The Ashes resumed today in one of the world’s great sporting events: the Boxing Day Test at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. Tens of thousands of holidaying Aussies had packed into the famous ground to see the old enemy ground into the dust. They were sadly disappointed, and no one seemed to know why.
England won the toss and elected to field, but although there was a certain amount of help for their bowlers there did not seen to be too many terrors in the pitch. After a few minutes of play, Sir Geoffrey Boycott, commenting for the BBC, said he could see no way that England were going to win. The pitch was too friendly. The game, he confidently predicted, would be a draw.
Four hours later, Australia were all out for 98, a performance that racked up so many “lowest” and “worst” records that I have lost track of them all.
Cricket pitches do get a bit better during the day, but not by orders of magnitude. The fact that England’s openers cruised to 157 without getting out in the evening session suggested that Sir Geoffrey’s assessment of the wicket was correct. So what happened?
“Australia are batting without any care and attention,” Lord Gower noted on Sky. And he should know, as batting without a care in the world was something he was rather good at during his career. Such behavior, however, is not normally expected of the fiercely competitive Australians. Had they partaken of too much Christmas cheer, or was some other factor to blame?
“It was as if their brains had gone out of the window,” commented a bemused Sir Geoffrey at the end of the day. Missing brains? Well, that could explain a lot. And I happen to know that this person is a keen cricket fan.