Zimbabwe Triangular Series 2014 August 18, 2014

Australia 'rusty', but ready - Lehmann

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Darren Lehmann: "We've got Zimbabwe and South Africa and then we've obviously got a big test in the UAE. I think everyone is jumping out, they just want to play"

Australia's coach Darren Lehmann has conceded his men will be rusty when they tour Zimbabwe this month but he said their long winter's break was needed after an exhausting 12 months of cricket. The Australians depart on Wednesday for their first international matches in nearly five months, and the one-day tri-series begins a hectic period for the team.

The series against Zimbabwe and South Africa will be followed in the next 12 months by Tests and limited-overs games against Pakistan in the UAE, a one-day series at home against South Africa, home Tests against India, a home one-day tri-series, the World Cup, a Test tour of the West Indies, and an Ashes tour of England. And after the Ashes, the schedule barely lets up.

It is not dissimilar to the heavy schedule Lehmann's men had over the previous 18 months, when they hosted Tests against South Africa and Sri Lanka, went to India for four Tests, played 10 consecutive Ashes matches and toured South Africa for three more Tests, with plenty of short-form matches thrown in. That is why the rare winter break was so necessary.

"Professionally, everyone was tired - coaches were tired, players were very tired, and they did an amazing amount of work in 12 months," Lehmann told reporters in Brisbane on Monday. "So to get a break before we go on the road for two years was pretty important.

"Now the [challenge] is getting us back up to the skill level that we need to compete at international cricket. We've got Zimbabwe and South Africa and then we've obviously got a big test in the UAE. I think everyone is jumping out, they just want to play.

"We're going to be a bit rusty with the skills, but that's okay. We're gonna make mistakes, but that's okay. What we need to do is build and build and build to become a better Test side, a better one-day side, a better Twenty20 side."

One man who is unquestionably jumping out of his skin to play is Phillip Hughes, who on Saturday was named as a late inclusion for the Zimbabwe tour after Shane Watson was ruled out due to an ankle injury. Hughes enters the series in impeccable form, having scored double-centuries in both one-day and four-day cricket for Australia A over the past few weeks.

The absence of Watson and also of David Warner, who will remain at home to prepare for the birth of his first child, could provide Hughes with a chance to audition ahead of the World Cup. However, Aaron Finch may yet find himself opening with Brad Haddin rather than Hughes, and Lehmann said there were no guarantees Hughes would play despite the lack of specialist batsmen in the squad.

"He's in the squad and if he gets a chance I'm sure he'll take it," Lehmann said. "We have to find the right balance, whoever that is, whether that's Phillip in or not in for the first game, we have to sum up the conditions. We have to make sure we get away to a good start, so we'll be at full-strength early and then see what happens with the tournament from there, how the wickets play and whether it spins or doesn't."

Australia have plenty of pace bowling options including Ben Cutting and Kane Richardson, along with the left-armers Mitchell Johnson, Mitchell Starc and James Faulkner, but there was no place in the 14-man squad for Australia's highest-ranked ODI bowler, Clint McKay. Lehmann said McKay's performances over the past year had led to him being dropped.

"In the last 12 months he hasn't delivered with the new ball for us," Lehmann said, "and his speed isn't up to scratch for us and that's the message we've sent to him."

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @brydoncoverdale

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Chris_P on August 20, 2014, 22:27 GMT

    @Greatest_Game. A good read! Cheers!

  • Greatest_Game on August 20, 2014, 19:33 GMT

    The India series will be perfect for anyone to resurrect a career. Rob Quiney, John Hastings, Ed Cowan, Matt Wade, anyone named Marsh … heck, bring back Thommo & Merv & the Indians will still be wafting outside off & giving catching practice.

    Also, any part time spinner will do. Does not really have to spin the ball, just toss it up there & they will figure out a way to make a hash of it.

    Look at Cook. In Aus he could not buy a run. The Lankans hardly let him last 2 overs. But here he is, nicking the ball all over the pace & it goes from hand to ground so he adds a few more runs, nicks, gets dropped, adds runs…repeat until LBW or bowled. Now he looks like he is making runs.

    Even his tactics looked good against guys who thinks hari kiri is a batting method! Tactic: have anyone bowl, watch batsmen get themselves out, wear hip sunglasses & look confident & cool as if you planned it!

    These guys even made Anderson into "The Most Skillful Bowler in the World." They can do anything!!

  • indianzen on August 20, 2014, 17:09 GMT

    At the moment, looks like India are not bothered about tests... but about ODI and T20, with the ODI world cup next year, I am looking forward for India to play in Australia...

  • xtrafalgarx on August 20, 2014, 0:35 GMT

    @biggus: Yeah, Doolan is under pressure for mine too. He needs to show more if he wants to play against IND.

  • espncricinfomobile on August 19, 2014, 15:28 GMT

    Meant Johnson not McKay...

  • espncricinfomobile on August 19, 2014, 15:27 GMT

    Why would you go back to opening with Haddin again when he is just going to go back to 7 when later anyway? Give Hughes a go, doesn't unsettle the rest of the team... It's much more logical than moving Haddin for no reason... Finch, Hughes, Clarke, Bailey, Maxwell, Faulkner, Haddin, Starc, Lyon, McKay

  • Flemo_Gilly on August 19, 2014, 11:16 GMT

    Agree with boof, we have Haddin, Finch, Clarke, Maxwell as the top 4 so Hughes will have to wait his time, and when Warner and Watson return there will be our top 6 for the world cup

  • RVC-38 on August 19, 2014, 11:01 GMT

    Even though Hughes's consistency has been his biggest downfall into cream cricket, Watsons consistency and fitness and Rodger's age are his biggest advantage and even though everyone loves Bailey no way is his spot in stone or Doolans for that matter.

  • Biggus on August 19, 2014, 10:44 GMT

    @Jono Makim:- It's not Warner or Rodgers spot I had in mind. I saw enough in Doolan to give him a little time at 3 but if he fails what next? Hughes to 3? Warner to 3 and Hughes to open? Obviously I'm assuming that if Watson plays he'll be at 6. No one else is really banging down the door and Hughes has been making a mountain of runs. As I said if the opportunity to recall him to the side against India is there I'd take it. Despite his awkward technique the boy has a whole lot of talent.

  • dummy4fb on August 19, 2014, 8:57 GMT

    @Biggus, therein lies the problem, not just for a return to the creams but also in yellow. You only need to look at Phils record to see that competition for places at the top of the order is red hot. I'm not sure it is going to matter how well he plays in Zimbabwe because at the end of the day he is simply not as destructive as Warner, Finch, Watson or Maxwell. He actually has a pretty good record to date in yellow and his best path to succeeding at international cricket may be through white ball cricket, but it's very hard at the moment to see how he is going to get a run it. Perhaps the Indian series may throw up a chance for him but it's also hard to see the selectors dropping Warner or Rogers for Hughes at this point, even if they do have a poor series against Pakistan. I certainly don't see Rogers stepping down with the next ashes series just around the corner and I'm sure the selectors will want him there for it too.

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