Cameron Bancroft - Guide On The Way To The English Conditions > Cricket News, cricinfo, mobilecric, cricbuzz, livescore and more
Cricket news - Cameron Bancroft - A guidebook on how to succeed in English conditions
'Use soft hands, play the line of the ball and play it late, show positive footwork - which doesn't simply mean sticking your front leg out instinctively - don't get stuck in your crease, leave more balls than you play at and please leave your ego at home.' It's the most basic recipe for batting in English conditions. And perhaps it's time they add it to the 'what to expect' reference manual for whenever you apply for an UK visa, especially if your intention to visit the country is scoring runs, or trying to anyway.
While they're at it, perhaps it wouldn't be such a bad idea to also include some other quirks that anyone making their way to England has to get used to - from bearing with Oasis's 'Don't look back in anger' every time you spend more than 10 minutes in any pub, driving on the motorway with no speed limit signs and of course how unlike in India, if you let a crowded local train pass by, the one that follows will have some space for you and you can actually avoid being crushed.
Over the last three days of what was originally a four-day game, the Australian batsmen have learnt nothing that they already didn't know. It included the harsh reality that if you don't follow the manual, you don't score runs - not for long anyway - and that there are no compromises on that front. Not to forget the fact that scoring runs on English soil on most days is bloody hard. Yes, it was a kind of pitch that they're unlikely to come up against during the Ashes. It was in many ways underprepared to be of Test quality. But it's probably what Australia required, if they did need a reminder that they were in England, where as David Warner keeps reiterating, "you need to fight for every run".
The fact that it was a game where you had the 25 best cricketers in Australia all present and all desperate to prove a point to the selectors only added to the intensity and significance of the setting itself. And like in these cases, those who stood out were the ones who followed the English batting diktat to the hilt.
Foremost amongst them was Cameron Bancroft. While there's been incessant talk about how Steve Smith and Warner are days away from making their Test returns, most often tend to forget that the young Western Australian opener is also on a comeback trail after having served a nine-month ban for his role in the sandpaper scandal last year. The one aspect of his cricket that has stood out since he's returned is his ability to occupy the crease for lengthy periods. The 26-year-old only played four games in the Sheffield Shield, all of which came against the Dukes ball, and he averaged a whopping 118 balls per innings the eight times he walked out to bat. Each of his knocks were marked for the way he left deliveries and the tenacity he showed in wanting to spend copious amounts of time at the crease literally make up for lost time away from it.
Even here on a pitch that Australian Test captain Tim Paine called "indifferent" and "bordering on dangerous", Bancroft showed the fight that was often missing in the Australian top-order against the Indian pace attack at home. And his unbeaten 93 off 194 balls wasn't just the most noteworthy batting performance across the four innings of the contest, it also didn't go unnoticed by Paine, and certainly not the rest of the selection committee who announce the Ashes squad on Friday (July 26).
"I thought Bangers (Bancroft) played unbelievably well. To get basically a hundred on that wicket was an unbelievable effort. I thought what it showed is Bangers' toughness. The reason the guys were getting stuck on the crease a lot is because the odd ball was jumping up at them. That can play on a guy's mind, and mix with a batsman's feet, particularly when they are bowling the speeds the guys were. But that just shows the mental application and toughness that Bangers has got, to keep going forward, to keep wearing balls on the body. The boys think he has a bit of a screw loose but he seems to enjoy getting hit on the body, it seems to make him bat better. He was superb in that second innings," the skipper said.
It was also a knock where Bancroft more or less provided a blueprint to the rest of the Aussie batsmen on how to cope with pitches in England. He ticked every box recommended in the recipe for success with bat here. On a pitch where a majority of the wickets fell to batsmen edging deliveries due to not trusting their defence or being lbw after being stuck in the crease after not committing to being positive with their footwork, Bancroft was both courageous and cautious in his approach. He played with his bat close to his body, played the ball late - once it was literally under his eyes - and also was the only batsman who left more deliveries than play at them. Most impressively, he also managed to put the odd play and miss behind him more instantaneously than any of his colleagues across both teams, which probably would be the biggest takeaway for his colleagues across both teams.
There were deliveries that caught the edge of his bat, but his hands were soft enough for the ball to then not carry even halfway to the slips. Rarely did he let his bat jut out too far from his body, and therefore limiting the risk of the bowler to penetrate his defences. Unlike a number of batsmen on show in Southampton who kept poking at deliveries with hard hands and also therefore creating a gap between the bat and pad and getting trapped lbw.
The only batsmen to display similar skills during the game were Warner and for a brief period Marnus Labuschagne in the first innings. Warner was the only other batsmen to face over a 100 deliveries across both innings, and he too did most things right in terms of not over-committing to any delivery and at the same time making sure he scored off deliveries that needed to be scored off.
"You had to have fast feet, energy in your feet and I felt like today was good for me personally. The intent was good from Bangers too. Marnus in the first innings, he played very well, and I haven't see much of him in this format and he's scored a lot of runs in county cricket and he showed just there, if you play the line, and you play and miss, so be it, but he climbed in to it when he needed to and put it away when he needed to," he'd said a day earlier.
The likes of Labuschagne, Kurtis Patterson and Joe Burns, all of whom will spend a nervous night in Southampton, despite having scored centuries or come close to doing so the last time Australia played a Test series - against Sri Lanka at home - were guilty of being uncertain with their footwork and ended up with no wriggle space against the moving ball.
You wonder why it takes overseas batsmen so long to get on board the rather straightforward mantra for success as a batsman in these climes. Warner didn't quite have an explanation either.
"It's like saying why do bowlers take so long to adjust to bowling lengths in Australia, it's the same thing. Each country you go to is different. It's like us going to India and playing spin bowling or our spinners going there and trying to spin the ball. It just takes time, you're not used to it. We're facing Duke balls at home now which is great, otherwise you're coming here every four years and facing a swinging ball. We're trying to replicate that as much as we can at home and that's a great initiative that we're doing that. I think it's great practice and it holds us in good stead for this," he said.
One Australian bowler who hasn't taken too long to adjust his bowling length to English conditions is Pat Cummins, even if there was hardly a fast bowler who didn't benefit from the generously helpful conditions at the Ageas Bowl. And unlike Warner, Cummins was slightly more forthcoming in terms of how he goes about getting his length radar right when over here.
"Everyone does it slightly differently. For me, I'm always trying to hit that top of off-stump. So whatever length that happens to be, it doesn't really change too much. I feel like I can adjust pretty quickly. The key to it is whether it's full or short, you just need to make sure you're bowling it. If you try to place it there, it's going to get floaty or it doesn't nip as much. So practice targeting that off-stump in the nets and try to be disciplined in every session. Yeah, that's about it."
And over the next eight weeks, the Australian batsmen like Bancroft has shown need to be equally forthright in the way they move their feet, place their bat and hold their own to make sure they return home with the urn. That's about it.
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