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Diary of the 17th Man – Mar 15

Day 2 – Third Test – Mohali

“The forecast is fine. We’ll start on schedule” the Coach concluded. Just do it!” was the command I remember.

As the bus trundled to the PCA ground, anxiety smothered me more than the methane cloud from team management, who had formed a gym-tuned flying wedge to batter their way to the front seats.  The sombre mood of the XI helped steel our collective resolve to bury HomeWorkGate and get on with the business of winning. The Prof thought it more to do with the heady pall from the front, tinged as it was with The Captain’s French cologne (‘Pour les Hommes’) and the gritty aftertaste of motor diesel.

The twitter traffic was all positive – even Lucky had some support from a group of child psychologists in Dunedin.

Junior did present me with my test cap. I can’t remember what he said it was so brief.  The marketing girl said it was witty, willing and wonderful (I think she likes him!).  There were more grins, laughs and bum tickles than a medieval theatre. The Freak even bent my cap for me.

Team management played a tape of a roaring Melbourne crowd from the ’70’s over the ground PA at the end, muffling the few claps from the ground staff and a half nod from TLM looking on from the Indian dressing rooms. Nice.

The openers got off to a breezy start when play began, the first time on Tour we had been in such an impregnable position at the start of Day 2. 130 odd without loss at lunch.  Coach finally cracked a smile, and a tiny righteous breeze, no doubt convinced that homework breeds ‘form’.  He kept this golden nugget to himself.

The Prof. was busy running a Monte Carlo simulation on innings scores, keen to offer sensible odds on scoring 50 and a ton on my debut. I harbored vague thoughts on batting late in the day for an instant before the rot set in, something called ‘mean reversion’  that left the game tastily balanced at 7/273 at stumps.

The Captain was happy enough despite his first ball duck. The Freak studied him with the binoculars as he walked off, as unperturbed and purely white as when he walked on. He could have been a Jesuit. But The Freak knew better. “He’s boiling with acid boys. He’s got that false Mona Lisa half-smile stuck solid for the cameras. There’s no way he’ll take his helmet off.” A bunch of IOU’s changed hands in a twinkle. “Quick. He’s stopped to say something to Lucky.” Half a dozen binoculars focused on the short exchange. “Lucky looks a little put out.”

“No, no. He’s cool”.  Everyone knew The Captain’s average is no better than Lucky’s when batting at 3. A true Captain’s innings – taking one (or in this case a zero) for the team.

Lucky was back by the time The Captain had showered. “What are you doing here?” he said resting a caring hand on Lucky’s shoulder and nodding to Darren who guided him away discreetly for a quick one-on-one.

“The fortune-teller was right,” tweeted Mr Darcy. “Lucky is gone.”

Then it was my turn. Prof said it was about 80 steps to the middle. I needed to pee, badly. I was sweating like a thoroughbred just as Mum said. This was it and I didn’t have a clue. The first ball spun so far wide I just watched it. I think I saw the second hit the bat between the moon dust from the pitch as I was called through for a quick single. End of the over!

Jacka reminded me mid-pitch that the game is to get off strike by scoring runs. “Relax. No one’s watching.” I looked around. The ground was empty.  Who could blame them? Jacka stayed long enough for me to pass on the betting market. Somehow I was there at the close, the pitch throwing rubbish in my face, surrounded by a swag of hopeful catchers and a spinning ball that had seen better days.

Australia 7/273

Read the Squad Profile here
© 2013 Dave Cornford & Jeremy Pooley

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