Steven Smith was understandably angry. For a second game in a row, in conditions where they’d not been given a chance, Australia’s bowlers set the game up only for the batting to come undone once again. Australia slipped to their tenth successive ODI defeat (games that were completed) away from home, their 50-run reverse in Kolkata prompting the captain to question the batsmen’s decision making skills.
Led by another incisive burst from Nathan Coulter-Nile, this time through the middle overs, the tourists took 7 for 66 in the second half of India’s innings to keep the home side down to 252, a score Smith admitted his team “should be getting”.
“We made many poor decisions again. Under pressure, we are not executing our skills well enough. We are losing wickets in clumps which we can’t afford to do.” he said.
Smith put himself at the centre of the quagmire that was the batting performance, admonishing himself and Travis Head for their failure to build on a 76-run stand for the third wicket. After a six-over opening burst from Bhuvneshwar Kumar, during which he removed the openers and gave away only nine runs, the Smith-Head combine had put the team back in a position of control with a counter-attacking partnership. With two of India’s bowlers – Hardik Pandya and Kuldeep Yadav – failing to exert any control in the middle, the situation was ripe for one of them to build on their start.
Head hit a full toss from Yuzvendra Chahal to become the first of six wickets to fall in the space of 63 runs. Smith was the fifth to fall in the sequence, succumbing to a misjudged pull shot after working his way to a half-century.
“It was a point for one of us to go on and make a big score and be there till the end,” he lamented. “That’s the way we play – one of our top-four has to go on and make a big score. Heady and I were the two guys who got in and we weren’t able to do so. A lot of the blame falls on us. We got a good little partnership there. We turn 70 into a 140 then the game’s closed. We just weren’t able to do it.”
The collapse at Eden Gardens was not an isolated incident. They’d lost 4 for 35 in Chennai and 5 for 15 in the Champions Trophy defeat to England in their recent one-dayers. Smith demanded a change in approach, if that was what it took to end the sorry sequence.
“Well, it’s happening bit too often for my liking, to be honest with you. We’ve had a lot of collapses we need to stop,” he said. “It’s just easy to just sit here and say it needs to stop, but when you get out in the middle, you’ve to change what you’re doing because it’s not working.
“So… Watching the ball closer. Maybe the guys are trying to watch the ball too closely and forgetting about just playing the game. It’s a hard one to put my finger on. But whatever it is, it needs to change and we need to make a better decision when we’re under and start playing properly. I think we panicked a little bit in the last game. This game, we just couldn’t get the partnerships, we are just making silly errors.”