Pakistan v Australia Test - Men's
Batters on notice amid collapse epidemic
Coach Justin Langer and Test captain Tim Paine lament the slip in standards for Australian batters
20 October 2018, 05:09 PM AEST
Justin Langer and Tim Paine believe the Test side's batting problems reflect systemic issues in Australian cricket, painting a concerning picture heading into a showdown with the world's No.1 Test nation this summer.
Australia's thrashing in Abu Dhabi, which consigned them to a sixth successive series defeat in Asia, came after two more sub-standard performances with the bat, totals of 145 and 164 handing them a record loss by 373 runs.
It's been a familiar tale in recent years; putting aside their defiant fourth innings that saved the Dubai Test a week ago, Australia's average total from their past 10 Test innings is just 192 and only twice in those 10 knocks have they faced more than 75 overs.
Of greater concern is their tendency to lose wickets in a hurry; the Aussies have now suffered a collapse of 7-75 or worse in half of their last 26 Tests stretching back to the 2016 Sri Lanka tour.
And since the start of the 2015 Ashes, they've lost all 10 wickets for less than 150 runs on 18 occasions, with 15 of those coming abroad.
Most discouraging of all for Langer is the fact it's trend he's noticed at domestic level as well.
"If you look at this round of Sheffield Shield cricket, I know a number of the states have also had some big batting collapses as well," Langer said of the opening round of the Shield competition, which included defending champions Queensland being bowled out for just 148 and 93.
"I've been in the state system watching for a long time and I've watched this.
"There wouldn't be a state coach out there who would be saying it's all rainbows and butterflies after this weekend's cricket because of the collapses.
"There's certainly some focus we have to have. We can't sugar coat it any longer, I don't think."
Langer recounted an anecdote that argued technique mattered more than mental toughness, praised a technical change he saw in Travis Head's development across four Test innings, and said chances would come for batsmen prepared to graft at the domestic level.
"If I'm a young batsman in Australia, it's a pretty exciting time (because) if you work really hard on your basic game and you learn how to make runs, then there will be huge opportunities in the Australian cricket team," Langer said.
The raw statistics prove Langer's theory about the declining standards of Shield batting to be correct.
In the first decade of the 21st century, when Langer was one of a multitude of star batsman dominating Test cricket, five players scored more than 5,000 Sheffield Shield runs at averages between 48 and 61.
In the nine years since, only two players – Steve Smith and Usman Khawaja – average in excess of 45 in the Shield and in an even shorter time frame, since the start of the 2015-16 season, not one player boasts an average higher than 50.
"We're in a much different stage of Australian cricket history, aren't we?" Langer said.
"It's usually harder to get out of the side than it is to get into the side. It used to be a beautiful thing
"If you were the hunter, it used to be a shocking thing when you were playing. If you were the hunted, well that's sort of good, but you knew there were hunters coming at you all the time. There was always pressure."
Paine echoed his coach's sentiments, both about the decline of batting standards at domestic level and that there are spots up for grabs for any player who can buck the trend at Shield level.
"There's no doubt this has been happening for too long for the Australian cricket team, not just our Test team but probably domestically," Paine said.
"There's a lot of collapses throughout our batting group and I think a lot of it can be technical. For some guys it will be mental and other guys it will be tactical or your plans not being right for certain bowlers.
"There's no shying away from the fact we have a hell of a lot to do on our batting. And it's in this team and it's through the whole country.
"Clearly it would be a pretty exciting time to be a batsman around Shield cricket at the moment if you're scoring hundreds, there's no doubt about that.
"There's opportunity for everyone and the batting group that are here are also a part of that."
Round two of the Shield season begins on Thursday, live streamed on cricket.com.au and the CA Live app. There is a total of four more rounds before the first Test against India, starting on December 6.
Qantas T20 Tour of the UAE
Australia squad: Aaron Finch (c), Mitch Marsh (vc), Alex Carey (vc), Ashton Agar, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Chris Lynn, Nathan Lyon, Glenn Maxwell, Ben McDermott, D’Arcy Short, Peter Siddle, Billy Stanlake, Mitch Starc, Andrew Tye, Adam Zampa.
Pakistan squad: Sarfraz Ahmed (c), Fakhar Zaman, Mohammad Hafeez, Sahibzada Farhan, Babar Azam, Shoaib Malik, Asif Ali, Hussain Talat, Shadab Khan, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Usman Khan Shinwari, Hassan Ali, Imad Wasim, Waqas Maqsood, Faheem Ashraf
Oct 22: Only T20 v UAE, Abu Dhabi
Oct 24: First T20, Abu Dhabi
Oct 26: Second T20, Dubai
Oct 28: Third T20, Dubai
*All matches against Pakistan start at 8pm local time, 3am the following day AEDT