New Year’s Test, Sydney, 2009

Sydney is a terrific place to be for New Year’s Eve. Not only do you get to do the countdown nine hours before your friends in more sensible time zones, but the city spends a few million dollars putting on the most magnificent display of fireworks. This fireworks business is done in cities across the country and is slightly strange given the extent to which the Australian government is concerned with animal rights and pollution. But it’s a blast!

Sydney is busier than Melbourne. It is a bigger and livelier city and the beaches must be about the best in the world. It is at least five degrees warmer and the sea is the perfect temperature; much warmer than Cape Town and a fair bit cooler than Durban. There is no shortage of South Africans to invite you round for a braai and people seem to prefer cricket and rugby to Aussie rules and rugby league. If it weren’t for the fact it can cost $40 to park your car in the city for lunch and that you would have to be nocturnal to follow English sport, it would be jolly tempting to move here.

Unlike the Melboune Cricket Ground, the Sydney Cricket Ground is in fact a cricket ground. Although Aussie Rules is played here in the off season the wicket lives out there in the middle and is not dropped in off the back of a truck. This may explain why it has the reputation of being one that offers some assistance to spin bowling.

The SCG also looks like a cricket ground. Instead of knocking down the heritage listed stands like they did in Melbourne, the SCG proudly boasts the beautiful Members Pavilion and the Ladies Stand, which both look just as they did over a hundred years ago.

When I put on my second-favourite pair of pink trousers before cycling to the ground this morning I have to admit that I didn’t actually remember that the SCG was turning pink this week to raise money for and pay tribute to the Jane McGrath Foundation. Glenn McGrath’s late wife lost her battle with breast cancer last year and even the stumps are pink at this year’s New Year’s Test. Peter Roebuck says he doesn’t own any pink but he looks very dandy in the press box wearing a complimentary pink scarf and his outback style leather cowboy hat.

Australians at the cricket usually tease me as much for wearing pink as Afrikaners do when I do the same to rugby matches. I still have nightmares about the time at Newlands rugby ground when five large boers pushed me around in my best pink jeans shouting, “You like pink hey, Westlife?”

But I am safe here now at the SCG. The members stand says it gently with soft shades of pink and the more rowdy stands scream with the shocking ultra-violet kind. The third day may be the one designated by the New South Wales cricket people as the one for all out Mardi Gras garb but today’s dress rehearsal has certainly confirmed my belief that men love wearing pink.

Other exciting news from the ground is that JP Duminy’s mum, Juanita, has arrived to watch him play. The single mother’s business class air ticket was sponsored by an anonymous Cape Town businessman who wanted to thank Duminy for the pride that the young batsman brought to South Africa’s coloured community with his astonishing knocks in Perth in Melbourne.

This morning’s toss proved a good one to lose. Whoever won it was always going to bat despite the fact that heavy skies would offer assistance to the bowling side for the entire day. South Africa had the home side reeling at 162 for five in the afternoon session but it was clear that the exuberant series victory and New Year’s Eve celebrations caught up with the visitors as they made heavy work of the evening session.

The close of play score of 267 for six was remarkably similar to Australia’s 280 for six at the MCG on Boxing Day. On that day it felt like honours even but with Australia looking as wobbly as they did today at the SCG and fielding such an inexperienced bowling attack, the tourists will fancy their chances of a 3-0 series whitewash and the number one spot in the ICC Test rankings.

This article appeared on Cricket365 during the New Year’s Test at the SCG between Australia and South Africa.

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