First Test Review

South Africa 152 & 99

Australia 218 & 4/35

Winner: Australia

Player of the Test: Travis Head

I’ve had pisses that have lasted longer than that.

Ladies & gents, we just witnessed a two (2!) day Test match, the second-shortest duration for such a contest on Australian soil (the holder of that ignominious title coming way back in 1932). Yes, that is unacceptable and the Gabba deck was rightly issued a rating of ‘below average’. . . however – & I know this may be bucking the trend – here at Mint Sports, we thoroughly enjoyed it!

All 866 spicy deliveries.

Certainly, it is not a spectacle befitting every Test and we wouldn’t want to see it happen again this, or perhaps any other summer. Yet, when it comes to ‘below average’ pitches; give us thirty-four (34) wickets inside two days, replete with incisive bowling and faultless catching, over a bore-draw eked out over the maximum allotted overs. Any day (or two) of the week.

South Africa’s batsmen were dismissed, on average, every 25.8 balls. Australia, bizarrely, fared worse, losing a batter every 25 deliveries. In a match where the average partnership was a paltry 14, the swifter scoring rate of the Aussies ultimately proved the scoreboard difference.

Travis Head’s innings was the clear outlier as he slapped and scythed, yet never slogged, his way to a match-winning 92. He has an uncanny ability to look better the dicier the deck. It may seem counter-intuitive, but on a pitch such as this, where hoping for survival is futile, the aggressive route is often the safest – & only – way to make runs. Head duly obliged, putting the foot down from the get-go.

With ball in hand, records tumbled. Mitchell Starc’s second-innings jaffa scattering the stumps as he wobbled his left-arm seamer straight through van der Dussen’s gate to rack up his 300th Test victim. No other Australian Test cricketer in history, to have taken over 100 wickets, has a better strike rate.

Starc was more-than-capably aided by a quality supporting cast all vying for top billing. Skipper Pat Cummins picked up his eighth (8th) career five wicket haul and Nathan Lyon collected three for none (3/0) from fifteen (15) deliveries, at one point, as he bowled slightly wider of the crease and utilised the lively Gabba bounce. Meanwhile, Australia’s superb super sub, Scott Boland, continues to amaze, taking multiple wickets in an over for an astonishing fifth (5th) time in his short, dazzling Test career. Perhaps the most shocking aspect of all, is that Boland’s miserly average of 10.36 comes with little fanfare, shock or surprise. His no frills approach is a joy to behold, and you could set your watch to his seem position and release point.

For the tourists, Nortje was impressive, as were the efforts of Marco Jansen, who’s services were surplus to requirement in the second dig. Kagiso Rabada’s second innings spell can help the Proteas take momentum onto the next battleground and he has surely created some mental gremlins amongst the Aussie top order. Not least of all between the ears of heinously out-of-form opener David Warner, who chose his 99th Test to be dismissed on the first ball of an innings for the only time – just his second golden duck in 182 innings.

He has, of late, looked every bit of 36 years old, at the crease. When seen fending away from his body, both feet airborne, all signs point to his eyes and reflexes betraying him. Eyes, that in this circumstance, were clasped firmly shut – enough to betray batsmen at any level….

The narrative this fortnight will surround whether Warner decides the Sydney Test will be his last – but more of that to come in this week’s Boxing Day preview…

Despite having the opener’s measure, it is their performance – or lack thereof – with bat in hand, that will have the visitors staring vaguely into their foggy visages, in the room of mirrors, this week.

They have now failed to make 200 runs in any of their last seven Test innings. Dismissed one run shy of triple figures here, heading to Melbourne and looking to square the series – in the immortal words of Jay-Z:

The Proteas have 99 problems and the pitch ain’t one.

The best fast bowlers on the planet exploited the greenest of green decks in Queensland. They will no doubt have spent the last few rest days with their spikes up, dreaming of hauling the same 22 yards of tinged turf down the Hume in time to drop it into the MCG square on Boxing Day.

Here’s hoping we are all still grazing at the left-over ham, pretending to tolerate our in-laws, whilst lazing in front of a genuine contest come days 3, 4, and 5…



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