Chasing 398 was an almost impossible task for Afghanistan.
The first Test is over and the Australian cricket team is in ruins.
Having been in a winning position after the first day, Australia’s batsmen folded like a house of cards, the bowlers couldn’t find a pole at a flag convention and the captain had all the strategy of a slightly-worn lounge chair.
Or so the press are telling us. The end is nigh, so on and so forth.
How bad was the loss really and what does it mean for the team in the immediate and longer-term future? How much should we actually be panicking?
Well, let’s go through the elements.
It seems the selectors are more focussed on selecting by numbers and picking players to fit a plan, rather than fitting a plan around the top XI cricketers in the country.
Chairman of selectors Rod Marsh said Jackson Bird, a bowler, wasn’t picked before the first Test because of his batting. What’s next? drop the keeper because of his ability to carry drinks?
Mark Waugh backed Mitchell Marsh to play in the second Test before the first had barely started, right after he’d scored a duck and not taken a wicket.
Panic level – Facebook just revealed a very dark side to the babysitter you hired for the night.
Steve Smith was sent home from the lost tour of Sri Lanka for a rest.
He obviously followed orders as he sure didn’t spend the time in the nets or working out strategies for a team needing to bounce back.
Just 12 months ago Smith was practically un-dismissible, walking around the crease to hit balls wherever he pleased. Whatever has changed needs to be put in reverse faster than a pre-election promise.
Panic Level – Possible Trump Presidency
Dave Warner and Usman Khawaja both got 97s in the first Test, which is apparently a Test match first and should lock them both in for the rest of the series.
Maybe the rest of the team just isn’t watching enough OLED TV?
After failing in England and Sri Lanka but smashing a depleted West Indies at home last summer, it looks like Adam Voges time may be up.
A Chris Rogers replacement he is not and you’ve got to wonder if the selectors didn’t miss a trick in picking a younger batsman instead of him 18 months ago.
Peter Nevill batted beautifully in the second innings, showing his ability with the willow could be as good as his ability with the gloves.
Shaun Marsh is injured, and in other news, water is wet.
Panic Level – That feeling when you think you may have left the back door unlocked.
A fresh Mitchell Starc, Peter Siddle and Josh Hazlewood, combined with an opportunistic Nathan Lyon dismissed South Africa for 242 in the first innings, which is pretty impressive.
Less impressive was the second innings effort when the pitch flattened out and there seemed to be no clue as to how to get a wicket.
Hazlewood and Starc both had moments, but leaked runs, while Lyon was ignored by his captain and belted by the batsmen.
There has been suggestion that Lyon should be dropped based on other spinners doing well last weekend in the Sheffield Shield, but none (O’Keefe, Holland, Agar) of them are huge turners of the ball or have over 200 Test Wickets worth of experience.
Panic Level – To paraphrase Kent Brockman, “it is time for our viewers to crack their heads open and feast on the goo inside.”
With Smith and Starc struggling out of form, Australia is much less of a threat to score enough runs or take enough wickets.
Bringing Joe Burns in for Shaun Marsh is at least a good longer-term strategy, although another more proven middle order bat is needed.
The inability to take second innings wickets is the real worry, though someone with Lyon’s experience should bounce-back.
Siddle and Mitch Marsh, possibly not.
Panic Level – You’re the guy on the Titanic who forgot the key to open the case that holds the binoculars, just when you need them.