Perth Test – Day 1: A goodlookin batsman is like a goodlookin horse

Australia 6/326 (SPD Smith 103*, DA Warner 60, GP Swann 2/71)

 

“A goodlookin horse is like a goodlookin woman, he said. They’re always more trouble than what they’re worth. What a man needs is just one that will get the job done.”
All the pretty horses, Cormac McCarthy

The story of this day is of a helter-skelter opening and of an unsurprising recklessness persistently displayed by certain members of the Australian XI and of a rescue act of great character.

It’s Friday and it’s Perth and though only three full Earth days have passed since the Adelaide Test ended we are unmistakably in another place and in another time and that place is an eerie wild west frontier town of shining glass and steel rising from the desert sands to face the setting sun over the glistening Indian Ocean and that time is a saloon-door-swinging wild-western high-noon duel. An isolated outpost on the isolated western fringes of the Great Sandy Desert. The very air is hot and is hard.

MJ Clarke is acting as captain of his country and AM Cook is acting as captain of his country and each is playing his 100th Test match on the very same field at the very same time and each is facing astronomical levels of media scrutiny and each appears similarly unruffled inside the scorching WACA concrete tinder box.

This broiling wild west conflagration has drawn my faithful horse called Clarrie Grimmett who has named himself after the Australian leg-spinner called Clarrie Grimmett and who is a stablemate of another horse here called Harry Collier and has called him from his stable and he nuzzles me awake. After an embarrassing flogging in Brisbane the English were defeated but not smashed in Adelaide on the back of a sizzling MG Johnson work-over and if their catches had have stuck on Day 1 then the match may have been played in a different psychological atmosphere and may even have ended differently. The Poms have been stung. How will they react? Clarrie Grimmett steps impatiently and I climb aboard. With unprecedented speed we hurtle across the null-arbour of the Nullarbor.

We’re here. It’s a baking desert heat. The four-day Perth forecast reads 38 and 38 and 38 and 39 and The West Australian declares “War at the WACA” and I wonder again about the win at all costs nature of media and sport in this country. A desalination plant whirrs away ceaselessly and necessarily.

Australia names an unchanged XI despite reports of RJ Harris suffering from swelling of the knee. England bring in the coal-mining Yorkshireman all-rounder of stubborn temperament TT Bresnan for the left-arm spinning option of MA Panesar. It’s hot.

MJ Clarke wins the toss again making it three from three and Clarrie Grimmett knows that with the evenness of these two teams the winning of the toss has been seen to be an enormous advantage. And already it’s a rambunctious opening as CJL Rogers takes 4 from consecutive balls and on the next ball hesitates on a quick single and is run out as JM Anderson athletically throws down the non-strikers’ stumps from side on and he’s gone for 11 and it’s the end of the second over and it’s 1/13. It’s a wild and unpredictable dismissal in the swirling shimmering unreality of an Ashes Test. Clarrie Grimmett snuffs and sweats uneasily.

The flighty players are flighty and unsettled and already after eight overs its 1/45 (DA Warner 22, SR Watson 11) and there’s an element of the runaway train about proceedings.

It’s the 11th over and we’re still inside the first sun-soaked hour of play and SR Watson plays an expansive, flashing drive to a wide ball on the rise. The length is all wrong and the footwork is all wrong and it’s a dismissal unworthy of a Test cricketer and Swann snaffles the high catch at second slip and SR Watson hands SCJ Broad his wicket for 18 and it’s 2/52 and MJ Clarke is again batting inside the first hour following the dual calamities of a run out and an infantile stroke of ill-discipline.

DA Warner and MJ Clarke get behind the reins of the thrashing beast of a match and the scoreboard rattles along. DA Warner is fortuitously dropped off his own bowling by TT Bresnan who drops the village yahoo which is drilled in a flat batted swat straight back at the bowler’s right hand and it’s 36 degrees and rising. And now we see a DA Warner flat batted back foot six over mid on.

GP Swann is thrown the ball averaging 99 per wicket in the series and it’s the first session of Day 1 and he’s still a finger spinner and suddenly he’s got MJ Clarke as MJ Clarke skips out to his first ball and never gets to the pitch of the ball and he continues with his shot and AN Cook takes the catch at short mid wicket and he’s gone for 24. Clarrie Grimmett is bristling as SPD Smith waddles in with seven minutes to lunch. He survives. Lunch 3/107. (DA Warner 49*, SPD Smith 0*). Clarrie Grimmett laps desalinated water from a trough and the heat of the day is brutal.

The second session starts and DA Warner collects his 50 and SPD Smith breaks his duck with a six over bowler GP Swann’s head. There is nothing resembling common human sense on this day.

DA Warner plays carelessly now at GP Swann and he’s cutting in the air to backward point and MA Carberry snaffles what he dropped at Adelaide and not unexpectedly DA Warner is out for 60 and GP Bailey strolls in and it’s 1:36 PM and it’s 37.5 degrees and it’s 4/129 and the English are on top and it’s through successive lapses in concentration of the batsmen and still there is nothing resembling common sense about on this day. GP Swann is taken off now with two right-handers at the crease and SCJ Broad is revving up.

We watch as if in a daze as GJ Bailey falls straight into the trap. SCJ Broad has made him uncomfortable with a few quick short ones and then a further short ball to the face. GJ Bailey takes momentary leave of his senses and top edges a pull whereupon KP Pietersen takes a fair catch at deep backward square leg in the swirling furnace and GJ Bailey is bounced out for 7 and Australia are teetering on 5/143 (SPD Smith 18*) as BJ Haddin enters the bar room brawl at 38.4 degrees.

At 5/154 drinks are taken in the middle of the middle session of the day and we get the feeling that life has been breathed back into the Ashes though it would seem mainly through carelessness. SCJ Broad is bowling a good spell as the thermometer nudges 37.6 degrees Celsius.

Now it’s TT Bresnan and BA Stokes in the extreme heat of the day and the pressure on Australia is noticeably released. SPD Smith looks happy to block out the good ones and to whack the bad ones with his eye like a dead fish. SPD Smith is up to 43* with a six over long on from GP Swann. On 14, BJ Haddin changes his bat. Clarrie Grimmett flashes his mane and nods and we two of us amble slowly towards the shade of a giant imaginary Eucalyptus diversicolor tree at deep extra cover and we stand with legs spread in the dappled shade.

Tea arrives at 5/220 and I take the opportunity to light a fire on the hill and boil a billy. Clarrie Grimmett munches the grass. SPD Smith 58*, BJ Haddin 35*

It’s the third session and nothing is comfortable and it’s still 35.5 degrees C and Clarrie Grimmett flicks the flies with occasional swishes of his brown tail. We rest. The game also enters a restful period now as we watch the nonchalant ticking off of 26 runs from ten overs without much drama. The Fremantle doctor offers feeble relief.

Drinks are again taken at 5/266. SPD Smith 85* and BJ Haddin 54*. TT Bresnan still formidably looks ready to fell several trees with his bare hands. BA Stokes appears more likely to fall to sunstroke than to fell any tree of his own and the English are drying up runs with a 7-2 offside field and the bowling relentlessly wide of off stump.

And we watch the set up as BA Stokes serves up many deliveries wide of off stump with a leg side catching field and then bangs the fifth ball of the over in towards the chest of BJ Haddin and he is caught by JM Anderson at midwicket. Set up for the quicker short one. BJ Haddin c JM Anderson b BA Stokes 55 after a partnership of 124 with SPD Smith. It’s 6/267.
There remain 19 overs to be bowled in the next 38 scheduled minutes. Clarrie Grimmett rolls his eyes.

MG Johnson creams a back foot cover drive to break his duck and JM Anderson bowls the 74th over in a one over spell suggesting that some are feeling the heat more than others. But through it all and ploughing ever on is SPD Smith who swipes yet another pull shot to the fence to bring up his personal ton and it’s his second Test century and this has been a rescue act that he’s made with style and great character. It’s 6/293.

JE Root is given the 79th over with the old ball and he bowls up the 300 for Australia and then SCJ Broad takes the new ball and it’s 6/305. JM Anderson and SCJ Broad bowl a shiny new Kookaburra without penetration and without noticeable verve at the fag end of a long hot day. Instead the English are displaying the full repertoire of time wasting tactics with SCJ Broad in his theatrical and cynical element. Stumps are called at 6/326 with the quirky and effective SPD Smith 103* and the still re-born MG Johnson 37*. Clarrie Grimmett and I retreat to the river to think about an entertaining day that has set up Days 2-5 very well, indeed. Clarrie looks at me and from the corner of his mouth says quietly: “Well played SPD Smith.”

About David Wilson

David Wilson is a writer, editor, flood forecaster and former school teacher. He writes under the name “E.regnans” at The Footy Almanac and has stories in several books. He is married and has two daughters and the four of them all live together with their dog, Pip. He finds playing the guitar a little tricky, but seems to have found a kindred instrument with the ukulele. Favourite tree: Eucalyptus regnans.

Comments

  1. Well played e.regnans. Well played Clarrie.
    Loved the gripping and comprehensive cricket report. Loved the Cormac McCarthy intro quote.
    The description of Perth – hmmm.
    Still what can expect from someone who lives in a preening, crime infested swamp of a city, halfway between somewhere and nowhere.

  2. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Entertaining read fellow opener e regnans also can , Clarrie give us the winners re the races today please ? We both had similar thoughts re the lessening of the pressure from, Bresnan and , Stokes the third pace bowling spot has been a huge problem for the all nations side and were we have a significant advantage in Siddle

  3. Wonderful report Dave. This pitch was made for Smith, but what impressed me were his soft hands. When he nicked one to first slip on 96 it was the soft hands that saved him – the ball fell short. Watto should study that.

  4. Luke Reynolds says

    What an impressive stable the regnans stable is with Collier and Grimmett. Would have loved to have seen C.V.Grimmett bowl. Enjoyable read David.

  5. Thanks all,
    PB – we’re all from that some crazy place that’s between somewhere and nowhere
    Rulebook – yes the pressure came off and thankfully the batsmen were able to concentrate long enough to cash in.
    Dips – good call on the soft hands. Is that something that can be taught or is in inherent in a player, I wonder.
    Luke – yes the stable is impressing you and me both. C.V. Grimmett sounds like a cracker.

  6. Watto’s hopes of soft hands are sabotaged by a soft head,

    It looks like a true but bouncy Perth strip. If Mitch the Merciless has one or two more spells left in him the Englishmen may discover the West to be No Country for Young Men.

    Love your work E Reg.

  7. Not sure if a horse can be either a finger or wrist spinner? Not much articulation in the wrist area and difficult to get grip with a hoof.

  8. JB: different parts of our anatomies fluctuating hard & soft can get all of us into trouble.
    This Soft headedness you detect seems regrettably more likely to morph into hard headedness than level headedness.
    Fair speculation, Gus. But then, I’m not putting anything beyond this Clarrie Grimmett.

  9. Paul Daffey says

    Loved it, E Reg.

    Love the observations, of course, but especially loved the rhythm.

    Is it a difficult thing to do, this writing with lots of clauses and no punctuation in sentences that go for quite a good while, or is it a release? Do you build to a solid clip-clop and off you go?

  10. Ahh, thanks a lot Daff.
    This writing in the style of the great wandering and thought-provoking and emotive and glorious Border Trilogy of Cormac McCarthy is not something I think too much about nor do I analyse. It’s a release.
    The reading of All The Pretty Horses and then the reading of The Crossing and then the reading of Cities of the Plain each on their own and in combination took a small part of me to another place and to another time and it is a place and a time that a small part of me liked so much that it has remained there. I tap in. It’s there. I recommend those books.
    And the scene was all set. Something about the setting and the state of the series brought all of the flinty-eyed hardness and harshness of those stories to mind.
    Thanks again. Clip-clop…
    E.

  11. Blood Meridian is just as good. But don’t let it fall into the hands of children.

  12. summer heat
    the batsman takes leave
    of his senses

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