Australia have enjoyed a reasonably strong start to the Cricket World Cup, picking up four wins so far against just the one loss – but there are big issues bubbling under the surface.
Boy that Day five in the first test was a beauty! No one other than fans of test cricket can understand how exciting it can be when to the outside observer absolutely nothing is happening.
Dot Ball! Yes! Forward defensive shot by the GOAT travels six inches. Yes!
We all value excitement. When we think of the greats, we often look to the thrill machines – Viv Richards, Dennis Lillee, Shane Warne, Brian Lara.
But when we remember the great test match finishes, Edgbaston 2005, Old Trafford 2005, Cardiff 2009, Dubai 2018, they are usually the ones where play was moving forward inch by bloody inch, or not moving at all.
It’s an interesting dichotomy. We love to see the big shots, such as Gilchrist destroying England at Perth in 2006 or the Ball of the Century, but there is also room for the Last Stand of Defiance.
Sometimes there are remarkable players such as AB de Villiers who can cover the entire spectrum.
So in honour of both the brilliant and the boring, the divine and the drudgery, here are my Entertainers XI and their opponents The Wall XI (since I started watching cricket in the late 70’s).
1. Michael Slater – Who could forget his cut shot flying to the boundary from the first ball of an Ashes series?
2. Virender Sehwag – Relentless flogger of bowling.
3. Brian Lara – When he decided to be on, there was simply nowhere to bowl.
4. Mark Waugh – He made the game beautiful.
5. Vivian Richards – absolutely brutal genius.
6. Ian Botham – Headingly 1981, there is nothing else to say.
7. Adam Gilchrist – He could bat a bit.
8. Kapil Dev – Need 24 to avoid the follow on? Let’s do it in four balls.
9. Andy Roberts – Just plain mean.
10. Shoaib Akhtar – Super scary.
11. Stuart MacGill – Turned the ball more than anyone and specialised in the half tracker wicket-taking ball.
1. Usman Khawaja – In honour of last week, may he never have to do it again. Realistically this could have been Mike Atherton, but since I mainly watched Ashes tests with Glenn Mcgrath, I never actually saw Athers bat for very long.
2. Chris Tavare – He batted like he had to survive three days to save a test – Every. Single. Time.
3. Rahul Dravid – The Wall.
4. Sachin Tendulkar – Sure he was brilliant and maybe the best limited overs player of all time, but I once saw him completely deny himself the cover drive for two days to score a double century. That is a special kind of discipline.
5. Faf du Plessis – One word. Adelaide.
6. Imran Kahn – What? In his later career he completely switched teams, going from flamboyant to stodgy and averaging over 50, because his team needed him to.
7. Jack Russell – Literally no scoring shots.
8. Mike Hendrick – Holds the record for most test wickets without ever taking a five for. That gets him in for sure.
9. Ashley Giles – The Lord of Spain. His middle stump line was a foot outside leg.
10. Ewan Chatfield – The other New Zealand pace bowler.
11. Vernon Philander – Relentlessly, slowly, accurately, suffocatingly effective.