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“The sting in the attack was missing and India had the batting to grind them down. Everything from planning to execution to on-field tactics left one gaping as Australian fielders tanned more than they would have on a day at the beach”

“I think the bowlers wanted one thing, Tim wanted one thing,”

Australia bowling coach, David Saker, was quoted as telling ‘ABC Grandstand’ after one of the most horrendous days on the field for Australia. If day one was catastrophic for the Aussies, day 2 was a fiasco on ball-tampering-day levels. In 77.2 overs, India added 319 more runs to their overnight score of 303 for 4 while losing just three wickets.

The visitors scored at a rate of 4.13 per over, never really bothered by the pace attack hailed by Aussie commentators as among the ‘best in the world’ although they have barely lived up to that reputation. The icing on the cake, at least for India, was a 204 run stand between Ravindra Jadeja and Rishabh Pant stitched together in 224 balls, a rate of 5.48.

Read also: The Australian quick bowlers have erred in length throughout the series

Australia were deplorable. The same bowling attack that had been indomitable at Perth and to an extent, Adelaide, appeared impotent to the point of Indian batsmen getting bored. When Lyon quipped ‘Aren’t you bored yet’ to Cheteshwar Pujara on day one after his hundred, he wasn’t expecting the entire Indian line-up to get bored.

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The bowling was pedestrian, ‘canteen staff’ level. And India thrived. But what went wrong for Australia? Saker believed it was poor execution and explained that he and Langer had put across strong words to the bowlers after day one. “Last night we talked quite heavily about the day, more because we thought it was a really disappointing day and we just wanted to get our point across. Some of it was quite aggressive and that’s not like me usually. I was quite animated, and I know I was not the only one. JL (Langer) wasn’t happy. The bowlers know that,” he said.

Whatever transpired in the dressing room, the trio of seamers and Nathan Lyon came out and delivered even worse performances on day 2. Tim Paine brushed aside Saker’s remarks in between his hilarious phone-answering-antics, but Australia have problems that are so blatant that an irregular cricket viewer could point out.

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“We always have discussion post game but in terms of being on a different page, no. I think we are pretty clear on what we’re trying to do. Yesterday afternoon – and to be fair probably the first hour in the morning then the first hour after lunch we got it slightly wrong,” said Paine at the conference.

But the matter is Australia were grossly off the mark whole series. As Shane Warne pointed out in a tweet, they were just not hitting the stumps enough.

Hazlewood was back of a length, Cummins tried to bounce out Pujara, Pant and Jadeja and Starc, when not bouncing batsmen, was bowling full but very wide. None of the quicks aimed to hit the stumps often enough while Nathan Lyon seemed to have gone into a shell after Mayank Agarwal’s scything attack on him at MCG.

CricViz stats backed up Warne’s observations while giving more insight into what went awry for the hosts with the ball. On day 2, before the Pant – Jadeja onslaught, Australia have runs at just 2.18 but bowled full just 13% of the time.

Combine that with the fact that they weren’t hitting the stumps often enough and you know where they erred.

Even as Michael Clarke and Shane Warne constantly kept backing the Aussie attack to bounce back, it never really materialised. Instead, Paine was stuck on his leg-side trap that worked in the second innings at MCG, the seamers were obsessed with short balls and Lyon was aiming for a rough that had hardly begun to take shape.

It was the eleventh time that Australia were fielding for more than 100 overs in an innings since January 2018 and contrary to what Saker and Paine suggested, there is a clear lack of execution skills evident in this stat.

Starc’s average pace is 147.5kmph this series but at Sydney, he went 26 overs without a dot ball. Cummins kept losing pace as balls changed more than once. Hazlewood was used as a new-ball-only weapon while Lyon seemed tame and listless. Everything from Labuschagne’s full tosses to Travis Head’s innocuous off-breaks to Usman Khawaja’s second over in his Test career was tried. The exercise was futile.

The sting in the attack was missing and India had the batting to grind them down. Everything from planning to execution to on-field tactics left one gaping as Australian fielders tanned more than they would have on a day at the beach.

In the end, it comes down to what Paine pointed out. “It is what it is. We just have to play better than what we have.”

A lot better, perhaps.

 

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