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Walkabout Down Under left me all bleary and exhausted

By Billy Weir

Published 28/01/2016

Wizards of Oz: Mike Hussey goes out on a high
Wizards of Oz: Mike Hussey goes out on a high

On April 19, 1770, Captain James Cook showed great endeavour as he and his band of mariners discovered the great land of Australia.

Having set sail eight months previously, with a stop off at Tahiti along the way to watch the Venus Transit, which I am led to believe is an astrological term and not how Ms Williams was bundled into a van to make her way home, he finally touched down in New South Wales.

Whatever his struggles though, it has been nothing compared to trying to keep up with all the sport from Down Under that has been served up, at ungodly hours, over the last few days.

I started off with cricket, when in Rome and all that, and the final of the Big Bash League, where Sky had avoided every expense with presenter Matt Lloyd introducing things from a dark and almost deserted corridor in Rupert Murdoch's evil underground lair.

What lay ahead was the promise of four hours of frenetic action with a pair of Husseys and who is going to turn down that sort of offer, even early on a Sunday morning.

The Husseys in question were David and Michael, the respective captains trying to cook up a win for the Melbourne Stars and Sydney Thunder and the first thing to notice in Lloyd's corridor of uncertainty, apart from the delivery man who walked past behind him pushing a trolley, was that the Thunder badge featured lightning. With planning like that, Captain Cook would have ended up in Austria.

It was a big day for Michael, or Mr Cricket as he is known, as it was to be his last game, and a special day in that it was up against his older brother, who, presumably is known as Mr Cricket Snr.

From the corridor it was off the MCG, that's Melbourne Cricket Ground to those of you not in the know, in the company of a myriad of Aussie greats, including Ricky Ponting, Adam Gilchrist, Damien Fleming and Mark Waugh, or, to translate, Ponty, Gilly, Flemo and Juno.

It was catching as on the pitch, the big star, for Sky anyhow, was Kevin Pietersen, or Kelvin as his team-mates call him, who spoke to the amiable band of the abbreviated and admitted that 'we're in Australia, I've been called a lot worse, you can call me whatever you want.'

In the end, Kelvin couldn't win the day, the Thunder struck and Hussey Jnr beat Hussey Snr and on the day of their mum's birthday in what was only their 11th win in five years of the competition. A bit like Leicester winning the Premiership.

But they have footy in this part of the world too, well three technically with Aussie Rules and Rugby League, but they have ours too and while there was cycling with the Tour Down Under and the Aussie netballers coming to England to get a bit of peace from all the sport, BT Sport joined in with some A-League action.

Aptly given our nautical theme, the Central Coast Mariners hosted the Western Sydney Wanderers, and there was news of a Spanish explorer arriving on the shores off Brisbane.

Luis Garcia had arrived to join the Mariners, whose badge features former Ipswich striker, Paul and referee, Andre. It doesn't but at least there was no lightning, but there was something very, very frightening.

At the open end of the ground, with palm trees and the ocean in the background, were giant bottles of red and brown sauce and mustard, which may have had something to do with the Mariners' sponsors, but I'm happier imagining that the burgers may have been of similar size.

And that would have been welcome news to a familiar face back in the studio, as Mark Bosnich, no stranger to a chip or two, popped up at half-time, and was asked 'let's play Garcia bingo, when does he come on?'

Commentator Mick Cockerill crowed in with the answer on the hour mark.

"This is the moment the Mariners have been waiting for, Luis Garcia about to make his debut. He's played at the Camp Nou, he's played at Anfield, he's played at the Vicente Calderon' and now he's playing in front of 20ft high condiment bottles.

But if that isn't enough of a serving shock, then the very small hours of Wednesday, produced something even more unlikely - two British players in the semi-finals of a Grand Slam - a bit like Captain Cook turning up and finding that someone had beaten him to it and opened a kitchen supplies shop, big condiment bottles a speciality.

Johanna Konta, part-Australian, part-Hungarian but all-British now, made it through with an emphatic defeat of China's Zhang Shuai, and it was fitting that GB's last woman to reach a Slam semi, Jo Durie, was in the commentary box on Eurosport.

Oohs and sighs of exhausted satisfaction filled the Melbourne air, and that was just the commentary box, as Durie and commentator Simon Reed got us there in the end.

"Before this tournament began even though she was British No.1 few back home had heard the name of Jo Konta, now she's a household name - what a moment for British tennis," he said, not to mention Australia and Hungary.

Andy Murray won too, meaning two Brits or a Scot, an English woman, an Aussie and a Hungarian had reached the last four for the first time since 1977 and it was fitting then that back in the studio, Virginia Wade, who won Wimbledon that year, had joined us.

Wade, who grew up in South Africa was with Greg Rusedski, born in Canada, and to think some want to stop immigration, but I'm not here to cause thunder down under and cook up a row, so never mind UKIP I'm away for a kip.

Belfast Telegraph

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