“Fans pay good money to come watch our athletes perform and I’d like to think they got their money’s worth over the five days of the first Test.” Darren Lehmann.
For AUS$7,959 you can follow the Australian team to watch the fourth and fifth Tests with the Cricket Australia Travel Office. Airfares not included. That isn’t just cricket, you also get a trip to Scotland, full English Breakfast every morning and “a private session with Australian coach – Mickey Arthur”.
“Imagine sitting with the coach in an exclusive group during an Ashes Series and discussing team tactics, the wicket, what’s likely to unfold, and more. On CATO Exclusive Fully Escorted Tours you will meet with Mickey Arthur the day before or during a Test to analyse the match and perhaps make a recommendation or two.” That is straight from the online brochure. It has not been updated. Nothing has changed. Much like the change of coaches, at least in the short term.
Now imagine you are the Australian fan back at home. You have paid close to 10,000 bucks, you are yet to get on a plane or meet a CATO tour escort. And your team is already 2-0 down. That must hurt. Of course, some of those same people are here right now. Just sitting there, drunk on pain, trying to understand what is happening. Their faces are grey, the warm beer is not cheering them up and they’re wondering why they spent enough to buy them a boat, or 10 items of Channel Nine’s merchandise.
Instead they got no Mickey Arthur, and for large parts, no Australia. Today must inspire some of them to ask about the possibility of refunds.
While Cricket Australia were still investigating who the honest person was who used their Twitter account yesterday, Mickey Arthur was releasing more statements that made them look silly. David Warner’s brother’s tweet made the news, and so did the term “escape-goat”.
On the field, while marketing men in met in Richmond to discuss the best way to use him, Ashton Agar limped into the crease around the wicket, into the footmarks, hoping Matt Prior wouldn’t hit him onto the Nursery Ground. Instead a mistimed shot came back to him at the sort of speed you should never drop car keys, beers or cricket balls. Our Ashton never saw it. It just smashed into him. Well, bumped into him. Then the rest of the players went out to the boundary at one. Like it was a walk off. And to follow up that drop, Agar fired in a quick one down the leg side for four byes.
England declared, but only after Joe Root had played a scoop on 180.
Then something happened that quite often happens. In fact, it happens at the second highest percentage of any cricketer who has played 50 innings or more. Shane Watson was out lbw. A split-screen later on showed almost no difference at all from the first innings. Well he didn’t review it. Which was for the best really.
Chris Rogers was confused by some good spin bowling from Graeme Swann. Or, if you want to be blunt and accurate, left a straight one. Phil Hughes had a ball straighten on him, was given out, and then referred. It is now quite clear that no one in the Australian team knows that to get a ball overruled for an lbw, you need the ball to be missing the stumps completely. Just being upset you have missed a ball and have been given out is not enough reason to wake the third umpire.
Then Usman Khawaja and Michael Clarke put on a partnership. It should have been respite, but instead it included Clarke being beaten up by short balls. The Mechaclarke of Australia had been replaced by the Tin Man of England. The only way Khawaja could help get one back was to run through Swann.
That push in the back took Swann from the field. Which seemed like a good thing. Until Joe Root bowled a dog ordinary ball down the leg side that Clarke deflected straight into leg slip’s hands. Then Root took the edge of Khawaja and his push in the back cost Australia their best partnership of the Ashes from two players who are paid to bat.
Steve Smith was caught behind off Tim Bresnan. He referred it before the finger was all the way in the air. Then Hot Spot made him look a bit silly. Gideon Haigh pondered if the thicker edges on bats made it harder for batsmen to tell if there were nicks. It might be the “if a tree falls in the forest” of our cricket times.
When Our Ashton flashed at one outside off, England went up. Erasmus did not. So they reviewed it. Tony Hill saw no Hot Spot but saw a deflection and heard a noise. The deflection seemed non-existent, the noise slightly late. For what it’s worth, Aaron Wilson, on twitter, suggested that the noise was Agar’s bat hitting a piece of grass. It was that kind of day.
Brad Haddin left a ball from Swann that pitched on middle stump from around the wicket. It was as if he forgot Swann was an offspinner. Had Australia had a review by then (now there is a fairytale) they might have reviewed it, but they probably wouldn’t have. It turned out that it was missing the leg stump.
And then you get to the end of the day, and the kind of spirit, determination and technical prowess you expect from your top order is shown by three tailenders who are fighting to make the match go into a fifth day so they could still lose by over 300 runs. This is the high point for these fans who have shelled out boat money to get here. Jimmy Pattinson chipping straight balls into the legside, Peter Siddle pushing into the offside and Ryan Harris edging between slip and keeper.
On Twitter, Cricket Australia could manage only: “Great fight by Harris and Pattinson, almost pushing the match into the final day. Players shake hands.”
That tweet said less than the look on Pattinson’s face when he was out, lbw to Swann. You would assume his wicket meant Australia had lost by a run, not 347. Pattinson was essentially a man who ran into a burning house and was frustrated he couldn’t save the pot plant. Or maybe he just wanted to take the game into the fifth day to give those travelling sad broken fans their “money’s worth”.
That is where Australia have landed; trying to make sure they only lose in five days, and not four. Scrounging around the bottom of cricket’s bin looking for an unsullied chicken wing. That rogue Cricket Australia tweet got it right when it used the hashtag #bull****. When Darren Lehmann fronts up to the Cricket Australia Travel Office for his next private session, those Aussies fans might “make a recommendation or two” or even suggested Australia’s performance “sucked ass”.