Australia's opening woes continue
The proceedings of a game of cricket – irrespective of the format – depend much on the start the team gets from the openers and that usually sets tone of the rest of the innings. Over the years, we have had opening pairs like Tendulkar-Ganguly, Tendulkar-Sehwag for India who have given the team great starts time and again. We have seen one of the greatest – if not the greatest – pairs that have dominated bowling attacks all around the world in Tests and ODIs for Australia in Hayden-Langer and Hayden-Gilchrist respectively. While Hayden and Gilchrist have averaged 48.39 in ODIs, Hayden and Langer have averaged 51.88 in Tests, which is an indication of their contributions at the top.
Since the exit of Hayden and Langer, Australia haven’t really been able to establish a settled opening pair in the Test team. Between 2001 and 2009, the Australian openers averaged a staggering 51.43 in 386 Tests, with 58 centuries being scored by batsmen during that period. In the last two and a half years however, since July 2010, there has been an alarming drop in the average to 34 in 88 innings. The rate of innings per century, which earlier was 6.6, shot up almost three times to 17.6! Although Australia’s openers have not contributed significantly to the team’s runs, the players together have put up a decent show; together, every partnership has averaged 38.56.
The openers over the last two and a half years have recorded only 2 hundred-run partnerships and 13 partnerships of 50-plus stands. In terms of conversion rate of fifties to hundreds, Shane Watson has been a disappointment; he has scored only 1 hundred in 27 innings – that too, two years ago. It will also be interesting to know that no opener that has played for Australia since, has an average of over 40, which is quite a worry.
Australian openers in Tests since July 2010
Since 2010, Australians haven’t had much to cheer about at the top. As good a start that Watson gets off to, he has never really gone on to score big which is a major disappointment, given the potential he has. Warner has hardly proven his mettle as an opener; still has a long way to go, but has made a decent start. Cowan’s century the other day at the Gabba was perhaps precisely what he needed to prove to himself and the others that Test cricket is where he belongs. Ed Cowan’s century however, had more implications than just proving himself; it meant that Phil Hughes was out of the reckoning for the time being. Hughes’ technical flaws were exposed when he played New Zealand and was caught out at slip all four times in the 2-match series; he has not been able to make a comeback into the team.
With Watson’s return from injury, there might be a change in the opening pair again. Warner-Watson or Warner-Cowan or Cowan-Watson could be the pairs, depending on whether Warner makes way of Watson. This summer could be the chance for them to experiment with the top order if they need a steady duo leading into the Ashes next year.