Australia was accused of “selfish” and “naive” batting against New Zealand on Thursday as the team relied on a stunning rearguard action to post a competitive total in the second ODI.
Having started the home season with two massive wins against Zimbabwe, the third ODI of that series seemingly turned the tide.
Australia has had major issues with the bat since.
In the third ODI against Zimbabwe, Australia lost 5-72 on the way to being rolled for 141.
Australia then lost 5-44 when chasing 232 in the first ODI against New Zealand and scraped home for a two-wicket win. The same top-order started the second match with the loss of 4-26, while Australia later slumped to 8-117.
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Steve Smith provided some resistance with his 61 from 94 balls, but Australia continued to lose wickets at regular intervals.
The hosts relied on the tail wagging — Mitchell Starc, Adam Zampa and Josh Hazlewood combined for 77 runs — to make what was still a below-par total of 9-195.
Former New Zealand international and commentator Ian Smith was left stunned by the batting trend early in Australia’s innings.
“I can’t believe this is Australia I’m watching,” he said on Fox Cricket. “I’ll be honest with you. It’s three times in a row. I simply find it quite astounding.”
Mark Waugh said that Australia was making the “same mistake over and over” with the bat.
Indeed there were eerie similarities with a number of wickets.
David Warner’s dismissal mirrored that of Aaron Finch (more on the opener below) two overs earlier, with both driving on the up to Mark Henry to be caught at mid-off.
Marnus Labuschagne and Marcus Stoinis were gone less than two overs apart, both to Trent Boult inswingers.
“I just wonder if it’s a mental thing now. They’ve got that many coaches and senior players in that side and they’re just making the same mistakes,” Waugh said. “You can get a good ball and make a mistake, but not the same one over and over.
Meanwhile, Alex Carey was stumped playing a reverse sweep and Glenn Maxwell holed out while tying to clear the ropes — both familiar demises for the duo.
Australia needed Smith for the final 10 overs but he attempted to pull the trigger in the 37th over and was caught off a top-edge.
“I don’t think he needed to do that. Australia needed him there at the end,” Brad Haddin said.
“The key to this situation is to bat with the batter and he’s the one who’s made the poor decision there.”
He later added: “He just let the situation get to him a bit.”
Adding to the batting concerns was the quickfire wasting of both reviews on two ambitious attempts to reverse lbw decisions.
The first came when Labuschagne was trapped in-front by a Boult inswinger that was crashing into leg stump.
Just two overs later, a near-identical delivery struck Stoinis on the front pad — and he also reviewed with ball-tracking showing the ball hitting middle stump three-quarters of the way up.
As such, both Australian reviews were burnt inside nine overs.
Waugh was flabbergasted in commentary on Fox Cricket, saying: “That is a shocking review.
“Stone dead. That’s just a waste and, once again, you have to say that’s naive batting.
“Yes, it’s a good ball, but it’s an ODI, you know what Trent Boult is going to bowl. That’s as plumb as it gets.”
Smith was at the nonstriker’s end for the decisions and was in conversation with both Labuschagne and Stoinis before they called for reviews.
“That’s where Smith (nonstriker) should say, ‘no, that’s absolutely dead. Sorry, you’re out’,” Waugh said.
Of the reviews, he added: “To me it shows signs of selfishness when players are reviewing when you know you’re out. That’s just selfish.
“You never know how it’s going to come back and bite you … you never take the DRS for granted especially after eight overs, it’s a long way to go.”
Haddin expressed a similar sentiment, saying: “Sometimes you’ve just got to take your medicine and walk off.
“DRS is not there for the 50-50, it’s there for the howler.”
ONE MORE CHANCE FOR FINCH?
Meanwhile, arguably the biggest concern of all for Australia is the ever-worsening form slump of Finch.
After a run of poor scores, and with the pressure growing by the game, Finch attempted to blast his way out of the hole on Thursday.
The aggressive tactic didn’t work. Facing just his second ball of the innings, Finch attempted to drive a wide Henry delivery on the up and only succeeded in picking out Kane Williamson due to his limp contact.
Finch’s past seven ODI scores are now 0, 5, 5, 1, 15, 0 and 0, while his average in the format this year is 13.00.
With the next 50-over World Cup just over a year away, Waugh is of the opinion that Finch should be given only one more chance.
Before Finch’s innings, he said: “It’s now or never. I think he’s got these two games. He’s got to show something in these two games.
“He would not be in the side if he wasn’t captain.”
Asked after Finch’s innings if he would axe the opener, he said: “If he didn’t make runs in these three games (against New Zealand) I was happy to move on for next year’s World Cup.
“I’ll stick with that and give him a third game.”