What with one thing and another (leaving Adelaide, arriving in Sydney, going about), I haven't had time to write this up before now, but there's no way I'm leaving out an account of the final day of the Adelaide Test - an exceptional one in the annals of Test cricket, and on that account, as well as because of the result, the best day so far for me of a wonderful holiday. Like most people I began the day expecting a draw, and brought a pad to the ground; I thought that, since interest might start to seep away as the day progressed, I'd draft some stuff for blogging later. This is what I started out by doing - between balls, between overs, at the drinks break.
It soon became clear, however, because of the way England approached things, that a draw was perhaps not the most probable result. I've been following cricket for many long moons, but I cannot remember seeing a Test match session in which so few runs were scored as England managed before lunch - just 30 in two hours, and in 28 overs. Has it ever happened in a full session? (That's not a rhetorical question. I'd like to know the answer.) Defending for the draw, OK - but this was team suicide. Two runs an over, or two and a bit would have sufficed. Yet England announced by their approach that staying in was all that counted, and Australia drew the necessary conclusion: it could go all out on the attack. Batting amidst the procession of regular England casualties was Paul Collingwood, a man with an innings of 96 under his belt from Brisbane, and 206 in the first knock in Adelaide. Block, block, scratch around. What was going on in the England dressing room? As it is, the second session, to tea, produced just 10 more runs than the first, making 70 from two full sessions. Shades of Trevor Bailey, Jackie McGlew. But even they, did they ever achieve as little in as much time?
Anyway, so I'm sitting there relishing the slowness of it all, the glimmer of possibility this was yielding, the fall of wickets. Drafting material for my blog becomes less and less appealing, but I don't want to alter the dynamics at the ground by changing what I'm doing. I continue to write, only more intermittently.
Ian has had to return to Hong Kong before the end of the Test, and my spectating companions for the day are two young guys from Pulteney Grammar School. Some way into the afternoon as it becomes increasingly clear that an Aussie victory is by no means out of the question, they start ringing their parents: 'Is it OK if we stay till 5?' 'Could we extend that a bit?' 'Maybe, your mother could bring your clothes to [wherever] and you could get changed there.' And so on. What's the problem? The two of them have a speech night, not something they're allowed to pass up. But they're understandably reluctant to miss the end of a historic day. It turns out, finally, they can stay to the death. Meanwhile people are coming in from the city to witness it. The top of the Bradman Stand fills up.
Once Australia begin their innings, England are at a terrible disadvantage. They need wickets, desperately; but they have to try and keep down the flow of runs. They make the wrong decision, in my view, again accentuating the defensive approach. On that basis, Australia must win; taking ones and twos here and there as these present themselves will give Australia the 4.7 an over they need. Boundaries will be a bonus. Every Tonked in this situation is a body blow for England's prospects. Whenever a ball is struck towards the rope, the Australian support loudly wills it to go the distance.
The Barmy Army is quieter than usual. Some Aussies set up a chant of 'Same old Pommies, always losing'. I'm wondering if this counts as offensive or humiliating. No matter. When a Kevin Pietersen throw turns a 3 into a 7, it's a signal that the game is nearly up. And soon afterwards it is. The two guys next to me are now happy to depart, I'm happy to hang around a while, and a lot of other people at the Adelaide Oval are happy, period.
On my way to look for Brendan, Vesna and David, who do I see making his way from the playing area but Ian Healy once more? He, too, looks happy. I say hello and shake his hand.
Great day. As the man said, 'Australia brought out the awesome beauty of the five-day Test match'.