HOBART: Head coach Darren Lehmann has voiced concern about Australia’s batting line-up on Saturday after a catastrophic display in which the hosts were bowled out for 85, their lowest total at home against South Africa.
Vernon Philander and Kyle Abbott made the most of overcast skies and a moisture-laden pitch, picking up eight wickets between them to wrap up Australia’s innings in less than two-and-a-half hours.
Lehmann, who indicated that radical changes to the team may be needed, was asked by reporters if he thought Australia were in a batting crisis.
“When you get bowled out for 85, it probably is, isn’t it?” he said.
Only two Australian batsmen reached double figures, pace bowler Joe Mennie making 10 and skipper Steve Smith a gritty 48 not out.
“We believe this is the best squad we’ve got to play. On today’s performance you’d say we’ve got to change,” the former left-handed batsman added. “We had seen it all before, but that didn’t make it any easier to believe it was happening again, this time on home soil.”
The clatter of wickets again revived painful memories of recent catastrophic batting collapses which have plagued the team under Lehmann’s reign as coach.
The capitulation revisited the nightmares of their miserable 47 in Cape Town in 2011 and England’s demolition of them for 60 at Trent Bridge last year.
“For us we have just got to be better. It’s a case of when the ball is swinging we struggle,” Lehmann lamented. “There is no hiding from the fact, so we have been doing everything behind the scenes to get better at it, but today we weren’t good at all.
“Steve Smith played really well for his unbeaten 48 and we needed someone to hang in with him.
“Obviously our lower order haven’t performed either but you can’t blame them, the batters have to do the batting.”
Saturday’s debacle represented Australia’s second-worst start in a home Test when batting first since they lost six wickets for 31 against England in Brisbane in 1978.
Australia’s last tour ended in a 3-0 series drubbing by Sri Lanka and they were beaten by 177 runs by South Africa in the first Test of the current three-match series in Perth.
“Even four Tests ago [when] we were number one. Now, we’re way away from that,” Lehmann added.
Lehmann insisted that Australia have the right squad amid criticism of the selectors over a losing run of four successive Tests this year.
“But at the end of the day we’ve got to find a way to get through those tough periods and we haven’t done that in the last four and a half Test matches,” he said. “That’s the challenge for not only the coaching group and myself but also the players to adapt to the situations that confront you.”
Smith’s team have been under immense scrutiny after their emphatic 177-run loss to South Africa in the Perth Test, and the latest batting collapse has only added to the mounting pressure on the players.
The Hobart rout followed Australia’s first innings collapse of 10 wickets for 86 in Perth when they squandered a 158-run opening stand to surrender meekly to the Proteas.
“Once we have a collapse we seem to have a big one and someone needs to stop that rot and have a partnership somewhere, that was disappointing,” Lehmann said.
“There is a lot of criticism and that’s warranted when you lose or when you play badly, and that’s fine.”