Anyone who reads these ramblings will know I love cricket and I love the first day of the first test at the Gabba. I have been attending this day for so long that now I could not even fathom missing it. So it was that yesterday I again made the pilgrimage to the hallowed turf and from the lofty heights of Section 71 Row MM settled in for another First Test Day 1.
Australia’s opponents this year are the best team in the world. It is as simple as that. Possessing the best opposition bowling attack to step onto the Gabba since the fearsome West Indians of 88/89 along with the best batsman in the game, Amla, and my personal pick for the player of his generation, Kallis, the South African present the ultimate test for the Australian team.
When asked in recent weeks about how I thought Australia would go in this test match, my near constant refrain has been that I was worried that South Africa would do to Australia what it did to England in the first test of their recent series and with the score reading 2-251 (Kallis 84*, Amla 90*) at stumps those fears are on the cusp of becoming reality.
What did yesterday teach us that we did not already know though? We already knew that Kallis and Amla are exceptionally classy players. We already knew that whomever won the toss would bat and that the first session would be crucial. We already knew that Australia was a bowler short and would need some luck to go its way to be competitive. We already knew that food and beverage prices at the Gabba are scandalous.
It has oft been said that “it is a funny old game cricket” however yesterday seemed to unfold the way even the most optimistic of Australian cricket fan always kind of thought it would with the South Africans on top with their boot firmly on the throat of this developing Australian lineup.
Much had been made before the game of the “leaking” of Australia’s game plan dossier and by all reports things were on track early on with Smith falling to the LBW dismissal that Australia feel he is susceptible too. That is where the success of the game plans ended: Pietersen punished anything swinging into his pad, Amla was unruffled and untroubled throughout his innings and the “chin music” served up to Kallis was dealt with with ease. Perhaps the South Africans read News Limited papers and knew what was going to be served up to them. Or perhaps such simplistic plans were never likely to succeed against such class players. Whatever the actual state of affairs, the effect of the much vaunted dossier could be expressed to be limited at best.
Yet again the DRS system was in play and yet again it is in the news today under a cloud of controversy. I have written about my views on the DRS system in this blog before and do not propose to tiller over that ground again. Suffice it to say that within the construct of the playing conditions the decisions made using DRS were correct. That should be the end to the whinging; unless the whinge relates to the mechanism for using DRS.
A dropped caught and bowled, a wicket off a no ball, a crowd ejection as a result of a “beer cup snake” gone bad and the all to regular early finish at the Gabba for bad light added drama to what was otherwise the day many of us expected if South Africa won the toss.
My early train trip home gave me a moment of reflection to think about where I ranked my day one experience compared to previous first days at the Gabba. Harmison’s first ball and Siddle’s hatrick remain my favourite days at the Gabba but this one was special for its own reason. I got to see possibly the best player of his generation bat like he rarely has previously in Australia and I got to see the best batsman in the world do what he has been doing to all the other teams in recent times. The fact that they are on the opposing team only takes a limited shine off those facts.
Of course, I also had pause to reflect on the performance of the Australian team. The immediate thought that came to mind is that Australia has, not for the first time during the reign of M Clarke, got their selection wrong. The 3 fast bowlers used had a sameness about them that only the selection of Mitchell Starc would have cured. Furthermore the selection of a batsman with 3 first class wickets at an average of 150 per wicket in the place of a true allrounder (Quiney for Watson) has also been exposed as a mistake.
Having just left the ground following the wash out of day 2, day 3 of this test match beckons as the bailiwick of the summer of Clarke’s Australians: can they use the conditions to their advantage to strike back at the dominant South Africans or will “usual service” resume and the “Amla & Kallis show” continue to roll on? Only time will tell, all I know is that by my count there are now 363 days until Day 1 at the Gabba next year and I for one am already making plans for that day.