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Intrigue on all fronts as coaches face assortment of challenges

You might consider it’s drawing a long bow to suggest Darren Lehmann and Ewen McKenzie have had similar challenges as they attempt to make their mark in their respective positions as national team coaches. But is it?

I’m inclined to think there are some  – and that they go a bit further than both having to overhaul team culture after taking over from foreign coaches in, admittedly contrasting, controversial circumstances.

For one thing, at least, both have been wrestling with jigsaw puzzles to come up with a winning combination against teams, if not at the very height of their powers, then certainly with a more confident, settled look about them.

And this at a time when – wider problems compounded by form and/or injury issues  – Australian cricket and rugby both find themselves with a genuine talent pool of limited depth at their disposal.

Yes, it’s fair to say that events at The Oval in the last couple of days – most notably, of course, those landmark centuries by Shane Watson and Steve Smith – will have Lehmann in a better frame of mind in terms of his batting order in the context of these twin Ashes series.

But, for now, we probably need to see how this final Test of the England leg plays out before we can assess whether Boof’s outfit have truly turned the corner.

As for McKenzie, his new-look Wallabies have barely hit the road, much less turned any corner.

That was a spluttering, stuttering start against the All Blacks in Sydney last Saturday night. And unless they can fire on all cylinders in Wellington tomorrow night, a change of fortunes on the Bledisloe Cup front will remain a dauntingly distant destination.

What with the AFL and NRL heading towards their finals under drugs/sackings clouds of varying proportions, there’s certainly no shortage of intrigue this weekend, whatever your sporting preferences.

 — Peter Thomson


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