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The Roar

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Great rips into Smith's opener technique as Aussies crumble, Aus Day protest leads to pitch invader and Gabba lockout

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26th January, 2024
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Australia have crumbled in the face of a brilliant new-ball burst from West Indies veteran Kemar Roach, to throw their hopes of a fifth consecutive Test win this summer into jeopardy.

After a fighting half-century from debutant Kevin Sinclair saw the Windies post a competitive first-innings 311, the hosts’ response could scarcely have started worse, staggering to lunch at 4/24 and with the opening quick on a hat-trick.

Roach began the rout by pinning Steve Smith plumb in front for 6 in the first over, an on-field not out call quickly overturned.

At the other end, Alzarri Joseph made it two big scalps in two overs when Marnus Labuschagne was brilliantly caught by Sinclair at fourth slip for 3.

Having been at the centre of the Australian selection controversy following Cameron Bancroft’s opener snub, Cameron Green did his spot in the side at number four no favours, managing just 8 before chipping a drive to Windies captain Kraigg Brathwaite at short cover for Roach’s second.

Already having enjoyed a session to remember with bat and ball, there would be one last victory for the tourists to end the session, Travis Head strangling the veteran quick down the leg side for a first-ball duck.

It was Smith’s dismissal, however, that drew the most ire from Fox Cricket‘s commentary stable, with the makeshift opener having missed his trademark flick across his pads having moved a long way back and across.

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“He’s all over the place with that technique – that should not get you out as an opening batter,” former England captain Michael Vaughan said.

“The ball nips back, but you just look at his head position here – it’s going over to the offside.

“He gets LBW because of that movement… just look at that head position, that’s a long way outside the line of the off stump.”

“That premeditated movement before the ball’s bowled is way too far to the off side,” former Australian great Mark Waugh added.

“All his weight is falling that side. So if you get the ball to nip back, you can’t access the ball with your bat, and your footwork’s all over the shop because your weight’s going too far to the off side.

“He’s just getting into a position where he just can’t adjust to the line of the ball.”

For Vaughan, the dismissal, as well as another early downfall in the first innings in Adelaide, should throw doubt into Smith’s capability to succeed as an opener.

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“Opening the batting against fresh bowlers, a hard pink ball on this occasion, a hard red ball at the Adelaide Oval – it just nips that little bit quicker,” he said.

“If you’re going to hang right back, which he does, and particularly at the minute when his head’s outside the line of off stump, it [the ball] doesn’t actually have to do a great deal.

“My concern for Steve is he stuck his hand up and said ‘I’m going to go from four to two’, and now twice – he got a little red-inker in the second innings at the Adelaide Oval – he’s now got two differing dismissals. He’s been snuck off from a wide delivery, and he now got LBW.

“Next innings, he’s going to be very precarious about what does he do with his movements at the crease.”

Smith has made just 29 runs at 14.5 in three innings opening the batting at Test level this summer.

Steve Smith of Australia looks dejected.

Steve Smith of Australia looks dejected. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

Aus Day protest leads to pitch invader and Gabba lockout

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An Australia Day protest outside the Gabba has resulted in Cricket Australia putting the venue on lockdown on Friday afternoon, leaving many fans stranded outside waiting to enter.

According to Fox Sports, a pair of protesters were allowed into the ground ahead of play on Day 2 as an Invasion Day rally went on outside Gate 2, resulting in a brief delay of five to ten minutes where patrons were not allowed to enter the venue.

Among the signs held by the protesters was one reading ‘No Justice, No Sport’, with a heavy police presence on hand near the ground.

Once play began, the rally gradually dispersed; however, during the first over of the day, another protester invaded the field of play holding an Aboriginal flag, lying down in the outfield before being apprehended by security.

The incident comes after Cricket Australia came under fire for their decision to not acknowledge ‘Australia Day’ during Friday’s play, while captain Pat Cummins called for the country to ‘choose a better date’ for the national holiday.

“We should have an Australia Day, but we can probably find a more appropriate day to celebrate it,” Cummins said earlier in the week.

“Once you start realising [the significance of] January 26 and why it is chosen, Australia Day is meant to be a celebration of everything Australia and our history.

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“We could choose a better date.”

An Indigenous man protests against the date of Australia Day during day two of the Second Test between Australia and the West Indies.

An Indigenous man protests against the date of Australia Day during day two of the Second Test between Australia and the West Indies. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

‘Too firm’: Starc’s surprise criticism of Gabba’s pink-ball pitch

A record West Indies partnership has the tourists believing after an even day one at the Gabba, but Australian quick Mitchell Starc was having flashbacks to a day-night Test run-fest. 

The second Test is poised nicely thanks to a surprise fightback from the hosts, who will resume on Friday at 8-266 after falling to 5-64 following their decision to bat first on Thursday.

Starc said the pace at which the pink ball became soft on the hard Gabba surface had triggered memories of the venue’s maiden day-night Test against Pakistan in December 2016.

He took seven wickets in that Test, including four in the fourth innings as Pakistan batted for 145 overs and fell 40 short in their chase of 490.

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Their total of 450 was the third-biggest of all-time by any team and came after they’d mustered just 142 in the first innings.

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 25: Mitchell Starc of Australia celebrates taking the wicket of Alick Athanaze of the West Indies during day one of the Second Test match in the series between Australia and West Indies at The Gabba on January 25, 2024 in Brisbane, Australia.

(Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

“The ball is what it is; I think it comes down to the wicket, which I think Adelaide has got right,” he said of the South Australian venue that’s hosted day-night Tests most years since 2015.

The Gabba ground staff shaved the last remnants of green grass from the square ahead of play on Thursday, keen to avoid a repeat of last summer’s two-day Test against South Africa that left the pitch with a “below average” rating from the ICC. 

“We know the ball goes soft at certain stages depending on the wicket,” Starc said. 

“I think it’s pretty similar to the game where we played Pakistan where the pink ball went soft very early.

“There wasn’t much in it for the bowlers. It feels like a similar wicket where it is too firm for the pink ball. I think it would be a fantastic red-ball wicket, but probably too firm for the pink ball.”

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Windies keeper Joshua Da Silva has other ideas.

The pink ball does funny stuff,” he said.  “It may not have not done much today but it does funny stuff at times. You never know what could happen.”

The writing was on the wall after a West Indies squad lacking many of their biggest names was beaten by 10 wickets before lunch on day three of the Adelaide series opener.

But wicketkeeper Josh Da Silva (79) and No.5 Kavem Hodge (71), in his second Test, put on 149 to turn the match into a contest.

“We showed we are here to fight,” Da Silva said of the Australian summer’s longest partnership in terms of balls faced. 

“We want to show people that the West Indies are still here and we deserve to be here.”

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They bowled the hosts out for 283 in Adelaide earlier this month and Da Silva believes they now have a total to put pressure on an Australian top-four without an individual century-maker among them this summer.

“Definitely. We have runs on the board and having them in the field for the whole day is tiring,” he said. 

“To keep them out there was nice and to have them come back tomorrow and bowl again and have to strap on their boots is really solid for us.”

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