Almanac Cricket: “Is this your fifty, mate?” A day at the Sheffield Shield
One of the best things about going to Shield cricket these days is that if you lose money there’s a likelihood you’ll get it back through the process of elimination.
I’d just entered the G with my mates Phil and Mick, when I was approached by a shield fan wearing an Australian ODI shirt. In his hand was a folded note which had a notable dog ear on one of its corners. “Mate,” he asked, “did you just drop this?” Phil and I had just had our wallets out at the food kiosk some hundred yards away, and noting that it was a $50 bill, I alertly reached into my pocket. I’d just broken a fifty at the register and knew that I should have had at least one left, as Phil had given me two before we’d entered to cover the hundred he’d owed me. Safe’n’sound in my wallet was that fifty after all, so I said, “Not me.” The shield fan turned to Phil, who had a four’n’twenty in one hand and a drink in the other. Phil, in his rubbery way and after much indecision, put his unwrapped pie on a concrete step so as to free up a hand, and then pulled out his wallet. After much tallying, which came off more as confusion, he’d resolved that he too was good. The shield fan, Phil and I then shared some pleasantries about it being his lucky day, and then he made his way off, presumably to a seat somewhere in the yawningly empty northern stand.
A few minutes later, Mick rejoined us with a flat white he’d veered off to buy while we were at the kiosk. I told him about the shield fan with the $50, and he said, “It’s a scam, Pete.” I looked at him perplexed. “You take the fifty,” he added, “and the next thing you know, he’s asking you to break a hundred or something and you end up getting in a tangle and walking away 50 lighter.” I considered this, before dismissively saying, “As if anyone would fall for that? Shit, I know I wouldn’t.” To this, Mick looked at me as though replying ‘wouldn’t you?’ His expression from there suggested that if my gullibility were ever on trial, he’d have enough on me to send me to the gallows … and that I knew it! Shaping a begrudging expression that conceded this in the wryest of ways, I retorted, “Yeah, well, I still not that dumb.” And with that, the matter was put to bed.
An hour or so later, I had the fifty on my mind again. I thought the next time someone approaches me with a fifty, I’d be better prepared. I’d get my wallet out and search frantically through the notes as though one was indeed missing. “Mate, your a lifesaver,” I’d say. “That was the fifty I was gonna use for Mum’s brain surgery operation. I don’t know what I would have done if you hadn’t have been so honest. Here, have a fiver for you trouble.” As I thought this, I looked up at the scoreboard and noticed that Cam White had posted his fifty.
“Hey, when did White get his fifty?” I asked
Mick replied, “Ages ago.”
“Was there applause?” I asked.
“Not even a smattering,” laughed Mick, cruelly devaluing White’s worth as a sentimental fave with the 300 or so fans.
With the fifty never far from my mind, discussion with my mates veered all over the place. We somehow got on to whether Rick McCosker had more of a tilt than ‘Tilt’ himself, Rod Carter. McCosker’s tilted head while batting was every bit as pronounced as Carter’s in my estimation. Mick considered if McCosker’s tilt was a result of his broken jaw in the centenary test, and that seemed to make sense. I mean, how could you not favour the unbroken side upon returning from an injury like that? In the end, we were unsure if the tilt was a quirk or a psychological scar, or whether Rick and Rod would be freaked out if they ever ran into each other.
Just before tea, ‘The Big Show’ Glen Maxwell blew his chance to make a hundred in this his return match after being benched in this season’s opener. We arrived with him returning to the crease after lunch on around 60, and the 20 odd runs he made from there were the grittiest I’ve seen from him. It seemed he was determined to make a statement about how responsibly he could bat, especially considering all the hoo-ha recently. Alas, what it showed is that without the reverse sweep, lap shot and other riskiness, ‘The Big Show’ bears a striking resemblance to a plodder.
As Maxwell dejectedly made his way off upon missing his ton, Phil raised that Peter Nevill doesn’t fit the bill as the quintessential Australian keeper. Phil’s take is that Nevill doesn’t bring the swagger and bravado we’ve come to expect from our glovemen and that the number 7 should be a counterpunching dynamic type. “Your keeper’s been yapping and sledging and talking trash all innings, and he needs to bring all that energy when he takes the crease. Nevill gives you none of that; just grit. It’s out of character.” I imagined Rod Marsh or Brad Haddin not batting the way they sledged, and it did seem out of whack. I mean, you just can’t see Bacchus shouldering arms to a whole over from Tony Greig after he’d called him a turd all arvo while England batted.
Dan Christian replaced Glenn Maxwell and immediately deposited 3 balls into the northern stand from one innocuous over from Queensland’s spinner. All three sixes landed nearby our seats and gee did they make a tremendous thud.. At a well attended international fixture, you don’t get to hear the sound of a six; all you hear is the crowd in raptures. At shield cricket, though, you get a full sense of their force. The bowlers energy, the augmentation as the ball zips off the hard clay, the batsmen’s energy, the concentration of propulsion from the sweetspot of the bat – it all seems absorbed by the ball. The noise from the release of all this absorption is really something. By utilizing all these factors and then crashing them into the MCG’s plastic seats, it’s as though physics has found a way for cricket to say ‘Ouch!”
Mercifully, Dan Christian’s bombardment of us shell-shocked fans ceased after that over and we were able to get back to our unedifying musings. We were in furious agreement that Kevin Pietersen has no future as a channel 9 commentator. The consensus was he anecdotes poorly, mangles his metaphors and is pretty much a dick. Michael Clarke fared no better. We found him too forceful and overly excited in the Perth test. “He sounds like a bystander describing a 7 car pileup to a news crew,” I remember saying. “What a shot! Oh my god! Did you see that? It sizzled to the fence,” I added in character.
If Michael Clarke is gonna cut it in the 9 box, he’ll not only have to temper his forcefulness, he’ll have to work out how to use his larynx. Right now he speaks as though engaging ligaments and cartilage in his throat and not the voice box. Indeed, it’s fair to say the timbre of his voice is far more grating than drunkard karaoke singing.
Just after Tea, Cameron White trickled past his 100, and I again missed the milestone.
“Not even his teammates clapped,” laughed Mick, contributing to a remark I made about the absence of applause.
Victoria were dismissed a few overs after that and we decided to call it a day. The shield fan with the $50 wasn’t sighted again, and assuming that he wasn’t a scammer, I wondered why he thought the money belonged to me? Phil and I were the only customers in the kiosk earlier and he must have wandered in just as we’d left. I guessed that he found it on the floor around the register and then hurried after us. His pursuit involved a good 100 yard trek, so it was a first class effort to reunite lost money with its possible owner. You couldn’t do that at the AFL or a Test match; only at the shield can an honest bloke pursue someone half way around the ground and not lose them in traffic. For the people who are trying to market the shield, I reckon there’s a bumper sticker in that.