This time tomorrow Australian begins another long cricketing ‘summer’. Most Australians, ensconced in football season and unwilling to lose sleep to a test series against the world’s 8th best test side, will barely notice it beginning. But these two tests in the West Indies will provide another gauge of Australia’s improvement as a test team.
In recent years Australia has not just struggled overseas, it has floundered. Outside of the recent successful tour to South Africa (where Australia succeeded in conditions similar to those found at home), Australia has lost. Lots. To pretty much everyone. Most recently, they imploded in the United Arab Emirates against Pakistan, in a series that exposed Australia’s inability to handle low, turning conditions. In two tests, Pakistan batsmen scored 8 centuries, compared to just one from David Warner for the tourists. Australia bowled out Pakistan just once over the four innings – and that was for over 450.
This was not just a failure of the batsmen, or the bowlers. This was a wholesale failure across the side. With the bat Australia showed an inability to bat with patience. The bowlers unable to muster anything resembling a threat on the dead wickets of the middle-east. What worked in Australia, hitting through the line of the ball, or hitting the deck hard, was foolhardy in the emirates.
It is now very much at the back of the memory for most Australian cricket fans, hidden by the successful series recently against India, and the success of the Cricket World Cup.
But should Australia intend to retain the Ashes in a months time, they will need to handle conditions tat they are not used to. Sure the slow wickets of the Caribbean are not the seaming, swinging decks of England, but both test a cricketers discipline and technique. Hitting through the line and hitting the deck hard are how Australia wins at home, but this is not a useful approach overseas.
If Australia intends to win the Ashes they will need to show they can take a more nuanced approach to test cricket, with both the bat and the ball. These tests will provide evidence if they are on the right track.