A trip to Australia isn’t complete without partaking in a major sporting event – well for me anyway – so when I bump into a couple at the Kirribilli Wharf and they tell me they are off to the Sydney Cricket Ground to watch Australia versus New Zealand in a One Day International, I soon find my own walk abandoned.
A quick visit to ticketek.com and I am soon on a bus from Elizabeth Street to Moore Park.
I am surrounded by bare chested men wearing Santa hats so I figure this is the right bus.
Finding it nigh on impossible to find my seat at the stadium, made more difficult by seeking help from the stewards, I plonk myself in a single seat at the end of one row and hope for the best.
Everybody needs good neighbours
My match-watching neighbours to my right are an amorous couple who chomp their way through ice-creams, sandwiches and a number of beers.
They must have taken out a small loan to pay for the insanely expensive stadium food.
Directly in front of me I have two multi-coloured afros with people attached. When a four is hit the afros rise and an arm extends from each and ebbs and flows from left to right in perfect unison, like synchronised swimmers but without the inane grins.
To my left, six lads are dressed in flags, blue felt cloth caps and fluorescent sun cream is smeared warrior-like across their faces.
So relatively harmless considering I could have been sat next to the 20-stone guy I passed on the way in who was wearing a canary yellow catsuit.
Further down the stand I can see a bunch of New Zealand fans inexplicably wearing surgeons operating gowns, hat included, which is all very amusing when you are en masse yet it’s heads down and ignoring their outfit when they are off to the toilet on their own.
Shortly afterwards the breathless sighs of a bagpipe indicate I am sat in front of the match’s unofficial entertainment.
Luckily the guy is pretty good as he starts up the first of many renditions of ‘I’m an Australian’, which sounds distinctly odd accompanied by bagpipes.
The more beer sodden people become, the more they join in, so when, towards the end of the match the pipe player strikes up ‘Jingle Bells’, a cacophony of inebriated cricket fans belt out the well known Christmas jingle.
Mildly amusing to watch is the overweight pie-eating beer guzzler who is tapping his foot and slapping his considerable thigh in time to the music.
A middle-aged Irish guy in front of me, in all innocence, tells the inebriated Ozzie next to him that this is his first cricket match.
The Ozzie then proceeds to explain cricket from its early century beginnings through to today’s players for the next six hours, without pausing for breath.
After a while it becomes a soothing accompaniment to the match as I fade in and out of the interesting bits.
Mills (or Millsy as we, the crowd, affectionately yell at him) the Kiwi outfielder gets involved in a bit of inflatable beach ball action when he volleys the ball back into the crowd.
That is, until a overzealous steward nabs it, stabs it, and deflates it to the not so affectionate calls from the crowd of ‘wanker’.
Later, the crowd rises as one and I wonder if I’ve missed a catch. Not so, they are trying to see if another inflatable ball – this one four times the size of the previous one – is going to end up on the pitch. A chorus of cheers erupt if the front row spectators can keep the ball in play.
As we settle in after lunch, we notice a kerfuffle at the opposite side of the ground. Suddenly a five-metre long beer cup snake arises on a sea of hands.
Twenty minutes later and not to be outdone, my side produce a similar length snake, which is outdone a short while later by our opposite numbers.
Resigned applause from my side rings out – we know when we’re beaten.
Finally an energetic Mexican wave starts up, culminating in plastic bottles, ticker tape and the aforementioned beer cups being hurled up on the crest of the wave, then raining down like sea spray as the wave ripples round the ground.
Oh and the world’s best cricketers are slugging it out on the pitch against their arch rivals, relegated to just a sideshow.
(Note: I took no photos. This was way back in 2004, a pre constantly-taking-photos-on-your-mobile-phone era. But no doubt you can form your own imagery from my writing style, right. Right?).
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