The test cricket was wonderful, but the advertising was (as usual) appalling, writes Lachlan Barker.
Despite the scoreline, the cricket was tense and exciting and all three tests had elements of doubt as to the victor until the final day of the match.
However – and as usual – Channel Nine’s coverage of this sport makes it hard to enjoy.
The gambling, alcohol and unhealthy food advertising was intense and has, once again, led to calls from some (including me) for these types of destructive advertising to be banned from TV.
More on this unhappy topic below, when we come to the third test of the Pakistan series in Sydney, but for the moment to the cricket itself.
The first test of the series was in Brisbane, a day night test, which all came down to the final day, when the tension had me cleaning the cupboards in my kitchen unable to look as Pakistan homed in.
Australia then had a quick dip with 5 declared for 202 and sent Pakistan out to see who would prevail.
Well, none of us planned for the tension that was about to ensue, but that’s what we got.
With Pakistan needing close to 500 runs to win, this – if achieved – would have been a record fourth innings test match run chase.
So, all through that longest of fourth days, Pakistan mounted their case. Azhar Ali and Younis Khan added 71 and 65 respectively, with the innings being held together by Asad Shafiq with 137. His resolute batting nearly got Pakistan home, but to the concerted exhaling of Australian cricket supporters around the country, he was finally removed by a lethally unplayable delivery from Mitch Starc.
Here is the text exchange I had with a friend, another Australian supporter while Shafiq was still at the wicket:
With Shafiq gone, it was sort of all over, but not before one final dramatic moment.
Pakistan’s final two, Yasir Shah and Rahat Ali, were at the wicket with only 40 odd runs left to get. Difficult, but Yasir was batting confidently and was well set, so Pakistan were still in with a small hope.
However, Yasir let his guard down for a fatal split second; having played a ball, he then moved out of his crease. Eagle-eyed captain Smith saw this, and threw down his stumps from the slip cordon in a twinkling of an eye.
Finally, it was really over, with Australia winning by 39 runs.
Talk about waiting to exhale!
So then we moved to Melbourne for the – as it turned out – rain affected Boxing Day Test. (Well it is Melbourne you know.)
Once again, it all came down to the final reaches of the match.
Pakistan batted first and clocked 443, led by Azhar Ali with 205. Australia replied with a mammoth 624, led by opener Dave Warner with 144 and Smith with 165 not out.
Pakistan then only needed to bat out part of the final day to at least ensure a draw but, unfortunately for them, couldn’t do it.
They were dismissed for 163, giving Australia victory by an innings and 18 runs. Mitchell Starc again led the way, with four wickets; Nathan Lyon got three, with Josh Hazlewood two, and Jackson Bird one.
So the final test was in Sydney — the match is known as the Pink Test, in memory of the wife of former test fast bowler Glenn McGrath, Jane McGrath, who sadly succumbed to breast cancer a few years back.
Now, if ever there was a test match that Channel Nine should have banned unhealthy advertising, this was surely it.
The Pink Test raises money for the McGrath Foundation to fight breast cancer, so to see constant ads for fatty, salty and sugary foods, and alcohol, was a desecration.
What’s more, to force gambling ads upon those who have digital TV, Channel Nine included the gambling ads in the coverage where they couldn’t be avoided.
Not good enough Channel Nine. (As usual.)
I was, of course, able to sync up the excellent ABC radio coverage with my TV on delay and so was spared, at least, the noise of the advertising, so was able to watch with some peace of mind.
I might add, the ABC has an excellent female commentator Alison Mitchell, who – like everyone on the ABC team – is excellent and increased the listening enjoyment.
As for the game, we once again had another final day show down.
Australia batted first and made 538, led by another new boy this series, opener Matt Renshaw, with 184. He was ably supported by Warner, with 113 and another from Handscomb with 110.
Pakistan replied with 315 led by test veteran Younis Khan with 175 not out, well assisted by Azhar Ali with 71.
Australia then replied with a truly rattle and hum outing of two declared for 242. Warner blasted 55 from 27 balls – the fastest test 50 by an Australian – Usman Khawaja supported with 79 not out from 98, while Steve Smith added 59 from 43 and Handscomb chipped in with 40 from 25.
This left Pakistan with 465 to win, or to bat for a day and bit to save a draw, but this time we were spared excess tension with Josh Hazlewood taking the final wicket just before the scheduled tea break on the final day.
Pakistan were never really in the hunt this time, falling well short of the 465 required, being dismissed for 244.
So that’s it for test cricket for the summer. After a rocky start against South Africa earlier in the summer, Australia look to be back on the up, with fresh blood providing new impetus for better team performances.
The day-night tests tried over the summer were successful on crowd numbers and look to be a fixture now, all of which bodes well for the future of test cricket, which has been constantly under threat from the crash, bang, wallop entertainment of the Twenty-20 format.
Well done Smith and his team for a great summer’s entertainment and jeers to Channel Nine for their appalling advertising.
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