McDermott: 'Smith's men need to ensure the pride is not lost at the Gabba'

The former Aussie paceman feels that even though the home team bowlers have done fairly well by dismissing England for 302, Smith and Marsh will have to play for long.

A file picture of Craig McDermott.   -  R. Ravindran

For the last couple of days, Craig McDermott has been busy attending meetings in Hong Kong. He would be in India by Sunday, and for that he needs to finish all the commitments earlier.

In Hong Kong, his day would start early in the morning and by the time the engagements are over, it is well past his bedtime. But then, amidst all the busy work, the former Australia pace great has made it a point to keep a tab on the Ashes. After all, it’s that time of the year, when all you want is your team to outclass its arch-rival.

And, on the second day of the first Test at the Gabba, the Test match hangs in balance with Australia losing four wickets for 165 after trimming off England to a decent 302 in the first innings. Before Steve Smith — who is unbeaten on 64 — walks into the ground to anchor the Aussie ship, McDermott has a message for the Baggy Greens. “There has been a bit of stumble on the second day. But then, Australia has never lost a Test at the Gabba (since being rolled by the West Indies in 1988) and the team needs to ensure that the pride is not lost this time around,” McDermott tells Sportstar from Hong Kong on Friday afternoon.

For that, however, McDermott has his hopes pinned on the partnership between skipper Smith and Shaun Marsh. “I have always believed that as a team, Australia needs to make sure that there are 350-400 runs on the board. Losing four wickets for 165 makes life a bit difficult, but then, this pair of Smith and Marsh has to build on the partnership,” McDermott, who has also been the bowling coach of the Aussies until last year, points out. He is also quick to add that even though the Aussie bowlers have done fairly well by dismissing England for 302, Smith and Marsh will have to play for long. “Even (Tim) Paine can bat. But after that, it’s all the bowlers. So, Smithy (Smith) needs to ensure that the next two partnerships control the game. Because, two quick wickets early tomorrow would put England in the driver’s seat,” McDermott says.

Knowing the Gabba like the back of his hand, McDermott predicts that the first session on Saturday would set the tone of the game. “If England can pick up two quick Aussie wickets within 50 runs and put brakes, they would certainly have the advantage.”

For that, McDermott feels, it is important for Marsh to step up. “You need someone at No. 6 who can bat and can also take the pressure off the opponent’s spinners and Marsh has to do the job. Tomorrow’s early session is going to be of huge importance,” the pace great says.

And what if England takes the first inning lead? Will that affect Australia’s chances in the longer run?

McDermott differs on this one. “Even if England takes the lead, Australia’s bowlers can bowl them out to bring the side back into the game,” he says, firmly adding: “Do not forget, we have someone called Mitchell Starc, who can turn things our way. And, his bowling mates too aren’t shabby. You can’t write them off.”

With England already breathing fire, Australia will certainly have a mountain to climb in Brisbane on Saturday, but then, that’s what the Ashes is all about — there is never a dull moment.