Darren Lehmann has told his top order batsmen to up their game in time for the second Test against England at Lord’s 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 yesterday to go 1-0 up in this five-match series.
Australia’s 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 Agar’s 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 Haddin’s 71 at number seven and yet more tailend resistance,England’s margin of victory would have been greater.
This Ashes series was always likely to hinge on the performance of Australia’s 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 it’s time for the batters to make sure they’re making the runs,” he said.
“I think we only batted for 64 overs in the first innings and 110 in the second.
“We’ve 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.
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 part-time off-spinner Joe Root for just 14 second time around having been moved to No 3 from his usual opening position.
“He’s had a tough game,” said Lehmann. “Like everyone,you’ve got to make runs and perform.
“We’ve told Ed how we want him to play and how we want him to bat… we picked him to do a role. He’ll be disappointed with the shots. So are we. “We’re trying to learn and get better. I’m sure he’ll 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 side’s performance at Trent Bridge proved they were not as far away from England as some pundits had suggested before the series started.
“I think they’re quite close — a lot closer than people give them credit for,both sides. So,the key for us is to make sure we’re playing better.
“We’ve certainly got to bat better as a top order. We’re going to bowl very well,and we know we can control their batters. It’s 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… They’re the areas we can improve on.”
Meanwhile Lehmann did his best to set the seal on the controversial decision of Stuart Broad,given not out in England’s 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.
“It’s dealt with as far as I’m concerned,” Lehmann said of the Broad incident. “We just move on and get on with it.
“The DRS has improved the decision-making process… We’ve got to get better at using it,basically.”
Lehmann spent several seasons with English county Yorkshire where his friend,Jason Gillespie,the former Australia fast bowler,is now coach.
He said talking to Gillespie had helped put the Ashes into context.
“After the game last (Saturday) night I spoke to one of my great mates,Jason Gillespie,who lost his father yesterday,” he added.
“That puts things in a bit of perspective. So we’re playing a game,yes it’s a big Ashes series but as we talk about all the time there’s more important things that go on than a game of cricket.”