It’s great to be back at the cricket
As Steve Smith peeled off his latest piece of batting wizardry, it proved one thing above all else: cricket's 'new normal' is more normal than anyone could've anticipated.
Friday's one-day clash with India was the beginning of an eight-week odyssey of bubble life and bruising battles and, for the most part, proved that it is business as usual for Australia and its stars.
Outside the grounds, you'd be forgiven for forgetting the past 10 months ever happened as Indian fan groups gathered around drum sets, preparing for a 10-hour stint of singing and dancing in the stands.
Fans had to scan in and have their temperature taken - but at this point, who isn't used to that?
The cricket followed a familiar formula as captain Aaron Finch punched out the 17th century of his career - and added an 11th 100-run partnership with David Warner for good measure.
Steve Smith? Yep, the COVID restrictions haven't tinkered too much with cricket's quirkiest character as he reminded everyone he's a batting monster like most have never seen before.
And Glenn Maxwell - bless him - mixed reverse sweeps with conventional drives and rode his luck in a blindingly entertaining and cavalier knock. Typical Maxi, really.
Even the beautiful tributes to Phillip Hughes on the sixth anniversary of his tragic death had an air of familiarity to them - Finch looking skyward after reaching three figures in a silent tribute to his little mate.
In fact, the most stark reminder that we live in a different world came when two environmental protesters, sporting COVID-safe masks, interrupted Australia's innings mid-afternoon.
Where security guards would normally flood the playing arena and the offending parties would get a taste of the SCG turf, these two were able to escape with a much more gentile escort from the ground - cue the social distancing jokes.
However it was confirmed that there was no official directive for the SCG security guards to go soft on streakers this summer, and with that comes an unspoken warning to anyone thinking of trying a similar stunt on Sunday in game two: the rules haven't changed, and crash-tackling is still on the menu.
One thing the security guards wouldn't touch? Boundaries and sixes, lest the ball need to be cleansed.
One of the major innovations to get cricket back under COVID rules this summer was decision to sanitise cricket balls hit into the crowd - and a rare interaction with the fans while in the bubble.
But even that edict seem to be forgotten when Finch smacked the first six into the Members Stand, and the ball was lobbed back to a sheepish Yuzvendra Chahal without so much as a cursory wipe.
By the time Maxwell and Smith were peppering the crowds with sixes, however, a reminder must've been sent out because the Dettol got a serious work out.
And then Smith brought up a century, his tenth in ODI cricket. The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Originally published as It's great to be back at the cricket