MCG Test, Australia v India – Day Two: Sinking Popeye

Australia 5-257 at the start of the day; a delicately poised, even Test match. If Haddin (23 n.o) and Smith (72 n.o) get away, Australia will be in the ascendancy. If India get a couple of early wickets they are right on top.

Wow, was it the former! India try to bounce Haddin out with funky field placements and, in reality, virtual bodyline bowling, but Shami is not quick enough or good enough for such shenanigans.

Very quickly the horse has bolted. Haddin – who struggled at the end of the first day – is gifted runs. The game is moving at a rapid pace and when Haddin is eventually dismissed for 55, Australia are comfortably placed at 6-326. With Smith bringing up his third successive century, he is in supreme form and has really worked out his game, tightened up defensively and his shot selection is magnificent. If only Watson and Shaun Marsh in particular, could watch and learn! Sorry, I’m dreaming.

India’s tactics were as weird and incompetent as big, bad Boz Moloney trying to rule the car park at Bob Neil number one. Hell, whatever happened to good old fashioned K.I.S.S (keep it simple stupid) with line and length bowling , bowl dots and build pressure, leading to a batsman losing patience, possibly trying a shot which isn’t on and leading to a dismissal? Have India become complacent thru Watto and Shaun Marsh thinking ‘well, Smith will do something dumb in a minute’. Yes the short stuff to Haddin worked in Brisbane, but this is a drop in pitch. Dumb tactically! How has Shami been picked in front of Varun Aaron? India come across as having ‘Plan A’ and when that doesn’t work, they just keep going with ‘Plan A’. Personally, (and as a South Aussie) as a Captain I reckon Dhoni would manage to sink Popeye (Popeye is the small tourist boat which goes up and down our magnificent River Torrens)!

Johnson comes in and India try to bounce him out he moves rapidly to 28. Bother to do some research on Johnson’s batting: yes, he does hit some sixes off slow bowling, but it is what troubles him the most- especially straight away. His record of being dismissed by spin bowling is far higher than dismissals by the quicks. Ashwin is finally introduced to the attack and has Johnson stumped. We are comfortably placed at 7-376 with the exquisite Steve Smith just batting on and on.

In comes Ryan Harris, who proceeds to bat beautifully and is the dominant partner in a stand of 106. He plays shots all round the wicket. The irony of Rod Marsh being a part in the incompetence of the SACA in losing Rhino to Queensland is not lost in Bacchus now being the chairman of selectors (I am still filthy about losing Harris. Ian McLachlan – just like the Fonz – can’t say the word wrong).

During the afternoon when Harris and Smith are cruising I receive a couple of messages alleging match fixing by India. It is more than a shame that the game of cricket is tainted forever: that when something unusual happens – or in this case, diabolical captaincy by Dhoni – that the thought of match fixing arises. The damage done to the sport from past occurrences can never be fixed (something Essendon have failed to grasp).

Harris departs after making his highest test score of 74. It was a fluent crisp display of late cuts and straight drives, with the odd powerful pull shot. Lyon arrives and Steve Smith decides it’s time to put the foot down. He plays some fantastic shots. Is he the best lofted driver of the ball off the spinners we have ever seen? With some brilliant shots and good old fashioned slogging, a rapid partnership of 48 occurs. Both are dismissed with a declaration in mind: Lyon for 11 and Steve Smith for a brilliant 192, to take his tally to 567 runs in the series, at a average of 189. To say he has made every one have a dose of humble pie and admit we were all wrong is a massive understatement. Australia end up making 530 after being 5-216. Groundhog Day yet again!

India come out and bat very well to end the day at 1-108, with Harris removing Dhawan for 28 from a poor shot. Shikhar seemed to forget it was a test match and tried to play the ‘run it down to third man’ shot but forgetting there are slip fielders there and is well caught by Smith.

Pujara is dropped by Haddin on 12 off Hazelwood’s bowling with a poor piece of keeping. We need his leadership. Will Haddin’s form with both gloves and bat hold on throughout the World Cup and the Ashes?
He has kept reasonably well so far this series but not as brilliantly as some pundits have made out.

Vijay: geez he is a good player, proceeding smoothly through to stumps on 55 n.o.

We wait and see whether this drop in pitch is too flat to get a result. Today needs the Aussies to take a few early poles. I fancy they will be more patient, bowl more line and length and be more astute than India in their endeavors.

I have enjoyed watching the test match with my 16 year-old son, Daniel. He has taken more interest in this game than any other before, although he did say that he prefers T20 after watching that also.  I did say I like the tactical side of the game more, but I will gladly take him showing any interest in cricket!

(We also went down to watch Wes Le Grand run in the over 30 800 meter race at Colley reserve in the Bay Sheffield meet. Wes: as the back marker, it was noble of you to check that the runner who fell over was ok, but where was the KBR crew supporting ? Bewey , Krievsey and Wendy the notable exceptions who were there!)


Australia 530
Smith 192, Harris 74, Rogers 57, Haddin 55, Watson 52.
Shami 4-138, Yadav 3-130 , Ashwin 3-134

India 1-108
Vijay 55 n.o, Pujara 25 n.o, Dhawan 28.
Harris 1-19


  1. Australia to regain no 1 team in world cricket.The Australian selectors got it right by naming Steve Smith as captain&aussies batted there wayout of trouble, India are fighting to earn respect the thing is once you get 5wickets of there batsman out there dont last long.

  2. I was looking forward to your article after yesterday’s match and once again I enjoyed the read.
    I like all forms of cricket but have to say that the tests are my favourite and yesterday is why. We all know how good it was so I don’t need to rehash it here but just want to say that I think Steve Smith is incredible! Also great to see Harris at his best.
    Can’t wait for today and look forward to your article Malcolm.

  3. Haha thanks Book, all support appreciated, I have to get better results on the day to draw the crowd. FMBaySheffield & FMSteveSmith.

  4. Malcolm,

    Nice to see your lad taking an interest. I fear, however, that his interest in 20/20 cricket matches that of India. India have looked lethargic and generally disinterested in all of the matches thus far and could have had Australia on the ropes several times, only to let them off the hook. They have a group of players that are a lot better than the results in this series suggest and to be honest, have been disappointing again on foreign soil.

    Here is my proposition: test cricket will be dead or played by only Australia and England in 20 years time.

    My rationale: crowds simply do not flock to test cricket in any country bar Australia and England. India and the other Asian countries have embraced the shorter form of the game and it is much more lucrative and easier on the body for the players.

    India control cricket. They have ruled that there will be no DRS. Their IPL started the franchise system of 20/20 cricket. They hold all the aces.

    India are simply not interested in test match cricket any more.

    As for MS Dhoni’s captaincy, ponder this; last year, he earned approximately $30 million USD and has a net worth in excess of $160 million USD. He earned over $3 million from IPL alone for 6 weeks “work” – this exceeds the Australian’s ACB contracts for the entire year.

    Where do you reckon MS’s mind really is?

    I hope I’m wrong, but the evolution of the game, and life generally, is for the shortened, easily consumed short-form of the game. When you can earn more money in 6 weeks than you can standing the blistering heat of a full year of test match cricket, I can see where the Indians malaise comes from.

    I took my wife for the first time to the Adelaide Oval to see the BBL. She remarked after the game that she wanted to go to the next match on new years eve!!! After 20 years of taking no interest in cricket, she now loves 20/20.

  5. John Butler says

    Pretty much nailed it Rulebook. India were atrocious after a competitive first day.

    Australia’s only real worry is the fixture. So many tests in such a short time span. Johnson looks tired.

    But, as pointed out above, India are on a precipice: lose a few wickets this morning and it could be all over by tomorrow.

  6. Well said Rulebook. I must agree that Dohni couldn’t Captain the Popeye. However had Harris not gone to The Bulls he would never have played for Australia. Imagine him playing under the tutelage of Chuck? He would have given the game away years ago.

  7. Nice one Malcolm. I enjoyed yesterday’s morning session but had to give it away by tea time and take the dog for a walk instead. Much more satisfying for the soul.

    Keen to hear more about Wes’s John Landy moment. What happened? How’d you go Wes?

  8. Good article rbook. Interesting comments by duncs I do agree that india are not focused. However I think their focus is on the World Cup and I don’t agree re the death of yest cricket. Kohli should replace dhoni as captain immediately. Harris is a superstar and will be missed when he retires.

  9. Good summary book, agree Smith has exceeded everyone’s expectations maybe even his own – what it does show is the fight to really dig on a good batting pitch after losing 2 quick wickets, don’t forget he was 2 off 31 balls. Real leadership to then bat through.

  10. A good, thorough read mate. All about the cricket, with the love of cricket. in every line.

  11. Kohli would be a much better captain, as seen in Adelaide! Aggressive, assertive and creative – exactly what they need.
    A good leader leads from the front, Kohli does, Dhoni used to. Time for a change.

  12. good report mal

  13. Yep, dismayed by the captaincy yesterday. Have no troubles with Dhoni trying different tactics to unsettle batsmen on a good pitch, but they need to stop thinking of the Australian tail as traditional tailenders. They are technically competent batsmen, so giving Smith easy runs to get at them just gives Smith easy runs and gives them the opportunity to get their eye in and lift the run rate. Good bowling will get them out. As for bowling around the wicket bouncers down leg side to Harris, tactically unsound as well as in questionable spirit.

  14. Luke Reynolds says

    Excellent write up as usual Malcolm. Unforgivable that Harris had to leave SA after completing his best season for them. Real shame he is regarded as a Queenslander since his International career has started.
    Great work by Wes, will keep an eye on his performances.

  15. Book,
    Enjoyed the piece.
    Though it is Interesting to read it halfway through day 3 when the score is 3/
    At least Steve Smith looks and sounds like an Australian Cricket Captain: no visible tattoos in a foreign language and appears to know the difference between an adverb and a noun.
    Long Live The Test Match!
    And run Wes, run!

  16. Insightful as always Rulebook. Loved the sinking Popeye line. But surely it is the Torrens Lake – not river.

  17. troy hancox says

    Nicely written.
    Hadn’t been privileged to see the first two days play, was looking forwards to today’s…. Started well…..
    Thanks for the script……. Ondias future looks bright. Have some soon to be stars!

    Pitch is a highway , makes both attacks look pedestrian

  18. Love your look at life mate, especially sport. Well played and happy new year mate!!

  19. Sam the Man says

    Nice one Mal, shows us that you should have been a sports writer instead of a sports gardener!
    Hey can you get me some big bash tickets for the 6th Jan?? Hee hee hee

  20. Great story Luke you need to become a writer for a paper obviously you have got talent as a writer

  21. Excellent reporting again Mal what happens when Clarkes fit how can you tell Smithy to go back to being one of the boys when hes leading so strongly but how do you tell Clarkey your second best.?

  22. Interesting read Malcolm.
    Steve Smith is outstanding & Ryan Harris stays all day.
    RE the Bay Sheffield I noticed the Tasmanian Jack Hale
    won his heat.

  23. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Thanks folks we all agree re Dhonis captaincy skills , lack of
    Duncs I agree in principle hopefully tv rights money will keep test cricket going , no doubt there are huge problems in a large percentage of cricket playing nations .
    John fixture wise is going to demand a stable of fast bowlers in particular especially with so many flat wickets around ( bloody drop ins )
    TD while I will always be angry re SACA incompetence losing, Harris it’s impossible to argue with the point his career has been enhanced by moving to, Qld
    ( so many thins are wrong re Sa cricket )
    Daddsy Wes was back marker he did check to make sure another runner was ok after falling
    Sam spot on Smith played himself in and didn’t panic when he was contained at the start of his innings , a class performance .
    PB sorry def a lake poor, Popeye getting sunk
    Troy Indias future esp re batting is very bright and Varun must be nurtured and encouraged. Thanks Moults ! . Thanks Sam .
    JC personally I think it is time for , Smith to be permanent captain we can’t forget
    Clarke has unfortunately broken down in the last 3 games he has played so must be a game by game proposition
    John spot on , Smith brilliant and Harris a outstanding competitor thanks every 1 your comments are greatly appreciated

  24. Great read again Malcolm! Steve Smith is doing an absolutely outstanding job as captain!

  25. Nice reading, Book. The constants in this series to me seem to be:
    * Australian leadership superiority (Clarke/Haddin, then Smith – more with his example than his nous at this stage) – with only Kholi almost matching it before being relieved for the 2nd Test;
    * Australia consistently winning the decisive moments;
    * Despite the fragility of Australia’s middle order (aside from Smith), the tail ensures we always get 500+; and
    * the lack of a dominant performance by an Indian quick.

    Australia hasn’t been as good as the results suggest, but seem to have mental strength on their side – although I can’t help but wonder if we would have been 1-nil down in Adelaide if Ashwin had played.

    Lastly, how good is the ABC commentary? Love watching the odd session, but with the tranny you can get on with the rest of your holidays and still ride the ebbs and flows.

  26. Well written Malcolm. India don’t look focused and are playing like a team needing a change at the top. Kohli might be the man to do so, but whilst he leads from the front on field he will need to pull back on what he thinks and says in the press conference. Smith is a breathe of fresh air and this can be attributed to Lehmann’s coaching and that both are on the same page. You can’t win a game of cricket by coaching from the change room but if captain and coach are in sync then positive vibes spread through the whole team and they win the important moments..

  27. Lisa Edwards says

    Popeye sinking in the Torrens, what a horrible thought, but yes it seems Dhoni could manage this. Smith is like a breath of well needed fresh air, he is in great form & Captaining the side has made him better.
    Book- great to see Daniel is showing some interest & no surprises re Wes!
    Keep up the good work.

  28. Gday Mate.. good stuff. Enjoyed that. Agree re test cricket, i love the battle that goes on and my 17 yr old daughter who plays for Kensi loves sitting watching it as well. She prefers it to shorter forms but watches them too. We’re off to watch the Scorpions and Strikers tomorrow. Haddin? Keeping ok i think but the one he dropped was horrendous. But who’s next?

  29. Well written Malcolm. I write these comments with the benefit of having seen how days 3 and 4 panned out. I was at the front of the queue to bag S.Smith when he was selected and continued to be selected for Australia a couple of years ago. I now have a very large plate of humble pie in front of me. His batting has been in the main brilliant and when the need has arisen (eg his first 30 odd balls in the first innings) occasionally sound. His captaincy has been sound with the occasional dash of brilliance. I am still at the front of the queue in suggesting that Haddin is not Australia’s best keeper although he has taken in this test 2 of the best catches one is likely to see. I would hate to see Australia’s selection of its next keeper mirror the West Indies of the 1980s in picking a batsman who can keep (Dujon). Dhoni’s captaincy has been interesting to say the least and has underbowled his best bowler in R. Ashwin.

  30. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Thanks folks Campbell could well be a great test for , Smith tomorrow
    Model leadership , winning the key moments and the tail has so far been the difference , spot on also re India lacking a go to quick . Ashwin not playing in , Adelaide was a amazing non selection . Hoss Kohli has a lot of positives but he needs to pull his head in . Boof not being appointed, SA coach astoundingly idiotic hopefully the partnership with , Smith will grow and grow . Fricky glad your daughter loves cricket esp test matches . Charlie , Smith is fascinating in that just about every supporter had there doubts but with in the cricket industry of past and present players there was unequivocal 100 per cent backing of Smith to become a gun . The aussie next keeper is up for debate , Ludeman is probably the best keeper and has ability with the bat but so far in his shield career lacks a consistent game plan and can bat dumb . Wade is the best batsman but his keeping is still a work in progress . Nevill is a huge chance ( he is from nsw) with some support also for , Whiteman . Hartley is unlucky re age wise while , Paine getting hurt in a mickey mouse game has never really come back when he was the heir apparent has hurt him big time so it is v open

  31. Troubling signs with the animosity between the sides. History shows that things can escalate to alarming levels that are harmful to cricket, viz. Gavaskar’s walk-off, Monkeygate etc. The India v Australia contest is so important to the future of the longer form that I worry about these summers of discontent. It woud be a shame to spoil a thrilling series against a great young Indian side. I hope Smith’s captaincy is as assured as his batting has been.

  32. Malcolm Ashwood says

    TM agree it seems to be escalating more each day , the umpires are not pro active enough and seem to let way too much go eg Kohli today when , Haddin came out to bat they just seem to let the match referee decide , which is poor umpiring . Both captains need to quickly pull there players in to line quickly this seems to be lacking in general also . India v Australia spot on absolutely vital to test crickets future .

  33. Excellent article Rulebook – getting Popeye and the Fonz in one article is worth 3 Magarey medal votes. Now try for bluto and olive oyle in the next one !

    Apparently joe hockey called the boz for a few tips on accounting & budget administration

  34. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Thanks Plug . I make my thoughts re Dhonis captaincy above. Duncs comment is appropriate also . I wonder was he really sacked ?

  35. Ryan Sheridan says

    good to see Shaun Marsh make some runs. When he is in form he is a gun.

  36. Ryan Sheridan says

    Dhoni was never into this game…no emotion what so ever.

  37. Malcolm Ashwood says

    S Marsh a lot of natural ability , Mr Hackney High he has played some very poor shots thru his career let’s wait and see if he has learnt his game and cement his spot . Totally agree re Dhoni a definite compete lack of emotion and involvement in the game we can only wonder what was going on behind the scenes ?

  38. Peter Flynn says

    Starks, Annie, Dom and I had a pacing Swampy Marsh in our midst during Shaun’s transit through the 90’s.

    “Nervous times Swamp?”




  39. Malcolm Ashwood says

    I can only imagine a nervous parent is interesting at any time , let alone the public domain level of test cricket . Did you see him after Shaun had run himself out for 99 ?
    Thanks PJF

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