Michael Neser and the new ball seamers
Someone asked me recently who comes in for Hazlewood if he was injured, and I said for me it would be Michael Neser. And part of the reason is I think he’s a new ball specialist. And at Test cricket, he might struggle with the older ball.
Australia were clearly going to go with Jhye Richardson - who made more sense as a Pat Cummins replacement.
But today I saw this tweet from CricViz.
I don’t have the same level of ball by ball data on first class cricketers that they do. But seeing this, I realise I‘ve fallen into the old trap of seeing a skilful - but slightly slower bowler - and thinking that he can’t take wickets with the old ball.
This is lazy thinking, and I think it’s held back a lot of skilful bowlers over the years. It’s great that we - well, sadly not everyone as first class ball by ball data is hard to find - can challenge excepted wisdom.
There is also a feeling that Neser could bat at seven for Australia. That one I am sure he can’t. But he made runs in the first innings and is the night watcher now, so he’ll probably make a 70 now.
Dawid Malan and the angled bat
At a certain point, Dawid Malan was going to be dismissed by Nathan Lyon. The spin and bounce combo was clearly too much for him. He struggled with the underspinning straight ones, and the balls that bit. If you can handle one, you can probably stick around, but both, eventually one will get you.
But Malan had done so well to not be dismissed. Lyon was using a silly mid-off, as what Malan tries to do is take a step out and thrust at the ball to negate the spin away. So they trapped him on the crease and had to hope that his mistakes weren’t picked up.
Scoring 80 out of 236 at any time is good. But to do this when your team’s batting is horrendous and you came in averaging sub 30 is a magnificent effort. But surviving Lyon only to play a half-cut half-drive backfoot angled slash against Starc is horrible.
This might sound like an overreaction, but that shot is the difference between a Test career and not having one. Part of this is down to bias. It wasn’t a hundred, and a hundred is remembered more. But it’s also about his average. If he makes 140 there, it’s a big jump to his record. That is going to matter to him, well beyond this match, that they will probably lose, or at best draw.
That shot is a mental and technical error that will mean double because after Root’s dismissal and the collapse that followed.
In truth, it’s just another error in an innings that had a lot of them. But perception is key. He was working like a dog at one end, and then he went out with a soft dismal at the other. When you’re fighting for your career, these things matter. You only get so much luck, and we know that runs are scarce in current cricket. This will sting Malan.