Cricket: Batsmen's blunders pile pressure on Aussie bowlers

By Ben Horne

England's Joe Root celebrates reaching 150. Photo / AP
England's Joe Root celebrates reaching 150. Photo / AP

Australia's batting has plummeted to such depths that room for error in the field this Ashes series has become non-existent. The bowling attack, aware of the constantly brittle batting, is under pressure to be perfect in every innings.

That was the case on day three of the second test at Lord's, when England went to stumps at 5-333, a mammoth lead of 566, with more batting likely before a declaration.

The bowlers needed to roll England for under 100 after they resumed at 3-31. But Joe Root's brilliant 178 not out provided a demoralising lesson in how to bat long periods and virtually stopped Australia's Ashes campaign in its tracks.

Root would have been caught behind early in his innings if not for a botched piece of wicket-keeping from Brad Haddin, and Ian Bell (74) should also have been dismissed cheaply - caught by Steve Smith - but the third umpire wrongly ruled the ball didn't carry.

Dropped catches and bad umpiring shouldn't happen, but always will.

However, inept batting means such setbacks are far more costly for Australia, whereas England have put down sitters this series and are on the verge of going up 2-0 in the series.

Fast bowling leader Peter Siddle refused to blame the batsmen and emphasised the need to maintain a team outlook.

"We know what our job is, we know what our plan is, and we've just got to go out there and execute," he said. "At times we're doing that. We can't put any blame on the batters, it's a team game."

But expectations have become far higher on the quicks and spinners than on their batting counterparts. Future stars James Pattinson and Ashton Agar could be dropped for the third test after less than impressive performances at Lord's.

Yet Australia can do little more than shuffle the deckchairs when it comes to their floundering top order.

Proven veteran Siddle was under pressure at the start of the series - his tour game form wasn't matching his reputation and a fit squad of tearaways was knocking at the door.

Selectors would love to have a similar conundrum when picking batsmen.

David Warner is set to return for the third test, despite scoring 6 and 11 for Australia A, but there's no quick fix.

In last summer's Sheffield Shield there were just six batsmen who managed more than one century, and the now-retired Ricky Ponting was the only man to make more than 800 runs for the season.

Coach Darren Lehmann accused his men of batting with a "one-day" mindset during their farcical 128-run collapse on day two, and said problems with shot selection seep down through all levels of cricket.

"Batting time is hard work and you see the England players have had a lot of hundreds in their top five," he said.

"It's going to take time for the players to trust and believe they belong at this level. They certainly have all the attributes ... it's the execution and the match awareness.

"All state coaches would be saying the same thing about how to play long innings because in state cricket we don't have too many of those either."


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