Ashes 2013: Far from a crisis as baggy Greens outplayed but not outmatched
The Aussie angle: Had Broad walked Agar’s impact on the match might have been greater
Sunday 14 July 2013
Australia will enter the Lord’s Test on their worst losing streak since they had the misfortune of taking on West Indies in consecutive series three decades ago.
Bones were shattered, careers ended, a captain destroyed and six successive Tests lost during those days of anguish.
Yet despite the real prospect that defeat awaits them again this week, Australia still manage to give the impression of being a world removed from a team that have lost their past five outings.
Any team that smashed a world batting record must be buoyed by their prospects even if that new mark emerged from the remarkable agency of a teenage debutant batting at No 11 and an unorthodox battler on his third and, perhaps, final chance.
And getting within several blows of the biggest run chase on a ground in its third century as a Test host speaks of considerable self-belief within the camp.
Australia were a rabble in India several months ago. The captain and his deputy did not see eye to eye, the coach could not get his message across and players were doing what they could to survive rather than what they could do to benefit the team.
Australia were toxic and it came as little surprise that India won that series 4-0. Drastic challenges require drastic solutions and so it was a shock, though no surprise, that Cricket Australia acted with a level of ruthlessness not seen since Steve Waugh’s days at the helm.
The coach was removed and replaced by one who, for the first time in more than 150 Tests and nearly 15 years, had actually played for Australia.
That element of shared Baggy Green history may not matter when resolving technical issues but it carries significant weight for a new generation whose main Test lessons have come from hard-scrabble survival rather than flourishing victory.
Australia still have far-reaching issues that leave them vulnerable to an England team with considerably more experience in the middle order and a world-class paceman in the shape of James Anderson who is capable of winning matches as he did at Trent Bridge.
The bowling attack is earnest and includes a neophyte spinner whose promise shone as brightly as the seats in the New Stand but still only managed to claim two wickets.
Had Stuart Broad walked off or Aleem Dar’s eyesight been slightly sharper on Friday, Ashton Agar’s impact might have been greater.
Though, of course, the game might have been over a day earlier had Marais Erasmus been more easily satisfied that Agar had dragged his foot out of his crease on the second day.
Australia may make a change at Lord’s with seamers Ryan Harris and Jackson Bird both bullish about their chances of a call-up. Either man could bolster the attack but who would make way to accommodate either?
Peter Siddle was indefatigable at Trent Bridge and unwilling to surrender an inch with ball or bat, Mitchell Starc threatens more with the old ball than any of his colleagues and James Pattinson is a ferocious competitor and the most intimidating quick bowler.
Their resolve is unquestioned but their potential impact will be considered closely before Thursday. David Warner will depart for Zimbabwe tomorrow which reduces the likelihood of a different batting line-up.
Four of the top seven batsmen made half-centuries at Trent Bridge, another got to 46 and the sixth is the captain and best player.
Ed Cowan has scored one half-century in the past 13 innings and appears technically and temperamentally suited to roles other than his current placement. He is the player whose place is most at risk for the Lord’s encounter.
Australia were outplayed but not outmatched at Trent Bridge. Given that they are about to appear at a ground where they have lost once since 1934, they have no evidence to suggest they won’t reverse the result at Lord’s.
John Townsend is Cricket Writer at ‘The West Australian’
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