Boland’s crushing of ‘fifth-class veterans’ England may not be enough for yet another test

One of my favorite cricket stories fits perfectly with the latest English batting debacle.

An international superstar signs a contract with an English county team in the early 2000s. He joins an Australian domestic god and longtime county star to create what many thought was an unsurpassed duo.

The team is struggling.

Morale is bad, there are fights between the players. The waves point the guilty finger at the bowlers, and the bowlers point a disrespectful finger – BIRD – back at the collar players. It’s ugly.

A team meeting is convened. It is the type of open meeting where honesty is required, even if it is at the expense of hurt feelings. The type of meeting where Leading Teams became the pillar of sports team harmony in Australia around the same time.

With an internationally experienced player on the team, he was an obvious starting point for a broader discussion about why the team did so poorly and what could be implemented to turn it around.

The opening analysis from Virender Sehwag – yep, Virender Sehwag – went like this:

“Hodge 1s, Viru 1s, rest … 2s.”

Meeting OVER.

If you were lucky enough to see Jarrod Kimber’s research into the English battle figures from last calendar year and notice Joe Root’s ridiculous dominance over his teammates in graph form, it’s easy to see how the English captain led their team meeting in the post-game debrief after Boxing Day Test debacle of all out 68.

“Extra 1s, Rooty 1s, rest … 2s.”

This is bad for England: their batting is not even good enough for the two, they are veterans of fifth grade.

Root is a class player; technically sublime, balanced, but not entirely immaculate in the horror show with this 3-0 deficit in the series.

As a captain, if you know your team’s batting is historically bad, so bad that you’ve relied on extras as a major contributor, then why should you win the cast and choose to expose your weakness to a green wicket and hometown Australian attack on the first day of the series?

147 all out, with an embarrassing rejection at the first delivery of the match? This was the summer tune for both English batting and Australian bowling.

Going forward to the next test and the remaining two matches in the series, both teams will have significant selection headaches.

Where will England find six batters that can support Root?

And how does one drop Scott Boland after his masterful performance of 6 for 7?

6 for 7!

I can not help but say it out loud. Each time, it brings a giggle and inner warmth that is hard to describe.

6 wickets for 7 runs. Boxing Day. On debut. In an ash sample. It was as breathtaking a sporting moment as I can remember.

Scott Boland of Australia (L) celebrates after rejecting Jonathan Bairstow of England (R) during day three of the third Test match of the Ashes series between Australia and England at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on 28 December 2021 in Melbourne, Australia.  (Photo by Daniel Pockett - CA / Cricket Australia via Getty Images)

: (Photo by Daniel Pockett – CA / Cricket Australia via Getty Images)

Debuts, at any level of the game, do not work like this. Your only goal is to try not to bother yourself, and once the nerves are relieved, make a level of contribution. A wicket, maybe a virgin? That’s enough.

6 wickets for 7 runs? NO!

Unfortunately for Scott, this outrageous performance may not be enough to keep him on the team for the next test. I know it’s a tough school, but with Josh Hazlewood having to return from an injury, it seems likely this will be a one-time test for the MCG magician.

The reality of the selection for the Sydney test is that when available, Hazlewood is one of the first fast selectors. He has dominated international cricket for a long time now and has rightly earned the trust of the electorate.

Pat Cummins and Hazlewood are the two must-starters. And personally, I would also give the Mitchell Starc warranty.

Starc, Cummins and Hazlewood are just as good a trio of fast as any other in the world. They complement each other perfectly.

Also remember that Jhye Richardson missed the MCG test after throwing the team to victory with another innings five-for in Adelaide.

Boland was the last man in, which unfortunately made him the first man out.

With the series now in the bag, the way for both Richardson and Boland to play in Sydney is for Starc to rest, and Hazlewood to be extra careful in his return from what could be a horrible nagging-lurking of an injury. Side tribes are like little brothers: you want them to disappear as soon as possible, but they find a way to stay connected. Unlike the tendon itself (ba-dum-tish!).

As remarkable as this debut performance was, and all that came with it, it was the announcement from Belinda Duarte of Boland that the Johnny Mullagh medal winner – a medal based on the belt buckle worn by the original Australian team that toured England in 1868 – got the neck hairs to stand up and pay tribute.

Boland is only the second native male to represent Australia in Test cricket.

He is also the first Australian player to win the medal.

In 2018, Boland from the Gulidjan tribe was one of over a dozen native cricketers – including Darcy Short and Dan Christian – who traveled to the UK to commemorate the achievements of Mullagh and the 1868 team.

It’s the connection to that team and their journey, his connection to Belinda Duarte, with whom he shares a close bond – a Wotjobaluk woman, MCG Trustee and descendant of the native Australian team that toured England in 1868 – and her pride in words and tears when I announce the Boland winner of the Mullagh Medal, it makes me believe in the features and destiny of the universe.

“Some will say the ancients have had something to do with this,” she said.

“We carry our old people everywhere. There were so many indicators today that they were by his side.”

It is difficult to argue against; statistical lines of 4 overs, 1 virgin, 6 wickets for 7 runs just do not happen on debut at international level. They do not happen at home level, club level or even your backyard towards your little brother who happily accepts that you are cheating him out because he loves you more than anything else in the world.

Greg Baum, from Aging, summed it up best in his opening lines for a column he wrote about the Boland trip – a must read.

“It’s a cricket net that sounds like a Dreamtime story. It’s a dream cricket story. It’s already bound to be passed down through the generations.”

Yes, I wish I could write like Greg, and now there is a generation of kids who wish they could bowl like Scott.

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