Top 20 in 2020: Biggest BBL moments, No.4
Ahead of the 10th season of the KFC BBL, we continue our countdown of the most memorable moments in the tournament's history
21 November 2020, 02:20 PM AEST
Big sixes, great catches and thrilling finishes - the first nine seasons of the KFC Big Bash League has had all that and much, much more.
To mark the competition's 10th season this summer, we're counting down 20 of the biggest moments from the competition's history, be they good, bad or just downright bizarre.
We continue today with No.4 in the countdown and will continue to re-live some more classic moments over the next three days.
4) Record crowd packs out the MCG
Melbourne Stars v Melbourne Renegades, MCG, BBL|05
By Martin Smith
It was mid-afternoon on the second day of a new year when Anthony Everard's phone started to buzz.
The man in charge of the KFC Big Bash League was sitting in a hotel room in Perth, chewing on a club sandwich, his eyes flitting from the TV screen in front of him and down to his phone whenever a message would ping through.
On the other side of the country, the thousands of Victorian families who were expected at the MCG for that evening's Melbourne derby had started to arrive.
Every 15 minutes, Everard would get a text message from the MCG event staff, updating him on how many people had come through the gates. At first, it increased by a few thousand people at a time, then a few thousand more. But with a little more than an hour to go, the numbers grew exponentially, the crowd figure quickly jumping from 35,000 to 45,000 and continuing to accelerate.
"It just felt like a runaway train," Everard remembers.
"We'd pre-sold a big number of 50,000 tickets, but there was an enormous walk-up. And there's no ground in the world that can cope with 30,000 people turning up in the space of an hour.
"The bigger question was not so much how many people were inside the ground, it was how many people were outside.
"I remember the updates coming through on the phone, looking at the images on the TV screen and there was this sea of people in Yarra Park, stretching all the way back to Jolimont Station.
"It was a surreal feeling because I was kind of helpless. I didn't have a role on match day in terms of determining how many gates to open and security; that's all done by the MCG and the local authorities, so I was very much hands off.
"It was a feeling of excitement and euphoria combined with helplessness about how we were going to get all these people into the ground for the start of the game."
During that crazy 90 minutes before the first ball was bowled, what should have been the breakout night of Australian cricket's newest competition threatened to spiral into a PR disaster.
The sudden arrival of tens of thousands of people outside Melbourne's sporting mecca was complicated by the 'Ring of Steel' that surrounded the ground; hundreds of metres of wire fencing that had been set up as a security measure following the tragic terrorist attack in Paris just six weeks earlier.
In that heightened environment, throwing the gates open to the masses – as Kerry Packer had done nearly four decades earlier when World Series Cricket had its breakout moment at the SCG – simply wasn't an option.
All Everard and his team could do was wait, and hope.
"There were people live tweeting outside the ground and taking photos of the queues," he remembers.
"I remember thinking about the (publicity) risk of so many families and kids that had made the pilgrimage to the MCG on a beautiful, warm summer's night and having to be turned away.
"The MCG is as capable as any ground in the world of handling an additional walk up. My question was to what extent the additional layer of security would slow things down. And a T20 game can be over in a heartbeat; if you miss the first 30 minutes, you're a fair way into the game already.
"But the vast majority of people did get in. You hear stories in folklore now of people who were stuck in their car on Punt Rd and turned away.
"And it'll be one of those stories in years to come where there was 80,000 in the ground and another 80,000 in Yarra Park who couldn’t get in."
History shows that not even the Ring of Steel could stop the BBL having its moment – a night Everard believes the competition truly arrived on the Australian sporting landscape.
A final MCG crowd of 80,833 people – which obliterated the previous tournament record of 52,633 – was followed by another 20,444 at the WACA Ground later that evening for the second match of a double header, meaning more than 100,000 Australians had watched a BBL game live that day.
These were heady times for the Big Bash, a start-up competition in just its fifth season.
Just 48 hours earlier, Everard had been in Adelaide to watch Travis Head slam three consecutive sixes to bring up a memorable hundred and win the game for his Strikers side, the action on the field in front of a sell-out crowd matching the literal fireworks off the ground that ushered in the new year.
"We were on a high after that," Everard remembers.
"It was peak BBL; fireworks, New Year's Eve, Travis Head hitting sixes, the home team wins.
"That was a night where everything came together, and I remember thinking that you have a night like that and it almost ruins everything else: Will it ever be this good again?
"You don't give yourself a lot of margin after things like that happen."
It was in the 36 hours that followed, as Everard headed to Perth for the grand final replay between the Scorchers and Sixers, that it became clear the early crowd prediction of 50,000 for Melbourne derby was a gross misjudgement.
The target was matched in pre-sales alone, which was unprecedented territory for the competition, and a combination of perfect weather, a Saturday night and an earlier start time led to the mass of humanity flooding Yarra Park that evening.
And history was made long before they streamed off the trains and trams in their thousands and headed to the home of Australian sport. In the afternoon, close to 13,000 people watched the WBBL match that preceded the main event; a record crowd in its own right for a women's T20 but a figure that's almost laughable now given the 86,174 that watched the T20 World Cup final at the same venue just four years later.
That match was also the first time a women's game had been broadcast on an Australian commercial network's main channel, with viewers at home captivated as much by 'Watermelon Boy' in the stands as the match itself, which was decided with only a ball to spare.
It was a chaotic 48-hour window in the competition's history, which helped justify its creation, validate the path it was on and show Everard what was possible.
"It certainly felt like the night that everything clicked," he says. "A whole lot of things came together.
"We gave it every chance, it felt like it was going to be a big night and it went to a whole other level.
"(An 80,000 crowd) wasn't the end game. It wasn't a case of 'we’ve reached the top of the mountain and we're done'. It was just a moment in time that validated the arrival of the BBL as this juggernaut of the Australian summer and what it means to Australian families.
"In any start-up business, or a start-up league in our case, you can probably only ever have one moment like that. That was the BBL's breakout party and we've seen so many great moments since, and we'll continue to see more in the future."
Return to cricket.com.au tomorrow as we continue our countdown of the most memorable moments in BBL history
Top 20 Biggest BBL Moments (so far)
4) Record crowd packs out the MCG