I’ll come back to the 1985 series in the week, but while watching Kanye West wittering on at Glastonbury, I thought I’d go back to my second test match overseas, and that was in 2002 at Adelaide.
We had an Australian secretary who thought I was out of my mind going to Adelaide, but I also had a great mate of mine who had gone out to Australia and lived in Adelaide for a large part of her time there (she found a bloke). We hadn’t been in contact, but she always said Adelaide was OK.
So, having endured Brisbane, and the hammering we got at that venue, Sir Peter and I flew up to Cairns and stayed in Port Douglas (another recommendation from my mate) and it was incredible. I will return one day if it is within my power to do so. Then we spent four days in Sydney, and saw an incredible New South Wales line up lose to South Australia. We then thought it might be a decent idea to book some accommodation. Except, when we looked at all the websites, there was nowhere in our price range. And I mean nowhere. For Wednesday and Thursday night there was a decided lack of places to stay. This provided us with a massive dilemma. We had somewhere we could stay in Sydney, but might have to reschedule flights and miss the first two days.
Then a morning spent in a tourist office came up with a place to stay in Glenelg. And at a reasonable price. We jumped all over it. A late arrival in Adelaide, a pick up of a key from a safety deposit box, and a brilliant, wonderful taxi driver and we had somewhere to stay. It was a bit of a flea pit, but who gave a stuff.
So we got the tram (the old version in those days) from Glenelg (I’ll leave out the bizarre karaoke we heard when we arrived, where people were queueing up to do a Gary Glitter song) to King William Street, followed the crowd through the centre of Adelaide, over the Torrens River and towards this legendary venue. While not quite the goosebumps of Brisbane, it was still something to wonder. This had history, this was where Bodyline reached its height of fury. This was Bradman country (I know he was from Bowral). The thing was, we didn’t have our tickets. We’d bought them, but expected to pick them up from the Oval. Hence we were an hour early. We got in the queue and…… nothing.
The queue never moved. There was obviously a total cock-up with the ticketing system. It turned out that the company that flogged them had not really been clear. We weren’t supposed to pick them up from the ground, but from their ticket offices in the centre of the city. We took this news with equanimity, but I’ll now give these guys all the credit. They confirmed our tickets were there, got confirmation of our information, and then escorted us into the ground to our seats (and delivered our tickets for the rest of the test – we had days 2 & 3 tickets). We missed the start, but England were batting.
That first day was all about Michael Vaughan. Sure, he got away with that catch to gully that Langer got the arse about, but he was brilliant to watch. He made a wonderful 177, getting out off the last ball of the day. It was magnificent entertainment as he played on a different level to every other England player. I still have all that day’s play on DVD (what a mum I had – she did all the recording on tape for me – I miss her) and while it seemed, on the face of it, to be a really decent day for England, losing Vaughan to the last ball was a punch in the guts. I recall Vaughan treating the square boundaries as an invitation to go aerial and he looked in control to the degree I’ve not seen from an England batsman before or since. Seriously, I think his spell between the 197 at Trent Bridge, up until he was given the captaincy, was the most impressive test batting I’ve ever seen from an England man. It was not just the big hundreds, but the manner and pace of them, and the shot-making.
The first day was also evidence of the world religion of cricket to me. While I had plenty to moan at (and if you ever see Live and Uncut Down Under, I do moan), I did meet two absolutely superb blokes to chew the fat with. I’m not quite sure how it happened, but I was a smoker on that tour (I jacked it in 3 months after I came home and never smoked again) and under the floodlight pylon I got talking to this Aussied called Michael. He journeyed over from Sydney every year for the Adelaide test and we got chatting about cricket. His mate Bernie, definitely quieter, was also great entertainment. That’s what cricket is to me, a bringing together of people who love the sport.
I recall we were buzzing that night, so we decided to try to extend our holiday by a few more days. We decided to get up early to see if we could get to the Singapore Airlines offices to fly back on the Wednesday rather than Sunday. It meant we were late to the second day’s play, so we missed Mark Butcher (heard him getting out as we took our places), and the rest of the team subsided by lunch, I believe. Michael gave us a bit of stick about that at the break. The afternoon saw England work hard, nipping out the two openers, but that was about all of the good news. Damien Martyn and Ricky Ponting were going well and England’s 300-ish innings was never going to be enough.
I had decided to stop smoking (again) but Saturday morning did for me. I spent two hours in the presence of a know all who knew eff all, and I was being worn down by the humour. I have a rant and a half at lunch on camera and then went off to the pylon to nick a cigarette off Michael – who only smoked unflitered ones so that was raw! Ponting finally got out, we bounced out Steve Waugh, but the Aussies were going to make 500, and so they did. I remember one thing about this attritional day. It was hot. Stinking hot. The hottest I can ever remember. It was, therefore, little surprise that Australia declared over 200 in front and then took three of our wickets before the close, including another off the last ball of the day. That plane home on Sunday might have been better!
We moved to the Holiday Inn motel on Sunday morning, and all hope now was on a brutal weather forecast from the afternoon and the next 36 hours. All we needed to do was survive three hours and we would probably be safe. But no. McGrath took an incredible catch to dismiss Vaughan, and although Stewart made a half century, and there were various delays for light drizzle, Australia closed in on victory and got there. I think the umpires were a little generous to the Australians, but they’d demolished us. It rained steadily for most of the Sunday, and then all of the Monday, which we spent loitering around indoor facilities. A wine trip on Tuesday and a flight home on Wednesday was all she wrote for a magic holiday, not ruined by the result at all. See, I followed my team, supported my team, loved Vaughan’s 177, loved watching Harmison’s promise, liked what I saw out of the guys keeping going in the field, but we were outclassed. Simple as.
There’s a lovely picture, one of my favourites of me, which I won’t share, at the end of the game in front of the scoreboard. Behind me is a hubbub of England fans, all not leaving, all staying to support the team, and drink…. and that for me will be my most abiding memory of that tour.