Boxing On?

MCG

Today 15 men will walk out on to the Melbourne Cricket Ground in front of 90,000 baying fans and decide whether now is Australia’s time. After nearly two decades of unparalelled dominance, and of fighting back from the brink before, this looks like their last hope to stave off the inevitable march back to the land of cricketing mortality.

Since the end of the domestic season earlier this year against India, when batsmen from both sides put together fairly handsome scores, typical of high summer in Australia, the baggy green has started to look a little faded. In series against the West Indies, India, New Zealand and the first test against South Africa the top six are split cleanly into two even packs: those who’ve improved or maintained their averages, and those who’ve done the reverse.

Ponting 40.7 (vs  his career average of 56.7), Hussey 35.8 (vs. 61.5) and particularly Hayden 23.5 (vs 51.3) have all slid backwards while Clarke 48.2 (vs 46.9,) Symonds 44.9 (vs 42.2) and most notably Katich 59.5 (43.5) have improved. Unfortunately the three missing out aren’t nearly making up for those cashing in, with the difference being 49.5. This means Australia’s top six, until recently the most formidible run machine in test cricket, is effectively playing one (extremely good) batter down.

When you couple that with a bowling attack even more out of sorts – today Hauritz and Siddle (?!) are pairing up with an increasingly manageable Lee and sole real threat Johnson – you have a side that looks merely competent. That is, able to bully minnows like New Zealand and the West indies into submission, but when placed against the other test titans South Africa and India (both of whom have a far more attractive blend of youth and experience) start to look very threadbare indeed.

As they’ve proved time and again, whether in the context of a session, match, series or era, this Australian side is at their most dangerous when they look down and out. And few venues have smiled upon Australia like the MCG.

As S Rajesh notes they’re on a 9-0 streak at the venue and the badly out-of-sorts Hayden has scored centuries in six of the past seven boxing day tests. If ever they were going to find a venue to resuscitate them, Melbourne’s it.

This promises to be an absolutely riveting day’s cricket. Australia will prove, over the next five days, whether they have it in them to maintain this magical age, or whether we get a return to the ’80s-style of several teams hustling for the top spot.

That time is remembered as one of the greatest in the game’s history, and while we seem somewhat lacking in the talent (and, more depressingly, the personalities) to match it, competitive matches and series like those we’ve witnessed these past few months can only be great for test cricket as a whole.

– Duncan

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6 Comments

Filed under Cricket, News, Reminiscing

6 responses to “Boxing On?

  1. mattp

    If Hayden fails in the second innings should he be dropped? I think so. Is Phil Jaques playing at the moment?

    I could handle watching this series so much more if they dropped the commentary team. These guys sounded good in the eighties when I was eleven and we were winning. Bring on Kerry O’Keefe.

    Does anyone else like listening to Martin Crowe? I know , i know the story goes he’s ‘a prat’ and all but for me he was the greatest batsman I have seen play- the equal of Viv Richards although not quite as brutal, but his commentary, especially when talking about batting and captaincy I find to be quite absorbing. People just don’t like him because of his hair replacement thing, or is it something else?

  2. Mark

    During the 1980s there were not ‘several teams hustling for the top spot.’ Between 1980 and 1994 the West Indies didn’t lose a single series, so I would hazard a guess that the ‘top spot’ was theirs.

  3. You’re correct, Mark, though in 1980 the West Indies lost an ill-tempered series to New Zealand, (we lost the return series then drew with them when they returned, which is a fairly even split for a decade). What I was trying to get at was that on their day (and often, in their own backyard) England, India, Australia, New Zealand and Pakistan all fielded teams capable of beating one another. Sure, the West Indies were top of the pile, but there was a depth and competitiveness to test cricket – driven by a generation of supremely talented cricketers – which has never been equaled before or since. After Australia usurped the West Indies, with the exception of India in India, they’ve been relatively untroubled.
    @mattp: Jaques underwent back surgery in October and is apparently aiming at the return series with South Africa in Feb to come back. I think that provides a nice way for Hayden to retire after this series, though his rotten form indicates Australia won’t get many runs in exchange for his dignity. I think Crowe’s kind of an imbecile, but I enjoy his megalomania and incipient weirdness. Kerry O’Keefe is a genius.

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  5. mattp

    Shit crowe is crazy during 20/20’s. perhaps this is his true nature. yes imbecile. moron maybe. maybe thats why he doesnt do much during the tests. have to say i still like his analysis of batting.

    still it reflects the event (20/20) does it not? what a turd of an ininnings nzs was at eden park but then game ‘came to life’ etc etc. I still say that a bad 20/ 20 game is a fate worse than death.

  6. deadball

    I think Twenty20 excites Crowe, and probably makes him slightly jealous, because of ts similarities to Cricket Max, that even turdier game which he manufactured and attempted to propagate in the ’90s. Funny that a classically brilliant batsmen would invent the ultimate hit-and-giggle version of cricket, but then I guess it all ties in with Crowe’s bizarre undercurrents. I think we don’t see enough Twenty20 in NZ yet to really judge it, plus our pitches are for the most part not too conducive to ‘great’ matches of it. Like it or not it’s the future of cricket. Maybe if we could get it to eliminate ODIs we might get more than two tests a series…

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