Third Test – Day 3: Will Mr Kyly Boldy ‘go boldly…’?

Third Test, Perth, Day 3

South Africa 225 & 569; Australia 163 & 0/40

Australia requires 592 more runs to win, with all 10 wickets in hand.

 

A week ago, during the Adelaide Test, Craig Little on this website posed the question (among many, many others) of whether Brett Lee was the worst TV cricket commentator in history.

 

Sorry, I can’t answer that, as I prefer to follow Test matches in Australia in Mute splendour. Somewhat spoilt by the intelligence and perspective of England’s Sky Sports commentary team (Botham excepted), I prefer to blank-out the crew who long ago brought us ‘Carmen Aussie-Carmen’, now joined in an overpopulated booth by those who grew up believing that bullshit. If Lee really is worthy of Litza’s lead medal, though, he’s beaten some fierce competition – two contenders: verbal diarrhoea tragic, Mark Taylor; and Australia’s Corporal Jones, Ian Healy (‘They don’t like it up ‘em, sir!’).

 

Some prefer to substitute the ABC’s radio commentary, and bemoan Nine’s ever-expanding signal delay (apparently now out to 10 seconds: ‘Bolt steady on the…’/’…wins it again!!’, depending on your source). Not me, though; I no longer have time for Local Radio, AKA the NSW Broadcasting Corporation – esp. KOK (‘C’mon everybody, it’s Bore O’Clock!’). So then, dignified silence for me.

 

Nine? Nein

Mind you, Nine’s odious jingoism, commercialism and self-regard seep through even a silent screen, much like rain through my ceiling during any and every thunderstorm nowadays. Some examples: flashing up ‘Aussie’-slanted stats graphics, superimposing promos for ‘The Block’ on the WACA outfield and scoreboard, or the childish obsession over Nine’s new toy camera (name: Dragonfly – after Basil Fawlty’s sure-thing horse? Looks like a mini Black Hawk or a moon-landing module to me.)

 

It’s hard to resist these invitations to join Nine’s grande armee of Howard Battlers. But I do.

 

 

For much of the 42 years since they began, Tests at the WACA have followed a pattern that has brought down the curtain on the third day. If the team playing the Fearsome Foursome editions of the West Indies (that is, Australia) batted first and crumbled (‘Hello, Curtly!’), they would often go back in by lunch on Day 3 facing a deficit of 200 or so, and not have the heart or will to last till stumps. When Australia played anyone else, those roles were usually reversed.

 

That seemed likely after Day 1 of this match, when Australia seemingly held the whip over a South African team that had so far tripped up badly in this series, due to slack preparation, bizarre injuries – and, most disturbingly, persisting with a disastrous attempt to turn AB De Villiers into Alec Stewart. Gary Kirsten, a coach I normally have great respect for, appears to be impersonating Field Marshall Haig on this one.

 

Not so, of course. The 150 runs added by the Proteas’ last four wickets proved more significant than the six wickets that had tumbled previously for 75. Australia’s loss of two wickets late on Day 1 rapidly became six upon Saturday’s resumption – and the response of Wade and the tail, whilst admirable, was not adequate to match South Africa’s recovery.

 

20-20 chainsaw massacre

Smith and Amla subsequently blew that advantage out by over 200 after tea, in a surreal T20-style massacre. Picking bowling attacks according to the diktats of nutritionists and sports scientists (and in apparent ignorance of the disasters wrought by the WSC and rebel-tour fiascos in the 1970s and 80s) was overdue to suffer such embarrassment.

 

Still, facing a deficit of nearly 300 with three day still to play, Australia could look to a vastly different and more recent WACA precedent for comfort – the corresponding match between these same two countries just four years ago. South Africa chased down 414 over the last ten hours for the loss of just four wickets.

 

First things first, though – back to Day 3. What looked liked a racing certainty while Smith was at the crease on Saturday – Amla’s well-merited century in a session – ran into the obstacle of Kallis’s notorious ‘bubble’, as Deano’s ‘Terrorist’ was deprived of strike oxygen at the last, and paused overnight on 99. The formality of his next, crowning, run would have to wait for Sunday’s resumption.

 

It came with a pushed single from the third ball, just the 87th that Amla had faced – bad luck for Australia. Their bowlers realistically had 30 overs before lunch to prove the sports scientists right and make this match into a feasible contest (you know, 400-odd to win…)

 

Well, to no one’s surprise, they didn’t. Amla flowed on, in this innings’ strange mixture of calculated desperation and characteristic purity. The purity showed in numerous ‘stand, deliver, don’t follow-though, don’t-run, just-watch’ cover drives for four and a delicious, stand-stock-still back cut off a fullish Johnson delivery. The desperation was paraded when he reached out three feet to meet one of Johnson’s Lord’s specials (full toss aimed at second slip). Amla still managed to get enough bat on it to push the ball through Hussey’s fingertips, as he launched a heroic swan dive from the gully, and all the way beyond to the third-man boundary. Had Hussey held on, it may have been the worst ball to claim a wicket in Test history.

 

Where’s Hilfy? Where’s Watto?

At least Johnson carries the threat that he will make something happen. Starc (at this, relevant, point of proceedings) didn’t; Lyon didn’t; Hastings emphatically didn’t.

 

His first-class figures are respectable, though hardly eye-catching (three five-fors in 25 matches), but Hastings looks like one of those ODI fill-a-gap trundlers who find a class opposition in a Test match a bridge too far – ‘son of’ John Maguire, for those who watch those day-glo lemon-and-lime 1980 World Series Classics regurgitated on Foxtel.

 

Get this straight: Hilfenhaus would have done better than Hastings bowling into the Fremantle Doctor. Hilfenhaus is a workhorse, a meat-eater (albeit without a KFC ad contract) who thrives on bowling. Perhaps not Siddle, but Hilfy should have played.

 

Through all this, the male model, Shane Watson prowled at mid-wicket. (On the side-on camera shots across the pitch, though, Watto looked to be in a trench rather than on a catwalk. God, the camber at the WACA is deep! No wonder ring fielders give up when the ball gets by them.) To this point, Watson (who, it may be dimly recalled, had opened the bowling in this dig) had five overs for a respectable 17 to his name. By the end, he had tallied nine overs and conceded just 24, during which time all the regular bowlers leaked 5-plus an over. Was he fit to bowl? This is a Yes/No question. For Kallis, South Africa answered ‘No’; for Watson, Australia offered ‘Maybe’.

 

Before lunch, a wicket fell by chance: Kallis miscued a hook, collected at fine leg by Johnson on his way to a remarkable four catches. AB joined Amla, and again looked tentative. Australia could not exploit this. They trailed by 382 at lunch.

 

Oh, Warn-erdreadful bowler!

After lunch, play seemed for a while to tootle aimlessly. Amla was less outrageous than before; AB was still either mistiming or finding cover and mid-wicket. Then Clarke entrusted the last six overs before the new ball to Warner, Hussey and Ponting. Things began too move along rapidly now.

 

Some optimists have seen something of Warne in Warner’s occasional leg-spin. Me, I prefer to think of Fawlty’s comparison between the legendary creator of ‘pornographic muzak’, Harold Robbins, and his entirely fictional English counterpart, Harold Robin-son: ‘dreadful man!’

 

The momentum unleashed by Clarke’s little excursion into fantasy carried over to the new ball, whereupon Starc and (sigh!) Hastings leaked another 30-odd in the first four overs. After six months of batting like a shellfish, AB was now again striking like a shark, the ball ricocheting at speed from the middle of his bat past the fielders, or over them if he so chose.

 

Amla’s imminent double-century was rudely interrupted by an outbreak of Super Mitch, as Johnson instinctively snared a come-backer in his wrong hand. With Amla’s fall, South Africa’s lead was a mere 496. Oblivious as ever to the real-life match situation, Johnson burst from the phone box, inflicting within his next four balls pain, embarrassment and finally a debut pair on Dean Elgar. Mitch’s glorious rebirth gives Sri Lanka hope that he might be retained for the MCG on Boxing Day. Elgar was replaced, at number 7, by a man whose Test average exceeded his by 266, Faf Du Plessis.

 

Affies gone wild

AB then promptly brought up his century with three (count em!) reverse-swept fours off consecutive serve-ups from Lyon. I had to be informed of all this retrospectively, as I was putting potatoes in the oven for a roast. (The combination of daylight saving and watching a Test being played three time zones away to the west meant that this operation was effected at least an hour too late for sensible dining.)

 

Well, in the course of what seemed no more than a few routine domestics (just 14 overs), the two old classmates from Pretoria’s Afrikaners Boys High added 102. At one point, I watched AB cane Johnson – first through cover, then through mid-wicket – for back-to-back boundaries, only to notice on the screen runner that it was actually Faf on strike. Their school coach must have enjoyed his handiwork.

 

Well, it couldn’t last at this pace – and it was frankly long past time now that it even mattered. Johnson forced Faf to edge to Clarke at slip for what was arguably the first ‘standard WACA’ dismissal of an innings hitherto punctuated by widely spaced and sadly irrelevant outfield screamers.

 

As the Protea wicket donation program accelerated, the two Mitchs combined, both at the crease and in the outfield, to get the lot. For only the third innings in the history of Test cricket, all ten fell to bowlers with the same first name ($5 prize to Peter Flynn for being the first Almanac reader to come up with the previous two names concerned). I would also venture that it’s the first time in Test history that two Australian left-armers have claimed all ten in an innings. Any offers on that one?

 

632 and all that

Warner and Cowan negotiated the last 13 overs safely enough (though I would set one, possibly two, fly-slips for Warn-er in the early overs). Forty down, just 592 to go. There’s enough time, and as long as Australia (or at least Clarke) is still going, we’re likely to drown in drivel about ‘positive thinking’, ‘self-talk’ and ‘body language’ over the next two days. So let’s throw in a bit of history (‘bunk’ to some), shall we?

 

At Durban in 1939, in the notorious match that killed off Timeless Tests, England reached 5/654 (just 42 short of their Holy Grail) when they had to rush off for their boat home in time for their next epic series, against Hitler. That effort was 50 more than any other team has scored in the fourth innings of any other first-class match.

 

The highest of eight winning scores above 500 is 541 – and of course, the Test landmark is just 418. (Australia has conceded both of the two highest winning tallies during the last decade). The most surprising stat is that the second-highest of all Test fourth innings is just 451 (Nathan Astle’s ‘He Go Crazy!’ double-century at Christchurch in 2002 – England still won by 100 or so).

 

So, good luck Clarkie.

About Tony Roberts

Favourites list: Food: whatever I cook; Drink: whatever my doctor allows; Music: refer 'Soul Time' (pres. Vince 'The Prince' Peach 3PBS-FM, plus Soul Au Go Go at The Laundry, first Saturday each month); Movie: love that Cinema Nova discount card!; TV show: call me Don Draper, if you like (or David Brent, if not); Footy teams: Melbourne Victory (summer), Coolangatta, AFLQ (hols), Brisbane Lions (forever), Western Bulldogs (for now); Player: refer 2009 Footy Almanac Round 18 (WB V Freo); Pet: Ferdy (JRT - as per previous reference)

Comments

  1. Peter Flynn says:

    Tony,

    Enjoyed reading your thoughts.

    To watch Amla have fun with the field placings was superb.

    I’ve had enough of Dragonfly and I can’t believe that I prefer Chappell, Lawry, Greig and Benaud.

    Tom Moody talks sense and has impressed me.

  2. Ultimately the Aussies just aren’t good enough for long enough. A lack of talent prevents relentless pressure.

    Cummins, Pattinson and Siddle (and possibly Hilfy and/or Starc) would make a very different combination. Johnson is no good but will sucker the selectors again by getting a few wickets at his favourite ground, Hastings is an ODI specialist.

    I hope Quiney gets a few more chances.

  3. Tony Roberts says:

    Peter, no response to my quiz question about the other two instances where all ten wickets in a Test innings fell to bowlers with the same first name? Can’t imagine you being beaten to the punch…

    By the way, further to my points about the selection of Australia’s bowling attack, some observations from Austria, by way of Berlin, here:

  4. Brett Lee’s commentary yesterday brings me to conclude that he is so stupid that his Channel Nine package includes a personal assistant who cuts his porridge into tiny chunks each morning so he doesn’t choke to death.

  5. Long time no see Tony, Elsterniwck golf course with MIck Doogan, circa 87-88. None the less it is good to have an informed anlysis of the test match, something you can’t get from the corporate media, especially TV.

    Why is Watson playing? A test batting avearge below 40. This looks even worse in that his last eight tests his batting average has been less than 30, and an inability to bowl, makes you wonder about his selection. All in all, it highlights a serious dearth in our batting. Bring back Hughes, has been the catch cry, but what has he done in the first class game this summer? Is it two centuries, which looks gound initially, but with an average of less than 50? In that regard, who is averaging over 50 so far this summer, Hughes,and maybe M Hussey accepted.

    We are rebuilding, thus we need to be patient, but let’s try a few other options with the willow wielders; Bailey, Doolan, Forrest, are they worth a try in the middle order. Let’s sse how it pans out.

    Glen!

  6. Tony Roberts says:

    Hi Glen
    Don’t recall our golf game, but all of your details stack up. Perhaps it was because of the golf association – a sport for which I am temperamentally unfit.

    Oddly enough, my state of mind and results were usually at their best in the closest of cricket matches, especially finals, or quiz nights/shows – which is a very fortunate (and potentially lucrative) personality quirk to have.

  7. Tony i loath golf. Mr Doogan dragged us over there, then back to the Elsternwick Hotel for a few coldies, and off to your residence to discuss the merits of politics, sport, and related issues.

    Glen!

  8. Peter Flynn says:

    Tony,

    An interesting question.

    Jim and Anil?

    PF

  9. Peter Flynn says:

    PS

    I saw Ponting’s first and last Test centuries.

    Leeds 1997 on-drives and pulls.

    Adelaide 2012 strokes all around the wicket.

    Good player.

  10. Tony Roberts says:

    Peter at 3.42.

    ‘Jim and Anil’ looks correcto in my book, unless the Cricinfo writer who raised the matter of bowlers with the same first name getting all ten wickets knows something that we don’t.

    Mind you, 10/53 (Laker) and 10/74 (Kumble) sure as hell beat 10/264 (MJ & MS) for match-winning impact.

  11. bernard whimpress says:

    Another great piece Tony but your correspondent ‘Dips’ must surely be short for Dipstick. Give Quiney another go? What asteroid does this man live on?

  12. Peter Flynn says:

    Perth 2012: on drive and pull

  13. The Black Prince says:

    If Jackson Bird had been playing in the baby blues for nsw he’d have had baggy green well before Hastings…What else does this poor lad have to do!

  14. John Butler says:

    Perfectly summed up the Watson situation Tony.

    He may be our best short form cricketer, but in test cricket, Watto seems to be a maybe for all yes/no categories.

    Maybe an all rounder (but body won’t stand up).
    Maybe an opener (which accentuates the above issue).
    Maybe (though looking less likely) a number 3.

  15. Bernard, Dips must live on the same asteroid as one SK Warne, who has also called for Quiney’s reinstatement.

  16. John Harms says:

    Of all the inspirations upon which Australian cricket could draw, I am surprised they have chosen to look to Bob Cunis.

  17. Tony Roberts says:

    John
    Who’s Bob Cunis in this Australian team? Is the bowling of Hastings ‘neither one thing nor the other’? Or should that describe Watson’s contribution as an all-rounder in Perth?

    Nice to recall one of John Arlott’s all-time-great lines, though. Does it require full spelling out, as it were, or can Almanac readers be trusted to know already?

  18. Tony – Bob Cunis is the selection panel.

  19. John Harms says:

    I think Australian cricket is neither one thing nor the other.

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