When you wish upon a star (Washington And Harline, Disney, 1940), makes no difference who you are – batsmen from all around the world – if you belt the ball to the wicket keeper and stand your ground, your dreams may come true. Umpires, the silly season was December. This is January. A New Year. Some caught behinds are tricky but others are not. It started in the Sydney test. Warnie smacked one to Read from Panesar and was allowed to carve his way to 70. A few minutes later, Gillie hit the ground, missed the ball and was on his way. Friday night saw Hussey survive and sink the Poms. But Craig Macmillan’s good fortune on Sunday ranks with the best. This is how I saw it.
McGrath bowled it short and wide. Mcmillan’s eyes lit up and he cut ferociously and edged to Gilchrist. He didn’t feather it. He smashed it. Spontaneous and unbridled jubilation ensued. Mcmillan’s shoulders slumped, accompanied by a grimace of resignation, with eyes closed. He knew he was done and waited instructions from the umpire. But wait. Something was up – the Aussies’ tone had changed. One eye opened just enough to take an non optimistic, sideways peek at the umpire. Still not really believing it could be true, both eyes opened and Mcmillan started to take it all in. An involuntary, embarrassed snigger completed the miscarriage of justice. Well, not quite. Eighty-eight bonus runs completed the miscarriage of justice.
In the evening, Hussey once again survived two very confident caught behind appeals. In both cases, the umpire was correct in giving not out. The second occasion is worth mentioning. Australia had two runs to win. Mcmillan was bowling the last ball of his over to Hussey. One good hit and it was all over but if Hussey could be kept at that end, New Zealand still might win. Mcmillan bowled a quickish bouncer – Hussey had a swish and missed quite comfortably. In fact, it was unbelievable that the ball was not called wide. Hussey missed because he would have needed a ladder to hit the ball. The only reason the cheeky Kiwis appealed was to distract the umpire from the wide call. Even more unbelievable was Mcmillan having a go at Hussey. What a comedian!
On the big picture, Australia has shown itself to be vulnerable. The top order is the main area of concern and Hayden will have to prove his worth or be replaced. Gillie has a licence to hit and has always been hit or miss in one day cricket. He needs a dependable partner. It is true that the last two pitches, while holding no gremlins, have been rather sporting. On that subject, it seems ironic that in so many recent Test matches we have seen runways pretending to be pitches, and now in One Day cricket, we are seeing some pitches that offer serious encouragement for the bowlers. Not that I’m knocking it. In recent years I have become a victim of passive pitch paranoia, so I welcome some life.
Around the world, South Africa and Pakistan are involved in an excellent Test match. Scores are SA (124 & 331) v Pak (265 & 3/55). Pakistan need 136 more runs to win. South Africa have had a fairly successful summer, winning the One Day series and the Test series against India and they are one up in this Test series. However, they have been routed in Tests twice now. They were dismissed for 84 against India and now 124 against Pakistan. The “juice brothers”, Mohammad Asif and Shoaib Akhtar, have done the damage in this Test with a joint haul of 11 wickets for the match (even though Shoaib was unable to bowl in the 2nd dig).
India and the West Indies faced off in Nagpur in a high scoring affair. India (338) just held off the West Indies (8/324) with Chanderpaul hitting an unrewarded 149 not out. Also note a resurgent Ganguly being run out for 98, after opening the innings for India.