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Adelaide highlights all the joys of Test cricket

Brett McKay Columnist

By Brett McKay, Brett McKay is a Roar Expert

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42 Have your say

    Cricket, even in the varying forms and lengths that it comes these days, is a sport like few others. Yes, there are other sports that place more physical exertion on the body, and even those that put more mental strain on the mind.

    But there aren’t many that combine physical and technical performance along with mental strategy.

    Test cricket, more so than one-day or Twenty20 cricket, is the epitome of this combination.

    For five days, we ask of our players to run in, perform a strange lever-like dance move pivoting on a white-washed line, before hurling a ball made of rubber, cork layers, animal hide, and yarn toward someone holding a kind of oar-shaped piece of wood that is used more like a club.

    Other people dotted around the expanse of grass stop the ball, or run after it if they don’t. Or they don’t do anything at all, if they’re not standing on the right patch.

    Aliens landing on earth next to a cricket field would be excused for wondering what the hell they’re looking at.

    The second Test in Adelaide had everything there is to love about Test cricket: drama, intrigue, second-guessing, standout performances, underperformance, nerves, momentum shifts, and eventually for Australian fans (and players), relief and jubilation.

    Steve Smith is, unsurprisingly now, standing by his decision to bat again and not enforce the follow-on on Monday night. He even said post-match that the final result removes any anxiety that he may or may not have felt; he didn’t actually say whether he was feeling the nerves as the Australian second-innings wickets fell, only that ‘The win is all that matters now’.

    Steve Smith reacts sad Ashes 2nd Test.

    A (AAP Image/Dave Hunt)

    The focus will no doubt remain on that decision, which Joe Root will undoubtedly welcome, as it takes the focus off his decision to send Australia into bat in the first place.

    (And for what that’s worth, Root was hoping his England side could become just the second side ever to win in Adelaide after winning the toss and sending the opposition in. Who else did it? Only the 1982 West Indies…)

    But the thing about both of these decisions, is that Test cricket isn’t perfect and mistakes will be made. Smith and Root may well argue they didn’t make a mistake, and that’s fine too; one cricketer’s mistake is another cricketer’s cunning plan.

    This was a Test that had literally everything.

    Australia started well enough, but at 3/139 and 4/161 would’ve been hoping each partnership was a little further advanced. It was the same story when Peter Handscomb went at 5/209; partnerships of 33, 53, 53, 22, and 48 were decent, but just not quite far enough advance to really make Root rue his decision to bowl first.

    The Australian tail did wag, because of course it did, with the last four partnerships adding the 233 that perhaps the first four should have. But Test cricket isn’t supposed to be easy, and it was apparent that England were getting more out of the bowling than they did in Brisbane.

    Which was good because with Root back in the sheds at 3/50, and more so at 6/132 and 7/142, it was also apparent that England were getting less out of their bats than in Brisbane. When Nathan Lyon cleaned up Stuart Broad and Jimmy Anderson to roll England for 227, Smith had a decision to make.

    In the context of Australia having been in the field for two-and-a-bit sessions already by then, plus ten overs the night before, it’s not that hard to accept the call to bat again, rather than send England straight back in.

    Smith’s thinking wouldn’t have been ‘what if we lose wickets tonight’, it would have been around how far they could extend the then 215-run lead. And of course, England’s openers, at that point of contemplation, could just as easily have survived the night just as Smith hoped David Warner and Cameron Bancroft would.

    The joys of being captain. The joys of Test cricket.

    Jimmy Anderson came out to bowl with the new pink ball on a string, suddenly, and he probably bowled as well in Australia’s second innings as he has at any point on his last three tours down this way. There was plenty of 2010 in Anderson’s second-innings 5/43, returning to his role as chief destroyer and Australian top-order tormentor.

    England's James Anderson, centre, celebrates taking a wicket

    (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

    Smith has enjoyed a storied run as Australian captain, but it was very clear on Tuesday that even the best can have a rough time of it. I can’t really recall Smith showing the kind of emotional strain that was abundantly evident the more England’s second innings went, more so with DRS and clear-thinking around DRS conspiring against him.

    But again, this just adds to the theatre that you generally won’t find in a white-ball game. Save for maybe a World Cup knock-out game, it’s just not there.

    Adelaide became an instantly memorable game because of the way England bowled on Monday night and Tuesday, and then followed it up with the bat. 195 to get with six wickets in hand on Wednesday was very gettable, and if anything, the Australian bowlers had to lift.

    ‘Hazlewood needs to produce something’ was a common train of thought going into Day 5, where gold coin entry made for just about the best value sporting theatre going. There was a proper contest on hand, which could easily go either way, and greatly impacting the series whichever route it took from there.

    (AAP Image/Dave Hunt)

    From an Australian point of view, it happened. The bowlers did lift, and Hazlewood produced not just something, but a match-winning opening spell that removed what chance England had of winning in the space of eleven balls. Mitchell Starc had given Root cause for concern during the over in between, but Hazlewood finished him off.

    The anxiety of the follow-on decision was vanishing, and the Australian bowlers delivered. It was a wonderful first session display of partnership bowling, in which England lost 6/57 in a bit over a hundred minutes.

    Drama, intrigue, standout performance, momentum shift. Jubilation. And yes, relief. It was all there.

    The joys; oh, the joys.

    And now, time to refresh, recharge, re-focus, recalibrate, and reconvene. In Perth, with the series on the line.

    Brett McKay
    Brett McKay

    Brett McKay is one of The Roar's good news stories and has been a rugby and cricket expert for the site since July 2009. Brett is an international and Super Rugby commentator for ABC Grandstand radio, has commentated on the Australian Under-20s Championships and National Rugby Championship live stream coverage, and has written for magazines and websites in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and the UK. He tweets from @BMcSport.

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    The Crowd Says (42)

    • Columnist

      December 7th 2017 @ 7:43am
      Ryan O'Connell said | December 7th 2017 @ 7:43am | ! Report

      Great piece about a great game and a great sport.

      (Can’t believe you didn’t throw a mention in about the sledging, and how only Australia do it, and how it will end the world, and kill all babies, and, and, and, it’s bad. And that it’s the Aussies fault.)

      • Columnist

        December 7th 2017 @ 7:58am
        Brett McKay said | December 7th 2017 @ 7:58am | ! Report

        You bowlers are all the same, honestly, a blight on our great game. A necessary evil and nothing more! For once, won’t you think of the children?!?

        • Columnist

          December 7th 2017 @ 8:04am
          Ryan O'Connell said | December 7th 2017 @ 8:04am | ! Report

          And yet, the reason this was a great game was because of the bowling…

          You know I’m right too! All hail the true masters of the game!!

          • Columnist

            December 7th 2017 @ 9:33am
            Brett McKay said | December 7th 2017 @ 9:33am | ! Report

            Just get back to your mark and bowl, I’ve got dents in the fence at cover to make…

            • Columnist

              December 7th 2017 @ 11:13am
              Ryan O'Connell said | December 7th 2017 @ 11:13am | ! Report

              He sledged me! He sledged me! Ugly Aussie! You’ve over-stepped the mark! That was personal!

              • December 7th 2017 @ 1:26pm
                Christo the Daddyo said | December 7th 2017 @ 1:26pm | ! Report

                I assume Aleem Dar will be stepping in between you two as you walk off the field?

            • Roar Guru

              December 7th 2017 @ 5:09pm
              The Bush said | December 7th 2017 @ 5:09pm | ! Report

              You always struck me as a late cut kind of guy though Brett…

              • Columnist

                December 7th 2017 @ 6:31pm
                Brett McKay said | December 7th 2017 @ 6:31pm | ! Report

                The only thing better than a cover drive smashing into the fence Bushy, is a cover drive smashing into the fence off a lippy, overly-angry, little-man medium pacer… 😆

              • Columnist

                December 8th 2017 @ 3:43am
                Ryan O'Connell said | December 8th 2017 @ 3:43am | ! Report

                My goodness, I’d love to bowl to you.

                Especially at Lords….

      • Roar Guru

        December 7th 2017 @ 7:59am
        Wayne said | December 7th 2017 @ 7:59am | ! Report

        This one probably my favourite:

        Australia fast bowler Merv Hughes was never short of a word. During a 1989 Test at Lord’s, Hughes said to Robin Smith after he played and missed: “You can’t —-bat”. Next ball, after Smith hit Merv to the fence, the batsman replied: “Hey Merv, we make a fine pair. I can’t —-ing bat and you can’t —-ing bowl.”


        • December 7th 2017 @ 4:26pm
          Matting wicket said | December 7th 2017 @ 4:26pm | ! Report

          That’s a good one…but my favourite Merv one, is when he was bowling to Javed Miandad…Miandad kept calling him a fat bus conductor, over after over, finally Merv gets the edge, Javed is out, as he starts to walk off, Merv runs down the wicket yelling “Tickets Please”! 🙂

    • December 7th 2017 @ 8:25am
      bigbaz said | December 7th 2017 @ 8:25am | ! Report

      History says they were never going to chase down that total but, you know Root is gunna hit a ton here somewhere and if someone can stick with him damage will be done. Who is winning the sledge cup?

      • Columnist

        December 7th 2017 @ 9:35am
        Brett McKay said | December 7th 2017 @ 9:35am | ! Report

        The way Root was batting on Tuesday night Baz, I though Wednesday was going to be that day. Hazlewood’s opening spell, to remove both Woakes and Root, was outstanding…

        • December 7th 2017 @ 10:43am
          JimmyB said | December 7th 2017 @ 10:43am | ! Report

          By ‘outstanding’ you mean ‘soul destroying’. ?

        • December 7th 2017 @ 1:47pm
          Ouch said | December 7th 2017 @ 1:47pm | ! Report

          Yeh, it was almost over after the 2nd ball and definitely over after the 3rd over when Root was out.

        • December 7th 2017 @ 2:46pm
          bigbaz said | December 7th 2017 @ 2:46pm | ! Report

          yes, admit I thought Adelaide might be Roots’ pitch

        • Roar Guru

          December 7th 2017 @ 5:10pm
          The Bush said | December 7th 2017 @ 5:10pm | ! Report

          But presumably he looks like that a lot, he’s hit about 40 fifties now…

    • December 7th 2017 @ 8:26am
      Cynical Play said | December 7th 2017 @ 8:26am | ! Report

      Smith, for mine, made the right decision not to follow on. It wss foreseeable, had he sent England back in to bat, that his bowlers would have got some of the same movement that night and probably gone through a couple of the England top order before stumps. But it was not certain. Batsmen can do better the 2nd time round when put back in as we all know. One of his considerations was the workload of the bowlers who had toiled hard and long, and as they had the week before. It is an astute captain who can resist the call to follow-on, rest his bowlers (who have a big campaign still), and go on to win as planned. Smith did all of this. Spot on decision for mine, and proved to be so with the win, and momentum for WA test, and no bowler breaking down.

      I recall watching the glory days with McGrath and Warne in tandem, and have reflected many times that that attacking excitement has bot been bettered since, for me as an Australian fan. However…. these 3 quicks, with ‘Garry’, pretty much get there. How lucky we are.

    • December 7th 2017 @ 8:30am
      Sherry said | December 7th 2017 @ 8:30am | ! Report

      Good stuff, Brett, but you don’t have to be an alien to find modern day cricket puzzling. I used to watch in Sydney as a kid – been away from it for years marooned on Juan Fernandez – and in those days a batsman would often slap downwards at a fast bowler’s delivery pitched outside the stumps, with little risk of being caught in the slips if he timed it right, and score runs that way. Who was the last guy to do that, and why was the technique abandoned?

      • Columnist

        December 7th 2017 @ 9:42am
        Brett McKay said | December 7th 2017 @ 9:42am | ! Report

        Do you mean like a square cut into the ground, Sherry, or literally swatting down vertically on ball? I can’t picture the shot at all!

        • December 7th 2017 @ 10:41am
          Sherry said | December 7th 2017 @ 10:41am | ! Report

          Brett, a square cut is, of course, exactly square (Sid Barnes, among others, was a master of this shot). In the shot I recall the ball was whacked as it passed the stumps with a flat bat that thumped the ball into the ground and often between the slips. Anyway, in the two tests the quicks bowled a zillion balls off the stumps. Usually the batsman let it go through to the keeper. Maybe things will change when we get to the ODI and they’ll be a little more action off this type of delivery.

          • Columnist

            December 7th 2017 @ 1:06pm
            Brett McKay said | December 7th 2017 @ 1:06pm | ! Report

            Now I’ve got you Sherry – you’re talking the latest of late cuts, one of the hardest shots there is!

      • December 7th 2017 @ 1:29pm
        Maggie said | December 7th 2017 @ 1:29pm | ! Report

        Juan Fernandez? Do you mean the islands off Chile? If so, no wonder you say you are a bit out-of-date with current cricket trends! That’s even more fascinating than the cricket – what on earth were you doing there?

    • December 7th 2017 @ 9:10am
      soapit said | December 7th 2017 @ 9:10am | ! Report

      limited overs if the team batting first has a top order collapse that pretty much game over. so many games dont really have a contest about them. so much more in test cricket.

    • Roar Guru

      December 7th 2017 @ 9:25am
      Will Sinclair said | December 7th 2017 @ 9:25am | ! Report

      Test cricket is, by some considerable distance, the best sport in the World.

      Nothing can match the ebb and flow, the silence and the noise, the tactics and the fleeting, fleeting moments of drama that Test cricket delivers on a regular basis.

      Even a couple of (eventually) one-sided matches like those we have seen in Brisbane and Adelaide were packed full of drama and intrigue.

      Test cricket is the best. Everything else is just competing for second place.

      • Columnist

        December 7th 2017 @ 9:43am
        Brett McKay said | December 7th 2017 @ 9:43am | ! Report

        The results might look one-sided Will, but I don’t think either Test has been a one-sided match, not by a long shot…

        • Roar Guru

          December 7th 2017 @ 10:01am
          Will Sinclair said | December 7th 2017 @ 10:01am | ! Report

          Really agree – Brisbane in particular was in the balance for long periods of time.

          Indeed, although Brisbane looks like a much more comprehensive win on paper, I reckon Adelaide was by some distance a more comfortable result.

          • December 7th 2017 @ 10:47am
            JimmyB said | December 7th 2017 @ 10:47am | ! Report

            Did you feel comfortable going into day 5 Will?

          • Roar Guru

            December 7th 2017 @ 5:15pm
            The Bush said | December 7th 2017 @ 5:15pm | ! Report

            Adelaide was a more comfortable result. 170 odd was actually a tricky score to chase down in Brisbane. Until the openers went to stumps in control on the fourth day, the match was evenly poised. The result did not reflect the game.

            In contrast, though England had some great moments, Australia really did dominate in Adelaide for a huge chunk of the match.

        • December 7th 2017 @ 4:04pm
          Worlds Biggest said | December 7th 2017 @ 4:04pm | ! Report

          Totally agree Macca, the difference in each game has been the Centuries from Smith and Marsh.

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