Martyn exit opens the Ashes door for Symonds

Australia's one-day specialist still has some unfinished business in the Test arena, writes Angus Fraser in Perth

The third Ashes Test, which starts in Perth on Thursday, is not just a pivotal game for England; it is a make-or-break match for Andrew Symonds, the Queensland all-rounder. Symonds is the Graeme Hick/Mark Ramprakash figure of Australian cricket; a hugely gifted sportsman who has found it difficult to come to terms with Test cricket.

The Birmingham-born 31-year-old turned down the chance to play for England in 1995 when he declined the offer of a place on an "A" tour, and since committing himself to Australia he has had stints with Gloucestershire, Kent and Lancashire as an overseas player.

Symonds owes this opportunity to resurrect his Test career to the surprise retirement of Damien Martyn and the ongoing hamstring injury to Shane Watson. That he bowled well at the WACA for Queensland in a Pura Cup (Sheffield Shield) game a month ago helped his cause, but his gentle medium pace and occasional off-spin is unlikely to cause Kevin Pietersen sleepless nights.

Symonds is one of the most dangerous one-day batsmen in the world. He has scored almost 4,000 runs in 154 limited-overs appearances at an average of 39. In the last World Cup he was the player of the tournament. Yet he has found Test cricket, with all its intricacies and pressures, a far tougher game to crack. In 10 Test appearances he has passed 50 on just two occasions and averages 19.

"I thought my Test career might be over," Symonds admitted after his last Test appearance against South Africa earlier this year. "I was really shocked about my recall. I actually got my 'baggy green' out a few days ago, looked at it, smelt it and wondered whether I would ever wear it again. It smelt nice. It smelt of sweat and beer."

A "baggy green", the cap worn by Australian Test cricketers, is possibly the most prized possession in sport here and Symonds has not had his off his head since he arrived in Perth. He even wore it at practice yesterday. "The boys were ribbing me a bit for wearing it," he admitted. "But I might not get the chance to wear it again so I'll be wearing it whether I play or not for the next couple of days."

Symonds is still very chippy when questioned about his English connections, as a journalist found out when he asked him how seriously he had considered playing for England in 1995. The indignant and confrontational reaction gave an indication as to why he has not been able to crack Test cricket. In one-day cricket a player often does not have time to think, he just plays. Yet in a five-day Test a lot of unpleasant questions are asked of you.

Symonds admits that he has struggled to come to terms with what Test cricket is all about and he is hoping to follow the example set by the England captain, Andrew Flintoff. "I played a bit with Freddie during my time with Lancashire, although our conversations were rarely about cricket," he said. "I have watched him play and he is a similar type of player to me. He plays instinctively and doesn't think about it too much. Train hard then go out there and react. That is how I play my best cricket.

"Before practice John Buchanan [the Australian coach] came up to me and asked me to play freely. He told me not to worry about the results because they will look after themselves if you go out there and enjoy yourself. In the past I have probably tried too hard and I need to be a little less intense. In the past I have clammed up a bit. It is hard to say 'bugger it' and walk out to play. After all," he added, "you're not playing backyard cricket - you're playing for Australia."

Hick's and Ramprakash's final chances went before they could show people how good they really are. Will it be the same for Symonds?

Symonds' Test record

Matches: 10

Runs: 286

Batting average: 19.06

100s: 0 50s: 2

Top score: 72

Balls bowled: 894

Wickets: 9

Bowling average: 45.44

5 wickets in innings: 0

10 wickets in match: 0

Best figures: 3-50

Catches: 10

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

In a world of Saudi bullying, right-wing Israeli ministers and the twilight of Obama, Iran is looking like a possible policeman of the Gulf

Iran is shifting from pariah to possible future policeman of the Gulf

Robert Fisk on our crisis with Iran
The young are the new poor: A third of young people pushed into poverty

The young are the new poor

Sharp increase in the number of under-25s living in poverty
Greens on the march: ‘We could be on the edge of something very big’

Greens on the march

‘We could be on the edge of something very big’
Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby - through the stories of his accusers

Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby

Through the stories of his accusers
Why are words like 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?

The Meaning of Mongol

Why are the words 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?
Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible