Peter Roebuck: One-day journeyman arrives in decisive fashion at country's hour of need
Thursday 28 December 2006
Andrew Symonds' making has been England's undoing. Symonds returned to the Australian side on sufferance. At the start of this summer he seemed destined to play a lot of 50-over cricket and otherwise to spend his time trying to catch marlin. An injury to a Queenslander built along similar lines but sporting a more restrained haystack brought him closer to the action. Then Damien Martyn's withdrawal gave him an unexpected opening. In Perth, Symonds scored a few runs, took a couple of wickets and fielded brilliantly without quite nailing his spot.
Yesterday a different tale was told. In his country's hour of need, he produced a superbly constructed innings, thereby booking his place in the side. Nor did the innings have the hallmarks of a fluke. It was not so much the innings of a lifetime as the unleashing of a dormant talent. Symonds introduced himself as a Test match cricketer.
Not the least significant part of the innings was the way Symonds reached his hundred. He had advanced to 98 and suddenly stood on the verge of his fulfilment. Here was a bloke who had heard a hundred times that he was too rough and ready for this company. Glory lay two runs distant. And what do you suppose the blighter did? Push a couple of singles?
After all these years, Symonds could have been forgiven for curtailing his stroke play. Instead he took a look at Paul Collingwood's delivery, detected no hidden demons and planted it in the fourth row of the Northern Stand.
Long before the ball had reached its destination, he knew his mission had been accomplished. He raised his arms and looked to the heavens.
It had not been an easy journey. Symonds walked to the crease with the ball whooping about. Australia had subsided to 84 for 5. Nor had the pitch entirely lost its sting. A swift downfall was almost universally predicted. Everyone knew he could bruise a ball. Few were convinced that he could reconstruct an innings.
Nor did Symonds start smoothly, waiting 28 minutes for his first run, and another 34 minutes for his fifth. But he did not panic. Previously he has been inclined to rush his lines for fear of fluffing them. Nor were his defences easily breached. He uses a short backlift and his head remains still. Not that the placement of his skull has ever been a weakness. Its contents were the problem.
Presently, Symonds decided to launch an attack. He began with a crack through the covers and thereafter peppered the boards at deep extra-cover, with economy and brutal power. Not that it was all boom and blast. He unfurled glides off his pads and took the routine singles offered by an obliging opponent. He needed only one stroke of luck, surviving an appeal for leg before as he swung across Monty Panesar.
And so Symonds advanced to 98. It all happened so quickly. He reached his hundred, then came another telling moment as he stepped back to push a single. He had arrived, and meant to stay.
As Voltaire once said, “Ice cream is exquisite. What a pity it isn’t illegal”
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