The Australian cricket team’s dramatic –
and series clinching – victory in the Second Test in South Africa meant all eyes were on Ricky Ponting and Shane Warne (again).

But there’s one issue that remains
unresolved in the Australian Test mix: Andrew Symonds.

Symonds was first slotted into the Test
team, as a batsman who could bowl a bit, against Sri Lanka
in Galle. He made a duck and 24, and took 1/68 with the ball, not getting a
bowl in the Sri Lankans’ second innings.

His results were so bad over the next few
Tests that it became a bit of a joke, the pressure building against the West
Indies and then the South Africans as Symonds failed to show any sort of form
with the bat – until the Boxing Day Test at the MCG when, after another first
innings duck, he unleashed a barrage of boundaries and sixes to smash 72 runs
and put the game out of South Africa’s reach. Everybody saluted his “arrival”
as a Test player, despite the fact that the innings had been a lot closer in
style to his one-day pedigree than showing any kind of Test grittiness.

During the current South African tour,
Symonds pounded 55 in the first innings of the First Test (his 50 came off 46
balls with four sixes) to remind us how good he is as a one-day batsman playing
Tests.

Now, with all roads leading to the Ashes, Symonds
boasts a Test batting average of 19 and a bowling average of 45.62. He has yet
to prove that he can manage any kind of innings other than a one-dayesque
cameo, swinging the bat after others have made a solid foundation. As a bowler,
Ponting hasn’t felt moved to throw him the ball when it’s mattered.

Michael Clarke, a genuine Test batsman (and
handy bowler) in the making, must be bemused as he watches all this from beside
the drinks cart. Genuine all-rounder Shane Watson, fresh from a double-century
in Queensland’s Pura Cup win, must also have raised eyebrows.

Sooner or later, the top order will fail and
it will come down to Symonds to survive a Test attack, under pressure, on
something other than a road. Imagine Australia
at 4/100, chasing 350, a humid day, the ball moving around, Andrew Flintoff
steaming in.

After nine Tests, nobody knows yet if Symonds
is up to the task.

Peter Fray

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