Choice of game
A friend of mine bought tickets to the game for my birthday. Also an international game in Canberra is somewhat of a rarity. Two of the best teams in the world in my own backyard - this one could not be missed!
I just wanted to see a good game of cricket. I was mainly there to watch South Africa though. My perfect scenario was for Australia to bat first and post a competitive score, with Crazy-Eyes-Steyn and co firing it in. Then watching the South Africans chase, with an Amla and AB masterclass, going long into a relaxed and breezy Canberra night.
It's hard to look past Aaron Finch's hundred, or Steve Smith's busy 70, but for me personally, Hashim Amla and his awe-inspiring wrists stole the show. While most of his innings comprised of measured strokes into gaps for singles, his quick hands and impeccable timing were real treats for the crowd. There were cheers from the South Africans, and lots of respect from the Australians.
One thing I'd have changed
I definitely wanted to see Mitchell Johnson have a crack at the South Africans. Mitch has always been a raw talent, but after harnessing his aggression and skill against the Poms last summer, he's really impressed me. It was a real shame he was rested. I would've loved to see him get into it with AB, who looks in such good touch these days, the only person that can get him out is himself.
Face-off I relished
Steyn and Clarke was a no-go because of the latter's injury issues. That was a real shame. Sadly, Johnson and AB didn't happen either. However the duel between Kane Richardson and De Villiers was quite interesting. Richardson was coping a bit of a pasting from the crowd for his lacklustre performances this summer. However everyone changed their tune when he got the wicket of De Villiers. The good lord only knows why some as talented as that man plays the god-awful sweep and the on-one-knee slap shot. But Richardson won over some fans tonight, so well done to him.
There was a bloke closer to the boundary who was causing a bit of a ruckus after a long day in the sun, and quite obviously a few too many. He was trying to start chants, to no avail, making a whole bunch of noise, and even getting aggressive towards others. The traditional 'you are a wanker' chants wrung out aimed at him, which he seemed to love. He was loving the attention until a man watching the game with his daughter stood up, and told him to pull his head in so that everyone could enjoy the game. The whole section of the crowd cheered for this man who stood up to the hooligan, laughing and clapping in agreement. Needless to say, after the cops rolled up, the clown got a mighty send-off from everyone (including myself), and we were able to enjoy a wonderful evening of cricket. Great stuff.
Morne Morkel was fielding close to where I was seated and he took a lot of heat from the crowd for his performance with the ball. David Miller got a bit of birthday love, along with some heckling of course. Mitchell Marsh came past after taking a wicket and gestured for the fired up crowed to relax. Closer to the end of the game, Steve Smith gave us a bit of a smile, and then treated us to some awesome ground fielding, and an effortless direct hit from the deep.
Shot of the day
Amla creamed a half-volley on his legs with just a swish of his wrist, in the air and straight to the boundary. That shot alone was well worth the price of admission. A weekend warrior behind me said: "I just need to learn that shot and I'll be good". Yeah, good luck with that mate.
While not a sell out, the crowd was pretty impressive. There weren't any noticeable gaps in seating, and the noise levels were pretty big for Canberra standards. The majority of the crowd was definitely supporting Australia, although it was nice to see people get out of there seats for Amla, the same way they did for Finch when he reached his century. The weather was great, people were laughing and chilling, the cricket was entertaining and it was just great vibes all around.
Fancy dress index
There was a man wearing a suit with a bald wig and a beak like nose prop. He could've been Nasser Hussain, Bill Lawry, Montgomery Burns or a combination of all three.
Tip of the day
Souvlaki. Get one into ya. Better yet, get some hot chips too and put them in the Souv. Wash it down with a beer and you've got the quintessential Australian summer of cricket eating experience.
9 out of 10. It was high scoring, so the bowling wasn't the most outstanding, but the atmosphere was great, we got to see a wide range of talent, and the Souvlaki hit the spot too. Had a lot of Oohs, Ahs and laughs during the game, and it was great to share it with mates.
Manuka is just a fantastic Oval for cricket. It's a throwback ground, with the hill and plenty of open air space. It's relaxed and calm, but you can also feel the energy of the crowd. It's a wonderful space to just sit back enjoy the game and culture of cricket.