Three balls, out: Agony of the open­ers con­tin­ues

Geelong Advertiser - - SPORT - ANAL­Y­SIS ROBERT CRAD­DOCK

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.

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