Second Test, Day 2: Intuition wins out over process

by John Harms

Play School was just finishing as the cricket started at the SCG, and on Channel 9. The Australians had it all before them, having been bowled out cheaply the previous afternoon.

The Pakistanis had bowled beautifully, and taken most of their chances, and then their openers Imran Farhat and Salman Butt hung on until stumps were drawn on a gloomy Sydney day, which will be remembered for the collapse of the locals, and the screening of an old F-Troop episode.

The Australians never looked like it, highlighting yet again their inability to cope with less than favourable conditions. Bring back the dodgy backlift, the quirky footwork, and the intuitive approach I say. Process driven coaching has its limitations. It works when conditions are good and things are going your way.

It’s like process-driven footy which theoretically should render scoreboard pressure irrelevant. The evidence for scoreboard pressure is there for all to see, in all sports. Which is why the World Darts Championship Final between Phil Taylor and the emerging Australian Simon Whitlock was absolutely brilliant. Taylor absorbed it against a noble challenger.

Admittedly some of the Australian batsmen got ripper deliveries on a green-tinged deck which was seaming around and flying occasionally.

The Pakistanis had to survive the same deck, and the thought was it would continue to move around. It did. But the openers dug in, and luck went their way. It remained a play-and-miss wicket, although it was more likely to have been a play-and-nick wicket had the Australian pacemen bowled a fuller length. And so the commentators kept telling us. Geoff Lawson on ABC radio, and Mark Taylor on Channel 9. Why would Ricky Ponting, who has played a dozen SCG Tests, continue to watch as his bowlers banged it in short?

The frustration was palpable. A dropped catch (a sitter when Farhat was 10) from North didn’t help matters, and slowly the visitors ground their way towards the Australian total. They got to 109 before Farhat swept awkwardly at Hauritz (who had turned a few) and gloved one which popped up to Haddin. Salman Butt got an absolute beauty from Mitchell Johnson, a ball which would have tested the great left-handers of all time. It was too good for Butt who had given his side a real foundation.

The skipper was slow to get his eye in, but once he did looked like he’d score plenty until a dud poke had him caught behind. By contrast young Umar Akmal had his eye in from the outset belt Hauritz all over the joint, and the crowd was a little disappointed when the third umpire corrected an LBW ruling off Doug Bollinger.

The Pakistani batsmen, while defying the play-and-miss odds, lacked a certain ruthlessness. Yet they were still able to post a good total. At 9/331, and leading by 204, they have the pressure right on Australia.

The Test is set up as a just that: a test of the players. The Australians, who will have to bat well. The Pakistanis who will bowl on a track which still offers a lot to the quicks, and (my guess is) something for the tweakers.

Test cricket is in a tremendous position at the moment. The sides around the globe are pretty evenly matched. Those of us with Foxtel can vouch for that. The New Zealand-Pakistan Tests were excellent and on Sunday night the first day of the South Africa-England Test was riveting. The 2005 Ashes series showed that ball-by-ball tension is the fruit of great Test cricket.

Which should exist in this Sydney Test, if many Australian fans didn’t think their team was better than they are. As I sit here typing, the Australian price is tumbling in on Betfair. $4.60 into $4 since the close of play.

I reckon it will be a fight, and a good one at that.

About Andrew Gigacz

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

Comments

  1. JTH – I reckon you’re spot on. And its not just in cricket. Flair is flawed seems to be the attitude, whereas process and process and process seem to be the three golden rules these days.

    How do you reckon Brent Croswell or Gary Gilmour would go in this modern era?

    If the Aussies turn this test into a street fight they have a chance.

  2. John Butler says:

    John

    Spot on that coaching has its limitations. The great question any coach should ask himself is how far he should impinge or impose on natural tendencies.

    Someone like Watson is the product of intensive assembly line coaching. No wet track Trumpers in this mob.

    Mindset is the other Aussie flaw in lively conditions. No matter the circumstance, they kid themselves they can score 330 per day. A noble intent but not always realistic.

    But if the Aussies don’t always play smart, they usually play tough. And you wouldn’t want the house on Pakistan to make 200 to win.

  3. Phil Dimitriadis says:

    I reckon it has affected players like Clarke,Hussey and North who played with much more flair prior to the Ashes. Watson has been one who is at least trying to be inventive. Punter seems to be focusing on next year’s Ashes. If Clarke wants to be Skipper he needs to bat at three with Ponting at five. The middle order is lacking confidence and another example of the ‘process’ is the retention of the steady, but unimaginative Hauritz who keeps getting a game in front of Krejza. What happened to the attacking spirit of Australian cricket?

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