The day after Christmas is a national holiday in Australia known as Boxing Day. Months ago, the Jays emailed us about attending the annual Boxing Day Test Match, the most prestigious day in the year to watch a cricket match. They say one of the ways to fully immerse yourself in a place is to attend a local sporting event. So that is exactly what we did.
We rode the train to the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) in downtown Melbourne to watch Australia vs. Sri Lanka. We spent the days prior to the match trying to read about the game, but it wasn’t until we saw it in person that we truly began to understand how it works. I won’t even try to school you on the rules or how the game is played because the lingo is very different and the game can be quite complicated. In general, cricket is somewhat similar to baseball, but to me the most notable differences include:
- Cricket test matches can last up to five consecutive days and even after all that playing time, the game can still result in a tie or draw (two different things in cricket).
- It’s a 360 degree playing field and the stadium is a giant circle instead of a diamond so batsman can hit the ball wherever they want, including behind them.
- Bowlers (pitchers) can run for as long as they want before they bowl (pitch), usually up to 30-35 yards.
- The ball is hit and thrown just as hard as a baseball but the fielders don’t wear any gloves…ouch!
- The game we attended started at 10AM and lasted until 6PM with multiple breaks for lunch and tea time.
- In a test match, both teams wear all white with white sweater vests over short-sleeved white collar shirts…very proper looking!
Although it wasn’t as crazy and intense as attending a football game in Argentina, the Boxing Day Test Match is a spectacle. Even if you aren’t into cricket, you can still enjoy the experience. Just sit in the sun and people watch while you enjoy a cold beer and a hot meat pie. Australia ended up beating Sri Lanka on the third day 460 to 259. Go Aussies!
For three weeks we’ve been living in Melbourne but have not been downtown to explore the city. We finally made a point to go check it out and even made arrangements to rendezvous with a friend from our Africa trip who lives outside of the city.We met our friend Kedda under the clocks at Flinders Street Station, a very Melbourne-thing to do, had lunch in Chinatown and browsed through food and souvenir stalls in Queen Victoria’s market.Melbourne is known for their arcades (shopping districts) and alleyways leading to boutiques, restaurants, shops and bars. We meandered down a few of the arcades, visited a few rooftop bars, saw the famous portrait of “Chloe” at the Young and Jackson hotel and finally said goodbye to Kedda before returning home. The weather was beautiful and we enjoyed (finally) our up close and personal encounter with the city. New Year’s Eve provided the perfect opportunity to take in Melbourne’s city skyline. Phil and Belle Jay invited friends over to celebrate 2013 on their rooftop deck. During the day, there were a few little Aussies around for us to play with. We all know how much Chris loves kids!As Aussies do, we had a smorgasbord of sausages (they call them ‘snags’) and kangaroo burgers. Who knew sausages could be so darn colorful?We rang in the New Year with pretty much everyone we’ve gotten to know in Melbourne. We had a good laugh at the photo taken below because we look so stoic, almost like we are taking a class picture in first grade all lined up in a row. It’s so nice to celebrate New Year’s Eve in the summertime with a barbie under big sun umbrellas wearing flippy floppies and shorts. Those Aussies are on to something!
As if we didn’t clock enough hours of cricket during the Boxing Day test match, we decided to go to a much faster-paced 20/20 match. Nicknamed “the big bash league,” these matches typically last around three hours so the batsmen are much less conservative and tend to swing for the fences. The experience is similar to an NBA game in the States with flashing lights, smoke machines, cheerleaders, etc. It’s much more action-packed and a very different atmosphere than the conservative test cricket matches. The Melbourne Renegades beat out the Adelaide Strikers 155-107. Woohoo! Sometimes when we aren’t playing tennis or swimming in the salt water pool at the Jays, we find ourselves having a hit with the cricket bats. It’s much harder to hit than a baseball and the pitchers (bowlers) are allowed to hit you on purpose!Can you believe that in our entire time in Australia, we haven’t seen a kangaroo? Well, I take that back. We saw a few from a distance but wouldn’t have known they were roos unless someone told us. We also saw two dead along the road, but that doesn’t count. To ensure we had a legit look at Australian animals, we took a day trip to the Healesville Sanctuary.
The sanctuary has a plethora of Australian animals that we laid eyes on for the first time…kangaroos, emus, wombats, echidnas, wallabies, dingos, platypus, Tasmanian devils and bandicoots. And of course, we went to see the koalas three times before leaving. To my disappointment, you can’t touch or hold koalas in the state of Victoria. So instead, I fed the kangaroos while Chris held a wombat! We won’t do a formal recap of our time in OZ. Instead, the past month (34 days to be exact) can be summed up as a much welcomed break from the constant traveling we’ve done the first five months. We’ve been staying at (our home away from) home. We slept in a proper bed, could drive to the grocery store, took the train into the city, sat down to enjoy a few beers at the pub, had home-cooked meals and had access to laundry machines whenever we wanted. We’ve been spoiled! We’ve also been working hard on our tennis game, have eaten more sausages this past month than in one year in the States, have a new-found appreciation for the game of cricket and have thoroughly explored the state of Victoria. We were so lucky to stay with the Jays. They are truly wonderful people who opened their home(s) to us. Thanks for making our time in Australia incredibly memorable and comfortable. We will miss you all!We leave for New Zealand excited but also with a bit of anxiety. It’s been nearly three months since we’ve traveled on our own! However, if the next six months are as amazing as the first six, we are in for a treat.
New Zealand, here we come!