Third Test, Day 1: Australia Plays WACA Test Cricket

Australia Plays WACA Test Cricket by Peter Flynn

On a much-welcomed sporting first day pitch that contained a greenish tinge and provided appreciable (but not quite back to the halcyon days) WACA bounce, Australia were invited by England captain Strauss to collapse first with the bat.

They promptly and predictably did so.

Just after lunch, England’s tight collective of tall, fast-medium and disciplined seamers and swingers had Australia wallowing at 5/69. Australia’s lower order, through some inventive strokeplay more reminiscent of shots played in topspin baseline rallies at Roland Garros or the Foro Italico, partially recovered to a moderate first-innings total of 268. In reply, the cricket-savvy English XI safely reached 0/29 when both entourages and hangers-on ordered their combatants into the ice baths.

Drip tray discussions in the lead-up to this Test largely centred on Hilditch’s ludicrous, career-damaging (particularly to debutant tweakers) and ill-conceived Testlotto-style selection policies. In selection gaffes, Hilditch is outdoing the eccentric Lord Dexter.

Supporters of the baggy green have fretted over Ponting’s unerring nicking form. They have been bemused by Warne’s successful decree to the selectors to grab a Beer and the substantial risk in selecting the out-of-form Macksville Mauler as opener. Warne’s dalliance with the attractive Liz Hurley also gave cause for renewed optimism for some middle-aged male dreamers.

My hat is doffed to England’s meticulous planning and attention to detail thus far in this Ashes series. They are making Australia look embarrassingly cricket-dumb and cricket-naïve. They are forcing Australia into a mindset of panic. Panic with the bat. Panic with the ball. Panic with the field placements. Panic with the tactics. Panic at the selection table.

Hughes was first to go. Expertly set up and softened up with some short balls by the tall Tremlett. The Englishman then bowled the knock-out punch. The fuller straight delivery. Hughes presented a gap between bat and pad so wide that it could conceivably be measured in parsecs. Comprehensively bowled and comprehensively out-thought. Although out-of-form, his technique must be called into question.

Attention Hilditch: We should know by now whether Hughes has the technique for Test match batting.

Ponting strode out quickly at one-for-stuff-all (again). After a brief flurry of boundaries and raising the hopes of some that a century was for the taking, Ponting, more off the back foot on this occasion rather than the nervous exaggerated front-foot lunge, nicked one to the slips. Collingwood’s third slip snare was a ripper. England’s slip catching all series has been one of its pillars.

Ponting’s departure was sad and adds fuel to the fire about his future incumbency as the head of this faltering Club. At his age, he must bat at five.

Clarke, batting too high in the order at second drop, exhibited deplorable footwork and a flawed backlift in nicking a wide one through to custodian Prior. The dependable Renaissance man Hussey came in and batted well for his 61. He is the only batsman in Ashes Tests to score five consecutive scores above 50. Believe he’s achieved this feat twice.

At the other end, Watson, who had advanced to 13, succumbed to another leg-before-wicket shout. I do not like his footwork to full or good-length straight deliveries. His front pad can get in the road and he can be easily caught stumbling on the crease. In my view, he should bat no higher than four. He is not an opener. He is an accidental incumbent.

Smith, who should have batted at seven, nicked one to first slip and was dismissed for 7. Australia 5/69. Smith is just a colt and should be persisted with. Remember Steve Waugh’s rawness and frailty back in 1986/87.

Memo Hilditch: Do not geld Smith just yet.

The English quickies bowled a bit short to Hussey and Haddin who capitalised. Haddin played like a T20 merchant. Hussey was more orthodox but no less effective. On 61, Hussey was deceived by one of the best instances of off-spin bowling I can recall. To a Swann delivery that Hussey should have played forward too, he was deceived in flight and played back to an arm-ball. It appeared to both skid and bounce off the wicket. Hussey nicked it to the keeper.

The dismissal of Hussey (6/137) could have been justifiably celebrated with an en masse sprinkler dance by the English. Maybe Perth’s long distance from the east coast’s La Nina rain events prevents such an outpouring of joy.

After Haddin’s departure (7/189) for a sometimes head-scratching and decidedly risky 53, Johnson cocked his wrists like Sobers and played shots through the covers like Pollock on his way to a valuable 62. He is a seriously talented batsman. Harris, on the back of Test cricket’s first technology-referred golden pair was comprehensively bowled like Bhagwat Chandrasekhar circa 1978. The Harris contribution was 3.

It was left to Hilfenhaus and Siddle to play a collection of topspin forehands and smashes in the V from mid-off to mid-on. This pair of Woodies put on a most unorthodox 35 for the last wicket.

It was crucial that Australia struck with the new ball. In that beautiful late afternoon Perth summer light, Australia’s Shield bowlers served up its usual erratic Point Wilson standard of erratic bowling. Phil Hughes would make a ton against the profligate offerings of Harris and Hilfenhaus. Kim Hughes would. Shot Claggy he would say while down on one knee driving one through the covers.

It was pleasing to see Johnson bowl with a straighter arm and he got a couple to swing away from the left hander. The accompanying mouthing-off towards Strauss however gave cause to cringe.

The equation is simple. Australia must bowl England out for a maximum of about 330 in the first dig. Given our Shield attack, it’s a big ask. It can be done if the England batsmen do not adjust to the WACA bounce.

Memo Hilditch: Resign with immediate effect.

Comments

  1. Played, Flynny.

    Spot on regarding Johnson’s mouthing off at Strauss. As Chappelli said, you might want to take a wicket or two before you start giving the batsmen an earful.

  2. Flynnie – as much as I think Hilditch is misguided and wrong in his approach, a lot of the blame needs to sit squarely with the players and coaches. The players demand the big money and all that goes with that, which in turn makes their performances even more subject to appraisal. Names should not count for much (read Clarke, Johnson, even Ponting) but character and the ability to fight should mean a lot. These Poms aren’t even much good!

  3. Andrew Starkie says

    Well said, Flynny. I feel your pain. We all do.

    As Dolly Parton says: ‘Here we go again…’

    Ponting’s dismissal and Cook’s six summed up the series.

    Did you read KP walked through the middle of the Aussies’ fielding session the other day? In recent times, no Pom would’ve dared walk on the ground while the Aussies were out there, let alone insult them like that. I hope someone told him to F off.

    Most of our players showed little application, let alone technique.

  4. Cheers Gigs,

    It wasn’t a good look.

    G’day Dips,

    Agree with your assessment of the players.

    I have been describing them as cricket-dumb for a period now.

    You can also add cricket-complacent. All the psychobabble coming out of the Aussie camp shouldn’t wash with any of us. They speak Point Wilson sewerage.

    The coach is particularly dim. Particularly when it comes reading pitches.

    Look at the Poms. As you say not a great outfit but really welled drilled and they stick to well-constructed plans. They have worked Ponting and Clarke out.

    I’m now being made aware of the shambolic treatment of Beer. He was told he was in until the last moment.

    Did Ponting want four fast bowlers?

  5. Nice summation of what we lack Flynny. And of England.

    Most cricket followers have been agreed on many points for some time now. The real question is why the powers that be haven’t acted. What are the priorities that rule Australian cricket at present?

    The one bright spot was that Johnson seemed in a better frame of mind. The sledging is stupid in context, but I vastly prefer that to the timid, passive bloke who’s been allowing things to just happen TO him.

    Mind you, we’re yet to see if it lasts.

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