A mournful chant for Hussey
About 40 minutes to tea the chant went up. Starting somewhere near the Bill O'Reilly Stand but quickly swelling to include most of the 10,505 in attendance, the call of "Hussey … Hussey … Hussey" reverberated around the SCG. In the Australian viewing area as he waited to go out to bat, Michael Hussey suggested quietly to the coach Mickey Arthur that it might not be a bad idea to take to the loudspeaker and ask the crowd to refrain.
Hussey had been overwhelmed, even embarrassed, by the wave of adulation sent his way this week, but this was something else entirely. Ed Cowan and Michael Clarke heard it loud and clear at the batting crease, as the ground witnessed that rarest of sounds - an Australian crowd baying for an Australian wicket. From his preferred perch in the Victor Trumper Stand, there is every chance that the national selector John Inverarity heard it too, after unilaterally ending Hussey's ODI career in the morning.
It was no surprise to hear the chant, given Hussey's last day as a Test cricketer had arrived. But the timing said much for the affection with which Hussey is held, and the sadness around Australia at his retirement. However logical the selectors' reasons, there was much public discontent at the news that this would be Hussey's final international appearance, only adding to the pathos of his departure at the start of a year in which India and England await. The call for Hussey went beyond a cry for one more innings - Australian cricket simply does not want him to go.
"I would've liked to play but the selectors spoke to me and said they're starting to look towards the 2015 World Cup and that's fine," Hussey said, accepting the final curtain with grace. "I understand where they're trying to go with it. It would've been nice to play but I totally understand where the selectors are going, no worries.
"What a place to finish. The SCG's probably in my top three favourite grounds in the whole world. The crowd support and support in general has been a bit overwhelming really. I've been a little bit embarrassed by it to be honest. But in a way I'm quite relieved that it's over now. The stress, the pressure, I can just relax away from that now and I don't have that sick feeling in my stomach before every game or before I bat.
"I think it would be hard in a lot of ways to go around and get that in every one day game. I've had a great opportunity here. It couldn't have ended any better. I feel very proud to have been able to wear the baggy green cap. I've achieved a lot more in my career than I ever dreamed I could, so I feel very fortunate. The game has given me so much."
When Clarke obliged to the chant, squeezing Tillakaratne Dilshan to short leg, another 37 runs remained to be gathered. One final time, Hussey would be the finisher. This he did with typical aplomb, busily compiling 27 not out in 28 minutes to bring the match to a finish. There was one final flourish to remember him by too, a delectable reverse sweep from the bowling of Rangana Herath that scuttled to the third-man boundary.
It was the sort of shot he would never have considered in his early days as an opening batsman, but typified the gathering of skills both unorthodox and not to make him such an accomplished exponent in all formats. His running between the wickets was decisive and focused as ever, at one point waving Matthew Wade through for a single with the kind of urgency any junior coach should seek to instil in their young batsmen.
Hussey's favourite memory as an Australian Test batsman was the moment in which he scored the winning runs at the end of the dramatic Adelaide Ashes Test of 2006. This time he did not notch the winning single, even insisting to Mitchell Johnson that the winning runs be scored as they came, not engineered for a photo opp as Australia completed a 3-0 sweep of Sri Lanka.
"I was was telling Mitch the over before, if it comes up that you hit it, let's just get it over with," Hussey said. "I was hoping we could make the runs none down, then I was hoping that Pup and Ed were going to be there at tea, because the crowd were starting to get a bit vocal and I was going to make sure they finished the job as well. I was more than happy just to be out there when the winning run was hit, it was a dream come true."
Once the winning run was found, Hussey's celebrations were reserved. He took in the sights and sounds of the SCG one final time, then walked to the boundary's edge, where in a broadcast interview he made a concession to the curiosity of the crowds that had so feted him this week. Hussey had intended to tell the team his choice of the man to lead their victory song "Under the Southern Cross" in the privacy of the dressing room. But now, with so many watching, he allowed them to know that he had chosen Nathan Lyon, a man of similarly uncomplicated character and unbridled joy in playing for Australia.
"I picked Nathan because I think he's a man of great character," Hussey said. "I think he plays the game for the right reasons, I think he understands and respects the fabric of the baggy green cap, and that's what I want to come through from him when he leads the team songs in the future. Not to say the other guys don't, but I think he's a man of great character and the people before me have had great character, so I want to look for those sorts of traits in the next song master."
It was those traits that had the SCG chanting Hussey's name. He has been close to the ultimate team man, but on this day he had been set apart as an individual. Uncomfortable as he may have felt at the time, in years to come Hussey is bound to remember the chant fondly. He earned it.
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here