There are not too many places in the world where a major sporting event happens to also fall on a public holiday annually. The Boxing Day test for Melbournians has become a ritual of sorts, always attracting big crowds. Today was the biggest witnessed at the MCG for a cricket match, and the crowd was treated to an Australian team confident and riding on the back of a 3-0 series lead.
Melbourne is rightly the sporting capital of Australia and as far as sporting stadiums are concerned, the MCG would rank as among the best anywhere in the world. Not just for its history, but also for the atmosphere that it creates and the reverence that the players themselves associate with the venue.
Day 1 of this current Ashes series was no different. The passion and anticipation for an Australia-England test match is always high. In fact eight of the ten highest cricket attendances at the MCG have involved England.
Amidst popular public sentiment that interest for test cricket is on the decline, Cricket Australia would have rejoiced when it was reported that a world record crowd had turned up for Day 1. The previous record at the MCG was 90,800 way back in 1960-61 against the then touring West Indies. Fast forward 53 years, and there were 91,092 people present to witness the action today.
Cricket Australia CEO James Sutherland was a satisfied man in charge of an organization battling in recent times to remain relevant to a widely diverse target audience. ‘We’re naturally delighted with the result,’ said Cricket Australia CEO James Sutherland. ‘It’s yet further evidence of the sustained drawing power of Test cricket and Melbourne’s undisputed reputation as the capital of Australian sport.’
However for much of the day, the crowd was transfixed with what was happening out in the middle. It was a battle of attrition between bat and ball with no side were willing to give up ground. Australia surprised a few by winning the toss and deciding to bowl first. Ian Bell, at the post day press conference believed that England too would have batted had they won the toss and expected Australia to do the same.
It was a wicket that just had enough to keep both the bowlers and the batsmen interested. Whilst there was not much lateral movement off the wicket or Perth-like carry to the keeper, the Australian bowlers made scoring difficult. England had to work hard for every run. Cook perished to Siddle after another start in the tour and Carberry resisted amicably for 145 minutes and 103 balls for 38 runs, but fell just when he needed to push on. In seven innings on this tour so far, Carberry has managed 1 fifty and starts in most innings, but has found it difficult to convert that into a sizable score.
Runs dried up completely for England post lunch. Between the dismissals of Root and Bell, England could only manage 67 runs in 30.5 overs keeping the usually vociferous Barmy Army silent.
Kevin Pietersen was not his fluent free-flowing self but stuck around. Heavily criticized for being too blaze in his approach to batting in recent times, he did receive a life – when he pulled a ball only for substitute fielder Nathan Coulter-Nile to run over the boundary and not being able to take the catch cleanly – but for the most part batted sensibly. He was also seen to be cramping up and suffering from fatigue as he frequently hunched over his back. England will want him to rest up tonight and farm the strike with the lower order to post a competitive total.
Whilst Pietersen battled hard to remain unbeaten on 67*, the rest of the English batsmen failed to get going. Mitchell Johnson bowled Bairstow through the gate, after the batsman didn’t move his feet and offered daylight between bat and pad. It was a day where Johnson’s fastest ball bowled was over 150 km/h, whilst Siddle & Harris bowled at over 145 km/h, and the English batsmen had few answers to this sort of sustained pace.
At the close of play, Australia can claim psychological advantage. It was a day where England had the opportunity to seize the initiative on several occasions, but Clarke would feel vindicated by his decision to bowl after the performance of his bowlers. England will resume Day 2 on 6/226 with Bresnan on 1* and Pietersen on 67*.
For the record crowd today at the MCG, they would perhaps have been a little disappointed with the lack of fight from the English batsmen. Andy Flower was a flamboyant batsman in his day, and as the England coach would be hoping of an improved performance from his batsmen in the remainder of this match.
Foreign teams coming to Australia and experiencing success have always played aggressively and have not been afraid to meet fire with fire. England on this tour so far has lacked the fire to take it to the opposition, whilst Clarke’s boys have executed to a tee. The difference between the two sides is thus, quite accurately reflected in the series score-line.
Navneet Ganesh is the Founder of Infinity Cricket
He is a cricketing enthusiast and is passionate about its development and growth.
Infinity Cricket was launched in 2010 with a vision of ‘connecting people through cricket.’
Infinity Cricket organizes the largest ‘open’ T20 cricket events in Melbourne: the Summer Infinity T20 Cricket Tournament & Winter T20 Challenge.