First Test, Day 2: Gabba Test not quite the same when you’re working in Canberra

by John Harms

I’m always at this Gabba Test. Mainly because I haven’t had a job since 1991, when the West Indies still ruled the earth and had blokes who could bowl quicker than any radar gun said they could – or says this current crop can.

But life moves on. And I start the day at 5/322 sitting at my desk at Manning Clark House, preparing an email newsletter about events at the House. As the Australians graft, I think of ways of making a night hearing from a literature professor about the letters of Marjorie Barnard interesting. (They’re not just any letters – they’re Marjorie’s letters to Nettie Palmer.)

Two weeks ago we had an hour and a half on an artist from The Kimberley who carves narrative images in boab nuts.

As Glenn Mitchell takes the microphone I head out to boil the jug.

Each batsman has added a few during the first day, but no-one has gone beyond the industrial process that is Australian batsmanship these days.

In fact nothing about the first session matters much. You just know that if Australia keep occupying the crease they will have 500 on the board by tea. Nothing about the second session matters much either, except Ricky Ponting’s decision to declare earlier than expected.

Makes you look into your cup of tea and remember the good old days. I recall one West Indies summer when the day started with the Australians knocking over a Haynes and a Greeneidge or two, observed over a plate of ginger bugs, followed by rump steak, and many reds, and finished with Clive Lloyd and Richie Richardson landing the ball all around me as I sat on those steps next to the old commentary box at the Vulture St end.

I was in that mellow Queensland state where that didn’t seem unusual at all; as if everyone at the ground had three sixes land within a few metres of them at some point throughout the day. The same state that most of those who used to frequent the Don Tallon Bar were in, back in the days when you could only get in if you looked like Mr Fourex.

Chris Gayle breathed life into the game but you knew it wouldn’t last. He at least took batting from industrial process to hit and giggle which didn’t surprise anyone who remembered his comments on the worth of Test cricket. I suppose that’s his prerogative though. You can play Test cricket like it’s 20/20. But the converse ain’t true.

He played a couple of shots straight from the West Indian text book, notably a jab behind square off a swiveling back foot.

By this stage I had sent the newsletter, but I wanted to add to it something about culture and performance on the sportsfield. Because cricket doesn’t matter unless it matters. And the old motif of survival which applied to so many years of cricket hasn’t applied at the Gabba in 2009. Mainly because the Australians’ survival instinct was never required during their innings, and the West Indies batsmen weren’t fighting to the death.

Gayle was enough to get me to the TV. He smashed them, and then capitulated. And so a few wickets fell on a wicket which was giving some assistance to the bowlers, but not a lot. Johnson looked dangerous when he kept the ball up. Hilfenhaus looked like he had good control. But the batsmen just didn’t look up to it. Even Shane Watson snagged  a wicket.

I went home. It was odd not to be sunburnt and three parts full of expensive beer and looking for a steak and a red in the Lord Stanley Hotel.

Not sure about this work caper.

About John Harms

JTH is a writer, publisher, speaker, historian. He is publisher and contributing editor of The Footy Almanac and He has written columns and features for numerous publications. His books include Confessions of a Thirteenth Man, Memoirs of a Mug Punter, Loose Men Everywhere, Play On, The Pearl: Steve Renouf's Story and Life As I Know It (with Michelle Payne). He appears (appeared?) on ABCTV's Offsiders. He can be contacted [email protected] He is married to The Handicapper and has three school-age kids - Theo, Anna, Evie. He might not be the worst putter in the world but he's in the worst four. His ambition was to lunch for Australia but it clashed with his other ambition - to shoot his age.


  1. Couldn’t agree more John, I’m a bit iffy on this work caper myself. Particular when we have weather like today

  2. JTH and Tim,

    Thanks for livening up what looks from a distance (Vienna) to be a pretty pedestrian test match.

    It’s fair to say there is more comment here over a bratwurst and gluhwein about the future of jumps racing than this summer’s test cricket.

    Keep the gold coming.

  3. Pamela Sherpa says

    ‘The industrial process’ of Australia’s batting -Very apt description.
    I recall seeing the flair and power of Viv Richards and the brilliance of Greenidge, Haynes, Lloyd and co. So what has caused the decline in standard in the West Indies or has the rest of the world caught on and caught up? I heard one commentator describing it as ‘An accident of birth’ Just fortunate that a bunch of gifted players were born around the same time.

  4. Thanks Peter, pedestrian sums it up nicely certainly not one that will be remembered for the ages in my house at this point in time.

    As an aside I am heading to Vienna in mid January for a few days, as a local what would you recommend to see or do?

  5. Steve Healy says

    Great piece John,

    Doesn’t your work in the age count as a job?

    I agree with the thing about 20/20 matches, test cricket IS cricket. 20/20 isn’t

  6. Great to hear someone your age saying that, Steve. Keep spreading the word.

  7. Tim,

    I have been to Wien about 6 times. Cracking city. Will be cold in Jan and heaps of snow likely.
    Great sightseeing in and around the Inner Ring. St Stephen’s Cathedral etc.
    Night markets at Rathausplatz and the Museums Quartier. Try the local food and drink there.
    Visit Schonbrunn Palace.
    Near the Licheinstein Museum, there is a restaurant called the Centimetre. World’s biggest schnitzels.
    If opera is your thing, go to the Staatsopera.
    Plenty of good eating places. Look for about 10-20 euro mains.

    Hope that helps,


  8. Thanks Peter that is brilliant. Centimetre sounds particularly good. Worlds biggest schnitzel, I like a challenge!

  9. I’m currently spreading the word.

    Test is the best

    Gigs, did you get my day 3 report?

  10. Tim and PF

    Imagine if Dennis Cometti went to Centimetre.

    I believe fishing for glow-in-the-dark trout in the Danube is the rage.

    There should be a word for the mega-schnitzel.

    The mega-steak is known as the Stump-rump in Port Fairy. 900g. Served on a separate plate from the chips and veges. The Handicapper and I watched a family of four devour one each on a friday night there. It was a mouth-open experience – we just sat and stared for about 20 minutes. I think they were plants of the Port Fairy tourist authority.


  11. Steve, I do have your day three report. It will be up shortly.

  12. John,

    The beloved and I had steaks (not the mega variety) at that Port Fairy pub a couple of weeks ago. Apparently it’s the oldest continuously licensed pub in Victoria – 165 years and counting. There were even a couple of horses tethered outside on the night we were there. Perhaps there’s something to be said for offering counter meals half the size of a cow.

    By the way there’s a reasonable schnitzel place in Dickson, Canberra. You can even sit in an old Melbourne tram and reminisce about matters Victorian, including the mighty Cats. I suspect though that Centimetre in Vienna might have it covered for perfection, one way and another.

  13. JTH,
    That is a brilliant idea. Some potential names that spring to mind:

    Das Widowmaker (The Widowmaker)
    Das Clogger(The Clogger)
    Das Kleine (The Little One)
    Stolz von Wien (Pride of Vienna)

    Regardless of the name, I look forward to enjoying it with a glass boot of the finest local ale.

    Burkie, I know the place you’re talking about, I don’t mind it at all. The best one I have found here is the Lord Nelson served at The Durham in Kingston. The Lord Nelson is a big chicken schnitzel topped with avocado, nz mussels, prawns & occy in creamy garlic white wine sauce served with chips & salad or mash & vegies. Outstanding.

    Best of all, it and all other Schnitzels are a tenner on Sundays.

  14. Peter Flynn says

    Tim (and others),

    Many emerging threads.

    Love the Stump in Port Fairy. Many boozy Sunday afternoons during the Folk Festival as a youngin. The Port Fairy Golf Course is a cracker.

    Austrian beers: Can’t go wrong with Trumer Pils, Ottakringer, Gosser, Zipfer, Stiegl, Zwickl etc.

    Love the Cometti quip and schnitzel names.

    I would have loved to have gone to the Vienna trots (Wiener Trabrenn Verein) this time in but couldn’t.

    I went to the Copenhagen trots (Charlottenlund) one wet Sunday a few years ago. An absolute classic. Bought the form guide in Danish and backed a few winners at odds. Between the 6th and 7th races, the Monty Python song ‘Always Look on the Bright Side’ was played over the loud speakers. Priceless. The tote ladies wanted to know if I knew Mary. Of course I said yes.

  15. PF

    Vienna trots? You’d think they’d have been mentioned in Sound of Music?

    An Almanac trots page has much merit.

    Personally I like the Kapunda trots (circum = 636m) which hosts the New Years day meeting where the feature is The Marathon – 3900m or six laps of the track.

    Had the second stanza of my bucks day at the Albion Park trots. (Shield final – trots – cards).


  16. Flynnie – Copenhagen trots sounds magnificent. I can imagine the Danish commentary! Maybe at the Climate Change junket a few world leaders might dress in a long rain coat, false beard and big black hat and slink down to the trots for a bit of a punt. Hope they are not held at night, the carbon footprint would be intolerable.

    This is the first time in my memory where I have to say that federal politics is more interesting than the cricket – sad but true.

  17. Peter Flynn says

    There is potential for an interesting thread on the quirkiest sporting events or sporting venues anybody has ever attended.

    The Danish Ray Benson was quite an interesting commentator.
    Most of the horses were English names.
    However the connecting statements, colour and oomph were all in Danish.
    I remember Danish Ray would start very low key and reach his crescendo in the main straight.
    By the end of the day, I thought I could tell when he said ‘it’ll keep’ in Danish.

    The Tote ladies were glamours.

  18. Kapunda trots are good John, but nothing can beat the Victor Harbor trots, I had my only winner as an owner there when my super star trotter Olympic Glory won, the prize as I recall was $350.00, I never saw my 20%, says it all really!
    The Windies during the late ’70’s in Australia, WAS cricket as far as I am concered, have never really taken much notice since.

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