Lower Middle Order–6,7,8,9

05 Feb 2010 by Mahendra Prasad in Cricket

A look at the lower middle order of the Top 3 teams in the world
A strong team is one that is versatile whether that means batting deep or adaptation or simply more options for the captain is subjective. In the past we have seen the tailenders or in today’s day the lower middle order who often change the coarse of matches. Today, I will be comparing the lower middle order of the top 3 ranked teams in the world namely:

Australia, South Africa and India.
Staring off by looking at the test arena,
Australian number 6——-Marcus North
South African number 6— JP Duminy
Indian Number 6———– Yuvraj Singh

Marcus North, One of Australia’s new found heroes along with Philip Hughes is one to certainly look forward to in the future. Marcus North announced himself at the international arena after having scored a century on debut against South Africa. North had to wait for long in domestic cricket before having got a chance.

North played a wonderful hand in the ashes and along with Clarke and Katich he was one of Australia’s best summers. However, after having a pretty average home summer north’s place in the team is now under jeopardy. If picked it would be vital for north to prove his critics wrong with some runs come New Zealand.

JP Duminy- Duminy struck a phenomenal hundred at 2008’s boxing day test match after combing with the tail which eventually won South Africa the match. Duminy after 1 innings of his shot to fame and after that has underperformed a bit.

With the Melbourne century being his one and only one and having scored just 1 century in 54 ODI’s clearly one match doesn’t make a career son. Duminy will have to refine his technique and be more productive with the shorter ones.

Yuvraj Singh: Purely the best out of the above mentioned. Yuvraj had a stuttering start to his test match career. He finally made amends for his chances after the retirement of former Indian skipper Sourav Ganguly and has now made the number six position his own.

Australia number 7———- Brad Haddin
South African number 7—- Mark Boucher
Indian number 7————- MS Dhoni

Brad Haddin: Australia couldn’t have asked for a better replacement for Adam gilchrist. The same attacking, flamboyant flair—however, the saint part of him seems missing. Haddin was always the man after gilchrist.

Having served as Gilchrist’s understudy for over 5 years Haddin seems to have done the transition quite well. He did play for Australia in several ODI fixtures all be it not as keeper.

His batting talent and his footwork against spin was always one to match. Haddin provides a good hitting option for Australia down the order and thus provides the innings with some much needed impetus considering they need to declare.

Mark Boucher: One of the game’s best finishers in the modern era probably second only to Michael hussey. Boucher’s stats don’t reveal his contribution for South Africa with just an average in the mid 30’s. Boucher has played over 100 tests and almost about 300 ODI’s for South Africa.

His contribution to the South African unit is priceless. A hallmark of great players—Boucher always stands up to the occasion. This was recently seen in the england’s tour of South Africa where Boucher scored a fighting 50 in the 1st innings of the 4th test on a seamng Johannesburg wicket and thus won the proteas the match.

MS Dhoni: India’s skipper made a point with his first test 100 when he tore the Pakistan bowling apart with a brilliant 148 at Faisalabad. MS Dhoni doesn’t seem to have a very correct technique but it’s his hand eye co-ordination that enables him to be such a ferocious hitter. Off late Dhoni has matured and has shown to faces to his game—the role of the nurdler and the hitter.

He’s become competent enough to tackle the seaming wickets in Australia and South Africa. Keeping aside what he bring to the team as a batsman, Dhoni has lifted his team from just the ‘there and there abouts’ to finishing the match and even lifting titles. India have a wonderful record with Dhoni as captain. He’s been captaining India since mid 2008 and India haven’t lost a single test match under him as captain.

Australia number 8– Mitchell Johnson
South African number 8—Morne Morkel
Indian number 8- Harbhajan Singh

Mitchell Johnson: What a player to have at number 8. Australia do have the best number 8 in the world which clearly means that there’s a place up the order for mitch. But, unfortunately for mitch he hasn’t been needed there because all the Australian batsmen are doing their job. Johnson has got a test century to his name and against South Africa. Johnson is a ferocious hitter but unlike other number 8’s; Johnson’s policy isn’t hit out or get out.

There is some method and some brain in his hitting. He is one of the most feared bowling all rounder’s in the world not just in the test but in the one-day and T20 game as well. As far as Australia are concerned he along with Haddin are near perfect when it comes to providing the impetus to the innings.

If Johnson continues in the array that he has been going there’s certainly a lot more centuries from Johnson to come. The only bowling all rounder you’d say is better than Johnson is probably Vettori. But, when it comes to clean strikers Johnson is second to none.

Morne Morkel: Morne Morkel doesn’t seem to have much talent with the bat. He has no definite role either as a hitter or as a nerdler; morkel hasn’t yet proved himself at the international level as far as the batting is concerned. South Africa are more dependent on their top order to perform as they seem to be lacking the same fire power that other teams have low down the order.

Harbhajan Singh: ‘Bhajji’ as he is known can handle the willow fairly well and has shown it in recent times. He has done so and done so in crunch situations when the team needed it the most. Earlier Bhajji was just a slogger but with age and experience there seems to have come a method to all this and he has become a very useful lower order option for India. Bhajji has just one way of playing; but that way has been effective and does hurt and demoralize the bowlers.

Unlike Johnson harbhajan doesn’t have the same clean swing of the bat or the technique to go to it. But, the Indians say “Who cares! As long as he scores” and that’s what happens. Harbhajan seems to bring out the best in him against Australia. Some of his notable performances has been the one at Sydney against Australia in 2008 and the recent 50 which he managed against Australia at vadodara when the Aussies toured India.

Australian number 9—Nathan Hauritz
South African number 9—Paul Harris
Indian number 9—Zaheer Khan

Nathan Hauritz: Nathan Hauritz is slowly showing his batting talent. He is definitely capable of being an all rounder. The recent tour of Pakistan to Australia showed his batting talent. He scored a test match high score of 75 against them and also a quick fire 39 ball 53. With Hauritz at 9 Australia’s batting line up seems never ending.

This is the reason why Australia do have the best batting line up. This might be a controversial statement but if the Aussie top order doesn’t do the job there’s always a chance that the lower order may bail them out. This is the strength that the Aussies secretly possess.

Paul Harris: similar to Morkel he doesn’t seem to be a batman of any sorts. His inability to ever come on the front foot gives him absolutely no chance of coming on the front foot and playing attacking shots. All he can do is wait wait and wait and tire the bowlers.

This is that part of their game that South Africa have to seriously work on if they want to be the number one ranked team for long. Top order batting may fail and if/when that happens if you have a long lower order it always helps. In South Africa’s case the tail seems never ending.

Zaheer Khan: India’s only pace man who is sure of a spot in the starting 11. He has a high score of 75 but his batting skills wouldn’t raise an eyebrow or too. He can play both roles of either hanging around or throwing caution to the winds and going hell for leather.

He has a paltry average of 13 which tells you that either he doesn’t have the skills or the Indian top order is extremely consistent which has been the case to an extent.

Teams with a good lower order do have a certain edge over the opponent which most opposition teams seem to underestimate. In the modern era most teams are pushing for bowlers who can handle the willow. Another team that I didn’t mention but has this talent is England.

With broad, Rashid and Graeme Swann England have a very potent and capable lower order which holds them in very good stead for the future. For West Indies they have Jerome Taylor and a bit of Suliemann Benn. Barring that no one is to be seen.

As far as New Zealand are concerned; they seem to have only a lower order with Brendon McCullum and Daniel Vettori comprising 2 of their lower order spots. The Lankans don’t seem to have anyone after veteran Chaminda Vaas was left out. Angelo Matthews looks a very bright prospect at 6.

Pinch hitters in the lower order have been of immense help. Harbhajan Singh and Mitchell Johnson’s contribution to India and Australia respectively have been priceless as far as the two nations are concerned. For Australia it’s a huge bonus as the guy can hit 150+ kmph, he is a brilliant fielder and a wonderful number 8 to have.

Recently Johnson showed his interest in opening the batting as well. However, there’s time for that and Australia surely wouldn’t want to risk that considering he might lose it all like fellow Indian all rounder irfan pathan.

Harbhajan and Mitchell Johnson are certainly men at number 8 to look forward to in the future

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