CELEBRATING his 60th year witnessing Melbourne Test matches, KEN PIESSE was never going to be anywhere else but at the MCG yesterday for the start of the Boxing Day Test match.
It didn’t matter that Christmas Day rains had washed out every backyard Test from Jerralang Junction to Jan Juc. Or that another deluge was certain to derail Boxing Day.
Sixty-five thousand had pre-booked and almost all came to the holy of holies, the MCG, for cricket’s day of days.
The first Test in Perth a fortnight ago may have been a mismatch. But we were all showing up, no matter what.
When the farewelling David Warner was dropped as many were still taking their seats, we wondered if it would again be another walk over.
Waqar Younis, one of the great stars of Pakistan cricket, said the butterfingered culprit, first slipsman, Abdullah Shafique would normally have caught the ball in his sleep.
‘He’s one of our best,’ he said. ‘It’s cricket. Sometimes these things happen.’
The blemish wasn’t too costly runs-wise, as Warner advanced his score from 2 to only 36 before he was out on the point of lunch.Embed from Getty Images
But the miss came at such a crucial time for the out-of-luck Pakistanis and especially their speed king, Shaheen Shah Afridi, who was bending the ball considerably at high pace.
Shaheen, his team’s fast bowling talisman, had been out bowled in Perth by two rookie teammates and he was dashing to the wicket with renowned purpose. One early wicket could easily have become two; so menacing was his late swing.
He couldn’t sustain his movement, however, and Pakistan forfeited the high ground having won the toss and inserted the Aussies.
The pitch was bouncy and had Australia bowled first, as was captain Pat Cummins’ intention, Pakistan’s top-order could well have been decimated in a matter of hours.
The rain and bad light forced the players from the field in mid afternoon, but the partying continued, Mexican waves and beach balls all part of the entertainment.
Suddenly in late afternoon when the umpires signaled more play and the lifting of the covers, there was widespread cheering.
Interviewed during the extended break, Warner admitted to be ‘a little teary’ walking out for his last Melbourne Test match.
‘It’s been a great journey,’ he told Fox Cricket’s Mark Howard. ‘I’ve always loved to come out and entertain. The last three or four years we have established a terrific bond amongst each other.
‘Coming out here in front of big crowds still sends a shiver down my spine.’
As in Perth, the Pakistanis bowled without much initial luck. There must have been 20 plays and misses from Warner, Khawaja and even Steve Smith to the very first ball he faced, a near wide from Hasan Ali, unlucky not to have played in Perth.
More inclement weather is forecast but it still may not save Pakistan as Australia marches towards the New Year Test match chockful of confidence.
KEN PIESSE’s 66th cricket book, David Warner, The Bull, Daring to be different, is available from cricketbooks.com.au Ken first covered cricket for the Melbourne Age and the Melbourne Sporting Globe going back to the mid-70s.
KEN PIESSE has covered cricket and football for more than 30 years in Melbourne. Despite that setback, Ken has written, published and edited 86 books on cricket and AFL football to become Australian sport’s most prolific author.
His latest cricket book is David Warner, The Bull, Daring to be Different with Wilkinson Publishing, out now