Haddin's project gets Aussie tail wagging on day one
Steve Smith's day one century was one for the ages, but he couldn't have done it without the support of Peter Siddle and Nathan Lyon
Sam Ferris in Birmingham
2 August 2019, 05:39 AM AEST
In planning for the Ashes, Australia coach Justin Langer knew lower-order runs would be so crucial he assigned assistant coach Brad Haddin the special project of getting the most out of the tail-end batters.
And after the first day of the series both Langer and Haddin would be thrilled at what they saw from Australia's No.10 and 11, Peter Siddle and Nathan Lyon.
Together with the utterly brilliant Steve Smith, who scored 144, one of his finest centuries in his return to Test cricket, the final two wickets added 162, with Siddle contributing 41 and Lyon 12 not out.
Those contributions lifted Australia to 284, a total which looked a mile away from 8-122 when Siddle joined Smith at the crease in the end of the 44th over.
But through smart, patient batting, Smith and Siddle added 88 for the ninth wicket, and when the Victorian left, Smith and Lyon put on a further 74 in just 80 balls to carry the momentum off the field with them late on day one.
After play, Smith praised the efforts of Siddle and Lyon and the work the tailenders have put in with Haddin in England.
"Sometimes you need your tail to dig in with you," Smith said. "Everyone gets to bat, so you might as well try and improve it, and to their credit the bottom four and the bowlers that are on the bench have worked incredibly hard the last couple of weeks to try and find a game plan that works in England.
"Try and get their defence in order and playing the ball really late and all those kinds of things.
"It's been a big focus, because tail runs can change the course of a game, as we sort of saw today."
In the lead up to the first Test, Haddin held two specialist batting sessions with the bowling group, both indoors due to wet weather in Southampton before the intra-squad game and in Birmingham on Sunday.
Those extra nets sessions have paid off in spades already, with Siddle and Lyon displaying the refined approach Haddin has instilled in the tail.
"It's just been about giving them clarity around their role and what the (opposition) bowlers are trying to do to them and simplify their game plan," Haddin said on this week's episode of the Unplayable Podcast.
"We've got some really talented lower-order batters there but for me it's just making sure they understand their strengths and weaknesses and a little bit about what the opposition are trying to do with them.
"There's a lot of stats around whether you face 20 balls or 30 balls and your percentage to win. I like to take it back to partnerships.
"If you're not thinking too much about your individual score and you've got a clear game plan on what's going to happen it's easier to work together in a pair rather than leave yourself isolated.
"You know when the tail comes in fast bowlers grow an extra leg, so it's just making sure they've got real clarity around what their role is and what's coming at them."
The partnership between Siddle and Smith changed the course of the day and Smith had a simple message for his seasoned teammate.
"I was just telling him to watch the ball and to keep watching it really hard and play his natural game," Smith said.
"When they over-pitched he drove a few balls really nicely, when they bowled short he was getting underneath it the majority of the time.
"He had a really good, strong defence which is what you need on a wicket which is doing a bit.
"His defence was magnificent. He was willing to get beaten every now and again and just play the line of the ball. He did that beautifully."
And while Siddle's feats with the bat were impressive, Smith is looking forward to seeing what the 65-Test veteran can do on the Edgbaston pitch.
"It’s great to see 'Sidds' back," he said. "He’s very experienced, he’s played a lot of cricket over here and he’s a bowler that is similar to (England seamer Chris) Woakes who hits the stumps a lot, maybe a little bit shorter and is able to hit the stumps from a shorter length.
"It’s going to be crucial on this wicket and I think it’s a wicket that will really suit him."
2019 Qantas Ashes Tour of England
Australia squad: Tim Paine (c), Cameron Bancroft, Pat Cummins, Marcus Harris, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Marsh, Michael Neser, James Pattinson, Peter Siddle, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, Matthew Wade, David Warner.
England squad: Joe Root (c), Moeen Ali, Jimmy Anderson, Jofra Archer, Jonny Bairstow, Stuart Broad, Rory Burns, Jos Buttler, Sam Curran, Joe Denly, Jason Roy, Ben Stokes (vc), Olly Stone, Chris Woakes.
Tour match: Australians v Worcestershire, August 7-9
Second Test: August 14-18,Lord's
Third Test: August 22-26, Headingley
Tour match: Australians v Derbyshire, August 29-31
Fourth Test: September 4-8, Old Trafford
Fifth Test: September 12-16, The Oval