Australia v New Zealand: openings, World Cups, pink balls, The Gabba

27 October 2015

A high-quality opening sets a scene. It gets you in.
“All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”
Leo Tolstoy: Anna Karenina (1878)

When the correct note is struck immediately there’s no denying your sense of time and place. Your sense of wonder.
“If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.”
J.D Salinger: The Catcher In The Rye (1951)

When done well, it’s as true of music as it is of literature.

“Had a scratch only you could itch underneath that Glebe Point bridge,
And now every boy in a knitted vest has got some precedent.”

You Am I: Purple Sneakers

 

It’s true of all good stories.
“I took a sip.
‘He’s trying to kill me,’ I thought (politely) to myself.
I took another sip.
‘Yep, he is.’ “
Mickey Randall: Welcome to Bundaberg; from Long Bombs to Snake, Edition #1

 

And a Test series, a summer, is nothing if not a story.
Page 1, paragraph 1, sentence 1: The Gabba.

==
The Woolloongabba Oval was my only place of familiarity when we arrived in Brisbane on a family holiday. I was 14 years old. It was my only reference point. We’d driven up from Melbourne, stopping for two nights (West Wyalong, Tamworth). Three kids in the back, each of us with a Walkman. Discovering the many and varied ways people go about their lives. Ordering a half-and-half pizza in West Wyalong, for instance (half Hawaiian, half The Lot), got us half of all of the combined ingredients, spread across the entire base. Anarchy.

Of course we visited the ‘Gabba. There was no play on. But I sat in the Alderman Clem Jones stand, behind the dog track. There were palm trees. It was brilliant. I had no feeling for Stanley Street, nor Vulture Street, but imagined Richie describing the (imaginary) action. Imagined the West Indies. AB. I was here.

This was it.
The Gabba.
This was the tied Test.
The greyhound track.
Terry Alderman’s nickname.
Richie Richardson smashing Australia to all parts.
Swing and bounce.

It was different.
It looked different.
It felt different.
I felt a bit Mexican.

==

In this year of 2015, at the Gabba, Australia will face New Zealand.

Australia v New Zealand.

Whenever opportunity arises, Australians like to talk about Australia’s sporting prowess in relation to its meagre population. “We’re punching above our weight,” is the cry of the patriot and of the politician. And while it’s true that more Olympic medals live in Australia than would be expected based on population figures alone, the haul closely correlates with expenditure per medal.
None of that stops the patriot sounding off about success out of proportion to a population size of 23 million.
And where does this leave our admiration for New Zealand?
New Zealand (population 4.4 million).

Australia v New Zealand

Incredibly, this coming weekend will see the third sport in 2015, in which a World Cup final has been played as Australia v New Zealand. We’ve seen 50 over cricket, netball and now rugby World Cups decided between these two countries.

Considering that the population of Greater Melbourne is 4.1 million, New Zealand’s results on the World stage are exceptional.

==

This New Zealand cricket team is the complete package. It’s not only in 50 over cricket that they shine. Before Australia arrived in England for the Ashes, New Zealand split a two-Test series there.

1st Test, Lord’s: England won by 124 runs
England 389 (JE Root 98, BA Stokes 94, TA Boult 4/79)
New Zealand 523 (KS Williamson 132, MJ Guptill 70, SCJ Broad 3/77)
England 478 (AN Cook 162, BA Stokes 101, TA Boult 5/85)
New Zealand 220 [target 345] (CJ Anderson 67, BJ Watling 59, SCJ Broad 3/50)

2nd Test, Headingley: New Zealand won by 199 runs
New Zealand 350 (L Ronchi 88, TWM Latham 84, SCJ Broad 5/109)
England 350 (A Lyth 107, AN Cook 75, TG Southee 4/83)
New Zealand 8d/454 (BJ Watling 120, MJ Guptill 70, MA Wood 3/97)
England 255 [target 455] (JC Buttler 73, AN Cook 56, KS Williamson 3/15, MD Craig 3/73)

There were many highlights, mostly around tactics and attitude to the game at crucial junctures. Opting to attack. Resilience in the face of difficulty.

==

Cricket at the Gabba has always evoked a unique feeling, a rough-and-ready cockiness, a shorts-and-thongs kind of ‘Owarrya. It brings to mind a particular brand of Australian. Now that the palm trees are gone, the dog track too, and the whole thing has been enclosed by a homogeneous soul-less grandstand, the playing conditions align less with the northern Australian sense of style.

And yet the very name Gabba still brings with it the feeling of being on the frontier of the colony. Of standing in a land keeping a tenuous and limited grasp on the ways of polite society. Brisbane herself the self-confident, brash, graceless, boorish, adventurous, teenager of the Australian capital cities.

It’s a place of humidity and abrupt speech; heat and getting on with it.

Touring teams routinely struggle in Brisbane.
Bounce
Swing
Storm
Hail
Palm trees
Bundy ads
DM Jones v England in a 50 over game
Thongs
Heat
Chris Matthews’ wides
Steve Harmison’s delivery
N Hussain’s decision
The Courier-Mail v SCJ Broad
MJ Clarke’s sledge
DH Lehmann’s sledge
XXXX signs
AB
CJ McDermott
Zinc cream
Garner, Marshall, Holding, Walsh
PM Siddle’s hat-trick
RT Ponting v South Africa
AN Cook v Australia

All (usually) part of setting up a series. Setting up an approach, at least.

==

The ball swings in humid Brisbane. And New Zealand bowl swing. The Australian batting order has never dealt successfully with a laterally moving ball. It swings in Perth, too.
And Adelaide, batsman-friendly Adelaide, will controversially be the venue for cricket’s first ever day/night Test. To be played with a pink ball. A pink ball!? If this is anything like the white ball (with red food dye added), the ball will swing in Adelaide, into the bargain.

New Zealand bat aggressively. They field aggressively.

This looms as an attractive series.

The pink ball is largely an unknown factor. And in this age of control, control, control, the ball itself plays as a wild card. AC Voges is just the latest to voice concerns about the ball.

And to be fair, it’s hard to envisage a more fundamental aspect of the game of cricket than the cricket ball, with its various states of deteriorating condition, being altered on a seemingly wholesale basis. Tactics have developed around the balance of a game and the state of the ball; around how many overs are due before the new ball can be taken; around weather conditions that will affect the ball, around team composition, pitches and how they will react to the ball.

Un-knowing all that is known about the red ball, is impossible. Rapidly learning all that the pink ball is, and recognising it as a new entity, to which the old laws do not apply, will be necessary. Perhaps adaptable thinking and quick learning will be rewarded in Adelaide.

But first there’s the Gabba.

==

It’s 1989. Year 9. Exams are over, results are out. So why are we still at school?
The sky is blue, the clouds are white, but here we are stuck after recess in double Music. It’s theory today. Something about crotchets. But that’s no concern of ours. I’m metaphorically wearing a knitted vest, sitting next to Crazy; centre half back for the Intermediate Footy team, man of few words, cricketer, mathematician. Between us, we agreed yesterday that we couldn’t possibly miss the first ball of the Gabba Test. A little Sanyo transistor radio, sensitively tuned via a dial, placed unhelpfully next to an identical dial controlling volume (‘careful’), lies in my school bag. We surreptitiously cover a headphone ear-piece each, listening both to the miracle of demi semi quavers and to Tim Lane from Brisbane. Who said males couldn’t multi-task?

The opening over is uneventful.
But we’re now a part of summer.
We’re invested.

Twenty-six years later, listening to the first over of the first Test is a ritual.
Sometimes circumstances deny me the pleasure. But I always try. I hope to be listening to events at the Gabba next week. Game on. Play.

 

 “There was no possibility of taking a walk that day.”
Charlotte Brontë: Jane Eyre (1847)

 

==

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About David Wilson

Hit for a towering 6 by Mike Gatting at the Banyule Cricket Club, December 2002, theatrically attempting to reproduce the SK Warne delivery. The ball is yet to land. @e_regnans

Comments

  1. Peter Warrington says:

    Martin Crowe, Yallop and Hughes after 6-26. Hughes the next year stifling Roberts. Hadlee. Thommo 41 years ago. Always picking Terry Jenner.

    I think this batting lineup will do ok if it wobbles. Nickers like Smarsh and Voges need to be dispensed with however. Hazlewood to get 10 for the match

  2. SK Warne got them to hop around there in Brisbane, too.

  3. Clive Lloyd and the Master Blaster getting big hundreds on the same day, what a day!

  4. E.regnans says:

    Russell Jackson’s piece in the Guardian today highlights growing tension over the pink ball…
    http://www.theguardian.com/sport/blog/2015/oct/27/to-see-or-not-to-see-australian-cricket-divided-over-pink-ball-test

  5. Dave Brown says:

    Yep, the transistor is waiting its turn in a spot by the office window. Most of the best views in Adelaide are side on – tracking the pink ball will be nigh on impossible. Watching at the ground will be a study in reactions more than it usually is.

  6. E.regnans says:

    Ahh, at least you won’t be fielding at gully, D Brown.
    (Not that that I’ve heard – sorry).

    I understand this is driven by a desire to get Test cricket on prime time TV in the eastern states.
    But the audience may dry up if the cricket is sub-standard.

    Interesting times of carts and horses.
    Interesting times of potentially new tactics being deployed.

  7. Malcolm Ashwood says:

    Thanks OBP a fascinating summer awaits with the black caps well and truly favourites.Years ago there was night shield cricket played in Adelaide with a orange ball it was easy to pick up but unfortunately did not last 2 years ago the pink ball was far harder to pick up with a couple of umpire howlers deciding the game with Botha being reported the pink ball will be interesting to say the least

  8. Heading to Adelaide for the first two days, e.r.
    Reports that spectators will be able to see the ball may be greatly exaggerated.

  9. actually 77-8 against India is one of my favourite memories. almost school holidays end of year 7. the first test in the PAcker era. we still had Thommo. winning after being 5-50 and 3-7. Listening to Hurst and Thommo throw the bat in proper tail-end style. think this was the same weekend as the Davis Cup final against Italy? Driving to Scotland Island for the Tandy Christmas party. Peter Toohey. India almost chasing 3-50. My new hero Craig Serjeant getting a pair. Vengsarkar’s cap falling on his wicket, Joe Solomon where Joe had his best moment. Mohinder Amarnath taking the new ball and India only picking 3 spinners. Australia with a new leggie and Simmo. Truly great memories.

  10. yes Davis Cup final was 2-4 Dec

  11. Thanks OBP. Do you know much about the pink trials and the talk of abandoning the Test, or rescheduling? Is it all hot air?

    Smokie – would love to get to Adelaide for a Test. Won’t be this year.

    PeterW – Brilliant recall. Brilliant examples of personal circumstances tying together with a wider event. Life.

  12. Malcolm Ashwood says:

    OBP while I am far from convinced re the pink ball it would take the shield game starting tomorrow to be a disaster for it to be changed ( Smokie what are you up to re lunch before day 1 ? )

  13. David- great piece. Because the AFL has cannibalised our sporting calendar I’m always naively surprised when the opening test comes around.

    The summer’s opening delivery is much more important than winter’s first bounce. It’s a wonderful moment.

    Catcher in the Rye and You Am I. I’m very sure Holden and Tim would get on well.

    Thanks.

  14. E.regnans says:

    G’day Mickey – thanks a lot.
    Yep the AFL is crafty with its Trade Period and its leaking of fixtures and its official launch of fixtures and whatnot.

    Very much looking forward to this series.

    It remains a life ambition to dedicate a summer to Test cricket.
    Growing up, I had hoped that it might be as a player. But given that the selectors have lost my phone number (or I’m being overlooked?, it will now need to be as a spectator. One day.

    Good call on H Caulfield and T Rogers. That’s a fine leap of imagination.

  15. Luke Reynolds says:

    Can’t remember looking forward to an Australia v NZ Test series as much as this one.
    We use Kookaburra balls in Australia, Dukes in the UK and SG in India. The pink ball is just another variety. Bring on Day/Night Test cricket, hopefully it will give the long form a huge boost.
    Saw You Am I in Geelong on Thursday night. Wow. Great gig. Sadly no ‘Purple Sneakers’ though. But not a flat spot in the 2 hour gig. T.Rogers the ultimate frontman.

  16. Is Travis Dean along term prospect for Australia ? The cricketing bulldogs have produced a fair few bowlers to have pulled on the baggy green, with Gaunt, Hurst, Hughes, Hastings and Dodemaide amongst those in in their ranks. Batting, that’s a different ball game. Les Joslin and Ken Eastwood, both played A test when I was in short pants. Even at state level they have been under represented, Ron Nicholls in 74-75 the last to platy at state level. Hope Travis Dean can surpass his predecessors, going on to a great career.

    Glen!

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