Ball One – Ed Cowan has been picked as much for his willingness not to score runs as his ability to score them. After far too long watching Philip Hughes being mesmerised into following every ball outside off-stump, the Australian selectors found his opposite in Cowan – a man whose patience matches Hughes’ impatience. Possibly a mite complacent faced with Darren Sammy’s innocuous medium pace, Cowan did the Hughes thing, pushed at one he could have left and nicked it to the keeper. With an average of less than 30 after 22 Tests, Sammy is a smarter bowler than he looks – something Ed Cowan, a thinker on the game, will be reflecting on today. As will David Warner, who had done the hard work, but was drawn forward to edge a carbon copy delivery from the impressive West Indian captain.
Ball Two – There’s a well-founded view that the West Indies are an ill-disciplined group of individuals unwilling or unable to deal with the challenge of Test cricket. Their upcoming tour of England is very much seen as an hors d’oeuvres before the South Africans turn up in July. But things are changing for this young team. All eleven scored double figures in the first innings and they were unperturbed by the 46 maidens bowled by Australia, happy to declare after a fine display of forebearance in reaching 449-9dec. The men in the maroon caps are not yet back to the standards of the 90s (never mind the 80s) but they are going in the right direction and there’s just a hint of pride in Michael Holding’s voice after years of disdain.
Ball Three – Run outs are always funny because, in Test cricket at least, there’s always culpability on the part of the batsmen and that leads to recriminations. Despite having more Test appearances than all the West Indians bar Chanderpaul put together, Ricky Ponting and Shane Watson ended up standing next to each other five yards up the wicket as the throw came in. Watson was at fault, but maybe he would not have been charging back for the second run had Punter still been captain. Ricky Ponting extends his world record to 15 run outs in Test cricket and might have a few more coming if Watson is to stay at Three.
Ball Four – Fidel Edwards has the same kind of round-arm action as Lasith Malinga and, like the Sri Lankan toe-crusher, he gets the ball to tail into the batsman. As I understand, this swing is neither conventional nor reverse swing but a function of the ball’s rotation with the seam horizontal as the ball travels – like a flying saucer. One wonders whether some pace bowlers might not try to develop the Edwards / Malinga delivery as an option with the old ball. It would certainly surprise a few batsmen and might become the quicks’ doosra.
Ball Five – Michael Clarke and Shane Watson offer a contrast in styles, perfectly exemplified by two sixes struck in the morning session. Watson stood back and bludgeoned the ball over cow corner with such muscular force that even the mishit carried. Clarke took a couple of steps down the wicket and sweetly lifted the ball straight back over Bishoo’s head, even breaking the wrists like a golfer. Clarke may not yet be in Damien Martyn and Mark Waugh’s class in terms of being easy on the eye, but he’s getting there.
Ball Six – Henry Lawson and Nathan Bracken were pleasing on the ear in the commentary box. Informed, fair and lacking the hysterical jingoism of Ian Healy and the over-excitement of Michael Slater, they showed that Mark Taylor and Richie Benaud are not the only two Aussies worth listening to. Tony Cozier and Mikey Holding were excellent – but they always are – and a gentleman called Faz was new to me, but also very good. What a joy to hear commentators talk about the game without trying to sell it.