India win the series

Today was all about the cricket. It was the final day of the fourth and final Test match in the current Australia v India series. Australia won the first game in Adelaide an absolute walkover. In their second innings India were dismissed for just 36 runs – their lowest ever innings total in history. After the game, India’s captain and best player Virat Kohli flew home to India to be with his wife for the birth of their first child, leaving the team in the hands of his vice captain. Having suffered a huge loss, and losing their best player, India were behind the 8-ball.

In the second game in Melbourne, India pulled together, recomposed themselves, and… well, demolished Australia. They won handily, levelling the series at 1 game each.

Then in the third match, played in Sydney last week, India were again struggling. They had lost several players due to injury, and were fielding young, inexperienced backups. Australia dominated the first four days, and set India a massive target of 407 runs to win in the final innings. I recounted that last day of play when it happened. To recap: India didn’t score the runs, but they managed to hold on and not get out before the game ran out of time, thus drawing the game. This left the series at 1-1, with a deciding game to come.

The fourth and final game began last Friday, in Brisbane. Australia batted first and scored 369. India the batted, and were looking in danger of falling far short, but managed to scrape together 336 runs, conceding a lead of 33. Australia then added 294 runs in the second innings. This set India a target of 328 to win. This is a big score, and very difficult to get in the last innings of a game, when the pitch is starting to dry out and crumble, and batting becomes more and more difficult.

To put it into perspective, the highest ever successful final innings run chase at Brisbane was 236 runs, scored by Australia against the West Indies in 1951, followed by 219 by Australia v West Indies in 1975, and the remainder are all below 200. A team scoring 328 or more to win a game in the final innings has only happened 18 times anywhere in the world in Test cricket history (since 1877). Furthermore, Australia has been unbeatable in Brisbane for over 3 decades, not losing a game there since 1988.

Furthermore, India had ended play yesterday having scored just 4 of these runs. So to win they needed to score 324 runs in one day. Scoring 300 runs in one day is considered a good scoring rate. 324 is very fast. Doable early in a game when the pitch is new, but extremely difficult on a final day with the pitch wearing out. Australia, for its part, needed to get 10 Indian batsmen out to win. In this game situation, the smart money would be on the bowling team to get the batsmen out and win the game. Anyone betting on India would be betting on wild hope, whereas betting on Australia should be easy money.

Well, I may have set the situation up too well for you, because you can probably guess what happened. This battered, bruised, young, inexperienced, captainless Indian team stuck it out all day. The batsmen stubbornly refused to get out, and slowly accumulated runs. At lunch, one-third of the way through the day, they had added 79 runs, for a total of 83, but lost only one wicket. They had 9 men left, but a mountainous 245 more runs to score. At this stage, I thought the most likely result was a draw, the game ending before either team could force victory.

At the tea break, 2/3 of the way through the day, India were 3 men out for 183 runs. Still 145 runs short. It was looking impossible for either team to have enough time to win. But Rishabh Pant, India’s wicketkeeper, had other ideas. Rather than try to survive and ensure India didn’t lose, he started hitting the ball all around the ground, accelerating the run scoring.

The final hours of the game were a tense, nail-biting whirlwind. Pant was taking crazy risks, hitting the ball in the air, several times just wide of fielders who might have taken a catch. If he got out, the remaining batsmen would be those in the team for their bowling skills, not specialist batsmen, and could not be relied on to survive. Pant was playing with fire. But he was doing it masterfully. Just before the end, two of the other batsmen got out, and India were dangerously exposed to a sudden dramatic failure. If another one got out, it would be up to Pant and an inexperienced, poor batsman to prevent India from losing. But still Pant added runs.

Until with just a few balls remaining in the game, Pant hit the ball through the fielders for the final, winning runs. India had pulled off a miracle victory against all odds. Not only to win this game, but to win the series 2-1.

With several senior players out of the team for various reasons, the burden fell on a group of fresh young players, the next generation of Indian cricketers. They defeated a full strength Australia, always one of the strongest teams in the world and virtually impossible to beat at home. This will be a victory that Indians will remember for many years. And the future success of their team looks in good hands for the next decade or so.

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Vatican City failures

My wife and I moved on to Vatican City in our ongoing Codenames Duet campaign game. Things are getting pretty difficult now. We had two attempts at it but failed to win both times. The games were tense and brain-busting.

Otherwise, it was a fairly relaxing day. We took Scully for a nice long walk in the morning.

I watched some cricket… India batted well all day and ended up on 336 runs, just 33 runs behind Australia’s first innings. With two days left to go, it’s going to be difficult for any team to force a win, especially given the forecast rainy weather. It may well be that India has done enough to avoid losing the game, instead forcing another draw, which will draw the 4-game series 1-1. And since they currently hold the Australia-India series trophy, they’ll retain it. Probably.

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Photography standards prep work

Today I did some administrative prep work for my next ISO photography standards meeting, which is coming up in early February. I had to fill out some forms for Standards Australia, and distribute agendas and stuff, informing fellow Australian experts about the meeting and asking those interested to join the online meeting to let me know. And I downloaded a bunch of documents and got up to speed with the latest info from ISO and the Digital Photography committee. So all this took a while.

Apart from that I didn’t do much else apart from woth on my ongoing Secret Project, which I can’t talk about. So there’s not much more to say today.

Oh, I watched Pet Sematary (2019) on Netflix last night. I was discussing movies made from Stephen King novels with a friend a few days ago, and discovered that Pet Sematary had been remade, following the 1989 version. I actually hadn’t seen either version, nor read the book, but found that the remake was on Netflix, so I decided to give it a watch. I thought it was reasonably good. Reviews of the two versions interestingly have the 1989 version as superior, according to the general public, but the 2019 version as superior according to film critics – although not much difference either way. I’d be interested to see the 1989 version, but it’s not on Netflix, so I don’t have an easy way to do so.

Oh, I remembered what I else I did today that ate up all my time! It was the final day of the 3rd Test match between Australia and India, being played here in Sydney. Australia had set India 407 runs to win in the final innings yesterday, and they ended yesterday at 2 wickets for 98 runs, so requiring another 309 runs to win today. This is a ridiculous target, especially at Sydney, which is one of the most difficult cricket grounds to score runs on in the final innings in the world, and certainly the most difficult in Australia.

The highest score ever made in Sydney in the final innings to win a Test was 280, by Australia against South Africa in 2006, followed by 266 by Australia against England in 1907. So expectation was that Australia would get all the Indian batsmen out and win handily. But India put up a huge fight, and for a while looked like they might chase down the required runs. It was only halfway through the day that a couple of batsmen got out, at which point India looked to be in trouble, since one of their best batsmen had a broken thumb and wasn’t going to bat unless absolutely required. And then when Hanuma Vihari came out to bat he soon pulled a hamstring and was unable to run. But he batted on with the pulled hamstring for three more hours and they simply didn’t bother running any more. So they abandoned the 407 run target and simply focused on not getting out.

Well, three hours later, the Australians still had not got a single further batsman out, and so the game ran out of time, and ended in a draw (the result when the game is not completed in the allotted time). India had saved the game from almost certain defeat, and go into the final match of the series in Brisbane, with the series still level at 1-1. The final match starts on Friday, and is going to be absolutely riveting.

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Series level

India won the second cricket Test against Australia today, levelling the series at 1-1. The next match is scheduled to begin on 7 January in Sydney, but because of the ongoing COVID outbreak here in Sydney, Cricket Australia is going to decide whether to go ahead or to move the match to Melbourne. They were meeting tonight, but have not yet announced any decision.

The game was a complete turnaround from the first Test, which Australia won easily. In this second game, India came back stronger than ever and absolutely destroyed Australia. So they certainly weren’t shellshocked by their defeat. These are two strong teams, so it’s going to be fascinating when they meet for the third game of the series.

Weather wise, it’s been a very wet day here, and cool. It’s almost not like summer at all. And there’s still no end in sight for the wet weather – the Bureau of Meteorology has basically warned everyone to cancel their New Year’s Eve plans as it’s going to be a soggy night.

Finally, I learnt today that one of my neighbours died on Christmas Day. Col was a retired gentleman who lived downstairs from us with his wife. I chatted with them a lot because we’d often run into each other around the building. But Col’s been sick with cancer and I’d seen him a lot less in recent months, mostly just seeing his wife, or their son, who had come up from Melbourne to be with his parents in this time. Col played golf at Lane Cove, the nearby course where I mostly play, and I used to see him in the park across the road from our place, hitting a few balls around for practice, and we’d stop and have a bit of a chinwag.

I’ll raise a glass for you tonight, Col.

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Boxing Day relaxation

It’s Boxing Day, and that means sport. Unfortunately the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race has been cancelled this year due to COVID, but the Boxing Day Test Match at the Melbourne Cricket Ground began on schedule. India are here this year, and this game is the 100th Test match between Australia and India. It’s the second game of the series, and Australia won the first easily, but today India looked well on top, so it might turn into an interesting series.

Other than watch the game on TV, I didn’t do much else. My wife and I took Scully on a walk during the lunch break, and we waked along the creek near our place all the way down to the harbour. It’s an amazing urban bushwalk, through fairly dense wet sclerophyll forest, tall eucalypts overhead and ferns at ground level. Although it’s surrounded by houses, it’s difficult to see them, and you can in many places easily believe you’re in a wilderness.

At one point we saw a couple of kookaburras on a tree limb, and they stayed there as we moved closer. I managed to get remarkably close and took the following photo, with my phone! – not even an SLR with a long lens:

Laughing kookaburra

I think they were young ones, waiting for their parents to come back with food. Pretty cool. I don’t think I’ve ever gotten that close to a wild kookaburra before.

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Boxing Day

Today was very lazy, after the excesses of Christmas yesterday. I lounged around a lot, watching the Boxing Day Test match cricket from Melbourne, Australia v New Zealand. And during the lunch break, the start of the Sydney to Hobart yacht race. I was struck by how all the large yachts have black sails – a few years ago yachts all had white sails. I wondered if it was some new advance in materials technology that meant sails had to be black now, so I searched the Internet for information and discovered that black sails are actually nothing more than a fashion trend. Yacht sails are by default white and can be dyed any colour – black is just the current cool trend.

This afternoon my wife and I took Scully on a long walk to the dog park and back. Normally we drive there, so adding the walk made it a real outing, and Scully is completely worn out this evening.

I played a couple of new games that I received for Christmas with my wife: Fluttering Souls, and Claim 2. They’re both quick 2-player card games, and after trying them we both agreed that Claim 2 was the superior game.

The other thing I did today was finish off writing an old travel diary, from a trip I did to Vancouver in 2014 to attend the SIGGRAPH computer graphics conference. For some reason, I never kept a diary during this trip, so I had to reconstruct it from memory and my photos.

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Christmas Eve

I got up early this morning and went to play golf with my friend Andrew, the one who got me started playing golf this year. We’d only played together on the short par 3 “pitch and putt” course where I started learning, but today he came along to the local course near me at Lane Cove, and we played 9 holes. I felt like I was dong poorly, because I didn’t do very well on any hole, but neither did I have any blow-outs like a 10 or 12 which I’ve had previously, and I ended up with a total of 57, 2 strokes better than my previous best at this course. So that was pretty good!

Andrew hit the shot of the day, a gorgeous long, straight drive off the 9th tee… until it hit an overhead power line and bounced off straight down into the turf. That easily cost him 50-100 metres of distance on the shot. My skew-whiff tee shot skimming across the grass ended up going virtually the same distance.

After returning home I relaxed a bit, before my wife and I dropped Scully with our neighbour for dogsitting, while we drove about an hour across Sydney to my aunt & uncle’s place where they were hosting my family’s Christmas dinner. We’ve always done a big family gathering on Christmas Eve, being the German tradition, and it’s convenient because all the people then visit the spouse’s family on Christmas Day. Tonight there were several aunts and uncles and cousins and kids of cousins, and a few friends of the family who aren’t related but just came over because why not?

We caught up and chatted over drinks and pretzels, and then dinner was served and people helped themselves to cold plates of ham, chicken, roast pork, a beef salad, a green salad, a pasta salad, roast potatoes, and the spicy lentil balls that we made yesterday.

After dinner was the giving of gifts. A cousin got dressed up as Santa Claus and handed out all the gifts from under the Christmas tree. The children get most of the gifts as usual. The gifts were then opened and everyone showed off what they got. It’s interesting the contrast between Christmas traditions. In my family it’s always been the case that someone dressed as Santa hands out all the gifts, and people collect a small pile of wrapped presents next to them. Then once they’re all handed out, everyone opens them all simultaneously, and there’s shouting and excitement and people yelling “Thank you!” across the patio as everyone is ripping off wrapping paper. But I’ve been at other family Christmas gatherings, where each gift is handed out, and then the recipient opens it while everybody watches, and then the next gift is handed out, and so on.

After gifts, dessert was served. This is always a highlight because the wife of one of my cousins is a great cook and always makes amazing cakes and treats. This year she’d made a super moist date cake and a batch of reindeer cookies. There were also cheesecakes and whipped cream and custard. After this my wife and I said goodbyes and we came home to retrieve Scully from her playdate with the dog next door. She’s exhausted, as are we!

And tomorrow, Christmas Day, we get to do it all again with my wife’s family!

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Heat and Smoke

Today was an awful day, weather-wise. It was hot, and the wind blew in a lot of smoke from the bushfires west of Sydney. And it just got worse as the day wore on.

It didn’t begin too badly. I was up early and decided to go to the local golf course to play 9 holes.I was there not long after 7am, and finished well before 9 o’clock. Last time I scored 64, and today I managed 59, improving by 5 strokes. I still lost a few balls, hitting wild shots into the bush surrounding the course. Unfortunately one of those shots was on the par-3 6th hole, and since the ball only went about 10 metres before disappearing into thick undergrowth, I decided to tee off again with another ball. That shot landed on the green, and I sank it in two putts. If only I hadn’t skewed the first tee shot into the bush I would have got a par! Oh well, maybe next time.

Most of the day I spent indoors, writing annotations for the latest batch of Irregular Webcomic! I finished all of those off (I started yesterday). And then I started work on preparing for a Standards Australia meeting on photography standards tomorrow, which I’m chairing. This meeting is primarily for me to report to the Australian experts on what transpired at the international meeting I attended in Cologne back in October. So I need to be up to speed on everything that happened there and all of the reports submitted at that meeting.

This afternoon I took Scully out for a play at the dog park and a walk along the harbour shore with the other owners and their dogs. We left at 3:30pm, and as we drove down to the park I could see the smoke smeared across the sky. And once we got there and out of the car… wow, it was really bad. Here’s the park, with a view to the office buildings of North Sydney in the background:

Bushfire smoke

The walk goes down by the Harbour shore, where there’s a view across to the Harbour Bridge and the city central business district:

Bushfire smoke

We walk along this path which leads through an old oil terminal site on the shore, where tankers used to unload petroleum. The site has now been cleaned up and turned into this park. Today the afternoon sun burned down redly through the smoke haze:

Bushfire smoke

Here’s Scully (the black dog at centre) and some of our fellow dog walkers, approaching the far end of the walk along the shore:

Bushfire smoke

Coming back, the view of the city looked like this:

Bushfire smoke

The air was very unpleasant to breathe, and my throat is now scratchy and irritated. Unfortunately, the forecast with the fires and the winds is that this sort of smoke will linger over Sydney for several more days before we get a wind change that blows it away. But alas it will most likely return after that, and it’s possible – even likely – that we’ll be having to deal with this on and off throughout the whole summer.

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My trip to Essen

So, it’s Saturday evening and I’ve been home almost 12 hours now, after not sleeping since Thursday morning. I can never sleep on planes – just too uncomfortable. I am however surprisingly awake. I’m about to watch the Rugby World Cup final game between England and South Africa, before dropping into bed for hopefully about 10-12 hours, and waking up Sunday morning with no jetlag. We’ll see how that plan goes.

As mentioned in the previous short update, I couldn’t log into this blog from my iPad/phone, so I couldn’t update while travelling as I’d planned to do. Which means I have a full trip to report on. I kept a detailed travel diary as I usually do, and will be formatting that into web pages and posting it with photos over the next few days, so I’ll just mention some highlights here.

My wife and I flew out of Sydney on the afternoon of Friday 25 Oct, and landed in Frankfurt on Saturday morning 26 Oct. Which doesn’t sound so bad, until you realise Frankfurt is 9 time zones later than Sydney, which adds another 9 hours to the transit time. We got a train to Essen and spent the afternoon/evening exploring the centre of the city.

Essen Cathedral (it’s not very big):

Essen Minster

A wurst hut:

Wurst hut

On Sunday we went to Spiel, the huge board games exhibition. I have photos, but haven’t processed/uploaded any yet. But here’s a photo of the haul of games I bought/was given:

Spiel haul

Top left: a pack of exclusive bonus cards for Race for the Galaxy. Below that two bonus tiles for Roll for the Galaxy, then bonus dishes for Sushi Go Party!, and a pack of bonus words for Codenames (in German). Next column is Cultistorm Face 2 face, a quick card game spinoff from the huge Cthulhu mythos board game Cultistorm. Below that Walking in Burano, a pattern construction game, with a pack of bonus cards exclusive to Spiel. Some Lego minifigures my wife and I made from the custom figure construction bins at the Lego store in Cologne (so not from Spiel). And finally Deep Blue.

On Monday-Wednesday I attended ISO Photography Standards meetings in Cologne, while my wife explored Cologne. Then Thursday we explored together before catching a train back to Frankfurt and flying home.

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Improving golf

Andrew C. suggested we play golf today, so we met up at the Terrey Hills Par 3 course where we’ve played before. I’m still a rank beginner, and this was only the 4th round of golf I’ve ever played. The course is “pitch and putt”, and I talked about our last two rounds here and here. I’ve put the scorecards into a spreadsheet, and discovered that Andrew’s arithmetic left a little to be desired, as my scores for the previous two rounds were 91 and 93 (not 92 and 95 as he’d calculated!).

Since last time I’ve acquired a very cheap second hand set of clubs. I found someone local selling cheaply on eBay. Andrew inspected the clubs and was impressed, saying I got a real bargain – the seller must have just wanted to get rid of them quickly, because he probably could have got twice or more the price for them if he’d wanted.

Today I played a couple of great shots. One tee shot bounced on the green and hit the flag! That was exciting, but unfortunately it bounced quite a way, and I couldn’t get the birdie, but managed to par the hole. The second god shot was after I landed a tee shot in a bunker. I hadn’t played a decent shot from the sand yet, but today I managed to not only scoop it out of the bunker, but stop the ball maybe 40 cm from the hole. Alas my putting still needs work, and I 2-putted for a bogey.

My total score for the round was 81, a full 10 strokes better than my previous best of 91. So it was a good day! After the round, we went to the driving range next door and Andrew showed me how to hit some longer clubs, a 5 and 3 iron, and a driver. I managed okay with the irons, but I can see the driver will take a bit more work. Andrew reckons I’m ready to tackle a longer course, so our plan is next time to play at the Northbridge Golf Club. The course is a par 64, with only a single par 5 hole. Apparently it has one of the most famous holes in Sydney, the par 3 fifth hole, which involves teeing off at the edge of a cliff, to the green far below. Here’s a photo from the tee (from the golf club’s website):

5th hole view

Scary!

After driving practice, we separated and I drove out to the coast to get some lunch. On the way home I drove along Sydney’s northern beaches, stopping at Bilgola lookout to take a couple of photos. Looking south:

Bilgola view

And looking north:

Bilgola view

I relaxed back at home a bit and had a nice dinner out with my wife (and Scully). All in all, an excellent day!

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