Australian batting question marks difficult to ignore despite miracle escape in Christchurch: Trans-Tasman Trophy Talking Points


Australia has produced a stunning comeback in Christchurch to clinch the second Test against New Zealand and complete a clean sweep of the Trans-Tasman Trophy series.

Under immense pressure at 4-30 on Saturday in pursuit of 279 to win, wicketkeeper Alex Carey, all-rounder Mitch Marsh and Australian captain Pat Cummins produced superb performances with the bat to secure a three wicket victory.

Carey finished unbeaten on 98 runs, which is his highest score in the second innings of a Test. Although finishing narrowly shy of a century, it is the finest performance of his career with the bat.

He was ably supported by Marsh, who made a fine 80 after receiving a life early on Monday when on 28, and Cummins, who struck the winning runs to be unbeaten on 32.

“It was a great series, really, and I guess this game ebbed and flowed and (we had our) backs against a wall this morning,” Carey said.

“They came out last night and really put us under the pump, so it’s nice to obviously chase those runs down.”

Cummins acknowledged Australia did not produce a comprehensive performance but that his side’s experience proved a factor in a thrilling Test victory that could prove pivotal to the nation’s ability to defend the World Test Championship title next year at The Oval.

“I think the story of this series was (that) in key moments, one guy stood up,” he said.

“We didn’t necessarily play complete games but in those pivotal moments, someone stood up and made themselves a match winner. We keep finding ways to win. It’s a pretty awesome sport.”

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NZ v AUS: Test 2, Day 4 Highlights | 08:19

CAREY CAN SLEEP SOUNDLY THROUGH THE SABBATICAL

Under significant pressure after another soft dismissal in the opening innings in Christchurch, Carey responded in stunning fashion to guide Australia to victory in Christchurch in a Test that guarantees he will start with the gloves when India tours next summer.

In a match where he also equalled Adam Gilchrist’s record for the most catches by an Australian in a Test, the South Australian eased doubts about his credentials under pressure with a superb knock, with his partnerships with Mitch Marsh and Pat Cummins a feature.

Carey’s work behind the stumps has been superb through the summer and the 32-year-old showed semblances of form with the bat at home when making a half-century in the second innings against Pakistan at the MCG and another 50 at the Gabba against the West Indies.

But the good form of Josh Inglis, who replaced him midway through the ODI World Cup last year and recently made a Sheffield Shield century for Western Australia, increased the pressure on Carey, whose average had dipped below 30 in Test matches.

‘I had no idea he was on 98’ | 00:34

Fox Cricket analyst Brendon Julian declared his unbeaten 98 as the defining innings of a career in which his sole century came against South Africa at the MCG in 2022.

“This will be a magnificent innings from him, no matter what,” he said.

“He has not had the best summer, but hasn’t he brought it home beautifully. What an amazing performance. That is career defining for him.”

New Zealand cricket Frankie Mackay also praised the performance of Carey, who scored rapidly when making his 98 off just 123 balls.

“It was important for him to try and find some rhythm because leading into today … because there were little whispers around his spot in the side,” she said.

“There are a couple of talented young wicketkeepers coming through. Josh Inglis is one who gets talked about a lot, so he has come in with the weight of the world on his shoulders and there is a long time until they play Test match cricket again.

“You have a game to win and he comes out and puts on a performance like that, I just think it is fantastic and it is so good to watch.”

Australia’s Alex Carey. Photo by Sanka Vidanagama / AFPSource: AFP

BUT THERE IS MUCH FOR AUSTRALIA’S TOP ORDER TO CONSIDER

The great escape in Christchurch does not change the fact that Australia’s top order again struggled to impose itself in the manner that made them champions.

But there may be a solution that dates back to spending more time facing the red ball.

The AFL grand final will be held on September 28 this year and a week later the NRL winds up there season on October 6.

If common sense prevails, the first round of Sheffield Shield will be held on the weekend of the NRL decider in order to allow Australia’s cricketers as much time as possible playing long-form cricket ahead of the arrival of India next summer.

And the domestic competition should be a priority for every cricketer in contention to play in the five Test series beginning in late November given there will not be a short-form World Cup on the horizon for another couple of years.

Australian selectors were praised for deciding to send Cameron Green back to the Sheffield Shield at the end of summer in preference to T20 series against the West Indies and New Zealand.

The 24-year-old illustrated the importance of honing form in the longer version of the game when making a century for Western Australia against Tasmania last month prior to arriving in New Zealand for the Test series.

His stunning first inning knock of 174 not out in Wellington proved the difference in that Test and allowed Australia to secure the Trans Tasman Trophy.

Given the struggles of the nation’s top-order throughout the summer and, particularly, in the series against New Zealand, it is hoped a similar sentiment prevails ahead of India’s arrival.

It will take juggling given there are clashes with international T20 and ODI series. Australia is due to travel to England and Ireland for a combined eight ODI and four T20 fixtures in September, though it has been reported that the Irish leg of the tour is in doubt.

Australia is then scheduled to host Pakistan for three ODI and three T20 outings in November prior to the arrival of India, with the five Tests scheduled for December and January.

Based on the schedule for the 2023-2024 Sheffield Shield, it would be possible to host five rounds of the domestic competition prior to the opening Test against India.

That should be ample time for the incumbents to hone their eye and also give fringe contenders a chance to shine … if all of them play. It should be mandated.

‘Sure that’s bat?’ – Marsh gets lucky? | 01:43

WHAT DID THE REFERENDUM ON AUSTRALIA’S TOP-ORDER REVEAL?

Former England captain Michael Vaughan declared the Trans-Tasman Trophy series against New Zealand was effectively a referendum on Australia’s top-order shortly before the opening match in Wellington.

During a summer in which the champion bowling attack helped Australia win four of the five Tests against Pakistan and the West Indies, Vaughan said “cracks” were evident in the top order.

“I thought it was a poor summer for the Australian batters, so I think it is quite a big series for a few of the Australian batters to try and find a bit of form and rhythm,” he told foxsports.com.au

A couple of significant exceptions aside, it proved a testing Trans-Tasman Trophy series for almost every Australian in the top order and scarcely provided the confidence boost a few required.

The bowling attack kept Australia competitive in both Tests with the ball and those who starred with the bat were effectively all-rounders, while nightwatchman Nathan Lyon deserves praise for his shepherding job in back-to-back Tests.

Travis Head of Australia. Photo by Kai Schwoerer/Getty ImagesSource: Getty Images

The inconsistency continued a theme throughout the entirely of the summer. Almost every Australian batsman enjoyed a moment of joy at some stage, but they struggled for consistency and failed to find the “form and rhythm” Vaughan noted they were lacking.

Former Australian captain Tim Paine believes it is a significant concern and said “we would not beat England if they were playing well with a full-strength side”.

“We’re a better team than them (New Zealand) and it was the same against the West Indies, (but) there seems to be a bit of a pattern,” he said on SEN Radio.

“Not scoring enough runs … you can’t always believe what they’re telling you, but the leadership and coaching and captain and selectors say, ‘We have no concerns with our batters’. Well, I do now.”

“I think all of Australia does … there are more questions coming out of the last three or four Tests than answers, and we need to find some answers pretty quickly.”

Steve Smith made 51 runs for the series at an average of 12.75, with his propensity to fall LBW becoming an increasing concern. Fellow opener Usman Khawaja, 37, scored 88 runs at an average of 22 in New Zealand, which had been a happy hunting ground in the past.

The pair deserve credit for handling tricky conditions in the opening morning of the series in Wellington when lasting for much of the session and providing a platform for players including Green to build on. But neither will leave satisfied with their contribution.

Green was magnificent in Wellington and let all-comers for the series averages with 79.33, while Marsh and Carey were superb in the second innings in Christchurch.

Marnus Labuschagne also brought an end to a run of outs with a fine 90 in the first innings in Christchurch and will have appreciated the extended stint at the crease. He will hope he has turned the corner.

A big concern is Travis Head, who leaves New Zealand having scored just 69 runs at an average of 17.25 in the Trans-Tasman Trophy. It continues his struggle for form, with Head having passed 50 just once in his last 16 Test match innings.

Australia’s Mitchell Marsh. Photo by Sanka Vidanagama / AFPSource: AFP

TIME TO DUCK ACROSS THE TASMAN MORE OFTEN

It is time for Cricket Australia to treat the neighbours across the ditch with greater respect.

David Warner was booed by the Kiwi crowd in Auckland during the T20 series but said it was ridiculous that more than eight years had passed since Australia’s last Test series in New Zealand.

Nathan Lyon, who snared ten wickets in a superb performance in Wellington, called for a minimum of three Tests per series against New Zealand and more broadly leading into the Trans-Tasman Trophy.

Former New Zealand cricketer and coach Craig McMillan said the quality of the two Tests showed the Trans-Tasman rivalry was a winner and hopes the gap between visits from the “Big Brother” is far shorter the next time around.

Although Australia were dominant winners in Wellington, the challenges of playing in New Zealand were on full display in both Tests and the tension on Monday in Christchurch as the visitors closed on a target of 279 was evident in the broadcast box and also around the ground. It was compelling viewing and demonstrated again the excellence of Test cricket.

It also provided evidence that it is not just series between Australia, India and England that will draw crowds to Test matches, with the New Zealanders out in force on the south island.

The first four days of the Test at Basin Reserve in Wellington were sold out and the crowds in attendance at Hagley Oval over the past four days were also excellent.

There is a beauty in both venues which have an advantage that has been lost at the primary Test venues in Australia, with Adelaide Oval an exception.

How good was it to see a hill, green grass and some lefty trees at a Test match venue?

It made for a relaxed setting and both venues should be on the bucket list for fans yet to attend a match in Wellington or Christchurch.

RAVINDRA’S DROP EXTENDS THE DROUGHT

Catches win matches. Catches win matches. Catches win matches.

It is a cliche for a reason and one emerging New Zealand star Rachin Ravindra will be painfully aware of following Australia’s great escape in the second Test in Christchurch.

In the infancy of the morning’s play on the final day, Ravindra spilt a sharp chance at point when Mitch Marsh was on 28.

At the time, Fox Cricket analyst Brendon Julian posed the following query; “Will Mitch Marsh make them pay? That will be the big question.”

Rachin Ravindra of New Zealand. Photo by Kai Schwoerer/Getty ImagesSource: Getty Images

The disappointment on the faces of his teammates as a golden opportunity to end a drought against Australia on home soil dating back to 1993 provided the agonising answer.

Marsh went on to score 80, his highest score the second innings of a Test match, in what proved a critical contribution in the context of a thriller.

What a lesson it hopefully proves for Ravindra, who was far from the sole offender, either.

Craig McMillan said during the broadcast the dropped catch was not the sole reason New Zealand’s opportunity to end the drought went begging but that it came at a critical juncture in the match.

“That is one that Rachin Ravindra will probably have nightmares about, because he probably takes that 99 times out of 100,” McMillan said.

“There are other key moments in a Test but that one, you want early wickets, you want your bowlers to put Australia under pressure and that one, it was there for the taking. Again we let an opportunity slip and the rest is history.”

Glenn Phillips, who managed to a get a fingertip to a chance from Alex Carey when he was on 68, escapes blame because he would need to have been Superman to snare it.

But the Kiwis dropped nine chances across the Trans-Tasman Trophy Series. This follows a particularly shoddy performance in the T20 series which Australia also swept 3-0, as former Kiwi opening batsman Mark Richardson noted.

“It is one catch among lots of chances. You go back to the T20 series as well. New Zealand had their opportunities,” Richardson said.

“They dropped chances in Wellington and I think they have to look at that … because they pride themselves as a good fielding side. But psychologically, are we just a bit panicky? Is it not just a catch, but a catch that is off an Australian so that we are getting tight? There is definitely a hoodoo that New Zealand need to get over.”

Agony to ecstasy within two balls | 01:38

New Zealand skipper Tim Southee, whose hopes of a drought-breaking triumph in his 100th Test match were dashed, opted against attributing blame and said his side simply needed to be better for longer.

“No-one means to drop catches. It is part of the game, part of cricket, but when you are playing against the best side in the world, you have to be a bit better for a bit longer,” Southee said.

The loss aside, there is much for New Zealand to look forward to given the talent of Ravindra and also Ben Sears, who almost bowled the home side to victory on his debut.

After snaring the wicket of Steve Smith in his first over, he finished with four wickets in the second innings and at one stage was on a hat-trick as he threatened to snatch the Test away from Australia.

Matt Henry is not a young bowler but his form was outstanding and he was the deserving man of the series after snaring 17 wickets while also contributing 101 runs in the two Tests in Wellington and Christchurch.

Despite the result, McMillan said the loss in Christchurch will sting for a long time.

“I’m gutted with this result. They bowled well enough to win this Test match,” he said.

“They had to put on a brave face with us because, for one, we don’t see them here that often … and they did so many things well. But for them to get so close and not quite get over the line, that is going to hurt for some time.”

New Zealand’s Ben Sears. Photo by Sanka Vidanagama / AFPSource: AFP



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