They let me out early from the negotiations today. So as an additional piece, and reflecting back to some of my work on HDWLIA back in the day, I have reprinted 20 of my memories from my visit to Australia back in 2002.
It doesn’t seem a big deal now, but it really did then. No member of my family, close or otherwise, that I knew of had been to Australia. It just wasn’t the done thing, not in my family. But I was always the odd one out, and I had two influences pulling my way – my good mate Peter, Sir Peter as he sometimes appears on here; and a colleague at work called Sue, who had lived out in Australia for a year, came back, and never stopped singing its praises. I had a bit of spare cash, I was mad about cricket so I went for it.
On the opening day of that series, I was in awe. I cannot possibly do adequate justice to my excitement at me, little old me, walking down Vulture Street to go to the Gabba. Now I’d just harrumph at it. The world, even then, wasn’t as small now. We only just started conversing over e-mail in those days, and the ability to send my excitement back to my friends was probably totally annoying, but in other ways, really quite mad. I remember waking up, going down to the cafe to have some breakfast and read the papers, then packing my things and walking from our apartment to the Gabba. That feeling of doing something quite brilliant, yet knowing you were about to see your team marmalised.
I wrote the below in 2010. It takes me back to a more innocent time, a more exciting time, and yet it still seems relatively fresh. I’ve not edited it, and so it is there, warts and all.
- The Melbourne Cup – we arrived on Melbourne Cup day and watched in amazement as the country stopped midweek for a horse race. Oh, I wish the Derby were still on a weekday. We watched the race on an outdoor screen in Queen Street. The winner was Media Puzzle. JOD tipped it, Sir Peter backed it. I didn’t.
- The Walk Up Vulture Street – Unforgettable. To me this was bigger than my first trip to Wembley, the Nou Camp, the San Siro…. Little old me, the first Dmitri in my family that I knew of to go to Australia and to be there at the start of an Ashes series. Just blew my mind. You never get a second chance to experience that first feeling. It was one of awe and wonderment. I remember texting ZS about it. He got it! He knew that feeling!
- A Bad Toss To Win – If you were going to stick the Aussies in on a belting batting wicket. Hussain’s decision is up there with Harmison’s wide and Slater smashing the first ball for four for calamitous openings. We were told it hadn’t rained in an age, that the weather was hot, that it would stay hot, and that the pitch was a good one to bat on. Hussain still decided to field. I recall Sir Peter videoing the toss, and I say whoever Chappell talks to first had won the toss. When he went to Nasser Insane, I said “OK we are batting”. These were the days before everything was filmed and the toss was still a bit of a mystery. When the tannoy announced we were fielding, my response was “big mistake”.
- Fielding on Day One – We fielded like drains. Vaughan let one through his legs in the first over. Catches were put down, skiers dropped, and England fell apart before our eyes. It probably wouldn’t have made much difference to the result, because England would have had to chase a score to win, but it didn’t help.
- These Charming Men – When you hear an Aussie moan about the crowd in 2005, or booing Ricky Ponting last time around, just tell them to whistle. They are very proud of their own barracking, like telling Jardine to leave their flies alone (another rib). But I will always recall one bloke who for some reason, hated Matthew Hoggard. He did not stop all day, and wit was not part of his repertoire. If I said “Hoggard, you are fucking shit” was about as intellectual as it got, you’d get the picture. So we booed Ponting, and wanted to win and made life hard in 2005. So we shouted no-ball at Chucker Lee. Aussies can certainly throw, but can’t catch.
- Simon Jones – He bowled very, very well in the first session. The Aussies around us weren’t so chirpy when he was bowling. He got Langer out, looked the part, and then tragically did his knee running to the boundary and sliding to field a ball on what was a sandpit. Slagged off as a wimp as he was stretchered off, the Aussie supporters added class to crass, and it took him a long while to recover. I don’t care what doctors might say, Brisbane robbed England of a 200-300 wicket taker that day because of a sub-standard outfield.
- 364 for 2 – Seared on my brain, that scoreboard. Matthew Hayden, as joyless a batsman to watch as I can recall – he isn’t obdurate enough to see the human-like struggles, languid enough to enjoy the strokeplay, carefree enough to enjoy the lack of inhibitions, or flawed so that you felt like you had a chance. This was straight up, straight bat smashing of the ball. All machismo and bravado, allied to technique and a mouth. If he were on my team, I’d be singing his praises. He’s against us, so I despise him. Ponting added a ton so routine it was as if he had made a pre-game agreement. We left the ground devoid of hope.
- 24 Hours Too Late – England’s second day performance was much better. We skittled, if you can indeed skittle a side that was 364 for 2, out for less than 500. We bowled well, held our catches, stopped Gilchrist in his tracks and if it weren’t for Warne, would have had them out for a lot less. Nice performance 24 hours too late.
- Butcher & Tres – Here’s what it was like for me on the second evening. Whenever I watched that Aussie team, every ball was a potential wicket. You had McGrath, Gillespie, Warne and you only semi-consciously relaxed when Andy Bichel came on. You watched on tenterhooks every ball. Something could happen. You expected something to happen. Ally this to copious amounts of alcohol and a hot sun, and this becomes close to paranoia. “it’ll be this ball” was the feeling. It never came. Butch and Tres made half-centuries, we were 160 odd for 1 at the end of the day and somewhat optimistic.
- The Second Day Social Scene – Quite a day. We got drunk, got chatting to a local called Craig Ian Savage, who now has a Surrey cap, while Sir Peter has a Canberra Raiders one. We had banter, we had beer, we went to the Brisbane Hotel afterwards and bought the local a drink. He wanted to come out for a beer with us in town, and started to lead us down to his place. I thought this odd, let’s leave it at that and made my excuses. I said we’d meet him in town, got in a cab (second attempt – from a pub where a big gruff Aussie bloke slagged off English lager) and crashed out in our apartment from heat, drink and jet lag. We never knew if CIS had gone into town, or if he was after our blood. Who knows? Very odd.
- Karaoke Night At The Conq – It was either Saturday or Sunday’s play, but hearing the dulcet tones through Sir Peter’s mobile phone was something to remember. Statto and Widdecombe, Live Via Satellite, In Brisbane.
- Smoking At The Gabba – I was still a smoker in those days, and there was a designated area to puff your cancer sticks, and you still got to see the cricket. On the third day it would be most memorable for having a puff and seeing Alec Stewart’s bails fly off. Our recovery was over.
- Big Haired Man From Birmingham – Memory fails me now, but we met a top bloke at the Gabba. A West Indian by origin, he was touring Australia and watching the cricket, having the time of his life. As you do, you meet people to stop and have a beer with, and Sir Peter claimed this one. He got us into the top tier in the afternoon, giving us a different perspective of the Day 3 play, and then tipped us off about how to get cheap accommodation (Wotif.com). We had a couple of beers after play, and bade our farewells, saying we would see him on the 5th day if there were a chance of a result. Alas, we never made it to Day 5. And nor did England. What was his name, Sir Peter?
- The Manchester Derby – This was fantastic. We had a meal in an open air area on Queen Street and they had the TV on and said the Manchester Derby would be on soon. We asked if it was alright to stay there and have a beer to watch it, and they said fine. I think the game must have kicked off at about midnight Brisbane time, and the bar was full. We sat with some other SE Londoners, with me talking loads about Millwall while the City boys won 3-1 (there was an almighty cock up by Schmeichel – Goater scored twice). When we left the restaurant / bar, on the other side, unbeknown to us, there must have been hundreds watching it in an open air bar. This must have been at 1:30 or so in the morning. It was mad. I remember a gobby City fan shouting, in the middle of Brisbane “typical Rags. When they win, they are all around, when they lose, they just fuck off….” Was he the hooligan firm, deep south division? A very bizarre experience.
- Sunday Morning – Heavy of head, heavy of heart, we headed to the Gabba for a morning’s self-flagellation. The novelty of walking down Vulture Street feeling awe-inspired had disappeared. Now it was the last rites. The crowds were down, the enthusiasm was down, and we faced Hayden doing a century double. We still got there on time.
- Matthew Hayden has just hit Craig White’s first ball for Six – As re-told in my Ashes memories below. It was the timing. I was doing the paper review for Sir Peter’s video, you hear a crack on the bat as White’s loosener is summarily despatched. In one instant you summed up the feelings of the England fan. This is soul-destroying. Hayden went on to complete his second ton of the game.
- We’re Off To The Gold Coast – We never did see the denouement. The collapse was relayed to us (see below) as we headed down to see the Bald Eagle on the Gold Coast. We hoped to return for Day 5, but when we left, we knew England were going to need to bat at least a session, and probably longer on day 4 for that to be worth our while coming back up the following morning. Instead, England made it easy for us by collapsing. We watched the end in the Bald Eagle’s nest in Helensvale, and commiserated by having a dip in the pool, putting another shrimp on the barbie, and having a few beers. It didn’t sting that much.
- The Police Woman Appreciation Society – In Brisbane I will recall the lady officer who became the objet d’amour of the Barmy Army. Her fella was working on the opposite side of the ground, and I wonder what he would have made of her blatant flirting, and getting her pictures done with some very frisky English tourists. She didn’t appear for Day 4. Quelle surprise. Not sure what it said about some of our fellow travellers’ sexual proclivities!
- Three Dollars To The Pound – We’re so rich it’s unbelievable! Take Your Shit Stars Off Our Flag! God Save Your Gracious Queen… The first encounter I had with the Barmy Army, and I loved it – about 80% of the time. Sometimes it can get a bit sexist, a bit too close to jingoism (racism is too strong a word – probably a bit tainted by the Barmy Army do in Adelaide, which had all the sophistication and jingoism of that bastion of prejudice, the rugby club), but overall, pretty good fun and loved the songs. Regrettably the exchange rate has worsened as our chances have increased!
- GO TO BED MAN! – This one’s for you Danno. We are on the train from Brisbane to Helensvale (or whatever station we stopped at) and we are astounded it is free because we had a test ticket (imagine TFL doing that at The Oval or Lord’s). As we are going south on our hour journey, Sir Peter’s phone is going off with the scores. I’ve had a couple of texts earlier from my then squeeze, but this is Danno, he of the Adelaide Story, texting us in the dead of the UK night. Unfortunately, it always seemed to be with bad news. “Australia declare – Gilchrist smashed it everywhere”. “Vaughan’s out in the first over – 1 for 1”. Bloody hell, we murmur. That makes it less likely we’ll be back, we thought. Then the phone goes again “Trescothick out – 3 for 2”. The phrase that has been recounted on numerous instances since was christened. “Can’t you just text back, Go To Bed Man”. And so it was done.
I hope you enjoyed my tales of the unrequited. I’m sure Sir Peter has some of his own.
Brisbane 2002 was an assault on the senses, and gave me a good feeling for what watching England cricket down under was like. I ended up going to four test matches in Australia over two tours, and we lost the lot. But there’s nothing like your first overseas test.
I know this is blatant filler but I think cricketing memories such as these are always worth sharing. Any Ashes (or other tourists) memories, or recollections of this test, welcome. Also, name the 7 authors of the pieces above for a laugh. They are all pretty easy, I think.