The Liebke Report Card: ‘Smith now averages 60 as an opener – so isn’t Australia the true winner?’


Having comfortably won the first Test against the West Indies, Australia faced a much bigger challenge in the second.

Namely, the simultaneous India vs England Test taking place in Hyderabad: challenging, ever challenging, for the true cricket fan’s attention.

This Hyderabad news shook Australia to their very core, and they scurried through the national anthem (‘our home is girt and so forth’ was how I think it ended) so they could get to the first ball while England were still banging on about how much they wanted a strange old man to reign over them.

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Here’s the report card for the second Test between Australia and the West Indies.

Holding The First Screen

Grade: B+

West Indies won the toss and chose to bat first. A crazy decision, as Australia blasted through their top order, reducing them to 5/64 heading into whatever we’re now calling the first break in these day/night Tests. 

A steady flow of wickets is how you keep yourself on the first screen. Which, presumably, is why captain Pat Cummins once again threw away a random review on an imaginary sound that somebody in the slips cordon dreamt they heard.

Honestly, at the rate Pat burns them, I can only assume reviews are not made from fossil fuels.

The second session, though, is where the Australians’ grip on the first screen was loosened. A sane and sensible 149-run partnership between Kavem Hodge and Joshua Da Silva was always going to struggle to compete with the full nonsense of India vs Bazball. 

A desperate Cummins, seeing the amount of turn Ravindra Jadeja was getting, brought Lyon on to hold fans’ attention. But that would never be enough.

So he asked Australian all-rounder and team mascot Cameron Green, who had come down with the novel coronavirus COVID-19, to bowl COVID at the West Indies batters. 


Sorry Cam… not today ????????

Josh Hazlewood wasn’t letting COVID-Positive Cam Green near the celebrations ????

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— Fox Cricket (@FoxCricket) January 25, 2024

Sticking To Your Groove

Grade: B-

Not that Cameronavirus Green had much of an impact, as the West Indies reached 311 in their first innings.

This total grew in magnitude when Australia’s innings began with Steve Smith dismissed for six in the first over.

The failure prompted impatient fans to demand that Smith move immediately back to number four and/or 2017.

Marnus Labuschagne then arrived at the crease, still sticking to the strategy of emulating Smith, long after it ceased being a sound idea. He was therefore out for three, caught by an airborne Kevin Sinclair (stay tuned).

“That is a SCREAMER” ????

The West Indies have gotten off to the perfect start with the new ball ????

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— Fox Cricket (@FoxCricket) January 26, 2024

Green came and went for eight, with Travis Head following first ball, and Roach went to lunch on a hat trick, with an appetiteless Australia 4/24.

Alex Carey was summoned to the crease after lunch with Australia 5/54, and bowled shortly thereafter by Shamar Joseph for 8 (11) to have Australia reeling at 6/71.

Except, of course, Carey wasn’t bowled, because the ball merely clipped the top of the bail, sending it spinning round and round, while remaining in its groove and not falling.

And, without coming over all youth preacher on you, do you know who also stuck to his groove and didn’t fall? 

Correctly given not out…
But look at the bails rotating! ????

— Fox Cricket (@FoxCricket) January 26, 2024

Exactly. Carey therefore played a divine innings, cover-driving and reverse-sweeping and switch-hitting his way to 65 (49), guiding Australia from 5/54 to 6/150.

The knock was easily the worst act of unsportsmanlike behaviour ever perpetrated by Alex Carey, and I fear for the Lord’s Long Room once word gets back to the members of what he’s done.


Grade: A

However, just as it appeared as if Carey would lead Australia to an inexplicable innings victory somehow, he was brought to justice for his criminal behaviour. 

In fact, so unlawful had Carey’s antics been that some clown in the crowd started making annoying siren sounds with his mouth.

The siren summoned noted superhero Pat Cummins to the crease at 7/161 to join Usman Khawaja, who’d been chilling out at the non-striker’s end through the entire Australian innings. 

Cummins looked around and noticed his team was in trouble, so decided he’d do that thing he does where he performs heroics with the bat as well.

He and Khawaja added 81, the partnership ended by Sinclair’s dismissal of Khawaja, caught at slip, who celebrated his first Test wicket with a joyous backflip. 

Phantom sirens. Backflip celebrations. It was like we were watching St George-Illawarra in the NRL in the year 2000. (Shoutout to all the Kogarah-Jubilee Oval-heads!)

Kevin Sinclair celebrates taking the wicket of Usman Khawaja. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

Confused and addled, Cummins declared nine down and 22 runs behind, to have a go at the West Indies late on the second evening. Not that this decision would come back to haunt him or anything.


Grade: F

The glistening Australian attack struggled on the third day, as the West Indies knuckled down in their second innings, desperate to set a target that might make the home side sweat in a more metaphorical sense.

What would be challenging? 250? 300? 511+23i? Seven gazillion? Infinity minus one? Yes, to all those numbers, and indeed, infinitely more.

They were helped by the fumbling hands of the Australians, who had proven to be far better this Test at catching COVID than the cricket balls that came their way.

However, the canny Australians once again found a way to turn a weakness into a strength. It’s like when you’re very shy but compensate by being an active listener. Or when you start a new job, inexperienced but able to offer a fresh perspective on the business. Or if you’re the Incredible Hulk.

On this occasion, Australia decided that if every cricket ball that came their way was going to refuse to stick to their hands, they’d use that lack of stickiness to take wickets.

So Head hot-potatoed a run out from short leg. Green juggled a sharp chance at gully, grabbing it on the second attempt. Alex Carey juggled a far less sharp chance behind the stumps, grabbing it on the third attempt, and before the West Indies knew what had happened, they’d collapsed from 4/148 to 9/185.

Three bites at it but Alex Carey holds onto the catch and dismisses Justin Greaves.

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— Fox Cricket (@FoxCricket) January 27, 2024

Shamar Freakin’ Joseph!

Grade: A+

The innings ended shortly after when Mitchell Starc fired one into the toe of Shamar Joseph.

It was given out LBW, then reviewed, then discovered to be a no ball, so not out, then revealed that the ball tracking would have been umpire’s call, so would have been out (had it not been for the no ball), but if the umpire had given it not out it would have remained not out even without a no ball, except the umpire didn’t give it not out, although the third umpire did spot the no ball.

Oh, and also Joseph’s toe was destroyed and he retired hurt. 


Starc hits Shamar Joseph on his big toe and he’s forced to retire hurt ????

???? Watch #AUSvWI on Ch. 501 or stream via @kayosports
???? BLOG

— Fox Cricket (@FoxCricket) January 27, 2024

Very normal way to end an innings. And, for that matter, Joseph’s Test.

Oh, except for the bit where he came back on the fourth day as Smith and Green looked to be guiding Australia to a comfortable win.

Green was taking a back seat in the partnership but that wasn’t preventing him from driving. (Explanation of joke: because he is so tall.)

But suddenly, Joseph, infused by Starc with knowledge of the power of the yorker, crashed through Green, and, indeed, the rest of Australia’s batting lineup like an absolute bloody superhero, finishing with 7/68 as the West Indies secured a brilliant eight-run win.

An open top ticker-tape parade through the Queen Street Mall for the entire team, please.

Smith was the man left standing, carrying his bat in defeat in his second Test as opener. A lovely tribute to David Warner. 

Plus, Smith also now averages 60 as an opener. So, in a way, isn’t Australia the true winner?

(Answer: no.)

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