Cricket: What if they had a game and nobody came?

If you’re asking the above question, there’s a fair chance that you’re at a Sheffield Shield match.

Yours truly was moved to venture down to the Big Smoke to watch day one of the Victoria v South Australia Shield clash. This decision was mainly prompted by a desire to see Brad Hodge’s MCG Shield swansong. It quickly became apparent this wasn’t a populist decision.

Space in the car park wasn’t exactly at a premium. Although, in true Aussie sheep-dog tradition, an attendant was meticulously arranging cars into tight formation. In keeping with economic rationalist theory, only one window was selling tickets, which allowed the twenty or so of us the cosy convenience of forming an orderly queue.

While we’re on traditions, it was nice to see some are eternal. Kids are always after a lurk; in this case the young chap in front of me agonised over having to pay $5 instead of $2, in lieu of a concession card. He appeared oblivious to the irony that he had at least $10 worth of glop in his meticulously sculptured hair.

Likewise, the ticket-seller seemed oblivious to the fact that the young chap would never have had need to bother a razor blade; no card, no concession. He was upholding another proud MCG tradition. Keeping in the spirit, the woman behind me seemed impervious to the humour of the predicament.

Eventually, negotiations were terminated, and entry achieved.

On an overcast morning, the empty concrete caverns of the ‘G take on a slightly daunting aspect. This quickly recedes however, when you realise that respite from the encroaching silly season is on offer. In a week where Tiger Woods provided compelling evidence that men can multi-task, and when the Liberal Party discovered the ability to travel back in time, it was therapeutic to sit back amongst the pigeons and discard worldly concerns.

Make that the pigeons and the Lilydale HS kids — a late arriving contingent that boosted visible numbers to around 250.

Hopes of seeing Hodgie bat were dashed when Cam White decided to send the Redbacks in. Given he was missing his first four opening bowling options, for various reasons, this seemed, in the words of Sir Humphrey Appleby, to be a “bold decision indeed, Minister”.

Thus it transpired, as the brotherly opening combination of Pattinsons failed to gain a breakthrough. Darren extracted some hostile bounce for a short while. Nineteen year old debutant James was tidy without causing undue concern to the batsmen. Redback openers Smith and Harris were concentrating on consolidation, not flair.

Soon enough, Andrew McDonald took up residence at the southern stand end, where he remained for the duration of the session. A couple of big LBW shouts produced no result. The only real excitement occurred when Bryce McGain couldn’t find a length in his first over- Harris dispatching three long-hops to the point boundary.

It came as a surprise when, after 90 minutes, Harris holed out to point off Big Unit John Hastings. Hastings is an obvious devotee of the old fast bowlers creed: when in doubt bang it in. With the arrival of Victorian ex-pat Klinger, he pursued said creed with gusto. Klinger’s presence even seemed to stir the usually affable McDonald. The ex-pat survived a massive appeal on nought, before Hodgie made his only notable contribution by grassing a difficult chance to allow his opening run.

Lunch was reached at a sedate 1-74, and play didn’t hasten much afterwards. Klinger attached himself to the crease like a barnacle, whilst Smith only hit out on occasion. McDonald returned at the Member’s end, and Smith immediately obliged by holing out to mid-on, ending a patient 61.

Cosgrove showed more positive signs of intent, before another Melbourne tradition intervened. At 2.45pm the wind turned violently southern, and by 2.55 it was raining.

As the lights now shone against a blackening sky, that was pretty much it. Much later, they returned briefly to extend the score to 2-161 before light ended proceedings for the day.

In the intervening hours, maybe Hodge and Cosgrove discussed what might have been in other realms, but your correspondent had decided to tackle the Christmas shopping. I can vouch there was no respite there.

About John Butler

John Butler has fled the World's Most Liveable Car Park and now breathes the rarefied air of the Ballarat Plateau. For his sins, he has passed his 40th year as a Carlton member.

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