The Ashes – Fourth Test, Day 2: Cured of sentiments

Australia resumed at 3/244 (SPD Smith 65*, SE Marsh 31*)
Stumps Day 2: Australia 327 (DA Warner 103, SCJ Broad 4/51); England 2/192 (AN Cook 104*, JE Root 49*)


Today Australia was caught out trying to rush proceedings; England won the day with a combination of patience and luck.


“In the end we all come to be cured of our sentiments.”
All the pretty horses, Cormac McCarthy


It is 27 December 2017 and it is hot and is is hot in the north of Melbourne Town where I am woken under a cloudless sky. Already the shade of sparse eucalypts is welcome. Just a few kilometres to the south of my creekside hollow the inexplicable SPD Smith will resume his innings in a Test match against England this day. Is this how people felt in Bradman’s day? (“He’s still batting!”)


My imaginary horse nuzzles me awake and butts his head into back, into my shoulder, my head. This horse whom I named Clarrie Grimmett after the great Australian leg-spinner Clarrie Grimmett nudges me in this way only when he sniffs a battle. A full calendar year has elapsed since Clarrie’s excitement was last piqued in this way.


Before I have chance to shave or to wash or even to eat I am scooped up by Clarrie Grimmett who is bareback and together we ride hard along the Merri Creek causing fragments of clay conglomerate to fly from his hooves. At Northcote High School Clarrie leaps into the air and we fly over quieted cottage streets of bluestone and brick and note that both human and vehicle traffic are very light with many many people having fled coastward for the Christmas-New Year week.


We land alongside a statue of Adam Lindsay Gordon reclining at the top of Collins Street. People keep to the shadows. The sun beats fiercely. Artificial fountains spray indulgently. Clarrie takes a drink.


It is 8:30am as we canter past the William Barak Bridge and up to the statue of DK Lillee himself, launching into delivery stride. We walk around to the nets. There is JE Root, England captain. There is AN Cook; former England captain. Both appearing lithe, relaxed. Clarrie nods.


As we turn we see the statue of Bill Ponsford flicking to leg and then TW Wills and then SK Warne and then Clarrie stops short and he stamps his foot. Narrowing my eyes, I turn to see a TV camera poised, GJCD Haigh standing nonchalantly by. Clarrie sets me down enabling us a chance of a brief chat outside the Members’. Maybe a #peakcricket moment.


And then Clarrie Grimmett walks me around to Gate 3 and we enter the Melbourne Cricket Ground once more; for an Australia v England Test match. No trees line the playing surface just here so together we find shelter in the Olympic Stand. Gathering our bearings, our Test cricket legs, we are delighted to be visited by Citrus Bob Utber, who has made the trek around from the Media Centre. It is a rare pleasure to be in conversation with the great Citrus – a man of thought and passion and ideals. A giver. Clarrie swishes his tail.


And it is JM Anderson to SPD Smith.
With a short mid off, extra cover, deep backward square leg.
And it is SCJ Broad to SE Marsh.
A lone trumpet plays Advance Australia Fair. Clarrie shakes his head.

SCJ Broad throws down stumps with a backhand throw in his follow through- allowing SE Marsh to steal a run. Test cricket.
TK Curran replaces JM Anderson, and as if reprieved, SPD Smith tries to force a backfoot effort – but plays the ball onto his stumps. Lighted bails flash and fly through the air. To the ground. I am stunned. We are all stunned. Somewhere a butterfly flaps its wings. Clarrie turns a full circle in the dust, nodding and shaking like a leaf. What is this? This is TK Curran’s first Test wicket.

SPD Smith b TK Curran 76 (4/260)
Now it is CR Woakes from the Members’ end and now MR Marsh attempts the expansive drive of the millionaire and only plays the ball onto his stumps.

MR Marsh b CR Woakes 9 (5/278)


Reaching 50, SE Marsh shows the understated celebration of a man aware of game situation; an awareness he could perhaps teach to DA Warner.

And now SCJ Broad launches into a screaming flaming burning appeal for l.b.w. from southern end. He’s well past the batsman by the time he finishes with the appeal; the plea. And yet SE Marsh is given not out.

JE Root opts to review the decision. An option that reveals SE Marsh to be plum in front.

SE Marsh l.b.w. SCJ Broad 61 (6/314).


The first ball from JM Anderson’s new spell is short – TD Paine hoicks to the wide mid on boundary. Shortly afterwards, TD Paine tries again to pull JM Anderson, but plays on onto his stumps.

TD Paine b JM Anderson 24 (7/318)


JM Bird plays inside the line from SCJ Broad. Lbw. He unsuccessfully reviews.

JM Bird l.b.w. SCJ Broad 4 (8/325)


At 8/326 at lunch, we have an understanding that Australia has thrown this away. Most dismissals arising due to batsmen losing concentration; losing patience; trying to force the pace.


Second ball back after lunch, PJ Cummins drives and is caught at slip.

PJ Cummins c Cook b SCJ Broad 4 (9/326)


And then

NM Lyon lbw JM Anderson 0 (10/327)


SCJ Broad finishes with 4 wickets.
JM Anderson with 3/61 becomes the fifth highest wicket taker in Test history, passing Courtney Walsh.



Clarrie shifts uneasily in the heat.
Shimmers rise from the light roller. Between innings, groundstaff sweep up detritus; repaint each crease.

A shallow, unsporting, and sad slogan #beatEngland is regrettably plastered across the ground, across the scoreboard, on merchandise. Kids are shown to voice it. This jingoism is embarrassing. Where does that path lead? That path that asserts blind nationalism at the expense of others?


A few cumuli nimbus drift to the south and Clarrie shows me that its 31 degrees Celsius  as the sun passes its zenith.

And now it is England.

MD Stoneman pulls away from the strike due to an interrupting butterfly. Clarrie arches his eyebrows at that butterfly. And we each smile that Tasmanian TD Paine keeps wicket to the bowling of Tasmanian JM Bird.

And already it is evident that AN Cook has found the range of this pitch, the range of PJ Cummins, with two spanking off drives; the finest shots of the day.

And then, out of nowhere, continuing the theme of the day, MD Stoneman falls to an acrobatic catch.

M Stoneman c&b NM Lyon 15 (1/35)


England reach 1/72 at tea (AN Cook 37*, JM Vince 17*)


High cloud moves in; all of us as spinach leaves in a steamer; wilting.

After tea it is PJ Cummins to AN Cook.
Short. Four pulled to square leg.
Short. Four back foot driven to extra cover.

Second over after tea, first ball:

JM Vince lbw b JR Hazlewood 17 (2/80)
And he wisely decides not review.


JE Root now joins AN Cook. These two lithe, fit young men from net practice this morning. Clarrie bumps me on the shoulder and looks significantly into my eyes.

Below us, trumpeters play assorted tunes: Waltzing Matilda, Daddy Cool’s Eagle Rock, the hokey pokey and amongst other things, the theme from Postman Pat.

Meanwhile, these batsmen give us a demonstration of consolidation. Of patience.

AN Cook reaches 50 with a flick to the mid wicket fence.

The England 100 is registered with an impossibly crisp AN Cook off drive; a drive that seemed to have the ball accelerate to the fence.

Clarrie notices that no flags are here draped over the fence. None. He used to enjoy seeing various flags of the St. George’s Cross hanging from fences, from hoardings, everywhere.

At 4:23pm, at 2/110, AN Cook 66 is dropped at slip from the bowling of MR Marsh. SPD Smith is like a 6-year-old with a cake of soap. ‘Keeper TD Paine is up to the stumps. And he soon lets four byes down leg side. I don’t mind that. Clarrie reminds me that it’s a tough gig for a keeper- and I admire it every time I see it. Good on you TD Paine.

Shadows lengthen as England pass 150 and as the 150 partnership is celebrated.

And now in the shadows of stumps SPD Smith himself takes the ball. And AN Cook himself reaches his 100. A magnificent achievement. Today was a day for concentration and for application and for battling the conditions. This was a day for toil and for patience. This was a day for AN Cook.

Clarrie whispers into my ear: “Alastair Cook is 18 months younger than Shaun Marsh. We haven’t seen the last of him.”


A chance of showers and thunderstorms exists for Days 3 and 4. Will England get 100 in front on first innings? Will they get any lead? Will they get Australia all out a second time? Clarrie scoops me up and we gallop up the Yarra Park hill, up the Fitzroy Gardens, and we are aloft – flying low over the old streets and pubs of Fitzroy. It’s been a mighty day.

Clarrie whispers as we land alongside the Merri Creek: “Well batted AN Cook.”




AN Cook faces NM Lyon shortly before reaching 100 (click to enlarge)


Clarrie Grimmett adventures:
December 2016: Australia v Pakistan, Melbourne: Azhar Ali and the endless fight
June 2015: West Indies v Australia, Kingston: The continuing story of SPD Smith
December 2014: Australia v India, Adelaide: Ride on
February 2014: South Africa v Australia, Port Elizabeth: No one blinks
February 2014: South Africa v Australia, Centurian: Making hay
December 2013: Australia v England, Melbourne: El leon y el bigote (the Lyon and the moustache)
December 2013: Australia v England, Perth: A good lookin batsman is like a goodlookin horse


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.


  1. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    I was convinced by your comment elsewhere that the opportunity to see Smith bat should be seized, so I lobbed there yesterday also, spending my time up high in the Ponsford.

    That foolish throw down of the stumps by Broad and the resultant stolen single turned the match (even though, as in life, there are countless turning points if you go looking for them).

    I sometimes struggle with Clarrie’s work but not this one David. It sums up my feelings of the day also. Thank you.

  2. Thanks Swish.
    So many moments in a day. Turning points – as you say – if you look for them.
    I find it interesting how people fit a narrative to any day/ week/ series/ season.
    All trying to make sense of it, I guess.

    One of the highlights for me yesterday was to be without commentary.
    Able to observe and make up my own ideas.

    I usually get to one day of cricket per year. Despite SPD Smith’s dismissal, I’m very glad I went along yesterday.

  3. Jennifer Muirden says

    Yes, wasn’t such a grand day at the office for the Aussies yesterday. Day One of the Fourth Test on Boxing Day was bloody beautiful to watch. Great theatre as Warner reached 99 and then seemingly was dismissed … but then debutant Tom Curran was shown to have bowled a no ball !!! The moment Warner then broke through and scored his century and jumped up in the air was chilling stuff. What a shame therefore that Curran ended up picking up his maiden test wicket of Captain Steve Smith.

    Once again an imaginative original piece, David. Always enjoy reading your posts!

  4. Jennifer Muirden says

    Please be sure to send my regards and a nuzzle to dear Clarrie Grimmett from me!

  5. Luke Reynolds says

    Excellent day of cricket ER. Love your #peakcricket moment.
    Everyone in the group I was with turned up fully expecting 150 minimum from SPD Smith. Was a rude shock when he was dismissed for 76. And yes, well played AN Cook.
    Hope you gave Clarrie a good hose down after that effort!

  6. Lovely ER. It was privilege to watch Cook yesterday. Perhaps a touch sad I didn’t pop along today. But alas, tomorrow is a new day for something to happen at the MCG. See you there.

  7. OBP I reckon Clarrie has got more patience than the aussie batsman just appalling and then the old adage dropped catches cost you matches ( while a draw is favored could we have the situation where every team who has won the toss lose the match ? Just amazing here as winn8ng the toss should have been a massive advantage thank you

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