What happened? You were going so well, your brain-dead approach, so slobbishly uncultured as to seem oblivious to the fact that we were playing Australia. We need that desperately right now, more than ever, with all these students of the game, from Vettori on down. Players who know full well the enormity of what we face over there, have that respect and fear embedded in the psyche.
You Jesse, carry no such burden. I feel like you’d wander out and swing lustily at anything from Curtly Ambrose to a primary school team. Just doesn’t cross your mind to alter your approach for circumstance or any other thing on this earth. And you’d done well enough, making it through some testing work from Lee, and to a lesser extent, Clark after the early loss of Redmond. We were set, our blood was up, and the second-highest partnership of the match was up.
Shane Watson was on! The guy’s face alone says enough, slightly bewildered and anxious, distinctly un-Australian characteristics both. His first over went for 11, and the shine was nearly gone. Mitchell Johnson (who looks like an Australian cricketer, but isn’t one just yet) and Symonds were just round the corner. Haddin had massacred what should have been a regulation catch for Hayden (no way would Gilchrist have been caught carrying on like that).
The scene was set, and even when How went to a moment’s ill-discipline (look it up, Jesse – your picture may well be next to it). But no matter, Jesse’s swinging, and with that, anything’s possible, right?!
Then you chased a horrible wide one from Watson (why Watson! Couldn’t you at least get out to the classical wicket-to-wicket bowling of Clark?) and were gone. And quickly you had McCullum for company, and a morning which saw us gamely taking it to Australia – with Lawry and Chappell and Healy straining to find ways to make light of the situation – was firmly back in their favour. Healy even had the temerity to suggest that 214 was now a great total. He was probably right too!
4-73 and how glum we were! Thankfully there were a couple of other young chaps at the wicket, who had both the fearlessness and the intelligence. Ross Taylor was selected well before you, even though everyone said you were the next thing in 2004, and added Taylor’s name, almost apologetically, as an afterthought.
And Flynn wasn’t even on the radar yet. He barely is now, but he’s there at lunch, and between this pair lie our hopes, our dare-to-dreams about beating Australia in Australia for the first time since ’85, about being the first team to topple them at the Gabba since ’88… Because those intelligent, thoughtful cricketers just added 40 runs and rescued the session, and tilted the balance (just) back in our favour. If you could only balance a little of your savagery with their cricket-smarts, what a cricketer we’d have! But we might not love you so.