Australia v England – Third Test Ratings, Part Two

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at 2017.12.19
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After two days, Australia were exactly two hundred runs behind on the first innings, and numerous questions hung over the Test.

Would Steve Smith make a century? If England took 7/0, would Root enforce the follow-on? And who would bring up more petty grudges about former team-mates in commentary – Kevin Pietersen or Shane Warne?

Here are the ratings for the final three days of the Third Ashes Test.

The Selectors
Grade: B

Shaun Marsh was dismissed early on Day 3 as you’d expect, bringing his brother to the crease.

George Michael’s blockbuster album Faith has sold over 20 million copies since its release thirty years ago. And yet that’s still a smaller amount of faith than the selectors had shown in Mitch Marsh. Would Marsh The Younger finally repay the selectors’ multi-platinum levels of hope?

" I know all the games you play because I play them too" sings Mitch Marsh in the Third Ashes Test 2017-18

” I know all the games you play because I play them too” sings Mitch Marsh in the Third Ashes Test 2017-18

You goddamn bet he would. Because he proceeded to combine with Steve Smith to bat out the rest of the third day, in the process mentally, physically and conceptually destroying the England attack.

It was yet another triumph for the selectors, who currently have the Midas Touch. (King Midas, of course, being the owner of IPL franchise the Rising Pune Supergiants.) Hell, at this rate, the selectors could choose me for the Fourth Test and I’d somehow make 80-odd before chipping in with a lazy hat trick.

Kudos, Mitch Marsh and the selectors. Credit where it’s due.

Still, imagine how many Handscomb would have made.

Comparisons To Bradman
Grade: B+

But as well as Mitch Marsh batted, it was captain Steve Smith who got the majority of the plaudits.

Smith made 239, taking his batting average above the great Adam Voges to be the second highest Test batting average of all time (with the usual caveats for minimum number of innings).

Easily one of the best things about cricket is the rightful awe we feel for somebody reaching the status of second best average in history. Even England felt that awe, as they seemed to completely give up on the prospect of ever dismissing the Australian captain.

Wherever they bowled, Smith sent the ball racing to the boundary. To the point where Joe Root must surely have regretted not selecting 80,000 fielders to plug the gaps in the field.

By the end of his innings, Smith was deliberately timing fours in such a way that they forced England fielders to chase them the entire way to the boundary before just beating their futile dive. A more perfect combination of sublime form and utter bastardry has rarely been seen.

And yes, there were the usual raised eyebrows over Smith’s unorthodox batting style. But I’ve always felt that proper batting technique is a form of cheating. Congratulations to the Australian skipper for not going down that vulgar path.

Phase Twos
Grade: D

But maybe the England brains trust was being underestimated. After all, they only needed a tied series to retain the Ashes.

Had they rope-a-doped Australia by forcing the selectors to lock both Marshes in for the entire series?

Could they use the predicted rain to salvage a draw in the third Test and then unleash Phase Two of their Ashes retention plan with stunning victories in the Melbourne and Sydney Tests?

It was a bold plan, the series-long equivalent of reversing the batting order. Still, that’s the kind of thing you come up with when you spend all your off-field time drunk in the nearest pub.

Pitch Cracks
Grade: B-

Perhaps the biggest threat to England’s masterful alcohol-induced strategy were the pitch cracks that suddenly emerged on the WACA track early on Day Four.

The cracks quickly made batting much more difficult and both Marsh and Smith soon lost their wicket, with Mitchell Starc chipping in with a comical, baffled run out. Perhaps the only thing cracking up more than the pitch was Pat Cummins at the non-striker’s end realising he would soon get to bowl on it.

Sadly for Cummins, it was Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Nathan Lyon who took all the early wickets on the decaying pitch, as England slipped to 4/100 chasing 259 to make Australia bat again.

The most remarkable of the wickets was the Starc delivery that bowled James Vince, jagging back from a down leg side line to smash the off stump. The wicket was an important one for Australia because Vince was looking in fine touch.

Vince is easily the kind of batsman who can take the game away from an opposition side with his rapid scoring. Not in this Test, obviously. But in a different, much, much, muchmore low-scoring one.

Vince looked back at his demolished stumps and scattered bails, bemused and horrified at the fate that had befallen him. Interestingly, despite initial appearances, they weren’t zing bails. They were regular bails that had burst into flame because of the quality of the delivery.

Luckily, rain soon arrived to douse the bail flames, bringing with it an end to the fourth day of the Test.

Wet Patches
Grade: A+

The rain seemed to baffle WACA ground staff, who had apparently never before seen that kind of mystery liquid falling from the sky. It was a bit like a sprinkler system but in the air above them and with no evidence of hoses or, indeed, sprinklers. Weird.

Even worse, by the time the ground staff had sewn back together the covers they’d cut up to use as jawa costumes for The Last Jedi premiere a few nights before, a wet patch was on the pitch. The patch caused heated discussion between the captains and umpires for several hours. Although, alas, not enough heated discussion to dry out the patch.

Oh, sure. The teams eventually returned to play a few hours later and Australia rapidly knocked over the last few wickets to win the Test and regain the Ashes.

But having most of the day revolve around lengthy discussion about a wet patch? That’s why cricket is the best sport in the world.

(Originally published at

Australia v England - Third Test Ratings, Part One
Australia v England – Fourth Test Ratings

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