Mitchell Marsh’s return to the Australia Test outfit did not go according to plan with the all-rounder being booed on a couple of occasions by the packed Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) ground in the Boxing Day Test against India.
The partisan crowd made their displeasure over the dropping of local Victoria star Peter Handscomb evident as they rang out the boos for his Western Australia replacement. Following a string of poor scores in the Adelaide and Perth Tests, Handscomb had been dropped to make way for Marsh.
Loud jeers greeted the younger Marsh sibling both times he was brought on as a bowling change by skipper Tim Paine on day one of the Boxing Day Test.
The all-rounder had been out of favour previously after a disappointing series against Pakistan in the UAE where he could muster only 30 runs with the bat in the two Tests.
The behaviour of the Melbourne home crowd did not sit too well with Marsh’s team-mate Travis Head who termed it as ‘pretty poor’.
Mitchell Marsh getting booed as he comes into the attack.— Daniel Cherny 📰 (@DanielCherny) December 26, 2018
“I don’t think it’s great. Obviously we’ve seen it with Kohli (Virat) as well but for Mitch, who worked his bum off today, I thought he bowled exceptionally well,” Head stated after the day’s play.
“I thought he created pressure in tough conditions and fought really hard. I don’t think any Australian cricketer in Australia deserves to be booed.
“I understand the Victorian crowd, Petey (Handscomb) obviously missing out, but I think it’s pretty poor for Mitchy to cop that.”
Marsh ended the day as the most economical of Australia’s bowlers as India reached 215-2 in their first innings at stumps. The all-rounder bowled 15 overs in total on Wednesday, conceding only 23 runs with the help of three maidens.
Head lauded the all-rounder’s character in the face of the ringing boos around the iconic stadium.
“I think Mitch is a character to get on with is. As he showed, he did his business, he did his work, he bowled exceptionally well, did the job that was needed for the team and that’s what Mitch has always done,” the Aussie batsman said.
Australian commentator Kerry O’Keefe’s barb towards India’s first-class competition came back to bite him in the Boxing Day Test with opener Mayank Agarwal slamming a superb half-century on his debut.
India had handed Agarwal his international debut in the third Test against Australia which got underway at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) on Wednesday. The opening batsman was drafted into the side as a replacement for the injured Prithvi Shaw after his stellar displays for Karnataka in the domestic arena over the past year or so.
The right-hander scored 1,160 runs from 13 innings in the 2017-18 Ranji Trophy season at an astounding average of 105.45. He followed that up with a further 723 runs in the Vijay-Hazare Trophy as he smashed the record for the most runs (2,141) by any Indian batsman in a single domestic season.
However, his achievements in the Ranji Trophy were belittled by O’Keefe during the Boxing Day Test with the Aussie commentator mocking the level of the competition.
Commentating for Fox Sports alongside Mark Waugh and Shane Warne, O’Keefe said, “Apparently he got the triple (ton) against the Railways canteen staff.”
Former Australia batsman Waugh too couldn’t resist getting a dig in, saying that “his (Agarwal’s) average in India is 50 which like 40 in Australia.”
O’Keefe’s comments did not go down well with Indian fans who took to social media to express their displeasure at the Aussie’s distasteful comments.
Agarwal then gave O’Keefe a befitting response with his bat as the debutant put together a 76-run knock in his maiden Test innings as India accumulated 215-2 on the first day of the Boxing Day fixture.
Kerry O'Keefe said the Indian domestic system has teams like "Canteen XI" where the bowlers are Chefs and Waiters.— 1 Tip 1 Hand (Edges & Sledges Cricket Podcast) (@1tip1hand) 26 December 2018
Was trying to undermine Mayank's domestic record.
Mark Waugh also said "his average in India is 50 which is like 40 in Australia"
It might just be me, but it's pretty uncool to ridicule the FC comp of another country while using dubious stereotypes for a cheap laugh...— Melinda Farrell (@melindafarrell) 26 December 2018
O’Keefe is a buffoon. That diatribe on the #RanjiTrophy competition was a. Classic casual racism, b. Disgracefully inaccurate. Strong competition providing an excellent breeding ground for test cricket. I thought we’d got rid of this rubbish with 9 losing the gig.— Adelaide Barmies (@AdelaideBarmies) 26 December 2018
Opening the batting along with Hanuma Vihari, Agarwal was fearless in his approach as he played some delightful strokes in front of a packed MCG crowd. Although his 161-ball innings was brought to an and by Pat Cummins at the stroke of tea, Agarwal had put the tourists in a strong position on a pitch which was showing some alarming signs on day one.
All in all, it was a splendid display from a batsman who supposedly can register triple centuries only against an opposition filled with ‘canteen staff’.
There is no doubt that O’Keefe’s comments were made in poor taste given the fact that the Ranji Trophy has been serving India’s first-class needs since 1934 and has thrown up hundreds of performers for the national team over the years.
O’Keefe’s remarks smacked of arrogance and his choice to equate the Railways first-class team to ‘canteen staff’ was shocking to say the least.
In the end, the irony of Agarwal, who came into the team on the back of his Ranji performances, shutting down O’Keefe with a fine show against Australia’s best bowlers was hard to miss.
“I was mentioning the runs Agarwal got in first-class cricket in India and there’s been a reaction. There was no way I was demeaning the standard, it was tongue in cheek. There are lots of runs scored so apologies if anyone out there took offence,” the Aussie stated later in his commentary stint.
The apology might have come a little too late from the Australian with most of the damage already done. Hopefully, after Agarwal’s Melbourne bow, O’Keefe will have a much better understanding of the Ranji Trophy and the calibre of batsmen it can produce.
The visitors won the toss and opted to bowl, firmly taking control of the morning session as Suranga Lakmal produced a bowling masterclass – with figures of 5-54 – to unsettle the Black Caps’ top order.
Jeet Raval, Tom Latham and Black Caps captain Kane Williamson all fell cheaply to Lakmal in a 16-over spell before he went on to claim his second career five-wicket haul.
New Zealand slipped to 64-6 before a 108-run partnership from BJ Watling and Southee rescued the innings, the Christchurch pitch proving a tough test with the bat.
Southee was eventually dismissed by Dilruwan Perera for 68 from 65 deliveries, Danushka Gunathilaka’s stunning catch turning things back in Sri Lanka’s favour as New Zealand were bowled out for 178 runs.
In reply, Southee’s batting heroics were followed by three quick Sri Lankan wickets to leave the tourists 21-3 before Angelo Mathews (27) and Roshen Silva (15) were left chasing a 90-run deficit going into day two on 88-4.
Southee thus became New Zealand’s third most successful bowler in Test cricket, moving past former team-mate Chris Martin.
In his 63rd Test, Southee bettered Martin’s mark of 233 with the wicket of Dinesh Chandimal. Sir Richard Hadlee is on top with 431 wickets from 86 Test matches, followed by Daniel Vettori who has 361 scalps in 112 games.