What does having Shane Watson and Chris Rogers say about the current Australian team’s chances?
It says on the one hand they have the potential to play all the shots, dominate the bowling attack and get a great start.
However, this will only last for half an hour and 30-40 runs max – and the English know it.
On the other hand, they’re defensive, cautious, and quite sure they’ll lose an early wicket and need someone who can simply occupy the crease and stop the almost inevitable collapse.
This is highly unlikely to make the English fear them and lose sight of their game plan.
Throughout Australia’s success in the 90s and 00s they had the right mix of skill, aggression, and cohesion at the opening batsmen position to nearly always put Australia on the front foot when it came to Test matches.
Sure they had great bowlers in Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne, but the way they imposed themselves on other teams started with the opening batsmen.
In a Test match, when given the chance, the captain will bat first on nearly all occasions. Key to victory is getting a lot of runs on the board, avoiding batting last and letting your bowlers finish the opposition off on an ageing pitch.
Australia’s most recent successful openers – Matthew Hayden/Justin Langer and Michael Slater/Mark Taylor – rarely let the opposition into the match.
I remember marvelling at the amount of times Australia could get to 0/100 before losing a wicket. It took the pressure off guys like Ricky Ponting, Damien Martyn, Steve Waugh and Darren Lehmann.
Of course they were class players themselves and played tough knocks over their careers. But across the entirety of their games together, the impact of having a strong and successful opening pair can’t be overstated.
Australian cricket’s identity in the modern era has been demonstrated through its openers.
Australia wants to be an aggressive team. They play best when they are aggressive. They enjoy their cricket most when they are aggressive.
The fast bowlers are doing their part in this regard, but the batsmen can’t be aggressive when they are continually 2/30, or 3/50, or 4/100.
Until Australia finds their next opening batsmen who can deliver consistently for the team, they will forever be scrapping in games to try and get a win, or waiting for a matching saving innings from Michael Clarke or a tailender.
I’m not saying the obvious answer is out there and the selectors are missing it. Just that the team is severely restricted until they find it.
Rogers, at 35 years of age, is obviously not the long-term answer. Watson has well and truly passed the point of showing potential. He needs to deliver and deliver regularly.
There’s no time to find a left-field answer for this or the next Ashes series in Australia. If Australia doesn’t see results from these openers, they won’t win the Ashes.
The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Cricket Australia
First Posted 19 July, 2013 2:24PM AEST