Fourth Test, Day 4: RavBop and The Bells: ‘Dead at Leeds’

By Tony Roberts

This report on Day 4’s play at Leeds is perforce brief, on account of the match having been already concluded. (Unlike the three days of actual cricket, Monday’s weather in Yorkshire has reverted to type, from Balmy Mediterrannean to Nowth’n Grit i.e. it’s raining most of today – Eric Oldthwaite would be thrilled.)

In 1921, Australia’s domineering captain Warwick Armstrong (“The Big Ship”, with the last “p” often pronounced as a “t”) indulged in some none-too-subtle ridiculing of the old-style 3-day Test match in England. Three spots of rain and the result was out. So, after the pompous Warners of the MCC had been allowed a suitable period to retrieve their dignity, longer Tests were introduced from 1930 (4 days – just in time for DGB), and extended to 5 days from the first post-War series in 1948.

Since the 1930 series, Australia has played 108 Tests in England; just 6 of them have been decided in less than 3 days’ play. On a greasy green-top at Trent Bridge in 2001, Nasser’s shell-shocked England coughed up the Ashes to Steve Waugh’s best team before stumps on Day 3 of the 3rd Test – some contest!

Four others were played on raging turners exploited by a spinner, usually local: Tuffers ‘ad a larff, guvnor’ in a dead but heart-stopping (well, you would be dead, wouldn’t you?) finale at The Oval in 1997.

And the other four ‘fast game’s a good game’ were where? Where else: Headingley. Who can forget Deadly Derek and fusarium in 1972 (a very timely antidote to Lillee and Massie)? Earlier on, Fiery Fred Trueman did a credible impersonation of the olden-days’ Terror Turner to rout Australia in 1961; he was trumped by Richie Benaud in the very next match at Old Trafford. And, in the only match of 1938 where the batsmen couldn’t mash 5,000 per dig out of the weary bowlers, the Tiger out-bowled Verity while DGB outbatted Hammond to save the Ashes. In each one of those occasions, the match finished late on Day 3; allegations of pitch-doctoring were denied with varying degrees of slyness or bluster when it worked, or red faces averted their gazes when it backfired.

No such excuses or denials necessary after the penultimate match of the 2009 series, when the team leading the series lost to the trailing team in easily the shortest time – barely 200 overs were bowled in a match that finished shortly after lunch on Day 3 – by an innings and plenty after said chasing team had compiled 445, at 4 runs an over. The only thing that England can take from Leeds is Broad and Swann’s brief reprise of the spirit, if not substance, of the Botham/Dilley/Willis miracle of 1981.

Collingwood is not hugely talented and has had a bad match or two, but he has what the Englsih call ‘bottle’, and only smiles when he has achieved something of substance: Bell and Bopara do not have these qualities, or apparently many others. Forget Freddie’s knee or Pietersen’s busted ankle. Just like the 49-year-old Wilfred Rhodes in 1926 (and the 50-ish Jack Warner in the forgotten 1953 Rank movie ‘The Final Test’), England need to exhume Tresco (current County ave. c. 78) and Ramprakash (ave. c. 85) for the decider at The Oval.

About Tony Roberts

Favourites list: Food: whatever I cook; Drink: whatever my doctor allows; Music: refer 'Soul Time' (pres. Vince 'The Prince' Peach 3PBS-FM, plus Soul Au Go Go at The Laundry, first Saturday each month); Movie: love that Cinema Nova discount card!; TV show: call me Don Draper, if you like (or David Brent, if not); Footy teams: Melbourne Victory (summer), Coolangatta, AFLQ (hols), Brisbane Lions (forever), Western Bulldogs (for now); Player: refer 2009 Footy Almanac Round 18 (WB V Freo); Pet: Ferdy (JRT - as per previous reference)

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