Saturday, July 13, 2013

More than a Game

Sadly, it will not be possible for me to explain the game of cricket and extol its virtues in this short article.

My extreme parochialism will be difficult to contain but I offer no apologies. Cricket is a sport I have loved since boyhood. It is the national sport of Australia, and we are currrently engaged in one of the world's greatest sporting contests: The battle for The Ashes,(pictured left) against our old enemy England. To appreciate the depth of feeling associated with this centuries old rivalry, forget not that Australia was born as an English penal colony in 1788.

Four days of the first test match have been completed and Australia will have to make history to chase down the runs target today and win the match. England have a superior team and are playing at home. They were massive favourites to win the match, and as Day 5 approaches, they remain so.

That we are even in a position to possibly win, as unlikely as that is in the fair dinkum department, is testimony to one man in particular: nineteen year old debutant Ashton Agar. This young man who most fans had never heard of, was picked as the spin bowler, and batted at number eleven: a position reserved for the least of the team's batsmen. Young Agar came out to bat with Australia in danger of conceding a formidable run deficit to England in the first innings. His record breaking score of 98, and his record breaking partnership of 163 with Phil Hughes, gave Australia a first innings lead and put us right into the contest. It inspired hope.

Scoring one hundred runs (a century) is the Holy Grail for batsmen. Although young Agar fell two runs short, he did also go on to take two wickets (get two English batsmen out) in what has been one of the greatest debut matches I have ever witnessed. Whether we win or lose the match, we will all remember how exhilirated we were by Ashton Agar's performance, and how proud we felt as we watched the birth of another Australian sporting champion.

A question for sport lovers: when have you witnessed the debut of a champion?

Photograph sources

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