Test Mortem: Adelaide shafted by schedule but pitch not up to scratch, Smith-Green jury still out, SOS to ICC for Windies
South Australian Premier Peter Malinauskas is scoring easy votes by blasting Cricket Australia’s scheduling but he’s got a point – Adelaide has been shafted by this summer’s Test program.
For the second year in a row, Adelaide Oval has hosted a lopsided mismatch against the West Indies with this week’s no-contest over inside seven sessions.
Malinauskas is livid with CA over the match starting on a Wednesday and given the fact that it was finished before midday on Friday, it will mean huge revenue losses for Adelaide’s hospitality and tourism industry.
The Test was also switched to a day game for the first time since 2018 so Channel Seven would have wall-to-wall cricket for its broadcast schedule with the BBL playoffs getting under way on Friday night.
Well, not quite, now that the Test will not be played over the weekend when many South Australian fans would have been able to get to the famous old venue.
Malinauskas told Adelaide radio station 5AA that “we are far and above every other city around the country” when it comes to attendances at international cricket fixtures.
“We have more people turn up for Test matches on a per capita basis than anybody. We leave Melbourne in the wake,” he fumed.
“It was odds-on to not go for a long time which is why I am a bit filthy on Cricket Australia for starting the Test on Wednesday. What possible justification is there for that?
“There must be some perplexing reason to do with scheduling or something but I don’t think anything can justify starting a Test match on a Wednesday against a second-rate nation that we’ve played two years in a row.”
Adelaide is clearly the best international cricket venue in Australia for fans, pitch and atmosphere behind Sydney and Melbourne, the cities with easily the biggest populations.
The South Australians deserve better – their match should be hard-baked into the calendar as the Test before the Christmas Day break.
CA should give Adelaide the mid-December Test every year, starting on a Thursday or a Friday as the precursor to the MCG-SCG double after Christmas.
Pitch not up to scratch
It was an anomaly but the Adelaide Oval pitch for this Test was not up to its usual standard.
They had not hosted a day Test for six years and the curator, Damien Hough, conceded they had used the wrong grass on the surface.
While they seem to have struck the right balance when it comes to the type and length of grass for pink ball day-nighters, this pitch had too much variable movement with the red six-stitcher.
A few Windies batters gave their wickets away but for the most part they were brought undone by the seam movement which induced edges or kept them bogged down.
The Aussie batters found it hard to score as well – Travis Head’s cavalier approach succeeded but he had a few hairy moments along the way.
The bowler-friendly wicket probably helped keep the contest closer than it otherwise would have been but also meant the teams were shaking hands early on day three.
If not for a stubborn little partnership on Thursday afternoon, there was a chance of play being extended and the Aussies mopping up the tail to finish the match inside two days.
Jury still out on Smith-Green experiment
It’s way too early to reach a verdict on the Steve Smith to opener and Cameron Green at four experiment.
But the first glimpse of the new-look batting line-up was not great.
Smith looked like he was trying to be industrious in both brief innings as opener after plodding his way at four in the past 12 months.
But he played at a delivery in the first innings that a natural opener would have been looking to leave – those kinds of batting traits take a long time to sink in and at 34, is this dog too old to learn new tricks?
Green looked similar to the majority of his 37 Test innings – patient, rigid in his technique but perhaps overly cautious, if not nervous. He did the hard yards to get to stumps in a brief first stint on day one and after finding the boundary twice early on day two, the stage was set for him to silence the critics by building a substantial lead for his team.
But he flattered to deceive yet again to be out caught behind for 14 to be one of Shamar Joseph’s five wickets on debut.
The investment in Green has been significant from the Australian team over the past four years and after a stint on the outer to regain confidence at domestic level, now is the time for him to deliver on his immense potential.
Hazlewood heart Adelaide
Adelaide is not supposed to be a favourite ground for fast bowlers but Josh Hazlewood’s love affair with the traditionally batter-friendly venue continued this week.
In seven Tests at the famous old ground he now has 40 wickets at 16.82 and has never gone wicketless in the 14 innings when he’s rolled his arm over.
He took 6-70 in 2015 against New Zealand in his first Test there, bagged a remarkable 5-8 in a five-over spell in the “Adelaide 36ers” game against India four years ago and his 9-79 for this week’s match is his best return in his 67-match career.
It’s hard to get a 10-wicket haul when you are competing with Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc and Nathan Lyon for the 20 on offer.
Brett Lee and Jason Gillespie are the only other members of Australia’s top 10 all-time Test wicket-takers who did not snare 10 in a match.
Due to a string of injuries and tours to spinning decks in Asia, Hazlewood has only played 16 Tests since 2020 but has taken 62 wickets at 22.82.
He turned 33 earlier this month but shows no signs of slowing down and is likely to be plundering wickets for at least another couple more years at the highest level.
Windies smell like team spirit
The West Indies are lucky to have a strong leader like Kraigg Brathwaite.
Despite picking a squad with seven uncapped players as they continue to lost players to the T20 franchise leagues, they have clearly picked cricketers with backbone for this tour to Australia.
Unfortunately it takes more than application at Test level to cut it with the best. Unlike their halcyon days, this West Indies team has zero big names and is filled with honest toilers.
Shamar Joseph will be a star if his Test debut is an indication of the rest of his career but the Windies have been waiting for a messiah ever since their last genuine world-class player, Brian Lara, said farewell at the 2007 World Cup.
They need to play more Tests, not necessarily against the big three of Australia, India and England but against teams like New Zealand, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and South Africa.
The Caribbean Premier League is the focus locally and that will only intensify unless the ICC makes moves to compensate the financially weaker nations like the West Indies.
Brathwaite is concerned that the Windies are playing fewer Tests this year and next than everyone else apart from Afghanistan, Ireland and Zimbabwe among the 12 full ICC member nations.
“Funding is great, but we need to play a lot more games,” Brathwaite said.
“Last year, we played six games. Even if we play six in a year, I pretty much won’t mind if the six games are back-to-back series.
“You’ve got to play to learn. And it’s hard for a guy to play, even if he fails or succeeds. But then your next Test match is six months away.”