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By Yvette Hollings.
When your Dad’s birthday just happens to fall on the first day of the first ever day/night Test match, there’s only one course of action for a cricket tragic really.
Me, three months ago: “Hey Dad, how about a birthday trip to Adelaide for the Test?”
Dad, non-committal: “Aw yeah, maybe …” (Mum behind him: grinning and nodding)
Me, two hours later: “Right, we’re all booked then!”
Approaching the Adelaide Oval just before 2pm, part of a stream of people crossing the footbridge over the Torrens, I had a growing sense of just how special the day might be. There was a palpable buzz in the air and heightened sense of anticipation; even from Mum who isn’t all that interested in cricket but was keen to come along with us for the occasion.
As a rule we’re a late-running family, and as such couldn’t break habits for this momentous day; we missed the toss, the anthems, the first ball, and the first two overs in fact. However, we were greeted onto the Level 1 concourse by the roar accompanying the first wicket to fall; Guptill lbw to Hazelwood before we had even found our seats.
It set the tone for a fabulous first day that followed: finally a fair battle between bat and ball, after the monotonous record-breaking bat-fests that were the first two Tests in this series. For both Mum and Dad, it was their first experience of live Test cricket, and I don’t think they could have had a better introduction.
There was plenty of action to keep the record crowd of 47,441 people who poured into the Oval over the course of the day entertained: 12 wickets for the day; a spectacular crowd catch from a magnificent Southee-struck six; a comedic attempt by one of the boundary rider security men to return a ball to the field of play; a couple of good solid Test batting spells that made the bowlers and fielders toil hard; Siddle’s 200th wicket (how great is it to see him back in the team where he belongs?); and a furious Mitch Starc spell that broke the New Zealand middle order but which ended with his withdrawal from the field injured, and as we later learned, out of action for six weeks at least.
I didn’t see one Mexican Wave attempt, or even a beer snake; a few beach balls bouncing around down in the general admission area and that was it. Mum only fell asleep a half dozen times in the middle session. You can’t ask much more than that.
It’s difficult to say yet whether this is a difficult pitch for batting, or whether New Zealand simply didn’t make the most of finally winning the toss and getting first chance to pile on the runs. And yet, I think most would have to agree this ground, with the very special treatment it’s been given to ensure the success of this historic match, is giving an advantage to the bowlers – certainly far more than we’ve seen in recent Tests in this country. I for one think that it’s great for the game.
On top of all this, there was that spectacular sunset, as the lights came into prominence for the first time on a field of international players in white. And yet, the pink ball still outshone even the dramatic hues of red, orange, yellow, purple and pink we glimpsed over the stands and tree-tops, and which filled the big screens between balls.
Seriously, how pink was that ball? It was almost luminescent on the big screen under lights, and I think it enjoyed its day in the limelight. Interesting how much better it performed than the woeful 27 red kookaburras we saw at the Perth Test two weeks ago. I’m never one to go for conspiracy theories normally, but that performance even has me wondering.
I can’t say for sure if it’s the day/night effect – this is my first experience of Adelaide Oval after all – but the thing I noticed straight away was a constant hum of noise and chatter, a real sense that we were part of a large crowd here for a significant event. The usual pattern observed so far in my experience is that session one is a time for hushed chatter, polite clapping, a bit of a shout should there be a wicket, and not much more. As the day progresses of course, the crowd usually gets noisier – the beer factor.
Yesterday though, it was as if the crowd had conscientiously done its own warming up, ready to greet the 2pm start of play with the same level of noise that would normally greet the corresponding middle of session two on a regular Test match day.
And yet, the other thing I observed was a fabulous friendliness and good natured humour about the whole day, both inside and outside the Oval. We didn’t see any serious security incidents, obnoxious drunkenness, stroppiness, or anything of the sort.
Even at the end of day’s play, after a long walk to our bus stop where we found ourselves waiting with a sizeable crowd as crammed buses passed with no room to take on more passengers, everyone was patient, considerate, and relatively untroubled by the whole experience. One old man started singing as we waited – a slow, unfamiliar song, almost operatic in feel though it sounded more like an old cultural tune, perhaps even a song line – and it stopped all the conversations, drawing a round of applause when he finished.
So yes, Australia, New Zealand and the City of Adelaide have combined forces to create a memorable historic first day/night Test, every bit the fitting birthday treat for Dad (and me!) that I had hoped for. If yesterday’s performance and the crowd response is anything to go by, I feel certain this will be only the start for cricket’s latest innovation.
Yvette is a self confessed cricket tragic and as such fits perfectly into the CFUtd family. Yvette also has her own cricket blog that you can check out, and we are thankful that she was in the thick of the action at Adelaide. You can read more of Yvette’s blogs at www.cricketexplorer.wordpress.com