Tag Archives: anderson

The Ashes: First Test day 5 – Out of range

SOMETIMES it’s the things we don’t witness, rather than the things we do, which stick in the memory. On the final day of the second Test at Edgbaston in 2005, I was standing outside a small theatre in Edinburgh waiting to take part in a dress rehearsal for a play. Glued to my portable radio, I was beckoned inside as Australia got within 12 runs of victory with one wicket remaining. That’s that, I thought. While the greatest Test finish of the modern age was playing out in my home town, I was prancing around a dark Scottish studio pretending to be Franz Kafka.

A week later, I missed the entire final day of the Old Trafford Test. Having avoided the score, I sought out an Edinburgh sports bar for the soundless highlights as the Aussies scraped a draw. I still see Ricky Ponting’s giant plasma face looming over me in my dreams.

I heard the end of that year’s Trent Bridge Test perching on a steep cliff in deepest Cornwall, before actually managing to find a screen – this time back at university in Hull – for the last rites.

At the start of the ill-fated return series in 2006-07, my main memory is wandering around East Yorkshire trying desperately, and unsuccessfully, to find a pub showing the cricket in a town of football and rugby league. The rest of that series has been erased from my mind. Can’t think why.

In 2009, I thought my bad luck had ended when I made it to a couple of days of the Edgbaston Test. I even had a ticket to the fifth day at The Oval, which was shaping up to be a victory parade for the home team. But they were too good. Swann, Harmison and Andrew Flintoff’s famous run-out of Ricky Ponting ensured a fourth-day win – and I missed it all, again, stuck on a slow train from Cornwall to London.

This year I vowed it would never happen again. I invested in Sky Sports, and was all set for a thrilling summer stuck to the sofa while all the other children played outside. But having closely followed the opening four days of the first Test, I was dragged away at the crucial period.

With Australia eight down and needing 100 to win, I set off on the road to a family barbecue. No matter, I thought, TMS will keep me informed. The ninth wicket fell and we lost signal. Out of range for the best part of an hour, I was fearing the worst. We arrived at our destination and immediately asked our host how the cricket was going. “Abysmal”. 20 to win.

We sat in the garden, the faint sounds of Aggers and co drifting out from the kitchen. When the final wicket fell, a confusion of DRS, hot spot, snicko and an overturned decision, I didn’t know what to do. For the last four days I had been yelling, screaming and punching the air at the fall of every wicket. At one point my neighbour was heard to remark “It sounds like you’ve got the Barmy Army in there.” And now, at the most crucial time, I was surrounded by in-laws who have at best a passing interest in the game.

I stuck another sausage in a bun, reached for the ketchup and allowed myself a smile. It’s going to be a long summer.

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The Ashes: First Test, Day One – Nervous Nottingham

England 215

Australia 75-4

THERE’S nothing quite like the first day of an Ashes series to get the butterflies fluttering. Much has been made in recent times of the importance of opening exchanges – Slater v Defreitas, Harmison v Langer, Harmison to second slip, Strauss to gully. None of those moments had much of an impact on the rest of their respective series, but they stick in our minds.

So much planning, preparation, analysis and “sport science” goes into an Ashes summer. But when the players take the field on the first morning all that goes out of the window. It’s every man for himself, a madcap rush of adrenaline, aggression and nervous energy. The first day goes to the team that controls and uses those factors.

This England team does not start Test series well, and this morning did nothing to dispel that theory. They were skittish, twitchy, keen to impose themselves but wafting and flicking at deliveries they should have left alone. There was swing, but it was not the swing that got wickets. It was the danger of swing, the seed planted in the batsman’s mind. Cook got drawn into a drive outside off. Trott looked comfortable and fluent until dragging a wide one on to his stumps. Bell hung his bat at a decent ball. Pietersen and Prior drove loosely. Root and Bairstow were undone by excellent yorkers, but the latter’s tendency to close the bat face – spotted by eagle-eyed observers earlier in the year – got him in trouble again.

Siddle and Pattinson were the pick of the Aussie bowlers when they got it right, but there’s nothing there to worry Alastair Cook’s side in the long-term. When England came to bowl under the same heavy sky, conditions were perfect for the hosts to hit back. Finn was fast and hostile, at his best when pitching the ball up, while Anderson swung the ball both ways. His dismissal of Michael Clarke for a duck must rate as one of his best.

Steven Smith, a risky selection at number five in the Aussie order, was the only batsman all day to use his nervous energy to good effect, pouncing on anything short and scampering quick singles.

Over the next 10 Test matches there will be miles of column inches and hours of broadcast time dedicated to technical assessments and examinations of these two oldest of enemies. There is an awful lot of cricket yet to be played, but for now we can look back on a day of brilliant, crazy, panicked cricket that had viewers on the edge of their seats and coaches with their heads in their hands.

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