Australian angle: Australia's batsmen short on skill and composure

Peter Roebuck of the Sydney Morning Herald and Melbourne Age writes from The Oval
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The Independent Online

Australia's weakness against swing bowling has been brutally exposed and the Ashes seem destined to change hands for the third time in three series.

Certainly the pitch lasted as long as a celebrity marriage and two dreadful umpiring decisions did not help, but that is not enough to excuse a display that in equal measure lacked skill and composure. Teams have been in worse predicaments than Ricky Ponting's outfit and prevailed. Cows have jumped over the moon. And with the series goes top place in the rankings.

Plain and simple, the visitors were blown apart by the late movement unleashed by a lanky speedster prepared to attack the sticks. Stuart Broad was superb. He took the ball straight from the umpire's pocket after the rain break and immediately swung it. From the final day at Edgbaston, he has been his team's best cricketer. Since then he has relied on movement as opposed to huff and puff. Here it was his unusual combination of height and late swing that created problems. But he was not unplayable. And the pitch was a fifth-day stinker as opposed to a minefield.

Shaky techniques undid the tourists. A capable Test team might have expected to score 240 in these conditions. Instead the Australians suffered their worst Ashes collapse for fifty years. Most of the batsmen assisted in their own downfalls.

Australia's frailty against swing was also exploited in 2005. It has its origins in a desire to dominate from the outset. Modern batsmen are more adventurous than previous generations and less adept at erecting barricades. Most choose their shot early and commit to it completely, leaving themselves vulnerable to late swerve. Accordingly teams tend to score quickly and can be dismissed cheaply.

Apart from the technical errors, the touring batsmen also appeared transfixed by an under-prepared track. Clearly they were unable to put it in the back of their minds and focus on the next delivery. As a result they came face to face with impending disaster.