Sombreness and socially distanced security have marked the end of Australia’s eight-month wait for international men’s cricket, with both sides paying tribute to Dean Jones and Phillip Hughes at the SCG.
The start of every summer is always keenly awaited but that was particularly true of Friday’s opening ODI between Australia and India.
It was the first home match for Justin Langer’s team since March 13, when empty stands at the SCG proved a harbinger of the glut of changes to normal life that were to come throughout Australia.
Cricket Australia expressed confidence throughout the COVID-19 pandemic that Virat Kohli’s side would arrive, bringing with them some $300 million in broadcast revenue.
But, as Langer noted this week, there had been some nervous moments and would remain a degree of nervousness until the tourists took the field.
There was also unescapable sadness as the occasion marked the sixth anniversary of Hughes’ death.
David Warner and Aaron Finch, two of Hughes’ good friends, were fittingly still in the middle when the clock ticked 4.08pm AEDT and applause filled the venue in memory of Australia’s Test player No.408.
Warner, having held Hughes’ hand when the batsman was tragically taken from the middle of the SCG on a stretcher in 2014, looked skyward briefly as teammates in the pavilion clapped during the tribute.
Australia and India both donned black armbands and stood for a poignant minute’s silence before the game, wanting to also honour Dean Jones after the Victorian’s shock death at age 59.
A Jones highlight package was played on the SCG’s big screen, while Warner and Finch evoked memories of the Victorian’s unforgettable stoush with Curtly Ambrose when they appeared to ask Navdeep Saini to remove a sweatband at the start of the ninth over.
But it was all incredibly amicable, as was the opening two hours of a tour that will span three one-dayers, three Twenty20s and four Tests.
The only early moment of agitation came when two pitch invaders, baring ‘NO $1B ADANI LOAN’ signs, sauntered to the middle with remarkable ease after six overs of Australia’s innings.
Initially no security guard trotted out in pursuit of the protesters, who roamed freely in the inner circle for what felt like an eternity.
A bemused Warner held up his hands during the delay, seemingly urging the umpires to take action before the message was eventually passed onto security.
The pair were eventually escorted from the field and never came face to face with Warner, Finch or any of the fielders; ensuring the season opener avoided a major biosecurity breach.