Australia v Pakistan – MCG Test, Day 2: Azhar Ali and the endless fight

Stumps Day 2: Pakistan 6/310 (Azhar Ali 139*, Asad Shafiq 50, JM Bird 3/91) v Australia


“Ever dumb thing I ever done in my life there was a decision I made before that got me into it. It was never the dumb thing. It was always some choice I’d made before it.”
-Cormac McCarthy, All the Pretty Horses



Tuesday breaks to puddles and to moisture and to heat and the air is still and the air is close and the air is full of stories of hundreds of kilometres north and they are the unmistakable stories of tropical low pressure systems and of rain. Near-tropical conditions entrap us at latitude 37.82oS.

These are not the conditions for resting in a dry creek bed.

A magpie sings and many bell birds chime and the dawning sun alights on a dozing city. Already I am awake.

My imaginary horse named Clarrie Grimmett, named after the Australian leg spinner whose name was Clarrie Grimmett, steps across the clearing and across the barren soil of my night’s camp and across the soil bereft of nutrients and across the spiky vegetation. From this I understand that a Test cricket contest is brewing. Clarrie.

I light a fire for tea and I collect water in a billy for tea and I place leaves in the billy for tea and I boil the billy for tea and I drink the tea.

Clarrie shakes his mane. It is time to go.

To Melbourne today, to our ground, to the field of Tom Wills and of Dick-a-Dick and of Johnny Mullagh exactly one hundred and fifty years ago. To the field of WH Ponsford and WM Woodfull and to the field of SK Warne.

A grey sky and a dampness envelopes Fitzroy as Clarrie flies over creek and over road and over tram line and over tiny landholdings and the air thickens. The tropics and their moisture pay Melbourne a Christmas visit.


It is JM Bird of Kingborough, Hobart; up in class.
And it is JR Hazlewood as reticulated python.
And it is MA Starc as one-trick pony, trickless.


And it is the redoubtable Azhar Ali, after carrying his bat through a wet Day 1, and it is Asad Shafiq, fresh from his fourth innings 147 in the outrageous chase of Brisbane last week.


Clarrie sniffs at the humidity. He shakes his tail. He wonders at the bowling stocks and at the selection of those bowling stocks and at the decision to select those bowling stocks.


SPD Smith sets a short mid wicket and a silly mid on. At least he is trying something. Clarrie looks sideways at me, sceptical.


After eight overs of up and down pedestrian park cricket the maligned NM Lyon is called upon but he is called upon to no avail and a sense of going-through-the-motions cuts through the stillness of the air and through the weary and wary spectators. Is anyone bowling to a plan?


A meandering morning has Clarrie rising and pacing and stamping his foot and Australia even wastes a review on a trivial speculation which can be seen as a grave insult to the memory of what was once a sporting contest. The morning meanders on as a lowland river to drinks. And to rain.


Pakistan 4/192 at the rain break.
Azhar Ali 96*
Asad Shafiq 24*


Upon resumption the predictable and easily dealt with bowling is changed. SPD Smith delves Merlin-like into his hitherto secreted bag of tricks, and finds… himself.


SPD Smith bowls in the showery rain and he bowls part-time wrist-spin and he bowls with a compromised slippery grip. At least one floating full bunger is dispatched to the fence. Clarrie shudders and then as NJ Maddinson is named as the next bowler in this Test match for Australia this brave and noble horse begins to visibly froth.


With the relentlessness and inevitability of a glacier Azhar Ali glides serenely to his century and in removing his helmet to reveal a lush and full beard has Clarrie questioning whether Azhar Ali may have begun his patient innings clean-shaven.


This is a park cricket attack.

And Clarrie’s nostrils flare as rain brings an early lunch.

Azhar Ali 112
Asad Shafiq 48

In the break we find a Eucalyptus leucoxylon and we lie under her branches to doze and water drips sporadically from the foliage onto our bodies and onto the ground around our bodies and we drift in and out of sleep and we are woken by the applause of the returning cricketers at 3:30pm*.

At the resumption it is again JR Hazelwood and it is again MA Starc and as good and as reliable and as methodical as these two are it seems that the captain needs someone with some visible passion and some semblance of initiative and some confidence and some preparedness to give it a crack. Some grunt. Some x-factor of a MG Hughes or a JN Gillespie. Someone to make it happen.


Whereupon, using the bounce and zing of the new ball, JM Bird has one leap and spit and unexpectedly take the edge of Asad Shafiq.


Asad Shafiq c SPD Smith b JM Bird 50 (5/240)


And with this wicket Pakistan begin now to make the running. They have batted Australia out of this Test match and now seek quick runs.


Sarfraz Ahmed c M Renshaw b JR Hazlewood 10 (6/268)

Clarrie points me to the scoreboard which shows JR Hazlewood 24 overs of reticulated python for a return of 2/25.


Mohammad Amir strides furtively to the wicket, joining the fighting Azhar Ali, and they effortlessly peel chanceless runs from a labouring Australian attack.


When rain again forces combatants from the field, Clarrie nods and snuffs. He has seen fight from these visitors today and that it is what he enjoys most. Azhar Ali has batted through a second day of this Test match.


Pakistan 6/310 (Azhar Ali 139*, Mohammad Amir 28*)


Clarrie takes flight again to the north and he looks down upon the retreating players and at the optimistic tread of the Pakistan team and at the foot-dragging of the Australians and Clarrie notices this and he bends low and he looks for one last departing time at the Australian XI and he whispers in my ear: “They could do with a leggie.”



*what really happened: Citrus Bob came over from the northern side for a chat. Thanks so much Citrus. Your visit and conversation was the highlight of the day. Our Pommy visitors loved it.




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.


  1. Clarrie, named after the best spinner born across the ditch. How would have SPD Smith have used him in these conditions ? One may surmise far better than his use of “Gary”.

    Bye the bye David the difference between the Regnans and the Leucoxylon? Botany was never my forte.


  2. Ahh, Glen.
    I would love to have seen Clarrie bowl.

    If the regnans is the ruckman, the leucoxylon probably more of a half forward flanker.

  3. Fair dinkum, you would have been safe in any dry creek bed if it was anywhere near the MCG yesterday. There was only 1mm of rain in the BOM gauge across the road at Olympic Park. The cessation of play was a joke and far too cautious.

  4. Terrible day’s cricket yesterday. I didn’t see a ball bowled live, but frequented a number of MCC bars, and the pleasure of catching up – at various stages – with Knackers M O’Connor, Sal Ciardelli and P Flynn.

  5. Fair call, Crash. The drizzle was steady but didn’t amount to much.

    Bit harsh, Smokie. I thought the cricket intriguing- SPD Smith’s conservatism, MA Starc’s lack of presence, Azhar Ali’s patience, the lack of pep in the field, the seeming absence of a plan…

    Maybe a different view from the southern side.

  6. I suspect people only go to Test Cricket to socialise not to watch the match. Its like the Melbourne Cup – 5 minutes of observation to justify a day’s bonhomie.
    Test cricket is so poisonous it has succeeded in making even the affable SPD Smith into a churlish whiney pedant.
    I can’t decide if I have lost interest because the players are playing for themselves or with themselves.
    Alison Mitchell has been the best debutant of the season. ABC Radio provides entertaining chat while performing menial household tasks, but as for watching the game. Get a life.

  7. Just frustration from me, I guess. “Terrible” a little harsh, I suppose.

    Great summation by the way, e.r.

  8. Mick Jeffrey says

    Phil Gould obviously paid off Ian to become the most hated Gould in Australia.

  9. John Butler says

    Nice one E Reg. We could do with a leggie, if the leggie was up to it. Anybody know where to find one?

    PB, I’m less concerned with what test cricket is doing to Steve Smith than I am with what Steve Smith may do to test cricket.

  10. Luke Reynolds says

    Can understand Clarrie’s frothing when Maddinson bowled. As a left arm orthodox, he’s a poor man’s AB or even Boof Lehmann. What happened to the days when we had 2 or 3 batsmen who could bowl some decent overs?

  11. Peter Warrington says

    i am not a fan but that was a snorter from Bird. channeled McGrath from somewhere in that haircut

  12. OBP very good point re a Merv or Dizzy to inject some life and oomph in to the contest,Starc should be rested from Sydney he looks shot physically and mentally which I think is pretty average on his part,
    Luke spot on just incredible the lack of batsman who can actually bowl and when you think of it in this era of 20 20 it’s a license to write your own cheque bewildering to say the least
    What will the selectors do for Sydney could,Ashton Turner be the bolter ?

  13. Peter Warrington says

    Nevill may come back in for Wade. They will pick the second spinner – O’Keefe; Maddinson gawn.

    They may consider resting someone for Sayers but with 5 bowlers I doubt it. (They might want to get a look at Sayers before India, but the current 3 are more than sufficient for India.)

    Me, i’d go in with 3 spinners:


    long tail but don’t care.

    PS looks cool and wet for first 3 days so may be a seam bowlers match. maybe we’ll go 4 quicks, play O’Keefe at 7 as lone spinner? reminiscent of this incredible day, in that sadly tainted test (7-61, we wuz!)

    Australia 1st innings R M B 4s 6s SR
    SR Watson c †Kamran Akmal b Mohammad Sami 6 39 24 1 0 25.00
    PJ Hughes c Faisal Iqbal b Mohammad Sami 0 15 10 0 0 0.00
    RT Ponting* c Umar Gul b Mohammad Sami 0 1 1 0 0 0.00
    MEK Hussey c Misbah-ul-Haq b Mohammad Asif 28 96 52 4 0 53.84
    MJ Clarke b Mohammad Asif 3 50 30 0 0 10.00
    MJ North c †Kamran Akmal b Mohammad Asif 10 24 17 2 0 58.82
    BJ Haddin† c Mohammad Yousuf b Mohammad Asif 6 18 9 0 0 66.66
    MG Johnson c Imran Farhat b Mohammad Asif 38 81 57 5 1 66.66
    NM Hauritz b Mohammad Asif 21 53 37 3 0 56.75
    PM Siddle not out 1 34 13 0 0 7.69
    View dismissal DE Bollinger b Umar Gul 9 29 19 2 0 47.36
    Extras (b 1, lb 2, w 1, nb 1) 5
    Total (all out; 44.2 overs; 224 mins) 127 (2.86 runs per over)
    Fall of wickets 1-2 (Hughes, 3.4 ov), 2-2 (Ponting, 3.5 ov), 3-10 (Watson, 7.6 ov), 4-36 (Clarke, 17.2 ov), 5-51 (Hussey, 21.5 ov), 6-51 (North, 21.6 ov), 7-62 (Haddin, 25.1 ov), 8-106 (Hauritz, 37.4 ov), 9-117 (Johnson, 39.5 ov), 10-127 (Bollinger, 44.2 ov)
    Bowling O M R W Econ 0s 4s 6s
    View wickets Mohammad Asif 20 6 41 6 2.05 101 5 0
    View wickets Mohammad Sami 12 4 27 3 2.25 59 4 0 (1nb)
    View wicket Umar Gul 10.2 0 38 1 3.67 47 6 0 (1w)
    Danish Kaneria 2 0 18 0 9.00 5 2 1

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