For an hour or so on the final day it appeared as though the WICB President’s XI would have the option of enforcing the follow-on against their better-known opposition, and there is little doubt that Michael Clarke and others would have been grateful for the extra hit.
As it was, Peter Siddle, Josh Hazlewood and Nathan Lyon were able to spend some time in the middle and advance the Australians as far as 250, before Hazlewood snipped the top off the local batting order in another impressive precursor for what can be expected of him in Dominica’s first Test.
Hazlewood’s breaks were unable to be exploited by the spin of Lyon and Fawad Ahmed however, leaving Clarke to call on a motley assortment of bowlers including Chris Rogers and Shaun Marsh – Mitchell Marsh even had a rare trundle as a wrist spinner before the game was called off an hour before the scheduled close.
For Clarke and the coach Darren Lehmann there remain a handful of question marks entering into the Tests, notably the shape of a batting order that has plenty of options and permutations but precious few players who appear to be in their best touch. How Clarke and Rogers in particular must have pined for the combined 185 balls faced by Siddle and Hazlewood.
“Batting, we’d have liked to get a few more runs for a few of the guys but that was a really good three day hit-out for us,” Lehmann said after play. “You would like more runs but it’s a first hit-out for some of the guys. Obviously a lot of the guys have been playing IPL, they didn’t play, but the guys that did that’s there first hit since the summer. There’s some cobwebs there but they’ve trained really well.
“We get on the plane tomorrow and it’s all about prep for the Test now. We’ve had a good mini-training camp, if you like, for the week here and then a three day game and they played really well the President’s XI so it was a good quality opposition.”
There will be questions around the bowling line-up also, as the likely spinning surface at Windsor Park will compete with the long-held Australian notion that their best assets are in the pace department. Lyon and Fawad bowled presentably, and there is a growing clamour for the latter to be granted a Test debut, but the most incisive work over the past three days was done by Hazlewood on days one and three and Mitchell Marsh on the second morning.
“We know how good a bowler [Hazlewood] is but it’s always nice for him to get wickets in that scenario and keep pushing his case forward – he’s a great young man,” Lehmann said. “From our point of view, it gives us great headaches leading into the Test match I suppose with selection because until we see the pitch we don’t know the best make-up to get 20 wickets.
“Our strength’s been our patience over the last 18 months or so. It’s going to be doing the basics really well and being patient. The game seems to speed up quite quickly in the Caribbean over the back end of a game.”
Meanwhile Steven Smith, Shane Watson, David Warner, Mitchell Johnson and Mitchell Starc have all been trying to find rhythm in the nets, and will have to back their ability rather than any relevant current batting form if they are to succeed in two Tests over the next three weeks.