Australia's problem? Ponting is a better leader than captain

The Australian angle: It's not enough to inspire. The Grand Old Duke of York could do that. Ponting's task is to find the balance between attack and defence. It eludes him

Australia's bowlers have been flogged and the poverty of their thinking has been exposed. Between them, these factors have condemned the hosts to days of fruitless toil. Of course the bowling has not been the only problem. The batting has been scratchy as well, the fielding has been inept. However, a toll has been taken of the flingers and there is no end in sight.

Although England's batting was superb and occasionally sublime, the hosts were inept. Australia's tactics were ill-conceived. Unhelpful fields were set, the sort that look good on blackboards and ridiculous in the middle. At various times Australia placed three short covers, three distant square legs and three gullies. Presumably the bowlers were consulted. If not, they were insulted.

Ricky Ponting might as well have written a letter to the batsmen to inform them of his intentions. Traps are supposed to be hidden. Otherwise they are not traps. No wonder Kevin Pietersen was able to rock back and pounce on bumpers. None of these supposed innovations worked. Only a fool could fall foul of them and these batsmen are calm and intelligent. As one slightly inebriated supporter put it: "Mate, we've been out-thunk."

Over the years the Australians have been masters of the basics. Amid all the hype, that was their main asset. Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne were two of the greatest length bowlers the game has known. SF Barnes, arguably England's finest flinger, once observed that "there are three important things in bowling – length, length and length". People keep saying the game has changed but under the surface it is much the same.

Now their inferior successors spray the ball around. Nor is it entirely their fault. Captain instructing a speedster to pitch up to one chap and short to another is risking his man's confidence and rhythm. That's the problem with these plans. They are usually dreamed up by batsmen.

Not only did the Australians forget about the basics, they also ignored the facts of a ground they know better than any opponent. Adelaide Oval has short square boundaries, and that encourages bowlers to aim at the stumps thereby denying batsmen opportunities to collect easy runs. Yet Ponting asked his bowlers to aim wide and packed that side of the field. He is a better leader than captain. But it's not enough to inspire. The Grand Old Duke of York could do that. Ponting's task is to find the appropriate balance between attack and defence. Even now it eludes him.

At a stroke most of the ways of dismissing batsmen were removed. In that instant the bowlers were told they could not take wickets, say, with outswingers or off-cutters. Nor could they bowl in their normal manner, the style that secured their selection in the first place.

Ponting handles himself well and his bowlers badly. In his early years as captain he could throw the ball to the champions of yesterday confident that order would swiftly be restored. He did not learn to think on his feet. Now he sets fields that the giants of the genre could not survive. That the coach was given a new three-year contract a few months ago confirms that the Australians have taken their eye off the ball.

Nevertheless, all is not lost for the home side. Their preparations have been abysmal and their selections and strategies have been poor, but at worst they will go to Perth 1-0 down. Between Tests they need to sit down and produce a better plan or none at all. They could start by choosing their best four bowlers, backing them to take wickets, attacking the off bail, searching for outside edges, including sharp fieldsmen, placing enough slips, attacking with intent and defending with purpose. It's not rocket science, it's common sense – the sort England showed on the first eight days of the campaign.

Changes will be made for Perth. Australians are not so much braggarts as hard markers. Although it goes against the grain, a four-pronged pace attack might be tried with Steve Smith batting at six and delivering his wrist-spinners. It's not panic. It's confronting truths obvious a month ago but ignored by selectors. Australia need to match England's youth.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project