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"They’re still trying to work out what happened": Steve Waugh's exclusive Ashes 2013 blog

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July 31, 2013
Laureus Academy Member Steve Waugh talks to us for this second edition of his exclusive Ashes 2013 blog. Here he looks back on the second Test and ahead to this week’s third Test in Manchester.
 
Steve, you were optimistic for Australia in the Second Test at Lord’s. What went wrong?
Steve Waugh: They’re still trying to work out what happened. I was there for the first couple of days and I thought Australia actually had a very good day one, keeping England in check on a really good batting wicket and restricting them to 361, which I thought was about 100 below par on that pitch.
We got through the first ten overs unscathed and I thought we were in a great position, then all of a sudden Shane Watson’s wicket fell before lunch. We decided to review it and got that one wrong, then we lost our confidence in the review system and the second wicket went down without being reviewed. After that there was a catalogue of poor shot selection which lead to lack of confidence.
How important is the problem the Australians are having with the review system?
SW: No, that wasn’t to blame. What really cost us the game was losing six wickets in a session for 50 odd runs. We had one bad session and we lost the game and couldn’t recover, simple as that.
I’m afraid it just wasn’t Test match standard batting, but I’m hopeful they can show a big improvement in the Third Test at Old Trafford. They showed a lot of fight in the First Test and hung in there. The Second Test was disappointing. Now they just need someone to score a 100 and it will be contagious, with two or three guys coming in behind that.
The team is lacking in confidence and that is a serious issue particularly against a side that is full of confidence like England.
If you were captain in the dressing room now, what would you be saying to try to restore that confidence.
SW: I think you’ve just got to pick and stick now. Stick with the guys, have faith, tell them we’ve all been there, we know you’re trying your hardest, just keep working away in the nets, there are no short cuts, we’ve got to work harder, support each other. There is no easy way to get through this.
In Test matches the team has got to recognise when the momentum is swinging against them and try to stop this as much as they can rather than get humiliated in one or two sessions. You’ve just got to stem the blood flow and hang in there.
Do you have any specific tactical advice?
SW: Australia haven’t taken enough quick singles to rotate the strike enough. There is too much pressure on the batsmen getting bogged down at one end, which allows the bowler to dictate terms. If you are rotating batsmen and taking quick singles it’s frustrating for a bowler, having to reset the field and change his approach all the time, particularly if it’s a left and right hand combination. We’ve got to get a bit more hustle into our cricket.
Did you have a Series when you were captain when you had a really bad start after a couple of Tests and you were able to turn it round?
SW: Maybe my first ever Series as captain when we were down 2-1 in the West Indies and we needed to win the last Test match in Antigua to draw the Series. That’s when I dropped Shane Warne from vice-captain, so I guess that was a pretty drastic measure. I think you’ve got to find something from within, someone in the team has got to take the leadership role and say ‘I’m going to be the one to grab the bull by the horns’ and all the other guys will fall in line.
But this isn’t just about Australia playing poorly, what about England?
SW: I think the ominous signs for Australia are that probably England’s two best batsmen, Alastair Cook and Kevin Pietersen, will start to get some runs soon and make it even more difficult for them. Quality players don’t miss out too many times. Cook, maybe for the first time in his career, has been under a little bit of pressure, as a captain in an Ashes series, but he’s handling himself well in the captaincy role, but he’s a proven run-maker and Pietersen is a match-winner.
How do you see the Third Test going?
SW: I think Australia’s biggest danger is going to come from a spinner. Old Trafford is going to be a really tough assignment for them. It’s definitely a pitch that turns a lot and I think England will play Monty Panesar along with Graeme Swann and that is going to be a handful for a young batsman. Australia are always struggling for a plan against Swann. If they are going to win, they’ve got to work out how they can take runs against the spinners.
I also think Chris Tremlett will also pose a real threat with his pace and bounce. 
How should Australia go into the match?
SW: Australia have got nothing to lose. They are 2-0 down and they must not go to Old Trafford just trying to save the Test match, they must go out and try to win it.
 
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