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As the cricket season down under draws to a close following Australia’s emphatic triumph in the World Cup, it is the most appropriate time to reflect on what was the highlight of the cricketing summer in this country. What shaped up to be a momentous day in the cricketing career of one Steven Waugh turned out to an even more memorable occasion that changed the immediate future of his captaincy and international livelihood. The scene was set for something special. And boy, did this champion fighter deliver.

The Show
My first thoughts when I heard these moments were going to be transferred to DVD weren’t all that enthusiastic, rather a feeling that it was just going to be a money-making exercise cashing in on what was an extraordinary day but still a rather unremarkable one in terms of mass-producing a DVD package. But that soon changed when I saw the package put together by the folks at Channel Nine.

Steve Waugh - A Perfect Day

For those of you who don’t know I’ll explain this almost Hollywood script-like situation. Australian cricket captain Steve Waugh had been struggling for form during the past few months and was under pressure to retire from international cricket and make way for a younger player to fill the breach. With only one century to his name from a previous tour of the West Indies, Waugh had battled hard during the Ashes test series in Australia over the summer but still hadn’t managed to crack the elusive ton. An innings in Melbourne looked promising but he couldn’t quite convince the cricket world that he was still the right man to lead his country. The last test in Perth, therefore, looked to be his last, with television current affairs programs and sports columns preparing their tributes to the skipper. How things changed over the course of the next few days.

England had built a considerable total thanks to some powerful batting from their top order, which had been seriously lacking in any of the previous four test matches. Australia was still overwhelming favourites to make the series a 5-0 whitewash but ran into early trouble during the first innings. Enter Steve Waugh, who is at his best when the side has its back against the wall. Early on the signs were quite good, with Waugh dispatching several loose deliveries to the boundary and generally looking quite at home at the crease, complete with his lucky red rag.

The disc goes through a blow by blow of the whole series with a detailed focus on Waugh’s triumphant innings in Perth, where Waugh managed to scrounge one of the most significant innings’ in cricket history, culminating in a glorious stroke to the boundary to notch up his century from the last ball of the day. Included are interviews with the man himself, wicketkeeper Adam Gilchrist who was in the middle when the final runs were scored, commentators Richie Benaud and Mark Taylor, England captain Nasser Hussain and media personality Andrew Denton, who had the remarkable honour of being in the Australian dressing room on that day thanks to a wise purchase at a charity auction earlier in the year. Even self-confessed cricket junkie and Australian Prime Minister John Howard chimes in with his thoughts, rounding out what is a great package of additional information to accompany the cricket footage.

Steve Waugh - A Perfect Day

This is a quality package that makes for compelling viewing even if you were lucky enough to witness the match live during the summer. Steve Waugh is completely candid and detailed about his thoughts throughout the match and for basically every ball that was bowled, while Denton and Gilchrist provide quite a bit of humour throughout. For a semi-documentary that basically focuses on one single day of a sporting event (with a short history of the Ashes series thrown in for context) this is great stuff. Steve Waugh fans should buy two copies just in case while cricket fans in general should not go past this slickly produced account of one of the greatest individual triumphs over adversity in the history of Australian sport. Brilliant.

Video
The video footage has been lifted straight off Channel Nine’s digital broadcast of the test match and it looks absolutely stunning. Presented in 1.78:1 (rare for a television program) and 16:9 enhanced for those with a penchant for watching widescreen broadcasts, the detail you get from this transfer is top notch. There’s the obvious advantage of increased scope over the vanilla 4:3 version the regular folk watched at home on the day plus the increase in vibrancy and sharpness. Put simply, this is the best cricket will ever look. The interview footage fits in nicely and is equally as impressive, making this a great looking DVD.

Audio
Not surprisingly we’re left with a 2.0 track for this release, not that there’s any need for a thumping soundtrack. Heck, the crowd makes enough noise as it is when the winning runs are scored so anything else would be overkill. The interviews are always clear and the commentary is what you’d expect to hear from your own telly. There are some spatial effects added to the stock footage of other television programs which I’m not sure works like it should do but at least efforts were made to jazz things up a little.

Steve Waugh - A Perfect Day

Extras
If the program isn’t enough there are the final eight overs in full to build up the tension to the full. Real cricket fans will revel in the uninterrupted coverage of these eventful overs as Waugh edges his way to a magnificent century. For a package that was put together relatively quickly after the event it comes as no surprise that the extras section is a bit light on, although the scorecards that accompany many of the previous cricket DVDs are missing from this release and would have been a welcome addition to the disc.

Overall
Do yourself a favour and at least watch this wonderfully packaged piece on that perfect day for Australian captain Steve Waugh. A Hollywood script writer couldn’t have penned it better so the events make for great viewing on DVD. The video quality is a cut above other TV production and the audio does the job required. And if that’s not enough there’s the last eight overs in full to pour over should you feel the need to relive those memorable moments. What a day it was, and it’s great to be able to relive the events over and over again.


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