Australia v New Zealand – WACA Test, Days 4 and 5: Hmmm (it’s only the beginning)

Australia 9d/559 (DA Warner 253, UT Khawaja 121)
New Zealand 624 (LRPL Taylor 290, KS Williamson 166, MA Starc 4/119)
Australia 7d/385 (SPD Smith 138, AC Voges 119, TG Southee 4/97)
New Zealand [target 321] 2/104
Match drawn

 

 

End of Day 3: New Zealand 6/510, still 49 behind on first innings
End of Day 4: Australia 2/258, ahead by 323 with a day to play
Lunch Day 5: Australia 5/331, ahead by 396 with two sessions to play

 

 

So a week has elapsed since these two days’ play.

At the time, some raised questions about the finish. About SPD Smith choosing to bat on, denying New Zealand a chance to chase the runs. Yet also denying his bowlers sufficient time in which to dismiss New Zealand. But he largely escaped scrutiny.

 

What have we learned?
 

1. Tactically, SPD Smith ain’t MJ Clarke (or you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til you lose it)
 

That was a conservative decision, compared with what we came to expect from MJ Clarke. But fair enough. SPD Smith is growing into the role. It’s only the beginning.

There are stats around how many draws MJ Clarke captained. It’s not many. Already SPD Smith has twice batted on defensively into the final day of a Test. These scenarios probably come under the heading of “learning”. But also, “temperament” and to borrow from management jargon, “risk appetite.”

The wicket in Perth was flat, sure. But a result could have been contrived. That’s how cricket captaincy sometimes works.

SPD Smith’s handling and employment of NM Lyon also bears contrast with that of MJ Clarke, who used to get him into the attack early. The idea there was to have NM Lyon involved, asking questions.

During his tenure, Clarke was widely praised for his nous, his reading of a situation, his tactical leadership. It will be great to watch SPD Smith getting into stride as captain.
 

2. MJ Clarke in the wider world behaves like a teenager (or life outside the bubble is different to life inside the bubble).
 

MJ Clarke himself has shown dubious decision-making capacity in recent days. Omnipresent excerpts from his ubiquitous captain’s diary have been touted around the media this past week. Maybe he’s just not one for reunions. Maybe he truly thinks himself beyond reproach.

“I don’t think John knows a thing about the baggy green, having never worn one,” he wrote.

This is a classic of the schoolyard, often the last desperate argument of the defeated: “Well how would you know anyway?”

It displays an inability to empathise. And an alarming disregard for the bottomless well that is the human imagination. I wonder if MJ Clarke has read any Dickens. Or Rushdie. Or Mem Fox.

Whatever, Clarke has failed to grasp an elementary tenet of clear communication; something taught to Dip Ed students, taught to parents of young children, learned by many with an interest in caring relationships. And that is: you must always separate behaviour from the person. “You’re hopeless” (attacking the person) is a different beast to “your throw was no good” (attacking the behavior). The ramifications for relationships and self-esteem is huge if we all take this on.

But then, even in the example of poor language above, at least the protagonist wasn’t comparing the victim unfavourably with an animal.

“He’s still living off the fact that he coached a team that anyone, even my dog Jerry, could have coached to world domination,” writes MJ Clarke. Personal insults are made with degrees of pre-meditation, degrees of intellect. Comparing someone’s behaviour unfavourably with that of a dog, in writing, is a remarkably shallow act. Perhaps it will earn guffaws from the matiest mates who ever mated. Undoubtedly it will earn the writer a reduced level of respect among thinkers. There’s a long way to go in MJ Clarke’s writing career, of course. It’s only the beginning.

 
3. These two teams are incapable of bowling to contain (or I’m a victim too)

 

Not every pitch offers help. And increasingly, some days’ play are spent in the climatic conditions of a desert (Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Perth). And the bats are bigger than ever. And lighter.

And yet, as the batsmen get on top, fielding teams through the decades have found a way to take wickets. Bowl a fourth stump line, stack the off side field, force the batsmen to take risks in order to score. Dry up the runs. Long spells of grind and patience.

What did we see in Perth? New Zealand conceded 559 runs at 4.20 an over for 133 overs. And Australia conceded 624 runs at 4.05 an over for 153.5 overs.

This is not Hutton, Bradman, Trumper batting. It’s Ross Taylor, Adam Voges. Guys who are parts of teams recently skittled. By England.

A lot has been written about the effect of the proliferation of limited overs cricket on batting approaches. Perhaps shortened forms of the game are affecting bowling skill, planning and thought-processes even moreso. It’s only the beginning.

 
4. One cancelled warm up and Three Tests does not a series make (or is that the time?)

 

In the absence of any real warm up games or coherent schedule ahead of the first Test, the New Zealand team arrived in Brisbane relatively unknown to Australia. Who were these guys? They were walloped.

Later that same week they’re over to Perth, and still Australians feel like we’ve not even met these players. Here they put up s stirring fight. But who are these gallant, fighting New Zealanders?

Now, coming into Adelaide, things are just starting to become interesting. We have a touring team we’re just meeting and we have been impressed. From now, the summer would ideally unfold with three or four more Tests between these two teams. We would then get to see the teams under different conditions, under different pressures, in Hobart, in Melbourne, in Sydney.

Instead the whole shebang is ending. In the public imagination, it’s only the beginning.

 
5. SE Marsh is doing things the rest of us can’t see or measure (or carry on, nothing to see here)

 
Wil Anderson tweet

There can be no objective criteria for this. It’s as ever was. And it’s only the beginning.

 

6. MG Johnson can do what he damn-well likes (or these shoes are no longer my work shoes)

 

Arriving for work must be odd as a professional sportsperson.

As for any of us, too much thought can be a problem (e.g. why am I doing this? Is there a better way?)

Plenty of speculation has swirled around MG Johnson’s apparently quick decision to retire last Test.

Should he? Shouldn’t he?

Well he did, so well done to him.

Does he battle with conflicting emotions? Probably, given he’s human.

Did he perform extremely well when relied upon? Yes, he did.

What a clean hitter of a cricket ball.

Tremendous.

 

7. That batting at the WACA was extraordinary (or what the..?)

 
Holy smoke.

They are some impressive innings.

May the Adelaide Test favour the cricket. It’s only the beginning.

 

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About David Wilson

David Wilson is a writer, editor, flood forecaster and former school teacher. He writes under the name “E.regnans” at The Footy Almanac and has stories in several books. One of his stories was judged as a finalist in the Tasmanian Writers’ Prize 2021. He is married and has two daughters and the four of them all live together with their dog, Pip. He finds playing the guitar a little tricky, but seems to have found a kindred instrument with the ukulele. Favourite tree: Eucalyptus regnans.

Comments

  1. Super stuff!

    Smith reminds me of Greg Chappell as captain. Never really changed. Genius bat, tho!

  2. Luke Reynolds says

    Was disappointed with Smith’s defensive captaincy. Hopefully he’ll get more adventurous the longer he’s in the role, though he seems more a Ponting type captain than a MA Taylor or Clarke type.

    Clarke would have upset many with what he’s written. Won’t affect his chances of being one of the boys in the Ch 9 commentary box though.

    More excellent, thought provoking words D.Wilson. And another fantastic song choice, D.Conway been a consistent performer for many years. Big fan of a video clip made on a golf course.

  3. Yeah i am in the camp that suggests the more you let Hayden and Symonds bang on, the more your stocks rise. Better to say nothing. Actually, thinking about that tour just completed, better to say nothing at all. Just blame the selectors and move on.

  4. G’day gents,
    Diplomacy we can probably regard as a skill.

  5. Much agreement. I wonder what tactical support Smith is getting on the ground. Surely his deputy is aggressive in his approach but whether Smith has the level of cunning available to him that his recent predecessors did is an open question (or one that can answered firmly to the negative).

    Yeah, I really hope this is closer to the end of Clarke’s writing career. Coming off to me as a fairly cynical and successful headline grabbing attempt in the run up to ‘I need to find a Christmas present for dad’ season.

    Going to the first day of the Adelaide Test, hoping New Zealand bat first so I can see Kane with the willow.

  6. I have asked Santa for big crowds in Adelaide to show the support for day/night tests. For SPD Smith to get a pair of globes in the twilight, and whinge about the unfairness of the pink ball. Recompense for his disrespect of the Perth test. For New Zealand to win, despite a gallant rearguard SMarsh ton. For Australia to play 2 quicks and 2 spinner with MMarsh as the bowling allrounder. And for the Almanac XI (or is it XVIII?) to towel up those metwurst munchers.
    Not much to ask really.

  7. Yes, D Brown.
    Insight is not the same as telling tales. Though the tales may sell a few books (short term) to the converted, it’s now up to MJC to share some positive ideas. To step away, I would have thought. Give himself some distance and perspective.

    PB.
    What are the weather and pitch doing? John the bookmaker says he’ll be in touch.

  8. Er- all fair points. I’m sure the day/night test will take us by surprise, like cricket does.

    String of Pearls by D. Conway still one of my favourite albums with the title track a highlight.

    Thanks.

  9. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Re 4) It’s a joke. Touring team scheduling – Man Overboard?

    Re 7) Was that the heaviest concentration of big individual scores in my lifetime?

    Four day tests worth a try.

    Thanks Dave.

  10. PS- D. Conway’s golf-themed music videos only matched by J. Mascis and Dinosaur Jr.

  11. G’day Mickey & Swish.
    The players will make the occasion, I’m sure.

    And yes, the scheduling is a problem – for preparation and for the story of a summer.
    I guess the counter point is that: regardless of scheduling, 3 Tests will be played against NZ, players will play adequately, people will attend (in record numbers in Brisbane(!)), so where’s the problem?

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