Australia v India, 1st Test, Brisbane, 5th day December 8, 2003

'Why are they all lined up like that, Dad?'

Hayden's smashing innings enlivened proceedings on the final day at the Gabba

'Come on, Haydos'
© Getty Images

The match was nearing its death rattle when Matthew Hayden put his skates on after lunch, creaming the bowling to all parts, and perhaps sweeping Harbhajan Singh out of India's Test XI. The testimonial atmosphere livened up a notch as the strokes were uncorked, and by the time Hayden walloped a huge six off Ashish Nehra to take him to 99, the few stands that were occupied were buzzing.

"Come on, Matty" and "Come on, Haydos" were the yells, even as the Hayden family looked on in hope high up in the stands. A top-edged sweep later, there was deathly quiet apart from celebratory cheers emanating from what a local paper had called the Swami Army.

Queensland's finest wasn't a happy chappie as he walked off, throwing his helmet and gloves to the ground and smashing the bat against his side as he disappeared into the tunnel. The disappointed family headed for the exits soon after, prepared for the long drive back to Kingaroy. "Bit of bad luck, that," said Laurie Hayden with a rueful smile as he walked away.

Hayden's dismissal was the cue for Steve Waugh to emerge to another standing ovation. The Indian fans greeted him with some humorous placards, including one that said "Get out, Marto [Damien Martyn] ... before Steve runs you out." A yell of "Fluke, fluke," went up when he got off the mark with an edged four. By the time Parthiv Patel fluffed a stumping, the hecklers had had their fill. And to be fair to Waugh, there wasn't much to heckle afterwards, unless you're some weirdo who jeers at an immaculate cut-shot.

The Waving the Flag contingent got their opportunity when he reached 50, although the declaration that followed stunned most of the crowd, who had been packing their bags to head home. When Virender Sehwag and Akash Chopra went in and out quicker than Errol Flynn, the barracking reached a crescendo. "Why are they all lined up like that, Dad?" one little boy asked his father, seeing four slips and three gullies lined up for Rahul Dravid. "It's cos the Indians are nicking everything," said Dad, moments before Dravid played an exquisite cover-drive to the fence.

Andy Bichel came in for some cheers from his faithful following, but it was hard to escape the feeling that it could be his last appearance in the baggy green for a fair while. In an interview to a TV channel earlier in the day, Trevor Hohns - Australia's chairman of selectors - had said that Brad Williams would be a definite contender for Adelaide, despite his unfortunate "wrong arm" comment earlier in the week. "We know the kind of character Brad is, and that was probably a throwaway line. Cricket Australia have dealt with it, and we have no problems."

Mike Coward of The Australian, who has watched more of the Aussie team down the years than most, admitted that Australia had missed Williams's direct approach and aggression here. "He's very impetuous and hot-headed, but maybe that's not a bad thing for a fast bowler."

There's been much doom and gloom about Australia's lack of pace-bowling resources over the past few days, but if those in the know are to be believed, there are some handy performers waiting in the wings. Greg Chappell, who coached South Australia until recently, has high hopes of Paul Rofe, Shaun Tait and Trent Kelly. Chappell knows a thing or two about picking talent. When he was an Australian selector, three new boys were thrown in at the deep end to sink or swim. Their names? David Boon, Geoff Marsh and, er, Steve Waugh.

Dileep Premachandran is assistant editor of Wisden Cricinfo in India.