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The last home test at SCG for the summer is about to kick off and I have a feeling that it will be closer than the last two. Despite me saying that the Boxing Day test was a snore fest, I was really impressed how the Windies’ batsmen locked down and showed some fight. If their middle order can hold out for more than a collective ten overs, they might have a chance at posting a solid total. By posting a patient 271 and 282 for first and second innings respectively, they aren’t too far off setting competitive targets. If they can squeeze an extra 50 runs in each innings, they can at least say with confidence that their batsmen are doing the job.
It’s no secret that their bowlers are the problem. I have found it hard to grasp that they can’t pick a side of the wicket and bowl to it. I remember playing cricket at primary school and our coach would start us aiming a full set of stumps outside off-stump, with the eventual goal of getting our line in at the top of off. How can players at this level not be disciplined enough to get the ball outside off? At least then Holder can set a field to restrict runs to build pressure and eventually get the fielders into attacking positions.
I know Smith loves to walk all over the place and make it difficult to find just how far outside off is far enough, but it has to start with basics. Holder needs to be able to lean on a few of his fellow bowlers to give them a chance of taking not 20 wickets, but at least ten in Australia’s first innings to make a fist of it. If the Windies can take ten Australian wickets in the first innings of this test, it could be a turning point in confidence for this relatively young team.
If the pitch prepared does in fact turn, I will just about fall over. It has been ten years since we have played two spinners at the SCG, a testament in itself to the changing nature of the wickets all over the country. It has also been ten years since the WACA was the fastest wicket in Australia. I hope the public backlash throughout this summer and last, has convinced the curator at the SCG to prepare a pitch that will get the nostalgia flowing for those of us who remember the ‘good old days’.
While currently I am living in Western Australia, I grew up in New South Wales and the SCG is my spiritual home. I remember going to an Ashes with my old man and my sister when I was about 12. We had seats in the Bradman Stand and spent the first hour looking over at the Barmy Army. They were based in the seating at ground level between the Bill O’Reilly and Brewongal Stands, giving the rest of the crowd hell. My sister and I dropped a smoke bomb on the old man and joined in. We muscled our way into seats just above the rowdy English representatives in what was then known as the Doug Walters Stand (now Victor Trumper Stand)… And so, a cricket junkie was born.
From that match I remember a few things very clearly. The first is obviously the bloody Barmy Army. The second was Michael Slater hitting a century in the second innings which ended up being over half of Australia’s runs, close to a record at the time. The third was again with Slater, an epic catch at short leg. The batsmen had pulled a ball from just short of a length straight into him. As Slater spun around to protect himself the ball somehow got wedged in his arms. The look on his face went from scared, to pain, to ‘what a ripper’ in seconds…
I am still yet to get to a match of any description at the Adelaide and Bellerive Ovals, so I don’t speak from a perfectly formed opinion, but the SCG is still my favourite cricket ground. The Adelaide Oval looks immense, but for me I think the SCG has kept a perfect balance between the upgrades and its history.
Anyway, enough of the trip down memory lane. Fingers crossed we see a huge effort from the Windies’ bowlers and get a close result… But, still an Aussie win and a hard fought century to Smith.