Hey There, You, With The Sad Face – Australia and Me (Part 2 of a few)

“We were all wrong, of course, and when Gatting played that shot, and the ball ballooned up and over to Dyer, there was a cathartic roar that had wrapped in it all the injustices suffered by the good Bengali: The Raj itself, the transfer of the capital (political) to Delhi, Partition and the flight of capital (financial) out of Bengal, maybe even a premonition of Ganguly being axed.” ESPN Cricinfo

In a routine increasingly, and annoyingly, used by many films these days, let’s start at the end. Let’s give a taster of what’s to come by embracing the epilogue. The Cricket World Cup of 1987 coincided with my leaving home and running off to Liverpool University to study, in the loosest sense, and to actually grow up as an individual. I was the one member of my floor in the Halls of Residence to have a colour portable TV, and so immediately gained many friends. The first month of my “study” coincided with the first World Cup outside these shores, and England, somehow, someway, managed to make the Final. A final against Australia. How could we lose? We’d defeated India in their own backyard, with a majestic, sweep-fest hundred by Graham Gooch. We’d won ODI competitions for fun against the same Aussie team just 10 months before – the Perth Challenge and then the World Series Cup. Sure, 1987 wasn’t the best domestic summer on record, but we’d still won the highly charged ODI series against Pakistan. How could we lose? So they had won in Pakistan to clinch their place in the Final? So what?

Inflection Point – a point of a curve at which a change in the direction of curvature occurs. (in business) a time of significant change in a situation; a turning point.

We left the last piece after the heroics of Headingley. A slog gone right, a pitch gone bad, a win for the ages, a DVD and TV repeat for many a rainy day. Up there with Edgbaston 2005, and if it had been played when we were awake, a test to follow around 18 months later – but we’ll get to that. At the time England won that game, the direction of the series seemed to turn, but then we had Edgbaston 1981. This was a very curious test match in more ways than one. Botham with the bat was largely anonymous, but to be fair, so were most others. The stat Richie Benaud seemed most keen on was that no-one, on either side, managed a half-century in the match. England made 189 first up – Brearley top scoring with 48, Botham next best with 26 – but on what looked a good surface, this was inadequate. Or so we thought. Australia took a first innings lead with a score of 258, with Hughes (47) and Martin Kent (46) making the largest contributions. John Emburey, in the side for this game took four wickets. England made 219 in their second innings, and it would have been a lot worse but for John Emburey scratching out 37 from number 10. But 151 runs to win. Lightning could not strike twice.

This test match had Sunday play, and what I distinctly remember from an early part of the day was Peter Walker, who used to get the first 20 overs of the Sunday League coverage that BBC had in those days, got a short commentary slot. It was enough for him to get a wicket – well Willis probably did, but who is complaining? It was the important one of Kim Hughes. However, Australia never really looked out of control, and again England needed to get out both Hughes and Border for me to believe they had a shout. Border had been promoted to number 3 and looked solid. He and Yallop put on a 50 partnership for the 4th wicket before the former captain was caught by Botham off Emburey. Martin Kent took the score to 100, and slightly beyond, but then Border went. There’s a great photo of the appeal, I recall. So 40 odd to win, Benaud saying that no-one would now make a 50. And then, if my memory doesn’t betray me, BBC went off to another event – looking up on Wikipedia, the German Grand Prix was on.

After an interlude the BBC came back, and I believe they were midway through “the spell”. So we were treated to a catch-up (please forgive me Beeb if I’ve got this wrong). ooooh. Marsh bowled by Botham. We’re into the tail, I thought. Wait a minute, he’s got Ray Bright too, first ball pinged LBW. Game on. Hang about, they are showing ANOTHER Botham episode, what happened here? Blimey, Dennis Lillee has nicked it, Bob Taylor’s doing a juggling act, but held onto it, wait, why isn’t Constant giving this out, oh yes he has? Bloody hell. And then they went live….

Or I’ve just made this nonsense up. Sunday Grandstand was possibly in its first year – I don’t know, look it up (I did, it was) – and they were doing it because things like the Wimbledon Final were moving to that date (but didn’t that year, because that was the last Saturday final) and Grand Prix were also on Sundays.

Anyway, the denouement was live. Botham steaming in, and cleaning up Martin Kent. Steaming in, and cleaning up Terry Alderman. Stump plucked out at both ends, Botham charging. Me just loving it. You don’t get better than that.

On to Old Trafford. Don’t remember much about the first day, and also recall knowing sod all squared about Paul Allott, who was making his debut. Tavare was also in, and his batting became a watchword for slow – he went into childhood cricket vernacular. Play defensively and you were called a Tavare. Which was worse than being a Boycott. Anyway, it was Allott’s batting the following day that I remember.

When I was a kid, mum and dad used to go shopping at the very fancy, at the time, Riverdale Centre in Lewisham. This Friday morning we were dragged along for the ride, with the promise of something nice from the new world of Sainsbury’s. However, I do recall, while my parents were somewhere else, sticking myself infront of an electrical store that had the TV on. It had England on. I caught the end of Paul Allott’s riotous debut half century. The last two wickets, one of which was Tavare who had batted nigh on five hours for 60 odd, put on nearly a hundred. Returning to the TV store a little later, I watched Australia collapse in a heap. Hilarious. Richie Benaud moaning about Australia batting for a ridiculously small amount of overs (30.2). Once Australia were dismissed, England set about adding to their unexpected lead, and we were treated to epic Boycott and Tavare. I went out and did something less boring instead. Why don’t you?

The following morning I think we scored around 28 runs in the entire session, losing wickets. Except Tavare. No, he stuck to it. No attack, shotless, dull. This was Saturday Grandstand on the Beeb, and this meant horseracing, so the afternoon session was broken up by whatever meeting was on at the time. So we missed the start of the Ian Botham fusillade.

Now several innings throughout the time I’ve watched cricket have stuck with me for their brilliance. Viv in the 1979 World Cup Final, Viv’s hundred against Surrey in the B&H Final, KP at The Oval, Thorpe’s Barbados knock, to name a few. But this Botham hundred is up there. As a 12 year-old I was transfixed. The sixes swatted off his eyelashes with no helmet on. The utter carnage as the mighty DF bat smashed shot after shot. People stopped to watch. This was the way to entertain. Match in the balance, play massive innings, match no longer in the balance. We lived in different times then, but people talked about it. My mates who I played cricket in the street with wanted to talk about it, to play like it. It was great because it was exceptional, and because there were fewer avenues of entertainment to pursue, but we are not comparing like with like. It was important because this was Australia. This was Dennis Lillee, the scourge of 1974-5. This was an Australian side there for the taking. Little did I know, then, that such joy against the old enemy would be so rare. If I did, I’d have appreciated it more.

But what to appreciate? I remember Mike Whitney being plucked from county cricket on one of those sponsorship programmes (and had been on TV a week or two before in the Sunday League playing for Gloucestershire) and being the poor sod under a steepling shot from Botham. It went miles up in the air. He circled around, hopelessly clutching, and it went down. I also remember, with that pedantic picking-up of any error, Jim Laker saying for the shot that got Botham to a hundred that it was a marvellous way “to get to a six”. Or was it wonderful? But other than that, it was the smashing Lillee to the scoreboard without actually looking at the ball when he hit it. And then there was Tavare. At the other end for the entire innings, unfurling a wonderful cover drive, then hibernating again. And as if that wasn’t enough, recalled Alan Knott made a fifty, and it was the first time I’d ever heard the phrase “that’s a good hand” in terms of a batting performance. Another Benaud-ism. All this and we were packing to go away (Portugal this time).

I went on holiday the following day, and had a long wave radio. We found out on the Monday that the game had been extended, but that we finally won – Rodney Marsh had me nervous on the one spell I caught on the World Service – but the Ashes were ours. No big deal, we were used to beating them. The sixth test was memorable for a couple of reasons. Paul Parker made his debut, Dirk Welham made a hundred which Kim Hughes almost certainly delayed the declaration for (and for which I experienced, for the first time, Aussies tut-tutting about a personal achievement over team goals – more of that to come), and then using the whizz-bang Sanyo Music Centre to record my own commentary of the final day, which I soon got bored with.

And that’s the point of the detailed recollection of 1981. I played a poor standard of school cricket, we were a lousy team, but I had got a reputation as a doughty, boring, opening bat. Watching your heroes, those stars of the screen, play made you love the game more as you strived to succeed in your own performances. It gave you something to love. County cricket, in the form of the Sunday League and the Gillette/NatWest Cup and the B&H also raised profiles, and gave visibility to other talent. But England v Australia seemed to captivate those older than me, and you sort of wondered why. There was no sign of Aussie self-confidence. That would come soon, though. Australia contributed, but they were nice because they were beatable, and England beat them. Nothing more, nothing less in this 12 year-old eye.

1982-3 was the next series. Let’s skirt through the first three games. England got on top at Perth, but couldn’t win. I remember it only for the radio commentary on Terry Alderman’s injury, and the outrage that poured out. I also remember being completely turned off by Alan McGilivray’s commentary, in a way subsequent Australian commentators haven’t done. We lost in Brisbane because South African Kepler Wessels made a century on debut. Now this was funny. I remember the news showing the 30 second clip, and me thinking “hang about, he’s an Aussie? Didn’t he play for Sussex?” Remember him, Malcolm Conn, remember him? Then we lost in Adelaide, and were 2-0 down, a test match I only recall because Greg “only play at home now” Chappell made a century. So to the Boxing Day test.

England needed to win both games to retain the Ashes. I remember only snippets of Day 1 from the news reports. I used to stay around my Aunt’s pub for Christmas, so play took place over Christmas night, and so when I woke up in the morning, the score was announced on Radio 2. No Ceefax in that house. Listening to the match reports, and then catching those ever so wonderful highlights, it appeared as though Tavare had gone, by his standards, berserk, and Allan Lamb joined him for the ride. We scored 280-odd. I remember nothing of the Aussie first innings, except, I think, they scored 280-odd. Same again with the 3rd innings, where England scored, if I recall, 280-odd. Setting Australia 280-odd to win. Actual scores 284. 287, 294 setting 292 to win. Not bad if I say so myself. It has been 36 years!

The fourth day was one of those legendary radio listening under the bedclothes nights – given it was school holidays – and trying to sleep in between. In no real order I recall Norman Cowans getting Greg Chappell caught in the covers by a sub fielder who was our reserve wicket-keeper. Yep, checked it up and it was Ian Gould. I remember hearing a wicket after a bit of a partnership where Bob Taylor took a phenomenal catch off a bat-body combo. It looked to be Kim Hughes. I heard England get to 8 down and settled down for some sleep. When I woke up, and heard the news that Australia had lost their 9th wicket soon after, but that the game was not over, because Allan Border and Jeff Thomson had put on 40 of the 75 or so they needed to win, I thought uh-oh. Because Border had been in no sort of form that series, and it appeared as though we had played him into it.

So we remember the next day. There was no live TV coverage, so radios at midnight it would have to be. Mum and Dad even put it on the main “Music Centre” for us all to listen, except my brother who went to sleep. He wasn’t a cricket fan. It was unbearable. And the runs ticked off. I got more upset that we were throwing this away. Hardly a hint of anything. And the runs ticked off. Thomson not looking like getting out, Border being his dogged self, taking the target down. Cowans, so great the day before, getting no joy. And the runs ticked down. 10, 5, 4.

Willis was the skipper, and there was much cursing under my breath. Certainly no swearing. They’d let the crowd in for nothing, could only have got a ball. In modern ECB world, that behaviour would be laughed at.

Then. Nick, Smack, time stood still, Miller, catch, what the hell happened. We’ve won. Bloody hell. What happened. Botham bowled, it was nicked, Tavare dropped it but Miller caught it. Pictures painted in my head. Australia would have to wait. Damn them. Then you had to wait until the following day’s LUNCHTIME news to see the dismissal. Kids, you don’t know you were born. Imagine watching Kenneth Kendall for 25 minutes, to catch the sport at the end. Yet that less, was more. Hanging on a 30 second clip. Now I sensed what Australia v England really meant. How those fragile muppets from 1981 would scrap. How they would not give in. Allan Border became a nemesis. That, people, is what test cricket is all about. The greatest game I had heard about. The most tense I’d been at listening to cricket.

There is a common misconception that the first time that overseas cricket was covered live in the UK was by Sky in the West Indies in 1990. That’s not right. The fourth day of the final test at Sydney, if I recall, certainly had some live coverage on the BBC. But what this match will always stick in my memory for, and why January 2nd was on my old cricket calendars “Mel Johnson” day was the run out of John Dyson early on the first day. He was out by a yard, yard and a half. Mel never gave it. It’s in here… https://de-visions.com/detail/top-10-worst-umpire-decisions-in-cricket-39N4eE-Rqj4.html

I’m not saying it was important, but Dyson went on to make a few, and any chance at a really quick start went. The first few days had some inclement weather around, Kim Hughes and Allan Border put the game out of reach on Day 4, and Eddie Hemmings made a 90-odd as nightwatchman. But Australia had the Ashes, and we would need to wait until 1985 to have a chance at getting them back.

It was possibly 1985 that truly got the Ashes ingrained into me, and Australia as primary foe. Because until a controversial decision saw off an obdurate partnership at Edgbaston, it was quite possible that a poor Australian side might retain the Ashes, and that would have been a travesty.

In between those two series Australia had had their tough times. First, in 1983, at the World Cup they failed to make the semi-finals – losing to Zimbabwe and also to a West Indies team where Winston Davis took seven wickets. There then followed a winter (for England) where they played 10 tests against the mighty West Indies. After the big three retired in the home summer (Lillee, Marsh and G Chappell),  Kim Hughes took his squad to the West Indies and lost 3-0 in five matches. Competitive at Guyana until a declaration setting the West Indies 300+ to win saw Greenidge and Haynes make an unbroken partnership of 250, and threaten an unlikely win in just over 4 hours. The 2nd Test was drawn too, with Border’s unbeaten 98 in the first innings, and 100 in the second got Australia to safety. Tests 3, 4 and 5 were routs. A competitive 420 in the 1st innings in Bridgetown was followed by 97 in the second and a 10 wicket defeat; an innings defeat in the 4th test at Antigua, where Border was resistant, but no match for Richards and Richardson; and another 10 wicket defeat in the final game in Jamaica meant a 3-0 defeat. They had not taken a single West Indies second innings wicket in the entire series. But one man came out with his chin up, chest out, and reputation intact, and in fact enhanced. He would become more prominent, and a key Australian figure for years to come.

The winter of 1984-5 saw the West Indies visit Australia. Having just annihilated England in the first of their two Blackwashes, the West Indies were on top of the world, and people were openly talking about changing the rules for them. Australia may have laughed at England’s plight, but they were soon to get a taste of the medicine. At Perth, in the 1st Test, West Indies made 416, and then Australia responded with 76. It was a hammering. 228 runs after following on, and the Aussies had succumbed by an innings again. At Brisbane, the visitors won by 8 wickets, losing their first second innings wickets against Australia in 7 tests chasing 26 to win. The match is probably most memorable for Kim Hughes resigning in tears. In an era where men crying left people very uncomfortable it was painful to watch, but sympathy was in scant supply. Some of us asked “what did Australia expect?” for they were playing generational greats. At this point we got the view that the Aussies didn’t exactly live in the real world, every bit as much as the English media.

The new captain was Allan Border, who reportedly wasn’t overly enamoured by the task facing him. From the other side of the world he looked the only choice. His first test in charge was another heavy defeat at Adelaide, and an Aussie blackwash looked on. But at Melbourne there was an unlikely hero. It looked bleak – Viv making 208 in a first innings of 479. However, recalled Andrew Hilditch (70) and Kepler Wessels (90) set a foundation, and then another shocking partnership for the 10th wicket between Murray Bennett and Rodney Hogg, took the Aussies from 27 runs short of the follow-on to 16 runs past it. West Indies still set the Aussies all but the first 25 minutes of Day 5 to survive, which they did only just, losing 8 wickets, but with the new hero, Hilditch making a legendary century. The West Indies winning run came to an end. To everyone’s shock, on a spinning pitch at Sydney, the unbeaten run ended as well. Kepler Wessels made 173, the West Indies made 163 and 253 and beat the mighty visitors by an innings in the final test. Bob Holland, a leg-spinner, took 10 wickets in the match, Murray Bennett 6, both getting on the plane to England as a result, and with someone like me from the other side of the world thinking, simply, that a 3-1 home defeat was a lot better than our 5-0 smashing.

1985 was eagerly awaited. By this time I was our school’s scorer, so was in the scorebox, with my radio, listening to the test matches while watching my school team. It was a lovely summer once the O Levels were out of the way. There was now something alluring about playing the Aussies. Maybe Botham would lift himself, as he always did. The apartheid tourists would be returning after bans, so that meant Gooch for definite, but who else? And then there was the India issues. England had won a tremendous series in India the preceding winter, coming from 1-0 down. As Gooch was coming back, someone would have to make way as an opener, where Graeme Fowler and Tim Robinson had had excellent tours. Mike Gatting had come of age as an England batsman, with a super hundred in defeat in Bombay (Mumbai) and then a double hundred in the amazing win in Madras (Chennai). He was nailed on a place. Allan Lamb was ensconced at 5. Botham at 6. Downton was the keeper. The bowling had places up for grabs.

The ODI series set some ominous messages. Allan Border was going to be a right royal pain in the derriere that summer. There are always those players that seem to have an air of invincibility about them, and he was that in 1985. His 59 was a key element in the run chase at Old Trafford – Botham having made his return after missing India with a 72 and a reverse sweep SNAFU – and then at Edgbaston in the second game his 85 not out covered Gooch’s return century to see the Aussies home. The pressure was on Gower who was now struggling for runs, but he and Gooch made hundreds at Lord’s as England won the third game comfortably. All set for the opening test.

Having started the piece intending to get it to 1987 and the World Cup Final, I know it’s going to be 10000 words long before I get there, so let me put this first part up now, and pick up the 1985 series in the next one.

But before I do, this era, from 81 to 85 was slim pickings for England, and going into the Ashes the win in India, not as coveted as it is now, was still a mighty achievement when England went into it without Ian Botham, The preceding four years without the talents of Gooch had been frustrating as the Essex opener pummelled county attacks but could not play for England. As a young kid, I had no comprehension of precisely what South Africa meant. Why would I? It was a vastly different world and newspapers at the time, especially at the one my dad printed, were telling me it wasn’t a bad thing. It was truly like that. Of course as I matured and learned, I felt that the decisions were absolutely correct, but at the time it felt like we were harming ourselves. Then the Aussies had it happen to them. So while 1981 was a triumph, a series we all recall if we are old enough, 1982-3 was a series where overnight listening on small radios wasn’t a cliche, but actually was what I did, and awaiting those half hour highlights programmes on BBC 2 was something exotic, and had that Melbourne test match, the 1985 Ashes looked like two quite evenly matched, if not brilliant quality compared to the West Indies, and the season whet the appetite. Six test matches, a summer of Ashes cricket. It felt like it had meaning.

 

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Standing At The Limit Of An Endless Ocean

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
From 2006, not 2002. Pre-digital camera in 2002…..

Dmitri here. I wrote a blatant filler post (actually lifted from How Did We Lose In Adelaide in the early days) about the visit to Brisbane in 2002. Given we have analysed the last test in great detail, and Sean may well have more to say tomorrow, I thought I’d put on the metaphorical pipe and slippers, sit back in the proverbial armchair and do my best impression of Rowley Birkin QC and give you my memories of the 2002 test in Adelaide.

But before I do, can I remind those that filled out the Ashes Panel question last time that if they want to do it again, can I have the answers by mid-evening tomorrow. I would have chased up today, but I’ve been on a day trip to Madrid. As you do. And as I had to get in because one thing today and 2002 have in common is genuinely how amazed I am at my fortune in life. But, the questions were on one of the posts on Monday, so pick them up and have a go. And if you didn’t participate, feel free to send me answers on dmitriold@hotmail.co.uk .

OK. Memories of Adelaide 2002. Self-indulgent but I hope you enjoy them:

  • Accommodation – That was fun. We were due to be in Adelaide for just the first three days of the test before flying home, but I managed to wangle a few extra days off and so we were going to try to see the whole test. Thing was, we hadn’t booked anywhere in Adelaide. Three days before we sat in an internet cafe, and no luck. The nearest was Mount Gambier. A phone call at a tourist office and we found somewhere in Glenelg. We had to do all sorts to get the key as we didn’t arrive in Adelaide until 10pm the day before the test. The cab driver was brilliant. The accommodation, less so. We wandered down to The Jetty Bar, karaoke was on, and a local was signing Gary Glitter. Not cool, even then.
  • Tickets – We then were due to pick the tickets up from, we thought, the ticket office at the ground. We got there 45 minutes before the day’s play, and found out that we were actually meant to get the tickets back in the city centre. Then, in a brilliant piece of customer service, they let us in without tickets, and someone then collected the left behind tix and brought them to our seats. We missed the first 15 minutes.
  • We didn’t miss the Langer “catch” off Vaughan. Absolutely bleedin’ hilarious, made even more so when Andy Bichel claimed one off at least the second bounce a little while later. England started well, but lost Trescothick before lunch.
  • We had a walk around the ground, and as you do, I started talking to an Aussie called Michael (and his less talkative mate Bernie, and it wasn’t the Winters) and found a great rapport on talking cricket. I ended up meeting them both by the same floodlight for each of the four days (when I returned in 2006, I went to the same place, to see if he was there – no joy). On the third day he said he really rated Harmison and said he’d win us tests some day. I laughed. He knew more than me.
  • On day 1 we had four blokes with 4x shirts sitting in front of us. When they weren’t spouting nonsense they were playing cards. The nonsense got too much. That night in the Jetty, I got talking to a local and said I was sat behind some absolute muppets in 4x shirts, playing cards. I think you can fill in the rest. We made our excuses and left.
  • It’s a great shame that Vaughan has chosen the low road of being the reactive, go with the wind moron he is now, because the 177 he made was stunning. Sure Langer can moan, but the shot making, the sixes, the domination of the attack was amazing.. His dismissal off the last ball of the day was cataclysmic.
  • We heard Great Southern Land by Icehouse at lunch. And then Beautiful Day by U2. By the end of the test I never wanted to hear them again.
  • The second day was less memorable for the cricket, but Sir Peter still raises the lunchtime interview. I had not had a cigarette (I was a smoker then) for all of a couple of days and I was feeling spectacularly grumpy. England had collapsed, I’d been surrounded by even more idiots, there were jokes falling flat, and I had had enough. Sir Peter set his video off, and I just ranted. Yes, unbelievable. After it was finished, I stormed round to the floodlight, begged Michael for a cigarette (and he provided the strongest ciggie I’ve ever had) and then we settled in for the Australian reply.
  • The Saturday was to be the last day in the flea pit in Glenelg. We had booked the Holiday Inn for the Sunday and Monday. That was because we’d got our flights changed, at no cost, out of Adelaide on the Wednesday, not the Sunday. Watching Australia give us a pasting was not particularly fun. Ponting made 150-odd, Martyn 90-odd and Hussain trolled Steve Waugh. But we conceded 500+ and had a dodgy end of day to end it three down (I believe, not checked the score).
  • That Saturday was the hottest day I have ever encountered. 41 degrees C. Jeepers. I fried. And then, during the tea interval, there was a race taking place on the field (it is on the tour video, with a local, who clearly knew one of the runners, calling him a a maggot. Must be a term of endearment) and it was the stupidest thing I’d ever seen.
  • That Saturday night we found out what thongs were in Australia. It was hot in herre.
  • Sunday was an interesting day. The forecast was a shocker. Rain was due, and when it came, it would set in for a day and a half. England needed to survive. We did rain dances. Extend your holiday and want it to rain. Love being English.
  • “Was this the greatest catch of all time?”     https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SWqOAMlAFF8
  • Stewart made a half century but post-lunch the rain started, and with England 8 or 9 down, they went off. We rejoiced. We should not have done so. Steve Bucknor wasn’t going to let England get away with this. While the drizzle eased a little, it didn’t stop, but Bucknor brought them out. Then they went off again – but no, out we came again and Australia sealed the win. Within half an hour the heavens opened. It absolutely hosed it down all day the following day. There would have been no play. We were 30 minutes away (if you were there and remember it differently, please tell me).
  • I’ve never watched Hard To Kill again. It entertained us that Sunday night.
  • Monday was the Bradman Museum / Exhibition. We also booked a Barossa Valley tour the day after although I’m a beer person rather than vino. The Bradman museum was dull. Kept wanting to say he was the best player of medium pace bowling of all time, but that might be like going to the Vatican and saying eff the Pope. We made our excuses and left.
  • The Barmy Army do that night at the Prison was an eye opener. We were in and around them at times, and watched the end of the game with them, but the do was everything I feared. We did have a lovely picture taken with Dermot Reeve though. A career highlight.
  • A night in a 5* hotel in Adelaide to finish our stay was somewhat melancholy. It had been the holiday of a lifetime – Brisbane, on to the stunning Port Douglas (I sent an e-mail home saying now I knew what true relaxations was) and the Barrier Reef, then staying with Sir Peter’s friends in Sydney before Adelaide was top stuff. I wonder if cricketers know what joy that brought to me even though we were losing. That’s why the heart is in it, even when we get told to do one by the powers that be. When a day’s cricket at the SCG, to see a New South Wales team with lots of top players, is an afterthought it tells you how much I loved what we did.
  • The test at Adelaide also brought my favourite ever photo. It has me in it, so you can’t see it, but it is shortly after we have lost. The people around me, in all shapes, sizes and actions, with the scoreboard. It’s on my system as “We’ve Lost”. It’s cracking (in my eyes).

OK – that was my walk down memory lane, and as a little break from the 1st test analysis. Hope you enjoyed it and I’ll do one for Perth 2006 for the 3rd test. I think I’ve written enough about Adelaide 2006 to last a lifetime.

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.

Dmitri’s Ashes Memories – Perth 2006

It seems somewhat apt to return to posting with a low moment. I’m returning to an era where we were getting our 2005 win rammed back down our throats by a hostile foe, for a time where I felt low about the game, but for different reasons to those now. It’s ironic that I probably feel more low now than I did back then as England are on top. It’s not about the winning and losing, it’s about the fans sticking together, and on that fateful tour of 2006/7, I never saw fan division. We supported the team, no question.

This was not only support against a juggernaut team, it was against a Cricket Australia organisation that made it desperately hard for English supporters to get tickets. It was support an erstwhile disinterested Australian public, who couldn’t give a stuff for the Ashes in 2002/3 when I was out there, but were now making sure the games were played in a hostile atmosphere. It really wasn’t pleasant. It was a lot like football. I’m not sure it was for the best, really, but who am I to say?

Absolute Nonsense With The Old Jos....
Absolute Nonsense With The Old Jos….

At least at that time we got abuse from the opposition fans. I’m a lad from working class roots, born into a council estate in SE London, moving to another one where I still live after 36 years in the same house, and never that well off that money was no object, but able to do some really good things when the economy and the relative purchasing power of my wages allowed. No-one from my family had ever done this sort of thing. Never gone to Australia. I absolutely thanked my lucky stars at how I’d been able to do this. It is something I never took for granted. You know, it’s why the somewhat silly barbs about being anti-England and not a cricket fan actually do hurt. You have got to me effing kidding me.

The only Ashes century Alastair Cook has made outside of 2010-11. He worked incredibly hard for it.
The only Ashes century Alastair Cook has made outside of 2010-11. He worked incredibly hard for it. You know who applauds.

I only turn on people who turn on me, and I have always been one that recognises that other people have different views. Back in 2006, there was a clamour for Monty Panesar which although not of the modern level for another player, was firm enough. This time, though, it was the media leading the charge. It was the dog days of Duncan Fletcher and he wasn’t for picking him if Giles was fit. He got all sorts….

I was ambivalent. I’d had a disastrous time in Adelaide, and I was in pieces. Confidence shot. Holiday proving to be a trial. The cricket depressing.

Flickers on Day 5 - They wouldn't last
Flickers on Day 5 – They wouldn’t last

I’ve always got the Adelaide test up my sleeve for a piece, but the one thing I do recall about Perth is our hopeless optimism. On Day 4, with England up against it, Ian Bell and Alastair Cook gave us hope that we might get out the mess we were in. KP was in decent nick, and had a 90-odd, a 158 and a first innings 50 under his belt, and with Flintoff and Jones following behind we had a sniff of getting out of the game. It was ridiculous optimism. But when we were three down, there still remained a little hope, and that’s when Perth announced the prices of fifth day tickets. The man we call Reg went round to the ticket office to get them, and we still tried to believe that there was a shot. Cook got to a hundred, a horrible knock, hopelessly out of nick, but absolutely an example of temperament and courage. Yes, the iron rod, the steely core. But this was Perth. This was heat. Towards the end of the day his concentration wilted, and a combination of that and the new ball did for him. Hoggy came out as a nightwatchman. Brett Lee, fielding in front of us, where there was a large corps of England support, mocked us “Where’s your skipper now, boys? Hiding is he? Scared?” Hoggy lasted no time….

It didn't go well
It didn’t go well

As the day drew to quite a cloudy close, we wandered back to our apartment block, about half a mile from the WACA and thought we were quite mad to have bought the tickets. Our flight out of Perth Airport was for 1:30 a.m after the 5th day, and we had to pack our bags and go to Scarborough for our last night in Australia that evening. We wondered what precisely we were doing going up there, and then back down again for the last day.

But we did, because we thought we needed to be there for the team. Well, I did. However that didn’t last. Flintoff and KP saw off the early attacks and both made half centuries, but once Freddie went, and then Jones for a pair in his last ever test, the tail failed to wag. One wicket left at lunch, we thought there were better things to do than watch the Aussie apply the coup de grace, and went for a beer somewhere in the Perth city centre. We heard the winning wicket on the radio. We were spent.

Time to leave....
Time to leave…. Gilchrist starts out on his record-setting century. We’d seen enough.

That trip was an emotional experience for me, and I’m going to go into more depth when I do Adelaide as to why. After Adelaide we flew out the morning after (the infamous flight where Pringle sat two rows behind me), and headed down to Augusta on the far South West coast of Australia. It was gorgeous. We then spent a few days in Margaret River, did a bit of winery stuff, had a few beets, watched some football on the TV, and then headed to Fremantle, where four of us squeezed into a bijou apartment and we couldn’t wait to get out of it. Then we went up to Perth the day before the game, but still caught a train on one evening for a night out in Fremantle!

I’d also met up with a Millwall friend, Jim, who now lives out there, but had generously popped round to my brother’s house in London to pick up a credit card (after I’d had all mine nicked in Adelaide), and bring it out to me. I met him for a drink in Subiaco, whereupon I promptly left the card and the new wallet in the pub we were in. Thankfully, I realised, and some lovely honest people had handed it in to the bar-staff and a second disaster was averted. I was in an absolute state by this time, an emotional and unsure wreck (both my parents had died in the preceding 18 months).

England were obviously 2-0 down going into Perth, and the Adelaide scars were raw. There had been a lot of comment in the England fans area at Adelaide about Duncan’s stubborness over Monty Panesar, and the poor performance, and then sad news around Ashley Giles, had meant his inclusion was a certainty. Saj Mahmood also came into the team, a player, I have to say, I really rated (cracking judge, me). Perth underwhelmed me as a ground – I don’t know what I expected – but it was a decent atmosphere and they had put in extra seats.

The WACA - pre-game
The WACA – pre-game

England had a good first day, and Monty made an immediate impact. Sadly, as was to be the case frequently in his Ashes career, Mike Hussey was a royal PIA. He saved the innings and took Australia from real strife to mediocrity. Monty claimed five-for, and Englan fans started to believe again. Maybe we could be competitive and make a real fist of this. After all, we’d fought hard in both the previous test matches, hadn’t we? At times…

Despite bowling the Australians out for 244, there was a sense of foreboding. Had England got that last day collapse at Adelaide out of their minds. Well, Cook got out cheaply, and Bell followed for a duck, and 51/2 wasn’t a firm base for us to launch. It looked even less firm when Collingwood went very early on day 3, and although Pietersen steadied the ship at #5 (people started to comment he should go up one, despite Colly making a fine fist of number 4 until then), Strauss also went to a dodgy old caught behind. No-one stayed with Pietersen, who got increasingly desperate towards the end of his knock and was ninth out for 70 with 175 on the board. There was a knockabout last wicket stand of 40, but the sense of fear was such that you thought “jeez, it looks easy for them, what are Aussie going to do!.

With a lead of just 29, England probably tasted parity when Langer went first ball of the second innings, and I took one of my best ever pics….

Perfect Timing
Perfect Timing

It never lasted. Ponting and Hayden steadied the ship, and by the close Australia were 119 for 1 and the Ashes felt gone. The third day, a Saturday was not one I saw a lot of. It was 40 odd degrees plus, and Sir Peter and I did a bit of early morning Christmas shopping to take home, and turned up after lunch. We saw England open that morning with KP. It was desperate. Panesar couldn’t weave his magic. We turned up after Ponting and Hayden had gone, and we fried. I mean we absolutely fried. Hussey made a century, Michael Clarke did too, and then, memorably, did Adam Gilchrist. We were so hot, being belted around so much, that we left with Gilchrist in the early stages of that knock. Beaten, and depressed, we stomped back, hearing cheers for every boundary, sensing something. I remember saying to Sir Peter as we left the ground “this is the sort of situation that Gilchrist could go off and do something mental.”  We sw him get to his ton back at our apartment. I’d changed to go for a swim, and cheered Hoggy’s very wide, but not called, ball that denied Gilchrist the chance to equal the record held by Viv.

The water was lovely.

Of course, Strauss immediately got an absolute shocker of a decision once the Aussies had declared, so there was nothing to it but to head out for a nice meal in Northridge, and a serious session in the Brass Monkey. I pick up Day 4 above…..

What did Perth mean to me? It was the end of an era. I’ve never seen England away again, and never likely to, if truth be told. It was a holiday that I can’t look back on and say it was the greatest ever, but I learned a lot about myself and my inabilities and weaknesses. I’d say that the world was vastly different then, and the cricket world was too. I think it is interesting to contrast how much fire was aimed at Duncan Fletcher after that tour and not the players, and especially the captain, who let him down (in my view). There was much focus on his stubborn approach to Panesar, but in an interesting read across to the recent 5-0, the players quitting the tour through injury or lack of form weren’t to play again at all. The captain never skippered England again. KP batted well, as did Colly at times, but Bell was Bell.  In his second innings knock at Perth, he was pure Ian Bell. He looked superb, then played a loose drive and got out. He flattered to deceive.

But the fans never turned on the team, and they never turned on each other. It’s a different world. Some say the likes of me are to blame. We created the divide. We are the reason. But stop for a minute and just think. Please. Just think. We had incredible trouble getting tickets for the games we went to, but we got them. This was an expensive trip to watch a team collapse, but we wouldn’t have missed it for the world. This was a team that fell apart, but we stuck with it, when the media were throwing missiles at the coach. I haven’t changed as a cricket fan, so maybe something else has.

Monty - The saviour that wasn't, really.....
Monty – The saviour that wasn’t, really…..

For a test that I don’t relive that much, it’s quite an important one in my cricketing life. I was sort of there when the Ashes were clinched. I’d seen 40% of a whitewash on my travels, and seen a team collapse in the heat – that third day was brutal. I had a ton of admiration at the time for Cook, as he battled so hard for his hundred, and yet now I view him in a much different vein. It’s my last day touring. But at that time, I loved the sport unconditionally. It had me. Now, I feel it’s pushing me away. The media turning on fans for the past 18 months. The fans turning on the fans (I genuinely believe I only retaliated when attacked – others may differ). It’s not England cricket as I remember it. It’s a sad look back, to a sad test, and a sad outcome.

Oh, and I did this. Count the chins…..

Too much sun....
Too much sun….

Hope you enjoyed the above. I am feeling rather cheesed off, and hope that writing the memory stuff works for you lot, and gets me back. It’s been a rollercoaster. Feeling up, and then down. Angry tweets, repentant deletions. I am fed up feeling I need to justify myself, when I got to do things like this. I’m not special. I’m just a bloody ordinary cricket fan, who writes a blog. Some may not like what I write, some may be envious of the traction it got, some may call me a broken record. But it’s mine (and TLG’s).

Have a good night.

Dmitri’s Ashes Memories – A Brief Recall of 2001

The 2001 series was the one that saw Australia at their most dominant over here. It saw them able to leave out Michael Slater and bring in Justin Langer, who never relinquished the slot as opener. It saw Warne bowl us to distraction, McGrath in his pomp, Gillespie an option we would die for, Gilchrist an absolute demon who made an outrageous hundred at Edgbaston and a 90 at Lord’s that took games away from us. We were outclassed, our players fell like flies, and even the win we got, at Headingley, was semi-gifted to us and required an innings from the gods by Mark Butcher.

So, by the time I wended my way to The Oval for my annual pilgrimage – for the first time for the first day of a game – although we had a little happiness in our step (having won the 4th test) we were not exactly jumping for delight. In addition, I was in the midst of one of my many weight loss campaigns and was not drinking. I had to watch the two days on a diet of excitement, not so much food, and no beer.

Add on top of that the two days play I saw were decidedly sobering. Steve Waugh, all intent and ego, had declared he would play this match despite needing his leg amputated. Langer came in for Slater, while England opted to play Jimmy Ormond, immediately labelled a “lard-arse” by Ferret (a world famous cricket follower, if you haven’t met him, you haven’t lived) and brought back Phil Tufnell on the premise that he’d bowled the Aussies out four years ago.

Now imagine watching two days of cricket in blazing hot sunshine, where Australia won the toss and batted, and racked up 641 for 4 declared. It was excrutiating to watch our attack put to all parts. 4.2 runs an over, three centuries, two fifties, four bowlers going for over a hundred and no beer. Not a glass of the Oval’s wretched Fosters passed my lips.

I remember Hayden and Langer cruising past 150, before the Big Unit hit a ball straight down deep square leg’s throat. A friend texted “Tuffers is back” but that was his last wicket. In test match cricket. Back, then gone for good. Wonder what he is doing now?

Justin Langer passed his hundred before copping one on the head from Andy Caddick, which brought Mark Waugh to the crease with Ricky Ponting.  The latter didn’t make it quite to the end of play and he provided Jimmy Ormond one of his two test victims (his other was Rahul Dravid – not bad for the only two on your CV). 324/2 was the score at the end of the first day’s play. As we left the ground we saw Justin Langer, looking a bit woozy, in the back of a car. That I remember.

Day two saw the slaughter continue. Mark Waugh went through to a century and then got bored, being bowled by Darren Gough for 120. Steve Waugh hobbled on. making his point, to the nth degree, while Adam Gilchrist came out at number 6 and blapped one up in the air to give Usman Afzaal his only test wicket in his last test. 534/4 and the Aussies were in crisis. Tugga continued, grinding England into the dirt, and yes, he did that celebration while waving his bat from the floor after diving to avoid being run out. We got it, Steve. You were one hard bastard. Damien Martyn made an effortless, more than a run a ball 64, and Waugh decided to call it quits with him in red ink and Australia on 641/4.

By this time I was going through 2 litre bottles of water like pints of lager. Dehydrating rapidly in the warmth. In a frightful piece of name-dropping, I told this tale of woe to John Buchanan once – he thought it wryly amusing. I didn’t.

Trescothick made 55 not out by the close of play, but Atherton fell to Warne. Butcher got a heroes welcome, and was unbeaten at the close. 80 for 1 wasn’t a bad start, and we in fact,  made 432. Ramps made a superb 133. But we lost. Tugga had it right. We were soft, we were not prepared to fight and we gave in too easily. Tautology reigns when I talk about Tugga. I’ve been mentally disintegrated by those two days. Evian did well, though.

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

I’ll come back to the 1985 series in the week, but while watching Kanye West wittering on at Glastonbury, I thought I’d go back to my second test match overseas, and that was in 2002 at Adelaide.

We had an Australian secretary who thought I was out of my mind going to Adelaide, but I also had a great mate of mine who had gone out to Australia and lived in Adelaide for a large part of her time there (she found a bloke). We hadn’t been in contact, but she always said Adelaide was OK.

So, having endured Brisbane, and the hammering we got at that venue, Sir Peter and I flew up to Cairns and stayed in Port Douglas (another recommendation from my mate) and it was incredible. I will return one day if it is within my power to do so. Then we spent four days in Sydney, and saw an incredible New South Wales line up lose to South Australia. We then thought it might be a decent idea to book some accommodation. Except, when we looked at all the websites, there was nowhere in our price range. And I mean nowhere. For Wednesday and Thursday night there was a decided lack of places to stay. This provided us with a massive dilemma. We had somewhere we could stay in Sydney, but might have to reschedule flights and miss the first two days.

Then a morning spent in a tourist office came up with a place to stay in Glenelg. And at a reasonable price. We jumped all over it. A late arrival in Adelaide, a pick up of a key from a safety deposit box, and a brilliant, wonderful taxi driver and we had somewhere to stay. It was a bit of a flea pit, but who gave a stuff.

So we got the tram (the old version in those days) from Glenelg (I’ll leave out the bizarre karaoke we heard when we arrived, where people were queueing up to do a Gary Glitter song) to King William Street, followed the crowd through the centre of Adelaide, over the Torrens River and towards this legendary venue. While not quite the goosebumps of Brisbane, it was still something to wonder. This had history, this was where Bodyline reached its height of fury. This was Bradman country (I know he was from Bowral). The thing was, we didn’t have our tickets. We’d bought them, but expected to pick them up from the Oval. Hence we were an hour early. We got in the queue and…… nothing.

The queue never moved. There was obviously a total cock-up with the ticketing system. It turned out that the company that flogged them had not really been clear. We weren’t supposed to pick them up from the ground, but from their ticket offices in the centre of the city. We took this news with equanimity, but I’ll now give these guys all the credit. They confirmed our tickets were there, got confirmation of our information, and then escorted us into the ground to our seats (and delivered our tickets for the rest of the test – we had days 2 & 3 tickets). We missed the start, but England were batting.

That first day was all about Michael Vaughan. Sure, he got away with that catch to gully that Langer got the arse about, but he was brilliant to watch. He made a wonderful 177, getting out off the last ball of the day. It was magnificent entertainment as he played on a different level to every other England player. I still have all that day’s play on DVD (what a mum I had – she did all the recording on tape for me – I miss her) and while it seemed, on the face of it, to be a really decent day for England, losing Vaughan to the last ball was a punch in the guts. I recall Vaughan treating the square boundaries as an invitation to go aerial and he looked in control to the degree I’ve not seen from an England batsman before or since. Seriously, I think his spell between the 197 at Trent Bridge, up until he was given the captaincy, was the most impressive test batting I’ve ever seen from an England man. It was not just the big hundreds, but the manner and pace of them, and the shot-making.

The first day was also evidence of the world religion of cricket to me. While I had plenty to moan at (and if you ever see Live and Uncut Down Under, I do moan), I did meet two absolutely superb blokes to chew the fat with. I’m not quite sure how it happened, but I was a smoker on that tour (I jacked it in 3 months after I came home and never smoked again) and under the floodlight pylon I got talking to this Aussied called Michael. He journeyed over from Sydney every year for the Adelaide test and we got chatting about cricket. His mate Bernie, definitely quieter, was also great entertainment. That’s what cricket is to me, a bringing together of people who love the sport.

I recall we were buzzing that night, so we decided to try to extend our holiday by a few more days. We decided to get up early to see if we could get to the Singapore Airlines offices to fly back on the Wednesday rather than Sunday. It meant we were late to the second day’s play, so we missed Mark Butcher (heard him getting out as we took our places), and the rest of the team subsided by lunch, I believe. Michael gave us a bit of stick about that at the break. The afternoon saw England work hard, nipping out the two openers, but that was about all of the good news. Damien Martyn and Ricky Ponting were going well and England’s 300-ish innings was never going to be enough.

I had decided to stop smoking (again) but Saturday morning did for me. I spent two hours in the presence of a know all who knew eff all, and I was being worn down by the humour. I have a rant and a half at lunch on camera and then went off to the pylon to nick a cigarette off Michael – who only smoked unflitered ones so that was raw! Ponting finally got out, we bounced out Steve Waugh, but the Aussies were going to make 500, and so they did. I remember one thing about this attritional day. It was hot. Stinking hot. The hottest I can ever remember. It was, therefore, little surprise that Australia declared over 200 in front and then took three of our wickets before the close, including another off the last ball of the day. That plane home on Sunday might have been better!

We moved to the Holiday Inn motel on Sunday morning, and all hope now was on a brutal weather forecast from the afternoon and the next 36 hours. All we needed to do was survive three hours and we would probably be safe. But no. McGrath took an incredible catch to dismiss Vaughan, and although Stewart made a half century, and there were various delays for light drizzle, Australia closed in on victory and got there. I think the umpires were a little generous to the Australians, but they’d demolished us. It rained steadily for most of the Sunday, and then all of the Monday, which we spent loitering around indoor facilities. A wine trip on Tuesday and a flight home on Wednesday was all she wrote for a magic holiday, not ruined by the result at all. See, I followed my team, supported my team, loved Vaughan’s 177, loved watching Harmison’s promise, liked what I saw out of the guys keeping going in the field, but we were outclassed. Simple as.

There’s a lovely picture, one of my favourites of me, which I won’t share, at the end of the game in front of the scoreboard. Behind me is a hubbub of England fans, all not leaving, all staying to support the team, and drink…. and that for me will be my most abiding memory of that tour.

Dmitri’s Ashes Memories – Part 2 – The First Day’s Test Cricket

I thought I’d write a short piece on my first ever day’s test cricket. A friend had a ticket for the 2nd day of the final test at The Oval in 1997 but then had to pull out at the last minute. At this stage the prospect of me ever getting to see a day of Ashes cricket felt remote, so to be offered this joyous thing the day before was mind-blowing. I cajoled a day off from my boss, cursed the weather forecast that said it would be one of those on-off days and prayed they were wrong. I went with two people I didn’t know that well, but knew some of my cricket club crowd would be there somewhere or other!

The journey from the wilds of South East London and then on the crowded tube train from London Bridge added to the excitement (and trepidation). The fast moving, threatening clouds were a hindrance, no, a bloody annoyance. I’d waited for this opportunity for years and the great British weather was going to spoil it. I knew it. All this excitement for nothing….. but still, no liquid came from the sky. There was hope.

Ticket in hand I went to the seat, which was in one of those stands which has now been replaced by the OCS behemoth. It might have been the Jardine Stand, it might have been the Fender. It didn’t matter one jot. What did was that England had been skittled for shirt buttons on the first day (by McGrath) and although Tuffers had nabbed a couple of wickets the previous night, England needed lots of wickets quickly to stay in the game.

As the players came out the weather closed in. The morning session saw at least two rain breaks, but in between the cricket was hard fought. At that time Greg Blewett was batting at three and he was mostly a flowing, exciteable batsman, but was in prime dig in mode. I seem to recall we got Mark Waugh early on. The Aussies had resumed on 77 for 2 (he says looking up the scorecard) and Mark got out with the score on 94. A 46 run partnership ensued between Steve Waugh and Blewett befor Caddick won an LBW decision against the former and Stewart stumped the latter off Tuffers 10 runs later. 150 for 5 in reply to 180 meant the game was back in the balance, even if the Aussies just held the upper hand.

I was absorbed into the contest. This didn’t feel like a dead rubber to me, but a cut and thrust contest between the oldest international rivals. You felt like you were somewhere special, in amongst it, living every ball of a gripping contest. It would be the first of sixteen consecutive Fridays at The Oval for me and I was hooked. And it got better. Ian Healy went after a scratchy old knock of 2 in 34 balls. Shaun Young, making his only appearance for Australia went immediately after, both caught behind by Stewart off Tufnell. 164 for 7 and Tufnell had six of them. This was brilliant.

Ricky Ponting remained in. At this stage of his career he was the young buck, fighting for his place in the herd, and his ton at Headingley two tests before had been a massively important innings. Now the man who would be a thorn in our side for years to come was the one man holding us back. He was redoubtable, mixing defence and attack as he eked out 40 vital runs before being the last man out with the score on 218 and a lead of 38. Except it wasn’t – overnight the TV replays upgraded a four made by Blewett to a six, and the final score was 220. Tufnell finished with figures of 7/66 and we had a game.

The weather stayed fair, I managed to get into the section where my club mates were, which was much more in line with the pitch. I saw England lose three wickets before the deficit was erased. Atherton fell first, but not to McGrath but Kasprowicz, who was embarking on a 7 for too. Stewart and Butcher fell LBW before the close, Hussain was rendered shotless (he made 2 in 50 balls) but stayed until the end, while I got to see my hero of the time, Thorpe do his thing and keep the England ship afloat. Just. The day finished with England 55/3. The third day, as we probably all remember was a thriller, as England defended a 124 target and bowled the Aussies out for 124. I think I went to see Millwall play York City (we lost 3-2).

The day was a blur. I had to use the scorecard as my prime trigger of memories. I just have a memory of Blewett and Ponting keeping us just enough at bay to keep the Aussies on top. But it was a day just to be treasured. Now, having gone to a lot of test cricket and such stuff, the memories of the first day seem almost childish (and I was in my late 20s at the time) and naive. But it’s that feeling of being a very insignificant part of history that makes it special. Awe inspiring. A privilege. I never forget that last bit. It’s a privilege to be able to be there. It shouldn’t be a matter of being privileged to do so.

The buzz, the business, the crowd. There’s no better place to be when you don’t feel like you are being soaked for cash. I did not get that sense then, and in fact for many, many years. This was an event where you could bring your own beer, for heaven’s sake. What was not to like?

I got a really great first day. I’d be interested to hear about your first day’s test cricket. Did it impress you as much as mine did for me?

With another Dmitri Ashes Memory, I bid you all a great day.

A Dmitri Ashes Memory – Brisbane 2002

Ashes

Well, hello. Settle in to a comfortable chair and let me introduce this little piece. I will pick out an Ashes memory of mine, and with my usual traits of brevity and waffle-free prose, explain what it meant to me and why you might give a stuff.

So I thought I’d turn to my first ever overseas test match to kick this little segment off. Back in the very old days of How Did We Lose In Adelaide, the blog was originally conceived as a spin off from a general diary I was doing at the time. I thought a cricket blog would work. What I had in mind, which is normal when I’m phenomenally bored in the office where most ideas gestate (either that or on the walk to the station), was to write a long story on my travails of the 2006/7 tour where I saw the calamitous loss in Adelaide, the loss in Perth (and missed the Gilchrist ton) and basically lose my sanity along with my wallet, and sunglasses, and money etc. as over a year of hell and damnation caught up with me (some of you might know both my parents died within 9 months of each other in 2005-6).

In the scene setter for another piece of work I never finished (I wanted to watch the whole test ball by ball, but my old DVD video recorder broke down during the test and my brother couldn’t retrieve it all) I recalled the 2002 tour and my first ever overseas test. At this time I was a single man, on the cusp of a relationship with someone mentioned obliquely in a previous post, and with some spare cash and a great mate (and still a great mate although he blew me out tonight) in Sir Peter, who comes on here occasionally, we hit on an idea in early 2002 to invest in a magical holiday (for me especially as I’d been no further than Turkey) to Australia and to see two tests matches. To say I bored my work mates about this (many of who go long haul now, when I don’t – trips to the in-laws don’t count) would be an understatement. By the time it came to actually leave, I was as excited as I’ve ever been. It was, without doubt. the greatest holiday I’ve ever been on. Awe and wonderment at every turn. A sheer disbelief that I was actually there. And nothing summed it up more than the walk from our apartment in near South Brisbane station (the apartments were called West End) to the ground. This was as big as it got. I just thought how lucky I was to be there. Blessed.

To inject some current day anger into this, this is the sort of stuff that renders the absolute weapon’s grade cobblers DucDeBlangis said in his BT: clusterf*ck today. I went around the world, spent a lot of my money, and had three and a half weeks leave to watch a team, and cricket was the primary focus, I knew would get hammered. I drank, I sung the songs, I bantered with the Aussies, I had a whale of a time. Loyalty? Pack it in you absolute moron. Do not ever question my loyalty because I despised what went on.

Anyway, back to Brisbane. I thought I’d dig out my piece on HDWLIA, which is a bit dry but catpured some of the essence of what it meant, and how it went.

Overseas I’d seen England’s 384 run demolition by the Aussies at the Gabba in 2002 . That was notable for one major thing – the toss. England won it, but because Nasser Insane had no faith in his bowling attack, he stuck the Aussies in on a belting batting surface. At the end of Day 1 Australia were 364 for 2, Bully Boy Hayden had 186, Ponting looked serene in scoring 123 and we traipsed away from the ground all melancholy and deflated. Although we had a reasonable Friday, a half-decent Saturday, the game was up well before England set out on scoring 464 to win, and when the collapse ensued, and England were dismissed for a paltry 79, we were on the Gold Coast availing ourselves of Bald Eagle’s swimming pool and barbecue facilities. Oh, I almost forgot, but Bully Boy Hayden helped himself to a second innings ton too.

I think a number of things stick out from my first test overseas. The service in the ground was first class – no ten/fifteen minute waits for the beer or food. The stadium itself was a little soul-less but the atmosphere generated by what was, in essence, a “footy” stadium now was pretty good. I’d seen England get put to the sword at The Oval on relatively few occasions, but to see it having paid a good deal of time, money and effort seemed somehow less painful. The memories of the crowded Gabba Hotel after the day’s play were also fresh, with the constant horse-racing action on the TV. There was our incredibly haired acquaintance from Birmingham, I wish I remember his name (maybe Sir Peter can help), who put us in the direction of the Wotif.com site which helped us to a couple of bargains on this and the 2006 tour – another top chap, and absolute diamond who smuggled us into the top tier. Then was our old mate [name removed]… but less of that the better. I do wonder what would have happened if he’d taken us even further down the road before my suspicions got the better of me.

As for England’s display, there was not a lot to credit it. Simon Jones looked good before he got that terrible knee injury that has so blighted his career. The fielding on the first day was awful with some absolutely horrific dropped chances. Hoggard dropped Hayden when he skied the ball up in the air, hardly laying a finger on it, while Vaughan dropped the same batsman to an absolute sitter. I still have the video from that 1st day and Botham’s reactions were priceless.

I still have a ton of memories of the interviews and newspaper reviews I did for the Sir Peter produced “Live and Uncut Down Under” – one of my favourites was the interview on Day 4 when I’m looking at the Sunday papers in Brisbane. As I start my review you can hear a crack of the bat, and the cheers of the Aussie crowd. I look to the action, and then turn to the camera and say, rather sardonically “Matthew Hayden has just hit Craig White’s first ball for six…..” It summed up my mood. The feeling that all hope had long since evaporated and that the Aussie juggernaut cared little for English endeavour had pervaded my enlightened mood. As we left The Gabba at lunch on the 4th day we had plans to return the next day if England were making a fight of it. As our train pulled out of South Brisbane station en route for Helensvale, news reached us via Danno on the text to Sir Peter to tell us Michael Vaughan was out second ball for 0 – and England were 1 for 1. Well, we thought, that makes the task harder for us….

Beep Beep – Oh no, Trescothick has also gone and it is 3 for 2. I exclaimed “tell Danno to Go to Bed Man…he’s making us depressed” – to which, shortly thereafter, he did. When we got to Helensvale we saw the farce on TV as England collapsed to 79 all out, and we enjoyed a day on the Gold Coast and the very charming town of Beaudesert before returning to our place the night after and flying off to Port Douglas the following morning….

A little fleeting but such great memories. I may add a couple of pics to this later, although regrettably, this pre-dates my digital camera days. I do remember texting my great mate Zeitkratzer Stockhausen (a colleague who posts here very rarely) and saying “I’m walking down Vulture Street to the Gabba. I just don’t believe this is me doing this” or something like that. I can’t put into words the feelings I had doing it. Awe. That might sum it up.

Entering the stadium and taking it all in was overwhelming. A steward said to me “you are really fair skinned, make sure you wear that hat all day” which was nice. I remember talking to two guys who had come from the countryside for their only day’s cricket that year and chatting away. Another in front of me had come from Lancashire and was touting Jimmy Anderson’s inclusion in the squad when Simon Jones had that horrible injury. I recall a particularly aggressive man swearing all day at Matthew Hoggard. I remember the toss, and my reaction is on video. No, you can’t see it. I remember 364 for 2, and the Vaughan drop. It was vivid. It was an amazing, wonderful, sensory overdrive day. It wasn’t particularly alcohol fuelled, as I wanted to watch cricket, not drink beer. We saved the main session for the following night. To top off day 1, Sir Peter’s school mate drove up to Helensvale, we had a beer with him round the corner from our apartment, he had a lovely conversation on the phone with Sir Peter’s father, and from that day on Peter is always prefixed in my company as “Sir” and I was always “Lord”. I’ll tell that story another day.

We weren’t there for the end of the match, which will probably have me strung up on some charge of disloyalty, as we went down to Sir Peter’s mate’s place just off the Gold Coast and had a lovely time. I don’t think anything quite tops seeing a test match abroad for the first time, and although I’ve never been back to the Gabba, I’ll always look on it fondly.

It certainly won’t be for being present at a test when someone made a ton in each innings. I was never a fan of Matthew Hayden!

More Ashes memories as and when, but feel free to add your own of Brisbane if you have any. I’m thinking of Day One at Lord’s 2005 for the next one, but you never know. It’s these experiences that make me love the game and write about it, and importantly feel passionate and, yes, angry about it. How can something you care about so much, bring you to this level of anger. I think we all know why.

Have a great evening.