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MAGELLAN ASHES 2017-18

Aussies' habit of collapses revealed

03 October 2017

Martin Smith, in Ranchi


@martinsmith9994

Martin Smith, in Ranchi


@martinsmith9994

The startling trend of Australian batting to fold in rapid succession could open the Ashes door for England

England's Magellan Ashes campaign may be in turmoil as the Ben Stokes saga rolls on, but the recent trend of Australian batting collapses does give Joe Root's side hope of retaining the urn this summer.

Australia, as the home side, are rightly favourites to win the five-match series starting on November 23 and their odds will only shorten if the police investigation currently surrounding Stokes leads to him missing some or all of the series.

But as shown in their recent ODI series against India, Australia are not without their own problems.

After matches in Kolkata and Nagpur in the past fortnight, as he had done following Tests in Colombo and Hobart last year, captain Steve Smith has pleaded with his batsmen to show more fight in the face of batting collapses that have become a regular occurrence since he took charge a little more than two years ago.

Since the start of the 2015 Ashes, Australia's top and middle order have lost 4-20 or worse 25 times in Tests and 19 times in one-day internationals.

And given Australia's star-studded bowling attack, on paper at least, is expected to get the better of a weakened English top order, the battle between Australia's batsmen and England's experienced bowlers looms as the contest that will define the summer.

"There's no hiding from it and we're certainly going to try and start making amends," Australia’s batting coach Graeme Hick, who played 65 Tests for England in a 10-year career, said of the recent collapses.

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"Especially with the Ashes coming up, we certainly don't want to be losing wickets in clumps.

"Our batting collapses are (mental). The players are all there, their techniques are set and they're all very different and all very individual.

"Every side collapses at times, but at the moment we seem to be doing it quite a bit in both forms of the game. So I think it is a bit of a mental thing."

Closer analysis underlines just how destructive Australia's batting stumbles have been over the past 18 months of Test cricket.

In Colombo last year, Shaun Marsh and Steve Smith added 246 when Australia were one down, before the Aussies lost their last nine wickets for just 133.

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In Perth at the start of last summer, David Warner and Marsh put on 158 as openers before a collapse of 10-86 saw them bowled out for 244.

In Dharamsala in March, in the series-deciding final Test against India, the Aussies went from 1-144 to 300 all out on the first day after a 134-run partnership between Smith and Warner.

And in Dhaka five weeks ago, another century stand between captain and vice-captain was followed by a collapse of 8-86 and a 20-run defeat.

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From positions of strength and even dominance, the loss of one wicket has quickly brought about two, three or even eight more to radically shift the momentum of a match. And, in the case of the four games mentioned above, a defeat has followed.

"At times when it happens, especially after a long partnership, people sometimes get a little bit relaxed thinking everything is OK and you're maybe not preparing mentally for that," Hick says.

"And the next thing you know you're strapping your pads on, two or three wickets are down, and you're out there. Maybe there's a little bit of that.

"It happens in all cricket but it's certainly something we've identified.

"You need to identify that (it's) an important time in the game and maybe just hold yourself back a little bit.

"Our natural game is quite an aggressive game and at times maybe we need to step back a bit, let a few balls through to the keeper, have a look, take a few deep breaths and suck the atmosphere in rather than chasing things."

We weren't consistent enough: Smith

Like Smith and coach Darren Lehmann, the men normally put forward to try and explain how and why these collapses have continued to happen, Hick is unable to point to a single cause or a quick fix.

And he agrees that talking about batting collapses is one thing. Preventing them is another entirely.

"You can talk as much as you want about it, but they need to perform on the field," he says.

"They know that, they're professionals and they were gutted at the end of (the ODI series)

"It's disappointing for all. Them more than anyone else."

And it could be the difference between winning and losing the Ashes.

England Test squad: Joe Root (c), Moeen Ali, James Anderson, Jonny Bairstow, Jake Ball, Gary Ballance, Stuart Broad, Alastair Cook, Mason Crane, Ben Foakes, Dawid Malan, Craig Overton, Ben Stokes, Mark Stoneman, James Vince, Chris Woakes.

2017-18 International Fixtures:

Magellan Ashes Series

First Test Gabba, November 23-27. Buy tickets

Second Test Adelaide Oval, December 2-6 (Day-Night). Buy tickets

Third Test WACA Ground, December 14-18. Buy tickets

Fourth Test MCG, December 26-30. Buy tickets

Fifth Test SCG, January 4-8 (Pink Test). Buy tickets

ODI Series v England

First ODI MCG, January 14. Buy tickets

Second ODI Gabba, January 19. Buy tickets

Third ODI SCG, January 21. Buy tickets

Fourth ODI Adelaide Oval, January 26. Buy tickets

Fifth ODI Perth TBC, January 28. Join the ACF

Prime Minister's XI

PM's XI v England Manuka Oval, February 2. Buy tickets

T20 trans-Tasman Tri-Series

First T20I Australia v NZ, SCG, February 3. Buy tickets

Second T20I – Australia v England, Blundstone Arena, February 7. Buy tickets

Third T20I – Australia v England, MCG, February 10. Buy tickets

Fourth T20I – NZ v England, Wellington, February 14

Fifth T20I – NZ v Australia, Eden Park, February 16

Sixth T20I – NZ v England, Seddon Park, February 18

Final – TBC, Eden Park, February 21


About the Writer

@martinsmith9994
Martin Smith is a writer for cricket.com.au. He previously wrote for Yahoo!7 Sport and Fox Sports.