SCG Test, Australia v India – Day One: Test cricket with an ocean view!

Final Test, historic ground, new young Indian captain, emotions again high – what will the next five days bring as the summer of Test cricket winds to a close?

At this time of the year – every year – I take myself down the Victorian west coast; known more popularly in tourism parlance as the Surf Coast and beyond, where the Otway Ranges meet the ocean and the infamous winding stretch of bitumen that is the Great Ocean Road still elicits many a queasy stomach!

The word iconic is often overused but I can never shake the feeling, as I take my morning beach walk, there really is nothing more Australian than summer at the beach; surfing, swimming and sunning as families play cricket on the sand at every possible opportunity.

January also brings with it the final Test of the Australian summer cricket test season, known affectionately as the Pink Test, at the historic SCG – rivalled only for its tradition by the other ‘CG’ that is the revered ‘M’ which hosts the Boxing Day Test. (Almost sounds James Bond-ish really!!)

Following the summer of Test cricket is also an iconic Australian tradition – certainly for this sports lover anyway – and I always feel complete when two of the summer traditions in my life so beautifully meld together.

As someone who enjoys the sun and the outdoors, it seems unusual for me to get excited on a morning which dawns as overcast; but today is no normal day. In helping me fight an attack of the ‘guilts’ the weather gods have smiled, presenting me with a mild yet overcast day by the ocean with occasional bouts of drizzle.

To allay any confusion on your part dear reader, it happens that I have committed to closely follow the first day’s play of the fourth Test and to do that I need to, for the most part, stay indoors both listening to (via ABC Grandstand as is my preference) and watching (TV on mute, naturally) all the day’s action unfold.

This prospect was yesterday causing me serious concern as it would go against every grain of my being to sit indoors on a glorious sunny day at the beach! So thank the Lord (or whichever deity is in charge of the climate portfolio) for the changeable weather we are so often ridiculed for down south!

All the usual ceremonial palaver starts the day with an added focus on the memory and legacy of Phil Hughes – the SCG of course being where the fatal incident took place – and on the newly installed plaque now hanging near the players’ entrance.

And so to the first day’s play.

Australia wins the toss and Steve Smith elects to bat on a promising looking pitch.

Appetites are now whet for the possibilities to come: Chris Rogers opening on Day 1 in what he has declared will be his last Test on home soil; David Warner again facing varying emotions in reference to PH; no Mitchell Johnson with the other Mitchell (Starc that is, not Marsh) coming in as his replacement – the latter himself looking to make a strong impression with the tour to the Windies in the near future and the more important Ashes tour further down the track; and Virat Kohli, now permanently installed as the captain of India, who seems to have taken on the role with determination and relish.

With the only blemish (for India that is) in the opening session being when an edge from Rogers was shamefully dropped at slip, the morning was an outstanding display of calm and determined batting from the Australian opening pair – both reaching half centuries and an impressive first session total of 123.

Lunch break and I can’t help myself, the morning’s play by the Aussies has put a spring in my step, and so it’s time for a quick walk on the beach, some fresh sea air and perhaps a coffee at one of the local cafes. (Thank goodness for live audio streaming on one’s phone!)

I wander home along the shoreline with sand in between my toes and waves rolling in gently around my bare feet swamped with mixed emotions as, still listening to the Grandstand audio stream, I hear Dave Warner reach his hundred only to be followed in the next over by poor Chris Rogers giving up his wicket for 95. NO!!!!! I exclaim then realise there are in fact people on the beach who are casting me more than a sideways glance as they build their sandcastles and play their own games of cricket – just keep walking!

95 is no mean feat but …. Oh so close, you really feel for Rogers.

So Watson and Smith are the new additions to Australia’s frontline in this Day 1 battle with the score at 2/204.

What follows is a full afternoon of good solid batting with no apparent sense of rushing or panic and yet the rate at which the score ticks over is impressive.

India’s bowling has been fairly ineffective with virtually no pressure created to this point from the tourists in their attack nor in the field, allowing the Australians to keep the run rate ticking over with very little risk and certainly no complacency.

At tea, Australia’s score is 2/242 with Watson on 10 and Smith on 28.

The final session begins as the afternoon one ended – with solid batting and continual steady scoring.

Shane Watson seems to be holding his own as he and Steve Smith bring up their one hundred partnership with Australia’s total on an impressive 2/304 with at least an hour left to play.

Although having said that, I find myself smiling as someone posts a tweet suggesting that watching Shane Watson face each delivery is like watching Sam Stosur serve for a match – very nerve wracking!

The day’s play seems to be easing to a close when Shane Watson brings up his half century in the 80th over and the Indians elect to take the new ball in the 81st over,  to little affect.

Just so the fans were under no illusions as to Watson’s ability to do something silly, in the final over, facing the second last ball of the day, Watson edges one high to first slip which very sweetly goes straight through Ashwin’s fingers and to the boundary for four runs – a life for Shane Watson!

Australia finish on an impressive total of 2/348: Watson on 61 and Captain Steve Smith on 82, having played another blinder in front of a crowd of just over 30,000.

This pair, especially Watson, will be looking to capitalise on a great first day, on second chances given courtesy of the opposition, and come out strongly in the morning.

The overall feeling of the day, reflecting perhaps this whole summer of cricket with all that has transpired, is very definitely one of it being a watershed for the game we all love. It has seen new young captains and players, injuries, impending retirements (both rumoured and factual) and of course, loss.

Australian test player Ed Cowan, while doing radio commentary, made a statement that stuck with me: “We are all of us custodians of this game. It keeps rolling on no matter who is playing.”

Not an original sentiment certainly, but one that is worth remembering.

Well, feeling pleased with the day’s play from the Australians I hear the ocean calling – it might just be time to turn off the radio and tv, close the laptop and wander down for an evening stroll along the shore!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About Jill Scanlon

Blues fan and sports lover. Development through sports advocate; producer, journalist and news follower. Insanely have returned to p/t study - a Masters of International & Community Development. Formerly with ABC International / Radio Australia in Melbourne.

Comments

  1. E.regnans says:

    Lovely images of the beach life, Jill.
    I was one of those office people who ruefully viewed your tweeted photo of the ocean as I walked through the foyer and into the lift.
    Ahhhh.
    And time, like the ocean herself, rolls on.

  2. Malcolm Ashwood says:

    Thanks Jill a lady after my own heart who would rather listen or watch cricket than be at the beach . Excellent summary of a dominant aussie performance on a shocking boring bland pitch , the pitches in general this summer have been pathetic so determined have they been to have , 5 day tests boring bland wickets have been produced . I like the subtle mention of Shane Watson and Sam Stosur unfortunately 2 sports people who are weak mentally . . Indias bowling and fielding poor , well batted aust over all .

  3. Luke Reynolds says:

    Great stuff Jill, we listened to Day 1 at my workplace in Barongarook, at the other end of the Otways. ABC Grandstand of course. E.Cowan a brilliant addition to the team.

  4. Jill,
    You have me even more eagerly looking forward to getting down to Apollo Bay next week. But, gee, the wifi reception can be a bit hit-or-miss down there.
    Cheers
    Smokie.

Leave a Comment

*