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Dancing in Bradman's shadow

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9th September, 2019
5

I was born in Manchester but grew up in Sydney with a father who loved cricket and used to take me to the SCG to see Richie Benaud, Neil Harvey and the Chappells.

Those days it was only the Sheffield Shield and Test cricket – none of this one-day or Twenty20 stuff. I learned to appreciate over a number of hours the beauty and timeless nature of Test cricket.

We had the occasional exciting Test but with slow over and run rates you had time to appreciate those moments (without replays) that were the essence of the game.

So much for meandering memories.

The latest Ashes series in England has awoken the world and put Test cricket among the most thrilling of entertainment spectacles.

That it is all the fault of Boris Johnson.

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Until he arrived, the Conservative party was slowly going down the gurgler trying to come to terms with David Cameron’s poisoned Brexit pill. Theresa May disappeared and the Brexit disaster suddenly became a mad, all-enveloping tsunami. What will happen? No one knows!

The developing saga of Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft was slowly dragging us into the torpor of who cares?

In fact, Warner’s fall from grace could have been predicted by a good psychiatrist. The pressure of the booing and the world’s criticism would stifle anyone’s sporting achievement and this scrappy, belligerent opener seems to have lost his mojo.

Never mind that Stuart Broad’s ability to make the Dukes talk would have destroyed almost anyone except Geoffrey Boycott.

But then Steven Steve with all his quirks and fidgety mannerisms quickly walked to the crease and set the cricket world alight.

Steve Smith.

(Photo by Mike Egerton/PA Images via Getty Images)

Hundreds – some played with studied concentration, others at ODI speed flowed – squirted from his bat. Tennis smashes and matador olés. Sometimes he looked like the Count of Monte Cristo, other times an anxious schoolboy waiting for recess.

This was batsmanship we had never seen. Stay still, carefully watch the ball. Forget it! Any resemblance between Smith and Mark Waugh’s studied and flowing elegance was purely coincidental.

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The Poms at first booed, then squirmed and finally yelled in exasperation, “It’s not fair. We can’t get him out”. Steve gritted his teeth and waltzed to the leg side, then to the offside.

Even the dreaded Jofra Archer was called in to fell him with a shot to the neck. But that only worked for one Test and come Manchester, Steve scored a double century.

With his amazing team-mate Patrick Cummins bringing fast bowling to an unplayable level, it is no surprise that the Aussies are leading two matches to one.

It should have been three-nil, except for the most spectacular innings from Ben Stokes to win the unwinnable Test at Headingley.

I am now watching Test cricket until the wee small hours and loving it. But I am falling asleep at afternoon teatime.

Thank you Boris!