Langer’s bat­ting dilemma comes out of left field

Sunday Tasmanian - - Sport - BEN HORNE

HERE is the damn­ing sta­tis­ti­cal ev­i­dence that could cost Mar­cus Har­ris a fairy­tale Test de­but.

Aus­tralian se­lec­tors want to rub­ber­stamp Har­ris over fel­low Vic­to­rian Peter Hand­scomb for the sum­mer-open­ing block­buster in Ade­laide but are pan­ick­ing about the ex­tra­or­di­nary hold In­dian spin­ner Ravi Ash­win has over left-hand bats­men.

It’s not that Har­ris is nec­es­sar­ily more vul­ner­a­ble, but if he plays that will mean four out of Aus­tralia’s top six will be left­handers with a tar­get on their heads for Ash­win turn­ing the ball away from the bat.

Dubbed by Steve Waugh as “the Brad­man of bowlers”, Ash­win is one of the great­est spin­ners in the his­tory of the game.

Ac­cord­ing to CricVis, against left-hand bat­ters he av­er­ages a wicket ev­ery 19.93 runs, an ab­so­lute world-class record, 31.50 against right­ies.

When it comes to top-six bats­men, Ash­win’s strong suit is even more pro­found, av­er­ag­ing 22.91 against lefties and 43.50 against right-han­ders.

Aus­tralian coach Justin Langer knows that pick­ing the right-handed Peter Hand­scomb at No.4 at the ex­pense of leftie Har­ris could pro­vide him more bal­ance in the or­der when it comes to han­dling Ash­win. It’s an im­por­tant de­ci­sion. Ash­win’s main vic­tims in Test cricket are left-hand stars.

He has got David Warner and Alas­tair Cook out nine times each — two of the best open­ers of their gen­er­a­tion.

Ash­win also got Ed Cowan’s num­ber seven times in just 13 in­nings dur­ing the for­mer Aus­tralian left-han­der’s ca­reer.

Top or­der lefties Ben Stokes, Phil Hughes, Dar­ren Bravo and Dean El­gar are some of Ash­win’s other vic­tims.

Langer has made it clear the only choice he has left to make with his bat­ting line-up is Har­ris or Hand­scomb.

If Har­ris plays, it would be four straight lefties from him at the top, Us­man Khawaja, Shaun Marsh and through to Travis Head at No.5.

But if se­lec­tors go Hand­scomb, Khawaja would open, Marsh to No.3 and then the right-handed Vic­to­rian to break things up at No.4 be­fore Head comes in at No.5.

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