England 255 (KP Pietersen 71, MG Johnson 5/63) v Australia 9/164 (CJL Rogers 61, BJ Haddin 43*, SCJ Broad 3/30, JM Anderson 3/50) Stumps Day 2
During the Day 1 broadcast of the 4th Test on ABC radio I heard Kerry O’Keefe quote Australian entrepreneur John Singleton, who is alleged to have said “If you use public transport after the age of 30 you have failed in life”, in relation to a fellow ABC commentator who caught the train to the game. Those words are ringing in my ears as I board the train at Gardenvale station en route to the MCG for Day 2. I have stayed the night at my brother-in-law Adam’s place after coming back to Melbourne with him on the night of Boxing Day, and plan to catch the train home after Day 2 finishes. I usually drive or am driven to the cricket so this a bit different. But as the train travels through Ripponlea, Prahran & South Yarra it feels right. There’s plenty of room on the train but a good number of cricket followers in green and gold are with me. We all depart at Richmond station for the short walk to the ‘G. ‘Singo’ has no idea, this is great. Public transport must be terrible up on the Central Coast. Even found Myki to be surprisingly easy.
Into my seat in time for the first ball. England, after resuming at 6/226, don’t last long. Mitch Johnson was superb, removing Bresnan, caught at bat-pad by Bailey, Pietersen, bowled after a horrible swipe across the line, and Broad, out LBW. Another ‘Michelle’ for Johnson in a golden Summer. He looked lightning quick watching him bowl in the flesh. Pietersen’s shot was baffling after his dogged efforts on day 1. I always wonder what the coach and captain say to him after he has been dismissed in that fashion. I know what my captain would say to me. Lyon bowls Panesar with a straight one that was left by the Englishman and the tourists innings is quickly over.
Another great crowd is in after the world record Test attendance on Day 1. The atmosphere outside the arena was fantastic. Inside the ground, despite the number of people here, it’s a bit quiet. Nothing like the noise of the Boxing Day Ashes Test of three years ago. Back then the Poms were flogging us and the Barmy Army were in great form. Today you can hardly tell they are there. Warner comes out and livens up the crowd with some audacious strokeplay. But it doesn’t last long. Out for nine. Watson is caught behind for 10 and Australia are 2/36.
After lunch I venture down from the top tier of the Southern Stand and run into renowned Almanacker and Inside Sport writer Jeff Dowsing. We talk cricket and Collingwood. Which is the basis for all good conversation. As he leaves to rejoin his mates I make my way down the bottom tier at mid-off to see Pomborneit CC alumni Bill, Fish, Skeney and Bill’s partner Frosty. ‘Bill’ is my most succesful nickname give ever. His first name is Clinton. It has endured through many years even through to his shift to Geelong and succesful career with the South Barwon CC in the Geelong Cricket Association. Fish is our bearded, sometimes angry President. Skeney is our gun recruit, averaging 40 in his late start to season 2013/14 after a knee reconstruction. And Frosty is way too good for Bill. I join their shout and start sweating it out in the sun. Clarke leaves an Anderson delivery that comes back to bowl him. Smith makes 19 before being dismissed then Rogers, in a workmanlike 61 off 171 balls that included being hit in the side of the head by Broad, plays a loose shot to a Bresnan ball that doesn’t come on and is caught by KP at mid-off. 5/112. George Bailey is given nothing by the English attack for 18 balls until he slashes hard at a short wide delivery from Anderson. Given not out by Aleem Dar but upon referral Brent ‘Billy’ Bowden gives the red light to the Tasmanian skipper on the evidence of just Snicko and no sign of anything on Hot Spot. Harsh decision but Bailey wasn’t looking like scoring a run anyway. He needs to play more positively if his Test career is to continue. The Barmy Army finally come to life. Singing songs about themselves. That annoying ‘Barmy Army, Barmy Army’ chant. But it does add to the atmosphere. Unlike 3 years ago there were no Mitch Johnson songs. Rightfully so. The Bay 13 faithful respond with chants of ’3 Nil, 3 Nil’.
My cousins Cydette, Vicky and Michael are here with their partners and I venture around the the Olympic Stand for a quick hello. Ticketed seats make it hard for an extended catch up but it’s good to see them. Brad Haddin came out and hit the ball far better than anyone else in this Test so far. He’s in rare form but is lucky when he overturns an LBW decision upon review from the bowling of Panesar. Looked out to me and Aleem Dar, think the ball tracker may have got that wrong. Johnson, Harris and Siddle all lost their wickets as Australia finished Day 2 at 9/164. Haddin the key early on Day 3 to narrow England’s lead as much as possible, Lyon is quite capable of offering good support. Broad was superb for England, 3/30 off 16.3 overs and bowled genuinely quick. While being genuinely booed every time his name was announced. Anderson returned to form with his 3 wickets, Bresnan and Stokes also impressive. A huge day 2 crowd of 78,346 in attendance.
With time in hand before the 7PM departure time, I did the MCG to Spencer St station walk. An overbooked train saw us jammed in like the common herd to go with a half hour delay. Didn’t seem to be any air-con either. Fat blokes around me snored. I hoped most of them would get off the train at Geelong. No-one did from our carriage. They were all going to Warrnambool, apparently. I leapt off the train at 9.34, later than the scheduled 9.08. Into the coolest, freshest air imaginable. Even though it was in Colac. ‘Singo’ is right about public transport after all. I’ll be going in a car next time.