England v Australia, 2nd Investec Test, Lord's, 3rd day July 20, 2013

Australia pay for batting madness

Australia's penalty for madness with the bat on the second day is pain on the third
23

As the evening shadows began to creep across Lord's, Ashton Agar stepped in to bowl to Jonny Bairstow. His languid action, more stilted in this match due to a hip complaint, wound up towards the crease in seven bounding steps, before his left arm began its ascent.

Usually it rolls over smoothly and propels the ball down towards the batsman with flight and a little spin. But this time he pulled out of the motion before completing it, having lost grip on the ball. Offering a gently embarrassed smile, he shuffled back to his mark to try again. It had been that sort of day for Australia, as Friday's madness became Saturday's consequences.

There was only ever the slimmest chance that England would allow Australia back into the Test after Australia's staggeringly slipshod first innings batting display, and it was arguably gone the moment neither Brad Haddin nor Michael Clarke chose to accept a regulation outside edge from Joe Root late on the second evening.

The tourists' bowlers battled manfully on day three, working away patiently despite the near hopelessness of their situation. But they were unable to wring dramatic results from the dry yet still quite trustworthy pitch, as Root, Tim Bresnan, Ian Bell and Bairstow pushed the target well beyond the realms of the possible.

The bowlers' frustration at finding themselves in such a predicament was plain on their faces throughout. Ryan Harris grimaced and cussed frequently, James Pattinson's expressive features were contorted more often in exasperation than intimidation, and Peter Siddle charged in angrily. They knew their best efforts were being thwarted by solid, unspectacular stuff from England; exactly the sort of batting the Australians should have aimed for on the second afternoon. The coach Darren Lehmann has spoken admiringly of how this series Bell has played within his limitations, and on this day Bresnan and Root in particular would follow that blueprint grandly.

The lessons for Australia's batsmen were many, from Bresnan's dogged occupation of the crease in the morning to absorb the freshest of the bowling, to Root's commendably straight bat in either defence or attack. Overall the impression was of batsmen not prepared to give up their wickets cheaply, even if the only two wickets to fall were to misdirected pull shots. Good spells were respected and bad ones punished. Scoring was steady but not unduly hurried, and the closing overs of sessions were played out without the merest hint of a brain explosion. Having survived only 53.3 overs themselves, the tourists have already slogged through 110 from England in this innings and in the process have also worn down the bowlers who represent Australia's best chance of nicking a Test match.

Harris, so incisive and effective on the first day of the match, was clearly diminished by lack of rest. His pace wavered somewhat, and he was unable to conjure the wickets he has so often provided when fit. Returning to his bowling mark time after time, Harris would no doubt have recalled similar scenarios when playing for an underperforming South Australia before his move to Queensland.

The discontent of bowlers in a weak team are compounding - there is less rest to be had, the opposing batsmen are not afflicted by the heavy legs associated with long hours in the field, and teammates wait for chances more in hope than the expectation associated with regular winners.

For Agar, this was a sobering day. The dryness of the surface suggested opportunities for spinners, as Steve Smith had demonstrated in the first innings. But his lack of success reflected the fact that at 19 he remains a bowler in development, regardless of how beguiled the selectors have been by his obvious natural ability. It is likely that Agar will become a very fine cricketer, but right now it is not quite clear that bowling should remain his primary string. Save for one delivery that bit out of the rough and spun across Root's bat to Clarke at slip without taking a touch, there was little mystery or venom in many of Agar's offerings.

Watching on from the pavilion, Nathan Lyon can rightly wonder at how he may have fared. His omission from the Trent Bridge Test was a tight and contentious call, its consequences obscured for a time by the blinding light of Agar's debut 98 at No. 11. But on a day like this, it cannot be debated that Lyon would have posed more problems for England's batsmen, having learned as he has the nuances of Test match bowling over the apprenticeship that had appeared geared towards this series. Lyon has taken his absence from the team as well as could be expected. For all the romanticism of Nottingham, Agar may soon be dealing with similar emotions.

Speaking of injustices, Bell's survival of an apparent clear catch by Smith in the gully when he had only 3 maintained a theme almost as disquieting as that of Australia's anaemic batting displays. For the second time in as many Tests the tourists were denied a wicket by umpiring error, in this case the third official Tony Hill being fooled by the optical issues presented by television footage of a clear catch. Like Stuart Broad, Bell stood his ground with the brio of an established performer. In this instance, the fielders' frustration at their plight as warranted. But in the context of the day it was a misleading moment. Australia deserved precisely the fate that befell them. Like Agar to Bairstow, they have completely lost their grip.

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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • on July 21, 2013, 10:46 GMT

    Australia should have somehow convinced Hussey to play the 10 ashes test matches then retire in full glory.. Hussey coming in at No.4 would have lent more solidity to there batting and the selfish clarke would have performed better then. Watson at one down and brad hodge to open instead should have been the only way for Australia to have added muscle to its batting..

  • Simoc on July 21, 2013, 10:46 GMT

    I don't think you're to qualified Jared Hansen. Narine, Ajmal, Swann are all better bowlers than Herath and O'Keefe will struggle to make the NSW team despite having the only spin pitch in the country at his disposal. No-one has ever stated Lyon is the best spinner in the world Chris Sun so writing it makes you the joke.

  • AussieSam on July 21, 2013, 10:34 GMT

    I love siddle's neverending optimism and how sensible he is about things like umpiring errors, it shows why he is such a persevering fierce competitor. But i think deep down he would think, as lehmann has said, our batting performance was completely unacceptable. I hope at some point in the series they can redeem themselves but after that i doubt it. As this article points out test match batting isnt just about batting long to build innings and score runs its about protecting your bowlers so they can stay fresh. Against a side like england this is even more important because as they have shown many times they are all about wearing down the opposition and beating them into submission. Its a shame our bowlers are having to pay the price for such a poor batting display and its worrying with injury prone players like harris, watson and pattinson.

  • on July 21, 2013, 9:59 GMT

    @Chris Sun "A lot of Australians" would call Lyon the best spin bowler in the WORLD??? I bet you couldn't find more than a dozen in the whole country. He has terrible control of his line, length and pace, poor tactical sense and hurries through his overs without thinking it through. I don't like Graeme Swann much but he's definitely better. Monty Panesar, for that matter, is a better bowler. Herath is legitimately the best. I don't even think Lyon is the best in the country given O'Keefe's last Shield season.

  • CustomKid on July 21, 2013, 9:28 GMT

    @capitalMarkets - Spot on with Haddin, if you remember back to the last ashes in OZ I believe he had dropped more than he caught after the first 3 tests. I can't believe they have him ahead of Wade. With Wade being 24 give him the chance to develop. I've been a critic of Haddin for a long time and despite his second innings in the last test his glove work is horrid

  • on July 21, 2013, 9:01 GMT

    Except for Clarke and Rogers I cannot imagine any one playing a long innings like that of Root in the Australian batting line-up.Can you?

  • SDHM on July 21, 2013, 8:56 GMT

    @CapitalMarkets - I don't think he confused them as much as caught them on the hop: he's barely bowled as of late and England probably hadn't prepared to face him. Warne aside, leg spin tends to get thumped in England - I believe Mushtaq Ahmed has the second best average of any leggie to play in England, and even he averaged 32. Even Kumble averaged above 40. Basically, I wouldn't expect a part time leggie to cause many more problems, although with this England batting line-up at the moment you're never sure what you're going to get!

  • CapitalMarkets on July 21, 2013, 7:41 GMT

    I actually don't think that Smith is a better cricketer than Agar (although he may be fitter at the moment). If you're going to play a specialist spinner, pick your best spinner. I do think that Smith was a bit unlucky to get a quality delivery and Bell is one of the best fielders in the world close to the wicket. Smith should not neglect his bowling as leg spinners are sufficiently rare for him to have confused England's middle order once already.

    Catches win matches and I've been disappointed with Haddin's keeping.

    Australians should recognise that their close catchers are slightly further from the bat than they should be. They should be standing in places where a regulation edge will hit them in the midriff; it means less time but it would have meant that several chances, including the one Smith probably took but which wasn't given, would be coming at catchable height. Australian pitches are generally quicker than English ones and I don't think they have made the adjustment yet.

  • pulkit10 on July 21, 2013, 5:28 GMT

    Obviously the Aussie bowlers are paying for the abysmal display by their batsmen. On a pitch like this, I reckon it is probably harder to get out the way Australia did than to post a par score. The English bowling was hardly spectacular and the only pressure there was the ones these batsmen created for themselves.

    To expect miracles out of the bowling line-up is foolish. They bowled very well today but there wasn't much in there for them and the English batted calmly.

    I sincerely hope the Oz batsmen learn something from this test (that they'll be losing by quite a few runs) and come back and actually play the next time.

    Also, call back Warner. Yeah, he probably won't make any decent scores but there is a chance he might click and that's more than I can say for this lot. Get him down to #6 or #4...depending on whatever will work for Hughes to not get out before 10. I suspect he'll find a way anyways.

  • CustomKid on July 21, 2013, 5:00 GMT

    Just to continue on my rant, I don't mind if we get slaughtered by genuinely good bowling but when we throw wickets away to stock standard or rank balls, Watson, Rogers, Kawaja, Haddin, Hughes - they deserve to get smashed. I wished the media would give them more heat, for some reason they seem to be going easy on them.

  • on July 21, 2013, 10:46 GMT

    Australia should have somehow convinced Hussey to play the 10 ashes test matches then retire in full glory.. Hussey coming in at No.4 would have lent more solidity to there batting and the selfish clarke would have performed better then. Watson at one down and brad hodge to open instead should have been the only way for Australia to have added muscle to its batting..

  • Simoc on July 21, 2013, 10:46 GMT

    I don't think you're to qualified Jared Hansen. Narine, Ajmal, Swann are all better bowlers than Herath and O'Keefe will struggle to make the NSW team despite having the only spin pitch in the country at his disposal. No-one has ever stated Lyon is the best spinner in the world Chris Sun so writing it makes you the joke.

  • AussieSam on July 21, 2013, 10:34 GMT

    I love siddle's neverending optimism and how sensible he is about things like umpiring errors, it shows why he is such a persevering fierce competitor. But i think deep down he would think, as lehmann has said, our batting performance was completely unacceptable. I hope at some point in the series they can redeem themselves but after that i doubt it. As this article points out test match batting isnt just about batting long to build innings and score runs its about protecting your bowlers so they can stay fresh. Against a side like england this is even more important because as they have shown many times they are all about wearing down the opposition and beating them into submission. Its a shame our bowlers are having to pay the price for such a poor batting display and its worrying with injury prone players like harris, watson and pattinson.

  • on July 21, 2013, 9:59 GMT

    @Chris Sun "A lot of Australians" would call Lyon the best spin bowler in the WORLD??? I bet you couldn't find more than a dozen in the whole country. He has terrible control of his line, length and pace, poor tactical sense and hurries through his overs without thinking it through. I don't like Graeme Swann much but he's definitely better. Monty Panesar, for that matter, is a better bowler. Herath is legitimately the best. I don't even think Lyon is the best in the country given O'Keefe's last Shield season.

  • CustomKid on July 21, 2013, 9:28 GMT

    @capitalMarkets - Spot on with Haddin, if you remember back to the last ashes in OZ I believe he had dropped more than he caught after the first 3 tests. I can't believe they have him ahead of Wade. With Wade being 24 give him the chance to develop. I've been a critic of Haddin for a long time and despite his second innings in the last test his glove work is horrid

  • on July 21, 2013, 9:01 GMT

    Except for Clarke and Rogers I cannot imagine any one playing a long innings like that of Root in the Australian batting line-up.Can you?

  • SDHM on July 21, 2013, 8:56 GMT

    @CapitalMarkets - I don't think he confused them as much as caught them on the hop: he's barely bowled as of late and England probably hadn't prepared to face him. Warne aside, leg spin tends to get thumped in England - I believe Mushtaq Ahmed has the second best average of any leggie to play in England, and even he averaged 32. Even Kumble averaged above 40. Basically, I wouldn't expect a part time leggie to cause many more problems, although with this England batting line-up at the moment you're never sure what you're going to get!

  • CapitalMarkets on July 21, 2013, 7:41 GMT

    I actually don't think that Smith is a better cricketer than Agar (although he may be fitter at the moment). If you're going to play a specialist spinner, pick your best spinner. I do think that Smith was a bit unlucky to get a quality delivery and Bell is one of the best fielders in the world close to the wicket. Smith should not neglect his bowling as leg spinners are sufficiently rare for him to have confused England's middle order once already.

    Catches win matches and I've been disappointed with Haddin's keeping.

    Australians should recognise that their close catchers are slightly further from the bat than they should be. They should be standing in places where a regulation edge will hit them in the midriff; it means less time but it would have meant that several chances, including the one Smith probably took but which wasn't given, would be coming at catchable height. Australian pitches are generally quicker than English ones and I don't think they have made the adjustment yet.

  • pulkit10 on July 21, 2013, 5:28 GMT

    Obviously the Aussie bowlers are paying for the abysmal display by their batsmen. On a pitch like this, I reckon it is probably harder to get out the way Australia did than to post a par score. The English bowling was hardly spectacular and the only pressure there was the ones these batsmen created for themselves.

    To expect miracles out of the bowling line-up is foolish. They bowled very well today but there wasn't much in there for them and the English batted calmly.

    I sincerely hope the Oz batsmen learn something from this test (that they'll be losing by quite a few runs) and come back and actually play the next time.

    Also, call back Warner. Yeah, he probably won't make any decent scores but there is a chance he might click and that's more than I can say for this lot. Get him down to #6 or #4...depending on whatever will work for Hughes to not get out before 10. I suspect he'll find a way anyways.

  • CustomKid on July 21, 2013, 5:00 GMT

    Just to continue on my rant, I don't mind if we get slaughtered by genuinely good bowling but when we throw wickets away to stock standard or rank balls, Watson, Rogers, Kawaja, Haddin, Hughes - they deserve to get smashed. I wished the media would give them more heat, for some reason they seem to be going easy on them.

  • CustomKid on July 21, 2013, 4:58 GMT

    @salazar555 - It pains me to say it as an Aussie supporter but you are spot on. It has been like this for the last 3 years at least. Once upon a time when we had Hussey, Langer, Hayden, ponting Gilly etc they could hit their way out of trouble but not now. Even back then they lacked the ability to graft an innings when required but it never really showed because the skill was that good and almost always someone would stand up.

    The first innings at lords highlighted that. Clarke got an ok ball but he'd resigned to hitting his way out of trouble and missed a full one, Smith got a good ball from Swann, the rest were down right disgraceful. Swann will never get a cheaper 5 for in his life. In fact they were so bad ENG were hardly celebrating at the fall of each wicket. When you see that you know its a very lopsided contest.

    Shame on you Australia, you're an embarrassment to your supporters and dare I say it country.

  • Jeremy303 on July 21, 2013, 4:19 GMT

    There will certainly be changes in Australia's bowling attack for the next test. Many are calling for Lyon to come back into the XI and they are right that he's the best test spinner they've got. But let's not get carried away here. He's not brilliant either. I predict he'll bowl tighter than Agar and Smith, but I don't see him being a threat to the English batsmen. But he might be able to hold down and end, which may allow Australia to attempt to build some pressure with the old ball. I can only see Agar holding his spot if he does miracles with the bat to save the team from defeat. And that is highly unlikely! Pattinson or Siddle might get a rest for the next game after almost three consecutive days in the field. Jackson Bird might come in to bowl some tidy overs.

  • on July 21, 2013, 1:25 GMT

    A lot of Australians will argue that Lyon is the best spinner in the world in all conditions. Better than Swann, better than Herath, better than Jadeja, better than Ashwin, better than Ajmal, better than Narine. And yet he has been omitted for a teenager who can steal the headlines for making a world record 98 at no.11. What a joke.

  • finncam on July 20, 2013, 23:55 GMT

    I feel sorry for the Australian bowlers. No doubt, in a day or so, we'll be hearing of their injury toll due to having to bowl almost back to back because of their useless batsmen. Come the 3 rd Test and Boof will need to replace Harris, Pattinson or Siddle because Clarke wore them out. The effectiveness of their inclusion will be diminished and new bowlers will no doubt be used the same way in the next tests. Agar has been overexposed to unreasonable expectations - just like Cummins was, instead of being nurtured. He'll probably disappear back into the ranks for a few years now. Meanwhile, whatever confidence Hughes felt after Trent Bridge will be undermined by Clarke shuffling him around and Watson will continue to throw away starts. Rogers will get dropped cos batting anywhere near Watson seems to cause chaos, as Katich knew only too well. One day, CA might realize that cosseting immature and ill-disciplined batsmen, just cos they're good at 20/20, doesn't work and wakeup.

  • arm_chair_Ed on July 20, 2013, 23:16 GMT

    Another aspect on this is the lack of attacking fields as the pitch began to make batting difficult. Several edges passed through the vacant first slip. Eng of course can set attcking fields. I predict a low score in the 2nd Aus innings and a record loss by runs in all tests (except timeless ones). I think it's 409 and so even if there's an overnight declaration, Aus must make 157 or so to avoid that fate.

    As the article says - all from inept batting in good conditions

  • GeoffreysMother on July 20, 2013, 22:08 GMT

    johnathonjosephs - spot on. Look at how Kahwaja responded to being an in out player. It puts huge pressure on them every ball they face or deliver.

    That is why the calls by some, who just seem to like writing out their lists of favourite players, for England to replace Bairstow are stupid ( as were the ones to replace Root with Compton as opener on the evidence of three innings and one marginal decision). Good selectors pick players on ability and character and stick with them. Their techniques come under the microscope but if they have ability and character they develop them. Root has, Bairstow is but Lyon isn't getting the chance.

  • Beertjie on July 20, 2013, 21:43 GMT

    As an Oz-supporter, I have to agree. Tight bowling is our only shot at not losing these tests. An attack of Harris, Siddle, Bird, Watson, and Lyon will be OK. But trying to fix the batting by means of selection of new players is reminiscent of moving the deckchairs on the Titanic.

  • johnathonjosephs on July 20, 2013, 20:11 GMT

    Australia is playing a dangerous games with their spin selection. They keep looking for a Warne, but Warne/Murali come only once in a lifetime and they don't shine from day 1. Nathan Lyon is by far the best spinner in Australia and by dropping him for every new spinning prospect that comes up is not gonna do his confidence nor his development as a bowler any good

  • dropoutguy on July 20, 2013, 19:35 GMT

    If Old Trafford takes spin, and I'm sure it will, I would play Lyon and Agar. My Australian team would be Watson, Rogers, Clarke, Warner, Smith, Hughes, Haddin, Agar, Siddle, Harris, Lyon.

    Clarke is by far the best bat in the side and must take on the responsibility of batting at three. Warner can hurt England more than any of their batsmen other than Clarke - so he must come in.

  • mrgupta on July 20, 2013, 19:31 GMT

    @hhillbumper: If your comment was made sarcastically then i agree with you but if you mean it then i don't understand looking at the Aussies performance in last 2 series how can one reach on such a conclusion?

  • on July 20, 2013, 19:13 GMT

    Yes. Take Shane Watson. Plays the IPL and like a lot of Indian batsmen, misses out on tough series due to injury.

    Still, an average only of 30.

    OK

  • hhillbumper on July 20, 2013, 18:37 GMT

    Honestly we have seen the future of Ashes cricket today and while England have fluked this test you have to say that young Aussie players already look better than Englands old hands. It looks like the Ashes will be safe in Australias hands for a few decades yet

  • Iddo555 on July 20, 2013, 18:35 GMT

    you better believe it. The Aussie batsmen played like they were in a 20/20 game and now they and the bowlers are paying the price.

    These Aussie batsmen don't know what building an innings means, they just throw the bat around and make their bowlers suffer the consequences.

    England are grinding them into the dirt and showing them what test cricket is all about

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  • Iddo555 on July 20, 2013, 18:35 GMT

    you better believe it. The Aussie batsmen played like they were in a 20/20 game and now they and the bowlers are paying the price.

    These Aussie batsmen don't know what building an innings means, they just throw the bat around and make their bowlers suffer the consequences.

    England are grinding them into the dirt and showing them what test cricket is all about

  • hhillbumper on July 20, 2013, 18:37 GMT

    Honestly we have seen the future of Ashes cricket today and while England have fluked this test you have to say that young Aussie players already look better than Englands old hands. It looks like the Ashes will be safe in Australias hands for a few decades yet

  • on July 20, 2013, 19:13 GMT

    Yes. Take Shane Watson. Plays the IPL and like a lot of Indian batsmen, misses out on tough series due to injury.

    Still, an average only of 30.

    OK

  • mrgupta on July 20, 2013, 19:31 GMT

    @hhillbumper: If your comment was made sarcastically then i agree with you but if you mean it then i don't understand looking at the Aussies performance in last 2 series how can one reach on such a conclusion?

  • dropoutguy on July 20, 2013, 19:35 GMT

    If Old Trafford takes spin, and I'm sure it will, I would play Lyon and Agar. My Australian team would be Watson, Rogers, Clarke, Warner, Smith, Hughes, Haddin, Agar, Siddle, Harris, Lyon.

    Clarke is by far the best bat in the side and must take on the responsibility of batting at three. Warner can hurt England more than any of their batsmen other than Clarke - so he must come in.

  • johnathonjosephs on July 20, 2013, 20:11 GMT

    Australia is playing a dangerous games with their spin selection. They keep looking for a Warne, but Warne/Murali come only once in a lifetime and they don't shine from day 1. Nathan Lyon is by far the best spinner in Australia and by dropping him for every new spinning prospect that comes up is not gonna do his confidence nor his development as a bowler any good

  • Beertjie on July 20, 2013, 21:43 GMT

    As an Oz-supporter, I have to agree. Tight bowling is our only shot at not losing these tests. An attack of Harris, Siddle, Bird, Watson, and Lyon will be OK. But trying to fix the batting by means of selection of new players is reminiscent of moving the deckchairs on the Titanic.

  • GeoffreysMother on July 20, 2013, 22:08 GMT

    johnathonjosephs - spot on. Look at how Kahwaja responded to being an in out player. It puts huge pressure on them every ball they face or deliver.

    That is why the calls by some, who just seem to like writing out their lists of favourite players, for England to replace Bairstow are stupid ( as were the ones to replace Root with Compton as opener on the evidence of three innings and one marginal decision). Good selectors pick players on ability and character and stick with them. Their techniques come under the microscope but if they have ability and character they develop them. Root has, Bairstow is but Lyon isn't getting the chance.

  • arm_chair_Ed on July 20, 2013, 23:16 GMT

    Another aspect on this is the lack of attacking fields as the pitch began to make batting difficult. Several edges passed through the vacant first slip. Eng of course can set attcking fields. I predict a low score in the 2nd Aus innings and a record loss by runs in all tests (except timeless ones). I think it's 409 and so even if there's an overnight declaration, Aus must make 157 or so to avoid that fate.

    As the article says - all from inept batting in good conditions

  • finncam on July 20, 2013, 23:55 GMT

    I feel sorry for the Australian bowlers. No doubt, in a day or so, we'll be hearing of their injury toll due to having to bowl almost back to back because of their useless batsmen. Come the 3 rd Test and Boof will need to replace Harris, Pattinson or Siddle because Clarke wore them out. The effectiveness of their inclusion will be diminished and new bowlers will no doubt be used the same way in the next tests. Agar has been overexposed to unreasonable expectations - just like Cummins was, instead of being nurtured. He'll probably disappear back into the ranks for a few years now. Meanwhile, whatever confidence Hughes felt after Trent Bridge will be undermined by Clarke shuffling him around and Watson will continue to throw away starts. Rogers will get dropped cos batting anywhere near Watson seems to cause chaos, as Katich knew only too well. One day, CA might realize that cosseting immature and ill-disciplined batsmen, just cos they're good at 20/20, doesn't work and wakeup.