On the Gabba Test

The honours finished fairly even in the Brisbane Test between Australia and India. If anything, Australia had slightly the upper hand.. but much less so than most people were predicting.

Just to be certain, Steve Waugh made sure he had the final word by setting India an impossible target with an hour to play, and unsettling them by taking two quick wickets. A last-minute sledge (sorry, mental disintegration) before Adelaide?

It was one of those games which started with Australia making India look like they were Bangladesh or Zimbabwe in disguise, until it was turned on its ear during the rain-sodden second day.

Steve Waugh has been involved in 27 run outs in Test cricket, only four of those himself. Mark Waugh at the WACA in 1995 (when Steve was 99 not out) is the most infamous of the remaining 23, but the cockup with Damien Martyn after some lacklustre outfielding is at least worthy of an honourable mention.

Waugh’s first innings duck, when his pad brushed the stumps while he was balancing to take off for a single, is not the most memorable hit-wicket in history – Roy Fredericks in the 1975 World Cup final, or Joe Solomon on the 1960-61 West Indies tour of Australia be battling out that honour for mine. But with this Test being really the start of the Stephen Waugh Farewell Tour, it was a bizarre moment of anticlimax akin to being bowled around your legs on a sticky with four needed to bring up a 100 average (hmm, where have I heard that one before?).

Sobering stat moment: Steve Waugh has made four ducks in eight first-class innings since the start of November. That’s one duck in each Pura Cup game or Test that he has played in that time. (He’s got a couple of centuries in among that lot, however.) Thank goodness he was able to bat on in the second innings and make 56 not out to keep his average up.

That one other anticlimax of the Gabba Test concerned one Tendulkar comma S full stop. Yes, Steve Bucknor got it wrong when he adjudged Tendulkar lbw for a duck with the ball apparently sailing well over the stumps. But one can only imagine what the group dynamics were like in the Gabba press box on Sunday if the utter drivel that spewed out of Monday’s papers was anything to go by. Hilariously, there were those who pointed to Tendulkar’s muted, but understandable dumbfoundedness at being given out as a shining example of the Spirit of Cricket. (But does it make him a “clone of Don Bradman”? Oh, please!)

This brings us to sobering stat moment number two: In his last three Test appearances, Tendulkar has failed to reach double figures in four out of five innings.

The positives of the Test? A fine 144 by Sourav Ganguly under the shadow of a possible suspension for a technical breach which thankfully never eventuated. Some great bowling by Zaheer Khan who, alas, might not be fit for Adelaide. And Matty Hayden can add “Out for 99 in a Test innings” to his CV. 99 in 98 balls, it’s not a bad way to go.

Almost a full two days’ play were lost in the First Test, which makes the amount of entertainment arising from this game even more remarkable. Harbhajan Singh did not have a good game, and might find himself replaced by Anil Kumble for the Adelaide Oval on Friday. Likewise Andy Bichel might give way to Brad Williams, though I suspect the status quo will prevail here.

We can be a little more confident now that this Test series will not be a one-sided drubbing. Those thousands who have bought their tickets for the SCG in the first week of January might just have a good game to witness as well as Stevie’s farewell.

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