Joy, But Not Great Relief For The Head, After The Panel Of One Hundred > Cricket News, cricinfo, mobilecric, cricbuzz, livescore and more
Cricket news - Delight but no great relief for Head after Shield hundred
Travis Head gets to a half-century in nearly every third innings he plays in first-class cricket. The problem is that he then manages to convert his fifties into three-figure scores in only one out of those six occasions. It might still be a good problem to have for most batsmen at this level, but it certainly doesn't bode well when you're battling to cement your spot in a Test batting middle-order at a time the call from the selectors and the head coach is for more hundreds.
So when the South Australian captain completed the successful conversion at the Adelaide Oval late on Saturday (November 2) evening with a patented cut shot, there was an understandable sense of delight but as he would reveal later, not any great relief. For, Head is aware of the significance of making a good stint at the crease count in the form of a significant score.
"It's my job. It's great to get a hundred. It's what I want to be doing whenever I go out to bat. That's the aim, to put my team in good positions," the 25-year-old left-hander said after having scored his first Sheffield Shield century in nearly two years. Head's last Shield ton had come in a dramatic run-chase against Tasmania in Hobart two seasons ago, when his 145 took the Redbacks within 16 runs off a remarkable victory in their pursuit of 331. This one here came against a Test quality New South Wales Blues bowling attack consisting of Josh Hazlewood, Nathan Lyon, Trent Copeland and Moises Henriques - in addition to the impressive Harry Conway. And as Head would reveal later in the day, they didn't make life easy for him.
"It's a high-class bowling attack. They bowled very well at me and I had to grind it out. It wasn't pretty at times. Josh bowled extremely well and had me under pressure throughout the day. It was good to get through that initial period with the new-ball and then spend time out there," he added.
It might sound a tad unfair but unlike most batsmen, Head's been generally easier to dismiss once he's got past the 50-run mark than before it. And that's been the case even for a majority of his Test career, especially during a very successful home summer last season where he averaged 60.11 in 6 Tests against India and Sri Lanka. He got to a half-century in 5 out of 10 innings but could muster only a solitary century - 161 at the Gabba, his only Test ton so far. His impressive maiden Test summer at home even got him promoted to being co-Test-vice-captain for the Ashes. But after a decent start at Birmingham with scores of 35 and 51, Head's batting returns slipped and he finished with an average of 27.28 overall before being left out of the fifth Test at The Oval. He'd been spotted on the eve of that match walking a few laps around the ground along with coach Justin Langer. And his conversion rate is certain to have been one of the topics they discussed that morning. But Head isn't giving much away.
"It was just us chatting about how the tour's gone and the decision why I wasn't going to play. It was making sure we are crystal clear on what was going on and obviously I was disappointed about missing out. So we were just chatting about how things are going and things I can get better at and things that are going well. We had plenty of chats during the series and we continue to now," he said.
One of the aspects of his batting that Head had spoken about wanting to work on before the Ashes was finding the perfect balance between his natural tendency to go after the ball and the demands of Test cricket for him to rein it in a tad. And it was a feature of his batting stints in England, that is when he didn't fall prey to a challenging delivery at his stumps.
There were enough signs of that ongoing quest to strike middle-ground in terms of his approach here too. While he was rather fluent and yet sedate en route to his half-century, Head did motor along towards the hundred-mark but not without a few risk-ridden ventures. When he wasn't stretching his hands out and reaching at slightly wider deliveries, at times he ended up getting into awkward positions while looking to force length balls on the up. When the bowlers did stray too short outside off or towards his pads, he of course cut and flicked with great control in customary fashion. There was also the period where Copeland and Henriques opted for a short-ball strategy, and on a couple of occasions they did manage to suck Head into attempting an audacious shot - like the semi-ramp upper cut he dished out to a bouncer from Copeland which sat up and could easily have got the left-hander into trouble but instead found its way to the third man fence. Not to forget the wild swish at a full delivery from Conway when on 72 that nearly had him caught at third slip. And Head insists on being happy with how he's pacing his innings so far this summer.
"It's about finding that balance. I've probably been on the slower side at the start of the Shield season and it's looked like I've taken my time but the bowlers have bowled extremely well to me. They've had some sound gameplans to me. I've been able to find ways to get batting time but I haven't been able to necessarily find or get to the stage where I can put the pressure back on them. Today was one of the days when I got through that initial stage and scored runs but that's just from staying out there and giving myself the opportunity to do that," he said.
"If they bowl poorly at the start, then I'll score quickly and if they do bowl well then I won't. That's throughout my whole innings. You line up different bowlers. It is about holding that momentum," he added.
He even cited an example of his approach by revealing his plans against Lyon, who he did cut for four from deep in his crease on one occasion.
"I wasn't going to score off Nathan (Lyon) at all during the day and I wasn't bothered by that. He's a Test match quality bowler and can be quite difficult to left-handers. I knew he was going to bowl tight lines and I didn't want to make a mistake. I know I made one a couple of weeks ago," he said.
The end did come in typical Head fashion when he reached out to another wide delivery from Hazlewood and hit it straight to Daniel Solway at cover in meek fashion. He knew it as well, slumping to his knees and throwing his head back in anguish at his unforced error.
And it wasn't surprising to hear him reiterate a few times about how disappointed he'd been with the shot. The first Test of the season against Pakistan in Brisbane is under three weeks away now, and Head will be competing against a few others when he takes strike for Australia A, led by his state-mate Alex Carey, against the visitors in Perth.
"No control over it (selection). That question will be asked in a few weeks. That hasn't fazed me too much. It's great that Kez (Carey) gets an opportunity. He's someone in whom JL and the selectors see a lot of potential in and it's hard not to. He's an unbelievable leader. Hopefully, I'll room with him during the week and help him out if he needs it. I'm sure he'll be fine though and I won't have to worry about doing anything and just focus on batting and getting runs."
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