Australia may still be licking their wounds from their mauling at the hands of England in the second Ashes Test at Lord’s, but they will get little sympathy from former captain Allan Border who has described their batting performance as "embarrassing" in his column on the Cricket Australia website.
Michael Clarke’s Australia came within 15 runs of victory in the first Test at Trent Bridge, which raised hope of a tight five-Test battle, but they were comprehensively outpointed at the home of cricket. While Australia’s bowlers have shown flashes of quality, their batting has not come up to scratch in their first four innings of the series.
Shane Watson, who was described as a "cancer" on the dressing room in a report on Channel 7’s website in the fallout from Mickey Arthur’s sacking as coach, was given the full backing of Darren Lehmann—the man who replaced Arthur—to open the batting. But he has made scores of only 13, 46, 30 and 20—with three of his dismissals being leg before wicket.
His opening partner Chris Rogers twice failed at Lord’s, Ed Cowan was jettisoned in favour of Usman Khawaja after his Trent Bridge disappointments, Philip Hughes looked extremely nervous at the crease at Lord’s and skipper Clarke has passed 50 only once in his four knocks.
Australia’s highest individual contribution to date came when Ashton Agar made 98 as No. 11 in the opening Test at Trent Bridge. The failings of Australia’s top six is a huge concern to Border.
"Our major concern right now is the performance of the top six. I could honestly say the nine, 10 and jack looked more competent than our one, two and three," Border wrote for Cricket Australia. "If that was me in the top three I'd be embarrassed.”
If Australia are to wrestle the Ashes from England’s grasp, they will become only the second side in history to have done so from 2-0 down. Lehmann has insisted he has no intention of hitting the panic button and recalling the likes of Simon Katich, who last played Test cricket in December 2010.
Border has pleaded for consistency, as he continued: “We need to settle on our best 11 and stay with it. I'm a believer in the pick and stick method, so we need to find our best 11 suited to the conditions and stick with it."
England are riding high while Australia have been roundly criticized by their own media—a headline in the Age described their defeat at Lord’s as "a national embarrassment."
"Go for the kill" is the lead headline in the Sun and the feeling in England is that the Ashes is already signed and sealed.
Writing in his column in the Independent, Stephen Brenkley suggested not even the intervention of legends Shane Warne and Don Bradman would be enough to dig Australia out of the hole they find themselves in.
“For the tourists it was a devastating blow to any chance they had of regaining the Ashes. That is still theoretically possible with three matches still to play but it is a purely academic supposition. To become reality it would need something from the realms of fantasy, say Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne to be rejuvenated and Don Bradman to be reincarnated.”
Australia have a little over a week to steady the ship with the third Test at Old Trafford due to begin on August 1st. A draw will be enough for England to retain the Ashes.