Australia v England – Fourth Test Ratings

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at 2017.12.31
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With the Ashes decided, both teams headed to Melbourne for the Boxing Day Test. Because if they’d headed to different grounds, that would have made play much more difficult – although, admittedly, we’d still have got the same result.

Here are the ratings for the Fourth Ashes Test.

No Balls
Grade: B+

Injury meant that both teams made changes for the Test. For Australia, Mitchell Starc was replaced by Jackson Bird in a blatant excuse to finally get Pat Cummins batting at eight.

For England, debutant Tom Curran replaced the injured Craig Overton. Curran made an instant impact on the series when he took the wicket of David Warner on 99, only to have the dismissal overturned after the delivery was revealed to be a no ball.

Disappointment for Curran but relief for Warner, who went on to make his century a ball later. Still, this hardly seems just. Curran was only very marginally over the crease. Yes, there has to be a cut-off somewhere, but can’t we have some kind of middle ground between the ecstasy of a first Test wicket and the despair of the reprieved batsman tonning up the next ball?

Why can’t we make it that when you’re dismissed from a no ball you’re still not out but, as punishment for your loose stroke, your score is reset to zero. That’ll work.

Marshnerships
Grade: D

Curran went one better than dismissing Warner early on Day 2 when he took the wicket of Steve Smith. Smart stuff from Curran to eschew the Australian vice-captain as his first Test wicket in favour of the skipper. After all, you only get one first Test wicket. Might as well make it a great one.

Indeed by the end of the Test 100 per cent of Curran’s Test wickets were Steve Smith. Let’s hope this remains as true as possible over a lengthy career and he becomes a genuine Steve Smith specialist.

The Smith wicket triggered one of Australian cricket’s most beloved sights: a Marshnership between Shaun and Mitch Marsh. Personally I think ‘partmarship’ is the superior portmanteau, but there was little time to debate the matter when Mitch was swiftly LBW to Woakes.

As always, one Marsh wicket brought two, and before anybody knew what was happening Australia had lost 5/13 to be all out for 327.

Theory: An Australian team with more Marshes than Mitches is critically unbalanced.

Alastair Cook
Grade: A-

Alastair Cook opened the batting for England. Two days, several dud LBW decisions and 491 runs (244 of which he’d contributed) later, he was the last man standing for England, having carried his bat. In the process he broke more records than anybody could be bothered to count, including, perhaps, the record for most records broken in a single innings.

Finally, we get rid of that awful hack Viv Richards from the MCG during the Fourth Ashes Test 2017-18

Finally, we get rid of that awful hack Viv Richards from the MCG during the Fourth Ashes Test 2017-18

Watching Cook, who remains one my very favourite cricketing droids, score a mountain of runs with no indication that he’d ever be dismissed instantly made me feel seven years younger.

By any standard the latest CookOS upgrade has been a triumph. Yes, there’s that minor bug where he never advises teammates to review LBW decisions even if they’ve hammered inside edges, but that’s easy enough for the England and Wales Cricket Board boffins to patch.

And besides, you can’t carry your bat without firing out a few of your batting partners along the way. It’s certainly more efficient than four years ago when Cook waited until the whole series was over before ridding himself of Kevin Pietersen.

Stuart Broad
Grade: B+

England were all out early on Day 4 – as early as they possibly could be, in fact, with James Anderson dismissed first ball to a Cummins bouncer.

Before the Test began former England captain Mike Atherton had made a reasoned, considered argument that Australia should stop bouncing the England tail with quite the vigour that they’d mustered in the first three Tests. Here that argument was revealed to have been a confidence trick of the highest order.

The great man Stuart Broad had obviously been secretly developing a technique based on the Time Warp song that enabled him to play Australia’s incessant bouncers with ease, scoring 56 in a century partnership.

‘Oh, please, Mr Cummins, don’t bounce me,’ said Brer Broad over and over as he carved each short ball away to the boundary.

One step ahead of all of us, as always.

He was similarly sharp with the bowling. As Australia had raced along in the first innings on an apparent road, it had been Broad who had heroically bowled an over of wides to Warner in front of a furious MCG Boxing Day crowd. The ensuing slowed scoring rate helped trigger the Australian collapse.

But is this tactic of bowling in a manner that makes it difficult for the opposition to score runs fair? Or should the umpires step in to do something about it? Yes, it’s fine against the tail, who are equipped to not make runs, but to do it against the top order? That’s just not cricket.

Inevitable Conclusions
Grade: D

A mish-mash of rain delays, dour batting and baseless ball-tampering accusations saw out the remainder of Day 4. Day 5 began with Steve Smith and Dave Warner still at the crease with Australia 61 runs behind.

Could they save the Test?

Of course. Oh, sure, Warner disappeared in yet another mindless update to his ongoing stoush with England captain Joe Root and Shaun Marsh was out soon after. But Smith and people’s champion Mitch Marsh saw Australia to safety.

One thing’s for sure, this dour draw has boosted Starc’s claims for player of the series immeasurably.

(Originally published at http://www.theroar.com.au/2017/12/31/liebke-ratings-fourth-ashes-test/)

Australia v England - Third Test Ratings, Part Two
Australia v England - Fifth Test Ratings

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