Despite the dominance of the 3-0 scoreline during England’s Ashes win last summer, Australian head coach Darren Lehmann outlined how, in his mind, the victor’s "dour" style of play had tarnished their accomplishments somewhat.
Whilst noting the home side’s slow over rate at crucial periods of play, under particular scrutiny was England’s batting unit.
After taking a 2-0 series lead away from the home of cricket, a negative grip took ahold of the top six batsmen, culminating in first innings run rates of 2.63, 2.58 and 2.60 in the final three Tests.
These were preceded by an especially dreary 2.06 in the first Test match of the summer against New Zealand.
Since the retirement of opener and influential captain Andrew Strauss in August of 2012, the team have tried two replacement opening batsmen in Nick Compton and Joe Root. Both flashed solid techniques alongside an inability to dominate world-class bowlers at the top of the innings.
Compton was notably introverted alongside Alastair Cook, fashioning a strike rate of 34.68 across 17 innings. Root’s 180 in the second Ashes Test at Lord's papered over the cracks of limited foot movement against the swinging ball, as he scored at just 40.70 runs per 100 balls.
England’s first two tour games seem to have unearthed a valuable asset for the balance of the batting unit.
Michael Carberry, thought by many to have been picked as the reserve for Joe Root, has taken his opportunity by hitting 78 at the WACA in Perth versus the WA Chairman’s eleven and 153 retired against Australia A.
Not only has the weight of runs helped to solidify his case for Brisbane selection but also the flair and stroke making ability at the top of the order that has accompanied these runs. Strike rates of 53.12 and 78.00 in the two tour games showcase the impact he can have on opposition attacks.
These strike rates may be taken with a pinch of salt due to the nature of the bowling attacks the team have come up against so far on tour.
However, Carberry showcased his ability in 2013 to score quick tempo runs, leading Hampshire’s batsmen in strike rate in both the Yorkshire Bank 40 and the Friends Life T20 competitions last season.
With the pace attack adept in English conditions, the importance last summer of moving the game forward quickly with the bat was reduced but on the batsmen-friendly wickets likely to be served up in Australia, it takes on a greater significance for bowlers to have enough time to take 20 wickets.
Cook, Strauss and Jonathan Trott all had strike rates in excess of 50 in the 2010/11 series, and this needs to be replicated from the top three in the forthcoming series to have success.
Meanwhile, the movement of young Root from the summit down to the six spot helps to strengthen the already elite middle order.
Batting at four or below has a notable impact on both his strike rate (40.70 to 46.59) and average (37.67 to 42.40) where his game of hanging on the back foot is harder to exploit without the new ball.
Root flourished batting lower down the order on the final day of the tour match against Australia A, making 58 not out at a strike rate in excess of 60.
The selectors would therefore be wise to hand Carberry his second cap when the first test begins on November 21st.
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