Sabina Park Test – West Indies v Australia, Day 1: The continuing story of SPD Smith

Australia 4/258 (SPD Smith 135*, JE Taylor 3/18 from 15) v West Indies

Hey Bungalow Bill
What did you kill, Bungalow Bill?
Hey Bungalow Bill
What did you kill, Bungalow Bill?
Eh up!
– The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill (Lennon/McCartney)

==
Today was a day for the continuing story of SPD Smith with his flashing and dazzling bat, creating his fifth Test match century in his past six Test matches. This time taking guard to the fourth ball of the match and batting for the rest of the day.

==
I’m awoken again by a soft nuzzling which grows in urgency and forcefulness until I’m roused and I know that my imaginary horse called Clarrie Grimmett who is named after Clarrie Grimmett is inside my hacienda and is stepping impatiently and is summoning me to the opening day of a Test match once more. Optimism sustains this horse and shames my less-than-generous view of selection and in fact anything at all regarding this match and despite the historic venue and despite history books replete with GS Sobers’ 365* and despite an upswinging Australian team performance I cannot feel much in the way of anticipation and the match seems foregone as indeed selection seems foregone and everywhere subjective decisions fly in the face of objective evidence for change. I’m uneasy.

Clarrie Grimmett tosses his head and shakes the June cold from his Melbourne nostrils stepping impatiently now as I climb aback and we’re off over continents and over oceans to Jamaica to Kingston to Sabina Park to the George Headley Stand and to views of the mountains and to views of the sea and to the sound of the steel drum.

West Indies win the toss and bowl on a fine morning all set for Test match cricket and I glance at Clarrie Grimmett who hands me a team sheet showing three changes for West Indies here with R Chandrika on debut. V Permaul and KAJ Roach coming in for Samuels, Bishoo and Gabriel and Australia calamitously unchanged from their dubiously selected side. I should have stayed in bed. Curtly Ambrose unfolds his limbs and lopes onto the field and encourages his successors and DA Warner and SE Marsh stride onto the field of play for this match of no consequence in that the Frank Worrell Trophy has already been retained by Australia and we know that it is in precisely such “dead rubbers” that individual performance counts more than team performance and all eyes on SE Marsh then and SR Watson with CJL Rogers probably due a return in England.

DA Warner lasts three balls. I glance at Clarrie who shudders that an opening bat would spar at that one. Caught at third slip. SPD Smith to face the fourth ball of the match with his waddling crouching movement-intensive shuffling being. SE Marsh lasts 15 balls today. Falling across the line and hit in front. Clarrie nods. No matter how successful he turns out to be, like a man whose romantic relationship with a woman begins as an affair, SE Marsh will regrettably always carry the stain of an undeserved beginning. We await his undoing.

JE Taylor with both wickets. After five overs then it’s SPD Smith and MJ Clarke and something of a re-start and something of a long-term mission and in the 11th over MJ Clarke is hurried by Roach’s short ball and coughs it back to the bowler who has overstepped the front line. No ball. And upon such moments a sporting life turns. 3/22 would have been interesting but instead at lunch it’s 2/91.

After lunch its the Australian captain and with him the younger and most prolific recent scorer that may one day be an Australian captain himself and its generational change and together they take to V Permaul lofting and sixing and fouring him around Sabina Park. Bats getting on top.

With KAJ Roach and JE Taylor and JO Holder now there is building line and building length and with it building pressure and building Test match conditions and an lbw appeal for SPD Smith’s wicket is denied and reviewed and denied again and MJ Clarke looking to force his way out of this tight spell nicks one from JO Holder and is caught at slip for 47 and new old AC Voges joins run machine at 3/134.

Curtly Ambrose and Courtney Walsh both are on the boundary but regrettably on the non-playing side of the fence and I look to Clarrie in wondering whether I am a bad person for wishing to see SE Marsh and SR Watson and Australia more generally fail. This series has the pall of a “who-cares” identity foreign in recent times to West Indies cricket. Strange times. I hope the authorities are authoritative.

Clarrie himself wanders to the Party Stand for rum and coke as SPD Smith and AC Voges tick off the runs. This SPD Smith is worth following. The bowling is tight enough and there have been close shaves but a team that wins the toss and bowls would like more than 3/170 at tea. These two batting without bother.

Since SPD Smith’s first ton at the Oval last Ashes tour he’s skipped and danced the high wire with aplomb against all opponents in all conditions and today on the faraway island of Jamaica at Sabina Park he cover swats another boundary for another 100. Fifth hundred in six Tests for the lad. Clarrie Grimmett takes his own kettle drum and gives it a good pounding in the afternoon sun.

Still JE Taylor and KAJ Roach and KC Braithwaite toil on. JE Taylor finds swing and finds AC Voges to be human and finds the edge of his flashing bat and finds himself again a wicket-taker with AO Voges caught behind for 37. Clarrie sniffs and nods at the contest. 4/210.

And I find myself again in the familiar and somehow distasteful position of wishing ill upon an Australian cricketer and why this should be is a confounding matter but before internal investigations get too far SPD Smith is given lbw to JE Taylor falling over flicking square on the leg side and hit in front. SPD Smith dubiously takes advice from SR Watson who has world-class experience in the matter of referring lbw appeals and immediately reviews the decision. Unlike for most of SR Watson’s reviews though this decision is overturned. Not out. Going down leg.

It’s a watchful end to the day and now and SR Watson is trapped in front to V Permaul and given not out but not to be outdone by reviews and perhaps with a mind on SR Watson’s lbw history the West Indies review this one but the decision stands. Not out.

And it’s the last ball of the day and it’s J Blackwood to SPD Smith and it’s a leg side stumping with SPD Smith falling over and feet akimbo and it’s a third umpire decision and it’s narrowly in favour of the nimble-footed centurion despite faultless work by D Ramdin.

Clarrie chews his rum and coke and flicks his mane towards the beach and adjusts his sunglasses. It’s been a day of graft and of taken and of missed chances and through it all a young man has risen still further. Clarrie Grimmett leans in close to me and says: “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. One of his stories was judged as a finalist in the Tasmanian Writers’ Prize 2021. 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. Grant Fraser says

    “my imaginary horse called Clarrie Grimmett, who is named after Clarrie Grimmett” Sometimes the simplest humour is the best humour.

  2. Where would we be without SPD Smith?

  3. Keiran Croker says

    My imaginary horse called Boonie forgot to wake me up!

    Hopefully our selectors will finally realise that the occasional recovery innings from Marsh and Watson is no substitute for class. First Voges, next Klinger!

  4. Alas poor Watto, I knew him well.

  5. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Steve smith was always regarded with in cricket circles as going to be a gun geez they were write( he joins Matty Herb Elliott as a member of the 199 club)! Nathan Lyon becomes our highest wicket taking offie at least some highlighights in the 2nd test
    Thanks OBP

Leave a Comment

*