There are some things that you can never get tired of: boobs, repeats of ‘Allo ‘Allo! and laughing at the Australian cricket team probably being the three most significant. And boy, have we done some laughing over the last few days. If the rapscallions from the local young offenders institute hadn’t stolen our chairs we’d be black and blue from falling off them. (The chairs that is, not the offenders).
After a match like that it’s hard to know where to start. But start somewhere we must, so here we are:
In years to come, inquisitive children will look at the scorecard and scratch their heads. What happened? How did a pitch on which Australia made a reasonable enough 284 suddenly become a 47 all out pitch, and then a 236/2 pitch just a day later? While conditions on the second day were certainly favourable for bowling, with a bit of seam moment, there was absolutely no reason for the collective brain fade. The pitch certainly had nothing to do with a series of frankly ludicrous shot selections, especially from Mr Cricket, Mr Rubbish Wicketkeeper and Mr Mitchell Johnson, the gift that keeps on giving.
Panic in the ranks is hardly a new phenomenon – just look at the name of this website for a perfect example – but this really was something special. A bit of decent tail-end biffery shouldn’t detract from the sheer lunacy of 21/9, with Australia staring down the barrel of the lowest score ever recorded in Test cricket.
It was a far cry from their first innings where Michael Clarke single-handedly dragged them to a decent score with a superb innings that already feels like it happened years ago. Since taking over the reins after the Ashes he’s looked a batsman reborn. The same can’t be said of Ricky Ponting, who looks more and more like an ageing hipster raging against the passing of his youth.
And while all the seamers made hay at one point or another, Mitchell Johnson again utterly failed to convince. Truly the Australian Harmison, he’s living off long-since-past glories, in the hope that one day his mum will open his bedroom curtains and it’ll suddenly be 2008 again. Although he did pick up a wicket with a wide long hop near the end, so it’s not all bad.
Australia have a lot of soul-searching to do. The victory in Sri Lanka suggested that they were on the way back up, but it might merely have been due to the fact that Sri Lanka have suddenly become embarrassingly poor. They (Australia) still have to face up to the same questions that have been there since the Ashes: is Phil Hughes anywhere near Test quality? How long can Ponting sit on his deckchair in the middle order without contributing? What does Brad Haddin have to do to lose his place? What role is fourth choice seamer Mitch actually supposed to be filling? How much is Shane Watson expected to do on his own?
We’ve made it to 500 words in this article without even mentioning South Africa. There’s a reason for that – it’s hard to draw any conclusions about their side from this madness. Vernon Philander certainly looked the part, but will face more challenging situations in every single game he plays. Imran Tahir barely had chance to make an impression, bar taking South Africa past the follow-on mark, which turned out to be pretty significant in the greater scheme.
The second innings form of Graeme Smith and Hashim Amla will certainly have eased some of the pre-match fears of them being undercooked, while Dale Steyn looked on his game right from the off. Morne Morkel and (particularly) Jacques Kallis didn’t bowl as well as might have been expected, but have enough experience to come good.
Something that we have comment on is the most ludicrous thing about this series – the sheer brevity of it. After barely two days of cricket we’re already halfway through. Two Tests of brilliant cricket (fingers crossed) is still only two Tests, and no amount of meaningless one-day jamborees can make up for that.
Although, if Australia do manage to get bowled out for less than 47 in a one-dayer we’d probably take that for an hour or two’s entertainment. Maybe even ahead of boobs.
Until next time, take care of yourselves and each other.