West Indies v Australia, 1st Test, Jamaica, 3rd day May 24, 2008

Struggling Australia miss stable Hayden


Simon Katich has had a disappointing game and Australia will be hoping Matthew Hayden is fit for the second Test © Getty Images
 

Matthew Hayden offers Australia many things, but in this Test they have missed his stability at the top of the order. Strong starts are expected by the team when Hayden is involved and after a disastrous opening to their second innings they need him to recover from his heel injury for the second Test in Antigua on Friday.

In the first innings Phil Jaques and Simon Katich had departed by the time the score was 37 and as Australia attempted to set a match-winning total there were more early losses, with the team slumping to 12 for 4. In less than nine overs West Indies had done much more than merely stay in the game.

The same results could have occurred with Hayden at the crease, but there was a distinct lack of the control that Hayden usually provides. Most importantly, the bowlers sensed they had a chance against the two opening batsmen without the self-belief and intimidating attitude Hayden carries with his bat.

Jaques has struggled to regain his purposeful footwork and head position following the long break between Test series. He was tentative when he pushed at Fidel Edwards in the second over and was caught behind for 4, adding to his 9 on Thursday. The last time he made such small contributions was when Australia were defeated by India in Perth, ending their winning streak at 16. Hayden was out injured for that game too. His presence helps his team-mates along with his runs.

Australia have grown used to settled contributions from their regular opening pairs, and when it does not happen the pressure moves to the rest of the order. Ponting was able to deal with the concerns with a fine 158 in the first innings, but he was slightly off-balance when he drove at Daren Powell and edged to Dwayne Bravo. Michael Hussey also got too far across and was bowled, leaving the Australians to spend the night wondering how the situation got so bad, so quickly.

In between those dismissals Katich, who went flailing in the first innings, got stuck and was lbw to a full delivery from Edwards. Thrown in at the top, Katich scored 12 and 1 and will be vulnerable if both Hayden and Michael Clarke return.

Hayden spent time in the nets during the second day in a sign he was feeling more comfortable about his injury. How he pulls up from the increase in workload will determine whether he is ready later in the week. Australia need him more than ever.

Peter English is the Australasia editor of Cricinfo