This will be an abridged version of the full one I will write in due course. But let’s go through what I remember of it and how the day panned out. It might be abridged but it isn’t far short of 4000 words. I hope the intro goes up before this, which is deeply personal and probably not what the blog is used to, but if not, never mind. So, take it away…. (UPDATE – It isn’t. When I’ve completed this, I’ll stick it on The Extra Bits, and possibly as a separate page above).
So let’s start the story….
After my Adelaide mate, who had my tickets, and who I would be spending the day with decided that a little wind up would be in order that morning, and told promptly by myself to eff off, all four of the merry men headed down to the tram stop in Glenelg. Shock number 1. The old trams had been replaced by something akin to the Croydon tramlink. That was disappointing, but I suppose modern functional operational stuff trumps nostalgia. The tram pulled up at the stop I remembered and we commenced the walk through the centre of Adelaide’s business district and across the bridge over the Torrens. We were very early as I’d been advised by Adelaide Exile that although we had membership passes, securing a useful seat would be first come, first served. So a full hour and a half before play I met with Matt, while the other three took their places on the grass banks in front of the scoreboard.
Matt was right about the seats. All those anywhere near central to the wicket were taken, with bags, stickers, papers stuck on them. As you will tell from the photographs, we were miles away and quite high up in the old members stand, and with a bloody great post in the way. This wasn’t the luxury I expected for seriously paying guests. Once we’d plonked the stuff down on the seats we would take, we headed back outside the ground for some breakfast, while the other lads got comfortable. After an hour or so, and just after we’d heard we’d won the toss while standing on the “hill” with the three lads (and a great big cheer rang out), we re-entered the member’s stand and hoped (and prayed) that we’d see a great day’s batting from England.
So what was I thinking about the test match? I will confess now that even at this point, I feared 5-0. This was because (a) I’m naturally pessimistic and (b) Australia do not draw test matches. There would always be a result, it seemed. Thirdly, the only way England could win the tests was to bowl Australia out cheaply, and the first test had shown little signs of that. On a more positive note, after an awful start at Brisbane, England’s batsmen had seemed to play themselves more into the game. I recall, as the previous piece mentioned, getting off the plane at Singapore and receiving a text telling me we hadn’t lost on Day 4! In fact, KP was still there in the 90s and Collingwood had also made a 90-odd. So we had two men who had got something going. Pietersen still had that aura about him, that made him a feared foe in the eyes of the home team.
So to me, aim number one was not to lose. I’m not writing this in hindsight, it was how I felt. The one thing England could not do was to go 2-0 down. Stop the bleeding, hold the fort, stem the tide, any other bloody cliche you could come up with. Also, while great store was put on the team batting first having the advantage, with the perception that Day 5 was for the spinners, and listening to every media pundit saying it, I thought back to the test a couple of years before where Australia racked up 500+ and lost, getting caught out in their second innings, not really knowing whether to stick or twist.
We also lived in an era with a stubborn old sod running the team. The clamour, after Brisbane, was for Monty Panesar to play, but it was clear as day that Duncan Fletcher didn’t want to play him, and so Ashley Giles kept his place. There were also calls for Chris Read to play instead of Geraint Jones, who had seen his batting go a little south, but I doubt that one was seriously considered.
England have named an unchanged XI for the Adelaide Test, a decision described by the BBC’s Jonathan Agnew as “disappointing but not astounding”. Australia are giving a late fitness test to Glenn McGrath – he bowled three overs in the nets about an hour ago – but the word from those in the know is that he’s in. – Cricinfo
England lined up with Strauss, Cook, Bell, Collingwood, Pietersen, Flintoff, Jones, Giles, Hoggard, Harmison and Anderson. Australia were unchanged with Hayden, Langer, Ponting, Martyn, Hussey, Clarke, Gilchrist, Warne, Lee, Clark and McGrath. The umpires were “Homer” Rudi Koertzen and “Slowhand” Steve Bucknor. The weather was glorious, the forecast for the entire test was excellent, and so to the game.
Strauss and Cook went out to open, amidst a packed house, and with palpable tension. England needed to post a score, and both of these players had not had a bad run in the test team since their debuts. Strauss, in particular, had given off distress signals in the first test, and there was still a question mark about Cook with the pace and pressure beyond anything he’d faced thus far (with all due respect to the Pakistan team that visited in 2006). The other question mark bugging me was how would my bloody camera cope with being in the shade, and miles from the damn action!
OK at a distance, but the zoom might be tricky.
The opening pace of play could best be described as sedate, except the tension was ratcheted up so high for England fans that sedate isn’t probably the best word. The first over was a maiden. The second over had a single from Cook. The third over had one run each for the openers. Steady, a little playing and missing, some tight bowling, but England keeping their heads. Six overs in it was 9 for no loss. The first boundary coming from Cook in the seventh over, with an edge through the 4th slip area (commentators since, most notably Nasser, keep saying gully and wide slips got a lot more than the narrower slips – 2010 may have been an exception with the new ball). The second boundary came in the 10th over with a back foot shot from Cook. At drinks, after 14 overs, England fans could partially exhale. England hadn’t lost a wicket, had 32 on the board, and despite a little bit of issue with Stuart Clark, had looked solid.
The relief lasted three balls.
Clark to Strauss, OUT, oh dear, shocking shot. Strauss expects one on off stump, instead it pitches on middle-and-leg and he tries to steer it into the leg-side but mistimes it completely and it carries to Martyn at short midwicket – and that’s Clark’s 29th wicket in just seven Tests. Yet again Strauss is dismissed on the leg-side
It was right in my eye-line if a bloody long way away. Strauss tried to tuck the ball off his legs through midwicket, a shot that had got him a ton of runs in his early test career, but got through slightly early, got ahead of the ball and it chipped to Damien Martyn at a wider mid-on. The video suggests that the cricinfo scribe thought Martyn was a lot closer than he was.
32 for 1. Not so good. Out came Ian Bell, who always gave the impression to me he was a bit flaky, and yet he’d been the man to stand up in the first dig at the Gabba. It took him two balls to tuck a lovely shot through the leg side to get him off the mark with a couple. Stuart Clark was looking threatening all the time, bowling at a decent nip, with accuracy and no little skill. Cook, in particular was finding it tough to make any headway. In the 21st over, Clark got his man:
Clark to Cook, OUT, gone. Cook flashes an off-drive at that one which nips across the left-hander’s off stump and gets a thick outside edge. A classic set-up: Clark had been working towards that one for a while. Click here for a picture
This looked ominous. 45 for 2 was a poor start on this wicket, and we’d looked not to impose our will on the game, but rather crease occupation. The play had been a little soporific if truth be told. I’d sat there wondering how we’d break this impasse, and I have to say I had little faith in Paul Collingwood being the man to do it. Sure, he was a redoubtable, gritty cricketer (before the Brigadier Block stuff – more of that later) but you thought he was the sort of England cricketer Australia have for breakfast. He might do something half decent, but he’d never be a game changer. Would he?
Collingwood, first ball, away for two runs. Nice start. Clipped through midwicket. Shane Warne had come on just before the second wicket and had looked dangerous. The thing with Warne is he always looked dangerous. I don’t believe there has been a psychologically more frightening bowler for England spectators, let alone batsmen. What you have with Warne is the fear that any ball might take a wicket. He’d fizzed a couple past Bell early in the piece. But the remainder of that session was all about the survival game. England managed to do it, but not with any great security. 28 overs gone, 58 for 2.
I really don’t recall a lot of the lunch break other than going to the floodlight pylon on the scoreboard end of the ground, wondering if the two guys I met under there four years ago would return. They didn’t. Maybe they hadn’t signed up for the Australian Cricket Family. More of those two in the fuller version if I ever write it.
The afternoon session was, in many ways, the same as the first except for the fact we didn’t lose any wickets. But it was two hours of incredibly attritional cricket. The first boundary came five overs into the afternoon. Ian Bell got into double figures with his 62nd ball of his innings. 100 came up in the 43rd over, with Collingwood slightly more fluent than Ian Bell. But the wickets weren’t falling. I could pretend I have a lot of memories from this session, but I don’t. I know we’d moved from the high up spot in the gods to nab two seats nearer the front, and that the play was tense, but the chuntering about our run rate was quite noticeable among our Aussie colleagues. In fact, many of them were so turned off by it, they’d gone to the gardens behind the main stand for food and refreshment!
Tea came with England on 144 for 2 after 59 overs. The runs flowed more fluently in the second hour as the two England batsmen had their own private race, if that wasn’t too strong a word, to 50, Collingwood got there in the over before tea, and was immediately followed the ball after by Ian Bell. After their dilatory start, they had, at least, got the scoreboard ticking a little.
Tea saw some obstacle race between and England fan and an Aussie on the field of play, but then that took on added significance with the events of the following day.
Out on the field for the evening session, the game was very much in the balance. England would be pleased to have stuck on 99 runs for no loss since the dismissal of Cook, but under no circumstances had England come close to dominating. I thought back to Day 1 four years ago, where Michael Vaughan transcended everything and played a different game to anyone else. Hussain, at the other end, had been very one paced, but very determined. This time out, it was hard graft. Bell had taken 140 balls to get to 50, Collingwood 114.
Six runs came off the first two overs after tea, but then what followed was pure Ian Bell. The start of the 62nd over by Lee, and saw Bell hit a full toss for four off the first ball, hit the next one for four too, and off the fourth ball of the over he went to pull a short one, and Bell just smashed it up in the air. Brett Lee took the catch off his own bowling, and did so despite Langer trying to get in on it.
Lee to Bell, OUT, the bouncer does the trick. Lee bangs it in hard and it’s on to Bell too quickly, who shapes to hook but merely sends the ball directly up in the air. ‘Miiine’ calls Lee, as he nearly collides with Langer, but there was nobody getting in his way as he grabs on easily. Lee’s face said it all at he ran into bowl that one, and Bell’s face tells a story, too, for his moment of impetuosity
Now I am going to confess here, if you didn’t already know. I was not an Ian Bell fan. I’d seen his debut at The Oval and thought “wow, a talent. A real talent”. But all I saw afterwards was flattering to deceive. Great shots, stupid dismissals. Hard work, chucked away. The sort of bloke who if he went back to county cricket, would dominate easily. Maybe a Ramps for the easier generation. This was pure Bell.
The position was precarious, at 158 for 3, as in came Kevin Pietersen. There was absolutely no question I would be missing any of this. By now KP had become the main man for me, even if part of it was a parody, a wind-up. The ooohs and aaahs as he played were a joke with my mates. It was because he was so un-English in his approach that I liked him. None of this stodgy old fear, but a mission to attack. Ian Botham had it when he played for us, and that’s what I liked about him. KP harked back to that sort of thing.
Like his second ball. After a solid defensive shot to his first, Lee dug a ball in short for KP’s second ball. Pietersen stood tall and dismissed it through mid-wicket for 4. It was bowled at a mere 93 mph! In one shot you realised we had a different player playing a different game. He continued fluently, taking a boundary off one of the first balls he faced off McGrath, all with that front foot game and confident shot making. Collingwood played his own game, at his own pace, but just kept the score ticking over. Not flashy, as we know, but something to truly admire at the time. I have to say I was waiting for it to end, but he was also a remarkably difficult batsman to get shot of when he got in. A nudge there, a slap there, a nurdle there, a clip here. I don’t think his batting can be put into poetry, or some florid prose that gets awards, Collingwood was an English batsman adapting to Aussie conditions on the fly and doing very very well. If we had money on who would be struggling, we’d have put it on him.
Pietersen, meanwhile, was looking very fluent. It was as if his reaction to a precarious position was to take the front foot and look to take control. It wasn’t reckless, but it was pure skill. He wasn’t going to let Warne dominate, and with the score in the 180s, he belted the legspinner over long off, dancing down the pitch in so doing. We simply weren’t used to England batsmen having the guts to do this. This just did not happen. This man was different. He may have lived dangerously at times, but among all England batsmen he had the best gameplan to their most lethal weapon.
Drinks came at 205 for 3 – Collingwood on 73, with just four boundaries, and KP on 26 off 29 balls. Thoughts now were that in the 18 overs remaining, could Collingwood get to 100? However, it was Pietersen taking to Warne that had me smiling. Rocking back to smash him through the covers, then smacking one finer the following ball (of course I’m using cricinfo to prompt me), and now the thought was how long would it take for him to get 50. Of course, the 230 in a day pace was being accelerated, but as a true pessimist, I just wanted the day over with three down and no risks!
Pietersen wasn’t slowing down, and had the Aussies calling him “the ego” according to cricinfo. The final hour saw England dominate proceedings as the heat of the day took its toll and the wicket was well and truly flat. The second new ball produced no reward, and to some consternation wasn’t taken as soon as possible. Michael Clarke got a bowl, and looked quite promising, but he was also the bowler when KP brought up his 50, off 66 balls. I was mildly content. But the thing that worried me always watching him was the potential to let that ego get slightly out of control, but thus far, he’d seemed relatively under control. You might say that the 50 was inevitable. From the outside you might say the hundred looked it too.
The new ball was taken four overs after it was due, and like any England fan I was working out whether Collingwood had enough time that night to get to three figures, while hoping the day would end there and then. I took a picture at nearly 6pm with the score 257 for 3, and Collingwood on 91. Colly got stuck there because KP was increasingly dominating the strike. In the third to last over Collingwood smashed a four off a no ball to move to 95. This was on the edge stuff now. We’d seen Collingwood get out in Pakistan being overly aggressive in the 90s. Could he rein himself in? Or should he go for it? I was getting worried. It’s not as if he had a calming influence at the other end to keep his head straight! No concern, as he took a single later in the over. Now a boundary away with two overs left.
Wily Stuart Clark bowled the penultimate over, and played the tempting game, hanging it just outside off stump and shaping the ball away as much as possible. Collingwood resisted temptation. We all wanted him to. Clark had been the best seamer all day and the best at the Gabba (what I’d seen of it). With the penultimate ball of the over, Colly secured a couple to move to 98, but he did not have the strike for the last over after a defensive shot off the last ball. Now this put his fate into KP’s hands…. would he try to give him a single to let him try for the ton?
The last over was purgatory, and one ball is seared in my memory, and pretty much anyone there. KP had tried, with little effect and a little risk, to try to get Collingwood the strike, but it wasn’t happening. The second to last ball from Brett Lee was a little short, KP went for the shot, didn’t get to it. hit it straight up in the air…
“You fucking idiot…..” I said, watching the ball soar in the air having got the shot in question on camera. Fear, loathing, despair…. but then you will the ball away from fielders, looking in forlorn hope that this would not go to an Aussie hand. Wait…it might not. This isn’t a dolly….It’s a knackered McGrath after hit. Hit the ground, HIT THE FUCKING GROUND.
And it did. And I still called him a fucking idiot. After a puff of my inhaler.
One run was taken and Collingwood was on strike for the last ball. Would he be our Steve Waugh / Sydney moment. The answer was no. A fall ball was blocked out, and England finished the day on 266 for 3.
The reaction as the England players walked off was one of great relief, a little pride and not so pessimistic. We are in this series. We had our luck today but we rode it and we are three wickets down on a good wicket, with four days to go, two players set – Collingwood two from a ton, KP on 60 and hopefully threatening a lot more – and for the first time I could recall, we could hang 400 on the Australians in the first innings of a match in their backyard.
I would be remiss not to mention my companion for the day, and indeed, the rest of the test. Matt was a Millwall fan who I “met” via a message board and who set me up with my tickets. A top bloke he had moved to Australia to be with his Missus, and when divorced, stayed there to be with his kids, although he’d love to come home to Tunbridge Wells. He spent the day rebuffing every Aussie jibe at him, me wondering how he didn’t get his head stoved in in doing so, but knowledgeable about the game and patient with my stupidities. Like my co-writer Chris, he’s a bloody wicket-keeper. Must be something about me attracting these loons (our club keeper was on this tour as well).
We ended up in a hotel bar, might have been the Regency, and had a couple of beers before retiring to the bar in Glenelg, where we engineered a reunion between a former club man of ours and our keeper, who hadn’t seen each other in a good few years (we’d met Mark four years ago – we being me and Sir Peter, who you’ll become familiar with). It had been a lovely day, a successful one for England, and yet we’d had a similar day four years before. But on that day our dominant performer lost his wicket with the last ball. Today, our dominant player had got away with it. With KP, it just felt different.
Day 2 to follow. I hope you enjoyed this piece. I will try to keep up as the days go by, but it’s a massive task, and it is testing my memory! A true labour of love.