An unhappy homecoming for Nash
Out walks Brendan Nash, the West Indies No. 6, for his first game at the Gabba since he was dropped by Queensland in 2006-07 and the man holding the ball is Mitchell Johnson. Nash's former house-mate is a sensitive brute but was not being friendly.
"They are booing you mate," Johnson said sneakily before following up the verbal welcome with a slightly misguided bouncer. "It was always going to happen, bowling a short one first up," Johnson said. "I think he expected it as well, but I probably wish it was a bit more towards his helmet." Johnson is smiling but that doesn't mean he won't repeat the method again the next time he runs in. Nash knows it too.
As Nash took guard Shane Watson, another former team-mate, was standing in the slips and Nathan Hauritz was hovering in the field. Nash and Hauritz, the offspinner, went to school together at Brisbane's Nudgee College and played together for the Norths club. The reunion of the quartet is even stranger considering none of them live here anymore.
Johnson and Watson followed their girlfriends interstate while Hauritz and Nash realised their cricketing lives lay elsewhere when squeezed out by Queensland. Hauritz followed the spin to New South Wales and Nash returned to his family roots in Jamaica, with both embarking on amazing journeys that earned them international status and a life of perks.
All four achieved something on the second day of the first Test but the three Australians were in the better place. Johnson's two wickets helped reduce West Indies to a wobbly 5 for 134 at stumps. Nash struck a couple of cut boundaries before edging Watson behind on 18 after Hauritz's unbeaten 50, his maiden half-century, had pushed Australia to a formidable 8 for 480 declared.
The brief battle of the housemates was the most fun. It's always awkward when friends oppose each other and the bond between Nash and Johnson was strong during their lives sharing washing up duty and fighting for the best spot on the couch. Both were on the outer with their states and Johnson appeared to be in a lost battle with his fragile back. Nash, who was then working as a mortgage broker, was one of those who assisted Johnson on the journey from delivery driver to the ICC's Cricketer of the Year.
"I was walking back to the top of my mark and it was quite strange," Johnson said. "The first couple of balls I was laughing on the inside to myself that I was bowling to him, but after he cut me I wasn't too happy. I thought I have to get a bit more serious about this."
Denesh Ramdin, the West Indies vice-captain, felt Nash was more worried than usual as he went out to face his old team-mates in front of small group of supporters wearing "Team Nash" shirts. Nash's parents still live in Brisbane and his wife Hannah grew up here too.
"I'm sure he went out there today with a few nerves," Ramdin said. "He hit a couple of boundaries there and I'm sure he wanted to press on and get some runs in front of his people and his fans. Unfortunately that's cricket. Hopefully he gets another chance in the second innings."
Peter English is the Australasia editor of Cricinfo