Ball busters: The answer to Australia’s collapse crisis
REGULAR batting collapses derailed Australia's bid for a first Test series win in Asia since 2011 when it lost 1-0 to Pakistan this month.
Unless a solution is found soon, the ongoing collapses could spell a greater tragedy for the Australian cricket team - its first ever series loss to India on home soil.
Australia will face the world's number one ranked Test team in a four-match series this summer, but is yet to come close to finding adequate replacements for its suspended star batsmen.
Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft are still serving lengthy bans for their involvements in the Cape Town ball-tampering scandal. Only Bancroft has a chance of playing for Australia this summer when his ban expires at the end of the year.
In their absence, Australia has fielded Matt Renshaw, Joe Burns, Aaron Finch, Travis Head, Marnus Labuschagne and Peter Handscomb across three Test matches.
Australia didn't win one, and suffered collapses of 10-98 in Johannesburg, 10-60 in Dubai, and 7-75 and 4-7 in Abu Dhabi.
Those scores have accelerated a worrying trend for a side that has now lost ten wickets for less than 100 runs seven times since mid-2016.
The first time was against Sri Lanka in Colombo in August 2016 (10-83). That capitulation was followed by similar collapses against South Africa in Perth (10-86), South Africa in Hobart (10-84), India in Bengaluru (10-90) and South Africa in Cape Town (10-50).
Meanwhile, established players Shaun and Mitch Marsh only made 44 runs and faced 137 balls across the two Tests in the UAE.
Apart from a 140-over stand in the drawn first Test, staying power is severely lacking within Australia's batting ranks. The only exceptions in the UAE were Usman Khawaja and Finch, who made 410 runs off 894 balls from a combined seven innings.
But if the likes of Labuschagne, Head and the Marshes couldn't prevent the horrific collapses, then it begs the question; who's left?
The answer may lie in the recent Sheffield Shield performances of an overlooked handful of players.
Out of those who have played at least five innings since the start of the 2017-18 Shield season, there are seven batsmen who on average face more than 13 overs per knock. Only two - Bancroft and Khawaja - have played a Test for Australia this decade.
The other five are Will Pucovski, Jake Doran, Cameron White, Harry Nielsen and Charlie Hemphrey.
Victoria's Pucovski tops the list for the past two seasons, facing on average 136.3 balls an innings. The 20-year-old has made 466 runs at 93.20 in six innings, boosted by his 243 at the WACA in this year's season-opener.
Bancroft (115 balls per innings) and Khawaja (106.8) follow, before Tasmanian youngster Jake Doran.
The 21-year-old averages 102.6 balls per innings since the start of last season. In that time, he has played 19 innings, making 774 runs at 40.74, including one century and six fifties.
Veteran White, 23-year-old Nielsen and British-born Hemphrey all face on average between 82.5 and 87.5 balls per innings. White's batting average since the start of last season (51.08) is far superior, although he is 35 years old and hasn't played a Test for Australia since November 2008.
When looking at batsmen to have played more than 10 innings since the 2015-16 season, Khawaja (99.4 balls on average) and Bancroft (89.8) top the list. They are followed by the incumbent Marsh (86.3) and fringe player Renshaw (85.2).
Rounding out the top five is Kurtis Patterson, who has steadily built his red-ball case at New South Wales over several years.
Patterson is only 25-years-old, but has already played more than 50 matches for the Blues since making his debut in 2011.
Since the start of the 2015-16 season, he has faced on average 83.4 balls per innings. He has made 3414 runs at 39.69 in his first-class career.
Patterson's consistency saw him recently gain a sniff around the international set-up, earning a call-up for Australia A's tour of India last month. Although, he failed to make the most of the opportunity with just 96 runs in two four-day matches.
Every ODI and T20I ad-break free during play and in 4K, only on Foxtel this November. Get Sport HD + Entertainment with no lock in contract and no iQ4 set up costs. Get Foxtel Sport. T&C's Apply