Sri Lanka 156 Australia 3 / 150
There’s something special about Test Match cricket at the MCG and Day 1 was no exception. And what a fabulous day for cricket! Superb weather, a lively and colourful atmosphere with everyone anticipating a day of entertaining cricket.
It was a thrill to be back at the MCG to witness the spectacle of Test cricket once again. With my third Test Match in about thirty years after attending nearly every first day of either the Boxing Day or the New Year’s Day match from the early sixties to the late seventies it was a great experience to be a part of the nearly seventy thousand strong crowd to witness many highlights during the day’s play.
During the day’s play I regularly jotted down in my note book observations I made about the state of play at the time. As play progressed I could not help but notice a recurring theme standing out glaringly to me. That being how easily some batsmen gave up their wickets, especially on a pitch and in conditions so perfectly suited for batting and for making runs. Some of the dismissal shots played were lamentable and honestly were not of a Test standard. Not only were the Sri Lankans responsible but the Aussies as well.
Karunaratne chased a widesh ball which he did not need to play, feathering any easy catch to Wade giving Bird his first Test wicket in only the third over of the day. Third over of the day! Batsmen at that stage of the match should be looking to settle themselves in, to leave balls that need not be played, to get a feel for the pitch, to have a good look at the bowlers and to get defensively behind balls pitched online with the stumps. Basic and simple stuff I would have thought!
Dilshan from the onset was in an attacking frame of mind but he too fell to a rather ambitious shot. Bit like me trying to belt my five iron down the fairway and making a mess of it!
Third ball after lunch Bird drops one short and Samaraweera’s helpless attempt at hooking spoons the ball to Warner for any easy catch at mid wicket. Third ball after lunch! As Captain Blood would say; “do you mind son!” Some of the Sri Lankans are not giving themselves much of a chance to score runs.
Mathews chases one from Siddle and Hussey clutches a beauty in slips but, again, a ball that did not need to be played especially as the precarious hole the Lankans were digging themselves into was now getting deeper.
First ball after drinks Johnson digs one in to Jayawardene who fends off offering an easy catch to Hughes then very next ball Prasad nicks one through to Wade. Bugger me, Johnson on a hat-trick. Except for the occasional ball I hadn’t thought Johnson was bowling at all well.
Sangakkara who had played so well plays a lazy looking hook shot that probably was too close to the body. Wade sprinting twenty or so metres behind him towards the boundary, continually seekingt the skied ball, dives and takes a corker of a catch. Great stuff!
My mate Rob commented to me as Lyons was bowling to Welegedara why the fielders were not closer to the bat. I responded by suggesting Lyons was setting him up to hit a catch down field. And sure enough as if Welegedara had read my mind he did exactly that, hit the ball straight to Hussey at mid-on and Sri Lanka were all out for 156. A pitiful score on such a good wicket but the cavalier approach by many of their batsmen did not help their cause. Very undisciplined batting.
In contrast, the Australian innings got off to a clinical start. Both Cowan and Warner were doing it with ease, efficiency and effectiveness providing a lesson in opening batsmenship for the opposition. Hopefully, for their sakes, the Sri Lankans may have taken some note of this approach. I was impressed with the restraint Warner was displaying. Played the balls that needed playing, putting away the poor balls with consummate ease to propel himself towards a century which was his for the making. But then, the old three card trick! He knew it was there, he knew it was coming and he still fell for it. So obvious but he couldn’t help himself. In the slot, whack, and straight to Prasad who hardly moved at all from his position, straight into his hands, at waist height and three-quarters of the way to the boundary. The one bad shot he plays and he’s out for 62 but the potential was there for a far greater score.
Hughes, looked out of place and unsettled at number three, was run out disasteriously for ten runs. Even then the Sri Lankans nearly stuffed it up with a misfield but still had plenty of time to recover and complete the run out. When the striker hits the ball in front of the wicket and it is his call for a regulation single you would think the non-striker would respond appropriately. I think Hughes must have been asleep. Not good enough for a player desperately trying to cement his position in the team!
Cowan flashes and caught behind. Another get out shot! Players of this ability and playing at this level should have eliminated such shots from their repertoire. After doing all the hard work and setting yourself up to be in a position to make a decent score it is disappointing to see this potential unfulfilled.
However I did experience some great cricket. Sangakkara demonstrated why he is such a fine batsmen. Taking a while to settle in and having wickets constantly falling around him, he played many masterful and classic strokes and it was a treat to watch him in action. His shot through covers off Johnson to bring up his 10,000 runs mark in Test cricket was the shot of the morning. In doing so it made him the fastest to attain that mark overtaking another illustrious name in Brian Lara.
David Warner I believe now is fast becoming a well-established Test cricketer. Once the the rashnesses is completely eliminated from his batting he will make many, many runs for Australia. I was impressed with his defensive work, getting both bat and body right in behind the line of the ball. His offensive game we are well accustomed to. He played some cracking shots, especially his six over long on.
Clarke maintained his good form and Watson looked like a man on a mission to prove a few of the pundits wrong. They looked very secure leading up to stumps and if their positive attitude is retained then both can carry on to big scores tomorrow.
Jackson Bird bowled well on debut and must have felt in seventh heaven claiming a wicket in his second over. This fast bowling caper is all too easy!
Cricket at the MCG hasn’t changed all that much over the years. The crowd is still there to have a good time and to be entertained and the ‘G obliged accordingly. The music from the Sri Lankan band was a constant and their surrounding supporters very colourful and lots of fun. The Mexican Wave was up and about though I thought it had gone out of vogue but not so today. Still the loud boos as the wave passed the virtual non-response of the members. Beachballs bounced from punter to punter. There was a lot of goodwill in the crowd with friendly banter and comment about everything and nothing. And once again I was reminded I should have bought shares in the catering firm that has the contract to supply food at the MCG. With the huge volume of chips, pies, hot dogs and beverages that passed my eyes they certainly were making a killing and a huge profit from the customers.
As Rob and I made the trip back home to Birregurra and Irrewarra respectively we reflected on our day at the MCG with the passion of the cricket lovers we are. And, we knew we’ll be back next year.