Australia coach Darren Lehmann has told his top order batsmen to up their game in time for the second Test against England at Lords starting Thursday.
The tourists came close to a stunning win in the first Test at Trent Bridge before Ashes-holders England scraped home by 14 runs Sunday to go 1-0 up in this five-match series. Australias tenth wicket pair were responsible for 228 runs at Trent Bridge,including a world record stand of 163 in the first innings that featured teenage debutant Ashton Agars 98 the highest score by a Test No 11 after they had collapsed to 117 for nine.
There was an improved showing second time around but had it not been for wicketkeeper-batsman Brad Haddins 71 at number seven and yet more tailend resistance,Englands margin of victory would have been greater.
This Ashes series was always likely to hinge on the performance of Australias top order and Lehmann,himself a former Test batsman,was in no doubt of what was required. Our tail has done really well over a period of time now but its time for the batters to make sure theyre making the runs, he said.
I think we only batted for 64 overs in the first innings and 110 in the second. Weve got to be reversing that about,batting for 120 overs plus in the first innings of a game and making our runs there, said Lehmann,brought in just 16 days before the Ashes after South African coach Mickey Arthur was sensationally sacked by Cricket Australia.
Cowan under pressure
Among those now under pressure for their place is Ed Cowan who,on his home ground after a spell with Nottinghamshire this season,was out for a duck in the first innings driving at fast bowler Steven Finn and fell to off-spinner Joe Root for just 14 second time around having been moved to No 3 from his usual opening position.
Hes had a tough game, said Lehmann. Like everyone,youve got to make runs and perform. Weve told Ed how we want him to play and how we want him to bat. Hell be disappointed with the shots. So are we. Were trying to learn and get better. Im sure hell get better at that as well, he added.
However,Lehmann who in 27 Tests for Australia scored 1,798 runs at an average of just under 45 with five hundreds,was at pains to point how sides performance at Trent Bridge proved they were not as far away from England as some pundits had suggested before the series started.
I think theyre quite close a lot closer than people give them credit for,both sides. So,the key for us is to make sure were playing better. Weve certainly got to bat better as a top order. Were going to bowl very well,and we know we can control their batters. Its just a case of making more runs.
I just thought we missed a chance probably in the first innings with our top order. I know conditions were tough,but we had to get through that… Theyre the areas we can improve on.
The review issue
Meanwhile,Lehmann did his best to set the seal on the controversial decision of Stuart Broad,given not out in Englands second innings,to stand his ground when he edged a catch to slip.
Australia were unable to contest the decision as they had used both their two permitted Decision Review system challenges in the innings.
Its dealt with as far as Im concerned, Lehmann said of the Broad incident. We just move on and get on with it. The DRS has improved the decision-making process… Weve got to get better at using it,basically.
With the 14-run loss to England,Australia have now lost five Test matches in a row four in India and now one at Trent Bridge. The margins of these defeats could have been far worse in the last three Tests had one of Australia’s tailenders not contributed with an innings top score in each of those matches.
When 19-year old debutant Ashton Agar walked in to bat,Australia were 117/9,trailing England’s first innings score by 98 runs. Agar would go on to wipe out that deficit himself,with a 101-ball 98 the highest score by a number 11 in the history of the game. Thanks to his 163-run stand for the last wicket with Phil Hughes,again the highest for the 10th wicket in Tests,Australia took a first innings lead. In the second innings and during the chase,Australia’s middle order buckled,leaving the last wicket pair of Brad Haddin and number 11 James Pattinson 80 runs to get. They shaved away 65 of those runs bringing up the second best partnership of the innings. Incidentally,228 cumulative runs were scored by Australia’s last wicket stands in the Test.
peter siddle,new delhi
As Peter Siddle,Australia’s number nine,walked out to bat,the visitors were 136/7 having chosen to bat. For the first seven wickets,only one stand scored more than fifty runs Phil Hughes and Ed Cowan for the second wicket with 67 runs. Then came Siddle who featured in two fifty plus stands 53 for the eighth wicket and 54 for the ninth. In this rescue mission,Siddle scored 51 himself,his first Test fifty and the top score of the Australian innings. In the second innings,at number nine again,Siddle walked out to an even more precarious situation. Australia were 94/7. Once again he scored 50,again top scoring for the side.
In this match at the PCA Stadium,Australia’s openers had finally come to the party with a 139-run stand. But despite Steven Smith’s 92,the middle order had undone all the positives with three ducks and a 2,reducing the side to 251/7 when Starc walked in. Almost instantly,he began showing his far more qualified teammates how to bat in these conditions. He missed out on a maiden Test ton by one run but his 99 was the second-highest individual score by an Australian in the four-Test series.