When Cricket Australia announced the scrapping of the successful, getting-bigger-by-the-season state based Twenty20 competition in favour of a city based, franchise tournament a few years back I couldn’t have been more disappointed. As a reasonably regular attendee or TV watcher of Victoria Bushrangers games at Shield, 50 over and T20 level it was hard to take. Victoria had dominated the competition, drew great crowds to the MCG as well as a sold out game against Queensland at Kardinia Park. The sentiments expressed by Jeff Dowsing in Inside Sport in December 2011 and linked into his article on this site last week echoed my thoughts exactly at the time. I made the big statement back then that I would not attend any matches of the franchise teams.
That promise was kept until Tuesday night. It’s not the first time I’ve made a big cricketing comment that didn’t turn out to be true. Abdul Razzaq, as I predicted in 1999, did not turn out to be a “better all-rounder than Imran Khan”.*
I’m at the ‘G for the Melbourne Stars v Hobart Hurricanes game with my boys Gavin, 6 in February, and Joshua, 3 1/2. My boys have been desperate to get to the cricket for the first time and after considering taking them to the One Day International against England, decide that the shortest format best suits at their age. With us is Jamie and his 5 year old son Noah. We find some seats at the bottom of the top tier of the Olympic Stand right behind the bowlers arm. We’d been hoping for the Stars to win the toss, bat and put on a show. They win the toss and bowl.
Just as the first ball is about to be bowled Gavin asks if I can take him to the toilet. Just like he did minutes before his Uncle was due to run in the 2012 Stawell Gift Final. With his Mum not here, I make him wait until the first over is finished. Tim Paine smashes the first ball of the game straight to Luke Wright at point. After the first over we do toilet, merchandise and drinks. The boys request for a $80 Stars shirt goes unfulfilled. There nothing cheap there. Back at the seat and we are all hoping for the Hobart franchise to make a decent total. The three young boys enjoy the flames and fireworks that accompany each wicket. Jon Wells bats brightly for 19. As does opener Ben Dunk for his 30. Former Victorians Travis Birt and Aiden Blizzard, barely distinguisable as fellow stocky left handers, are the other main contributors with 31 and 28 not out respectively as Hobart finish at 9/131 off their 20 overs. Jon Hastings and David Hussey are the best bowlers in a workmanlike Stars attack.
We move to the bottom deck of the Southern Stand for the Stars innings. Conveniently with a good view of both the cheerleaders and a roped-off celebrity in Trevor Marmalade. Jamie and I ponder the harsh realities of showbiz as Trev looks absolutely bored sitting there by himself waiting for an extremely unlikely catch. We are hoping for a big hitting performance from the in-form Cameron White but the Stars skipper is first out for just 4. From then on it’s a professional run chase by the home team with minimal risk taken. Pommie Luke Wright offers some entertainment in his 52 off 36 balls. The rest of the order all get starts and contribute to the win with everyone making double figures but no-one reaching 20. The Stars win the game with 5 balls to spare and with 5 wickets in hand. Doug Bollinger looks by far the quickest and most impressive bowler of the night. Ben Hilfenhaus bowls OK but looks a yard slower than the last time I saw him live. Stuck on 99 Test wickets, sadly his 100th Test wicket seems a long, long way away.
Josh fell asleep in my arms between overs 12 and 18 but awoke to see the end and the fantastic fireworks display at the end of the game. The whole game seemed like a big concert with modern ‘dance’ and pop music being played between balls and overs. Didn’t play anything I liked. Or even knew. Don’t kids these days like Chisel and the ‘Oils?? The many kids and teens in attendance seemed to love it though.
We make a reasonably quick exit from the MCG carpark and a safe trip back to Colac. The three boys sleep most of the way. I’m grateful to Jamie for some good conversation that kept me awake and alert as I drove on the trip home.
Interesting to attend a BBL game. I was and am a passionate Victorian supporter. For the new format I decided to follow the Stars due to their playing at the ‘G and their proliferation of Bushrangers. The Renegades are my second team, which surely goes against Cricket Australia’s aim of a big rivalry between Melbourne’s ‘cross-town’ rivals. Didn’t have much feeling about the result during the game, was more interested in how certain players performed. Was in attendance a few years back when the Bushrangers v Tasmania Tigers game drew over 43,000. This game between Melbourne and Hobart gathered just over 21,000. It’s a great, entertaining night out for the kids, though the game finishing at 10.45 is very late even during the school holidays.
Go Stars, well at least until they bring the Bushrangers back!
*Imran Khan (PAK) 88 Tests 3,807 Runs @ 37.69 362 Wickets @ 22.81
Abdul Razzaq (PAK) 46 Tests 1,946 Runs @ 28.61 100 Wickets @ 36.94