No balls a problem for Windies bowlers – and Tommy

1st Test Gabba: Australia v West Indies- Day one

by John Butler
Preoccupations on a sunny Brisbane day
Another Test season begins amid rain clouds over scenic Mount Helen (my humble abode). Break the champagne over the bow, or rather, wheel out Greigy and Heals for another pitch report. For a pitch that looks like a road, T Greig seems rather preoccupied with “snaky cracks”. The Windies seem preoccupied in prayer; an exercise that doesn’t exactly scream confidence. Sarwan out wouldn’t be helping matters in this regard. Punter continues his pattern of winning the tosses that probably don’t matter.

I may be in a minority on this, but the modern pre-game rituals at Australian home Tests leave me rather bemused (and preoccupied). As usual, it’s all flags, soldiers at attention and national anthems. At least this time the Windies anthem has a suitably cruisey feel; break out the lounge chairs and pina coladas- chill out man. To break the mood, the sight of “Big Bird” Garner on the ground would have sent a shudder through a generation of former Aussie batsmen.

Michael Slater decides to kick things off by confidently asserting Shane Watson “has no technical problems” that should prevent him opening the batting. This would have raised eyebrows across the land. It has previously been thought that an ability to keep straight deliveries out of your pads might be reasonably essential to an opener’s repertoire.

Jerome Taylor produces a pearler of an outswinger 2nd ball. This delivery probably played a part in Watto’s ill-fated decision in Taylor’s next over. Padding up to balls dead-on off stump has rarely been a high percentage play; it doesn’t work too well for Watto either. Watto may look good in a sleeveless shirt, but he’s yet to entirely convince as a Test opener; despite what Slats says.

As Punter strides in at 1-0, an interruption to proceedings. Our dog Tommy had a rather (ahem) delicate procedure yesterday. Not unnaturally, he’s rather too preoccupied with certain sensitive anatomical parts. This requires another visit to the Ballarat Vet. Now Tommy sports one of those over-sized Elizabethan style collars, as well as sore knackers. Life’s always tough when you’re a Chinese Crested Powder Puff.

Whilst in the car, ABC radio informs that the Windies have decided that peppering the batsmen with longhops and half-volleys is the way to go. The run rate accelerates. Kerry O’Keefe has a good line- “the only time Chris Gayle looks like a nerd is when he has his whites on”. Certainly, few other Test captains would have looked quite so at home in Rick James’ Super Freak era band.

We arrive home with Australia well past 50 and the bowlers’ line and length still variable. Debutant Ravi Rampaul tries to stem the tide; after 5.4 overs, his figures are an impressive 0-10. Sadly for him, a Katich pull for 6 seems to rattle him. By lunch his analysis is 0-45 off 8.

In days of yore, the Windies terrorized the cricketing world with a seemingly endless forest of tall fast bowlers. When you look at Sulieman Benn, you wonder if those days are returning. Their current plight is summed up when you discover Sulieman plies his trade as a gentle left arm orthodox tweaker.

1-114 at lunch off a deplorably slow 25 overs doesn’t seem overly promising for Windies fans. Fortunately for them, Punter can’t get his feet moving upon resumption. He survives a plum LBW, but then nicks to the ’keeper when 55. He would bemoan an opportunity wasted, whilst young Kemar Roach would be delighted with a big scalp.

The bowlers rally for a brief period; Roach threatens again. Mr Cricket is still searching for the off-stump he misplaced during the Ashes series. He seems preoccupied by the search; nicks through slips outnumber good shots. Gayle decides to play him into some touch with an over of poorly pitched straight-breakers.

The rally doesn’t last long. Benn and Bravo exchange dropped catches in successive overs. The sound of deflation is audible amongst the fielding team. Mr Cricket takes advantage of his let-off and runs continue to flow. Slats turns music critic whilst advertising the ARIA awards. The man has breadth; I can’t wait for his thoughts on Global Warming. In case we missed the point, the drinks trolley is sponsored by Gatorade; the affixed add is the approximate size of the Graf Zeppelin.

Katich must have got a shock when he gets strangled down the leg-side on 92. Pup Clarke is preoccupied with jumping on the front foot; neither pitch nor bowling can disturb his method. Tea sees Australia comfortably placed; little troubles them when we resume. The score passes 250 before Mr Cricket gets careless and Benn barely clutches a dolly return catch; 66 is not to be sneezed at, but he’s also failed to silence all doubters.

Superfly Gayle becomes more animated as North joins Pup; the chatter increases in volume and feeling. VC Pup looks relatively calm, but chases one from Bravo on 41. Gayle has the last laugh by snaffling a scorcher. At 5-287, Australia is now preoccupied with wasted starts. Bravo shows a willingness to experiment to buy wickets. Word of storm clouds gathering in Melbourne and Canberra takes shape. North and Haddin make it through to stumps without undue alarm.

At 5-322, Australia will be satisfied, but pondering what could have been. The Windies will be relieved to have steadied when they could have lost the plot. Some of their young bowlers stuck at it despite Taylor being on and off the field all day. But without Sarwan, they wouldn’t want to be chasing 450.

Further conclusions from day one: expect the Nine commentators to ponder the new referral system until our ears bleed. Nine also appears preoccupied with technology; expect a plethora of blather about heart-rate monitors. And no square inch shall go unsponsored (even the tea break!). The time when the adult under-garment industry sponsors Richie can’t be far away.

About John Butler

John Butler has fled the World’s Most Liveable Car Park and now breathes the rarefied air of the Ballarat Plateau. For his sins, he has been a Carlton member for more than 30 years.

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