If there was any speculation after day three, as to whether Andrew Symonds had saved his place in the Test team with three quick wickets, there could be no doubt at the end of day four. The only question is will he get man of the match. Surely, that honour belongs to Michael Hussey for his incredible efforts on the second morning, but more wickets for Symonds tomorrow could make it interesting.
After an excellent spell yesterday, Symonds entered the fray with Australia well placed at 4-193, 237 runs in front of South Africa. He opened his account with a third ball six and proceeded to 72 from just 54 balls, heaving another five blows way over the fence. At the same time, Hayden exploded and when the partnership was over 15.1 overs later, the score had been advanced by 124 (at 8.18 runs per over). When the dust settled just three balls later the innings was closed, having seen 10 runs and three wickets from the final Kallis over.
Symond’s added to his success for the match with 2-6 including the vital wickets of Kallis and first Test hero, Jacques Rudolph. Symonds modestly admitted that he was pleased to have finally made a contribution.
Of course, Symonds will hold his place for the Sydney Test. The team will probably remain unchanged except for the return of Langer, who had a net yesterday. It’s hard to know how close Symonds was to being dropped for Sydney. Many, myself included thought he should not have played in Melbourne. I’m assuming that he would have been dropped for Sydney had he not made a contribution in Melbourne. Would the three wickets on day three have been enough? Given the benevolence extended to Symonds thus far, I suspect that those three wickets would have been enough.
While on the subject of saving one’s bacon, how many others have rescued their careers from the brink? Of course, it’s all speculation as we cannot know the minds of the selectors. I’m pretty certain the Matthew Hayden rescued his career from oblivion in the final Ashes Test. And what a turn around. Perhaps Steve Waugh did the same against Pakistan in late 2002, scoring a century in the final Test. It is possible he did the same just five Tests later with his famous last ball century at the SCG.
The iconic 4th Test at the MCG in 1982 which England won by 3 runs is remembered for the last wicket stand of Alan Border and Jeff Thomson. Border finished on 62 not out. Border has scored 83 runs at 16.6 for the series, closely following 84 runs at 16.8 (at least he was consistent) in a three Test series in Pakistan. Many in the press were crying for Border to be axed. In the euphoria of the match, it is often forgotten that AB was probably batting for more than the match. He scored 89 and 83 in the next Test and the rest is history.
In 1997, Mark Taylor was on the verge of dropping himself. In the final first class match before the Ashes, he was dropped on one by Dean Jones. He proceeded to 60 odd and played in the first Test. Having failed in the first innings of the first Test as Australia was shot out for 117, Tubby made a famous and celebrated century as Australia made a match of it before going down. The rest, as they say, including an Australian record of 334 not out, is history.
If you can think of any other examples, feel free to let me know and I’ll compile a list.
And for a “not quite” story: Just before he batted in the 2nd Test against Pakistan in 1972-73, John Benaud was told he had been dropped for the next Test. He proceeded to smash an angry and brilliant, match winning 142 and played just one more Test for Australia in a dead rubber in the Caribbean.