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The Liebke Report Card: 'Full credit to Bazball for teaching Warner how to score quickly in Test cricket'

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17th December, 2023
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It’s the first Test of the summer, with the Gabba inexplicably relocated to Perth.

No cause for concern, though, as Australia recorded a 360-run win, thanks primarily to batting and bowling magic from local boy and player of the match, Mitchell Marsh.

Mitchcraft, if you will. 

Here’s the report card for the first Test between Australia and Pakistan.

Parenthetical Dross

Grade: D

Pakistan are this summer’s West Test guests. And what lovely guests they are.

They showed up over in Perth, apologised for being late (‘Nullarbor traffic was a nightmare!’), complimented the hosts on what they’d done with their lovely Optus stadium (‘Can’t believe it’s up and running!’) and offered to help in any way they could (‘Should we bowl an entire session’s worth of dross before we get serious about trying to take some wickets?’ ‘If you could, that would be amazing.’ ‘Of course, of course. Happy to do so. We’ll also drop some catches and have them roll into the boundary for four.’ ‘Thank you so, so much.’)

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The aforementioned dross helped Australia, via the unlikely edge of unrepentant wearer of opinionated shoes, Usman Khawaja, to pick off 14 runs off the first over from Shaheen Shah Afridi.

But Khawaja swiftly came to his senses and allowed David Warner to take over the rapid scoring, as nature intended. Warner sprinted to a fifty off just 41 balls, as Australia went to lunch on the first day at 0/117 (Warner 72* (21), Khawaja 37* (181)).

Full credit to Bazball for teaching Warner how to score quickly in Test cricket. England’s session.

PERTH, AUSTRALIA - DECEMBER 14: David Warner of Australia celebrates after scoring a century during day one of the Men's First Test match between Australia and Pakistan at Optus Stadium on December 14, 2023 in Perth, Australia. (Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)

David Warner celebrates after scoring his century. (Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)

Dour-faced Arguments

Grade: B-

Warner eventually went to his century, obviously. Excitable claims that he had ‘proven the critics wrong’, however, were countered with the dour-faced argument that he’d done no such thing, given that most criticism was that he has generally been dominant in home conditions, but less so overseas. 

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Difficult to argue with that. In retrospect, a massive mistake from Warner not to be dismissed cheaply on Australian soil and really make a point.

Fortunately, he got a second innings, in which he scored a duck, to satisfy all the different varieties of Warner critics.

Still, once his Test career ends, how will Warner be remembered? May I suggest: with increasingly primitive and coarse mnemonics. 

Kindergarten Breaks

Grade: A-

Despite Marsh smacking a fun 90, debutant Aamer Jamal surged through the Australian tail to pick up figures of 6/111, as the home side were all out for 487.

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In reply, Pakistan’s openers Abdullah Shafique and Imam-ul-Haq (still my favourite opening pair in world cricket with Qs in their names) refused to be dismissed despite indulging in more playing and missing than a kindergarten class during the teacher’s five minute break.

Josh Hazlewood, in particular, showcased his uncanny ability to consistently miss the bat by millimetres, over and over and over (and over) again.

Stunning accuracy from the big man. 

Over after over, though, these Pakistan opening heroes refused to have their edge taken. Or, for that matter, any other part of the bat, as they trundled along at a little less than two runs an over. Beautiful stuff.

Even when their partnership was broken, Pakistan continued to meander, defying the frontline bowlers. Eventually, Pat Cummins tossed the ball to Marsh, who almost immediately had Babar Azam caught behind, and, as a result, was crowned the Emperor of Perth by an over-stimulated crowd.

It just proves the point, doesn’t it? All those East Coast so-called quicks struggling to take a wicket, when all they ever needed was a proper Western Australian lad, with valuable mining resources in his veins, coming on, a geographically isolated smile on his face and an economic powerhouse spring in his step, to show them how to do it.

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Social Media Addiction

Grade: F

With Marsh doing the hard work, the rest of the attack coasted in his slipstream, as per.

Nathan Lyon soon had Imam smartly stumped by Alex Carey. A big disappointment for him not to be run out, of course, after all the hard work he’d put in over the course of his knock to be out in that fashion.

On the plus side, he did end up being dismissed out of his crease. So that’s something.

Sports opinion delivered daily 

   

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With Pakistan all out for 271, Lyon ended the innings on 499 Test wickets, after yet another stumping from Carey.

The man clearly can’t help himself, always shamelessly sending batters out of their crease on their way back to the pavilion. He’s an absolute fiend for it, and, in a peculiar sense, it’s a matter that should elicit more sorrow than anger from the greater cricketing public.

Alex Carey needs understanding, not condemnation. In this, he is much like a social media addict. Or, I suppose, a higher mathematics course.

Speaking of players struggling with public condemnation, though, Warner came to the crease in Australia’s second innings and, as mentioned earlier, set about bringing his home and away batting records closer together by being dismissed for a duck.

Still willing to learn and improve, even in the twilight of his career. You’d have to say that’s impressive. 

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Now, open those textbooks and have a crack at Abstract Algebra 201, Dave.

Steve Smith Grace

Grade: C-

On a rapidly deteriorating pitch, Australia also lost the wickets of Marnus Labuschagne (injured finger that tricked him into being caught), Steve Smith (dismissed by a very tight LBW that wasn’t quite overturned on review and accepted with typical Smith grace, walking off and nodding in acceptance: ‘Yes, a great decision. Well adjudicated, my fine man. I admire your keen judgement and savvy application of the Laws of the game. I acknowledge your finger and accept its ruling.’) and Travis Head (still drunk from the World Cup).

But Marsh showed up for some declaration batting. That declaration being: ‘I’m going to bloody well smash you for six.’

Sure, he got sconed a few times by variable bouncing deliveries. But just as it looked as if they were going to run out of Size MMarsh helmets and force the all-rounder into the embarrassing position of being ‘retired, no fitting helmets’, Khawaja was out instead, and Cummins declared, setting Pakistan 450 to win.

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They were instead unluckily all out for 89, with most attention turning to whether Lyon could pick up his 500th wicket before the rampaging quicks knocked Pakistan over.

Fortunately, Cummins had been given 500 reviews to get Lyon to this milestone, and one of them eventually came good. 

Lyon then added another one in the same over, and was therefore presented with a pair of Levi 501s to commemorate the moment.

Lovely touch from the Pakistan team.

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