Cricket Expert & Columnist
Ashes 2013/14: Michael Clarke's day 'couldn't have gone any worse'
Australian skipper Michael Clarke endured a calamitous opening day to the Ashes, says Mike Atherton.
Last Updated: 21/11/13 10:33pm
Clarke won the toss but then saw his side slump from 71-1 to 132-6, the 32-year-old's wicket being the third to fall when he was caught for one, fending the ball to short leg off Stuart Broad (5-75).
Although the home side rallied with a century stand between Brad Haddin (78no) and Mitchell Johnson (64), former England captain Atherton said Australia's total of 273-8 was still below par.
Moreover he insisted that Clarke - dismissed five times in as many Tests by Broad this summer - is struggling to overcome a serious technical weakness.
"It seems he has a problem, in particular against Stuart Broad's fast, short- pitched ball," he reflected.
"I think he struggles against the taller bowlers; because of his bad back he doesn't like to duck - or finds it difficult to duck - so he likes to stand and play the short ball. So he gets into difficulties against a tall bowler who can get steep bounce from not that short a length.
"Today really couldn't have gone any worse for Clarke, from a team and personal perspective. This is a below-par score on about as flat a pitch as you can possibly get at the Gabba and he couldn't have imagined a worse way to get out than he did this morning."
Former Australian leg-spinner Shane Warne says that Clarke's best chance of combatting Broad's shorter delivery - in particular when it's bowled from wide of the crease - might well be to go on the offensive.
"He's got a little bit of a problem with that angle but also at times he's had his back issue which has stopped him being aggressive," he said.
"Seeing him try to play that short ball, he's just trying to get out of the way. I'd like to see him go back, playing it and taking it on. "
Warne admitted that several of Australia's top-order batsmen let themselves down on a flat pitch that offered little help to the bowlers.
"All in all it's been the way they've got out that's been the most disappointing factor for me," he reflected. "It's been a bit soft, a bit timid - there hasn't been enough aggression.
"If you look through that batting card - David Warner 49, Steve Smith 31 - there were no big scores to write home about but they were both busy and a bit more aggressive.
"Normally in Australia they play the short ball pretty well and they leave the ball pretty well. You have to do that because of the pace and bounce."
Former England captain Nasser Hussain said the seventh-wicket stand between Haddin and Johnson highlighted the inadequacies of Australia's top order.
"Australia will be thinking 'if Haddin and Johnson can bat so well on there, what are England going to do?'. There are no demons in this pitch - it hasn't moved around or spun for Swann. It just goes to show how well Broad bowled and how well England caught - they took all of their chances," he said.
"It was a bit of a role-reversal because we used to come here and get surprised by the bounce at the Gabba and play shots outside the off stump, nick off and get caught behind but it was Australia doing it on this occasion on a ground that they don't lose on very often.
"It was a very un-Australian performance. There were quite a few soft dismissals at the top of the order. At 132-6 they could have lost the game today but thanks to Haddin and Johnson, they are still in it.
Watch highlights of today's play from 10am on Sky Sports 2 - and On Demand from 6.30pm - before The Ashes Verdict (9pm) and Ashes Extra (11pm) hit your screens ahead of coverage of day two, from 11.30pm - also on Sky Sports 2.