Second Test – Day 1: Warner, Warner, Cow Corner!

Cows at Strathmerton look for one of David Warner’s balls smashed out of Adelaide Oval

I love the Grandstand team. I love them most when I’m in the car and home is 2 ½ hours away. For that reason I suspect I’ll always have a soft spot for David Warner. The two started a memorable partnership on Thursday just as I left a dairy farm at Strathmerton, 230km north of Melbourne.

I turned on the radio as I drove through the farm gate. All I knew before this was from a glimpse of the Cricket Australia app on my iPhone while cow cockies around me heard how modifications to their dairy could cut $1300 from their power bill.

The dozen in attendance wondered whether it was worth their effort; I wondered what the score was. My phone told me Australia had put on 107 runs, which was good. It told me South Africa had taken 3 wickets, which wasn’t so good. It looked like Australia couldn’t capitalise on a strong finish to the first test.

And now I have a long, straight drive home, but I have company in Henry Lawson and Drew Morphett. And they are telling me a cracking yarn about Dave Warner: about how he is hitting the ball into the construction areas of Adelaide Oval for fun; how umpire Billy Bowden and Graeme Smith are discussing the best replacement ball; and how Imran Tahir looks rattled.

It’s great fun and it’s insightful, Morphett and Lawson two of the best going around.

The Grandstand team still loves getting a text message from farmers harvesting wheat or baling hay across the country. And these farmers love the Grandstand team as Test coverage for 8 hours a day makes a huge dent in the 16-hours spent in the tractor.

There are hundreds and hundreds of large round bales of golden hay gracing the countryside. The dairy farmers have been blessed with another good season (so far) – their third in a row after a decade of drought. Milk prices aren’t where they should be but home grown feed will help their bottom line. I drive through Katunga on my way to the Goulburn Valley Highway.

Warner is racing to his century. He will polarise opinion until the end of his career. He’s definitely good for test cricket, and not just because of his powerful hitting.

If Warner smashes a century on the first day of a test, he puts Australia in a commanding position with four days remaining. He vastly improves the odds of a result, which is good for cricket. Rather than a team constructing 500 over the course of two days, Warner helps them compile 500 in a day and a half (or less).

His knockers will say an opener should take the shine off the ball and I would suggest smashing it repeatedly into a construction site does just that. His form before this match of one half-century from 10 innings also gives his detractors plenty of ammunition, which leads to healthy debate, which is good for cricket.

Morphett tells me Clarke is giving Warner a talk with the opener on 119. A triple century is there for him, Morphett says. Warner is out next ball.

The changing narrative of Test cricket cannot possibly be replicated in other forms of the game, which is why it holds such a special place for many. South Africa took the edge today with three wickets in 3 overs, Australia in all sorts at 3/55.

Warner and Clarke put on 155 in record time but when Warner falls the home team is still only 4/210. Clarke survives a video review soon after – if the decision went against him, the game was back in South Africa’s favour. It didn’t, and Hussey and Clarke go onto make them pay on a track as flat as this Goulburn Valley Highway.

Welcome to Wunghnu

I stop at Wunghnu (pronounced One Ewe) for coffee at the 1 U (pronounced One Ewe) Cafe. Like many country cafes that style themselves on Melbourne cafes, they neglect somewhat crucial elements like good coffee and good service.

I order a long black. I’m clearly not welcome. My decision to stop and offer money in return for goods has offended the young girl behind the counter. I make the decision to abandon small talk and any request for food. Both would be rewarded with further expressions of disdain. Best to move on.

I turn the ignition and am soon steering my car onto Doyles Road. I think of the good brothers and sisters of the Almanac fraternity. Doyles Road and the ABC are a natural fit, unlike the media buffoons of commercial radio.

I take the bypass around Shepparton. Clarke and Mr.Cricket continue where Warner left off. Nobody can understand why Steyn is not bowling, and the treatment of Imran Tahir elicits sympathy from the commentary box. The attack on Graeme Smith’s captaincy is slowly building momentum.

Clarke is gathering a fair portion of runs through third slip. He would have been caught at least twice if there was someone there. I smile. I have gathered most of my runs in an unspectacular career with edges from the bat over slip for 4. My respect and admiration for Clarke continues to grow today.

I am reminded of why radio commentary is so special. I have no idea what’s going on in Adelaide. I am completely reliant on the ability of the commentators, unlike TV, where I can watch the game unfolding myself.

I thought Clarke was bowled on 98. Drew Morphett thought he was out, so I did too. A split second later I was told although Clarke had pushed onto his back foot and left his stumps completely exposed to a skidding ball, he hit it very late for four. Morphett couldn’t relate Clarke’s move as quickly as the captain’s reflexes, leaving us all initially disappointed, then surprisingly elated.

Everybody wants a piece: Entrance to Nagambie – Birthplace of Black Caviar

I drive through Nagambie on auto pilot. The bowlers have worked their way back into the game and the contagious excitement of Warner and Clarke in full flight has gone. A familiar colour scheme of black spots on salmon catches my eye. I am informed on the town sign that Nagambie is the birthplace of Black Caviar. I think of fellow Knacker, David Downer; whether he knows this fact, and whether he plans to book his next vacation here. I will forever associate David with Black Caviar after his brilliant missives from his pilgrimage to Royal Ascot, just as I cannot separate Hunter S Thompson and the Kentucky Derby.

I merge onto the Hume and have never wanted to be at Adelaide Oval more in my life. As Clarke and Mr.Cricket treat a lame South African attack with contempt, I imagine a frothy and a position in the sun with a grand view. Unfortunately, I’m on one of the country’s least inspired highways. Where each 10km post seems to take half an hour and the only place you want to be is home.

The radio is bringing me less enjoyment than before. This is no contest. Australia is doing as it pleases. I think of long days in the field with no breakthrough in sight. Still, it’s better than my current situation.

I finally swing into the driveway at 5pm. Silence, as I turn off the ignition. It’s been a long day, but a good one. Time to head inside and watch Channel 9’s coverage with the sound off.


About Stephen Cooke

Cumbersome ruckman of the garden variety


  1. Great story, well told. “Time to head inside and watch Channel 9’s coverage with the sound off”. Clearly the only option after listening to the art of radio commentary.

  2. Skip of Skipton says

    Ordering a Long Black raises instant wariness, just like asking for a focaccia or purchasing a copy of the Age. Be told.

  3. Skip, I used to order a Long Macchiato in hope, until one of the staff in a bakery in Gippsland laughed openly. Her friend behind the counter looked for an instruction book on coffee to help her out.

  4. Skip of Skipton says

    Jeez Cookie, a Macchiato is really asking for trouble. Did a posse of utes tail-gate you out of town?

    Here are a couple of other signs proclaiming racehorses (trotters) that I have seen around the western district.

    Beeac – home of Rufus Young Blood

    Terang – home of Gammalite

  5. Andrew Fithall says

    Does Strathmerton have a sign: Home of Stephen Reynoldson?

    Love your work Cookie. But not necessarily your twitter account.

  6. Hey Cookie, it goes the other way too.

    My parents were just about laughed out of a Fitzroy restaurant when they tried to order a mugaccino.

  7. Thanks Cookie. Road trips and ABC Grandstand are meant for each other. Re your comment about Ch9 with the sound off. The first session starts at 8am over in the West, so I get in 15 minutes before heading off to my first job.
    I am used to the TV being a fraction behind the radio (half a kick or a push to mid on). But yesterday the bowler was back at the top of his run up to bowl the next one on the radio, before the shot was played to the previous ball on TV.
    What the????
    Is this a Ch9 plot to force us into Slats and Tubs, or was the Fremantle Doctor particularly strong yesterday making it hard for the TV signal to get across the Nullabor???
    Technical advice or interstate abuse welcomed.

  8. Great stuff, Cookie! Love it.

  9. Pamela Sherpa says

    A long day in the paddock , a long day in the field , a long day on the road -beautiful Cookie.

  10. Skip of Skipton says

    If it aint broke, don’t fix it etc. Am I on the right thread here? Maybe not, It doesn’t matter. Can some learned Cricket follower tell me what happened to Peter Forrest and Callum Ferguson?

  11. Cookie – I was on that road a week back. Unfortunately I had no cricket to listen to. Great stuff, enjoyed the piece.

  12. Great work Cookie, the Grandstand team are great to listen to all day while driving or outside working. Was initially unsure about Drew Morphett replacing Glenn Mitchell on the team but he has been great.

    Skip- Forrest is horribly out of form for Queensland this season. Ferguson has made a couple of scores for South Australia but has been inconsistent since returning from his knee reconstruction last season.

  13. Skip of Skipton says

    Thanks Luke. Those two looked like the future last year etc. Maybe we just pick Mitch Marsh now. noW, nOW, NOW!!!

  14. Peter Schumacher says

    I have enjoyed so much the initial piece and the subsequent responses.

    As a Sheppartonian who has been on the Hume far too many times I too think that the only way to make the Melbourne trip bearable is to have ABC Grandstand on. Could do without Kerry though. At his best he is just tolerable. At his worst, which is most of the time, he is a national embarrassment.

  15. Keiran Croker says

    Skip, Forrest favoured in 2011, Ferguson in 2010. Both lost form and favour. Selectors are fickle. Both have time to regain favour, though suspect that Kwahja? and Hughes are higher on the favoured list!

  16. Keiran Croker says

    Mitch Marsh tore the hamstring off the bone last week and is out for the season!

  17. Andrew Fithall says

    Peter B. get a digital radio. The broadcast is 7 seconds behind the analogue. Should almost synch with the channel 9 delay.

  18. David Downer says

    Clever work, Cookie. Very clever.

    Hadn’t realised an entire article accompanied the tweeting missives yesterday.

    Thanks for the mention and giving racing some good press in a trying week too! Black Caviar soothes all ailments.

    Will research Nagambie B&B’s for our next weekend away. Lady Brooke will be thrilled.

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