Australia cricket news
It wasn’t so long ago that Australia’s batting was pretty fragile. Since then, David Warner and Steve Smith have joined Michael Clarke as regular run-scorers, providing more than mere gaffer tape solidity. However, while India’s 408 doesn’t look too imposing, nor does Australia’s new-look line-up.
Some players seem underrated by the sides they represent. Others… well, you just feel like you’re missing something. The Marshes are a case in point.
Shaun Marsh makes good hundreds interspersed with a hell of a lot of ducks. He’s played for long enough now that you’d think people would have a fair idea what they will get from him, but the Australian selectors seem far more concerned with what they might get from him.
His brother, Mitch, is looked upon in a similar way. People seem impressed by his bowling, despite the fact that he has only just taken his first Test wicket in his fourth Test, while he finds himself batting at six despite a first-class average of 29.63. By way of contrast, India’s number six averages 58.68 in first-class cricket and recently became the first man to hit two ODI double hundreds – yet still approximately half of his team’s supporters think he shouldn’t be playing.
The middle order Marshes – they sound more challenging than they perhaps are.6 Appeals
If the Gabbattoir is seeing anyone slaughtered, it’s not the Indians but the home team’s bowlers. Ryan Harris was rested because he’s slightly injured and while Peter Siddle was flat-out dropped, he might be back for the next Test because the Aussie bowlers who actually are playing have been attempting to rotate at too great a speed.
Josh Hazlewood and Mitchells Starc and Marsh all suffered in some way on day one of the second Test. A third Mitch – Johnson – only suffered in terms of his bowling figures, which were 0-64 off 15. Hazlewood and Starc should be okay to bowl on day two, but Marsh, in a respectful nod to his absent captain, has done his hammy. They’re even being a bit vague about whether he’ll bat.
All this cramp and nigglage hasn’t done much for the over rate either. Despite 22 overs of spin, only 83 overs were bowled in the day, which is shocking. India still found time to make 311.14 Appeals
It’s possible that we jumped the gun in saying that we might not see much more of Michael Clarke. We’ve reached this conclusion on the basis that he made a hundred as recently as today.
Watching Clarke teeter and gallumph about, it’s clear that the spirit is willing but the tendons are inflamed, but you can get a long way with spirit – just ask Steve Smith.
We’ve previously said that at some point we’ll come to terms with Steve Smith’s run-scoring. We’re not sure we’re quite there yet, but a good innings is at least no longer a surprise. In fact, we’ve reached a point where we’re faintly outraged when he’s omitted from the Australia side. He pretty much always scores runs and he tends to do so in the right sort of manner for the situation as well.
Good cricketer. Weird batsman, weirder bowler, but good cricketer.7 Appeals
David Warner paid his own tribute to Phil Hughes by flaying a whole series of fours in the air through the off side. Chris Rogers then provided the context by demonstrating just how hard it is to middle the wide ball angling across a left-hander. Edged to slip? Where was the open-faced scythe to the boundary, man?
Warner’s 10th hundred in 33 Tests takes his average within a spit of 50. He did for the opening bowlers to such an extent that India were relying on Ishant Sharma to bring the run-rate down. For all Sharma’s qualities, that’s usually a sign that things have gone horribly wrong.
India’s other bowler was Karn Sharma, a legspinner, who was making his debut. We presume R Ashwin has again been omitted on the basis of his poor overseas record – something that he is going to struggle to correct from the dressing room. Thus far, Karn Sharma’s built a piss-poor overseas record of his own, but there’s little point judging him on day one of an Australian Test match. He does appear to have moobs, however.
The other big news was Michael Clarke retiring hurt. The injuries are coming with the frequency of Warner boundaries these days and we’re starting to think we might not see much more of Australia’s captain. We daresay he finds it rather frustrating. We do and we have pretty much nothing vested in his career.
Clarke’s opposite number was Virat Kohli because MS Dhoni is slightly injured and slightly resting ahead of the World Cup. From what we saw, Kohli can do stern-faced pointing in sunglasses with the best of them. He did however lose the toss, which is something to work on before his next match as captain.10 Appeals
It’s never easy to cover serious news on a website like this because whatever we write will have to stand alongside something stupid. Our usual way of dealing with this is to just let the serious story completely pass us by. But you can’t write a cricket site and not comment on the death of a cricketer who was killed while playing cricket. Where are you if you start doing that anyway? The modern world is a disconnected, unfeeling place at times. Ignoring a person’s death is not acceptable.
However, the first thing we’ve noticed is that even if people can feel distanced from major events nowadays, the cricket world – and that includes you and us – seems to remain healthily responsive. We’re writing this because it’s a struggle to read. Phil Hughes’ death seems to have rinsed all the cynicism away so that even trite words are making us teary.
That’s one of the things about cricket. A day’s play is six hours; a Test match five days; a tour can last months – it’s a lot of time to get to know someone. We don’t see players in every situation in their life, but we do see a hell of a lot of them. We take in the ups and downs that shape them – ups and downs which can be very personal and unrelated to the fortunes of their team. Cricket’s like a huge, freakish family and when a cricket family member dies, we all feel a sense of loss.
Quite a few of the obituaries are saying that Hughes was destined for greatness, which is the kind of fortune-telling revisionism which often takes place when someone dies at an unacceptably young age. We don’t much care whether he would have been great or not. What we’ll miss is Hughes’s career, however it might have panned out. That was the fascination – in seeing things unfold.
And Hughes was a truly fascinating player. We’d have loved to have seen how things went from here. He could look – and we’ll not mince our words here – outright bad at the crease. He could look like a bad batsman. But he could also look good and more than anything, he could perform in a way that made him impossible to ignore. He bounced between those extremes like no-one else and that is what we’ll miss. All players are unique, but Hughes was a high profile, potentially-alter-your-entire-way-of-thinking unique.
His career seemed to constitute an experiment as to whether really obvious shortcomings could be completely negated by sheer brilliance. Hughes would pick up a whole string of ducks and you’d think it was an open-and-shut case and then he’d score hundreds when no-one else could get off the mark. That was the quality we picked up on in his early days and he only became more interesting when we later discovered that his was a qualified brilliance.
Freakishly heavy scoring is hard to ignore and if Australians still talk about Shaun Marsh as being some great white hope, it’s worth noting that Hughes made over twice as many first-class hundreds despite being six years younger. He was 25. We hadn’t even started this website when we were 25. We hadn’t even thought about doing the thing that we do when were the age at which Phil Hughes has died. We know a sportsman’s career starts and ends earlier than most, but it isn’t meant to end this early.39 Appeals
Justin Langer has a philosophy. It’s changed the culture of the Western Australia cricket team and made them successful. Central to his philosophy are the following three rules:
- Use common sense
- Keep things simple
- No mobile phones at training
This revelation comes from within an almost transcendentally nauseating interview. Other highlights include his Christian faith (“I’ve probably got about 15 to 20 sets of rosary beads at home”); how he and his wife dedicate an hour to each other every morning (or at least they do when he’s in town); and his habit of scrawling trite quotes on the walls of what is now his daughter’s room…
“The words on the wall are just scriptures and quotes. They’re just reminders. Every now and then I go up and lie on her bed and just surround myself.”
Try as they might, this current generation of Australian cricketers just can’t quite muster the same level of exceptional loathesomeness as that 2005 outfit.
It’s the same kind of guff that Matthew Hayden comes out with. All this belief, self-improvement and relentless positivity – it’s almost like a cult. “My name’s Justin and I believe in successfulnessment.”
It’s hard not to picture Warnie sat in the corner of the dressing room, gawping at them with a cheese toastie in his hand. The sad fact is, Warne’s actually not much better these days. At some point the fat idiot must have been infected by it all – it’s just that the disease just took a decade to gestate thanks to all the cheddar clogging up his synapses.34 Appeals
It may feel like Australia lost the series against Pakistan 4-0, but actually it was only two. No matter how you play, you can’t lose more than two matches when you only play two.
This has allowed Michael Clarke to somewhat disingenuously plead that his captaincy shouldn’t be judged on the basis of two Tests. People will be quick to draw his attention to last year’s 4-0 defeat to India, which is perhaps what he wants as such talk distracts from his batting form.
The truth is that Clarke’s got away with a 2-0 defeat. He can pretend that Australia might have bounced back were they playing a third Test, but history tends to suggest that learning is more than outweighed by the negative effects of reacting whenever Australia start losing.
“We’re learning,” they say. “Look!”
But changing isn’t the same as improving.
The captain’s view
Ricky Ponting’s main redeeming feature as a captain was that he was plain-speaking. He always erred on the side of blunt honesty and had an unusual predilection for answering the questions asked of him.
But there is quite some distance between being open and honest as an international cricket captain and being open and honest as a columnist. The former is like being the least annoying daytime Radio 1 DJ. You’re the least bad of a group that’s pretty much defined by one negative characteristic.
It is therefore no surprise to see that Ponting’s first column for Cricinfo is fairly banal. He still knows those involved, so his criticism is qualified and weak. You have to read between the lines a bit and magnify some of what he’s saying to interpret his true meaning.
When Ponting says that “a lot of what I saw was a bit frenetic, a bit fast,” then maybe – just maybe – he’s talking about Australia’s number three reverse sweeping his way to 37 off 28 balls in a match in which the opposition’s just posted 570-6 with one guy making a double hundred.
Glenn Maxwell at three – but what would have been next?
The selection of Glenn Maxwell to bat at number three might rank as one of the greatest cricketing decisions of all time. In this context, we’re using ‘greatest’ to mean ‘inexplicable and hilarious’.
But all we can think about is what might have happened next.
If this series had run on, who knows where Australia might have ended up. If you’re picking Maxwell at three by the second Test, what do you do when you’ve lost four on the bounce? The team physio, Alex Kontouris, must have harboured serious hopes of opening the bowling if there had been such a match.
Playing a five Test series when all you can do is lose is like being asked to build an elaborate timber framed home when the only tools you’ve got are a spoon and a spatula. It’s a painful, humiliating farce, but every day you have to turn up for work and do your best and then explain your progress to the client afterwards.
If you ever have to go through this, the after-effects are huge. There’s no hiding place. You had ample opportunities to do a good job so if all you managed was abject failure, you have to answer for that. By slinking off after two Tests, the Australian team has minimised the damage.
The moral of the story
Your averages, captain, coaches and players can probably survive incompetence over a relatively short series, so if you’re going to be rubbish against someone, make sure it’s Pakistan, Sri Lanka, New Zealand or someone.21 Appeals
It can be hard to keep up with Pakistan’s playing staff. Mitchell Marsh gets a debut and great tracts of webspace are devoted to him, explaining what this decision means and why it’s such a monumental event. In contrast, Pakistan players ghost into the side and it’s only when they’ve become the top-ranked batsman or bowler in the world that anyone finally pays any attention to them.
For one reason or another, Pakistan’s bowling attack is particularly untested at the minute but they seem to be doing okay. Zulfiqar Babar and Yasir Shah, the two spinners, were the architects of Australia’s downfall and it’s tempting to wonder whether we’ve just seen the first steps taken by a duo that will one day rank alongside Wasim and Waqar, Lillee and Thompson and Ambrose and Walsh.
Then you look at them and this clearly isn’t the case. Spring chickens they are not. Zulfiqar Babar in particular is an old stewing chicken. He looks like an Indian Railways employee on his Cricinfo profile page. In fact we’re pretty sure we once bought a ticket off him. We remember him repeatedly answering our question about whether the train stopped at a particular station with the Indian ‘maybe, maybe not’ head wobble. Apparently there’s a version of ‘yes’ which is quite similar to that movement, but to Western eyes it was a decidedly unhelpful response. Yasir Shah is at least wearing cricket gear in his picture, but he could still pass for a ticket inspector.
As for Australia, where do they stand after this heavy defeat? We didn’t see the match, but apparently Alex Doolan looked out of his depth, while Mitchell Marsh is never a number six batsman. The two spinners were also strikingly ineffectual on what was clearly a turning pitch. You could perhaps defend Steve O’Keefe by saying it was his debut, but that rings a little hollow when Pakistan’s entire attack was pretty much new to Test cricket.
The whole Australia team probably just needs to be a little bit more aggressive. That’s the answer. That’ll sort it.9 Appeals
First up, Pakistan v Australia where the ‘home’ side appear to be doing a reasonable job of putting a score on the board. It’s always hard to tell what’s a decent first innings total, but with Pakistan’s flaky batting, you reckon they’d be pretty happy already.
The major contributor has been Younus Khan. It always strikes us that Younus and his former team-mate, Mohammad Yousuf, don’t get the credit they deserve. Both average over 50 with Younus now one ton ahead with 25.
One argument is that they’ve played a lot of cricket on flat Pakistan decks, but Younus, for one, has played only 19 truly home Test matches – surely that should add to his reputation? On top of this, contrast his scores with those of his team-mates in recent times and you can see that he also has to carry some extra weight.
This hundred against Australia completes the set. He’s reached three figures against everyone now.
Also of note is the return of Peter Siddle. Having written about overtraining earlier in the year, we were interested to see how he’d go. He’d complained of fatigue and claimed he could recover his pace given a rest and a chance to train properly. Now he’s had that and sure enough he’s back on track.
Fast bowlers in particular need an off season. Just a reminder that England are playing a match in every calendar month from November until September 2017. Hopefully that much-needed downtime won’t be delivered when they’re scheduled to play the Windies.
On a lighter note, we wrote a piece for last month’s All Out Cricket about the lost art of understated celebration. It’s not just handshakes we miss, it’s also quietly retrieving your cap from the umpire as well as ambling about looking at the floor. Folding your arms is another we’d like to see brought back. Beats all that shrieking and fist-pumping hands down.
The article’s now online, but please do buy the mag whenever you get chance. It’s decent.
And finally, Twitter. Our latest round-up’s just gone up at Cricinfo. We’ve tried to cover the Windies thing. Not easy when you’re relying on the words of others.12 Appeals
Steve O’Keefe’s finally been picked to play a Test match for Australia. We mentioned him as far back as 2010 as being a spinner who wasn’t completely rubbish, but who was somehow being overlooked in favour of any number of slow bowlers who were.
O’Keefe’s the second spinner, so Australia haven’t reverted to punishing Nathan Lyon for being Nathan Lyon – he’s still playing as well. Mitchell Marsh is making his debut too and one can only hope that he’ll be as majestically inconsistent as his brother, Shaun.
Pakistan have also given two players debuts. Yasir Shah is a legspinner who played a solitary one-day international in 2011 when he also played two T20 internationals. We know nothing about him.
Meanwhile, Imran Khan is, as you might imagine, a pace bowler of some description. He’s down as right-arm medium-fast on Cricinfo, but that’s what they tend to put when they don’t really know a player. Being as Imran has neither a photo nor a written profile on his player page, we suspect that is the case in this instance. In classic Pakistan tradition, he was probably hired to drive the team bus but impressed in the nets where he was bowling with an orange.
At the time of writing, Australia were one wicket away from the inevitable Younus Khan and Misbah-ul-Haq rebuilding partnership.17 Appeals