Australia’s tailenders almost pulled off the unthinkable in Adelaide. Despite heroic efforts, they fell just short of a miraculous test win. Aside from the positives surrounding their rearguard action, it’s become fairly clear we’re relying on our toiling bowlers to pull us out of the mire too often.
In fact, our no.8 to no.11 (156 total runs) made just five runs less than our top four in Adelaide – hardly the most pleasing statistic.
Nathan Lyon’s almost-hero efforts (knocks of 24* and 38) now surely makes him one of the best no.10s in world cricket, while Pat Cummins’ forward defence puts some of his teammates to shame. Mitchell Starc is always entertaining, while Josh Hazlewood is no slouch at no.11.
The emergence of Australia’s bowlers as (rather depressingly) key parts of the batting effort got us thinking; What is Australia’s greatest Tailenders XI?
Not necessarily the best tailend batsmen to play for Australia – that would be a side full of no.8s. Rather, a lineup that resembles any normal batting order; those with talent at the top and those without it, well, making up the numbers.
The side’s makeup could even be a revolutionary way to select teams. Pop all your eggs into the bowling basket, hoping to chase down the meagre total. It’s entertaining, it anything. Mitchell Johnson at fourth-change and batting no.5? I’m having it.
Here’s our greatest ever Tailenders XI:
1. Jason Gillespie
Straight in to open the batting. Most remember Dizzy for his 201* against Bangladesh but the curly-mulleted quick was also a dogged no.8 or 9, and would be perfect in this XI to see the shine off the new pill.
2. Brett Lee
A gritty opener like Dizzy needs a partner who will play his shots. And that was the blonde bombshell Bollywood heartthrob. My abiding memory isn’t of the soppy moment with Flintoff at Edgbaston, but his 143m six out of the Gabba. As any old boy would say, it ‘stayed hit’.
3. Paul Reiffel
Traditionally, your most technically proficient batsman slots into no.3, and that’s straight where Pistol goes. An enviable test batting average of 26.52 that is, depressingly, higher than a batsman Australia considered playing last week. *Sigh*
4. Shane Warne
Our greatest every bowler is a must for this XI, for numerous reasons: 12 test 50s, always entertaining, a test strike rate (57.65) to rival most batsmen, and was once dismissed on 99 causing cricket’s best ever dummy-spit. You really are grouse, Warney.
5. Mitchell Johnson
For some middle-order firepower, it’s hard to go past Mitchell Johnson, whose reputation for giving it a whack grew throughout his career. One of only two players in this XI to score a test century, a brilliant 123 (103) against South Africa in Cape Town.
6. Ashton Agar
It would be remiss not to include Agar, whose 98 on debut is the best ever from a no.11, and perhaps the most famous (or at least, unexpected) from an Aussie tailender.
— ICC (@ICC) July 11, 2017
7. Ryan Harris
The perfect number 7, who can both knuckle down when things are tough, but free the arms when quick runs are in order. Michael Clarke once said ‘Rhino’ spent as much time working on his batting as the batsmen themselves.
8. Peter Siddle
An expert at eking out a 20 (55) to see a batsmen though to his ton. Can also come out as a nightwatchman to see his side through to stumps. Still averages less than 15, however, which sees him slip to no.8.
9. Terry Alderman
Now we’re actually getting into the tail of the tailenders XI. Alderman batted over 50 times for Australia, but averaged just 6.55. Unlike his bowling, never really set the world on fire with the stick.
10. Glenn McGrath
One of Australia’s comical greats with the bat. Made a point of saying in the commentary box thus week that he is one of the few players whose highest score is 10 times greater than their average. Fair play.
11. Bruce Reid
Poor Brucey can add this to his list of teams he’s been asked to pad up last. Once required two off the last over to win against New Zealand, but couldn’t get it off the square.