Australia at 6s and 7s on 11/11/11

 

by Andrew Gigacz

After the day 2 shenanigans of this Test, the third day was almost certainly going to be an anti-climax. How do you top – or should that be how do you “bottom”? – a session and a half in which 18 wickets fall for 68 runs (from SA being 1/49 to Australia being 9/21)? Well, when only 150-odd runs are required with 9 wickets in hand, you don’t. And we didn’t.

When I made the call to Almanackers for match day report volunteers for this match, it was Tony Roberts who suggested that I should allocate this day to myself, being 11/11/11 and all. So I did, thinking I could have a bit of number fun with the day. Unfortunately for fans of the Australian team, this was to be the only fun possible.

Not that there was no hope when the day began. With the extraordinary set of numbers from day 2 still fresh in our minds, there was hope yet for more numerically bizarre occurrences at Newlands. The South Africans began the day at 1/85, still 150-odd short of victory. Chasing 150 with nine wickets can sometimes turn out to be what the commentators call one of those tricky run chases. But to make it tricky, an early wicket was required. And the chance for one came but left just as quickly as Shane Watson dropped a regulation slip chance from Amla off Harris’ bowling. Poor Harris had seen an equally easy chance dropped a gully by Hussey on the last ball of day 2.

No further genuine chances came. Amla and Smith both looked scratchy and the bowlers in the first hour did a pretty good job. There was still a hint of assistance in the track. Smith looked like he could get another inside edge onto his stumps at any moment. (Then again, with his technique, he pretty much always looks that way.) But what neither Smith nor Amla did do was panic. In stark and damning contrast to almost every batsman on day two, they buckled down and worked hard. It was as though someone had reminded them that this was TEST cricket.

And Smith and Hamla must be nice blokes too. They thoughtfully ensured that the score at 11:00am Newlands time was 1/111 and then took the score to 1/125 so that at 11:11am on 11/11/11, the South Africans required 111 runs to win. At least that provided me with some cheer. Thanks boys!

Having fulfilled their numerical duties, Amla and Smith then decided that the time had come to finish the match. Not unlike an old train pulling out of a station in an Agatha Christie novel, they accelerated gradually, built up a full head of steam and then careered away from Australia as lunch beckoned. Their timing was impeccable, both in their strokes and in their ability to allow themselves both to get hundreds before reaching the target.

While it would be hard to level too much criticism at the other bowlers, Mitch Johnson’s bowling has become somewhat of a train-wreck itself. His explosive spells have become way too far and few in between and between them he is virtually impotent. As if to tease himself and the rest of us, he found some spit and fire just before this match ended and grabbed the wicket of Amla.

But while Australia’s bowling might not be the lethal force of ten years ago, it is its batting that continues to be its biggest problem. Arguments rage on this website and many others over pretty much every batting spot. The calls for a permanent axing of Hughes will grow louder. Should the new selection panel bring back Katich? How long can Watson keep opening, especially when he appears to be Australia’s most effective bowler? Marsh looks the goods at number three but will he be another who continually succumbs to injury? Has Ponting played one year too long, as Greg Baum suggested?  And what was Hussey doing playing that extravagant drive first ball, when the team was on the precipice? (In fairness to Hussey, his recent form prior to this match has been fantastic.) And Brad Haddin? His batting in recent times is a bit like Johnson’s bowling, a shadow of its former self.

Michael Clarke’s first innings stands out as a huge positive. He probably should have given Lyon a go earlier yesterday but he already appears to be prepared to be more aggressive as a captain as his predecessor.

There are a few “what ifs” we could ponder. What if either Hussey or Watson had not dropped Amla? What if Shane Watson had chosen to refer his LBW dismissal? And what if South Africa had scored 12 less runs and been forced to follow on? This whole nightmare almost certainly wouldn’t have occurred.

But the nightmare has occurred and it would be a brave person to put a time-frame on when the Australians might wake up from it.

 

About Andrew Gigacz

Well, here we are. The Bulldogs have won a flag. What do I do now?

Comments

  1. Gigs – Johnson is a pea heart – always has been. He only ever finds spit and fire in his bowling when it no longer matters. This disaster has actually sparked my interest even more in the cricket this summer. I’m really keen to see which Aussie cricketers show some guts and leadership in the next few months. Someone (or maybe a couple of them) will emerge.

  2. Peter Flynn says:

    Dips and Gigs,

    Moving quickly on Haddin and Johnson should turn out to be a positive for Australia.

    Waiting patiently for Johnson to fire has been an error.

  3. Tony Roberts says:

    Gigs
    Obviously it’s easy to be creative and comical when everything’s going your way, but Smith and Amla weren’t the only Seth Efrikans to do a superb 11’s job, I also thought that the Newlands ground authorities got into the numerological swing of things by calling on the crowd to do the David Sheppard Hop for a minute at 11.11am.

    The Foxtel cameras scanned across thousands of human flamingoes, including umpire Ian Gould. It’s a pity that old Sheppard himself wasn’t there to umpire. Yeah, sure, I know that he’s dead now, but they could have propped him up and arranged for the TV umpire to make all the decisions via DRS. Actually, he kind of did, anyway – and who else but Billy Bowden, the Barnaby Joyce of Test cricket umpires?

  4. Speaking of Barnaby Joyce Tony, I can’t wait to see what he says about the carbon tax when the banks and other financial predators get their mits onto the administration of it.

    It will be a gold mine and no amount of Barnaby’s Rumpelstiltskin ranting and raving will get it to disappear.

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