Symonds finds form but All-Stars win
ACA All-Stars XI 4 for 203 (Hodge 65*, Langer 52*) beat Australian XI 139 (Symonds 45) by 64 runs
The Australian XI were upstaged by a mixed bag All-Stars line-up but in a game whose result meant little, the most relevant feature was the return to form of Andrew Symonds ahead of his possible Test comeback. Symonds struck 45 from 35 deliveries and while it was not enough to overhaul the All-Stars' 203, it did help ease concerns about his lack of domestic runs in the lead-up to next week's Gabba Test.
Symonds, who was wired up with a microphone for the television coverage, was scratchy early but gradually found touch and even had the commentary box in stitches when he threw to an ad-break a split second after almost being run-out. "It's 3 for 53," Symonds said. "See you after these messages."
In the field, he also joked with a pair of young children and briefly let them take his spot on the boundary; signs of a positive attitude from Symonds. On a night of comebacks, he was not the only man who impressed. Shaun Tait, playing his first game in national colours since January, bowled fearsomely quick and swung the ball and his 1 for 28 from four overs must have had the selectors penciling in his name for more action this summer.
Then there was the man many of the fans had come out to see, Adam Gilchrist, who in a one-off return played some classic Gilchrist strokes and compiled a cameo of 25 as the All-Stars set up their big total. Justin Langer's entertaining 52 not out had viewers wondering why he only ever played eight ODIs and Brad Hodge pushed his name for more Australia outings with an unbeaten 65.
But without doubt the innings of the night came from a less likely source. Tasmania's 32-year-old opener Michael Dighton completely outshone his opening partner Gilchrist with an incredible start in which he rampaged his way to 32 from eight deliveries. He guided his first ball over third man for six off his fellow Tasmanian Brett Geeves and it was only a sign of things to come.
Dighton's was an incredible display of baseball-like striking as he clubbed Geeves for two more sixes over the bowler's head and another clear of midwicket. Only when he was caught short for 34 from 13 balls with a direct-hit by another Tasmanian, Xavier Doherty, did the Australian Cricketers' Association (ACA) All-Stars start to slow their tempo.
Gilchrist had departed earlier in the same over when he missed a pearler of an inswinger from Tait and was bowled for 25 from 20 balls. Gilchrist had already given the spectators a taste of his former glory with five classic boundaries, including a typically vicious cut off Tait and a flick over square leg off Peter Siddle.
The Australian XI, captained by Michael Hussey in the absence of the ill Michael Clarke and the resting Ricky Ponting, struggled to curb the run-rate as Dighton and Gilchrist blasted the first 50 from 17 balls. Then it was the turn of Hodge and Langer to trouble the first-choice team and their 120-run partnership at nearly ten an over did the trick.
Hodge, fresh from a one-day century against Tasmania on Wednesday, anchored the innings with a powerful 65 not out as he found the gaps with ease and pulled his Victoria team-mate Siddle for a six that whistled like a tracer bullet. Langer's unbeaten 52 was just as important and he too went over midwicket for six off Geeves, who had a horror night and leaked 63 from his four overs.
The chase was always going to be tough for the Australian XI, several of whom had rushed to Brisbane after only a day in their home cities following the tough tour of India. Adjusting to the quicker, bouncier Gabba pitch after the slow Indian surfaces was also a struggle and they never quite kicked into top gear.
Steve Magoffin's excellent opening spell accounted for both Matthew Hayden and Shaun Marsh for single figures. Hayden was brilliantly caught by Ryan Harris at mid-off from a ball skied so high it would have hit the roof at Melbourne's Docklands stadium, while Marsh was caught in the deep when Brendan Drew dived and somehow ended up with the ball between his thighs, but cleanly off the ground.
By the time the Australian XI were 5 for 59, the only interest was in how Symonds would perform. He struggled to time the ball early but some familiar strokes began to emerge and he slammed a powerful six over long-off from Harris. His innings ended when he skied a catch to Simon Katich. The two men could be Test team-mates against New Zealand next week and there must have been some in the Australian camp hoping Katich would spill the chance.
From there the result was a formality, although there was one last highlight when Dighton at long-on hurled himself skyward and thrust his right hand in the air to take a John Dyson-like catch to remove Cameron White. It wasn't enough to get Dighton the Man-of-the-Match award, which went to Hodge, but it capped off an entertaining night and one that could have positive implications for Australia's summer.
Brydon Coverdale is a staff writer at Cricinfo