The Story of Adelaide 2006 – Day 2

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The Theatre Of Shattered Hope

Day 2

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

Then there was Malcolm Conn.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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How We Started After A “Boring” First Day

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

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The Applause

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Yeah Baby!

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

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

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

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Beautiful

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

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

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

118.3

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

118.4

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

118.5

Warne to Pietersen, no run

118.6

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

And Warne round the wicket … yawn

120.3

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

120.4

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

120.5

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

120.6

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Big Shot

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

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

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

Then, a few minutes later, it was over:

145.5

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

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

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Standing O
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Applause from the Australians

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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Scoreboard was wrong – it was 551

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

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

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

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

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As I look back, writing this, I can’t help but think that this was one of the best days I’d seen England play. Indeed, the words of Conn, that set the agenda of my day, had to be rammed down my throat (I don’t recall him being particular praising of England in the following days report, but then maybe I didn’t care). I had a brilliant day at a test match, saw two magnificent innings, and seen the Aussies down (but sadly not out). This was the high water mark. You know what happens next. What you don’t know is how the game just amplified what would happen to me. An event, almost trivial, but at just the wrong time, with me in just the wrong frame of mind, that it nigh on broke me apart. But that’s for later.
Thank you for the nice words about Day 1. I will try to keep up with the pace of this, but it’s taken me nearly three hours to write this, and so you may see me slip. If I do, I have pieces to fill the void… and lord knows how long it will take for Day 5 to be done justice. I’ve started Day 4 already, so that should be fine! Keep comments coming, and give me your thoughts on this test.
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The Story of Adelaide 2006 – Day 1

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Day 1

This will be an abridged version of the full one I will write in due course. But let’s go through what I remember of it and how the day panned out. It might be abridged but it isn’t far short of 4000 words. I hope the intro goes up before this, which is deeply personal and probably not what the blog is used to, but if not, never mind. So, take it away…. (UPDATE – It isn’t. When I’ve completed this, I’ll stick it on The Extra Bits, and possibly as a separate page above).

So let’s start the story….

After my Adelaide mate, who had my tickets, and who I would be spending the day with decided that a little wind up would be in order that morning, and told promptly by myself to eff off, all four of the merry men headed down to the tram stop in Glenelg. Shock number 1. The old trams had been replaced by something akin to the Croydon tramlink. That was disappointing, but I suppose modern functional operational stuff trumps nostalgia. The tram pulled up at the stop I remembered and we commenced the walk through the centre of Adelaide’s business district and across the bridge over the Torrens. We were very early as I’d been advised by Adelaide Exile that although we had membership passes, securing a useful seat would be first come, first served. So a full hour and a half before play I met with Matt, while the other three took their places on the grass banks in front of the scoreboard.

Matt was right about the seats. All those anywhere near central to the wicket were taken, with bags, stickers, papers stuck on them. As you will tell from the photographs, we were miles away and quite high up in the old members stand, and with a bloody great post in the way. This wasn’t the luxury I expected for seriously paying guests. Once we’d plonked the stuff down on the seats we would take, we headed back outside the ground for some breakfast, while the other lads got comfortable. After an hour or so, and just after we’d heard we’d won the toss while standing on the “hill” with the three lads (and a great big cheer rang out), we re-entered the member’s stand and hoped (and prayed) that we’d see a great day’s batting from England.

So what was I thinking about the test match? I will confess now that even at this point, I feared 5-0. This was because (a) I’m naturally pessimistic and (b) Australia do not draw test matches. There would always be a result, it seemed. Thirdly, the only way England could win the tests was to bowl Australia out cheaply, and the first test had shown little signs of that. On a more positive note, after an awful start at Brisbane, England’s batsmen had seemed to play themselves more into the game. I recall, as the previous piece mentioned, getting off the plane at Singapore and receiving a text telling me we hadn’t lost on Day 4! In fact, KP was still there in the 90s and Collingwood had also made a 90-odd. So we had two men who had got something going. Pietersen still had that aura about him, that made him a feared foe in the eyes of the home team.

So to me, aim number one was not to lose. I’m not writing this in hindsight, it was how I felt. The one thing England could not do was to go 2-0 down. Stop the bleeding, hold the fort, stem the tide, any other bloody cliche you could come up with. Also, while great store was put on the team batting first having the advantage, with the perception that Day 5 was for the spinners, and listening to every media pundit saying it, I thought back to the test a couple of years before where Australia racked up 500+ and lost, getting caught out in their second innings, not really knowing whether to stick or twist.

We also lived in an era with a stubborn old sod running the team. The clamour, after Brisbane, was for Monty Panesar to play, but it was clear as day that Duncan Fletcher didn’t want to play him, and so Ashley Giles kept his place. There were also calls for Chris Read to play instead of Geraint Jones, who had seen his batting go a little south, but I doubt that one was seriously considered.

England have named an unchanged XI for the Adelaide Test, a decision described by the BBC’s Jonathan Agnew as “disappointing but not astounding”. Australia are giving a late fitness test to Glenn McGrath – he bowled three overs in the nets about an hour ago – but the word from those in the know is that he’s in. – Cricinfo

England lined up with Strauss, Cook, Bell, Collingwood, Pietersen, Flintoff, Jones, Giles, Hoggard, Harmison and Anderson. Australia were unchanged with Hayden, Langer, Ponting, Martyn, Hussey, Clarke, Gilchrist, Warne, Lee, Clark and McGrath. The umpires were “Homer” Rudi Koertzen and “Slowhand” Steve Bucknor. The weather was glorious, the forecast for the entire test was excellent, and so to the game.

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They Weren’t There The Last Time I Was There, And They Ain’t There Now….

Strauss and Cook went out to open, amidst a packed house, and with palpable tension. England needed to post a score, and both of these players had not had a bad run in the test team since their debuts. Strauss, in particular, had given off distress signals in the first test, and there was still a question mark about Cook with the pace and pressure beyond anything he’d faced thus far (with all due respect to the Pakistan team that visited in 2006). The other question mark bugging me was how would my bloody camera cope with being in the shade, and miles from the damn action!

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OK at a distance, but the zoom might be tricky.

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The opening pace of play could best be described as sedate, except the tension was ratcheted up so high for England fans that sedate isn’t probably the best word. The first over was a maiden. The second over had a single from Cook. The third over had one run each for the openers. Steady, a little playing and missing, some tight bowling, but England keeping their heads. Six overs in it was 9 for no loss. The first boundary coming from Cook in the seventh over, with an edge through the 4th slip area (commentators since, most notably Nasser, keep saying gully and wide slips got a lot more than the narrower slips – 2010 may have been an exception with the new ball). The second boundary came in the 10th over with a back foot shot from Cook. At drinks, after 14 overs, England fans could partially exhale. England hadn’t lost a wicket, had 32 on the board, and despite a little bit of issue with Stuart Clark, had looked solid.

The relief lasted three balls.

Clark to Strauss, OUT, oh dear, shocking shot. Strauss expects one on off stump, instead it pitches on middle-and-leg and he tries to steer it into the leg-side but mistimes it completely and it carries to Martyn at short midwicket – and that’s Clark’s 29th wicket in just seven Tests. Yet again Strauss is dismissed on the leg-side

It was right in my eye-line if a bloody long way away. Strauss tried to tuck the ball off his legs through midwicket, a shot that had got him a ton of runs in his early test career, but got through slightly early, got ahead of the ball and it chipped to Damien Martyn at a wider mid-on. The video suggests that the cricinfo scribe thought Martyn was a lot closer than he was.

32 for 1. Not so good. Out came Ian Bell, who always gave the impression to me he was a bit flaky, and yet he’d been the man to stand up in the first dig at the Gabba. It took him two balls to tuck a lovely shot through the leg side to get him off the mark with a couple. Stuart Clark was looking threatening all the time, bowling at a decent nip, with accuracy and no little skill. Cook, in particular was finding it tough to make any headway. In the 21st over, Clark got his man:

Clark to Cook, OUT, gone. Cook flashes an off-drive at that one which nips across the left-hander’s off stump and gets a thick outside edge. A classic set-up: Clark had been working towards that one for a while. Click here for a picture

This looked ominous. 45 for 2 was a poor start on this wicket, and we’d looked not to impose our will on the game, but rather crease occupation. The play had been a little soporific if truth be told. I’d sat there wondering how we’d break this impasse, and I have to say I had little faith in Paul Collingwood being the man to do it. Sure, he was a redoubtable, gritty cricketer (before the Brigadier Block stuff – more of that later) but you thought he was the sort of England cricketer Australia have for breakfast. He might do something half decent, but he’d never be a game changer. Would he?

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Collingwood, first ball, away for two runs. Nice start. Clipped through midwicket. Shane Warne had come on just before the second wicket and had looked dangerous. The thing with Warne is he always looked dangerous. I don’t believe there has been a psychologically more frightening bowler for England spectators, let alone batsmen. What you have with Warne is the fear that any ball might take a wicket. He’d fizzed a couple past Bell early in the piece. But the remainder of that session was all about the survival game. England managed to do it, but not with any great security. 28 overs gone, 58 for 2.

I really don’t recall a lot of the lunch break other than going to the floodlight pylon on the scoreboard end of the ground, wondering if the two guys I met under there four years ago would return. They didn’t. Maybe they hadn’t signed up for the Australian Cricket Family. More of those two in the fuller version if I ever write it.

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Blocking For England

The afternoon session was, in many ways, the same as the first except for the fact we didn’t lose any wickets. But it was two hours of incredibly attritional cricket. The first boundary came five overs into the afternoon. Ian Bell got into double figures with his 62nd ball of his innings. 100 came up in the 43rd over, with Collingwood slightly more fluent than Ian Bell. But the wickets weren’t falling. I could pretend I have a lot of memories from this session, but I don’t. I know we’d moved from the high up spot in the gods to nab two seats nearer the front, and that the play was tense, but the chuntering about our run rate was quite noticeable among our Aussie colleagues. In fact, many of them were so turned off by it, they’d gone to the gardens behind the main stand for food and refreshment!

Tea came with England on 144 for 2 after 59 overs. The runs flowed more fluently in the second hour as the two England batsmen had their own private race, if that wasn’t too strong a word, to 50, Collingwood got there in the over before tea, and was immediately followed the ball after by Ian Bell. After their dilatory start, they had, at least, got the scoreboard ticking a little.

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A Lovely Ground, A Fighting Batsman

Tea saw some obstacle race between and England fan and an Aussie on the field of play, but then that took on added significance with the events of the following day.

Out on the field for the evening session, the game was very much in the balance. England would be pleased to have stuck on 99 runs for no loss since the dismissal of Cook, but under no circumstances had England come close to dominating. I thought back to Day 1 four years ago, where Michael Vaughan transcended everything and played a different game to anyone else. Hussain, at the other end, had been very one paced, but very determined. This time out, it was hard graft. Bell had taken 140 balls to get to 50, Collingwood 114.

Six runs came off the first two overs after tea, but then what followed was pure Ian Bell. The start of the 62nd over by Lee, and saw Bell hit a full toss for four off the first ball, hit the next one for four too, and off the fourth ball of the over he went to pull a short one, and Bell just smashed it up in the air. Brett Lee took the catch off his own bowling, and did so despite Langer trying to get in on it.

Lee to Bell, OUT, the bouncer does the trick. Lee bangs it in hard and it’s on to Bell too quickly, who shapes to hook but merely sends the ball directly up in the air. ‘Miiine’ calls Lee, as he nearly collides with Langer, but there was nobody getting in his way as he grabs on easily. Lee’s face said it all at he ran into bowl that one, and Bell’s face tells a story, too, for his moment of impetuosity

Now I am going to confess here, if you didn’t already know. I was not an Ian Bell fan. I’d seen his debut at The Oval and thought “wow, a talent. A real talent”. But all I saw afterwards was flattering to deceive. Great shots, stupid dismissals. Hard work, chucked away. The sort of bloke who if he went back to county cricket, would dominate easily. Maybe a Ramps for the easier generation. This was pure Bell.

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Brett Lee, Satisfied….

The position was precarious, at 158 for 3, as in came Kevin Pietersen. There was absolutely no question I would be missing any of this. By now KP had become the main man for me, even if part of it was a parody, a wind-up. The ooohs and aaahs as he played were a joke with my mates. It was because he was so un-English in his approach that I liked him. None of this stodgy old fear, but a mission to attack. Ian Botham had it when he played for us, and that’s what I liked about him. KP harked back to that sort of thing.

Like his second ball. After a solid defensive shot to his first, Lee dug a ball in short for KP’s second ball. Pietersen stood tall and dismissed it through mid-wicket for 4. It was bowled at a mere 93 mph! In one shot you realised we had a different player playing a different game. He continued fluently, taking a boundary off one of the first balls he faced off McGrath, all with that front foot game and confident shot making. Collingwood played his own game, at his own pace, but just kept the score ticking over. Not flashy, as we know, but something to truly admire at the time. I have to say I was waiting for it to end, but he was also a remarkably difficult batsman to get shot of when he got in. A nudge there, a slap there, a nurdle there, a clip here. I don’t think his batting can be put into poetry, or some florid prose that gets awards, Collingwood was an English batsman adapting to Aussie conditions on the fly and doing very very well. If we had money on who would be struggling, we’d have put it on him.

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Pietersen, meanwhile, was looking very fluent. It was as if his reaction to a precarious position was to take the front foot and look to take control. It wasn’t reckless, but it was pure skill. He wasn’t going to let Warne dominate, and with the score in the 180s, he belted the legspinner over long off, dancing down the pitch in so doing. We simply weren’t used to England batsmen having the guts to do this. This just did not happen. This man was different. He may have lived dangerously at times, but among all England batsmen he had the best gameplan to their most lethal weapon.

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A More Circumspect Kevin Pietersen

Drinks came at 205 for 3 – Collingwood on 73, with just four boundaries, and KP on 26 off 29 balls. Thoughts now were that in the 18 overs remaining, could Collingwood get to 100? However, it was Pietersen taking to Warne that had me smiling. Rocking back to smash him through the covers, then smacking one finer the following ball (of course I’m using cricinfo to prompt me), and now the thought was how long would it take for him to get 50. Of course, the 230 in a day pace was being accelerated, but as a true pessimist, I just wanted the day over with three down and no risks!

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Pietersen wasn’t slowing down, and had the Aussies calling him “the ego” according to cricinfo. The final hour saw England dominate proceedings as the heat of the day took its toll and the wicket was well and truly flat. The second new ball produced no reward, and to some consternation wasn’t taken as soon as possible. Michael Clarke got a bowl, and looked quite promising, but he was also the bowler when KP brought up his 50, off 66 balls. I was mildly content. But the thing that worried me always watching him was the potential to let that ego get slightly out of control, but thus far, he’d seemed relatively under control. You might say that the 50 was inevitable. From the outside you might say the hundred looked it too.

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50 Up

The new ball was taken four overs after it was due, and like any England fan I was working out whether Collingwood had enough time that night to get to three figures, while hoping the day would end there and then. I took a picture at nearly 6pm with the score 257 for 3, and Collingwood on 91. Colly got stuck there because KP was increasingly dominating the strike. In the third to last over Collingwood smashed a four off a no ball to move to 95. This was on the edge stuff now. We’d seen Collingwood get out in Pakistan being overly aggressive in the 90s. Could he rein himself in? Or should he go for it? I was getting worried. It’s not as if he had a calming influence at the other end to keep his head straight! No concern, as he took a single later in the over. Now a boundary away with two overs left.

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KP on the Drive – Day 1

Wily Stuart Clark bowled the penultimate over, and played the tempting game, hanging it just outside off stump and shaping the ball away as much as possible. Collingwood resisted temptation. We all wanted him to. Clark had been the best seamer all day and the best at the Gabba (what I’d seen of it). With the penultimate ball of the over, Colly secured a couple to move to 98, but he did not have the strike for the last over after a defensive shot off the last ball. Now this put his fate into KP’s hands…. would he try to give him a single to let him try for the ton?

Collingwood attacks!
Collingwood attacks!

The last over was purgatory, and one ball is seared in my memory, and pretty much anyone there. KP had tried, with little effect and a little risk, to try to get Collingwood the strike, but it wasn’t happening. The second to last ball from Brett Lee was a little short, KP went for the shot, didn’t get to it. hit it straight up in the air…

“You fucking idiot…..” I said, watching the ball soar in the air having got the shot in question on camera. Fear, loathing, despair…. but then you will the ball away from fielders, looking in forlorn hope that this would not go to an Aussie hand. Wait…it might not. This isn’t a dolly….It’s a knackered McGrath after hit. Hit the ground, HIT THE FUCKING GROUND.

And it did. And I still called him a fucking idiot. After a puff of my inhaler.

You "Bleep Bleep" Idiot...
You “Bleep Bleep” Idiot…

One run was taken and Collingwood was on strike for the last ball. Would he be our Steve Waugh / Sydney moment. The answer was no. A fall ball was blocked out, and England finished the day on 266 for 3.

The reaction as the England players walked off was one of great relief, a little pride and not so pessimistic. We are in this series. We had our luck today but we rode it and we are three wickets down on a good wicket, with four days to go, two players set – Collingwood two from a ton, KP on 60 and hopefully threatening a lot more – and for the first time I could recall, we could hang 400 on the Australians in the first innings of a match in their backyard.

I would be remiss not to mention my companion for the day, and indeed, the rest of the test. Matt was a Millwall fan who I “met” via a message board and who set me up with my tickets. A top bloke he had moved to Australia to be with his Missus, and when divorced, stayed there to be with his kids, although he’d love to come home to Tunbridge Wells. He spent the day rebuffing every Aussie jibe at him, me wondering how he didn’t get his head stoved in in doing so, but knowledgeable about the game and patient with my stupidities. Like my co-writer Chris, he’s a bloody wicket-keeper. Must be something about me attracting these loons (our club keeper was on this tour as well).

We ended up in a hotel bar, might have been the Regency, and had a couple of beers before retiring to the bar in Glenelg, where we engineered a reunion between a former club man of ours and our keeper, who hadn’t seen each other in a good few years (we’d met Mark four years ago – we being me and Sir Peter, who you’ll become familiar with). It had been a lovely day, a successful one for England, and yet we’d had a similar day four years before. But on that day our dominant performer lost his wicket with the last ball. Today, our dominant player had got away with it. With KP, it just felt different.

Day 2 to follow. I hope you enjoyed this piece. I will try to keep up as the days go by, but it’s a massive task, and it is testing my memory! A true labour of love.