Sheffield Shield – Victoria v New South Wales: Back to the future

There was a period in my life when I was a regular attendee at Sheffield Shield matches.

 

It never took much persuading for me to skip a uni lecture, or take a “sickie” from work. I would catch a tram up to the MCG and delight in spending a long, languorous day at the cricket.

 

But somewhere along the line, real life rudely encroached upon those days of youthful cricketing reverie. Marriage, mortgage, work, kids, and other normal adult responsibilities, all combined to ensure that even the mere thought of spending a mid-week day at the cricket would set off pangs of guilt.

 

So, when the yawning chasm of an appointment-free day opened up in my calendar last week, I checked the Shield fixture and was delighted to discover that Victoria were playing NSW at home. Off I go.

 

When I swipe my card at the entry gate into the Members, it almost feels as if I am simultaneously relieving myself of the burdens of the outside world. For a few short hours at least.

 

It’s a glorious Melbourne day. I have with me the morning’s newspaper and a pen, fully intending to attempt the cryptic crossword between overs. I settle in not far from the players’ viewing area, which falls eerily silent as Victoria’s spearhead Chris Tremain entices an early nick and gets the first wicket of the day. This dismissal would set the tone for the day: the NSW batsmen never quite able to get on top of the bowling attack, eventually dismissed for a meagre tally of 159. The pitch has a tinge of green about it and, thankfully, appears a touch more lively than in recent seasons.

 

On a day when there always seems to be something happening on the field, I abandon any thought of the crossword early on, and engross myself in the on-field proceedings. Tremain picks up five wickets, Fawad Ahmed chimes in with three, and the home team has all ten wickets by tea. The Vics’ response is solid, but Peter Handscomb slashes at a wide one and needlessly throws away his wicket just prior to stumps. He trudges off the field very disappointed with himself. He knows he has missed a chance to “fill his boots” against an inexperienced bowling attack. It is a chance that Marcus Harris will seize with both hands in a match-defining knock of 250 not out. And when the day’s play is over, so too is my brief respite from reality.

 

In time, I suspect that fewer first-class games will be played at the MCG. The Junction Oval has already hosted a number of state limited-overs fixtures, and looks set to play a more prominent role in Victoria’s future. I enjoy watching games at the Junction, but I hope that state cricket is not completely lost to the MCG. For I would imagine that the players get as much of a thrill out of playing on the famous turf as I do sneaking in and spending a rare stress-free afternoon watching on from the terraces.

This was first published on Balcony Banter.

About Darren Dawson

Always North.

Comments

  1. Smokie I am in a similar position used to be a regular at Shield games but yep work etc and so spot on the zone out to life’s grind now as for in Adelaide the $ 15 to park your car and bloody drop in crap wickets grrrrr

  2. Stainless says:

    Smokie
    My stints at the Shield have sadly been infrequent. Like you say, life has that inconvenient way of butting into moments of idleness! I particularly remember stealing a December day about 30 years ago to watch a strong Vics attack carve up South Australia…except…except for a brilliant lone hand of 140-odd by a precocious 19 year old named Lehmann. Well worth the $5 or whatever it was back then! Thanks for jogging my memory.

  3. Sheffield Shield Games? I used to go to a few days each season from about 1977-78, though i wouldn’t have been to a days play since the mid 1990’s.

    Names like John Leehane, Glenn Bishop, Keith De Jong, still reside in my memory bank. Of course there were other chaps like AB, Jim Higgs and Roger Wooley that you’d see in action.

    Long regarded as the best domestic competition in the world, though i’m unsure if that’s still the case. Support it Smokie, and enjoy the cricket(ers) you see.

    Glen!

  4. I can relate to this Smokie. I remember sneaking away from Swinburne (first year Uni) in March ’91 to watch the Vics win the Shield. I even managed to get on the ground after Siddons hit the winning runs and got my mug and mullet on the back page of The Age, standing behind him as he triumphanty walked of the field.

  5. Good onya Damian. I went to the first 2(3) days of that match, though was not present for the last day.

    I recall we bowled NSW out for not too much, then we collapsed, but our bowlers knocked them over cheaply, with us coming home by 8 wickets. It was our first triumph for a while. We won consecutive Shields in 78-79, 79-80, then had a barren decade. We made the final in 86-87 , but on a flat WACA Mike Veletta batted us out of the game.

    Glen!

  6. Thanks Smokie. I try to get to a couple days. Often there’s more of a crowd around the bat, but this is part of the charm. Disappointed that Glenelg oval isn’t hosting a match this season but will head to Adelaide Oval at some point.

    Is there another sporting competition anywhere which has a two month hiatus in its middle?

  7. John Butler says:

    So when are we going next?

  8. Dave Brown says:

    Sounds like a thoroughly pleasant day, Smokie. Think I last went to a shield match in 2015. A Friday afternoon/evening session in an SA/NSW game where they were trialling the pink ball. Wanted to see how easy it was to track the ball (answer was very). As long as the facilities are up to scratch I don’t at all mind them using smaller venues, not much charm to an empty mega stadium for mine..

  9. Thank you all for your comments.

    There is definitely something quite indulgent about spending an afternoon (or more) at a Shield match.
    I am looking forward to getting down to the Junction Oval at some stage – I spent some enjoyable afternoons there in the past.

  10. Re 90-91 that sounds right Glen. We unexpectedly knocked them over cheaply in their second dig but then lost two very early wickets chasing about 240 odd. I didn’t think we’d get up, so it was a pleasant suprise rocking up to the G, not knowing what to expect, and seeing we were still 2 wickets down for about 200 and closing in on our first Shield in a decade. Siddons played a blinder and I think the other not out batsman was Wayne Phillips, who would go on to play one ill-fated test at the bouncy WACA about a year later (unlike Jamie Siddons who never played Test cricket).

  11. E.regnans says:

    That is a fine idea, Smokie.

  12. Spot on Damian.

    Wayne Phillips played @ the WACA in the final test of 91-92: Shane Warne carried the drinks!

    Jog my memory. Did G Watts play in that final? I know J Sutherland did.

    Glen!

  13. Glen, your memory’s better than mine, I can’t recall either of those two players. I remember we had a fair bowling attack with Dodemaide the chief destroyer, ably supporter by Pistol, Flemo and SOD (Merv was on Test duty in the Caribbean, along with Deano) . I also recall a very gracous speech after the game from Geoff Lawson who could have mentioned that half of NSW’s team was in the Caribbean, but he didn’t.

  14. Luke Reynolds says:

    Great stuff Smokie, love a day at the Sheffield Shield.
    Do get down to the Junction Oval, I took the kids down to the JLT Cup game against WA in the September school holidays, it’s been done up magnificently.

  15. Steve Fahey says:

    Great article Smokie, I do love a day at the Shield but am down to about once a season since my work three years ago very inconveniently moved from right next door to the G from where I used to regularly catch the last session.

    G Watts played in the 1990/91 Final, Sutherland was 12th man. I went to day 3 of that game (instead of the AFL Round 1 game Pies vs, Dogs which was at Waverley) and then snuck down to watch Siddons and Phillips rein in the winning target on Day 4. I also remember bagging Siddons when he failed in the first innings saying that he didn’t make runs when it counted before eating my words when he played a match-winning knock in the second dig.

    PS Ronnie McKeown kicked 6 for the Pies as they beat the Dogs !

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