BY ALLAN BORDER
Now or never
I can feel Australia’s pain. I’ve been there before. In 1986-87 we got absolutely hammered by England in Melbourne. We lost in three days and as was custom back in those days the teams had a beer with each other in the dressing room after the match.
As the pain began to ease we started watching the Davis Cup tennis. Pat Cash was playing Sweden’s Mikael Pernfors in the decider. Of course, the Aussie guys were going for Cashy and the English guys going for Pernfors. It was all good natured banter between the sides and as it turns out Cashy won. We’d just got severely beaten so it was small moment of joy for us before Prime Minister Bob Hawke came on screen and made the presentation of the Davis Cup to the Australian tennis team. In his speech he said something like “pity there wasn’t 11 Pat Cash’s playing at the MCG today.” Well, there was fruit and cans and a lot of rubbish thrown at the TV.
Later on that night, a few of the core group were together: myself, Geoff Marsh, Dean Jones, David Boon and a couple of other boys. We said that’s it. Line in the sand moment. From that moment on we were no longer going to be easy beats. From there we went to the next venue, Sydney, and despite the Ashes already being lost we won to make it 2-1. Then all of a sudden our cricket started to turn around. We won the ’87 World Cup. We began to play more consistently and our fortunes really began to change.
I know the boys are putting in. There’s no doubt they’re all having a crack. But if we’re going to have success on this tour we need to stand up and be counted, say enough is enough and really give it to the Poms.
The world is against you
When you’re losing and down on luck it feels like the world is against you.
Australia is up against a quality England team – there’s no questioning it. For us to win we need everyone playing to their full potential plus a little luck. At the moment, neither is happening.
We seem to be losing all the 50/50 calls. DRS has not been kind to Australia. To be honest, I have no clue how it works. How Steve Smith’s catch was deemed not out I’ll never know. Every commentator, player and fan I know said it was out.
Punters are coming up to me saying, “Allan, why was that catch not out?” It was the same with Ashton Agar’s dismissal. No HotSpot on the bat but still overturned. Peter Siddle’s foot finds the line and is no-balled on review. A centimetre less and Bairstow is out and Australia potentially take day one.
If Australia is to have any chance we need the close calls to go our way. I remember playing against the West Indies in their prime. Those guys used to beat us and get all the calls. They never lost and had all the luck fall their way. Australia needs to start getting those 50/50 calls sooner rather than later.
Watson’s star fading
We all know what a wonderful player Shane Watson is. He looks like a million bucks when he’s firing. What is worrying though is that he keeps getting out in the same fashion. Now who is to blame here? Is it Watson for not adapting? What about the coaches?
In an era where we’ve got a thousand coaches and psychoanalysts and dieticians and sport scientists it defies belief that a player can be making the same mistakes. Whether it is a technical thing or a mental thing I don’t know.
Is Shane not listening, or are people saying bad luck, you got a good one? We need to find out what the best is for Shane. Is it opening the batting? Or maybe batting at six and making him a genuine all-rounder?
Whatever it is we need to find out soon or Shane’s time will have come and gone and we won’t have seen the best of him. The buck stops with Shane and he needs to figure it quickly because it will be a real shame if he doesn’t fulfill his potential.
1,2,3 or is it 9,10,11.
Our major concern right now is the performance of the top six. Watching today I could honestly say the nine, 10 and jack looked more competent than our one, two and three. If that was me in the top three I’d be embarrassed. We need to settle on our best 11 and stay with it. I’m a believer in the pick and stick method, so we need to find our best 11 that’s suited to the conditions and stick with it. Australia might need to look at Nathan Lyon because Ashton Agar, as well as he did at Trent Bridge, went wicketless at Lord’s.
His role is to take wickets so there’s an area we can improve. Does Matthew Wade potentially come into the side as a batsman? Steve Smith kept us in the game on day one with his wickets, but we need more runs from him. Our batting was seen as our Achilles heel heading into the series and right now it’s turning into a reality. If we can find the right formula for the top six I’m confident our luck can turnaround in Manchester.
CLICK HERE for Allan Border's wrap of the first Test at Trent Bridge