Second Test – Day 4: Rooted

Australia started the day with a 22 year old opponent on 178 and the game decidedly out of reach. What the Australian selectors would give for a 22 year old who had that elusive combination of skill, technique, patience and commitment. In a hopeless situation, the best Australia can hope for is quick wickets, then some doughty resistance from the top order.

 

The wickets come and England declares, to the relief of the Australian quicks. Any hopes of doughty resistance are dashed, when Watson falls to one of the more predictable dismissals in Test cricket. You know it is coming. You know that Watson will look good for a period of time. He will play some beautiful cover drives. He will lull himself, and the rest of us, into a false sense of security. He will plant that front leg, right in front of middle and off. The ball will hit it, and he will be out. He will then trudge off mournfully. The set up from Anderson was perfect, but Watson certainly played his part. Watson flashed a wide, full ball through point for four. Next ball is on off stump and tailing in. Ball hits pad. Finger goes up. Watto walks off. I am torn between wanting him extradited to a tiny (non-cricket playing) outpost in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, and just foolishly hoping that he works out how to occasionally convert his 20s into 40s or even 50s.

 

Khawaja has an expression on his face which tells me that he is not feeling completely confident. He defends the first ball. And the second. He clips a leg side half volley for four. Swann is introduced. With his battered arm guard and zinc cream on his lips, Rogers looks like a fighter. Second ball rips out of the rough, turning viciously away from the left handed Rogers. With his mind full of demons, Rogers then leaves a straight ball which canons into his off stump. It is good bowling, but Rogers might have suspected that was coming. He has earned his place and I want him to succeed, but he has not covered himself in glory in this match.

 

The score is 2 for 32 and the innings is not yet 10 overs old. Hopefully Boof Lehmann sends a note out to the batsmen to inform them that we are chasing nearly 600 and have about 170 overs to bat.

 

Hughes comes and goes, after 1 run worth of stubborn resistance. He plays around a straight one from Swann, that somehow missed his bat. Michael Clarke comes to the wicket. On a positive note, he has form coming in when the team is 3 for not much. Australia hobble to lunch without any further damage.

 

The lunch break sees Mark Taylor and (inserted Channel 9 personality) introducing a documentary on Merv Hughes. Cue numerous highlights of Merv dismissing, abusing and sending off, hapless batsmen who represented England in the late 80s and early 90s. Good times. Remember AB? He would be a man for this situation. What would he be thinking of all this? Boonie and his anecdotes also feature prominently. Remember opening batsmen who could see off the new ball?

 

After lunch, we returns to Lords. The sun is out. Clarke and Khawaja start brightly. Reminiscent of a Byron Pickett shirtfront, Khawaja runs into Swann in the process of taking a quick single. Swann goes down like a sack of potatoes. Possibly the most calculated and aggressive piece of play from an Australian batsman in the Test match. Khawaja follows this up with some nice stroke play, pulling a short ball for four shortly after. These two look good, and bring up their 50 partnership, which in the current context is just about cause for an Order of Australia medal. Broad is serving up some short pitched bowling to Clark, who is struck numerous times on the body. Clark seems below his best. He has his reasons. His team are making a habit of imploding in increasingly diabolical fashion. Nevertheless, he is battling. He was fortunate to survive a stumping chance, but he is still using his feet aggressively. Advancing to Swann, Clarke lofts him over mid on for four. The camera pans to celebrations of the Fanatics, which appear muted. For them, this is the equivalent of Lleyton Hewitt losing 6-1, 6-0, 6-3, against an unseeded opponent in the first round.

 

The ball is turning prodigiously for Swann. This causes Prior to guffaw every time a ball lands on the wicket. This in turn causes me to think about how dislikable every single player in this English side is. No wonder David Warner had a go at one of them. At the time, he probably thought he was taking a swing at Stuart Broad. Thinking of David Warner turns my attention to his deportation to Zimbabwe, where our second best team have just defeated a cobbled-together Zimbabwean team. That we didn’t manage 250 in either innings probably sums up the sorry state of affairs that our cricket is in. Like it or not, this is our best top 6. Maybe Warner. Maybe Cowan. Both have had plenty of chances. This is it.

 

As I become increasingly depressed, I notice that we have not lost any more wickets. Khawaja has been in long enough for me to work out how his name is spelled. Clarke is stroking the ball around nicely, showing his excellent footwork to the spin of Swann. Khawaja is more defensive against Swann, but I rejoice in the fact that he is not yet out. As it gets later, and I become increasingly accustomed to advertisements for Channel 9 television programs that I will avoid like the plague, Khawaja actually starts to look like a test batsman. Clarke and Khawaja are showing that batsmen can occupy the crease and make runs at the same time, against quality bowling in difficult conditions.

 

Just as I start to think the revival of Australian cricket is on the way, a familiar scenario unfolds. The ball is thrown to Joe Root, who takes advantage of a pitch that is turning square, to remove Khawaja and Clarke in quick succession. Steve Smith, plays a lavish shot on 1 and is caught behind. Do these players ever learn? Suddenly, Australia have gone from having two set players at the crease, to losing 3 wickets in 4 overs. The end is nigh. Despite some hitting, the tail follows and Australia are speeding towards a huge defeat.

 

Geoff Boycott starts rattling on about how he wants Australia to be competitive, to give England a contest, and it becomes apparent that this is a complete role reversal from the 1990s and early 2000s, when Australia were dominant and England were pathetic. However, it is hard to remember an England side being as bad as this. Australia just can not find players who can dig in and stop the flow of wickets when they start to tumble. I make a pact with myself, to never, ever show any interest in the Big Bash League. The domestic cricket season is in need of a major overhaul. Not just that. District cricket needs attention. School cricket. Kanga cricket.

 

Australia have collapsed spectacularly, yet again. The pitch was turning very sharply for the spinners, but that is what 4th and 5th day wickets do. There is just not enough application from the batsmen, who were shown up in this match by a 22 year old. This is a young and inexperienced side, however they are not currently showing the ability to learn from their mistakes. In the case of Steve Smith and Usman Khawaja, they are young and have shown enough to suggest they should be persisted with. In the case of Shane Watson, he has no excuses and has had the opportunities that a player like Stuart Law or even Darren Lehmann would have killed for. Though I don’t think that this is a selection issue, as the players are just not there.

Comments

  1. Matt Power says:

    Lehmann, Law, Hodge, Siddons, Elliott. The list of those who couldn’t get a baggy green, or were dropped when the failed twice, (often after making a century or two), would make a much better line up than the current crop. The quicks are toiling hard, bowling without luck but well. Spinners of quality don’t grow on trees but the top order can’t stay away from the dressing room.

  2. Tony Roberts says:

    After the inevitable opening boundaries, came the inevitable rap on the front pad, came the inevitable finger, came the inevitable ‘WTF’ frown. Watto paused; Watto mused…

    I thought of Clint in ‘Dirty Harry’: ‘D’ya feel lucky, punk?… You’ve got to ask yourself one question… Go on, go on – do it! Make my day.’

    But – just this once – he didn’t.

    Watto let-down…

  3. The writing was on the wall when our best batsman was run out for two in the first inning.

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