 for anyone of a decent standard. He'd be batting 8 for England! Australia need to get Ponting in at 3 and recall David Hussey in at 5.

Posted by punter-gilly-haydos-mcgrath-warne on (July 13, 2013, 20:50 GMT)

As I have been saying the whole match GET KHWAJA IN AND COWAN OUT! he is a better judger of the ball and will score much better that Cowan. I hope Lehman will bring in the boy he has backed for so long now and will get Cown out of the side. Plus I think we need Jackson Bird in somewhere he is Australia's best bowler when going gets tough because he is so consistent and applies pressure, unlike Starc who seeks wickets from every ball and because of that he leaks a lot of runs.

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Daniel BrettigClose
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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