West Coast Dave in Adelaide – Session 3 Update

Dave Bruce at the Adelaide Oval and will be updating this report throughout Day 1.

It’s the sort of inscrutable omen that rather permeates test cricket, but I walked into Adelaide Oval this morning in the company of four rather muscular smurfs, each of whom then bought a copy of the program as though to find out what happened to be on.  I haven’t been to Adelaide Oval for years, possibly not since the day my grandfather got stuck into David Hookes for irresponsibly throwing away his wicket, only for the lady in front to turn around and say ”that is my son you are talking about” – and that was in the late 70’s.  Place looks a bit different now, but thankfully it still doesn’t look like the ugly grey concrete stadiums of Melbourne and Sydney.

It’s going to be a stinker, it’s already showing 32 on the car dash on the way to the ground.  Jo Piker Davidson and I stopped drinking McLaren Vale Tempranillo as recently as about 5 hours ago, and she very graciously then dropped me out the front to wander in with the smurfs, who don’t seem to have appeared in the ground yet for some reason.

Inside the oval looks like a well loved and used pool table.  The cross hatched mower strips have a slightly mottled effect which is oddly suggestive of years of accidentally spilt drinks, but it looks fast and pure.  The ground is maybe a quarter full, and even at 10.30 people are huddled in the shade.  In the middle Cowan and Warner look extremely comfortable – right up to the very moment I started to type the word ‘extremely’ earlier in this sentence, when Warner is suddenly out LB to Khan.  It was something of a surprise, as both batsmen looked to be settling in to make India sweat it out for a long long time.  1 for 26 at 10.58.

Brings in Shaun Marsh, who to say is a batsman in need of a run is something of an understatement.  In a team on the upswing, his remains the most precarious position.  There is something of Mark Waugh and others about him, that laconic grace that looks slightly careless as soon as you get out.  He immediately plays the ball later than Cowan has been – is that languid soft hands, or uncertainty of the footwork though?  I guess we’ll find out in the next half an hour or so.  From side on in the surprisingly pleasing Chappell stand, Khan looks very sharp, and beats Marsh in a way that seemed unlikely when Warner and Cowan were cruising early.

11.10, and the crowd bursts into quite short but powerful and heartfelt applause for the arrival of Ricky Ponting to the crease.  Given the way Marsh was just bowled by what can only be described as a straight one from Ashwin, you’d have to feel that the late hands were more about uncertainty of technique than anything.  It was a very soft dismissal for a wannabe number 3.  The crowd just watched a replay, and you can hear this surround sound mutter that sounds suspiciously like “oooaaa…how bad is that?”.  He’s going to rather want to get runs in the second innings, just so he has something positive to take out of this little stint in test cricket while he goes back to the Shield comp for a few years.

Pointing looks sharp though, and Cowan just gives the impression he’s moved in and will just be sitting on the couch every time you walk into the place.  Not scoring heavily, but looking very solid. It’s an hour which India will be pretty comfortable with, and it bodes well for a competitive test match.  They looked rightfully pleased to have got Warner early – though myself and I suspect most other people here would have preferred to see him bat a bit.  The Indians’ body language suggested they expected to get Marsh out.  The bowling has been pretty good generally – the bowlers look like they care, especially Khan.  Not sure I can be so generous about the fielding – I know it is hot and the end of a long and depressing series for them, but there is zero enthusiasm in the field, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see them get pretty ragged pretty quickly if things don’t go well in the next few hours.

That’s drinks folks.  2 for 44. Cowan 17, Ponting 11

2ND HOUR:

After drinks it’s settled down for a long day, it feels. People are chatting quietly and occasionally, as though saving their energy already.  There’s a lovely cricket feel – no blaring ads or music, just the sporadic and largely unnecessary ground announcement – you can genuinely hear the bat on ball, and the batsmen calling. Walking around the ground, there are more people here than I thought, they’re densely packed in all the cool shady places, especially under the trees at the northern end of the ground, where I’ve been for the last half hour.  If you can catch a breeze, it instantly changes the feel from ‘hot’ to ‘oh yeah’.

Like the crowd, or perhaps leading the crowd, the cricket has been just settling in too.  Pointing and Cowan have navigated the first 40 minutes, and with 20 to go to lunch, Australia are just ever so slightly on top I think – though a wicket would reverse that instantly.  And while they’ve added 30 runs since drinks, and Ponting in particular has played some superb shots, a wicket feels like it could fall any ball.  Both batsmen have been beaten straight up, and both have edged through slips for boundaries.  Ashwin doesn’t look threatening – but then finger spinners very rarely do.  Doesn’t stop them getting wickets, and no one has looked like getting runs off him yet.  Though as soon as I write that, Ponting sweeps him over the top to bring up the 50 partnership, so maybe he’ll have to contend with more aggressive batting soon enough.

Or maybe not. In his next over he picks up Cowan, who looked throughly disgusted to get himself out 10 minutes from lunch, exposing Clarke to 10 minutes that he’d I’m sure rather not have had.  On the other hand, he couldn’t have looked much more comfortable, and in the end no further harm was done.

I’m back up in the Chappell stand with a disturbingly crunchy hotdog and a glorious breeze as they walk off for lunch.  3 for 98 at lunch is not a disaster for Australia, but in these conditions it is a points win for the Indians.  The bowling has been consistently energetic through that session, but again the fielding is lethargic by comparison.  I think it was Khan (though I might be wrong) who chased a balled to the boundary but couldn’t be bothered to dive and save a run just before lunch.  It’s a small thing one run, but it says a lot.  It’s a run that every Australian bowler would have saved, and every single person here knew it.

Glorious day here at Adelaide oval.  It’s got all noisy and annoying now that the players have gone off and some chimp’s been given a microphone, but it only serves to reinforce how enjoyable that first session of test cricket has been.  I’m looking forward to watching Clarke and Ponting bat after lunch.  Much more than I am to experimenting with the rest of this hot dog.

Second Session, First Hour

It’s funny how players come to be loved and hated, disparaged and celebrated.  It wasn’t forever ago that Ricky Ponting was respected as a batsman, but unloved as a man.  When he tucked Yadav behind square for two to bring up his 50 just after lunch, the applause was sustained and strong, long enough to demand three separate acknowledgements from the batsman.  There is a passion for Ricky Ponting the man which is only just slipping out, like he had to show weakness as a batsman before we could forgive him any other foible or transgression.

And on the subject of batting weaknesses, there has been precious little of that since lunch.  Both batsmen have fast, precise footwork going now, and Ponting has been getting on the drive like a man who’s just remembered how much fun it is.  Clarke has also pulled the ineffective Yadav for a huge boundary forward of square, and though we’re only 20 mins into the session, they’ve peeled off the most emphatic 26 runs you’d want to see.  The only angst was a ball that beat Clarke but didn’t carry anywhere near the keeper.  It’s been the only one, and maybe it was a slower ball (they all look fast from side on), but you don’t want to see even then odd ball doing that on day 1!

So let’s talk about Yadav for a moment.  Writing about the first day of the first test I referred to him as a bowling machine, because he was fast, but bowled exactly where you wanted him to.  I know he’s picked up some wickets, and maybe there have been some genuinely good spells in there, but today he’s been a bit of a disaster.  At 3/134  Yadav has conceded 67 off nine overs, and the rest of the bowlers 64 off twenty seven overs. In that last over he bowled a short ball that Ponting standing on Clarke’s shoulders would have played off the back foot.  Five wides.  Ugly stuff.

And now the fielding really is starting to get scrappy too.  Not good signs out in the middle in the middle of the middle session. Runs are flowing, it’s dominantly Australia’s hour, and India need to be able to build pressure – but instead free runs are coming almost every over from lazy or poor fielding.  They desperately need a wicket – it’s not that Australia has got away from them, but they are making a run for it.  There’s been 56 stylish runs in the hour since lunch, and you can see the batsmen are starting to get into that frame of mind where they need a reason to play a defensive shot rather than needing a reason to attack a ball.

Where I am it feels a bit cooler now, but the Indian fielders are looking decidedly hot out there.  If they can’t stem the runs and get a pole or two, it’s going to be a tough hour out there. 3 for 154, Ponting 68, Clarke 34, at drinks.  Speaking of which, I’ll be back in a bit.

TEA

There is a certain sameness hanging over the cricket just at the minute.  Or really, the last 40 minutes.  Ponting and Clarke are continuing on their way, pushed the score past 180 with still half an hour to tea, and aside from Ponting nearly running himself out a few balls ago, it’s all been very simple.  Clarke brought up his 50 a couple of overs ago with two glorious boundaries off Ashwin, first hammering a short ball over square leg and then getting down the track to the next one and lofting him to the very deep mid on rope.  The applause for Clarke was the equal of Ponting’s 50, so maybe the Adelaide crowd just appreciates good batting when they see it.

There was one genuine opportunity that was generated off Sharma, but the shoulder high snick went straight to where a first slip would (should?) have been – except he was at 2nd instead.  To his credit Sehwag stuck to his conviction and left him at 2nd, but I bet they all wish they’d just kept it conventional.  I have no issues with choosing to move your slip wider, but if that is only as wide as second slip, it does rather risk the morale sapping scenario we just saw.

And then a surprise milestone to get the crowd interested!  Ponting sweeps Ashwin for a single.  Just one run.  But it just happened to be that there were 12,999 before it.  Big applause and acknowledgments in the middle of the over – and I bet he didn’t know it was about to happen.  Wonder if that messes with your mind at all? Still, nearly 20% of the Indians out there know what it’s like to score a 13,000th test run, so they can probably talk him through it.

On the other side of the ground, the circular shadow of the new Clamshell Stand is starting to creep across the rows of blue seats at ground level in front.  I’ve been watching it for half an hour now, and as it has blobbed across the seats, they have slowly filled up in exactly the same shape as the shadow.  Every 8-10 minutes it takes another row out of the sun, and within minutes it is filled up.  I bet no-one is standing there just waiting, they just keep walking past and finding a nice shady seat, but it’s been interesting in the same way that watching a tide come into rock pools is interesting.  Hmmm, starting to get a sense now of why I am at the test match, but haven’t found the time to watch the T20 games…

Anyway, with just a couple of minutes to tea, it is starting to get a bit too easy.  Sehwag is bowling spin from both ends, and Ponting and Clarke are taking them apart.  Ponting is just sweating on anything slightly short or a half volley, while Clarke skips down and makes them into whatever he wants.  There really isn’t anything in cricket more elegant than a top class batsman skipping down to a spinner and driving them inside out over cover.  It isn’t a slog, and it should pitch about 60% of the way to the boundary for four, it is crass to hit it for six.  Ideally, you go directly over a fieldsman’s head, but that is optional in the sense that you shouldn’t compromise the shot just to get extra points for style.

And it’s Tea.  Australia may just have taken the points that session, none for 116 in the session I think it is, and 3/214 for the day.  These guys have put on 130, and there is a very good chance both will get to 100 sometime in the first hour after tea.  There is a lovely breeze, a knowledgable and interested crowd, and I notice that no-one around me is eating hot dogs any more! Gotta go get an ice cream I think.

TEA BONUS!

I can’t remember the last time I genuinely liked the ‘half time’ entertainment at sport, crass filler it most often is.  BUT… Today’s at the very least brought a moment of pure joy.

Here’s the set up.  Pluck a kid out of the crowd to lob six balls to Brett Lee, who’s standing on a pedestal of the sponsors logo trying to hit it at an inflatable target like a bouncy castle about 60m away.  The kid get $100 if he hits the bouncy castle on the full, $1000 if he hits the sponsors logo painted on the side. $10,000 if he hits it through a round hole, maybe 1-2m across at most.

Ball one, as soon as he hits it (we are sitting side on to the trajectory, so we can’t quite see the line, but can see the shape) everyone starts thinking “oooh, that’s close!”. Hits the logo right above the hole, but doesn’t go in.  So close.  Oh well, the kids gonna be happy with his grand, even if he doesn’t get anything else.  Balls 2 and 3 go nowhere close.  Ball 4.  Ah, the old ball 4.  Lee hits it clean and pretty flat.  Crowd falls silent, we’re all thinking “that’s close again”.  Goes dead straight through the very middle of the hole.  If the hole was the size of the ball, it would still have gone through.  Crowd erupts, literally.  Think winning goal in a final after the siren erupts.

Don’t even know what happened to the kid, but I’m guessing he’s pretty happy too!  That was pure.

SESSION 3 “I’VE GOTTA CATCH A PLANE” UPDATE

Clarke came out after tea like he had had a bet with Ponting over a cuppa about who was going to get to a hundred first.  He lofted Sehwag for a straight six, and then set about getting the 23 more he needed with alacrity. However, Ponting managed the strike nicely, and got there first while Clarke was still in the mid-80s (probably just about the time Duran Duran were big).

Ponting got himself to 99, and faced Kahn.  The crowd did the clapping-booing thing for a few balls, before he got one away behind square for two.  The crowd stood and applauded with gusto, which was a bit of a shame, because it was always going to be leg byes.  But a couple of balls later he squeezed one past gully for the real ton, and got the well deserved standing ovation.  It has been a really really good hundred.  Rumours of his demise are certainly unfounded if this is anything to go by.  The footwork has been precise, the hands fast, shot selection and patience all that a topflight test batsman should display.  Sure he was beaten once or twice, but that was an innings which just looked and felt very very solid.  If and when he gets out, it will come as a surprise.

You can tell it has been a hot day out there.  Still before drinks, and both Ponting and Sharma started showing signs of cramp – amusingly once on the same ball, where Sharma cramped and misfielded and Ponting cramped and couldn’t get the second run.  Which was all forgotten seconds later when Clarke got to his 100 with two quick boundaries.  His ton has been all confident assurance, this is a guy who is at the top of his game.  He hit the ball hard and clean from ball one, and I can’t easily bring to mind a real false shot or even a half chance.  His willingness to hit the ball in the air I really like in a guy who doesn’t slog to do it.  They are just damn fine cricket shots, and that is why I am here today, when it all comes down to it.

I have to go in a few minutes, got a plane to catch back to the real world after four days of gluttony and relaxation at a variety of wineries, around the pool, in the spa, and at the very fine Adelaide Oval.  I can’t really sign off at a better moment than 3/284 before drinks in the afternoon session, with Ponting 117* and Clarke 109*.  Not sure what will happen from here, that is the glorious uncertainty of test cricket after all.  However, I will say this – India are waiting for a wicket to fall now, not really trying to force it.  If they don’t get another one before stumps (several actually), then it is going to be a long road back into this match, and the body language has suggested all day that they might not be up for that sort of trip.

Time to wander off and find a taxi I guess.  Hoping not to have that dreaded live sport experience of hearing something happen as soon as you turn your back.  The risks we take!

[There is one thing about this day that bugs me though.  I never did see those smurfs once we go into the ground.  They should have been kind of hard to miss, I wonder if they really did show up at the wrong place?]

 

Comments

  1. Did you survive the hot dog, Dave? How’s the heat?

  2. The Indians appear to have Marsh worked out.

    Pity the Australian selectors haven’t.

  3. you write so well DB that I felt as though I was sitting next to you enjoying the game.

    And that comment speaks volumes given my usual impatience with Test cricket!!

  4. Skip of Skipton says:

    Some of Beerenberg’s Hahndorf Hot seedy mustard would have fixed that hot dog..

  5. Was the wurst Linke’s?

  6. westcoastdave says:

    Cooled down a bit, actually really nice now. Unlike the hotdog, which was the wurst! But, no more cheesy puns about it please, they are bacon my heart…

  7. Puntaaaar!

  8. Thanks Dave! Great to have on-the-spot reports from someone in the thick of the action.

  9. westcoastdave says:

    Hey gigs, did you get the scoreboard photo I sent of the twin 100s? Couldn’t tell if it sent properly or not.

  10. Mick Jeffrey says:

    The best news about the bloke winning $10K was that it gave me a chance to duck off for drinks before I had to endure the putrid Kiss Cam again.

  11. Great work, Dave!

  12. westcoastdave says:

    Thanks Smokie. Someone asked me if I was working because I was sitting on the iPad, knocking stuff out – and I had to be honest and say it is much more like fun than work! Happy to spend a day doing that ANY time.

    And Mick, I know what you mean. Who thought THAT was a good idea???

  13. Peter Baulderstone says:

    Fantastic Dave. Good to see you are using the Test as pre-season training for the Eagles!!!
    I had decided that the Test series was ‘boring’ and the tennis was much more interesting. But your colourful on-the-spot reporting got me engaged again.
    Brownlow Votes: Cricket Test 1; Tennis Quarters 2; Dave’s wit and insight (particularly from the temple of cricket in my old home town) 3***.

  14. westcoastdave says:

    Gotta wax lyrical about something until Footy season.

  15. What’s Whoosha got those Weagles testing this pre season Dave and Dave.

  16. Puntaaaaar!

Leave a Comment

*