Cracking century code crucial to unlocking Ashes
AUSTRALIA'S century drought should surely come to an end in Canberra this weekend but the champagne should stay on ice.
After five home Tests this season, Travis Head's 84 in Brisbane remains Australia's highest score but even if the elusive century is cracked in Canberra against Sri Lanka there are chastening historical warnings suggesting the trickle must urgently become a babbling brook if Australia is to threaten in this year's Ashes.
The last time Australia beat England in England to take the Ashes in 2001 the tourists scored nine centuries in the series.
Even more sobering is the statistic that, on the 2009 Ashes tour, Australia scored eight centuries - and still lost - while in 2005 (three), 2015 (three) and 2013 (four) Australia could not claim the urn despite a smattering of three figure scores.
The simple message? Australia's batsmen must learn quickly to bat long … that a half century is a signpost and not a landmark. That reaching 70 or 80 is a time for consolidation rather than extravagance.
Test batsman Marnus Labuschagne was given a priceless tutorial into the mind of a master batsman in Brisbane recently when he, Matt Renshaw and young batsman Nathan McSweeney were taken out to coffee with South African batting great Barry Richards.
The meeting organised by Queensland Cricket chief executive Max Walters was intended to last half an hour or so but when Walters checked his watch he realised it went five times as long as they discussed mindsets, preparation and the art of batting time.
"Barry told them that there is many qualities that make a great batsman but patience was as important as any of them,'' Walters said.
Richards told them about the genius of his long-time Hampshire opening partner Gordon Greenidge who could peel off a rapid-fire 150 if he had to or play the more sedate, ultra-long Test innings if his team needed it.
Opening batsman Richards was one of the great multi-geared batsmen who may have scored a century before lunch 15 times in his first class career but could also play the long game and all manner of innings in between.
The favourite innings of his English county career was a fighting 40 not out to win a game against Northamptonshire when their brilliant Indian spinner Bishen Bedi was making every ball spit and turn and dart.
"That 40 was like 150 on another deck - the satisfaction I gained from fighting my way through when every ball was threatening taught me what batting was all about.''
Australia take note.
Every Test, ODI & T20I live, ad-break free during play and in 4K. Only on Foxtel. SIGN UP NOW!