Day 2: Believe it if you saw it.

In normal circumstances, I would have started proceedings by talking about Michael Clarke’s wonderful batting performance: an innings which, hopefully, will not define his captaincy, but will be a portent of the maturity he is beginning to show. Upon coming to the crease with his team precariously positioned at 3-40, the new skipper played possibly his best ever innings, guiding his team to a meritorious 284. I would have praised Peter Siddle’s supporting role: batting for over an hour to defy the hosts’ hopes of a quick resolution.

Then I would have moved onto Australia’s dismantling of South Africa. Led by Shane Watson, who gave all bowlers a lesson in keeping the ball full and allowing the conditions to do the rest, the Aussies ran through a brittle South African batting order and skittled them for 96. The innings was best summed up by the brief, but inglorious knock of Jacques Kallis. A man who has scored almost 12,000 Test runs, he will not want to watch the replay of his dismissal: edging the ball onto his helmet before being caught by Ponting in the slips cordon on the fourth ball he faced.

In normal circumstances, we would be singing the praises of our bowling attack. Watson was ably assisted by Ryan Harris, another bowler whose chief virtue is his consistency of line and length. South Africa all out for less than 100. A lead of 188 runs. More than three days left to play.

But this was no normal day’s play. As Phil Hughes and Shane Watson strode to the crease, intent on driving the stake into the heart of their opponents, who could have foreseen the calamity which was about to befall this Australian team? Certainly not I, planning on a couple of overs then off to bed.

Whatever happens on day three, whatever happens in the rest of this Test Match, whatever happens in the second Test or all the Tests to follow throughout the summer, this day will not be forgotten. The Australian batsmen, along with many of the supporters, will continue to have nightmares about this performance long after their careers are over. Watson was the first to depart, caught plum in front by Steyn. Ponting’s twelve-ball duck will not dull the shouts for him to retire. When Hughes was caught, all of a sudden Australia were 3-13 at tea, and in big strife. But even then, no-one could have predicted the carnage was still incomplete.

Hussey was next. First ball. A miserable match for Mr Cricket. Then, when the skipper departed l.b.w. with the score at 5-15, we viewers on this side of the Indian Ocean were shaken from our torpor by the realisation that this was history in the making. Haddin is no-one’s idea of a Test batsman at present, and he lasted a mere three balls. When Harris and then Johnson left the scene, the might of the Australian batting line-up was back in the sheds, and the score was 9-21. The lowest ever (I repeat: lowest ever) Test score looked a formality with Siddle and Lyon at the crease. To their credit, the last pair added 26 to spare Australia from complete ignominy.

From my vantage point on the couch, this was the most insipid display I have witnessed, so I can only imagine what new supremo Pat Howard is thinking. If he did not previously believe he had his work cut for him, he would surely be under no illusions now. It was a day which will not be forgotten. And the call for heads to roll will now reach fever pitch. The lack of fight was troubling. The unseemly willingness of the batsmen to surrender to their fate was disturbing.

But, having said all that, Australia is still – amazingly – in with a realistic chance of winning this match. Under normal circumstances, having been bowled out for 47, that is scarcely believable.

 

Footnote: I have graduated from sceptic to supporter, after the video referral system more than proved its worth on this frantic, frenetic day.

 

 

 

 

 

About Darren Dawson

Always North.

Comments

  1. John Butler says:

    Smokie

    Under normal circumstances….

    What else could you say? I’m stunned.

  2. Peter Flynn says:

    Smoke,

    Well done.

    Many talking points.

    Hughes’s back foot means he always be a nicker.

    Watson’s front-foot plant causes him trouble, particularly as an opener (where he shouldn’t bat).

    Ponting’s head position is causing problems with his balance. He’s falling towards the off-side.

    Johnson and Haddin play their cricket as if there are no consequences.

    I have no idea what’ll happen here.

    9/21 and N Lyon strides to the crease. Extraordinary.

    Hughes shouldn’t become an umpire after his nicking days are over.

  3. Smokie, unbelievably good summery. I was sleeping while you were up having nightmares of cricketers disappearing into thin air. Reading your story, it was like I lived the horrors with you and I await eagerly to see if you tring better tidings tomorrow. Surely they can’t be worse? I imagine none of them slept well either tonight and they are going to have to pull something out of their grey matter and their pumping hearts to save their pride tonight.

    Yvette

  4. John Butler says:

    I haven’t seen a ball bowled, but…

    Are we seeing the continuing collapse of modern batsmen’s techniques against a moving ball?

    As PF points out above, so many have poor positioning, push their hands at the ball, etc.

    Clarke’s one of the few with the ability to play late.

    All the modern emphasis on more coaching isn’t producing better batsmen.

  5. Yvette,
    I am still unsure if i made the correct decision in staying up to watch the horror of it all!

    JB / PJF,
    Extremely valid points. The older he gets, the more unsteady Ponting appears at the crease.
    He talked up a good game prior to this match (as did one M Johnson of all people), but even
    then it sounded like false bravado to me.

  6. I think Haddin’s dismissal is the most illustrative: a da-da-da-waltz down the track after a handful of deliveries. It’s what I resorted to last Christmas when my 16 year old nephew was clearly too good for me in the nets. It’s a coping mechanism: make a joke of it. Stamp him: never to play again.

    One for Gigs: has there been a day of Test cricket before where all four innings were played (in part or whole) on a single day?

    I have no idea what will happen, but if Australia wins it will complicate matters re selection and philosophy and the wicket and conditions will bear the brunt.

  7. Andrew Else says:

    Harmsy Re the all four innings being played. Fox Sports News was saying it was the third time ever in test matches. Mind you, after seeing the score on the phone and rushing to the tv to see all the highlights on the 7am bulletin, I only saw 5 wickets or so…from the whole day. Des Hausler is still bigger news apparently

  8. John,
    You have nailed it with your comment on Haddin. He is the primary example of
    a player horribly out of form, but seemingly not figuring in selection discussions.
    Well, let the talk commence now.
    Victoria have a keeper who is racking up the runs. Let’s pick players when
    they are in form, and drop players who are out of form. Pure and simple.

  9. Victoria have TASMANIAN wicket keeper Smokie.

  10. Fair call, Phanto.

    Let me re-phrase that by saying there are currently two Tasmanian keepers (one
    playing for Victoria today) who deserve to be picked ahead of the incumbent.
    I am a massive Tim Paine fan, but he must really be cursing his luck at present.

  11. John Butler says:

    The current Tasmanian is still suffering the lingering effects of an injury suffered in a joke match played for TV purposes only. If that doesn’t sum up much about current cricket…

  12. Peter Flynn says:

    No. 11’s to have top-scored in a Test innings? 3/8 have occurred in Cape Town.

    FR Spofforth 50 Australia v England Melbourne 21 Mar 1885

    TR McKibbin 16 Australia v England The Oval 10 Aug 1896

    AEE Vogler 62* South Africa v England Cape Town 30 Mar 1906

    Asif Masood 30* Pakistan v West Indies Lahore 15 Feb 1975

    AMJG Amerasinghe 34 Sri Lanka v New Zealand Kandy 9 Mar 1984

    Talha Jubair 31 Bangladesh v India Chittagong 17 Dec 2004

    SJ Harmison 42 England v South Africa Cape Town 2 Jan 2005

    NM Lyon 14 Australia v South Africa Cape Town 9 Nov 2011

    Has a 10th wicket stand scored more than the previous 9 added together?

  13. The three ugliest things in the world are hatred, Brad Haddin’s batting and cricket players’ necklaces.

  14. Watson – not an opener; will rue his failed conversions from 40s and 50s.

    Hughes – not a Test technique, may make it in a few years.

    Marsh – injury prone.

    Ponting – approaching use-by date; chronically falling across his stumps; cracks the sh1ts every time he gets out; (batting well in the nets, but.)

    Clarke – great first innings; prone to join collapses.

    Hussey – also approaching use-by date; dreadful shot last night, and FIRST BALL?!?

    Haddin – clown. Time to go. Rankest of FTBs.

    Johnson – flake.

  15. Out of the mouths of babes JB.

    They are just about all joke matches for TV purposes.

  16. Tony Roberts says:

    In answer to PF’s 10.15 post above, the 10th wicket has more than doubled the score on a couple of previous occasions, most recently at the The Oval in 1980 when Peter Willey and Bob Willis(!) saved a Test against the Fearsome Foursome (no less) by taking England from 9/90 to 209 on the last day.

    Gigs will save Australia by placing the statistical hex on SA just after 8pm tonight (Cape Town time: 11.11.11 on 11/11/11) – got to be hat-trick time there, and all things being equal, probably the 11th over of Day 3 as well.

  17. Nelson x 4 Tony.

  18. With reference to ugliness, Litza, do I detect the first turn of the can-opener insofar as worms are concerned.

    I also find the condemnation of John Daly rather ugly. he just lives by a different understanding of things. If only the PGA officials had turned up with another box of balls (as is the appropriate procedure), and watched as JD drowned each of them. And called for another box.

    And kept asking.

    I think Daly making the attempt in the knowledge he was doomed to fail is one of the most poetic things I have seen on a sports field. I can certainly relate to that. he should have a Homer Simpson golf bag.

    And as for the holier-than-thou, our-tournament-is-so-important officials, and the this-is-appalling media. I am reminded of a simple story from teaching days at a fringe-Brisbane private school. Every student had to attend at least one inter-school swimming meet to rah-rah-rah. (I had students who engaged in intellectual discussions about punk music, and went on to edit fanzines and university newsapers: how do you reckon they went with that expectation?). We were all about school spirit and the good of the community. And we were all about participation. So kids were badgered into competing in inter-house swimming carnivals as well, and castigated and given the guillt treatment for not going in events. ONe year a Year 12 girl, sick of being belittled for not entering, entered the Open Girls 400 metres freestyle – and, in her determination to finish (to the glory of God), put the program back half an hour. That confused officialdom.

    And then there is the Barry HUmphries I-want-to-buy-the-soap story.

  19. That’s just not cricket, John.

  20. 11 / 11 / 11 posted at 11.11

  21. Skip of Skipton says:

    Footage of all 23 wickets that fell on day 2 are on the Herald Sun website. And yes, Haddin’s papers need to be stamped.

  22. Sorry Gigs.

  23. “One for Gigs: has there been a day of Test cricket before where all four innings were played (in part or whole) on a single day?”

    JTH, as I watched it all unfolding, my son Oliver asked that very question. Haven’t got an answer yet.

    “Gigs will save Australia by placing the statistical hex on SA just after 8pm tonight (Cape Town time: 11.11.11 on 11/11/11) – got to be hat-trick time there, and all things being equal, probably the 11th over of Day 3 as well.”

    Tony, I hope I can. I was thinking of you last night when it seemed we might not even get to a third day.

    I’d like to think there’ll be another twist yet in this amazing match but I fear there will not be.

    And you’re right, Smokie. Whatever happens tonight, this match will still be generating discussion in 100 years from now.

  24. No worries, Phantom. I was two minutes late anyway.

  25. I didn’t think his bowling was necessarily demonic but it’s worth noting (at least in my mind) that Shane Watson is an anagram of HE’S NOW SATAN.

  26. And why the hell was there a range ball in a green side bunker? Amateurish stuff from the organisers.

  27. If you want ugly school spirit, look no further than the current mess at Penn State and the disgusting code of omertà in US College sports.

  28. Smokie, if Angie Hart and Simon Austin were at Newlands, it would have been a “frantic, frenetic, Frente! day”…

  29. “The three ugliest things in the world are hatred, Brad Haddin’s batting and cricket players’ necklaces.”

    Come on Litza! What about Dennis Lillee bounding in with his shark’s tooth bouncing all over the place?

  30. By the way. Message to the academic duo of Flynny and Pat O’Keefe, who are rostered on to write about days 4 and 5, feel free to make a contribution about day 3 or the Test in general.

  31. One could be forgiven for thinking that Peter Argent’s photo currently on the home page is a shot of one of the Australian batsmen from last night.

  32. This could be a good thing. The low before the recovery, forced to face truths, pounded by reality the Aussie cricketing brains trust (yeah right) will be forced into action. It may also, hopefully) bind the players together.

    Haddin has to go, Hughes has to go, Johnson has to go, Ponting probably as well. A total reshuffle. A rethink. This could end up being the start of another great era.

  33. I listened to the alleged Australian second innings on the ABC. Someone wrote on yesterday’s thread that Drew Morphett can’t call cricket. He was OK, what the Australians were playing wasn’t cricket – certainly not test cricket anyway. Even allowing for the facts that Watson is not an opener, Hughes is possibly not a test cricketer, Ponting and Hussey are past their prime and Haddin is an example of inadequate NSW cricketers picked ahead of better players from the other five states they still should not have been dismissed for 15 runs between them.

    The question has to be asked if 20/20 cricket is destroying test playing skills and judgment – although Ponting and Hussey in particular have played such good test cricket over the years that you can hardly suggest that a few years of 20/20 would destroy their skills.

    Haddin was never a test standard keeper. He owes his career to his batting skills and the mistaken belief that he was going to be the new Gilchrist. Gilchrist may not have been quite as good a keeper as Healy and Marsh but he was miles better than Haddin. He was also a much better batsman with far too much judgment to attempt the charge that got Haddin out third ball last night.

    This current team may struggle against New Zealand this summer. It will be slaughtered by India.

  34. “A total reshuffle.”

    Dips, there was a fair bit of shuffling going on in front of the stumps last night. Ponting was probably the chief offender.

  35. Gigs – you’re right.

    Last night for Aussie cricket could be the equivalent to Geelong’s round 5 loss to the Roos at KP in 2007. Its been all upside since!

  36. “This current team may struggle against New Zealand this summer. It will be slaughtered by India.”

    You might be right, Dave. But the batting malaise is not confined to Australian cricketers. While Sehwag, Dravid, Laxman and Tendulkar remain in the side, India will probably be OK, batting-wise. But I’m not sure if the next generation of Indian batsmen will.

  37. Australia will go in favourite against India, Dave. And probably win. That is also illustrative.

  38. JTH,

    the swimming race story brings one to mind.

    In 1971 Rod Graham (Tiger Gus’s dad) entered in the open 50 metres breast stroke at the Scotch College swimming sports in Launceston. Once again compulsory participation was the order of the day.

    He was a big daunting lump of a bloke and looked the part as he stood on the blocks at the shallow end. He undertook some distinctive Johnny Weissmuller movements without the Tarzan yell.

    He belly flopped in and proceded to walk the length of the pool. When it got too deep he slowly dog paddled.

    If I remember correctly he was disqualified for incorrect stroke. They were not a tollerant of the underwater leg and arm movement as they are these days.

  39. 11/11/11 Well may we say “God save the Queen”, because nothing will save the Australian cricket team.

  40. Gigs and John,

    Perhaps Australia will beat India but hopefully with a different batting line-up. This current line-up surely would not be favourites to beat any of the top three teams.

  41. Bichel will sort them out.

    Remember that one dayer against the poms a few decades ago.

    I recorderd it in my unique way.

    TWELVE STRAIGHT MATE

    The balmy army sat there calmly
    well….for just a little while
    thought they had the old foe down and out
    so they chanted, yelled and smiled
    openers smacked the ball around
    Australia in a pickle
    but balmy army hadn’t counted
    on a startling spell from Bichel
    he used the humps and hit the stumps
    made the Poms look silly
    no better bowling had they seen
    since when Massey bowled with Lillie
    but when Australia came to bat
    the luck was not with them
    world champs flat out on the mat
    then Bichel struck again
    tore a nation’s heart apart
    with bat as well as ball
    the ghost of Jardine just departed
    how the once mighty fall
    I reckon that’s twelve straight mate
    strewff now…. ain’t that funny
    Australia is the firing squad
    while England is the bunny

  42. Skip of Skipton says:

    It’s time for the ACB to demarcate between Cricket and 20/20. Have a contracted pool of cricketers, and a contracted pool of 20/20ers. Contracted cricketers are not allowed to play any 20/20 including IPL, Big Bash etc. 20/20ers are not allowed to play Test, ODI, First Class or Ryobi Cup etc.

  43. I didn’t see the events overnight and am obviously as dumbfounded as anyone. Yes, of course a score of 47 warrants the criticism that the Aussies are getting and maybe there should be a few players that have to go. However, what intrigues me is that both sides collapsed. On a pitch that I gather is doing a bit laterally but is no minefield.

    I just wonder whether Skip of Skipton mightn’t be onto something here. In what other team sport do you require the same playing group to jump between three completely different forms of the game within a matter of days and expect them to adapt to the pace, tactics and temperament needed for each? I’ve detected a recent trend in Test Cricket whereby players seem increasingly unable (or disinclined?) to dig in and play the slow, patient game that was once its hallmark. Games being decided in 3 days or less seem to be happening more frequently. Perhaps last night was just an extreme example of how difficult it is for modern players to make this adaptation.

  44. Pamela Sherpa says:

    When I heard the news this morning I couldn’t help but think of the irony-if it was a T 20 match and wickets had fallen like that would people have been calling it exciting?
    p.s I think you astute Almanac experts would do a darn, decent job if you replaced the CA selection and coaching panel.

  45. Dips, you pointed out that we may be ‘forced to face truths’.

    Pardon my cynicism, but three crushing innings defeats on home soil last summer didn’t appear to bring about a willingness to face such inconvenient realities as the truth.

    In fact, the truth has been well-enunciated by many here – Watto must move down, Hughes/Haddin/MJ must go, and if Punter refuses to bat at 6 he must face what will be the obligatory back-page pun on his nickname as well.

    While we didn’t produce the worst Test score ever, 9/21 is Australia’s worst performance in an almost-completed Test innings, and underlines how far this side has fallen.

    And another point about the Cats comparison (couldn’t resist)…

    In Round 6 2002, the Cats came to Brisbane for another merciless mauling at the hands of the rampaging Lions. As I walked out of the ground after the game a fellow follower of the hoops grabbed me and said, “Remember, that was our Plan A tonight. We’ve still got Plans B and C to roll out.”

    On my responding with nothing other than a quizzical look, he elaborated, “Plan A: Play the kids. Plan B: Play the kids. Plan C: See Plans A and B.”

    SJ and Kel debuted that night for the hoops; the rest is history (although never to be forgotten).

    For me, Australian cricket could do a lot worse than promoting at least three young players (particularly batsmen) whose technique is sound (asking a lot, I know) and guarantee them some games at the top level.

    I am still dumbstruck that Khawaja was so easily edged out, having shown the only signs of a truly competent top-order Test technique within the entire group.

    The horror of what will come next in the litany of self-defeating obfuscation and denial that surrounds this team is almost too appalling to contemplate.

  46. David Downer says:

    For all the doomsday predictions and moaning above, let’s temper it by remembering that Australia may yet still sweep this series 2-0!

    #buttheyprobablywont

    Could this bizarre train-wreck of a test actually reignite a bit of interest in the Test arena?

  47. Fair enough, David.

    There is still some possibility that the Aussies could win this Test.

    What irks me is that such a result would then be employed to continue to champion the illusion that Australian cricket is heading in the right direction. That our second innings here was just a really bad day at the office, an aberration to be glossed over in the light of the bigger picture.

    For me, 9/21 (and the subsequent 47) are the bigger picture. They cannot be ignored. A win here would enable some at least to attempt to do just that.

    The reality of this Test match is that putting aside the skipper’s career-best innings (and I’ll go so far as to say that it will probably remain his career-best innings, no matter how much longer he plays) the Proteas would start today four runs from victory with nine wickets in hand. Not even the current Aussie batting line-up could fail to prevail in that scenario.

    If the Aussies are going to rely on events akin to a freak lightning strike to maintain competitiveness in the Test arena I foresee a lot of hand-wringing and shoulder-shrugging down the track.

  48. Pamela Sherpa says:

    Excuse me for for being flippant ,(sport is too stressful to be taken seriously at times) but I couldn’t help but wonder what the sponsors would be thinking about their large VB logo on Clarkes cap at the press conference after the game. Does VB stand for VERY BAD and is any publicity good publicity?

  49. John Butler says:

    Pamela, a very pertinent question you ask. I’m sure VB have had some similar thoughts.

    DD, Aussies can’t hold their catches. I suspect Hussey dropping a sitter on the last ball of the day may nearly have been the last straw mentally for the team.

    Proteas look like they’ll romp it in (I’m trying to apply a moz).

  50. While I am still getting over the poor decision of not listening to the radio due to some sort of allergic reaction to Drew Morphett, I am hoping this is “the line in the sand” (which, by the way, is one of my most hated cliches).

    This has to be the summer to see some new heads in the baggy green.

  51. David Downer says:

    And just think, for all we dislike about CA and the Test side at the moment, we haven’t yet caught a glimpse of this Summer’s new Vodafone ads starring our “heroes!”.

    Can’t wait to see what jovial brilliance they conjur this year – driving another hole in the players PR coffin

Leave a Comment

*