Australia v Pakistan – MCG, Day 5: Smith, Starc and Car Parks
In all reality we were driving down to see a rain marred Test finish in a draw. To see how many Steve Smith would make. My boys Gavin and Joshua are enjoying Test cricket every bit as much as the Twenty20 format that’s targeted largely at their age group. The time spent driving and at a day of Test cricket is wonderful father/sons bonding time.
I always try the first car park entrance on Punt Road after turning off Swan St, the one right next to Punt Road Oval. As I turn in we see the road leading into Yarra Park has been sealed off. But there’s access, and empty spaces, right behind the Punt Road Oval grandstand. After parking, we note hardly any of the other cars there have a parking receipt displayed. Will I get a parking ticket? Should I remove the Collingwood membership sticker from my back windscreen? Does Brendon Gale personally check every car in Richmond’s car park? I decide, given the day, time of year and likely low crowd, that I will take this punt. Ten dollars saved.
We find some cracking seats 6 rows from the fence in the Olympic Stand, at wide mid-off. Steve Smith seemingly scores at will. So much time to play the ball. Blending orthodox batting with improvisation. Deft touches for singles and powerful timing, such as a glorious six into the members to bring up his 150. Speaking of powerful timing, Mitchell Starc clubbed 7 sixes, a record in an innings at the MCG by any player. Most of them into the crowd. Australia had racked up 8/624 when the declaration came, the highest ever Test total by any team at the MCG. Steve Smith an imposing 165 not out. What a player he has become. He is Gav and Josh’s favourite player. When I was their age my hero was a Victorian (DM Jones), I wouldn’t have considered a New South Welshman for such status. But I’m happy with their choice.
A lead of 181. Pakistan will bat this out on the MCG road. Surely. We run into P.Flynn on the way to the food outlet for lunch, fantastic for my boys to meet the great man. The Test match in play, turf wickets and best and worst lunches in my cricket association are among the topics covered.
Sami Aslam and Babar Azam are knocked over early by Hazelwood and Starc. 2/6 turns into 2/63. Younus Khan has added to the calmness exuded by Azhar Ali. New cult figure Nathan Lyon gets one to bounce on Younus who is smartly caught by Handscomb at short-leg. Misbah-ul-Haq lasts two balls, playing two reckless, irresponsible sweeps for a captain of his standing. Asad Shafiq joins Ali and these two will be the hardest to get out. They take the score to 89 when Shafiq gets caught by a sharp, juggling Handscomb. P. Handscomb needs to be careful doing such a good job at short-leg, he may just get stuck there.
When Azhar Ali is trapped in front by Hazelwood for a defiant 43 off 112 balls, the game is Australia’s. Wicket-keeper Sarfraz Ahmed battles hard for his 43, Amir sticks with him for a bit but the win is inevitable. Starc cleans up, bowling fast and full around the wicket. The small but spirited crowd make plenty of noise as the home team seal the series, going 2-0 up. Gav and Josh are thrilled with the win as they celebrate in our final session position of the bottom level of the Ponsford Stand.
We hang around near the players race, watching the presentations and getting a glimpse of the team and Boof Lehmann close up. There’s much jubilation and, I suspect, relief around the Aussie team. Nice to see Warner and Lyon with their young children on the ground with them as the presentations took place. So much media on the ground as well, with 3 radio stations, Channel 9 and one other outlet I wasn’t sure of doing interviews.
We arrive back to the old Rodeo parked next to the Punt Road grandstand. No parking ticket. Winning. Just like Australia. It’s a quick exit from there too. Thanks Richmond FC/Yarra Park. The whole family will be back on Sunday for the Big Bash Melbourne derby. Where surely all car park entrances will be open.