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.

  • on August 19, 2014, 15:28 GMT

    Meant Johnson not McKay...

  • 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

  • rickyvoncanterbury 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • on August 19, 2014, 15:28 GMT

    Meant Johnson not McKay...

  • 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

  • rickyvoncanterbury 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.

  • 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.

  • Biggus on August 19, 2014, 8:55 GMT

    @rickyvoncanterbury:- For sure Hughes should get a run in the ODIs. Even though I tend to wince when I see him batting sometimes he has a habit of making big scores. I think he'll always tend to struggle against the moving ball but he's not alone there. You don't make the sort of runs he makes without there being something special in the mix and if he does come good it would solve all sorts of problems for us in the near future. Fingers crossed eh?

  • rickyvoncanterbury on August 19, 2014, 8:39 GMT

    @ Biggus, Fully agree re test matches. The Pakistan series in the UAE would not be the place to resurrect someone's test career, especially an Australian. The upcoming Indian test series at home would be the perfect opportunity to make or break his test career. The upcoming tri series in Zimbabwe, though, is a different kettle of fish, with Hughes already having had success against the Saffers in Africa, and Zimbabwe, with no disrespect to them not having the firepower to worry a player with Hughes ability, he could gain the much needed confidence to establish himself as a fully fledged Aussie player in all 3 forms of the game in the future.

  • Biggus on August 19, 2014, 6:47 GMT

    @rickyvoncanterbury:- Hughes must be coming back into serious contention for the senior team but the timing of that inclusion will be important. I suppose he's young enough that he could make another run at the seniors should a return sometime soon not turn out as planned but the conviction will be firming that he's a first class phenomenon a la Graeme Hick and others should be persisted with instead. I'm not sure I'd bring him back in time for the UAE series, that could end up being carnage for us and it wouldn't be fair if Hughes is finally pronounced not fit for tests when maybe everyone else is getting knocked over as well. I'd be very tempted to bring him back against India if the situation allows. One big series may make all the difference for his confidence and help him cement his place, albeit in favourable conditions. If he were to fail against India at home.....well that would be pretty conclusive evidence I would have thought.

  • Shaunnn on August 19, 2014, 4:25 GMT

    And if McKay was from NSW ......

  • dunger.bob on August 19, 2014, 2:24 GMT

    Having read the posts from some of the wiser heads, I'm inclined to agree that maybe Boof has done the right thing with McKay. .. Yes, his form has been down lately and yes the quicker ball is a good weapon and most of the other points made sense too. The only thing is I never really thought of McKay as a quick bowler in the first place. I've always considered him medium-fast at most. ... Anyway, what's done is done. Let's see how it goes.

  • rickyvoncanterbury on August 19, 2014, 2:03 GMT

    "We're very aware of what both Xavier and Clint offer and both have played important roles for the ODI team and performed very well but with the World Cup edging closer we have to take opportunities to also consider players like Cutting, Lyon and Richardson who have all been pressing claims." This was a quote from Marsh the selector when the squad was announced as well as the reasons quoted above from Boof the explanations to me seem reasonable, now if Hughes does not get a run I will be hoping for a reasonable explanation as to why because to me double centuries is one way of pressing your claims.

  • Behind_the_bowlers_arm on August 18, 2014, 22:34 GMT

    McKay's ODI figures are 97 wickets @ 24 in 59 matches. In the last 12 months he has 18 wickets in 14 games @ 34 mainly due to poor figures v India. Lehmann has obviously considered the figures and performances and wants more. Nothing wrong with that. Hopefully he will bounce back in the Aust season and push for the World Cup. Lehmann has made a point of what he expects from fast bowlers particularly in regard to keeping their pace up and we saw Siddle go out of the Test team in S Africa for that reason. This series is a chance to look at a few players and by the time we get to the pre World Cup ODI's early in 2015 the likes of Warner & Watson will be back.

  • __PK on August 18, 2014, 22:00 GMT

    "In the last 12 months he [McKay] 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." What a perfect justification for omission. McKay is a new ball bowler, and taking the speed off the ball is only effective in these short formats if you can mix it up with the quick stuff. How refreshing to hear a logical rationale for a selection choice - we can see why McKay's not there and McKay knows exactly what he needs to do to get back.

  • Peterincanada on August 18, 2014, 21:13 GMT

    "If he gets a chance". I must have missed something. I didn't realize the Oz batting stocks were so high that a player coming off two double tons might not get a chance. SA and Zim must be shaking in their boots.

  • Chris_P on August 18, 2014, 21:09 GMT

    Agree with most of the posters re:McKay but on the other side of the coin, there is plenty of depth of quality quicks to call from. Perhaps there is more to it as McKay didn't really look like his usual self in the recent "A" games. @DragonCricketer Hughes hasn't been a regular keeper since he was 16yo, hardly qualifications for international selection, at best, a stop gap fill for injury.

  • R_U_4_REAL_NICK on August 18, 2014, 15:44 GMT

    To cap it all off, I just had a peek at the player rankings, and look who's sitting pretty at joint-fifth in ODI bowlers... Here's a clue: first name = Clint; surname = McKay.

    With the exceptions of Steyn, Morkel and Johnson, you wouldn't exactly classify the top ten ODI bowlers as express pace, and in T20's it's even worse with only Starc and Malinga there.

  • gimme-a-greentop on August 18, 2014, 14:26 GMT

    I would have to concur with those talking about pace in ODI matches here - SA's best ODI bowler at the moment is Ryan McLaren - respectable fast-medium, but no more. He's quite similar to McKay actually, just a tight bowler. Strange.

  • R_U_4_REAL_NICK on August 18, 2014, 14:25 GMT

    "In the last 12 months he [McKay] 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."

    What bizarre justification for omission. McKay is not always a new ball bowler, and as others have said below it's the taking the speed off the ball that often makes him so effective in these short formats. It's still a great squad though; rich pickings.

  • on August 18, 2014, 14:05 GMT

    Outrageous how McKay isn't in the team. His most recent ODI figures are 3/36 off 10. He has proved to be reliable throughout his career. Not every bowler needs to be 140+, we've already got Johnson and Starc bowling at high speeds.

  • landl47 on August 18, 2014, 13:48 GMT

    It looks a pretty good squad. I think Hughes, at 25, is finally getting to be the player he has always promised to be. I hope the Australian management stick with him and let him get comfortable in the side. If they do, he'll amply reward them.

    Like everyone else, I'm bewildered as to why McKay, who has bowled the same way for years with a lot of success, is suddenly not fast enough or good enough. This isn't test cricket, where he can be pushed around for 3 an over without taking risks. Maybe there's something else going on that we don't know about.

  • DragonCricketer on August 18, 2014, 13:23 GMT

    Drop Haddin and let Hughes keep. Simple. Maybe give Hughes a trundle as well.

  • CricketChat on August 18, 2014, 13:17 GMT

    SA are battle ready having been playing quite regularly in recent months. Not sure how Aussies are going to stack up against SA. Just worried about the unequal fights between Zim and the big guns.

  • xtrafalgarx on August 18, 2014, 12:28 GMT

    I think our ODI pace bowling attack needs a complete overhaul to be honest. A Johnson/Starc opening partnership doesn't fill me with confidence - don't get me wrong, they are both good ODI bowlers with good records - but compatibility wise. Along with Faulkner, that's too much left arm angle, too much pace that flies of the bat. Nothing feels quite right with our bowling in ODI's, they got pummeled in India and we had nowhere to hide. I liked the idea of McKay being able to hold things together, regardless of the pace he bowls.

    I think we need specialists. I want to see Richardson become the leader of our ODI bowling along with Starc as openers. I don't see a reason for Johnson to play too much ODI cricket after 2015WC. I hope lyon does well, but to be honest X.Doherty for me was perfectly fine, he didn't do anything wrong. Just a solid performer with lots of games under his belt. You don't need to be flashy in ODI's, just do the job. I think McKay and X. did - we are being too funky.

  • Biggus on August 18, 2014, 10:32 GMT

    The McKay omission is odd. Perhaps the most charitable spin I can put on it is that management know what they'll get from him and want to try some others maybe? Not sure I'm on the same page as Lehmann either on the pace thing. Out and out pace has rarely been decisive in ODIs, and McKay has an excellent record. Guess all we can do is watch and see what transpires.

  • dunger.bob on August 18, 2014, 10:03 GMT

    Jono Makim makes a good point. Watson isn't much above dead slow these days but he's still a pretty useful l.o bowler.

  • drfarnsworth on August 18, 2014, 9:19 GMT

    It's very strange for McKay to be dropped. Little over a year ago he took an ODI hat-trick (of top order batsmen, who had just won the Ashes 3-0 too) and was named the Australian ODI player of the year. His record and reputation should have him opening the bowling in the World Cup. As others have said, leaving it up to Starc and Johnson means more edges will go for four and loose balls will be punished.

  • MariusPontmercy94 on August 18, 2014, 9:08 GMT

    On Hughes - CA has to figure out what they want to do with him - he can bat anywhere from 1 to 6, and can also act as a Bairstow-esque not-really-a-keeper. If they want him to do well in the team, they have to give him an extended run in the team. On the Bowling - On the one hand, yes, pace is an important thing when picking seam bowlers. But McKay, Faulkner, Cutting, and to a lesser extent Richardson are not exactly tearaways, and all have shown they can be very effective in ODI's. I don't see the problem with having a couple guys in the squad who don't bowl every ball 140 kph and above. As long as it's in the right areas, either the runs will dry up, or the wickets will come.

  • on August 18, 2014, 8:34 GMT

    I agree about pace vs McKay. He's proven himself time and time again in this format. As for Phil, he has been treated disgustingly by the Australian apparatus since his debut. His innings with Agar had all the hallmarks of him being the next Hussey. Put him in and leave him in.

  • on August 18, 2014, 8:05 GMT

    I don't know that I'm so enamoured with the whole pace idea. Didn't hurt the likes of Bracken and McGrath, likewise Cutting and Faulkner are no tear away quicks. At times I reckon a little pace off the ball is actually better and I'd prefer a guy like McKay as a foil for Johnson or Starc than another quicker bowler who is going to fly off the bat if he gets it wrong. McKay for me is still right at the front of the queue with Johnson, Harris and Starc as our best ODI bowlers going into the WC.

  • saicoverdrive on August 18, 2014, 7:58 GMT

    The boys are certainly pumped up, no doubts. Wonder if Peter Siddle made it. Could this be an ideal opportunity to try Mitchell Marsh? Lehmann certainly would be the best person to answer that question.

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  • saicoverdrive on August 18, 2014, 7:58 GMT

    The boys are certainly pumped up, no doubts. Wonder if Peter Siddle made it. Could this be an ideal opportunity to try Mitchell Marsh? Lehmann certainly would be the best person to answer that question.

  • on August 18, 2014, 8:05 GMT

    I don't know that I'm so enamoured with the whole pace idea. Didn't hurt the likes of Bracken and McGrath, likewise Cutting and Faulkner are no tear away quicks. At times I reckon a little pace off the ball is actually better and I'd prefer a guy like McKay as a foil for Johnson or Starc than another quicker bowler who is going to fly off the bat if he gets it wrong. McKay for me is still right at the front of the queue with Johnson, Harris and Starc as our best ODI bowlers going into the WC.

  • on August 18, 2014, 8:34 GMT

    I agree about pace vs McKay. He's proven himself time and time again in this format. As for Phil, he has been treated disgustingly by the Australian apparatus since his debut. His innings with Agar had all the hallmarks of him being the next Hussey. Put him in and leave him in.

  • MariusPontmercy94 on August 18, 2014, 9:08 GMT

    On Hughes - CA has to figure out what they want to do with him - he can bat anywhere from 1 to 6, and can also act as a Bairstow-esque not-really-a-keeper. If they want him to do well in the team, they have to give him an extended run in the team. On the Bowling - On the one hand, yes, pace is an important thing when picking seam bowlers. But McKay, Faulkner, Cutting, and to a lesser extent Richardson are not exactly tearaways, and all have shown they can be very effective in ODI's. I don't see the problem with having a couple guys in the squad who don't bowl every ball 140 kph and above. As long as it's in the right areas, either the runs will dry up, or the wickets will come.

  • drfarnsworth on August 18, 2014, 9:19 GMT

    It's very strange for McKay to be dropped. Little over a year ago he took an ODI hat-trick (of top order batsmen, who had just won the Ashes 3-0 too) and was named the Australian ODI player of the year. His record and reputation should have him opening the bowling in the World Cup. As others have said, leaving it up to Starc and Johnson means more edges will go for four and loose balls will be punished.

  • dunger.bob on August 18, 2014, 10:03 GMT

    Jono Makim makes a good point. Watson isn't much above dead slow these days but he's still a pretty useful l.o bowler.

  • Biggus on August 18, 2014, 10:32 GMT

    The McKay omission is odd. Perhaps the most charitable spin I can put on it is that management know what they'll get from him and want to try some others maybe? Not sure I'm on the same page as Lehmann either on the pace thing. Out and out pace has rarely been decisive in ODIs, and McKay has an excellent record. Guess all we can do is watch and see what transpires.

  • xtrafalgarx on August 18, 2014, 12:28 GMT

    I think our ODI pace bowling attack needs a complete overhaul to be honest. A Johnson/Starc opening partnership doesn't fill me with confidence - don't get me wrong, they are both good ODI bowlers with good records - but compatibility wise. Along with Faulkner, that's too much left arm angle, too much pace that flies of the bat. Nothing feels quite right with our bowling in ODI's, they got pummeled in India and we had nowhere to hide. I liked the idea of McKay being able to hold things together, regardless of the pace he bowls.

    I think we need specialists. I want to see Richardson become the leader of our ODI bowling along with Starc as openers. I don't see a reason for Johnson to play too much ODI cricket after 2015WC. I hope lyon does well, but to be honest X.Doherty for me was perfectly fine, he didn't do anything wrong. Just a solid performer with lots of games under his belt. You don't need to be flashy in ODI's, just do the job. I think McKay and X. did - we are being too funky.

  • CricketChat on August 18, 2014, 13:17 GMT

    SA are battle ready having been playing quite regularly in recent months. Not sure how Aussies are going to stack up against SA. Just worried about the unequal fights between Zim and the big guns.

  • DragonCricketer on August 18, 2014, 13:23 GMT

    Drop Haddin and let Hughes keep. Simple. Maybe give Hughes a trundle as well.