Besides, serious question: do cricket authorities think the bookmakers are not listening? Most of what emerged was dross, but in it there were intimations about the pitch and tactics, live and direct, inside information until rights-brokers put a price on it, whereupon it becomes insight.
This was in the same week that a young woman cricketer, for the heinous offence of volunteering on social media the last two names her team’s batting order in a washed-out game, was put in stocks for three months. Emily Smith’s mistake was in her choice of distributor.
Another serious question: at a time when mental health is at the top of the cricket agenda, and relentless public scrutiny has been identified as a contributing factor, how can you maintain peace of mind when, more than ever, everyone wants a piece of it? It would not surprise if some players thought they had made a Faustian bargain.
But back to the simulcast. For all the sophistication of the machinery that brings cricket to the world now, when we really needed it to work, it fell deafeningly silent. As Pakistan was beginning to launch a counter-offensive, Mohammad Rizwan flashed a catch from Cummins to Paine, only for replays from many angles to betray that Cummins had over-stepped. Here was one threshold crossing too many.
That’s my firm view, and many others. It was not the view of TV umpire Michael Gough, who ruled the ball legal. This was a moment in which we desperately needed Gough’s words to go with the pictures. But did we get them? A: Yes. B: No. C: Kentucky Fried. Answer after the break.
Micro coverage failed in one other, more forgivable way, to penetrate the psyche of Pakistani cricket. It’s a question that has confounded the best minds and the best machines.
Pakistan began this day by leaving out its most accomplished bowler, Mohammad Abbas. Upon winning the toss and batting, it took successively the attitudes of passive aggression, reckless aggression and controlled aggression. Captain Azhar and accomplice Masood’s two-an-over progress was so old-fashioned it was almost quaint, but as long as they were together and unparted, Pakistan lived in hope. Orthodoxy was the new radical.
Australia were easy to read. You might query the science in Kerry O’Keeffe’s claim that a cricket team at home produces 40 percent testosterone, but you take his point. Australia through the agency of its high-class seamers attacked relentlessly, and when they erred it was only by degrees, and when they got it right they were deadly. Bursts of 4-3 and 3-0 accounted pretty much for the balance of Pakistan’s batting.
Once the openers were gone, the rest struggled not so much with the pitch as for Test match tempo. It is worth remembering that they have not played Test cricket since January. Not for the first time in Australia, Asad Shafiq looked their best equipped Test batsman, until a Cummins cutter ripped into his off stump. Quick, get a camera on him.
Greg Baum is chief sports columnist and associate editor with The Age.