Six weeks ruined by an hour of madness

Trip Start Oct 29, 2003
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Australia  ,
Wednesday, November 29, 2006

After all the hype and build-up to one of the most anticipated Ashes series since, well, the last one I can't believe - barring a miracle - it's already over as a contest. For England to already be 2-0 down in the five match series, after all the expectation that preceded it, is an anti-climax of epic proportions. Most people here are still stunned.

It just goes to show how a game that lasts five days can go pear-shaped in the space of an hour or so. For anybody but an Englishman it must have been an incredible game to watch; for the thousands of English fans here it was agony. It truly was an extraordinary game, one in which several records fell:

- the highest ever first innings declared score (551) by a losing team
- highest 4th wicket partnership ever for England against Australia (Collingwood and Pietersen put on 310)
- Collingwood's double-century was the first by an Englishman on Australian soil for 70 years
- Shane Warne became the first player ever to reach 3,000 Test runs without scoring a century
- Aussie captain Ricky Ponting's century was his 10th in 13 games, his second of the series so far and the 33rd of his 107-Test career, moving him clear of Steve Waugh as Australia's top centurion
- In England's first innings both Shane Warne's and Glenn McGrath's bowling figures (1-167 and 0-107 respectively) were the worst of their illustrious careers. The second innings, however, was a different story...

And it all started so promising. The plane down to Adelaide was full but one guy stood head and shoulders above the rest - which is quite surprising as he doesn't have a neck - Gladstone Small. Old Gladstone was on the team when England last won the Ashes in Australia back in 1986/87 and is down here doing a bit of media work. He's easily recognisable and so was suitably embarrassed when he lost his way like a Harmison bouncer and ended up going into the ladies loo at the departure gate. Big cheers and laughter from the fans, but he took it well.

Adelaide is a small city with a decidedly English feel, and there was a real buzz of anticipation leading up to the game. The day before I was on my way to the Sir Donald Bradman Museum to see the actual Ashes urn (it was only the second time it has been allowed to leave Lord's since 1882) when I ran into Aussie captain Ricky Ponting and their big-eared wicketkeeper Adam Gilchrist. Ricky ran away before I could kick him in the nuts and I tried to break Gilchrist's fingers when I shook his hand but he just squeezed harder back.

The Adelaide Oval has hosted Test matches since 1884 is one of the prettiest and historic cricket grounds I've been to. It was the home of Don Bradman and where the infamous Bodyline series came to a head in 1933. I had managed to get the first day's ticket thanks to my mate Shane in Birmingham, Alabama. His cousins live here - who I met when I was here a few years ago - and his dad is over on holiday and they kindly managed to get me a ticket. Together with Dr K and Shanes's uncles I settled into the tent-roofed Chappell Stands to watch the teams warmup and poor old Monty Panesar drop catches. I thought he must have been a bit nervous as he was about to start his first Ashes Test...

The atmosphere was better than an the 'Gabba with the security here being less officious. The Barmy Army (and the Aussie counterparts The Fanatics) crowded together on the hill at the Cathedral End in the sun drinking and singing (well, the Aussies tried again with 'Aussie Aussie Aussie' to loud boos from the Army).

On a placid pitch it was imperative to win the toss and bat first which is what we did, but the delight of winning the toss was somewhat tempered by Duncan Fletcher's bizarre decision to keep the same team that got tonked in Brisbane and make our best spinner Monty carry the drinks. I - along with everybody except Duncan Donut - am still trying to come to terms with his decision. The only thing I can come up with is that he just doesn't like Monty - or Ashley Giles has some photos...

The first four days saw some good cricket - Giles's crucial dropped catch excepted - from both teams but it looked like it was heading for a draw. Then disaster - and Shane Warne - struck on the fifth day and England mentally disintegrated. No team has ever come back from 0-2 down to win the Ashes and I can't see this one doing it. To make matters worse, on the way home some clown offered to sell me tickets for that night's Robbie Williams concert. I couldn't think to a worse end to the day. Bloody Aussies!

There have been endless post-mortem discussions over the past couple of days, and yesterday I was interviewed for British radio (broadcast on several stations including Capital and Essex FM) giving my thoughts. Apparently both myself and Wigan Rob did such a good job we're sure to be on again so I'll let you know. For the record, here's the scorecard of this amazing (for all the wrong reasons) game.

Hopefully we can get a bit of pride back out in Perth and force a contest out of the Boxing Day Test in Melbourne. If not at least the tickets will be cheap. I, however, will not be heading west with Wigan Rob and the boys. Instead I'll be going back to Brisbane to catch up with Wendy the friendly Aussie I met last week...
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