The Ashes – Fourth Test: Have a go you Mugs!

I remember my older brother returning from a lengthy overseas sojourn just before Xmas in 1990. Wanting to spend some quality time with his daggy younger brother (me) we went to the Ashes test at the MCG. By checking the net I can confirm it was Day 4 of the second match of the 1990/91 series. Australia was leading the series 1-0.

 

I remember only bits of the day…the Poms were batting and had a slender first innings lead of 40 our so. England were very cautious. We had a sweet fast bowling attack of Alderman (not quite the menace of `89 but still tricky), Merv Hughes and the enigmatic Bruce Reid who had taken 6 in the first innings. And Greg Matthews…pretty good! Perhaps the stiff upper lip approach was the right way to go? England tried to bore the Aussies and bat themselves to safety. You’d think they’d try to win the match to even the series at 1-1 but maybe they hoped a draw would suffice and keep them in touch for the remainder of the series.

 

One of the things I do recall was the conditions seemed pretty good for batting. It was a lovely summer’s day, not hot at all (surely the Player’s Comfort level would have been below 25), but England tried to wait Australia out. It was a drag! People were booing, particularly Wayne Atkins who crawled to 54 in over 17o balls. Now to be fair, the scoring rates for this match were slow all round (I just checked this, but I don’t have memory of thinking it at the time), so maybe the pitch was a typically difficult low bouncing old pre drop in MCG pitch.

 

But yeah…England sucked so much that I decided to leave near Tea.

 

My lasting memory of the game was the snack vendor having a very high pitched voice even though he looked about 30. His cries of “ICE CREAM” interspersed with the angry jeers of the fans and laughter at the poor guys voice.

 

HAVEAGOYOUMUGS!

 

ICE CREAM!

 

As I caught the tram home all I remembered was “ICECREAM!HAVEAGOYOUMUGS!”ICECREAM!HAVEAGOYOUMUGS!”

 

My reviere broke when I heard I whoop from an old dear who had her transistor on.

 

“Bruce Reid’s taken 7! England are nearly all out!”

 

I cursed my impatience for bailing from the match at the wrong time. Reid and the others took the ‘lion’s share’ of his wickets after tea and the Poms were dismissed for a paltry 150.

 

The Poms thought maybe grinding it out after the top order might save things for them. It didn’t. They lost 5 wickets for 4 runs! Kudos goes to (no 6) Alec Stewart for his 8 from 60 balls, which was trumped in slowness by (no 7) ‘Jack’ Russell with 1 run from 33 balls!

 

150 from 73 overs. Terrible.

 

The Aussies needed just under 200 to win, which they did in over 80 overs. Bruce Reid was a well deserved Man of the Match with 13 wickets.

 

Imagine if the Poms tried to push things a bit more in their second dig and just maybe squeezed 50 more runs. 240 or so may have been a tougher proposition for our boys to make in 100 overs.

 

Anyway.

 

So we come to the present day, this 4th Ashes test of 2016/17. A dead rubber on a pitch with less life than a used one.

 

I was contemplating going on one of the later days of the match (yes I am a Melburnian), but watching the Aussies sleepwalk through their first bat, then Alastair Cook majestically plunder a double hundred I thought it would have been an exercise in futility. I’m glad I got this one right!

 

If I was there I would’ve been booing us on the 4th and 5th days…and probably would have made at least a few snide comments during our first dig if I was organised enough to get a ticket on day 1 or 2.

 

Everyone’s blaming the pitch. Sure…why not. It was junk. But it’s an easy target. Pitches can’t fight back.

 

Let’s look at our batsmen.

 

What a bunch of slow coaches.

 

David Yawner, Steve Snooze, GEOFF Marsh*2!

 

Runs on the board say the diehards. These guys had some good moment this test. But as this is my article let’s look at some stats that might make you nod off.

 

Warner is under the 50 strike rate for the whole series! What happened to him? At last he’s scored some decent runs in the Melbourne test and he was his usual kicking bum self in the first bat. Did he need to be so negative in the second dig? No wonder he threw it away when Root came on to bowl. He was a like a starving dog seeing a juicy piece of steak chucked in front of a speeding road train.

 

Steve Smith. The best in the world. The runs do not lie. But why so slow? He’s only around the 50 for the strike rate for his massive pile of runs. Is he trying to test his resolve, seeing how slow he can amass his castles of batting awesome? For mine he was still the best in the world when he was scoring far quicker.

 

And there’s the Marsh brothers, who spent this test trying to outdo their Dad in their Chris Tavare impressions. They seem to be able to score far faster than old Geoff ever did, yet “they want to be boring like their Dad* (apologies to the Kinks  – Plastic Man)”. Poor old Geoff would be cursing them saying “back in my day I had to bloody well face Malcolm Marshall, Curtley Ambrose, Patrick Patterson, and Courtney Walsh! Why are you so damned slow”?

 

When the Ashes were live, this slow steadfast batting can be excused, applauded even.

 

But the Ashes have been won. The pitch offers no real dangers. Yet we crawled.

 

Maybe Warner, Smith and the Geoff’s have been reading the Karma Sutra and delaying the inevitable run feast and finding enjoyment in the journey to scoring nirvana? No Nirvana for us however, just some sordid viewing.

 

I think the Australian tactics of avoiding risk, combined with the crummy pitch was the real issue. England managed to score 486 from 144 overs, a very nice rate of 3.4 runs an over. Australia’s 327 was off a snoozy 119 overs (2.74 an over) and our 2nd dig of 263 was at was at an absolutely pitiful 2.11 an over (124 overs)!

 

Did these conditions suit the Poms better? Did they bowl better? They certainly made batting look easy, whilst we made it look like a chore.

 

If the Aussies batted sensibly but not over cautiously we could have racked near 400 in our first knock. This could have placed more scoreboard pressure on England during their bat, or at the very least meant that our second bat could see us with an outside chance to make a game of it. Yet we tried to bore the Poms out of it. Terrible!

 

This series we have been overly reliant on the Poms to be terrible/our bowling to be brilliant, with our preferred batting speed set at  meandering. It’s worked, but it was found wanting on the boring MCG pitch. We needed heaps more runs, especially in our first innings.
I would expect Australia to be a bit cautious if the series was live. With this match being a dead rubber, our guarded batting approach simply sucked any enjoyment out of the game and England’s excellent response meant we weren’t going to win.

 

There’s an expectation of Australia denying the English a chance to win. ‘Dont give a sucker an even break’ was our attitude. All that this meanness meant was misery for the fans of test cricket. HAVE A GO YOU MUGS!

 

ICE CREAM!

 

About Alex Gionfriddo

Fat man, Carlton fan, up for a jam, my team I pan when necessary.

Comments

  1. John Butler says:

    Onya Malby.

    For the first time in a long while I didn’t watch anything of day 5. I knew Smith would be hell bent on killing the game, and didn’t think England could break through enough to matter. Not the first MCG test Smith has played a significant role in killing.

    But apparently he’s the new Bradman, so must be beyond criticism.

    Go Blues!

  2. Half agree with you Malby. The Aussies have been a bit too cautious of late. But it takes two to tango. Part of the reason for the slow batting rate was the field settings. Smith set fields to get wickets (largely), the price being that runs flow for the opposition if you don’t succeed. The pitch didn’t help Smith’s cause. Root, on the other hand, set fields to save runs and hoped the Aussies would bore themselves to death. There were a lot of 7/2 fields set by Root, especially when Warner batted. They had 7 on the off-side and just bowled outside Warner’s off-stump. It was attritional (some would say boring) cricket. No one won.

  3. Well said Malby. I think of these games as 6th V 12th in Round 23. One doesn’t want anyone hurt, the other wants to see if young Crane from the thirds has got more about him than he has shown to date. And not even the promise of finals to come against better opponents in matches that mean something. Yawn.
    The Breakfast Radio announcer this morning said the cross to the cricket in Sydney was delayed by rain. It starts today? Who knew? Who’s playing.
    At least we beat the Poms??? Like my expectations for the Eagles season – so long as we beat the Dockers. 10th V 14th. Every day I pray for the Trump Presidency “please not nuclear war”. Small mercies.

  4. Peter Warrington says:

    Yes I wonder what it would take to bring back the slow handclap. I would have dropped Mitch Marsh for making Woakes’ last day popgunners look like Malcolm Marshallisms.

    It was a shocker, as dull as dishwater.

    i think it reflects the skipper. Gregory Stephen….

  5. Luke Reynolds says:

    Sometimes the players forget they are also entertainers.

    What a magnificent bowler BA Reid was. If only his body allowed him to play more.

  6. Thanks all for reading and posting!

    One can only hope both teams push much harder for a win this time. It seems like the pitch is offering more spin so at least that might help the tweakers.

    The Aussie Rules analogy is spot on Peter_B. As a Carlton supporter I understand the unquenchable need to beat your mortal enemy (Collingwood, Essendon, Richmond or anyone we haven’t beaten in years…a lot of teams!) even if it is a defensive battle resulting in a 55 to 50 gruntfest.

    Good point, Dips. It does seem the Poms just want to wait us out and we are steadfastly ignoring them. I understand being cautious in some cases, but then again we’ve got some really dynamic strokeplayers in the side and if they start causing havoc then the Poms may have had to change their tactics. If, buts and maybes. But yes, I appreciate your POV Dips.

    John I have to wonder why Smith is so defensive. Surely he could up his
    strike rate a little and still score a heaps of runs. If he was playing for Carlton I wouldn’t mind tho.

    Thanks Peter – I only watched for a little while on the fifth day and I could only hear the Barmy Army. Would’ve liked some Aussie barracking or in this case booing. Maybe M Marsh is trying to prove himself to be of test quality. He can do that whilst still scoring at a reasonable rate. Took me awhile to figure out Gregory Stephen.. Smith is not as graceful as GS Chappell, but he might even surpass him as one of our greatest batsmen.

    Spot on, Luke! I remember wishing that Reid could’ve played more, especially in those horrible mid-late 80s matches when we barely troubled anyone.

    Thanks again everyone!

Leave a Comment

*