What’s Cooking?

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I thought I’d break off from the Adelaide story to put a short (ha) piece up on some of the noise coming out of the media after the defeat in the 3rd Test in Mohali. It seems that now, and only now, some of Cook’s staunchest supporters in the press, and increasingly on Twitter and BTL, are worrying about his limitations as a captain. It seems that he is “too conservative”, that he is “muddled in his thinking” and that he too often reverts to “defensive captaincy”. So, now in media land, this means an open questioning of his role as captain. The almost silent question of “is he up to it”? When Newman starts posing the questions, there is something in the air. I’m not at all sure what that is, to be honest. Is it getting at Cook? Is it a vicarious attack on Bayliss, who is presiding over a one day revolution that he has to claim the credit for because Eoin Morgan is completely persona non grata with the press and TV media, but is not exactly pulling up the trees as time goes by with the test team? Why, and this probably speaks more about me than anything, do I fear the dead hand of the Venus Fly Trap, a flower of much aggression, in all this.

What we are getting in India is what we were programmed to receive by the pundits, especially after Bangladesh. It was going to be 5-0. It was because England’s spinners wouldn’t be able to bowl India out, whereas India’s spinners could bowl us out. We were going to be provided turning wickets, which we know is our weakness. We were going to be given result wickets, as the previous series against New Zealand, and those from before against Australia and South Africa had been. We were going to be bedding in new players like Hameed, like Duckett. We had fragile Adil, Woakes who had never bowled in India, and would be without Anderson for at least a couple of tests. Hell, even a draw or two would be an achievement.

So where is this volte face, and believe me, as a watcher of our press, this is a volte face coming from? The first line of sight is hanging on an article by #39 in the Cricketer, where Cook looks forward to the day when he is just an opening batsman in the ranks, and not a captain. Cook has been in the job for four years, and all his previous captains got worn down by it. With the absolutely nonsensical schedules imposed on him by his masters at the ECB, it’s no surprise he’s knackered. Add to that he’s just become a father again to a child he has barely seen, and that wistful thought could solidify rapidly. The thing is, Cook is an experienced media performer (Pringle’s assertion in The Cricket Paper that he isn’t is, like most things he writes, complete crap), and even putting out the suggestion that you are thinking beyond captaincy means you are already opening the door. So despite denials that he meant he wanted to quit, no-one believes him. But you’ve opened the door, and there’s a gale blowing.

Because Cook, deep down, must know this team wouldn’t win in India. There’s too many flaws in the team, too many weak spots to win in the ultimate test for England these days. If everything went right, they might be able to prey on the Indian resolve, but it didn’t, and now he’s 2-0 down with a week’s media space to fill to keep cricket relevant. A somewhat defensive declaration at Rajkot is now held against him – every armchair captain is gung-ho, and would declare half an hour earlier than the one who gets paid to do it – and because that was an impressive performance, England had made a rod for Cook’s back. A second test defeat in Vizag was put down to a favourable toss to win by England, by a ropey batting performance in the first innings, but marked by a decent fightback in the third innings of the match when previous England teams would have chucked in the towel. A poorer game in Mohali, where his reticence to change tack after a tactic had worked, when it stopped with Ashwin, Jadeja and Yadav in that first innings, is now used against him. Coupled with four ordinary innings since his second innings ton at Rajkot, and we have ourselves a story.

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Now, people, you haven’t come to All Out Cricket, and a staunch Cook supporter piece is here for your delectation. No, as usual, it is the media with me, and the modus operandi of English cricket. Journalists have now started speculating about handing over the reins, and citing poor captaincy? Now? Cook hasn’t been awful for about 18 months now, and although I’m not confusing him for Richie Benaud at this time, his captaincy has hardly changed dramatically. If these people cared about the role of captaincy itself, they’d have been outside the Headingley gates in 2014 with pitchforks, asking what the hell was that they had just witnessed when trying to deal with Angelo Mathews and Rangana Herath. Cook then was treated like a protected species, for to give in to common sense then would be to invoke something altogether more disgraceful. But denying that doesn’t get you the epithet “Cook Fanboy” while pointing it out gets you the “KP fanboy” and judging by the usual cretin in the Guardian BTL, that latter one still very much counts.

At that time we were being told that a series winning captain in India, and an Ashes winner as well was “still learning”. Now we are being told that his captaincy may not be seen as taking the team forward. At that time, Cook’s captaincy was like an anchor on a dinghy, while now, while not great, isn’t the horror-strewn calamity that Swann, Broad, Anderson and KP couldn’t bale out. The funniest thing about that time was that it is referred to as a time where Cook faced “intolerable media pressure”. Did he bollocks. They lined up to save him, praise his every positive move over and above its real significance, and participate in Operation Protect Cook(y). People in the press openly admitted that if he’d got to a hundred at Southampton, they’d have stood up and cheered. This was an ECB line, it was a pro-Cook, anti-KP line, it was railing against the louder voices of social media, and it was one of the key tenets of the schism that enveloped English cricket.

So why now, people? What aren’t you telling us? Someone is clearly muttering something, because even though we have no idea how good journalism works, we know how this thing works, because we’ve seen it happen. Is Strauss talking? It appears the most likely as Bayliss is a Strauss appointment, and Cook a Hugh Morris/Paul Downton one (Morris originally, Downton post Ashes 2103-14). Is it the Venus Fly Trap, through Newman, who is laying his poisonous seeds for sins of the past? Something is afoot, and I think we all want to know what it might be. Going to tell us good ladies and gentlemen of the press? Why have Pringle and Newman turned? Now?

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My thanks to those of you who have appreciated the Adelaide pieces. I really enjoy writing them and vamping up the photographs. I also know they are pretty long reads, so instead of trailing the Adelaide test religiously, I am going to space them out, although I will put something up for the anniversary of Day 5. I was thinking of trying to be Being Outside Cricket on that fateful Tuesday morning when most people awoke to the news. It might, or might not, work. I’d have torn into KP, that’s for bloody sure! I will produce Day 3 and Day 4 over the weekend, and then put them up at appropriate times. They don’t garner the hits and comments that other posts do, but blogging is, by its very nature, self indulgent.

December is also time for other traditions. I award my Dmitris… yes, my ego is still big enough. The rules are that individuals can’t be nominated for a second time, but if they were part of a collective (eg, the four horsemen journos in my first iteration) they can be put in on their own. There’s no rule of thumb per se for them, except I usually give one to a “good” journo, and that one is written already, and the winner of the poll, and I can reveal we have a new winner this year, so I have to write that. I give one to an international performer, and one to an England one. The rest are random. The first year I did 10. Last year 7. It will probably be around 7 again.

I also have the poll results to announce, as we produce the annual “Top Journalist” list, as voted by all of us. As I’ve said, Mike Selvey has lost that honour, but who has taken it out of Ed Smith, Paul Newman, Oliver Holt or Simon Hughes? All will be revealed soon.

There’s also the annual media review, that I didn’t bother with last year. I know how much that is loved, and I would be letting you down if I didn’t do it this year. But as always, time is limited in supply.

And, of course, we have two test matches as well. Visitor numbers are up. Hits are up. November was our busiest month for a long time. Comments are going up too. There’s still appetite for the blog, and that’s great. Maintaining this interest through the year has been incredible. Thanks to all.

Now, let’s get writing.

The Story of Adelaide 2006 – Day 2

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The Theatre Of Shattered Hope

Day 2

The first day had given England great hope and optimism. Even some of the Aussies we spoke to en route to the game, or in the bar the night before thought we’d shown some fight and ticker, and that this might be a competitive series. They wanted to bury us, still, but they also wanted to see their team tested.

Then there was Malcolm Conn.

One of the routines I got into in Australia was to wake up and get the morning papers, and read them over breakfast. I’d arranged to meet Matt at another silly hour, and got to the ground nice and early. We secured much better seats than Day 1, and then wandered to the north side of the ground for some breakfast. I bought the paper, think it might have been The Australian, and then read the wondrous article from this slack jawed imbecile. No, I;m not giving him the benefit of the doubt about being a wind-up merchant. There’s no acceptance from me for articles that should insult the intelligence of everyone who reads them.

I will try to recount what it said, if I could find it on line. Instead I have had to borrow from Nigel Henderson’s book “It It Was Raining Palaces I’d Get Hit By The Dunny Door”, who had a similar reaction to mine when he read it. In it he quotes Conn:

“Anticipation was replaced by anticlimax as England unveiled its secret weapon to retain the Ashes – boredom. England had the world at its feet but could barely move for much of the day. Indeed one of the greatest moments of animation and excitement from the touring party came before a single ball was bowled, when captain Andrew Flintoff won the toss and batted on one of the most benign pitches ever presented.”

It went on like that. OK, no-one was confusing the previous day with a barnstoming thriller, but it wasn’t dull. Not at all. It was hard fought. Australia bowled well, England kept them at bay, and as the day moved on, the score ticked over. The final session saw England score at nigh on 4 an over. KP had certainly imposed his personality on the game. On my previous tour my mate made a video of my various deluded rantings during play, and I remember never encountering Conn before, and reading his one eyed garbage. I said “if I read Conn saying one positive thing about England before I leave Australia, I’ll eat the hat I’m wearing.”

It speaks volumes that I still remember this nonsense, and felt that it was now down to KP and Collingwood to ram this gobshite drivel down his throat. We wandered back to the ground, chuntering about the old drivel we’d just read, and that Millwall had drawn their 2nd Round FA Cup tie the night before.away at Bradford (we’d played on a Friday night and I had no clue we were until my brother texted me).

So, proceedings resumed at 266 for 3. Kevin Pietersen on 60, Paul Collingwood on 98. KP would face the first ball of the day, the weather was set fair again, the other lads had seats near the Don Bradman Stand to the south of the ground, while Sir Peter joined me an Matt in the Members and we’d secured an additional pass for the day. Saturday at Adelaide in 2002 had been a scorching little affair, with it over 40 degrees. It wasn’t quite that blazing that day.

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How We Started After A “Boring” First Day

The key for Australia was to break this partnership early. They started the day with Stuart Clark who bowled a maiden to a careful Pietersen. Collingwood, surely a little nervous and probably short of a little sleep, took up guard on 98 and faced Brett Lee. The camera was ready for the moment should it come. I had to wait for the second ball. Lee erred on to Collingwood’s pads, and he gleefully whipped it through the legside for three runs and a fantastic century.

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The Applause

The cheers rang from the England supporters all around the ground. There were bundles of them in all corners of the ground. Stuff that Australian Cricket Family twaddle up your you know what, James Sutherland. The cheers went on a little, recognising the triumph of a truly fantastic competitor. One of the unheralded ones, one of those us mere mortals aspire to be. It felt bloody good to be there sharing it with him. Magnificent.

But even then I hated small tons, and there was work for Paul Collingwood to do. 100 wasn’t going to be enough, because it was Freddie next and not much else, the form they were in. I remembered how 350 was inadequate in 2002, and that we needed a lot more on this surface.

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The rest of the morning pretty much was dominated by Pietersen. There’s a lot I’ve said about Pietersen on this blog over the years (including its predecessor), but I have only ever seen Michael Vaughan be as dominant as this, as fluent as this, against Australia since they became the real world power post-1989. Pietersen clearly had the Australians rattled. There were the rumours here that he was being called FIGJAM (hilariously watered down in one Aussie journal to GIGJAM – the G being for God).

Collingwood settled down after his hundred with a four, and it took a few overs for KP to get his total moving with a 3 off Brett Lee. This had followed a “controversial moment” two balls before. Brett Lee beat KP and there was a large appeal for caught behind. Not Out was the verdict from Steve Bucknor. A little while later the replays showed there was a hot spot. No reviews in those days. It was a gentler time!!!

Pietersen added three off the next over, and then started to put the foot down. The opening ball of a Brett Lee over was greeted with an emphatic pull shot, and the following over smashing an inviting ball outside off stump from McGrath through the covers. Pietersen always said he never found McGrath that difficult to face, and he set about proving it. Two balls later he smashed one past the grumpy bowler for four. A couple of balls later and he smashed a ball on his legs through midwicket for four. We’d not seen someone go for McGrath like this, and certainly not in Australia. That evening, Pidge’s position in the team was being openly questioned. England were now 300 for 3.

Pietersen was now in the 80s, and Collingwood was comfortable letting him go for his shots while staying solid at the other end. There were a couple of little scares, but with supporting England against this Aussie team, I don’t think, as a spectator you were ever comfortable. The one thing I do remember surprising me was it taking them nearly an hour to get Shane Warne on. It was the 14th over of the morning, and he started with KP on 90.

Having scoped Warne out in his first over, KP began the second over from the legspinner with a delicious drive down the ground, with apparent effortless ease. It’s a shot you can’t imagine an English player making against Warne. Watch the video. It’s sumptuous. This took him to 96, and he nearly got all the way off the last ball of the over when a shot through midwicket was brilliantly saved by Mike Hussey, which kept KP to three runs and on 99. Off the first ball of the next over, from Stuart Clark, Pietersen dropped the ball on to the leg side, scampered as quickly as he could, made it home, and let the celebrations commence. I have to say I had a pretty decent position to capture the celebrations…

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Yeah Baby!

England had this game by the scruff of the neck. Two men with centuries, the two talismanic Aussie bowlers looking toothless, a warm day, a flat deck. Time to make hay. Time to make the game safe.

Now the fun stuff began. Australia realised that all out attack wasn’t working, and nor was even mild containment. And in a spell of play that we’ll cherish, as if to make Malcolm Conn’s words appear even more hollow, Shane Warne gave up trying to bowl KP out, and instead slung the ball outside leg and tempting KP to biff it up in the air. With Stuart Clark keeping the other end dry, the runs trickled to a stop. A run of four maidens. Defensive cricket. Trying to bore England out. Oh Malcolm. Two runs in five overs. No doubt it was our fault for not reaching it!

The shackles came off when Collingwood hit Stuart Clark for consecutive boundaries, and then took six runs off Warne’s next over. It was as if he’d decided it was his turn to put the pedal down, and let KP sit in the passenger seat. Collingwood, and later on in his career, Ian Bell seemed to do this to KP, with each dovetailing in the pace of play, with rarely both of them going full tilt at the same time, whereas when you saw KP with Freddie, you thought it was a competition. Pietersen had made his century in the 108th over of the innings, and Collingwood was then on 116. At lunch, nearly nine overs later, Pietersen added two runs to his total, and Colly was on 134.

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Beautiful

We milled around a bit at lunchtime – the other lads weren’t really accessible at this point – and waited for the afternoon session. England were in a really dominating position and thoughts had to be whether we declared or not. Were we that confident that (a) we’d last to do it and (b) that we should. I’m a great believer in stopping the bleeding, and batting once if you could. 600 had to be the target if we could there. Not hindsight. I’m not one of these who cries out for declarations.

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The afternoon session commenced with England on 324 for 3. It was to be dominated by Paul Collingwood. Words we would never think would be spoken in Ashes cricket if we were all being truthful with ourselves. The Aussies had simply given up trying to get KP out, and were starving him of runs. They were, by and large, still bowling to Collingwood. To see Shane Warne bowl outside leg stump crap ball after ball, was a crushing psychological victory. To see Colly pounce on anything loose after all the MBE jibes was just precious. We may have been 1-0 down in the series, but this was Australia playing like, well, England. Clueless, defenseless, boring.  It would not last, but it was great to see that they too, could be a dreary team when things weren’t going for them. As evidence, cricinfo’s commentary:

Back round the wicket to KP. Get ready to snore …

118.3

Warne to Pietersen, no run, padded into the off side

118.4

Warne to Pietersen, no run, padded into the leg side

118.5

Warne to Pietersen, no run

118.6

Warne to Pietersen, no run, even wider, and disdainfully kicked away. You can’t blame Pietersen here, why should he swing at this kind of stuff

And Warne round the wicket … yawn

120.3

Warne to Pietersen, no run, wide and padded away. Anyone got any paint I can watch dry?

120.4

Warne to Pietersen, no run, guess what … go on … yup, padded etc

120.5

Warne to Pietersen, no run, and again. “This is rubbish,” says Michael Holding

120.6

Warne to Pietersen, no run, and again wide and kicked away … and the crowd starting to boo, and who can blame them

It’s sad and frustrating to see such an outstanding bowler used in this terribly defensive and dull way, and a full house deserves far better.

At one stage Bill Lawry, that arch Victorian, that staunch Warne supporter bemoaned this “rubbish”, echoing Michael Holding on Sky.

The 200 partnership came up with a cut shot by Collingwood for 2, but Warne’s leg stump nonsense was augmented by McGrath slinging balls wide outside off stump and bowling as negatively. 16 runs from 8 overs was the result. No doubt Conn thought that only England could be boring. Cricinfo tells a little vignette of the commentary at the time:

“This is a gutless way of playing cricket,” says Michael Atherton but Nasser Hussain disagrees. Well, he would, as anyone who recalls his use of Ashley Giles against Sachin Tendulkar will verify

Being there I just recall this being tedious, dull tactics, and almost as if Australia had resigned themselves then of the match being a draw and moving to Perth 1-0 up. Almost a rope-a-dope strategy, luring England in. But I also thought KP just did not look like he was going to get out unless he gave his wicket away. I was pleased we were still going strong.

In the 127th over Paul Collingwood reached his 150, with a lovely shot dancing down the pitch and smacking Warne over his head. Beautiful. Deserved a knighthood. As if inspired by that, off the first ball of the next over, Pietersen smashed a drive through mid-off from a McGrath delivery that just dripped contempt for the great bowler. This was paradise. The pedal was back down. Temptation wore down on Pieteresen, who finally broke the shackles of Warne’s leg stump attack. (This might have been the moment Bill Lawry cheered a Pom). A couple of other cracking strokes, one off Brett Lee, by Pietesen, England, despite being becalmed, had still added 76 runs by the drinks break.

There was now the countdown to see if Paul Collingwood could get a double hundred. 162 at the drinks interval, he took five runs off Lee in the first over afterwards. Five more in Lee’s second over, including a nick through the vacant slips area. Pietersen would puncture this run of nurdles and drives with the odd super shot, but Collingwood kept the score ticking. Three off an over here, four off it there, without seeming to be playing any differently. He passed his highest test score when he drove a Brett Lee slower ball through the covers for four (I’d seen some of that previous career best at Lord’s v Pakistan). He had reached the 190s.

Michael Clarke had come on and slowed the run rate a little, while Stuart Clark was still proving by far and away the pick of the Aussie bowlers and the pressure ratcheted up a little. Double hundreds are always special (I’d seen one in full in my test watching days until then – Marcus Trescothick’s 219 v South Africa at The Oval) and I was praying for him to do it. Five runs off a Stuart Clark over took him to 196, and a boundary away. Then came over number 143.

Michael Clarke bowled it – first ball a defensive prod. Collingwood was known for going for the big shot to get to a century. But no, second ball he takes two to the cover sweeper, and is on 198. The next ball he runs down the wicket, clips it away and immediately wants two. KP isn’t buying it, and a single is the result, and 199. KP takes a single next ball, so with one ball left in the over, it’s down to Collingwood.

The result is one of my favourite pictures, and for a long time the header on “How Did We Lose In Adelaide”

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The Big Shot

What still gets the hairs standing up on the back of your neck is the shout of “YESSSSSSSS” as Colly knows he’s absolutely bloody creamed it. The ball goes for four down at long on. He raises the bat aloft, greeted by KP who gives him a bear hug. The English fans go absolutely mad. The joy coursing through our veins being nothing compared to the sheer sense of personal accomplishment this must have meant to one of our most unheralded players at the time. Being the camera / moment person I am, I don’t throw things up in the air, don’t clap until I have the shots I want. It’s a bit joyless, it might seem, but you don’t know the joy that above picture means, looking at it even now, ten years on. Yes, I saw that sporting moment. It was a privilege to be there when it happened. You superstar, Colly.

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Listen to Bill Lawry’s commentary on the Adelaide video on Youtube. Even he seems delighted he got there. “Wonderful. Wonderful……. Paul Collingwood goes to 200 with a great shot”.

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The score was now 457 for 3, and the next landmark, a pretty rare beast in itself, came the following over when a KP single took the score to 458 and the partnership to 300. I’ve been privileged to see two in full in my test match watching days, the other, a bigger partnership, was between Pietersen and Bell at The Oval (I saw the first three or four hours of Amla and Kallis, so that doesn’t count) against India. But with all due respect to the last one, this was much more impressive. The Aussies now could only wait for the declaration.

Then, a few minutes later, it was over:

145.5

Clark to Collingwood, OUT, and he’s GONE! Collingwood is out, he’s edged Clark behind, a swinging delivery driven on the up, takes a thick outside edge and Gilchrist takes the catch. He receive tumultuous applause, a standing ovation from everyone in the ground and every Australian on the pitch. A fabulous innings.

The partnership ended at 303. Tea taken. Nonsense about to ensue. But let the picture below tell you all you need to know about how it was…

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Standing O
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Applause from the Australians

During the afternoon session a bloke sidled up to our group and asked if one of us, as Poms, wanted to take part in the Tea obstacle race with an Australian opponent. I politely declined, as you would imagine if you saw me, but Matt, ever the confident one said OK. He went off to prepare while Sir Peter and I carried on enjoying the partnership, and then headed round the back of the stand to get a beer. We got caught in massive crowds, and missed most of the race, only to see Matt, towards the end, not only winning comfortably, but running over the line backwards. This was Adelaide Exile to a tee. Giving it to the Aussies as a Pom in their land. He can feel free to comment, but I’m sure he loved it!

Resuming after tea on 460 for 4, the question now was what would Freddie do, in alliance with KP, and when or if we would declare. I was all for batting the whole day and getting to 600. My colleagues were more of the “give them half an hour”. The first four overs brought no boundaries, but did get KP to 150.

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“I hope he doesn’t get out on 158” I muttered. Yes, honestly, I did.

By this time, as the photo angle suggests, we’d relocated down to the sightscreen in front of the Bradman stand. Pietersen had looked like accelerating when he hit another boundary off Warne, but, on 158, he took a risky single and was beaten by Ponting’s direct hit. His third 158 and no double hundred. A truly magnificent knock, not anywhere near as emotional as Collingwood’s but a real statement of brilliance. It remains an annoyance to me that his only hundreds in Australia came at that ground. As he walked off, knowing what the replay would show, he received a great ovation. It does pay us all to remember this, even in among the utter cobblers some people talk about him now. This was dominance, through arrogance, through self-belief. I sometimes think we’re not comfortable with that.

 

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Geraint Jones didn’t last long. His frenetic state of mind was betrayed when he drove lazily against Warne and was caught by Damien Martyn. Maybe we wouldn’t get to declare after all. Jones gone for 1, the score 491 for 6.

Ashley Giles joined Flintoff and there was some breezy batting, if not full putting your foot down, and they added 60 runs for the sixth wicket, with Giles hitting two fours off one Warne over a particular delight, showing just how on top we were. Flintoff had found some decent batting time and looked more at ease the longer he stayed in, remaining undefeated on 38 in 67 balls, including a six off Glenn McGrath who had had a chastening couple of days. Ashley Giles made 27. 551 for 6 was the score with 12 overs left in the days play (which would be ten with the change around) when Freddie declared (too soon, I muttered, worrying about my own pessimism, and thinking, no, the Aussies can’t win from here).

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Scoreboard was wrong – it was 551

Any misgivings I might have had disappeared with the 12th ball of the innings. Hoggard opened up first, and then Flintoff, no doubt lacking confidence in Harmison to get the breakthrough, struck in his first over. Freddie plonked one in short, it took the shoulder of Langer’s bat, and KP pounced for the catch. A brilliant start. England dominating. One more tonight, especially if it was Ponting (although Hayden scared the living shit out of me too), and we are really on top.

Despite some aggressive bowling, England did not secure that second wicket. A lot of huff and puff, some pressure on their two supposed gun batsman (although Hussey still had that stratospheric average at that time), but could not yield the breakthrough. I was concentrating on getting some cracking final shots, as the sky turned more attractive, and the behind the bowler’s arm pictures are frequently the best.

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The end of the day’s play came with the score at 28 for 1 after 8 overs. Time had run out on a brilliant day for England. Day 3 would determine much, and England needed to get Ponting and Hayden as soon as possible to assert a dominant position. The nagging feeling being, that if England could make 551 on that deck, what would the Australians do. We would find out the following day.

It was a joyous Saturday night out in Glenelg that night. England fans could at last walk tall in Australia and you did sense a little nervousness among the home fans, despite the bluster and confidence. After all, you don’t see McGrath having figures of 0/107, and looking toothless. Nor were Shane Warne’s figures of 1/167 in 53 overs also a thought of joy. Lots of time he’d been rendered toothless, partly by the pitch, partly by negativity. This was a canny attacking bowling resorting to wheelie-bin tactics. I don’t recall much of the night, to be honest, lost in my memories of the horrible night that followed, but it wasn’t anything on the brilliant Saturday in 2002 in terms of entertainment. This was a thoroughly different trip, and a different dynamic. We did book some of our accommodation for the next leg of our trip (Augusta and Margaret River in Western Australia, then Fremantle, with Perth booked for the test match itself) and retired back to base in cheery mood.

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As I look back, writing this, I can’t help but think that this was one of the best days I’d seen England play. Indeed, the words of Conn, that set the agenda of my day, had to be rammed down my throat (I don’t recall him being particular praising of England in the following days report, but then maybe I didn’t care). I had a brilliant day at a test match, saw two magnificent innings, and seen the Aussies down (but sadly not out). This was the high water mark. You know what happens next. What you don’t know is how the game just amplified what would happen to me. An event, almost trivial, but at just the wrong time, with me in just the wrong frame of mind, that it nigh on broke me apart. But that’s for later.
Thank you for the nice words about Day 1. I will try to keep up with the pace of this, but it’s taken me nearly three hours to write this, and so you may see me slip. If I do, I have pieces to fill the void… and lord knows how long it will take for Day 5 to be done justice. I’ve started Day 4 already, so that should be fine! Keep comments coming, and give me your thoughts on this test.