JL's pitch-side address to Aussie batters | cricketnetwork.com

JL's pitch-side address to Aussie batters

10 October 2018

Coach takes his side's left-handers for a centre-wicket chat after a tough day at the office in Dubai

Debutant opener Aaron Finch admits he bears some responsibility for the disastrous batting collapse in the first Test against Pakistan that saw Australia's hopes of victory evaporate in fewer than 30 overs.

Having looked on track to match Pakistan's total of 482 after Finch and Usman Khawaja put on 142 for the first wicket, Australia spiraled out of control after the departure of the first-gamer as they lost all 10 of their first-innings wickets for just 60 runs.

The carnage that’s become all too familiar to Australian Test fans prompted a hands-on response from new coach Justin Langer, who held an open discussion in the middle of Dubai International Cricket Stadium with a handful of the offending batters after the third day's play.

Langer with the Aussie batters after play // Getty
Langer with the Aussie batters after play // Getty

Team debriefs following a day in the dirt for most sporting sides are held behind closed doors, but the early part of Langer's tenure has been characterised by an indifference to convention.

In his first Test in charge of the national side, Langer took a handful of batsmen – all of them left-handers and, curiously, one of them Matthew Renshaw who was dropped for this Test – and addressed them on the main strip after the visitors had given up a 280-run deficit. 

Travis Head, Usman Khawaja and Shaun Marsh were among those receiving the lesson after all three were dismissed by debutant off-spinner Bilal Asif in a stunning spell of 6-36, as Finch admitted fault for his part in the collapse.

Bilal goes bonkers as Aussies collapse to spin

"Pakistan bowled beautifully," said Finch after the Aussies went to stumps trailing their ‘hosts’ by 325 runs. "The way that they really controlled the run rate and squeezed us just before lunch and after lunch.

"They bowled extremely well and put us under a lot of pressure. You know once you get new batters at the crease in these conditions it can be really tough.

"That was my bad for getting out right then when it was probably coming towards the end of that little period, and not going on and getting through.

He added: "Your first 20 or 30 balls in these conditions are obviously your most vulnerable.

"When we get that opportunity to go on, like myself and Uzzie (Khawaja did) today by not really going on and getting huge scores, that probably leaves us hanging a bit.

"That's both of our responsibility to really kick on and not open up both ends of the game and allow them to be bowling at new batters all the time. That was probably the biggest mistake we made today."

Hands-on Langer with some messages to his batters // Getty
Hands-on Langer with some messages to his batters // Getty

While Pakistan expertly exposed the visitors’ frailties to see them lose 10-60 or worse for the fourth time in seven years, former Australia captain Allan Border pointed out the conditions were far from diabolical.

"We keep having these troubles," Border said on commentary. "Today the pitch is not perfect but it's not as bad a subcontinent wicket as you're going to bat on. 

"As a day three subcontinent pitch I would rate it as pretty good considering it's had a fair bit of traffic. It's not spitting and turning … It's a lot better than some of the pitches I've seen in recent times in India.

"What else can you do? Australia A and our youth teams play in the subcontinent as much as possible. It's almost a case of shaking your head and ask 'what else can you do?'"

The procession of wickets undid a couple of hours of hard graft from Finch and Khawaja, with both having important innings overshadowed by the procession of wickets after their departures.

It was an assured start to Finch's Test career, hitting a patient 161-ball 62, while Khawaja posted a maiden half-century in Asia (his previous highest score was 26) and looked on track for a ton before a standing sweep-shot attempt proved his downfall on 85. 

The pair could then only watch as Bilal and Mohammad Abbas (4-29) ran riot to see Australia dismissed for 202 to give up a 280-run first-innings deficit.

Finch donned the Baggy Green on day three // Getty
Finch donned the Baggy Green on day three // Getty

Finch denied panic had set in during the collapse.

"It wasn't panic," he said. "All the guys who walked in still had really clear plans with what they wanted to do and what they've been practicing and their preparation's been fantastic in the lead-up.

"It's just a different environment when you walk out and there's guys all around the bat which is tough to replicate in the nets and things like that. A guy who's a very tall off-spinner (Bilal) getting a lot of bounce - it's hard to replicate that."

Australia's hopes of winning the series-opener look to have all but ended but while Finch insisted they hadn't given up hope as the pitch shows signs of wear and tear.

Pakistan lost three wickets before stumps as Jon Holland hit back from an up-and-down performance in the first innings by removing first-innings century-maker Mohammad Hafeez and then Azhar Ali, for the second time in the match, before stumps.

"I think it’s obviously slightly deteriorating," Finch said of the pitch. "There’s some footmarks up each side which gives both spinners Yasir (Shah) and Bilal, Jon and Nathan (Lyon) awesome targets to hit out there.

"We saw when we were accurate towards the end there we got rewarded and to have them three down was a really positive effort for us towards the end. I think it would have been easy for us to let the game drift on and they end up 0-60 after 17 overs and the game is gone then.

"But the way we fought really hard then and put a bit of a dent in Pakistan still gives us some hope going into the last two days."

Qantas Tour of the UAE

Australia Test squad: Tim Paine (c), Ashton Agar, Brendan Doggett, Aaron Finch, Travis Head, Jon Holland, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Mitch Marsh, Shaun Marsh, Michael Neser, Matthew Renshaw, Peter Siddle, Mitchell Starc

Pakistan Test squad: Sarfraz Ahmed (c), Azhar Ali, Fakhar Zaman, Imam-ul-Haq, Babar Azam, Asad Shafiq, Haris Sohail, Usman Salahuddin, Yasir Shah, Shadab Khan, Bilal Asif, Mohammad Abbas, Hasan Ali, Wahab Riaz, Faheem Ashraf, Mir Hamza, Mohammad Rizwan, Mohammad Hafeez

Sep 29 - Oct 2: Tour match v Pak A, Dubai

Oct 7-11: First Test, Dubai

Oct 16-20: Second Test, Abu Dhabi

About the Writer

 @LouisDBCameron
@LouisDBCameron

Louis Cameron is a Melbourne-based journalist. A former Victorian Bushrangers fast bowler, Louis joined the cricket.com.au team with assistance from the Australian Cricketers' Association's Internship Program in 2016.