Stumbling bats out of step with Australia`s victory swagger

Last Updated: Friday, December 30, 2011 - 13:18

Melbourne: Australia close out the year on a high after their rousing 122-run victory over India in the first Test in Melbourne, but might hope their batsmen have underlined "I shall not throw my wicket away cheaply" at the top of their New Year resolutions.

A brilliant performance from Australia`s raw pace attack with bat and ball gave Michael Clarke`s team a shot of confidence heading into the second Test in Sydney, but also glossed over their batsmen`s continuing woes.

Barring half-centuries from debutant Ed Cowan, Ricky Ponting and Mike Hussey, the specialists lost their wickets quickly and in bunches, reprising a disturbing trend of collapses in recent Tests against New Zealand and South Africa.

To add insult to injury, those further down the order not paid to score runs put them in the shade at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

Pacemen James Pattinson and Peter Siddle scored 100 runs in the Test, more than opener David Warner, number three Shaun Marsh and skipper Clarke combined (76).

Warner, who scored a century in the previous Test against New Zealand in Hobart, fell back to earth when he appeared to confuse the India match for a Twenty20 fixture, losing his wicket with ill-chosen swipes in both innings.

Marsh made a first-innings duck in baffling circumstances, flicking a ball off his pads straight to a player in the gully, then emulated Warner`s second innings downfall by chopping a ball onto his stumps for three.

Australia`s batsmen have been under fire since getting skittled for a second innings 47 in their recent Test in Cape Town against South Africa, but Clarke has shielded them with a sturdy defence many would rather see used on his own wicket.

He was at it again after the MCG Test, charitably describing their failures as "unlucky", while pointing to their opponents` similar struggles on the MCG wicket.

His Indian counterpart MS Dhoni was not so accommodating to his own batters, however, laying the blame for the loss squarely at their feet.

"When you get conditions like we`ve faced for the last few test matches, when the ball swings and seams you`re going to nick balls, you`re going to play and miss balls," said Clarke, who did just that to be bowled twice against India.

Australia`s batsmen have been under fire since getting skittled for a second innings 47 in their recent Test in Cape Town against South Africa, but Clarke has shielded them with a sturdy defence many would rather see used on his own wicket.

He was at it again after the MCG Test, charitably describing their failures as "unlucky", while pointing to their opponents` similar struggles on the MCG wicket.

His Indian counterpart MS Dhoni was not so accommodating to his own batters, however, laying the blame for the loss squarely at their feet.

"When you get conditions like we`ve faced for the last few test matches, when the ball swings and seams you`re going to nick balls, you`re going to play and miss balls," said Clarke, who did just that to be bowled twice against India.

With opening batsman and all rounder Shane Watson sidelined with injury, Australia`s flailing top order will head to the Sydney Cricket Ground intact but under pressure to deliver against an Indian side renowned for their slow starts.

They would do well to emulate pacemen Peter Siddle, Ben Hilfenhaus and James Pattinson, who withstood India`s pace onslaught to produce runs when called upon, while raffling 20 wickets between themselves with a mixture of speed, line and controlled aggression.

The trio, led by a Man of the Match performance from 21-year-old Pattinson in his third test, have given Michael Clarke a happy selection dilemma, with front-line paceman Ryan Harris now having to fight his way back into the side.

Harris has been picked in a 12-man squad for the second Test, but is no certainty for selection after struggling with a hip injury and given the Sydney Cricket Ground wicket usually rewards spinners as it wears.

"(Harris`s) obviously an outstanding bowler. The times he`s played he`s had great success," Siddle told reporters on Friday.

"The way we`ve played and to have someone like that to come into the squad, obviously it`s a bonus."

Equally encouraging for Australian media, who were declaring the team "in crisis" following their second Test loss to New Zealand in Hobart, was the emergence of a ruthless streak against India not seen since the team`s calamitous Ashes series loss on home soil.

Prominent cricket writer Malcolm Conn wrote of "Michael Clarke the cut-throat captain" in a News Ltd column after the 30-year-old skipper instructed his pacemen to soften up India`s tail-enders with short-pitched bowling.

"James Pattinson could not have channelled Dennis Lillee more convincingly without growing whiskers and wearing his shirt unbuttoned to the waist," enthused The Age newspaper, referring to the fiery Australian quick of the 1970s and early 80s.

Having knocked over India`s star-studded batting lineup twice, Australia`s rejuvenated pace attack now has an almost tougher assignment to hose down great expectations ahead of Sydney, where Dhoni has promised a better showing from his team.

"Is this the most destructive attack in world cricket emerging?" was the first question at a media conference directed at a bemused Siddle on Friday.

"I`d like to think so!" he replied with a smile. "No, I don`t know, but I think we`re just doing everything right at the moment."

"Obviously the bowling is going well, the batting`s getting there and we`re working well as a unit and that`s the best thing."

Bureau Report



First Published: Friday, December 30, 2011 - 13:18

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