The Ashes 2019 – Fourth Test Days 1 & 2: Steve and his little mate Marnus

It was a familiar sight.


Broad bowled the first over, extricating solid amounts of swing away from the left-handed openers. Just a couple of balls in he had Warner indecisive, catching the edge of his tree-trunk bat to send him off early. Harris, despite an impressive opening against some quality bowling, was undone out of nowhere by some accurate Broad bowling. Once more, Australia sat languishing at 2 down for not much under gloomy skies and a raucous English crowd.


The Fourth Test of the 2015 series saw Australia face a similar scenario. Once they managed to get Smith out cheaply, the procession of left handers coming to the crease were sent packing through a revolving door of Broad magic. Oh, and Anderson was just as handy up the other end too.


These horror thoughts struck Aussie minds on Thursday night as Broad and his new pal Archer started off strongly. After the Third Test’s nightmare conclusion, Australia’s efforts could’ve been diminished. Confidence could’ve been lost. Luckily, Australia currently have one of the best cricket players to ever play, and a handy little Queenslander forging a Test career that could be anything.


With the Duke zipping around on an Old Trafford pitch full of life and bounce, the two Aussies fought. Labuschagne looked unflappable, handling Archer’s pace and Broad’s nip with the assuredness that comes from making multiple consecutive half-centuries. Now moved up to first drop, nothing changed as he continued to duck and weave, as well as drive his way to another 50. All the while still cheekily smiling after every English jibe that was thrown his way.


Up the other end there was no fun in it. Smith was as serious as ever, effortlessly clipping it off his legs for run after run. His footwork on the off side looked unnecessary – whatever position he got himself into he would undoubtedly swing his bat with a delightful flourish and make sweet contact with the ball. The highlight was his commanding on drive off Stokes after lunch, bludgeoning it past mid on with a deadly swing of his bat. In every quirk, every tick or shrug, he was a man full of motivation and concentration. For him, this was deadly serious. Although he was making runs for fun, he never wavered from a mode of pure dedication and sheer ability.


The partnership flourished in front of our very eyes, putting on over 100 as the English control was seized right out of their hands. This was no battle of attrition – these two batsmen were a class above the rest and were belting the English bowlers around. Archer, a tad worn out from the past two Tests, looked no quicker than any other bowler. Broad’s work off the seam slowly stopped, while Overton was lively yet slow enough to be picked off by the Aussie pair. That is, until Overton produced a magnificent ball that held its line and nipped back through Labuschagne’s bat and pad to clip off stump. You have to feel for the Queenslander, who deserves a ton for all of the poise and talent he has shown this series. His time will come – something tells us this series is the making of Labuschagne as a long-term Aussie player.


This didn’t faze Smith. He ticked past 50 at the end of day one and joined Head in walking off under overcast skies as the first day ended abruptly due to rain.


Day two showed England still hadn’t come up with a patient plan to remove their nemesis. He just simply dominated the Poms once again, slapping Archer for two consecutive boundaries to begin proceedings. Head was quickly caught plumb in front by Broad, who was showing his propensity for removing left handers who dared not to pick which way he was moving the Duke.


Wade joined Smith with the idea of slapping Leach out of the attack. It initially worked – Wade getting off to a quick start and Smith rolling into the 80s. But Wade went for one too many, misjudging the flight and skying one to Root. A solid catch, and the last one they would safely grasp for a while.


Paine, under fire for his batting and recent captaincy despite his fantastic efforts, started well. He would drive confidently, finally finding the gaps he richly deserved. He stayed in and embraced Smith as he flicked his way to another ton, his batting efforts being so consistently routine that they were almost habitually expected. Smith – another ton? Of course, what else would anyone expect?


Broad took the new ball and tried coming around the wicket to Smith, targeting the area where he scores most heavily. Naturally, that was never going to work, and the pair pushed Australia’s total over 300. Paine hit some beautiful shots off Archer, standing tall and watching the ball rocket to the boundary. He scored a much-needed half-century, showing his importance to the Australian batting line up. It helped that Roy put down a sitter just after the lunch break, but sometimes all you need is the luck to change and you’re away.


Smith earnt his luck. Being chanceless for a day and a half, he appeared to have finally fallen to Leach. But somehow the off-spinner had overstepped – a cardinal sin. If a fines system was in place in the English dressing room, Leach may have to hand over his entire match payment for this TMest. Perhaps even more may be forked over when Smith blasted his way past 150 and then 200. His celebration was circumspect, toned down because he expected this. He demanded it of himself. In just four innings, Smith had passed everyone as the leading run scorer for test match cricket in 2019. What words can do this purple patch justice? We need Don here to give us some context.


With the late blows of Starc and Lyon pounding the Poms around for more pain, the Aussies surged to just under 500 before declaring. Looking to cap off a perfect day of Australian Ashes cricket, Cummins got Denly to inside edge a ball, rocketing off Wade’s chest at bat pad. In slow motion, Wade’s right hand flung out at the rebounding Duke, his soft wicket-keeper hand grasping the shiny new seam and holding it to ground as the Aussies erupted. A moment of luck, of freakish ability, saw Australia go into the dressing room with all the momentum.


Smith has laid the platform, showing everyone why he may soon be in the mix as both the best and the most mentally strong cricketer we may ever see. Now Starc, Hazlewood and co are all back together, the boy band chomping at the bit to unleash on England and wreak havoc on day three of this Manchester Test.


Our writers are independent contributors. The opinions expressed in their articles are their own. They are not the views, nor do they reflect the views, of Malarkey Publications.


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  1. Colin Ritchie says

    Smith was absolutely magnificent! Is he the best since Bradman?

  2. Sean 1st off disagree re Head for mine both him and Harris v v unlucky benefit of the doubt re right arm bowler bowling around the wicket,If we can rope this,Smith guy In I reckon the almanac crew can defeat,Adelaide Lutheran in the x mas clash.Seriously Smith knows his game inside out also his head is completely still when the bowler lets go of the ball and has this incredible desire to bat and bat he is remarkable unfortunately weather isn’t looking great for tonight I reckon this will be a draw and there will be a greentop which seams ridiculously for the last test thank you

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