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.
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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
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 …
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”.
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:
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.
“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.