Are Australia’s dropped catches and fielding woes a lapse or a serious problem for Australian Test team?


“Have they got a fielding coach, India? I imagine they would have,” Waugh said on Fox Cricket.

Well, whatever they worked on did the job in Melbourne, and the spell this time was cast on Tim Paine’s side, which had its roughest Test in the field since, according to Stats Perform, grassing nine catches against India at the SCG in 2012. Little wonder Langer gave his side a “direct” talking to – but not one of his famous blow-ups – after an eight-wicket loss which has evened the battle for the Border-Gavaskar Trophy at 1-1 apiece, ensuring a fascinating end to the four-Test campaign.

Dropped catches in Melbourne

  • Marnus Labuschagne 2
  • Cameron Green 1
  • Matthew Wade 1
  • Mitchell Starc 1
  • Steve Smith 1
  • Tim Paine 1
  • Travis Head 1

Australia’s troubles began late on day one when Marnus Labuschagne spilled an opportunity at third slip when debutant opener Shubman Gill was on four, and escalated on Sunday when the home team desperately needed to make inroads.

Tim Paine was first up, diving to his left but unable to pouch an inside edge off Gill. Cameron Green, whom Pat Cummins joked had become his new “best friend” in Adelaide after holding on to a Virat Kohli thunderbolt at gully, then dropped Rishabh Pant at gully in a one-handed chance.

Steve Smith has typically been one of the more assured hands in world cricket but that wasn’t the case when he spilt Ajinkya Rahane at second slip on 73. Smith reacted by saying he had lost sight of the delivery, in which the stand-in Indian captain had thrown his bat at a wide delivery and the ball flew off a thick edge. That was a particularly painful blunder, as Rahane finished the day unbeaten on 104 – his second ton at the MCG.

To cap off a frustrating day, Travis Head appeared all but set to celebrate the dismissal of Rahane on the last ball of the day but the ball bobbed out of his hands as he dived forward on the ground from point. As the contest unfolded over the ensuing days, Labuschagne grassed Ravi Ashwin at leg slip, Matthew Wade spilled a difficult chance at short leg off Gill, and Mitchell Starc fumbled Rahane in the deep.

Travis Head drops a catch off India’s Ajinkya Rahane on day two.Credit:AP

Former Australian opener Chris Rogers put it down to the Australians simply having a bad few days and didn’t sheet the entire blame for defeat to their work in the field.

“These dropped catches they put down in the first innings were costly but, equally, it was about their [lack of] first-innings runs and they weren’t able to do that,” Rogers said.

Marnus Labuschagne spills a catch off Shubman Gill on day one.

Marnus Labuschagne spills a catch off Shubman Gill on day one.Credit:Getty Images

Whether the dropped catches are the start of a wider problem, or an aberration, will be shown in Sydney next week.

Under senior assistant coach Andrew McDonald, the Australians industriously work on their ground fielding and catching, but they haven’t had a specialist fielding coach since Brad Haddin stepped down during last year’s Ashes series because of family reasons.

There has been debate in recent years over how best to improve catching. One camp says it’s about technique and skill, and must be treated as its own training entity, as opposed to it being included as part of fitness drills, in effect killing two birds with one ball.

Pointing to a deeper issue, those with knowledge of the Australian cricket academy argue while there is much attention on throwing, there needs to be more time spent on the art of slips catching.

“We are obsessed with having bowlers bowl at 145km/h … and 90 per cent of their wickets are caught behind the wicket,” one former player said.

One theory this summer is that quarantine restrictions in terms of time allowed out have had an impact on fielding standards across first-class and even the Big Bash League season, with players keen to use their time more on batting and bowling. Paine is meticulous in his preparation – to the point he even lost too much weight in the off-season – and often likes to walk to the ground, even before his teammates arrive, and practice on match mornings. He said during the Adelaide Test that this had been constrained because of COVID-19 protocols demanding that he head to the ground in a team van.

Test catch rates 2020

  • South Africa 81.4%
  • England 79.4%
  • Zimbabwe 79.2%
  • Pakistan 79.1%
  • Sri Lanka 78.8%
  • Bangladesh 77.3%
  • New Zealand 76.4%
  • India 75.5%
  • Australia 71.4%
  • West Indies 63.0%

Source: Stats Perform

However, when asked by The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald whether any potential time restrictions had impacted on the fielding, Labuschagne said that had not been the case.

“It’s maybe a concentration thing, maybe a focus thing, but it’s definitely not a work ethic thing,” he said.

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“All of our fielders are working really hard on their exact position. If you are short leg, or leg slip or bat pad, or fielding in the slips, we are all working really hard. I certainly don’t think COVID has had an impact on the amount of training we are getting there.”

Labuschagne’s theory about concentration was backed up by sources close to the team, who pointed out both nations have played little Test cricket – requiring session after session in the heat of the day – over the past year. Head is seen as one player whose concentration can be an issue.

Labuschagne said players, by the time they reached Test standard, had their own “catching technique” but were given adequate feedback on how they positioned themselves “to help you in making it easier to catch”.

In reviewing the MCG meltdown, McDonald said there had been “nothing obvious” that had led to the spilt chances.

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“I just put it down to some sloppy moments. I don’t think you can ever put your finger on exactly what happens in that moment in the player’s mind, whether they were fully switched on or not. But nothing clear from our point of view,” he said.

“Our preparation was good around the amount of catching. It was the second-up Test match, therefore potentially any of concentration issues I don’t think are probably relevant. A lot of guys had a lot of Shield cricket leading in as well, plus some ‘A’ games.

“I don’t think there were any excuses there – we just weren’t able to execute in those moments.”

What appears clear is that Australia’s skips cordon lacks the surety and aura of the days of Mark Taylor, Shane Warne, Mark Waugh and, at gully, Steve Waugh, and there will be change come Sydney.

Joe Burns typically stands at first slip – Wade spent time there in Melbourne after rolling his ankle – but has been axed from the XI. Wade is the team’s primary ball shiner at mid-off, meaning Warner – if McDonald is right – will likely now stand alongside Paine should he play. Warner, however, is known to not be overly keen about life in the cordon.

Amid the debate about Australia’s performance in Melbourne, Mark Waugh’s comment highlighted how easy it was to forget how good the Australians had been in Adelaide when all went right in their demolition of the tourists. That, clearly, was their Jekyll, then came the Hyde of Melbourne. Just which character shows up in Sydney will shape where the Border-Gavaskar Trophy resides.

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COVID crackdown: Contact tracing trouble as venues lapse


 

Queensland businesses have been put on notice after authorities discovered some of the crucial contact details which customers are required to leave when checking-in were illegible.

Officials will now launch a compliance blitz ahead of Christmas and over the holiday period with businesses given 72 hours to move away from paper-based check-ins.

As Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk yesterday urged venues to get their “house in order”, Queenslanders in greater Sydney were left scrambling to get home before Tuesday if they wanted to avoid mandatory hotel quarantine.

Ms Palaszczuk revealed authorities weren’t able to get in touch with everyone who visited The Glen Hotel in Eight Mile Plains, after a woman who’s since tested positive for COVID-19 visited it on December 16, because there was illegible handwriting with check-ins.

“That is not on, it is simply not on,” she said.

“So we are giving a very clear message to our pubs and clubs and cafes right across Queensland, that you will have 72 hours to get your house in order and that means you must have QR codes or you must have electronic devices in place otherwise you will be going back to the one per 4 square metres and people will not be able to stand up and enjoy their drinks.”

 

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk at a media conference on Sunday. Picture: Steve Pohlner

The Premier said while the majority of Queenslanders were doing the right thing, it was not acceptable for patrons to come in and not leave their details.

Queensland Hotel Association chief executive Bernie Hogan said inability to contact people on registers was not a reflection of the venue.

“What was said this morning about the illegible contact tracing is not actually an indication of the venue – it’s actually an indication of the patron not taking it seriously,” he said.

“For us, more than anything this is a wakeup call that this is a partnership between the patron and your local venue because realistically all these venues may have someone there, they’ve asked people to fill things out, which is in line with what they’re allowed to do – no one has broken a law here.

“The issue is that if it’s unable to be used then all that great effort has gone to waste.”

Health Minister Yvette D’Ath warned authorities would launch a blitz on businesses to ensure they were proactively checking customers were filling out their details upon arrival.

“It is not acceptable that businesses are just hoping that their customers and patrons have checked in,” she said.

“It is their responsibility to proactively make sure that before people take their seats at venues or they take orders at counters that they have checked in.”

Minister for Health Yvette D’Ath says businesses have an obligation to take make sure check-in requirements were met Picture: Tara Croser.

Minister for Health Yvette D’Ath says businesses have an obligation to take make sure check-in requirements were met Picture: Tara Croser.

The Minister urged venues to also use floor marking for social distancing and to ensure customers were adhering to it, while saying staff should be greeting customers at the door to encourage trolleys to be wiped down and the use of hand sanitiser.

Queenslanders have also been told to wear masks if they are unable to social distance.

Restaurant & Catering Australia chief executive Wes Lambert said it was important for restaurants to ensure all patrons had checked in as contact tracing was the cornerstone of COVID safety.

He said QR codes would also eliminate the illegible handwriting issues, and would support a move to QR codes being used exclusively in Queensland.

A Chamber of Commerce & Industry Queensland spokesperson said Queensland businesses wanted nothing more than to stay open and recognised the importance of contract tracing.

“We understand recording and storing details can be onerous on business, which is why we have supported and encouraged businesses to use online platforms, such as SafeVisit, to help make the requirement easier on both the premises and the businesses,” they said.

“However, while it is essential businesses follow their COVIDsafe plans and practices, which the vast majority are vigil about, it is also a responsibility to patrons to accurately record their information, so if people need to be contacted, they can be.”

Eva Galasova at Spoon Deli Cafe in Fortitude Valley’s James St on Sunday. Picture: Steve Pohlner

Eva Galasova at Spoon Deli Cafe in Fortitude Valley’s James St on Sunday. Picture: Steve Pohlner

Some customers and venues have welcomed the Premier’s crackdown on accurate contact tracing records, with some punters saying they would support a fine for people who avoid providing their details.

Spoon Cafe Deli in James St has been using a QR code system for contact tracing records since April.

“People have mostly embraced it now, I think it’s become normal,” supervisor Elliot O’Brien said. “We do also have the paper one, but people rarely use it, in fact in the past two days we haven’t had anyone with that.”

Jade Duncan, 29, of New Farm said QR codes were an excellent tool to keep the community safe.

“Everyone has to do what they can to keep everyone safe … it’s easy to forget where you have been, especially if you’re having a few drinks around the silly season, so I think it’s important to have that record and compulsory check-in” she said.

Ms Duncan said she had concerns about how details will be obtained for people without a smartphone.

Bald Hills local Glenn Smith, 63, said paper records were unnecessary because “we all have phones” and that he would support penalties for people who do not provide true details.

“If people do that sort of thing I think the full force of the law should come down on them,” he said.

 

Originally published as COVID crackdown: Contact tracing trouble as venues lapse





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Lawyer says AFL hub dry spell led to Jesse Hogan’s ‘lapse in judgement’


Fremantle’s Jesse Hogan.Credit:Getty Images

The directions banned unapproved visitors.

Hogan was subsequently charged with failing to comply with a direction after police attended his address and he made full admissions.

He completed the remainder of his quarantine period in a supervised hotel and was released on October 5.

During his sentencing at Fremantle Magistrates Court on Tuesday, the police prosecutor said Hogan had text the woman and invited her to visit, asking her not to park on his driveway.

She came to the house, however an argument broke out between the pair and the woman left.

Mr Dobson said Hogan followed the woman outside and convinced her to stay the evening as she was drunk and couldn’t drive.

He said Hogan realised the seriousness of the pandemic and accepted he should have complied with the direction.

“From March 2020 he was tested [for coronavirus] at least twice a week … he was tested non-stop when he was in the hub,” Mr Dobson said.

“When he flew back it was from Queensland which I understand to be a much safer state … [the team] were all tested a day before they got on the plane.

“He is a decent person … he wasn’t this arrogant AFL player that has been commented by people in the media.”

Jesse Hogan arriving in Perth on September 21.

Jesse Hogan arriving in Perth on September 21.Credit:Fremantle Dockers

Despite his lawyer informing the court Hogan may move to a “rugby league state” at some point in his future and not be a recognisable face, and should be granted a spent conviction, the Magistrate recorded the conviction against him.

Hogan declined to speak with media outside court.

He has one year to run on a three-year deal he signed at the end of 2018 when he was traded from Melbourne.

The key forward was in and out of the Fremantle side this year, managing just seven matches and being swung from end to end, having taken leave from the club in January to deal with mental health issues.

He finished the season reasonably well, kicking four goals in round 17 against North Melbourne and then performing solidly in round 18 against the Western Bulldogs.

His 2019 campaign was cut short by a serious foot injury.

The Dockers have been extremely disappointed by Hogan’s breach which has cast his future with the club in doubt.

Fremantle are open to off-loading him to another club if possible however a clear suitor is yet to emerge.

The Dockers also have a tight salary cap which would be challenged further should Hogan reach a games trigger in his contract, one which he is increasingly unlikely to hit.

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