Worse places to be than the first ODI of the summer

As we walked through Melbourne Park there was a hive of activity. Workmen finalising their projects; officials discussing and ball kids on their way home. It’s three days before the Australian Open starts and I am on my way to the cricket – the first one dayer between Australia and Sri Lanka. Before we get to the MCG we see some of the tennis players practising on the outside courts. I don’t recognise any of them but there are coaches at both ends giving tips and refining shots. Looks like the girl practising her serves is foot faulting to me but clearly they are not working on that.
I work it out; I haven’t been to see an international game for nearly 20 years. I find that hard to comprehend given the number of times I used to go but it must be that long since my last match when the names were very different – Lillee, Richards, Chappell, Hughes (K), Yallop, Greenidge, Gavaskar, Bedi, Hogg (R). It will be interesting to see the comparison.
The first thing I notice are the stands. I’ve been to the G for football games but not cricket since the new stands were completed and it is immediately obvious that the stadium is nearly perfectly symmetrical. There is a huge contrast to the conglomerate of stands that made up the ground nearly 20 years ago. Gone is the old Members’ Stand and the large clock with the Roman numerals. A friend who lived up the road told me that there was a big money prize if you could hit a six and break the glass on the clock. He used to rave on a bit, like the time we went to the Gillette? Cup final circa 1972 when Western Australia played New Zealand and he told me his dad would buy my lunch but he didn’t, so I don’t know if the story about the clock was true.
I’m looking forward to watching Aaron Finch bat but within a few overs he is out. Phil Hughes looks to be in great form and middling the ball and flaying through the off-side. Usman Khawaja comes in and muddles around for 3 runs from 11 balls. I’m not sure why he is touted as a potential Test number 3 and have no idea why he was selected for a one-day match. He basically runs himself out; although redeems himself slightly later in the day with a good run out himself.
In comes George Bailey. I had considered him as a Mike Brearley type captain – we needed a captain so you have the job even though you are not that good as a batsman. I change my mind within a few overs as he starts middling the ball as well and hits one huge hit towards the members that was possibly on line for the old clock but well short.
With Hughes and Bailey in complete control it seems inevitable that Australia will post a large total and even at 2 for 200 ish it just feels like the game is already virtually won so my attention is distracted for a while to the events in Bay 13. There are a large number of beach balls flying back and forward and occasionally one will fly over the fence and one of the security guards will grab it and with a knife or dart or something sharp deflates it and adds it to the pile behind the small fence near the sight screen. The security guard is on the receiving end of a chant similar to the one that was reserved for Richard Hadlee! As soon as that ball is gone there is at least one more replacing it and throughout the afternoon and evening there always seem to be several in flight until the inevitable happens and the wind gusts one over the fence and it ends back in the pile. Only twice is there a reprieve when a Sri Lankan tour player giving a drink to the fielder at long on, and Khawaja, just after the Sri Lankan innings start hands one back to the crowd. Both are recipients of the “you are a legend” chant.
Throughout the match the Sri Lankan crowd are creating a party atmosphere with bongo drums, trombones, trumpets and their own chants. Their noise from bay one usually drowns at the attempts of bay 13 incumbents to start Mexican waves – only occasionally does the wave get past bay 10 so they try the reverse way with less success.
Meanwhile Australia is posting a huge score thanks to a typically late cameo innings from Dave Hussey including a huge 6 and a 4 in the last over to take the total past 300.
The Sri Lankans lose wickets early and then regularly with only one decent partnership and there is never a real possibility that they will reach the target. They don’t help themselves with three run outs. Again my attention is drawn to Bay 13 with a new chant “you can’t stop the snake; you can’t stop the snake.” I look down and notice a four to five metre length of plastic beer cups joined together. The authorities seem to like this less than plastic beach balls and within a short time the snake is stopped and police remove parts of the snake only for a new and longer one to appear shortly thereafter.
Thankfully the big screen is there so I can see the replay of a couple of wickets that I missed while watching the antics of the crowd.
By late evening the security guard closest to Bay 13 is no longer in his chair but kneeling on the ground. He fails to notice someone jump the fence behind him and run on to the ground and straight to the middle of the ground and bowl a ball down the wicket before he is tackled to the ground and carried off the ground with the big screen showing that he may be liable for an $8500 fine. (I wonder whether the conversation is the security guard’s house later than night goes something like this: Did you have a good day, dear? Yes, I deflated 29 beach balls and then sprinted 250 metres to help catch an intruder on the field; other than than I sat on a chair facing the crowd).
The cricket was entertaining, the Sri Lankan impromptu concert impressive and the crowd in Bay 13 also worth the entrance fee.

Major figures from the day:
Australia 5/305 (Hughes 112, Bailey 89, Hussey 60no) D Sri Lanka 198 (Chandimal 73, Dilshan 51, McKay 4/33)
Approximate number of beach balls deflated: 57
Longest “you can’t beat the snake” snake: 5.5 metres (estimate – difficult to tell from several levels up)
Successful Mexican waves: 5
Unsuccessful Mexican waves: 34 (estimate)

About Noel McPhee

Noel's background is in statistics including 13 years at the ABS. More recent employment has been at Deakin University. He enjoys working on the Census and elections. His weekly article, 'The Stats Bench' appears in the EFL's football record - The Eastern Footballer. Noel's legacy as a sportsman is that he tried hard; two cricket fielding trophies, a tennis premiership and boundary umpiring about 80 EFL senior games and a couple of underage grand finals.

Comments

  1. John Butler says:

    G’day Noel

    Watching this game from afar, it struck me that the crowd atmosphere was a very joyous one, even if the game wasn’t the greatest contest. The usual drunken aggro that has so often featured in the season’s first 1-dayer seemed blessedly absent.

    Was this due to the smaller crowd? (the drongos being the absent ones).

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