Flipping the coin

As I write this, the final test match against India has commenced in Sydney. Finch is out for Australia, unsurprisingly, and Mitch Marsh – no surprise there either. Labuschagne is in for his leg-spinning prowess, though he’s actually a batsman first, and mediocre at that. He’s batting at three. Handscombe is back as well. He made a big score in the BBL the other night and it looked like he might have changed his technique a tad, batting closer to the crease. He gets the gig because of his prowess batting against spin. Good luck to him, but better-credentialled batsmen are missing out.

Unfortunately, we lost the toss again. This is an under-reported stat. Tim Paine has won the toss just once since he became captain, and it just so happens that was the match we won. We’ve got a fair bit going against us regardless, but batting last generally means we’re behind the eight ball from the start.

I’m hoping that we can rip through India this morning, but I’m not confident. I’m with Shane Warne and believe some of our bowlers have underperformed.

Let’s start with Starc. On his day he’s an absolute matchwinner. There’s no more devastating bowler than him when on song. That’s pretty rare though, which is the biggest tick against him – a lack of consistency. He’s an undisciplined, often loose bowler. He reacts emotionally too often when he should stick to the plan. Counting against him is that I don’t think he’s the brightest spark going around. These traits are evident in his batting also, which is disappointing given the talent he has.

Then there’s Hazlewood, long touted as the next McGrath. He’s just about the opposite of Starc in temperament. He’s steady, reliable, intelligent. He’s also a bit of a soft cock at the batting crease and can be a bit vanilla with his bowling. I reckon he should be more vanilla. McGrath had the patience to bowl his way ball after ball and I think Hazlewood should do the same – aim for the top of off stump, and just outside. Too often he errs from that, particularly down the leg side – which is honey for Indian batsmen. I’m happy for him to bowl basically the same line every ball, vary the length a little, the pace of the ball and, of course, the direction – some coming in, some going way. Keep it simple and you’ll wear them out.

Then there’s Cummins. Not much can be said of him except he’s everything we want in an Australian cricketer – smart, tough, reliable, talented, and a matchwinner on his day. His effort never wavers, and his courage undisputed. Compare him to Starc and he’s all application and match sense. He does what needs to be done, and will sacrifice himself for the team. He’s good-looking and articulate, and a very decent bloke – no wonder he’s touted as a future Australian captain.

Likewise Lyon. I used to be hard on him. He lacked confidence and I used to think he bowled without courage. He’s a much smarter bowler these days and bowls a much more aggressive line than he did. Confidence makes all the difference. Not a lot of tricks, but can be a matchwinner.

As for this match? I came into it thinking if we bat first on a pitch that will deteriorate then we’d win. Unfortunately – and I hope I’m wrong – I think the best is more likely to be a draw. Must bat well.

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