A trip to the Bradman Museum in Bowral isn’t just about cricket; it’s about Australian sporting history, traditional and culture.
It’s Easter Saturday and a beauty in Sydney. Replacing the dank and drizzle that plagued my Good Friday walk in the Eastern Suburb’s is a bright sky that closely resembles the blue of the nearby Pacific Ocean.
A lot has happened in Australian cricket in the two years since I last stepped foot in Sydney. Richie and Phillip have sadly left us, a home World Cup crown was secured, an away Ashes series squandered and farewells were aplenty with Pup, Ryano, Bucky, Hadds, Mitch and Watto all leaving the international scene. One thing guaranteed to always remain around these parts though, is the legacy of Sir Donald Bradman.
As I make my two-hour train descent towards Bradman’s final resting place of Bowral, the big city slowly drifts by into a flurry of suburbs and small villages and then, beyond Campbelltown, the beautiful Southern Highlands. One can’t help but to be impressed at the amount of sporting facilities that lie adjacent to the train line. No suburb goes empty handed without AFL, soccer, tennis, cricket and rugby facilities. Many small rural towns even have their own horse racing circuits and golf courses.
Yes, Australia has the good weather and the space to facilitate such sporting resources, but they also have an unrivalled love for sport and the great outdoors. It’s just in their blood. And Bradman is an integral part of that.
Weaving through the Southern Highlands is a joy to behold. Cattle, sheep and horses litter the landscape of rolling hills and tree-laden meadows. Country NSW has never looked so glorious.
As the train enters its final stretch through Mittagong and towards Bradmanland, the excitement becomes intangible. Unrivalled since the morning I wondered down towards Yarra Park for my first visit to the MCG, for such a cricket lover visiting the hometown of the game’s finest player is right up there with other fine memories of the sport.
Having finally arrived at Bowral the walk through the town centre is a pleasant one. A thriving cafe scene enriches the area as the locals gather to discuss the various different footy codes being played over the Easter period. As local children play in the town’s many park areas, you can almost imagine a young Bradman doing likewise some 100 years previously.
Part of The Bradman Walk meanders towards Glebe Park. The recently fallen leaves throw you into an autumnal way of feeling. If it not for the warm easterly breeze, it could well be a late September morning anywhere in England. Instead the profound cries of a nearby swarm of cockatoos reiterates the fact that this is very much Antipodean land.
And then suddenly out of nowhere, I’d arrived at the picturesque Bradman Oval. Encircled by Camden Woollybutt gumtree’s and a smartly painted white picket fence, this again leads me back to a great feeling of Englishness. Indeed, the traditional pavilion puts the cherry atop the English cake.
In a way the Bradman Oval is the closest thing to resembling English cricket across Australia. Sure the WACA ground retains some English-style characteristics in the design of its stands – but how long will it continue to host international cricket once the new Perth Stadium is built? While the Gabba, MCG, SCG and the Adelaide Oval are all now essentially large footy grounds with, occasional, cricketing tenants.
The museum itself is charming. Throughout the Bradman Gallery the early years of The Don are told aplenty and described in fascinating ways with in-depth accounts of both his adolescent life in Cootamundra and Bowral, and his early cricketing memories. A whole installment is in fact dedicated to his infamous cricket-schooling – involving a stump, a golf ball and a water tank.
Another of the museum’s absorbing features is a segment on Bradman’s Invincibles side of 1948. While we commonly hear of the successes of men like Neil Harvey, Arthur Morris, Ray Lindwall and Keith Miller on that tour, learning more about lesser-known names such as Bill Johnston and Colin McCool was an equally enlightening experience.
The section Cricket through the Eras, which pays particular attention to both the Bodyline series of the 1930’s and Kerry Packers’ World Series Cricket in the 1970’s, is another worthwhile affair mixing both visual and audile recollections of hugely important periods in Australian cricket.
In a day and age when many cricketers live a predominately freelance existence, it’s equally compelling and surprising to discover the sheer volume of contrasting teams Bradman either represented or encountered. From the inter-village 234 made against Wingello to a knock of 153 against a HD Leveson Gower’s XI at Scarborough – an informative plaque lists every score The Don ever made over 150.
Other interesting features include subjects on The Baggy Green, The Origins, The Greats of the Game, The World of Cricket, The Game and a vertual Kids Backyard section.
A trip to the Bradman Museum is an education in not just cricket; but sporting history, tradition and culture too. For over a century, cricket down under has captured the very essence of Australian life. And Bradman was at its very forefront.
While both hard-hitting allrounders are of a similar age – Stokes’ international career has taken off spectacularly in recent times. Marsh meanwhile remains, for now, a project player.
Mitchell Marsh will struggle to remember a better day than Saturday 6th February 2016. It began with news of a gigantic cheque arriving from the IPL, involved a tidy bowling spell of 2-30, and concluded with an unbeaten series-levelling knock of 69.
Whilst Marsh watched on at the non-strikers end as big John Hastings hit the winning runs in Wellington, I instead found myself 5,258 kms away observing another game of cricket. A far simpler encounter between two WACA: 1st Grade sides at the picturesque Stevens Reserve ground in South Fremantle, Western Australia.
The first day skirmish between Fremantle District CC and Perth CC, played under the unrelenting WA sun, seemed a world away from the Chappell-Hadlee duel at the ‘Cake Tin’, even if it did include a pair of highly impressive youngsters in Tom Abell and Jhye Richardson.
So what’s the link you may ask?
Well, Fremantle is where it had all began for the Perth-born Marsh. The international recognition and IPL paycheque (Marsh was bought by new franchise Pune Rising Supergiants in Saturday’s auction IPL for INR 4 crores – around $1 million AUD) are both just rewards for an upbringing that began, like many Australian cricketers before him, in Grade cricket.
While a busy international schedule has contrived to restrict Marsh to just two Grade appearances for Freo this summer (the last of which was in early December) and accumulated in him contributing just eight runs, he remains a player still highly regarded among his contemporaries at the club.
After making his First Grade bow in 2006/07, Marsh lived up to his enormous potential two summers later when, as a 17-year-old, he made 208 from 171-deliveries when batting at number five against Gosnells. A week later he became the youngest Australian to play in the country’s domestic one-day competition, debuting for Western Australia against South Australia at Bunbury.
Such lofty heights were followed with more success in the U19’s – where he captained the side to World Cup success in New Zealand in 2010. Among his compatriots in that side were current limited-overs teammates Josh Hazlewood, Kane Richardson and Adam Zampa.
Whilst Marsh was ascending through the ranks in Australian cricket, at the other end of the planet Ashes rivals England were unearthing a promising allrounder of their own.
Like Marsh, Ben Stokes also played in the 2010 U19 World Cup – impressing with a century against India in the process. The similarities run much deeper than that too. Both men were initially introduced into the international game via the limited overs route, with Stokes’ ODI debut preceding that of Marsh’s by just two months in August 2011.
They also both made their Test bows in trying circumstances. Stokes in the Ashes whitewash of 2013/14 and Marsh a year later as Australia were demolished 2-0 by Pakistan in the UAE.
While they share several comparisons, what currently sets them apart is the impact that Stokes has already had in Test cricket. With 23 Tests to his name, the Englishman has contributed three centuries (including a double), Marsh, on the other hand has just one fifty across his 13 matches – an 87 in his second Test at Abu Dhabi.
Up until securing his maiden century in his 44th international appearance (an unbeaten 102 off 84 deliveries against India at the SCG), Marsh had encountered a difficult summer with the bat.
Unable to pass fifty before that joyous occasion at the SCG, he spent most of the summer in the dressing room nursing pad-rash after the top five all scored a glut of runs in series against New Zealand and the West Indies. His 88 runs across five Tests owed as much to a lack of opportunity than to any particularly poor form.
Even so he’s spent the summer keeping the wolves at bay as both the tabloids and social media alike took turns to jump on his back – something which Shane Watson had himself once become accustomed to.
So desperate to get his premier allrounder some time in the middle, captain Steve Smith contrived to promote Marsh up the order in both the rain affected new year Test in Sydney and the fourth ODI against India in Canberra.
Twice promoted to bat at number three, he endured relatively subdued knocks of 21 off 63 (against the West Indies) and a 42-ball 33 (against India), stalling the earlier progress of the openers on both occasions. Only later in the ODI series did Smith’s plan come to fruition when Marsh ended his four-year wait for an international ton.
Were it not for his bowling – once seen as his weaker suit – he could well have found himself out of the side. After initial doubts over his ability to hold up an end, his bowling has come on leaps and bounds in both control and pace. This has allowed Smith to use both Mitchell’s (Johnson and Starc), along with James Pattinson, to attack in short bursts.
With both Johnson and Starc absent for the duration of the West Indies series, Marsh eventually found himself as the side’s enforcer. Regularly clocking up speeds in excess of 140kph during the Boxing Day Test at the MCG, he finished the match with career-best figures of 4-61.
After initially taking four matches and seven innings to take his first Test wicket, Marsh’s record of 21 wickets at 31.61 are a solid return for essentially a fourth seamer. That 12 of those wickets have come in his six matches this summer shows of the hard work he’s put in with bowling coach Craig McDermott.
Marsh’s upturn in fortunes have occurred at a time when Stokes is rightfully being showered in appraisals. Coming off the back of a breakthrough series in South Africa, Stokes’ stock has never been higher. Australians across the land must be left wondering if their own 24-year-old allrounder can develop into such an attacking match winner.
The Man-of-the-series performance against the formerly number-one ranked South African’s bookended a year in which Stokes has played an enterprising part in a new beginning for English cricket.
He finished the series second to only Hashim Amla on the run scoring charts with 411 runs at 58.71 and fourth on the wickets tally with 12 victims at 29.16. His thunderous innings of 258 at Cape Town was brutality and insouciance at its very best.
Despite Stokes taking a little while to find his feet at the international level (he made three successive ducks against India in his second series in 2014) his Test performances in the past year have been highly impressive. Sitting alongside the Cape Town 258 are the 92 & 101 he made against New Zealand at Lords and the second innings 6-36 against Australia at Trent Bridge – both in the past twelve months.
On the surface combined Test batting (33.73) and bowling (38.07) averages hardly suggest a pathway to greatness for Stokes. But similar to both Ian Botham and Andrew Flintoff before him, it’s his ability to stand up and be counted that marks the redhead out as a dangerous customer in all forms of the game.
His inclusion adds much needed balance to an England side, not only ensuring Alastair Cook can play five bowlers, but also allowing Moeen Ali (a man with 14 first-class hundreds to his name) to bat at number eight. Rod Marsh and his selection committee will hope Marsh can soon fulfil a similar role for Australia.
While Marsh has a poor batting average of 24.64 throughout the 21 times he’s walked to the middle in Test cricket, it must be noted that at times, he’s been asked to perform a selfless act when batting with a declaration looming.
Despite his often infuriating ability to throw his wicket away when well set, Australia must resist the urge to drop Marsh down to number seven and bat keeper Peter Nevill ahead of him. Such theories were muted at the conclusion of November’s day/night Test in Adelaide – where Nevill scored an accomplished first-innings 66 in trying conditions. Thankfully for Marsh’s development those ideas were soon quickly forgotten.
After started out as a number six, Stokes was briefly shifted down to number seven during England’s tour of the Caribbean last spring. The move, aided by a strong desire to promote Moeen up the order, only truly resulted in Stokes adopting a reckless attitude to batting.
“If you pick someone to bat in a certain place they’ll bat that way” – words of former Durham teammate Stephen Harmison on describing Stokes’ demotion in the order last year.
Fortunately for Stokes’ development as a batsman, the dismissal of coach Peter Moores – following that disastrous series in the West Indies – abetted his return up the order. The decision to reinstate him at six – made by then interim-coach Paul Farbrace – has since being vindicated with the Left-hander excelling under on the added responsibility.
For Marsh the forthcoming two-Test series in New Zealand looms as a potentially defining one. With the ball expected to swing and seam as it did in England last winter, Trent Boult and co are sure to demand a thorough test of his defensive technique. A technique previously found wanting in such conditions.
With the ball, he also has a huge role to play for skipper Smith. With Starc still out injured and doubts over the short term fitness of both Pattinson and Peter Siddle, expect Marsh to bowl his fair share of tough overs.
There’s certainly a lot to admire about both Stokes and Marsh. In an era when allrounders in Test cricket are often portrayed as something that closely resembles gold dust, having one equipped to bat in a positive manner at number six, whilst also being able to bowl 140kph-plus as a fourth-change seamer, is invaluable.
Could next year’s Ashes campaign be a battle of the allrounders?
The highs of March’s World Cup glory were replaced by the lows of August’s Ashes failure, amid a year that witnessed a spate of returns and farewells.
It was a year of farewells and new beginnings in Australian cricket. Triumph, heartbreak, legacy, retirement and groundbreaking – were all key words used during another rollercoaster year in Australia’s favourite summer sport.
Figures alone suggest that Australia has had a good 2015. They lost just three of their 13 Tests and three of their 19 ODIs, but of course figures only tell half of the tale.
On the surface the year concluded as it had begun – with captain marvel Steve Smith scoring a customary Test hundred whilst leading Australia to yet another dominate home series victory. However, scratch a little deeper and you’ll find that 2015 was a year in which the landscape changed across Australian cricket.
A new captain, vice-captain, wicketkeeper, spearhead quick, opening batsman, allrounder and chairman were just a few changes to occur over the past twelve months.
November saw Cricket Australia break new ground when the Adelaide Oval played host to cricket’s first ever day/night Test match. The three-wicket victory over New Zealand was by most accounts a resounding success with a grand total of 123,736 people attending the first three days of play.
On the field, deputising for the injured incumbent Test captain Michael Clarke, Smith had begun the year making 117 and 71 against India at the Sydney Cricket Ground – He concluded it with scores of 134* and 70* against the West Indies at the MCG – this time as permanent chief in commander.
Clarke’s demise conspired to be painful and rapid; Smith’s rise conspicuous and fruitful. Much like when Ricky Ponting reached the end of the road as captain in 2011, the changing of the guard was evident as it played out amongst the public spotlight of an Ashes campaign.
Unlike Ponting, Clarke wasn’t about to continue any further in the side. He would go on to announce his retirement from international cricket in an interview with old ally Shane Warne during the third morning of the fourth Ashes Test at Trent Bridge.
The timing of the decision came as no surprise. Amid a huge slump in form – in which his six 2015 Tests had brought just 196 runs at 21.77, and coupled with the strain of multiple injuries and the ongoing raw emotions over the death of Phillip Hughes last November, Clarke no longer had anything left to give.
His retirement would headline a host of farewells throughout the year. Ryan Harris, Chris Rogers, Brad Haddin and Mitchell Johnson all walked away from the international game, while Shane Watson chose to step aside from the Test arena.
Going into 2015, Australia had their eyes solely on two main prizes. A home World Cup victory and an away Ashes triumph. The first of which they had never achieved, the second hadn’t been ticked off for fourteen unthinkable years.
With the World Cup secured after an exhilarating seven-wicket victory over co-hosts New Zealand at the MCG in late March, perhaps also expecting Ashes success was too greedy.
The World Cup success was systematically built around a strong pace bowling unit, of which Mitchell Starc was the ultimate ringleader. The left-armer claimed a joint tournament-high 22 wickets at just 10.18. Alongside Johnson, Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins, he combined to obliterate all fellow challengers.
While the side that claimed the ODI silverware were a well drilled and balanced outfit in home conditions, the squad that arrived as favourites on English soil in June were overconfident, creaky and long in the tooth.
Once again found out by the seaming and swinging ball, a problem that has handicapped touring Australian sides for some years now, their brittle top and middle order were frequently lambs to the slaughter. Entering the green-top-abattoirs of Edgbaston and Trent Bridge, the tourists simply had no answers when confronted with James Anderson, Stuart Broad and co. wielding shiny new Dukes balls in helpful conditions.
Truth be told, much like the English side that travelled down under in 2013-14, this was an Ashes series too far for an ageing Australian squad with ten players over the age of 30 – four of whom were 35 or older.
Given the pre-series nickname Dad’s Army, Clarke and his men played down the concerns of age, instead deciding to focus on the experience they had in their ranks. But once the series got underway it became clear many wouldn’t make it beyond its conclusion in late August.
After Harris pulled up lame during a pre-Ashes tour match at Chelmsford, it began a procession of untimely blows for the tourists. Selection blunders, personal issues and significant loss of form all contributed as the problems mounted, eventually reaching their summit on that frightful first morning in Nottingham.
The casualties provided by a failed Ashes campaign, led to more selection dilemmas. But only after a proposed two-Test tour of Bangladesh was cancelled on security grounds in October, did we begin to see the makeup of the new Test side – now under the fulltime stewardship of Smith.
Joe Burns, selected ahead of the younger Cameron Bancroft, has averaged 47.88 with two hundreds since being named as Rogers’ successor in early November. While Usman Khawaja shrugged off nine months of knee ligament rehabilitation to finally nail down the number three berth. Either side of a hamstring injury, the left-hander scored 504 runs at 126.00, including three consecutive hundreds.
Although there’s no denying that much greater challenges (than home series against New Zealand and the West Indies) await next year, the batting order already has a more balanced feel to it. That Shaun Marsh was dropped for the Boxing Day Test despite scoring 182 in his previous innings at Hobart shows that competition for places is strong.
The fast bowling stocks remain a slight concern. Despite the retirements of Harris and Johnson, the depth is still relatively broad; keeping men on the park is the real concern. Cummins, Starc and Nathan Coulter-Nile are all currently sidelined for the foreseeable future.
Alongside the flourishing comebacks of Burns and Khawaja, the return of James Pattinson – absent from the World Cup and Ashes campaigns with various back injuries – is a significant positive heading into 2016.
Away from the field, David Peever, a former managing director at mining giant Rio Tinto, took over as Cricket Australia chairman following Wally Edwards departure from the role in October. After four years in the position Edwards’ legacy will no doubt be his role in the so-called ‘Big Three’, he leaves CA in a sound financial predicament.
September saw substantial news regarding the future of international cricket in Perth. From 2018 onwards all limited overs cricket and Test matches against England, India and South Africa will be moved from the WACA to a new 60,000-seater stadium in Burswood. The move saw plenty of opposition with former Test great Dennis Lillee among the masses in stating his displeasure at the move.
When over 93,000 people packed into the MCG to witness a showdown between the tournaments two hosts, they expected a close game.
After a thrilling group stage match in Auckland a month earlier New Zealand, led by the effervescent Brendon McCullum, went into their first World Cup final on the crest of a wave. But Starc soon changed all that when he dismissed McCullum in the first over.
New Zealand could only limp to 183. Solid top order contributions from David Warner, Smith and Clarke saw Australia ease home in the 34th over to claim an unprecedented fifth World Cup crown.
Going into that treacherous first morning at Trent Bridge, the Ashes were still on the precipice. Just 18.3 overs later and the English were essentially clutching the urn.
The insouciant way in which the Australian’s went about batting against Stuart Broad was simply dumbfounding. Sure, every edge went to hand and Ben Stokes, in particular, pulled off a world class grab in the slips, but Australia’s porous defence against the moving ball led to plenty of questions being asked.
An innings and 78-run defeat followed. The Ashes were handed over and with them Clarke handed over his resignation.
New kid on the block: Josh Hazlewood.
Since making his debut last December, Hazlewood has been an almost ever present (he missed just the fifth Ashes Test) in the Test side, taking 60 wickets at 24.13.
Despite struggling to control the amount of swing and seam on offer in English conditions, the 24-year-old impressed in both the West Indies and in home conditions.
With Johnson retired and Starc injured, Hazlewood stood up to be counted during the day/night Test in Adelaide last month. His match figures 9-136 were his career best and led to man-of-the-match honours.
Like with all young fast bowlers, its important he’s given adequate rest after playing a key role in recent series wins over New Zealand and the West Indies.
Fading Star: Michael Clarke
While six ageing players have retired this year, the decline of Michael Clarke is perhaps the greatest. He started the year not only still mourning the loss of Hughes, but also battling back and hamstring complaints and never fully recovered to find either his best form, or enthusiasm for the game.
The World Cup Final knock of 74 was his only innings of note before poor tours of the Caribbean and United Kingdom led to his inevitable retirement.
He left the game with 17,112 international runs spread across 115 Tests, 245 ODIs and 34 T20Is.
Farewell to: Richie Benaud & Arthur Morris
Benaud passed away in April at his Coogee home after a short battle with skin cancer. He was 84. A pioneer of cricket broadcasting later in life, Richie will also be fondly remembered as a deep thinking captain and superb legbreak bowler.
He played 63 Tests between 1952-1964 and finished his career with three centuries and 248 wickets.
Australian summers will not be the same without his distinctive voice being heard in the Channel Nine commentary box. Richie touched the lives of many – this author included.
Morris, a fellow Australian Cricket Hall of Famer, died in August aged 93. He made his name as a tremendous left-handed opening batsman, starting out at the conclusion of the Second World War.
He shot to fame as part of Don Bradman’s famous invinclibles Ashes tour of 1948 – where he topped the run scoring charts with 696 runs at 87.00. One of the last living players from that tour (Only Neil Harvey remains) he finished his career in 1955 having played 46 Tests in the Baggy Green.
What 2016 holds?
Like with any year, Australia’s progress will be judged on their away success. More to the point their ability to play the swinging and spinning ball in alien conditions.
A two-Test tour of New Zealand in February should be a measure of how much they have learnt from their mistakes against the moving ball in England, while a series in Sri Lanka later in the year will gauge where they are at regarding the spinning ball, a fundamental problem during recent tours on the subcontinent.
The ICC World Twenty20, set to be hosted by India in March, will offer further insight into whether Aaron Finch’s side can click as a unit after previous disappointment in the only format Australia has yet to win a global tournament in.
The home summer concludes the year when both South Africa and Pakistan head down under, with discussions already underway to stage at least one day/night Test.
The retirement of Mitchell Johnson and foot injury sustained to Mitchell Starc has again led to the question, how deep is Australia’s fast bowling depth?
We keep getting told how much fast bowling depth there is in Australia. We’re told that they could field as many as twenty different seamers and still remain competitive in international cricket – but are the fast bowling stocks quite as strong as they once were?
This year’s retirements to former spearhead’s Ryan Harris and Mitchell Johnson has taken away not just experience (100 Tests) and quality (426 wickets), but it’s also significantly weakened the depth in fast bowling across the country. Throw in the metatarsal injury sustained by Mitchell Starc during the recent Test against New Zealand, along with a host of injuries currently facing other potential candidates, and it begins to become a cause for concern.
The injury picked up by Starc during the first innings in Adelaide is as much, if not more, frustrating for the selectors than the timing of Johnson’s retirement following the previous Test in Perth. Starc had this summer, started to become the Test bowler his rich promise has previously suggested he was capable of becoming. In outbowling fellow left-armer Johnson during his, at times, rapid spells at the Gabba and the WACA, he had taken over as the bowling attack’s spearhead and was bowling better than ever before injury prematurely ended his home summer with 13 wickets at 23.23.
Starc, 25, is now targeting the tour of New Zealand in February as a realistic return date. The prolonged rest should, at least, allow him to freshen up after a tough year battling a recurring ankle problem.
All the signs currently point towards James Pattinson replacing Starc for next week’s first Test against the West Indies in Hobart. But, while, on the surface the bowling depth looks exciting and plentiful, scratch a little deeper and the cracks begin to appear.
Quite literally, you could find cracks or fractures or strains, as it appears more young Australian quick bowlers are currently gracing the treatment table instead of the firing on the field.
Producing the fast bowlers has been the easy part for Australia, keeping them injury-free hasn’t. In the past few years most of their young quicks have become even more susceptible to injury than an Arsenal footballer.
With the squad for next week’s first Test due to be announced on Tuesday morning, it will be interesting to see who stands where in the fast-bowling cartel. Certainly plenty of mulling over awaits Rod Marsh and his fellow selectors Darren Lehmann, Mark Waugh and Trevor Hohns.
If there’s one thing that we already know it’s that Josh Hazlewood and Peter Siddle will be taking up two, of the expected three, fast bowling berths set to be available alongside Nathan Lyon and allrounder Mitchell Marsh.
Hazlewood, 24, produced the goods when it mattered most for Australia at the Adelaide Oval. His innings (6-70) and match (9-136) figures were both career best’s, but it was the way in which he took over as the leader of the attack in the absence of Johnson and Starc that really highlighted his value to the current setup. However, on the downside, his workload (He bowled 119 overs during the series) is already being questioned just three Tests into the summer, this follows on from a hectic year since he debuted against India last December.
Unable to get into the Australian side just a few months ago (not forgetting the Victoria side during the Matador Cup), Siddle, 31, is fast becoming a valuable commodity among the bowling stocks. His ability to retain pressure is a quality not withstanding many of his counterparts and Hazlewood could do well to buy his mate a beer after he contributed heavily in earning the New South Welshman many of his nine wickets.
Despite complaining of a slightly sore back during the match, in which he claimed his 200th Test victim, Siddle should be deemed fit enough to face the Hobart Test. But alongside the aforementioned duo and a fit again Starc, how far does the bowling depth stretch in Australia? Here’s a look at the likely next in line.
James Pattinson (Age 25) Tests: 13 (51 wickets at 27.07)
His Test record is solid, his injury record less so. Since playing his last Test match in South Africa back in March 2014, a host of injuries have limited him to just four first-class matches for Victoria.
Among those setbacks were two serious back injuries sustained within the space of 10 months following the 2013 Ashes in England. Deterred by back complains and determined to correct his action, from front to side-on, he in turn injured his hamstring.
But injuries are nothing new for Pattinson. In November 2012, a year after making his Test debut, he suffered a rib injury so severe that, for a while, he was unable to breathe properly.
Despite all of this, he has fought his way back this summer, with the new action in tow. He has Impressed enough in both the Matador Cup and Sheffield Shield, to receive another opportunity in the wake of Johnson’s retirement.
Nathan Coulter-Nile (28)
Coulter-Nile could soon become just the second “double-barrelled” name to represent Australia in Test cricket since Chuck Fleetwood-Smith was handed Baggy Green number 153 in 1935.
Despite averaging a solid 28.97 with the ball across his 35 first-class fixtures, he’s only been used as a limited overs specialist for his country thus far, impressing in a smattering of ODI appearances. However, like most before him, he has suffered his fair share of injuries.
Plagued mainly by hamstring injures over the past couple of years, it’s in fact a shoulder injury which has kept him out of any Shield cricket so far this summer. He has also recently suffered the raff of the match referee – missing Western Australia’s latest fixture for his troubles – this indiscipline could cost him a place in the squad for Hobart next week.
Jackson Bird (28) Tests: 3 (13 wickets at 23.30)
Despite playing his last Test during the 2013 Ashes tour of England, Bird, unsurprisingly another man who has regularly struggled with injuries, could be set to benefit from the misfortune of others and gain a place in next week’s squad.
Rumours are suggesting that Bird’s previous Test experience and solid recent form could give him the nod ahead of Coulter-Nile as he seeks to revive his fledgling international career.
This summer tally of 18 wickets at 24.77, including a timely 5-69 against South Australia this week, his first five-wicket haul in 18 months, have certainly reminded the selectors of his worth as a third seamer. Recent English experience, where he took 19 wickets at 39.73 during an injury-marred spell for Hampshire this winter, could also count in his favour.
Pat Cummins (22) Tests: 1 (7 wickets at 16.71)
It’s easy to forget that Cummins is still only 22-years-old. Four years after taking 7-117 during a man-of-the-match winning debut in Johannesburg, he’s yet to play another Test.
That his crooked body has allowed him to play just eight first-class matches in his near five-year long career tells its own story. Currently back in rehabilitation with an early stage lumbar bone stress fracture sustained during a rare period on the park in England, he is expected to miss the entire summer.
But like Pattinson, who incidentally debuted a Test later, missing a home summer is nothing new for the youngster. He hasn’t played a Sheffield Shield match since suffering a stress fracture in the final back in March 2011.
Since then the injuries have stacked up. Soon after his Test debut, he suffered a stress fracture of the foot, before another back stress fracture put pay to his 2012 summer. After initially recovering from that injury, it again flared up during an A tour of South Africa in August 2013.
However, after contributing to the World Cup success in March, it seemed he had finally turned a corner, before the back finally gave in once more. He may well have to follow Pattinson’s suit and change his action before it all becomes too late.
James Faulkner (25) Tests: 1 (6 wickets at 16.33)
A limited-overs regular, Faulkner was called into the squad to tour Bangladesh after the injury to Cummins, but with that tour postponed he hasn’t yet had chance to add to his one Test appearance, earned more than two years ago. A none-too-serious toe injury, relating to a knee complaint, kept him out of Tasmania’s recent Shield fixture but a quick return is expected.
An allrounder in many senses, he has impressive first-class bowling (179 wickets at 23.97) and batting (2202 runs at 31.01) figures. Like Bird, he also gained valuable overseas experience with Lancashire over the winter.
Should Mitchell Marsh continue to blow hot and cold as the Test allrounder then expect him to challenge Moises Henriques for the a place in the side. Without Johnson and Starc, his left arm option could add variety to the current predominantly right-armed attack.
Jason Behrendorff (25)
Like Coulter-Nile, left-armer Behrendorff is another member of the strong current Western Australia fast-bowling cartel. But like his state teammate he has also struggled with injuries so far this summer, restricting his Shield appearances to just two.
A contributor across all formats, he currently averages 25.22 with the ball in first-class cricket, and has recently gained the backing of former Australian players Dirk Nannes and Michael Slater – who both believe he is a serious contender for one of the vacant Test berths.
After a strong start to last summer, his bowling was brought to an abrupt and premature end when he was diagnosed with a stress fracture in the right side of his lower back, whilst playing for the Perth Scorchers in the Big Bash in early February.
When back to full-fitness he will certainly remain on the periphery of national honours as shown by his selections for both the Prime Minister’s and Cricket Australia XI’s recently.
With Starc out injured, expect a limited over call up once India arrive in January – at the very least.
Andrew Fekete (30)
The 30-year-old was called up from the relatively unknown for October’s subsequently postponed tour of Bangladesh, leading to many newspapers running the headline: “Who the Fek is he?”
Good question. His call up for that tour was on the back of a stellar Sheffield Shield season for Tasmania last summer – where he finished with 34 wickets at 24. He followed this up with an impressive showing during the A tour of India over the winter.
After the disappointment of not boarding a plane to Bangladesh, his form has tailed away dramatically. Despite a steady Matador Cup, his early season Shield form has underwhelmed massively. Dropped after two poor performances, he was lucky to earn a recallafter Faulkner went down injured last week. Unfortunatly he again underperformed, going at well over five-an-over during his 4-151 in South Australia’s massive 7-600d.
Although picked for the Bangladesh tour as a subcontinent specialist, he was never a realist contender for a Test berth in home conditions. With younger and quicker men seemingly ahead of him, it appears his dreams of a Baggy Green could well be fading into obscurity.
Also worthy of a mention: Gurinder Sandhu (New South Wales), Chadd Sayers (South Australia), Scott Boland (Victoria).
Steady decline and fading desire lead to 34-year-old’s retirement; he departs the game with 313 Test and 239 ODI wickets.
The end is upon us. Batsmen around the world can breath a sigh of relief. Mitchell Johnson has hung up his spikes for the 73rd and final time.
In the end his retirement had become public knowledge long before his announcement ahead of the final day’s play at the WACA. The whispers had grown louder; the desire had grown no longer and the career of a great enigma had reached its conclusion.
Ahead of this week’s WACA Test, Johnson had mooted the possibility that it could be his last. When he was blazed around the park by Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor on a scorching third day, he knew it was a wrap. First innings figures of 1-157 from 28 overs (the most expensive by an Australian bowler at the venue) certainly didn’t advocate for pretty viewing or a fairytale finish. However, as often symbolic with Johnson, his perseverance eventually came to the fore. In one final hurrah both Tom Latham and Martin Guptill were bumped out in emblematic fashion.
Once the doubts over retirement had set in during the six weeks preceding the failed Ashes retention, it appeared only a matter of time before the cricketing spark would fizzle away in favour of an easier life spent at home with both wife and daughter.
After deep discussions with wife Jessica and his mentor Dennis Lillee had taken place, it was decided that the opportunity to go past his idol Brett Lee’s haul of 310 Test wickets, would prove too enticing to walk directly away from.
Evidently, after passing Lee’s mark during his treacherous bowling display on Monday, the lack of desire to re-approach his bowling style – that has seen him only ever bowl fast and intimidating – came over in waves. He decided to pull the curtains on a career that had spanned 73 Tests and seen him take an impressive 313 Test wickets at 28.40.
Fittingly it would all end at the WACA. Over the years Perth and its famous old cricket ground have become a home from home for Johnson. His record there is outstanding too. After relocating to Western Australia from Queensland in 2007, his seven Tests at the venue have fetched him 45 wickets at just 22.77.
But the flatness of the wicket during this November match with New Zealand, along with the emergence of Mitchell Starc as the team’s new go-to-man, had both conspired to leave the Townsville-native somewhat underwhelmed.
It’s been difficult times for Johnson of late. His 1-157 at the WACA was the sixth time in the past cricketing year and the second time in just three innings that he had conceded more than 100 runs. In fact since his heroic efforts against both England and South Africa – now 20 months and 14 Tests ago – his average, strike rate and economy rate have all risen sharply in a sure sign his star was on the wane.
Sure, there have been glimpses of that magical time since, but only glimpses. During this year’s Ashes, the fourth afternoon at Lord’s springs to mind, as do the consecutive ripsnorters to fell Ben Stokes and Jonny Bairstow at Edgbaston. Likewise in more recent times the deliveries to dismiss Taylor, BJ Watling and James Neesham at the Gabba also stood out for their intimidating qualities.
This past year, though, has taken a huge emotional toll on Johnson. His aggression and general demeanour were both understandably down after the death of teammate Phillip Hughes last summer, while he also admitted to considering retirement after lifting the World Cup in early April.
Nevertheless he carried on alongside a corpse of aging teammates, with the shared burning desire to retain the Ashes on British soil – something which hadn’t been achieved by his fellow countrymen since 2001.
But despite glimmers of light along the way, he never did quite conquer England or the English crowds. For a tearaway bowler – who relies on aggression, pace and bounce – the slow seaming conditions conjured up in the motherland were never truly to his taste.
In the eyes of the English supporters Johnson was most commonly renowned as the ultimate pantomime villain. At times the Barmy Army stood in awe, at others they derided, heckled, abused and mocked him until his confidence and bowling action were shot to the ground.
And when the action fell away, things rapidly spiralled out of control. If the chips were down, his natural slingy low-arm action would creep even further off and the radar would disappear completely. The once threat of wicket taking deliveries would simply turn into an incomprehensive haemorrhaging of runs.
His bowling against England certainly fluctuated from the sublime to the ridiculous. Regardless, his overall numbers certainly speak volumes among modern day Ashes contemporaries: In 19 Tests he captured 87 wickets at 25.21.
But those numbers only tell half of the story. For three out of the four Ashes campaigns he was bordering ordinary, for the other, he was quite simply breathtaking.
Johnson’s Ashes series
2009 in England. (5 Tests, 20 wickets at 32.55)
2010/11 in Australia. (4 Tests, 15 wickets at 36.93)
2013/14 in Australia. (5 Tests, 37 wickets at 13.97)
2015 in England. (5 Tests, 15 wickets at 34.93)
With Johnson, nostalgia will always harp back to the 5-0 whitewash series of 2013/14. The fear inside the eyes of the English can still clearly be pictured to this day. The left-armer simply couldn’t put a foot wrong. Bone-shattering accuracy was mixed with a fierce determination to right previous Ashes wrongs and of course pace, serious pace.
With a throwback-handlebar-moustache – drawing back to the good old days of Lillee and Merv Hughes, Johnson terrorised the England batsmen – neither top order nor tailender were spared his jaw dropping velocity.
Johnson, with some help from Brad Haddin along the way, fired Australia to their second Ashes whitewash in three home campaigns. He would later be awarded both the Allan Border Medal and the ICC International player of the year accolades for his achievements.
Showing this new found confidence was no fluke, he destroyed the South Africans in their own backyard just months later. Spread across the aforementioned eight Tests, he had hustled 59 wickets at an average of just 15.23 including five 5-wicket hauls.
This sudden resurgence was all the more remarkable given that he faced five months out enduring a lengthy rehabilitation following toe surgery in 2011. During which at times he even questioned whether he had the ability or desire to return to international cricket.
While he would never again scale such heights as he did in those few months against England and South Africa, Johnson had done enough to ensure he would go down in Australian fast-bowling folklore alongside the likes of Lillee and Jeff Thomson.
Although it’s been a tremendous journey, it certainly hasn’t been an easy one. His perseverance shown during the times of adversity should serve as inspiration to any young fast bowler out there.
Growing up in the northeast Queensland coastal town of Townsville, for a while as a teenager, he had aspirations of becoming a professional tennis player. Bourne out of his admiration for American Pete Sampras, he would regularly put tennis ahead of cricket in the sporting ranks. Aged 14 he was offered a tennis scholarship in Brisbane, eventually turning it down to concentrate on becoming a scary fast bowler – Oh how many batsmen, the world over, would have wished he’d chosen the racket avenue?
At 17, he was spotted by Lillee at a fast bowling camp in Brisbane. The former Australian quick was so impressed that he immediately arranged for Johnson to spend time with Rod Marsh at the Australian cricket academy in Adelaide, from there he progressed to the U19’s before injury struck.
He went on to suffer four separate back stress fractures – symptomatic with fast bowlers in the modern era – either side of making his first-class debut for Queensland during the 2001/02 summer. Although Queensland knew they had a talent on their hands, he was still raw and very much injury plagued so it was no real surprise when he was released from his playing contract in 2004.
Never one to quit, Johnson persevered; driving a plumbing van whilst often playing as a specialist batsman in the Brisbane Grade scenes, all the while getting himself fit and firing before re-entering state cricket with Queensland.
The hard yakka and resilience paid off in late 2005 when he made his ODI debut against New Zealand at Christchurch. His first introduction to Test cricket was during the 5-0 Whitewash Ashes campaign of 2006/07. Although, intitally, he couldn’t force his way into the side ahead alumni’s such as Glenn McGrath, Stuart Clark and Lee, he did eventually made his debut against Sri Lanka at the Gabba in November 2007.
Aside from the devastating spells produced in 2013/14, he will also look back with fondness at other memorable bowling displays such as the 11-159 against South Africa at Perth in 2008 and the 8-137 against the same opponents in Johannesburg, just months later.
Johnson can certainly sit down with wife Jessica and daughter Rubika and be proud of his career. He’s been a mercurial force, an enigma, a thoroughbred, a champion, at times a lost soul, at others a throwback moustache-wielding destroyer.
And he leaves the game trailing only Shane Warne (708), McGrath (563) and Lillee (355) as the most prolific Test wicket-taker in the history of Australian cricket.
The folk from Yorkshire and Australia have shared cricketing links for over a century.
Watching England play Australia in the recent ODI at Headingley really got me thinking. Why as an Englishman do I have such a soft spot for the Australian’s and their never say die attitude?
As Glenn Maxwell pulled off two miraculous catches – one a full length grab at point to get rid of the dangerous Eoin Morgan, the other a seemingly impossible piece of work in front of the Western Terrace boundary to take down Liam Plunkett – It finally came to me. We’re pretty alike us Yorkshiremen and those Australians.
Even though some from “God’s Own County” might be too proud or stubborn to admit it, there are plenty of similarities between themselves and their compatriots from Down Under. Maybe it’s the shared shear bloody-mindedness to win at any cost, or perhaps the nature of the personalities. Both are assumed to be brash and uncomplicated people at times – certainly on the cricket field. But make no mistake about it, win or lose, there will always remain a sense of pride and respect between them.
Many of the same values are shared between t’Yorkshire folk and those ‘Stralian’s, and not just on the cricket field. Rugby League has shared strong links between Yorkshire and Australia for generations with players and coaches regularly moving between the Super League (of which six teams are based in Yorkshire) and Australia’s NRL. Furthermore in football, Australian-born pair Harry Kewell and Mark Viduka were paramount to Leeds United’s success at the turn of the century.
The association with Yorkshire and Australian cricket goes back afar. Look through the Wisden archives and you will find many a tough battle between an unshakable and assured Yorkshireman and his Aussie counterpart. Think Hedley Verity against Sir Donald Bradman or Ray Illingworth against Ian Chappell or even Geoffrey Boycott verses Dennis Lillee – there is a world of history between England’s biggest county and the former British colony and to this day the pair continue to have strong links.
Certainly for this Yorkshireman, many of my early cricketing memories are intertwined with my first vague cognizance of the land Down Under. Be it the soothing and easily recognisable voice of Richie Benaud or stories from my grandmother – who watched on as Bradman led his invincibles side against an HDG Leveson-Gower’s XI at Scarborough in 1948.
Bradman of course had his own special connection with Yorkshire. It was at Headingley, in which he scored his highest Test score of 334 on the Ashes tour of 1930. Three hundred and nine of those runs were made on the opening day as t’Yorkshiremen flocked in from all around to witness the beginning of the greatest career of them all. The Don would go on to average 192 at the famous Leeds ground.
When Yorkshire CCC announced in 1991 that they were to abandon their unwritten policy of only allowing those born within the borders of the county to represent them, they originally turned to an Australian.
Before Sachin Tendulkar, then just 18, famously became the first non-Yorkshireman to play for the county, Australian seamer Craig McDermott was initially lined up for the role, however when injury ruled him out Yorkshire instead went down a different route.
McDermott would have become the first of a long list of Australians to represent the White Rose but instead that mantle went to Michael Bevan. The Pyjama Picasso signed in 1995 and played for two summers. Whilst he scored nine centuries and averaged 58 in his first-class assignments, typically with Bevan, it was the limited overs stuff in which he really excelled. In fact no Yorkshire cricketer – who has appeared in at least ten List-A matches, has bettered his average of 61.82.
Once Bevan was selected for Australia’s 1997 Ashes campaign, opener Michael Slater was originally intended as an overseas replacement, but when he was surprisingly involved on that same tour, Yorkshire were led to the services of a 27-year-old South Australian going by the name of Darren Lehmann. The rest, as they say is history.
For seven summers between 1997 and 2006, ‘Boof’ dominated the shires, scoring over 14,000 runs across his 88 first-class matches in the process. Yorkshiremen don’t easily accept outsiders but boy did they respected this one. Lehmann’s first-class average of 68.76 is higher than anyone else with at least 500 runs for the Tykes.
His 1,416 Championship runs in 2001 marshalled Yorkshire towards their first title in 33 painfully barren years. For this inspiring deed, Lehmann’s name will be forever sketched into Yorkshire folklore. The ideal overseas player, he was also the original Australian flag bearer for Yorkshire cricket. He famously went on to sign off with an innings of 339 against Durham at Headingley in 2006, helping his adopted county save face and starve off relegation in the process.
Of the 30 overseas players employed by the county since 1992, 14 have been Australians. After the early successes of Bevan and Lehmann the county had a substantial pulling power when it came to attracting the Aussies and prominent names arrived in the following summers: Greg Blewett (1999), Matthew Elliott and Simon Katich (2002), Damien Martyn (2003), Phil Jaques (2004-05/2012-13), Ian Harvey (2004-05), Mark Cleary (2005), Jason Gillespie (2006-08), Clint McKay (2010), Mitchell Starc (2012), Aaron Finch (2014-15) and Glenn Maxwell (2015) have all served Yorkies cricket with varying degrees of success since.
For Gillespie, a late career flourish was never really in the offering as his two summer’s mustered just 59 wickets at 34; howbeit his appointment as first team coach in 2012 has led the county to new highs not seen in these pastures since the late 1960’s. It appears no coincidence that the three and only times Yorkshire have won the County Championship since the teams of Brian Close five decades ago, they have been under the keen watch of an Australian. Wayne Clark led the way in 2001, before Gillespie emerged with consecutive honours in 2014-15 to reinstate Yorkshire as the powerhouse of old.
After being overlooked for the England coaching position earlier in the summer, it’s not out of the question that Gillespie will one day follow Lehmann into leading his country – Is it too early to suggest that Yorkshire is now a breeding ground for Australian cricket?
Maxwell has certainly benefitted from his short stint at Headingley this summer, originally just signed for the NatWest Blast; ensuing injuries sustained to compatriot Finch opened the door for his involvement in red ball cricket and a solid showing has subsequently led to a Test recall for next month’s tour of Bangladesh.
Maybe the old saying should now read “A strong Yorkshire, strong Australia.”
After all, we’re pretty alike us Yorkshiremen and those Australians.
At the end of another Ashes and World Cup cycle, along with the retirement of key players, times are changing for Australian cricket and with an exciting summer ahead; CaughtOutCricket looks at nine key highlights to look out for.
New captain and deputy
With Michael Clarke now fully retired from international cricket, the time has come for Steven Smith to take over the captaincy on a full time basis for both ODI and Test cricket. Despite having captained for three Tests against India last summer and being appointed as Clarke’s ODI successor after the World Cup triumph in March, Smith now has the time to put his own stamp on the side with the next Ashes and World Cup campaigns not for another two and four years respectively.
Smith’s promotion to leader left the side with a lieutenant short and that void has been promptly filled by David Warner. Just a year ago, such a move would have seemed highly unlikely, but the dashing lefthander has since made a conscious effort to improve his on and off field behaviour – even giving up sledging and alcohol during the recent Ashes campaign. Such maturity, coupled with Warner’s previous leadership grooming and a lack of serious alternatives, has led Cricket Australia to make such a decision.
A return to Bangladesh
It’s been over nine years since Australia last visited Bangladesh for a Test series. On that occasion Jason Gillespie was the hero as he became the first nightwatchman to score a double hundred – in what turned out to be his final Test appearance.
That previous series resulted in a 2-0 whitewash – but not without the odd hairy moment as Ricky Ponting led his side to a three-wicket face-saving success in Fatullah before an innings victory followed at Chittagong. Obviously much has changed since then, and with the retirement of Clarke, not a single Australian from that tour now still plays international cricket.
This time they return for Tests at both Chittagong and Mirpur against a competitive and improving Tigers – who will have reason to feel confident after a string of impressive recent home results, albeit in limited overs matches. After recent failings in both India and the UAE, all eyes will be on the Australian batsmen as they look to combat their spin woes against the likes of Shakib Al Hasan and Jubair Hossain.
New opening partner for Warner
With the retirement of Chris Rogers after a brief but successful two-year Test career, Warner is now on the hunt for a new opening comrade for the upcoming tour of Bangladesh. Despite Shaun Marsh being the reserve opener for the recently concluded Ashes campaign, his inability to play the moving ball looks to have put pay to his chances of long term shot at the job and other candidates are currently being looked at.
Joe Burns looks to be an early frontrunner for the opening having being selected as Warner’s partner in an auditioning role during the ongoing ODI series in England. Although the 25-year-old made his Test debut as a number six last summer, he has recently fulfilled the opening role with plenty of success for Queensland.
Another option for the opening role is Cameron Bancroft. The Western Australian was third on the Sheffield Shield run scoring charts last summer with 896 runs at 47 and recently scored an impressive 150 during an A tour of India. A solid batsman in the Rogers mould, at 22, Bancroft is very much one for the future.
Bowling attack changes
Much was made of the exclusion of Peter Siddle during the business-end of the Ashes, when it seemed the pitches provided were tailor made for his style of bowling and a good showing in The Oval match could yet revive his stuttering Test career.
Siddle is of course part of an impressive battery of pace bowlers assembled by Australia in recent years and their depth is certain to be tested by a demanding schedule which will include ten Tests, eight ODIs and three T20Is before the summer is out. Such scheduling is sure to mean that the fast bowlers will have to be carefully managed as and when the selectors see fit.
Already there has been suggestions that both Mitchell Johnson and Josh Hazelwood will be rested for the tour of Bangladesh next month with an eye on the series with New Zealand that follows. Luckily for Australia their fast bowling stocks remain high with the likes of Siddle, Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins, James Pattinson, James Faulkner, Gurinder Sandhu and Nathan Coulter-Nile all waiting in the wings should changes be made. Keeping them all fit remains another matter.
Whether you agree with the way in which it was handled or not, the call made on Brad Haddin during the Ashes looks to have ended his Test career. It had been assumed for some time now that Haddin would indeed call it a day in Test cricket after the Ashes – much like he did in the limited overs form after the World Cup in March – but circumstances did not allow for the graceful ending that someone of Haddin’s stature undoubtedly deserved.
All the same, sport moves on and Peter Nevill has been entrusted with first dibs on the Test wicketkeeping position. After coming into the side at Lords, Nevill did a steady if not spectacular job both in front and behind the stumps, but it’s too premature to simply declare the position as a closed shop this early on.
There are other strong contenders should Nevill’s form dip drastically over the summer months. Matthew Wade, is at 27, two years Nevill’s junior and already a scorer of two Test hundreds across his twelve matches. Should he continue to make waves in the ODI arena – he scored a match winning unbeaten 71 at Southampton in his previous ODI – then there is no reason why he can’t challenge Nevill for a Test berth. Further down the line is the talented 23-year-old Sam Whiteman of Western Australia – who has impressed the Australian cricket hierarchy for a couple of years now – his time will surely come sooner rather than later.
A return to the Trans-Tasman rivalry
After a near four-year exile, Australia and New Zealand will again meet to compete for the Trans-Tasman Trophy this summer with five Tests scheduled across both countries. The duel will begin in Australia at the beginning of November with Tests set for: The Gabba, The WACA and a day-night game at the Adelaide Oval (More of that next). It will then conclude in New Zealand in February with matches at The Basin Reserve in Wellington and Christchurch’s Hagley Oval.
The previous encounter between the pair was a competitively fought two-Test contest that finished one-each in December 2011. That series marked the debuts of Pattinson, Starc and Warner for Australia and Trent Boult for New Zealand and that same quartet will all be looking to make an impact this time around.
Furthermore the two sides will also meet for the Chappell-Hadlee Trophy prior to the return leg of their Test clash in New Zealand. The famous named trophy – currently belonging to the Black Caps after their World Cup group triumph at Eden Park in February – is back up for grabs across three matches as it is set to be played more frequently under the new future tours programme.
The trophy was originally contested annually from 2004–05 until 2009–10 as a three- or five-match series with Australia currently holding the upper hand with four victories to New Zealand’s two.
The historic event will mark the first Test to be played under lights with the new, heavily trailed, pink Kookaburra ball and will begin at 2pm ACDT time.
Much intrigue and scepticism surrounds the move for day-night Test cricket, with issues such as notwithstanding the traditions of the game and the condition and behaviour of the pink ball under lights, being the most prominent.
The move was brought about of course to improve attendances and television audiences across Australia with CA chief exclusive James Sutherland having campaigned for the move for seven years. Like Sutherland, Coach Darren Lehmann and CA board member Mark Taylor have both supported the move, but it hasn’t been everyone’s cup of tea with players like Mitchell Starc being unsure how the new pink ball will replicate the mannerisms of its red counterpart.
It seems nobody truly knows how the pink ball will react under the rigors of day-night Test cricket. So watch this space.
New Matador Cup team
The Matador BBQs One-Day Cup has had mixed success since its change of format in 2013-14, with the limited overs competition now being played in Sydney to its entirety in one three-week block at the beginning of the Australian summer.
Some argue that it’s good to play the one-day format in a single block, while others argue that it should be played continually throughout the summer so to lead up to the annual ODI series played in the New Year.
Either way this year’s competition is set to include a seventh side in the form of a Cricket Australia XI. The team to be simply known as the CA XI is a two-year trial project, with the 15-man squad set to be comprised of un-contracted state players and national youth squad members.
The squad will be selected by State Talent Managers and guided by the National Selection Panel, while former England bowling coach and Bupa National Cricket Centre head coach Troy Cooley will coach the side with assistance from High Performance Coach Graeme Hick.
It is hoped that the team will include the likes of Australian U19 starlet Jake Doran, an 18-year-old wicketkeeper batsman who has dominated his age group over the past year.
Cricket set to leave The WACA for Burswood
And finally, although technically it won’t directly come into effect until 2018, the changing of the guard in Perth is a huge one for cricket in Australia.
International cricket has been played on the fast and bouncy pitches of The WACA for over forty years, but although that will remain the case for the foreseeable, the cities’ premium international and Big Bash fixtures will now be moved to a brand new 60,000-capacity stadium across the Swan river at Burswood.
Visiting teams from England, India and South Africa will play all of their Perth fixtures at the new Burswood ground from 2018 onwards as the old WACA ground will be downsized to a “boutique” venue with a capacity of 10,000-15,000.
While all other countries, barring those mentioned above, will still play international fixtures at The WACA and Western Australia will continue to play Shield fixtures there – it seems a somewhat sad chapter in the history of Western Australian cricket with the great Dennis Lillee among those opposing the move.
In a bizarre Ashes series of one sided matches, (not to mention the shortest ever five match Test series in terms of number of day’s play), it was England who won the key important moments – despite only having one player in each of the top four run makers and wicket takers.
However, when you look at the contributions of those two players: Joe Root (460 runs at 57) and Stuart Broad (21 wickets at 20) then it’s easier to put England’s series victory into perspective. Root top scored in the first innings in each of the three Tests that England won, including hundreds at both Cardiff and Nottingham. Broad on the other hand was easily England’s most impressive bowler throughout. His breathtaking 8-15 at Trent Bridge was ample reward for his efforts earlier in the series – where he didn’t necessary get the riches he deserved.
Where England really dominated the Australians was with each of their fast bowler’s abilities to come to the party at critical junctions of the series. During the two week period where the Ashes were won and lost at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge, England restricted Australia to totals of just: 136, 265, 60 and 253. Across those four innings, four different bowlers took at least six wicket hauls. At Edgbaston James Anderson took 6-47 and the returning Steven Finn 6-79, while at Trent Bridge, Broad shrugged off the absence of the injured Anderson to blast out the Australians with a career best 8-15. Ben Stokes also claimed his Test finest figures whilst wrapping the Ashes up with a second innings haul of 6-36.
England’s 2015 Ashes campaign very much mirrors that of 2009 – where they prevailed despite being very much behind the Australians on individual honours. But in a series where both sides by and large lacked the hunger and technique to bat long periods when behind the game, England found enough runs in three out of the five matches.
Moeen Ali, who is a regular no.3 for Worcestershire, made a huge difference to the balance of the England side whilst batting at number eight. Batting when his country found themselves under the cosh he snatched the game away from Australia at both Cardiff and Birmingham, where he blazed first innings knocks of 77 and 59. That his batting partnerships with Broad were England’s most fruitful of this freakish series, tells its own story.
How did they win the Ashes?
Despite going into the series as relative underdogs, a disciplined yet courageous England took advantage at Cardiff, where they played the type of aggressive cricket they had promised before the series began. After winning the toss and finding themselves in a spot of bother at 3-43, England breathed a huge sigh of relief when Brad Haddin dropped Root on nought. It would be a turning point in not just the match but also the series as Root went onto make 134 and England 430. Despite five of the Australian top six making at least 30, a procession of starts were not built upon and they could only muster 308 in reply. A pair of 60’s from Ian Bell and Root set the Australians a difficult 412 to win but they collapsed to 6-122 before Mitchell Johnson’s brisk 77 delayed the inevitable for the visitors as they eventually succumbed to a 169-run defeat.
After a huge 405-run mauling at the hands of a rejuvenated Australia at Lords, both coach Trevor Bayliss and captain Alastair Cook summoned for more “English type” wickets after their fast bowlers struggled on a flat deck at the home of cricket. Their wish was granted at Edgbaston as they were confronted with a heavily green tinged wicket and grey overhead conditions. It was a good toss to lose for Cook as Michael Clarke opted for first use on a rain hit morning in Birmingham. It all started to go wrong for Clarke and his men thereafter as Anderson, along with help from Broad and Finn, made perfect use of the conditions to bundle the tourists out for just 136.
In reply both Bell and Root again made half centuries but the innings was beginning to fizzle out until Moeen and Broad batted the Australians out of the contest with an eight-wicket stand of 87. Finn then took over, reducing Australia to 5-92 before some late order resistance from Peter Nevill and Mitchell Starc eventually set England 121. After both openers fell cheaply it was Bell and Root again doing the damage as they put on an unbroken 73 to seal an eight-wicket victory.
After seeing the Australians struggle to play the moving ball at Edgbaston, Cook had no hesitation in inserting the visitors under grey skies at Trent Bridge. What followed next was one of the most outlandish first sessions in Test history. The ciaos began when Australia were reduced to 2-10 after just one over from Broad and things soon went from bad to worse as Broad and England jumped all over Australia’s feeble middle order to dismiss them for just 60 – their lowest Ashes total since 1936.
England found themselves batting half an hour before lunch and eventually finished the day with a 214-run lead thanks to an unbeaten hundred from Root – who added 173 with Jonny Bairstow for the fourth wicket. Facing a first innings deficit of 331, Australia’s openers Chris Rogers and David Warner put on a solid hundred partnership for the first wicket before Stokes removed them both amidst a superb spell of swing bowling – that eventually reaped him his second six-wicket Ashes haul. The last rites were orchestrated by Mark Wood who bowled both Josh Hazelwood and Nathan Lyon to hand underdogs England redemption.
What next for England?
Despite seemingly winning the Ashes at ease with a match to spare, there remain a few questions to be answered over the performances of some players.
There’s no doubting that it was a bowlers series and England will be pleased with the efforts of their fast men in particular. Anderson, Broad, Finn, Stokes and Wood all form a solid pace battery featuring both experience and youth and barring injury they should all go on to play Test cricket for at least another year.
Beneath them in the standings there also remains decent depth: Liam Plunkett, Chris Jordan, Mark Footitt and Chris Woakes have all not being called upon to make an appearance during the Ashes, but England will be confident that each of them wouldn’t let the side down if they were given a chance for future assignments.
But with a Test series against Pakistan in the UAE next up, the fast bowling shouldn’t be so much an issue as that of the spin resources. While Moeen has provided England with valuable depth in the batting order at number eight, his primary role is as front line spinner and his performances in the past six months haven’t quite been up to the standards required to bowl sides out in Test cricket. The problem for England is who else they can turn to when they will need to play two spinners in the UAE?
Legspinner Adil Rashid will be in the reckoning to play alongside Moeen in the UAE, but it will be a daunting task for a man who will be expected to bowl out Pakistani batsman despite not being given any previous Test experience this year. In hindsight Rashid should have played in the West Indies on England’s there earlier this year, when he wasn’t given an opportunity then, it looked very unlikely that he would have been given a chance during the Ashes unless it was as a last resort if England were going badly.
Other names that have been doing the rounds as potential touring inclusions in the past week are 18-year-old Hampshire legspinner Mason Crane and Surrey’s Zafar Ansari, 23. Out of the pair Ansari, a Cambridge University graduate who is capable of batting in the middle order and bowling tidy slow left arm, looks the most likely to be selected after earning good reviews from many who have watched him at Surrey this summer. As for Crane, it seems highly unlikely that a usually conservative English selection panel would go with an 18-year-old legspinner who has at the time of writing only played two first-class matches in his short career thus far.
After the recent failings of Adam Lyth, it looks like the England merry-go-round search for a second opener to accompany Cook, will go on. Since Andrew Strauss retired after the summer of 2012, six men have been asked to fill his void and so far none have made a sustainable case for themselves. Nick Compton, Michael Carberry, Sam Robson and Jonathan Trott have all been tried and jettisoned, while Root has quite rightly moved back down the order, and with Lyth seemingly not have taken his chance, the search continues.
One option that remains a real possibility for the Pakistan tour at least is to move Moeen up from eight to open alongside Cook. This would of course be a short term measure to allow England to play either Rashid or Ansari at number eight as a second spinner whilst not weakening the batting. While Moeen might thrive opening the batting on the slow and low pitches of the UAE, England’s next assignment to South Africa at Christmas might not be so forthcoming for the flashy left-hander. That’s where Nottinghamshire’s Alex Hales comes into the equation. The tall right-hander has already cemented his place in England’s limited overs sides and another strong showing in the ODI series with Australia, coupled with his fine recent first-class form for his county and he could well be given a Test debut this winter in either the Emirates or South Africa.
Both Warner and his country will feel Rogers’ retirement.
As the old saying goes, you don’t know what you have until it’s gone, for Australia and David Warner, the same could be said of the brief, but successful Test career of Christopher John Llewellyn Rogers.
On the first day at The Oval, a day when Test cricket returned to its former self, wickets were earned and the run rate hovered at under four-an-over again, Australia were reminded what they will miss when opener Rogers calls it a day upon the conclusion of this match.
The 37-year-old only made 43, just one run higher than his Test average, but it was a typical Rogers innings, made alongside his opening partner of two years Warner, that laid the bedrock of the Australian batting effort after two first innings capitulations at both Edgbaston and Trent Bridge.
While much has been made of Captain Michael Clarke’s decision to retire at the end of this match, Rogers’ own retirement has gone somewhat under the radar – much like his career as a whole, but one man who will surely miss “Bucky” when he is retired is Warner.
The hole left by the veteran left-hander will be a significant one for Warner. Alongside Rogers, he has enjoyed the most prolific batting form of his career. His career was beginning to spiral out of control after he was suspended for an altercation with Joe Root in a Birmingham bar before the adjacent Ashes tour two years ago before he found a perfect ally at the top of the order. His first association with Rogers started later on that same tour as the pair recorded their first hundred stand together in a narrow defeat at Chester-le-Street.
The impact that Rogers has had on his younger partner’s game has been substantial. Since opening alongside Rogers, Warner’s batting average has increased from 38 to the 46 it is currently. But it’s not just the numbers that mean everything in this alliance. Warner’s stint alongside Rogers has coincided with a greater maturity in not just his game but also in his general life.
Warner was named as Steve Smith’s new Test deputy this week as a sign of his greater maturity and understanding of the game in the past year. While much of that greater maturity and responsibility in his game has stemmed from his new calmer lifestyle – coinciding with his marriage and the birth of his first child, some credit must also go to Rogers, who has been a calming influence from 22-yards for the past two years.
In a fairly brief but plentiful affair, the pair has added 2053 runs together in 41 innings, spanning across Africa, Asia, Australia and the United Kingdom, all at an average partnership of 51.32. Sitting alongside Bill Lawry/Bob Simpson, only Matthew Hayden/Justin Langer (14) and Michael Slater/Mark Taylor (10) have tallied more than their nine century opening partnerships for Australia.
Since they came together, their 2053 runs in unison for the opening partnership is miles ahead of the next best pair among their contemporises with Sri Lanka’s Dimuth Karunaratne and Kaushal Silva second best, having combined for 944 runs with just two hundred stands.
While Australia’s batting has on average been hugely disappointing this series, effectively losing them the third and fourth Tests, if it not for the Rogers/Warner association at the top of the order then it could have been even worse. The pair has contributed 514 runs together at an average of 62.77 – This stacks up favourably against England’s problems at the top of the order, where Alastair Cook and Adam Lyth’s opening partnership has added just 128 runs at 16.
Although they are diverse figures, with personalities that could not be much different – Rogers enjoys crosswords and Warner more confrontation – their contrasting batting styles have been married successfully. Rogers is a blocker, who in general likes to nudge and nurdle the ball around for ones and twos, while occasionally branching out with boundaries through the off side when set. His fellow comrade Warner is a man brought up through the T20 era of heavy bats and big muscles – a “see-ball-hit-ball” opener in the mould of Virender Sehwag.
The fascinating part of their relationship though is their different personalities. Never huge ones to socialise much away from the field as Hayden and Langer famously did on many occasions, there has been wide of the mark media talk during this series that the pair don’t particularly get along away from the middle. Such talk was soon shot down by Warner as he posted a picture of the two together on his Instagram account.
Nevertheless, Rogers has stuck to his guns by announcing his widely expected retirement at the conclusion of this series, which leaves the Australian selectors with an opening post to fill before their series with Bangladesh in October. Suggestions are that Joe Burns will be given the first opportunity to stake claim to the opening spot vacated by Rogers.
The 25-year-old, from Queensland, has been given the nod, ahead of Usman Khawaja, to open alongside Warner in the ODI series that follows the Ashes and will see the opportunity as a opening to secure his place in the Test side. Another candidate is Western Australia’s Cameron Bancroft. A young opener in the Langer and Rogers mould, Bancroft has had success on the recent A tour of India and could be given a run in the side as Australia’s batting overhaul is set to continue.
But before all that can begin, Australia will look to cherish the careers of both Clarke and Rogers with a victory at The Oval as they look to finish a series of farewells on a positive note.
For Rogers, originally brought into the side as a short term stop gap with experience in English conditions, he can be quietly satisfied with his two-year 25 Test career, in which he has amassed 2006 runs at an average of 42.87 – Australia and Warner will be sad to see him go.
In the end it had all become inevitable. Each scratchy innings bringing the end ever closer, and with those at home baying for blood and demanding casualties after a disastrous Australian Ashes campaign – there appeared nowhere else to go. All the signs pointed towards the end of the illustrious career of Michael Clarke.
It’s been a roller coaster year for the Australian captain. The highs of leading his country to World Cup glory on home soil were hugely overshadowed by huge lows. Lows that saw him blighted by chronic hamstring and back injuries alongside the pain of losing his great mate Phillip Hughes in tragic circumstances at the Sydney Cricket Ground last November.
Like many great players that have gone before, the end had slowly crept upon him. His form hadn’t been ideal for some time now but somehow you expected him to get through it, get those feet moving again and turn the shape of a match with one of his signature hundreds – one which he used to be capable of producing. But in the end sport waits for no man, with the Ashes now handed over this will be no fairytale ending for Clarke.
With each innings that passed it had become clear that he was no longer the player he once was and that it was time to hand over the leadership duties to Steve Smith as Australian cricket seeks to revive a beaten, embarrassed and ageing side with future assignments to follow shortly.
After scoring a superb 151 on Test debut at Bangalore in 2004, Clarke or ‘Pup’ to his teammates remained the last surviving link to the great Australian Test sides of the late 90’s and early 2000’s. His debut was made alongside the likes of McGrath, Warne, Gilchrist, Hayden and Langer as this great Australian side finally conquered their final frontier by winning an away Test series in India for the first time in 35 years.
But unlike many of his predecessors from that great era of Australian dominance, Clarke’s career has perhaps not been given the high plaudits it deserves. There have always been the whispers. Over the years there have been murmurs that he rubbed up people the wrong way earlier in his career. There was the ‘Katich incident”, and the time when he responded to been asked to field at short leg by suggesting he’d rather hand his baggy green back instead of fielding under the helmet, or maybe the time he left a tour of New Zealand midway through to return to Australia and split up with his then glamour model fiancée Lara Bingle.
Even in the days following the announcement of his retirement at Trent Bridge on Saturday, Clarke has continued to receive criticism out of his home country. Former teammates Matthew Hayden and Andrew Symonds have both weighed in with their opinions in recent days. Hayden suggested that Clarke “ruffled feathers” during his time in the Australian side while Symonds’ questioned his captaincy qualities with a view that he was not a “natural leader” in the mould of other previous Australian Test captains. And they weren’t the only ones to have their say, with former national coach John Buchanan also chipping in by saying he felt Clarke may not have wanted to adopt the “baggy green culture” and that there were times when he felt Clarke didn’t understand or want to understand what it meant to represent his country.
For Clarke this must all feel like “water off a ducks back.” Not many players have divided public opinion throughout their careers quite like he has. He was booed by both home and away supporters at the MCG during his catastrophic Ashes campaign of 2010/11 – before becoming Australia’s 43rd Test captain in the following match at the SCG. With Ricky Ponting’s tenure of captaincy coming towards its end, a public poll was conducted by a Sydney newspaper to gauge who the majority believed should be the new Test leader – although Clarke was the current vice-captain and Ponting’s natural heir apparent he got less than 15% of the public favour to succeed the Tasmanian.
It seemed the Australian public didn’t like a working class boy from Sydney’s western suburbs, he who thought he had made it before his time. The love of fast cars, flashy threads and the glamour model girlfriend wasn’t the Australian way. It wasn’t what Allan Border did or Steve Waugh or Ponting either – this was a new breed of Australian cricketer with diamond earring and bleached blond hair to boot. What the public didn’t see was the hard work Clarke put in off the field.
It had all started so much brighter for Clarke. He was the young pup amongst a field of legends. The debut hundred in India was followed by another against New Zealand in his first Test on home soil and just fifth overall. The good times were rolling, but they weren’t to last. It would be two more years and nineteen more matches before he would score another Test century. In this time he was dropped twice from the Test side.
His return coincided with the famous Ashes whitewash series of 2006/07, where he finally cemented his place in the side with hundreds in both Adelaide and Perth. The series marked the retirement of his good mate and mentor Warne along with both McGrath and Langer. It would be the beginning of the end for Australia’s decade of dominance.
After playing a hand in his country’s second successive World Cup final victory in the Caribbean in 2007, he was also instrumental in the Test side’s record-equalling sixteen victories in a row which was achieved with a late win against India at the SCG in January 2008 – Clarke himself claiming the final rites with three wickets in an over to secure the match. Later that month he would take time away from the game to be with fiancée Bingle with her father battling terminal cancer, whilst his own father, Les, also battled Hodgkin’s disease. Despite family always coming first, many in Australia believed his shouldn’t be missing Test matches. But like he would do after splitting from Bingle during the New Zealand tour two years later, he returned with a century – this time in a victory over the West Indies in Antigua. Fighting adversity would become hallmark of his character throughout his Test career.
In 2009 Clarke suffered his second away Ashes series defeat in four years, but fared better with the bat than he had done in 2005, as he scored back-to-back centuries at Lords and Edgbaston to cement himself as one of the world’s premier batsmen. His next Ashes campaign would be his last as lieutenant as the English swarmed down under and wiped the floor with Ponting and his men. Not only was it a terrible series for Ponting, but for Clarke too. His 193 runs at an average of 21 were only marginally better than the 113 runs at 16 scored by the man he would soon replace at the helm just months later. His popularity with the public was at an all time low.
Why was this hugely talented batsman still so unloved by his public? By now he had split from Bingle and started a relationship with his childhood sweetheart Kylie Boldy, and he was about to be charged with bringing back the glory days to a nation that expects success from its cricket side.
His first full series as captain was a successful one. Scoring a hundred in the third and final Test he led his side to a 1-0 series victory in Sri Lanka. Then for the hundred he calls his finest. A magnificent 151 in Cape Town whilst batting against the South African trio of Morne Morkel, Dale Steyn and Vernon Philander on a difficult wicket in which others struggled to adapt. Sadly for Clarke all of the attention surrounding the match came in his sides second innings. 47 all out – Australia’s lowest total in over a hundred years. The jury was still out on Clarke and his leadership credentials.
Then came the breakthrough. The year that Pup became the top dog, and the year in which the Australian public started to warm to the man from Liverpool in Sydney’s west – this was 2012 and it was Clarke’s year. He started it off with a hometown hundred for the ages. 329 not out to be precise. Batting against India at the SCG he was given a standing ovation by the Sydney faithful as he declared with his score just five runs shy of the record held by Sir Donald Bradman and Mark Taylor for the second highest score by an Australian batsman in Test cricket. This is what he had dreamed of, his own people standing as one to cheer their local hero at SCG. You can’t always win over everyone but for Clarke this was as good as it got.
The triple hundred in Sydney was just the beginning as he became the only man in history to score four scores of over 200 in a calendar year. The second came just two Tests after that memorable effort in Sydney, again against India, this time in Adelaide, a ground that would become his most prolific in term of runs made (1414 runs at a touch over 94), on this occasion it was in unison with his former skipper Ponting as the pair each recorded double hundreds in a partnership worth 387.
When South Africa toured later in the year Clarke was at it again. An unbeaten 259 at The Gabba in Brisbane was followed with 210 again at the Adelaide Oval. These were heights that had never been reached before by an Australian. His magical year was rounded off with a boxing day hundred against Sri Lanka at the ‘G’. It was 2012 that moved Clarke from a good cricketer to a potential modern day great. Only three men in the history of Test cricket had scored more runs in a calendar year than Clarke’s 1595 in 2012 and none of them were Australian.
The accolades were forthcoming as he picked up his fourth Allan Border Medal in early 2013 to go alongside both ICC awards for cricketer and Test cricketer of the year. But the heights scaled by Clarke in 2012 were never quite repeated, yes there were the occasional pieces of brilliance and innings that showed his determination and skill but not the ultimate consistency. His chronic back issues were beginning to cause him real strife and he lost long term middle order rocks Ponting and Michael Hussey to retirement.
The start of 2013 was a difficult one for Clarke and his troops. A 4-0 reverse in India highlighted the difficulties this current side faced in adapting to foreign conditions – especially on the subcontinent. Cracks had started to appear in the camp, and when the “homeworkgate” episode exploded out of India, Clarke and his coach Mickey Arthur has some serious questions to answer. The tour ended with Clarke missing his first Test match in five years as back issues continued to plague him. Shane Watson, one of those suspended for not doing his homework just weeks earlier, took over the captaincy amongst ciaos in the camp. Arthur would later claim that Clarke suggested Watson was “a cancer on the team.”
With his close ally Arthur dismissed before the Ashes campaign got underway in England, there was more upheaval for Clarke to deal with. It didn’t help that David Warner went around throwing drunken punches at England cricketers in Birmingham nightclubs, but big management changes were just around the corner and Darren Lehmann, an old school Aussie larrikin, was brought in to shake the place up.
It has always been difficult to judge the relationship between Clarke and Lehmann. On the surface they appear completely different characters, but by and large the two years they have served together have been successful ones. Defeat in England was overlooked by an astounding whitewash of the poms back home just months later. Clarke led the fight, warning James Anderson to “get ready for a broken f**king arm,” as Mitchell Johnson terrorised England into submission.
A series victory in South Africa in early 2014 was perhaps the highlight of Clarke’s captaincy career. His 161, achieved with a broken shoulder in the series decider at Cape Town was as courageous as they come. After being repeatedly peppered by Morkel short balls, he gutsed it out to lead his side back to number one in the Test rankings.
For Clarke and Australia the year ended in heartbreak. In late November the unthinkable happened. The death of Philip Hughes from head injuries sustained through a bouncer at the SCG rocked Clarke more than most. Hughes was his “little bother.” A teammate, who the often reluctant captain was particularly close with, was taken whilst playing cricket.
Perhaps Clarke’s greatest legacy with be the way in which he spoke for the country during the loss of his great mate. He stayed bedside with Hughes in a Sydney hospital before acting as a spokesperson for the family of the fallen batsman. The 128 he scored in Adelaide just weeks after will forever be his best knock. The way in which Pup conducted himself during this devastating time will forever be his legacy more than any flash cars or snazzy threads could ever be.
As a batsman, like Ponting before him, Clarke was a once in a generation player. As a captain he was fresh, imaginative and always ahead of the game – for that he must rank up there alongside Mark Taylor as one of Australia’s greatest captains in the modern era.
Like many of his predecessors he looks set to follow a familiar path trodden by ex-Australian Test captains. A career in the Channel Nine commentary box awaits.
But before that there’s one more Test match to win next week.