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Hick concerned despite Dubai heroics

Australia's batting coach is worried about a recent shift in first-class cricket

Australia's extraordinary effort to save the first Test against Pakistan may only be papering over cracks in the production line of first-class batsmen, with batting coach Graeme Hick suggesting opportunities at that level are going to waste through over-aggression.

Hick praised not only Usman Khawaja for his herculean 12-hour batting effort across the course of the drawn series-opener in Dubai, but also debutant Travis Head for his crucial 175-ball 72 after a first-innings duck in Australia's earlier collapse of 10-60.

Having played 526 first-class games and scored more first-class runs and hundreds than any other batter who's played this century, Hick's suggestion that Australia's effort was as good as he'd ever seen carries some weight.

"I doubt there's been a better one in terms of the conditions, the length (of time) we were able to stick out there," said Hick.

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But the 52-year-old, who played the last of his 65 Tests for England in 2001 before finishing his first-class career seven years later, says the modern batsman's attacking bent has contributed to the multitude of collapses Australia have suffered in recent years. 

"There's a definitely been a big shift in the way batters are going about their first-class cricket now," Hick told reporters in Dubai head of the squad's departure for Tuesday's second Test in Abu Dhabi.

"That is one big difference (to previous eras) – if you're averaging 35 rather than 45, you're spending a lot less time out in the middle. We all know that the best place to learn is out in the middle. 

"At state level, at club level, wherever you play, the best place to learn is out in the middle so don't waste those opportunities. 

"As you come up to Test cricket, having to bat for four, five and six hours, it takes a hell of a lot. If you don't learn to do that in the earlier systems and the earlier cricket you're playing, don't expect to do it when you suddenly pitch up in Test cricket. 

"If you're playing (Sheffield) Shield cricket and you have opportunities to bat all day … your innings ebbs and flows throughout the day. If you don’t do that there, and try to do it in Test cricket for the first time under that pressure and in that environment that ‘Uzzie’ (Khawaja) did, it's just not going to happen. 

"Maybe those opportunities are wasted at times with the way players are playing – a far more attacking or aggressive game these days (as opposed to) 15 or 20 years ago, or even 10 years ago."

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Australia have suffered a collapse of 7-50 or worse in 11 of their last 24 Tests, with the batting flops ranging from 8-32 against South Africa in Hobart in 2016 to losing all 10 wickets for 50 in Cape Town earlier this year.

Hick has seen the majority of those unfold after his appointment to the national side's support staff in September 2016, while he previously worked with the country's leading young batsmen at the Bupa National Cricket Centre from 2013.

While the Test side have had successes during his stint, an Ashes series win and a victory in India among them, he's also seen Australia cycle through 17 different top- and middle-order batsmen (not including wicketkeepers) in 22 Tests.

There is optimism some stability has been found after the promising debuts of Head and opener Aaron Finch, while Marnus Labuschagne (0 and 13) has been backed heavily by coach Justin Langer having also snagged two wickets and a run-out to keep Australia in the match.

Hick praised Head's composure in his second-innings knock, an innings he says was all the more impressive given Australia had lost 3-0 when he arrived at the crease on day four.

"Coming to the subcontinent, starting your innings is often the hardest part," Hick explained.

"I'm not saying we've only had collapses in the subcontinent, they’ve happened the last 20-odd Test matches, it's been pretty raft. 

"That made 'Heady' coming in the situation he did and getting through that and making sure we didn't have that collapse again - it was a great effort on his part.

"The fact he had a duck in the first innings and was on debut, to play as he did in the second innings was amazing. It was a test of character on his part. 

"It's getting through that first part, staying calm, not feeling the pressure. There's a lot of things that go into collapses, sometimes you can't explain (the reason behind it) and other times it's good bowling. 

"The more you're comfortable in this environment and you trust your game, you get used to deal with it. Some players deal with it better than others." 

Qantas Tour of the UAE

Australia Test squad: Tim Paine (c), Ashton Agar, Brendan Doggett, Aaron Finch, Travis Head, Jon Holland, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Mitch Marsh, Shaun Marsh, Michael Neser, Matthew Renshaw, Peter Siddle, Mitchell Starc

Pakistan Test squad: Sarfraz Ahmed (c), Azhar Ali, Fakhar Zaman, Imam-ul-Haq, Babar Azam, Asad Shafiq, Haris Sohail, Usman Salahuddin, Yasir Shah, Shadab Khan, Bilal Asif, Mohammad Abbas, Hasan Ali, Wahab Riaz, Faheem Ashraf, Mir Hamza, Mohammad Rizwan, Mohammad Hafeez

Oct 7-11: First Test, drawn

Oct 16-20: Second Test, Abu Dhabi