A quiz on the capers in Cape Town
In the 2015 previous Test matches that have adorned the history of the universe, few, if any, passages of play can have matched the barking-mad cricketing melodrama that unfolded in the 2016th in Cape Town on Wednesday. On a lively but scarcely fire-breathing wicket, mayhem reigned as the moving ball and the DRS ran amok like a porcelain-loving bull in a well-stocked china shop.
Australia, from a position of total dominance, lost, in quick succession: a few early wickets; their marbles; and control of the game. Haddin, in particular, seemed to be spooked by the scoreboard (which read an admittedly alarming 18 for 5), and forget the match situation, which was, effectively, 206 for 5. Philander and Morkel took full advantage, and the game was not so much turned on its head as flipped into an impromptu quadruple somersault, before staggering groggily to its feet, muttering: "Who am I and what am I doing here?"
Australia had history and an immortal entry in the annals of sporting ineptitude within their grasp - at 21 for 9 after 11.4 overs, they were within one more inept waft of registering the lowest-ever completed Test innings (New Zealand's 26 against England in 1954-55), and the shortest-ever completed Test innings (South Africa's 12.3 overs at Edgbaston in 1924). Siddle and Lyon stapled a small fig leaf of dignity to Australia's obvious embarrassment with a last-wicket stand of 26, and History mopped its brow and toddled off. But it did not leave empty-handed. Here then, is a multiple-choice quiz about the unforgettable day two of the Newlands Test. Each question has multiple answers. Do not attempt if you are (a) an Australian batsman, or (b) an Australian of nervous disposition.
1. What did Nathan Lyon do on Thursday that no other human being has ever done?
(a) He walked out to bat in a Test match with his team at 21 for 9. The previous worst score facing a No. 11 was 25 for 9, when Lyon's baggy green predecessor Tom McKibbin marched to the wicket at The Oval in 1896 thinking, "Oh dear. This is a disappointing score. I bet no other Australian will ever come to the wicket with a worse score than this on the board." He smote a defiant 16 before being caught, taking Australia's score up to 44 all out, leaving Hugh Trumble chuntering into his moustache at the non-striker's end that he had taken 12 for 89 in the match and still been on the wrong end of a shoeing.
(b) He broke the 300-mph barrier on a unicycle. Unicycling has been introduced to the Australian training regime by their new coaches, as a means of improving balance and self-confidence. Lyon took a morning pedal up to the top of Table Mountain, lost his balance whilst looking for a yeti, and careered down to Newlands at breakneck speed.
(c) He became the eighth No. 11 to top-score in a Test innings.
(d) He walked on the moon.
ANSWERS: (a) and (c). (b) has not been ratified by the World Unicycling Federation, as it took place outside of official competition.
2. What do WG Grace and Philip Hughes have in common?
(a) Both men are no longer as effective as Test Match batsmen as they once were.
(b) Both have been played by Hollywood actor Val Kilmer in films.
(c) They have each taken part in one of the only two Tests ever played in which 23 batsmen have been dismissed in single figures in the first three innings of the match - Hughes at Newlands this week, Grace in the Lord's Test of 1888.
(d) Both have featured prominently in German Chancellor Angela Merkel's dreams in the past week.
ANSWERS: (a), (c) and (d).
3. What has Australia as a nation experienced three times in the last 16 months?
(a) An infestation of pterodactyls.
(b) It has watched in gaping-mouthed astonishment as its once-mighty cricket team has been bowled out for under 100, on three separate occasions - 88 all out against Pakistan in Leeds in July 2010, the Boxing Day MCG abomination against England (98 all out), and now 47 at Newlands. Three times in 12 Tests. They had posted a two-figure score just once in their previous 277 Tests over 25 years. They had not been skittled for under 100 three times in two years since 1887 and 1888 - when they had to regroup and take the positives after eight different sub-100 totals. In six matches. It is fair to say that Australian batsmanship improved thereafter.
(c) A creeping sensation that Silvio Berlusconi's behaviour might not be entirely prime ministerial.
(d) It has seen its cricket team win a Test match - in their previous four series, they won three, drew three and lost six. The previous time they won three or fewer games in a run of 12 Tests was between December 1987 and June 1989. At which point, they ground England into a fine pulp, kick-starting a decade and a half of unremitting Ashes dominance. Is this all part of Cricket Australia's masterplan?
ANSWERS: (b) and (d).
4. Why might Vernon Philander and Shane Watson have spent Thursday night discussing plans for a massive 30-foot-high commemorative bronze statue of themselves to be erected on the concourse at Newlands?
(a) Because they had just overheard Peter Siddle and Morne Morkel discussing erecting a 29-foot-high commemorative bronze statue of themselves on the concourse in Centurion.
(b) Because they had just become the first pair of bowlers from opposite sides to take five-wicket hauls for fewer than 20 runs in the same Test.
(c) Because 18 wickets had fallen in 23 overs of Test cricket, and they had been the principal agents of batting doom - both took five wickets in 20 balls. Eighteen wickets tumbled for 68 in 138 balls. Think about that. Have you thought about that? What do you think about that? This included 16 for 44 in 115, as South Africa lost their last seven wickets for 23 (their lowest such total since their first Test after readmission in 1991-92), and Australia lost their first nine for 21 (unprecedented at least since before the dinosaurs were still at the crease). Holy smokes. The apocalypse is coming. No doubt. Look at the Eurozone. Then look at the scorecard from Newlands. Then look at Alastair Cook's Test average over the last 12 months. There is no other conclusion to draw.
(d) Because, during the tea interval, they discovered a method of converting the noise of lbw appeals into electricity, thus solving all the world's energy problems, and rightly believe that their breakthrough should be recognised in artistic form.
ANSWERS: (b) and (c)
5. Before the Newlands Test, what had happened only twice since the First World War?
(a) Another World War.
(b) Both teams had been dismissed for under 100 in the same Test. It happened when India and New Zealand went head-to-head in a loser-loses-all collapse-off in Hamilton in 2002-03, and when South Africa and Australia span each other silly in Durban in 1949-50, and it has happened in Cape Town this week.
(c) A member of the Bush family had won a US Presidential election.
(d) Australia had lost a Test Match after taking a first-innings lead of 188 - their Newlands lead after skittling South Africa for 96. Those two occasions are quite highly regarded matches - Headingley 1981 and Kolkata 2000-01. If Australia lose this match, it will be the eighth highest first-innings lead to have resulted in defeat (excluding the Hansie Cronje's Magic Jacket match in 1999-2000, when the middle two innings were forfeited and England technically won after conceding a 248-run lead).
(e) A Test team had lost eight wickets for 10 runs or fewer. Australia collapsed like a narcoleptic house of cards on a bobsled going down the Spanish Steps in Rome as they subsided from 11 for 1 to 21 for 9. Only twice before had eight wickets fallen for as few runs in a Test, and both times New Zealand were the untriumphant team involved - when Saqlain and Sami carved them up in Auckland in 2000-01 (121 for 2 became 131 all out); and when, on the first day of post-war Test cricket, in Wellington in 1945-46, the Kiwis celebrated the return of peace by slumping from 37 for 2 to 42 all out. They followed this up by losing 6 for 6 during their second innings, and Australia, so appalled that such ineptitude should be allowed on a cricket pitch, did not play another Test against New Zealand for almost three decades. Will they be hoist by their own petard?
ANSWERS: (b), (d) and (e). And (c). And (a). If you count the international dispute over the UDRS as a World War. Which you should not.
Here endeth the quiz.
What a day. I think cricket needs a cup of tea and a sit-down. For mercifully different reasons than it needed a cup of tea and a sit-down last week after the spot-fixing trial. The third day may provide yet more twists, and after the excellent Test matches in Zimbabwe and India, these crazy Cape Town capers have been a further reminder that cricket is generally far more enjoyable when it is being played and watched on the pitch rather than in a courtroom.
Andy Zaltzman is a stand-up comedian, a regular on the BBC Radio 4, and a writer