Death, Taxes and Australia’s left-handed batsmen struggling in the Ashes.
It’s a viral internet meme, but nothing sums up the batting woes of Australia’s left-handed batsmen better.
Every time one of the visiting sides’ left-handed batsman has come to the crease, it’s felt like a clock ticking. A dismissal is just around the corner. It’s the same inevitable feeling which one experiences every time Steven Smith comes at the crease this series -you just know the runs will flow!
Australia have retained the Ashes all thanks to Steven Smith out batting everyone – including his teammates. But even Smith’s superlative form cannot mask the struggle for the southpaws.
If there was a statistic that would sum it up then it has to be this – David Warner has faced 154 balls so far in this series, Steve Smith on an average, has nearly 200 balls in each innings.
Yeah, its mind-boggling.
The best performing left-handed batsman for the away side is Matthew Wade – but 110 of those 201 came in one inning itself. That leaves 91 in the remaining seven innings – it’s been dreadful.
Justin Langer would have dreaded what was to come when Marnus Labuschagne was hit on his helmet, first ball, after coming on as a concussion substitute for Steven Smith at Lord’s. However, what’s followed has changed the momentum of the series despite the Headingley heroics from Ben Stokes.
Australian batsmen were doing so bad that they couldn’t even hold an end for Steven Smith to do his thing. With Labuschagne, they got that support and Australia have not looked back since.
The two batsmen dominated the run charts for apparent reasons. The averages for the left-handed batsmen for them in the series would look great if those were for the bowlers.
The England Test side might be consistently inconsistent, but there is one thing that they have done brilliantly – restricting Australia’s left-handed batsmen.
Yes, there has been the odd knock from Head, one from Warner, Matthew Wade’s maiden Ashes ton but overall, it’s been a stinker – much like David Warner’s average this series – 9.87.
Led by Stuart Broad, the English bowlers have used the round the wicket angle superbly to make sure they give nothing away while chipping away at the wickets.
14 of the 19 wickets taken by the pacer have been of left-handed batsmen, and he’s really stepped up in the absence of James Anderson who was ruled out of the series due to a calf injury. The left-handers have averaged a combined 21.4 this Ashes for the Aussies while their right-handed counterparts average a whopping 43.
They would have hoped to find something similar against Smith but alas, it was not to be. The hunger, intensity and mental toughness of Smith has meant that he has dictated terms pretty much every time.
It was Usman Khawaja, who first paid the price for Labuschange doing exceedingly well. Warner despite his wretched run of form had the backing of the coach Langer who while wanting the batsmen to step up, has urged to show patience with the lot.
“But he’s (Warner) also a word-class player and I’ve said throughout the whole series, if Davey has one good innings it’ll help us win the Ashes. He probably hasn’t been through this lean run before, so it’s going to be a good test of his character. But he’s a match-winner and he’s been brilliant around the group since he’s been back (from suspension).”
“But we’ve also got to remember, Travis Head is new to Test cricket, Marnus (Labuschagne) is new to Test cricket, Marcus Harris is new to Test cricket, Cameron Bancroft is new to Test cricket.
“You can’t just give them that experience, they’ve got to earn that and we’re very thankful to have Steve batting. We’re lucky to have him but Test cricket takes time. We’ve got to respect that, it takes a lot of time.”
Time and Smith are what has meant that Australia won’t head back without the urn. The fifth Test though provides the perfect opportunity for the other batters to come good. It’s technically a dead rubber but runs are runs, ask Steven Smith, ask David Warner.