Dmitri’s Ashes Memories #4 – Adelaide, The First Time

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.

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2 thoughts on “Dmitri’s Ashes Memories #4 – Adelaide, The First Time

  1. Arron Wright Jun 28, 2015 / 8:00 am

    Sweaty Ken’s wankey set is being received like a Cook innings c. 2014 in the Guardian review and on sites like Popjustice. If the full Mothership set isn’t on iplayer I will storm the BBC.

    Really enjoying these memories by the way.

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  2. pktroll (@pktroll) Jun 28, 2015 / 8:02 am

    I would like to give a relatively brief reply as to my first (and only trip so far) to Adelaide. I had already visited Australia to do a working holiday back in 98-99. Of course on that occasion I neatly coincided that to make sure that the middle part of the year that I would spend away would be following the England team around. In essence I watched the East Coast trips and did not go to Adelaide or Perth that time due to having to use my resources a little more cannily to ensure that I wasn’t flying back to England a few months earlier than planned. Anyway I think I can discuss that earlier trip some place else.

    In early 2010 I caught up with some distant Aussie relatives in Mumbai where my dad hailed from. I had not seen many of them since my previous trip there, and it was one of their younger number who was celebrating his wedding. Anyway we have a fine time and I was asked the next time I was going to Australia to go and see them. Anyway it was a lightbulb moment. I thought that my trip next year may encapsulate a bit of a grand tour of a few weeks. That is what transpired. I organised it so I could go to Argentina, a long standing place that I wanted to visit, via Australia and back through India. The planning took quite a few months but it was sorted out. I had a fantastic time in Argentina after planning that leg by speaking to an Aussie mate of mine who is actually of Argentine stock and he knows his cricket too.

    After finishing the Argentine leg of my trip, I flew on to Sydney from Buenos Aires and the next morning I would fly on to Adelaide. I was in a real zombie state as a 14 hour flight turned Saturday afternoon in to Sunday night. I am not sure that I got more than a few minutes of sleep before getting up early to fly on to Adelaide. I should point out that I was getting there for day 4 and the updates I had followed online had left me knowing the score at the end of day 2 but not knowing what the score was until I reached Sydney. When I jetted out from there early on the 4th day, two fellow English lads said that there were concerns over the weather for the last couple of days. Anyway after landing I quickly dumped my bags at the place I was staying and headed to the Adelaide Oval. I naturally went on to the Hill there and saw the huge scoreboard. Adelaide was known as one of the most picturesque grounds in the world and then it didn’t disappoint. Of course it was to my disappointment that I didn’t see Pietersen’s pyrotechnics on that occasion but what I did see was one of the finest England team bowling performances in not allowing the Aussies to get off the hook. Broad broke down early on in that innings and with a still flat pitch I thought there was no way that England would break them down, especially with the weather due to close in on the 5th day.

    However Anderson in particular did not give Australia many cheap runs at all. His final bowling analysis for that innings would be 2-92 but that did not reflect that skill of his reverse swing, accuracy and bloody mindedness in stopping the Australians getting some cheap runs and possibly steering themselves towards safety. I do believe that it helped Swann bowl his long spells and gradually wear them down as the pitch increasingly took spin. The game also tilted England’s way when in the last over Clarke gave a catch to bat pad off Pietersen that was originally given not-out, but there was a big inside edge. The huge English contingent in the crowd roared their approval and I was going ballistic in giving Clarke a send off that may have contained a few expletives. Then again a few Aussies may have been doing similar as he continued a bit of a trend in getting out late in the day. By that stage I was so shattered I went back to the place I was staying and crashed out. Although I did wake up at some silly time in the morning, I did get back to sleep for a bit and was in reasonably fine fettle for the final day.

    On reaching the ground, the contingent of fans was nearly 95% English, it really was. An early breakthrough was necessary and this happened when Finn took out Australia’ pivot in Mike Hussey early enough in the day. From then on it was a bit of a procession as Swann took out the Aussie lower order on an increasingly spin friendly pitch. The amusing part was a bloke with an inflatable pink Swan charging up and down singing “Swan, Swan will tear you apart again!” Comfortably before lunch the game was up when Swann bowled Siddle. It was party time on the hill, pictures taken. I had also met a bunch of guys I had caught up with in Colombo in 2007 and Chennai the next year. Naturally we went to a pub to celebrate. It was a party and we would arrange to meet in Perth. I was still dreadfully tired but my ambition of going to watch test matches at each of Australia’s five main test match grounds was very much on. I had a load of people to catch up with on my trip. I just don’t have time to fit it all in as I’m off to Spain later, and no I have no intention of catching up with the England team there!

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