Being a proud born-and-raised Victorian growing up in the working-class suburb of Dandenong, I am naturally engineered to view everything concerning NSW and the pretentiousness of Sydney with an arrogant disdain bordering on hatred.
And I have often found an outlet for this disdain, be it sniggering at their meagre attempts to replicate our horse racing Spring carnival in the Autumn or laughing at the poor excuse for an AFL ground at Homebush.
So I walked to the SCG for my first visit this morning with some trepidation, several questions on my mind.
Could these Sydney-siders tell that there was a Victorian imposter in their midst? Could my barely contained hostility towards them be detected? Could I have unwittingly booked the hotel for my stay in a red light district?
In regards to the latter, Oxford St in Paddington was an unfamiliar area to me, but a walk around the streets last night was enlightening.
All such questions were quickly tossed aside when my man James ‘The Package’ Pattinson ripped one across the hapless Gautam Gambhir with the third ball of the match.
Vics and New South Welshmen embraced like long-lost brothers in the aisles. India 1/0! Not wanting to be churlish, I didn’t remind my fellow cricket-lovers that this was a wicket not just for Australia, but for Victoria, and even better, for Dandenong.
A wicket falling in the first over of a match provides its own special buzz, and with the home side on the right end of it, the feeling was bright.
But 4.2 overs in, it turned ugly.
The Package bowled one to Sehwag on off stump which he punched along the ground to mid-off, and through the hands of Peter Siddle (a fellow Dandenong-ite) for a single.
If the culprit of this misfield had been Michael Clarke, then no worries. By David Warner – oh well, it happens. By Brad Haddin – it’s not easy out there.
But by a VICTORIAN? The savagery from the crowd was akin to a pride of lions attacking a defenceless, wounded elk.
“Bloody Victorian!” screamed one previously sedate five year old girl. “Can’t trust a useless Vic!” bellowed her formerly kindly 82 year old grandmother.
But they are a fickle lot these supporters, and all was forgiven when Siddle shook off the crowd’s invective and ridicule to breach The Wall, although not bowled this time, but beaten for pace and inside-edging to the waiting hands of Ed Cowan at bat pad. Another wicket! Another Victorian! Another one for Dandenong!
And thus another Indian procession was begun. 2/30 became 3/55 and 4/59 as The Package once again set a match alight, gaining the edge of the streaky Sehwag before bullying out Laxman, who has looked all at sea against high quality pace bowling so far in this series. Siddle chimed in to get the talented Kohli caught behind, and suddenly the Dandenong pace attack had the might of India’s batting line-up 5/96. Five down! All from Victoria! All from Dandenong!
Of course, all of this is not to decry the work of the formidable Hilfenhaus. While he was not getting the wickets (born in the wrong place), he was arguably the pick of the mornings bowlers.
Incredibly tight with figures of 11-3-19-0 at this stage, he continued on from his Melbourne resurgence with controlled, aggressive outswing, perfectly complementing the wicket-taking hostility of the Dandenong dynamic duo, who were being hailed as Batman and Robin in some Vic-centric circles. The other player to have a say in the middle of this carnage was Sachin Tendulkar…again. Looking in exquisite touch…again. Playing serenely while all around him floundered…again.
While all were becoming mesmerised by Sachin’s genius, and tantalized by his potential century, The Package had seen more than enough. Steaming in, he forced the inside edge to disfigure the stumps, and the celebrations were on. Six of the best! To Victoria! To Dandenong!
Could these two etch themselves into the history books and take all ten between them? Oh, what a joy that would be in the SCG’s 100th test match, two Victorian boys destroying a famous Indian batting line-up!
Sadly for my own historical quest, but happily for the Aussies overall, Hilfenhaus muscled his way onto the wicket-taking stage, taking two wickets in three overs either side of tea, to extinguish any thought of a visitor uprising.
Siddle fittingly took the last, and the spoils were shared among the pacemen.
It has been a pleasure to watch these three working in tandem, and their figures in the series so far show exactly what a team effort it has been: Pattinson 10/151; Hilfenhaus 10/165; Siddle 9/160.
So the Aussies had a tricky 26 overs to face before the close, and the start was treacherous. The inexperienced Warner, Marsh and Cowan all quickly fell, 11 tests between them, and not much more than 11 runs today either.
But Clarke and Ponting righted the ship, the former with some irresponsible shots among his audacious strokeplay, and the latter particularly savage on anything fractionally short.
Of course the one question on everyone’s lips upon resumption tomorrow will be if Ricky can go on to a century that will lift the stands from their concrete trenches.
But I have another – has he ever been to Dandenong?
The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Cricket Australia