Will MacPherson’s Diary from Down Under

Just as the England team discovered in Hobart, I’ve made the uncomfortable realisation that Down Under the skies aren’t always blue and the temperature isn’t always 30 degrees.

My wardrobe of summer garments have looked entirely inappropriate as so far we’ve endured one of the wettest and coldest Melbourne Novembers on record. I might as well have stayed at home!

Drizzle and shivers will be the abiding memories of my first trip to the magnificent MCG on Friday as I was one of a few hundred intrepid cricket tragics to turn out for the third day of the Sheffield Shield grudge match between Victoria and New South Wales.

I pottered along at lunchtime to discover that Chris Rogers was in the runs and, like his national team mates Steve Smith and David Warner the day before, was hitting form at the right time.

As I paid my $5 entry, however, the heavens opened. I had brought Derby in May to Melbourne in November!

The players eventually emerged for a couple of hours cricket before the umpires gave into Michael Clarke’s petitioning for a stoppage for bad light. Not much had happened: a wicket had fallen, Rogers had limped on to 96 and a strangely trim-looking Dougie Bollinger bowled with genuine venom for the visitors.

None of the players looked terribly interested, not least Clarke himself, who was so cold at mid-off that he was only removing his hands from his pockets as the bowler passed the umpire.

So I sat, with my book, and admired the gargantuan ground. Even with nobody in the middle and all but a couple of hundred of the seats empty, the place felt magical.

Most kids will already be counting down the days until December 25. This year, though, it’s all about Boxing Day for me. Hopefully the weather will have picked up by then!

Meanwhile, the rain was also tumbling on the England boys down in Tassie. Worryingly, Matty Prior and Kevin Pietersen still managed to fray the nerves with visits to the medics.

KP assures us he’ll be fine for the Gabba but Prior’s obviously struggling as he’ll sit out the final warm-up in Sydney, where the weather hasn’t been any better than it has here.

After a build-up that has been a far cry from 2010’s perfect preparation, England could do with the storms staying away as Brisbane looms.

Australia collectively creased with laughter when England’s 82-page menu requests were leaked.

Many former players came out and made some ‘an ice bath is for chilling beers’ style comments and asked what the hell quinoa was, forgetting that it is exactly this sort of attention to detail that has seen England go unbeaten in their last 13 Tests.

Perhaps some roasted vegetable and halloumi kebabs with red pepper dip would improve their fortunes on the field?

The Australians were all up in Queensland today (Tuesday), getting excited as they announced their squad for the first Test.

The nation’s hopes are pinned on George Bailey, a novice at Test level, and Mitchell Johnson a cricketer whose bowling makes Funky Miller’s hair look consistent.

Mercurial Mitch’s recall was no surprise and is one I am personally thrilled about. In the summer, Cook, Jonathan Trott and Prior all failed to reach three figures due to thorough and well thought out plans implemented by Ryan Harris and Peter Siddle.

Us Poms can expect one or two magic spells, think Perth ’10, but Johnson’s inconsistent lines just won’t keep the pressure on, think Lords ’09, and those inevitable four balls will provide an escape for England’s finest.

As if to prove the point, last week he played for WA in his first red-ball cricket since March and leaked 4.5 runs an over.

He’s bowled with pace and hostility in the game’s shorter forms this year but he’ll need to bowl more than a couple of rapid spells now to prove his worth.

Bring on Brisbane!

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