Cricket

India vs Australia: Overzealous shots, poor technique reflect hosts' below par Test batting standard

  • Gaurav Joshi
  • December 29th, 2018
  • 16:16:58 IST

Two days before the Test match, a journalist asked Australia head coach Justin Langer if Pat Cummins should get a promotion in the batting order given how brilliant he has been with the bat in the series. Langer replied, "If Cummins can make runs at No 8, that's psychologically really important."

The theory was right and Cummins certainly backed up that ideology by top scoring for Australia in the third Test, but it is precarious situations that the No 8 has walked out to bat in is the major concern for the hosts.

In the first innings, Cummins arrived at the crease at 102/6, in the second, at 157/6. It leaves a lot to be desired and a predicament for the Australian top six. It also begs the question about the depth and the quality of batting at the domestic level. Former Australia spinner turned commentator Kerry O'keefe had made a mockery of Indian domestic cricket. O'Keefe took a lighthearted swipe at debut opener Mayank Agarwal, suggesting he had scored his maiden first-class triple century against "canteen staff" in India.

Australia's Travis Head walks off after he gets out bowled during play on day four of the third cricket test between India and Australia in Melbourne, Australia, Saturday, Dec. 29, 2018. (AP Photo/Asanka Brendon Ratnayake)

Australia's Travis Head walks off after he gets out bowled during play on day four of the third Test. AP

After four days of cricket and two batting collapses in space of 24 hours, O'Keeffe was forced to eat a humble pie after the Australian batting folded meekly to get all-out for 151 and then losing its top five for less than 150 in the second before a gallant Cummins once again embarrassed the top order and frustrated the Indian bowlers by displaying perfect technique and application to be 60 not-out at stumps.

Despite observing Cheteshwar Pujara and Virat Kohli grind the Australian bowlers into the turf in first innings by virtue of disciplined batting, the hosts' top order tried to take a different approach. In the end, there were some overzealous shots, poor techniques as well as horrific decision making.

On a wicket that had no carry, it was always going to be difficult for a bowler to get dismissals behind the wicket, so the order of the day was going to bowl stump to stump lines and set tight leg side fields. Aaron Finch fell into the trap by spooning a catch to short midwicket. In the second innings, he wafted unwisely at a ball that the Indian batsmen had watched go through to the keeper.

Marcus Harris should have known that if the likes of Kohli and Pujara have shelved the hook or the pull until late in their innings, it was not the pitch to be attempting the hoick off the short ball over square leg. The inconsistent bounce, as well as Bumrah's pace, got the better of him. In the second innings, he pushed with hard hands without getting even remotely close to the pitch of the ball. If it was a poor shot selection in the first then it was a poor technique in the second.

Usman Khawaja might have sought an answer by handling the spinner out of the rough via a reverse sweep, but he still doesn't get anywhere close to the pitch of the ball while trying to defend off the front foot. In the second innings, he scrapped the idea of defence against Jadeja and went on the attack, it worked momentarily, but he is still far from being a finished product against spin bowling.

Shaun Marsh was outdone by Bumrah with a slower ball, but the reality is that Marsh should have been playing straighter and he made the same mistake the second time around.

Travis Head continues to show promise, but trying to play through mid-wicket against a reverse swinging ball is asking for trouble. The problem with Head is that he goes through a period where he looks like a Test cricketer, but cannot sustain it for a long period. There is always a rash shot around the corner that often leads to him losing his wicket as evident on Saturday.

Then there is Mitch Marsh, the man who bats as if his feet are stuck in concentre. In both innings, he has been undone by lack of footwork that had bordered laziness. Australia simply cannot afford an all-rounder at No 6, they need a pure batsman.

Collapses occur in cricket, but not as frequently as Australia would have hoped for. It is an inexperienced line-up, but to be fair, the batting standard was well below par, certainly not up to Test standards.

When your No 8 is averaging 28 in the series and is looking a cut above some of the top order batsmen and there are no other batsmen in the domestic circuit knocking down the door, someone in the dressing room must scream that, "Australia, we have a problem."

Updated Date: December 29, 2018 16:16:58 IST

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