Three balls, out: Agony of the openers continues
TWENTY-SIX is not a magic number for an Australian cricket fan.
It represents the number of times Australia has changed its opening partners since present coach Justin Langer and Matthew Hayden walked through the gates together for the last time at the SCG in January 2007.
That’s about two a year or one every four Tests. It is a crippling statistic.
The twin peaks have been replaced by pillars of sand, as likely to be swept away as a sand castle stalked by a rising tide.
Eight of the 26 have been paired for just one innings. In the three years since Chris Rogers retired, Australia has fielded 10 different partnerships at the top of the order.
The union of Aaron Finch and Marcus Harris lasted just three balls yesterday before Finch played an airy drive and saw his stumps uprooted.
Somewhere in Melbourne Victorian cricket officials would have said, with no celebration, “we told you so’’ because Finch has not opened for his state in red-ball cricket for four years after averaging 18 in that spot.
For all his white-ball prowess, there has long been a feeling Finch does not have the defensive fibre to cope with the swinging red ball.
The dismissal was reckless in so many ways.
Finch would have known that Ishant Sharma’s prime weapon was the inswinger and the wicket was providing occasional “nibble’’ with the new ball.
The cover area was vacant but that also meant that simply making solid contact would have meant runs. He didn’t have to murder anything, but white-ball habits are hard to shake.
Harris may have made 26 on debut, but he was a genuine bright spot. It looked like his 20th Test rather than his first.
When he squeezed a boundary through the slips, his cheeky smile was that of a man relishing the challenge rather than being intimidated by it.
He boldly advanced to the dangerous finger spinner Ravi Ashwin, who got him at the end caught at bat-pad, but it was an honourable contest.
Significantly, Harris had faced 875 deliveries in redball cricket this summer. Finch 91.
Langer is the man who must select and coach Australia’s openers and hopefully he may unearth a duo akin to him and Hayden, for a team without decent openers is like a car with a faulty engine.