Well, the tests are done and dusted, and whilst the Aussies are heading to India to play a 3 ODI series (why no one knows) so we can look back on the summer now and see who were the big winners and who were the ones that struggled.
Obviously first up we had the Pakis touring for a couple of tests in Brisbane and Adelaide, and were soundly beaten, as the Aussies won both tests by an innings and both inside of 4 days. Pakistan’s bowlers weren’t able to keep us to achievable totals whilst their batsman were simply over-powered by the Aussie quicks.
1st Test – Australia V Pakistan – Gabba – Australia won by an innings and 5 runs
Pakistan – 240 – Asad Shafiq 76, Starc 4/52, Hazelwood 3/60
Australia – 580 – David Warner 154, Marnus Labuschagne 185, Shah 4/205,
Pakistan – 335 – Babar Azam 105, Mohammed Rizwan 95, Starc 3/73, Josh Hazelwood 4/63
2nd Test – Australia v Pakistan – Adelaide – Australia won by an innings and 48 runs
Australia – 3d/589 – David Warner 335*, Marnus Labuschagne 162, Shaheen Afridi 3/88
Pakistan – 302 – Babar Azam 97, Yasir Shah 113, Mitch Starc 6/66
Pakistan – 239 – Shan Masood 68, Asad Shafiq 57, Nathan Lyon 5/69
Of course, then we had the Kiwis come over, in what was expected to be a really promising series. Sadly though, it didn’t end up that way, as they were comprehensively beaten over the 3 tests. It has been 32 years since the Kiwis got prime time in Australia, featuring in both the Boxing Day and New years tests in Melbourne and Sydney respectively, and it could well be another 32 years till it happens again based on their performance this summer.
The Kiwis crucially lost the tosses in the first and 3rd tests, allowing the Aussies to build a strong first innings total, whilst when they actually did win the toss, they put us in to bat which again backfired as we were able to put the kiwis under pressure with a strong first innings. Of course, it helps when you have a top order that were all in reasonable form, which the Aussies certainly did and the kiwis most certainly didn’t. The Kiwis highest innings score for the summer was 256, which simply was never going to cut the mustard here.
1st Test – Australia V New Zealand – Perth – Australia won by 296 runs
Australia – 416 – Marnus Labuschagne 143, Travis Head 56, Southee 4/93, Wagner 4/92
New Zealand – 166 – Ross Taylor 80, Mitch Starc 5/52,
Australia – 9/217 – Marnus Labuschagne 50, Joe Burns 53, Southee 5/69, Wagner 3/59
New Zealand – 166 – Ross Taylor 80, Mitch Starc 5/52,
2nd Test – Australia V New Zealand – Melbourne – Australia won by 247 runs
Australia – 467 – Travis Head 114, Steve Smith 85, Neil Wagner 4/83
New Zealand – 148 – Tom Latham 50, Pat Cummins 5/28
Australia – 5/168 – Warner 38, Neil Wagner 3/50
New Zealand – 240 – Tom Blundell 121, Nathan Lyon 4/81, James Pattinson 3/35
3rd Test – Australia V New Zealand – Sydney – Australia won by 279 runs
Australia – 454 – Marnus Labuschagne 215, Steve Smith 63, Neil Wagner 3/66
New Zealand – 256 – Tom Latham 49, Glenn Phillips 52, Nathan Lyon 5/68
Australia – 2/217 – David Warner 111*, Marnus Labushagne 59
New Zealand – 136 – Colin De Grandhomme 52, Nathan Lyon 5/50, Mitch Starc 3/25
So, what does this summer tell us about the Aussies?? We have a look at 5 big questions coming out of the summer
1: Are we as good as what the results suggest?
It’s an interesting question, as the result over the summer were all comprehensive. First time in history that we have won all tests inside 4 days. All results against Pakistan were by an innings, all well over 200 runs against New Zealand who were the number 2 test playing nation. So, you could easily mount a case we are. However, if you look at each series, we did have our fair share of luck. Against Pakistan, we came up against an inexplicably young attack which simply wasn’t ready for Aussie conditions. Against the Kiwis, they started the series without their best opening bowler in Boult, lost Lochie Ferguson inside the first session of the first test which impacted their bowling attack, then lost 5 players for the Sydney test. The impressive thing was, we cashed in when we could, which good sides do, and we kept the foot on the throat throughout the tournament, again a sign of a good team. There will be bigger and tougher tests to come, and we need these performances overseas before we can brag too much, but it does look very positive.
2: Is Burns the right man to open with Warner??
Joe Burns was preferenced to both Bancroft and Harris prior to the series, despite poorer form than Harris in the Shield prior too. His 97 in the first innings in Brisbane was strong, and he made a couple of other decent scores across the summer, he averaged 32 for the Summer, and just 25.83 against the Kiwis, only two 50s for the summer and no hundreds. He’s never really cemented a spot at the top of the order, and this summer again just proves it. However, he and Warner seem to get one really well together, a key for an opening partnership, and the chopping and changing of openers hasn’t really worked so it’s probably a better option to stick and see. He’s shown the ability to make hundreds at test level, maybe if he can get the ongoing support from the selectors he can settle. I’d stick till next summer and see where we sit personally.
3: Should Wade or Head by nervous?
It’s a tough series to judge these two, as against Pakistan they got little opportunity whilst against the Kiwis they were regularly coming in with runs on the board and therefore at times having to chase quick runs. Wade had just one half century for the summer and looked all at see against Wagner in the Kiwi series, whilst Head had 2 half centuries and a superb hundred in the boxing day test on a difficult wicket that showed his class and ability. The talk of Australia again possibly wanting a batting all-rounder down the order should keep these two worried, but Head is the more secure in my book. Younger than Wade and his boxing day hundred was superb, plus has been vice-captain previously should see him preferred if they chose another, but for mine I’d keep the batting line-up as is. Unless you have a really good allrounder (Kallis, Stokes, Flintoff) then anything else weakens your team not strengthens.
4: Is Australia’s bowling attack the best in the world?
Geez, it would be bloody close. In Australian conditions, absolutely, however in all conditions it’s probably second still to India, who have proven they can succeed in all conditions. The incredible thing is, Australia lost Hazelwood in Perth, and were able to replace him with another world-class bowler in Pattinson. Behind him is Jye Richardson who’s shown he’s adept at test level so the depth is there as well. A second spinning option could be required and looks Australia’s only downside, but with Lyon bowling well and Labuschagne more than just a part-time leggie, the spinning side is not too bad overall.
5: Can the summer of Labuschagne continue??
Put simply, no. 896 at 112 over the summer is something I can’t see him doing again, not that he needs too, as those numbers are just ridiculous. Steve Smith showed his human side, after dominating the summer he had a middling sort of summer, with no hundreds and just two half centuries. The beauty is, you know he’ll get better and if Burns can improve and Warner maintain his form, then we can afford for Marnus to drop off some and still be strong at the top of the order. What he’s shown though, is he has the game and the temperament to now only succeed at test level but excel. Whilst he’s unlikely to do this again, I would suggest Marnus’s run scoring will continue…..just at more of a mere mortal style level.