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First-person reports from the stands
Choice of game
I've trundled along to all of the Big Bash matches at the WACA this season. I try to make it to as much of the domestic contest as I am able but the sheer amount of cricket, coupled with Western Australia's doleful performance in recent years, takes the zest from being one of those few faithful who sparingly dot the stands at Shield games. There is a sense of occasion about the Big Bash though which draws not only me, but thronged crowds to the series. Unfortunately Western Australia's miserable outings in their previous two home games have done little to justify such strong support. They were embarrassingly crushed by both Tasmania and South Australia in defeats not merely demoralising, but utterly dull cricket, the sort which makes you question whether there is even any merit to the Twenty20 format.
So then my expectations were low setting off for the match. However having witnessed Victoria crush Western Australia in the first one-day fixture of the season I imagined that at least the visitors might provide a performance of interest. I was proven quite wrong for Western Australia bowled and fielded magnificently to curtail the Victorians to a modest total. The hosts then carried on to achieve the target in cool and convincing manner.
Holding a partisan attitude within Australian domestic cricket is a practice which has dulled over the ages. While I hold a lingering devotion toward my home state of Western Australia, supporting our cricket team is a disappointing past-time. I can't claim the feeling to be entirely absent but attend with a more objective air to observe those who would make claims to national selection or otherwise distinguish themselves. I did not expect Western Australia to win, or at least certainly not in such an emphatic manner. While I am glad that they did so, I am far more pleased to have been treated to what was a fairly decent cricket match.
Shaun Marsh was the deserved Man of the Match with an elegant and salient 93 not out. Marsh was sublime, his innings dignified and composed with a succession of textbook dispatches to the boundary along with shrewd singles and twos. This was in sharp contrast to his team-mates and particularly his only partner of any length, Luke Pomersbach. That gentleman was hit-and-miss in his slapdash 35, a few clubbed sixes to mask his more ungainly moments of desperate and unsuccessful power hitting. This latest proof of pedigree from Marsh in what has been a summer of some promise not merely elevates him above his team-mates, but stands him in good stead for his national call-up which will, in good faith, occur on Friday in Hobart.
The other two players of distinction in tonight's match were Aaron Finch and Michael Hogan. Finch's determined 61 was impressive in an otherwise inglorious innings. Hogan, who replaced Sajid Mahmood, was wonderful from his first ball, an inswinging yorker to dismiss Brad Hodge. He took four vital wickets to stamp Western Australia's authority upon the game. One feels a deal of sympathy for Mahmood. His career has been plagued with a certain amount of bad luck and now his cushy jaunt to Australia, which must be a welcome reprieve from bleak Bolton in January, has come to an ignominious end.
Such is the cosy atmosphere of the WACA, where the visiting team descends to the field through the Eastern Member's Stand, one is able to observe a good amount of players' personalities. When Victoria were here last Cameron White lustily sung along with The Temper Trap but unfortunately the captain was absent today to fulfill his national duties. However it was nice to watch Dwayne Bravo unwearyingly pose for such a lot of photographs, and the entire team was very gracious in the manner they went about interacting with the crowd. I was tickled to watch James Pattinson walk up to some young lad who had pad and pen in hand but was completely oblivious to the player, and ask him if he would like his autograph.
Late in the match Matt Prior dropped a howler of a catch from Pomersbach after he nearly collided with Bravo down the ground. He was heartily endorsed from then on by those seated near to him on the boundary and warmly applauded in every return made. It greatly pleased me to see that Prior revelled in the humour of the situation and wore a broad grin. For some reason I had him down as rather a lout and I was glad to be proven wrong.
In Western Australia much focus has centred upon Chris Gayle who has unfortunately been fairly underwhelming. I do hope he stays with the team for it is such a delight to have him regardless of his batting. I have just enjoyed trying to decipher his Twitter which is a wonderful haze of "LOL", mention of Nandos, and other endearing adventures within Perth.
The Western Australian player I would set down to watch is the youngster Tom Beaton. He did not bat today but I feel he has a future ahead of him. He first caught my eye as an aide in warm-up practices with the Australian team during the Test due to the hideous rat's tail which is his unfortunate chosen coiffure. He impressed me with his brutally strong and accurate arm though and was promising in his debut Twenty20 against Tasmania.
Shot of the day
It is hard to bypass Marsh's majestic array of shots but I believe the honour for this in fact goes to Finch. Finch has a tendency to bludgeon in an unattractive manner, on brutal display in his impressive pair of games for Australia just recently. In fact when circumstance does not dictate it, he is a fine player of sophistication and gentility. This was on crystalline display for what was my shot of the match. During the seventh over Finch but merely feathered a wayward delivery from Gayle in a stunning late cut shot to the boundary. Amid the slaughter and truncheon of the format, here was divinity.
Tonight's match was one of quality and beguiling interest. However the most prescient and enduring quality of the evening was its atmosphere. Perth turned out in large numbers to the first two home matches of the Big Bash but such support was clearly lacking tonight. The western grass embankment and Inverarity Stand, shaded from the discomfiting late afternoon sun, were crowded but the member's was sparse and the eastern part of the ground was desolate. The official attendance was not announced but I doubt it was more than 7000, a far cry from the nearly filled ground earlier in the series. It certainly had its impact upon the match and lessened the spectacle and trumpery associated with the 20-over format. I must say though that this was a thoroughly good thing and drew the focus of the ground on to the cricket rather than some sort of dreary and extroverted theatre. It was a pleasant rather than exciting atmosphere with something of the air of a weary but glowing Sunday afternoon.
While this was very agreeable to me I must admit that it gave way to some grave doubts on my behalf for the future of the series. As Twenty20 settles down and becomes cricket, there will be inevitable dullness which dwindle the masses. The fervour that accompanied the incorporation of international players two seasons back has begun to fade and it seems an endless wave of gimmicks are required to maintain interest. Attempting to garner greater interest for cricket is a worthy task but I fear that the series is perhaps unsustainable. Such is the only conclusion to be drawn from the eerie atmosphere of this evening at least.
I struggle to grasp what sort of target audience is attempted for in the entertainment put on by the WACA. It seems to be lowest common denominator, something which is entirely unsuitable for the game. Mercifully their garish and embarrassing excuses for diversion were somewhat mollified for the early part of the evening in recognition of the underwhelming crowd. It seems that the cretins put in charge of proceedings cannot help themselves though and they began to make their presence felt as the game progressed.
The chief object of hate is the muppet who has featured as emcee of the matches this season. This portly fool is successor to Ryan Campbell but lacks that gallant's winning charm no matter how commercial it may have been. The heir instead roams the ground making a loud nuisance of himself, saying nothing of interest about cricket but everything else that might be obnoxious and lousy in booming tones over the loudspeaker. He is that sort of abject, loathsome object who makes a fool of himself in public spaces thinking himself a font of humour but in reality a mere extroverted and annoying lump.
It is the music which is the most jarring aspect of the event though. Music was used initially in cricket to rally batsmen to their favourite tune or mark the change of bowler. It was perhaps coarse but acceptable and indeed revealed an interesting facet of cricketers. In Twenty20 music becomes a constant invasion, numbingly loud and divorced from its surroundings interrupting between every ball. The chief make-up of a cricket match is middle-aged men and their sons. In the case of Twenty20 families sometimes attend. One would think then that the music chosen would be of the inoffensive but comforting sort - the Beatles, Kinks, Troggs etc, perhaps some Motown, Michael Jackson and whatnot. The DJ is a bizarre tastemaker though weaving a hideous blend of that sort of weak and noisome hit found on beer-drinking anthem compilations along with completely inappropriate selections from the Eurodisco catalogue and the weaker kind of dance trash which fills the more desperate type of nightclub - David Guetta, Black Eyed Peas etc. It's unnecessary, un-enjoyed, and should be reviewed.
It was a pleasure to watch such a good match of cricket and have my faith in the format justified. I certainly feel the mark has been missed somewhat in the Big Bash but hope that measures will be taken to steer it back to optimistic waters. There is more that is good in the 20-over format than that which is annoying and Cricket Australia should draw upon these strengths for the future when the fads run dry.
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