Australia's batting looks bare, says Robert Croft, despite their Test domination of Sri Lanka continuing at the SCG

Last Updated: 06/01/13 7:44pm

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Hussey: has bowed out from Test cricket

Hussey: has bowed out from Test cricket

Australia have just completed a Test series whitewash of Sri Lanka - but Sky Sports pundits Robert Croft and Mark Butcher think rockier times could lie ahead for the Antipodeans.

The Baggy Greens sealed a five-wicket win over their rivals from the subcontinent at the SCG on Sunday, with Mike Hussey - playing in his final Test - and Mitchell Johnson leading the side home.

Read our report here

The victory ensured Australia snared the series 3-0, after earlier triumphs in Hobart and Melbourne.

But Butcher and Croft feel that the absence of Hussey, as well the recent retirement of Ricky Ponting and a lack of spin-bowling options, could cost the team when they lock horns with India and England later this year.

"(Australia skipper) Michael Clarke must be thinking: 'What have I done?' as all these experienced legends are leaving his team when they have difficult series coming up - India away followed by back-to-back Ashes series," said former England spinner Croft.

"You sense that every time Bird runs in everything is clicking and he gives batsmen few easy leaves."
Robert Croft

"That spine is slowly disintegrating and while they have a pod of quick bowlers coming through the batting looks particularly fragile, and Australia will definitely miss Hussey's strength of character."

On Hussey, who ended his Test tenure with 6,235 runs at an average of just over 51 from his 79 games, racking up 19 tons and 29 half-centuries, ex-Surrey man Butcher said: "He will forever be remembered as a great team man; to him the result was everything.

"He was just as happy for someone else to score the winning runs or get the double hundred as long as he was in the side and made a contribution, however small, to the win; that is the mark or a true cricketer and true man.

"Someone else will now have to score the runs in India, while Australia have average spinners, too; they can be very good, but they have some very poor days and that's where they need to improve."


Croft reckons the only way Australia can go at least some way to replicating their former glories is by persevering with the players currently in and around the side.

And the erstwhile Glamorgan bowler thinks that in Jackson Bird - the Tasmania quick who claimed match figures of 7-117 at the SCG in just his second Test - Clarke's charges have discovered a real talent.

"Australia have to back the players they have given a start to because if they keep chopping and changing they won't find a formula," said Croft.

"There has to be a point where they know who their best 12-13 players are and stick with them, as I don't think this rotation policy where bowlers duck in and out helps players grow a book of knowledge.

"Only Peter Siddle stands out amongst the seam bowlers, but I like the look of Bird; he has a very repeatable action. You sense that every time he runs in everything is clicking, and he reminds me of Siddle in that he gives batsmen few easy leaves."

Hot potato

Butcher added: "Bird runs up and uses the new ball absolutely magnificently, something you have to do in Australia as there is only a 15-over window in which the Kookaburra ball is going to swing or seam.

"He is strong, very tall and, to use footballing parlance, he seems to have a very good engine; he doesn't jump into the red zone after four overs and get tired.

"He looks like he can bowl all day and Australia have got a good one there, and if he stays fit he could do well in English conditions.

"Vernon Philander proves that a good length is a good length anywhere; he does the basics well and is knocking people over left right and centre - and Australia have that in Bird."

Sri Lanka, meanwhile, are searching for a new skipper, with Mahela Jayawardene opting to step down from the role, but Butcher reckons the Lions have deeper-rooted problems.

"The captaincy keeps getting tossed around like a hot potato," said Butcher. "Kumar Sangakkara couldn't wait to get rid of it and I'm not sure how the players handle the politics of Sri Lankan cricket, so I don't know where they go from here.

"But it is a tough time for Sri Lanka all round as they don't have an obvious wicket-taker and they don't have an obvious good seam bowler."

Catch live coverage of the first ODI between Australia and Sri Lanka from 3am, Friday, January 11 on Sky Sports 2 HD.

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