The majority of the Australian cricketing public would have been dismayed by the start to The Ashes. The team made a fairly solid start, progressing to 1/71 a few balls before lunch.
Then it happened. Again.
First, Shane Watson fell, then the collapse continued after lunch. Fans watched as their national team lost 5 wickets for just 61 runs to crumble to 6/132.
There are obviously ongoing concerns about our top and middle order, and I must concede it is a concern to have David Warner and Steve Smith as our most reliable batsmen.
But I found the resultant pessimism a little naive as it failed to account for the reality of the current situation.
Save for the odd partnership, usually involving a Michael Clarke double or triple century, our tail has recently contributed more runs to the total than our recognised batsmen.
A couple of examples leap out from the most recent Ashes series in England.
In the first Test at Trent Bridge, Ashton Agar smashed an astonishing 98 on debut to amass a 10th wicket partnership with Phillip Hughes worth more than the rest of the innings combined, breaking several records in the process.
The second innings of the same match produced a similar feat with Brad Haddin teaming up with the tail to take the team from 6/164 to 296, falling just 14 runs short of an impossible victory.
At 6/132 I wasn’t concerned. It was a strong foundation for the more accomplished half of our batting line up to build upon.
Once again, Mitchell Johnson stepped forward to prove his worth with the willow and further his case for recognised batsman status. Johnson’s batting form can only be good for his confidence and usually coincides with good form with the ball. This bodes well for the rest of the match, and the series.
Haddin played his now familiar role of anchoring the wagging tail, helping to lift the total to 8/273 at stumps.
As expected, the tail has managed to more than double the score set by the recognised batsmen. It is still well below par, but there is hope. Before tea, it appeared as though the match was lost. Now, it is not.
As for the hole, it is not in the playing group. There is plenty of potential amongst the batsman, and nobody can fault the bowling attack, at least when they are fit. It is not even in the management, although I’m open to being persuaded on that. The hole I see is one that has been present in the Australian sporting landscape for a long time.
Sporting teams normally have an animal mascot; rugby is The Wallabies, rugby league is The Kangaroos, hockey is The Kookaburras, even the Fed Cup Tennis team has recently adopted The Cockatoos, and on it goes. But not the Australian Cricket Team, they have no moniker.
Our current form presents the perfect choice. An Australian native. The shingleback. More commonly know as the ‘stumpy tail lizard’, due to it’s distinctive head-shaped tail evolved to confuse predators.
Clearly we – or our opponents – have no idea which end is supposed to be our tail.
The only flaw in the plan is that ‘Stumpies’ aren’t particularly common in New South Wales, which greatly reduces the chances of national selection.
This article is also available on Pen and Paper Sports.