“Skull, skull, skull”, the lippy kids in the corner again. Bay 13, home to the most socially challenged of Melbourne’s cricket fans. This evening the Junior Bogans are in the house, on Wednesday, Boxing Day, it’ll be their older brothers, fathers and uncles.
My view from the Second Tier above the mosh pit of the Melbourne Cricket Ground means, although I can hear the words, I don’t get to see whether or not the target of their vitriolic request performs his challenge. Neither do I get to see if any of the local Sheilas less than cordially invited to remove their tops do so. Or the public misery of the other cowering objects of their raucous abuse.
I try and concentrate on the cricket, which is more than they do. But then, the game meanders on as inconsequentially as an episode of Antiques Roadshow. Having the attention span of a gnat with ADHD isn’t recommended for a Friday night at Australia’s premier sporting venue.
To be fair to the organisers, they’re pulling out all the stops to ensure audience involvement, to give the big boost to the Big Bash.
It just seems they’re trying too hard.

Tonight’s match is between the Melbourne Stars and the Sydney Sixers, a rivalry between cities and states that transcends all sports and gives the contest a welcome bit of edge. Locals back their team with the same level of ferocity as they barrack the opposition. Sixers’ Steve Smith, in particular, comes in for a good deal of abuse. Running, fielding, mis-fielding, bowling, nervously shelling catches; everything he does has the uncomfortable deportment of a man who’s recently soiled himself. His evening improves somewhat when he clings on to a miscue from Stars’ Glenn Maxwell.
Unfortunately for the away side, following a costly mis-field early on, Maxwell makes an impressive, game-changing 82 before Smith’s intervention. The Australian ODI man, with the help of veteran T20 specialist Brad Hodge has wrested the impetus back for his team following their early scare. Coming from 50 balls, his innings features seven mighty boundaries, which momentarily threatens to tear the Junior Bogans away from their synchronised crowd sledging. Stars finish with 177-6 from their 20 overs.

Meanwhile, the venue entertainment people are in full flow. A Q-Branch worth of gadgets for the easily distracted is liberally meted out on a fifth full MCG. There’s the Boom Cam, The Energy Australia Energiser, The Kiss Cam, colour coordinated fireworks to match the teams colours, green and pink balloons and, on impact, via stumping, run out or bowled, flashing stumps and bails. All of this is dutifully captured by the drone camera circling the stadium like a deranged Cabbage White, the FoxKopter.

The Big Bash has the wow-factor of the IPL but the attendances and interest levels of the English version, which is why, despite the organisers best endeavours, this pet project of Australian cricket seems as doomed to fail as the Sixers’ attempts at winning once Lasith Malinga gets given the ball.
The Sri Lankan paceman finishes with 4-0-18-1 and strangles the Sydney team’s reply despite their promising start. Steve O’Keefe top scores with 42 but the introduction of Malinga and Melbourne’s captain dries up the scoring options, Malinga’s yorking of Brad Haddin all but seals the deal as Sydney struggle to 155-6, 21 shy of Melbourne’s total.

Not that Bay 13 would know the result if you asked them. The merry mix of caps back to front, beaters, baggy pants and ill-advised, ill-fitting smarter shirts and shorts gives the impression of an ugly melange of 8 Mile and Green Street. Towards the end of the innings, Hodge fields in front of the rabble, whipping them up into a frenzy with his caustic carrying on. Hero and hero-worshippers seem well suited. The chanting continues, along English lines but with different melodies. We leave them to it and head out into the cool Melbourne night. Skull, skull, skull….

Does your mother know you’re here?

Footnote. Melbourne’s captain? None other than Shane Warne. I can say I’ve seen Warney in action at The G.
Past his best, though not, apparently, if you ask Liz Hurley, and nowhere near as monumental an occasion as when my brother and sister-in-law were here for his 700th Test wicket (Hello Will, hello Sian! X), but, nonetheless I’ve seen this iconic sportsman in his spiritual home and I’m happy enough with that.

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