Test Mortem: Green’s golden status fading as batting unit becomes fragile, Windies need help to kick on from Gabba glory


Australia’s batting line-up is looking decidedly fragile after their upset loss to the West Indies heading into a tricky tour of New Zealand and next summer’s marquee contest against India. 

On top of the rejigged top order following David Warner’s retirement, most of the top six are coming off down summers in terms of their usually high output. 

Mitchell Marsh is the only member of the current top seven who exceeded their career average over the five Tests against Pakistan and the West Indies. 

The pitches Down Under were slightly more bowler friendly than recent seasons but nothing that this world champion line-up shouldn’t be able to handle. 

And particularly when you factor in that they came up against a Pakistani attack which was down on a couple of their first-choice seamers and rested their pace spearhead for the final Test while the West Indies also had to do without their most experienced bowler in Jason Holder. 

Although the Aussies swept Pakistan 3-0 and accounted for the West Indies in the First Test, there were warning signs that this team was down on form.

And while some people didn’t like reading it, this was apparent even during the win in Adelaide, which prompted my assessment of “Aussies struggling for form despite winning streak”

Kemar Roach celebrates dismissing Cameron Green in Brisbane. (Photo by Albert Perez – CA/Cricket Australia via Getty Images)

Greater Tests await. New Zealand’s attack featuring the likes of Neil Wagner, Kyle Jamieson, Tim Southee and Mitchell Santner are not world-beaters but they should not be under-estimated, particularly in home conditions. 

Australia won’t be arrogant enough to say that it’s a testing ground for next summer’s assignment against India – each Test is its own challenge – but this team needs to start improving and evolving, otherwise this veteran squad is in danger of becoming very stale, very quickly.

Steve Smith is a noted problem solver and it was apparent by his fourth knock as an opener in Brisbane that he had tightened up his technique as the old dog looks to conquer the new tricks that come with being an opener. 

Aussie batters 2023-24

Tests/InningsRunsHigh ScoreAverage50s/100sSteve Smith5/1031491*44.852/0Usman Khawaja5/103599039.882/0Marnus Labuschagne5/102266328.253/0Cameron Green2/3644220.870/0Travis Head5/8200119250/1Mitchell Marsh 5/83809654.284/0Alex Carey5/72116530.142/0

Marnus Labuschagne’s extended dry spell (he scored just one ton in 2023) is a concern but hardly a reason for Australia to panic. The old adage of form is temporary and class is permanent applies here and it shouldn’t be long before he works his way out of this trough. 

And Travis Head – the only Aussie to ton up this summer – will forever be frustrating in that he can be out first ball or send it to the boundary without doing much different in terms of the shot he plays. 

Cameron Green’s ongoing inability to convert his undoubted talent into consistent runs at Test level is the main worry. 

He’s now got 26 matches under his belt but has managed just the one ton when he scored 114 on the Ahmedabad featherbed which yielded just 12 wickets while offering up 1226 runs over five tedious days in an anti-climactic end to last year’s Border-Gavaskar Trophy series in India. 

Australia have been extremely patient because they know they have a special talent on their hands with the only player in the line-up under 30. 

Steve Waugh took 27 Tests before he registered his first century and also had an average in the low 30s until that point before going on to break all sorts of records while tonning up 32 times during his career. 

(Photo by Albert Perez – CA/Cricket Australia via Getty Images)

Green’s bowling is a long way further down the road than his batting. But when you come in at four, the bowling is a nice addition and your main role is to score bulk runs. 

There is no obvious middle-order alternative for the selectors if 24-year-old Green’s struggles continue.

Matt Renshaw has shown he can’t do the role at Test level, while Aaron Hardie and Nathan McSweeney are at least a year away from being the next cab off the rank.

The only realistic option is shifting Smith back to his original spot and promoting Renshaw or another specialist opener in Cameron Bancroft to the top of the order. 

And with the lack of faith the selectors have shown in those two and Marcus Harris, they clearly don’t see that as a viable alternative so the Green experiment will continue in NZ at the end of next month. 

Poor preparation becoming the norm 

Australia warmed up for their World Test Championship final and Ashes campaign last year on the back of no practice matches and most players either resting or playing IPL in the lead-up.

Heading into this home summer schedule against Pakistan and the Windies, the ODI World Cup took centrestage for the bulk of the squad with some of them then sticking around for a virtually meaningless T20 series. 

A few of them squeezed in a Sheffield Shield game while Usman Khawaja was told to rest from a couple of Queensland matches so he would be fresh for the Tests.

This is a “radical” suggestion but perhaps the Aussies should look to book in some red-ball matches before Tests in the future. 

Steve Smith. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

Not always possible to do with the congested calendar but these first-class fixtures tend to have benefits for players leading into Test affairs.

After the T20 World Cup in June, the Aussies are scheduled to go on white-ball tours away to Afghanistan (won’t happen), Ireland and England as well a home clash over six games against Pakistan in November before their five-Test series against India.

Could be worth a few of the top-line multi-format players skipping some of those limited-overs fixtures to make rare Sheffield Shield appearances instead if Australia are serious about ending their streak to India of four straight series losses.

Declaration didn’t cost Aussies

Pat Cummins was magnanimous in defeat after the Windies roared to victory by eight runs in Brisbane. 

The fact that he declared 22 runs behind could be seen by some as a potential dud move in hindsight given the final slim margin but that was not the reason why they lost. 

First of all, the declaration late on the second night paid off because Windies opener Tagenarine Chanderpaul fell in the final over before stumps. 

Australia lost this Test because they made a couple of uncharacteristic blunders in the field – Smith shelling a straightforward chance and another diving effort in the slips were not too costly on the scoreboard but they were crucial in the final wash-up. 

“Are these muscles big enough for him?” ????

West Indies captain Kraigg Brathwaite had some words for a specific doubter! ????

???? Watch #AUSvWI on Ch. 501 or stream via @kayosports https://t.co/TdWj8lVL7d
???? BLOG https://t.co/2Rk2mn8yNk
???? MATCH CENTRE https://t.co/P2cWnKBjl1 pic.twitter.com/BI6v5u65bU

— Fox Cricket (@FoxCricket) January 28, 2024

But the main reason was their batters failing early in both innings – 10 scores of 21 or less by their top seven across the Test. 

A couple you could say were unlucky in tickles down the leg side but even those dismissals are a sign of carelessness more than fortune.

“You’ve got to find a way to get yourself into your innings and I’m sure a couple of batters will look at a couple of ways they were dismissed,” Cummins said.

“They outplayed us, they played brilliantly. There was a lot of talk coming in about their debutants but they’ve created a couple of new superstars we didn’t know about.

“As a cricket fan, a Test match cricket fan, there’s a part of me that was happy to watch.”

Thanks to this young man Shamar Joseph for bowling one of the most remarkably courageous, & high quality spells on an injured right foot. All credit to you and your loved ones bro, for what you have achieved and will continue to achieve. pic.twitter.com/fA0Wd8id67

— Ian Raphael Bishop (@irbishi) January 28, 2024

Windies need more Test cricket

Shamar Joseph is a budding superstar, no doubt about that but hopefully he doesn’t fall victim to the West Indies’ messiah syndrome.

Since their last truly great superstar in Brian Lara, the Caribbean’s cricket side has gone through several false dawns where a particular player was seen as their saviour, from Chris Gayle to Dwayne Bravo to Jason Holder and Shai Hope. 

But while the first three in particular turned out to be very good players, none of them were able to carry the team singlehandedly. 

The Windies can only get back to anywhere near the best of their glory days if they play more Test cricket and are financially incentivised to do so by the ICC. 

Shamar Joseph celebrates dismissing Travis Head. (Photo by Chris Hyde – CA/Cricket Australia via Getty Images)

Like the nine Test-playing nations whose name is not India, Australia or England, the problem for the Windies is keeping players away from the lucrative T20 leagues and focused on the format which is rich in tradition but poor when it comes to payment. 

For a player who has come from a humble background in Guyana and is less than a year into his first-class journey, Joseph will be a target for franchises. 

The Windies not only need to ensure he is willing and able to play Test cricket but also the likes of Gabba debutant Kevin Sinclair, Kirk McKenzie, Justin Greaves and more seasoned campaigners like Alzarri Joseph and Kavem Hodge. 

Three weeks ago, when Shamar Joseph walked through Rundle Mall in his team training gear, nobody batted an eyelid. Today he’s the most celebrated new sensation in world cricket & everyone wants a piece of him. Now that’s what dreams are made of #AusvWI pic.twitter.com/kRfEYLV2pR

— Bharat Sundaresan (@beastieboy07) January 28, 2024

They have the makings of a competitive side under an astute and combative captain in Kraigg Brathwaite, particularly if Holder recommits to the Test team after opting for the ILT20 in the United Arab Emirates instead of embarking on the tour to Australia. Hopefully he regrets that decision after witnessing the emotional scenes on Sunday at the Gabba.

“It means everything with the legends here watching,” Brathwaite said when asked about Brian Lara, Ian Bishop and Carl Hooper becoming emotional in commentary after Joseph took the final wicket. “Everyone loves West Indies and for us to come and do it against the No.1 team in the world in Australia, is amazing.

“It shows, once you have the belief, play with some heart, you can do anything.”

Test cricket is king. Always has been. Always will be even if T20 brings in more riches.

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