Australian Crcket team to face India,

 
  freightgate Minister for Railways

Location: Albury, New South Wales
Australia is competitive with the cheats and the series becomes more interesting.

I would be happy if warner never came back.

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  Valvegear Oliver Bullied, CME

Location: Norda Fittazroy
We've kept the same side for Perth, so here's a batting order which should work better than Adelaide's did.

Khawaja
Harris
Marsh
Head
Finch
Handscomb
Paine
Starc
Cummins
Lyon
Hazelwood
  justapassenger Minister for Railways

Swap Lyon and Finch and you'd be on.
  Valvegear Oliver Bullied, CME

Location: Norda Fittazroy
After an opening partnership of 100, Khawaja has come in and is poking about for 1 run off 19 balls as I write. There could not be a better time to come in at number three. Think of previous occupants of the number 3 spot: Harvey, Chappelli, Boon, Ponting - all came in knowing their job was to capitalise on the openers' good start. Khawaja's innings is assuming the proportions of a millstone around the Australian neck. He is making no attempt to score. Good players will, at least, push quick singles, but not him. He's handing the initiative back to India.
Update: 2 off 25 deliveries. Omigawd.
  Carnot Minister for Railways

Day 5 of the 2nd Test and it's not looking good for India.  6/134 and they still require another 155 runs.

Edit: Now 7/137.
  michaelgm Chief Commissioner

1 all. What a great series so far.
Bring on Boxing Day.
  x31 Chief Commissioner

Location: gallifrey
Becoming an exciting series when many thought Australia was doomed we now have the series in play going to Melbourne which should be a cracker of a test!

Well done Markus Harris and Tim Paine and the rest of the team.  I would like to see Harris become more permanent.
  Carnot Minister for Railways

I reckon it's a vindication of Justin Langer's coaching too.  Especially after the year from hell for the Aussies.
  justapassenger Minister for Railways

Well done to the Perth Stadium team too. They produced a great pitch which had plenty in it for the bowlers but still managed to take the match through to the fifth day.

Only change that should be made for the next match is to drop Handscomb, shift Finch down the order to play with a bit more freedom and bring in Renshaw at the top of the order.

Tim Paine deserves to be praised for his conduct on the field when Virat Kohli blew up at him yesterday. He found the perfect balance of neither taking a step backwards step or letting himself get dragged down to Kohl's level.

It's high time that Cricket Australia abandoned a long-standing policy and decided to back their players for once, by laying a disciplinary charge against Kohli. Australian players are held to higher standards than others, but it's our home series and our right to demand the same high standards from the tourists. He should also be warned that any future incidence of physical contact between him and an Australian player will result in security personnel removing him from the venue and refusing re-entry.
  Valvegear Oliver Bullied, CME

Location: Norda Fittazroy
It's high time that Cricket Australia abandoned a long-standing policy and decided to back their players for once, by laying a disciplinary charge against Kohli. Australian players are held to higher standards than others, but it's our home series and our right to demand the same high standards from the tourists. He should also be warned that any future incidence of physical contact between him and an Australian player will result in security personnel removing him from the venue and refusing re-entry.
"justapassenger"
And the screams of "Racism" will be heard from India ( and others) all over the place, and the last thing we need is Kohli looking like a martyr. In any case, Australia has a lot of lost ground to make up before it can adopt a "holier-than-thou" attitude. I thought the umpires handled it well.

Next - the openers - why Renshaw? Burns is much better performed this season.
  x31 Chief Commissioner

Location: gallifrey
I reckon it's a vindication of Justin Langer's coaching too.  Especially after the year from hell for the Aussies.
Carnot

Langer has done a good job and I hope he sticks with the younger players like Hanscombe and Harris. Really hope we have seen the last of Warner.
  michaelgm Chief Commissioner

Aus, chasing 399,
1/16, should be over by tea.
  justapassenger Minister for Railways

Still alive at the end of the day, despite Kohli asking for the extra half-hour.

Cummins is 61 not out at the end of the day, which with his 17 from the first innings gives him 78 runs for the Test so far. If he and Lyon can hang on for a while tomorrow morning, he could well be the first Australian batsman to score 100 runs in a Test during this series and possibly even the first to score a century.

Aaron Finch and Mitchell Marsh made a combined total of 30 runs across both innings. They are already out, so no need for JL to wait any longer before announcing they will not be considered for Test selection until they have made a minimum of three Shield centuries.

Burns and Cooper would be good replacements for Sydney.
  djf01 Chief Commissioner

It's the end of Day 4 of the Melbourne Test as I'm writing this.  I haven't got to see too much of the Melbourne Test, but what I have seen has been depressingly too familiar.

I also have been absent from this forum, and read (skimmed some) through most of it tonight, so I'm sorry if I miss anything others have said.

Some comments (one per post):

Pitches:
They have been terrible.  The worst in the professional era IMHO.

They have generally been slow, with (very) uneven bounce.  Perth was a bit quicker, but the bounce so uneven, and the grass covering so long that the ball decked around as well.  Adelaide played like a grassy English feather-bed.  This Melbourne pitch has also been way too uneven, with the addition of the extra grass (and hence sideways movement) to try and compensate for it's slow, low softness.

The effect on the series has been to level things things out.  A dodgy pitch tends to do that: it neutralises the advantage of the stronger batting teams, and it means anyone (even me) can be an effective bowler.  Games on dodgy pitches tend to be won by the team who's bowlers show the most application and put a high price on their wickets.  Lyon and Cummins have been fabulous for Australia, as has Paine (even if he's not Adam Gilchrist, or even Matthew Wade, with the stick)

The good thing about a dodgy pitch is it's such a great leveller, that the games tend to be closer and exciting.  It's very difficult for the stronger team to blow out the game and the result be a foregone conclusion.

But one of the biggest problems with the pitches is: the toss has decided the result.  The pitches have started off difficult (with the extra grass), and deteriorated from there (increasingly uneven bounce).

In the Perth Test multiple top 6 batters were struck in the head.  Harris got a throat ball from a (p[art time) spinner.  Kholi (who was struck on the hands at least 6 times, probably 10), Finch and Paine were all very lucky to escape without breaking fingers.  

Imagine how different the interpretation of the Perth pitch would have been if both the Australian and Indian captains were ruled out of the series with broken fingers.  It was just good fortune that didn't happen.

To see the Indian bottom 5 running off to square leg in the final innings like the under 11s was just an embarrassment.

In fact, I'll go so far as to say the Perth pitch had the pace and (especially) bounce of the WACA of old, but the inconsistency of the MCG of old.  It's the worst test pitch Australia has produced in more than 30 years, underlined by the fact the weaker team won the match entirely by the virtue of winning the toss.

But the biggest problem with the terrible pitches has been the dour batting.  It's been impossible to play horizontal bat shots because of the uneven bounce.  And it's not just Aussie incompetence, the Indians (best batters in the world by a long way) have also been just as restrained/restricted.

The match winning batting from the Aussies in Perth was the morning session from Paine and UK who got back and across, hung their bats in front of the stumps and hoped for the best.  Snicks through the slips were the primary method of scoring.  It worked.  The Aussies got through the session without losing a wicket and built and unassailable lead - albeit very slowly.

But it was dreadfully dull cricket.

Historically, Australian conditions tend to favour back foot players who are good at cutting and hooking.  Vertical bat experts (Poms and Indians) tend to struggle in Aussie conditions.  This is one of the reasons Aussies - and the West Indians of the 80s and 90s - score so prolifically in Australia.  The pitches have - in the past - supported back foot, horizontal bat play.  Not this year.
  djf01 Chief Commissioner

Comments on Aaron Finch.

Finch is not a Test opener.
Valvegear

Derr.  Tell me something we don't know!

This was well understood when he was first selected to open the batting for Australia.  

It was always a questionable selection, and no-one should be at all surprised if he hasn't set the world on fire in his first 5 tests.

Finche is a (very very) well credentialed white ball opener, but (rightly) deemed not a good enough red ball player to command a spot in the Victorian top 6.

But that said, there is a lot to like about A Finch's game as it applies to real cricket.  Unlike most modern players, Finch actually uses his feet, and steps to the pitch of ball.  He can, and does, also get back and across to cut, hook and (heaven forbid) block.  An old fashion idea I know, but he alone among the current Aussies can do this.

Yes, there are technical problems with his batting: he goes hard at the ball, hard hands in defence, commits a fraction too early to the line of the bowler's arm rather than waiting to see the line of the swinging ball, tends to fall over a fraction ... etc.  He's hardly Robinson Caruso in this regard, but he still struggles with this none the less.

Many of his problems are down to shot selection, but this has a lot to do with being in two minds: unsure how exactly he should be playing in red ball cricket, and this - IMHO - simply reflects his lack of experience in the format.

But .. the basis of his game (unlike most T20 bash artists) is technically sound - sounder than Warner's - and I think given the opportunity - he could develop into a very high quality test opener.  But he's not going to do it 5 or 6 tests.  10 at least, preferably some either against weaker opposition or on true (or at least truer) pitches that suits his game.

It took Warner 2-3 years to be an effective opener in most conditions against most attacks, but he was fortunate that get a few spectacular runs against weak (at least weaker than the current Indian) attacks or wonderful batting conditions.

Like all the other contenders to be an Aussie opener, Finch is not the finished article.  No-one should expect him to be.
  djf01 Chief Commissioner

Aussie Opener Selections:

Opening the batting in red ball cricket is a specialist position, and something of a dark art.  A different set of skills are needed to open in white ball cricket.

Since the unexpected and fortunate (it certainly wasn't planned) success of Justin Langer opening with Matthew Hayden (whose games *really* complemented each other), Australia has taken the view that they should select the best 6 batters, then find the right spot for them in the order.  Mike Hussey showing a straight bat and good footwork can be even *more* effective at #5 as #1 didn't help this mythology.  

This has seen Simon Katich, Shane Watson (WTF???) and Joe Burns elevated to #1 for the first time in their careers at Test level.  Being good players, they have all made a modest success of it.  Even David Warner falls into this category.  He made his name as a white ball opener, selected to open that batting for Australia in Tests having never done so at first class level before.

It's taken nearly a decade, but I think the selectors have finally realised J Langer was just a stroke of good fortune, and not a model to be relied on.  

Since Langer and Hayden, Warner aside - the only Opener to survive 2 years in the Aussie team has been Chris Rogers, who was picked reluctantly, and was well and truly the finished article by the time he was given a real opportunity.

Another great example is Phil Hughes (got rest his soul).  Clearly a talent, but selected before he was 100% ready and inconsistent as a result.

Everyone else has been either a makeshift opener, or were just not quite ready for Test cricket.  Yet all these guys who have been thrown into the role have been discarded within less than 10 tests because they haven't performed like season veterans in their first few games - and sometime (like Renshaw) even when they have.

Matt Renshaw:
In my view, given the way we've treated Renshaw already, we need to make sure he's the finished article by the time he comes back to test cricket - which I've no doubt he will.  A couple of 1000 run+ seasons under his belt, preferably in Shield, but a good county season or two as well.  So when he comes back in at age 25 or so, he can open for us for continuously for 10 years.  We can't bring him back again and expect him to perform *and* learn on the job at the same time.

Joe Burns:
FC average of 40 and Test average of 36, despite 3 test centuries (2 v NZ, 1 v WI).  He's a fairly limited player IMHO, but a decent FC batter and could develop into a capable test player IMHO.  But he's clearly not an opening batter.  Despite his record, I don't think he's the future for Australia at #1.  He's 29, and still not ready for #1.  I'm hoping he can spend 3 or 4 of his good years in the middle order.

Marcus Harris:
Made the Aussie team on the basis on one good innings (on a docile pitch against a tired attack), but has a FC average of 35 over 6 seasons, and unsurprisingly a test average to match.  

The similarities between him and Cameron Bancroft are remarkable.  Similar age (Harris is older), similar FC average, both from WA, and both selected for Australia for making a single big score in batter friendly conditions.  Both probably given 1 season only to prove themselves - one way or another.

I've been very disappointed with Harris' footwork.  Like most modern players - and most WA players, he doesn't come forward.  But he doesn't go back to cut properly either - he just squats down on one knee and slashes (usually in the air).  I (hope I'm wrong) but I can't see him making runs on anything but the flattest of pitches.

Usman K:
He's our best current opener IMHO (better than Warner), but also our best available batter, which unfortunately means he has to play at #3 where - IMHO - he's less suited.  #1 also suits his weakness starting against spin.

The major technical flaw with his batting is he doesn't have a solid forward defence.  As flaws go, this is a pretty big one!  On true pitches he can cover drive as well as anyone, but even though he steps forward, he *never* really gets to pitch of the ball, and just uses his god gifted talent to stroke the ball through the off side.  He has the smarts to adapt his game to seaming conditions, soft hands in defence and is pretty unflappable.  

But the lack of an effective forward defence causes problems.  It's the main reason he struggles against spin.  He can't get to the pitch of the ball to block it, much less hit it anywhere.  His front foot defence is less reliable than his reverse sweep.  He has to defend off the back foot too much, and that leave him vulnerable to good length (seam & spin) bowling.

As for his slowness earlier in the season pointed out by @Valvegear:  He clearly needed some time in the middle, deprived of him by his knee injury.  I'm not at all surprised he's struggled, and rather expected it.  He's worked hard, but clearly he's been short of a gallop, at least to take on a quality attack in difficult conditions.

The way forward:
I think our best opening combo is Finch and Khawaja.  I think we should persist with Finch, and let him develop and fulfil his potential at #1, even if it takes 2 years before it "works".  *If* Warner comes back into the team (and until he genuinely fesses up to how long he was sandpapering the ball and exactly who else knew he was doing it, I hope not) then he can be a team player and slot in at #3 with Smith at #4.  *If* Marcus Harris is to be a test batter, he can learn/demonstrate his craft at #6 for the time being.

As both UK and Finch are in their early 30s, we need to ensure Renshaw is ready fill the void when it inevitably arises due to injury, retirement, or indefinite detention without trial as the brother of a falsely accused terrorist accuser.
  justapassenger Minister for Railways

Interesting scenes at the BBL match tonight. There was a distinct change in the level of the background sound which has me thinking that CA have asked the broadcasters to mask the sound of the crowd booing Cameron Bancroft

This level of effort to rehabilitate Bancroft so quickly probably points towards CA management already having signed off on Smith and Warner making prompt returns too.
  justapassenger Minister for Railways

Sorry, but Finch is 32 and is way too old to be selected as a project player.

Once he's finished warming Warner's seat at the end of the summer, his hope of getting a ticket to the Ashes will depend more on his ability to do a good job of mixing up bottles of Gatorade than his batting.

Even if CA do persist with Finch as a project player, he is still now at the point where he would expect to be dropped to spend time honing his technique for a season or two before coming back stronger in a second dig.
  djf01 Chief Commissioner

Sorry, but Finch is 32 and is way too old to be selected as a project player.
justapassenger

True.  But that was a reason to not select him 5 tests ago, not drop him now because he hasn't managed the transition in the blink of an eye.

What'll probably happen is his replacement will get 3 Aussie roads in a row, and 2 games against SL and will make buckets of runs, go to England later in the year and fail.  Then we'll be back at square one at the start of next season.

TBH, my personal preference is they stick with Finch instead of bringing back Warner, and that is perhaps colouring my view of things.

If we are going to gift someone a berth in the Ashes next year, it might as well be Finch IMHO.  With some (easy) runs under his belt he may well make the transition.  At least this has a chance of success, whereas dropping him will ensure Australia's failure.
  justapassenger Minister for Railways

He wasn't selected for the Pakistan Tests as a project player, he was selected as a stand-in.

A stand-in player should be the finished product, or the closest approximation available at the time, because his job is only to do the best job possible until the full-time incumbent returns. Finch is so far from being either that even his state team don't believe he can be an opener.

It's true that he shouldn't have been selected for the UAE series, that was a major error by JL and the other selectors. Thankfully, it's also never too late to drop a non-performing stand-in player. He doesn't have a future in that position beyond 29 March, why bother investing in a future that doesn't exist?

Given that it hasn't worked and that Finch's performances have simply had the effect of locking in Warner for the Ashes, I'd like to see a younger player given a chance to get a look at some international opposition in the last few Tests before Warner returns. India have retained the Border-Gavaskar Trophy so there's nothing to lose.

Renshaw is worth another shot, he showed enough in the last couple of seasons to prove he is a long-term player worth persisting with. CA should keep on working with him and aim to have him peak around 2020-21 or even 2021-22. Get him off the BBL bench and in for the Sydney Test, set him some objective performance targets (e.g. score at least one fifty = guaranteed to stay in for the Sri Lanka tests) and give him a chance to rise to the challenge.

There's another aspect to leaving Finch out for Sydney - he is so shaky at the moment that he stands to gain more from getting a bit of confidence by going back to his comfort zone and smacking around a white ball than from getting worked over by India yet again.
  Valvegear Oliver Bullied, CME

Location: Norda Fittazroy
Now the selectors have added Labuschagne to the squad for Sydney. He is currently Australia's 27th best batsman and 36th best bowler. I can't stand Wade, but he is bashing on the door for selection with his Shield performances, and has the best figures. He should walk into a side that is screaming out for batsmen. He should play as a specialist batsman and be among the first selected.
  djf01 Chief Commissioner

He wasn't selected for the Pakistan Tests as a project player, he was selected as a stand-in.

...

There's another aspect to leaving Finch out for Sydney - he is so shaky at the moment that he stands to gain more from getting a bit of confidence by going back to his comfort zone and smacking around a white ball than from getting worked over by India yet again.
justapassenger

You are rapidly convincing me here JP.

But one more go for Finch:  He's played 5 tests, had 2 bad games in poor batting conditions, but (in particular) conditions that didn't especially didn't suit his game.

But you are right about him being out of sorts.  He came into the test team on the back of very good T20 form, which he carried into the Aussie team from England domestic cricket.  He did OK in his first 2 tests, in conditions not exactly suitable for him, but he did OK.  Not magnificent (Finch is likely to be a bit like S Marsh, have the odd splash of brilliance in between more lower scores for a *real* opener).  Finch did OK in the short form leadup games, but no big scores, and (clearly) not enough time in the middle.  

But importantly, he only played 1 shield game in the leadup to the test series (made a hard fought 50).

I know I'm saying this more in hope than expectation, but I want Finch to come good, so we don't have to accept Warner back.  

Warner's record in England is only fair, nothing like it is in Australia.  Finch - albeit in while ball cricket in white ball conditions - has proven himself a world beater in England.

Small English grounds, slower pitches (that don't *always* seam around), Finch has the ability to win us a test match off his own bat - in England - in a way no other Aussie player could (even Warner).  The only English antidote to this is for England to prepare seaming green-tops (they'll probably do this anyway) which makes Hazelwood and Cummins as big a threat as Broad and Anderson.
  djf01 Chief Commissioner

Now the selectors have added Labuschagne to the squad for Sydney. He is currently Australia's 27th best batsman and 36th best bowler. I can't stand Wade, but he is bashing on the door for selection with his Shield performances, and has the best figures. He should walk into a side that is screaming out for batsmen. He should play as a specialist batsman and be among the first selected.
Valvegear

I'm inclined to agree.  Wade also has 2 test centuries to his name, including one against an Asian team at the SCG.  Also, Wade is not the worst seam up bowler in the world, and while he's not Mitchel Marsh (WTF???), he could bowl 5 overs of skidders with the old ball - and concede less runs than Marnus.
  Valvegear Oliver Bullied, CME

Location: Norda Fittazroy
Poor batting conditions is no excuse for Finch in Melbourne; just ask Pat Cummins. In both innings Finch was out due to very poor shot selection. His second innings angled bat outside off stump had just about every commentator asking, "What was he thinking?" Unfortunately, he is just not temperamentally suited to the position of a Test opener. The whole idea of "be there at lunch" is anathema to his attacking nature which works in the short game, but in a Test is not on. Finch just hates leaving the ball to go through to the keeper which every good opener does.
He is not the long term answer for numbers 1 or 2. He could possibility be useful at number 6. On the plus side, he is a very good fielder.
  djf01 Chief Commissioner

Poor batting conditions is no excuse for Finch in Melbourne; just ask Pat Cummins. In both innings Finch was out due to very poor shot selection. His second innings angled bat outside off stump had just about every commentator asking, "What was he thinking?"
Valvegear

Finche wasn't exactly Robinson Caruso in Melbourne coping with the conditions.  India were (almost) rolled for 100 in their second innings.

Unfortunately, he is just not temperamentally suited to the position of a Test opener.
Valvegear

He's better temperamentally than Warner or Wade Smile.

I think Finch's problems at #1 are technical as much as they are attitude.  When he makes a mistake, it looks bad - really bad.  

But temperament and attitude are one of the reasons I'd like to persist with him.

But IMHO he does some things right the others don't: like taking a step to the pitch of the ball for a start.  And playing back foot shots off the back foot too.

In the second innings in Mlb, he went forward instead of back to a cuttable ball (attempting to "get forward" to cover the excessive movement and inconsistent bounce), then attempted to cut anyway as the ball decked back sharply at him and forced to play.  It was a real "in two minds" dismissal.  

The result looked really really bad (slips catching practice)

The whole idea of "be there at lunch" is anathema to his attacking nature which works in the short game, but in a Test is not on. Finch just hates leaving the ball to go through to the keeper which every good opener does.
Valvegear

I have to disagree with this too.  I think Finch has been very restrained, and worked hard for his runs in his short test career.  IIRC he's only been out once chasing a wide ball, and that was always going to happen with Finch at some point.  

The technical problems with his game are the hard hands, and slightly too early commitment to moving his feet.  


He is not the long term answer for numbers 1 or 2.
Valvegear

I fully agree.  But I think having made the call to go with him, I think we should persist through the Ashes next year.

Hopefully (and again, this is hope rather than expectation) he's make a few runs against SL on the Manuka/GABBA roads, make a mottza in the early rounds of the World Cup, and carry that form into the Ashes.  

Meanwhile, we need to get Renshaw a county contract to get some red-ball runs under his belt in England while the Poms

Another point:  The Ashes will be held late in the year next season.  We are less likely to be playing on the usual English seaming greentops.  Again, condition that will more likely suit Aussie batters in general, but Finch in particular.

And finally: Finch gives us a sensible leadership option if Paine gets peed off and retires, or breaks a finger, between now and the start of next summer.

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