First Test, Day 2: Views, Sport, Weather on Channel 9

by John Harms

Cyclone Laurence has been gallivanting around the country this Christmas. He started up on the North-west Shelf, then had a puff at Port Headland, drifted towards Uluru where he turned the rock into a giant roof (it was just a pity there were no tanks to catch the run off), hooked up with a few trough mates, and basically turned the whole of Australia into a giant low pressure system.

We were ahead of the action as we drove from Canberra to Brisbane. We missed the Dubbo rain by a day, but we did follow a line of storms from Goondi (the home of Gunsynd) to Aratula (the home of Harley-Davidson gatherings) and on to Brisbane.

Brisbane is so Brisbane, and at the moment it is like the old days. So hot and humid and about to rain. Downpours every few hours and the sky always dark. Grass growing as you look at it, and the old punters considering getting the sugar soap out (to wash the mould off the walls) for the first time in years.

It’s a big country, Australia. So Laurence can be quite proud of himself. His little eye can still be spotted on the BOM site, one of my favourites. Along with Cricinfo. And the Guardian’s Football Unlimited. (Doncaster went down to Coventry last night).

A look at footyalmanac.com to see what MOC had to say about day 1 reminded me of Boxing Days of cricket. I remember the Hughes-Lillee day so well – drinking stubbies of Fourex with my brother, home from uni and church duties all wrapped up, in the Oakey lounge room. I remember thinking, “This is my generation of players.” And that if I’m going to play for Australia these are the bastards I’m going to have to face. Interesting how today’s Channel 9 commentary team remember that as the Lillee afternoon, whereas I can’t think of a better Australian innings than K.J. Hughes that day. Although he played some others that went close himself, at Lord’s and Sydney.

A look at Cricinfo today reminded me of boozy days at the Gabba when the Pakis have come to town. I recall 1995 when I reckon the Test was in Cup week because Channel 9 also had the Grand Prix and everyone in Brisbane was confused. Exams were still on.

But we had a few quiet ones on the Hill nonetheless and watched Warnie go through a terribly underdone Pakistan outfit to take 7/23, before Saeed Anwar played a lovely innings for 99. I think gorgeous is the appropriate adjective.

That would have been a terrific summer of cricket had Pakistan asked for a few more lead up matches, and five tests had been scheduled. They won the second, and Australia won the third.

So what has changed?

Yet again a touring side is trying to find its feet – out in the middle. Mercifully Ricky Ponting spared his opponents, choosing to declare after Nathan Hauritz and swatted and switched three parts of the way to a century. Entertaining in a Munsters sort of way. When we were looking for Best Intentions.

The commentators were intent on conferring upon Ricky Ponting genius status, lauding his declaration systematically, in the same way Bunnings might sell its products. And when the Prime Minister entered the commentary box, Ricky Ponting actually seemed like a genius, as did Warnie and Slats, who sounded totally normal alongside the national leader. Mr Rudd’s performance wasn’t quite at the level of his late-season Ruddster-Juddster footy antics, but he came cringingly close.

The team was also disappointed with the desire of the Pakistani batsmen to dig in. They called for more shot-making, but the Pakistanis were trying to find a bit of form, in the middle. But it looked to me like proper Test cricket, a genuine competition between bat, ball and third umpire.

It went up a further notch when Shane Watson came on, and bowled beautifully, moving the ball both ways, not unlike the former A-grader Charlie McGlynn in Toowoomba C-grade who would have had Ian Brayshaw’s measure I’m sure had he not chosen a lucrative (and stable) career as a boner in an abattoir, or a pay clerk at Defiance flower mill. Only Charlie did it traditionally while Watson chose mostly reverse with the standard outie as his shock ball. And it worked. He trapped Salman Butt LBW.

Everything Watson does though has Kontiki tour and Oktoberfest stamped on it. Like yesterday. I was convinced he was going to call for the third umpire when given run out, just in case it was Simon Katich who should have been on its way.

I actually don’t mind this Test, although I am disappointed that Mohammad Yousef feathered one down the leg side, so that we won’t see him released in this first innings. He can play, as we saw in the 1999 Gabba Test when he was Yousef Youhana and stroked them to all parts, although his two scores didn’t stop his side losing by an innings. (The Test where Mark Waugh made his first ton for ages, possibly due to his success on the punt in a local TAB – with Punter – that Saturday evening. Spotted by my mate Otis who was in bad need of a winner by that hour).

He can still play. We may see more of him in the second dig. By which time the Pakistanis may have been acclimatized to the perfect Melbourne conditions.

While Queensland is washed away.

Day 2 stumps score: Australia 5 dec. for 454. Pakistan 4/109. Full scorecard here.

About John Harms

JTH is a writer, publisher, speaker, historian. He is publisher and contributing editor of The Footy Almanac and footyalmanac.com.au He has written many columns and features for numerous publications. His books include Confessions of a Thirteenth Man, Memoirs of a Mug Punter, Loose Men Everywhere, Play On, The Pearl: Steve Renouf's Story and Life As I Know It (with Michelle Payne). He appears on ABCTV's Offsiders. He can be contacted j.t.h@footyalmanac.com.au He is married to The Handicapper and has three kids - Theo9, Anna8, Evie6. He might not be the worst putter in the world but he's in the worst three. His ambition is to lunch for Australia.

Comments

  1. John Butler says:

    JTH

    Sadly we didn’t miss the Dubbo rains. Things were pretty sloshy around Gilgandra way. Saw some terrific wet weather driving skills from some of my fellow countrymen (and women). We are a nation of genius no doubt (not just Punter).

    It’s also a very beautiful country, whatever the conditions.

    Watto at Oktoberfest, now there’s a picture.

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