Squad Two: Michael Vaughan (Fox), Mark Taylor (Macquarie), Ian Chappell (Macquarie, captain), Ricky Ponting (Seven), Simon Katich (SEN), Michael Hussey (Fox), Mitchell Johnson (ABC), Wasim Akram (Fox), Brett Lee (Fox), Kerry O’Keefe (Fox), Trent Copeland (Seven), Brendon McCullum (SEN).
Joining the big-name former players at the venue as a guest of Cricket Australia was Ash Barty, herself an ex-cricketer with Brisbane Heat before her wildly successful return to tennis.
Paine’s eau de toilette humour
Sledging certainly isn’t what it used to be. Take Tim Paine’s banter with short leg Marnus Labuschange while standing up to the stumps as Pakistan ‘keeper Mohammad Rizwan was facing Nathan Lyon before tea, complimenting on his use of deodorant or cologne.
“Sarfraz [Ahmed] would have already hit him for four, sweep shot, bang four,” Paine said, referring to the recently deposed Pakistan gloveman and captain. “[He] smells good, though. Smells very nice.”
Tears and cheers
Waqar Younis was one former Test star who was at the ground but not in the commentary box. The reverse swing king, who lives in Sydney, is an assistant coach with Pakistan and presented debutant Naseem Shah with his Test cap.
It was an emotional cap presentation, with the 16-year-old, who lost his mother last week, in tears as his historic promotion to Test level was made official. Across the ground in the Australian pre-match huddle the mood was a little different, the team breaking into a raucous rendition of “Happy Birthday” for coach Justin Langer, who turned 49 on Thursday.
Uber cricket chief
The newish chief executive of the Pakistan Cricket Board, Wasim Khan, has made an impression in his visit to Australia to accompany the team’s tour, chiefly by reinforcing Pakistan’s desire to entice an Australian team to the country for the first time since 1998. In Brisbane for the first Test, Wasim has also stopped into Sydney, catching up with former teammates from his stint playing with Western Suburbs in the early 90s.
Back then he lived for about for four months with the family of the club’s all-time record run scorer, Peter Burkhart, who said it was quite the culture shock for the young Englishman of Kashmiri heritage, just out of his teens. “He was coming out with us young fellas and he basically became our designated driver everywhere because he didn’t drink,” Burkhart told us. “We actually joke about it … if only he was an Uber driver back then he would have made millions. Little did we know that he was going to become a fantastic figure in cricket.”
There is a fine tradition of substitute fielders taking catches, some of them absolute pearlers, when they’ve been called onto the field during Gabba Test matches. Think Marnus Labuschagne, who years before his Test debut took a blinder down low at short leg off the bowling of Nathan Lyon against India in 2014, and Chris Sabburg, who caught Kevin Pietersen in the deep during the Ashes in 2013.
There was also Ryan Broad, who held onto a catch to dismiss Andrew Strauss after replacing Ricky Ponting in the field in 2006. Going back a bit further, former Dutch international Peter Cantrell took two crackers in the one innings against England in 1990. The latest youngster hoping to follow the trend is Blake Edwards, an emerging fast bowler who made his first-class and state one-day debuts in the last month and is on the Australian bench ready to run on for a cameo if required.
Chris Barrett is Sports Editor of The Sydney Morning Herald.