Australia coach Justin Langer has challenged his batsmen to stand up and be counted with the Ashes on the line.
Ben Stokes’ stunning 135 not out snatched a scarcely believable one-wicket win for England at a raucous Headingley on Sunday to level the five-match series at 1-1.
Although the spectacle of Stokes bludgeoning a flagging Australian attack into the stands will live long in the memory, Langer’s post-match attention was focused on a batting line up that failed to pass 250 twice in the match to leave the door ajar.
“One thing I do know is we’re not batting well enough at the moment,” Langer told reporters.
“I said at the start of the series that the team that bats best will win the Ashes. We’re certainly not at our best with our batting at the moment.
“We’ve got some real questions to ask for the practice game and then the fourth Test match.”
The practice game in question comes at Derbyshire this week, ahead of the fourth Test at Old Trafford that begins on September 4.
Steve Smith is set to return following his concussion-enforced absence in Leeds, while Marnus Labuschagne has impressed with three consecutive half-centuries after stepping in to replace Australia’s former captain.
Elsewhere, there is little else to recommend, with number three Usman Khawaja failing to pass 50 in six attempts so far.
“There’s a number of guys who will be looking to play well, not just Uzzy [Khawaja],” Langer said.
“Uzzy averages 40 in Test match cricket, he got a Test hundred seven innings ago. We know he’s a very good player and he, like the rest of them, will be working hard to be ready for the fourth Test.
— cricket.com.au (@cricketcomau) August 25, 2019
Another obvious area of improvement for Australia is their use of the Decision Review System, which was brought into sharp focus by Stokes’ dramatic reprieve with the finish line in sight.
Replays showed Nathan Lyon’s rejected lbw appeal would have hit middle and leg, although captain Tim Paine’s rash decision to send a Pat Cummins shout against last man Jack Leach upstairs in the previous over meant Australia had no reviews left.
“We’ve been really poor at it this whole series, actually. We’ve talked a lot about getting better at our reviews,” Langer said.
“There wasn’t so many this game as there was at Lord’s but we have control of that. We’ve got the way we go about it but sometimes you don’t quite get it right.
“To be fair, the one off Pat Cummins at the end, we were getting pretty desperate at the end. That’s just how it works out.”
Langer added: “We’re all feeling it. My gosh, you have no idea how much that hurts. But whether you’re the captain, the coach or the senior players you’ve got to get back up.”