Australia’s specialist batsmen are under strict orders to shape up in time for the second Investec Test at Lord’s.
The tourists fell narrowly short of a surprise victory in the Ashes opener yesterday at Trent Bridge, where the shortfall in runs at the top of the order twice had to be bailed out by non-specialists lower down.
That is a telling factor not lost on the tourists’ coach Darren Lehmann, who has left his batsmen in no doubt they must do better.
Test debutant number 11 Ashton Agar came to the rescue with a remarkable maiden contribution of 98 in the first innings and Australia collapsed to 117 for nine.
Second time round, after an improved collective in the first five, wicketkeeper-batsman Brad Haddin top-scored from number seven – and needed major assistance from those even further down the list to get so close to a ground-record Test chase.
Lehmann did not shy away from the obvious as he assessed his team’s successes and failures in Nottingham.
“Our tail has done really well over a period of time now, but it’s time for the batters to make sure they’re making the runs,” he said.
“I think we only batted for 64 overs in the first innings and 110 in the second. We’ve got to be reversing that about, batting for 120 overs plus in the first innings of a game and making our runs there.”
Principal among those who found his day job a struggle was Ed Cowan, who on his own home ground after a spell with Nottinghamshire was out first ball to put Steven Finn on a hat-trick and then fell to part-time off-spinner Joe Root at his second attempt.
“He’s had a tough game,” said Lehmann. “Like everyone, you’ve got to make runs and perform.
“We’ve told Ed how we want him to play and how we want him to bat … we picked him to do a role. He’ll be disappointed with the shots. So are we. We’re trying to learn and get better. I’m sure he’ll get better at that as well.”
Lehmann is nonetheless at pains to point out that the 14-run margin between the teams is indicative of their relative merit and Ashes prospects this summer.
He said: “I think they’re quite close – a lot closer than people give them credit for, both sides. So the key for us is to make sure we’re playing better.
“I still don’t think we performed to the level we want to perform at. If we do that then we’ll be good enough.
“We’ve certainly got to bat better as a top order. We’re going to bowl very well, and we know we can control their batters. It’s just a case of making more runs. I just thought we missed a chance probably in the first innings with our top order.
“I know conditions were tough, but we had to get through that … They’re the areas we can improve on.”
The Trent Bridge surface was notable for an untypical dryness from the outset, and Lehmann is unsurprisingly alive to the possibility of more of the same in the four Tests to come.
To that end, there is a chance the tourists may yet field two specialist spinners at some stage – perhaps in the second Test.
“You just pick the best way to get 20 wickets. That’s the key,” said Lehmann. “We know we’ve got to get 20 to win the Test match. We did it here, and just missed out.
“We’ve got to back it up again and do it at Lord’s. If we think two spinners is the right way to go, we’ll do that.”
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