On my second night in MacDonald Park, I was joined by three English travellers, Jim, Ian and Irene, who were also here for the cricket. All are from the North, like most of the English people I’ve met here. And they had a car, so I had friends to ride in and out of Adelaide with, at least until the evening of the 3rd night, when they moved on. I missed them – not just for the lift, but also the camaraderie, and hearing stories from Ian (with the other two being a couple, we tended to end up walking and sitting together) of life in Cheshire. I told him a friend played cricket for Surrey seniors and he told me a story or two. He also spent the next day in a polo shirt which let me know (he hadn’t mentioned it) that Cheshire Seniors were champions in 2011, 12 and 16.
Adelaide is a pleasant, boutique city, albeit one which wears it’s homelessness and few drunken, troubled locals in plain sight. The Oval, too, is quite a ground; despite redevelopment, it isn’t the concrete basin that the Gabba appears to some (though that is also a very functional, pleasant ground to be in, if not to look at). They have preserved the original scoreboard and made a feature of the stands, which undulate. For just $99, you can take a tour up to the top and walk along the undulations to see come cricket. Seems excessive to me, but there is a steady stream of people heading there. For the opening day, with Adelaide society picnicking outside and walking around, well dressed, they used the space for singers (sadly I can’t remember what they sang), which was magnificent. Add in the anthems and it was quite a show.
I was sat in a $56 dollar ‘restricted view’ seat. It was fabulous. It was right by the pitch entrance for the ground staff and TV commentators, with the view restricted only by a metal bar which blocked the boundary to my right if I slouched. KP, Warne, Slater, Nicholas all waited nearby before heading on to the pitch, while Mr Cricket was unbothered by autograph hunters as he did his bit, and Gillespie came to sit in the crowd on the other side of the entrance, seeing very little for 10 minutes while he signed whatever people brought him. On day 1, right behind me was sat a narrowly post-pubescent Aussie teen, with voice cracking at times of excitement, and a determination to ask questions of the passing commentators. We were interrupted a couple of times for rain, waiting some time for our area to move under cover, and passed the time of day. On day 2, I moved down three rows… and so did he. By now we were friends, so I got the full benefit. He is a Man U fan, too, so that keeps my perfect record of finding one in every country. My housemates are Man City fans, so much more pessimistic, “if there were cups for cock-ups…”.
On day 3, by which time it seemed to be heading to a quick and inevitable England defeat, I was up in the large stand which is a pretty good view for $30. My housemates had paid more, it seemed, for a worse view further up; I’m not sure how that works. On day 3 they had $125 tickets, also up on level 5, though I assume they were at least towards the front of it. I’d just say that unless you’re in the double-letter seats (row UU, say, rather than row K, where I was), the view is good, you can see the screens and mostly make out the announcements.
For England, it was a frustrating test. Australia built a foundation without really looking certain to pass, say, 350, until it became clear England were never going to take a cluster of wickets – they fell regularly, but always singularly, so everyone got runs. Lots of bat-passing, though I did read a comment from Vaughan, that they were bowling ‘prettily’, which means the ball isn’t pitched up, so beats the bat but without really testing the batsman. When England batted they started quickly – if nothing else, it is already clear Stoneman brings runs where Carberry brought crease-occupation – and everyone looked comfortable, until they got out. It really is remarkable how every Australian quick bowler sneaks just up to or over 90mph on the technology (144.8) when that used to be regarded as rare. Maybe the pitch is stodgy, but none of England’s front line bowlers looked immediately discomfited by pace, and pulled the ball down, looking casual from the side. They even disturbed Lyon’s rhythm early on.
All of which sounds like a success, but it wasn’t, not at all, until Overton showed that yes, he can bat, and that might be enormously important – rather than England being 7 batsmen and then bam, the innings is over, now they may have 9 possible scorers with Broad a wildcard. These are all the positives, though, with the reality being that Australia made 442-8 declared, England 227 all out (though it might have been 150) and despite Australia not enforcing the follow-on and adding only 138, only one result is likely.
Day-night tests are interesting. If the over-rate were kept to, there would only be an hour and a half or less in actual darkness here, with play due to end at 9, but everyone bowls slower than that, so 9.30 is likely. Because of rain delays we had extra extra play on day 1, with 10.10 the close, which is pretty late.We then dashed over the footbridge to make the 10.26 bus replacement to get to the car. It is perfectly possible on a good day, though, to head out during the dinner break (after 6) and wander along the Torrens in the sunshine. Day 3 and my friends were heading for McLarenVale in the evening, so we headed there in the car beforehand (I went along for the ride) before deciding to just park outside the ground. Are there any test grounds in England where you can park right outside for $20 (£12ish)? It felt pretty good, despite the steward’s vague parking instructions causing a minor domestic while Ian and I stayed quiet in the back.
An admission. By midway through day 3, despite being cheered up by Woakes and Overton, I figured I had seen how this match was going. I headed down to level 1 and watched, standing, from down there while England’s innings was polished off quickly. Broad and Anderson were obviously bowling well, but one wicket wasn’t enough return, and I headed off at 8, hopping on a bus with a cheery but small Australian crowd. Khawaja was nearly out first ball – the knowledgeable Aussie stood next to me, from whom I learned a few things, admiringly called Anderson’s delivery ‘a jaffa’ as it passed just outside the line of off stump, passing between bat and body – but batted well after that and I figured I’d be home before my kind hosts convinced themselves to stay up late and wait for a call for a lift. Remove the doubt, I figured – they are so generous, that when they wrote to me to say they’d bend over backwards to make my stay enjoyable, they meant it. And so I missed three England wickets and a testing session. I also decided to watch day 4 on TV, rather than head back into the city, and that might have been the day with most success for England. Not that there has been a really duff day, even for the most rabid England fan. If they can keep their heads up, they may stay competitive till the end.