It's time to shuffle the deck

Updated: 2013-08-15 08:02

By Mark Ray (China Daily)

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The most dispiriting thing to come out of Australia's capitulation in the fourth Test was not the final day batting collapse.

It also wasn't the news that if Australia doesn't win the fifth Test at the Oval next week it will drop to fifth in the Test rankings and be the first Australian team not to win a Test in an Ashes series for 36 years.

Captain Michael Clarke said after the Test in Durham that the selectors didn't have many options and the best players were there in England.

Sadly, he's right. There are no other batsmen making regular big scores in state cricket.

Australian coach Darren Lehmann took an even tougher stance than Clarke.

When asked whether our 'Watto' - the underwhelming all-rounder, Shane Watson - would be considered for the Oval as a batsman if he isn't fit to bowl, Lehmann said: "No one's guaranteed, apart from Michael Clarke and Chris Rogers, I would think."

Rogers? He turns 36 at the end of the month and has just played his fifth Test. He played his first five years ago. Since then, Phil Jaques, Watson, Phil Hughes and Ed Cowan were tried ahead of him.

It's time to shuffle the deck

Word was Rogers "didn't fit in" to the Ricky Ponting team culture. Now Lehmann is praising Rogers as "probably the find of the tour for us, the way he has gone about it, and his demeanor off the field and what he brings to the playing group as an experienced player."

Two other experienced players - Watson and Brad Haddin - were chosen to provide calm heads in tough situations. Both have failed to do this often enough. On the final day at Durham, they did not deliver the goods.

The same can be said of Clarke. He should have batted at No 3 at Durham and led the way for the young players. Clarke is tactically good on the field but in other respects he has often gone missing as a leader in this series.

Still, Australia got within 15 runs of an upset win in the first Test, was probably robbed of victory by rain in the third and had the fourth well within reach.

England is definitely the better team, but superior teams don't always win.

A few changes won't hurt Australia. It's time the injury-prone Watson was rested - for a long time. He's 32, has played 46 Tests - six fewer than Bradman - and no one knows whether he's an opening batsman or a No 4 who bowls a bit or a genuine all-rounder. He doesn't know either. None of us will ever know. Australia will miss his handy bowling, but he's not another Keith Miller.

Brad Haddin has kept well, but when he bats he has no defense and too often cracks under pressure. He's 35 and should have an early shower, too.

The bowlers will retain their places. The young batsmen will know patience is running out.

Mark can be contacted at

(China Daily 08/15/2013 page22)