BY ALLAN BORDER
We need to win the big moments
It would be easy to criticise Australia for folding the way they did in the last session on day four, but there are more positives than negatives to come out of the fourth Test in Durham.
At this point in time, Australia isn’t winning the big moments and as a result the 50/50 calls aren’t going our way. A prime example is the Tim Bresnan not out lbw decision early on day four.
Jackson Bird’s second delivery with the new ball jagged back and wrapped Bresnan on the pads whose shouldered arms. For me, when a batsman offers no shot and is hit in front he’s out. Aleem Dar rules it not out, Australia challenge and the ball is deemed to be clipping the bails. DRS rules it’s an Umpire’s Call and Bresnan survives. Bresnan is on 12; he goes on to make 45.
The next over Harris takes two wickets in two balls and Australia regain the momentum. When you’re the team on top the luck and calls go your way. Once Bresnan and Swann got going it took Australia too long to stop them, losing that moment which could have seen us chase 250 instead of 299. Once we start performing better in those moments and little periods of play we’ll begin to get those 50/50 calls going our way and we’ll look a lot better cricket team.
When you break the series down and analyse the key moments, the thing that stands out as the deciding factor is England’s experience. When England has need a big moment or a big wicket they get a 50/50 call or something to go their way, their big players then capitalise and that’s been the series for me.
The good thing is we’re not far off, but it doesn’t look like it 3-nil down. As soon as we start getting these little percentage points of improvement in some key areas, all of a sudden we’ll start turning some of these games around. We’ve got to tough it out, and while I don’t like seeing the selection axe swing too much, sometimes you’ve got to look at the squad. If we shuffle that deck a little more with the same players we might come out with a better hand.
Two guys really showed their class in this Test for Australia. Unfortunately, it’s two of the older guys not two young bloods putting their hand up. Chris Rogers showed what a gritty, determined, old-style batsman he is, something we’ve been lacking for quite some time. The sad thing is he’s 35, nearly 36, but I can see him playing a pretty important role over the next couple of seasons. We just need that solidarity at the top of the order. With a couple of fifties, a hundred and a 49, amongst a couple of dodgy decisions, he’s done a really good job at the top of the order.
The other man to show his class is Ryan Harris. He’s shown just what a quality performer he is. The problem with ‘Rhino’ is keeping him on the paddock. He’s probably left his run a bit late in life to workout that he could actually play this game at such an elite level. Ryan started out as an all-rounder bowling medium pacers, then over the last four or five years he’s added more to his game to be the player he is today. It’s been great to see his development but unfortunately the body has let him down. There’s no doubt about it that on his day he’s up there with the best going around.
Looking ahead to The Oval Test I wouldn’t make too many changes. As I’ve said before, I’m a pick and stick guy, but form and injury could warrant some new faces. I’m not sure the extent of Shane Watson’s injury, but if he’s fit he deserves another crack, preferably at five and Steve Smith at six.
Usman Khawaja concerns me. He’s all at sea when Swann is on, though he looks a class player when performing well. He’s certainly in the top eight batsmen in the country but you’ve got to perform – that’s the bottom line. I think Phil Hughes is a long-term player for us. He’s made 20-odd first-class hundreds and three Test hundreds, so you don’t discount that and he has the substance to back it up. Our spin option is set. Nathan Lyon confirmed he’s the number one spinner in the country and now we’ve got to stick with him and give him some encouragement.
If Australia can find the right hand in amongst the deck of players we have, we’ll start winning those big moments, get those 50/50 calls and trump a good England side. All it takes is experience and someone to put their hand up. I hope my last wrap is all about us winning at The Oval!