The Ashes – Fourth Test, Day 1: Status Quo

Australia 3/244 at stumps, Day 1.



What a magnificent day it is in Melbourne.


Walking down from the Richmond station through Yarra Park with the expectant fans.


At 7am the weather is perfect and the surrounds outside the ground looking a treat.


Hardly a word was spoken as we made our way to the ground. This is the want of cricket aficionados in Melbourne. The uncertainty of what might happen has them on edge.


Forget the “dead rubber” syndrome.  This is Test cricket, this is what it is all about and the fans have voted with their feet. Although there are not as many as I would have expected at the start of play. Members are in early and the ground is in magnificent condition. The Colosseum will roar today but don’t expect the Lions to get any sympathy. It will be thumbs down all day from the majority of the crowd.


The opening ceremony is impressive with Chris Watson in splendid voice and Lee Abrahamsen giving a stirring rendition of the Australian National Anthem.  Greg Baum would have noticed that the Australian players still don’t know the words of the first verse.  Heaven forbid if they ever have to sing the second verse. Come to think of it who knows the second verse?


Aunty Joy, who did the welcome to country, obviously incurred the wrath of the match referee who continually looked at his watch during her oration.


Both sides have made one change. Bird for the injured Starc for Australia, and Tom Curran on debut for England for the injured Overton.  How England did not make more changes is puzzling as surely Broad and Ali and to a lesser extent Cook should have been omitted.


Just shows you the lack of depth in the English camp or that the selectors were frightened to omit Broad in particular.


The Australians are wearing armbands in respect for Tim Paine’s father-in-law who passed away after suffering a stroke. Paine had already looked stressed during the National Anthem as he kept his head down throughout.  It must have been a hard decision to play.




Australia win the toss and bat. They start of comfortably against Anderson and Broad. Broad is so out of form that Warner and Bancroft make him look easy pickings.


Australia are racing! Warner reaches 21 in no time from 19 balls. This is looking ominous for the bowlers. A good start but then two maidens in a row. Anderson in particular has settled in to a consistent rhythm.


The English bowlers have found the spot and are making the batsmen concentrate hard. Unfortunately for the English it doesn’t last too long and Warner starts playing at his imperious best.  These are the sorts of days that the fielding captain must dread as the Mickey Rooney of cricket is at his pugnacious best. He quickly moves to fifty.


Offensive conduct $1138?  How do they come up with these figures at cricket matches.  Does the fact that the amount does not end in 000 that people understand the enormity of the fine? I would love a psychological mathematician to answer that.    Peter Flynn where are you?


Bancroft (19) has been a great foil to Warner (77) this morning although he has not had great assurance in his stroke play. Probably still trying to consolidate his position in the team. 14 less balls but 58 runs the diff.


Complete dominance by the Australians and at lunch 0/102 with Warner on 83 and Bancroft on 19.




Bancroft (26) is the first to go after lunch when he is plumb to Woakes. At long last a wicket to England: 1/122.  It has been hard work for the visitors.  Bancroft was comfortable but not complete.  His position in the team must still be in doubt as he has not been very confident in his approach. Meanwhile his number one contemporary Matt Renshaw sits at home on the couch watching the game instead of playing.  Sorry Matt money is the name of the game, ditto Peter Handscomb.


England contain Warner for six overs in the nineties and on 99 he gets a good one from tyro Tom Curran he bunts it for an easy catch.  OUT!  Let’s have a replay. NOT OUT!  Curran’s front foot is over the line. NO BALL!


Curran will never forget THAT ball as long as he lives. The roar from the crowd was deafening when the result of the review was announced. Bad sportsmanship? I will leave that up to you. Very disappointing for the young man on debut.


With a plethora of tall gangly fast bowlers going around is it time to have another look at the front foot rule? It definitely is a batsman’s game.


Warner reaches his 100 next ball but there is something lacking. The partisan crowd are on song but it is slightly out of tune.


England are having a good session and Warner 103 tickles Anderson to Bairstow: 2/135. His century included 13 fours and one six off 151 balls.  They have hit back hard and on Warner’s dismissal late into the session Australia have only added 33 runs for the loss of both openers.


The visitors win this session and well played 2 wickets for 43 runs. Well played. Australia 2/145, Khawaja 10, Smith 5. Wickets to Woakes and Anderson.




England’s ascendancy continues when Khawaja (17) tickles Broad to Bairstowe. Australia 3/160.


Despite my criticism of Broad’s selection, he has bowled well after the first couple of overs and he was unlucky not to get a DRS on Marsh S. first ball. Just how big are the bails?


Except for the exceptional innings of David Warner, it has been a hard grind for the Aussies. Typical Test cricket. Take out his 103 and you have 57 from the other four batsmen at this stage.


As the day gets longer Smith and Marsh start to consolidate.  Mind you the three key bowlers for England in Anderson, Broad and Woakes have toiled hard and newcomer Curran is still shaking his head. Root is very predictable with his captaincy and he just not take any chances otherwise Malan and himself should have had a trundle.


Smith continues his remarkable calendar year and passes Cheteshwar Pujara (India) as the leading run scorer.  A performance of a player who is nearing the stature of the great DGB.


Speak of the devil, on comes Malan.  They treat him with respect. Sincerely hope Joe is using him as a surprise weapon and not to just quicken up the over rate. Smith is not taking any chances against him and plays him with caution.


At the final drinks break Australia are 3/209, Smith 46 and Shaun Marsh 15.  As in Perth they have retrieved the situation.


The “Ashes Pashes” do not disturb Steve Smith one iota as he attaches his gloves for the last quarter.


The crowd of over 88,000 are raucous but not causing any problems just revelling in being here.


Malan continues his containing spell and SPD Smith is finding it hard to get him away. A good move by Captain Root.


Smith and Marsh continue to push on and with seven overs remaining they should take the score past 250. The partnership is now worth 74 runs and threatening. Smith has the air of a man completely content with himself and a nemesis for those in the field. Such is his outstanding ability and run making that people should be flocking to see him in his present form.


Root returns to his fast men for one last effort before stumps but the batsmen are well on top on this docile pitch which has not given the bowlers much to work with throughout the day. There have been some half chances but on the whole very slim pickings.


Smith does not break his routine and changes his gloves again with two overs to go.  Must keep count tomorrow.


The majority of people have stayed to the end.  This is their day at the G and they have thoroughly enjoyed the ebb and flow of the encounter.


At stumps Australia  3/244  Smith 65 and Marsh.S 31. Wickets to Anderson, Broad and Woakes one a piece.


England will need to get rid of this pair early if they are to make any inroads in the Australian line-up.


For me just being here is a sheer delight as it has been for the past 70 years.


Bob Utber has been an MCC member for eons. Whether at the footy or cricket he loves wandering through the Members area where he always runs into many old friends.


About Bob Utber

At 80 years of age Citrus Bob is doing what he wanted to do as a 14 year-old living on the farm at Lang Lang. Talking, writing, watching sport. Now into his third book on sports history he lives in Mildura with his very considerate wife (Jenny ) and a groodle named "Chloe On Flinders". How good is that.


  1. Peter Flynn says

    It’s duodecimal representation is 7aa. Perhaps that’s a clue Citrus.


    M Vaas

  2. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Bewdy Citrus.

    I watched most of the second session on the box. Bancroft and Khawaja seemed very scratchy indeed, although the former at least held up an end to allow his partner to rack them up.

    I thought Warner’s celebration was ludicrous given the circumstances. Once he was out I thought to myself that Australia would either get 240 or 480. The captain’s made sure that the latter is more likely.

    When was the last time an ump called a no ball?

  3. Good question, Swish.

    Thanks Citrus Bob.
    Well played.

    Given that SPD Smith is at the wicket, and rain may interrupt Days 3 and 4, I’ll be along tomorrow.

    Didn’t get to see much today.
    Interesting that when C Bancroft struggles he is said to be digging in.
    But when P Handscomb struggles in the same way he is said to be horribly out of form and needs to be dropped.
    If enough people say it, groupthink takes over, and before you can say #professionalism the story becomes regarded as fact.

    I guess a good story trumps facts.

  4. Luke Reynolds says

    Citrus, you’ll be pleased to know both verses of the national anthem get sung every Monday morning at my boys Primary school.

    Really enjoyed Warner’s knock. Bancroft worked hard but still has much to do to consolidate his spot. While I’m still far from convinced about Khawaja, very lazy shot to get out today.

    88,000, Test cricket alive and well. Look forward to being there tomorrow.

  5. Boring as batshit. English bowlers did a good job of containment on a flat lifeless track. Bancroft doesn’t look a natural opener to me. Reminds me of Greg Blewett with his high backlift and falling across his stumps. Someone who recognised opportunity at the top of the order – rather than being an opening batsman. Khawaja and SMarsh prod and poke for no particular reason like workers on a council cleaning gang.
    Scorchers were exciting and the players smile – rather than the faux aggro at the MCG. Boxing Day Test at the ‘G is a social habit more than a sporting occasion.

  6. Agree with comments about a boring, dull day.

    London-born S-I-L , a British mate of his and I wandered up to the G from a Richmond boozer around 10-ish. Joined by others once inside.

    Expecting huge security queues we were delighted to see how quick and efficient the staff was.

    But what a deadly dull day it was — and this from a longtime cricket fan who remembers the traditional Boxing Day fixture as the Vic vs. NSW Sheffield Shield clash. Long before the ‘Boxing Day Test’ naming rights came into play.

    Bancroft epitomised the boring description. We enlivened the day 1’s malaise by wandering around to the bays where the Barmy Army was in full cry.

    English members of our party joined in the chants. Of course.

  7. Stop being such a grump PB!

    Great stuff Citrus. Par on this pitch? Flat but the ball not coming on. I reckon 350 would be a very good score.

    Looking forward to attending the mighty MCG on day 3.

  8. Dips – you and I are on the same wave length. Is it possible to send a boat the other way with PB first on board? He will probably complain about the food then!
    Australia is still not a settled side with big question marks on Khawaja and Bancroft. “PICK A VIC!”

    Thanks Marvin for your answer. Stephen Hawking is investigating.
    Warner needs to be reigned in . He is a bit over the top sometimes. Bloody lucky to make a ton.

  9. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    My first estimate was closer

  10. Sw ish you should be a selector. NO! there would then be a plethora of Crow eaters in the team.
    Very slow cricket today but still a good crowd for your benefit PB. England have battled hard for their success.

  11. What ever happened to third man?

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