For the first time in a long time, we can look at the Australian batting order with confidence. Not just any confidence because we have a couple of decent players, but confidence that a united team will deliver a game winning innings more often than not. Since Michael Clarke took over the captaincy job, too often has the fortunes of the team rested solely on his batting performance. Fortunately for the Aussie team, he has had a remarkable time of it, averaging over 60 since taking the reins. But now, after reclaiming the Ashes in such convincing fashion, it has been the other players stepping up, combining to set England a world record three consecutive targets of over 500 runs.
Many of these players, actually all of the remaining six selected for batting have had their inclusions questioned multiple times by the public and media. So let’s take a look as to why these six are selected, and why keeping this line up will only take us to the next level
A lot has been made of the pressure on Rogers heading into the Boxing Day test, but quite frankly, he’s been playing his role to perfection. While Davy Warner is plotting along at a nice strike rate of around 80, Rogers plays the typical openers role in setting a solid foundation for the innings. Taking a look at his form, he is actually playing some great cricket. His average of 26 for the series doesn’t do justice to the way he’s hitting the ball, and his two scores over 50 were both great exhibitions of how test match openers should play. If you drop him for Hughes which a lot of people are suggesting, then where is the rock solid composure in the top 3? Not there. Keep him in
People still don’t like him, even though he is probably the batsman of the series. As soon as he has a test match where he doesn’t perform everyone will be on him again, saying his aggression is not what’s needed at the top of the order, but this exactly what strikes fear into opposition bowling attacks. Any loose ball is punished, no matter how early in the innings. He has added the defence of a world class opener to his already impressive game, and will look to improve further by eliminating those couple of brain fades he has had on his way to 100. Hard to complain though, he’s in the form of his career, and this openers spot will be his for a long time
Probably the most heavily scrutinised of all the Australian cricketers and for good reason. When things aren’t going our way, his attitude to the game and amongst the team are always up in the air. But now with a winning team, pressure is off, and he can play with the freedom he so desperately needs. I still worry about his position at number 3, but he’s filling the shoes of Ricky Ponting, which just can’t be done. His epic century at the WACA showed just how ruthless he can be, and with the support of the rest of his team and coaching panel, he can cement this first drop position in the coming tests.
Set up the match for the Aussies in Perth, and is an absolute joy to watch when he gets going. He has started to establish himself as a test match batsman with a much more solid defence, and much like David Warner, has not sacrificed his aggressive style to take his game to the next level. Prior to this series, I would have suggested the number 6 was his perfect position, but I can now see the value of him at 5. His ability to adapt to the situation is exactly what is needed in the lower middle order, and with this new ability to construct an innings of composure, 3/150 or worse might not be such a frightening situation to be in.
There hasn’t really been an innings we can judge George Bailey on yet. He hasn’t shown any significant deficiencies, and hasn’t really taken the number 6 position by storm yet. His world record tying 28 off an over was just what the Aussies needed to set up the match, so what more can we expect really? Over the next couple of years I would like to see Bailey have the sort of impact Andrew Symonds had at test level. An average of 40, with 10 fifty’s and 2 hundreds in 25 or so tests. I think that would be a great benchmark for Bailey to aim for, and would definitely serve the team well with the ability to go into one-day mode at the flick of a switch
Probably the surprise packet of the batting lineup, and would have to be considered the MVP for the Aussies at this point. His batting has been just brilliant with four scores over 50, including a game changing 94 at the ‘Gabba. I’m glad he got another chance at Test cricket, given unfortunate family circumstances took him out of the game for a year, but his return has been remarkable. His keeping is absolute world class, with some epic catches from both the fast bowlers and Nathan Lyon. The difference between how Haddin is going compared to Matt Prior is a brilliant look at how these Ashes are playing out.
The improvement in this Aussie team is only going to gain further traction with more wins. A winning team will place less pressures on each player to perform, and with the support of the Cricket Australia hierarchy each individual can work through any upcoming form slumps. The tour of South Africa in February will give us a great indication of how far we’ve come, and how far we have to go to reclaim our rightful spot at the top of world cricket. This team is well on its way towards that winning culture we had going for a good 20 years there, and a win in South Africa will no doubt cement that winning feeling once again.