South Africa has won the first cricket Test in Perth, beating Australia by 177 runs.
Here's how professional sport usually works. You perform, you get rewarded. You don't, you don't. In this sense, professional sport is much like life -- with an honourable exception to the bizarre realm of politics.
Now here's how the Australian cricket team currently works, with particular regard to all-rounder Mitchell Marsh. You don't perform, you get another chance. And another, and another, and another, despite not the faintest hint that you are delivering on the promise which selectors -- and only the selectors -- could see.
Mitchell Marsh really is the ultimate ponzi scheme. Selectors have invested everything but the returns for all are non-existent. If you haven't yet heard, Marsh was the first man dismissed in Australia's futile 538-run chase in the first Test against South Africa at the WACA. The tall right-hander was LBW to Vernon Philander for 26, adding just 11 to his overnight total.
Marsh has now passed 50 just five times in Test 31 innings. He averages just 23. This is a good 15 runs shy of mediocrity, let alone acceptability. This is not to bag a likeable, enthusiastic young cricketer for who he is, but for what he has done which, statistically, is nearly nothing.
And yet, he lives to fight again. Again. Mystifyingly, Australia selected a squad of 12 for the first two Tests of this series, the second of which, in Hobart, starts later this week. The idea of the squad on home soil (when theoretically, dozens of players should be available), is to free players of the immediate burden to perform, safe in the knowledge that their spot in the team is secure.
But Marsh has had his chances, and blown them again and again. Though talented in One Day and Twenty20 cricket, the guy does not have anything closely resembling a Test batting technique. Admittedly, no one is exactly kicking in the selectorial door with stunning performances at state level. The list of top runs-scorers thus far this season provides precisely zero compelling candidates to replace Marsh.
So what? Take a punt. Do something. Was it not Einstein himself who defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over again while expecting a different result? Listen to Einstein, selectors. Quite clearly, he was smarter than you.
There are of course wider problems with an Australian team which is about to be humbled by a visiting team which lost its best bowler through injury early in this match. We have only three batsmen. And 'keeper Peter Nevill remains a fragile figure with bat in hand, right at the moment when we need Gilchrist squared.
The bowlers look dangerous in patches, but only in patches. To that end, and with apologies to Winston Churchill, debutant paceman Joe Mennie may well be called upon in Hobart -- being the only member of the 12 who didn't play in Perth.
The frustration appears to be telling on captain Steve Smith, who played a flighty sort of shot when dismissed in the second innings. It's the sort of shot he played often four years ago before he became one of the top two or three batters in the world.
But no one is more frustrated than fans, whose grizzles will soon affect the Channel Nine ratings, ground attendances and Cricket Australia coffers if these sort of performances continue. Australia went to lunch on day five at 7/263, still 276 runs behind. The sandwiches would have tasted awful.
They soon slumped to 8/280 when Peter Siddle departed. They were eventually all out for 361. South Africa won by 177 runs. The beer in the dressing rooms will probably taste more bitter than usual too.
Peter Nevill was 60 not out at the end, showing the sort of fortitude Australia need more of. Usman Khawaja also chipped in with 97, the same score Dave Warner made in the first innings. They were two decent knocks, but ultimately, thew fact no Australian made a century was telling. South Africa made two. They also bowled better and looked fresher all round. Thus was the match won.