By Matt O’Connor

I made a horrible error this morning, and forgot about the one hour time difference that Queenslanders insist upon preserving for no apparent reason. I tuned into Channel 9 at 10am Eastern Summer Time, thinking that its pre-match palaver might provide me with a few tit-bits for my Day One report. My punishment was to suffer the colourful antics of the perfect young specimens who masquerade as HI-5 as well as Channel 9’s half hour build up.

One of the specimens (Lauren Brant as it turned out) was bedecked in a yellow duck costume, a bad omen perhaps for whichever side ended up batting. But, of course, there was another connection to today’s proceedings at the Gabba.

Juveniles. Putting aside matches involving new nations, South Africa on its return or Packer rejects, this would have to be one of the least experienced collective Test line-ups  to go around for some time. With Ben Cutting carrying the drinks, James Pattinson, Mitchell Starc and Dave Warner were presented with baggy greens (by Andy Bichel, Richie Benaud and Michael Slater respectively). Usman Khawaja (4 Tests) and Nathan Lyon (5 Tests) looked on, while veteran Phil Hughes (15 Tests) stifled a yawn. In the Kiwi camp, Dean Brownlie and Doug Bracewell were notching up Test number two, with Kane Williamson (6) and keeper Reece Young (3) yet to reach double figures.

Michael Clarke lost another toss and Luteru Ross Poutoa Lote Taylor (thanks Cricinfo) decided to bat under cloudy skies. Martin Guptill and Brendan McCullum opened the batting for NZ. AW Greig, R Benaud and M Taylor did likewise for Channel 9. The youth policy did not extend to the commentary box.

Pattinson took the first over, and McCullum took to Pattinson. Three boundaries (two convincing drives, the other edgy) and a wide, and the Kiwis were 0/13 after five minutes. Siddle was steadier from the other end to the more circumspect Guptill, and the pattern was established. McCullum was keen to slather anything full or short, with Guptill more upright and seeking to build.

They bowled along at five an over, outlasting Channel 9’s openers. Slater moved into the box with two cuddly keepers called Ian, and provided listeners with a new entrant to the “tattoo error” storybook. He had mistakenly believed himself to be Australian Test cricketer number 356, having had his cap presented prior to Brendan Julian in the same Test. Presumably to assist in his later identification should disaster fall, he had this number inked onto his ankle. Disaster did fall: he was later informed that the system was alphabetical for those starting out in the same Test, and that he was actually number 357. On the scale of tattoo stuff-ups, this has to be classed as minor.

The commentary team had done enough homework to inform us that this was the first time that two cricketers from the same local club (Dandenong) had opened the bowling for Australia since Tony Dodemaide and Merv Hughes. But they weren’t sharp enough to pick up that this was the first time that this had happened  with Pakistani umpires at each end! Shame on them. Asad Rauf and Aleem Dar spent most of the first hour checking the shape of the ball that McCullum was regularly spanking to the boundary.

Siddle had by this stage switched to the other end, and he soon induced Guptill to play a loose drive for the first wicket of the series. Haddin accepted the edge, and the drinks car rolled out with the score on 1/44. There was more than enough seam and swing to keep the pace bowlers entertained, and even though Clarke had lost the toss, he may have felt slightly disappointed with only one scalp to that point.

But Starc’s bounce had unsettled McCullum before the break, and he got his man soon after for Test wicket number one. Warner took the catch at point, making it a debutante double. At 2/56, the strong start had been all but squandered.

LRPL Taylor joined Williamson in the middle, and AW Greig returned for a second and more prominent spell upstairs. Lest we nod off, he screamed: “Weren’t those KFC hot spot slow motion shots FANTASTIC!”, in reference to some replays of Khwaja dropping a difficult Taylor offering. Clarke brought Lyon on refreshingly early in the session and supported him by crowding Williamson with three close fielders. The rewards were immediate, with Khawaja joyfully snapping up the bat-pad edge.

This was Greig’s cue to spruik some Pat Cummins memorabilia. Now, call me old-fashioned, but is it not slightly premature to be inducting young Cummins into the AW Greig Memorabilia Hall of Fame? I mean, he has now played fewer tests than Dean Brownlie and Doug Bracewell (and only one more than Lauren Brant). Keep an eye out for the Starc Stunner stubbie holder tomorrow arvo.

Pattinson joined the celebrations just before lunch when Taylor dragged a full ball onto leg stump. All three beginners were on the scorecard, and the Kiwis were tottering at 4/94 at the end of the first session. Clarke had reason to feel well-pleased with his bowling and field changes, and grateful for some loose shots from the Kiwi batsmen.

Things got worse for the visitors when Big Jesse Ryder slapped Starc straight to Warner at point in the first over after lunch. I had by this stage repaired to The Rose Hotel in Fitzroy to meet Almanac Anagramist Andrew (Gigs) Gigacz. My iPad conveyed two important pieces of information: NZ had blown out from $4 to $7 to win the Test, and rain clouds were heading towards the Gabba.

This looked like a job for Daniel Vettori, and out he strode. Is NZ the only country that sends their best batsmen out after all the other batsmen? Gigs pointed out that his average had increased by something like 20 points since his first 15-odd Tests – and without any negative impact on his bowling. He assumed his usual position in the rear-guard with young Brownlie, and both rode their luck as Siddle and Starc probed away. Brownlie was dropped twice in two overs, the first a sitter by Clark at first slip. He then french-cut Starc perilously close to his off-stump. Vettori prodded and paddled his way into the 40s, and then it got dark. And then it rained, just as my iPad said it would.

Stumps were called with the Kiwis on 5/176. The commentariat seemed to concur that it was Australia’s day, but I’m not so sure. Lyon extracted enough bounce and turn on day one to suggest that Vettori will be more than a handful as the game progresses. And there’s plenty of sideways movement for the pace bowlers.

The game starts half an hour earlier tomorrow morning to make up for lost time. This is either bad news for HI-5 or the Channel 9 pre-match crew. And great news either way for the rest of us.


  1. John Butler says

    Lovely way to ease us into the summer MOC.

  2. At least Tony was not spruiking his “authentic replica” memorabilia.

  3. MOC, your Hi-5 radar’s a little off.

    Lauren Brant’s not the one you want to watch. Watching Hi-5 with my niece and nephew is made bearable by the delightful Casey Burgess – well worth tuning in the hour early on Day 5 (should the test last that long, and so long as you have the TV on mute).

  4. I attended the first day’s play with my old mate Don “Braddles” Lester whom I have christened “The Walking Wisden”.If you say something to Don like “Wasn’t that a good ton that Dravid got the other day.” He will respond ; “Yes, but it wasn’t as good as the 132 he got against Sri Lanka at Colombo in the second innings in 2004, when India were 2 for 6 and Murali was turning them sideways. He saved that match” or some similar pithy observation. It always makes for an interesting day.

    Don supported your observation about Daniel Vettori by saying ” New Zealand are the only Test nation where the bottom half of the batting order makes more runs than the top half.”

    JJ Leahy

  5. Nice one, MOC, and a delightful afternoon session it was with you.

    Given the hard work he put on with the bat on the first day of Advent, it’s highly appropriate that Daniel Vettori is an anagram of I, ADVENT TOILER.

  6. Clearly you are between jobs MOC. Most enjoyable read.

    On Tony Greig: I’m surprised you’re surprised. When watching anything on Channel 9 I half-expect A W Greig’s noggin to pop up at the bottom of the screen like Dicky Knee, to spruik some framed crumb of Weet Bix which fell from Brett Lee’s breakfast table in North Adelaide.

  7. Anyone read Malcolm Knox’s report in The Age? His comments on SIddle are unbelievable. I thought he was clearly our best bowler, 4kms quicker than the others, going at less than 2 an over, steady and straight when runs were leaking at the other end. Contrary to Knox’s view, his wicket ball was a good one, seaming away sharply. Not sure what he has to do to get rid of the knockers.

    Litza – is Casey Burgess the blonde one? Is she related to Ray Burgess?

    Gigs – give us an anagram of Casey Burgess.

    Harms – not surprised. Just want him to go away forever.

  8. MOC

    For the most part, she’s blonde, although she was a brunette there for a while. Either way, she’s stunning.

    And Gigs, don’t you go anywhere near ‘GUY SEES CRABS’!

  9. MOC, I don’t think I can top Litza’s anagram, except maybe phonetically with BE SECSY, SUGAR.

  10. John Butler says

    MOC, concur with you re the comments on Siddle.

    He started steady rather than fiery, but maintained a line when the youngsters sprayed it a little.

    That was no half volley that got Guptill, even if it was a loose shot.

    Hard to fathom what Knox is on about.

  11. David Downer says

    With a homage to cricket initials, top read MOLMOC (Man of Leisure Matt O’Connor)

    Did Ch9 roll out the new vat of shitty Vodafone, KFC and Ford ads yesterday? Have their marketing angles been “re-calibrated” post-Argus?

  12. John Butler says

    Steady as she goes on that front DD.

  13. DD – there was a golden moment yesterday after over number 15 when they FORGOT to put an ad on. There was glorious silence (as the commentators clearly presumed there WAS an ad on) as we watched the batsman mark out his guard and the fieldsmen amble into position. It was like watching Foxtel. But clearly this meant they were one precious ad behind, which they tried to rectify immediately on the fall of McCullum’s wicket. The ball had barely lodged in Warner’s hands before they darted off to the Woman in the Red Dress ad. Which they then aborted half way through to return to McCullum walking off and a proper replay of the dismissal. You can bet your life someone has been “boned” for those cockups.

    NZ into $4.50 ($5 on Betfair). Hope you snapped up the $7.

  14. Litza / MOC
    Kathleen De Leon will always be my favourite Hi-5er.

  15. Re Day 1:
    I liked the look of N Lyon. It is easily forgotten among all the pace-bowling hullabullloo just how
    inexperienced he is.
    It is worrying, however, when Mr Cricket is turned to so readily in the search for a breakthrough.
    Catches win matches, Mr Clark.
    P Siddle has really tightened up of late. He is never going to run through batting orders, but he
    was his honest old self yesterday. M Knox was very harsh (but is from NSW, after all).

  16. Good call on Lyon, Smoke. Deserved those late wickets.

    Not surprised Knox from NSW. He’s been round for donkeys, hasn’t he?

  17. Great stuff MOC. Made me laugh more than Phil Hughes batting ‘technique’ (very high praise).
    Personally I don’t understand all this stuff about Channel 9 commentators. I always have the sound on mute and the CD player on (keeps the Avenging Eagle off my back – not a cricket lover).
    Have had Dusty Springfield doing the honours for the first session today. “I close my eyes and count to 10” is much more eloquent than anything Greig, Healy, Nicholas et al could come up with.
    “Is Son of a Preacher Man” Harmsy’s life story. Is that how he and the Handicapper met? How does she look in the blonde wig, boots and smock dress?

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