Fourth Test: Australians dominate as ‘Marto’ has eyes only for victory


By Andrew Gigacz


With Australia one-nil down, and two Tests to play, in preparation for day one at Headingley I asked myself what are the important issues confronting us?


I came up with four. Will it rain? Will Freddy Flintoff be fit enough to play? Will the Aussie selectors finally see the light and give Stuart Clark a game? And the fourth, and possibly most crucial question of all, at least for those of us following the game via SBS, will Damien Martyn EVER look directly into the camera.’


I’ve seen a fair bit of the SBS coverage of this series and I don’t think I’ve seen Damien make eye contact with me even once. I’ve been putting it down to a bit of typical male shyness on Marto’s part but maybe there’s another reason. Have you ever had a look at his eyes? I think they are the biggest, sparkliest eyes I’ve ever seen. Could it be that Martyn has been instructed NOT to look at the camera for fear of the brilliance of his eyes causing damage to the SBS cameras? Or perhaps the fear is that Damien’s eyes have some kind of hypnotic effect on viewers, rather like Simon the Likeable from that episode of Get Smart.


When the coverage gets under way at 7:30, I see no answer in sight (pardon the pun). SCG MacGill and Greg ‘Mo’ Matthews are doing a good job at engaging the viewers with direct eye contact and engaging Martyn in the conversation. Martyn is responsive but still will not look our way.


MacGill and Matthews have copped a bit of criticism from some quarters for their efforts in this series, but I actually think they’ve been pretty good, especially after overcoming a few nerves in the early hours of the First Test. Then again, m,aybe I’m biased because as the toss draws nearer, I discover that the boys are asking the same questions as me (apart from the Marto one).


And the answers are 1) it has been raining but is now fine, 2) Flintoff is not fit and won’t play and 3) the Aussie selectors HAVE, thank Christ, seen the light and named Stuart Clark. Not at the expense of Siddle, as I thought should’ve happened, but of Nathan Hauritz.


It’s not a decision I’m entirely comfortable with but within a couple of hours, two events transpire that make me realise the selectors’ decision was right. Firstly, SBS’s man on hand, Rodney Hogg, fairly begs the Aussie selectors to go in with four quicks because, he says, this will be a fast bowlers wicket. An unusual man is Hoggy, but he’s got a good cricket brain.


And of course the second event was that Peter Siddle shortly after lunch led the Aussies off the field with figures of 5/21 next to his name. With England blown away for a paltry 102, Siddle has justified his selection.


But in no small way, Stuart Clark has also justified his. He finished with 3/18 and at one stage had 3/7 off seven overs. Importantly, Clark broke the (admittedly brittle) back of England’s batting, not just with wicket-taking balls, but by not allowing the batsmen to score. Every ball at or near the stumps means the batsman needs to think twice before attacking. Clark didn’t concede a run until the last ball of his third over. His 10 overs included four maidens. This is what was missing at Edgbaston.


With the batsmen being strangled by Clark, they felt pressure to take risks at the other end, and it was Siddle who reaped the rewards.


So not long after lunch, the Australians were already in. There had certainly been movement through the air for the bowlers but 102 was a shocking score by England and surely Australia would wipe that off and build a lead.


This they did. The lead was knocked off in close to world record pace for the loss of only Katich for a duck. After just 27 overs, Australia was 1/133 and flying. And the difference between this innings and the English? The bowling. Everything the Aussie bowlers had done, the English attack did not. And the Australians had done everything that they hadn’t done when they bowled at Edgbaston. They attacked the stumps. They bowled no loose balls. And, most importantly, they pitched the ball up, allowing the conditions to do the work for them. By contrast the England bowlers were all over the place – short, wide and anything but consistent. Ponting and Watson simply picked off the bad balls, just as Flintoff and co had done to the Australians in the Third Test.


The Australians can take some credit for this. Shane Watson (51, making it three half centuries from three as a Test opener) attacked England’s bowlers from the outset, with two boundaries in the first two balls. After Katich disappeared early, Ponting (78) came in and followed Watson’s lead. The effect of this on the minds of the England players, already fragile after the dismal batting effort, was to completely rattle them. Rattled minds don’t think straight. They lose their ability to stick to a plan. Thus England bowled short and wide, forgetting how Australia had succeeded just hours earlier.


Then, at Swing O’Clock (just before the 30th over, when the “Duke” loses its lacquer), the bowlers suddenly remembered. Australia lost three quick wickets, all LBW, to balls pitched well up. But this proved to be little more than a hiccup and by stumps Australia had cruised to 4/196.


My rule of thumb for a Test Match is that for the side batting last, the par score is 100 more than that made by the side batting first. By this reckoning the Australians will be in front as soon as they knock off another 7 runs on day two.


With the day’s play over, it’s back to the SBS studios for a wrap. Stewie and Mo are very happy. And did I just see Damien Martyn look directly at the camera as he spoke? It seems just about everything has gone right for the Australians today.

About Andrew Gigacz

Well, here we are. The Bulldogs have won a flag. What do I do now?

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