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Adelaide Test Experience - 2nd Ashes Test 2002

25/11/02

By Jon Cocks in Adelaide

The first morning of the Second Ashes Test in Adelaide dawned fair and sunny as expected and England stood tall in a day dominated by Michael Vaughan of Yorkshire, who credits much of his development as a batsman to his current County skipper, one Darren “Boof” Lehmann, of South Australia. Boof has encouraged him to back himself and go for his shots and that is precisely how he repaid that faith on Day One, a half a world away, at the world’s most beautiful cricket ground.

Your correspondent broke normal form and actually arrived an hour early at the Adelaide Oval - that priceless piece of real estate below the statue of Colonel William Light. The visionary Survey-General’s foresight in 1836 - mapping out the compact city of Adelaide well away from the mangroves of the Port - ensured that the flats immediately north of the River Torrens would be identified as an ideal location for the sporting endeavours of the free settlers. Even the good Colonel might have been bemused at the colour and spectacle that was the assembled faithful below Montefiore Hill, buzzing with expectation of that annual event, the Adelaide Test Match.

The nets behind the Mostyn Evan Stand crawled with activity. Crowds six deep observed with bated breath the steely concentration of Ricky Ponting as he worked the pull shot, that most productive of strokes, given Adelaide’s short square boundaries. He would profit greatly from in his masterly 154 on Days Two and Three but also get out to it in the end. Coach Buchanan jogged in and chucked short, as Punter rocked back again and again, pulling and hooking into the net next to him. On the far side, Justin Langer relentlessly feasted on the bowling of a half a dozen Academy bowlers, all of whom tore in and bowled flat out.

The Toss

A quick perusal of the giant marquee out the back, which occupies nearly half of Adelaide Number Two ground, showed that the same Asian and seafood lunches would be available this year, all at the predictable 20% price rises. When you have an oligopoly, why wouldn’t you? One café latte later, I made my way to my preferred location by the Players’ Gate, in time for the toss, which was won by Nasser Hussain. A huge cheer erupted from the assembled Barmy Army host, from their position under the heritage-listed scoreboard, when Nasser got it right for a change, and elected to bat. The national anthems followed, as two junior cricketers had their moment in the spotlight, holding the Union Jack and the Southern Cross high.

I was able to wish both local Adelaide heroes Dizzy and Boof good luck as they came off the ground after the pre-match warmup. Steve Waugh returned to the George Giffen stand, resplendent in his blazer and ‘rejuvenated’ Baggygreen’ cap, which was featured on the front page of today’s local Murdoch tabloid.

 ‘The cap looks good, Steve,’ I shouted in passing and the Australian captain favoured me with a slightly ironic grin.

Shortly after, the team returned to take the field, looking bouyant. As Warney stepped onto the manicured turf, he shouted: ‘Come on!’ in Lleyton Hewett style. The lads bounded out to the centre, body language somewhere between ‘business-like’ and ‘primed for destruction’. Messres Trescothick and Vaughan followed, to warm Adelaide applause, but with quacking noises from the ebullient young men on the fence in front of me, who were already into their fourth round of beers.

Barmy Army Strike First

McGrath bowled a tidy first over – a maiden - and Gillespie began beautifully, drawing an edge from Trescothick. The Barmy Army launched into a musical taunt that they get three dollars to the (English) pound as Pigeon had Vaughan playing and missing. Dizzy’s second over was all in the low to mid 140s and the Poms were struggling to lay bat on ball. For a couple of overs, Vaughan would not be drawn into a shot, as Pigeon’s off stump line was too good. The Yorkshireman passed the early test.

Gillespie was pitching up in the main, dropping short only occasionally, but Trescothick slashed at the man who is becoming his Tormentor-in-general, slicing him over the slips for four. McGrath drew another false stroke from Vaughan at 0-28, but the bat just caressed fresh air. After 35 minutes there were still four slips and two gullies with Darren Lehmann out in familiar territory at mid on and Bichel at mid off, the only men in front of the wicket.

The first bowling change occurred shortly after, when Bichel took over from McGrath at the Cathedral End, only to have Michael Vaughan pull his fourth ball into the garden seats just fifteen metres from where your correspondent had placed himself for the crowd catch. The idiot in the unbecoming South Sea island shirt spilled the straightforward chance at immortality and the England opener’s confidence swelled almost visibly.

Shortly afterwards, Vaughan got a thick outside edge on a ball from Bichel, which appeared to me to travel on the full to a diving Langer in cover. The boys engulfed him joyously, only to see the batsman stand his ground and Umpire Koertzen consult with Steve Davis upstairs, who took a couple of minutes to conclude that the ball may have brushed the turf as Langer was getting his hands around it. It appeared a little fortunate to me, but little strokes of luck like that can have enormous impacts on Test matches and the careers of individuals.

Gillespie was the next unlucky Australian, as Trescothick slashed him to the right of Hayden at third slip, who grassed the difficult chance. After Dizzy’s seventh over, McGrath replaced him at the River End, drawing an attacking slash from Vaughan. The England batsmen were seeking to attack, any early life from the wicket that hinted at a bit of green having melted into the benevolent South Australian sunshine. At the first drinks break of the Test, England sat on a promising 0-47.

What a Catch!

Just after the break Bichel had Trescothick with a ‘one hand one bounce’ return catch. Unfortunately, backyard cricket rules can’t apply in Tests, but the adjudication of Davis was nevertheless sought. Shortly after, Vaughan celebrated this by hooking Bichel into the members, near the tractor, with the man at deep (members’) backward square taking an excellent catch.

At 0-63, Vaughan went after Warne in his first over, smacking him for two fours, racing to his fifty shortly after, with a nice late cut to the boundary near your correspondent. Pigeon broke through not long after, inducing the cut shot from Trescothick, only for the Banger from Somerset to drag it onto his stumps. As he made his unhappy way through the Players’ Gate, one of the lads in front suggested very firmly to him that – in Adelaide – if you get to 35, you should be able to move on to a hundred. Tresco gave him a sideways glance of baleful intensity that was beautiful to see.

Surprisingly, Robert Key emerged at Number Three, although later we learnt that Butcher was struggling with a migraine headache. Key was immediately surrounded by Lehmann at short leg, Ponting at silly point, Martyn at slip and Hayden at a leg gully. Key turned one around the corner for one, but Warne had an LBW shout against him shortly after, Key playing back on his stumps, only the height of the ball saving him.

After 27 overs England had reached 1-94 with Vaughan on 56. Immediately after lunch, there was an LBW shout against Key from Warne and in the next over, Warne leapt into the air and almost pulled in a glorious slips catch from the bowling of the unlucky Gillespie. Vaughan slashed at him and it flicked frustratingly from Warne’s grasping right hand to the fence.

Goodbye Mr Key

Shortly afterwards, at 1-106, Key tried to force Warne through cover, but Ponting at silly point juggled a very sharp chance, but hooked it in as he crashed to the turf. Once again, Steve Davis had to look at the video, but this time it was ‘Goodbye, Robert Key’. Ironically, a single run was the end result of all the endless rhetoric during the buildup to the match, in which the comparative merits of Key and Crawley were agonised over, until Creepy’s hip injury rendered all further discourse irrelevant. Our friends in front felt strongly enough about it to point out to Key on his exit through the Players’ Gate that his one run represented something less than a successful visit to the middle of the Adelaide Oval. Key’s evil eye on them was chilling to behold.

Vaughan had a huge dash at Dizzy off the back foot shortly after, spooned it, and Steve Waugh, sprinting in from cover, couldn’t quite get there. Dizzy was bowling superbly, with no luck at all, showing all the form and substance that earnt him the Wisden nomination as one of the five most influential cricketers of the year.

Hussain chanced the luck of the English to get off the mark with a short single, with Bichel’s throw at the stumps narrowly missing. Hussain began essaying the sweep shot against the leg spinner, the intention clearly being not to be intimidated, during the terse examination to which the England captain was subjected by Warne from the Cathedral End and Gillespie from the River End. Hussain broke the shackles with an audacious boundary from Warne, but Vaughan could have been run out a few balls later, had Steve Waugh’s throw from cover not missed the stumps at the bowler’s end by a centimetre.

At 2-133 there was a palpable sense that England was gaining the upper hand at the halfway mark. The wicket had settled into one that would be ideal for batsmen and England had ridden her luck to very real scoreboard effect, with Vaughan – on 76 - making Australia pay for not grasping those half-chances. Warne continued to toss up to Hussain, in particular, the wicket only affording him limited, slow-ish turn.

No Comment From Lee

Meanwhile, our brash young friends in front extended their alienation of international cricketers into the Australian camp. Brett Lee sat next to the one nearest the Players’ Gate, waiting to run on at the end of the over with a message, and our ingenuous thrillseeker essayed the following masterpiece of discretion:

 ‘So, Bing – do you beat the women off with a stump or a cricket bat?’

Bing managed to evade the probing inquiry into his sex life by the fortunately timed end of the over, so we never learned the answer to this life-or-death question. Meanwhile, Vaughan advanced with a four to 99 and with a crunching back foot drive, he raised his century, to substantial acclaim from all parts of the Adelaide Oval.

Shortly after that, Vaughan rode his luck to beat another runout – Steve Waugh’s throw from cover missed again. Jason Gillespie was bowling superbly but without any luck at all as Warne flung himself in the slips to an edge from Hussain but put down the fourth Australian chance to go begging. Amazingly, the Barmy Army remained completely silent. Perhaps they were too stunned for once to comment. Maybe England’s good fortune was too good to be true. Adding insult to injury, Steve Waugh came on to bowl and Hussain fended Steve Waugh away to loop harmlessly near where gully might have been. England went to tea at 2-201.

Lubrication Lends Insight

Your correspondent and his offsider now moved to the Chappell Bar, in order to add the post-tea insights offered by the infusion of beer to the commentary. This was an important move, as scientific research has shown that beer adds to one’s intelligence. Because alcohol apparently destroys brain cells it would seem otherwise, but you must note that nature pre-ordains a survival of the strongest. Therefore, only the weakest brain cells are destroyed, leaving just the strongest to survive, breed and multiply, creating a stronger brain-cell pool. Therefore, the beer drinker grows more intelligent with every pint.

After three rounds and 25 further runs, your correspondents became far more intelligent, observing that Gillespie got one to lift sharply and strike Vaughan viciously on the point of his shoulder. Warne, meanwhile, was beating both Vaughan and Hussain with flight and guile, not getting his accustomed amount of turn on this first day belter, but Warne had the last laugh, as Hussain stepped back and slashed, bottom-edging him to Gilchrist for a sharp catch at the wicket.

The boys from Gawler in front of us felt it necessary – at this point – to explain their ‘Chappell Bar’ caps – apparently it involves an invocation of Santa’s Magic Cave (a South Australian iconic locality, where young Croweaters ritually tell the Big Guy in Red what they want for Christmas) that necessitates the wearer to drink vast quantities of beer with certain penalties applying to anyone not maintaining an appropriate drinks rate. It is a ritual with which your correspondent hastened to express solidarity.

Shortly afterwards, Warne dropped a very difficult caught and bowled opportunity from Vaughan yet again. The Chappell Bar think-tank noted that Steve Waugh did not have fielders square on the short Adelaide fences, much to the profit of Vaughan in particular, who today has played probably his most significant Test innings. The square boundaries at Adelaide Oval remained undefended, as the super-intelligent Chappell Bar think-tank grew increasingly critical of Steve Waugh’s apparent intransigence in this important matter.

Luckily, Andy Bichel did the business with the third ball of the ninetieth over, having come back for a last effort, Gilchrist accepting the chance from a tired Michael Vaughan, whose persistent, brave 177 bestrode day One of the Adelaide Ashes Test like a colossus. England went in at 4-295, clear winners on the day, but Australia would have the incentive and the night’s rest to turn it around on the second morning. Warne finished with 2 -83 to take the bowling honours, although Gillespie was very unlucky, with two chances going down.

Aussies Regroup

Your correspondent found position near the Players’ gate once again at the start of Day Two, on another superb Spring day in Adelaide, that saw the Australian team regroup, hit back hard and reassume the upper hand over the doughty Englishmen. Taking 6-47 in the morning session and going to lunch ten minutes early, Australia showed which team was the World Champion. Advancing to 2-247 by stumps, confirmation was undeniably etched (in red ink, in the form of Ponting 83* and Martyn 48*), albeit with Harmison and White battling hard for England with precious little reward.

The first twelve minutes of the day were ones of breathless anticipation as Bichel bowled full and straight, but Gillespie applied pressure that only pace bowlers of the highest quality can produce. Consistently timed in the mid 140s, Dizzy maintained an outstanding line just outside off, combined with a perfect length that not only denied back foot square attacking strokeplay, but also ruled out coming onto the front foot to drive down the ground. Minutes ticked by and the pressure built and an air of inevitability grew; we knew something would give shortly and it was not to be Dizzy’s erstwhile troublesome calf muscle.

In his second over, Gillespie drew Butcher into the probing shot outside off and the Headingley hero obliged, feathering it through to Gilchrist, who engulfed and devoured the chance. England had lost 1-0 and an air of quiet confidence pervaded the Members’ enclosure. Craig White made his way to the middle, his hunched, tight body language spookily akin to that of an ancient Christian martyr, on his way to an appointment with routinely starved and brutalised lions.

White Takes Bait

Gillespie struck White on the pad first up, then retreated to fine leg, before the lads on the scoreboard hill, who cheered him lustily. Stewart raised the England 300, turning Bichel for two, and announced his attacking intentions, by seeking to work Bichel into the gaps square on the leg side and to drive him straight, running the first hard to ensure at least two runs, so that he might retain the strike. Dizzy showed Umpire Bucknor the ball, careful not to incur a ball-tampering penalty. An air of relentless efficiency pervaded Australian body language, while England’s ‘Gaffer’ showed telltale nervous energy in his quick, agitated mannerisms at the crease.

Gillespie piled on the pressure in another superb over, with an LBW shout against White that was a little high, followed by a ball that beat White pointless outside off and another LBW shout that was also high. The trap was set. Two balls just outside off followed, which White left, but the last ball was short, with Bichel in position at backward square leg. White took the bait, hooked – not in control of the shot – and Bichel swallowed the straightforward chance, England slumping to 6-308. Dizzy was on fire and England was meekly in the act of surrendering the advantage they had fought so hard to build for the bulk of Day One. The cheer that greeted Dizzy at fine leg was monumental this time.

McGrath replaced Bichel at the River End, with Stewart on 10*, in danger of running out of partners. At this point ‘the panel’ predicted that England would be bowled out for 340 or less. Stewart lashed at McGrath outside off and the shot to third man realised two. Driving aggressively, Stewart sought the cover boundary on the Members’ side, but excellent fielding from Darren Lehmann cut off the boundary and restricted the Gaffer to two runs.

Dawson had to face the music from Dizzy, but managed a two and resisted  stoutly. Warne came on from the Cathedral End and dropped onto a length at once, with the vultures lurking – Ponting at silly point, Lehmann at short leg, Hayden at gully and Martyn at leg slip. Dawson lapped Warne around the corner and the ‘panel’ noted the absence of a key member, charging him in his absence with having to make more of an effort into making the most of a potential lack of work ethic. A panel member’s continued presence at the office and not at the cricket was frowned upon deeply.

New/Old Delivery Claims Dawson

At drinks England had reached 6-321. Warne bowled an over of well-flighted leg breaks, clearly enticing the ‘big’ shot from the Yorkie off-spinner. At 12:06, the panel predicted that Dawson ‘would be gone soon’. Warne immediately bowled a ‘pearler’ that drew the forward defensive shot and beat everything. Meanwhile, Stewart had moved to 20, hustling hard on the first run, knowing that the tail could not score that many against the potent Aussie bowling attack. Dawson essayed the sweep several times, but Warne set him up with the ‘slider’, striking him on the back pad and trapping him plumb in front.

Caddick came and went fairly quickly, with Warne setting him up with a couple of quicker, flatter balls, before bowling him around his legs. Hoggard was surrounded at once by the vultures, but survived the rest of the over, albeit exposed as a furry, long-eared rodent. Meanwhile, Stewart played a bizarre half-pull, half-hook from a short one from McGrath that he had withdrawn his head from and swatted to the eastern square boundary, practically the last score for the England first innings.

342 All Out

Gillespie resumed from the River End for a quick final fling before lunch and  required just the one over to wrap England up, trapping Stewart plumb in front for 29 and having Harmison caught by Gilchrist nibbling at a perfectly pitched one just outside off. England had slumped to 342 all out – just two above the panel prediction and Australia went to lunch bouyantly, as did the panel, down into the air-conditioned comfort of the Bradman Dining room. Gillespie finished with 4-79 and Warne with 4-93, grist for the mill of the annual think-tank/luncheon, an event which – this year – went even further than usual to solving the ills of the world in five hours of concerted eating, drinking and philosophising.

Fine Dining in Adelaide

The Australian innings began as the panel feasted on fine South Australian seafood, washed down with chilled Pike’s Riesling, a flinty but crisp Clare Valley offering from this year’s vintage. Langer hit two fours in quick succession and your correspondent accused the panel of making too much sense. At once, all members resolved to drink more heavily, as the Aussie openers looked in no trouble whatsoever, Hayden carving Hoggard into the members’ fence.

The panel tucked into more South Australian oysters, comfortable that this ‘brain food’ would combine excellently with the fine wines that eliminated ‘stupid’ brain cells, to create a more intelligent think tank by later in the afternoon. In the blink of an eye (ten overs), the Aussie left-handers had raced to 0-48. Matters at the coalface of intelligent cricket/life discourse had advanced to the point where one panel declaimed in all ‘seriousness’: ‘I am an accountant; trust me.’

Look at That!

After thirteen overs, the runrate increased as Hayden and Langer hurried Australia into the seventies. “Matt the Bat” Hayden, whipped Harmison over the fence into the crowd for a six, a harbinger of more damage to follow. The panel quickly noted as well the raised arms and - more to the ‘point’ – the raised nipples of the beautiful young lady, who celebrated the six at the next table. England body language sagged in counterpoint.

The first Australian wicket fell, when Hayden, on 46, lofted White down the ground to be caught by Caddick at mid off, a big leading edge. Langer crashed Dawson for a couple of fours, but controversy struck shortly after, as Langer (48) was adjudged out caught behind to Dawson, when it looked very much like he didn’t touch the well-pitched delivery. Langer showed no dissent, but it looked very much like there was no inside edge. Australia (2-113) sat on level terms with the Poms. This was the last joy on Day Two for the England team, as Australia went to tea at 2-125 after 27 overs.

Definition of Divorce

The panel, having worked hard to ‘save’ Australia, now turned its attention to the plight of individuals, whose private lives have crumbled under the meat grinders of unrealistic social expectations. Not unsurprisingly, happy-ever-after domesticity is not necessarily the unchallenged outcome of all marriages, particularly those of high profile sporting champions, whose publicity infers an innate infallibility in these matters. Ashes non-combatant Graham Thorpe’s sad story underlines this ineffable truth, as delineated so tellingly by the panel during the tea break, whilst breaching the latest bottle of Kalimna Bin 28 Shiraz. The definition of ‘divorce’ is ‘the surgical removal of a man’s wallet through his genitals’.

Steady progress after tea characterised the Australian counterattack after the quick demise of both openers, as Ponting and Martyn put their heads down and re-established Aussie dominance. Before play began on Day Two, curator Les Burdett asserted that the wicket should play very well for the batsmen. Until tea, this was the case, but tiny cracks had appeared in the surface – a result of the early season wicket’s grass roots not sinking as deeply as they might have otherwise – and Harmison hit one of them, his short delivery going past Ponting through to Stewart at half-stump high.

Ponting and Martyn settled in after tea to appear increasingly comfortable, with the scoring rate accelerating in direct comparison with the perceived comfort of the batsmen. Meanwhile, the waitress returned to the table several times off the short run to ‘see if we were alright’. The panel noted her over-eagerness and it was compared to Dawson’s flighted offerings that tempted the Australian batsmen, without undoing their resolve, as they moved smoothly to 2-170, although Martyn was dropped by Stewart on 18 from the bowling of the honest Dawson.

Ho! Ho! Hic…Ho!

From the sublime to the ridiculous, the panel noted that Father Christmas appeared to be dispensing Christmas Cheer under the heritage-listed scoreboard at the Cathedral End. In addition, it appeared that the Three Wise Men had also made a belated encore appearance amongst the faithful, their crowns and robes standing out amongst the egalitarian hordes, like one’s wife does in a supermarket, when one innocently engages in banter with the well-endowed lady in the checkout queue.

At 2-196, Ponting raised his 50, supported by Martyn on 37, the beneficiary of another dropped chance by Stewart – ‘too old; too slow’ being the panel’s verdict. This time the unlucky bowler was Harmison. The anticipated uneven bounce in the Adelaide wicket – given the unseasonally early start and the resultant lack of below-the-surface grassroots binding – showed a few early signs in the final session on day Two. The Australian batsmen could seek to prosper or fall on Day Three, depending on how well they would negotiate the crucial first session on Saturday, trailing by just 95. It remained to be seen just when the wicket would move on from being an Adelaide belter to being up-and-down.

Can They Do It?

The panel posed the question: did England have the ability to snare the early wickets that might place pressure on Australia? Ponting – completely in control -continued to play a chanceless knock, a new ruthlessness characterising his batting. At this point, a panel wager was made, one member asserting that Ponting would be the next Australian Test captain, while the other maintained that Gilchrist would get the job. At stake is a bottle of South Australian Grange Hermitage, one of the world’s finest red wines, to be handed over at next year’s Bradman Room luncheon, assuming that one or the other man gets the job in the event of Steve Waugh retiring. Stumps were drawn at this point, with Australia strongly placed at 2-247.

A Bag Load of Prawns

The Panel officially left the Bradman Room last – but not for the last time. On its way to the marquees at the rear of the George Giffen Stand, the think-tank encountered Maurice, the Bradman Room head chef, who pointed out that the 6,000-odd SACA  Members love their seafood – in particular, prawns, oysters and calimari - and fine SA wines. Maurice modestly allows that he and his team pay attention to what the Members like and this strategy brings them back each year with ever-increasing bookings.

Maurice’s final word was that the test had to go five days, as he had far too much food otherwise and he needed a full dining room to eat it. Waitress Kate pointed out that the largely Uni student waiting staff wanted it all over in three days, as they were all facing imminent exams. Fickle fate on the cricket field dictated that a four-day compromise would be brokered.

The first session on the third day would be pivotal. Would England find something? Would Australia bat through to lunch, erase the deficit and power to a substantial lead by stumps? The early season pitch might well come into calculations, bringing us back to the Vaughan decision on Day One. Would his letoff become a crucial factor in the final outcome?

The panel – relaxing with sunset cleansing ales out the back - spotted South Australian Steve Davis, the third umpire who adjudicated on the Vaughan decision. Your correspondent assumed his most innocent expression and approached the official, seeking some illumination on this potential match-shaping decision.

We Need the Cash

One panel member – fueled by the cynicism of a five-hour journey into the pleasant blur that is engendered by Clare Valley whites and reds - noted that: ‘clearly, Steve Davis is under SACA instructions to maximise ground revenue, by ensuring the match goes into its fifth day by giving England batsmen who are out ‘not out’…an absolutely transparent revenue-raising exercise.’ Your truth-seeking correspondent made his way through the throng to confront the third umpire and seek clarification, as the panel noted that integrity was ‘one of the most important things money could buy’.

Steve Davis said: ‘The third umpire can only make the decision based on what he sees.’

Your correspondent asked him how many TV angles he saw, suggesting a half a dozen or so. He nodded and said words to the effect that he couldn’t give it out, because he didn’t see complete evidence that it was out. His honest response provides more grist to the mill that TV-replay-based decisions can be significantly flawed, as the angles from which the video adjudicator views the incident can compromise the decision, as they are different to what the players and onfield umpires see. Many older cricket fans lament the bygone days, when the batsman would pose an unspoken question to the fielder and would ‘walk’ if the fielder nodded assent.

We left shortly after, as hundreds of seagulls settled on the ground and the well-lit Saint Peter’s Cathedral loomed in the evening background, a silent sentinel to this latest battle in a hundred years of Ashes cricket at the Adelaide Oval.

Burnt to a Crisp

So often Day Three of a Test is pivotal and this was no exception. The Boys in Baggygreen tightened the screws, choked off resistance and began the series of blows that would bring England to her knees. The mercury rose and Adelaide sweltered, as the temperature in the shade touched the old Fahrenheit century, but this was nothing compared to the blowtorch that Steve Waugh’s men applied to the Old Enemy.

Ricky Ponting, never one to avoid the kitchen when the heat is on, added to his collection of Test tons, Damien Martyn (95) fell just short of doing the same, Adam Gilchrist added to his growing portfolio of cameo half-tons and Andy Bichel (48) almost emulated him. Australia grabbed a 210-run first innings lead and then smashed England’s upper order in a destructive twelve over spell in the lengthening shadows. The only downside was the batting failure of hometown icon, Darren Lehmann.

Just before the start of play, your correspondent arrived at the ground found himself listening to Tony Greig and Ian Healy on the TV outside the Chappell Bar, as they ran a critical eye over Les Burdett’s wicket after two days of play and warm, dry weather. Little cracks had appeared at around a good length near the popping crease of the Cathedral End and similar cracks had opened a little around a leg stump line at the River End. One of them looked to play a small part in the undoing of Redback legend Lehmann, later in the day.

The morning session was all about consolidation and getting to the England total of 342 with no further loss of wickets. Ponting and Martyn began their work in very steady fashion, without too many tricks from the wicket, other one from Harmison’s first over from the River End keeping low outside Ponting’s off stump. Batting in very steady, controlled fashion, they continued their good work from the second afternoon, systematically seeing off the first spells of all the England bowlers. Craig White, the man many would drop was probably the most consistent and persistent of the England seamer quartet.

Caddick Hopes

Ponting moved steadily by singles to 99, with just four boundaries, when Caddick, operating from the River End, managed to get one to nip into him a little and strike his pads. Caddick fell to his knees in supplication as the England fielders screamed desperately for the breakthrough, but the finger of Umpire Koertzen stayed down. Ponting clipped the next ball from his pads to backward square and raised his hundred (191 balls) to the joyous acclaim of the 22,000 strong Adelaide crowd.

At the first drinks break the score had advanced to 2-294 and the English plan was to set straight fields, allowing Ponting very little room to play square of the wicket. However, they were trying to entice Martyn to cut, with a deep point and a gully, but without the deep-set sweeper on the fence, a fairly important fielder, given Adelaide’s short boundaries square. The compromise fields did little to restrict Ponting’s work on the leg side (that he was practising in the nets on the morning of Day One) and Martyn’s prolific cut shot.

Just before drinks, Twelfth Man Brett Lee sat next to your correspondent on the end of the garden seat. The panel was able to point out that we had shared drinks with a friend of his in the January ODI – the lovely blonde Stephanie, she whose face was launched – Pammy Anderson style – on the SCG big screen. Bing laughed and said she was a great girl and she used to go out with his mate and fellow ‘Six and Out’ rock band member Corey Richards. Magnanimously, we proffered the encouraging thought that the young tearaway would soon be back in the Australian XI. This was, of course, before the Andy Bichel heroics after tea.

Blistering Pace From Hoggard

Hoggard, slightly surprisingly, was revealed as having bowled the fastest ball of the match, one a tick over 145 kms, but Gillespie had bowled consistently at that pace and shown himself to be in another class altogether. As lunch approached, the Australian numbers three and four methodically pushed the score nearer to the 342 mark at a runrate of better than 3.5 per over, accelerating gradually as the target grew closer. England held back from taking the new ball until the ninetieth over.

At last England took the shiny red Kookaburra and Hoggard immediately began to swing it quite prodigiously away from the right-handers. The panel noted that the Yorkshireman had conceded something like 160 runs in the tests to that point and had yet to take a wicket. Harmison steamed in from the River End was smashed square for a cracking boundary by Ponting. The lunch break loomed, the Australian total (2-341) was just one short of England’s, and Ponting offered a very difficult chance to slips, which went down as promptly as the Leo Buring Clare Valley Riesling the panel had selected as an accompaniment to our luncheon fish. 0-94 (Ponting 133*, Martyn 83*) on the morning of Day Three compared very favourably to England’s tale of woe (6-47) 24 hours previously.

A Little bit of Bodyline

As the Australian score mounted, the panel noted that the three England frontline bowlers had conceded over 200 runs between them without joy. Shortly afterwards, Martyn gloved a short one to Hussain at leg slip off Harmison and fell for 95, ending an Adelaide Ashes record third wicket partnership of 242 and bringing Steve Waugh to the wicket at 3-356. The Englishmen were pitching a little short on a middle and leg line to the Australian captain – a form of bodyline without Larwood or the ‘leg theory’ cordon.

After Steve had scored a single, Hussain at leg gully dropped the chance that was identical to the one he grabbed in Brisbane and hurt his wrist. Waugh made them pay with a lively 34, but not before Ponting’s magnificent knock continued to flourish with some punishing boundaries square of the wicket on both sides, the first 45 minutes of the middle session realising a lively 48.

No Mercy for Relos

Right on the middle drinks break, Hussain reintroduced the hard-working White, who drew Ponting into a hook shot that went too high. A straightforward catch in front of the Sir Edwin Smith Stand ended a magnificent innings of 154 (nine fours) and brought hometown hero Darren Lehmann to the wicket to tumultuous acclaim – that had to be heard to be believed - and an Ashes confrontation with Yorkshire teammate and brother-in-law Craig White.

History will record that “Boof” managed just five singles, as the Poms had the gully/point trap in place for him. The 400 came up in the 124th over and England continued to rotate their bowlers on and off the field to provide some respite from the heat. Later we learnt that Caddick had to leave because of minor back problems, throwing extra work on the shoulders of White, Dawson, Hoggard and Harmison. The panel suggested a tad unkindly that Caddick (0-95) was going off to get a quick ‘spine’ injection, as there was no opportunity for a full backbone transplant.

The day’s only low point – from a South Australian viewpoint - arrived when Darren Lehmann played his first attacking shot outside off to a ball from White, coming around the wicket. It stayed a fraction low and left him, possibly touching one of those little cracks alluded to at the start of the day. The ball went from the edge low to substitute fieldsman Flintoff at second slip, who juggled it twice but held it. The collective disappointment in the Members’ hung low like the foreboding black clouds coming in from the Southern Ocean that interrupted the hitherto unbroken bright blue.

“Boof” retreated to the Dressing Room, his chance at a fairy-tale day on home soil possibly gone for good, all due to a tiny vagary of pitch, fate and a tightness that hadn’t left him and ironically at the hands of his wife’s brother. After having to wait so long for recognition, it appeared that Lehmann was too restrained and it helped bring about his downfall. Next time, he should just go out there and play his shots from the outset, assuming the continuing favour of the selectors and not forgetting that Martin Love’s 2002-3 average against England stood at 451 to that point.

An “Eary” Site

Gilchrist came in and opened his account with a six - again – off Dawson, but White grabbed his fourth wicket shortly after, having Waugh caught by Butcher. Once again, the Australian middle order fell away somewhat at 6-434. Australia lost 4-99 in the middle session, as England fought hard to stay in the match, which remained delicately poised at tea.

After tea, Warne (25) was caught and bowled by Dawson, a desperate lunge to his right that augured well for future selectorial approval at the youngster’s desperation. Gilchrist, unfazed, pulled the spinner into the fourth row of the Mostyn Evan Stand. Andy Bichel entered the spirit of things with a nice back foot drive for four and the field took on the aspect of a One Day International in the final overs, Stewart cutting a lonely figure all by himself behind the stumps.

At five o’clock, the late order Australian fun (7-515) had continued without sign of abatement, as Gilchrist and Bichel were engaged in a little race as to who could first raise his half-century. Gilchrist won and Bichel (48) played on to Hoggard, trying to maintain the pace, and at last – after a Test and a half - Hoggard had a wicket on tour. Bichel’s sparkling knock, which included eight spanking fours, underlined his progress as a batsman and showed that he could now be considered as a bowling all rounder. Gilchrist hooked a four and the tried to repeat the shot, only to be caught at the wicket off Harmison, with Steve Waugh immediately calling them in. Australia, 9 (dec)-552, held a lead of 210 and England had to face twelve overs.

Mental Torture via a Pigeon

Glenn McGrath came down the race and bowled a few looseners on the boundary in front of the members, a little ploy the panel interpreted as a device to play havoc with the England openers’ already fragile state of mind. Your guru-like correspondent had earlier predicted a late declaration on the third day. England called for the light roller and the stiff bristles of the groundsmens’ brooms raised quite a dust cloud around the bowlers’ footmarks.

The most exciting short session yet of an engrossing test was about to unfold. In 55 minutes, England slumped to 3-36 in their second innings, their chances of any competitiveness in this match melting away in the late afternoon Southern heat. The sun above was fairly remorseless but even more pitiless were Glen McGrath and Jason Gillespie, who trapped Trescothick – rapidly becoming a special favourite of his - in front of his stumps for a duck.

Undaunted, the admirable Michael Vaughan hooked a rare Glenn McGrath no-ball for six. Shortly after, Glenn McGrath snared Mark Butcher for what the ABC’s Keith Stackpole described as the ‘plumbest’ LBW he’d seen. England tottered on 2-17. Further disaster for England was only narrowly averted, when Vaughan played Gillespie off his hip and Lehmann, the only Australian unable to take a trick today, dived to his left from short leg, but could not hold the chance. Dizzy was bowling superbly.

Vaughan moved to 17, fighting hard, Hussain to ten and Shane Warne came on at the Cathedral End for two overs, precisely when your correspondent told the rest of the panel he would. Immediately, the familiar cordon of vultures surrounded the batsman – Ponting at silly point, Lehmann at short leg, Martyn at leg slip and Hayden in the gully. Vaughan sat on the splice, while Warne and Waugh conferred mid-pitch, bringing Langer in to stand next to Ponting at a sort of ‘silly cover’. Hayden and Bichel inched into the slips to complete the half -dozen array of vultures and Warne went back over the wicket, having tried a couple around the wicket, dropping into the ‘rough’.

Vaughan hung on and Waugh gave Andy Bichel the ball for the last over of the day. Could he produce something special, after his lovely cameo 48 with the bat earlier? His first ball pitched on off, moved a little off the seam and narrowly beat Hussain’s outside edge – a great beginning. His second went one better, bowling the England captain neck-and-crop and setting up the kill for Day Four. England went in, hanging on by a thread with only the dauntless Vaughan (17*) standing tall, still needing 174 to make the World Champions bat again.

Darkness Descends

The panel trooped away in the late Saturday sunshine, eschewing the ‘marquees out the back’ this time for a cold shower at home, secure in the comfortable anticipation of an extended session on Sunday to toast what appeared to be an almost certain victory on Day Four. Thundery showers wet the suburbs as darkness descended, but the Bureau of Meteorology indicated that no such reprieve would save England on day Four.

Does the Weather Bureau ever get it right? It’s a good thing that Australia had such a stranglehold on this match, or England might have had half a chance of salvaging a draw. Persistent showers interrupted play throughout the afternoon, but Australia always had the answers, whenever the umpires called them back from the dressing room. In the penultimate weather break, Nasser Hussain cut a lonely, pensive figure in the England dressing room, his chin in the palm of his hand as he meditated on what manner of miracle might save England from an eighth straight Ashes shellacking.

Andy Bichel bowled out the remaining four balls of last night’s over to Robert Key, under leaden skies that had sprinkled light rain all morning and threatened to do the same all afternoon. Warne took up the attack from the Cathedral End, where he remained until just before the Test match ended. Bichel’s second over probed Key’s reserves and he went onto the back foot, succeeding only in hitting Darren Lehmann a sharpish catch at short mid-wicket. England slumped to 4-40.

Vaughan and Stewart got their heads down and the England 50 came up in 17 overs. Stewart in particular decided to play positively and drove anything over-pitched from Bichel. Ponting threw himself to his left a little later to attempt a total screamer against Stewart, as he cut Bichel through slips. The Gaffer pushed hard for the first run, soon outscoring Vaughan in his desire to counter-attack.

Gillespie replaced Bichel at the River End after forty minutes, to the ‘Dizz –eeee, Dizz-eeee’ chants from the scoreboard hill. Meanwhile, Warne came around the wicket, seeking the rough and Gillespie almost bowled Vaughan with a glorious leg cutter that just shaved his off stump. Gillespie found the edge of Stewart’s bat for another streaky four and England survived at 4-93. The England ton came up shortly after, as the showers appeared to freshen the wicket a little, as it played fairly truly.

Stewart continued to chance his arm and ‘drove’ off the edge at Dizzy to the third man fence and the England hundred came up. At around 12:30, McGrath came into the attack and Stewart drove him defiantly to raise his fifty (68 balls) – the score being 4 for 111. Shortly afterwards came the Catch of the Season.

Catch of the Millenium

Vaughan (41), pulling a Warne legspinner, lofted the ball high towards where Les Burdett’s tractor sits at mid wicket on the Members’ side. Glenn McGrath, sprinting around from Backward Square Leg, dived forward at full stretch, got both hands to it and slid across the rain-dampened turf, clutching the Kookaburra and grinning in delight. The collective roar from the Adelaide crowd must have stirred the very spirit of the late Don, hovering in the area of the SACA committee room above where the catch was taken.

One didn't so much hear the sustained roar of the crowd when Pigeon snared the catch that broke the last of England's resistance - one felt it. The scientist, who could somehow capture the essence of that euphoria and market it, would be wealthier and more powerful than Bill Gates within a month.  England went to lunch after 41 overs at 5-119, with Stewart 53* and White 1*. The Vaughan/Stewart partnership had been broken at just the psychological moment.

Because England was so far behind, averred the panel, they were exposed to their ultimate doom. Rain held back the resumption of play after lunch until almost two o’clock. Light rain persisted for the next two hours, but insufficiently to save England. The wicket continued to play well, refreshed by the rain, but Warne landed one in the footmarks that missed leg stump narrowly, getting up no higher than ankle level.

Umpire Koertzen made a mistake not long afterwards. White, beaten by a Warne ‘wrong’un’, edged the ball onto his pad, from whence it ballooned to Martyn at slip. Koertzen’s incorrect verdict did not affect the match result very seriously, however, as White fell not long after the next short rain delay, during which the panel repaired to the Chappell Bar to consider its fourth day verdict to this point. At 5-130, White shaped up to McGrath on the resumption, but just ballooned a thick outside edge to Lee, the substitute fielder at mid on. White set off for the dressing room before the catch was taken.

In the next over, Shane Warne trapped Stewart (a well-made 57) ‘plumb’ in front with the ‘slider’. The first of the three England Number Elevens – Hoggard – emerged, only to stare at McGrath, after Pigeon began working him over. In the following over, McGrath pitched up an inswinging delivery to the Yorkshireman that straightened, touched off his pad and cannoned into middle and off stumps through the bat/pad gap.

Aggers Laments

Harmison emerged at Number ten and was almost bowled first ball. The Barmy Army held up the Skull and Crossbones, as the locals on the Hill next to them below the scoreboard launched into ‘Waltzing Matilda’. England trailed by 77 with two wickets in hand. On ABC Radio, a crestfallen Aggers made the following statement:

‘One day, I’ll be sitting here, describing England winning the Ashes, but it’s not going to be this year.’

Immediately afterwards, Warne trapped Harmison ‘plumb’ LBW with another ‘slider’ and England wobbled, on her last legs, at 9-134. Apparently, no Test team has ever won the toss at the Adelaide Oval, elected to bat and been beaten. Today, that statistic appeared ripe for consignment to the rubbish bin of history. A fellow Adelaide Oval member suggested that Hussain should ‘declare’, as the rain got heavier, the umpires removed the players from the field again and your correspondents adjourned once more to the Chappell Bar.

It’s like the accident victim, suggested the panel, who lies in the hospital on life support, and all we are doing is waiting for someone to turn the switch off. The rain delay persisted for around fifteen minutes, delaying that final piece of cricketing euthanasia.

Warne lost control of the greasy ball after the delay and bowled a head-high full toss at Dawson, which was brilliantly taken by Gilchrist. The light drizzle persisted and the England tail-enders conferred, not that they were likely to make enough even to bring Australia to the crease again. Warne attempted to ‘bounce’ Caddick, with Gilchrist leaping into the air to glove it, while Langer, near the panel on the mid-wicket fence, enjoyed a good laugh about it all.

Not Without a Fight Says Dawson

Some late fireworks from Richard Dawson enlivened the crowd one more time, as he thrashed Glenn McGrath to the fence in three consecutive balls, the third being a legitimate square cut and once more shortly after for good luck. It’s a good story for the grandchildren, but Pigeon had the last laugh, drawing the edge behind to Gilchrist with the next ball, ending the Test, with England being all out for 159 in the second innings. Australia’s winning margin was an innings and 51 runs.

McGrath took 4-41, Gillespie 1-44, Bichel 2-31 and Warne 3-36. Ricky Ponting’s match-shaping 154 in the first Australian innings earned him the Man of the Match Award, despite Vaughan’s heroic 177. After the match, the ABC’s Keith Stackpole was very critical of Nasser Hussain’s captaincy in this test, suggesting that Hussain’s constant changing of the field and therefore the England tactics was unsettling for the team.

The panel retired to the marquees out behind the George Giffen Stand for the ritual beer-drinking post-match analysis. The neighbouring table featured a cricket bat with four holes bored in it, ideal for its owner to bring a round of four beers back from the bar with the minimum of spillage.

Dream Come True

Some time later, Darren Lehmann emerged from the rooms, still wearing his Australian team whites and Baggygreen, to mingle with the troops, in particular his Northern Suburbs contemporary, former Central Districts, Hawthorn and South Australian State-of-Origin (Aussie Rules) rover John ‘Rat’ Platten.

As a last word on this highly satisfying Adelaide Ashes Test Match victory, your correspondent was able to catch “Boof” at the bar and elicit this statement from the Redback skipper and South Australian legend:

‘It’s obviously a dream come true (playing an Ashes Test). As a kid you always dream about playing against England, so to play here - a home Test – obviously not making many runs is a bit disappointing, but to win a Test in three-and-a-half days is great. It’s great for Yorkshire people to see Michael Vaughan play really well, and, I suppose – from an Australian point of view – we know he is a class player and expect more runs from him. For us, it’s a case of going to Perth and trying to secure the Ashes and to finish the job off…From my point of view, it’s…go to Perth, make some runs and enjoy the time while…playing for my country…’

The Ashes

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