Australia 8/440, lead by 284 runs
Day 2 of the Boxing Day Test is normally a huge day. For the last 15 years or so my cricket club has run a bus down for day 2, or at worst a 7 seater car has been filled for the occasion. Beers being handed out from 8AM for the 2 1/2 hour trip. Always a good day having a few beers with cricketing mates watching cricket at its best. But this year it’s different. Our core group of day 2 attendees now have young families or have to work on this non public holiday. So I head off on my own to watch a day of quality cricket. Not that I mind. While I love a day at the MCG watching high level sport with mates while having a few frothies, sitting on my own listening to the radio commentary is a great way to spend the day too. Well it’s much better than working.
I take my seat in the top tier of the Olympic Stand as Australia resume at 3/150, just 6 runs behind Sri Lanka’s dismal 156. It becomes evident early on that the pitch is even better for batting today than it was on Day 1. Clarke continues his rude form, looking every bit the world’s number 1 batsman, despite Sangakkara missing a tough stumping chance. Prasanna Jayawardene is not a high profile name but his high quality wicket-keeping is sorely missed as this is Sangakkara’s second missed chance after dropping a tough one off Watson late on Day 1. Shortly after Watson is dropped at slip by Mahela Jayawardene and any hope of a Sri Lankan comeback is gone. Watson is driving strongly and looking ominous as the peroxide pair put on 194 for the 4th wicket. Clarke reaches his 22nd Test ton and first at the MCG, and in the process breaks Ricky Ponting’s record for runs scored by an Australian in a calender year. Clarke is eventually out for 106, caught by the visitor’s skipper off Eranga. Shortly after Watson holes out to one of the two men set for him in the deep for a well made 83. He has still won as many Allan Border Medals as Test centuries made, 2 tons and now 19 half centuries in his 38 Tests.
I’m impressed by Sri Lanka’s endeavours after opening bowler Chanaka Welegedara breaks down with a hamstring injury. Eranga is sharp, hits Clarke on the helmet and looks a much better bowler than his career record so far suggests. Eranga should lead this attack for the next 5-6 years. Dhammika Prasad is offering Eranga great support, he too has a modest Test record but is bending his back and making the home team batsmen work. Herath bowls without luck today but is a classy spin bowler in the Daniel Vettori mould. He finishes the day with 0/95 off 39 overs, had no luck but right up there with Vettori as the finest left arm orthodox bowlers to visit this country in recent decades.
Hussey and Johnson bat well together after Wade is also dismissed cheaply. A 61 run partnership between the pair is broken when Mr Cricket slogs the part time off-spin of Tillekeratne Dilshan to long on where Rangana Herath initially misjudges the flight of the ball before doubling back and taking a brilliant one-handed catch. Catch of the season so far. Siddle walks out to a huge roar from his loving local crowd and looks every bit a batsman until he is caught brilliantly at 2nd slip by the Sri Lankan skipper Mahela Jayawardene diving to his left. The Dandenong speedster is out for 13 but his pace bowling partner Johnson is living up to the batting potential he showed on the 2009 tour of South Africa, finishing the day on 73 not out. Nathan Lyon is on 0 not out as Australia finish the day on 8/440, an overall lead of 284. Probably enough, but surely the Aussies will bat on until they are all out.
Some final observations-
-Fantastic attendances. 39,486 a great second day crowd, the many Sri Lankan supporters in the stands made more noise and seemed to have more passion than their Indian counterparts on Day 2 last year. The Day 1 crowd was 67,138, just short of the 70,068 India attracted last year. And a bigger Boxing Day crowd than was achieved by Pakistan in 2004 & 2009, South Africa in 2008 and India in 2003. In the past decade only South Africa in 2005 and India in 2007 and last year have had bigger non-Ashes Boxing Day crowds. Sri Lanka haven’t played a Test at the G since 1995, and given their support and South Africa’s reluctance to play here at this time of year, the Lankans should be the third team locked in after England and India for cricket’s highest profile fixture.
-It’s a pity that Sri Lanka play their first Boxing Day Test in 17 years at the end of their greatest era. Superstar batsmen Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara are nearing the end as is very good players like Dilshan and Samaraweera. Chaminda Vaas was a brilliant young bowler in 1995 who ended up taking over 300 Test wickets yet never got to play a Test at the G again. Neither did Murali get another chance to throw down his off breaks at cricket’s greatest venue in a Test match.
-Sri Lanka are about 12 months behind us in team development but will rise again with their young players coming through.
-I’ve written Mitchell Johnson off before. He looks good now. Like so many of his teamates, the Ashes will be a more thorough guide. I hope he makes a ton tomorrow.
-Michael Clarke is a star. I just wish he would bat a bit higher. Number 4 would do.
-Apparantley Shane Watson has injured his calf again. Big surprise. He better be right to play in Sydney. Or I will write his Test career off again.
I will be there again tomorrow. Will not let the final chance to see Sangakkara and Jayawardene bat in a Test in Melbourne go by. It could be all over tomorrow if the Aussie attack rip through the visitors. Hopefully the two Sri Lankan superstars have something to give and are supported by Dilshan, Karunaratne, Samaraweera and Mathews. What a great event the Boxing Day Test is.