Second Test – Day 2: Don’t fret Imran, it happens to the best of us

Australia 550; South Africa 2/217

Dear Mr. Tahir,

I bought a cricket club on eBay once for $810. As soon as the cheque cleared, I was the proud owner of North Barnawartha, known to all as the Barnies.

The Barnies play at Herring Oval, near The Shrine and the Botanical Gardens. Fours and sixes run onto Domain Road so the most hazardous element of any given match is not watching for the Number 8 tram when fetching the ball.

The Barnies play in a legitimate Melbourne competition – D-grade of the Mercantile Cricket Association – but they play for the love of the game.

Hundreds of very funny tales emanate from this club; too many to detail here. I will say each game begins with a nine-man slips cordon. This remains in place until the opposition has scored. If it takes until the second or third over for this to be achieved, then so be it (it once took the opposition six overs). If the ball gets driven, the bowler must fetch it himself.

The widest catch ever taken in the cordon was by club founder Marty Vana at fifth slip. He took it one-handed because he had a chicken schnitzel sandwich in his other hand. One opportunity at ninth slip was dropped. This remains a source of regret.

As a playing member of the Barnies that season, I was granted the opportunity to captain the club. Everybody gets a go during the year and mine took place against Parkville.

I tell this story to remind you  that bad days on the field happen to every cricketer. Granted, the majority don’t have theirs reported in the international media, but neither do most have the opportunity to ply their trade for a living. If I had to provide for my family through cricket, we would be out on the street.

The Barnies are mercurial in the true sense of the word. They can put on 300 from a 40 over game, or be bowled out for 40. You can probably already guess what happened this day.

Much like Adelaide Oval, the Parkville home ground off Royal Parade is small and has a lightning outfield. I lost the toss and Parkville would go on to post 370 in 40 overs.

I had two very good opening bowlers at my disposal and was hoping for 5 wickets between them. They took one and even this didn’t help my cause, as it bought a bloke called David Tweedie to the crease. He would go on to score 161. His mate scored 146 before he was caught late in the day, bringing them 26 runs short of an all-time MCA record.

With nothing working, I decided to mix things up and introduce an over of my own unique action. It’s hard to describe, I mainly try and not bowl wides. The speed depends on my accuracy on the day. The over cost 21 runs, including five or six wides. A second over was not forthcoming.

Our wicketkeeper took three balls in the gloves in the last 20 overs – the rest met the middle of the bat, then the boundary, or over the boundary, or into the lion’s cage at the nearby zoo.

To cap things off, I dropped a sitter on the boundary.

Chasing 370, I would have been happy batting for the full 40 overs. We fulfilled this aim –  but it did take the best part of two innings (in a one-day game) to do it, having been bowled out for 45 in 16 overs in our first innings.

Our tally included four ducks in the first inning and a top score of 9. Todman (son of Tonia) said he was seeing them like pumpkins during his brief stint, even the one that clean bowled him.

As number 11 batsman, I was last man standing at the end of the innings. As I already had the pads on, I stayed out there to open the second. We finished the second innings 6/141. No embarrassing two-innings defeat in a one-day game for me.

So Imran, every cricketer has a bad day. The fact David Warner looked a better spinner than you on Day 2 surely rubs further salt in your gaping wounds, but surely you won’t bowl on a wicket as useless to the bowling fraternity as Adelaide Oval ever again.

And nor should you. These flat tracks designed for maximum runs – the old chief executive’s pitch, good for the bank balance – are detrimental to Test cricket. It effectively removes half the reason for attending: watching the bowler apply pressure through his game plan. Flat tracks diminish the contest, especially when one side puts on 3 runs an over.

3 runs an over against McGrath with his suffocating line and length, Warne at his best or a Lillee or Lee mixing sheer pace with a little chin music can be gripping. 3 runs an over on a flat track that gives no assistance to the bowlers kills the chance of a result.

So I apologise for these flat, lifeless pitches that have contributed to your mental anguish. Oh yes, and good luck in Perth.



About Stephen Cooke

Cumbersome ruckman of the garden variety


  1. Garbage.

    He bowled garbage.

    Franz Klammer bowled a better toppie.

  2. Jeff Dowsing says

    Great ‘letter’ Cookie. Mr Tahir might have had a few hit into the Giraffe’s enclosure against Parkville the way he bowled. Stuff happens in park cricket you couldn’t make up.

  3. Skip of Skipton says

    Might have to organise a North Barnawartha vs. Skipton cricket match, Cookie.

    Kind of like the Bhutan vs. Montserrat soccer match FIFA organised to determine the worst team in the world.

    Our opposition today made 1/355 off their 40. One opener made 213n.o. I caught the other opener at deep square for 82. We were bowled out for 108.

  4. Good to hear of another proud bowler of, to quote my 10 year old nephew, right arm all over the place.

    Let our long summer of cricket – on Grandstand, on the beach, in the sun, in thongs, on the couch – settle in.

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