'Khawaja, Marsh, and bowlers have got Australia out of jail' - Aaron Finch points out Australia's middle order struggles

Australia have won four out of their last five Tests at home but the batting department has left a lot to be desired.

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Aaron Finch
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Aaron Finch. (Photo Source: Daniel Pockett/Getty Images)

Australia whitewashed Pakistan in a three-match home Test series between December 2023 and January 2024, but their batting department was tested on a few occasions. In the recently concluded two-match Test series against the West Indies, the same story was repeated, as the Caribbean pacers made life difficult for the Aussie batting department, especially the middle order. The series ended in a 1-1 draw.

Only two individual centuries have been scored by Aussie batters in the last five Tests. They came from the blades of Travis Head and David Warner. In their last game, Australia suffered a miraculous collapse of 8 for 94 during their chase of 216 against the West Indies, eventually losing the game by eight runs. They had also been reduced to 54/5 in the first innings before Khawaja, Alex Carey, and Pat Cummins resurrected the innings.

The ever-dependable Marnus Labuschagne has been going through a rough patch, as he made just 18 runs in three completed innings against the West Indies. His average is a dismal 28.25 for the season. Meanwhile, Head recorded a king pair in the second Test at the Gabba. He did score a sensational 119 in the first Test against the West Indies but couldn't get past 40 in the remaining innings in the last five Tests.

"Think the bowlers have been the ones who have got them out of jail a few times, but also Usman Khawaja…and Mitch Marsh is also pulling his weight in that regard. They're not great numbers for a middle order that I think have got some much talent. The hundreds column is a concern for me. Guys are getting starts, and that's reflected in the numbers, it's not like they're averaging six," Finch told ESPN's Around The Wicket show.

"If you have a bad series in two Tests like Marnus [Labuschagne] that's okay, everyone will have that at some point, but there's not enough hundreds. There's a few cracks that have been papered over from Usman Khawaja and the bowlers who have done a brilliant job for a long time," he added.

Marnus Labuschagne looks to be squaring up a little bit with his right shoulder: Michael Clarke

Another former Australia captain Michael Clarke pointed out a technical flaw for Labuschagne. The cricketer-turned-commentator stated that Labuschagne has been getting squared up to back-of-a-length deliveries instead of remaining side-on, and that is why he is getting out caught at slips or at gully. However, Clarke opined that every batter goes through difficult phases and said that he could get back to form during Australia's upcoming two-match Test tour of New Zealand in February-March.

"The only thing I can see technically is that he just looks to be squaring up a little bit with his right shoulder. So mainly the balls that are that back-of-a-length, instead of staying really side on like he does and back-foot defends the ball to cover or to point, or even drops it to his feet, he's just squaring up a little bit. And that's why he's playing a little in front of himself, edging it to a second, third [slip], gully area. Again, he's such a good player, he'll go away now, he'll work on that before New Zealand. You can't write Marnus off. He's batting at No. 3 which is one of the toughest positions in Test cricket. Don't be surprised if he comes out against New Zealand and he's the leading run-scorer. About every top-class batsman goes through a stage like this," Clarke said.

"Think that's been highlighted in his strike-rate as well. You get into a defensive frame of mind where you think about survival first and I'll cash in later on. But the wicket's they've been playing on, you don't get that opportunity to cash in - it' not like they flatten out and become absolute roads and you can bat for two days, we just don't see that anymore," Finch stated while speaking about Labuschagne's struggles.

Meanwhile, Callum Ferguson mentioned that Labuschagne isn't the only Aussie batter who is getting side on. The former said that the Aussies will have to adjust their technical flaws heading into the New Zealand tour, as batting won't be easy in the seamer-friendly conditions prevalent there.

"Don't think Marnus is the only one getting caught out squaring up and that can be a bit of a result of batting on some wickets that are bowler-friendly. You just get a little bit out of shape, so they're going to have to do some hard work before they get over to New Zealand to just get a bit more side on, a few of them, and start playing a touch later. Because over in New Zealand they'll be seaming, swinging conditions and New Zealand are very good at extracting the most out of those pitches," Ferguson said.

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