The Ashes – Third Test, Days 1 and 2: Ebb and flow

Australia v England
WACA Ground, Perth

England 403 (DJ Malan 140, JM Bairstow 119, MA Starc 4/91)
Australia 203/3 (SPD Smith 92*, UT Khawaja 50)


Before the day/night Adelaide Test became a permanent fixture, Perth was always the best of the early Tests. The majority of the day would be played out after school. Perfect.


Times have changed. I saw most of Adelaide. Perth will start at work and end on the couch, with various other distractions mixed in over the top of the Grandstand coverage.


I resume my battle with the Cricket Australia app, which is doing its usual thing. And by that, I mean it doesn’t do anything.


News that Joe Root has won the toss filters through via Twitter. He chooses to bat – not that he really has a choice, anymore.


The pitch, they say, will be fiercely quick. I doubt it will help the bowling of Mitch Marsh, who is included in the Australian side in place of the backfoot bandit Peter Handscomb.


On one hand, I feel sorry for him. His Test average is still high 40s – 47.35, if you’re still counting. It seems that career-defining innings these days can to be quickly forgotten, especially when they’re out of sight and out of mind in Bangladesh, or one too many moons ago in Ranchi.


But then, if Handscomb’s technique is cricket’s version of the rope-a-dope, it might be worth young Peter revisiting the main part of the plan. It is all well and good to be pinned back, but at some point, one must explode forward and land a killer flurry of blows on a tiring opponent.


Of course, his non-selection might provide the opportunity and the fuel for the young Victorian to work on his method in the Shield…when it returns in February.


If he’s feeling charitable, he might take Alistair Cook with him for the ride. Death and taxes are certain, and so it seems is Cook falling for not many on this tour.


In fact, the early part of England’s innings gives me intense déjà vu. Cook out early; Vince, a start and some flamboyance, before the inevitable tickle to Tim Paine; and Root walking off for a fifth of a ton.


3-115 – Stoneman looks good?


He always does, until he gets halfway through his 50s. Then, the wrinkles start to show. Maybe it’s Maybelline?


Shortly before the dismissal of his skipper and with 52 runs to his name, Stoneman gets himself into a right pickle. He’s struck on the helmet by a bouncer from Hazlewood. As the radio tell me about the force of the whack, I imagine the hit Justin Langer took in his 100th Test. I’m quickly corrected – he’s been hit on the back of the head, somewhere near the new protection that was added to helmets in the wake of the tragic passing of Phil Hughes.


He seems okay, though how arduously they tested him for concussion is anyone’s guess. One man down in a side of eleven is a different proposition to one man down in a football side of twenty-two (super number, that).


Stoneman battles on for a time but never resettles. Eventually, he gloves one down the leg side. Or he’s adjudged to have gloved one. I’m still on the radio – the whole thing is sounding like the latest great big DRS schemozzle.


Glove or no glove, he is sent on his way and despite being temporarily told to pause before the rope, there is to be no eleventh-hour reprieve from a higher place (Zeus – more to follow).


At 4/131, England have again shown promise, but still lack substance.


Dawid (yes, Dawid) Malan finally re-writes the script.


With Bairstow also at the crease, elevated one spot in the order, England finally get the better of the Australian attack. Home from work, I catch a glimpse of the pair. They look fluid. They look untroubled.


As I leave hockey training, a couple of hours later, the urge to check the score possesses me, my mind done with other things. Malan is nearing his ton. England are still going strong.


Now, as a batsman I spent little time in the 90s, save for in the backyard at Mum’s. At any rate, if I had the choice, I’d take the sixth-grade equivalent of Mitch Marsh to be bowling at me. Jam, and money for it.


The second new ball arrives. Optimism returns to the Australian psyche. Michael Slater suggests it might be overrated (yes, I’m now on the TV). I want Warnie into the call to rebut. His adage that the third new ball is overrated rings true.


But the second new ball is vital, and so it might’ve proved, but for the buttery fingers of Cameron Bancroft.


The youngster spills Malan on the new rock’s very first ball, bowled by Starc. Bairstow edges the fourth to third man for a lucky boundary. The next he inside edges into his toe.


Starc looks like getting something. The shift is obvious, but short-lived. A boundary from each of the two batsmen in the next two overs settles the nerves. By the 84th, Malan has pulled beautifully through deep square to go to his maiden Test century.


I assume it is the first made by a man called Dawid. I’m 98% sure it’s pronounced “David”. Despite my original hunch that it might be a Welsh thing, it turns out the name is the Polish spelling. claims it’s the Hebrew version, which seems dubious (Don’t trust anything you read on the Internet!). I’m told the Hebrew alphabet doesn’t have a ‘W’ sound…


Either way, Dawid has the same name as his father. The exact origins are still something of a mystery. But I digress.


By the day’s end, England have reached 4/305, Malan and Bairstow unmoved. The tourists are finally in with a chance to put themselves in a winning position. I wonder if it’s too little, too late – if Bairstow might’ve been batting higher, earlier, and if they might still live to rue that this day of cricket didn’t occur earlier. Time will tell.


Day two begins as day one ended, except I’m back at the desk, and back on the radio.


Australia burns its final review – a sign, perhaps, of desperation? Things certainly are beginning to look dour. The manner of this partnership is different to the batting that has gone before it in the series. The boundaries are flowing far more freely, the scoring is naturally quicker, and the bowlers can’t quite keep the pressure on. Lyon, for the first time, is finding it hard to settle.


Bairstow goes to his hundred, and leaps for joy. I flicked the footage on the phone on for this one. JM Bairstow is good for cricket. Nothing is as beautiful as the stories of Australians gifting the touring keeper mementos of his father, who committed suicide when JM was young. I can’t imagine life without my own father, who texts me to tell me how happy he is. Great minds.


Bairstow has nuzzled his helmet with a gentle headbutt and by drinks, it’s 4/356. 500 is there for the taking now. No such taking occurs.


Malan begins the rout by getting out, caught brilliantly by (twelfth man) Peter Handscomb for 140. The stand, at 237, is nearly the biggest ever for England’s fifth-wicket.


Having waited to bat for nearly a full day, Moeen Ali survives just one ball. He’s out on his second, bounced out by Cummins. 4/368 sounds an awful lot better than 6/372. Australian sniff their opening.


Bairstow continues to bash and crash. Woakes lasts for only a brief time, before Cummins has him caught.


Ten minutes ago, 500 was beckoning. Now, 400 is in serious doubt.


Starc smashes Bairstow’s middle stump. In the next, Overton succumbs to Hazlewood, though succumbing suggests some sort of struggle first. There is no struggle from England here.


At 9/393, it’s left for Anderson and Broad to save them the indignity of making less than 400 from such a promising position. They manage that task, but not much more. 403, no more to see here. Move along. Lunch.



Australia begins after the break. Overton gets Warner and Bancroft despite both making starts, which brings Smith and Khawaja together at the wicket.


Smith immediately looks to be seeing it like a beach ball.


In contrast, Khawaja appears to be seeing it like a golf ball, or perhaps a marble. He is managing to make Handscomb look all the more unfortunate.


A traditional Friday sleepiness takes hold, and I’m down and out for an indefinite length of time. When I wake up, bleary eyed, Woakes traps Khawaja for an even 50. On review, I reckon he can only be saved by his bat. It’s not involved, and he’s out. I’m slightly startled that he plodded along for so long.


The first of two Marshs joins Smith, who is continuing his masterclass. Bowling at the Australian captain looks frankly Sisyphean.


On 92 not out at the close, his hundred looks a mere inevitability. At 3-203, the game looks in the balance. One suspects that when day three begins, its fate will be decided by Steve Smith. Anderson, Broad and co would take the boulder and the hill, if Zeus were to take pity on them. I also suspect there will be no such reprieve.



Feel free to discuss.

About Jack Banister

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


  1. Beautifully done, Jack.
    I love the Perth Test. For the time difference – as you say. We used to play backyard cricket after tea, cicadas chirping, and finally coming inside, find that the Test would STILL be on TV.
    It gave solidity to the idea that Australia must be a very big place.

    The English lower order don’t seem to have any appetite for perserverance.

  2. Thanks ER.

    One of Robert Drewe’s books I think constantly says “It may as well be Africa.”

    And it’s still one of the few major cities I’ve never visited.

    This is getting ugly. Smith is quite superhuman to watch. The way he looks at wide stuff with disdain, or disinterest, or sometimes disappointment that he can’t hit the thing, on a whim. Quite unique. Watching his facial expressions might be more exciting than watching his batting.

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