Fourth Test, Day 1: Australia dominates as Marto has eyes for only victory

By Andrew Gigacz

With Australia 1-0 down, and two Tests to play, in preparation for Day 1 at Headingley I asked myself what are the important issues confronting us?

I came up with four. Will it rain? Will Freddy Flintoff be fit enough to play? Will the Aussie selectors finally see the light and give Stuart Clark a game? And the fourth, and possibly most crucial question of all, at least for those of us following the game via SBS, will Damien Martyn EVER look directly into the camera.

I’ve seen a fair bit of the SBS coverage of this series and I don’t think I’ve seen Damien make eye contact with me even once. I’ve been putting it down to a bit of typical male shyness on Marto’s part but maybe there’s another reason. Have you ever had a look at his eyes? I think they are the biggest, sparkliest eyes I’ve ever seen. Could it be that Martyn has been instructed NOT to look at the camera for fear of the brilliance of his eyes causing damage to the SBS cameras? Or perhaps the fear is that Damien’s eyes have some kind of hypnotic effect on viewers, rather like Simon the Likeable from that episode of Get Smart.

When the coverage gets under way at 7.30pm, I see no answer in sight (pardon the pun). SCG MacGill and Greg “Mo” Matthews are doing a good job at engaging the viewers with direct eye contact and engaging Martyn in the conversation. Martyn is responsive but still will not look our way.

MacGill and Matthews have copped a bit of criticism from some quarters for their efforts in this series, but I actually think they’ve been pretty good, especially after overcoming a few nerves in the early hours of the first Test. Then again, maybe I’m biased because as the toss draws nearer, I discover that the boys are asking the same questions as me (apart from the Marto one).

And the answers are 1) it has been raining but is now fine, 2) Flintoff is not fit and won’t play and 3) the Aussie selectors HAVE, thank Christ, seen the light and named Stuart Clark. Not at the expense of Siddle, as I thought should’ve happened, but at the expense of Nathan Hauritz.

It’s not a decision I’m entirely comfortable with but within a couple of hours, two events transpire that make me realise the selectors’ decision was right. First, SBS’s man on hand, Rodney Hogg, fairly begs the Aussie selectors to go in with four quicks because, he says, this will be a fast bowlers’ wicket. An unusual man is Hoggy, but he’s got a good cricket brain.

And of course the second event was that Peter Siddle shortly after lunch led the Aussies off the field with figures of 5-21 next to his name. With England blown away for a paltry 102, Siddle has justified his selection.

But in no small way Stuart Clark has also justified his. He finished with 3-18 and at one stage had 3-7 off seven overs. Importantly, Clark broke the (admittedly brittle) back of England’s batting, not just with wicket-taking balls, but by not allowing the batsmen to score. Every ball at or near the stumps means the batsman needs to think twice before attacking. Clark didn’t concede a run until the last ball of his third over. His 10 overs included four maidens. This is what was missing at Edgbaston.

With the batsmen being strangled by Clark, they felt pressure to take risks at the other end, and it was Siddle who reaped the rewards.

So not long after lunch, the Australians were already in. There had certainly been movement through the air for the bowlers but 102 was a shocking score by England and surely Australia would wipe that off and build a lead.

This they did. The lead was knocked off in close to world record pace for the loss of only Katich for a duck. After just 27 overs, Australia was 1/133 and flying. And the difference between this innings and the English? The bowling. Everything the Aussie bowlers had done, the English attack did not. And the Australians had done everything that they hadn’t done when they bowled at Edgbaston. They attacked the stumps. They bowled no loose balls. And, most importantly, they pitched the ball up, allowing the conditions to do the work for them. By contrast the England bowlers were all over the place – short, wide and anything but consistent. Ponting and Watson simply picked off the bad balls, just as Flintoff and co had done to the Australians in the Third Test.

The Australians can take some credit for this. Shane Watson (51, making it three half centuries from three as a Test opener) attacked England’s bowlers from the outset, with two boundaries in the first two balls. After Katich disappeared early, Ponting (78) came in and followed Watson’s lead. The effect of this on the minds of the England players, already fragile after the dismal batting effort, was to completely rattle them. Rattled minds don’t think straight. They lose their ability to stick to a plan. Thus England bowled short and wide, forgetting how Australia had succeeded just hours earlier.

Then, at Swing O’Clock (just before the 30th over, when the “Duke” loses its lacquer), the bowlers suddenly remembered. Australia lost three quick wickets, all LBW, to balls pitched well up. But this proved to be little more than a hiccup and by stumps Australia had cruised to 4/196.

My rule of thumb for a Test Match is that for the side batting last, the par score is 100 more than that made by the side batting first. By this reckoning the Australians will be in front as soon as they knock off another 7 runs on day two.

With the day’s play over, it’s back to the SBS studios for a wrap. Stewie and Mo are very happy. And did I just see Damien Martyn look directly at the camera as he spoke? It seems just about everything has gone right for the Australians today.

About Andrew Gigacz

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

Comments

  1. Tony Roberts says:

    Andrew
    You drove some good, sharp nail through Mo’s woods, and set the bar high for us by posting at 9am on no sleep – though I was hoping for a few of your ‘Vesperimi’-style stats.

    Whatever the weather now, I fear that my Day 4 assignment will be non-existent (must get over to ABC1 on Monday night, to watch the ‘loveable rogue’ Inspector Gene Hunt flash forward from ‘Life on Mars’ in 1973, to 1981: ‘Ashes to Ashes’ – intriguing title, that. Apart from being the title of another Bowie single, I think there’s other reasons why the show’s producers chose it over, say Billy Idol’s ‘White Wedding’ or The Clash’s ‘London Burning’, two other ‘Inger-land in 1981’ possibilities.

    Ree Marto, Magilla and Mo on SBS: I prefer to watch Brendan Julian (‘The Human Shirt’) on Fox Sports. At least Mark Waugh is genuinely witty, particularly whenever the odds are flashed up, and Damien Fleming is knowledgeable, if a bit too mired in Cricket Academy Newspeak.
    Tony R

  2. johnharms says:

    Tony

    Gigs actually posted at 3.48am. (Bar even higher, and up there with Flynn postings).

    Match may get to day 4.

    Amazing how the introduction of Clark, and bowling Johnson at first change, has put scaffoldong in the dilapidated shearing shed that was the Australian attack.

    Damiem Fleming is very good at articulating things cricket, particularly to those who know a bit about the game. He is also very likable. But I agree, he is constantly presenting ihs CV for coaching jobs.

    Other great moments of 1981: the establishment of the Union College Blotto Gold Lotto Club. And Not the Nine O’Clock news.

    JTH

  3. Andrew Starkie says:

    thank God Clark came in. Finally, some pressure on the English batsmen

  4. Tony Roberts says:

    John
    Both Siddle (24) and Hilfy (26) have futures – though, as Aldermann did, Hilfy will need favourable conditions (moreso, as Tez mixed in the off-cutter). Siddle will saddle-uo anywhere, any temperature. What the 34-YO Clark undeniably gives them all right now is that measure of thought, class and control to knit their efforts together, thereby magnifying Johnson’s menace.

    Did your 1981 Gold Lotto syndicate ever crack it for more than Div 5 (the usual sad fate of most such endeavours)? Actually, talking of things 1981-ish, the names Jo Stafford (NOT the ‘Shrimp Boats’ singer from the 50s), Vivienne Colmer, Julie Chater and (sigh!) Barbara Weimar come to mind, but unsure how to fit those ones into a cricket report. (Stll: the will createth the way, as Tanya P shows, and your old dad might have sermonised).
    Tony R

  5. Tony. Sorry, i’ll try and rustle up some obscure stats for you. I’m just trying to prove I’m not a one-trick pony. Probably failing, but trying!

    John. Re: Clark introduction. Having a guy that provides a bit of direction and consistency can make a huge difference. And the reverse is also true: witness England’s attack with Flintoff not around.

    England have not yet developed a mental resilience.

    Bowlers on both sides have the ability but need to know how best to use it. This can be developed, or regained if lost, very quickly.

    Damo: I like D Fleming but don’t have Foxtel. Can I get that as part of the Almanac salary package?

    Not the Nine O’Clock News has stood the test of time. There are a couple of DVD compilations around and they are hilarious.

    Gigs

  6. Peter Flynn says:

    Gigs,
    I like “Swing O’Clock”.

  7. johnharms says:

    Tony

    It was a time when all those of us with a completion problem (and didn’t William Hurt vindicate our existences a few years later when The Big Chill came out)decided we shouldn’t have to work. I had had some minor punting success as evidenced by the purchase of much Bundy and a Breville milk shake maker. (Under the strict rule that you should spend your winnings lest they be given back) This made me popular briefly.

    I decided we could crack lotto, which had just arrived in Qld (about the same time as the Goldan Arches). For a couple of days I locked myself in my room to work out the best way of spending $20 each week. There were 40 numbers in those days. I decided that we should choose 29 of the 40 numbers and produce as many combinations of four of those 29 (in entries which required six number of course) as this was the best way of maximising our chance of a Division 4. My mates thought Division 4 was a TV show starring Gerard Kennedy. But by getting a Div 4 each week we were in fact giving ourselves many free chances at the big one.

    The ridiculous thing was that in week 1 we got a Div 4 but in week two we got a Div 3 (paid $738)and I was hailed a punting genius when really it was a fluke (although P Flynn may verify the tiny element of sense in my mathematical theory). We lasted a year but the constitution said we had to drink a cartoin of beers every saturday night as the balls dropped, so that ate into our kitty (a carton was $12 then).

    The funniest things about it was deciding on the 29 numbers which took about 6 hours. Couldn’t believe how passionate some poeple were about numbers. I was at headingley with one of the members in 1993 and at the British OPen with another that year as well.

    Blokes from the Union College Blotto Gold Lotto Club have kicked on.

    JTH

  8. Peter Flynn says:

    John,
    Enjoyed the lotto tale. I love hearing about such schemes.
    There are 23,751 ways of choosing 4 numbers from 29 numbers.
    Can you remember why you settled on 29 numbers as your reduced sample space?
    How did you deal with consecutive numbers?
    Enjoy tonight.

  9. johnharms says:

    PF

    I reckon it was something to do with the fact it looked like (and this was a marketing exercise) that you covered a good percentage of combinations of 4 of 29. I think I worked up from choosing 8 numbers, 9 numbers, 10 numbers etc and thought high 20s was getting towards maximixing the combinations of 4 out of the 29. Logic was no doubt flawed. Spent forever then on the combinations for the 80 entries.

    It sort of worked because when the numbers fell if 5 of the 7 were in our 29 we were pretty much guaranteed a Div 4, or Div 5. There was one night where we had an entry which was alive after four balls had dropped. Alas. No lucj with the fifth ball. No luck with the sixth ball. Then got the sup and were celebrating only to find there was no 4 number + sup prize then.

    JTH

  10. Peter Flynn says:

    Yes I can sense the amount of work involved in arriving at 29.
    Mathematics is often a ‘feel thing’.
    I can also sense that a lot of beer was consumed during the ‘argy-bargy’ of the final selection process.

  11. JTH, any odds on the Aussies still being in for what Gigs terms ‘swing o’clock’ tonight?

  12. Tony,
    Which (sigh!) Barb is that…think she lives around the corner?

Leave a Comment

*