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July 15, 2013
Australia's batsmen have been placed on notice by their coach Darren Lehmann, who declared after a memorable first Test match in charge that the team's long-standing and disproportionate reliance on their bowlers for major runs must end if the Ashes are to be won from 1-0 down.
Last-wicket stands of 163 and 65 almost carried the tourists to victory at Trent Bridge, but as on the India tour earlier this year the late-innings heroics contrasted starkly with failures further up the order. Lehmann said that while Australia had proved they could worry England, his batsmen were the major difference between victory and defeat, most glaringly at their first opportunity when slipping to 117 for nine before Ashton Agar's world record union with Phillip Hughes.
"I think we've done enough to show this is going to be a really close series and we've just got to capture those key moments," Lehmann said. "And I think if you look back on the game, we've certainly got to bat better as a top order. That's probably the key. We're going to bowl very well and we know we can control their batters. It's a matter of making more runs."
"Our tail has done really well over a long period of time now but it's time for the batters to make sure they're making the runs and giving the tail a bit more time. I think we only batted for 63 overs (sic 64.5) in the first innings and 110 in the second. We've got to be reversing that about, batting for 120 overs plus in the first innings of a game and making our runs then."
No one symbolised this issue more distinctly than the No. 3 batsman Ed Cowan, twice swishing his wicket away with cover drives that did not correspond to his commission as an obstinate occupier of the crease. Others like Shane Watson, Chris Rogers and Steve Smith did not go on from starts, and even the captain Michael Clarke struggled to assert himself at No. 4. Lehmann said Cowan in particular had tried the patience of the selectors with his choice of shots.
"He had a tough game," Lehmann said. "We've told Ed how we want him to play and how we want him to bat. That certainly hasn't changed from when he first came into the side, I would think. Having not known what's happened or what's been said before, we picked him to do a role. He'll be disappointed with the shots. So are we."
"That's just part and parcel of what we're about, we're trying to learn and get better. I'm sure he'll get better at that as well. Like everyone's position, you've got to make runs and perform. So we'll sit down as a selection panel over the next couple of days and work out what we think is the best XI to play the next Test match and work from there."
Having been appointed as the team's coach only two weeks before the series began, Lehmann said he would not be over-emphasising technical advice by way of a remedy to the batsmen's deficiencies. Instead he pushed the concept of each player knowing his scoring areas against each bowler, and demonstrating belief in the methods that had brought them this far.
"I don't like tinkering with techniques too much as a coach," he said. "It's more about getting a game style you want them to play to particular bowlers. And if they do that and play in certain areas you want them to play in, we're going to be okay. From my point of view it's about managing them and what they're thinking and how they're going to play in certain situations the best you possibly can when you've got time. But you've got to remember I've been in this job for two and a half weeks, so it's a case of just doing little bits and pieces at a time."
In keeping with the selection secrecy that shrouded Agar's debut, Lehmann kept his options as open as possible for Lord's. The pacemen Jackson Bird and Ryan Harris are both expected to come into serious contention for spots, while the option of playing five bowlers will also be discussed by Lehmann and the selector on duty Rod Marsh.
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets hereFeeds: Daniel Brettig
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