The Ashes – Fourth Test: Featherbed

Australia 327 (Warner 103, Smith 76, S Marsh 61, Broad 4-52, Anderson 3-61 and 4-263 (Smith 102 no, Warner 86) drew with England 491 (Cook 244no, Broad 56, Cummins 4-117, Hazelwood 3-95, Lyon 3-109)


Points from the Test Match:


1. The pitch: diabolical, abysmal, putrid etc devoid of pace, seam, spin and didn’t break up. Basically everything us cricket lovers fear of drop in pitches but how in the hell can Adelaide’s be improving while Melbourne’s goes backwards at a rate of knots?


How in this multi-million dollar industry is there not checks and a formula worked out overall? Is it time for Damian Hough/ Les Burdett to be the overall supervisor?


Does a Boxing Day Test re day-night come in to the equation to give the bowlers something? (Must admit at least it is enjoyable to be able to crow over the pitch)


2. Steve Smith as a batsman is a freak he just LOVES and is addicted to batting. Knows his game inside out with his ability to concentrate second to none. The other payers who come readily to mind in that aspect are Langer and Boycott.


3.  Alastair Cook: what a sensational effort. Yes it was a putrid pitch and Starc was injured and yes Smith helped him big time by dropping him twice but when seemingly down and out he concentrated, applied himself brilliantly with his driving a feature and only great players carry their bat (M Ashwood 178no, out of 282 for Payneham v Elizabeth and don’t let the fact it was only low grade Adelaide turf get in the way)


4. Stuart Broad gets a wicket on the first day seemingly his first wicket since Adam and Eve were sharing apples and the next delivery was 10 ks quicker and finally shows some ticker on a featherbed with the bat yes his effort overall this Test was very good but for mine Mike Hussey criticism was valid.


5. More questions than answers re Australia’s batting. Cam Bancroft yep involved in a 122 run opening partnership and batted past lunch on the opening day is a huge pass but it was the way he struggled against the short-pitched ball raises huge alarm bells for his future and Usman Khawaja in the 1st innings lack of intent was terrible. Fair dinkum I reckon I have seen a corpse with more oomph and enthusiasm.


6. David Warner while playing just about his normal destructive innings in the first dig applied himself and fought hard in the second until he let his ego get in the way against Joe Root and throw away his chance to go to top of the tree re centuries in both innings of a Test Match.


7.  Mitch Marsh: yes, it was a featherbed but hopefully his second innings is another significant step forward in his evolution and development as a Test cricketer. After his injuries those of us who said it will be a year or so before his bowling will return to its former self look to be correct (yes Smith did drop Cook off him).


8. When Nathan Lyon said the Aussies were trying to end careers in the predictable over the top propaganda promotion at the start of the series I don’t reckon he meant personally destroy Moeen Ali he has done. Poor Ali looked a shell of a man during this game it was bizarre he wasn’t dropped he finally won’t pay in Sydney (incredible that a fellow offie in Lyon  has dismissed Ali 6 out of 7 innings)


9. Captaincy: Root in Brisbane, yes, there were funky field placements but they had aggression and purpose behind them against Smith but they have become more bizarre and defensive as the series has gone on (nearly as bad as the pitch on the last day) while Smith decision to bring himself on and effectively gift Cook a ton before stumps was weir. Cook has a very poor record being dismissed in the 90s he should have been forced to sweat over night both these two a long long way to go tactically.


10. Bernie Vince and Dawid Malan not reviewing inside edges for mine that comes down to bats now days these chunks of wood hit the ball a mile but haven’t got the feel of yesteryear (mind you Malan’s was a bit weird in that it was a large inside edge. Strange he didn’t feel that, and  it was poor umpiring as well)


10. Bairstow and Paine: their keeping was vert good and I have to be honest a mile better than I thought Bairstow was capable of with the catch to dismiss Shaun Marsh the highlight with its rate of difficulty very high in that how close the keepers had to be due to the state of the wicket.


11.  Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood and Nathan Lyon toiled manfully while those of us who rate Chadd Sayers in front of Jackson Bird (unfortunately not Steve Smith) were possibly vindicated.


12.  Tom Curran provided the individual highlight of the Test match dismissing David Warner on 99 only to be recalled due to a no ball. Hey Rob how funny was the joy to despair of the English supporters sitting in front of us: pure gold ! (H, does anyone else see the resemblance between Draco Malfoy and Tom Curran?)


So the clean sweep is avoided by England at least. But the days since the Poms have won a Test match in Australia clicked over the 2500 mark and the curator is very lucky that the days of public stoning are no longer allowed in the country.



  1. 13. This match was another nail in the coffin of Test Match cricket. I know you will can me, Malcolm, but in what other sport do you see one team not trying to win and not have an investigation for match fixing? 3 runs scored in the first half hour on a dead dodo pitch! Watch the crowds keep rolling in for 20/20 while the cricket purists talk up test match cricket as the pinnacle of the sport. Without the Ashes, test match cricket is dead. Cue Almanac outrage.

  2. As you know cricket really isn`t my thing but surely they can get a pitch ready. I mean in this day and age where we have so many things to help us why can`t they work out the moisture or the dryness of the oval and correct that why cant they work out if they need to roll the pitch once more or not and a million other reasons too. This is going backwards to the days many many years ago when the test series was just a whole lot of drawn matches, thought we`d got past that.

  3. Malcolm Ashwood nice work. I don’t think test cricket is dead by any stretch. But Cricket Australia need to get the balance right. Day 5 is probably not a big money spinner. So work towards pitches that have more life and break up for a more exciting game. I wonder what sort of influence the exec has on curators?

  4. Tristam Marshal says

    Malcolm it’s these drop ins, I agree with what marcD is saying. My first trade was on a golf course as a green keeper then did wickets for a couple of years, to me it looked like they never drenched the wicket at all. Just kept rolling it and then light water 4-5 times a day to give it that shine look. The more and more you roll a wicket the deeper and deeper it continues to get harder, up to 300mm+ deep. Hence why there were no cracks, hardly any marks whatsoever. I obviously enjoy giving Melbourne crap, but to me it’s like they have been told to make every test last 5 days. Anyway I’m prob wrong with that last part just my opinion ??

  5. Eric Weltner says

    No more featherbeds please! When pitches give bowlers a chance, you will get exciting Test cricket (e.g. Gabba, Adelaide Oval & WACA – although on all these pitches batsmen were also able to get in and bat for long periods). But when you get pitches like the MCG has served up in the past couple of seasons, then Tests can get tedious. Two years ago both Australia and India racked up big totals in a draw, last year Australia pulled an almost miraculous win out of the fire against Pakistan on a road, but this Ashes Test was always destined to be a draw – even if it hadn’t rained for half of Day 4. Hopefully the pitch in Sydney has more in it for the bowlers.

  6. Some interesting comments on here… I’ll try and fill in a few blanks

    Mcg left 7mm of grass on the wicket, I believe Adelaide oval left 8mm of grass… Adelaide oval wicket would be similar as mcg if not for the pink ball and day/night factor… I think the mcg curator left more grass on this year and then panicked that it would ‘do too much’ he then over rolled the wicket and turned it into a ‘dead’ track… It wasn’t wet or tacky, far too dry and lifeless… Over rolling produces a slow and low wicket.

    CA have a lot to answer for this also, imagine if the wicket did all sorts (think back to Aamer running through us on a Boxing Day back in early 2010s on a green top) as they want tests to go to 5th day… If curator had left more grass on wicket, and rolled less, and the ball started doing all sorts he would then be crucified also, especially by the ‘experts’ in the public domain

    Can’t have your cake and eat it too

    Agreed his wicket is killing the novelty of the Boxing Day tests, drop ins are unfortunately the way of the future but the best way to combat that is to move to day/night tests to provide a better contest and also a bigger crowd puller

    SCG test next week first with new curator (former two Ic at Adelaide oval) after previous curator coped a lot of flack in recent years… Be interesting to see how that pans out and why the experts have to say…

    Having curated wickets before (and by no means on that sort of scale or in any way shape or form an expert) you’ll always produce what you think is best suited and it never pleases everyone!!

  7. Great article! Only the best can get anywhere near 178no!

  8. Not all the pitches fault
    If cook was caught at 66 or if no rain or if series was 1 all and both teams needed a win or if England declared to bowl for 30 minutes end day 3 would likely have been a result anyway
    Easy target the wicket the players playing on it are in charge

  9. Spot in Book. Clearly Boz wasn’t umpiring your 178 n.o.

  10. Agreed Book. The individuality of Australian pitches will be pretty much dead and buried when the WACA moves to their new “wine centre” stadium.
    Apart from the Adelaide Oval Day/night hooping of the pink ball and the massive WACA crack, the pitches have started like a Day 3 pitch and then got better. The fact that England were just not up to the task in Brisbane meant we got a result. The lack of Stark in Melbourne meant that the match might have lasted until they had to call it off in time for the start of Sydney.

  11. I enjoyed your article. There will never be day/ night tests in Sydney &Melbourne while the Big Bash is on and the match may have been fantastic if England’s lead was 100 less ( Broad should never have made 50) and we didn’t lose half a day due to rain.

  12. Martin Rumsby says

    Yes, given that the Aussies have already won back the Ashes, I would have preferred to see the Poms win rather than watch a dull fifth day draw. Before we call for the head of the MCG groundsman it is worth remembering that the Poms haven’t been able to bowl Australia out twice on any of the four pitches used this summer and that the Aussies were lacking their strike bowler in Mitch Starc. I felt relieved for Alastair Cook to see him return to form.

  13. Some pretty solid points there Rulebook.
    Let’s hope that the MCG pitch is rectified soon because test cricket needs results.

  14. Nailed it as (nearly) always Rulebook. I have a feeling Bancroft is like Hayden and Steve Waugh and needs to go back to Sheffield Shield (do we still have that?) for a few seasons to hone his technique. He will come back a much better player for it.
    Based on those figures – C Bancroft out for Sydney; M Ashwood in.
    Regards to you Malcolm and your family and all the Bookettes for 2018. You bring an enormous knowledge, wisdom and audience to the Almanac community.

  15. I’m envious about your 178no, Malcolm – just a shame you ran out of partners (said the madam to the callgirl).
    Doubt I scored 178 runs in my career, unless I count social matches (retire at the end of the over when/if you reach 30).
    A happy New Year to you, your family & friends.
    I enjoy your work on the Almanac.

  16. Luke Reynolds says

    Great points Malcolm, well written piece.
    Bancroft works hard (like Renshaw) but no doubt Rabada, Morkel, Steyn & co. will really test him with the short ball. Unusual for a Western Australian batsman to struggle with the short ball.
    Is it just me or has Khawaja sulked and moped through the series? Still shirty about being omitted on the subcontinent?
    And some very lazy dismissals. Is this the type of player we want at 3?
    Mitch Marsh well off the pace with his bowling to be considered an all-rounder at this stage (bowling was his strong point pre shoulder surgery).

    Happy New Year mate, reckon there’s an Almanac article in your 178*!!!

  17. Paul Roberts says

    One other low light during the Test was Broad’s over of wide bowling when Warner was on 86*. It was absolute cowardice that I hope is never forgotten by the Fast Bowlers Union (FBU). Broad should lose his membership to the FBU and should only be referred to as a “Medium Pacer” from now on.

    Couldn’t agree with you more on Bird selection and Smith should carry all the blame with his continued bias for NSW players. No one outside of NSW had confidence Bird could get the job done. Smith’s poor selection made Anderson’s comment about Australia’s lack of depth look spot on – which is crap.

  18. Malcolm Ashwood says

    MarcD unfortunately a lot of reality in what you say with this pitch a unforgivable error in a multi million dollar business it’s not low grade Ad turf as a purist I don’t have a problem with a team fighting for a draw when a win is out of the equation tho.Jill could not agree more.KM considering tv rights deals are the sports life blood unfortunately execs way to much say.Tristam from other articles as well since your comment you nailed it.Eric spot on a putrid pathetic pitch.DG thank you for the info and very well said.
    Thanks Campbell a bit of fun.Tony agre totally in that,Cook is caught it may we’ll have been a different game still a v poor wicket tho.TC superb as always and no Boz definitely wasn’t umpiring thank goodness.
    Gazza yes v sad that the individual characteristics of each wicket in the country is long gone more day night test matches may we’ll be the go.AT the programming in the future will be very interesting to say the least with the success of the big bash creating a lot of other problems for the games future far from convinced that we have the administrative exec brain and foresight as well it is a huge worry.Martin agree to differ re England winning glad to see a side fight hard for the drW with the series already decided and it was fantastic that a v good player in Cook fought back definitely a severely weakened side with out Starc.Paul thank you and v much so.PB ironic in that if Bancroft had got out early to a good ball in Melbourne there would be less queries about him and I detest the shield competition being forgotten and ignored for the cash cow of B.B. and greatly appreciated.PC yes hit em ok that day many many moons ago thank you.Luke it was weird re Bancroft on Boxing Day and yes he will be severely tested in SA.Khawaja agree completely and yes definitely has appeared to sulk couldn’t agree more a appalling shot to get out on Boxing Day seemingly no idea or appreciation where his off stump was may be he is just a poor mans,Mark Waugh just appearing to be lacksidasical while really trying got me beat.while Mitch Marsh has done well the state of his shoulder re his bowling makes his selection even more confusing and thanks mate always appreciate your help thanks folks ( any one else have problems with bloody fire works with animals last night ? A acute lack of Peter Sleep )

  19. Cameron Glenn says

    Who would of thought that the Boxing Day test would end in a draw. England were lucky it did and Australia were happy to have won the series already so results in these last 2 tests don’t matter so much.

  20. More grass needed on the pitch, RB. just like in Adelaide for the pink-ball Test.

    178no. That must have been some innings, mate!!

    (I once carried my bat, too. 19no in a score of 58 all out!)

  21. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Cameron yes live rubbers mean more but still a test match happy to see the Aussies apply themselves and fight for a draw.Smokie ( and others ) lets just say there may have been the odd celebratory ale consumed that night I woke up in a bin just out the front of the clubrooms and immediately started again next day thought geez the hammer and tack is a bit sore and feels weird scratched myself and fo7nd some black ink a bath and scrubbing brush which bloody hurt getting the 178 no engraved on my back off who needs enemies hey ahh sporting clubs bloody great memories and I admit I have a smil3 typing away.thank you

  22. Jeff Milton says

    Melbourne pitches have often lacked pace and bounce well before drop ins. If you are going to get a draw it is normally in Melbourne. Maybe they could send over a drop in pitch from Adelaide. long proud history of curators here. As mentioned in one of the comments above the new SCG curator is an ex-Adelaide Oval man having spent years learning here.
    May want to consider sending a few of our covers ground staff here to Perth to teach them how to put down covers ( on the odd chance that it rains during a Perth Test again)

  23. Good stuff, OBP.
    Keep the conversation going.

    I think too much was made of the pitch. Better selection (wrist spinner? Fawad Ahmed?), captaincy, bowling and catching – and the problem disappears.
    Victoria has won the past 3 Shields, remember, playing a lot stcthe MCG.
    It’s very possible to get a result.
    A poor workman blames their tools.

    Interesting on Khawaja.
    He seems to have lost a bit of that aura.
    What is Shield form used for? Doesn’t seem to be selection.

    Thanks- OBP

  24. All test wickets are boring now.
    Too much of a sameness

    The main cause of boring cricket is drop in pitches. Adelaide is only exciting as last 3 are at night, before that batsman paradise. Waca boring and predict new pitch will be boring, it is over 10 years since they have had pace in the pitch. MCG was more fun when the bounce was unpredictable.

    Hope the SCG and Gabba never have drop in pitches.
    No team should make more than 300 in first innings or last, if they do cricket becomes boring.
    England and New Zealand still produce the best pitches, its a pity the grounds are not ovals and are bloody small.

  25. 1. Smith a batting freak, no question, albeit vs an England attack which bowled better in this test BUT is still one of the weakest English attacks ever to visit these shores.
    2. Cook showed why he has scored more test runs than any other Englishman.
    3. Agree on Bird. No more than serviceable at best. On this DEAD wicket, ineffectual. Imagine my disappointment then, while interstate for Xmas & New Year, seeing supportive comments in newspapers along the lines of “give him another go” etc. AND our own Ryan Harris echoing these AND suggesting that Aust take the recently-retired Peter Siddle to South Africa,as “experienced back-up”! NO mention as usual of Chadd S.
    4. England’s batsmen aside from Cook have struggled BUT have also had their moments AND will be far more potent in the 2019 Ashes contest, especially with the addition of Ben Stokes. NOT so sure about our crew…. 18 months down the track will we still be relying on Smith & Warner? Marsh brothers have had their moments; now they need to do it consistently. As for Usman K. & Cameron B., we can not be sure that the future lies with them.
    5. And YES, echoing other posters, MCG pitch = shit.
    6. Cummins & Hazelwood worked VERY hard in this test without approaching their best, Lyon toiled away but ditto, Bird below test standard & Marsh M. could be dangerous but doesn’t bowl enough balls in good areas to bother the better players or even tail-enders.
    7. Overall, a forgettable MCG Test, let’s hope Sydney is an improvement.

  26. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Milts South Australia continue to lead the way.OBP glad to see that there have been repercussions regarding the pitch we await further developments and the fact once the series starts they’re isn’t any Shield cricket makes selection even more interesting must wonder re Holland if non selection is due to his criticism of selectors previously ( Shield form overall for mine demanded selection in the squad )
    Khawaja lack of intent bizarre and disappointing.Brendan I detest drop ins and with the lack of rain in our country overall and covers I think it is absurd that footy gets to dictate what happens it is garbage but the difference in pace and bounce in the Adelaide track compared to Melbourne was like chalk and cheese
    agree totally desperately hope SCG and Gabba never have drop ins they certainly have destroyed the individual characteristics we used to have in wickers in Aust.Tony agree overall pure stupidity that Siddles name is remotely mentioned surely re Philander success there for Sayers must go,Bird honest battler,Sayers the better bowler imo agree our side in 18 months time for next ashes a lot of question marks thanks folks

  27. not sure les should be consulted as he served up 15 years of featherbeds its just that Aus had a dominant team that avoided 10 draws never felt the adel pitch was a good overall test pitch unless you were batting
    no bad 178’s no matter the grade

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