Australia 260 & 4/143; India 105.
“Fu-gay-zi, fugazi. It’s a wahzee, it’s a woozy. It’s fairy dust, it doesn’t exist.” Mark Hanna (Matthew McConaughey) in ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’.
Over the summer, a new word enters our household vocabulary. Fugazi. “How was the party last night?” “Dad, it was a fugazi!” Before I know it, I am using this word myself. Then I am over-using it. And then comes that wounding blow: “Dad, fugazi is not cool anymore. It has lost its meaning since you started saying it all the time.” But I realize that I don’t care. So, naturally, I keep using this all-purpose go-to word-for-all-occasions, all the time.
So what exactly is a “fugazi”? Trump’s presidency – a fugazi. Clean coal – a fugazi. Richmond making the finals – a fugazi. Australia winning a Test in India – a fugazi. And so it goes.
On Thursday morning, I am asked what I think of the Australian Test eleven. “What a fugazi of a team. The Marshes are two of the biggest fugazis to have played for Australia,” I answer.
The match commences; the wicket is assessed. “That pitch is a fugazi! Warney reckons it’s eight days old already.” Australia, cruising at 2/149, slumps to 9/205. Words far more agricultural than fugazi are being used to describe this lot.
Enter the good Mitchell Starc. Not the fugazi Mitchell Starc. He lofts three sixes and smites six fours in a fine display of clean-hitting. I am thinking at the time, watching his innings, that the worm may well be turning. Starc (the fugazi) goes to the well once too often and gets caught in the deep. He looks like he has lost the appetite for batting and wants to get the new pill in his hands.
Even the most optimistic of souls could not have hoped for the epic Australian bowling and fielding performance which follows.
It starts when Vijay is offered the temptation to nibble at one by Hazlewood, who is so frugal that he would probably always shout last at the pub, hoping that drinkers leave before it is his round. And then he would scoop their leftover change off the bar. The good Starc, not the fugazi Starc, subsequently claims the important wicket of Pujara (who averages 50+ in Tests) with a snorter.
What happens next sums up India’s hubris. Virat Kohli enters with India at 2/44. Rather than hunker down, he wafts airily at a wide one, and Starc gets him nicking off to Handscomb at slip. India is reeling at 3/44 in the wake of the skipper’s fugazi of a shot. But Rahul and Rahane right the ship. In the blink of an eye the score is 3/94 – and India look to be doing it easy, despite Rahuls’ apparent discomfort at the crease.
Prior to this Test, Stephen O’Keefe had 225 first class wickets at an average of 23. Not the figures of a fugazi. I had a suspicion that his sliders might work better in India than Nathan Lyon’s predictable too-easily-turned-to-leg offies. But even Nostradamus would have asked for a re-shuffle had he conjured up the cards which said O’Keefe would take 6fa in the midst of the most dramatic Indian batting collapse imaginable. We know that Warney would have asked for a re-draw, given that he rates “Sok” as highly as he does Indian curries.
India lose an amazing 7 for 11. On home soil. The fielding is sublime. Switched on. Having copped so much criticism that he must have been wondering if his surname was Marsh, Wade does not concede a bye – and even makes a stumping. O’Keefe is shaking it like a Polaroid picture; Handscomb is brilliant, and makes catching look so easy that it would not surprise if he caught an STD off a toilet seat. (That would be a fugazi!) India is all out for 105. They have made this bed, and are now lying in it.
“Now don’t f*** this up” I implore them. Don’t bat like fugazis.
But Warner seems to forget that it is only day 2, reverse-sweeping Ashwin second ball. You can tell that he is here for a good time – not a long time. He defends and misses a straight one – but it is his attacking attitude as much as anything that sees him on his way. Shaun Marsh exits the same way, for a duck, and somewhere in the drinks-mixing room Usman Khawaja is shaking his head ruefully.
Handscomb again disappoints – he has plenty of work to do. And Renshaw again contributes. But it is the skipper, Smith, who hangs in. Fortuitously, he is dropped three times in the Indian field – three errors which speak volumes for the contrasting mindsets on display.
It has been two days of absorbing cricket. And with Mitch Marsh 21 not out at stumps, maybe that pitch was not such a fugazi after all.