‘Will iron themselves out’: McDonald expects improvement from batters, discusses T20 ‘creep’ into Test schedules
Australia coach Andrew McDonald remains optimistic a reshuffled batting line-up will work despite lacklustre returns in the first-Test trouncing of the West Indies.
While the Australians romped to a 10-wicket win before lunch on day three in Adelaide, only centurion Travis Head passed 45.
Steve Smith, in his elevation to opener, made 12 and 11 not out while Cameron Green managed only 14 in his sole innings on returning to the team.
First-drop Marnus Labuschagne (10 and 1no) also failed in his initial knock. Like Smith, he was dismissed by West Indian debutant Shamar Joseph who took 5-95 in his debut innings with the ball.
Another debutant Justin Greaves claimed 2-36 but McDonald expects improved output from Australia’s batsmen in the second Test starting Wednesday in Brisbane.
“A sample size of one is always difficult to judge,” McDonald said.
“We’re comfortable with where it has all landed.
“We feel as though that top six and the way they complement each other gives us the best opportunity to maximise.
“And we’re very comfortable with Smudge (Smith) at the top of the order and seeing Cameron Green back out there in the field with ball and bat in hand was great to see also.
“We’re optimistic it will work and I suppose hindsight will tell us everything.”
McDonald noted the batters hadn’t faced the West Indies’ newcomers before.
“We feel as though now that there’s less unknowns going into the second Test match, we’ve had a good look at them,” he said.
“A lot of those little decision-making errors that may have crept in I think will iron themselves out.”
Opener Usman Khawaja made 45 in the first innings but retired hurt in the second innings on nine when struck by a Joseph bouncer.
Khawaja, who was spitting blood and feeling his jaw when leaving the field, passed an initial concussion test and scans have cleared him of any break in the jaw.
The left-hander will face more concussion tests for any delayed symptoms in coming days.
Matthew Renshaw is the standby batsman but was released from Australia’s Test squad on day one of the Test so he could play in the BBL for Brisbane Heat.
He was due to return to Adelaide for day four on Saturday but the Test finished.
“We consider the risk when we release players and I think it’s about 0.5 per cent of a chance in terms of a concussion happening,” McDonald said.
“So it was ironic that the first time we have let a play go back to the Big Bash there was a head knock.”
The discussion however led to a broader topic, as McDonald recognised there is an increasing “creep” of global Twenty20 leagues impacting on Test cricket.
While the Windies were lacklustre, it was noted they were weakened by the non-selection of a senior core including ex-captain Jason Holder. Holder and others opted to play in T20 leagues rather than tour Australia.
“The creep is happening, there’s a lot of (T20) leagues around the world,” McDonald said.
“We like to think our Test players are interested in playing Test cricket because they like playing for their country.
“And I think that’s first and foremost: if you like playing for your country, then you are going to put your hand up to play.
“And we’ve got some white-ball players that are in that boat where they’ve got some choices to make but at the moment they’re choosing to play for Australia.
“For us, it’s as simple as keeping our environment one that people want to be a part of.
“And if you can do that I think you maintain the core of your players – potentially if it’s not a great environment the experience is not great playing for your country, then you may choose alternative options.
“But the scheduling is going to be tougher and tougher going forward.
“So there needs to be some thought given to it, how it’s all balanced and how it all works together.
“I know the problem but I don’t know the answer.”
Australia will this week name David Warner in the squad for a three-match T20 series against the West Indies, which follows three 50-over fixtures.
Warner has retired from 50-over cricket and will miss the preceding three ODIs against the West Indies while playing in the International League T20 in the United Arab Emirates.
Australia’s frontline fast bowlers Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood have all been rested from the ODI series and could also miss the T20 fixtures.