Perform or perish, Langer warns Aussie batters
Australia's coach Justin Langer issues a blunt warning to under-performing batters while also stresing need for patience with Test newcomers
Sam Ferris in London
10 September 2019, 05:25 PM AEST
While it might be hard to change a winning team, Australia coach Justin Langer says his side's batters must perform to keep their place despite retaining the Ashes in Manchester.
But Langer has called for patience with an inexperienced crop of batters who are still finding their way at international level.
Australia head to The Oval for the fifth Test having secured the Ashes urn despite only two batters averaging more than 28 – Steve Smith with 134.2 and Marnus Labuschagne with 58.2.
The rest of Australia's specialist batters have found the going tougher, particularly the left-handers facing England's right-arm bowlers from round the wicket.
Travis Head (average 27.28), Matthew Wade (25.12), Usman Khawaja (20.33), Marcus Harris (11.5), Cameron Bancroft (11) and veteran David Warner (9.87) have struggled in a series that has been dominated by two world class bowling attacks.
The saving grace for Australia has been Smith, who has scored 671 runs in his return to Test cricket, the fifth most by an Australian in an Ashes series on UK soil.
Since the last Ashes in the England in 2015, Smith has carried the batting group, scoring 15 of Australia's 53 Test centuries, with Warner contributing nine hundreds.
But even Smith battled in his formative years as a Test cricketer and now Langer wants the same faith installed in his young troop as it was with the current No.1 Test batter in the world.
"He (Smith) has done a lot for Australian cricket for the last few years actually, and so has Dave Warner," Langer said in the wake of Australia's win in Manchester.
"But we've also got to remember, Travis Head is new to Test cricket, Marnus (Labuschagne) is new to Test cricket, Marcus Harris is new to Test cricket, Cameron Bancroft is new to Test cricket.
"You can't just give them that experience, they've got to earn that and we're very thankful to have Steve batting (like he is).
"We're lucky to have him but Test cricket takes time. We've got to respect that, it takes a lot of time.
"Davey hasn't had a great series but imagine how good the team will be when he starts having a great series and we're hopeful he'll do that in the next Test match.
"The other guys are learning as they go and that's all part of the experience."
But Langer says the faith will only go so far.
The National Selection Panel has made it clear they are willing to make bold choices if it means giving Australia the best chance of winning.
The NSP dropped Bancroft after only two Tests this series and then made the huge call of omitting senior batter Khawaja for the fourth Test to make room for Smith.
Khawaja, in the past four years since the last away Ashes tour, averages 44.82 with eight hundreds, a record that is only fractionally beaten by Warner (average of 45.04 with nine centuries).
But in six Tests in England, Khawaja has averaged just 19.66, which was not enough to keep him in the side for the Manchester clash.
It is why Australia's batters must keep producing even if they have contributed in retaining the Ashes.
"As Australian Test cricketers, you've still got to perform but … whether it makes a difference that we won the Ashes or not, time will tell," Langer said.
"You've still got to perform whether you're young or a veteran but we also have to recognise they are young batsmen and it's a really tough school and hopefully they'll come through at some point."
While Australia's batting unit appears set to remain unchanged, the fast bowling attack could be reshuffled for a fifth straight Test.
Pat Cummins has played the entire series and Josh Hazlewood the last three, but the pair have been the pick of the bowlers this series with 24 and 18 wickets each, respectively.
The NSP has interchanged Australia's quicks to meet the demands of the playing conditions and workload management, and that philosophy will not change for the last Test of the tour.
Fortunately for Langer and the selectors, the visitors have three fresh fast bowlers waiting on the sidelines in James Pattinson, Peter Siddle and uncapped Queenslander Michael Neser.
Should Cummins and/or Hazlewood need a rest, the NSP can be assured they have quality replacements in reserve.
"I know we've got James Pattinson literally jumping out of his skin to play the next Test," Langer said.
"Peter Siddle, his first two Tests, he was probably the standout bowler actually – a great professional and a ripping person to have in the team.
"So they're all jumping out of their skin.
"It'll be fascinating to see how they (Cummins and Hazlewood) pull up.
"I know a lot goes into winning a Test match like that so we'll see how they pull up.
"Whatever happens we're lucky to have a couple of other guys who are raring to go if we need them."
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.
First Test: Australia won by 251 runs at Edgbaston
Second Test: Match drawn at Lord's
Third Test: England won by one wicket at Headingley
Fourth Test: Australia won by 185 runs at Old Trafford
Fifth Test: September 12-16, The Oval