Chittagong: Australian captain Steve Smith has identified his team's tendency towards collapsing as a key area that must be addressed as they ahead to the upcoming Ashes series, while also suggesting that the issue was almost entirely a mental one.
A masterful display from Nathan Lyon ensured Australia's blushes were spared in Bangladesh, with the tourists levelling their two-Test series by securing a seven wicket win inside four days at the Zahur Ahmed Stadium in Chittagong on Thursday.
It meant Australia avoided the ignominy of becoming the first team other than Zimbabwe and the West Indies to lose a Test series to the Tigers, and also prevented Australia from dropping to their lowest ever Test ranking of sixth.
However despite the batting brilliance of David Warner, who made the only two centuries of the series to be jointly named as player of the series with Lyon, Australia's batting continues to be an issue. They slumped to 4-33 in the first innings of the first Test in Dhaka, and lost 8-86 in the second innings as they sank to a 20-run loss. Even in this winning Test in Chittagong the tourists made it harder for themselves than it needed to be by losing 7-79 to be bowled out for 377, meaning a lead that could have meant they didn't have to bat again was kept to just 72.
Smith said it was an issue that had to be addressed. "We would have much preferred 2-0 but it's nice to get over the line here and have a 1-1 draw. I still think have a lot of improvement in us,'" he said on Thursday night.
"We probably let ourselves down at times throughout this Test match. I thought our first-innings bowling was very good to restrict them. Our first-innings batting, obviously the partnership between Petey [Handscomb] and Davey [Warner] was fantastic. And then we got ourselves into one of our collapses that we've had. I think we've had 15 collapses in our last 14 games, our analyst told me yesterday. That's not good enough for an Australian cricket team. That's something we really need to work on. We need to rectify that come the next series and the Ashes."
Smith added that it was primarily an issue between the ears for his players.
"I'd say that probably 95 per cent of batting is mental and decision-making. I think unfortunately we've probably been making the wrong decisions and getting ourselves in some trouble. It's something that we need to work on. I don't think it's technical a lot of the time," he said.
"Guys just have to make better decisions consistently and hopefully be able to build some partnerships in the middle. We've got off to some pretty good starts quite a lot of time and then the collapse starts. We have to find ways to work with your partner out there and get another partnership going and stop the rut as such. It's on each individual and the batsmen that are out there to do that and communicate and do that for the team."
Smith is headed for India to lead the Australians on a limited overs tour before returning home ahead of the start of the Sheffield Shield season, and the Ashes
The composition of Australia's batting lineup for the first Test remains up in the air. While Usman Khawaja is expected to return to take the No. 3 spot despite being dropped for the Chittagong Test, the No. 6 position, held in recent times by either Glenn Maxwell or Hilton Cartwright, looks up for grabs, while wicketkeeper Matthew Wade's continued poor run with the bat means he too looks vulnerable. His spot had been in doubt ahead of this Test as Australia pondered playing Peter Handscomb as a wicketkeeper-batsman, and while given a reprieve, Wade kept well but made just eight, with his Test average since being recalled late last year only a fraction over 20.