Australia’s darkest day… Marsh, Khawaja, Copeland and O’Keefe must debut in Sydney.

Boxing Day is, and has annually been since 1980, the biggest day of the calender year for many cricket fans all around the World, in particular in Victoria, Australia. It’s an opportunity to venture to the home of Australian cricket and watch eleven Australian’s fight against the summer’s touring side, giving their best for their nation of adoring fans. This year, as it is every four years, the British were in town, fighting for Cricket’s holy grail, The Ashes.

The Ashes, fiercely fought between Australia and England since 1882, is the pinnacle of Test Cricket and a series which has grown in stature since England’s revival in 2005. It’s a series when players’ reputations are both made and broken, where careers are defined, and individual acts of brilliance can change a series in just a few overs. It is, undoubtedly, cricket’s finest series, and a series which compels viewers all around the globe in a true celebration of the amazing game that is cricket.

Unfortunately though, there wasn’t much to celebrate today as Australia sunk to, arguably, an all-time low after being bowled out for just 98. In addition to this, they allowed England to muster up 0/157, a 59 run lead with 10 wickets in hand heading into day 2.

To put things into perspective, Australia have never, in over 133 years of Test Cricket, been behind at stumps on Day 1, with the opposition still having 10 wickets in hand. Today, history was created at the MCG, for all the wrong reasons, and as Australia head into the 5th (dead rubber) Test Match in Sydney next week, things need to change.

A fantastic display in Perth last week in the 3rd Test Match covered up numerous cracks in the Australian line-up, cracks which showed again today as the Aussies were simply smashed in all departments.

Phillip Hughes is a fantastic young batsman who burst onto the international scene against South Africa in February 2009, scoring 350 runs in his first 2 Test Matches. However, since then he has made just 295 runs at a paltry average of just 26.81. In addition to this, Hughes has managed just 231 runs at 19.25 this summer, clearly highlighting his lack of form. There is no doubt that Hughes is a fantastic young player who has a limitless amount of talent, the question remains though, is his talent suited for the opening batsman position? I fear not.

Hughes is a flashy young batsman, eager to play his shots and score at a rapid rate. His debut century against South Africa was scored at a strike-rate of 76.15, which despite sounding attractive at the time, is almost impossible to maintain over a prolonged period of time. This is simply due to having technique flaws discovered by opposing bowlers and captains.

Hughes really never should have been selected for the 3rd and 4th Tests, not only because his form didn’t warrant it, but also due to the fact that his technique needs tightening before being thrown out to open the batting in the game’s most important series.

The second weakness in the Australian side is the lack of runs from the captain and vice-captain, Ricky Ponting and Michael Clarke. Ponting, who has averaged just 15.50 in his 7 innings this series, is in serious danger of losing his spot in the starting eleven, with questions continually being raised about his ability to pick-up the ball early in his innings. His foot-work, despite never being amazing at the start of an innings, has deteriorated rapidly over the past 12 months, which is making him vulnerable early on in his innings. This vulnerability is highlighted by his 14 scores below 15, in 25 innings since December 2009.

Clarke on the other hand is suffering from a sever lack of form, which is largely due to his extremely low-level of confidence whilst batting. Clarke, despite his experience, is similar to Hughes in that he is extremely flashy and at times, possesses a very loose technique, especially for a number 4 batsman. When Clarke is confident in his own ability and plays his shots with assertiveness and conviction, his flashy style produces countless runs. However, when his confidence is low, he seems nervous, tentative and plays his shots half-heartedly, which is proving to be his downfall as he has managed just 262 runs in his last 13 innings. A match or two in the Baggy Blue of New South Wales could be just what Clarke needs to rediscover his mojo.

The batting isn’t the only concern for the Australians, with Peter Siddle and Ben Hilfenhaus the main culprits of a struggling Australian attack. Since Siddle’s devastating spell of 6/54 in Brisbane three weeks ago, he has produced figures of 1/257 and despite bowling well at times, the figures don’t lie, highlighting a severe lack of wicket-taking ability. Hilfenhaus, without a 6-fa to hang his hat on this series, has produced figures of 1/237  since taking the wicket of Andrew Strauss with the third ball of his series in Adelaide. Similar to Siddle, despite bowling well at times, the ability to strike when needed most seems beyond him and serious doubts are lingering over his head for the upcoming Sydney Test Match in early 2011.

Steven Smith is the sixth concern for the Australian team and despite the youthful enthusiasm he brings to the team, the fact remains that he has yet to take a wicket in the series and has managed just 49 runs from his 3 innings. Marcus North, despite his poor run of form, managed exactly the same amount of runs from 3 innings however he also contributed with a wicket. With young batsmen like Usman Khawaja waiting in the wings, Smith needs to fire in the second innings in order to keep his spot because at the end of the day, when one asks himself who the best number six batsman in Australia is, the answer is unlikely to be Steve Smith.

The remaining five players, despite a poor day, are in relatively good form and have shown numerous moments of brilliance this summer. Watson, Hussey and Haddin are leading the batting attack, whilst Mitchell Johnson and Ryan Harris both found some much-needed form with the ball in Perth.

With the urn likely to remain in England’s possession for another few years, Sydney provides an opportunity for the ultra-conservative Australian selectors to blood some youth in what appears likely to be a dead-rubber. Ponting, given his captaincy, is likely to keep his spot, however the match is a perfect opportunity to omit Hughes, Clarke, Siddle and Hilfenhaus, and bring in youngsters such as Sean Marsh (414 runs at 59.14 this summer), Khawaja (611 runs at 61.10), Trent Copeland (25 wickets at 21.40), James Faulkner (19 wickets at 11.94) or Steve O’Keefe (16 wickets at 16.93).

Now, more than ever before, is the time where the Australian selectors need to pick young Australian cricketers based solely on age and Domestic form, not just reputation. There is simply no better experience for these youngsters to debut and perform in front of a sold-out Sydney crowd… I just hope the selectors don’t miss this opportunity.

DJC

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34 responses to “Australia’s darkest day… Marsh, Khawaja, Copeland and O’Keefe must debut in Sydney.

  1. nice article pup. someone has to say it so might as well be you

  2. Firstly steve smith definatly isn’t the best number six batsmen in australia … Secondly where’s the spinner? … And thirdly where’s the runs? …

  3. Deepak Muralidharan K

    Its high time that people should stop criticizing Indian batsmen on bouncy pitches ;look at aus scores on bouncy pitches ! that just shows accurate bowling on bouncy pitches is a pblm for any world class team

  4. This is the first time I have seen them bat like that. I have seen them do it to other teams on The Adelaide Oval though.

  5. Steve Smith isn’t good enough to bat 6. But let’s not be too hard on him, Ponting has been PATHETIC. Clarke has been just as bad bar his 80 in Adelaide. And Hughes now looks out of his depth at Test level. We don’t have a spinner. Selectors were hesitant to pick Beer because our pace bowlers did so well in Perth. It’s pretty much also a vote of no-confidence in Beer.. he was picked to carry the drinks?? Johnson was all over the shop again. Some consistency would be nice from him. He’s either match-winning or he’s absolute crap. i like Siddle and i like Hilfenhaus but some wickets would be nice?? Oh well, there’s 4 days to go

  6. deepak ur an idiot what the f!@K has todays play got to do with india????????????

  7. Retire ponting, Clark ur hot n cold, haddin or Watson as captain, cricket hasn’t been the same since Steve waugh, gilchrist, mcgrath and warne played, shame aussies shame.

  8. Dumbass Deepak ur a weird.

  9. Excellent article. Unfortunately, the non-performing high profilers might get one more test.

  10. so 3 new south welshers have to debut.. Marsh is not a test opening bat(not even good opener for WA), Khawaja might do ok, Copeland is having his first good season with the ball and they cant pick Beer for these 2 games and pick someone over the top of him.. I agree there needs to be changes but i think thats a little over the top

  11. NSW players or not, the fact is Copeland, Khawaja and O’Keefe are in form and have proven themselves this summer. Marsh has too, how can one claim he’s not a Test opener when he’s the leading First Class opener in domestic cricket? Also, apparently Watson isn’t a Test opener, yet he’s proven to be the most consistent batsman we’ve had for the last 2 years.

  12. The aussies need a top class spinner, shame we got swann and monty! Come on england! Rule brittania.

  13. LOL cricket is not dead then, ashes back to England_

  14. not enough beer 2day?

  15. Don’t think Katich or Watson even opens the batting for his state side Marcus.. Why should they change that now?

  16. Fair write-up if you can get over the over-hyping of the Ashes being some kinda holy grail of cricket.

    I think it makes sense for Aus to throw in their youngsters in the deep end and find out if they can swim. They are bound to find 1 or 2 decent fellas if they throw in about 10 in the rest of the season. Pawning, saddens me to say, seems like he dunn deserve a place in the starting eleven in spite of this being an eleven that can challenge NZ and Zim for the worst Test line-up today.

  17. Nirvanam, do you have any understanding of the history of cricket? The Ashes is the holy grail and quite frankly, Test Cricket and cricket in general wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for The Ashes.

    Spud.

  18. Akshay 'Aku' Vara

    australians have no hope of regaining the urn now haha! its a sad sight though,seeing australia and west indies both in appaling situations cricket wise. however australia’s love for cricket will never deteriorate,whereas in the windies,rubbish american sports have taken priority over cricket. the australians will be back,but for now i’m gonna enjoy watching u get battered lol!

  19. Deepak, Nirvanam and Akshay… All of you have absolutely no idea about cricket, you’re all far too bias from an Indian perspective… GET THE BLINKERS OFF!!

    No sense of history whatsoever, all you see is Indian cricket. So frustrating dealing with spuds like you!!

    It’s time to stop watching Lagaan and Amir Khan movies and focused on some cricket reseach.

    Mundian te bach ke!!

  20. DJC, do you have any sense of broader perspective in life? The Ashes maybe the holy grail for the Aussies and the English but it is in not the holy grail as far as Test cricket as a whole is concerned.

    Up until the first few minnows in cricket evolved into regular Test playing countries, Eng and Aus were the default Test countries. Now, just coz until 1950s there were no other decent Test playing countries and the fact that 2 countries had a rich tradition built around their cricket, it does not become the holy grail of Test cricket itself.

    Here’s a serious argument for you to consider. When was the last time the Ashes was truly the Test series for a world cricket fan to watch? This is my understanding of the History of the game…please correct me if I am wrong and refrain from just hurling abuses or talking in the air (Mods who wrote to me I am observing how consistent you are with this thing, right now).

    50s-60s Ashes were the pinnacle. Late 60s Saffers gained predominance over the Poms and Cons. So Ashes necessarily could not have been the pinnacle of Test cricket during that time. Then, from 71 to 76 again Ashes was definitely one of the better Test series if not the pinnacle itself. From around 1977 to 1995, any series involving the number 2 team and West Indies would have been closer to being the holy grail than the Ashes. From 1995 to 2000, there was no the holy grail…many match-ups were enticing like Aus-SA, Aus-Ind, SA-Pak, Ind-Pak, etc. Between 2001 and 2008, the holy grail was the Border Gavaskar trophy with an honorable mention for the 2005 Ashes. Since December 2006 the Ashes has reverted back to not being the holy grail of Test cricket world-wide. It continues to be…but only for Aussie and Pommies maybe…not for cricket in general. Now, dude, why would you think a contest between #4 and #5 be the holy grail of Test cricket for the world cricket community?

  21. Nirvanam – forget the numbers and the rankings and what not. Do you for a moment believe that the quality of cricket seen in even this Ashes is equal to the quality of cricket seen in the current India-SA series?

    I will not argue against the Border Gavaskar series. They have their own charm. The Ashes have their own charm. As far as quality of cricket goes, I would rate the English-Aussie contest a tad better

  22. the Ashes used to be the Holy Grail.

  23. Either you did not understand my point or you aren’t bothered to anyway

  24. If you believe that the Ashes showcases the quality of cricket of teams ranked No. 4 and 5 and the India-SA contest shows up the No. 1 and 2 ranked teams in the world, then I will say nothing more.

  25. Hence my observation about your misunderstanding my point…you have confirmed it, with this post of yours.

  26. Firstly, how can I respect anything written by a racist pig who uses terms such as;

    Saffers, Poms & Cons

    You obviously come from an uneducated background to even think for a moment that language like that in this day and age is acceptable. Pull you head in and watch your mouth.

    Secondly, your argument is flawed.

    The Ashes is, and always will be, the most watch series around the globe, by viewers external to those who’s countries are playing. In other words, there are far more people watching The Ashes from outside of England and Australia, than there are watching India/South Africa from outside of those respective countries.

    The Ashes has the richest history in almost any sporting contest around the World, let alone cricket. No teams have faced-off as many times as England and Australia have, there is simply no bigger rivalry.

    As for your claims of Australia and England being “default” Test nations, ifit wasn’t for Australia and England playing each other, no other nation would even be playing Test cricket. The tqo countries created it, developed it and spread it around the globe… To lable them as default nations is once again, extremley disrespectful and horribly wrong.

    As for your claim of The Ashes never being a spectacle, did you not watch the 2005 or 2009 series? They’ve been labelled, BY CRICKETING EXPERTS FROM ALL COUNTRIES, as the greatest two series ever, in particular 2005. To call it now worthy of being watch again highlights your lack of cricket knowledge.

    As for your calls on the 50s-60s being the pinnacle of all Ashes contests, what do you based these wild claims on? How old are you? Did you watch them? Unless you’re 70+ years old, those claims can not be made as you weren’t alive when it happened.

    Nirvanam, you my friend have to get your blinkers off and appreciate the true history of Test cricket… Not just since India started playing Test cricket. The Ashes have a history of 133 years, think about that before you mouth off.

    And, enough with the racist slurrs, absolutely disgusting.

  27. Of course they are… And posting links to various other forum discussions doesn’t change that fact.

    Pom; a British (usually English) immigrant. Some claim it derives from “Prisoner of Mother England” or “Prisoner of Her Majesty”, but it probably derives from pomegranate, rhyming slang for “immigrant”. It is often used irreverently and is usually considered offensive.

    As for the terms Saffer, Saffa or other variations, you surely have no brains if you think that’s acceptable!!

  28. Go easy Mr. Large Brain. It was just a question as it is a commonly used phrase not just on this board, rather else where also. May be you need to visit all those boards and bark at all of them. LOL!

  29. Sorry but I beg to differ. The game is more important than any series.

  30. Really? This is a quote from your post up above – “Now, dude, why would you think a contest between #4 and #5 be the holy grail of Test cricket for the world cricket community?”

    I will leave you to figure out who is wrong and where.

  31. Obviously Australia v England is the most important series in cricket. That’s just how it is. Those who think it’s not are just jealous that their country isn’t a part of it. Sure I want to win every series, but as an Australian, I forget who we played last summer, but I can reel off every ashes series since 1977 without thinking! The Ashes is the only test series that matters to me, and the ODI World Cup is the only ODI series that matters.
    I don’t believe any country could beat England at the moment in Test cricket, regardless of rankings!

  32. Most of the times blogs are the same but i think that your blog can be an exception. Grats !

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