Coach backs underfire Clarke
LONDON — Australia coach Darren Lehmann has said captain Michael Clarke will get as “long as he needs” to come out of his batting slump.
Scores of 10 and three during Australia eight-wicket defeat by England in the third Test at Edgbaston — a result that saw the tourists go 2-1 behind in the five-match Ashes campaign, left Clarke with a meagre series aggregate of 94 runs in six innings at an average of under 19.
Following a match that was all over inside three days of a scheduled five, Clarke confronted his own failings by suggesting Australia were playing with 10 men. Clarke, who for much of his career had enjoyed a Test average of over 50 — the mark of an all-time great — is averaging a mere 18.80 this Ashes.
Indeed his average slipped to below 50 after this test for the first time in three years.
And having been plagued by a longstanding back complaint, as well as more recent hamstring trouble, there has been speculation this could be the 34-yearold’s last tour.
But Lehmann believes the class that has seen Clarke score 28 Test hundreds has not deserted his skipper.
“He’ll get as long as he needs, he’s captain,” Lehmann said after Friday’s quickfire defeat.
“We’re not going to panic, that’s for sure,” the former Australia batsman added. “But he’s got to play well.” Adam Voges, however, is unlikely to receive similarly unequivocal backing ahead of the fourth Test which begins today at Trent Bridge.
For all that he scored a debut hundred in the West Indies recently and has vast experience of English conditions due to time spent playing county cricket, the 35-year-old Voges’s average for the Ashes after three Tests stands at 14.60. Now his place could well be in jeopardy when on-tour selector Rodney Marsh and Lehmann come to pick their side for Trent Bridge.
“Adam would be disappointed, like the other players are,” said Lehmann.
“It’s a disappointing game for us and we’ve just got to cop the criticism we cop and get back on and work out what the best XI is to win the next Test match.”
Meanwhile, Lehmann said leaving out Brad Haddin from the team that played at Edgbaston was the hardest decision of his career, amid accusations it made a mockery of Australia’s ‘ family first’ policy.
Wicket-keeper Haddin was overlooked in favour of the younger Peter Nevill after the 37-year-old pulled out of the second Test at Lord’s to be with his sick daughter Mia.
Nevill, 29, took seven catches at Lord’s and made 45 during an impressive Test debut as Australia thrashed England by 405 runs to level the series at 1-1.
Marsh, one of Australia’s greatest wicket-keepers, and Lehmann then decided Nevill should retain his place ahead of Haddin, who had not been at his best during the first Test in Cardiff — he dropped Joe Root on nought who then went on to score 134 in the first innings — which England won by 169 runs.
There were reports Haddin’s omission in Birmingham had caused unease in Australia’s squad, while former Test opener Matthew Hayden slammed a move that could well signal the end of the keeper’s 66-Test career as “outrageous”.
But Lehmann insisted Haddin’s form did not warrant a recall.
“The cold hard facts are he’s played the last 12 Test matches and made 250 runs at 15, with 16 bowled out of 21,” Lehmann said.
“I know there’s been a big hooha about ‘family first’ — well, we still have that. There’s been a very unbalanced view from a lot of people about it.
“We certainly care about Brad and his family,” he added. “We all love Hadds, the players love Hadds.
“That would be the hardest decision I’ve had to make as a coach, or even as a player.”