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Last Updated: Monday, 10 January 2005, 13:02 GMT
Cricket does its bit for tsunami victims
By Phil Mercer
BBC Sport at the Tsunami Relief match, Melbourne

Ricky Ponting

It was a strange day at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, one full of mixed emotions.

This was on the one hand a festival of cricket, but one that was shrouded by a sense of gloom and disbelief at so much loss of life and destruction.

"We're so close to the region that we've got an obligation to do something about it," said David, a 25-year-old athlete from Melbourne.

"Australians love a cricket match and it's a good marriage of the two - our obligations and also a good sporting event."

A moment's silence brought a sobering hush over a packed stadium before play began.

Australia's Prime Minister John Howard, a cricket fanatic of the highest order, said the game showed the sport's "sense of social responsibility".

Many in the crowd of 70,000 agreed. Large numbers of them were Sri Lankan expatriates who appreciated the support for their homeland.

"All the money goes to the tsunami disaster so all the people back in Sri Lanka appreciate what the Australians are doing," said Mohan, who emigrated to Melbourne 20 years ago.

I'd love to see McGrath come out and smash 170
Aussie fan Travis Jackson

This one-day international has set huge logistical challenges for everyone involved.

So many people in Melbourne wanted to help out as volunteers that event managers had to turn down hundreds of offers.

The world of cricket is generally not one to be hurried but this game was organised in just 12 days.

The game offered fans a chance to see many of cricket's legends all at once - from champion spinners Shane Warne and Muttiah Muralitharan to West Indies legend Brian Lara and one of Australia's favourite sons, Glenn McGrath.

Wendy, a shop assistant from the town of Bannockburn in Victoria, had bought a ticket just to "see Warnie in the flesh".

The great man obliged by spending more time signing autographs than bowling.

Vettori and umpire Bowden
Kiwis Daniel Vettori and Billy Bowden try out some new moves

Wendy was far from surprised at how quickly the locals had embraced cricket's aid efforts.

"The people here are sport mad," she said. "Big events are absolutely their second love after beer."

It was clear that something had gone to fan Travis Jackson's head when quizzed about his thoughts on this charity match.

"I'd love to see Warnie get a hat-trick and McGrath come out and smash 170 with the bat," he said optimistically.

McGrath was surprisingly elevated up the order from his usual number 11 position - well he had recently hit a half-century in a Test match.

But this time he fell for a first-ball duck.

Recovering his senses, Travis summed up the feelings of cricket fans all over the world who had tuned in across 122 countries to watch this historic fund-raiser.

"It's a great concept - Asia versus the Rest of the World," he said.

"It's been a carnival-type atmosphere. You're not really barracking for anyone - you're just watching the best players in the world and raising much-needed cash."

Travis was right - the result really was irrelevant. But it would not have escaped everyone's notice that the World XI, the team with five Aussies in it, won by the small matter of 111 runs.


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