An innings win against Sri Lanka notwithstanding, Australia haven't been at their best in Test cricket and most of it is down to the lack of runs on the board. The batting has just not delivered â€“ none of their batsmen has been able to score big runs â€“ and that has hurt their fortunes badly. Their bowling has been sharp with Pat Cummins spearheading the attack and new found talents like Jhye Richardson but the same can't be said of the batting which has suffered badly in the absence of Warner and Smith.
The least a struggling line-up can attempt to do when individuals aren't racking up big scores is to string together partnerships â€“ but the Australian batsmen have failed on this count too â€“ as is evident from the frequency of significant partnerships before and after 2018. We take a period between 2015 and 2018 to analyse the pre-2018 period for Australia's partnerships and find that the numbers are vastly different from those after 2018.
Between 2015 and 2018, Australia piled on 45 century stands and a total of 126 stands above 50 (inclusive of 100 stands). They played a lot more Tests and had a lot more partnerships at the time but when you take the frequency of such stands, it was still pretty good.
They had a century stand roughly every 11th partnership while a 50-plus stand roughly every 4th partnership â€“ which are fairly impressive numbers.
The respective numbers after 2018 go for a toss. A century stand has been such a rarity that there have only been seven of them since 2018, roughly one every 30th partnership.
Even 50-plus stands have been less frequent with the average being around seven partnerships for one such stand since 2018. As a result the average runs per stand has dropped to 26.56 from 38.48.
Compare the numbers to other teams in this time frame and you see just how poor Australia have been.
The frequency of 100-plus stands is the third-worst after Zimbabwe and West Indies. The average of 26.56 per stand is again in the lower half of the table. Compare frequency of 50-plus partnerships and you see Australia's rate of 6.71 is in the red zone, level with Bangladesh with only Sri Lanka being worse-off.
The lack of stable partnerships has not only cost Australia Test matches but also resulted in series losses to South Africa, Pakistan and India.
Among their seven century stands since 2018, Usman Khawaja, their top run-scorer in this time frame appears often. But he has had little support. The 166-run stand between Marnus Labuschagne and Travis Head against Sri Lanka last week was a welcome bonus. It is such game-defining partnerships that Australia seek more often from their batsmen. The Sri Lankan series could help them identify and sort their squad while the return of Warner and Smith after the series should also boost the numbers.