First-person reports from the stands
Choice of game
Being a proud Victorian, the Boxing Day Test is my best opportunity each year to see some Test match action. Considering the Aussies had already stormed to an unexpected 3-0 series lead, making the three-hour effort to reach the great arena was worth it. I also owe some thanks to my uncle and nana for the organisation!
Of course the home side - three lost Ashes series in a row had been really tough going. This was a great chance to crush the English into the ground.
All the English batsmen got a start, and all of the Australian bowlers bowled tidily, but as soon as the match hit a lull, Ryan Harris wrestled back the momentum. Two absolute jaffas - textbook outswinging deliveries - accounted for Joe Root and Ian Bell. After that, he looked like he could strike in every over.
One thing I'd have changed about the day
After the first hour, batting wasn't as difficult as Michael Clarke had predicted when he won the toss. Michael Carberry and Ian Bell looked at ease. Being an Australia fan, I would've loved to see Shane Watson, David Warner, Michael Clarke and George Bailey batting instead; it's fair to say that far more than 226 would've been put on the board.
The interplay I enjoyed
As predicted, the Kevin Pietersen v Peter Siddle contest enthralled the record crowd. You can't take your eyes off the crease when KP bats - and the'Sidddddle' chant that echoed around the MCG, set the tone for a high-quality head-to-head. There were a few plays, misses and inside edges, but although he didn't dominate, you had to give KP the points for getting through unscathed.
The deck was sluggish, but when the players resumed after the luncheon break, a Mitchell Johnson short ball made Joe Root duck in a hurry. A moment later an eerie hush fell over the 'G as the radar gun on the new scoreboards showed 155.8 kmph. It was a stunned reaction to a great achievement from MJ v2.0.
Shot of the day
While Alastair Cook punched well and Carberry cut with precision, Pietersen's slap through cover off Siddle in the penultimate over of the day was just sublime. It was played in unorthodox style, but incredible timing sent it past Rogers at short mid-off and in the process ended Siddle's day without the scalp of his 'bunny'.
The atmosphere and crowd in general were great. Even though we got confirmation in the last session that it was an all-time record Test match crowd, the magnificent Colosseum was full but not packed to the rafters. To see a few more squeezed in to chant 'We love Siddle 'cause he's a Victorian' would've been fantastic. The Barmy Army was largely unheard until about 4pm. A fair bit of heckling wasn't appreciated by the Australian players (particularly Clarke), who on the dismissal of Jonny Bairstow, turned and applauded the Army's constructive input.
Fancy dress index
Nothing out of the ordinary for an MCG match of international cricket: some Flinstones, a group of convicts, some Richie Benauds. The usual.
The Mexican wave didn't get going until the second session when England's grind hit full swing, but it really built up some ferocity.
The only entertainment at the tea break was a crowd volunteer throwing underarm balls to Brett Lee, aiming for a target fifty metres away. Yeah, I was confused too.
With only a few overs to go, a spectator's green and gold sombrero blew onto the ground, where Chris Rogers picked it up and proceeded to wear it. The crowd erupted in laughter. It blew off his head again before he could get it off the ground, but his adopted home crowd loved him for it.
While there were no flies in the stands, there were hundreds out in the middle. And, in the 75th over when Pietersen dropped to his knees twice in two balls, nobody guessed that a swallowed fly would be the reason. It was the loudest crowd 'boo' you'll ever hear with a majority of the 90,000 people joining in. KP responded as only KP could - a cracking pull through midwicket for four.
The quality of cricket was very good, and neither team was willing to give an inch. It was terrific to see KP value his wicket and not throw it away.
Marks out of 10
Somewhere around the 9 mark. Regardless of the outcome I love the atmosphere that live Test cricket throws at you. It would've been higher had England played a more positive brand of cricket, but that was their plan and they stuck to it.
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