The first is a match between Australia and South Africa played in Hobart. South Africa won by an innings and 80 runs having skittled their opponents for 85 in the first innings and then knocking up 326 in reply, Quinton de Kock helping himself to his second century of the series.
The second is a match between India and England played at Rajkot. England scored a wopping 537 in their first innings with Root, Ali, and Stokes all making centuries. India replied in kind with 488, Vijay and Pujara making centuries. A batting surface, then. England piled on 260 in their second innings with Cook making his fifth century in India – a record for a visiting batsman – and debutant Hameed scoring 82. England declared leaving India chasing 309 in 49 overs on the final day. Speculation is ongoing as to whether England could have declared earlier to give them more time to bowl India out, but in any case they took 6 wickets and it took a decent, fighting partnership between Kohli and Jadeja to draw the match.
According to Malcom Knox writing in the Sydney Morning Herald (h/t TNA):
While Australia destroy themselves, England destroy the game
England had the position and the opportunity to force a result. But, in what retired Australian Test cricketers would call batting and leadership of unacceptable selfishness, Cook and Hameed strolled on towards a partnership milestone. Once Hameed did open his shoulders and take a risk, he got out for 82. He looked disappointed with his decision when he should have been proud. (If India had imploded, that would not have made Cook a genius. The indisputable fact is that, with batsmen like Joe Root and Ben Stokes in the sheds, England did not maximise their chances of winning. Even after Hameed and Root were out slogging, Cook made sure he nudged his way to his hundred.)
This is not the Australian way, but it is the Australian way that is under fire. Australia never play for a draw in India (if they could), always seeking to move the game along, and in striving to win they most often lose. Whether in Hobart or on the subcontinent, Australia’s attack-first mode of cricket is what gets them into trouble. Australia lose matches in India, Sri Lanka, the Emirates, England – and now at home – because their cricketers have lost the patience and temperament to weather difficult conditions and play a full five-day game.
Through their aggression, Australians destroy themselves. Through their defensiveness, England and India destroy a game. Which would you have?
So, while Australia are lambasted for playing their own way, a feckless younger generation putting entertainment ahead of survival, Cook cruises like a stately zeppelin towards his fifth Test century in India, more than any other visitor. As he did so, televisions were switched off across the subcontinent, and left on only in places where the only alternative was to look at the rain.
Oh dear. Things must be getting rather desperate Down Under if they’re trying to paint an Australian drubbing at home as preferable to a hard-fought draw by England chasing a win in India.
What next? I think the problem is merely a lack of good old Aussie ticker. The solution is to make more frequent references to the great teams of the ’90s and ’00s and perhaps get one or two of them to come along and give the current lot a pep talk about what it means to pull on the Baggy Green. That’ll keep Kyle Abbot and Vernon Philander out.