South Africa v Australia – Third Test Ratings

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at 2018.03.26
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The series locked at one win apiece, South Africa and Australia headed to Cape Town for the third Test in the series. Personally speaking, I was determined to not write about all the tedious controversies that had enveloped this series so far. Instead, the cricket would be the focus of these ratings and all the other nonsense could just take a back seat for a while.

What a naive fool I was.

Here are the ratings for the Third Test between South Africa and Australia.

SandpaperGate
Grade: D+

We begin, of course, with SandpaperGate, easily one of the more ludicrous ‘gates’ of our time, right up there with the Gates of Moria and, oh, let’s say, the ‘Stargate: Atlantis’ TV show.

Cameron Bancroft ruins my plan to discuss the cricket during South Africa v Australia Third Test 2017-18

Cameron Bancroft ruins my plan to discuss the cricket during South Africa v Australia Third Test 2017-18

Shortly after lunch on Day Three, Cameron Bancroft was spotted by the TV cameramen rubbing the ball with what looked to be sandpaper. Confronted by the umpires, he instead produced his sunglasses holder and explained that he was merely using the ball to re-enact the opening scene of a ‘CSI: Miami’ episode.

Sadly for Bancroft and his stellar David Caruso impression, the umpires weren’t buying it. His clumsy attempts to hide the homemade sandpaper down his trousers had been caught on camera and nobody was fooled by his alternative explanation.

This is why all cricket teams need a magician well versed in sleight of hand techniques as part of their side. Let’s hope Cricket Australia learn something from this debacle going forward.

Confessions
Grade: D

Immediately after the day’s play, Steve Smith and Cameron Bancroft faced the media. At first, everybody was hopeful that it might be one of those Hilarious Bancroft Pressers ™ where he left everybody laughing by claiming, perhaps, that he only had the sandpaper in his pocket because he mistakenly thought he might have to face the bowling of Mark Wood. Steve Smith might then have piped in that this was a perfectly reasonable explanation. Nothing more to see. Move along.

But alas, no. Instead, the Australians came clean and confessed that this had been a plan concocted by a mysterious ‘leadership group’ to tamper with the ball, and all hell broke loose.

Still, what an absolutely picturesque setting for such a scandal, with the beautiful mountains overlooking all the cheating. Gorgeous.

Steve Smith’s Captaincy
Grade: B-

The fallout from the ball-tampering was immediate and grew in insanity with every passing hour.

Politicians stepped in with their thoughts, most of which offered little to the discussion. Perhaps it should be a law that a politician can only be allowed to comment on the ball-tampering if they can name the entire Australian eleven.

English cricketers chimed in. Stuart Broad pondered why Australia would switch from the very successful techniques for gaining reverse swing that they’d used throughout the Ashes to one that they’d tried just this one time – honest! – before being caught.

Less amusingly, cricketers such as Matt Prior and Tim Bresnan called upon an entity named ‘Mother Cricket’ as an explanation for the karma that had befallen the Australians.

The term ‘Mother Cricket’ had been one that had previously eluded me. Yet another thing about this ball-tampering to be furious at.

Michael Clarke, meanwhile, declared that he would not rule out stepping back in to lead the Australian side. Sadly, no others followed his lead.

Should all former Australian captains (yes, including Graham Yallop) have immediately declared their availability and willingness to take over the Test side? Common sense says ‘yes’.

There were calls for new captains, new coaches, new players, new everything. They don’t call the ground ‘Newlands’ for nothing.

It was madness writ large. By the time Smith was stood down from the captaincy mid-Test, replaced by Tim Paine, before being suspended for a match by the ICC, the umbrage was immense.

Many people were furious that the ICC didn’t give Smith a penalty greater than the maximum available to them under their rules. Rules? Why stick to the rules? Hadn’t Australian broken the rules? Why, then, did the ICC have to stick to them?

Still, disappointing for Smith to lose his spot as captain over this. But just looking at the way he cheats, I think he could cheat a little bit smarter.

England
Grade: A-

Of course, the worst thing about this ball-tampering nonsense was that it distracted attention from England’s fantastically funny 58 all out earlier in the week in the First Test against New Zealand. All of the leadership group should have received a six-month ban just for that.

We don’t ask much from our Australian team. What we do demand, however, above all else, is that they never deflect attention away from England’s incompetency.

Cricket
Grade: C

While all this went on, a cricket game still managed to take place. Dean Elgar carried his bat. Pat Cummins took some wickets. AB de Villiers got off the mark with a six over point. Australia collapsed. Morne Morkel and Nathan Lyon took their 300th Test wickets.

South Africa won by, I dunno, 300 runs or something. They lead the series 2-1.

I assume the Fourth Test’s cricket will be overshadowed by, oh, let’s say, alligators eating an umpire and the rise of a dystopian hellscape in which the survivors envy the dead.

(Originally published at https://www.theroar.com.au/2018/03/26/the-liebke-ratings-south-africa-vs-australia-third-tesst/)

South Africa v Australia - Second Test Ratings
South Africa v Australia - Fourth Test Ratings

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