An email in from Murray Henman:
“I’m in Brisbane, so I’m thinking one silver lining of this weekend’s lockdown is some uninterrupted weekend cricket watching. One question you or one of the readers might be able to answer: Who would be the player who had the least successful Test career after making a century on debut?”
Well, logically it would have to be Andy Ganteaume, who was (and may well one day be again) the only player to average more than Bradman. He made 112 in his only innings for the West Indies. The only other player I can think of with one match and one ton was New Zealand’s Rodney Redmond. If there are any more, let me know.
The reason that Andy lost top spot is that Kurtis Patterson currently averages 144 from two Tests, but he may get the chance to play again and reduce that record.
Lunch – Australia 249 for 5
Oh, this has got interesting. With 84.5 overs bowled and a new ball in hand, India have worked their way through half the Australian batting line-up. We’ve got Smith at the crease looking very solid, and we’ll have the captain Tim Paine joining him after the break. The occasional ratty moment from this surface suggests that it will get harder to bat on later in the match. Australia still have the resources to bat big here and get 400 or more, or India could winnow through and keep them to around 300. Game very much on.
WICKET! Green lbw Bumrah 0, Australia 249-5
Smith can’t save Green from Bumrah though! A few minutes left, time for Bumrah’s over and maybe one more, but India won’t need one more. Bumrah nails this one, seam movement cutting into the right-hander, beating his defensive push, hitting him just under the knee roll in front of off stump. Green doesn’t bother reviewing, and DRS would have shown it smashing the top of middle stump regardless. He’s lasted 21 balls and half an hour or so, a decent span in the middle, but Green has still gone for a duck.
84th over: Australia 249-4 (Smith 77, Green 0) Smith soaking up a lot of the strike here, which is probably in Green’s favour with five minutes to lunch. Flicks two runs from the final ball from Siraj.
83rd over: Australia 247-4 (Smith 75, Green 0) A funny looking pull shot from Smith to Bumrah, off balance, for a single. Bumrah holding firm, that’s the only score from the over.
82nd over: Australia 246-4 (Smith 74, Green 0) Siraj the new-ball partner, not Saini, who hasn’t had much work to do in this match: seven overs compared to Siraj in his 21st. Siraj is surprised by the outswing, which carries the ball so wide of the bat that it gets called wide. Then he bowls an in-ducker that Green leaves, not very far from his stumps. Green drives nicely but mid-on dives and saves, keeps him on strike. Siraj swings in at the pads and gets an inside edge into pad, false shot, lbw risk.
81st over: Australia 245-4 (Smith 73, Green 0) Swing from Bumrah with the new ball, mostly outside off and left. The last ball Smith has no choice about leaving, it screams past his bat. Angled in and it jags massively, and takes off from the surface. Smith does a re-enactment with his hand of that savage bounce.
There’s something to this, though is it just an Australian thing? Something I reckon we’ve seen across a few teams in the last ten years or so. The number of times you see players get genuinely badged, or get through the shot while turning and be hit on the side of the helmet while standing in the line of the ball, seems frequent. Maybe it’s more an approach of standing and delivering rather than moving out of the line?
80th over: Australia 245-4 (Smith 73, Green 0) Ashwin gets through an over for a run to Smith, and now the new missile will be brought out by fourth umpire Claire Polosak, who in this role is the first woman to be on the roster for a men’s Test.
79th over: Australia 244-4 (Smith 72, Green 0) Jadeja drops short again, he’s bowled a few of those today, and Smith nails the cut shot for four. He doesn’t tend to get out from this stage of an innings, Smith. Now he’s into the 70s with another cut for four! Not quite as short but well played. India put a fielder back, and Smith drives square to that man for one. Green drives solidly to mid-off, no run.
New ball due in one over. Use it, or more spin? Give it to your spinners?
78th over: Australia 235-4 (Smith 63, Green 0) Smith plays a couple of straight drives, either side of the wicket, for two and then for one. Green defends the rest from Ashwin, a big stride forward. Ashwin gets one lbw shout away early, but anything that hits the giant Green above the knee roll must be going over the stumps.
77th over: Australia 232-4 (Smith 60, Green 0) Cameron Green to the middle, defends the last ball of the over.
WICKET! Wade c Bumrah b Jadeja 13, Australia 232-4
That is such a waste. Wade has looked a million times better coming in down the order than he did opening: he hits a crisp straight drive for four against Jadeja, then nails yet another sweep shot into the pads of Vihari. But those were along the ground. Wade forces two through cover. But still, having taken six from the over already, he decides he wants six more in one hit over midwicket. Charges, tries to swing across the line, Jadeja darts it in flatter, Wade isn’t to the pitch of the ball, but carries through with the attempted loft regardless. Gets a big skew high towards mid-on, exactly the same way that he mis-hit the ball in Melbourne trying to smash Aswhin. Bumrah has a much easier catch than Jadeja did that day, though. Nonsensical dismissal from someone who is hitting the ball so well.
76th over: Australia 226-3 (Smith 60, Wade 7) Now Vihari’s in the firing line again! He’s at short leg for Ashwin bowling to Smith, and this time Smith sweeps four that may have taken a small deflecting from Vihari’s shin pad down near the ankle. On the bounce, not a catching chance.
75th over: Australia 222-3 (Smith 56, Wade 7) Now, this is interesting. Wade gets down low to Jadeja and nails a sweep, and hurts Vihari. Ow, that’s coming up on Hot Spot: the ball clipped Vihari’s finger before nailing him in the calf. He saves four runs by accident. Jadeja bowls wider next ball and Wade cover drives for four! Gorgeous shot, all alone the carpet.
Third ball, another sweep, and hits Vihari again! Ouch, this time it comes up off the fielder’s forearm. To backward square. Another boundary saved. Then a third sweep! But this one just misses Vihari, on the bounce to backward square.
Wade against lots of spin early is interesting. He loves the sweep and the paddle. He plays them destructively. And when England tried a spin-heavy attack at him in the second innings at Edgbaston, he made a ton.
Admittedly, Moeen and Denly aren’t quite Ashwin and Jadeja. But there’ll be action to come.
74th over: Australia 218-3 (Smith 56, Wade 3) A third run for Wade, a little single nudged away from Ashwin to midwicket.
73rd over: Australia 217-3 (Smith 56, Wade 2) Jadeja after the break, and he keeps Smith quiet right up until the last ball, when Smith opens the blade and square drives past a leaping silly mid-off to the point boundary. Had to reach for that, could have been another slip catch had it turned a bit more.
In the time that took me to ponder, we’re coming back onto the field to resume play.
Right then, that gives me time for this very complicated email from Rosie Piper.
“Love reading the OBO all day and trawling through the Final Word archives is getting me through the work days; a nice substitute for actually being able to watch the cricket. My query is as follows: there is so much content out there featuring former players naming their all-time test XI and it gets a bit boring (considering it’s almost always the same collection of players). As a broadcaster, I’d love to hear your all-time commentary dream team. With split TV rights in Australia at the moment, there’s arguably as much debate about which team you’d rather talk you through the day as the one you’d like to see on the pitch. So, let’s say three in the box, who ya got?”
Let’s have a think. For me, the dream team that actually worked together was early 2000s ABC radio: Jim Maxwell, Tim Lane, Glenn Mitchell on ball-by-ball, with experts like Kerry O’Keeffe, Peter Roebuck, maybe Geoff Lawson, then with visitors dropping in like Harsha Bhogle or Fazeer Mohammed.
In contemporary times, Alison Mitchell is clearly one of the very best, and the best prepared. Ricky Ponting’s game analysis is excellent. From South Africa I really enjoy Neil Manthorp, Natalie Germanos, and Mluleki Ntsabo. In terms of former players, Nasser Hussain is outstanding, and Ian Bishop really nails the big moments, while in Australia I’d say Kristen Beams has emerged as a radio expert with a lot to offer, as did Dirk Nannes a few years before that. Gerard Whateley conducts the orchestra of story during a match better than almost anyone. In terms of having fun on air, it’s hard to go past some of the BBC callers like Ebony Rainford-Brent, Charles Dagnall, Dan Norcross.
As far as picking three in the box… well, I don’t like three. They trip over one another. Two in the box, and mine are tilted far more towards radio than television. My number one duo would be Jim and Kerry, but really you could put together great combos from any of the above, plus a dozen or so more.
Fifty! Steve Smith 51 from 116 balls
72nd over: Australia 213-3 (Smith 52, Wade 2) Steve Smith is back! And he doesn’t want to let the wicket help Ashwin get on top. He shuffles his feet to a full ball and just swipes at back down the ground, a straight drive that was more clear-the-foot-and-drag rather than classically elbow-high. Nails it, raises his milestone.
71st over: Australia 208-3 (Smith 47, Wade 2) No dramas for Wade with one ball to come in the over: he steps across his stumps and sweeps it fine for two runs.
WICKET! Labuschagne c Rahane b Jadeja 91, Australia 206-3
Labuschagne is gone! And that’s due to a risk that he’s been taking all summer: backing away from the spinners to create runs. He gets a short ball from Jadeja early in the over and cuts four, feeling good about himself, raising the 100 partnership and going into the 90s himself. But two balls later Jadeja bowls on the off stump again, not quite as short, but Labuschagne is already going back and wanting to force through the off side again. He has to play that with a straighter bat, trying a big square drive rather than a cut, with a bit of turn away from the bat, and off balance while backing away he gets a fat edge to the right of Rahane at slip who takes an excellent snare down around ankle height.
70th over: Australia 202-2 (Labuschagne 87, Smith 47) Ashwin in, just a single from the over to Labuschagne. Apologies to those who’ve sent emails that I haven’t got to – two spinners in tandem tend to make the OBO a speed and endurance exercise.
69th over: Australia 201-2 (Labuschagne 86, Smith 47) Labuschagne keeps motoring, cutting three runs behind point. Jadeja into the pads, Smith whips it nicely into the gap between square leg and backward square. Just as Bumrah did yesterday, Ashwin nearly loses his feet from under himself as he tries to stop on the wet outfield. And notably, those runs take Australia past 200 for the first time in this series.
68th over: Australia 195-2 (Labuschagne 83, Smith 44) Ashwin the off-spinner to bowl from the other end, the duo at work. Twice Smith backs away from the ball to force through cover, which is an interesting risk. Labuschagne goes over mid-on with a weird little chip shot: bails out of a bigger drive halfway through and instead lobs it very high but safely into a gap.
67th over: Australia 192-2 (Labuschagne 82, Smith 42) Jadeja starts with an error after the delay, dropping short and Labuschagne cuts a boundary. He’s into the 80s.
The only Australian batsmen with a Test century against India since the Sydney Test of 2015 finished?
Steve Smith and Glenn Maxwell.
The latter of whom has still never been picked for a Test in Australia.
Labuschagne looking good to add himself to that list.
And it’s raining again
They’re going off. Very light rain, it looks like, the Indians are making their way off very slowly. The ground staff belted to the middle but no one else was fussed. Now the umpires are walking back, they didn’t even make it off the ground. No umbrellas.
66th over: Australia 188-2 (Labuschagne 78, Smith 42) Almost caught at leg gully! Siraj bowls straight, Labuschagne whips it away. Airborne, but to the left of the fielder who dives across but still ends up a metre or two short. The batsman profits by four. Siraj drops a deep square leg back, either to protect that boundary or to give him the option of bouncing Labuschagne. Or, porque no los dos? Labuschagne uses that gap to score a single.
14 overs until the new ball.
65th over: Australia 183-2 (Labuschagne 73, Smith 42) Left-arm spin to Smith was the vogue for a while, before the leg slip tactic came in. It was always a bit of a myth, really: he faced a lot of left-arm spin for a while so he got out to it a few times. But Jadeja will be hoping. He’s bowling outside the off stump for the most part, wanting to draw Smith’s shots through that side of the ground. Maiden over. There’s very light rain falling at the SCG.
64th over: Australia 183-2 (Labuschagne 73, Smith 42) Siraj hits Smith on the pad and convinces Rahane to go upstairs, but that struck far too high and was going over. That was a shrug-of-the-shoulders review from the captain, might as well. It was excitement from the bowler at the plan nearly working, I suppose. For Smith they’ve got a very short straight mid-on, plus a midwicket, a forward square leg, a leg gully, and a long leg. Only four on the off side: slip, gully, point, cover. Which is why Siraj keeps bowling in at the pads, and hitting Smith on the pad is a minor triumph in itself.
63rd over: Australia 182-2 (Labuschagne 73, Smith 41) Ravindra Jadeja on to have a bowl. Left-arm orthodox, around the wicket to the right-handers, and Jadeja is immediately giving the ball flight. He often bowls quite fast and flat, but not today, wanting to tease these batsmen a little bit. Each finds a single.
62nd over: Australia 180-2 (Labuschagne 72, Smith 40) Siraj bowls a rare one outside the off stump, and it also draws a mistake from Labuschagne, edging it into the gully on he bounce. Something on offer for the bowlers, still, but they haven’t been able to strike the blow that counts.
61st over: Australia 179-2 (Labuschagne 71, Smith 40) Bumrah to Labuschagne, still operating with this straight line at the batsman, and Labuschagne doesn’t time it that well when he plays a leg glance, airborne and again a catcher in the right spot would have snaffled that.
60th over: Australia 178-2 (Labuschagne 70, Smith 40) Siraj to Marnus now, who drives down through mid-on and gets through for three runs. Smith is still moving across his stumps and unable to beat a strong leg-side field, the square leg diving across to stop the ball.
59th over: Australia 175-2 (Labuschagne 67, Smith 40) A testing over from Bumrah to Smith. Gets one to leap off the surface, hitting the splice of Smith’s bat and startling him, the batsman flinching back from the bounce. Then another that decks in and hits pad, but too high. Bumrah gives a cursory appeal, as if to just record in the minutes of the meeting that he did indeed beat the bat.
58th over: Australia 175-2 (Labuschagne 67, Smith 40) Siraj to Smith, who is very watchful this over, blocking him out from the crease with the ball on a length. When Siraj goes short this time, Smith does make contact with the pull, taking two runs. Follows with a single to keep strike.
57th over: Australia 172-2 (Labuschagne 67, Smith 37) Bumrah from the other end. Starts the day with a half-volley and Smith drives it through the covers for four. Ready to pounce as soon as the error was there, even if it was at the earliest opportunity. To compound Bumrah’s annoyance, Smith pushes a run to cover next ball. But Bumrah responds to Labuschagne, delivering an absolute beauty with the old ball: angling in, seaming away despite the wear on the ball, beating the edge.
56th over: Australia 168-2 (Labuschagne 67, Smith 33) What a start. Mohammed Siraj starts the day, the fast bowler in his second Test, and he starts in at Smith’s body. Working that angle in. After a few balls Siraj bombs in the bouncer, and it takes off! Smith takes it on. But doesn’t make contact at all. It beats him, zipping through past his bat and past his head. A wake-up ball. Then Siraj goes in at the ribs and it bounces high again! A real spike of bounce, and Smith fends it from under his armpit away through leg slip. India have a leg gully, squarer, rather than that finer position, and so Smith gets away with it and gets a run. Imagine if he’d been caught around the corner again…
If you want some more detail about Day 1, here’s me and OBO colleague Adam Collins taking a wander around the Botanic Gardens in Melbourne. (We can’t go to Sydney because then we won’t be allowed out again. State border restrictions and all that.)
Here’s the brief Reuters report on Day 1, if you’re looking to catch up.
Get in touch
My email and cetera are in the sidebar. Or I suppose the top bar if you’re on a phone. How many bars do we need? (The answer is plenty.) Regardless, the idea is that if you look around in all the bars that are open, you’ll find me eventually. Pull up a seat.
Good morning from the eastern coast of a southern country. It’s day two, how about that. We didn’t get a full day one for the Sydney Test, but we did get 55 overs in after a long rain delay. Which means that play will start half an hour early today and every day forever from now on to make up a bit of that time.
For Australia, today is Steve Smith day. He came out yesterday and looked much more himself. Middled a few, hit some boundaries, got to 31 not out overnight. He’ll be batting with Marnus Labuschagne on 67. The wickets to fall yesterday were the openers, Warner for 5 and Pucovski on debut for 62, in an innings that was impressive at times while also containing a good slab of luck.
Alright, shall we? It’s 166 for 2, and India need incisions.