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Gabba Day One: The rights of spring

Submitted by rickeyre on November 27, 2009 - 12:48am

Amid the dog's breakfast that is the international cricket schedule these days, I still get a thrill at the arrival of the Australian Test cricket season, heralded every year since 1974 by the opening day of the Test match at Woolloongabba, Queensland. It's an even greater thrill to see Australia facing the West Indies - or at least it used to be.

Roberts and Holding taking the new ball, with Garner and Marshall waiting for their turn. Lillee to Richards. Clive Lloyd piercing the Australian field. The cry of "well bowled Larry" as Gomes finishes another maiden over to Allan Border. The Gabba actually had some charm in those days. The dog track on the boundary, the pitch personally prepared by Lord Mayor Clem Jones, long before the AFL-inspired concrete bowl with its deceptively-painted seating.

Some great memories over the years. Australia went into a horrible decline in the mid 1980s but recovered. The Windies spiralled into decline in the mid 1990s - something I documented at the time - and just got worse and worse, a situation recently exacerbated by the poisonous hand of R.Allen Stanford.

Today, Australia finished the first day of the Gabba Test of 2009-10 at 322 for five wickets. A strong position to be sure, but I was fearing stronger. Nonetheless, we have North and Haddin at the crease overnight. Not quite the Martyn and Gilchrist of the recent past, but the potential to kick on to 550-600 is still there, especially if MiJo regains his MoJo. (Sorry I promise not to repeat that line, but if you see it elsewhere, remember where you heard it first.)

I'm not ready to make comment on the UDRS, which sounds like an automated milking system owned by a Swiss multinational, but is actually the regulated argue-with-the-umpire protocol. I will, however, make comment on Shane (c Ramdin b Taylor 0) Watson. He's a New South Welshman this season, and in my estimation would be the fifth-best opener in the NSW squad (after Katich, Hughes, Jaques and Warner). Despite his modest successes in the latter Tests of this year's Ashes, he is not an opening batsman. Katich, despite falling eight runs short of his ninth Test century, showed once again that he is the rock on which the contemporary Australian innings is founded.

Kemar Roach, a find of the strike-breaking team that played Bangladesh a few months ago, impressed with the ball for the West Indies. I think back to Michael Holding at a similar stage of his career in 1975-76, not in style or pace but simply in terms of stage of development and future success. On the other hand, Ravi Rampaul made his Test debut today after 36 ODIs over the past six years. After fourteen overs, he is yet to claim his first Test wicket. Suleiman Benn took a return catch to dismiss Mr MEK Hussey-Cricket, but I wait to see how he performs on a turning pitch.

The challenge will come later tomorrow when it is the Windies' turn for their first innings. Chris Gayle is at the helm, back from a mercy dash to his sick mother in Jamaica which ended happily. A lot rests on the shoulders on Shiv Chanderpaul, especially with the non-appearance in this game of Ramnaresh Sarwan.

Sarwan pulled a muscle in his back during fielding practice at training on Wednesday morning. I have seen no suggestion of a linkage between this injury and a tweet from Sarwan's Twitter account shortly after midnight Tuesday night, that "Britney Concert was great!" Oops he did it again?

Video highlights of Day One from follow:

(No daily 3-2-1 for this series in the manner of the Midwinter-Midwinter or the Kepler-Wessels, a three-Test series just doesn't throw up a large enough statistical sample to be worthwhile.)