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.