Third Test – Day 4: Holiday cricket

Sri Lanka 294 and 278.

Australia 9 dec 432 and 5/141, win by 5 wickets.


The Harms circus has headed north after Christmas in Hamilton.

We arrived in Mooloolaba on Saturday afternoon having listened to the Sri Lankans build their second innings total on the short drive up from Brisbane. Actually, we got scores from time to time, in between renditions of Twinkle Twinkle and Ipsy Wipsy. As we unpacked the Sri Lankans were an encouraging 1/130 and there was a fair chance they would post a solid total and push the Test into a fourth day and possibly a fifth day.

Unfortunately a few wickets fell cheaply while we were in the pool. Poor concentration. Then the visitors dug in to be 7 for 225 at stumps.

When they resumed yesterday we were at the beach.

A younger, more vital man would have been enthused by the surf conditions. Ex-cyclone Freda, now somewhere near the Kingdom of the Cook Islands, was still pumping its considerable swell in the Australian direction and the six-footers certainly had more Aravinda than Arjuna in them.

Our tribe wandered along the sand taking in the sites. Of course Mooloolaba is awash with tourists many of whom feel obliged to tie some delicate thread sporting a very small shell around their ankles. This certainly helps the atmosphere.

We continued to meander towards the flags. A deeply-tanned surfie with a flame tattoo on his right shin was conducting a (formal) surfing class on the dry sand. He had two flabby 16 year olds (possibly both male) who looked to have been enrolled via the internet by their mother before leaving Caulfield. The instructor was using his teacher voice – which sounded quite incongruous coming from a surfie. There wasn’t a lot of chill in it. No doubt he needed the cash.

Our kids loved the water and got used to the waves. The tide was coming in so the morning was well-spent holding back the water with a well built sand castle that was eventually inundates. I’d say it’s going to be a good week.

Back to the pool for a dip.

And then into the unit.

Ah, that wonderful summer feeling. The post-swim lie down in front of the cricket, kids running amok in the bathroom, trails of sand being left as they de-robe en route to the shower. The possibility of the first Corona of the day as it’s midday somewhere they are sensible enough to have Daylight Saving, which is not in Queensland.

By fluke I turn on as Ed Cowan faces the first ball of the innings. The Sri Lankans have kicked on, Chandimal batting well with the tail to remain 62 not out, and the final partnership with Pradeep adding 41. The screen says the Australians must reach 141.

There has been a debate among the four Harms brothers the night before as to whether Cowan is any good, and whether Warner is any good. In fact there have been about discussions about 15 candidates.

Warner does little for his supporters when, at a relatively tense time in the match, he push-thrusts at Lakmal, gets the healthy edge, and Jayawardene makes a decent slips catch appear easy.

Cowan looks very nervous. He is excessively cautious against the spinners. Every movement seems exaggerated. It’s as if he is living entirely in the conscious self. There is no flow, no acceptance that elements of batting can be like walking or smiling or many of the everyday things which happen without thinking.

There is little smiling. Nerves are evident in his running between the wickets which is gushy. Like the awkward newbie at a dinner party.

And don’t the Channel 9 commentators delight in pointing this out. What is it some of them don’t like about Ed Cowan? And yet what is it that like about David Warner? Why is Warner destined to live life without care, certainly without burden, guaranteed that whatever happens he is free to be David Warner? While Ed Cowan, as much as he will claim to avoid it, will have to deal with a discourse that questions him?

What are the solutions? Must Ed Cowan get on the piss with Ian Healy and nod and smile while he listens for seven hours? Must Ed Cowan never say a word publicly unless instructed by Cricket Australia or reading from a Channel 9 auto-cue? Must Ed Cowan become Stephen Daedelus? Is he Daedulus already?

Cowan knows he just needs to score runs and help Australia build decent totals. Which he sets about doing in this case. The SCG wicket is turning and (very) occasionally spit-bouncing, the breeze is helpful for both spinners, Herath (a pro) and Dilshan (trying his heart out).

It is good cricket to watch. Hughes and Cowan are forced to fight. Cowan uses a legal technicality, playing the angles of round the wicket bowling, knowing that a decent stride and a sweep will have the ball striking him outside the line. It’s an admission he is not in form, but will graft. Whatever happened to the player we saw in Brisbane?

After lunch the kids play with their cousins.

The Sri Lankans make plenty of chances but can’t take a wicket until Hughes is LBW. Clarke uses his feet immediately and Herath re-calibrates. He varies his pace. Clarke knows that Herath is trying to draw him further and further down the wicket, so he is eventually going to dummy forward, then rock back and go high over forward square. This is good cricket.

Clarke goes to bat-pad for 29 and if another couple of wickets fall anything is possible. Hussey, in his last innings, is as determined as ever.

The umpires are in the hot-seat. They play it as they see it: there are no final quarters and whistles-away in this fixture. A brave decision to give Cowan out LBW survives Cowan’s challenge and Cowan departs having made 36. Sympathisers will value the innings, and its grafting grit; detractors will add it to their file of prosecuting evidence.

Hussey takes the whip handle straight away. It’s not much of a whip as conditions favour the bowlers but he is assertive and, given there are not a lot of runs to make, that is enough. Although Wade is bowled playing a golf shot that would not have reached the red tees, the Australians are safe. Johnson eventually squirts one behind point and Hussey calls him through. The Australians win by five wickets.

It has been a decent Test match.

Mike Hussey will be well-remembered. A solid player. He was asked to be versatile and never shirked the issue.

The summer has given the Harms brothers, and others, much to talk about in the lead-up to India and England. It’s hard to work out what is going on in the minds of the selectors; far easier to work out who the Channel 9 commentators would select.

We eat nectarines and then return to the pool.

Anna has finished her jigsaw.



About John Harms

JTH is a writer, publisher, speaker, historian. He is publisher and contributing editor of The Footy Almanac and He has written columns and features for numerous publications. His books include Confessions of a Thirteenth Man, Memoirs of a Mug Punter, Loose Men Everywhere, Play On, The Pearl: Steve Renouf's Story and Life As I Know It (with Michelle Payne). He appears (appeared?) on ABCTV's Offsiders. He can be contacted [email protected] He is married to The Handicapper and has three school-age kids - Theo, Anna, Evie. He might not be the worst putter in the world but he's in the worst four. His ambition was to lunch for Australia but it clashed with his other ambition - to shoot his age.


  1. JTH – I remember as a kid surfing the huge swell at Mooloolaba on my new surf mat. I thought I was in the pipes of Hawaii such was the size of the waves. They were probably about 3 feet.

    Nothing beats the post beach, wind down on the couch, coldie. Enjoy.

  2. Summer holidays and the cricket. Magic. My older brother’s first task on arriving at that summer’s caravan park was finding a family with a TV in their caravan. You’d hardly see him for two weeks.

  3. Peter Schumacher says

    Ah, Mooloolaba, our home town for 13 years. But then our daughter and son in law living in Shepparton had triplets, no IVF no warning, just identical girl triplets. We had to relocate of course although we swore that we would never relocate for our kids. Now they are just on fourteen years of age. There have been tough times, very tough times in that fourteen years for both parents and grand parents but overwhelmingly it has been well and truly worth it as these girls and their seventeen year old sister have been growing up to be beautiful young ladies. All the same, whenever I pass our former home on Karawatha Drive Mooloolaba backing onto the Headland Golf Course, I wistfully wonder how beautiful our garden, always in the latter years somewhat of a traffic stopper, developed from nothing, would now look.

    Oh and yes the cricket was really interesting on that fourth day. Incidentally I don’t hate the Channel Nine mob as much as some but whenever I see station promotions for following programs or bullshit memento’s (and the same goes for Seven with the tennis) I wonder what sort of population follows this stuff which seems to me to be aimed at three year olds. And this is a telling sign to me that our educational standards really are backwards if people follow such tripe by which I mean the both promo’s and most of the programs that they attempt to sell.

    Oh yes, back to the cricket, expect every pitch in India to be as rough as buggery.

  4. Dave (hungry) Baker says

    Good to see you haven’t brushed the XXXX state completely JTH ! Just completed my shift of obligatory Xmas/New year beach hol with progeny at Kings Beach ( more small child friendly) . Have a great break . Enjoy a cold cerveza in the arvos when you can and dream of the cold Vic winter ahead.

  5. Like you JTH, I have been wondering at the team selection. As I have a healthy respect for Invers, Marsh and Bichel I tried to see method in the madness of 4 quicks on the flattest, lowest track in Australia.
    I came to the conclusion they treated it as a trial match for the Indian tour. Who could cut it when there was no bounce or swing? We could win with pretty much any line up, and a loss wouldn’t be the end of the world.
    For mine Starc is still a ? Bird is a ripper and he can play Max Walker to whoever we decide is Lillee and Thommo on a Test by Test basis (depending on conditions and fitness). Siddle and Johnson got a pass, but one misses when Pattinson is fit, though I wouldn’t cruel him on the sub continent.
    Why isn’t Siddle the new “Under the Southern Cross….” songmaster?? Another victim of the rotation system? He is the obvious candidate on the inspirational tough guy basis that has been the criteria to date. Lyon was just the most likely to turn up for most games. Watto would pull a hammy climbing onto the table to lead the chorus.
    Go easy on Wade. Rod Marsh was called “Iron Gloves” early in his Test career.
    I hear Marvellous Marlon and Shameless Shane are jelly wrestling in the WWF (Weight Watchers Farce) next week. I can’t take a skinny Warne in a green Gomer Pyle cap seriously.

  6. Eagle eyed stuff John. Channel 9 fall over themselves fawning over Warner, and nit pick every little thing about Cowan. The thing is, though, I find it hard to like Cowan myself. Hate that baseball stance. And little Davie Warner is just so likable (he’s my fav Aussie cricketer since the Waugh’s.) Still you’d like to see people given a fair go

    Great piece. Luv how you weave the family stuff into these reports … It’s like an episode of the Walton’s woven into a Cricinfo editorial.

  7. Shane Kennedy says

    I’m starting to like Cowan in the same way people used to get tatoos … just to be different and stand out from the crowd.

  8. Pamela Sherpa says

    PB- perhaps Siddle doesn’t have a very good voice . Does Nathan Lyon have off field talents we don’t yet know about ? Is he an Alastair Cook type i.e -ex choir boy ? I have no idea. I’m surprised the ch 9 team have not yet researched and revealed all we need to know about this.

  9. All good questions Pamela. Whatever happened to investigative sports journalism? Was there ever investigative sports journalism? Should this be investigated? Is Litza channeling through me?

    Funny you should mention the educating surfie JTH. To become a surf coach, one must now complete a two day course on the fine/dark art of walking on water. Having a clear voice that can carry over the waves, wind and other beach goers is a valuable thing. I know all this because my latest career move is an ocean rescue certificate away from getting paid to introduce people to a salt, sand and wax lifestyle.

    Have you tried the fish and chip shop on Parkyn Pde? Highly recommended.

  10. John Harms says


    Yes, frequented the joint last summer – we are staying on Parkyn Pde (in honour of Davyd).

    This year we went to the one at the other end – also very good.

    And in Qld they are very civilised: crumbed fish is the go.


  11. John Harms says

    I am very interested to hear why Cowan is such a divisive character. As a batsman he has a sound technique. When his confidence is down he tends to present as a statue in the best-chance defensive position. When he is confident and in form he plays each ball on his merits.

    If ever a bloke would benefit from a Sheffield Shield match…

  12. Ever since Ed Cowan agreed with my comments about T20 at the Footy Almanac Manning Clark lecture, I have found him to be the best batsman in the country, perhaps the world.

  13. point taken, Gigs

  14. JTH – I’m not sure Cowan is divisive, I just think people haven’t made up their minds about him yet – largely because he’s not making enough runs to cement a place. Until that happens people won’t really feel that they “know” him.

    Remember when Michael Clarke was in the bad books about 2 years ago? He looked flat, he was having Bingle problems, he was getting new ink every other week. As soon as the runs started to flow all was forgiven. In Sydney he was given an enormous cheer when he came in to bat.

    I hope Cowan gets the same reception one day.

  15. JTH, I wasn’t even aware I was making a point, but I suppose I was. For me there’s a bit of “emotional investment” in Ed, having met and been very impressed by him that night, so I tend to be a bit more forgiving of his failings and weaknesses, if that’s what they are. (It could simply be that he just needs the runs to start flowing, as Dips suggests.)

    It reminds me of how to tell if you’re in love with someone. If they do something or act in a way that normally annoys the living crap out of you, but in them you find it cutely quirky, then you’re in love.

    I’m finding Ed’s idiosyncrasies cutely quirky at the moment – in a blokey kind of way, of course!

  16. Gigs – I love your quirky, idiosyncratic, obsessive word games and number puzzles.
    How do I break this news to the Avenging Eagle???
    Yours Devotedly,
    Peter B

  17. Peter, just tell the Avenging Eagle that your love is purely platonic.

    And thanks!

  18. Mark Doyle says

    I am a bit bemused at this discussion about Ed Cowan. He is nothing more than a B grader with limited batting skills and poor footwork. He is also a poor judge of running between the wickets. He is also a poor fielder. He is unlikely to have a long test career.

  19. We need Gideon to respond to that.

  20. Crumbed fish is the only way. Yesterday evening we went up the end where I had some mahi-mahi, calamari, a sea scallop and some chips, that went down a treat. Lucy and the kids went for sushi. Was surprised to see two more fish and chip purveyors plus the sushi joint within the roundabout area. (Not there the last time we went past). All doing a fairly roaring trade.

    Perhaps the most civilised aspect is the fact you can buy beer from the fish and chippery.

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