Australia Day weekend a ball

AUSTRALIANS all let us rejoice - for we are about to put a snag on the barbie and toast our great country.

It's Australia Day weekend.

Growing up in Merbein, this was one of the great weekends of the year.

Most years Australia Day meant one of two things - camping or cricket.

Sometimes the weekend involved a good mixture of both.

Oh, how we loved those fierce water cricket matches played in the shallow depths of the mighty Murray River during our Australia Day camping sojourns.

The sandbars below Merbein offered sublime conditions for water cricket and we spent hour after hour locked in battle.

It was always astounding how fast a tennis ball three-quarters wrapped in black insulation tape zipped off the river and how nice a red mark that darn ball left on the skin when your defence was found wanting.

It was amazing how steep that ball would climb off ripples created by those sneaky close in cheats, sorry, fieldsman, a second or so before the bowler let rip with the next delivery.

Everyone but the batsman found humour in someone getting smacked in the kisser by a tennis ball rising treacherously off a good length.

Most years Australia Day meant one of two things - camping or cricket.

Some years though sandbars gave way to the Adelaide Oval  and the traditional Australia Day weekend one-dayers between Australia and whoever the visiting teams were that summer.

We had some wonderful times sitting on that famous Adelaide Oval hill but given the matches were played at the height of summer, being a spectator was tough going at times.

There was one famous day in the January of 1983 when England took on New Zealand that remains forever etched in our memories.

It was 44 or so in the waterbag.

The crowd would often rise as one and throw their arms in the air - not for a traditional Mexican wave but more to try and grab every single millisecond of relief from each light zephyr of sea breeze that teased the Adelaide Oval with far less frequency that everyone would have liked.

It was a cracking game though.

England made a huge score of 296 and although there was a huge temptation to give in to the heat and scamper away, most of the crowd stayed to watch New Zealand chase the total down on the back of a brilliant Lance Cairns innings.

Cairns used his famous trademark shoulderless bat with brutal force - smashing four fours and three towering sixes in his innings.

Thinking back, maybe it wasn't a sea breeze at all fanning the crowd but the wind whipped up via those mighty blows.

Turned out it wasn't a great Australia Day weekend that year with the host nation lowering its colours to England 24 hours later and New Zealand the day after that.

Probably should have opted for the sanctuary of the sandbar that weekend.

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