So you may have gleaned by now that I’ve been in Australia for the Cricket. The Ashes dates back to the late 1800’s and is the name of the prize that is played for when England & Australia play each other in Test Cricket. It is widely considered to be one of the oldest and fiercest rivalries in sport.
Since moving to England in 2002 I’ve been fortunate enough to have seen England play home test matches against Zimbabwe, India, New Zealand and Australia, whilst catching England play in Centurion last winter in a test against South Africa. I also took the opportunity in India to see India play Australia in Nagpur. However despite all of this, watching England tour Australia is the zenith for any English Cricketing Supporter – and this is my second stab at following England tour Australia.
Back in 2006/2007 I managed to get six weeks off work, and toured around Australia following the cricket. Unfortunately that trip, I could only manage to get tickets for the Melbourne test and only for days 2, 3 and 4 and even worse, by the time the tour got to Melbourne, England had lost the previous 3 tests, lost the series & the Ashes. To ice the cake, so to speak, they were so rubbish in Melbourne that the game was over on Day 3.
So, 2010/2011 couldn’t be any worse, could it!!
This time I’ve managed to get four weeks off work, and arrived in Australia on the 12th, in time for the 3rd test of the series in Perth. England were leading the series 1-0 after drawing in Brisbane and winning (comprehensively) in Adelaide. As I’ve already blogged, I went to day 2 of the Perth test, which England lost heavily.
Four years to the day I arrived back at Melbourne’s MCG hoping that England would repay the thrashing of 2006 and retain the Ashes.
England win the toss and elect to field on a green, grassy looking wicket and clouds overhead – ideal bowling conditions – and they came good. They skittled Australia out for 98 runs… a record for the MCG, and one of the lowest in Ashes history. To add an extra layer of joy, Strauss and Cook then went on to add 150 runs before the close of play without losing a wicket!!
I was sat square of the wicket in the older Great Southern Stand at the MCG and I was freezing!! The radio said it was no more than 14 degrees on the day, but in the stadium, the wind chill factor must have taken it to nearly 6 degrees. There was also a couple of rain breaks – Australian weather, eh??
I also had the chance to meet up with Gemma, an old friend from London and my boss John at the game on day one, which was really cool to be in a crowd of 85,000 and still have some friends there. I also witnessed a brutal assault inside the ground between a well heeled middle age man and a somewhat rougher looking Aussie youth… surprisingly it was the well heeled gent who laid the punches down!! Brutal, but thankfully the cops sorted it out.
Better prepared for the MCG (yup, I packed a jumper) I took up an almost identical seat to Day One and watched England pile on the runs… for five wickets, with several players putting on 50 plus, and Jonathan Trott putting on a bagful more reaching his 100. By the end of the day, England were five wickets down but hundreds ahead already.
England lost their remaining five wickets, but Jonathan Trott was unbeaten on 168 runs at the end of the innings. A superb knock and one that really announced him as one of the best batsmen in the world currently. And so to Australia’s second innings…
On a flat wicket they should put on runs everyone thought, and at 50 for no loss after ten overs, it looked like they’d go well, until a crazy attempted single was taken and Hughes was run out. England were in the up and away they went, working through another five wickets before close, with Australia still nearly 200 runs behind!!
Originally I didn’t have a ticket for Day Four, so I purchased on the gate for AUS$31 – not bad for a day at the test. However I was soon to find out that with only 3 wickets to go, Cricket Australia opened the gates for everyone to enter for free!! Cheeky sods.
Anyways, England worked through the remaining wickets to win by an innings a loads… the Ashes were retained (not quite in the Three Day style I witnessed four years ago, but I’ll settle for early morning on Day Four!!). After the game, the 35,000 supporters in the ground (most of whom were clearly English) stayed on for the after match presentations and also for the victory lap. The atmosphere was special and suddenly heightened by the sight of the English team doing the Sprinkler Dance on the MCG (the reaction in the Aussie media the following day was priceless!!).
And so the series and I, move on to Sydney for the fifth and final test. I’ve got a ticket for Day One of the Sydney test and I’m thoroughly looking forward to it. Hopefully England can go on to win the series outright, so the demons from that previous tour will be gone for ever.