Gabba Test, Australia v India – Day Three: A Symphony in Four Movements

I am limping to the Christmas break.  Just worn out from a busy but fulfilling year.

Today I needed the gentle comforting that test cricket can provide.  In a fast world, I like slow.  In Italy a few years back we went to a Slow Food festival, where hundreds of vendors sold produce and meals all made by hand from local ingredients.  Delicious.

Slow has had a good year.  It won Matt Priddis a Brownlow Medal.  The Hawks midfield showed that quickness of mind and hand trumps quickness of foot.

The first 40 minutes at the Gabba lived up to all my hopes for mundanity.  While Steve Smith re-established himself, Mitch Marsh thought he was back at the WACA and left one on length that removed his off stump.  The Marsh boys have done little to prove ERegnans (or should that be Stan and BJ) wrong so far this test, despite my fervent support.  Brad Haddin pottered and poked his 15 minutes at the crease, before lovelling (the combination of a leave and shovel shot) a short ball from Varun Aaron to silly mid-on.  His 6 first innings catches show the reflexes are still good, so his batting slump must be confidence more than age.

Love those Indian names.  Varun Aaron sounds like a greyhound or a superhero.  On the first morning of the first test I thought the ABC commentators said Chicka Darwin was opening the batting.  Any relation to the great Raiders winger Chicka Ferguson, I mused?  A Virat Kohli sounds like snuffles you catch standing in the outer at Kardinia Park without a sweater.  Is Murali Vijay old enough to have been named after the great man?  Much more exotic and entrancing names than our trio of major Mitchells.

At 6/247 my natural pessimism had Australia trailing by 100 on the first innings.  But Mitchell Johnson immediately grabbed the conductor’s baton and the tempo swung from andante to allegro in a heartbeat.  The Gabba wicket seems to suit his strong hands and clean hitting, with more bounce than Adelaide and the ball coming quicker onto the bat.

In two hours at the crease the Johnson – Smith partnership added 148 runs.  India had gone from dominant to cowed, and heat exhaustion (rather than the bowlers) dismissed Johnson caught behind for 88.  Steve Smith went in the same over, playing on tiredly to Sharma, for a typically busy and combative 133.

I had little doubt that Smith was the right choice for our next long-term captain, having built a career on proving the doubters wrong.  But I was worried that the responsibilities of captaincy could stunt his blossoming career with the bat.  This century under pressure chasing a big score shows he has SK Waugh ice in the veins.

At the crease his constant tugs, fidgets and twitches remind me of a cross between Ian Chappell and Derek Randall.  Like IM Chappell and SK Waugh, SPD Smith leads by pugnacious example more than talk or the stylistic elegance of GS Chappell or RT Ponting.

Smith is a dabbler and nudger with a dazzling cover drive much like Randall.  He finesses and deflects more than bludgeons.  Derek Randall’s second innings 174 in the Centenary Test at the MCG against Lillee in his pomp always sticks in my mind as a triumph of defiance when all seemed lost.  Smith lacks Randall’s full Tourette’s repertoire, but shares his quicksilver reflexes.

One of the things that stands out with the current Australian team is their resilience.  They may have a bad day or a bad match, but most find a way to contribute.  Watto can’t build an innings to save himself, but his slip catching is masterful and his bowling contains and asks questions.  Hazlewood had a forgettable day one, but was resurrected on day two with a debut fivefer.

Day three was Starc’s turn with a punishing 52 off 59 balls (and a late wicket) tightening the screws on a clueless Indian attack.  Lyon joined in with a rapid 23, and Hazlewood hit cleanly to remain 32 not out.

Our last 4 wickets added 258 runs (more than the first six’s 247) and Australia were eventually dismissed for 505 to improbably lead by 97 on the first innings.  By contrast India squandered their Day One dominance losing 6/94 early on Day Two when the game looked theirs for the taking.

Still this game is far from over.  The Indian batsmen looked comfortable in their second innings, getting within 26 runs of Australia’s lead for the loss of only one wicket (1/71 at stumps).  The Australian quicks were fast and accurate, constantly testing the Indian openers with a mixture of well-directed short stuff and a relentless off stump line.  It was good test cricket, and the Indians were equal to the challenge until the first innings centurion Vijay let one go from Starc that swung back to remove his off peg.  Pujara put up a Dravid-like wall, and Chicka Darwin (India via FNQ?) showed his class with deft drives and pulls.

Australia have the upper hand, but like the First Test this game is far from over.  Some Kohli or Dhoni magic could still see us chasing 300 on the last day.

Dear ICC – please cancel the 50 over World Cup and make this an 8 Test series.  It’s magic.

Boxing Day at the MCG should be a belter.  And the SCG will be packed for a lump-in-the-throat Day One at New Year.

Test Cricket dazzled and beguiled like a Mozart symphony in 4 movements today.  Slow, fast, fast, slow.  Andante, pizzicato, pronto, adagio.

Timeless beauty in the hands of these new virtuosos of leather and willow.


  1. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Fantastic summary , PB I like and agree with the comparison re Smith and Randall .
    Smith is fascinating in that we all had our doubts about him but being involved in cricket did not hear 1 past or current player say anything but he will be a gun .
    Johnson with Smith with fantastic counter attacking cricket took the iniatitive away from , India with the abc remarking it was the 1st time batters , 8 till 11 had all made more than 20 surely that is just against , India ? Hazelwood top district cricket score is 29 he ends up with 31 no ( he had a reasonable 1st day ) game is fascinatingly even poised at stumps ( again pathetic over rate ! ) give me test cricket over the other varieties of the game each and every time !

  2. Peter, you made me laugh about those Indian names.
    I was thinking yesterday that Vijay, or VJ for short, is gonna be the next big name to hit Australia…

  3. Peter i’m just trying to clarify which great Vijay, you’re wondering if Murai Vijay is named afetr. Is it the golfer Vijay Singh, or is there an Indian cricketer i’ve forgotten ?


  4. Peter Schumacher says

    Loved the idea of Mozart Symphonies and Test Cricket being included in the same paragraph. When cricket is like this it is entirely beguiling.

    I really do hope that the kids that go to the cricket go there to appreciate the game rather than wanting to be seen on camera. I really do wonder about their attention span and this in turn makes me wonder about the effectiveness of the system of education in this country. Meanwhile this reminds me about why I hate secular Carols by Candlelight events, it seems to me to be an excuse for kids to fart arse around without in any way being cognisant of the reason for the event in the first place.

  5. Yes, the true of meaning of Xmas is not farting around and carols it’s $$$$$$$$$$$

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