A day at the cricket

The sounds and sensations of a one day test

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We got there at 2pm, Linda and I along with two of our sons and one with his Canadian girlfriend Kristina. She’d never been to a cricket match, and that was one of the main reasons we had gone today.

We settled in for the game, which was scheduled to run for several hours and finish somewhere around 10:30pm. It was a balmy 22 degrees, yet we knew the Australian sun would still pack a punch. Seeing that we would be in full sun until dusk, we did what everyone with any sense did – covered up, hats on and sunscreen fully applied. Though we coped with its unrelenting rays, we were grateful when the first edge of shade finally found us 5 hours later.

What a crowd! Not a large one by MCG standards, a mere 33,000 in a stadium built to hold 100,000, but there were enough to make noise and have some fun. And they did. The first ball of the game drew cheers and claps though it was nothing remarkable, and neither was the game itself as it unfolded throughout the day. It was a match between Australia and Pakistan and ticked along with no outstanding features, except that Pakistan, unexpectedly, and to the great delight of Pakistan fans, eventually overcame a lacklustre Australia to win for the first time this year.  But what the game lacked (though it was enjoyable as a kind of background) the crowd made up for.

I don’t know if we were in the rowdiest part of the crowd. There seemed to be noise and colour everywhere, but if we weren’t the noisiest we must have come close. Yobbos all around us (an Aussie term for louts and larrikins) were good naturedly egging everyone with a beer in their hands, to scull it down. “Scull, scull, scull, scull scull…..” they shouted with increasing intensity, followed by uproarious cheers when the target of their chant did just that. And, like elsewhere in the stadium, there were inflated beach balls bouncing up and down the rows, being hit back up into the air by whoever it landed on, the only rule being to make sure it didn’t bounce unintentionally onto the field. That meant sudden death for the beach ball – it would be confiscated and not seen again.

Security and the police were in highly visible numbers, at least in our area. It surprised me, because cricket, in our experience (admittedly we don’t go that often) is not an angry sport – the crowd are often cheery rather than angry. Maybe it’s because it’s summer rather than winter (that’s when our football season is on, and the crowds can definitely be ugly). Maybe it’s because it’s not a contact sport. I don’t know why, but for whatever reason, cricket crowds in our experience haven’t been malicious. Anyway, either through a misguided sense of zeal, or perhaps out of previous experience, they began to pounce on anyone who did indeed scull their drink at the encouragement of the crowd. “Booooo”, we all responded. “Unfair”, we shouted at them as they dragged the offending spectator away. There was no danger as far as we could see. Let them have their fun.

And then there were the costumes. Different people had dressed up as famous personalities. One particular cricket commentator, very popular but now passed away, was represented by a crowd of guys dressed like him and with his colour hair. There were a bunch of guys in red dresses and wigs, there the Tele Tubbies characters, there was Superman and Spider-Man, there was the Mario Brothers. There were also plenty of people wearing their watermelon helmets (watermelons scooped out and the shell cut and shaped in all sorts of ways, and then plonked on your head as a hat, some of them very clever indeed, but all surely a bit stinky).

And of course there were the colours. Green and gold, Australia’s sporting colours, painted on faces, displayed on hats and tops. And the purple and white, the team colours of Pakistan, just as proudly worn, and banners and flags draped and waved, waved and draped.

There were regular attempts at a Mexican wave, and one succeeded in going around and around the stadium for many as three times before it petered out. Our section, loud as ever, regularly tried to resurrect it, but it failed to catch on again much to their own vocal indignation. And there was of course the great Aussie anthem that is shouted out at most Aussie sporting matches:

“Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, oi,oi,oi!

Aussie, Aussie , Aussie, oi,oi,oi!

Aussie, oi! Aussie, oi!

Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, oi,oi,oi!”. 

It never ceases to amaze me how certain individuals, clearly not wallflowers, would stand to their feet, again and again as the day progressed, bellowing out, with ever increasing hoarseness, that beloved anthem, and no matter how times they did it, the crowd would unfailingly respond with an equally enthusiastic “oi, oi, oi!”.

And of course there were the roars from the crowd when a four was hit or someone was bowled out, and in the inevitable lulls in the game music would be cranked up, rock classics that everyone would instantly recognise and sing along to. Up would jump all the costumed ones, and some who were just keen, to dance and prance around in the hope of catching the eye of the TV cameras and be displayed on the big screens. Linda and I never jumped up, but we sang along and swayed from side to side laughing with the dagginess of it all.

Though it was all pretty boisterous it was never too rankling. Sure there was the odd shout out that was crass or just plain wrong, but overall, a good natured presence prevailed. I suppose if we had had loud people right behind us it would have been too much. But thankfully we were just near enough and just far enough away to enjoy it all without being overwhelmed by any of it.

So with the force of sun upon us and the noise, the colour and the boisterousness all around us, the day happily unfurled and finally passed with us heading home, tired but elated, at about 10:15. Even the walk back to the car was rewarding. A peaceful and contented crowd, walking through elegant parkland made eerily beautiful with its night lighting, and the magical evening atmosphere, a kind of glow that settles on everything, that is a Melbourne summers evening. 

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Author: Terry Lewis

I'm a guy in his 50's who thought it might be fun to write about day to day issues - the stuff that life is made of. It's helped me think and develop some deeper perspectives. I enjoyed it so much I thought I might start posting it in a blog, and here we are! I intend to mix it up as much as I can. I am a thinking kind of guy so the majority of my posts will probably have some kernel of truth or (hopefully) wisdom nestled in there somewhere. But I also hope to have some light hearted posts as well. Too much thinking can make life pretty dull! Anyway, hope you like it.

9 thoughts on “A day at the cricket”

  1. Thanks for this slice of Aussie culture: I had no idea cricket was a game played in huge stadiums. I guess I’m still in the days gone by of those James Harriot books set in Yorkshire where they played on local park ‘greens’.
    I am amazed at the patience of the crowd to stay for such a long game and without degenerating into a drunken mob! But then, my point of reference is with American football stadium games…
    Bottom line: I too enjoy a good game – as much for the people watching as the actual play-by-play action!

    1. Thank you Laura. One of the reasons for the post was to share something that other cultures might not have experienced. Yes cricket is a long game! In fact, the most pure form of a cricket test lasts for 5 days! And is still played quite a lot in the world. Most Commonwealth countries are fully aware of this, but other countries have a hard time believing a game could last so long!

  2. Your writing is so rich and vivid that your words have whisked me out of my small, quiet office and into the middle of this boisterous, colorful, sweaty, beer-soaked crowd of Yobbos (thank you for the vocab lesson). It doesn’t sound like something I would enjoy — or perhaps even survive — in real life. But as a virtual distraction it’s the perfect antidote for the chaos and divisiveness that is gripping my country right now. In spite of attentively reading every word I still don’t understand cricket, though … but something tells me that’s really not the point of all this fun. Thank you for this wonderful mini-vacation, Terry. You are a WONDERFUL writer.

    1. Thank you Heather. I wasn’t really trying to explain the game, but when it is a good match then it is very much about the game as well as the atmosphere. And I can understand your reservations. My wife Linda is a bit quieter than me, and she did get a little flustered once or twice, but she still really enjoyed the day. And thank you so much for your comments about my writing. I’m not a creative writer but more analytical, so every now when I get the chance I try have a go and paint a picture of what I’ve experienced, and your response is exactly what I was trying to achieve, so thanks for the feedback and encouragement!

      1. Ah, yes … of course you weren’t trying to explain the technical aspects of the game (because who has that much time on their hands?!). I meant more in the sense of “I still don’t fully understand why people would spend looong hours at a match.” But your description of the amount of beer consumed and the general good-natured camaraderie did provide some insight. In any case, you really did succeed in painting a vivid picture of the whole affair. Thank you again for the mini-vacation!

      2. I can understand your “nonplussed-ness” (I know its not a word but I just couldn’t resist). I’m not sure that there is another game like it. And wait for this – the purest form of cricket goes for 5 days! It’s called “test cricket” and is regularly played by the top professional teams in the world. I don’t think many people would attend every day, but would probably go for one day out of the five. During cricket season we often have the TV on for most of the day, and will wander in, settle in to watch a bit of the game, then wander off, and back again later on etc. For us it’s actually a very calming and relaxing thing having the cricket on in the background.
        In a 5 day test a single batsman, if he is playing particularly well, may *actually* bat for more than a day (that is, continually face a bowler for that period of time).
        Sorry if I’m rambling a little – I just enjoy telling people who don’t know, just how crazy this game is!

      3. HOLY MOLY, Terry. Five days?! Now that takes some stamina — for everyone involved! I can imagine how it would be soothing to have it playing in the background, though, unfolding at about the same pace as the rest of your life.

        See? Now you *have* taught me a bit about the game. 🙂

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