Third Test, Day 1: Watson’s prospects seems as good as the bream’s in our frypan

By Justin Kruger

Some days have a surprise in the tail. It’s the same way with emails.

A few days ago I  get 2 emails from John Harms about a possible roster for coverage of the third test. They are clearly the sort of emails that might have attachments. Neither does, and I don’t think too much more about it.

Thursday I get home from work; 6 days on in the last 7. About 65 hours, most of them grim. Peg is cooking. She’s been to the fish market. Bream. You don’t see bream sold so much these days. Not that this is good news for the one in the frypan. A bottle of  wine is opened and likewise the day’s emails. 18 of them and most of them contain a roster with my name next to Edgbaston, July 30. I check the watch. 7.45pm. 30/07/09. To be honest, I’d forgotten the third test begins on 30/07/09. Which particular hour it starts is also a concern.

Now there are two relevant facts here about our flat.  One, it is a long way from Edgbaston. Two, it doesn’t have a television. Three, nothing. There is no third thing.

Well, except for the fact that Peg has put Schubert on the CD player. There is no prospect of replacing Schubert with Jonathon Agnew. I reach for the trusty Gundig Compact with earphones. 7.48 and a lot of talk from Messrs Agnew, Maxwell and Marks, but no action.  Peg fixes me with flint in her eyes. What are you doing?

I think it’s still raining there in England, I say.

Are you really going to listen to the cricket?

I have only one earphone plugged in, which leaves half an ear for Schubert. More than enough, I would have thought. Better than Mozart but still a bit Billy Joelish. Agnew says the sun is peeping through the clouds. Not so in New Farm where Peg is flashing stares that have me peeling myself off the back wall. She gets up and gets a book. A sterner critic might call it flouncing. Maxwell says it’s now drizzling at Edgbaston and there is a puddle at mid on. The Australian team is not official but there is a story that Hughes has been dropped for Shane Watson. More twitter than rumour; or at least that is the source of the information. I’m not sure which bit is the more ridiculous: the news or its source. Watson’s prospects as opening bat are about as good as the bream’s and both of them have probably seen better days. Maybe Hussey will open. Either way, you wonder about Australian cricket’s obsession with manufacturing an allrounder. Australia has had a few strong teams in the last 40 years but none has had a regular allrounder batting in the top 6. Okay, there is the example of Flintoff for England, but do you get the Freddie of 05 or 07? And there’s Botham of course, but surely winning isn’t worth having Botham in your side. Allrounders work out fine in strong teams. Where the batting is strong enough to support a six (or opener) who, if he fulfils his potential, will average 33. Or an attack that regularly bowls out an opposition under 300. The problem is they also suit weak teams. Where the alternative specialist batter will also average 33. Where another trundler is needed to support the bowlers. And when a bowling allrounder’s batting keeps him in the side to the detriment of the attack. (Greg Matthews anyone?)  The Australian selectors want 12 performers for the price of 11; they risk getting 10.

There is a new partnership of openers on the radio. Matthew Hayden and Geoff Boycott. You wonder how the headphones fit in the commentary box. Aggers says the sun is now beating down but there’s still a pond at mid on. Ashley Giles talks but doesn’t offer much, which goes to show how cricket offers reassuring constants. Haydos talks about Philip Hughes’ off-side play and leg-side play, his back foot play and front foot play. They all agree Australia played poorly in the second test; England played poorly in the first. And that’s what they’re all doing: sitting around waiting for grown men to start playing. And we’re all sitting around listening to them, but according to Jim Maxwell it’s raining again and the pond at mid on is now a lake. There is no likelihood of play today.

Of course the Australians this week have suffered the fate of all teams who have played badly. They have had a lot of work to do. I just hope the bastards had 65 hours of it.

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