Australia v New Zealand – Gabba Test, Day 4: Dispatch from (not so) Sunny Brisbane

I arrive home early Sunday morning and find the apartment strewn with Kiwi bodies. My housemate, from the land of the long white cloud, had told me she was having visitors from the homeland over for the weekend but I didn’t quite expect the carnage that I walked into with people passed out on every spare inch of floor available. Given that my home was a bombsite, and despite the threat of ordinary weather throughout the day, I dropped my bag off, turned tail back out the front door and headed for the Gabba.

I arrived at the ticket line shortly after ten o’clock and was happy to look to the skies above and see blankets of non-threatening cloud hanging in the air. Sure, it wasn’t a typically perfect Queensland day but it also didn’t look like it was about to drop three inches of rain in the next few hours and the clouds could only help the bowlers to achieve some extra swing.

I became less happy looking at the sky thirty minutes later, when I was still lined up to buy a ticket. This Ticketek mob are serious when they state on the bottom of the price list outside each window: “Buy your tickets online and save time and money!” It’s clear that their business model is in no way focused towards the walk up punter.

When I’d finally settled into my seat with a beer and the ABC broadcast in my ear I was brought up to speed on the Burns dropped catch/ missed chance. It brought to mind a question that has been raised quite often in circles that I travel in about this tradition of having “the rookie” don the helmet and field in the least enviable position on the field. In an era of hyper-professionalism, isn’t it bizarre that one of the most important catching positions is still often shunted to the greenest member of the team? Shouldn’t this position be one where a specific skillset is honed to perfection rather than one where arguably the most nervous, out of their depth, member of the team is placed behind the grill?

Still, if ever there is a sport where odd traditions pervade, it is cricket.

Throughout the first session of play the New Zealand openers are stoic and were amply aided in their mission by some pretty ordinary line and length bowling from Australian quicks. For most of the morning the big men tearing in were about as threatening as the supposed bad weather.

Of interest to me was the body language of the Australians throughout the first session. There were a couple of instances when, as part of the exercise of returning the ball back to the bowler for the next delivery, the cherry was thrown in the direction of an Aussie player who was distracted or not paying attention. The way the Australians went about their work was lackadaisical and when the ball looped into Mitchell Johnson’s shoulder while he was daydreaming about having tomorrow off, he just shrugged and laughed it off. Warehouse cricket.

As has been the case recently, the Aussie bowling attack found a much-needed wicket from the left hand of Mitchell Starc. But just when it seemed that the Australians had found some aggression and intent, the weather did the same and when the radar spooked the groundsmen, the umps upped stumps and the players marched off for an early lunch.

While the rain teemed down I pored over the crossword in Rupert’s Sunday Rag, which had been handed out as a freebie at the gates to every man, woman and child on the way in. It seemed that the setter had enjoyed the last three day’s dominance by the Aussies, and the successes of the Queenslanders within the ranks, as the cricket-inspired clues were abundant.

Following the rain and the extended lunch break the sun broke through. Even up in the stands you could feel the steam being exhaled out of the turf below. The Australian quicks come out bowling largely the same tosh as the first session and it’s difficult to understand if it’s strategy or poor control that has resulted in so much short, wide stuff. This isn’t a typical Gabba pitch and I get the impression that deliveries on a full-length would be preferable, especially in a circumstance where the En Zeds have no reason to play anything not threatening to hit the stumps.

Nathan Lyon provides a key breakthrough when he catches Guptill’s edge and, in truth, has looked the bowler most likely today. Mitch Marsh pushes a few past the outside edges, Johnson steams in and Starc fires them down but for the majority it is Lyon, capable of extracting some spin from the pitch, who appears the most threatening.

On reflection, the highlight of the day was watching Kane Williamson. Much has been written about this young man recently but he does look a class above his compatriots and he absolutely had his way with the Australian bowlers until a contentious LBW decision off Lyon sees him depart for the sheds.

After a little more of Ross Taylor attempting to slog his way back into form, the players head to the sheds for tea. They reappear for an instant only to return to the dressing rooms without a ball bowled in anger when the skies open up once more. I take this as my cue to leave the ground, with rain falling, dark clouds as far as I can see and bad light sure to present challenges of its own.

On my way home I keep an ear out on the radio to see if play will return but the notorious darkness of Queensland franks my earlier decision to leave. When I get back to the apartment my Kiwi visitors, like their cricketing counterparts, appear far more alive than they did at 10am today. And as they say: where there are signs of life, there are signs of hope.

While my gut tells me that the Aussies have done enough, tomorrow will be an interesting day.

New Zealand finished 3/ 142 at stumps chasing 503.

Comments

  1. Malcolm Ashwood says:

    Thanks Brin ( are you related to Bob Paulsen former Qld leggie ? ) I entirely agree with you short leg is a specialist possession it is a bewildering and bizarre cricket tradition to make a new player field there.
    Greg Blewett as fielding coach ( and a bloody good short leg fielder himself) has his work cut out with
    Burns and Kwarja both not natural fielders and to a slightly less extent,Voges.A poor decision re Williamson should have been benefit of the doubt.we wait and see how much fight the kiwis will show on the last day

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