And the Australian disappointment continues

Sydney Test – Day 3

The big thing about this Test series is how disappointed cricket-lovers across Australia feel. Not the sort of disappointment that has you lamenting the half a metre of water that is rushing under your Queensland house, but disappointment of a sporting time.

This was a series set up for cricket-lovers, and there are plenty of us. It was a series lost and then retrieved, and then lost and lost again. And so, when 19 Harmses gather at Port Fairy for the family holiday, there is much analysis and discussion, as well as cricket on the beach and in the backyard. No-one is happy with the Australian performance and the key debate is over selection. When yesterday the new Australian skipper Michael Clarke didn’t bowl his leg-spinner until about the one hundredth over, the question of Steve Smith’s role as a No. 7 batsman who tweaks was yet again raised.

There have been selection questions all summer, as crazy a summer as it has been.

We have had a number of family gatherings since the Poms arrived. The first, at the Adelaide Test, was full of lament for a team struggling, and a storm that just wouldn’t arrive. Then the Australians found some form in Perth, to tantalize us all.

The second family gathering was at Christmas time. At four down (for not many) on Boxing day the backyard beckoned. Sadly Brother Three had had trouble with the lawn-mower and cousins and uncles were dropping from bee-stings, the clover just a little too prolific. The Naracoorte bee packs a fair punch and so do a few of the cousins.

When young Oliver was proving hard for the bowlers to budge the other cousins called for the insulation tape. Perhaps that’s what Ricky Ponting, and now Michael Clarke, should have called for.

It seems ridiculous that the English bowlers have been able to move the ball all over the place, while the Australians struggle to get the thing off-line. Is it ability? Confidence? Are the out-of-form Australian batsmen making the English bowlers look good? Are the out-of-form Australian bowlers making the English batsmen look good. If ever the fine line of cricket success and failure has been illustrated it is in this series.

And so the Poms returned to the crease on Jane McGrath’s day looking to consolidate, while the Australians needed to jump out like it was the first quarter of a Grand Final. Hilfenhaus moved the ball around and it looked like the Australians might be able to protect their total of 280. Anderson went, bowled by the Tasmanian, bringing Collingwood to the crease.

Cook remained resolute. Beer continued to bowl like a raw colt in the Maribyrnong Plate.  Fortune continued to elude him until the scratchy Collingwood skied one and was caught. The Australians were still a chance.

Bell took his time, allowing Cook to accumulate without much trouble, as he has done all summer. Bell started to play a few shots until Watson got one to come back. It seemed the whole ground heard the nick – even the umpire Aleem Dar, who gave Bell out. Bell wanted the world to know he was unsure whether he’d hit it, so he referred the decision. What followed was more video mayhem. Hotspot said there was no edge. And so Aleem Dar changed his decision. When asked soon after, Snicko said that the nick was there.

Bell went on to get a century. The Poms kept batting. Smith hardly bowled. Hussey had a roll. The Poms ground a way.

The extended Harms family went to the beach where it was warmer in the water (water temperature about 16 degrees) than it was out of the water (air temperature about 17 degrees but a significant wind-chill factor – who has heard of a wind-chill factor at the beach in January?)

It was too cold for beach cricket.

Another disappointing day for cricket fans in Australia. We wanted a great summer, and we haven’t had it.

About John Harms

JTH is a writer, publisher, speaker, historian. He is publisher and contributing editor of The Footy Almanac and He has written columns and features for numerous publications. His books include Confessions of a Thirteenth Man, Memoirs of a Mug Punter, Loose Men Everywhere, Play On, The Pearl: Steve Renouf's Story and Life As I Know It (with Michelle Payne). He appears (appeared?) on ABCTV's Offsiders. He can be contacted [email protected] He is married to The Handicapper and has three school-age kids - Theo, Anna, Evie. He might not be the worst putter in the world but he's in the worst three. His ambition was to lunch for Australia but it clashed with his other ambition - to shoot his age.


  1. There’d be a lot of younguns along the east coast of Australia who would be experiencing feelings never felt before this summer. Rain and Australia falling regularly. I can hear their texts now – WTF???

  2. John, a couple of most pertinent points in your summary.
    You are correct: the Australians simply cannot swing the ball. Following the 2005 series, Cricket Australia gave Troy Cooley the keys to the kingdom in the belief that he was some sort of reverse-swing guru. He has now overseen two Ashes series losses, series in which the Aussie bowlers have been comprehensively out-bowled, particularly in the swing department. And as a further reward for this period of non-success, Cooley has now been appointed head man at the Academy. It is he who will oversee the next young crop coming through (please note that I do not know nor dislike Cooley, I am merely making an observation). It is interesting to note that following the one session or so in which Johnson swung the ball into the right-handers, the Poms were quick to note that it was the favorable Perth wind conditions more than anything else which allowed him to do this…Johnson’s spells since then have proven the Poms correct.
    Although I do not mind the concept of the Decison Referral System, there are some obvious inconsistencies which need sorting out (i.e. “hot-spot” is still inconclusive, why has the third umpire no access to “snicko” etc etc). I am most irked by the fact that because India (read: Tendulkar) does not like the referral system it is not used in series in which they play, resulting in yet further inconsistencies.
    Darren Smokie Dawson

  3. Darren Smith says

    A bit off-topic but can anyone crack the Phil Hughes code?

    What is the next number…….2,12,16,23,31, ?

    At this rate, a ton should be expected in approximately 13-14 innings time.

  4. JTH – I bet the supporters aren’t the only disappointed crowd, the ACB must be spewing. Due to Australia’s ineptitude I reckon the crowds would be down a lot compared to initial budgets and estimates. Not to mention sales of memorabilia etc. Imagine the buzz if this test decided the Ashes after a close and hard fought series? But to have a close series we need to score more than 260 on a regular basis, and we need to bowl the Poms out for less than 600 occasionally as well.

  5. Great read JTH – I must admit that after the Perth test I was expecting 2 close results, after Tests 2 and 3 were both so one-sided.I also empathise with insect incidents after I swallowed a locust whilst cycling down to Glenelg, locusts?!?!? what a abnormal summer its been.

    Now that Collingwood has retired from test cricket, does anyone think that ponting will do the same and quit after the World Cup?

  6. Pamela Sherpa says

    It may have been a disappointing summer for Australia but there has been plenty of interest, intrigue and amusement along the way. England deserve acknowledgement for their success.
    Beer will definately have to stay in the team. His name has created so many funny headlines. Thankfully he looks alright as a cricketer.
    Sorry to hear about the pests JTH. My rels along the Murray say the mozzies, flies and locusts are horrendous. Not a pest in sight up here in the mts.
    By strange coincidence I was visiting friends up near Macksville(Phillip Hughes territory) for a few days this week. On the local news they interviewed the young local cricketers playing at a tournament. They think Hughesy is great- ‘Just needs to make a few more runs’ they said. Classic

  7. Andrew Starkie says

    Harmsy, any type of weather is possible in south west Victoria. God’s own country. Heading down that way myself today.

    Watson just runout. Can’t cope with this anymore.

  8. Observations
    JTH Port Fairy! Couldnt find room at the inn in Rockhampton? Many a long cold summer on the Vic west coast tells me its a great place for a day trip if you pick the day. One year we ate cheese brevills and played canasta for two weeks.
    #3 Darren S even if you are right [and Gigs can confirm] he will still be 25 Tests ahead of S Waugh
    I’m over cricket

  9. Phil Dimitriadis says

    A bowling coach that played Test Cricket might help. The only Cooley

    I ever heard of was a character in ‘Don’s Party’.

    Theater at least tries to make things interesting. In a way it serves our complacency as fans.Not so long ago it was ‘boring’ watching Australia win all the time. Now we are wondering how they fell so far so fast. Are we responsible to some degree?

  10. These things always come in cycles.

    The Australian bowlers should have been able to extract some swing from the ball and the quicks should all have worked out that bowling to the batsman’s strength was pointless. The bowling was crap.

    The Batsmen should have been able to leave the wide ball alone. The batting with the exception of Clarke was crap.I thought Clarke played well today. I have been critical of him but the ball that got him would have taken the outside edge of any top order baatsman and he cannot be blamed for playing a loose shot.

    I can’t see how the fans are to blame, however the Gods are capricious and perhaps they think we need to be reminded that glory is to be cherished and not taken for granted.

    When Helfenhaus bowled “The Howard” I wonder whether the Gods were warning us that there are worse things than pestilence, floods and losing to England.

  11. Phil Dimitriadis says

    Mul, you’re going soft! Clarke should have made 43 in the first dig and we may well have been praising him. He is a pea heart…end of story!!!

  12. I was listening to Kerry O’Keefe yesterday and in a lucid moment he was complaining about how a section of the SCG crowd (not the Barmy Army…after all why would they boo him) booed Clarke. His take was that it showed disrespect for the institution of the Australian Captain. I am not sure that I fully agreed with him in a democracy we have the obligation to flay the falling, but it probably coloured by views on his second innings dig. I thought that he worked hard to try to live up to the captaincy. …. you’re right I have gone soft …. thank the Lord it’s friday and the first lunch of the year beckons… It should be a long one I will come back full of bad manners etc and really let fly.

  13. Pamela Sherpa says

    Mulcaster, I heard Kerry O’Keefe, 2 days ago I think it was, trying to justify why the public should like Michael Clarke . While listening I thought to myself ‘This is a classic case of how people in the media boys club just dont get it.’ They fail to perceive why some fans don’t like Clarke.
    Anyway, he has the job ahead of him and I’m sure he’ll do his best and hopefully he will get due credit when he righfully deserves it. He has to earn it through his actions on the field though, not via some pumped up media campaign

  14. As I understand the Australian protocol, once a captain either retires or is dropped they are not usually picked again to play in the side. This is diffferent to the England or India team approach where former captains are selected to play. I would think that Clarke would struggle in Ponting’s shadow. However, the selectors will have to realise that Ponting’s poor tactical decisions in tests 1-4 played their role in the defeat. It will be intersting to see how it pans out in the future. I think Ponting should not be captain in the future. Doubtless, there are plenty who will disagree largely because of the view that Clarke is not ready, fit or able to Captain the side. If Clarke is to be Captain it is best that it happen quickly, if not then remaining with Ponting is a poor option.

  15. Peter Flynn says

    Australia will never get reverse swing while Johnson is in the side.

    I would cut him now.

    It’s warmish on the Bass Coast.

  16. Andrew Starkie says

    39 degrees in Warnnambool. Sensational on the beach. God’s own country.

  17. Pamela Sherpa says

    Sensational here too in the refreshing water of Lake Jindabyne Andrew.

  18. #9 Phil, England’s bowling coach never played Test cricket. Saker played for Victoria and now has some revenge for never being picked to play for Australia.

  19. Phil Dimitriadis says


    and England has four South Africans in the team and a Zimbabwean coach. They can look abroad to boost their stocks. Our Test players need Australian coaches with Test track records to look up to. Steve Waugh would be a good start.

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