A day to reMEMBER

Happy New Year to all cricket lovers.

The year 2005 started well for me, spending two days at the SCG for the Third Test against Pakistan.

The second of those days – day three – was at the invitation of andrewg, SCG member. (I divulge that information only because andrewg is moving to Queensland in less than two week). Andrewg treated to me an excellent time, which included a ploughman’s’ lunch that he prepared with his own hands. Thank you, andrewg!

AC Gilchrist, after a three hour rain delay treated us to an even better time. With Gilchrist starting the day on 17, I had high hopes of seeing him at his best. Such hopes often go unrealised with cricket but on this occasion they did not. Gilchrist was aggressive from the outset and after some luck – his second four of the day came in the second over, when he French cut Shoaib Akhtar – and his third boundary came the next ball as he edged through the vacant third slip area. His single to bring up the fifty came from a top edged hook that fell safely. Amusingly, the close-up replay clearly showed Gillie’s eyes tightly closed as he swatted the rapidly advancing ball from in front of his face. He is human after all.

From then on it was murder. The real fireworks began when Gilchrist was on 82. Facing, Mohammad Asif, who had not conceded a boundary in any of his 16 previous overs, the second ball was smashed into the stumps at the bowlers end, saving a certain four and also saving Billy Bowden from a broken leg, impressive star jump notwithstanding. The next ball which was not so short, was pulled over square leg, just missing Santa Claus. No stumps in the way there! Next ball, which was only just short of length and outside of off stump was belted a long way over mid-wicket. It was a shot that only Gilchrist could play – it was more of a back foot on-drive than a cross bat shot and was truly amazing. With Gilchrist on 94, all were wondering if he could bring up the century with a third consecutive six. He tried but the straight drive over the bowler landed about one metre in from the rope.

Gillie scored a single from the next over to keep strike and Shahid Afridi was brought on (with Gillie on 99) to replace Asif. After one “sighter”, the second ball of the over did disappear into the sight screen, and Gilchrist brought up his hundred with a six. The fourth ball of the over was launched directly over the long on fielder standing on the rope, a very long way back into the Bradman stand. Needless to say that the crowd was delirious.

It all ended shortly after as Gilchrist advanced to Kaneria and became the third batsmen of the innings to be stumped. Gillie had made 113 from 120 balls (14×4, 5×6) and had made 96 runs in 100 minutes in the session – one wonders what he might have scored in the session had he not been dismissed. Ponting had added 28 to his overnight total in the same time. The partnership of 153 was dominated by Gilchrist to a degree that is amazing, considering that Ponting was on 150 when Gilchrist joined him.

Day 2 of the Test was too long ago to make much detail worthwhile except to say that Ponting scored a scintillating 155 not out and played all the strokes but it is his on-drive that is special (it was appropriate that he would end the game with one late on the fourth day). I will relate some details about the crowd that you may enjoy.

Firstly, Georgia, my seven year old daughter was in the crowd for the first time. Madeleine, 11, has been attending since she was seven and was there too, along with some other friends, including the Big Bad Butterfield Boys. Booking my tickets a little late, I could not get us into a “dry” bay and we were treated to some amazing sights that were not all on the field of play. Very educational.

Just after tea, the runs really dried up but as the bar did not, the natives were restless. We were treated to an old fashion sculling contest between a big, old, fat guy in bay 27 and a youngster in bay 29. The youngster in bay 29 had obviously been to Bunnings the day before because his sculling apparatus was very special. It consisted of a large funnel (the type for pouring engine oil), a clear pipe line of thick diameter and about 60 cm in length was connected to the nozzle of the funnel and the line had a tap or valve in it. So with head thrown back towards the heavens, the line was inserted in the open mouth, the schooner was tipped into the funnel and the tap was opened. Oh dear.

Thankfully, security seemed determined to stop the creation of the traditional beer cup snakes (stacks of thousands of cups), so the natives made a rope out of something. This rope quickly grew to about 300m long and went around the entire ground, except for the members, just behind the fence. It turns out that the raw materials were deflated inflatable “3” (official series sponsor) batons, tied end to end.

But of course, the highlight was the first streaker. He entered the ground next to the Paddington end sight screen and I was pleased to see him headed for the stumps. You can imagine the raptures when he did a head long swan dive over the stumps and landed in a forward roll on the pitch. After blowing some kisses, disappointingly, he surrendered meekly to the security staff.

The crowd finally settled when Clarke came in and started the scoreboard ticking again.

Georgia was also able to witness several arrests. So now she knows what happens at the cricket.

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