That Australia had issues in the batting department was evident from the manner in which they went down to England at Cardiff. But, having recovered following a fantastic batting effort at Lord’s, Australia would have been much hopeful of their campaign being back on track. But, what followed at Birmingham was very much in the realms of unbelievable. Even if one takes into consideration the fact that the pitch at Edgbaston had much more in it for bowlers in comparison to the surface at Lord’s, Australia’s effort was still disappointing.
One must reiterate the fact that although the pitch did aid the bowlers a lot, it was by no means unplayable as Chris Rogers, David Warner and Ian Bell demonstrated. And, later on day three, the Aussie lower order. Having decided to bat first, they needed partnerships on the board, of course not as big as the one between Rogers and Steven Smith at Lord’s. Instead, they just crumbled away, and their collapse on the opening day, very much sealed Australia’s fate in the series. Rogers was the only one who demonstrated how to hang out in the middle in the first innings.
What would really worry Australia as they look to set things in order is the number of struggling batsmen they have in the side. At the top, Warner and Rogers have been successful individually, but as a pair they haven’t got big partnerships, which has also hurt the side somewhere. The big trouble though is the middle order, which has been crumbling like a dilapidated building. No concern for them would be bigger than the lack of runs from their skipper Michael Clarke, who just hasn’t looked like the batsmen we have known him to be.
Australia and Clarke himself will be in a quandary. In the past, struggling Aussie captains have dropped themselves. Will Clarke walk along that difficult path? Will the Aussie selectors take that tough call for him? Or will the selectors back the skipper, and continue with him, having faith that he can come up with the goods? Too many questions need to be answered for Australia in the next few days. When a captain is not performing, the team automatically comes under greater pressure, especially when the side is losing.
Adam Voges is another man whose position will be under the scanner. Six consecutive failures in an Ashes might be too big a sequence for the selectors to ignore, in particular with the series now on the line. But, the question is whether they would bring back Shane Watson, who is also out of form, or go in for another pure batsman. Shaun Marsh could be utilised in place of Voges, and if at all Australia want to go back to Watson, his replacement Mitchell Marsh might have to make way for him. Whatever choices they end up making, the Aussie think-tank will have a lot of brain-storming to do over the next few days.
--By A Cricket Analyst