Bravo to Matthew Hayden for a brilliant innings and a new world Test record of 380. And for grabbing some of the media spotlight away from the Rugby World Cup on its opening night.
Hayden showed so much promise in the early 90s with some heavy scoring for Queensland, and was very unlucky not to make the Australian team against the West Indies in 1992 and for then blowing a solitary chance in South Africa in 1994. His comeback to the Australian team in 2000 has been followed by some quite extraordinary innings, which have helped Australia set the agenda as the benchmark team in world cricket today.
It’s hard to imagine too many opening batsmen of the past who have brought such a brutally rapid accumulation of runs into their game. There’s Gordon Greenidge, and to a lesser extent, Sanath Jayasuriya. Turning 32 later this month, Hayden has 3916 Test career runs after today’s knock. One can only contemplate where he would be if he had been an Australian regular throughout his twenties. For a long time he looked destined to be Australia’s Graeme Hick. No more.
The lunch to tea session at the WACA today (day two of the First Test against Zimbabwe) was as breathtaking a spectacle of batting as I have seen in a Test match in years. And let’s not forget that Adam Gilchrist, who scored his ninth Test century from 84 balls. This Australian batting lineup is on a frightening high plane of brilliance.
It’s fair to say that the Zimbabwean bowling attack was not what most countries would accept for themselves as Test standard, and I believe their claims for continuing Test status are flakier than Bangladesh’s. (Not that there is any prospect of either country having the ICC full membership taken away.)
This should not, however, be any sort of argument for devaluing Hayden’s world record. Looking over the progressive list of past world record holders for the highest Test innings, I see a few instances of records being set against substandard bowling opponents. Andy Sandham’s 325 against the West Indies in 1930 is one, as is Wally Hammond’s 336 not out against New Zealand in 1933, and Garfield Sobers’ 365 not out against Pakistan in 1958. Hayden’s record is no lesser an achievement simply because it was made against the likes of Streak, Ervine, Blignaut, Price and Gripper.
And on the subject of Heath Streak: reality check, mate. The objective of cricket is to score more runs than your opponent. When the toss of the coin gives you the first chance to accumulate those runs, bloody well take that opportunity unless you have a really good reason. As it is, you now enter cricket immortality as the captain who allowed an opposition to bat first and score 735 runs for their trouble.