WACAs, ‘whackers’, you get the idea. Australia batted unbelievably poorly on day one at Perth. Only one batsman was out to a ball he could do nothing about – and that was the exasperatingly exemplary Mike Hussey. The rest of them got out to shots that were as ill advised as the selection of Australia’s final XI.
What on earth were the Aussies thinking? Test cricket requires discipline and patience – not whackers like Phil Hughes and Steve Smith. Unless they can get a fast start against an under par attack, these one dimensional youngsters panic, fidget, and usually get out to crap shots. Their techniques simply aren’t up to the examination that test cricket provides.
England didn’t even have to bowl well – and they generally didn’t. Chris Tremlett apart, the England seamers had stinkers first up. Jimmy Anderson was predictably wayward in his first spell, giving ammunition to those who thought his trip back to England was indulgent. Bob ‘what you talkin’ about’ Willis might be a little old school, but I can see why he was worried Jimmy’s form might suffer.
Meanwhile, Steve Finn was so poor that he seemed to be auditioning for a role in the Australian attack. He is still extremely promising, and has a habit of picking up wickets, but he has bowled poorly in too many sessions recently. He will have to fight for his place when Stuart Broad returns next summer.
Fortunately however, it didn’t matter. Ponting and Clarke fended at wide balls they didn’t need to play and got themselves out. It seems the Aussies are determined to destroy their Ashes chances on their own. They’re doing it as a team too – from the batsmen, to the bowlers, to the fielders, and of course, to their hapless selectors.
During the late 1980s and early 1990s, England fans used to scratch their heads when they saw the final XI on the morning of a test. I remember Mike Atherton’s first game as captain in 1993, when England selected an attack of Martin Bicknell, Mark Ilott, John Emburey and Peter Such. That’s right, two seamers and two off-spinners! Did they not think a bowler who turned the ball the other way might be useful?
It’s the same with Australia now. How can anyone in their right mind think it’s right to go into a test with five seamers and no specialist spinner? And how can anyone think that Steve Smith is one of the best six batsmen in Australia?
Some people might say that Smith’s ability to bowl half decent leg-spin got him selected, but in the pre-match interviews he made it clear he’d been picked as a specialist batsman. In which case, why did he bat six for Australia A in Hobart – below Usman Khawaja and Callum Ferguson, who are two far more polished performers?
Nasser Hussain spoke for every Englishman at tea when he claimed that Smith is a ‘bits and pieces cricketer’ who’s a useful number eight, but no more. He probably spoke for every Australian too – except the two that really matter: Andrew Hilditch and Greg Chappell.
Ted Dexter announced his resignation of chairman of selectors at the beginning of that test in 1993. Applause rippled around the ground when the news broke over the tannoy. Andrew Hilditch and Greg Chappell should do the same now. The performance of the Australia selectors in this Ashes series has been more lamentable than anything their team has dished up. And that’s saying something.