First-person reports from the stands
The world champions of Twenty20 v Australia at the "G" is reason enough. Before the start of the series if I had to bet on a game Pakistan could win, it would have been this one.
Neutral. In the normal course of events I'd be supporting Australia. However, after Pakistan's losing streak on this tour, it would have been hard to watch such a talented bunch lose again. A strong Pakistan team is good for world cricket. I was just hoping for a lot of runs and for the better team to win.
David Hussey and Shaun Tait. While it was Tait's pace that put Pakistan on the back foot, it was Hussey who stayed there till the end of the innings and gave his team something to bowl at. His 40 not out, catch of Kamran Akmal, and the energy he displayed on the field had a big say in Australia winning.
One thing I would have changed
I would have liked to see Pakistan being led by Shahid Afridi. He was in a destructive mood during the one-day series and this game would have been even more interesting had he been in the line-up. The body language of the team changes under his leadership.
Face-off I relished
Umar Gul v the Australian batsmen, and Tait and Dirk Nannes v the Pakistan top order. Gu showed again why he is considered one of the best bowlers in Twenty20. He consistently bowled at a lively pace and put his team in the driver's seat. However, with Nannes for company, Tait answered Gul's fiery spell with one of his own. The home crowd started getting behind Tait and he kept cranking it up. In the end he was too hot for the Pakistan team to handle.
Tait bowled like greased lightning during the first over of the Pakistan innings. The third ball of the over was clocked at 160.7kph and there was a hushed silence across MCG as it was flashed on the big screen. This was followed by thunderous applause and a standing ovation.
Umar Akmal was fielding at deep midwicket, right in front of some Pakistani supporters. They were screaming for him and he did not disappoint. After Pakistan's poor fielding display in the Tests and one-dayers, it was refreshing to see him swoop down on the ball and effect two run-outs. It was evident he was enjoying himself as he repeatedly waved and acknowledged the cheers from the crowd.
Shot of the day
At the end of 13 overs Australia were 86 for 6. Shoaib Malik was bowling well, and prudence called for consolidation from Australia. However, Hussey danced down the track and deposited Malik deep into the stands over wide long-on.
Some say the MCG is so big that it can never be filled, but with over 60,000 fans screaming their hearts out it seemed like a full house. The Mexican wave, the "Aussie Aussie Aussie, Oi Oi " chants and the beach balls made the stands a fun place to be. Security played spoilsport, popping a couple of the beach balls, but there seemed to be an endless supply of the things. The crowd also demonstrated their singing skills to "We Will Rock You", "Wild Thing", "La Bamba", "Macarena" and "Banana Boat Song" among others, and clapped to the line, "If you're happy and you know it, clap your hands". Local boy Cameron White got the biggest cheer among all the players. Steven Smith's performance on debut won many hearts and he got a huge cheer at the end of his spell.
There were a few interesting costumes on view during the game. A bunch of guys dressed as girls with long blonde hair, Superman costumes, the KFC crew with their red outfits, Australian fans with their bodies painted green and gold and with watermelon caps on their heads.
It was a thoroughly entertaining evening. The fireworks at the beginning of the game and mid-innings were a sight to behold. There were flames that flared up behind the boundary lines at the fall of a wicket, during a third-umpire referral, and when a boundary was scored.
During the mid-innings break, the KFC Classic Catches contest kept the crowd entertained. One spectator won A$3760 for taking a few catches. A couple of them were absolute rip-snorters.
Songs were played at the end of every delivery. Gul started his spell to the Pink Panther theme and walked in to bat to James Bond music.
Banner of the day
The "Boom Boom Afridi" and "Be Afridi, be very Afridi" banners were notable absentees, but Afridi did feature on many banners after his ball-chewing incident.
Marks out of 10
8. It was a barmy, noisy, festive atmosphere. The feel within the stadium and the closeness of the contest made for a great evening. Australia and Pakistan seemed equally matched in all departments of the game for the first time the summer. However, Australia held their nerve at crucial moments and on the night were first among equals.
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