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December 27, 2008
The third umpire Bruce Oxenford and one of the on-field officials Aleem Dar are both former first-class players who bowled legspin, and an hour before play began they were testing their skills on the MCG. The men were sending down tweakers to a single stump in the ground, Oxenford tossing them up and Dar pushing them through a bit quicker. Oxenford played eight matches for Queensland in the early 1990s and with the unpredictability of Australia's spin selection policy this year he might just be a chance for a surprise call-up, judging by the good length he was hitting today.
Oxenford had a couple of decisions to make in his role as the TV umpire, one when Hashim Amla pinched a quick single to cover. Michael Clarke's throw hit the stumps and Amla had just made his ground but Australia's prime minister Kevin Rudd, who was a guest commentator on Channel 9 at the time, thought it should have been out. "We'll review his visa," Rudd said jokingly of the third umpire, perhaps unaware that Oxenford is a fellow Queenslander.
Did it carry?
A more contentious call for Oxenford came when Nathan Hauritz edged Dale Steyn to slip, where Graeme Smith reached low and collected the ball with his fingers on the turf. It was unclear whether Smith had taken the ball cleanly and he himself couldn't say for certain, so Dar and Billy Doctrove asked for help from Oxenford. The replays were inconclusive and it would not have been surprising had Hauritz been given the benefit of the doubt but between them the three officials decided the ball had carried and Hauritz was on his way.
It was Smith's 100th catch in his 74-Test career and he was the second South African to reach the milestone. Like the South African run tally Jacques Kallis holds the record - he has 136 catches - but they might both be marks that Smith chases down over the course of his career.
Brought to their feet by Pete
It's nearly a decade since the Melbourne fans have had a Victoria fast bowler to cheer for during the Boxing Day Test, so when Peter Siddle took the new ball there was a sense of anticipation. The roar when Siddle rattled Neil McKenzie's stumps with his fourth delivery was deafening and the fans jumped to their feet to shout support for their new local hero. He also won plenty of cheers when he dug in a quick bouncer that jammed Amla on the knuckles in the same over.
It wasn't the only time during the day Siddle would lift the spectators out of their seats. There were cheers when he found an edge from Graeme Smith and his spell became so fierce that the crowd was cheering and chanting every ball. He even won a good-natured laugh from the fans when he appealed for AB de Villiers' wicket, unaware the ball had clipped off stump. The TV cameras captured Siddle roaring out his appeal to Billy Doctrove while Brad Haddin and Michael Hussey pointed to the dislodged bail, and Siddle threw his head back in delight.
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