Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Oval the last stand for some: coach

Australia's Chris Rogers (right) and skipper Michael Clarke are the only two batsmen guaranteed a spot in the line-up for the fifth Test.

Australia's Chris Rogers (right) and skipper Michael Clarke are the only two batsmen guaranteed a spot in the line-up for the fifth Test. Photo: AFP

Darren Lehmann says there are batsmen who will have their Test careers on the line in the final leg of the Ashes at the Oval next week after another capitulation handed England a series victory in the fourth Test.

The Australian coach admitted he thought his team, chasing 299 to win at the Riverside on day four of the match, would ''get them comfortably two or three down, hopefully one down'' after cruising to 1-147 thanks to an excellent opening stand between David Warner and Chris Rogers.

He said it was ''bloody hard'' to accept what happened next, Australia losing by 74 runs after being turned over for 224. At one point inside a dramatic hour it lost 5-13, with a Stuart Broad-led England devastating the middle order and making short work of the rest.

Laying down the law: Australia coach Darren Lehmann.

Laying down the law: Australia coach Darren Lehmann. Photo: AFP

''We batted really badly in the middle and lower order. That hurts,'' Lehmann said. ''Blokes are missing straight ones. That doesn't help.


''Play straight. It's a pretty simple game complicated by too many people.

''I think the bowlers have done a really good job throughout the series to get the wickets we needed to get but on the batting side simply we've lost clumps of wickets and haven't played the way we want to play.''

Several batsmen could be in the firing line, with only captain Michael Clarke and Rogers averaging more than 30 in the series. Usman Khawaja is most in danger, with his average in England falling to 19 after falling leg before wicket to Graeme Swann on Monday, the No.3 position continuing to be a long-term problem for Australia.

Phil Hughes is waiting in the wings, having lost his spot to Warner at Manchester, and Steve Smith could be another left looking over his shoulder after a wild hook shot undid him on two.

Asked whether there were players with their careers on the line in the fifth Test Lehmann said: ''Yep. There is nothing wrong with that.

''To play for Australia you've actually got to perform at a level that is acceptable for everyone in our team and also for the Australian public. At the moment we're not doing that.

''Blokes have got to perform at a level that we expect … and the public expect back home. They've fought really hard and shown glimpses of challenging a really good side but we haven't done that consistently enough …

''If you look at the whole Test series, there are key moments in every Test match where we're well in front of the game and we've let it slip. We need to learn that. Winning becomes a habit.''

At 3-0 down Australia must win at the Oval to avoid dropping to fifth in the world rankings behind Pakistan. But given the series is gone they will consider resting Ryan Harris, whose career-best 7-117 was an inspiration as Clarke's team appeared on track for victory until the final session on Monday.

As for Shane Watson, Lehmann said he would wait to see whether the all-rounder was able to return to bowling after a groin strain at Durham and added he was not a certain selection if he only batted.

''No, no one is guaranteed, apart from Michael Clarke and Chris Rogers, I would think,'' he said.

Meanwhile, Clarke admits he has few answers to overcoming Australia's familiar trend of batting collapses, adding his team was still coming to terms with the blown opportunity.

''I think right now we just have to have time to let it sink in,'' Clarke said. ''We have another tour game [at Northampton] - we have plenty of time to train and keep working hard.

''The most difficult thing to take is that our preparation and training has been excellent.

''I think we are picking the best players. Everyone says rebuild, rebuild, rebuild, but you need guys in first-class cricket making runs to take someone's slot. We have to continue to show faith in these guys - it takes time playing against good opposition.''

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