Memo: Ashes Day One Pessimism Alert

First Test.

Australia v England at Brisbane.

Day 1, Nov 21, 2013.


Gee, that all went really well, didn’t it? After all the talk, after all the boasting, after all the spruiking in the lead-up to this series, the so-called cream of Australia’s batting talent have once again shown themselves to be men of straw with yet another insipid display on the first day at the Gabba.

In truth, I was demoralised even before the first ball was bowled. In the lead-up to this test, each day brought with it yet another report – all variations on the same theme – of how Australia was going to monster this English team. David Warner was in better place now, having discovered feng shui or something, and peeling off tons at will. Chris Rogers had been working on his footwork to the spinners with Deano. Shane Watson’s hamstring was on the mend – and he might even be able to bowl! Michael Clarke was managing his dodgy back. Steve Smith was amongst the runs and showing signs of “fulfilling his promise”. George Bailey was a great bloke, and a good solid citizen. And a memo to Alan Border: it is unbecoming of one of our elder statesmen to get caught up in the hype by talking about Johnson “busting some heads”.

Credit where it is due: Brad Haddin and Mitchell Johnson’s recovery effort (a seventh-wicket partnership of 114) was hard-fought and entertaining. And desperately needed. Even when Australia had a good team, one of their hallmarks was their unerring ability to find a way to post a good score, regardless of how many early wickets had fallen. Invariably, the tail would wag. Memo to this batting line-up: unfortunately, the regularity of the tail wagging the dog is now both a hallmark and an indictment.

So, how did it all go wrong? Let’s start from the top.

Chris Rogers’ innings was as horrible a nine-ball stay as you want to witness. Walking down the pitch to opening bowlers, nicking just shy of leg-stump, it was actually a relief when he popped it up to the corden. Memo Deano: spend as much time with him as you like, but at the age of 36, and with 63 first-class centuries, I am not sure that Rogers has much improvement left in him.

Warner and Watson’s 59-run partnership was encouraging, but proved to be a false dawn. In the words of Michael Slater, Watto “has been working so hard” to correct his technical deficiencies that he sparred at one he should have left (and only five minutes before lunch). That dismissal was the beginning of the rot setting in. Memo to Slatts: Shane Watson is 32 years old, is batting at number 3 for Australia, and has a Test average of 36. Does it not concern you that, after 45 Tests, he is still working out how to not get out l.b.w? Memo to the selectors: Watson is not Don Bradman, and it is my firm belief that the Australian team will improve only when Watto is gone. Memo to Watson: when you are dismissed, how about hustling off a bit more quickly. That slow trudge makes you look like a sook…oh, wait..

Warner’s innings was a mixture of brutality and exquisite timing, but someone needs to send him a memo outlining the fact that Test matches are quite different from the shorter forms of the game. When he spooned that half-shot to short cover, there was still four and a half days remaining in this match.

There can be nothing positive said about Michael Clarke’s innings other than he did manage to get off the mark. The last shot he played was Jim Higgs-esque, and unbefitting of the skipper. Memo to Pup: Stuart Broad is an excellent player who has you well and truly worked out, so if your back is too stuffed to allow you freedom at the crease, you are best off giving it away.

Smith played positively but, again, this is Test cricket. Dig in and build an innings, man! Unfortunately, George Bailey (15 balls) was not in for long enough to allow me to send him a memo, and anyway, I will reserve judgement until after the second Test. But on yesterday’s evidence, he is showing all the signs of being this season’s Rob Quiney.

For Australian supporters, the first day was disappointing and terribly dispiriting. But it was merely an affirmation of what the most hard-headed of us knew: that our batsmen, as a group, are just not that good. The rear-guard action led by Haddin saved some face and, most likely, the entire series from being a total wipeout after just one day. But nothing less than 400+ will suffice today on a wicket which will flatten out beautifully. Something tells me England will be eating into the deficit well before lunch.

The cold, hard, stark facts are these: it was an excellent toss to win, conditions were ideal for batting, England did not bowl all that brilliantly, Australia found themselves in all sorts of trouble at 6/132.

Memo to all: the Ashes are not leaving England.


About Darren Dawson

Always North.


  1. The Test started at 8am over here. I loyally turned on the TV at 7.30 to watch and saw 20 minutes of play before gratefully fleeing to the train to work.
    My main question is:
    Who was the fat bloke in the suit and pale blue tie giving George Bailey his baggy green??
    An undertaker? (There was a bad omen that Cricket Australia could have avoided).
    The Minister for Sport in the Abbott government? (Worse omen).
    The air conditioning salesmen on the telly who wears polo shirts a size too small??
    Please explain.

  2. Great work Smokie. We’re not good enough. Simple as that.

    Sounds like sour grapes but I don’t reckon Broad is that good. Who would you rather face; Broad or Danny Morrison?, Broad or Geoff Lawson? Good/ordinary I reckon, bowling to more ordinary batsmen.

  3. Phil Dimitriadis says

    “The last shot he played was Jim Higgs-esque” That’s bad.

  4. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Good report Smokie I actually thought , Warner was going to come of age yest but he must bat with free spirit if the score had been , 1 100 he would have belted that ball let the situation get to him and did not play the ball on it’s merits . Watson bloody Watson why doesn’t he get off the ground when he stuffs up after all he should be used to it ! Yes our bowlers did get us out of trouble and wad a area where , Steve Waugh excelled in pointing out v strongly that all , 11 bat but this is all too frequent with our current side with no other established players as a logical choice to captain if , Clarke doesn’t play yes aussie cricket is in a sad sorry state
    Thanks Smokie

  5. Our performance at the batting crease should not suprise. We have one player averaging over 50 with the bat, but no one averages in the 40’s. There’s a big gap between Clarke, and the rest, so if he can’t overcome Broad, and/or if his back flares up, where will our runs come from?


  6. General pessimism prevailed yesterday morning at the Gabba. Couldn’t see evidence that incessant talking up of the chances of the top order had won the critical minds of cricket fans. Channel 9, CA etc can’t just tell us and expect it wil stick.

    And wait till you see the marketing approach – photo which conveys a sense of Ryan Harris et al in the military. Fair dinkum.

  7. David Downer says

    I firmly believe the Australian bowlers will strike back on day 2

  8. DD,
    You are like the bloke trying to get on after the race has been run.

  9. Skip of Skipton says

    “The rearguard action lead by Haddin saved some face, and”

    Mitch Johnson didn’t help? Airbrushed out of your history is he comrade?

    Look forward to your day 2 report.

  10. Agreed Skip. I have spoken to Harms and Smokie about their disappointing performances on Day 1.
    I am sure fresh blood like Luke and Sean played a big part in inspiring the Day 2 turnaround.
    Harms and Smokie are down the list for Adelaide.
    Interested in a batting spot yourself Skip?

  11. John Butler says

    Shows what a wonderful game test cricket is. You never really know.

    Smoke, this was a spot on depiction of day 1. Yet how different in 24 hours?

    DD, St Kilda supporters live their lives in hindsight. :)

  12. Paul Daffey says


    Perhaps you should write later in the Test next time.

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