Australia v South Africa – Perth Test Day 5: Blockheads of colour-by-number Impressionists

South Africa* 242 (de Kock 84, Bavuma 51, Starc 4-71, Hazlewood 3-70) and 8 for 540 dec (Duminy 141, Elgar 127, Philander 73, de Kock 64)
Australia 244
(Warner 97, S Marsh 63, Philander 4-56, Maharaj 3-56) and 361 (Khawaja 97, Nevill 60*, Rabada 5-92)

by 177 runs

*AB de Villiers unavailable (injured), D Steyn injured 12.4 overs into the first innings.


Setting: One of the best pubs of all time.
A couple of young punters sit propped at the bar as the WACA Test finishes.


-WTF was that?
-That, my friend, was a fine, fine fightback from a team under serious difficulty. It was a super triumph of application; of the playing of the game.
-Don’t go all Ian Healy on me. I’m talking about South Africa. What a win.
-Oh, right.
-What about that Kagiso Rabada’s bowling?
-And that Temba Bavuma’s run out?
-What a win.


-But what a fking pissweak loss.
-Wait a minute – are you Ian Healy?
-No, mate, no I am not. For one thing, I am not making excuses for this pissweak shambles.
-No. And for another, I am speaking in full English sentences.
-Quite right.


-So, WTF was that?
-It was lots of things, mate. It was the logical consequence of lots of things.
-Like what?
-Let’s go through a few, shall we?


-First – an inflexible, macho, unthinking approach to the idea of batting for a draw.
-Whichever leeches on that high performance staff roster have been unable or unwilling to teach game awareness need to go.
-But more importantly, game awareness is a skill and should be considered for selection.
-No more of this “that’s how he plays” bullshit.
-People choose their behaviour. Toddlers choose their behaviour.
-DA Warner decided to risk a quick single with five sessions to bat. He actually chose that.


-Second, selecting inept or out of form fellas to represent the country. It’s got to stop. Remember the idea of form? Remember the idea of Shield games?
-Remember the idea of scheduling Test matches after a few Shield rounds?
-It doesn’t matter who your dad is. Or whether you’re a good squad member, with the right sense of humour.
-Contribute, think.


-Third, basic humility and empathy should be selection criteria.
-Like yer man Kagiso Rabada. “If I get picked” for Hobart, he said.
-Imagine a humble, grateful Australian XI.
-A humble, grateful Australian XI would be capable of tempering personal ambition for the good of the team.
-Would be capable of playing for the draw.
-A humble, grateful Australian XI would adapt to match conditions.
-A humble, grateful Australian XI would never excuse failure with “that’s the way he plays.”
-Imagine Luke Beveridge at 4, Bob Murphy as spinner.
-Imagine a team you would like to support.
-A humble, grateful Australian XI would spawn funny, interesting books.
-A humble, grateful Australian XI would welcome any new-comer into the ranks, would recognise that selection as culmination of one person’s dream. As opposed to what befell Brett Geeves.
-A humble, grateful Australian XI would be admired for their play not just at home, but by supporters of the game everywhere.
-We’re dreaming, mate. Could never happen.
-Oh no? Look at New Zealand.



-Hmm. So what is the connection between an Australian cricketer and Jo Public?
-When Bulldogs captain Easton Wood ran onto the MCG for the Australian Football League Grand Final, he could not fail to have had a clear-eyed appreciation of the moment. From club president Peter Gordon, to Jo Public and her recently converted son, he would have been aware of the supporters; oldies gathering wistfully, excitedly around the Whitten Oval; newbies with their optimistic tread.  Aware of his role as temporary guardian of something much larger. Aware of what injured captain Bob Murphy wrote on game day.
-No one ever wrote that about a national cricket side.
-They did in the 1960s.
-Did they?
-Remember Benaud and Worrell. But no longer.
-Right. So each person involved in a footy club; supporters, members, administrators, staff; all feel part of something. Like they have all contributed; they have contributed, to the story and struggle of their club. Their club. Their club.


-I wonder who SPD Smith believes that he is playing for.
-Yeah. For Darren Lehmann? Pat Howard? James Sutherland?
-For his parents?
-For himself?
-I wonder who BB McCullum thought that he was playing for.



-These recent efforts – in Sri Lanka and now Perth – have been embarrassing.
-I know it.
-And losing is fine. But you want to lose well.
-Likewise winning.
-So many disliked SR Waugh’s Australian team despite all that winning.
-So many disliked Hawthorn.
-It’s why so many more like Pat Rafter than like Lleyton Hewitt.
-Humility, respect, being grateful; so important.
-Look at New Zealand v Australia in the World Cup final.



-How did this Test team become so unloved by Australians?
-Well, are they players or puppets?
-Look at all the spray painted lines on the ground indicating bowler’s run-ups.
-Look at all the drinks breaks, changes of gloves.
-These guys are less players and more managed performers.
-More akin to actors on a stage, than sportspeople, playing sport.
-None seem to react to the game, or perform to match situation. Where does the Australian game awareness reside?
-Who is capable of acting on independent thought?
-It is why we watch.
-We watch for the unfolding game.
-We imagine ourselves in the same scenario. “What would I do here?”
-Watching on the box, we test ourselves, we seek to learn from the greats.
-This being in the moment, reacting to the moment.
-It is SK Warne moving that fielder as a ruse, instead teeing up the top-spinner.
-It is Dean Elgar grinding out a difficult innings, batting for time.
-It is impressionism.
-It is sport.


-Yet these traits are absent from the actor; who instead performs lines, movements, as directed by earlier arrangement with another.
-Bowl the seamers until lunch? Sure.
-Throw my bat at everything? Sure.
-It is SR Waugh’s teams to the tailenders.
-It is Hansie Cronje with an earpiece to the coach.


-It’s not thoughtful impressionism, it is blockheaded colour by number.


-How is a young team without its star batsman (and captain), and that loses it strike bowler mid-way through Day 2, and that is playing away from home, able to thrash a full strength experienced opposition?
-Ahh, it won’t happen again. Let’s field the same losing team in the next Test, eh?
-What’s that about insanity?



About David Wilson

Hit for a towering 6 by Mike Gatting at the Banyule Cricket Club, December 2002, theatrically attempting to reproduce the SK Warne delivery. The ball is yet to land. @e_regnans


  1. It seemed everyone wanted to talk cricket yesterday – many not happy.

    It seems to me the affair with the T20 temptress is leaving the matronly betrothed rather neglected.

  2. Some great insights there ER.
    “A humble, grateful Australian XI would spawn funny, interesting books.” As if.
    “Yet these traits are absent from the actor; who instead performs lines, movements, as directed by earlier arrangement with another.” Bit tough on actors as a professsion. Depends on whether the director is producing the current soap opera or Ken Loach coaxing emotional honesty. As the Avenging Eagle often observes from her teaching days “there are no bad kids, only bad parenting”.
    Personally I have totally detached from the whole charade. No discussions or time wasted watching for me and those I know. Occasional score check and shrug of the shoulders.
    Much more to life than soap opera masquerading as sport.

  3. One conversation with a senior cricket person yesterday was lamenting the way Shield cricket has lost its meaning. The Bollinger incident is illustrative.

    I agree when he said surely at any level of the game a team must exist to play and win matches, in pursuit the title.

    I agree: that is at the heart of sport.

    Under age pathways comps have the same issues. Where is the competition? Where is the battle? Where is the struggle learnt?

    And the logical conclusion is that, overall, cricket is becoming something other than sport.

    That’s sad at many levels.

  4. Second conversation was about the confusion in the minds of players.




    Sum total equals absence of fortitude.

  5. Dave Brown says:

    Good stuff (or not good stuff as the case may be), ER. You’ve nailed that this team is just not likeable at the moment and why, unlike our visitors who appear humble and hard working.

    Probably unpopular opinion territory but when he first started I loved Ian Healy as a commentator. He’s basically a bloke that learnt how to bat properly while being an international cricketer. As a result he used to spend a lot of time talking about technique and why certain batsmen were struggling at times because of head or arm positioning – interesting. That’s all gone now, replaced by barely intelligible barracking.

    Also unpopular opinion, but I think out T20 teams can be instructive in the relationship with J Public regard. The teams with the most engaged fan base are the underdogs – Hobart, Perth, Adelaide. Players like Bailey, Hogg, Head and Lehmann (of the Jake variety) are genuinely liked by their respective fans. Would happily take three of those four at number 6 in Hobart and they would do a better job. But what would us customers know, hey?

    Also, hopefully next season CA reschedules the BBQ Cup in favour of an additional two rounds of shield games.

  6. I suppose we can lament the confusion that pervades the minds of cricketers now. Are they Test players, Bash players, Pura Milk, ING Bank, CBA, KFC, Shield players? What are they? Who cares? Do they care?

    I watched a bit of the last Test and I’d like to think that the players were trying. It certainly looked that way. But when the heat goes on is there a sub-conscious surrender that wins their minds. The “this is all too hard” mentality, because I have another game next week. Perhaps they are just not good enough? I could cop that.

    I also get the impression that these Tests are being played early to get them out of the way of the “real cricket” – the Big Bash. That must impact a player’s thinking.

    JTH – to your point. I agree. Perhaps there is no contest anymore. There is now just an event. No games are played for the sake of the game itself. They are played to trumpet some other cause or sponsor. This is true in a lot of sports. Its why causes should stay out of sporting arenas. Its why a sponsor’s name should never precede the name of the competition itself.

    Toyota AFL Premiership Season
    Commonwealth Bank Test series.


  7. Outstanding OBP and unfortunately so so true,the stupidity and greed re the sport in programming a amazing lack of thought re looking at the whole picture couldn’t agree more re lack of game awareness and game plan as a person who is v much in the minority re following Shield cricket far more,Tim Ludeman frustrated the hell out of me re his lack of a batting game plan and no awareness what so ever
    he was finally dropped a real blight on himself and the coaches,Mitch Marsh is in the same boat.Nathan Lyon re his lack of use of the crease and angles again bewildering.Chadd Sayers fantastic game awareness play him so many more messages here spot on superb,OBP

  8. Nine losses in a row ! Three tests in Sri Lanka, 5 ODI’s in South Africa, now this disaster @ the WACA. Maybe rain in Hobart might save us from a double figure losing streak.

    What i found most galling was listening to Chris Rogers talking on the ABC post match. He was talking about not panicking, no need for major changes after one loss. Fair dinkum is he Rip Van Winkle sleeping through the two recent OS disasters ?

    Things are crook in Tallarook . The whole selection fiasco is indicative of some sort of malaise in Australian cricket. First pick a XII for the opening two tests, then make two changes, though the two inclusions have big ? marks re them. One a recent test omission, though he’s not made runs in Shield cricket. The other never ranked as a test option, merely a handy ODI contributor, no win the test squad. Why does the selection process never seen to befuddle us?

    Like Dips i feel the tests are now seen a s hindrance on the way to the new “Real McCoy”, the BBL


  9. Well played, e.r.
    I could come off the long run here, but I won’t. Suffice to say that, some twelve months ago, I tweeted about D Warner and J Brayshaw’s constant “You have to accept that…that’s the way he plays”.
    No. No. I don’t have to accept that at all. And I could not believe the lack of criticism of Warner’s foolishness in scurrying of for a run with all that time left. They were never going to win, but at least make the opposition work for your wickets. I haven’t consulted the stats, but it seems Warner rarely digs in in the second innings, more often than not content to put his feet up because “that’s the way he plays”.

  10. And don’t start me on this high performance bullshit.
    Starc apparently did not want to be withdrawn from that Shield game, he wanted to bowl in the second innings. Who woulda thunk it, given that he is a BOWLER !??!
    Chappelli and co yesterday made the valid point about Waqar Younis, Wasim Akram and before them the great Windies bowlers: they played for their country but also played full seasons of county cricket for years – hardening their bodies by BOWLING !!

  11. Come on Smokie.
    Give us a quick spell from the long run.

  12. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says:

    Cricket, schmicket to me e.r.

    Trying to compare it to footy, re sustaining one’s interest. Footy’s ongoing appeal lies in the nature of the competition – for all of its flaws, we get nine separate contests each week in the AFL, (plus whatever other comp takes your fancy), many of them able to be watched/seen/heard in various forms. If one team drops off (and its supporters), generally some other team takes its place.

    Whereas we are bound to the fortunes of our national cricket side, in its variants, which seem to be cannibalising each other. We all (generally) barrack for the same side, so the collective bliss amplitude is more extreme.

    Is the T20/BBL the footyfication of cricket? At what expense?

    Or do we just have gooses killing the golden (pink) egg?

  13. Phillip Dimitriadis says:

    I’ll take you on your word ER. Very funny in a sad sort of way (For Australian Cricket). I watched two overs of the match. One of the Marsh’s was batting if you could call it that. It was like Kramer said to Elaine in Seinfeld about her dancing: “That ain’t batting Sally.”

  14. Luke Reynolds says:

    There’s certainly a disconnect between the general public and the Australian team. How many players now get a run in the three Australian teams? Far too many to keep up with. Devalued the caps.

    Four extremely bad performances in Test cricket in a row for this team. Burns and Ferguson brought in on the back of Shield failures. Decent players but will they add a spark and fight to this team that’s been lacking?

    Won’t be any easier against Pakistan either, they have the pace, swing and a cracking leg spinner that will trouble us. As long as their batsmen can score out here, always a question mark.

    But well played Proteas. Rabada and Bavuma were especially watchable.

    We should still be awaiting the 1st Test of the Summer, following Shield scores and tour games. Ridiculous starting so early in November. But good luck changing that now….

  15. E.regnans says:

    Thanks all, for these insightful additions.

    All is not well with the summer game.
    Probably because it is stretching itself across 3 similar but different games – and chasing the money.

    Who are the bosses of the Big Bash franchises?
    Money people. With influence.
    Interesting times.

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