Not for the first time during his tenure as Australia’s coach, Darren Lehmann has sat in the rooms and watched his batsmen give up their wickets by missing straight balls. After the loss in Chester-le-Street last year, which confirmed England had won the Ashes series, a furious Lehmann pointed out that too many men had failed to get their bat in the way of straight ones, often from the fast bowlers.
It was a more genial Lehmann who fronted the media after Pakistan defeated Australia in Dubai, but there was a similar bewilderment at the way his batsmen had been dismissed. This time, though, it was largely through spin, and Zulfiqar Babar in particular was the beneficiary of Australia’s apparent conviction that the ball would turn, when in fact it was often skidding straight on.
Perhaps the Australians were confused by their last trip for a Test series in Asia, when they lost 4-0 in India under the previous coach Mickey Arthur. There was plenty of turn in those pitches and Lehmann said the conditions in Dubai could not be compared with those that Michael Clarke’s team was faced with in India last year.
“This is a very good cricket wicket and we didn’t adapt well enough and didn’t play well enough,” Lehmann said. “When you are talking about learning how to play in these conditions we got beaten on the other side – with less spin. You would think it would spin more. We got beaten with straight balls, I think five or six dismissals throughout the game.
“We have to get better at hitting the straight ball, watching the ball for a start, but they are things the guys will work on. Have we learnt anything? I think as long as you are learning all the time. The wickets are certainly different than those wickets I saw in 2013, they are better wickets here.”
Clarke said after the loss that Australia had been outplayed in all areas of the game by Pakistan, it was a difficult sentiment with which to disagree. One of the keys for the Australians when the second Test begins in Abu Dhabi on Thursday will be ensuring that their batsmen get through the tricky period when they first come to the wicket, and then cash in on their starts.
“We didn’t play the way we needed to play in those conditions, didn’t adjust well enough,” Lehmann said. “You have got to get through the first 20 or 30 balls and you are okay. [We have to] understand that a lot of the wickets are going to have no spin, so maybe we are trying to play for things that aren’t there.
“We were disappointing with the bat, weren’t we? We have to find a way to get through that and make big scores. One of the things we haven’t done on the subcontinent is make big scores. We need to start piling it on. We should have made 500 on that wicket.”
Although Australia needed to create more chances in the field, Lehmann said he was pleased with the debut of left-arm spinner Steve O’Keefe, who picked up two wickets in each innings.
“[It’s] tough when you’re bowling first day but he got a couple of wickets for us and it was a great experience for him,” he said. “He managed to tie down an end at different stages. I was happy with his debut first up.”