Friday was a cool day, so … we went to the beach! Cool by Melbourne standards suits us very well, so we had Brighton Beach to ourselves. The short row of bathing huts (= beach huts) are famous, colourful … and expensive. Clearly quite an exclusive area, there are no ‘shacks’ or even restaurants along the Esplanade, so late morning we turned round and walked back to the railway station, to buy some lunch to take home with us, which we ate on the balcony of our apartment.

We packed a picnic, and set out again, arriving at the MCG around 2:30pm … although the ladies international T20 game was already in progress, I took time to explore before settling in to watch the match between Australia and new Zealand – it was rather one sided, Australia winning easily. In a stadium seating 100,000, there was a crowd of around 200, and it felt rather like watching a village cricket match.

The stadium is stunning … the facilities extensive (though most were closed until much later) … and clean. It all looked very efficient – there were plenty of stewards to talk to about anything.

After the afternoon match, the stadium began, slowly, to fill … most arriving just before the evening game began. For entertainment in the meanwhile, there were several groups of school children playing a short version of the game, alongside various cricketers warming up, practising a multitude of skills … there was equipment spread across the entire field at one point. We watched as the boundary rope was removed (it’s shorter for the ladies’ game), nets were erected, white lines were painted … all fascinating stuff. And watched as the media conducted interviews, took group photographs (no idea of whom) and generally got in the way. We had little idea of what was going on most of the time, but it was indeed very entertaining!

Eventually, there were around 42,000 spectators … and at least half of them were Sri Lankan … so the crowd was very active once the game began. It’s all geared to create an atmosphere: gas jets ignite and there are fireworks for every 6 and every wicket; between overs there is music and there are dancers; the hoardings show pictures and statistics for every player; wides, no balls etc are announced with sound effects; even the safety warnings are announced by well known players (male and female) on screen; and the PA is active in initiating chants through the use of well known music anthems or rhythms (some familiar from PAFC!). There was even a ‘colour crew’ going round offering face painting in national colours … though once the game began they were more of a hinderance than anything, blocking the view with their banner!

And it was an exciting game … Sri Lanka eventually winning with a boundary off the last ball … by which time it was very late indeed. We followed the crowds towards the city, to pick up a tram home, eventually coming in well after midnight … altogether a very satisfying day.

 

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