Hail the Runsmith!

After whipping India in the first Test, Australia ran out of steam towards the backend to lose the four-match series 2-1. Sportstar appraises the performance of the Aussies who featured in the series.

Steve Smith found the right tempo between stout defence and counter-attack in one of the best batting by a foreigner on Indian shores.   -  PTI

A gritty Australia overcame dire prognostications to produce a commendable performance in India. However, despite being so close to causing a major boil over, Australia ran out of puff towards the backend to lose the series 2-1 and relinquish the Border-Gavaskar Trophy.

With Australia now having a deserved breather until the Champions Trophy in June, here are ratings for every Australian player who featured in the series.

Glenn Maxwell displayed a far more mature approach, wisely preferring to play himself in before launching into his trademark big shots.   -  AP

 

David Warner (193 runs; average: 24): 3/10

If Australia had any chance of retaining the Border-Gavaskar Trophy, the team needed its intimidating opener to produce. Unfortunately, Warner had a disastrous series, scoring just one half-century in eight innings.

Warner tried to back his aggressive game but seemed to be caught in two minds knowing Australia’s mantra for the series was to bat for the long haul and shelve the outlandish shots. With much at stake, personally and for the team, Warner failed to come to the party, fuelling an unwanted reputation of being merely a bully in his own comfortable terrain.

Warner would be wise to look in the mirror and answer some uncomfortable truths.

Matthew Renshaw (232 runs; average: 29): 5/10

Matthew Renshaw was the breakout star during the Australian summer, but was not seen as an automatic selection for the series against India because of his inexperience, particularly against the spinning ball.

Dispelling those concerns, Renshaw scored an invaluable half-century on the opening day of the series and his grittiness set the tone for Australia’s resoluteness. Perhaps predictably, Renshaw tapered off scoring just 24 runs in his final three innings, yet he was the only Australian batsman other than Smith to score more than 200 runs in the series.

Having just turned 21 on the last day of the series, Renshaw could very well prove to be a mainstay in Australia’s team for the next 15 years.

Steve Smith (499 runs; average: 71): 9/10

Is anyone surprised that Australia’s inspirational captain was their one shining light with the bat? Smith was almost impregnable and, unlike some of his team-mates, was decisive against spin with precise footwork marked by a penchant for dancing down the wicket.

In challenging conditions, innately aggressive Australian batmen had to heed a more disciplined approach but most struggled attempting to recalibrate their game. Conversely, Smith found the right tempo between stout defence and counter-attack in one of the best batting performances by a foreigner on Indian shores. If Smith continues to pile on the runs he could very well finish as the second greatest Australian batsman ever behind the incomparable Sir Donald Bradman.

Shaun Marsh (151 runs; average: 19): 4/10

The maligned Western Australian batsman was recalled into the team at the expense of incumbent No. 3 Usman Khawaja because of his proficiency against spin and success in the subcontinent albeit solely in Sri Lanka. Marsh has often been criticised due to his flighty batting but the 34-year-old impressively shelved the shots in a mature approach. However, apart from two half-centuries, he produced little else to once again appear to be up against the selection gun. Although his memorable fifth day defiance in Ranchi, where he resolutely combined with Peter Handscomb, saved his team in a rare rearguard stonewalling effort from Australia. With doubt over his future, that knock of 53 will probably go down as his best ever.

Peter Handscomb (198 runs; average: 28): 5/10

The 25-year-old had a stellar start to his Test career, where he finished the Australian summer with a Bradman-like average. Inevitably, the going was much more difficult in India for Handscomb, who was feted as one of Australia’s best players of spin but couldn’t get his game going.

Handscomb has a quirky technique which seems to befit baseball more. He may have to work on it for a better return. It was a tough series for the Victorian but an unbeaten 72 in Ranchi in a match-saving innings proved he has the temperament and the mental toughness to succeed at the Test level.

Mitchell Marsh (48 runs; average: 12): 1/10

Much like his brother, Mitchell Marsh has long been a punching bag. During a disastrous opening two Tests, Marsh’s reputation took a battering as he looked woefully out of his depth batting at six. He keeps getting selected because of the selectors’ quest to find a seam bowling all-rounder, but Marsh only bowled five overs and was wicket-less.

The Western Australian would have been dropped for the third Test but a serious shoulder injury took care of that. Marsh may be out of action for the rest of the year casting further doubt on his future.

Glenn Maxwell (159 runs; average: 40): 7/10

With Marsh exiting the fold, the mercurial Glenn Maxwell was his replacement and fared considerably better. The hard-hitting batsman was playing his first Test in more than two years, but scored his first Test century in Ranchi to complete a successful comeback.

The 28-year-old displayed a far more mature approach, wisely preferring to play himself in before launching into his trademark big shots. Maxwell had mixed fortunes after that but did top score with a 60-ball 45 during Australia’s disastrous collapse in Dharamsala to effectively lose the series.

Maxwell’s handy off-spin was only barely utilised, just a mere six overs, as Smith seemingly missed a trick by underusing him. With the Victorian having played all of his five Tests in Asia, he will have to now prove he is much more than a ‘subcontinent specialist’ in Test cricket.

Matthew Wade (196 runs, average: 33; 9 catches, 4 stumpings): 6/10

There was a prevailing belief that Matthew Wade, a maligned wicketkeeper, would struggle behind the stumps on the lower and slower wickets of India. However, Wade handled the responsibility with aplomb and was generally reliable. There were no major howlers, which often blight his ’keeping.

With the bat, which is his strength, Wade was typically resolute and finished with an average higher than all the batsmen bar Smith and Maxwell. The 28-year-old’s standing was lifted a notch after this series.

Pat Cummins (8 wickets; average: 30): 8/10

When spearhead Mitchell Starc returned home due to injury after the second Test, Australia was robbed of their talisman and match-winning bowler. Predictably, Australia was largely written off for the remainder of the series.

Pat Cummins celebrates after dismissing India’s Ravindra Jadeja in the first innings of the final Test in Dharamsala. The 23-year-old fast bowler dazzled in the series against India.   -  REUTERS

Instead, Australia received a tonic from the injury-prone, talented youngster Pat Cummins, who dazzled in his long-awaited Test comeback. In the final two Tests, Cummins produced consistently withering spells to ensure he always looked like being able to make a breakthrough. He has a rarefied ability to produce zip off sedate pitches and make things happen during quiet stretches. Far away, watching Cummins’ mesmerising talents, England undoubtedly would have been quaking in their boots with a looming Ashes to be played on bouncier Australian pitches.

Mitchell Starc (5 wickets; average: 30): 5/10

Indian wickets were set to stymie Starc’s brimstone and the spin-friendly pitches of Pune and Bengaluru did knock off his edge to some degree. However, Starc still battled away gamely and has a special knack of continually keeping batsmen on their toes due to his rapid pace.

Starc’s figures were modest but he still produced a game-changing, withering spell early on Day Four in Bengaluru, which appeared set to spearhead Australia to a Test victory and help it retain the Border-Gavaskar Trophy before the batting crumbled.

Worryingly, Starc suffered another serious foot injury although he should return for the Champions Trophy. Tantalisingly, a fearsome combination of Starc and Cummins — who have never played Tests together — should bolster Australia.

Josh Hazlewood (9 wickets; average: 33) 5/10

Overshadowing Starc during the Australian summer, Hazlewood was his team’s best bowler due to his nagging accuracy and consistency, where he revived images of legendary Australian paceman Glenn McGrath.

In India, Hazlewood nagged away and ensured he tied up an end as he conceded a miserly 2.47 runs an over. However, the 25-year-old eventually wore down and lacked penetration at the backend of the series, possibly due to his arduous workload in recent months.

Six of his nine wickets in the series came during his astounding performance in India’s first innings in Bengaluru, as scalps were harder to find. With Starc and Cummins set to be unleashed, Hazlewood remains a perfect foil and pivotal figure in Australia’s fortunes.

Nathan Lyon (19 wickets; average: 25) 7/10

Nathan Lyon has the distinction of being Australia’s greatest ever finger spinner with 247 wickets but few bowlers with his record have been continually subjected to pessimism like the 29-year-old. Many wrote off his chances due to his underwhelming record in the subcontinent but Lyon performed creditably although his performances had numerous wild swings.

Thirteen of Lyon’s 19 wickets came in two innings, including his career-best 8-50 in the first innings in Bengaluru. Lyon also performed strongly in Dharamsala where he was aided by bounce, which is his greatest weapon as a bowler.

As Australia’s most capped current player, Lyon has become the mainstay of the bowling attack and a core member of the team.

Stephen O’Keefe (19 wickets; average: 23): 7/10

The left-armer gained selection in the team because of his experience — he’s 32 years old despite his limited international exposure — and ability to keep things tight. Not a prodigious turner of the ball, O’Keefe was deemed unable to scythe through batting orders. Dismissing the critics, O’Keefe conjured up a performance for the ages with 12/70 to almost single-handedly propel Australia to a major boil over in Pune. He was only able to take seven wickets for the remainder of the series but performed his role in restricting the runs and never relented —testament to his astounding 77 overs bowled during Australia’s flogging in Ranchi.