Dmitri’s Ashes Memories – The Oval, 2005

A Special Knock
A Special Knock

I’ve not really written about a very, very important test match that I attended, and as the series of pieces I’ve written on my Ashes Memories is not complete without it, here goes. No. Not Adelaide 2006, but The Oval 2005.

As regular readers, be it those who misrepresent me (then can’t even admit they did), and those that read and digest what I’m saying, will know that I was a Surrey member for many years and I did attend every England match from 1997 to 2012 at the home of English cricket (1st test venue in England, accept no impersonators).

Strauss - The Applause
Strauss – The Applause

Note, as I’m oft to repeat, I stopped going after 2012 (I’ve written on the “spectator experience”) and have not been back since. Note also, this pre-dates KP’s sacking, and ticket buying for 2013 would have been post- KP textgate. So it was nothing to do with KP, just for those “obsessives” out there. Of course, they are the ones who obsess, not me. But enough of that.

I digress. This 2005 Ashes test had the promise to be something lively, even a good 10 months in advance, and when the annual ticket form dropped through the letter box giving me two weeks advance booking as a privilege of membership, I got the allocation in as quickly as possible. Already there were harbingers of restrictions for members. We were give 10 per member per day in 2001, this had been cut to 6 in 2005. Tickets went rapidly, England were on the back of a 7 test wins in a summer (that’s greatness, right there) but I still managed front row seats for the Saturday in the Sturridge Stand. We also secured tickets for Thursday and Friday. I’d attended three days for the preceding two summers, but wouldn’t venture a Sunday ticket until the following year – a rather memorable fourth day against Pakistan!!!

Strauss Drives Warne
Strauss Drives Warne – looks like it went quite square…

Now, I have retold the tale of 2005 in my Lord’s piece. Mum had passed away, Dad was frail, and yet life seemed to have opportunities in front of me. I had a trip to Barbados in the October (those were the days) and the Ashes finale just five or so weeks before. Those tickets appreciated in value as the series wore on. When Ashley Giles stroked that ball through the leg side to win at Trent Bridge, then the reputed market value of those tickets had a 0 stuck on the end. This anti-England man would not have contemplated two noughts on the end (three – well, that would be silly…). I was so mentally shot after a number of issues that I actually hid the tickets in a book on my shelf, in case we were burgled. Eff it, they could nick the TV, the music stuff, my jewellery, just don’t nick my tickets (I was in my mid 30s….so can’t use being a child as an excuse, well not really)

One of my favourite pictures. Katich catches Strauss for a magnificent 129
One of my favourite pictures. Katich catches Strauss for a magnificent 129

The day before the Oval match, my work team had a cricket match. It was a lovely fixture. We played in Greenwich Park, they laid on a bar (during the game, dangerous) and some food afterwards, and all I worried about was I hadn’t played club cricket that year and that playing in this game was going to hurt. Most importantly, this was going to hurt while I was at this massive match for English cricket. Given past experience, this was also going to hurt even more on Day 2 than Day 1. I’m no athletic specimen and there were going to be serious unfitness pains.

So maybe, just maybe, it would be best if I didn’t do too much in this game. I was captain so I didn’t intend to bowl, and stuck myself down the order. That was the joy of being in charge.

The plans went awry. They were a bit better than we thought, and I had a bit of a bowl, which didn’t go well. I came off for a drinks break and my Dad, who’d come to watch for the afternoon just said as I came off “well, that was crap, wasn’t it?” Thanks, Dad.

I’m not sure how many they got, probably around 180 in 40 overs, which was going to be too much with our batting line-up full of non-cricketers.

We started our chase, and one of our people who could bat a little, surprised us all by making a painstaking but really vital 40-odd (only to be the victim of a story we still tell about his future wife completely ignoring it…). I came in at number 7 to replace him, and then started to bat well. I’d hardly played, but it was hitting the right part of the bat, and although not particularly fluent, I set about the run chase –we wanted about 8 an over. This meant I had to run. This meant the price to pay would be greater. A few boundaries maybe, but we had to run everything. This was not how I planned it (although, I confess, I loved batting again).

Shaun Tait.....
Shaun Tait…..

This isn’t a heroic story of pulling a win out of the fire. I made 39 and got out when we had half a sniff – a sort of Ravi Bopara type knock – and then ludicrously had to act as a runner for my great mate who had a knee problem. You see me, you don’t want me as a runner. By this time my little nieces had turned up with my brother, and they came out to get me. I was knackered. Then the muscles started to ache. Oh no.

I woke up the following morning and it hurt. A lot. But I hobbled out of bed, muscles refusing to relax, all those little micro-tears causing each footstep to be a pain. But nothing would stop me. So, food parcel prepared, and provisions and camera at the ready, I headed to the station. I met my good friend Brendan at London Bridge, and then met up with the crowd for the first day at the Oval (I seem to recall I went to Jessops at Cannon Street for something, actually, but not sure what. Might have been a memory card).

Freddie on Day 2
Freddie on Day 2

Now, of course, there’s been many a report on this test match, but the feeling remains that seeing just the first three days of this test in particular is like seeing half a film and walking out, only to be told there’s an amazing plot twist at the end. Think ending the Usual Suspects before the flashback of the interview scene.

It is important to note, and I hope the pillocks who slag off this blog do, that this “anti-Strauss” individual will never tire in saying that his first day century at the Oval was the most unsung English hundred I’ve ever seen (either in flesh, or on the TV). If Strauss had failed, we’d have been dead. Instead he made a magnificent, composed, attractive 129, and with Freddie Flintoff who made, I think, 72 pulled us from a dreadful position to an almost par score.

Hayden on the pull
Hayden on the pull

But while there was pleasure, there was pain. Any movement that day was agony. At one point one of my side muscles cramped, which I can tell you is bloody agony, you go all stiff, breathe in and you have to wait for the spasm to pass and rub it hard. People think you are having a heart attack. And I’m just reading that back and saying I might have to slip in a double entendre or two.

There was also an interesting exchange that morning with a fellow Millwall fan (and excellent blogger on football) who was sat in the May Stand on the text, regarding one Kevin Pietersen. Tres and Strauss had laid a decent platform, but then Tres, Vaughan, Bell had gone in quick succession. KP then got out to an aggressive shot at Warne, and my mate was livid. Called him a big head, no brain etc. I agreed with him. Think we wanted that exchange back a few days later?

Langer celebrates his ton, in a glorious English summer!
Langer celebrates his ton, in a glorious English summer!

While Thursday was a glorious day, Friday was a complete let down, with England adding a few more, and then Australia batting just enough overs to deny us a refund. Of course, we didn’t take a wicket. The main thing I took away from this was the lack of urgency. Australia needed to win the test, but Matthew Hayden in particular had had a poor series. I did mention in a little tongue in cheek throughout my blogging days, but there was a little “batting for myself and not the Ashes” about it. He made 138, but it wasn’t his usual bullying self. It was hard bloody work.
The Saturday had some rain interruptions, but plenty of play. Australia got to 200 I think before losing a wicket, with Langer first to his ton. Ponting stuck around for a bit, but went, and we saw Martyn go to. But Hayden was there with his unbeaten hundred, and with two days to go, Australia were ominously poised.

Ricky Ponting in aggressive pose
Ricky Ponting in aggressive pose – and I got the ball in shot!

Which is where I left it. This still pains me to this day. Sir Peter got a ticket to the last day and witnessed the miracle of Pietersen in the flesh, and the celebrations afterwards. I spent the Monday wondering how much my boss would notice if I slipped away and watched the game in the TV room of my office as much as possible. But in its own way Monday was special in the office environment. All across the massive floor of our office building, people had cricinfo on their screens. The guy furthest away seemed to have the fastest connection, and the whispers across the floor of wickets originated from him. He was the bearer of bad news. I was the last to know. It was an amazing experience in its own way. Silent cheering, silent fear.

By the time the game was reaching its denouement, and when we were doing the sums about how many runs per over the Aussies could chase – we thought 8, ludicrously – most of the cricket fans had camped into the TV room for a shared experience we can’t replicate for cricket now. We were there for Richie Benaud’s last words as a cricket commentator in England (and the dismissal of KP that immediately followed). This was the moment we’d all been waiting for. People with just a passing interest in the sport became fans. The enthusiasm for cricket was immense. We all know what happened next.

Damian Martyn - Interesting
Damian Martyn – Interesting

So these are pained Ashes memories in many ways, because I couldn’t be there for the end. But the atmosphere on day one was unlike any I’ve experienced before or since – and yes that includes Lord’s earlier in that year. We sensed we’d downed a mighty foe, a behemoth. This wasn’t a monkey off our backs, but bloody King Kong. Oh if I’d bought a Day 5 ticket (I did for 2009 – wasn’t needed).

There’s lots to remember this test for. My Dad, who died 7 months after it, went to see the parade. He never told me he was going to, but this frail man, a lover of the sport, went up to Trafalgar Square. It’s not the done thing for a son to be proud of a father for something he achieved, but for him to do that made me proud. It also made me proud of the people who had made him happy two months after the death of his wife. Who made me happy two months after the death of my mum.

Great career-saver, Matthew
Great career-saver, Matthew

I say to those anti-KP people out there…. stop, for one minute, and just think WHY I might be a little bit pro-KP. Do the maths. Work it out. And certainly don’t say that that team “makes you sick”. It was special, in a way that this series really isn’t, in that this was an England team that beat a 15 year monster that had embarrassed us every time we played them. It had true greats like Warne and McGrath (albeit hobbled), as opposed to worthy adversaries like Johnson and Lyon. Gilchrist compared to Nevill. Hayden and Langer compared to Warner and Rogers. It was a great team we beat, and they proved how great they were 18 months later. Again, I’m not sure why I need to justify this. It’s bloody obvious. Just because a modern pop band sells a ton of records, doesn’t mean they can compare to the greats.

But my memory above all will be the camaraderie with my Old Jos colleagues, the joy of my father, and the time cricket really did grip the nation. It doesn’t now. We can’t pretend that it does. Cricket has changed, a lot, and not all of it for the better. The Oval 2005 seemed a lot better time, because it was. That’s not me being anti-England, it’s an attempt to put this into context. Anyone who saw Andrew Strauss’s 129, and who doesn’t think it superior to any ton scored by an England player in the last couple of years isn’t paying attention. In my view. It was that good.

It did get a bit silly.....
It did get a bit silly…..

As a final postscript to this piece, I find at this time that I much prefer to write about cricket memories. I feel I have something to prove to people that it isn’t all about the warfare in the cricket fraternity in this country, a war I didn’t start. I truly feel the only fans I had a go at were ones who had had a go at me. I concentrated my anger on journalists and the ECB. That was this blog’s raison d’etre. And it’s why we criticised the ridiculous wall they put up around Cook.

And I also feel that these pieces put context of where I am now, in terms of my views on the game, and the things I defend to the hilt. The world wasn’t perfect in 2005, and I’m not saying it was, but there were no divisions, no causes to divide us. Hell, England dumped my favourite player (Thorpe) for Pietersen and I carried on (and I loved Thorpe so much I bought his book and got it autographed). Again, critics, just read that, and think about it. You never know, you might stop attacking supporters and actually think to yourself “why are these people so angry now?” and it is not, assuredly, solely down to KP being sacked. I keep having to effing repeat myself.

Obsession
Obsession

I’m sorry I had to end the piece on that note. But it needs saying. Of course, they (they know who they are) will ignore it. Doesn’t sit with their “how effing great an England fan am I” mantra.

As usual, all pics are taken by me (on an Olympus Ultra-Zoom) and you are welcome to borrow them (if used on a blog, you can credit, but don’t worry too much). I hope you enjoyed my memories and I’ll have a few more before the summer is over.

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21 thoughts on “Dmitri’s Ashes Memories – The Oval, 2005

  1. Tony Bennett Aug 19, 2015 / 9:12 pm

    I was there. It was the fourth day, so not a brilliant choice given that there were only about 42 overs’ play, and even more so considering that I paid £130 to a tout to get in. It was an impulsive decision on the morning to travel down to the Oval, having no clue whether I would get in or not.

    I watched KP’s innings on TV in the pub next door to my office on the Monday. Obviously I’m terribly apologetic about the misuse of taxpayers’ money that should have been spent on my actually doing some work. No I’m not really. It was one of the most exciting cricket experiences of my life.

    Like

    • LordCanisLupus Aug 19, 2015 / 9:22 pm

      It’s an interesting other side point, Tony. I’d love to pop out at lunchtime, grab a pint and watch an hour or so’s play. But so few pubs up where I work have Sky TV, that I’d have to go a fair old way to see it.

      I know we can’t, in all likelihood, have the tests on FTA any more. But it’s still a massive shame. I found out how few pubs did when I missed Graeme McDowell’s Ryder Cup winning putt when I sneaked out of the office to try to see it.

      Like

  2. Dan Aug 19, 2015 / 9:15 pm

    Enjoyed reading that dmitri. The office anecdote on the last day resonated a lot!

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    • LordCanisLupus Aug 19, 2015 / 9:20 pm

      Thanks, Dan.

      Sure everyone has an office anecdote like mine. I’m still miffed that I was always the last to know, and that a Watford fan who had barely any interest in the sport was always the first!

      Given I had to approve your comment, I’m assuming it’s your first here. Fire away, Dan.

      Like

  3. Bob Aug 19, 2015 / 9:23 pm

    Really enjoyed reading that. Thanks.

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    • LordCanisLupus Aug 19, 2015 / 9:24 pm

      Thanks Bob. I do enjoy writing them. Glad they are appreciated.

      Like

  4. Arron Wright Aug 19, 2015 / 9:59 pm

    “If Strauss had failed, we’d have been dead. Instead he made a magnificent, composed, attractive 129”

    8/10.

    He should have got 96 or 43 instead, then he’d have got 8.5/10.

    #Nassermaths

    Like

  5. MM Aug 19, 2015 / 10:44 pm

    Lovely memories LCL.

    I – in a Nostradamus moment – figured that, should England have a chance, it would go down to the wire. So, in the February, I ordered a few tickets for the final day. I also figured that the weather might be bad and I’d get a refund. Or the match might finish inside three or four days and I’d get a refund. Bottom line, each ticket was only a tenner. Ge in!

    Well, I had no shortage of takers for the tickets but I only asked for the face value, along with a lift to The Oval. KP’s knock was just the best crickety thing ever for me, along with Ashley Giles’ 50. Bantering the Aussies was fun but – curiously – I don’t feel proud of that bit now. Had a bad head from the warm cider but what a day. What a Summer.

    Like

  6. Ian Aug 19, 2015 / 11:04 pm

    2005 Such good memories for me. I didn’t attend any of it but I vividly remember the Sunday (4th day) and the Monday (5th) day. On the Saturday night I went to visit an old work friend for an evening out. I got to his and he was playing cricket in the garden with his brother and the other friends we were going out that night with. I had never really known these guys to go on about cricket so them playing just shows how much the Ashes had captivated people. Later that evening in the pub his sister came along with a hot New Zealander girl and we hit it off. After a lazy lie in together we went to the pub to have lunch and watched the test. It was when Freddie and Hoggard were bowling well and England ended up with a lead of 6 when we feared we would be facing a big deficit. The girl being a kiwi was loving this as much as me and it was just the perfect Sunday. Monday I watched in the shop where I worked at the time and had to tell everyone who popped in things were ok, KP was sticking it to them and that we were getting closer to the Ashes. I remember the last words of Benaud on C4 and the bizarre lifting of bails to say that we had finally done it. My first series was 1989 so it was something that I had waited my whole cricketing life for and it was just better than anything I had ever dreamed of.

    Sad to say as that team faded so quickly after so did me and the girl but what a few days.

    Like

    • LordCanisLupus Aug 20, 2015 / 4:42 am

      It is really every England cricket fan knows where they were on those days in 2005. Cheers, Ian.

      Like

      • Ian Aug 20, 2015 / 7:45 am

        Thanks. I might sound over the top but I think it is a where were you when moment of the 21st century for cricket fans anyway.

        Like

  7. BoerInAustria Aug 20, 2015 / 5:12 am

    Lovely writing, and great photos. A great piece of history recorded.

    Like

  8. pktroll (@pktroll) Aug 20, 2015 / 6:55 am

    I had a very long weekend the weekend of that 5th test. I had long since booked the last day off work but I think I will go to the 3rd and 4th day first. In Regent’s Park, that was actually rather close to where I lived at the time they put a big screen up and me and my two brothers went up there for both days of the weekend. However on the Saturday I managed to bump into a colleague from work and I spent most of the day in the bar with him.

    You then had the weird sight of thousands of people almost cheering at the big screen everytime the rain came along at the Oval. It meant that for every period that the players went off the Ashes were a little bit closer. In all honesty I remember that day more for the impromptu p*ss-up than I did the cricket but it was a fine day nonetheless.

    The fourth day I remember a lot more as I was a good deal more sober and this involved the comeback from Flintoff dissolving what could have been a match winning lead for the Aussies into the 6 run lead that resulted for England. My brother had this time brought a load of his mates along to the Park and every time there was a break in play we were all playing our own game of cricket and sledging each other with mock Aussie accents. Fun times indeed although of course the day kind of ended with the match a bit more in the balance.

    The fifth day I had long booked off at home as I sensed a long while before that there would be a lot more twist and turns to that series. I think I made the right choice!

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  9. OscarDaBosca Aug 20, 2015 / 7:09 am

    I was due to start a new job which involved driving round the country. We had been for a two week holiday in France where I had watched day 3 of Trent Bridge in a Portsmouth hotel (waiting for an early ferry the next morning) and then driven to the Vendee whilst listening to a long wave radio to catch the denouement and Giles winning runs.
    I listened to Strauss’s 129 the day before we were due back and arriving home on a Saturday evening I found a court summons for a speeding offence that I had committed 6 months previously in Wales (I had tried to accept the fine and points, but they wanted me to appear in Newport magistrates court on the Monday I was due to start work)

    I can’t remember what I said to my new employer, but I remember leaving Bristol with only one wicket down with my wife and 6 month old daughter in the car, and as it was the last day it was on Radio 5. By the time we crossed the Severn Bridge we had lost Vaughan, Bell and KP had been dropped (can’t remember when the other opener had gone). I got to Newport Crown Court with a heavy heart fearing I would lose my licence (and therefore new job) and that England were going to completely muck up the last day and draw the series (and therefore lose the Ashes). A few hours later, I had gotten away with a £600 fine, we got back in the car and KP and Giles were in, slowly but surely making the game safe. I managed to get home to watch KP dismissed (typical I missed it, I once missed a Flintoff ODI hundred in Bristol queuing for beer for me and 4 others (never went to an ODI in Bristol again because of their terrible organisation)) and then managed to watch that curious ending where Billy Bowden managed to insert his ego into proceedings.

    I will never forget that day

    Like

  10. Mark Aug 20, 2015 / 8:50 am

    Wonderful memories, and thanks for the great photos.

    It’s very sad that even this great series has now to be thrown under the bus to elevate Cook. Is nothing sacred? Is there nothing the owners of English cricket won’t debase to protect themselves?

    It was one of those once in a life time series. 1981 was good, but this was even better. I think the TV audience was even higher than 81, and my huge surprise when a couple I knew who hated cricket and could not understand what I saw in it informed me they had been watching. They didn’t understand some of the finer points, but I was taken a back they even watched any of it. This was not going to last. It’s like when we start watching an obscure Olympic sport for a few days, knowing we will not be watching again until 4 more years.

    Dmitri is right to pay tribute to Strauss for his first innings century. England would have been up the creek without it. Even with his innings it seemed we were below a par score of about 430. I remember thinking this was the first opportunity missed to put the ashes to bed and make 550 and let me have a relaxed weekend.

    When Aus waltzed passed 200 I feared the worst. 600 beckoned and a 250 deficit with Warne depriving us yet again. As we started the final day with 30 odd for 1 I kept telling myself ” two sessions’ that’s all.” If we can just bat till tea we will be nearly home. On the final day at luch time things were looking bleak. A mini collapse. KP had been dropped. A sitter by of all people,Warne.

    I decided to chicken out and take the dog for a walk. I feared we had blown it. When I Returned we were still going, and the 7th wicket, Jones, fell for 199. But there was still 40 odd overs left in the day. KP and Ashely sailed us home. Fantastic.

    And nothing like today. Why do they have to even pretend this series is akin to 2005? Trolling or stupidity? I guess.

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  11. Rufus Aug 20, 2015 / 9:44 am

    A lovely piece, Dmitri (this is my first comment on the blog after being an occasional lurker, so hello there). Although the bigger battles sadly have to be fought as they’re the main purpose of the blog and the reason behind its popularity, I really enjoy these sorts of articles as they lend a real personal touch to some memorable occasions in our proud recent history. I feel frustrated sometimes that people can’t realise that, whilst all England fans will have differing opinions in all these bitter internal debates, the individual’s support of the actual English team (as you’ve recognised, some can separate it from the ECB and others can’t, and that’s their choice to make) or cricket in general shouldn’t be questioned. I mean, I know I don’t feel as strongly as you on some particular issues, but that doesn’t mean that I think you’re any less of a fan just because I don’t despise Cook as much as you do, for instance.

    Also, on a slightly different matter, I noticed in one of your other pieces that you’ve recorded and still have saved on DVD footage from many England matches since the Pakistan tour in 2005. I mention this because, as a big cricket tragic myself, I’ve become member of various private tracker torrent sites and have collected all manner of old and new highlights, from stuff from this current Ashes to highlights from Australia/West Indies tests from the 80s and the entire 1992 World Cup final. Would you be open to exchanging footage, since there are certain England series (like their tours of Sri Lanka in 2007, the West Indies in 2009 and Bangladesh in 2010) that I’ve been struggling to locate.

    Of course, if you consider me too much of a bilious inadequate, or if it would take too much time and effort, then that’s perfectly acceptable. I’d just thought I’d ask. Keep up the good work!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. SteveT Aug 20, 2015 / 10:45 am

    Great piece Dmitri. Great memories. Hard to believe it’s ten years ago. I was lucky enough to have a job where I could do quite a bit of work at home, and could save it for when the cricket was on so I saw a significant chunk of the whole series as it unfolded. I remember thinking we were about 100 or so short on the first innings and we had missed a great chance to bat the Aussies out of the game. That rare Michelle for Freddie in their first innings to keep their score below 400 was also very important, as it removed the possibility for them to exert scoreboard pressure (they never got past 400 in the entire series – a key factor in England winning. Makes the comparisons with the current attack seem ridiculous. IMHO that pace quartet was the most potent England have ever had, certainly in my living memory).

    I really thought we’d had it after Freddie patted one back to Warne. Then it all happened, I remember chewing my nails counting every run and every over, KP taking it to them ably supported by Colly (a 10 even more important than a 95) and Giles. Never though Colly would cut it at test level – shows what I know. And of course Richie’s sign off being interrupted by KP finally being out. Most of all I remember the unbridled joy, something I have been nowhere near feeling this summer.

    PS seeing those chins from Adelaide what on earth were you doing being a runner? Or is that a reflection on the rest of the team 😉

    Like

  13. thebogfather Aug 20, 2015 / 12:32 pm

    LCL… You complete and utter bastard! Stop writing these wonderful memories – I’m loving them too much 🙂

    Like

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