Following defeat in Perth we made two changes to the playing XI for the second Test in Sydney. Out went run shy middle order batsman Youssef Rizvi as well as anonymous pace bowler Louis Martin. In their place came middle order batsman Christophe Martinez and genuine express pace bowler Anthony Toure. Both were making their bow at Test level.
We lost the toss and were inserted to bat but made a fluent start courtesy of Jean-Luc Chevalier. After scores of just 10 and 1 in Perth, the left-hander raced to 25 before edging to slip off Hazlewood. Gilles Smith, who had batted so well in the second innings out west, then edged to Burns who spilled the chance. Sadly for Smith (2) his opposing namesake dived and caught the ball!
Debutant Martinez (5) played a couple of nice shots but he too fell to the rampant Hazlewood. Zvonimir Pitko (14), who made only 5 and 1 in Perth, then knuckled down alongside opener Enzo Petit (21). The duo lifted us from 37-3 to 76-3 but both soon fell to the relentless Hazlewood.
Wicketkeeper Marwan Leroy made only 2 before becoming Hazlewood’s sixth victim of the innings. Hazlewood’s analysis of 6-42 followed his first innings figures of 7-63 and ten-wicket match haul in Perth. As was the case in Australia’s west, Zidane Thomas and captain Xavier Le Tallec took the attack to the home bowlers. The pair raised us from 92-6 to 129-6 before Thomas (21) was caught in the outfield off Mitchell Starc. Paco Georges (0) couldn’t repeat his Perth heroics, seeing his stumps demolished by off-spinner Nathan Lyon first ball. Lyon (2-41) also accounted for Toure (8) before last man Mehdi Qadri joined his skipper. Qadri hung around long enough for Le Tallec (50) to register a second half-century of the series. The captain clubbed 50 from just 24 deliveries before Starc (2-34) returned to terminate the innings on just 163. It was another sorry showing with the bat.
Despite our underwhelming effort with the willow, we made a cracking start with the ball! Paco Georges found the edge of David Warner’s bat and the ball bulleted to Pitko at point. The Iceman held a sensational grab to send Perth centurion Warner back to the sheds without having troubled the scorers.
Joe Burns and Marnus Labuschagne put on 79 together but the latter in particular wasn’t always convincing. That said, he played some lovely shots before falling LBW for 47 to the unheralded medium pace of Enzo Petit. Petit (2-20) then doubled his Test wicket tally when he bowled the mighty Steven Smith for just 4. Australia had slipped from 80-1 to 92-3 but at the interval had reached 108-3.
In the first day’s final session Burns and Travis Head marched on. The duo took Australia into the lead on 177 when Georges returned to oust Head (45). The left-hander nicked to slip where Chevalier held a good high catch. Mitchell Marsh joined Burns who later reached his ton and the hosts closed day one on 228-4, already 65 ahead.
We made a fantastic start on day two as everything just clicked like you always hope it will. With just three runs added to the overnight score, Georges forced Marsh (21) to inside edge to Leroy. Then came a special moment for debutant Anthony Toure. The teenage tearaway had Paine (17) sensationally caught by the ever reliable Pitko at point. It was a wonderful moment for us all to share as Toure claimed his maiden Test wicket, that of the Australian captain at the SCG. He bowled much better than figures of 1-78 suggest. Georges then accounted for Cummins for a duck. The wicket was the result of a wonderful full delivery that Chevalier at first slip did magnificently to dive low to his left and grasp. Joe Burns then needlessly ran himself out for what had been a chanceless 135. All of a sudden Australia had lost four for 46 and been restricted to 277-8. Just when we had ambitions that we could mop the innings up, Starc and Hazlewood hung around and refused to be ousted. At lunch they’d passed fifty and lifted Australia to 330-8.
Eventually, after Starc and Hazlewood had combined for an enormously frustrating 85, Zvonimir Pitko (1-14) bowled Hazlewood (36) with only the second ball of a new spell. Starc (58*) reached a half-century but couldn’t prevent Paco Georges from claiming a five-wicket haul at the SCG. With the score on 381, Georges (5-126) angled a delivery across Lyon (11) who nicked behind to Leroy. We would commence our second innings 218 in the red.
We soon lost Chevalier (1) LBW in the first over to complete a miserable series with the bat (37 @ 9.25) for our vice-captain. Smith (2) then fell for said score for the second time in the match as Starc’s (2-13) double strike reduced us to 6-2.
Martinez resisted briefly and made a Test best 7 but hung his bat out when he needn’t and edged to Paine off Hazlewood (1-11). Then Petit (15) was turned inside out and superbly caught by Labuschagne at point off Cummins (1-24). We were in extreme peril at 31-4 but Pitko and Thomas did at least take us through to tea and the score upto 62-4.
Pitko and Thomas combined for 58 before Thomas (25) played one shot too many and was caught by Starc off the fortuitous Marsh. Leroy (0) was then caught by Paine off Lyon to complete a woeful series with the bat (0, 5, 2 & 0). Le Tallec (0) was stumped in the same over. The captain had scored fifties in the first innings of both Tests but failed to score in the second. Georges completed a pair to contrast his first Test fifty and five-wicket haul in this Test. Again it was the lucky Marsh (2-32) who gained a wicket. From the seeds of a fightback at 89-4 we’d whimpered to 91-8.
Pitko, who had struck a monstrous 131-metre six off Cummins, perished to Lyon for 31, the score now 97-9. Toure (1) then followed suit as Lyon bettered his first Test second innings figures of 4-5 by claiming a scarcely believable 4-4! That meant 97 all out having lost 6 wickets for 8 runs. The margin of defeat was an innings and 121 runs which was slightly worse than the first Test.
After the euphoria of our maiden Test match victory in India our tour of Australia has been a sobering one thus far. We’ve produced a couple of spells with the ball where we’ve ripped out a few Australian wickets quickly but never scored enough runs to truly compete. Gilles Smith’s 87 in Perth and Paco Georges’s 5-126 in Sydney are obvious highlights. Our captain Xavier Le Tallec also made two fifties and Zvonimir Pitko’s six that nearly traversed Sydney Harbour will live long in the memory. Now we switch gears for the solitary T20I preceded by a warm-up fixture.