Waugh addresses glaring Aussie weakness
CRICKET legend Steve Waugh says he isn't too concerned by the lack of top-order runs that have flowed from Australia in the first two Tests in England, confident the opening batsmen will soon find their groove and offering up reasons why their performances have been under par.
Australian openers David Warner and Cameron Bancroft have endured rough starts to the Ashes.
Warner has been dismissed for single figures in his three innings - falling victim to fast bowler Stuart Broad on each occasion - while Bancroft has managed just 28 runs from his three knocks.
Warner was bowled by a Broad beauty before stumps on day two and while Bancroft showed plenty of grit and determination to fight his way through some tough periods late on day two and early on day three, his technique looked shaky and he was trapped LBW by debutant Jofra Archer for 13 from 66 balls.
But Waugh isn't reading too much into the efforts of the returning stars, who are playing their first Test series since the cheating scandal in South Africa last year.
The former Aussie captain maintains conditions have been difficult for batting and the very nature of Test cricket means it's never easy to score runs against the new ball.
"It's just Test match cricket. They haven't been easy wickets," Waugh said.
"Batting last night (on day two) was difficult. Six o'clock at night, an hour to go, under lights, overcast conditions - that's as tough as it gets and even this morning it was difficult again.
"I thought Bancroft hung in there pretty well. He just needed to spend another half-hour there, get a few more balls away out of the middle and he would have been right.
"It's a fine line but that's Test match cricket, sometimes you're going to miss out.
"But if you pick a guy you back him for the long term and right now we're confident those guys are going to bounce back."
Waugh liked the look of Warner at Lord's and said the left-hander had been unlucky to cop a brilliant delivery that rattled his timber.
His position in the team is safe because of his brilliant record and it also helps that he enjoyed a stunning World Cup, crushing three centuries during Australia's run to the semi-finals.
But Bancroft's position is less certain. He was yet to establish himself in the side before getting caught chucking sandpaper down his pants and some fans might think he was fortunate to usurp incumbent openers Marcus Harris and Joe Burns for a place in the starting XI for the first Test at Edgbaston.
Bancroft came into the Lord's Test averaging just 27.8 from nine Tests, with three half-centuries and no tons, and although his short-leg fielding and work ethic are admirable traits, if he doesn't pile on some runs soon his position will come under threat.
Waugh was impressed with how Bancroft battled away and did everything in his power to stay at the crease, and backed him to come good sooner rather than later.
"Bancroft stayed in there for quite a while and did a good job for the team," Waugh said.
"They'd both want to get a lot more runs obviously but Test match cricket is tough, it's challenging and the conditions over here are not easy for batting.
"It's not as if you can play the big cover drives, you've got to work really hard for every run and both bowling attacks are world class - you've got to remember that too.
"Cameron's preparation for this Test was excellent. He looked really good in the nets and he's pretty relaxed at the moment. He'd like some more runs but I'm backing him to do well."
Broad has the wood over Warner right now and says his hold on the New South Welshman is down to a change in approach where he's targeting the stumps more often.
"I've enjoyed bowling with the new ball so far in this series. I don't think I've done anything majorly different apart from bringing stumps into play a little bit more," Broad said.
"In the past I've seen Warner as looking to find his edge all the time, whereas this has been a slight change of plan - and that's been more personally from me, looking to bring the stumps into play. We saw that with (Travis) Head as well.
"My mindset for this whole series is making the batsmen play as much as possible and then if it does anything either way you're in the game.
"There's been a couple of decent balls in there to Warner.
"He is a huge dangerman for them so it's great to be able to get him out early but we're still very early in this series."