LONDON: Allan Border, the tough Australian who helped transform the fortunes of the national side in the 1980s, said he would have been embarrassed to be one of the top three batsmen of the current team after their humiliation at Lord’s on Sunday.
“Watching today I could honestly say the nine, 10 and jack (number 11) looked more competent than our one, two and three. If that was me in the top three I’d be embarrassed,” Border wrote to Cricket Australia’s subscribers as he delivered a brutally honest assessment.
England won the second Ashes Test within four days to hand Australia their sixth Test defeat in a row. It was the first time England have won the first two Tests in a home Ashes series since WG Grace’s side in 1890.
Border, who took over from a tearful Kim Hughes while Australia were being repeatedly beaten by a fearsome West Indies’ side, added that Australia needed to give players a chance to prove themselves rather than experimenting with a new line-up at every Test.
“We need to settle on our best 11 and stay with it. I’m a believer in the pick-and-stick method, so we need to find our best 11 that’s suited to the conditions,” he said.
Australia nearly snatched an upset victory in the first Test at Trent Bridge with two heroic last-wicket stands. On Sunday the last wicket pair of James Pattinson and Ryan Harris almost took the match into a fifth day and more than 30 percent of Australia’s runs in the series have come from the last wicket pair.
Border also joined the growing band of critics who are questioning Shane Watson, the talented all-rounder who consistently fails to deliver in test cricket.
Watson made his usual good start opening the batting at Lord’s but fell lbw for 30 and 20.
“We all know what a wonderful player Shane Watson is,” Border said. “He looks like a million bucks when he’s firing. What is worrying though is that he keeps getting out in the same fashion. Now who is to blame here? Is it Watson for not adapting? What about the coaches?
“In an era where we’ve got a 1,000 coaches and psychoanalysts and dietitians and sport scientists it defies belief that a player can be making the same mistakes. Whether it is a technical thing or a mental thing, I don’t know.
“Is Shane not listening, or are people saying, ‘Bad luck, you got a good one’? We need to find out what the best is for Shane. Is it opening the batting? Or maybe batting at six and making him a genuine all-rounder?,” Border added.
“Whatever it is, we need to find out soon or Shane’s time will have come and gone and we won’t have seen the best of him. The buck stops with Shane and he needs to figure it out quickly because it will be a real shame if he doesn’t fulfil his potential.”
Captain Michael Clarke, the only batsman in the current team who would have been considered for the side Border led to a 4-0 victory in the 1989 Ashes series in England, showed all the pain of defeat on Sunday evening.
Mocking laughter from spectators greeted Clarke’s insistence at the victory ceremony that Australia could come back from the dead to win the series 3-2 and regain the Ashes.
“I heard a lot of people laugh when I said that and rightly so,” Clarke told a news conference later. “What can I say? Our performance in the first innings was unacceptable.
“We’ve got plenty of experience in our top seven, we’ve seen already in this series that guys can score runs against this attack.
“Our shot selection was poor and we just didn’t have the discipline that England had. England were willing to bat for long periods and graft through the tough times – and we certainly weren’t in that first innings.”
Australia at least have a few days to regroup before the third test starts at Old Trafford in Manchester on Aug. 1 but their options are limited.
Batsman David Warner, sent to Zimbabwe with the A side to get some match practice following his suspension after he punched England opener Joe Root in a Birmingham bar, will be back next week.
Off-spinner Nathan Lyon is likely to come in for left-arm orthodox spinner Ashton Agar, who scored a stunning 98 batting at number eleven in his Test debut at Trent Bridge but failed to take a wicket at Lord’s.
But there is no quick fix for the upper-order batting and all the signs are that it will be a long, hot and ultimately unproductive summer for the battered Australians.