Australian captain Tim Paine was a late withdrawal from Tasmania’s side as Victoria grabbed the first-day ascendancy.
Alex Doolan was sitting in a plane travelling over Bass Strait when the Sheffield Shield clash between Tasmania and Victoria started at the MCG on Friday morning.
Just after the lunch break, after a quick net sessions, four-Test batsman Doolan was in the middle batting.
Tassie captain Tim Paine was forced to pull out on match morning after waking up ill in his Melbourne hotel room.
Strict COVID-19 rules dictated he had to isolate, get a COVID test and return a negative result before he could rejoin his teammates.
That was never going to happen in time to play.
Tassie only took 12 players to Melbourne, and bowler Gabe Bell was the extra, so Doolan was given an early morning SOS from coach Jeff Vaughan and jumped on the first plane available.
Doolan’s rushed entry was matched by a hasty exit, bowled for 12 by Mitch Perry as the Vics took early control.
Scott Boland (4-44) and James Pattinson (2-33) made solid early inroads for the home team, back at the MCG for the first time since 2019.
Tasmania were bowled out for 188. In reply, Victoria were 3-70 at stumps, with Peter Handscomb unbeaten on 52.
Pattinson, who was part of the Test squad all summer without playing a match, has declared his intention to lead the Vics to a Shield title as his number one priority.
He even skipped a potential pay day in the Indian Premier League and didn’t go in the auction having played 10 games with the Mumbai Indians last season, choosing to stay home and play with the Vics.
“The hard part from last time I was there … family can’t travel,” Pattinson said. said.
“There was that South African tour so that would have been three or four months away with more quarantine when we got back.
“I wanted to be able to spend time with my family. If something happened to them, you can’t just get on a flight and come back home.
“I love playing for Victoria. The goal is to win the Sheffield Shield final, and I’ll be putting all my efforts in to that.”
Jackson Bird, who took two of Victoria’s three wickets to fall, took over as Tassie captain, while Jake Doran, who top-scored for the visitors with 52, filled Paine’s spot as keeper.
The match was the first Shield game at the MCG for 454 days, after the end of last season was called off and players were sent in to an Adelaide hub to start this season.
Victorian coach Chris Rogers said you couldn’t understate what it meant for players to be back at the MCG.
The other storyline within the match could play out on day two, with former Test bowler Peter Siddle playing against his beloved Victoria for the first time.
Siddle crossed to Tasmania after they offered the security of a long-term contract, which the Vics wouldn’t.
“There was a bit of banter on that WhatsApp group about whether he was a traitor or nor. But it’s only banter,” Rogers said.
“It’s what happens in the modern world. They’ve got to do what they need to do. At the time Victoria, we felt like we were going in a different direction, everyone moves on. It’s only cricket.”