Border lets fly at Australia's 'embarrassing' top order

After dismal display at Lord's, ex-captain says team needs to stand up and be counted, while opener Watson is living on borrowed time

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 23 July, 2013, 11:30am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 24 July, 2013, 5:46am


Former captain Allan Border yesterday took aim at Australia's hapless batting during the Ashes series, saying the top order should be embarrassed while telling Shane Watson to sort himself out.

Border, known as "Captain Grumpy" during his playing days, said the team needed to "stand up and be counted" if they were to turn around the five-test series, which England leads 2-0.

Australia lost the second test at Lord's on Sunday by a massive 347 runs, putting them on a six-test losing streak, their worst run in 30 years.

"Our major concern right now is the performance of the top six," said Border, who played 156 tests, captaining the side 93 times as it rebuilt in the mid-1980s, laying the foundations for a long period of dominance.

"Watching, I could honestly say the nine, 10 and jack looked more competent than our one, two and three. If that was me in the top three I'd be embarrassed."

While Usman Khawaja managed to knock 54 in the second innings coming in as No 3 at Lord's, Chris Rogers and Watson again failed to fire and Border suggested Watson was living on borrowed time.

"We all know what a wonderful player Shane Watson is. He looks like a million bucks when he's firing," he said in a comment piece to Cricket Australia subscribers. "What is worrying though is that he keeps getting out in the same fashion. Now who is to blame here? Is it Watson for not adapting? What about the coaches?"

Watson has fallen lbw three times in four innings in the series as an opener and has not scored a test century in 43 innings.

"In an era where we've got a thousand coaches and psychoanalysts and dietitians and sport scientists, it defies belief that a player can be making the same mistakes," Border said. "Whether it is a technical thing or a mental thing I don't know."

But Border also cautioned selectors against constantly chopping and changing the side, saying he was "a believer in the pick-and-stick method".

"So we need to find our best 11 that's suited to the conditions and stick with it," he said.

Border suggested Nathan Lyon would need to replace Ashton Agar for the third test at Old Trafford.

Although the teenage Agar memorably hit 98 on his debut in the first test as a No 11, he went wicketless at Lord's.

Border also suggested that Matthew Wade could replace Steve Smith as a batsman. "Our batting was seen as our Achilles heel heading into the series and right now it's turning into a reality.

"If we can find the right formula for the top six, I'm confident our luck can turnaround in Manchester," Border said.

Australian fast-bowling great Glenn McGrath, who traditionally predicts a 5-0 Ashes series sweep for Australia, agreed Lyon should replace Agar.

"Nathan Lyon, between his debut in 2011 and the start of this series, took as many wickets in test cricket as any other Australian bowler, 76 at an average of 33. He should start the next test," the McGrath said in The Guardian.

"I like Ashton Agar and admire his energy, but on these dry pitches, we need a spinner who can make more of an impact on a match than he is able to at this early stage in his career."

Agence France-Presse, Reuters