More from Marvin Vaas

Sri Lanka v Australia First Test Day 2 by Marvin Vaas

As sporting grounds become increasingly sterile and homogenised, the Galle International Stadium remains one of world cricket’s gems. The fort and the Indian Ocean provide spectacular backdrops.

Outside the ground at the pavilion end, chaos reigns. Dogs, the occasional cow or goat, tuk-tuks, cars, bikes, and countless Lanka Ashok Leyland buses all vie for the uninterrupted run. The one road rule that drivers seem to strictly adhere to here is that every few seconds you must attempt to overtake with an oncoming bus bearing down on you. Travelling on the A2 in a tuk-tuk places great stress on the enteric nervous system.

Near the busy Galle Bus Station is the Sydney Hotel. It’s an experience. Stifling inside to the point that beer vaporises in ten minutes, it also attracts the odd dog wandering in wishing to be poured (pawed) a cool one. It remains a matter of much conjecture as to whether or not members of our touring party correctly located the urinal. If you need to watch the get-out stakes from Pakenham, near the pub is the Sporting Times Turf Accountants. It’s the coldest place in Galle.

Percy greets us and wishes us well. His most humorous catchcry yesterday was, “Hussey, why are you so fussy?”

The start to Copeland’s Test bowling career is dramatic. His opening salvo is smote by Dilshan through the covers for four. The next cover drive starts on a similar but aerial trajectory. Ponting, who initially seems to forget on occasion that he is no longer Test captain, takes a blinder at short cover.

The remainder of the first hour is tight and gripping. It reinforces that Test cricket is like savouring a slow-cooked goat curry. T20 cricket is like gormandising a Big Mac. Runs are hard come by on a pitch that now is as dry as Death Valley soil and looking a lot closer in behaviour to Laker’s 1956 Manchester pitch than yesterday.

Lyon’s first over in the big league is even more dramatic than Copeland’s. While the instrumental band in the Galle Cricket Club Pavilion belt out House of the Rising Sun and the bar starts serving Lion longnecks to desperates, Lyon removes Sangakkara with his first offering. Clarke at slip moves well to his left to take a good catch. This looks like Lyon’s pitch. A real Bunsen burner.

At 2/44, the band is nailing the Green Green Grass of Home. Paranavitana cuts a ball off Lyon. The two Sri Lankan incumbents suffer from a yes/no/wait/no/shit moment. Jayawardene is the casualty. This is a massive wicket. Copeland completes the run out. The debutants must be asking each other, how long has this caper been going on for?

The Aussies have taken charge. Can they maintain the momentum? Can they kill?

The band is now in rare form. During a stirring rendition of Country Roads, and first ball after lunch, Johnson converts 4/54 to 3/55 by delivering a careless no-ball. He’s a most frustrating player. Patience entrusted in him must surely be on the wane.

Clarke’s captaincy impresses and helps to instigate a batting collapse. His bowling changes are sound. His field placements are carefully considered and in keeping with the state and rhythm of the Test. Importantly, he looks in charge. Not overusing Lyon is smart and his introduction of Watson into the attack I consider to be canny captaincy. This is because I have a Mike Williamson moment calling for his presence at the bowling crease. Watson cuts the ball prodigiously off the wicket and is promptly rewarded with three LBWs. The first of the triumvirate is the most adjacent I’ve ever witnessed from square of the wicket. Watson may lack nous as a batsman but I reckon he’s quite an intelligent bowler.

At 6/88, Percy tries to soothe his side with philosophical mantra like “Not to worry and not to hurry”. He’s a thinker. Sri Lanka quickly folds for a meagre 105. N Lyon snares a Michelle Pfeiffer. His fifth scalp, a caught and bowled, resembled ME Waugh.

Australia’s second occupation of the crease starts with Watson playing a dreamy one-day drive to gully. He perishes for a golden duck. Ponting then does the opposite of carrying his bat. In playing a pull/hook shot, his loses grip of his bat, inadvertently hoicks it 20 metres and in the process, skies a catch to mid-wicket. It’s 2/5.

This Test is moving at Mach speed.

The band is on fire. Cottonfields, Another Brick in the Wall, My Sweet Lord and Satisfaction constitute an eclectic mix. It’s no Jamaican reggae band but it’s a heap of fun. I now wish that they played at my wedding.

Clarke arrives at the wicket and produces a Renoir. Connoisseurs of Test scorecards in the years to come will probably never realise or appreciate the quality of his innings. Granted he didn’t duel against a strong bowling attack but by jingo did he play well.

Cuts and drives on both sides of the wicket, all emanating from daring footwork will long live in the memory.

The band play some Australian songs. They play Stayin’ Alive and promise to play The Carnival is Over. The band leader chuckles and says, “For Sri Lanka, the carnival is over.”

At stumps, Australia is in a very strong position. This has been a good effort from this outfit. The debutants have looked the part. Hussey’s first innings can now be placed in its rightful context and I can’t praise Clarke’s innings more highly.

While she’s hosing down at the minute, I expect Australia to take a 1-0 lead late tomorrow.

Comments

  1. great stuff Marvin.
    see you on day three I will be wearing a Crows shirt
    I can smell the ground with your work

  2. winning Tests is about taking your chances. Ponting’s catch, then clarke’s blinder, followed by the opportunistic runout…3 fer and in strife.
    Also, neutral umps and 3rd umps have meant decisions we’d have never gotten previously. Good LBWs. Having been proved right, the umps raise the finger and challenge skippers to rtake them on.
    Loving Test coverage on FOX and from our man Marvin…

  3. Marvin,
    Given that the tone of coverage, post Hilditch, now seems more positive than its recent, pessimistic state, can I recommend a byline for you, working on several levels?…
    “Vaas half -full”

  4. John Butler says:

    Superb work Marvin.

    Great call about picking the pace of test cricket.

    Punter often seemed either bull-at-a-gate or aimless drift as a tactician.

    Maybe Clarke can read the flow a little better?

  5. Well worded Marvin. It was a great C&B by Lyon to complete his first 5 for.

  6. Marvin

    The Sydney Hotel sounds to me like all the other hotels I’ve seen you in. In fact, on occaisions I’ve seen your beer vaporise a hell of a lot quicker than ten minutes.

    Returning to day 1, I proffer a Contemplation as the collective noun for monks.

    Wonderful reading. Keep em coming.

  7. Peter Flynn says:

    The start could be delayed today.

    Crio,

    The umpiring has been good. Teams are taking too long to refer. This needs to be clamped down upon.

    I like Vaas half-full.

    JB,

    Agree.

    The funniest thing was Punter’s two embarrassing walks. One to get his bat and one to the pavilion.

    Thanks Glen. The Aussies caught really well in the high humidity.

  8. And can I also wholeheartedly endorse Crio’s comments about the coverage.

    Day 1’s interview by Mr. Sharma of Australian umpire Simon Taufel was so much more interesting and insightful than anything most of the hacks on Nine could offer. We see every ball, beautiful scenery between overs , and very few ads. If we could just get rid of Tony Greig, it’d be perfect.

    It’s not fair that people have to pay for this sort of quality – but I took up a Foxtel subscription years ago when Australia was touring India, and there’s no going back. Free-to-air networks continue to treat us with contempt when it comes to sport, and the sooner it’s taken away from them, the better. I look forward to the ratings when Foxtel starts showing all AFL games next year.

  9. David Downer says:

    Great reading again Marvin.

    On the day 1 telecast A.W.Greig referred to the pure joy of a “big showerhead in his romm”.

    Do the showerheads in your Galle accomodation measure up to such joyous dimensions? 

    Cheers,
      Artie from Annandale

  10. Marvin

    How will you be keeping an eye on the Cats?

  11. Peter Flynn says:

    Yes the shower heads are massive.

    Game comes on at 5:30pm Sri Lankan time on the Australia Network.

    I saw West Coast come from 54 points down to beat Geelong one Saturday arvo in Bangkok a few years ago.

    Cheers,

    Marvellous Marvin Vaas

  12. Marvellous, you’ve clearly had a couple of Bloody Marys with brekkie.

  13. Peter Flynn says:

    Regards to all at lunch.

    Still overcast here.

    There mighn’t be much play today.

  14. Tony Greig, he’s been on the commentary team since 1977-78. As the token ‘anti’ Aussie he has fulfilled his role. Surely now we have an eloquent, wise commentator like Mark Nicholas, fulfilling the ‘outsider’ role, Tony can call it stumps. And take Bill Lawry with him as well. Hope PF’s recent comment about it being overcast aren’t a portender to an interrupted days play.

  15. Marv,
    the great Marvin Hagler only needed one “L”

  16. 97 Premiers says:

    Lovely read!

  17. David Downer says:

    Marvin,

    Has Percy taught you any Sinhalese profanities, and if so, what is your favourite?

    Regards,
    Clem from Carnegie

  18. Peter Schumacher says:

    I really enjoyed your article particularly the point you made about really being able to savor the game in a way that can’t be done in its other forms.

  19. John Sandy says:

    Satifaction must have got a fair run. Played!

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