x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Australia's tail wagging is not a happy sign for coach Darren Lehmann

New coach also wants his side to make better use of the review system and 'keep punching' England in the second Ashes Test.

Australia's debutant and 19-year-old rookie Ashton Agar top-scored with 98 runs, embarrassing the senior batsmen. Jon Super / AP Photo
Australia's debutant and 19-year-old rookie Ashton Agar top-scored with 98 runs, embarrassing the senior batsmen. Jon Super / AP Photo

LONDON // Australia's specialist batsmen are under strict orders to shape up in time for the second Test at Lord's.

The tourists fell narrowly short of a surprise victory in the Ashes opener on Sunday 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 made it clear to his batsmen that they must do better.

Test debutant No 11 Ashton Agar came to the rescue with a remarkable maiden contribution of 98 in the first innings after the top order failed, and Australia collapsed to 117 for nine.

The second time around, after an improved collective in the first five, wicketkeeper-batsman Brad Haddin still 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 target.

Lehmann did not shy away from the obvious as he assessed his team's successes and failures.

"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 first time round, 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."

Lehmann chose a questionable phrase to stress Australian intent for the rest of the series, following David Warner's bar-room behaviour in Birmingham last month, when he struck England's Joe Root on a night out.

But his point was clear, that the tourists are here to fight for possession of the Ashes on the pitch. "We're going to keep punching them ... we'll keep coming back at them all the time," he said. "We've shown enough, that this is going to be a really close series."

Australia will not be expending any more energy on the whys and wherefores of Stuart Broad's controversial decision not to walk when he edged a catch to slip in England's second innings.

Lehmann, instead, is simply demanding his and Michael Clarke's team improve their use of the two permitted Decision Review System appeals per innings.

"It's dealt with as far as I'm concerned," he said of the Broad incident. "We just move on and get on with it.

"The DRS has improved the decision-making process. Both sides have the same issues. We've got to get better at using it, basically."

The Trent Bridge surface was notable for an atypical dryness from the outset, and Lehmann noted the possibility of similar conditions 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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