The Ashes – Fifth Test, Day 3: The Brothers Marsh

Channel 9 open day three with WM Lawry & MP Vaughan. I open with a black coffee, some toast and the back page of The Age. Bliss.  “A Tale of Two Batsmen” is the headline. The batsmen are Cameron Bancroft and Usman Khawaja. The former is pictured, getting bowled, one glowing bail levitating behind the off stump, another floating over middle.

 

Like the bails, whether or not CT Bancroft will tour South Africa is up in the air.

 

UT Khawaja, on the other hand, has returned to form, ending day two in the nervous nineties. Or so we’re told.

 

Do two scores over 50 in a five-match series establish “form”? Take away a boundary from his 53 in Adelaide and it becomes 49. How much of a difference do those four runs make to the way his series sits statistically, to the perception of his “form”? Surely a disproportionate amount given their actual impact on his ability to hit the ball.

 

He’s on 99 here and now at the SCG. If those four make a difference, one more here will do the same. Moeen Ali enters, and Khawaja duly cuts him gracefully off the back foot through cover point for a single.

 

A hole plugged for South Africa, with Khawaja now a certainty to travel. The first four-match series between Australia and South Africa since the latter’s readmission to Test cricket promises to be a cracker, probably between the two best sides in the world. Certainly, the conditions in both countries are similar enough that they won’t be the defining factor.

 

The Proteas got underway against India overnight. Their four-pronged pace attack looks frightful. Whoever tours will be facing the sternest examination in world cricket. It is odd to be in the fifth Test of an Ashes summer with more than half an eye on another prize. But alas, that is exactly where we are.

 

The score, ladies and gentlemen, is now 2-221. Another single would be marvellous.

 

A single does it – Mark Taylor obliges: “2 for 222.”

 

Crane comes into the attack for England, and Warne in for Channel 9. Warne, when you can keep his mind on wrist spin bowling, is an enjoyable listen. Not so when he gets distracted. I don’t need or want to hear about Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

 

Meanwhile, my own day off is going just fine. I have The Cricket War by G.Haigh to peruse while the cricket ebbs and flows. I suspect my day is going to be a touch different to Ferris’s, but I won’t be bothering to check.

 

The second new ball turned the game Australia’s way at the end of day one, with Root and Bairstow knocked over within sight of stumps. The debacle was just another opportunity let slip by the tourists this summer, who’ve lacked the ability to ever truly capitalise on their sound positions.

 

They need a similar pair of breakthroughs to fall in their favour now. Their lead is cut to 113 when the new rock arrives. It doesn’t do enough, and Smith and Khawaja just continue to bat.

 

It’s only when spin returns that something finally happens. Smith chips one back to Ali, and is caught for 83. Crowds in India would fall almost dead silent and patrons would exit when Tendulkar was dismissed. A Smith dismissal now is met with a similar stunned silence.

 

S.Marsh enters, blocks, nudges. Lunch is his end game. Lunch is always a worthy end game.

 

Khawaja, mostly infallible, is nearly caught and bowled by Crane, the energiser bunny of wrist-spin bowling. WM Lawry gets typically overexcited in the box.

 

“Got him! Has he? No! Yes. No, it’s fallen short.”

 

Calm down, Bill. Gold, all the same. It is a mighty shame that Father Time prevents him from doing every Test.

 

In the session’s final over, Crane has a very, very promising LBW shout turned down, Khawaja abstaining and using his pad to a traditional, big-breaking leggie.

 

Root, sensing a glimmer of hope, has no choice but to ask the DRS to grant MS Crane his first Test wicket. Ball tracking isn’t required. Crane has overstepped the mark. Not out. And a run for your troubles, young man!

 

Khawaja would’ve been out, with the ball going on to hit a large enough portion of stump for the decision to be overturned.

 

Yes, WM Lawry – it really is all happening now. Or at least, it is until the players trudge off for their lunch.

 

Afternoon Session

 

The temperature is up to 38.2 degrees in Coburg – a convenient opportunity to wash the entire wardrobe, as well as the bedsheets and the towels.

 

A nap is taken. When it ends, Marsh is out nicking while I’m making tea. DRS, again. No hot spot. Nothing on Snicko. Marsh hit his pad. He’s saved the incredulity of falling to the part-time bowling of the English skipper, who seems to have run out of ideas and elected to try and do it himself.

 

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull appears in the commentary box. No chance of a hard-hitting political question from M.Taylor. I.Healy, less so. The keeper chances a jibe about Brexit, then chances another – “Moving forward politicallally (sic) – I believe you’re trying to get rid of income tax?”

 

Turnbull lets the question go through to the keeper.

 

The cricket returns. Healy persists.

 

“But really PM, the year ahead?”

 

“Delivery,” says Turnbull. “It’ll be a year of delivery.”

 

Broad comes on, delivering a ball rather than a corporate tax cut. One strikes Marsh high on the back-leg and is given not out. The Prime Minister agrees. No review, too high. A bit like those fences around Manus, right PM?

 

Khawaja, now on 158, is showing no sign of relenting. The English lead is all but gone, with seven wickets still left to build a lead. Turnbull has also departed (the commentary box – don’t get your hopes up).

 

Marsh sends Australia ahead in the game, coming down the wicket to beautifully drive Ali through cover for four.

 

Without the respite of another wicket, tea is the best the English can hope for, and eventually, it arrives to save them for a time.

 

Evening Session

 

Khawaja is finally dismissed for 171, stumped JM Bairstow, bowled MS Crane. The piece of bowling was beautiful. The young leggie pushes one slightly wider outside off, and beats the advancing Khawaja in the air. He doesn’t get to the pitch, and the ball rips inside his defensive prod, past his pad and through to Bairstow. Bails off – MS Crane’s first Test wicket.

 

His first two balls to Mitchell Marsh beat the bat, turning sharply. He looks lively, and he’s looked as likely as anyone today, creating the bulk of England’s half chances.

 

In the Australian dressing room, the cockles of Nathan Lyon’s heart must’ve been getting warm.

 

M Marsh continues to struggle. In Crane’s next over, he looks to have hit one to first slip. It’s turned sharply out the rough, but DRS shows he’s actually hit the ground. Not out. Still, the batsman looks to be in a right pickle.

 

Shaun looks the opposite of his struggling brother, handedness included.

 

Crane bowls, or rather, doesn’t bowl, two dead balls in a row, getting his delivery stride wrong. He walks back to his mark the second time with a boyish grin on his face, as if he’s been caught causing trouble on the playground. When he finally lets one go, the sarcastic cheers are loud.

 

The CA app asks me who my favourite Marsh brother is. Twitter tells me the answer could be Bacchus or Rod. Crane definitely prefers Mitchell.

 

Against expectation and somewhat implausibly, M Marsh continues to survive, and he eventually starts to tee off. While Crane has posed problems, Ali continues to look pedestrian. Two sixes in the same over bring up the Marsh brother’s first fifty partnership in Tests. Mitch celebrates by whacking Moeen for four more through cover. Soon, he’s past fifty and Shaun is nearing his ton.

 

Curran has the former out LBW, but it’s quickly reviewed and rightly overturned.

 

It’s been another long, trying day for the tourists, with only two wickets falling. By its end, they trail by 133 runs, with a mountain to climb to avoid a 4-0 series defeat. Anderson and Crane kept things interesting at times, but this day reflected the summer.

 

Shaun Marsh sits unbeaten on 98, another ton awaiting him in the morning. Once he’s done, one suspects England will continue to await Australia’s declaration.

 

 

About Jack Banister

Journalism student @ Melbourne Uni, Brunswick Hockey Club Men’s Coach, tortured Tigers fan.

Comments

  1. Luke Reynolds says:

    Great report Jack. WM Lawry is about all that will get me to listen to Ch 9 commentary these days. Though agree with your thoughts on SK Warne’s commentary.
    ‘The Cricket War’ is cricket writing perfection.

  2. E.regnans says:

    Love it Jack.
    The WM Lawry, IA Healy trajectory.
    Dear me.

    SK Warne looked cheeky on debut as a leggie in Sydney. And was clouted by Ravi Shastri. 1/heaps.
    Good signs for MS Crane.

  3. JBanister says:

    Thank you, fellas.

    Gideon a genius – gerontocracy my new favourite word.

    I think we will see more of MS Crane. At times, as Gideon said, he needed to take ownership of his front foot, which he seemed to think the umpire was controlling. However, his exuberance was fun to watch. He certainly illuminated an otherwise straightforward day of Test cricket.

  4. And thanks very much for coordinating the Almanac Test coverage this summer, J Banister.
    Hats off.

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