Tales of woe filled Australia’s back – and sometimes front – pages after the WACA test.
TELFORD VICE, Melbourne
AUSTRALIA’S newspapers bowled the country’s cricket team a barrage of bouncers on Tuesday in the wake of South Africa’s stunning victory in the first test at the WACA on Monday.
South Africa won by 177 runs despite being a bowler down after Dale Steyn was forced out on the second day with a broken shoulder, and conceding 166 runs before they took a wicket in Australia’s first innings.
“Humbled Aussies to ring changes,” was how national daily The Australian headlined its back page lead.
In a comment piece titled “Hot breath of discontent on captain Smith’s neck”, respected cricket writer Peter Lalor said captain Steve Smith would cop flak for presiding over the first loss of the opening test of an Australian home summer since 1988.
“Losses away are one thing, they are off-Broadway and generally excused, but fluffing your lines on opening night at home is never received well by the critics,” Lalor wrote.
“Test careers on the line in Hobart,” claimed The Melbourne Age with reference to the second test in Tasmania starting on Saturday.
Columnist Malcolm Knox, whose piece was headlined, “Un-Australian: a startling decline”, was withering in his criticism.
“No matter how great the margin between South Africa and Australia in the first test match, it would always flatter the hosts,” Knox wrote.
“Here was Australia at full strength, with four frontline bowlers plus a fifth smuggled in among the batsmen in case of breakdown, and more contingency planning than a Saturday morning drive across Sydney.
“And there was South Africa, with two overworked pace bowlers, a debutant left-arm finger spinner (which never works in Perth), and a ragtag troupe of batsmen living out their boyhood fantasies. One, Temba Bavuma, bowled stump-height to stump-height. Another, Stephen Cook, had a bowling action so minimalist he appeared not to be using either arm.
“This was the biggest mismatch since Agincourt.”
“NO GUTS NO GLORY NO HOPE,” the tabloid Herald Sun yelled on its front page.
“ON OUR KNEES,” the back page blared over a picture of Nathan Lyon duly down on one knee after being trapped in front by debutant left-arm spinner Keshav Maharaj to end the match.
“Pressure builds on men at top,” the paper’s match report was headlined.
“Coach Darren Lehmann and captain Steve Smith are under unprecedented pressure following yesterday’s humiliation at the WACA Ground,” cricket writer Ben Horne reported.
Perhaps the most followed of Australia’s sportswriter, the Herald Sun’s Robert Craddock, did not mince his words.
“It is not easy to look in the mirror after a test which has left your face redder than an overcooked mud crab,” Craddock wrote.
Craddock also took a crack at Cricket Australia’s policy of strictly policing the workload of their fast bowlers: “The entire attack was under-done, leaving the score Hard-Arsed South Africa 1, Sports Science-Obsessed and Generally Mollycoddled Australia 0.”
Online, ESPNCricinfo’s Dan Brettig wrote, “There’s no other way to say this. Australia’s cricketers are presently in the grip of the kind of slide that has historically ended careers.”
Monday’s result marked Australia’s fourth consecutive test defeat.
The last time they lost four in a row, in 2013, they sacked their coach, Mickey Arthur.
South Africans will be pleased to hear that didn’t help: two more defeats followed.