MCG Test, Australia v India – Day Five: Denouement

Australia   530 and 9/318 dec

India  465 and 6/174

Match Drawn



Melbourne put on some Round 4 footy season weather for the denouement of the Boxing Day Test against India. ‘Denouement’ is the term cricket stats man Ric Finlay used in a tweet anticipating the final day; the first time ‘denouement’ has been used on Twitter I suspect. The term does, of course, get a regular airing from Stone Cold Baker, Matty Q and the crew on the Almanac podcast.

The scuddy showers and cold-mild-warm cycle (which depended on the location and movement of the cloud) kept the players on and off the ground but gave those of us, tardy to get to the train in time for the morning session, opportunity to see some old footage of W.M. Lawry, and for his self-deprecating commentary to demonstrate the difference between generations: his, and Slater-Healy’s, with Tubby Taylor torn between the two.

S.K. Warne took the mic and gave a clear indication that he would have been ripping the meat off the bone with his eye-teeth, a wench draped over his free forearm, had he lived in sixth century South Yarra – all this from a wonderful discussion of pizza.

If nothing else the champion knows what he likes: no finessin’ in pizza. “If you’re having pizza you want a big, dirty pizza,” he said.

James Brayshaw’s goat’s cheese and lamb didn’t stand a chance.

Pizza is pizza. And to toy with its essences is to make it un-pizza, in the way cricket has done that, in part, to cricket. So I have some sympathy for the Warne view (classic pizza ingredients are just that, classic pizza ingredients) even though his diktat reflected a tone that was slightly south of the dial.

Indeed, while my dream golfing four is Jack, Seve and Juliette Binoche, strolling around Barwon Heads on a late-summer’s day, I’d also go round in a golf cart with a Hemi 351 under the hood and mink seat-covers  with Shane Warne, John Daly and Tina Sparkle, just for the experience. There’d be a line or two to quote from the second group.

Really, I’d just like to hear Juliette Binoche to say “denouement” as she sipped her bubbles on the deck overlooking the eighteenth.

The Indians had to win this Test, which meant getting themselves to the crease. Which meant bowling the Australians out. Or waiting for them to declare. Which meant they could have conceded runs quickly to help them to their target.

But the Australians didn’t need to declare, despite any memos from the marketing department, and Shaun Marsh wasn’t up to scoring too quickly. Channelling early-Matthew-Hayden, Marsh scratched about until finally he launched himself at Ashwin and got close to his century with a six or two. Personal animosity was clearly trumps as the Indians fought to prevent him from getting to his milestone rather than giving him the runs, getting off, and working out how many Kohli cover drives and Rahane pulls it would take to chase down the 350+ total.

Then Marsh managed to run himself out. After nudging five balls into the densely-populated cover region, on the sixth he patted-and-went only to be beaten by a supreme piece of Kohli athleticism which found Marsh inches out – for 99.

The Australians declared and India had to score at a run-a-ball to get anywhere near the target. But Kohli and Rahane have bats as wide as those flourished by the English top-order during the 1985 Ashes tour. And some luminescence as well.

Plan B was to take the kids in around tea-time – we’re only half a dozen stops away on the old Epping line. But Indian wickets started to tumble and we fumbled about packing bags with books to read and activities to do and we were suddenly on the 2.20, and then seated in the Olympic Stand on a sunny afternoon by 2.45. Such is life in Melbourne.

At 3 for Not Many and, with the Australians smelling victory, the bats of Kohli and Rahane remained broad. There were some oohs and ahhhs, usually as I had my head down retrieving Barbecue Shapes and strawberries, but I did see Rogers drop a chance he should have taken and a few mix-ups which may have wound up in run outs had the Australian fielding been slicker.

Kohli was caught turning to square, Rahane hit a powder puff pull also to square leg, then Pujara got one of the balls of the millennium which might only be 15 years old but this off-cutter from the left-hander straightened down the line like it was delivered by Murray Bennett in mid-80s Sydney. Except at twice the pace.

The Indians dug in. Dhoni’s mini-back-lift became even mini-er.

Generally it was an adequate attempt  from the locals, probing at best,  and, with the spirit out of the game, and Dhoni winding down (as we were to find out later) the proceedings ended in a draw. By then we were back on the couch at home.

I was pretty surprised they called it off with five overs to go – in two balls it could have been 8-for. But perhaps Nine News was due and they had good footage of a stampede at Myers.

I don’t begrudge Steve Smith his decision to bat on, although I was somewhat surprised by that as well.

I thought we’d get better than we did. But that’s cricket. That’s sport. I accept that.




About John Harms

JTH is a writer, publisher, speaker, historian. He is publisher and contributing editor of The Footy Almanac and He has written columns and features for numerous publications. His books include Confessions of a Thirteenth Man, Memoirs of a Mug Punter, Loose Men Everywhere, Play On, The Pearl: Steve Renouf's Story and Life As I Know It (with Michelle Payne). He appears (appeared?) on ABCTV's Offsiders. He can be contacted [email protected] He is married to The Handicapper and has three school-age kids - Theo, Anna, Evie. He might not be the worst putter in the world but he's in the worst four. His ambition was to lunch for Australia but it clashed with his other ambition - to shoot his age.


  1. JTH: that’s sport.
    And it was the only responsible thing SPD Smith could have done. In fact, in taking the “big picture” series-scale view, he would have been better off not declaring at all. Force India to stay in the field (there’s another Test starting next week). Give his own bowlers a break (that same Test starting next week).
    The rules say that Australia needed to win the series to claim the trophy – well – bingo. Done.

    Arguments to the contrary have called the “exciting cricket” card. But SPD Smith’s first responsibility is to win the series. Surprisingly simple. No hidden agenda there (regardless of how hard you look).
    Sportspeople are experts at interpreting rules – searching for grey areas (drinks? fresh gloves anyone?) – yet at the end of the day, this one is quite black and white.
    Well done SPD Smith and committee.

  2. Malcolm Ashwood says

    JTH India had to win which made there tactics at the start of the day so mind boggling not having a crack at trying to bowl us out . India seemed to think that aust always try for a win so they will declare and it became a stalemate . When we bowled we did have enough chances to win the game with dropped catches and missed run outs proving costly ( Watto failing yet again in a crunch moment is he secretly , Troy Chaplin in footy season ? ) finishing the game early with , indias tail was bewildering and leaves accusations of corruption to surface

  3. JTH,
    I can fully sympathise with S Smith – brand new captain – electing to bat on to deny India any chance of victory. Having said that, I was disappointed that he decided to call the match of with 4 overs remaining, particularly given the fragility of India’s tail.
    And full points for managing to mention both Juliette Binoche and Tina Sparkle in the same paragraph.

  4. Was a bit of a flat finish after showing much promise (bit like Varcoe). I thought stopping the game early made no sense. At least 2 more overs could have been bowled before throwing in the towel.

    The next Test could be a beauty now that India is rid of Dhoni’s captaincy.

    By the way at home we have the 20 second rule. Any food dropped on the floor is still edible so long as it is picked up inside 20 seconds. What’s the rule on the terraces of the MCG?

  5. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says – now I know

    Dips, depends on whether it was brought food or bought food; the latter couldn’t be worsened, no matter how long it spent on the crunchy concrete.

    John, thought her last name was Sprinkle, or am I thinking of someone else?

    Yep, fine line between the need to entertain and the need for series success. But to take that argument to one extreme, Smith should have thrown the game, to keep some interest in Game 4

  6. Hands off Juliet Binoche. She’s mine. I sent a marriage proposal after “The Unbearable Lightness of Being” 30 years ago. Must have got lost in the bloody French mail system.
    Saw her in “A Thousand Times Goodnight” recently. She’s even better when she’s angry (so long as you are not in the same postcode). Harrowing but brilliant movie at many levels.

  7. Steve Fahey. says

    Interesting discussion re the declaration. I agree that Smith was within his right to bat but another hour would have made a truckload of difference, notwithstanding that Australia would have won had they taken their chances (although on the flip side one of their best bats, Murali Vijay, was very unlucky).

    Batting was also quite difficult on the fifth morning, with the light gloomy and the on-again off-again play meaning that the batsmen had to get re-settled a few times. Had Australia lost 3-10 at the start of the day, India were a legitimate chance of winning the game, with the extra overs for the day and the conditions a lot better by the afternoon.

    I agree that finishing early was bizarre, and, indeed ridiculous. As noted in The Age today, the Indians lost their last 3 wickets in 20 and 18 balls in Adelaide and in 16 balls in the first innings in Melbourne, so one wicket would have changed everything. I suspect had it been one of the sub-continental teams opting to finish the game early in such circumstances, it would have been a much bigger (and different) story.

    A very good Test match, despite the disappointing finish. And I got a good laugh from your comment, Peter B!

  8. Luke Reynolds says

    Had to Google Juliette Binoche and Tina Sparkle. Well played.
    More than happy with Smith’s tactics. The Border-Gavaskar trophy is back. That’s all that matters.

  9. Ben Footner says

    I had to get on Google as well! Haha.

    I’m also totally comfortable with Smith’s declaration.

    India needs to learn to take 20 wickets, not rely on their opposition declaring to give them a chance. I actually think their bowlers are more than capable of doing so, they just need to be more disciplined, patient, and have a captain who knows how to set a field and be attacking (which they may just have for the last test).

Leave a Comment