Friday, January 6, 2012

This is NOT a Test!


This is the MCG
For more pictures from this trip and others view my Flickr: HERE

After learning the game and watching the 1st test match between Australia and India I finally got out to the MCG (Melbourne Cricket Grounds) to witness my first ever cricket match.  This was no test match however.  I don’t think I could endure an all day affair unless I was getting pissed with some mates (Good Aussie talk right there I know, its rubbing off).  This was a new format called T20 Big Bash.  The basic rules are each team gets 20 overs to score as many runs as possible.  Matches generally last a few hours instead of a few days and the action is much more exciting as guys are generally swinging for the boundary every chance they get.  I know my American readers may not understand the terms Im throwing out, don’t feel bad, I did either when I first arrived.

Lets start at the basics of the game.  Cricket consists of 2 batters positioned at opposing ends of the playing ground.  Each end has a wicket which is 3 wooden poles (stumps) and sitting atop those stumps are two little wooden dowels (Wickets).  The object is to try and knock those wickets from the stumps.  A bowler runs up to the play area and throws the ball with a straight arm at one of the batters trying to knock the wickets.  The batters attempt to hit the balls and run between the wickets to score runs.  If a batter hits a ball and it goes over the boundary line (read: fence) on the ground it counts as 4 runs, if it goes over in the air it counts as 6 runs.  There are several ways a batter can be retired.  If the ball is batted in the air and a fielder catches it before it hits the ground the batter is out.  If the ball hits the stumps on the bowl or while the batter is running between the stumps he is out.  Finally if a ball hits the batters pads, below the knees, while he is standing in front of the stumps he is out. 


Now for some terminology. We’ve already covered stumps and wickets.  An “over” consists of 6 balls.  A “run” is scored every time the batter runs safely between the wickets.  A “duck” is when the batter loses his wicket without scoring a run.  A “century” is when the batter scores 100 runs without getting out and a batter can score double and triple centuries.   A “maiden” is when a bowler bowls an entire over without allowing a run.  A “medium paced bowler” is what his name implies while a “fast paced bowler” is the same.  A “spin bowler” is in baseball terms, a thumber or a guy that throws slowly and creates a lot of spin and movement.  Finally a “baggy green” is the hat that the Aussie cricketers wear.  From what I understand it’s a tremendous honor to be given one of these hats and you only get 1 for your entire career.

View from our seats
A cricket ground is a massive circle.  The MCG is one of the finest stadiums in the world and holds over 100,000 people.  The playing area is located directly in the middle of the circle and there is no “foul” territory.  Every ball hit by the batter is in play.  Im still trying to figure out how and why teams position their players around the ground based on who is bowling and who is hitting.

A “Test” match has no limit to the amount of overs a team can bowl, that is why they can last as long as 5 days.  At the end of 5 days if the score is tied the game ends in a tie.  If a team has not gone all out before the end of 5 days the match is considered a draw.  There are innings in test cricket as well, generally only 2 but can be more.  An inning lasts as long as it takes for both teams to go all out.  A T20 Big Bash match like the one I attended is only 1 inning long.  Hopefully you can understand what Im trying to describe, if not Google it!  Back to my story.


(Side Note: I know there is A LOT more to cricket than just what Ive described, in fact Ive probably missed something.  Its just meant to be a quick reference not a rule book)

Nic Ungs and I
This Big Bash match featured the Melbourne Stars and the Perth Scorchers.  The Star were seeking their first W of the year while the Scorchers were already on the winning side.  We got tickets courtesy of teammate Jeff Jamnik who won them from a radio program.  He had 4 and was only using 2 and offered his second set to Nic and I.  We entered through gate 1 and made our way around the section M21 where we were meeting fellow American Kevin David and Aussie teammate Josh Davies.  They were parked front row of the section with an unimpeded view of the field.  My first impressions of the stadium were impressive.  The place is flat out massive!  Directly in front of us was a dark green section of seats that looked exclusively for the Melbourne Cricket Club.  Otherwise the rest of the stadium was colored in a sun scorched green.  At each end of the stadium, directly behind both hitters is a “batters eye” that each hitter can have adjusted to his needs. 

6 or Nothing!
We got into the stadium a bit late so they were already about 6 overs into the game.   The Scorchers had taken advantage of some mistakes by the Stars and had been putting up some decent numbers for the Stars to chase.  I thought from watching games on TV that the action would be far away because the field was so massive but sitting in the front row gave us a great view of how the game was played.  Shortly after arriving I headed up to get some food to ease my hungry stomach.  I came back with a box of fish and chips and Nic had already purchased a few beers to hold us over.  I think we go the full experience.  It was like going to a Dodgers game and having a Dodger Dog and a Coke, nothing (And I mean nothing) better.  We saw something quite rare that night as the Stars got 5 wickets in the final over.  The Scorchers were trying to add on as many runs as possible and the wickets fell our way.  They went all out with a score of 136.  One of my favorite parts of the night was getting to see Shane Warne bowl.  He is widely considered the greatest bowler in the history of cricket.  He’s definitely not in his prime but it was still great to see a living legend perform.   After a short intermission in which we stretched our legs and watched some on field entertainment the Stars came out to bat.

View from the lower level
After the first 6 overs it was easy to see why the Stars were 0-2.  They definitely are not a great hitting team.  They lost their first 4 wickets pretty quickly and were not scoring many runs.  A late charge by the middle of the order helped pull them within striking range.  It came down to the final over.  The Stars needed 13 runs from 6 balls.  After a single then a double and a couple of zeros, the Stars needed at least one 6 from their batsman.  Unfortunately it wasn’t in the cards for the Stars that night and they fell in defeat to the Scorchers.  We stayed all the way through the end of the game and then took a quick stroll around the rest of the stadium before hitting the souvenir shop.  After a quick purchase, the lights went off and we left having experienced our first cricket match at arguably the finest stadium in the world. 

2 comments:

  1. Test Match cricket (the 5 day version) is my favourite sport and, in fact, the pinnacle of human achievement. However I prefer baseball to the one day and most definitely to the T20 versions these days. I imagine people who didn't grow up with it would be baffled but there's nothing better than a five day game, the length gives the opportunity for so many tactics, narratives, mini-dramas to unfold.

    When I watched Ken Burns' Baseball I kept wishing someone would do something similar for cricket, it deserves it.

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  2. I just don't think Americans will ever understand cricket!

    Love the blog, go Aces!

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