Thanks to Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor, we have a rejuvenated Trans-Tasman Trophy.
After Australia's first innings in Perth, I had all but concluded that Australia would proceed to win every Test this summer in a canter. Dave Warner recorded his highest score, 253, Usman Khawaja made another century batting at number three, in fact the only Aussie batsman who hadn't impressed was the captain, Steve Smith.
I shouldn't have jumped to any conclusions; cricket aficionados live by the theory that a score can only be judged once both teams have batted. Fast forward to day four, and Ross Taylor is striding off the WACA with 290 next to his name, having led the Black Caps to an astonishing 65-run lead.
There wasn't enough time left for a result, but Taylor, along with Kane Williamson, had batted for so long, in such hot conditions, that Mitch Johnson was convinced into retirement. That in itself should be applauded; in a single innings managing to sap the aggression and will to continue out of a bowler who had scared the living daylights out of Test batsmen the world over for the best part of half a dozen years.
A draw was inevitably played out, and Johnson was given a suitably grand send-off.
The other headline to emerge was a hamstring injury to Khawaja, suffered while he chased a ball in the outfield. He usually gives the impression that he's pulled up sore after running, such is his overly casual nature, but it was soon clear that he would miss multiple weeks.
Rewind to Australia's declaration and you'd find the selectors high-fiving each other. The team they'd put together for the Brisbane Test was well on track to have six wins from all six home Tests.
But they were unexpectedly called into action. They selected James Pattinson and Shaun Marsh in place of Johnson and Khawaja, and added Steven O'Keefe to the squad for Adelaide's Third Test, which starts on Friday.
Let's go through those names.
James Pattinson, like most promising Australian pacemen, has had injury setbacks his whole career. However, he's very hard to play when on song and he's proven that he can perform for the national side. In terms of replacing Johnson, Pattinson will find it hard, but he will match the retiree for aggression and the drive to win. I was at Victoria's last Shield game, where Patto was giving his all to try and bowl Western Australia out, appealing ferociously for everything and snarling at the batsmen.
I agree with the opposition to Shaun Marsh's selection. It's wrong to pick a 33-year old who's had several chances at cementing a spot in the top order of the Test side, whose first-class average is less than 40 and who hasn't made a century in six Shield hits this season. Surely he's just been picked as a reliable, short-term replacement for Khawaja, who will certainly return once his hamstring heals.
Even though O'Keefe probably won't play in Adelaide, I don't know why he's been included in the touring party. His Shield record this season is mediocre, which should automatically rule him out of national selection discussion. As a spin bowler, he's a very good batsman but not an exceptional bowler.
If the selectors want someone to provide competition for, or complement Nathan Lyon's spin, why wouldn't they pick Fawad Ahmed? He's been the standout spinner in Shield cricket for the past two years and he's bowled very well so far this season. If they want a batsman who can bowl spin, why wouldn't they turn to Glenn Maxwell?
Even with these questionable decisions, I'm not forecasting anything but a positive summer for Australian cricket. The core of the team is David Warner, Steve Smith and Mitchell Starc, who will lead the side into a successful future regardless of who their teammates are.Suggest a correction