Robbed of certain victory by ongoing inclement weather throughout both of the first two tests of the 2001-02 home series against New Zealand, Australia…
After a tough tour of the UAE, Australia returned home to the cricketing safety of Australian shores.
Or the next best thing, Western Australian shores, where they took on South Africa, at that Optus Stadium in Perth that everybody was all excited about a few months ago.
Here are the ratings for the first ODI between Australia and South Africa.
Before the series began, photographs of the Australian dressing room were shared on social media. One phrase, in particular, plastered on the wall, caught everyone’s disbelieving eye.
Justin Langer explained the concept to a bemused planet and nation:
“You can lie to everyone else, but you can’t lie to yourself. So that’s elite honesty to yourself. And also, the Aussie way I know it is to look a bloke in the eye, look your sister or your mum in the eyes, and tell them the truth and be happy to get some truth back, so that’s elite honesty.”
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Justin Langer’s reign as coach of Australia is going to be a tour de force of comic genius. Adding ‘elite’ to words that don’t really merit such a modifier, like ‘mateship’ or ‘honesty’ or ‘board accountability’ is such a wonderfully simple but effective comedy trick that I’m overcome with jealousy for never having thought of it.
Australia had some last minute team changes with Shaun Marsh ruled out of the side with ‘an abscess in his buttocks region’. And, perhaps in sympathy for their incapacitated team mate, Australia proceeded to put in a buttocks abscess of a batting performance.
Travis Head and D’Arcy Short went early, slashing at Dale Steyn. Aaron Finch followed soon after, refusing to review an LBW dismissal that ball-tracking showed was clearly going over the stumps. Accepting the umpire’s decision and refusing to use the DRS is clearly a bold new form of elite honesty.
Glenn Maxwell came in after Chris Lynn was caught behind. In five balls, Maxwell scored as many boundaries as the rest of the team combined had managed in seventeen overs. Sadly, he lasted only three more balls after that, or else the total could have been anything. Unlucky for Australia, who slumped to a beastly 6/66 when Marcus Stoinis was out soon after.
Still, good to see that Australia can collapse against both spin and seam attacks, overseas or at home. What a wonderfully versatile team they are.
And, by their actions, elitely honest about how awful they currently are at one day cricket batting.
On the plus side, for the next nine months or so, they’re hilariously still the world champions in this form of the game. Cricket, you’re the best.
Of course, if you didn’t have access to Fox Cricket, you didn’t see any of this collapse. Because, in a shock to everybody who wasn’t paying attention back in April when the television rights were announced, this match wasn’t being shown on free-to-air television.
Before people had seen the batting performance, they were rightly furious about this. Afterwards, less so.
But I’m all for it. In fact, I’d like to see ODI cricket be made even more difficult to access. Ideally, within five years, each match will be permitted to be viewed by just a single multi-millionaire at the ground and another person at home via some ludicrously expensive pay-per-view option.
Make it an event, talked about in hushed whispers by a lucky few. That’s how you save the fifty over game.
Early Changes of Innings
Despite some late order hitting from Nathan Coulter-Nile and Mitchell Starc, Australia were all out for 152.
And all out so quickly that South Africa were forced to come out for a tricky little mini-session before the scheduled break. Clever tactics from the Australians, forcing South Africa to start twice. Unfortunately, it backfired when South Africa went to the break 0/28 after five overs.
As they say, you can’t judge how good a total is until both teams have batted. But now that they (only barely) had, we were able to accurately determine that the Australian score was rubbish.
During the break, Adam Gilchrist took questions about Australia’s batting. I asked him the following: “If free will exists, by what mechanism is it generated, given that, ultimately, we are nothing more than a complex conglomeration of subatomic particles subject to the known principles of quantum mechanics? But, on the other hand, if there’s no free will, can Australia truly be blamed for their dismal batting collapses? #askgilly”
He did not answer.
South Africa cruised to victory with about seven hundred balls remaining. A few wickets fell, but nobody really noticed because Shane Warne in commentary had spent the entire time talking about how much ‘elite honesty’ made him want to vomit.
It was an epic rant, full of praise for the men who captained him who weren’t named Steve Waugh, full of ideas for where Australia go from here and full of disdain for the notion of writing a lot of words about cricket. (Shane Warne’s book is available now.)
He eventually wound down by saying “That’s my opinion, I might be completely wrong”, with the air of a man who has never, in his life, considered the prospect he might be wrong.
Still, when you take Warne’s rant into account and also consider that, during a drinks break, Josh Hazlewood had been interviewed by a drone, then this was surely one of the greatest ever days for Australian cricket.