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Tickled pink

05 January 2012 2

It was a remarkable sight, being surrounded by a sea of pink

Old men in pink shirts. Young men in pink singlets. 

Pink bandana’s being worn freely by all. But this blog is not about my time in an Oxford Street pub on Wednesday night. 

Rather, it is about a wonderful day at the SCG dedicated to the McGrath Foundation, one of Australia’s leading breast cancer support organisations. 

And on Day 3 of the Sydney Test where all of the opening descriptions rang true and more besides, the people arrived in their droves, and were generous in their backing. 

It really was quite a surreal experience moving through the masses before the game, for rarely in life are you overwhelmingly surrounded by just one shade.

Everyone at the ground was a participant in an overpowering positivity, and why wouldn’t they be? 

Australia’s batting hero of the last 15 years had scored a century the day before, our skipper was 251 not out, and another favourite in Michael Hussey was on the verge of his own milestone. 

Combined with a day that has been dedicated to the worthiest of charities and a 291 run lead over a respected opponent, the recipe for a magnificent sporting experience was set.

Lingering around the pressbox, I overheard a conversation being led by Ian Chappell, who was also doing his best to support the vibrancy of the day. 

Renowned as a man who calls a spade a #$%#ing shovel, he was using language so colourful it would make the brightest rainbow seem drab in comparison. 

The other person involved was none other than the man whose laugh has become as much a part of the Australian summer as hangovers and sunscreen – Kerry O’Keefe. 

Hearing his distinctive chortle at that stage of the morning made me chuckle in turn, and the feel-good atmosphere surrounding this match was further entrenched.

The relaxed nature of the day was also felt out in the middle once play resumed. After the blazing bats and scorching runs of day two, the opening hour produced only 37 runs and two boundaries.

This is far from a criticism, even though it may be taken as such in the T20 age.

Instead, it merely showed what long-time observers of test cricket already know – once you are not out overnight, the previous day becomes irrelevant, whether you’re on 200 or two.

Each man must start again and find his rhythm. No one was more conscious of this than Clarke, and he only found the fence for the first time 20 overs into the day.

Hussey was a bit more free-flowing, but then he couldn’t have been nearly as fatigued – after all, he hadn’t been batting for longer than most people go on holiday! 

The morning session did belong to the veteran leftie, with an easy mixture of cuts, drives and pulls. 

He possesses every shot in the book when on song, and in this innings he sang like Elton John, who, it must be said, was wearing pink in Sydney long before it was fashionable. 

Mr Cricket brought up what is destined to be a forgotten century with the greatest of ease, lucky enough to be facing the empty threats from an opposition opening batsman at the time. 

Few in cricket maximise their opportunities when easy runs are on offer like Hussey, and he proved it again here, accumulating his runs with the ease that a parking inspector does enemies.

In the meantime, Clarke had moved into the ‘nervous two hundred and nineties’, but like Ponting the day before, lunch denied Clarke a memorable milestone, and the crowd was made to wait before seeing what each was desperately craving. 

Upon resumption he moved to 299, and the Indians, who for the previous four sessions in the field were doing their best impersonations of exhibits at Madame Tussauds, were suddenly alert. 

Each man was on edge - chattering, moving in with the bowler, willing to die to save a single. 

India’s apathy was lifted, however briefly, with the score on 598, but it was all to no avail. Sharma strayed onto the pads, and the rarely seen individual 300 was raised.

Surrounded by a standing pink ovation, against the backdrop of pink advertising boards, and with pink on every stump and bat handle, Michael Clarke stood tall, and kissed the green and gold crest upon his helmet. 

The applause was extended and energized, with not one unjustified clap among them. 

The air was thick with love, and even newborn babies and cute little puppies had to go without, because it was all directed at the Australian captain. It is a rare privilege to witness a sporting occasion of such magnitude and meaning live as it happens, and the crowd was justly appreciative.

The next question was of declaration. 

Would Clarke go for a lead of 500? Chase the personal glory of 400? Bat left handed to give the Indians a chance? 

In the end, he felt a lead of 468 was enough, and called time on the innings once Hussey had passed 150. 

As they left the field to more acclaim, it was felt that sales of moisturizing cream will go through the roof in the next few days, to cure 60,000 overworked, blistered hands. 

In fact, I’m still clapping as I write this, not an easy task.

Sehwag and Gambhir came out to bat, and the key wicket of the former was delivered quickly by Hilfenhaus, while the latter unveiled some heretofore unseen strokeplay. 

Dravid came and went, becoming another victim of the irrepressible Tasmanian, and India progressed to 2/114 at stumps.

In summary, off the back of three sterling batting performances, Australia are on track for a famous victory, and an unassailable 2-0 series lead.

And when it eventuates I, for one, will be tickled pink.

The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Cricket Australia
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