Ashes 2015: Australia were too aggressive in Cardiff, they need to slow down and get back to old-fashioned Test cricket

Inside Edge: Sometimes the situation dictates that, like Gary Ballance, batsmen just have to dig in

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The Independent Online

The very least that Australia will expect to achieve at Lord’s is a draw. A defeat is unthinkable. Michael Clarke and Darren Lehmann must know that they cannot afford to go 2-0 down if they are to have any hope of retaining the Ashes. At 2-0 down you are done and dusted.

But even if Australia are to draw, to stop England’s momentum, to remind them and the English crowd that Australia are still a good team, then they need to play far better cricket than they did at Cardiff.

England’s success and Australia’s failure was not so much to do with the conditions as it was a result of England playing far superior Test cricket: more disciplined, more patient, more effective.

Positive intent is very much in fashion in 2015, but Australia took it too far. They were too eager to get into the match and the series, to impose themselves on England as they did in the 2013-14 whitewash. Australia were too aggressive with bat and ball. And it cost them the game.

What Australia need to do this morning, and for the rest of the series, is to get back to old-fashioned Test cricket. This is something that has largely been forgotten amid the noise and aggression of the modern game, with its shorter formats and escalating scoring rates.

 

But modern Test teams cannot expect to always score at four runs an over. There are situations when you have to bat for a long time to score runs. If England are bowling well, as they did in Cardiff, then you have to be able to ride that out. You have to be disciplined. You have to be patient.

There are times in Test matches when attack is not the answer. There are times when you have to assess the conditions. Cardiff was a difficult wicket to bat on, especially given how well England bowled. They created pressure, they stuck to their plans better than the Australian bowlers did, and Alastair Cook set good fields. It was hard to score runs, and hard to drive the ball on the up. So the Australian batsmen could not get on top of the bowlers, which led to pressure and false shots.

Australia’s batsmen had to be prepared to bat for a long time. I am sure they wanted to dig in, as Gary Ballance did with his steady 61 that stabilised England on day one. Batsmen have to go about it with the right mindset. And the Australian batsmen did not.

That is not to say, though, that the conditions are an excuse. Many of these players were part of Ashes tours here in 2009 and 2013. Chris Rogers and Adam Voges have had long and successful careers here playing county cricket. Between them, the Australia team has played so much cricket in England. They cannot use it as an excuse.

There is nothing exclusively English about a swinging ball. I grew up playing for Western Australia at the Waca in Perth, where it swung miles, and bounced, and you nicked off all the time. It is so very easy when sides lose away from home to say that they cannot play the swinging ball, or in Asia that they cannot play spin. Home teams will have their days. Australia have to get their mindset right.

So I see no reason at all why Australia should struggle to do this, to play the old-fashioned Test cricket that the situation often demands. I remember, in March 2014, when Michael Clarke hit a heroic unbeaten 161 in Cape Town. He was getting hit all the time by Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and Vernon Philander. Clarke had a fractured shoulder but he batted and batted and batted, for over seven hours, staying patient and staying at the crease. That is what Australia needs at Lord’s, starting on Thursday.

Hazlewood can be inspired by McGrath’s feat at Lord’s

The batting was the main issue for Australia at Cardiff, but I am confident we will bowl better in this Test, on a faster pitch.

Australia won five out of six Lord’s Tests between 1985 and 2005, and the one draw – in 1997 – was when Glenn McGrath took his famous 8 for 38. From that record, and that performance, Australia can take encouragement. 

I am confident that Mitchell Johnson, Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood will all be more dangerous. There is a slope at Lord’s which allows bowlers to seam the ball back down the hill, as McGrath famously did from the Pavilion End in 1997.

McGrath loved bowling here and the closest thing we have to McGrath now is Hazlewood. Obviously he’s inexperienced and no one is expecting him to take 8 for 38. But he does have the potential to hit the right length, stay patient and nip the ball back down the hill.

Starc and Johnson are Australia’s firepower, the big powerful left-arm spearheads of the attack. But Hazlewood is the patient one, the man willing to bowl all day, to stick to his plans and create the pressure needed to take wickets.

I only miss playing when it comes to the home of cricket

The only time I miss playing is during the Lord’s Test. I always loved playing there and since I have returned while working in the media, I have still loved it. It is a special place, the tradition, the atmosphere there. I first played there in a one-day international in 1993. Then in the Tests in the 2001 and 2005 Ashes, where I scored a 50 each time.

It was always exciting, going through the pavilion, feeling the history, knowing it is the home of cricket. Even just walking around the ground now, it always feels special. If Australia want to bounce back, Lord’s is the perfect place.

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