Friday, 6 January 2012

More memories

England are in Dubai for a three match series against Pakistan. Make no mistake this will be a tough series. Even though England are No. 1 in the world, many would settle for a draw in this part of the world. We know England will be fit, well prepared and confident, how close the series is depends on which Pakistan turns up. I hope England tinker with the line up and pick a second spinner, preferably Monty.

Before all that...This time last year, England fans were enjoying something very special. Here are a few more pages from the diary.

Sydney 02/01/11

The day of the fifth test is upon us and I can't wait for start of play! Time drags but the better half & I spend the evening at the cinema, getting home just in time to make a cup of tea before the teams take to the field. Clarke has won the toss and Australia will bat on an overcast morning that should suit England's bowlers. The SCG is the best place I've ever watched cricket. The atmosphere and crowd participation matches the venues in the Midlands of England. A beautiful ground that combines the old fashioned pavilion with a modern stadium. The ground has changed and the hill that I watched from has now gone but seeing the place on TV brought back memories.... Memories too of a beautiful city, a unique country and great times. It all seems a lifetime ago now though...

England name an unchanged side but there is plenty of movement in the Aussie ranks. Ponting's dodgy pinky sees Khuwaja making his debut. Haddin & Smith swap places in the batting order and Michael Beer makes his test debut. Another mystery spinner coming in for Australia. This is undoubtedly the right decision for the SCG but I think England would much rather face him than Bollinger who couldn't really get any worse could he?

Play begins, slow tense cricket. Anderson is bowling well, Tremlett is bowling superbly. However the Aussies have remembered this is a test match and are leaving the ball well. Watson is entrenched but Hughes is despatching the bad balls and Bresnan comes on to give him a couple. Swann is into the attack early and looking good. A rare 50+ opening stand and as lunch approaches it looks as if Australia will steal the session but no! Tremlett comes back to take the well deserved wicket of Hughes right on the stroke. Big confidence boost for England and a good time to go to bed.


03/01/11

I wake up just as Jonathan Agnew is summing up the days play. Rain has interrupted proceedings but England have had a good one, restricting Australia to 134-4. Bresnan picked up two and Swann one. The bowling unit kept the run rate down to 2.27 against the nation that famously rattled along at over 4 when at their most dominant. The top four have gone in time honoured fashion but at least they occupied the crease. Except Clarke, one of three wickets to fall either just before or just after a break. I found it slightly amusing to hear Aussie pundits making a big deal of Khuwaja's debut innings, he only made 37 FFS??? The key partnership of Hussey & Haddin will start up again later and if England can pick up a wicket quickly then I'd be surprised if Australia make 250. The local weather forecast is apparently damp so this is not good news for the home team either.

Half an hour till start of play, once again I'm looking forward to watching a bit of cricket but time is dragging. Will Australia show a bit of fight or will a confident England run through them again?

Here we go again, Tremlett superb but it's Jimmy who gets the wicket bringing Smith to the crease. He's looking out of his depth... He survives a while though. Meanwhile Colly comes on for a couple of overs before the new ball...and bowls Hussy!!!!!!!!!! Biggest cheer of the night. Jimmy swings the new ball to get Smith and Siddle and Australia are deep in the shit. England's fielding has been excellent once again but I find myself questioning the plans as the 9th wicket partnership begins to wag. Time for bed.


04/01/11

Breakfast brings the news that Australia rallied to 280 which was 80 runs more than they should have got, lets hope this doesn't prove crucial. Johnson made a 50 & Jimmy finished with 4-66. In reply England reached 163-3 with Strauss making 60 and Cook unbeaten on 61. The bad news is Trott made a duck and Johnson mugged Pietersen into getting out on the hook shot just before the close. England are on top but Australia are still well in this match.

So once more its now evening and start of play is a couple of hours away. I'm knackered after a late night and the first day back at work after the Xmas break. A day spent largely dealing with ignorant, miserable people. Although the match is nicely poised I doubt I'll stay up to watch TV tonight, I'll lay in bed with the radio on instead. How will the match go from here? Will Australia take quick wickets, restrict England and put themselves in charge? Or will England bat them out of the game? I suspect the answer will lie somewhere in between although obviously I'm hoping to be sitting here in 24 hours waiting to watch England bat some more.

11pm comes and I'm still up watching TV. The SCG looks great with all the pink for Jane Mcgrath day. Cook and Anderson start OK but then Siddle bowls Jimmy who hadn't done bad for a night watchman. Now it's time for Collingwood and Bell to play big innings. It's crunch time...


05/01/11

In bed with the radio on, I hear the claimed catch then a few minutes later Cook getting to another ton, lovely! However Collingwood fails, providing Beer with his first test wicket, third time lucky. Possibly Colly's last walk back to the pavilion in test cricket? Crunch time has come and gone for Collingwood but what about Bell? He starts soundly and I drift off to sleep.

I awake some time later and tune my ears in to hear England now have a slender lead but Bell and Cook are still together. England are in control.

Another happy breakfast! England are in full control, Cook made 189 and Bell 115, 488-7 at close with Prior unbeaten on 54!!!!! The Ashes are already ours and now the series is in the bag!!! There is no way Australia can win this match from here, another England victory is the most likely result. Off to work with a broad grin on my face today, then sun shone this morning and the weeks of sub zero weather have broken and we have a scorching 4 degrees.

Watched the highlights tonight. Cook was superb, as was Bell but I think the review was a bit cheeky, he was out. Generally I think the UDRS is a good thing but this incident was a misuse. Hopefully there will be a way of avoiding this in future, maybe give the umpire right to refer? Have to take your luck when you get it though. Cook's not walking on 99 was interesting but Botham on commentary was wrong to call Hughes a cheat. Cook says that Hughes told him he wasn't sure. Cook was right not to walk. I think I'm right in saying that the trend of not taking the fielders word and not walking was started by Mark Waugh?

Time is ticking down till the start of play, I'll watch a bit tonight, cant wait!! Stop Press: Paul Collingwood has announced his retirement from Test cricket at the end of this match. The timing is right, well done Colly!!

06/01/11

The game begins again. Prior & Bresnan are playing themselves in and I toast the 500 with a glass of wine. Can Prior get a century? Slow steady progress, Bresnan getting a bit stuck but Prior scoring freely. I wonder why if Smith is a number seven why he's bowled so few overs? Smith comes on and the scoring rate accelerates! Bresnan smashing him for two fours in an over, meanwhile Prior has moved into the 90's and then onto 101* !!!!! from 109 balls!!! A good time to go to bed. Then the new ball came and I couldn't help watching the hard ball fly to the boundary. Fucking loving it!!!! Bresnan out for 35 shortly after reaching the 100 partnership, bed time...in a minute...

For once I bounced out of bed when the alarm went off and switched the radio back on. No doubts, no worries, just how good would the news be this morning? England all out for 644, Prior made 118 and Swann battered Johnson for 36*.

Then we bowled and reduced Australia to 213-7. Another run out between the openers and two wickets each for the seamers. Swann didn't take a wicket but kept it tight and Matt Prior added another four catches to his tally for the series. The highest individual score by an Australian was Limp wrist's 41. In a match in which three Englishmen have scored centuries only two Australian have got past 50 and they were bowlers.

Work was a breeze again, mild for the time of year but raining all day. Chatting with colleagues about...

Another mad evening with the family and then I settle down to read the reports on Cricinfo, I'll watch the highlights in a while. Now I'm waiting to experience a joy that Australian fans will be familiar with, I'm waiting to watch England win an Ashes series abroad. The last time this happened I still lived with my parents (who still lived with each other!) and in those days live cricket from down under simply wasn't available to watch on British TV. Tonight will be a first and I'm not going to miss it for anything.


07/01/11

Highlights were great but the cricket starts slowly, almost an anti climax. Still the Barmy Army have turned up to liven proceedings and create some atmosphere. Let's be honest here, The Barmy Army are the best travelling sports fans in the world. Bar none. Then it bloody rains, how ironic is that?? Rain stops, here we go again. Throughout everything the Barmy army continue with their full repertoire, highlight was the huge guy leading the rendition of “Lion sleeps...”. Hilarious, brilliant!!

Here we go again. I finish the series the way I started it with a glass of Chilean red wine in my hand. More Aussie resistance then Swann gets Siddle for 43. Good player Siddle, seems a good bloke too. Wouldn't have begrudged him a 50. New ball, Jimmy Anderson gets Hilf, just one more to go!! Smith gets 50 then Tremlett bowls Beer!!!!!!!!!!! Let the celebrations begin!!!!! Presentations, speeches, photos, trophies, lap of honour and on.....Moving scenes in front of the fans. Goodbye Colly, thanks, we love you but the time is right. This is a fantastic moment for England fans but not as sweet as 2005.

In bed for a while with the radio on, listening to the TMS summarisers wind things down. Finally switched it off around 2.30am, fell a sleep with a broad smile on my face...... Normal sleeping patterns resume tomorrow.


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